NEVER ENOUGH COWBOY by Jennie Marts

August 5, 2022

Creedence Horse Rescue, Book 4

From the publisher:

Fans of Carolyn Brown, Maisey Yates, and Jennifer Ryan will fall head over cowboy boots for this second-chance romance from USA Today bestseller Jennie Marts.

A heartwarming cowboy romance on the ranch…

This lighthearted second-chance romance is filled with:

An independent single mom who’d do anything for her son

The handsome Sheriff’s deputy who can’t stop thinking about her

The undeniable attraction between them

Characters who must learn to trust in love again

Rescue animals who deserve their own second chances

Single mom Jillian Bennett barely has a moment to herself between raising her ten-year old son, volunteering at the horse rescue ranch, and her new job as head librarian of Creedence, Colorado. She doesn’t have the time or inclination for romance, even though she and the cute deputy, Ethan Rayburn, have been doing a little flirting the last few weeks. Still, when Ethan puts out a call out to all the horse rescues to help with a large rescue operation, Jillian jumps in to help.

Ethan doesn’t consider himself the impulsive type, but there’s something about Jillian that calls to him. When he also forms a bond with her son, Milo, Ethan soon realizes that there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for the feisty librarian who’s won his heart.

https://amzn.to/3JxhG1p

I read the first two books in this series (not in order, of course!) but somehow missed the third, which I will be rectifying shortly. I really like this series. The romances are sweet and not too sexy, the characters are interesting and I can’t help but root for them to find their happily ever after. And they do. Throw in animal rescue, in this case horses, and I’m a happy reader.

Jillian reminded me of my mom – single and putting her child first. She is not interested in dating at all, except Deputy Ethan is super hot and even better, super kind. He falls hard and fast for the fiery, gutsy mom but she remains cautious – for a little while, at least. But he is so good with her son that he quickly wins her over.

This was a fun read, but the animal abuse may be difficult for some readers, even though they are rescued. On the other hand, there are a pig, goat, and a miniature horse that absolutely steal the show! This was a quick read for me; I got totally involved with these characters and was so sorry to turn the last page. This is a terrific series, and the books each stand alone so no worries if you can’t get them in order.

8/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

NEVER ENOUGH COWBOY by Jennie Marts. Sourcebooks Casablanca (July 26, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1728226132. 336p.

Kindle

Audible

 

 


SUGAR AND SALT by Susan Wiggs

July 29, 2022

Bella Vista Chronicles, Book 4

From the publisher:

The New York Times bestselling author of The Lost and Found Bookshop brings readers a can’t-miss tale of friendship, hardship, redemption, and love between a San Francisco baker and a barbecue master from Texas.

Jerome Sugar learned the art of baking in his grandma’s bakery, also called Sugar, on historic Perdita Street in San Francisco. He supplies baked goods to the Lost and Found Bookshop across the street.

When the restaurant that shares his commercial kitchen loses its longtime tenant, a newcomer moves in: Margot Salton, a barbecue master from Texas.

Margot isn’t exactly on the run, but she needs a fresh start. She’s taken care of herself her whole life, pulling herself up by her fingernails to recover from trauma, and her dream has been to open a restaurant somewhere far, far from Texas. The shared kitchen with Jerome’s Sugar bakery is the perfect setup: a state-of-the-art kitchen and a vibrant neighborhood popular with tourists and locals.

Margot instantly takes to Jerome’s mother, the lively, opinionated Ida. The older woman proves to be a good mentor, and Margot is drawn to Jerome. Despite their different backgrounds their attraction is powerful—even though Jerome worries that Margot will simply move on from him once she’s found some peace and stability. But just as she starts to relax into a happy new future, Margot’s past in Texas comes back to haunt her…

https://amzn.to/3BiUOkf

I love Susan Wiggs’ books; they always have intriguing characters, interesting settings, and unputdownable stories, and this is no exception.

