What You Wish For

“Pay attention to the things that connect you with joy.” —What You Wish For by Katherine Center

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Macmillan Audio, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Katherine Center Narrator: Therese Plummer

(3.99 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Romance / Women’s Lit.

Format: Audiobook

Publication Date: July 14, 2020, by Macmillan Audio

320 Pages (Hardcover) ; 9hr 56 min (audio)

#WhatYouWishFor #KatherineCenter

The point is to be happy anyway. As often as you can.

One of the running themes I have heard over the past 6 months is that we should all be doing things that give us a more positive outlook on life. Whether that means baking sourdough bread, crocheting booties for your Pomeranian, joining the latest Tik Tok dance craze, or (most likely for me) reading more books!

There’s a new outlook on the phrase “If it feels good, do it.” because people just need a good pick-me-up these days. And, if her book history has taught us anything, Katherine Center is the way to go when you need a feel-good title.

Her latest release, What You Wish For, is no exception. Let’s check out the blurb…

Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before.
When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good.

The world keeps hanging on to this idea that love is for the gullible. But nothing could be more wrong. Love is only for the brave.

OK, so that was a big buildup for a book that I only felt meh about, which was utterly surprising to me! I usually am able to get all the way down with KC’s books. Want proof? Check out my previous reviews for How to Walk Away and Things You Save in a Fire – both 4 solid stars!

So what went wonky here? Well, I’ll come to that shortly, but let’s first look at what went right. Katherine Center’s books are feel-good, empowering stories that leave you thinking about more than just the characters and plot. They tug at your heart and encourage you to do more and be better. They are stories that open your eyes to the human condition and help you see the light at the end of all of life’s dark tunnels.

I know that sounds a bit over-the-top, but it’s truly how reading her books makes me feel – like there’s a bigger picture, and I need to be seeing it.

I’m not happy because it comes easily to me. I bite and scratch and claw my way toward happiness every day.

What You Wish For, specifically, encourages resilience and determination in the midst of crippling hardships. Even though it deals with some pretty tragic topics, overall it is upbeat and even funny. But…

I really struggled with the writing style on this one. If you’re really into inner dialogue, then this is your sourdough bread and butter. There is SOOOO much of it, and, yes, it’s distracting. It takes away from the current action, causing you to do deep dives into the main character’s back-and-forth self-judgment and bootstrap-pulling for a length of time that then forces the author to circle back and remind you (and herself, maybe?) what was going on before you got sucked into that abyss of a brain monologue. Frankly, it’s exhausting.

It makes me wonder if I may have had a different opinion if I had been reading the book myself instead of listening to it on audio. I listened to the audiobook version as narrated by Therese Plummer, who is… committed (to say the least). It felt a lot like performance art rather than the usual audiobook narration that we’re used to. Which fit the main character’s personality to a tee, but didn’t necessarily endear me to her skittish, indecisive, flamboyance.

Overall, I appreciate the lofty goals of this book, it just didn’t have the same satisfying effect that her previous releases have had on me. I really do wish I could give it more than 3 stars for the author’s sake, but in all honesty, that is rounded up.

Listen to Katherine Center read an excerpt of What You Wish For
(Courtesy katherinecenter.com)

Want even more? Visit KatherineCenter.com

Katherine Center

Katherine has been compared to both Nora Ephron and Jane Austen, and the Dallas Morning News calls her stories, “satisfying in the most soul-nourishing way.” Katherine recently gave a TEDx talk on how stories teach us empathy, and her work has appeared in USA Today, InStyle, Redbook, People, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Real Simple, Southern Living, and InTouch, among others. Katherine lives in her hometown of Houston, Texas, with her fun husband, two sweet kids, and fluffy-but-fierce dog. -bio from katherinecenter.com


Musical Chairs

“Life is a perfect combination of chance and choreography.” —Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Atria Books/Emily Bestler Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Amy Poeppel

(4.07 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Romance / Women’s Lit.

Format: E-Book

Publication Date: July 21, 2020, by Atria/Emily Bestler Books

416 Pages (Hardcover)

#MusicalChairs #AmyPoeppel

She was at the edge of something new, in that space before you begin.

If 2020 has taught us nothing, it has taught us about canceled plans. Graduations, weddings, parties, concerts — so many events in the past six months have been canceled or modified. One may cry about missing out on a prom, another may be angry over not being able to celebrate a 40th birthday, and yet another may take it all in stride, postponing events for a year (or so) and looking forward to better days. It all depends on the type of person you are.

