THE BOOKSTORE ON THE BEACH by Brenda Novak

July 12, 2021

From the publisher:

How do you start a new chapter of your life when you haven’t closed the book on the previous one?

Eighteen months ago, Autumn Divac’s husband went missing. Her desperate search has yielded no answers, and she can’t imagine moving forward without him. But for the sake of their two teenage children, she has to try.

Autumn takes her kids home for the summer to the charming beachside town where she was raised. She seeks comfort working alongside her mother and aunt at their bookshop, only to learn that her daughter is facing a huge life change and her mother has been hiding a terrible secret for years. And when she runs into the boy who stole her heart in high school, old feelings start to bubble up again. Is she free to love him, or should she hold out hope for her husband’s return? She can only trust her heart…and hope it won’t lead her astray.


Autumn has been searching for her missing husband for so long that she knows it’s time to give up, but it’s a hard thing to do. While some people think he took off with another woman, Autumn is pretty sure he didn’t. Why would he leave without any money or any of his possessions? She thinks he went to the Ukraine and was doing something for the FBI, but they are not helpful so she hires a private detective. He turns out to be not so helpful either.

Autumn’s kids are in their final years of high school. Taylor will be a senior, and her brother Caden is just a year behind. It’s been difficult for them to deal with their father’s disappearance but they have had to go on with their own lives. Autumn’s mom won’t travel so she decides to bring the kids to her mom for the summer. She lives in Sable Beach, a small beach town, and it takes several hours to drive there from their home in Tampa. Her mom’s house isn’t big, so Taylor gets the bedroom and Caden gets the couch, while Autumn sleeps in the small apartment above the garage.

The kids make friends and seem happy-ish, so Autumn relaxes a bit. It’s incredibly difficult being stuck in limbo, not knowing if her husband is alive or dead but she knows she has to end the search soon. Things take a turn when she runs into Quinn, her high school crush. He married his high school sweetheart and broke Autumn’s heart, not that he knew that. But his wife suffers from a debilitating mental illness, which culminates in her stabbing Quinn in his sleep. He survived but she’s in prison, and her mom is still in this small town, badmouthing Quinn.

Quinn and Autumn start seeing each other and all the old feelings come back but there is that pesky missing husband lingering in the background. Taylor is having some major issues, including questioning whether or not she is a lesbian. I was so impressed with how Autumn handled it, so kudos to Novak for a sensitive and realistic (to me) response.

It’s not a stretch to say you can guess what happens once Autumn and Quinn realize they have fallen in love and want to spend their lives together. The kids really like him, too.

There is another plot line regarding Mary, Autumn’s mother. Mary and Laura own the bookstore in the title, and are best friends. Mary has a very disturbing background that takes a while to unravel, but adds another dimension to the story.

This is a really good read with a lot of twists for a romance that really isn’t romantic suspense. There is the mystery of the missing husband, and Mary’s background, but everything comes together by the end. I couldn’t put this book down and I really cared what happened to all these characters. Novak always writes a good story, and I loved this one.

NOTE: Novak is offering a free “Bookstore on the Beach” Bonus Epilogue that also signs you up for her newsletter. The epilogue was truly the icing on the cake here, and I was happy to share my email so I won’t miss her next book!

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE BOOKSTORE ON THE BEACH by Brenda Novak. MIRA; Original edition (April 6, 2021). ISBN: 978-0778361053. 448 pages.

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LOVE FOR BEGINNERS by Jill Shalvis

July 11, 2021

The Wildstone Series, Book 7

From the publisher:

But although Gracie finds herself slowly falling for Sir online, she has

USA TODAY BESTSELLER

What would you change if you had to start your life—and love life—over again?

When Emma Harris wakes up from a coma she learns that her fiancé and her BFF have fallen in love, she’s lost her job, and the life she knew is gone. Overwhelmed but grateful to be alive she starts over from scratch. Not as easy as it sounds, of course. But she’s never been a quitter, even if she wishes she could quit rehab, where her hot but evil physical therapist, Simon, puts her through the wringer. 