This is not the book I thought I would be reading based on the publisher’s description (above.) All that is true, but it misses the major plot points of the story and why I was so drawn into it. Yes, there is a romance, two in fact, but while it is the premise that allows this story to be told, it is not your usual boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl-boy-gets-girl-back-again story.

I don’t want to give anything away, so I will tell you it deals with a small town in Texas, a rape, and the unwanted pregnancy that follows (despite what some incredibly ignorant Republican congressmen have said about what they call “legitimate rape,” and that women’s bodies somehow can block an unwanted pregnancy. Science, people!) It deals with abortion and adoption and prison and women’s rights. It deals with our justice system and how it favors the rich. It could not be more timely, and all these things are handled with truth and grace and real life emotions.

This is one of the most thought provoking books I’ve read in a while. It made me think about things I’d rather not, but it was okay in this novel. It would undoubtedly lead to a lively (possibly contentious) book discussion and it makes me sorry I don’t have that option anymore. It’s an important story, a woman’s story, and I hope it is widely read and discussed.

While this is the fourth book of a series, it easily stands alone, as do all the books in this series. That said, I have loved every one of them and highly recommend them all. Do yourself a favor and read them in whatever order you can get them. This one is sure to make my best books of the year list.

The Bella Vista Chronicles in Order:

  1. The Apple Orchard
  2. The Beekeeper’s Ball
  3. The Lost and Found Bookshop
  4. Sugar and Salt

 You’re welcome.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SUGAR AND SALT by Susan Wiggs. William Morrow (July 26, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0062914224. 368p.

Kindle

Audible

 

 


A SHOE STORY by Jane L. Rosen

July 29, 2022

From the publisher:

A young woman has one month and a closetful of shoes to discover the future she thought she’d lost in this captivating new novel from the author of Eliza Starts a Rumor and Nine Women, One Dress.

Esme Nash is eager to leave her small town and begin her carefully planned post-grad life: a move to New York City, an apartment with her loving college boyfriend, and a fancy job at an art gallery. But when tragedy strikes, instead of heading to Manhattan, she returns home to care for her ailing father, leaving every bit of her dream behind.

Seven trying years later, Esme is offered a dog-sitting job in Greenwich Village by a mysterious stranger, giving her access to all of her long-buried hopes and dreams—as well as to an epic collection of designer shoes. Esme jumps at a second chance to step into the future she’s sure was meant to be hers.

As she retraces her steps, one pair of borrowed shoes at a time, making new friends and reconnecting with her old love, Esme tries on versions of herself she didn’t know existed. But the hazy August days and warm summer nights pass too quickly, and Esme must decide how much of the life she imagined still fits, and what—and who—is on the road ahead of her.

https://amzn.to/3cGF93M

This is the second Rosen book I’ve read, after Nine Women, One Dress, and all I can say is that this is a worthy successor. New York City is pretty much another character here, and I really enjoyed that aspect. Esme is a great character, too; smart, caring, a heart big enough to survive and prosper in NYC. When her father falls ill, Esme leaves all her plans behind to go back upstate to take care of him. Several years later, she finally loses him and finds a unique opportunity. Not really sure what she wants to do with the rest of her life, she takes a job dogsitting/apartment sitting for a woman in a very nice apartment, complete with an amazing shoe collection. Esme has a bit of a shoe fetish herself, so she definitely can relate. When the owner, who is in rehab for what Esme assumes is her shoe/shopping addiction, offers her to try anything she likes in the apartment, Esme takes her up on it and every day is a new shoe adventure.

She meets a young man and they become good friends, hanging out quite a bit. She also meets an elderly gentleman in the dog park, and they, too, form a friendship. Esme is having a great time, but what she really wants is to sort of “accidentally” run into her college ex, the boy she dumped to go home to care for her father. He is still in the city, and it turns out he is living in the apartment they were supposed to share.