As for my family, we had to cancel a highly anticipated cruise, modify my daughter’s 12th birthday, and we, sadly, won’t be able to attend the funeral of my 94-year-old grandmother who lived out of state. I had three very different reactions to each of those events because I had plans for the first two and would have made plans for the last. Making plans and having those plans thwarted is a big deal.

What does any of this have to do with Musical Chairs? Bridget, the main character, makes plans to spend a romantic summer with her boyfriend. And in catastrophic pandemic-style, things don’t quite go her way — on any front. Let’s check out the blurb…

Bridget and Will have the kind of relationship that people envy: they’re loving, compatible, and completely devoted to each other. The fact that they’re strictly friends seems to get lost on nearly everyone; after all, they’re as good as married in (almost) every way. For three decades, they’ve nurtured their baby, the Forsyth Trio—a chamber group they created as students with their Juilliard classmate Gavin Glantz. In the intervening years, Gavin has gone on to become one of the classical music world’s reigning stars, while Bridget and Will have learned to embrace the warm reviews and smaller venues that accompany modest success.
Bridget has been dreaming of spending the summer at her well-worn Connecticut country home with her boyfriend Sterling. But her plans are upended when Sterling, dutifully following his ex-wife’s advice, breaks up with her over email and her twin twenty-somethings arrive unannounced, filling her empty nest with their big dogs, dirty laundry, and respective crises.
Bridget has problems of her own: her elderly father announces he’s getting married, and the Forsyth Trio is once again missing its violinist. She concocts a plan to host her dad’s wedding on her ramshackle property, while putting the Forsyth Trio back into the spotlight. But to catch the attention of the music world, she and Will place their bets on luring back Gavin, whom they’ve both avoided ever since their stormy parting.

With music as a guide for the synchronized movement of the group, knots untangle and the dancers glide. Such is life.

Let’s start by saying that this book is aptly named. There are so many moving parts, so many pieces of the plot-puzzle to fit together, and so many players trying to create this picture. What am I saying? There are like a thousand characters in this book. OK, OK, I’m exaggerating, but there really are quite a lot. Who is Frank again? And is James the caretaker or is it John? Or was it Paul (or another one of the Beatles’ names – although definitely not Ringo)? And the boyfriend’s name is “Sterling”. Seriously. It is NOT a spoiler alert to tell you now that this dude does not last long. I rue the day I have to read an entire book where one of the main character’s names is Sterling. Hard pass. (Plus, it doesn’t pass the When Harry Met Sally “Rock me big [insert guy’s name here]” test. According to Harry, if your guy’s name sounds good in that sentence, he’s a keeper. If not, no big loss.

Once you get used to the masses of people popping in and out of every chapter, you will enjoy the chaotic action and summery atmosphere of this charming book. With plenty of quirky circumstances and a cornucopia of relatives, friends, friends of relatives, and animals occupying every paragraph, you can almost hear the manic notes of a high-speed game of musical chairs as you read. There were guinea hens and goats. A flock of each.

What is life but a series of inspired follies? Never lose a chance: it doesn’t come every day.

It’s like being invited to a friend’s family reunion where you’re immediately introduced to three dozen people and you have to keep them all straight or you will be denied punch and chocolate cake at the end. It’s a daunting task, but hey, what else have you got to do?

Musical Chairs strikes a comfortable balance between uncomfortable reality and folly-filled humor that made it a joy to read over a few idle summer evenings. It is a welcome escape into someone else’s chaos for a while that did my heart and mind good.

Here is Amy Poeppel guaranteeing that this novel is NOT autobiographical!
(Courtesy Amypoeppel.com)

Want even more? Listen to an excerpt of Musical Chairs here
(Courtesy Simon & Schuster)

Amy Poeppel

Amy Poeppel is the author of the novels MUSICAL CHAIRS, LIMELIGHT, and SMALL ADMISSIONS. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she lives with her husband and three sons in New York City and Frankfurt, Germany. Her writing has appeared on The Rumpus, The Belladonna Comedy, Mock Mom, and Working Mother. -bio from goodreads.com


A Sweet Mess

“Bake a chance on love.” –A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee

**Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Griffin, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Jayci Lee

(3.65 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Romance

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: July 14, 2020, by St. Martin’s Griffin

Pages: 315 (Kindle version)

#ASweetMess #JayciLee

He didn’t understand his feelings, but at least he knew how to feed her. Because that’s what chefs do.

