One woman takes the vacation of a lifetime in this poignant and heartwarming story about the threads that hold a family together from #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery.
Single mom Robyn Caldwell needs a new plan for her future. She has always put her family first. Now, with her kids grown, she yearns for a change. But what can she do when her daughter has become the most demanding bride ever, her son won’t even consider college, her best friend is on the brink of marital disaster and her ex is making a monumentally bad decision that could ruin everything?
Take a vacation, of course. Press reset. When her great-aunt Lillian invites her to Santa Barbara for the summer, Robyn hops on the first plane to sunny California.
But it’s hard to get away when you’re the heart of the family. One by one, everyone she loves follows her across the country. Somehow, their baggage doesn’t feel as heavy in the sun-drenched, mishmash mansion. The more time Robyn spends with free-spirited Lillian, the more possibilities she sees—for dreams, love, family. She can have everything she ever wanted, if only she can muster the courage to take a chance on herself.
“The perfect escape for readers wanting to get away.”—Booklist
Mallery has the skill to take an almost unbelievable situation and turn it into something that is clearly happening, with characters you can’t help but root for, and she does it really well. In this case, Robyn is fed up with her life. Her cheating ex is too reliant on her, her kids are growing up, and she is coming up on a balloon mortgage of sorts that she has not prepared for.
Robyn’s daughter has turned into bridezilla, and there is little she can do about it other than persevere. Her ex is dating their daughter’s fiance’s twin sister (read that again) and making life uncomfortable for everyone. Her boss and good friend is contemplating an affair and won’t listen to reason. Her doctor boyfriends lets slip that he doesn’t have much respect for her, and at this point, Robyn doesn’t have a whole lot of respect for herself. When her favorite great great aunt invites her to stay with her for as long as she wants, Robyn packs her bags and runs off to the other coast, shocking her family.
Once there, she meets Mason, a long lost relative of her deceased uncle, who is set to inherit the crazy mansion where they are all staying. Robyn learns she is to inherit the furnishings of the home which includes many priceless pieces of art and other ephemera, not to mention antiques galore. Cataloging it all alone could take a year or more. There is something about Mason that draws Robyn in, and he is completely smitten with her.
Meanwhile, her family starts following her across the country and before long, everyone she ran away from is there with her. Lots of craziness ensues, but love always prevails. This is a wonderful, feel good story with a lot of laughs and some tears shed along the way. If you like family fiction with a touch of romance, then you should love this book as much as I do.
4/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
THE SUMMER GETAWAY by Susan Mallery. HQN; Original edition (March 15, 2022). ISBN: 978-1335479990. 416p.
Two broken hearts discover an unpredictable path to healing in an emotional romance about fate and second chances by New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Probst.
It’s been two years since Chiara Kennedy lost her dearest friend, Rory. Chiara misses everything about her. Rory’s widowed husband is another story. Sebastian Ryder is a man Chiara had secretly wanted, let slip away, and hoped to never see again. Then fate throws them together for an unexpected one-night stand and a morning after of new challenges.
Sebastian had a soul mate in Rory. Shutting down after his tragic loss, he kept a cool distance from everyone—including Chiara, with whom he once shared a deep if fleeting affection. That was over and done with a long time ago. But when they meet again, old emotions resurface along with a heart-wounding past that haunts them both.
As Chiara and Sebastian grow closer, finally getting to know each other, Chiara struggles with feelings of guilt even as she cherishes her second chance with Sebastian. Will fate allow them to overcome the past, or are they destined to always wonder if they are truly meant to be?
This is a terrific start to a new series! Chiara and Sebastian met a bar and spend the whole night just talking. But Chiara was not looking for any kind of relationship; she, along with her three best friends, were starting up a new business. They created a website for women, a sort of lifestyle/self help kind of place, and Chiara was completely devoted to making it successful. A year or so later, her best friend and business partner, Rory, introduced her boyfriend to the group. It was Sebastian, and in a moment of bad decision making, Chiara pretended she was just meeting him for the first time, and he went along with it. After that, Chiara tried to keep her distance, leading her friends to think she didn’t like him much.
In actuality, she thought he was perfect for Rory and thought if Rory knew they had any kind of history, she would push him away. Rory and Sebastian got married, then tried to start a family, but were unsuccessful and immersed themselves in the treatments available to them. Then Rory suddenly dies. Drowning in grief, Sebastian walked away from her friends and family and drowned himself in his work as a high school guidance counselor and volunteer at a youth center.