Eager for a new beginning, Emma opens a doggy day care. Unfortunately, the only space she can afford is owned by her childhood nemesis Ali Pratt. But hey, she’s been through worse, right? She tries to roll with the punches, but a friend drops his grandpa off at the doggy day care in desperation then on top of that, she and Ali bring the term ‘frenemies’ to a whole new level. And then another grandparent shows up. And another.

In the midst of all that, Emma realizes she’s accidentally fallen for Evil PT. But the most horrifying thing of all is that Ali just might have turned into the best friend she’s ever had. And as Emma grows from the pain of her past and takes on her new path, she comes to realize that life isn’t what you’re given, it’s what you make of it. 


This was such a good book on so many levels. Shalvis writes great romances, and this certainly is, but it is so much more. For one thing, our heroine feels like anything but. Emma was a runner, and got hit by a car as she crossed a street. It was a no fault accident; the driver who hit her didn’t see the stop sign hidden by a tree (rather like the parking ticket we just got in Brooklyn because the “no standing” sign was hidden behind a tree). The driver hit another car and all told, Emma had horrific trauma to her but the driver’s wife died. They are both feeling lots of survivor guilt.

Simon is the physical therapist that has been working with Emma since the accident almost a year earlier. Her doctors told her she would never walk again, but with Simon’s help/torture, she is walking. But if having a traumatic accident wasn’t bad enough, Emma’s fiancé and her best friend ended up falling in love. so the two most important people in her life are now her enemy. She had been living with her BFF, but once she’s out of rehab she knows she can’t go back there. Luckily, Simon found her an apartment. It’s a second floor walk up, which means Emma has to deal with the stairs but that is good for her, too.

Emma is half in love with Simon, but he’s too important to her as a PT so she doesn’t want to risk a relationship with him. Not to mention she is in no mindset to date. Simon fell in love with Emma when he saw her arguing with her doctors about walking. She is the most determined person he’s ever met, and he has tons of admiration for the work she’s done to get better. Plus he thinks she’s hot.

Meanwhile, Emma cannot find a job. No one wants to hear that the gap in her employment history is due to being in a coma for months. She works very part time at a dog sitting service. She does training with the dogs who need it. But she needs a real job. Then the owner decides she wants to spend time with her grandchildren (I can relate!) and wants to sell the business. Emma decides it’s the perfect business for her but after she is turned down by three banks for a business loan, she is at the end of the road. But then Simon’s sister Ali comes through.

Ali helps run the family real estate business but has always wanted something of her own. But Emma and Ali have history, having competed all through high school. Due to a series of unfortunate events, they pretty much hate each other. But both are willing to overlook that to get what they want, and a partnership is formed.

As Ali and Emma finally become friends, Simon and Emma admit their feelings for one another. But Simon is in a bad place. His father suffered a couple of strokes and Simon is now his caretaker, not to mention running his father’s real estate company, which he hates. He loves doing PT, but has had to cut way back on his hours due to his other responsibilities, and he is at the point where he just doesn’t think he has the time for a relationship. In fact his last relationship ended when he couldn’t give her enough time.

But despite all this, Emma and Simon do get together, and then it falls apart. Ali and Emma become good friends, and Simon and Emma get their happily ever after. This was a very compelling read with terrific characters you can’t help but root for. Another excellent addition to the Wildstone series that can be read as a standalone.

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

LOVE FOR BEGINNERS by Jill Shalvis. William Morrow (June 8, 2021). ISBN: 978-0063082243. 384 pages.

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THE RESTAURANT by Pamela Kelley

July 10, 2021

The Nantucket Restaurant Series, Book 1

From the publisher:

Three sisters. An inherited Nantucket restaurant. One year before they can sell.

Mandy, Emma and Jill are as close as three sisters who live hundreds of miles apart can be. They grew up together on Nantucket, but Mandy is the only one that stayed.

Jill lives a glamorous life in Manhattan as a co-owner of a successful executive search firm. Never married, she is in her mid-thirties and lives in a stunning, corner condo with breathtaking views of the city and Hudson river. Everyone thinks there’s something going on with her partner, Billy, because as a workaholic, she spends more time with him than anyone else. But there’s never been anything but friendship between them and Billy loves being a bachelor in NYC.