Of course everything is not quite as Esme hoped it would be, and while she’s finding her way to her future, these relationships all help clarify things. Along with the shoes, of course. This sweet and funny novel is heartwarming with a touch of romance, and I highly recommend it.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A SHOE STORY by Jane L. Rosen.  Berkley (June 28, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593102121. 336p.

Kindle

Audible

Hardcover

 


Spotlight Review: THE GODPARENT TRAP by Rachel Van Dyken 

July 19, 2022

From the publisher:

Life’s Too Short meets The Unhoneymooners in this sparkling, steamy, and swoon-worthy novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Rachel Van Dyken, in which two sworn enemies must share house, home—and maybe their hearts—when they become co-parents after a sudden loss.

Colby’s living her best life: as a popular food blogger, she gets to fulfill her dreams of exploring the globe. But her world comes crashing down when a tragic accident leaves her co-guardian of her best friend’s two adorable children. Not only does she need to put down roots—fast—but she’ll be sharing custody with the one man she can’t stand sharing a continent with, let alone a house.  

Accountant-extraordinaire Rip values rules and plans. But when he loses his sister and his best friend and becomes an insta-guardian all in one night, Rip sees his organized life imploding. What he really doesn’t need is his sister’s irresponsible, flighty—albeit kind and gorgeous—best friend making it worse.

Rip doesn’t trust Colby to take their new responsibilities seriously, while Colby can’t believe Rip thinks children will thrive under his rigid control. Yet soon Rip and Colby discover they need each other more than they hate each other. Could it be possible that following their hearts is just what their new little family needs?

https://amzn.to/3IU3GhR

This is a very cute book that reminded me of a not-so-great movie with Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel, “Life As We Know It.” Same basic premise; couple die in an accident leaving their child to be raised by their best friends, who naturally hate one another. In the book, there are two kids, doubling the trouble. Makes me kind of wish Van Dyken had a hand in that movie, it would have been so much better.

Colby lives a life that a lot of people would envy. As a food and travel blogger, she travels the world and writes about it. Rip is a very successful accountant, and his sister was married to his best friend, and her best friend is Colby. It’s not all that complicated but you can guess that a by-the-numbers kind of guy isn’t going to be impressed by someone who floats around the world for a living. But they are godparents and legal guardians to a toddler girl and her elementary school age brother, so they have to step up. 

Both of them are grieving in their own way, and so are the kids. It’s a heart wrenching premise to be sure, but it works here. Colby and Rip both prioritize the kids, so even though she is a hot mess to his perfectionism, they have to get along for the kids’ sake, no matter how difficult that is. But as they spend time together – the both move into the kids home – they learn to rely on one another. Of course there is a sexual attraction as well, but both are fighting it. Until they no longer can.

Despite the devastating loss, there are a lot of laughs here, and as Colby and Rip give in to their attraction to one another, some steamy sex scenes, too. This was a fast, fun read and a perfect book to take on vacation, which I did. If you are looking for an escape, this is a good one.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE GODPARENT TRAP by Rachel Van Dyken. Forever (July 19, 2022). ISBN: 978-1538720530. 352p.

Kindle

Audible

 


Spotlight Review: COOKOUT CARNAGE by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander

July 12, 2022

Evie and Kelly’s Holiday Disasters, Book 2

From the publisher:

Two friends-to-lovers romantic comedies for the Fourth of July

One Fourth of July, two couples, complete carnage. These hot and hilarious stories are the perfect romcom recipe.

Off with a Bang – by Evie Alexander: Posh Brit Tristan has fallen for his American work colleague over Zoom. When she invites him to spend the Fourth of July with her and her family, he leaps at the chance to meet face to face. Maybe they can be more than just friends?

Sherilyn is in big trouble. She’s in love with someone she’s never met, and he’s just accepted an invitation she was sure he’d turn down. Tristan might think he’s about to meet a cute girl and her cookie-cutter family, but she’s Sherrie-Lynne, not Sherilyn. And when he discovers her family are lawless rednecks, he’s going to run a country mile.

