Tag: women’s fiction

Book Review: The Widows of Champagne, by Renee Ryan

Image belongs to Harlequin/Love Inspired.

Champagne, 1939

Gabrielle Leblanc Dupree is taking her family’s future into her hands. While she should be preparing for a lavish party to celebrate two centuries of champagne making, she secretly hides Chateau Fouché-Leblanc’s most precious vintages behind a fake wall in the cellar in preparation for the looming war. But when she joins the resistance, the coveted champagne isn’t the most dangerous secret her cellar must conceal…

A former Parisian socialite, Gabrielle’s mother, Hélène, lost her husband to another war. Now her home has been requisitioned by the Germans, who pillage vineyards to satisfy the Third Reich’s thirst for the finest champagne. There’s even more at stake than Hélène dares admit. She has kept her heritage a secret…and no one is safe in Nazi-occupied France.

Josephine, the family matriarch, watches as her beloved vineyard faces its most difficult harvest yet. As her daughter-in-law and granddaughters contend with the enemies and unexpected allies in their midst, Josephine’s deep faith leads to her own path of resistance.

Across years and continents, the Leblanc women will draw on their courage and wits, determined against all odds to preserve their lives, their freedom and their legacy…

This was an incredible read! It wasn’t in the least what I expected, but it was so good. I will say that Hélène wasn’t my favorite character, but it was due more to her reserved and secretive personality than anything, as she was incredibly determined to protect her family. I didn’t care for the youngest daughter at all, but Gabrielle was a great character and I enjoyed her journey so, so much!

Renee Ryan grew up in Florida. The Widows of Champagne is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Love Inspired in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Summer of Lost and Found, by Mary Alice Monroe

Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title The Summer of Lost and Found
AuthorMary Alice Monroe
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

The coming of Spring usually means renewal, but for Linnea Rutledge, Spring 2020 threatens stagnation. Linnea faces another layoff, this time from the aquarium she adores. For her—and her family—finances, emotions, and health teeter at the brink. To complicate matters, her new love interest, Gordon, struggles to return to the Isle of Palms from England. Meanwhile, her old flame, John, turns up from California and is quarantining next door. She tries to ignore him, but when he sends her plaintive notes in the form of paper airplanes, old sparks ignite. When Gordon at last reaches the island, Linnea wonders—is it possible to love two men at the same time?

Love in the time of coronavirus proves challenging, at times humorous, and ever changing. Relationships are redefined, friendships made and broken, and marriages tested. As the weeks turn to months, and another sea turtle season comes to a close, Linnea and the Rutledge family continue to face their challenges with the strength, faith, and commitment that has inspired readers for decades.

I’m thinking this wasn’t a good fit for me. I enjoyed the previous book in this series and the discussion of the environmental issues, but this one, the characters just came across as self-absorbed and superficial. Linnea has a lot of angst, but not much action. The blurb emphasizes finances “teetering on the brink” but that wasn’t a thing:  despite Linnea (and her roommate) not having a job or savings, they never seemed to be concerned about money. This book just wasn’t believable to me.

Mary Alice Monroe is a bestselling author. The Summer of Lost and Found is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review The Girl in His Shadow, by Audrey Blake

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

TitleThe Girl in His Shadow
Author:  Audrey Blake
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Raised by the eccentric surgeon Dr. Horace Croft after losing her parents to a deadly pandemic, the orphan Nora Beady knows little about conventional life. While other young ladies were raised to busy themselves with needlework and watercolors, Nora was trained to perfect her suturing and anatomical illustrations of dissections.

Women face dire consequences if caught practicing medicine, but in Croft’s private clinic Nora is his most trusted–and secret–assistant. That is until the new surgical resident Dr. Daniel Gibson arrives. Dr. Gibson has no idea that Horace’s bright and quiet young ward is a surgeon more qualified and ingenuitive than even himself. In order to protect Dr. Croft and his practice from scandal and collapse Nora must learn to play a new and uncomfortable role–that of a proper young lady.

But pretense has its limits. Nora cannot turn away and ignore the suffering of patients even if it means giving Gibson the power to ruin everything she’s worked for. And when she makes a discovery that could change the field forever, Nora faces an impossible choice. Remain invisible and let the men around her take credit for her work, or let the world see her for what she is–even if it means being destroyed by her own legacy.

I enjoyed this very much! Sure, it was hard to read about such a capable woman who was ignored because she was female, but Nora is such a great character. She’s different—and she embraces that and is determined to persevere and do what she needs to do, no matter what people say. Even when she cares about people, she doesn’t put aside her own dreams, and she’s willing to risk her future, or at least her reputation, to save lives. Also, this cover is beautiful!

Audrey Blake is the pseudonym of Jaima Fixsen and Regina Sirois. The Girl in His Shadow is their newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Clover Girls, by Viola Shipman

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

TitleThe Clover Girls
AuthorViola Shipman
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Elizabeth, Veronica, Rachel and Emily met at Camp Birchwood as girls in 1985, where over four summers they were the Clover Girls—inseparable for those magical few weeks of freedom—until the last summer that pulled them apart. Now approaching middle age, the women are facing challenges they never imagined as teens, struggles with their marriages, their children, their careers, and wondering who it is they see when they look in the mirror.