Ingredients for a great romance novel? (Surely, you knew this was coming, right?) One might add likeable characters, throw in a little insta-love, toss in some awkward (but steamy) situations, and then finish it all off with a fridge full of circumstances trying to keep them apart.

If that’s really all it took to make a romance novel great, then we’d have a LOT more award-winning books about folks falling in love, and many, many more authors clamoring to write them. Unfortunately, it actually takes a little more than that. Let’s see what A Sweet Mess is all about…

Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see her gorgeous Korean unicorn again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out.
When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as possible…by sharing a villa.
When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.

Love ends. Then what? You’ll be cast aside. Forgotten and alone. Don’t you remember how much it hurts? Please, you must never risk your heart.

Let’s just cut to the chase and say that I struggled with this book. I had high hopes for its plot: a baker and a food critic accidentally fall for each other and then face all of the obstacles that come along with their attraction – it seems like it would be a sure thing. However… 

Here’s why it didn’t work for me: The static, repetitive dialogue, irrational decision-making by two adults (joined by other distracting plot points), and a highly confusing narrative structure made me wish that this thoroughly adorable couple had been dropped onto the pages of an altogether different book. Unfortunately, this one only managed to leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

If you keep hiding, then you won’t have anything to lose, because you’ll have nothing worth having.

So, ultimately it turned out that this wasn’t the book for me, but I’m glad to see that, according to many Goodreads reviews, other readers fully enjoyed it and thought it was the perfect Sweet Mess.

Jayci Lee

Jayci writes full-time now, and is semi-retired from her fifteen-year career as a defense litigator. She loves food, wine, and travelling, and incidentally so do her characters. Books have always helped her grow, dream, and heal, and she hopes her books will do the same for you. -bio from jaycilee.com

Blog Tour | The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season

Blog Tour | It was surprising how sharp happiness was. Bitter and sweet all at once. –The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season by Molly Fader

**Many thanks to Graydon House Books and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Molly Fader

(4.42 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: June 9, 2020, by Graydon House Books

Pages: 384 (Kindle version)

#TheBitterAndSweetofCherrySeason #MollyFader #GraydonHouseBooks #NetGalley

Hope had said that whatever she’s been running from wasn’t going to follow her here, but something had. It was grinding that girl down to nothing.

Say you’re sorry. Remember when your mom or dad made you say that to whatever other kid you had wronged in some way? Most likely, you were never really sorry, but you may have said it anyway to keep the peace. And if you were the wronged little kid, you may not have wanted to forgive, but you did it anyway just to keep life moving forward.

Willingness to request and/or receive forgiveness can make all the difference in the trajectory of a life. Let’s read the blurb to see why…

Three generations of women come together at the family orchard to face secrets from the past and learn to believe in the power of hope and forgiveness.
In cherry season, anything is possible…
Everything Hope knows about the Orchard House is from the stories of her late mother. So when she arrives at the northern Michigan family estate late one night with a terrible secret and her ten-year-old daughter in tow, she’s not sure if she’ll be welcomed or turned away with a shotgun by the aunt she has never met.
Hope’s aunt, Peg, has lived in the Orchard House all her life, though the property has seen better days. She agrees to take Hope in if, in exchange, Hope helps with the cherry harvest—not exactly Hope’s specialty, but she’s out of options. As Hope works the orchard alongside her aunt, daughter and a kind man she finds increasingly difficult to ignore, a new life begins to blossom. But the mistakes of the past are never far behind, and soon the women will find themselves fighting harder than ever for their family roots and for each other.

…she’d long resigned herself to the fact that everyone liked hope and wanted hope – but that didn’t necessarily mean they liked and wanted her.

Hope only had one place she could turn, so when she landed in the driveway of her aunt Peg’s farm, she needed to believe that there was refuge here – a safe place. Maybe Peg wasn’t familiar to her, but she was family, and that was all that counted.

As this novel opens, there are so many uncertainties. We are tossed into a potentially dangerous situation with a woman and her selectively mute daughter who are fleeing from a dangerous person who may or may not be in pursuit of them. Talk about a quick way to instantly draw me into a book!

…hope was running things now and hope had endless expectations.

Fader’s book captured me and held me throughout, and, honestly I wasn’t ready for it to end. I kinda figured out at least one of the ending points, but that still did not take away from the journey.