Now, Sherilyn has to produce a fake family and put on a show bigger than her small town’s Fourth of July celebrations. Can she pull it off, or will she end up driving both Tristan and her family away forever?

Up in Smoke – by Kelly Kay: Cute farm boy Jonathan is about to get married to the wrong person. He’s clinging to an ideal of love, but his bride-to-be seems more interested in his best man, and wants to eat his pet. Jonathan’s heart has always belonged to his friend Juliet, but she left town years ago.

Now, the day before his nuptials, Juliet’s back and Jonathan’s had an epiphany. Can he get the right girl and find real happiness? Or is everything about to go up in smoke, including his pet pig?

Evie and Kelly’s Holiday Disasters are a series of hot and hilarious romantic comedies with interconnected characters, focusing on one holiday and one trope at a time. No cheating, no cliff-hangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after (HEA).

https://amzn.to/3uegJV7

Novellas are not usually my favorite, but Cupid Calamity, the first book in the series, was so much fun I couldn’t resist this new one set around the 4th of July.

These novellas were a bit longer than the ones in the first book, but just as fast a read – and they are both laugh out loud funny! These stories are connected via a text chain among a group of people who were stranded in an airport one night. They proceeded to drink themselves silly and formed a lasting friendship, despite the fact that they live all over the world, from Scotland to the UK to the U.S. In these stories, Kentucky and Chicago are the settings.

In my review copy, the first story was “Up in Smoke.” Jonathan is engaged to be married, but why I could not tell you. He literally has no feelings for his fiancé, they haven’t even slept together, mostly because she is busy sleeping around the small Kentucky town where they live. Her contemptuous attitude towards Jonathan just confused me even more. So that night he met all those friends? One of them called his ex, Juliet, and then he called her after that, confessing he still is in love with her. She still loves him, but somehow he’s blocked her number so he never gets any of the many texts she sends over the months between Valentine’s Day and the 4th of July. She moves back to their Kentucky hometown just in time to stop the wedding. But the bride isn’t getting the message, turning this into a farce that is so over the top I’m surprised it hasn’t been made into a movie yet. Lots of laughs here amid my confusion, but the happy ending was guaranteed and it delivered.

The second story, “Off With a Bang” was my favorite, if I had to pick one. This story centers around another of the friends from the airport, Tristan. He is from the UK but is working for a US company. One of his team members in the Chicago office is Sherilyn, and they form a long distance friendship. They talk, Zoom, and text daily. Tristan decides to ask for a transfer to the Chicago office. He has fallen in love long distance, but is afraid he isn’t good enough for Sherilyn. Tristan has an interesting back story that we don’t learn about until nearly the end.

Meanwhile Sherilyn has also fallen for Tristan, but thinks she isn’t good enough for him. She is from a small Kentucky backwater town, and she had the unfortunate experience of bringing a boyfriend home once, where he humiliated her about her family. When Jonathan invites Tristan to his wedding, it turns out he lives about half an hour from Sherilyn, so Tristan decides to surprise Sherilyn in her hometown for the 4th of July, a couple of days before the wedding. She had talked about the holiday and her family’s participation and invited him to come by any time he was in the area. She never really expected him to show up, and when he does, she is mortified and half the town agrees to help her hide her real family from Tristan. Of course that doesn’t work out very well, but Tristan and Sherilyn still manage to find their happy ending.

I felt more emotionally invested in Sherilyn & Tristan’s story, but both stories were really funny and sweet and sexy, all the good stuff. Highly recommend!

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

COOKOUT CARNAGE by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander. Emlin Press (June 13, 2022) ISBN: 978-1914473111. 330p.

Kindle


Spotlight Review: THE ACCIDENTAL NEWLYWED GAME by Jaci Burton 

June 28, 2022

Boots and Bouquets, Book 3

From the publisher:

What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas, when one night out turns into a wedding that neither newlywed can remember, from New York Times bestselling author Jaci Burton.