Two years later, Chiara was at a bar, trying to help a co-worker with research on a story about how to get rid of creepy guys in a bar while not actually leaving. It wasn’t going well, the creepy guy wouldn’t take a hint. But Sebastian happened to be there that night and saw what was happening. He swooped in, grabbed the drink creepy guy bought for Chiara, and downed it. Creepy guy took off, so mission accomplished. Except the drink was roofied, and Sebastian was going down.
This was no meet-cute but Chiara spent most of the night watching over him, making sure he was breathing. She finally goes to bed and a short while later dreams she is having amazing sex with Sebastian. It turns out that it wasn’t a dream, and guess what happens next.
Chiara and Sebastian both have a lot of issues with their families and difficult childhoods, and they bond over that. Eventually their relationship deepens, but Chiara is ever mindful that he was Rory’s husband, and they both have a lot of guilt.
This book was unputdownable – I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I loved these characters and can’t wait to see what happens next. But no worries, Chiara and Sebastian get their happy ending.
Just have to add that I hate the cover of this book. If I saw this on the shelf, I wouldn’t touch it. It’s just so generic and boring, and the book is anything but! Amazon Publishing needs to step up its cover game.
4/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
MEANT TO BE by Jennifer Probst. Montlake (April 19, 2022). ISBN: 978-1542034807. 319p.
Number-one New York Times best-selling author Colleen Hoover returns with a new heart-wrenching love story.
When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she doesn’t think it’s love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her:
Never ask about the past.
Don’t expect a future.
They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.
I thought I had read all of Hoover’s adult books, but somehow I missed this one. I’m very happy I stumbled across it from my library.
Tate is a nurse pursuing a graduate degree, so she moves in with her brother while she is in school. She meets Miles on move-in day when he is dead drunk and passed out at the front door of the apartment. Miles is a good friend of her brother, and is very good looking, and the chemistry between Tate and Miles is off the chart. They start a sexual relationship as he is not interested in getting involved – his rules: ‘Don’t ask about my past, and never expect a future.’ Tate is all in as she doesn’t have time for anything more than work and school. So win-win. Until things change.
There is another storyline set in the past about Miles and Rachel’s relationship, which is what causes him to avoid relationships at all. It takes some time to get there, and all I’ll say is the “ugly” in the title may refer to the “ugly crying” this book caused! But it is also heartwarming, heartwrenching, and all in all, a terrific read.
Hoover is definitely one of my favorites. Her books are all well written with characters that come to life on the page. If you love emotional romances that really draw the reader in, then this is your book. I loved it.
4/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
UGLY LOVE by Colleen Hoover. Atria (August 5, 2014). ISBN: 978-1476753188. 336p.
The “sweet, sexy, and utterly fun” (Emily Henry, author of People We Meet on Vacation) Regency Vows series continues with a witty, charming, and joyful novel following a seasoned debutante and a rakish theater owner as they navigate a complicated marriage of convenience.
Lady Emily Turner has been a debutante for six seasons now and should have long settled into a suitable marriage. However, due to her father’s large debts, her only suitor is the persistent and odious owner of her father’s favorite gambling house. Meanwhile, Lord Julian Belfry, the second son of a marquess, has scandalized society as an actor and owner of a theater—the kind of establishment where men take their mistresses, but not their wives. When their lives intersect at a house party, Lord Julian hatches a plan to benefit them both.
With a marriage of convenience, Emily will use her society connections to promote the theater to a more respectable clientele and Julian will take her out from under the shadows of her father’s unsavory associates. But they soon realize they have very different plans for their marriage—Julian wants Emily to remain a society wife, while Emily discovers an interest in the theater. But when a fleeing actress, murderous kitten, and meddlesome friends enter the fray, Emily and Julian will have to confront the fact that their marriage of convenience comes with rather inconvenient feelings.
With “an arch sense of humor and a marvelously witty voice that rivals the best of the Regency authors” (Entertainment Weekly), Martha Waters crafts another fresh romantic comedy that for fans of Julia Quinn and Evie Dunmore.
This is my first time reading this author, so I haven’t read the first two books in the series – but I could tell I was missing information. Nevertheless, the story pulled me in and the characters came to life on the page.