Emma lives in Arizona and is an elementary school teacher and an aspiring photographer. She met her college professor husband, Peter, in grad school and they’ve been married for almost thirteen years. In recent years, she’s noticed that Peter has grown distant. But when he shares a surprising secret, she doesn’t see it coming and her world is turned upside down.

Mandy followed her high school boyfriend, Cory to Boston College, and right after graduation, they married and settled in Dover, just outside of Boston. Cory joined a successful hedge fund, while Mandy took a job at a downtown financial services firm as an administrative assistant. She quit a year later, when Blake, the first baby came. Two years later, when Brooke was born, Cory left to open a competing Hedge Fund and they moved home to Nantucket. Now that the children are older, Mandy has more free time and is eager to do more than just volunteer with local charity events. But Cory doesn’t want her to work. He thinks it doesn’t reflect well on him and appearances are everything to Cory. Though when Mandy finds a second cell phone in his gym bag, she begins to question what is really going on.

When their beloved grandmother, Rose Ferguson passes peacefully in her sleep a week before her ninety-ninth birthday she leaves them quite a surprise. In addition to her Nantucket home, they learned that she was the silent owner of Mimi’s Place, one of Nantucket’s most popular year-round restaurants. There is of course, a catch–she left the restaurant equally to Mandy, Emma, and Jill–and also to Paul, the chef for the past twelve years. And before they can sell, all three girls need to work at the restaurant for a period of one year–or else their shares will go to Paul–who was also Emma’s first love. Three sisters inherit a Nantucket restaurant and must work together for a year–or lose their shares to the chef. Paul was Emma’s first love, and now he’s their business partner.


I have never seen such a long, thorough synopsis as the one the publisher provides for this book (which led me to believe it was self published, and yes.) So I don’t really need to summarize the plot. I will say there was no cell phone in the gym bag, but there was a receipt for one – same difference, same results. You know what it means when a wife finds a second cell phone, and it is never anything good.

These three sisters get along amazingly well, lucky lucky siblings. Growing up on Nantucket, they never knew their grandmother owned their favorite restaurant, or really anything about her life. I think most kids don’t know much about their grandparents, so I found that pretty easy to believe. The fact that she was matchmaking from beyond the grave, also believable. And that two sisters are having marital problems at the same time, again believable. I am crediting all this believability to the author, she does a really good job here of introducing three complicated characters, and had me completely immersed in their stories from the get go. The fact that the plot revolves around a restaurant was just gravy! Plus it’s a pretty short book,, so kudos for developing so many characters in a short space.

This was a good read, very entertaining and for those who care, no sex. But implied sex, so a step above (and more believable) than other sweet romances like those from Debbie Macomber.

The next book in this series is Christmas at the Restaurant, which falls nicely into the ever popular Christmas in July summer extravaganza. It was not meant for that, but it’s how it fell into my lap. So be it. Check back for a review shortly.

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE RESTAURANT by Pamela Kelley. Piping Plover Press (May 16, 2020). ISBN: 978-0991243563. 280 pages.

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THE SECRET INGREDIENT by Nancy Naigle

July 9, 2021

A HALLMARK CHANNEL ORIGINAL MOVIE!

From the publisher:

Love is like a perfect recipe…You never want to lose it.

Years ago, Kelly McIntyre and Andrew York were engaged and dreaming of opening a restaurant together. Then he chose an opportunity to study in Paris over the small-town life they’d planned, and their romance came to a bittersweet end.

But Kelly’s doing fine. She’s not only the owner of a potbellied pig named Gray, but also of her own bakery. Business is good—so good that she’s invited to compete in a Valentine’s Day bake-off. As she prepares for the contest, she tries not to get distracted by Andrew’s visit to town.

When Andrew sees Kelly, it stirs up his old feelings. Little does he know that soon, in New York, he’ll compete against her in the bake-off…and they’ll both realize how much their past is a part of them still.

This irresistible romance includes a free Hallmark original recipe for Honey Almond Cake with Berries and Mascarpone Crème Fraiche.