This is a touching story about new beginnings and learning to forgive yourself and others for past mistakes. It demonstrates the power of family ties and the strength of love through the years. At the last page, I still hadn’t had enough of this newfound family, their friends, and the Orchard House.

If it’s growing it can’t be ruined. If it’s got roots, it still has a chance.

The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season ultimately is a meaningful look at reuniting loved ones torn apart by secrets. Mentions of depression and drug use may be triggering, but aren’t graphic. The book features an emotionally abusive partner and some violent situations. Fader’s experience hasn’t failed her with this novel, and I gladly recommend it as a perfect summer (or fall, winter, spring) read!

The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season is available now at any of the following retailers:

Molly Fader

Molly Fader is the author of The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets. She is also the award-winning author of more than forty romance novels under the pennames Molly O’Keefe and M. O’Keefe. She grew up out-side of Chicago and now lives in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter, @mollyokwrites.

The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2)

“He could give her every thing she wanted, a green card, real diamonds, his body, but love? Stone hearts didn’t love.” -The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Author: Helen Hoang

(3.91 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Romance

Format: Hardcover (BOTM Edition)

Publication Date: May 7, 2019, by Berkley

Pages: 296 (Hardcover)

#TheBrideTest #HelenHoang

He was strange and tactless and very possibly an assassin, but when she looked at his actions, all she saw was kindness.

Whenever I’m reading a romance novel, I look for a hook that draws me in – something different from the usual tropes that we’re all so used to. I’ve done the difficult woman/heart-of-gold man thing, the playboy-meets-wholesome-girl thing, and the rich girl/poor guy vice-versa thing countless times before.

But when I read the blurb on the inside jacket of The Bride Test, I knew I was holding something a little different. An MC with autism… in a romance novel? And a hardworking immigrant mother who is determined to do everything she can to provide a better life for her daughter? I’m in! Before I get too far ahead of myself and give the whole story away, let’s check out the blurb…

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.
As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.
With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love. 

She couldn’t cry. She was supposed to be happy for the both of them because he didn’t know how.

I hate when this happens, but so often I can’t help it; I start reviewing a book before I’m even done with it. I’m writing the review in my head even as I’m reading the words on the page. It’s distracting, and it’s not fair – especially if I’m nowhere close to the last page.

The premature review-writing usually occurs when I am not at all interested in what’s going on in the pages in front of me. It’s my brain moving on to the next task because it’s bored or supremely dissatisfied.

But by the time I closed the back cover on The Bride Test, I realized that I had no idea what I was going to write in this review. I hadn’t thought about it at all – the book kept me that engaged. In fact, I probably could have finished this book in one sitting if I didn’t have to spend the rest of my time adulting!

Love wasn’t complicated. You either felt it or you didn’t. There was nothing to “figure out”.

So since I didn’t spend half the book ruminating over what I was going to say about it, I had time to really enjoy reading it! The things I enjoyed most are the unconventional main characters, the way the author lets the action play out without over-explaining, and especially how she develops Esme into a wonderful example of strength and self-determination.

I wanted to give it at least one more star than I did; however, there are some important plot points that Hoang glossed over and left readers hanging with even after the epilogue. That’s grating to me – there shouldn’t be a lot of questions at the end of a standalone romance novel! That’s not allowed!

But 3.5 stars is a very respectable rating and I stand by it. This was a good book and I would recommend it to others, especially those who like a little saucy with their sweet (how many authors can successfully make a haircut seem sexy?)! Check it out and see if you have the same questions at the end that I do (and if you end up day-dreaming about sexy men with dimples and teacher glasses!).

Helen Hoang

Helen Hoang is that shy person who never talks. Until she does. And the worst things fly out of her mouth. She read her first romance novel in eighth grade and has been addicted ever since. In 2016, she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in line with what was previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Her journey inspired THE KISS QUOTIENT. She currently lives in San Diego, California with her husband, two kids, and pet fish. -Bio from Goodreads

Rich People Problems (Crazy Rich Asians, #3)

“The problem is that they all have too much money, and it’s come so easily to them that they think they’re bloody geniuses and so they are always right..” -Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Author: Kevin Kwan

(3.94 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Romance / Women’s Lit

Format: Paperback

Publication Date: May 1, 2018, by Anchor Books

Pages: 541 (Paperback)

#RichPeopleProblems #KevinKwan

He knows he did absolutely nothing to deserve his fortune, and so the only thing he can do is disparage others who have the audacity to make their own money.