Then Liz, V and Rachel each receive a letter from Emily with devastating news. She implores the girls who were once her best friends to reunite at Camp Birchwood one last time, to spend a week together revisiting the dreams they’d put aside and repair the relationships they’d allowed to sour. But the women are not the same idealistic, confident girls who once ruled Camp Birchwood, and perhaps some friendships aren’t meant to last forever…

I am a little surprised to find out a male author wrote three women and four girls this well. That sounds bad, but usually I can tell when a man is writing female characters. Not this time. The 80’s flashbacks/references were a bit unsettling; although I was fairly young in the 80’s, I still caught the references.

The girls’ friendship was so vivid, so strong it brought back memories (although I never went to summer camp). I enjoyed how much the characters grew as a result of remembering their younger selves—and their friendship. This is a solid, relatable read, perfect for a long, relaxing weekend.

Viola Shipman is the pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his writing. The Clover Girls is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Sweetshop of Dreams, by Jenny Colgan

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

TitleSweetshop of Dreams
AuthorJenny Colgan
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5

Rosie Hopkins has gotten used to busy London life. It’s…comfortable. And though she might like a more rewarding career, and her boyfriend’s not exactly the king of romance, Rosie’s not complaining. And when she visits her Aunt Lilian’s small country village to help sort out her sweetshop, she expects it to be dull at best.

Lilian Hopkins has spent her life running Lipton’s sweetshop, through wartime and family feuds. When her great-niece Rosie arrives to help her with the shop, the last thing Lillian wants to slow down and wrestle with the secret history hidden behind the jars of beautifully colored sweets.

But as Rosie gets Lilian back on her feet, breathes a new life into the candy shop, and gets to know the mysterious and solitary Stephen—whose family seems to own the entire town—she starts to think that settling for what’s comfortable might not be so great after all.

This was such a fun book! Rosie’s boyfriend got on my very last nerve—and he’s fictional! I loved the scenes of life in the little village, and Rosie’s misadventures had me laughing. Reading this was sheer enjoyment!

Jenny Colgan was born in Scotland. Sweetshop of Dreams is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Maggie Finds Her Muse, by Dee Ernst

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleMaggie Finds Her Muse
AuthorDee Ernst
Genre:  Romantic comedy
Rating:  5 out of 5

All Maggie Bliss needs to do is write. Forty-eight years old and newly single (again!), she ventures to Paris in a last-ditch effort to finish her manuscript. With a marvelous apartment at her fingertips and an elegant housekeeper to meet her every need, a finished book—and her dream of finally taking her career over the top—is surely within her grasp. After all, how could she find anything except inspiration in Paris, with its sophistication, food, and romance in the air?

But the clock is running out, and between her charming ex-husband arriving in France for vacation and a handsome Frenchman appearing one morning in her bathtub, Maggie’s previously undisturbed peace goes by the wayside.

I loved this book! This is a quick, fun read with a totally relatable heroine who manages to stumble (and eat) her way through Paris as she finally figures out what she wants out of life—and love. Maggie isn’t the perfect young heroine, and her love interest isn’t a typical brawny male. She’s a bit older than me, which made her so easy for me to put myself in her shoes, and she’s still struggling to figure out things. Same, girl. This would make an excellent vacation read, or just savor it over the weekend!

Dee Ernst lives in New Jersey. Maggie Finds Her Muse is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Float Plan, by Trish Doller

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleFloat Plan
AuthorTrish Doller
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Since the loss of her fiancé, Anna has been shipwrecked by grief—until a reminder goes off about a trip they were supposed to take together. Impulsively, Anna goes to sea in their sailboat, intending to complete the voyage alone.

But after a treacherous night’s sail, she realizes she can’t do it by herself and hires Keane, a professional sailor, to help. Much like Anna, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned. As romance rises with the tide, they discover that it’s never too late to chart a new course.

This was a fantastic read! I loved it from the very beginning. Anna grows so much as a character as she grieves, struggles, then realizes life does go on after loss—and she becomes stronger and more capable. I loved reading about all the different places she visited and the people she met. And Keane, well, a handsome man from Ireland is always a bonus! (But he’s a terrific guy, too.)

Trish Doller was born in Germany but now lives in Florida. Float Plan is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Vineyard at Painted Moon, by Susan Mallery

Image belongs to Harlequin.

TitleThe Vineyard at Painted Moon
AuthorSusan Mallery
Genre:  Fiction, romance
Rating:  3.0 out of 5

MacKenzie Dienes’s life isn’t perfect, but it’s as close as she could ever hope to get. Her marriage to Rhys, her best friend’s brother, is more friendship than true love. But passion is highly overrated, right? And she loves her job as the winemaker at Bel Apres, her in-laws’ vineyard. So what if it’s a family business and, even after decades of marriage and incredible professional success, she’s still barred from the family business meetings? It’s all enough…until one last night spent together leads to an incredibly honest—and painful—conversation. Rhys suggests that they divorce. They haven’t had a marriage in a long time and, while he wants her to keep her job at Bel Apres, he doesn’t think they should be married any longer. Shocked, MacKenzie reels at the prospect of losing the only family she’s ever really known…even though she knows deep in her heart that Rhys is right.