I found this author after I watched the new Hallmark movie, Sand Dollar Cove. I noticed in the credits that it was based on a novel by Nancy Naigle. The name was not familiar to me, so I checked Hoopla and found several audiobooks by Naigle, including Sand Dollar Cove, but only one ebook, this one, The Perfect Ingredient.

I didn’t love the movie, in fact I’ve pretty much given up on Hallmark movies but every now and then I’ll watch one. It usually reinforces my belief that I don’t know why I watch these things. Sand Dollar Cove had a couple of tiny sand dollars in it, barely, and Chad Michael Murray, who I remembered from the Gilmore Girls, so I watched. There was no chemistry between the main characters whatsoever. The setting was pretty (although apparently they filmed it in Connecticut in March, because that’s what you think of when you think summer beach movie.) The plot was thin; the woman (whose name I forgot already and I only watched it a few days ago) is an architect/designer who was trying to buy this small town’s beachfront property to put in a beach resort. Murray plays the guy who owns the land but there is a broken down pier involved. The real estate company has no interest and wants it torn down; he won’t sell unless they fix the pier. That is the main conflict and it is barely there. So even though I didn’t love the movie, I figured books are almost always better so I’d try one. And it was!

I read it in one sitting, it is a short book and very fast paced. It, too, was made into a Hallmark movie and I tend to watch the food ones, so I probably saw it. But honestly, all their movies are entirely forgettable so who knows. Anyway, the characters definitely could have been developed a bit more, but the premise was good.

Andrew and Kelly were high school sweethearts, engaged to be married. Then he gets an offer that he can’t refuse; spend 6 months in Paris studying pastry. Kelly is the pastry chef, and Andrew much prefers savory, but he can’t turn down this opportunity. Kelly waits for him but instead of returning home, he stays in Paris, continues his culinary education and career. Seven years later, he finally returns.

Kelly is still angry and never really got over him. Andrew has been with women over the years, but no real relationships as no one measures up to Kelly. So when he finally returns, they meet up and try and get past all their history.

Meanwhile, Kelly is invited to participate in a baking competition and heads off to NY. I don’t know how much of this was based in the reality of cooking show competitions, but it was definitely fun to read the behind the scenes stuff.

A happy ending is reached pretty quickly (short book!) and it was a fast, fun read. If you like baking competitions, you will probably enjoy this. I did.

NOTE: Library users, I found this ebook on Hoopla!

Another note: Hallmark Publishing refuses to provide me with advance copies of their books, so usually they are older when I stumble across them, like this one.

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE SECRET INGREDIENT by Nancy Naigle. Hallmark Publishing (February 12, 2019). ISBN:  978-1947892378. 298 pages.

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A SCOT TO THE HEART by Caroline Linden

July 8, 2021

A SCOT TO THE HEART by Caroline Linden. Avon (June 29, 2021). ISBN: 978-0062913647. 384 pages.

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WHEN I FOUND YOU by Brenda Novak

July 7, 2021

The Silver Springs Series, Book 8

From the publisher:

Sometimes the biggest emotional risk can reap the best romantic reward…

After everything she worked for is destroyed, pediatrician Natasha Gray is determined to build a new life. Divorced, bankrupt and suddenly a single mom, she’s ready to start over in Silver Springs—on her own. She certainly doesn’t need help from Mack Amos, the man who’s already broken her heart twice.

Although Mack has had feelings for Tash since they first met, too many things have stood in the way. He’s always given her the support she needs, though, and he’ll do the same now. Even if the desire he wrestles with threatens to undermine his intentions…

But her heart is not the only reason Natasha wants to keep Mack at bay. More time in her life means getting closer to her son, which could lead to a revelation neither of them is ready to face.