Spend just ten minutes on any mainstream social media site and you’ll see them… The Beautiful People.
I logged into Instagram this morning and saw Chrissy Teigen making glittery mermaid tail chocolates after taking selfies in her robe closet. Joanna Gaines is flawless in a beachy floral dress overlooking the ocean. And countless other celebrities are baking banana bread in designer kitchens or enjoying a “quaran-tini” next to their lavish backyard pools.

Why are we so obsessed with wealth and the people who have it? This is not rant, oh no! I love following celebrities on social media. I talk to them, sometimes they talk back. It makes them more real to me. And anything that puts me only a comment away from Jason Momoa is nothing I’m going to argue against!

But what is it about gawking at the riches of others that is so enticing? Oh, were you waiting on me to answer? Sorry to disappoint because I really haven’t got the foggiest clue, but everything about the staggeringly rich characters in Kevin Kwan’s Rich People Problems draws me into their decadent luxury and their bountiful misfortunes as well. Let’s look at the blurb…

Nicholas Young’s grandmother Su Yi is on her deathbed. While he rushes to be by her side he’s not the only one. The entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe to stake claim on the matriarch’s massive fortune. With all parties vying to inherit a trophy estate in the heart of Singapore, Nicholas’s childhood home turns into a hotbed of sabotage and scandal. Taking us from elegantly appointed mansions in Manila to secluded private islands in the Sulu Sea, Kevin Kwan’s final installment in this irresistible trilogy reveals the long-buried secrets of Asia’s most privileged families and their rich people problems.

Tourists should have to take a style exam before being allowed to set foot on the island!

If you’ve followed all these crazy-rich Asians up to this point (or is it crazy, rich Asians?), you probably already have picked out your favorites. Golden couple, Nick and Rachel, monopolized much of the ink in books 1 & 2, but the love gets spread around a lot more in the final installment of Kwan’s trilogy.

Su Yi (Nick’s overbearing grandmother) becomes a true character here, with more backstory and a more present… presence. Nick’s aunts also add to the family shenanigans – each with their own unique brand of crazy.
And if you thought you’d seen the last of the much put-upon Kitty Pong, well… surprise! Kitty’s making big moves in Book #3, and she is determined to conquer Singaporean society, one way or another.

Peel away the veneer of wealth and sophistication and you’ll find extremely provincial, narrow-minded people.

From servants to sultans, readers not only experience these audaciously colorful characters, but we also get to experience one of the most treasured tools in a writer’s arsenal: backstory!

No spoilers here, but I will say that Kwan’s treatment of his characters and their lives only makes them more beloved. So, if I loved it – and I did – why not rate it 5 stars?
You’ve heard me harp on this before in other reviews, and I’m not gonna let it go yet… denouement.

Yeah yeah, I know. It’s just a fancy word for how everything wraps up in a novel. Is it drawn out? Is it vague? Is it a tantalizing cliffhanger, or a predictable love match? Book endings are SO important! Especially so in a series where readers fall in love with characters, families, and all their quirky antics.

I spent 1,423 pages getting to know these people, so please don’t think that I’m going to be OK with you “summing up” how everyone’s drama resolves into one short epilogic chapter, Mr. Kwan. I am not!

So, minus one whole star for that. Other than that frustrating feature, Rich People Problems has a lot to offer: scandalous drama, touching reunions, salacious secrets, raucous humor, and (of course) a poop-ton of crazy rich Asians!

P.S.: In the CRA universe, the Tattler magazine is tops in gossip media. But guess what? It’s based on a real mag! Wait… did you know that already? Ugh, I’m so late! Let’s just pretend you didn’t already know and just indulge in this website with me where I spent almost 2 hours yesterday reading about people I’ll never meet! 🙂


Kevin Kwan

Kevin Kwan is the author of “Crazy Rich Asians,” the international bestseller now being adapted as a major motion picture. The sequel, “China Rich Girlfriend,” will be released on June 16, 2015. Born and raised in Singapore, Kwan has called Manhattan home for the past two decades but still craves pineapple tarts and a decent plate of Hokkien mee. -Bio from Goodreads

Blog Tour | The Secrets of Love Story Bridge

Blog Tour | A single father gets an unexpected second chance at love in the heartwarming new novel from the author of The Curious Charms of Arthur PepperThe Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick

**Many thanks to Park Row Books and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Phaedra Patrick

(3.98 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Romance / Women’s Lit

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: April 28, 2020, by Park Row Books

Pages: 336 (Kindle version)

#TheSecretsofLoveStoryBridge #PhaedraPatrick #ParkRowBooks

When you’re rushing around, you don’t always notice the thing beneath your feet that supports you.