Wedding planner Honor Bellini is in Las Vegas for a work convention when she runs into her sister’s ex-fiancé, Owen Stone, who’s also in town for his craft brewery business. They’re both glad to see a familiar face from home…until a night of drinking leads to waking up in bed together—and a marriage certificate from a wedding that neither of them can recall.

Horrified, Owen suggests an immediate annulment. Honor agrees, but when they spend the day together, their chemistry is overwhelming. Plus, Honor has a flash of memory of their steamy wedding night, and she definitely likes what she remembers. They decide to wait before cancelling the whole marriage thing, though they both head back to Oklahoma determined not to tell anyone at home what happened in Vegas.

The problem is, Honor and Owen can’t seem to stay away from each other—or keep their hands off one another. The longer they keep their secret, the harder it gets to deny how they really feel. Even worse, this huge secret has the potential to hurt someone they both care about. They need to get an annulment before this accidental marriage turns into love.

https://amzn.to/3u49BKT

This is my first foray in this series, but I want to read the earlier books now! I must admit, the drunk-and-married-in-Vegas plotline is not my favorite. I just find it almost impossible to believe, but I like Jaci Burton as a rule so I went with it. It is a popular device in romance, so I can’t fault anyone for using it, plus the “accidental marriage” is a favorite plot device for a lot of romance readers. 

Owen was engaged to Honor’s sister, but that was a while ago and now her sister is happily married. He basically dumped her right before the wedding when he was diagnosed with cancer. It’s been a couple of years though, and he is living his best life. Honor always thought Owen was cute and they’ve always been friends, so when she spies him across the lobby in her hotel in Vegas, she texts him and he joins her for lunch. One tequila leads to another and the next thing you know, they are waking up in bed together, married.

Annulment immediately springs to mind but Honor sort of remembers having sex with Owen, but doesn’t remember if they used protection. They decide to go home to Oklahoma and wait to see if she is pregnant. That takes weeks, and meanwhile they are secretly dating. Honor doesn’t want to upset her sister. The three sisters and their mom run a wedding venue at the family vineyard, and they are all very close, so Honor is very uncomfortable keeping her relationship a secret.

There is so much chemistry between Owen and Honor, I don’t know how her family didn’t notice for so long. Without giving too much away, let’s say a friendship plus steamy sex makes for a marriage that works. This was pure escapism, so if, like me, you don’t want to deal with the real world right now, try escaping with Honor and Owen.

The series in order:

.5 – The Matchmaker’s Mistletoe Mission (a prequel novella, Kindle only)

1- The Café By the Sea

2 – The Engagement Arrangement

3 – The Accidental Newlywed Game

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE ACCIDENTAL NEWLYWED GAME by Jaci Burton. Berkley (June 28, 2022). ISBN: 978-0593439630. 336p.

Kindle

 


Spotlight Review: AN ISLAND WEDDING by Jenny Colgan

June 21, 2022

Mure series, Book 5

From the publisher:

New York Times best-selling author Jenny Colgan brings us a delightful summer novel that will sweep you away to the remote Scottish island of Mure, where two very different weddings are about to take place….

On the little Scottish island of Mure – halfway between Scotland and Norway – Flora MacKenzie and her fiancé, Joel, are planning the smallest of “sweetheart weddings”, a high summer celebration surrounded only by those very dearest to them.

Not everyone on the island is happy about being excluded, though. The temperature rises even further when beautiful Olivia MacDonald – who left Mure 10 years ago for bigger and brighter things – returns with a wedding planner in tow. Her fiancé has oodles of family money, and Olivia is determined to throw the biggest, most extravagant, most Instagrammable wedding possible. And she wants to do it at Flora’s hotel, the same weekend as Flora’s carefully planned micro-wedding. 