Lady Emily was an interesting character; a dutiful daughter, an intelligent woman, and a woman always in complete control of her emotions. When Lord Julian proposes this marriage of convenience, Emily is thrilled to escape from under her parents iron-fisted rule, and happy to jilt the man who’s been squiring her about for a few years, without a proposal in sight. Not that she wants to marry the odious man, but the scandals that have befallen her family leave her out of the running for most men.
But Julian is different. He owns a somewhat disreputable theater and is estranged from his family because of it, especially his father who gave him an ultimatum to either sell the theater or he would be cut off. Julian is making tons of money from the theater and doesn’t need his father’s money, but deep down he would like his approval. So he hatches this plan to marry a proper society woman in hopes of getting the ton to come to his theater – the wives, not just the mistresses.
Of course they fall in love, but both are afraid to admit it, and to admit what it might mean for their plans. But no worries, Julian and Emily mend fences, support one another, and get their happily ever after. Now I have to find the first two books in the series!
4/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
TO MARRY AND TO MEDDLE by Martha Waters. Atria Books (April 5, 2022). ISBN: 978-1982190484. 336p.
Three women who seemingly have nothing in common find that they’re involved with the same man in this smart new rom-com by Beth O’Leary, best-selling author of The Flatshare.
Siobhan is a quick-tempered life coach with way too much on her plate. Miranda is a tree surgeon used to being treated as just one of the guys on the job. Jane is a soft-spoken volunteer for the local charity shop with zero sense of self-worth.
These three women are strangers who have only one thing in common: They’ve all been stood up on the same day, the very worst day to be stood up—Valentine’s Day. And, unbeknownst to them, they’ve all been stood up by the same man.
Once they’ve each forgiven him for standing them up, they are all in serious danger of falling in love with a man who may have not just one or two but three women on the go….
Is there more to him than meets the eye? Where was he on Valentine’s Day? And will they each untangle the truth before they all get their hearts broken?
This was a slow start for me, but I stuck with it and ended up loving this story of a good guy acting badly, who may not be as bad or good as he seems at first glance. This book surprised me, and that rarely happens, especially a romance. Most are very formulaic: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back and happily ever after. This story was quite a bit more complicated than that.
These three women are all very different, but all are involved with the same man. Jane is volunteering at a thrift shop in the small town outside of London where she grew up. She is hiding from the world after something happened at her job. We don’t find out what it was until the end, we just know that her self esteem is nonexistant, and she is dealing with her issues by carefully monitoring her behavior. She seems a bit OCD, wearing the same outfit every Monday, a different outfit on Tuesday, and so forth. She allows herself to read one book per week. But then she meets Joseph in a coffee shop, and they form a book discussion group of sorts: just the two of them discussing a different book each week. They read all sorts of things, but when Joseph suggests she might want to read another book during the week, Jane is horrified at the thought of such an interruption to her carefully regimented life. Joseph is not deterred; he starts leaving her books on her doorstep, and she finds it almost thrilling to read another book during the week. Jane starts falling for Joseph, but they remain just friends. Until he stands her up on Valentine’s Day.
Siobhan, Shiv to her friends, runs a very popular women’s empowerment website with her best friends from college. Shiv doesn’t have time for a relationship. Early on, she meets Joseph in a club, and the spend the entire night talking. But she knows she has to invest all her time into her new business, and she ghosts him. She likes having a friend with benefits though, and pencils herself in for the first Friday of every month to have sex with him. He wants more but when he suggests it, she ghosts him again.
Miranda is a tree surgeon, a female rarity who works with a team of men. One of the men, AJ, is known to be a womanizer and when he starts flirting with her, she quickly shuts him down, telling him she has a boyfriend. Carter is a good boyfriend, a nice guy, but there is something a bit off there and she isn’t sure what it is. Eventually, she is also stood up on Valentines’ Day and that sets Miranda on a path to find out what is really going on with him.
This is a gentle romance that moves seamlessly between these three women, weaving together three disparate parts into a shocking whole story. It is an emotional read, often funny but other times inducing tears. I loved it!
4/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
THE NO-SHOW by Beth O’Leary. Berkley (April 12, 2022). ISBN: 978-0593438442. 352p.