Starting over isn’t always the easiest thing for people to do. Whenever there’s loss involved, it makes it all the more difficult. But, as most of us are learning now during this pandemic, there are many ways to keep going, to keep moving forward, to start over again and again.

Mitchell, the main character of Phaedra Patrick’s latest romance novel, The Secrets of Love Story Bridge, learns that beginning again is difficult, scary, and uncomfortable; but, sometimes it’s absolutely necessary. Let’s read the blurb…

It’s summer in the city and passions are soaring along with the temperature—for everyone but Mitchell Fisher, who hates all things romance. He relishes his job cutting off the padlocks that couples fasten to the famous “love story” bridge. Only his young daughter, Poppy, knows that behind his prickly veneer, Mitchell still grieves the loss of her mother.
Then one hot day, everything changes when Mitchell courageously rescues a woman who falls from the bridge into the river. He’s surprised to feel an unexpected connection to her, but she disappears before he can ask her name. Desperate to find out her identity, Mitchell is shocked to learn she’s been missing for almost a year. He teams up with her spirited sister, Liza, on a quest to find her again. However, she’s left only one clue behind—a message on the padlock she hung on the bridge.
Brimming with Phaedra Patrick’s signature charm and a sparkling cast of characters, The Secrets of Love Story Bridge follows one man’s journey to unlock his heart and discover new beginnings in the unlikeliest places.

He wasn’t a hero, or a celebrity, or a confidant. He was just a man, nothing more and often less.

What surprised me most about this book is that I was easily able to relate to a male lead in a romance novel. How novel! It was a refreshing change to see the highs and lows of a budding romance through a male perspective.

Mitchell was made even more relatable to me because he was a planner – a real Danny Tanner type (Full House). He made lists, he pinned things up, there may have been charts involved – I love that! Writers who give their characters little quirks like that instantly make them more believable and genuine. I love it when a character always tugs their ear, shuffles their feet, or wrinkles their nose. It’s a trait that you can “see” that gives them more life on the page. And because so many things start to go against Mitchell’s well-planned life itinerary, readers innately sense his frustration and discomfort. We get inside his head – a great place to be when reading romance!

…there’s no such thing as perfection, just two people trying to make the most of their time together.

I may have read more romance in recent months than I have read in my lifetime (thanks, Harlequin!). Some are winners and some are instantly forgettable. Then there are those that have little nuggets of wisdom and encouragement that stick with you.

It was uplifting to read about the highs and lows of a single father bouncing back from unimaginable loss and opening himself back up to life and love. Although I was hoping for a less predictable ending, getting there was still a pleasant journey.

The Secrets of Love Story Bridge is available now at any of the following retailers:

Phaedra Patrick

Phaedra Patrick is the author of The Library of Lost and Found, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, which has been published in over twenty countries around the world. She studied art and marketing, and has worked as a stained-glass artist, film festival organizer and communications manager. An award-winning short story writer, she now writes full-time. She lives in Saddleworth, UK, with her husband and son.

Blog Tour | Sunrise on Half Moon Bay

Blog Tour | “Sometimes the happiness we’re looking for has been there all along…” –Sunrise On Half Moon Bay

**Many thanks to Harlequin/MIRA and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Robyn Carr

(4.24 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Romance / Women’s Lit

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: April 14, 2020, by Harlequin / MIRA Books

Pages: 336 (Kindle version)

#SunriseOnHalfMoonBay #RobynCarr #MIRABooks

It’s just that I’m so careful about what I let myself feel because I’m afraid I might crack. And if I crack, I might collapse and never get up again.

This pandemic is teaching us a lot. I don’t think I’m only speaking for myself when I say that we are learning to appreciate the little things more. We are longing for what we considered to be normal. We are hoping to return to what we were used to before the world effectively stopped.