I loved this latest entry into the Silver Springs series. Novak writes heartwarming romances, most reminiscent of Debbie Macomber but maybe not quite as sweet. I really enjoy this series but I forget about it. I’ve read about half the books so they definitely stand alone and do not need to be read in order. But if you want to:

  1. Finding our forever
  2. No one but you
  3. Until you loved me
  4. Right where we belong
  5. Unforgettable you
  6. Christmas in Silver Springs
  7. A California Christmas
  8. When I found you

Natasha Gray is a remarkable young woman who has had a spate of bad luck, to say the least. The child of a single mother who is also a drug addict, Tasha had a huge chip on her shoulder when her mom married J.T., making the Amos brothers her stepbrothers. Except that the youngest, Mack, didn’t feel like a brother to Tasha, she fell head over heels in love with him. Unfortunately, she was only 16 when they met, and he was 25 and too smart to commit a felony, no matter how hard Tasha tried to seduce him. A few years later, she finally gets her way but Mack leaves and breaks her heart.

Tasha was able to get through high school and into college because of the Amos brothers, especially Mack, looking out for her and giving her the money she needed to get there. Eventually she puts herself through medical school and becomes a pediatrician. She works hard and opens her own practice, only to lose it all a short while later when it turns out the nurse she hired had some serious psychological issues. Meanwhile, she got pregnant, married the baby daddy and when her pediatric practice fell apart, so did her marriage. She finds herself basically broke and homeless, with a young son.

Mack helps her move and get her settled and the old feelings start up again. There is some drama with her ex-husband that sends things spinning out of control. Things only get worse when Tasha’s mom, long divorced from J.T., appears to have shot him. He is in critical condition in the hospital and Tasha is a wreck, as are the Amos brothers.

Mack and Tasha have so much history between them that it is not surprising she wants to go slow, real slow. Mack is now old enough and mature enough to realize what he had done to her, and how much she means to him still. There is a bit of suspense throughout the story, and a lot of characters. Probably if you’ve read the other books in the series you would be more familiar with them, but my memory sucks and I didn’t remember them especially well. But I still couldn’t help but hope that Mack and Tasha were able to work through their troubled past and find a bright future. And they did. Another excellent addition to the series.

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

WHEN I FOUND YOU by Brenda Novak. MIRA; Original edition (June 29, 2021). ISBN: 978-0778331940. 352 pages.

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FREED by E. L. James

July 6, 2021

Fifty Shades of Grey Series, Book 6

Fifty Shades as Told by Christian, Book 3

From the publisher:

An instant #1 New York TimesUSA TodayWall Street Journal, and international bestseller!

Relive the sensuality, the romance, and the drama of Fifty Shades Freed through the thoughts, reflections, and dreams of Christian Grey.

E L James revisits the world of Fifty Shades with a deeper and darker take on the love story that has enthralled millions of readers around the globe.

You are cordially invited to the wedding of the decade, when Christian Grey will make Anastasia Steele his wife. But is he really husband material? His dad is unsure, his brother wants to organize one helluva bachelor party, and his fiancée won’t vow to obey…

And marriage brings its own challenges. Their passion for each other burns hotter and deeper than ever, but Ana’s defiant spirit continues to stir Christian’s darkest fears and tests his need for control. As old rivalries and resentments endanger them both, one misjudgment threatens to tear them apart.

Can Christian overcome the nightmares of his childhood and the torments of his youth, and save himself? And once he’s discovered the truth of his origins, can he find forgiveness and accept Ana’s unconditional love?

Can Christian finally be freed?


Is this the end of one of the most successful franchises in publishing history? I think James is finally finished with this series (unless she & her “new publisher”* figure out a way to milk it for more.) She did write another book before this one, The Mister, which is not part of the 50 Shades world, which I started but couldn’t get through. I think it did well, sales wise, as her fans are diehard and legion. Even the reviews were kinder than for the Fifty Shades books so I’m not sure why I couldn’t get into it. But this book, Freed, drew me in from the start.

It’s the retelling of the final book in the Fifty Shades series, but you may have noticed that this book seems to belong to two series; the Fifty Shades series and Fifty Shades as Told by Christian series. The last three books were just a rehash of the first three. This was brilliant marketing and the sales proved it. The same story but told from Christian’s perspective, so interesting. Plus it’s been years since I read the earlier books and didn’t remember all the details so who knows how different it really is. I will say if you read Fifty Shades Freed then you know the plot and how it ends, so I’m not even going to go there. This book is a couple hundred pages longer than Fifty Shades Freed, but I’m not sure what the extra is. Oh, and there are rumors that all three of the Christian books were “written” by a computer program but what the hell do I know.