From number-one best-selling author Lisa Scottoline comes a pulse-pounding new novel.
Your family has been attacked, never again to be the same.
Now you have to choose between law…and justice.
Jason Bennett is a suburban dad who owns a court-reporting business, but one night, his life takes a horrific turn. He is driving his family home after his daughter’s field hockey game when a pickup truck begins tailgating them, on a dark stretch of road. Suddenly two men jump from the pickup and pull guns on Jason, demanding the car. A horrific flash of violence changes his life forever.
Later that awful night, Jason and his family receive a visit from the FBI. The agents tell them that the carjackers were members of a dangerous drug-trafficking organization – and now Jason and his family are in their crosshairs.
The agents advise the Bennetts to enter the witness protection program right away, and they have no choice but to agree. But WITSEC was designed to protect criminal informants, not law-abiding families. Taken from all they know, trapped in an unfamiliar life, the Bennetts begin to fall apart at the seams. Then Jason learns a shocking truth and realizes that he has to take matters into his own hands.
So I made the mistake of starting this book at 10:00 at night. I very reluctantly went to bed two hours later, then dreamt about it! The Bennetts are a family that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – or so it seems. When the truck that was tailgating them on the way home suddenly passes them, then turns and blocks the road, Jason realizes they may be in trouble. The men who stopped them are armed, and force them all out of the car. But then his daughter is shot, and while he is tending to her wound, another shot is fired. One of the bad guys killed the other, then takes off.
They manage to get their daughter to the hospital, but the wound is fatal. Then in the middle of the night, the FBI comes knocking on the door and convinces the family to go into hiding. There is more to this story than a simple carjacking gone bad. Shortly after they leave with the FBI, their home and businesses are destroyed by fire. And then things really escalate.
This book was unputdownable. The characters really come to life on the page, and their concerns became my concerns. There is a lot of action that really makes the story move, and enough twists and turns to keep me guessing until the very end. Another excellent read from one of my favorite writers – don’t miss it!
4/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BENNETTS by Lisa Scottoline. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (March 29, 2022). ISBN: 978-0525539674. 400p.
I actually started and read this series in order. After I read the Hockey Hotties series by this author, I checked Hoopla (from the public library) to see what other Piper Rayne books were available. They had this entire series, so down the rabbit hole I went. There are all fairly short, fast sexy reads and a lot of fun.
The Rooftop Crew are a bunch of friends who live in an apartment building in Clifton Heights. I’m not clear on where that is exactly. On the map of NY, it’s upstate and they mention Peekskill, which I know is Westchester, so on the way upstate and five hours from Clifton Heights. But they also mention “the city,” and as far as I know, the only place in New York that is referred to as “the city” is Manhattan. I guess it doesn’t really matter but that is how my brain works. Anyway, these friends often hang out on the roof of their apartment building; hence, the Rooftop Crew.
Here’s a little fun fact: Piper Rayne is actually a pseudonym for two women writing together: Elizabeth Grace is “Piper” and Michelle Lynn is “Rayne.” And honestly, those “real” names sound fake, too, like maybe their first & middle names??
I can’t borrow him. He’s not a sweater or a skirt. He’s not even her favorite dress—the lucky one she wears on first dates. The one she probably wore on her first date with him.
In my defense, I didn’t know who he was. To me, he was a cool, calm, confident stranger. He was perfection for the entire hour and a half train ride while the concrete jungle turned into a rolling green landscape.
To an outsider, we probably appeared more friends than hopeful lovers. But my blush came quickly, and his dimples indented with every smile. We definitely shared a spark of what could be.
Too bad I didn’t know who he was before I fell for him, because he can’t be mine.
This is Blanca and Ethan’s story. The ex in the title is Blanca’s friend Sierra. Sierra and Ethan had a very volatile relationship until they broke up. Now they are just enemies. Well, at least Sierra sees it that way. When Sierra runs into her old friend, it is right after Blanca has lost her job and needs a place to live. Sierra invites her to Clifton Heights, and on the day Blanca moves there, she meets this hot guy on the train ride in. There is great chemistry there, and when they run into each other again, they start dating. Things get pretty hot and heavy fairly quickly. Meanwhile, whenever Sierra’s ex, Sigmund, is mentioned, flames shoot out of her eyes. So when it turns out the Sigmund is actually Ethan’s nickname, and Sierra finds out Blanca is dating him, things get a little messy. But no worries, they get their happily ever after!