As the summer solstice approaches, can Flora handle everyone else’s happy-every-afters – and still get her own?

https://amzn.to/3hyL4XR

This is the fifth novel in Colgan’s popular series set on the fictional island of Mure in northern Scotland. The story centers around Flora and Joel’s upcoming wedding, a secret romance between her best friend Lorna and Saif, a Syrian immigrant and father of two boys, and the recently engaged Olivia, a gorgeous islander who became a model and social media influencer. Olivia is planning her own Mure wedding extravaganza for the same day as Flora’s, while Flora is dismayed to learn that Joel wants a “sweetheart wedding” with only the immediate family present. Meanwhile, Saif finds out his wife, who was fighting in Syria, has moved on, and there are immigration legalities and racism at play here. The insanity of Olivia’s Instagrammable wedding and the teasing Flora and Joel get about their baby’s walking skills add humor and lighten the story. This is a slow paced, very descriptive sweet romance, but be forewarned, not all these characters get their happily ever after.

Verdict: Fans of the series will undoubtedly enjoy this latest addition, but other readers may want to start with the first book. Readalikes include books by Felicity Hayes-McCoy, Katie Fforde, and Sophie Kinsella.

The series in order (U.S. versions):

  1. The Café By the Sea
  2. The Endless Beach
  3. Christmas on the Island
  4. Christmas at the Island Hotel
  5. An Island Wedding

©Library Journal, 2022

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

AN ISLAND WEDDING by Jenny Colgan. Avon (June 21, 2022). ISBN: 978-0063141889. 400p.

Kindle

Audible

Hardcover

 


THE BRIDESMAIDS UNION by Jonathan Vatner

June 17, 2022

From the publisher:

From the author of Carnegie Hill, comes Jonathan Vatner’s The Bridesmaids Union, a captivating novel of family, Facebook groups, and bridesmaids gone rogue.

Iris Hagarty has just about had it with weddings. After witnessing one too many meltdowns over flower arrangements, she takes to the internet to vent about the trials and tribulations of being a bridesmaid to demanding and ungrateful brides. She finds she is not alone, and soon becomes the moderator of a Facebook group full of other bridesmaids, eager to share their own horror stories.

Enter Iris’s sister Jasmine, the golden child and their parents’ obvious favorite, newly engaged and wanting none other than Iris to be her maid of honor. Knowing full well that Jasmine doesn’t need a wedding to bring out her spoiled side, Iris buckles in for a bumpy ride. At least now she has an outlet―one full of new online friends hungry for juicy details.

But as the Bridesmaids Union grows, Iris finds it harder to keep under control. And she even has some doubts about whether there will be a wedding after all. While Jasmine’s fiancé, David, seems smitten with his bride-to-be, Iris is less sure about her social-climber sister’s intentions. Though that could just be because Iris is having trouble keeping her own eyes off of the groom.

Brimming with family drama, and set in the ever-encroaching world of Instagram DM’s and Facebook flame wars, The Bridesmaids Union shows the power and limits of alliances we form on social media, and how to make the most of the ones we’re born into.

https://amzn.to/3hyL4XR

Vatner follows up Carnegie Hill with a not-so-lighthearted look at bridezillas and the bridesmaids that serve them. Iris has been estranged from her family since the 2016 election. She was a staunch Hillary supporter, her sister Jasmine didn’t bother to vote, and her parents are evangelical, one issue Trump supporters. So when Jasmine asks Iris to be a bridesmaid, Iris is surprised but happy. Jasmine is a micro-influencer and wants an Instagram worthy wedding with a farm-inspired theme. Iris has already been a bridesmaid twice this year and she really needs a place to vent about Jasmine’s crazy wedding ideas. She starts a secret Facebook group and soon a few hundred women are sharing bridal horror stories. Meanwhile, Ryan, a popular style influencer in the group, helps Iris out and she makes him an admin. When Jasmine goes off the deep end, Ryan decides to out her and makes the group public. Iris is cancelled, there are a lot of hurt feelings before the surprise ending.