I almost fell off my chair laughing when I saw this:

It reminded me of an experience a co-worker had when the first of the “as Told by Christian” books came out. A library patron came to the desk and wanted to reserve the “Christian Fifty Shades” book. The librarian thought that perhaps someone came out with a cleaned up version or something, partly due to the fact that there was NO NOTICE that this book was even coming out until like a day before it did. It was crazy! Most books are turned in a year or so in advance to get on the publishing calendar, but James had a turnaround in a matter of days. Or so the story goes. It’s not “Christian fiction”, also called Inspirational fiction and is usually a sweet romance with absolutely no sex whatsoever beyond a chaste kiss at the altar; it’s Christian Grey fiction, a huge difference!

What I did like about this book in particular was that we see how strong Ana really is. She may enjoy being controlled in the bedroom, but she is definitely her own woman in real life. Even in the Red Room, she safe-words and stops Christian when she’s had enough. Christian wants to include “obey” in the marriage vows; Ana is not having it. She drives his sportscar with as much finesse as he does, and gets her own for her birthday. She gets pregnant and he doesn’t want the baby; guess whose baby is sleeping in their bed?

I will say this: if you liked the other books in this series, and I did, then you will probably like this one. If you read the first book and thought there is no way you can put up with another smirk or Ana biting her lip, then pass on it. The same repetitiveness that plagues all the books continues here. The writing is still not brilliant; I’m guessing James does what she wants because IT WORKS. Screw the editors and have a good time reading this last chapter.

*Originally, James self published the Fifty Shades books as they were Twilight fan fiction. They were purchased by a small Australian publisher, then Vintage (an imprint of Penguin Random House, the largest publisher in the world) bought the rights and reissued the books with slightly better covers and the tiniest bits of editing they could get away with – not nearly enough. These last 3 “as told by Christian” books are published by Bloom Books, which appears to be James’ own publishing company. So self published again. She probably makes more money that way.

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

FREED by E. L. James. Bloom Books (June 1, 2021). ISBN: 978-1728251035. 768 pages.

Kindle on sale for $3.99; not sure for how long but your library should have it as well. That’s where I got it.

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THE WARSAW ORPHAN by Kelly Rimmer

July 5, 2021

From the publisher:

Inspired by the real-life heroine who saved thousands of Jewish children during WWII, The Warsaw Orphan is Kelly Rimmer’s most anticipated novel since her bestselling sensation, The Things We Cannot Say.

“Gripping… This one easily stands on its own.” —Publishers Weekly
“Heart-stopping.” – Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
“A surefire hit.” – Kristin Harmel, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

In the spring of 1942, young Elzbieta Rabinek is aware of the swiftly growing discord just beyond the courtyard of her comfortable Warsaw home. She has no fondness for the Germans who patrol her streets and impose their curfews, but has never given much thought to what goes on behind the walls that contain her Jewish neighbors. She knows all too well about German brutality–and that it’s the reason she must conceal her true identity. But in befriending Sara, a nurse who shares her apartment floor, Elzbieta makes a discovery that propels her into a dangerous world of deception and heroism.

Using Sara’s credentials to smuggle children out of the ghetto brings Elzbieta face-to-face with the reality of the war behind its walls, and to the plight of the Gorka family, who must make the impossible decision to give up their newborn daughter or watch her starve. For Roman Gorka, this final injustice stirs him to rebellion with a zeal not even his newfound love for Elzbieta can suppress. But his recklessness brings unwanted attention to Sara’s cause, unwittingly putting Elzbieta and her family in harm’s way until one violent act threatens to destroy their chance at freedom forever. 

From Nazi occupation to the threat of a communist regime, The Warsaw Orphan is the unforgettable story of Elzbieta and Roman’s perilous attempt to reclaim the love and life they once knew.