He’s not your average Joe from the corner bar. He’s the heir to the crown.
I should know, I’ve followed him for years. Not in a stalkerish way. Magazines and online gossip blogs are fair game when you’re royalty. But I do know every detail about him, down to the brand of boxer briefs he wears.
All my studying of the man who plays a starring role in my dreams pays off when I win a dinner with him. As if that wasn’t enough, he barters a deal with me that has him moving into my spare guest room.
I forgot that fairy tales don’t exist though because just as I’m about to get everything I want, including the prince, I find out there’s someone in Prince Adrian Marx’s life I don’t know—his fiancée.
A Royal Mistake features Sierra and Prince Adrian. Adrian is prince of Sandsal, some country that doesn’t exist, and their rules state that the country must be ruled by a King but he also must be married. Unfortunately, his parents are getting divorced so that will force him to be king, but only if he marries. Adrian has no desire to be king, and his sister would love to rule, but she cannot. That leaves his youngest brother who is way too young to rule. He escapes to America (think “Coming to America” only much, much whiter) and Sierra, who is obsessed with the good looking prince, wins a date with him. That ends up with him moving in until he has to return home. He gets a part time job in a bagel bakery, and the next thing you know, Sierra and Adrian are an item. Of course his parents don’t approve, nor does his country, complicating things further. But this is a romance so they do end up together.
I’ve loved him from afar. Though most times he’s only a foot away.
I’m smart enough to know he’ll never be anyone’s forever.
He checks all the bad boy boxes. Tattoos. Check. Motorcycle. Check. Chip on his shoulder. Check check.
If he wasn’t my neighbor and friend I may have thrown myself at him. Okay, yeah. I wouldn’t. Because guys like Dylan don’t want a woman who writes kid’s math textbooks under him in bed. Instead, I pathetically savor morsels of moments where I have his sole attention.
That was until his archenemy moved in with me. Now suddenly, Dylan’s moving in too and warning off the first guy in a long time who’s showing me interest. Could he finally see me as more than a friend, or am I just a prize to win and show off to his enemy?
Book three is about Rian and Dylan, and introduces Jax. Rian has had a big crush on Dylan for a long time and everyone knows it but him. Dylan also has a crush on Rian but instead of acting on it, he goes out with lots of different women. Until Jax moves in. He’s been away for a while, but Dylan and Jax were good friends until they had a falling out over a girl and some professional jealousy. So when Jax is invited to move in with Rian, Dylan immediately moves his stuff across the hall to the other empty bedroom. Rian loves to bake, but she is also a math genius. So when her parents start bugging her to enter this mathematical contest and actually sign her up, she decides to go for it. The first person to solve the math problem wins $25,000. As Jax flirts with Rian and they even go out on a date, it drives Dylan mad until he finally succumbs and asks Rian out. Dylan always liked Rian but thought he wasn’t good enough for her. Turns out they are very good for each other.
She’s got two strikes against her. Her name is Erickson and her parents own The Bagel Place.
It wasn’t always that way. When we were nine, we were best friends. But then a feud between our dads ripped their successful business apart—and my best friend was ripped away too.
Our paths were bound to cross again. When both our families vie for the same spot on a Food Channel’s reality show, the producers decide to change the format, aligning us as allies.
In order to get our parents to agree to work together, Evan asks me to pretend to be her boyfriend, but I dare her to up the ante—be my fiancée. Fake fiancée… obviously.
As usual, I didn’t think things through. Turns out our parents have a lot of demands neither one of us expected. And all those demands lead to things feeling more real than fake.
Our Star-Crossed Kiss is Seth and Evan’s story, and is a riff on Romeo and Juliet. Their fathers were once business partners in a bagel shop until they had a major falling out. Seth and Evan were best friends as children until they were forbidden to see one another after the fight. Each of the father’s opened their own bagel shop – Evan’s dad specialized in fantastic shmears (cream cheese) while Seth’s dad made the best bagels. When a TV show wants to feature both of their shops, Evan and Seth decide they want to do it. Neither one really wants to run a bagel shop and this could be their way out of it. They come up with this plan for a fake engagement, forcing the families together again, but the dads aren’t buying it. If you’ve ever read a romance novel, you know that the fake engagement always ends up with a happy ending and this is no exception.