But when MacKenzie discovers she’s pregnant, walking away to begin a new life isn’t so easy. She never could have anticipated the changes it would bring to the relationships she cherishes most: her relationship with Barbara, her mother-in-law and partner at Bel Apres, Stephanie, her sister-in-law and best friend, and Bel Apres, the company she’s worked so hard to put on the map.

MacKenzie has always dreamed of creating a vineyard of her own, a chance to leave a legacy for her unborn child. So when the opportunity arises, she jumps at it and builds the Vineyard at Painted Moon. But following her dreams will come at a high price—one that MacKenzie isn’t so sure she’s willing to pay…

Susan Mallery is an excellent writer and creates realistic and believable characters. I haven’t read too many of her novels, but I’m familiar with her work. However…I did not like this novel. For one reason:  so many of the characters were awful people. They were believable enough and consistent—no dramatic changes in heart or personality—they were just completely unlikable.

MacKenzie was likable enough and totally sympathetic, and I like Stephanie and Four (another sister-in-law) and Bruno, but Barbara was truly a terrible person, and her third daughter wasn’t far behind. Both of them were spiteful, hateful, vindictive, and petty. And Rhys ended up being not far behind them—which was a bit of a surprise, as he was perfectly nice and reasonable to begin with, then became a jerk when his freedom was threatened. It’s extremely difficult for me to read books about characters like this, so it’s a testament to the writing quality that I even finished it.

Susan Mallery is a NYT-bestselling author. The Vineyard at Painted Moon is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Glimmer As You Can, by Danielle Martin

Image belongs to Alcove Press.

Title: Glimmer As You Can
Author: Danielle Martin
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Welcome to the Starlite. Let your true self shine.

1962. In the middle of Brooklyn Heights sits the Starlite: boutique dress shop by day, underground women’s club by night. Started by the shop’s proprietor after her marriage crumbled, Madeline’s social club soon becomes a safe haven for women from all walks of life looking for a respite from their troubled relationships and professional frustrations. These after-hour soirées soon bring two very different women into Madeline’s life–Elaine, a British ex-pat struggling to save her relationship, and Lisa, a young stewardess whose plans for the future are suddenly upended–irrevocably changing all three women’s lives in ways no one could have predicted.

But when Madeline’s ne’er-do-well ex-husband shows up again, the luster of Starlite quickly dampens. As the sisterhood rallies around Madeline, tension begins to eat at the club. When an unspeakable tragedy befalls their sorority, one woman must decide whether to hide the truth from the group or jeopardize her own hopes and dreams.

This is a hard time period to read about:  women’s rights are still a pipe dream and getting married and having a family should be all every woman wants. Except it’s not. The three main characters are very different, yet all three struggle with some of the same issues. The women’s club community was both fun to read about and also seemed a bit random.

I found this book to be disjointed in a lot of places. I can see what the author was trying to do, butthis fell a bit short. I felt disconnected from these characters, and while I cared what happened, my connection to them was erratic enough that I wasn’t deeply invested in the read.

Danielle Martin is a teacher. Glimmer As You Can is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Alcove Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Christmas Table, by Donna VanLiere

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: The Christmas Table
Author:  Donna VanLiere   
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

In June 1972, John Creighton determines to build his wife Joan a kitchen table. His largest project to date had been picture frames but he promises to have the table ready for Thanksgiving dinner. Inspired to put something delicious on the table, Joan turns to her mother’s recipes she had given to Joan when she and John married.

In June 2012, Lauren Mabrey discovers she’s pregnant. Gloria, Miriam, and the rest of her friends at Glory’s Place begin to pitch in, helping Lauren prepare their home for the baby. On a visit to the local furniture builder, Lauren finds a table that he bought at a garage sale but has recently refinished. Once home, a drawer is discovered under the table which contains a stack of recipe cards. Growing up in one foster home after another, Lauren never learned to cook and is fascinated as she reads through the cards. Personal notes have been written on each one from the mother to her daughter and time and again Lauren wonders where they lived, when they lived, and in a strange way, she feels connected to this mother and her daughter and wants to make the mother proud.

The story continues to from 1972 to 2012 as Joan battles breast cancer and Lauren learns to cook, preparing for the baby’s arrival. As Christmas nears, can Lauren unlock the mystery of the table, and find the peace she’s always longed for?

This was a sweet tale of two women and their families in two separate decades and their stories. It’s also full of descriptions of delicious food!

“Sweet” is really the perfect adjective for this book:  there’s the food of course—not always desserts—but there’s also the journeys Joan and Lauren go on as they attempt to grow, learn, and thrive with the hands they’ve been dealt. Their friends and family truly surround them on their journeys, helping to get then through to their destinations.

Donna VanLiere is a bestselling author. The Christmas Table is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)