To term Kelly Rimmer’s novel, “The Warsaw Orphan,” an emotional rollercoaster is both the truth and yet not sufficient a description to bring the prospective reader into the horrid world of Nazi oppression of Jews during World War II. The story is loosely based on the real life activities of the nurse Irena Sendler who managed to smuggle thousands of Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation with its organized murder of Jews and other “undesirables”     

Two teenagers are the central characters of the story. Roman Gorka and Elzbieta Rabinek are dragged brutally out of any semblance of a normal childhood and hauled kicking and screaming into a life based on survival and terror during World War II. They come together in the Warsaw Ghetto and take part in the world shattering events that characterized Poland subjected to their Nazi conquerors. Roman joins a resistance group with the intent of fighting back against the Nazi oppression that exists while Elzbieta follows the actions of a friend that lives near her and uses that woman’s credentials to smuggle children away from Nazi oppression.      

The two teens develop a love for each other but in the face of the oppression existing in their world cannot follow their hearts to be with each other. Roman takes part in the uprising that took place in Warsaw against the Nazi invaders and was surprisingly successful in terms of time held out. Elzbieta continues to use her “borrowed” credentials to bring more children to freedom. Between their obligations there is no time to develop a  bond that would normally lead to marriage and family with each taking part in events that are not under their control.     

In an afterward to the book, Rimmer confesses to the difficulty in writing about the strains undergone by the central figures she depicts. No surprise there; her handling of the raw emotion experienced by the people she writes about is an almost impossible handling of something never normally experienced. Her characters must face decisions daily of reacting to events that no group had faced before them and somehow evolve into a semblance of a normal life.   

The Warsaw Orphan is not a book that will be forgotten easily. The characters are brought to life by the five star handling by the author and the raw emotions generated hit home under her excellent prose. An all nighter of course. Once started the novel cannot be put down until finished and Kelly Rimmer passing into a favorite author position. If the reader has not read any of her other books prior to this one you can be sure that will not be the case with anything she comes out with in the future. My final comment is simply that I feel privileged to have been introduced to Kelly Rimmer and am now an ardent reader of her books.

7/2021 Paul Lane

THE WARSAW ORPHAN by Kelly Rimmer. Graydon House; Original edition (June 1, 2021). ISBN: 978-1525895999. 416 pages.

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TO SIR, WITH LOVE by Lauren Layne

July 3, 2021

From the publisher:

Love Is Blind meets You’ve Got Mail in this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy following two thirty-somethings who meet on a blind dating app—only to realize that their online chemistry is nothing compared to their offline rivalry.

Perpetually cheerful and eager to please, Gracie Cooper strives to make the best out of every situation. So when her father dies just months after a lung cancer diagnosis, she sets aside her dreams of pursuing her passion for art to take over his Midtown Manhattan champagne shop. She soon finds out that the store’s profit margins are being squeezed perilously tight, and complicating matters further, a giant corporation headed by the impossibly handsome, but irritatingly arrogant Sebastian Andrews is proposing a buyout. But Gracie can’t bear the thought of throwing away her father’s dream like she did her own.

Overwhelmed and not wanting to admit to her friends or family that she’s having second thoughts about the shop, Gracie seeks advice and solace from someone she’s never met—the faceless “Sir”, with whom she connected on a blind dating app where matches get to know each other through messages and common interests before exchanging real names or photos.

But although Gracie finds herself slowly falling for Sir online, she has no idea she’s already met him in real life…and they can’t stand each other.

One of Cosmopolitan’s 20 Books You’re Going To Want To Read This Summer


Any story loosely based on You’ve Got Mail is getting my attention; it’s one of my favorite movies. If you are not familiar (and have been living under a rock for decades? Or just hate romcoms? Then why are you even reading this?) it is a movie based on another movie, The Shop Around the Corner, and both stories are about a couple who write each other (emails/letters) but haven’t met and don’t know each other’s names, etc. In real life, the couple has met and hates each other. So they basically fall in love over email, and eventually one of them learns who the other is and works hard to overcome the obstacles and get their happy ending.