She was always the one. Or so I thought. Turns out my instincts were dead wrong.
Years ago I was faced with the choice between two women. Both were perfect in opposite ways. One was carefree and against commitment. The other was a woman you’d bring home to mom.
I was young, naïve and stupid. I’m sure you can guess who I chose.
Now, I’m older, wiser and know what the hell I want.
So, when the same two women pop back into my life it’s my chance for a do-over. But they flipped the script. Just like me, they want different things now. Leaving me with one choice—convince the woman I want that she wants me too.
This book centers on Knox and Kamea. They met several years earlier when Kamea was waitressing in a bar. Knox flirted with her all night, but one of his friends told him that she was the kind of girl you take home to meet your mom, not a one night stand. That scared him off, and he ended up taking Leilani home. She was trouble, but the savior in Knox, a cop, led him to believe she was the one he would save. Their on again, off again relationship really hurt him, but it has been months since he’s seen her and he’s over her. Kamea was hurt that he took off with Leilani that night. They were childhood friends but Leilani was a real user – the only time Kamea heard from her is when she wanted something. Like bail money. Kamea bails her out and Leilani disappears, but not before she and her friends get Kamea kicked out of her apartment. Now she’s broke and homeless, and when Knox finds her with the homeless, he insists on taking her home with him. It’s time for them to have a do-over and find their happily ever after.
Three tattoo guns. Five motorcycle tires. Countless T-shirts.
That’s what I lost before I realized nothing good comes from dating my co-workers.
Usually, I don’t have much self-control. So, the fact that Frankie Grant is a hot, talented tattoo artist means it’s a damn miracle she hasn’t already been in my bed. But nothing can happen between us because Frankie comes with Jolie, her young daughter, and a crap load of baggage from her ex. And those are two things I never entertain.
Anyone who knows me—the screwed up foster kid from the wrong side of the tracks—knows I’m not the guy you take home to meet your parents, let alone your kid. But I also know what it’s like not to have parents, so things get complicated when Jolie asks me to be her daddy.
I might as well just slash my own tires now.
This is the last book in the series and centers on Jax and Frankie. Frankie is a single mom to Jolie, her sweet five year old daughter. Jax and Frankie are tattoo artists who work together and constantly butt heads. Jax has a lot of baggage and is leery of relationships, to say the least. But he loves Jolie, and consequently when Jolie asks Santa to make Jax her daddy, or get her a puppy, he panics and buys her the dog. This leads to more fights but utlimately they co-parent the dog, bringing them closer. The more they get to know one another, the closer they get, fighting it all the way. But they find their happy ending, and I was sad to end this series.
Luckily, I have a few hundred more books to read so I’m good! But if you like steamy romances, this is a fun series. I read them all in a week and was happy to spend time with the Rooftop Crew.
A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched cultural observers of her generation.
In these funny and insightful essays, Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better, coming from one of our most interesting and important cultural critics.
A New York Times Bestseller• Best Book of the Year: NPR • Boston Globe • Newsweek • Time Out New York • Oprah.com • Miami Herald • Book Riot • Buzz Feed • Globe and Mail (Toronto) • The Root • Shelf Awareness
I’m a long time admirer of Roxane Gay, but this is the first book of hers that I read. Over the years I’ve read many of her essays in various publications like New York Magazine, VQR, The New York Times, and many more. This book is part of the Social Impact Book Series that I facilitate at Lynn University. The essays are divided into five parts: Me; Gender & Sexuality; Race & Entertainment; Politics, Gender & Race; and Back to Me.
It was originally published in 2014, and I’m sorry to say there is one essay about Bill Cosby that has not held up. In fact, Gay wrote about Cosby later on, updating her position in The Empty Chair & 35 Women Standing Up to Bill Cosby, Rapist. Then again, most of us loved Bill Cosby until his actions forced us into hating him.
Other essays include the eponymous “Bad Feminist,” in which she says, “The more I write, the more I put myself out into the world as a bad feminist but, I hope, a good woman.” She describes herself as “a mess of contradictions” and discusses the dichotomy of thinking herself a feminist yet listening to rap music that degrades women, knowing nothing about cars, hating how women are held to impossible beauty standards yet being a voracious Vogue reader. I think most women struggle with these and other dichotomies as well, and I certainly can relate.