Verdict: Family drama, politics, and religion make for interesting fodder but may turn off some readers. Should appeal to fans of Jonathan Tropper’s novels.

©Library Journal, 2022

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE BRIDESMAIDS UNION by Jonathan Vatner. St. Martin’s Press (June 14, 2022). ISBN: 978-1250762399. 336p.

Kindle

Audible

 


Spotlight Review: THE MESSY LIVES OF BOOK PEOPLE by Phaedra Patrick

June 7, 2022

From the publisher:

The house cleaner of a famous author must carry out her employer’s shocking last wish in this delightful new novel from beloved author Phaedra Patrick.

Mother of two Liv Green barely scrapes by as a maid to make ends meet, often finding escape in a good book while daydreaming of becoming a writer herself. So she can’t believe her luck when she lands a job housekeeping for her personal hero, megabestselling author Essie Starling, a mysterious and intimidating recluse. The last thing Liv expected was to be the only person Essie talks to, which leads to a tenuous friendship.

When Essie passes away suddenly, Liv is astonished to learn that her dying wish was for Liv to complete her final novel. But to do so Liv will have to step into Essie’s shoes. As Liv begins to write, she uncovers secrets from the past that reveal a surprising connection between the two women—one that will change Liv’s own story forever…

“Fans of lively fiction will be instantly drawn into the world Patrick creates with her signature charming, breezy style which is further enlivened with nods to popular literature.” Booklist

https://amzn.to/3MoYYZI

Patrick is known for her charming books, and while this one was a bit light on the charm, it delivered it other ways. Liv is an interesting, multi-dimensional character. Married for 20+ years with two sons, the youngest of which will be starting university in the fall. Her husband is working with his sister to take over their parents’ bookbinding business, and it is keeping him busy for more hours than anyone likes. Liv is working as a maid at three jobs; a young family who really take advantage of her, on a commercial cleaning crew where she is completely ignored, and her favorite job, cleaning Essie Starling’s apartment a few afternoons a week.

Essie is a bestselling author who happens to be Liv’s favorite. She really identifies with her main character, who has been in 19 books already, and Essie is working on her 20th. She is a bit of a strange bird, but is very kind to Liv. When Essie dies rather suddenly, her solicitor contacts Liv with a startling bequest; Essie has asked Liv to complete her final novel. It is all handwritten but ends about 8 chapters too soon. In other words, Liv is going to have to finish it herself. The solicitor also tells her that Essie’s death must be kept secret until November 1, giving her 6 months to complete the book. Liv has always wanted to be a writer, but when her father passed away, money was too tight for her to go to college and she started cleaning houses instead, like her mum. So this presents an amazing opportunity for her, plus it is a full time job so bye-bye crappy other employers.

There is some tension when a journalist tries to find Essie for an interview, and apparently has been talking to as many of Essie’s personal and professional contacts as possible. There is more tension as Liv attends a book fair for the publisher, and is feverishly trying to figure out how to finish the novel. There is a connection between Essie and Liv that goes beyond the obvious, and it takes some time to get there., adding another layer to this remarkable story.

This was a gentle, engrossing read and the pages really flew by. I couldn’t help but root for Liv to get everything she wanted. Patrick gives us another entertaining read, this time set in the book world, which always holds appeal for me.

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE MESSY LIVES OF BOOK PEOPLE by Phaedra Patrick. Park Row; Original edition (May 31, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-0778312000. 352p.

Kindle

Audible

Hardcover

 

 


THE BOARDWALK BOOKSHOP by Susan Mallery

June 3, 2022

From the publisher:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery—a story of friends who become family, giving each other courage to start over…

When fate brings three strangers to a charming space for lease on the California coast, the Boardwalk Bookshop is born. Part bookstore, part gift shop, part bakery, it’s a dream come true for Bree, Mikki and Ashley. But while their business is thriving, their personal lives are…not.