This story is an updated version, moving to messaging through a dating app instead of email. This is an unusual dating app, the sort of antithesis of Tinder. Instead of swiping on pictures, there are no pictures at all. People “meet” and develop a written relationship, then choosing whether or not to meet.

The other part of the story that carries through all these iterations is the setting and cause for the hate is a retail shop; first is a general store, then a bookstore, now a champagne store. Gracie took over her parents’ shop when she lost her father. Her siblings weren’t interested and while Gracie secretly yearns to be an artist, she feels a responsibility to keep her parents’ dream alive. But then she starts getting letters from the landlord, requesting to buy out the remaining years of the lease. Gracie can’t deal with it, so she keeps tossing the letters into the trash.

Meanwhile, she is on this new blind dating app and messaging with a man she calls Sir – no names, no personal information. But his messages are the highlight of her day, and he feels the same way. They keep messaging but haven’t met.

When Sebastian, the landlord, shows up in the champagne store, Gracie knows she can’t put it off any longer. She lets him know in no uncertain terms that she is not giving up the lease, no matter what enticements he is offering. It doesn’t help that he is gorgeous, and there is a strong attraction between them. But she is determined to keep the store going, despite the fact that she is struggling to make ends meet. Sebastian keeps showing up at the different events Gracie is throwing in hopes of drumming up more business, and she can’t help but start falling for him, despite the problems he is causing her.

So while the online couple is growing closer, the real life couple is seriously butting heads. There are a lot of laughs here in this is a super fun read. If you don’t love You’ve Got Mail, there is a lot to love here. The main characters are well developed and grow as the story progresses, and the secondary characters play their supporting roles beautifully. As their virtual and real lives start to collide, you can’t help rooting for their happy ending. Don’t miss this entertaining and satisfying read.

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

TO SIR, WITH LOVE by Lauren Layne. Gallery Books (June 29, 2021). ISBN: 978-1982152819. 288 pages.

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THE ROAD TRIP by Beth O’Leary

July 2, 2021

From the publisher:

Two exes reach a new level of awkward when forced to take a road trip together in this endearing and humorous novel by the author of the international bestseller The Flatshare.

What if the end of the road is just the beginning?

Four years ago, Dylan and Addie fell in love under the Provence sun. Wealthy Oxford student Dylan was staying at his friend Cherry’s enormous French villa; wild child Addie was spending her summer as the on-site caretaker. Two years ago, their relationship officially ended. They haven’t spoken since.

Today, Dylan’s and Addie’s lives collide again. It’s the day before Cherry’s wedding, and Addie and Dylan crash cars at the start of the journey there. The car Dylan was driving is wrecked, and the wedding is in rural Scotland—he’ll never get there on time by public transport.

So, along with Dylan’s best friend, Addie’s sister, and a random guy on Facebook who needed a ride, they squeeze into a space-challenged Mini and set off across Britain. Cramped into the same space, Dylan and Addie are forced to confront the choices they made that tore them apart—and ask themselves whether that final decision was the right one after all.


I loved The Flatshare so I was very excited for this book. Until I started reading it. Then I found myself putting it down and reading another book. Went back to this one then put it down again and read something else. I did that a few times but eventually I finished it and I ended up liking it a lot, but it was slow going and hard to get into for me. Sometimes it’s my mood, but sometimes it’s the book. I think this time it was the book.

I liked the characters as I got to know them. It’s one of those books that is told from various viewpoints, usually the two main characters, and goes back and forth in time from before the breakup to two years later when they are stuck in a car for an 8 hour drive to a mutual friend’s wedding. The road trip itself has some hilarious moments for sure, and the backstory to the romance was good, but I felt the characters were difficult to know. If I don’t love the characters, it’s hard for me to become invested in their romance. That finally happened about halfway through the book.

The humor here is great and there are a lot of really funny, laugh out loud moments, but the romance is a very slow build. The second half of the book was a much faster read for me and after all my complaining, I ended up liking it a lot.

This is only O’Leary’s third book and I will definitely seek out her next.

6/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE ROAD TRIP by Beth O’Leary. Berkley (June 1, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593335024. 400 pages.

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