In this collection, Gay explores what it means to be a woman in America in this century. She explores her own imperfections, thus shining the light on our own and helping us understand that we are all imperfect. Her voice is always engaging and I found myself reading just one more and then one more after that. At times funny and sad and everything in between, Gay takes us on her very personal journey yet somehow I found it very relatable, and that is no easy feat. An easy book to pick up and a bit tougher to put down, this is a collection that is worth seeking out.
NOTE: Roxane Gay Books is a new imprint of Grove Atlantic announced in May. 2021 and will “focus on underrepresented fiction, nonfiction and memoir writers, with or without agents.” (NYT) I am not aware of any books that have been published yet.
3/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
BAD FEMINIST by Roxane Gay. Harper Perennial; 1st edition (August 5, 2014). ISBN: 978-0062282712. 336p.
Three generations of women. Three generations worth of secrets. Will a cache of letters from beyond the grave hold the key to unravelling them all? The answer to that question lies at the heart of this addictive and atmospheric novel from the author of The House of Brides.
Growing up, the Anderson sisters could not have been more different. Susie, the wild one, had an adventurous life while Camilla— Mills—followed a safer path. When Susie suddenly dies, Mills falls apart. Until she receives a bundle of mysterious letters from her estranged sister to be read in the case of her death. Each letter instructs her to visit a place special to Susie, both to spread her ashes but also to uncover some truths Susie has long kept hidden from her family.
Their mother Margaret has secrets of her own. When living in Swinging Sixties London, she too made a decision about her life that not only haunts her, but will reverberate through the generations.
One family, three very different women. What choices and secrets connect them? In this novel of truth and lies, concealment and regret, Jane Cockram flips the looking glass to expose our true face, revealing the deep lines of deception that can run through families and how the people we love the most often have the most to hide.
This multi-generational story of family secrets by Cockram (The House of Brides) centers on two sisters; Camilla, the “good” daughter who follows the rules, and Susie, the rebel. When Susie suddenly dies, she leaves behind a series of letters for Camilla, instructing her to scatter Susie’s ashes in the various places she visited one summer in 1998. Camilla honors her sister’s wishes even though it puts a strain on her marriage.
Three generations of women in this family have skeletons in their closets, all involving another family, the Rowes. Susie met David Rowe that fateful summer in London, followed him to a tiny island in France, where she met his girlfriend Isabelle, then met Henri and fell in love. Things ended badly, and now Susie’s letters have sent Camilla on a trail that has threatened to reveal things her mother and grandmother never wanted exposed. Turns out there is a lot of juicy history between the families, and all is eventually revealed.
Verdict: This somewhat convoluted story gets bogged down by jumping time periods, but ultimately reaches a satisfying conclusion. Should appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty or Celeste Ng.
I am loving this series! I am not usually a fan of the pregnancy romance, but Hunter does such a good job with it she’s made me a convert.
Hollis recently got divorced after finding out her husband was cheating on her. Her sister is getting married to a hockey player, so Hollis has to be in the wedding even though all she wants to do is go off by herself and cry. Pity party for one, please! But an understandable pity party for sure.
Lowell is her future brother-in-law’s teammate and a man who has been burnt once himself. His girlfriend told him she was pregnant and he was ready to marry her until he found out she was lying. He is determined to avoid relationships and stick to one night stands where his heart won’t get involved.
Hollis and Lowell have a one night stand at the wedding, and a big oops occurs. When she finally gets hold of Lowell to tell him, he feels like history is repeating itself. Except Hollis doesn’t seem like the type to be after his money or his fame. He cautiously agrees to be involved with the baby but insists on them just co-parenting. No relationship allowed!
Best laid plans and all…Hollis and Lowell spend a lot of time together. He falls in love with his baby almost from the get go but is cautious around Hollis, and she is cautious as well. She loves the support he is giving her – the emotional and physical support because she is having a pregnancy that sends her sex drive roaring, and he is happy to help out.
You can guess what happens but this was such a fun, sexy read it didn’t matter. I wanted them to find their happily ever after, and they do. Looking forward to the next book in the series, Sin Bin, publishing in July.
3/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
ONE-TIMER by Teagan Hunter. Independently published (March 24, 2022). ASIN: B09QH91PQN. 263p.