Bree, wounded by brilliant but cold parents and her late husband’s ultimate betrayal, has sworn to protect her heart at all costs. Even from Ashley’s brother, a writer and adventurer who has inspired millions. He’s the first man to see past Bree’s barricades to her true self, which terrifies her. Mikki has this divorce thing all figured out—somehow, she’s stayed friends with her ex and her in-laws…until a new man changes how everyone looks at her, and how she sees herself. Meanwhile, Ashley discovers that the love of her life never intends to marry. Can she live without being a wife if it means she can have everything else she’s ever wanted?

At sunset every Friday on the beach in front of the Boardwalk Bookshop, the three friends share a champagne toast. As their bond grows closer, they challenge one another to become the best versions of themselves in this heartachingly beautiful story of friendship, sisterhood and the transformative power of love.

The Boardwalk Bookshop is a classic beach-read romance that will be enjoyed by fans of Robyn Carr and Sheryl Woods. Readers will appreciate that, while Mallery keeps the tone romantic and fun, the protagonists make hard choices and don’t default to the easy way out, giving everyone a character to root for.”—Booklist on The Boardwalk Bookshop

“A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.”Kirkus on The Boardwalk Bookshop

“Mallery is an expert at writing about strong women, their friendships, and their romances.” —Booklist

“Mallery beautifully illustrates the power of female friendship and the importance of reaching for one’s dreams.”—Publishers Weekly

https://amzn.to/3GPuFdC

Three women become business partners then friends when they lease a large space on the beach for their individual businesses; Bree has a bookstore, Ashley has a muffin/bakery, and Mikki has a gift shop, and all three businesses work well together in the shared space. Every Friday, the women close for the day then head to the beach with some champagne, a different kind every week. As they get to know one another, real friendships form.

Bree’s parents are both acclaimed literary fiction authors, and she inherited her bookstore from her late husband. Her parents could not be bothered with her and she had a very troubled, neglected childhood. Her marriage put the final nail in the coffin of her ability to love or even to be loved. While she recognizes she has some issues, she has found ways to cope – no relationships outside of sex once or twice with the same man. Then she moves on. Until she meets Ashley’s brother, Harding. Somehow Harding has gotten Bree to go on a few dates with him, and as they get to know one another, Bree realizes she is in trouble. She is developing feelings for the man, and that terrifies her.

Mikki is divorced but still friends with her ex. They have two kids, and her ex-mother-in-law works for her in the gift shop. It’s been three years since the divorce, and her youngest is almost ready for college. She has a running gag that she doesn’t date because she’s loyal to Earl, her vibrator. Truth is she hasn’t dated for over twenty years, has low self-esteem, and isn’t too tech savvy. But her friends help her get on a dating app, and to her shock, she gets tons of responses. One of the men is Duane, father of one of her daughter’s friends, also divorced. They meet and Mikki finds herself in a new relationship, which goes sideways when her ex-husband springs on her his desire to try again. Conflicted, Mikki has to dig deep, and her friends give the impetus she needs to set boundaries for herself and her ex.

Ashley is a bit younger than the other women and is head over heels in love with Seth. They live together, and he is hinting at buying a house. Ashley assumes he is going to propose, but one thing leads to another until Seth announces he wants to commit to her for a lifetime, but doesn’t believe in marriage and won’t even entertain the idea. They decide to try and see each other’s point of view, but quickly reach a stalemate.

This is a story about friendships and love, and I couldn’t put it down. The characters and their stories really drew me in until I (sadly) turned the last page. It is always hard to pick up another book after reading one that I was so immersed in – I loved this book!

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE BOARDWALK BOOKSHOP by Susan Mallery. MIRA; Original edition (May 31, 2022). ISBN: 978-0778386087. 448p.

Kindle

Audible

Hardcover