But that’s the thing about big changes; you almost never go back to the way things were beforehand, at least not completely. Addie and Justine – sisters who are each experiencing big life changes – are learning this the hard way. Let’s check out the blurb:

Adele and Justine have never been close. Born twenty years apart, Justine was already an adult when Addie was born. The sisters love each other but they don’t really know each other. When Addie dropped out of university to care for their ailing parents, Justine, a successful lawyer, covered the expenses. It was the best arrangement at the time but now that their parents are gone, the future has changed dramatically for both women.
Addie had great plans for her life but has been worn down by the pressures of being a caregiver and doesn’t know how to live for herself. And Justine’s success has come at a price. Her marriage is falling apart despite her best efforts.
Neither woman knows how to start life over but both realize they can and must support each other the way only sisters can. Together they find the strength to accept their failures and overcome their challenges. Happiness is within reach, if only they have the courage to fight for it.

Real love can be a little boring sometimes. Or at least not so pretty.

Sometimes, like the global pandemic we’re all experiencing right now, big changes happen very quickly. Other times, change is very slow. It creeps up on you and surprises you when you’re least expecting it. Either way, your response to life-altering events will shape your immediate and long-term future.

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay demonstrates that beautifully. The two main characters both manage their changes in different ways, but their resilience and fortitude in the face of tough decisions and major setbacks can certainly encourage us today irl.

… living well is the best revenge.

As you know by now, I try to be honest and fair in my reviews. If I love a book, you won’t get me to stop gushing about it. If I don’t care for it, I’ll say that, but I will always try to find the silver linings.
While this book won’t be one of my faves for the year, I think it’s an important read for those who have experienced the things these sisters do. Starting life over after having others depend on you exclusively for their well-being, or rebuilding a life after someone you love betrays that trust and commitment – both situations can be daunting and scary. These are common themes and relatable for so many. Carr’s writing speaks to those issues and offers the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel; lemonade for life’s bitter lemons.

I hope you and your family are managing the pandemic and quarantine well. I hope you are finding some zen in the midst of all the turmoil and that you are also finding some very good books to read!

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is available now at any of the following retailers:

Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr is an award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than sixty novels, including highly praised women’s fiction such as Four Friends and The View From Alameda Island and the critically acclaimed Virgin River, Thunder Point and Sullivan’s Crossing series. Virgin River is now a Netflix Original series. Robyn lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit her website at http://www.RobynCarr.com.

One Perfect Summer

“She’d promised herself one precious summer, and she was going to have it.” -One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak

**Many thanks to NetGalley, MIRA Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Brenda Novak

(4.35 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Adult Contemporary

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: April 7, 2020, by MIRA Books

Pages: 464 (Kindle version)

#OnePerfectSummer #BrendaNovak

They’d gotten to know each other on a level they couldn’t have any other way – had become real sisters – while staying in this beautiful place.

Three women discover that life has more than a few surprises in store as they discover each other as sisters, as women, and as friends. Let’s check out the blurb…

When Serenity Alston swabbed her cheek for 23andMe, she joked about uncovering some dark ancestral scandal. The last thing she expected was to discover two half sisters she didn’t know existed. Suddenly, everything about her loving family is drawn into question. And meeting these newfound sisters might be the only way to get answers.
The women decide to dig into the mystery together at Serenity’s family cabin in Lake Tahoe. With Reagan navigating romantic politics at work and Lorelei staring down the collapse of her marriage, all three women are converging at a crossroads in their lives. Before the summer is over, they’ll have to confront the past and determine how to move forward when everything they previously thought to be true was a lie. But any future is easier to face with family by your side.

…any future is easier to face with family by your side.

As this title suggests, this book is best read during the summer, especially if you happen to be spending time at a lake or a beach!
It’s a light and easy read with an underlying mystery that will have you turning pages to get to the bottom of.

If you’re already a Brenda Novak fan, then you already know what to expect from her writing and her characters. You know how she connects a good story with enticing romance. You get both with her latest release.

Brenda Novak is a pro in this genre, and she knows how to write relationships. I guess that’s why I wanted so much more direct interaction between the sisters themselves. They fell into a respectful togetherness from the beginning, but it would have been nice to see their family relationship grow with each other even more throughout the story.

Also, can I just mention (carefully – without spoiling anything!) that each sister’s life drama could really have been a standalone book for each of them. Especially Lorelei’s story; oh man!

All in all, this is a book about acceptance, forgiveness, and rediscovery. It may include very specific triggers for those who have dealt with infidelity; however, those triggers become valuable life lessons for the characters and lead them into the next stages of their relationships.

Get an Autographed Copy of One Perfect Summer

Also available on Audio!

Brenda Novak

Brenda Novak, a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, has penned over sixty novels. She is a five-time nominee for the RITA Award and has won the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookbuyer’s Best, and many other awards. -bio from publisher