Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Review: The Eleventh Hour

By Sara Steven

SHE NEVER INTENDED on becoming the other woman. In fact, Addison loathed the backstabbing adulteress that ripped a marriage to shreds, tore the once faithful man from the clutches of his one true love, watched their well-intended vows crumble to the ground, with no hope of ever being resurrected.

Addison knew once she slept with a married man, she wouldn't be able to wipe the act clean from her slate. She couldn't erase the moment from her timeline. She would forever be marked with the dreaded scarlet letter. Was Addison willing to mar her inner being to slide into the shadows with a man, whom she'd only met weeks before, knowing full well he had a beautiful, unsuspecting wife waiting in the wings to welcome him home? Was he worth throwing away her moral compass, her elevated standards, every ethical value her parents took years upon years to instill?

Addison's moral conscious adamantly stomped her feet, screaming at the top of her lungs, You haven't yet stepped over that line….Leave now while you still can! But Addison felt like she didn't have a full depiction of the entire circumstance, and until she did, she would advance forward with extreme caution, as the thought lingered in the back of her mind like a malevolent premonition, If you play with fire, you will get burned.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

A good book gives the illusion of one thing, before twisting into a completely different scenario, and that’s exactly what The Eleventh Hour gave me.

There have been plenty of stories that center around a character who is embarking down the treacherous road to adultery. That’s where Addison finds herself after meeting a man who she feels is her soul mate. Yet, this story is so much more than that. It’s about a woman who has often sat on the sidelines, never fighting for what she wants in life. A woman who never voices her wants or needs, her desires, even when it comes to matters of the heart, fearing judgement or worse, getting hurt.

Which makes this entire situation that much more awkward and difficult. I found myself a little bothered at first by some of the tactics Addison picks up while fighting with her inner demons, trying desperately to cling to what she thought she had with this man, leaving herself to look the fool. Yet, looking back on my own past, I couldn’t help but wonder if some of the things I’d done all in the name of love might have come off as desperate, too. I’m sure it did.

And then, in comes the severe plot twist that hit me like a slow burn, making my heart hurt, making Eleven a unique read that distances itself from the pack. I wish I could say I didn’t cry while reading it, but I’d be lying. I did, and I’m not a crier. As the chapters ticked down, I was dreading the ending, yet anticipating it, looking forward to it, hopeful.

Ultimately, there are events I’d wished had never happened for Addison or for those in her circle, and a few things I wish had. But this story mirrors the truth and intricacies of life, which made me appreciate it, and Addison’s story, all the more. Sometimes, love really can be worth fighting for, and this book, even without the typical fairy tale ending, was well worth the read. And the tears.

Thanks to April Marie Libs for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by April Marie Libs:

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Guest Book Review: Making Waves

By Shana Javery

As the responsible daughter of an irresponsible socialite, Dakota Hale has plenty of practice catering to the whims of the rich and spoiled and she's turned that experience into a thriving concierge business serving the needs of the Hamptons' wealthy elite. But living and working among the upper crust has never tempted Dakota to follow in her mother's jet-setting footsteps. Anytime the drama on land gets too outrageous, Dakota finds calm surfing the Atlantic waves. But when sexy mogul Max Carr hires her, it rocks her balance in a big way... (Synopsis adapted from Goodreads.)

As I’m a firm believer that a detailed book description can affect a reader’s enjoyment of a novel, I’ve only included a partial summary of the book. Just enough for you to get the general idea of what’s going on. As for my opinion of this book? I loved it! I liked hearing about Dakota’s business catering to the rich and famous. I also was grateful that Ms. Moore did such a terrific job of transporting me with her words to the Hamptons, where this story takes place since I have yet to check that off my bucket list!

Dakota is a fabulous character. She is hard-working, kind, and exactly the kind of person with whom I’d like to be friends. Her family, on the other hand, is just horrendous! Especially her mom Piper! That’s one woman who is never going to win a “mother of the year” award. As for Max, Dakota’s love interest, he’s a good guy. This is just an enjoyable read with the kind of ending I like best. (No, I won’t tell you what kind of ending I like best!) So, if you feel like reading a fun book that lets you escape for a while…grab a copy of Making Waves, pour yourself a glass of wine, prop your feet up, and read away!

Thanks to Ballantine for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Shana Javery is an attorney mediator with a background in employment law. She is thrilled to have renewed her lifelong love of reading over the past few years. Shana & her husband reside in Plano, Texas. She is grateful to all the fabulous authors out there who unknowingly have eased her heartache from becoming a recent empty nester.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: Before We Were Yours

By Melissa Amster

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I had heard many good things about Before We Were Yours, despite how heavy it sounded. So I was pleased to win it from Linda's Book Obsession a few weeks ago. As soon as it arrived, I added it to my TBR. And as soon as I picked it up, I became immersed in the story. It is an unforgettable novel about the bonds of family.

The parts that took place in 1939 made me think of a V.C. Andrews novel. Adults were always cruel to children in those books. However, those were fictional characters. Georgia Tann was a real person who did despicable things. The way she lied about everything made me think of how easy someone can use gaslighting to get their way. Especially if they have money and political influence. Her behavior was similar to some behaviors I've seen nowadays.

I really liked the back and forth storytelling as Lisa Wingate delved further into the mystery surrounding Avery's family and how it potentially tied into the scandal from the past. She kept me guessing as to what would happen next. During the scenes from the past, I was on my toes with worry for the children.

Lisa does a great job of describing characters and scenery without taking away from the narrative. I felt like I could easily visualize everything that was going on. The dialogue felt genuine and both Rill and Avery were likable and sympathetic characters.

I only wish that Rill's story could have been carried further. It stopped after a while and then there was a quick summary of the many years between the past and present. It would have been interesting to see the changes in her life as she came of age into adulthood.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to read this novel and to Linda for picking me at random to receive a copy. I'm glad to pay the recommendation forward, as it is a novel you won't want to miss out on. Just be forewarned that some parts in the past are unsettling to read about.

Since this novel would make a great movie, here are some casting ideas I had in mind.
Avery: Blake Lively
Elliot: William Moseley
Trent: Michael Stahl-David
Georgia: Annette Bening
Rill: Maisy Stella

More by Lisa Wingate:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: Jersey Girls

We're pleased to feature Lisa-Marie Cabrelli's Jersey Girls series. She has two sets of all three e-books to share with some lucky readers!

**Synopses and author bio courtesy of Amazon.**


She thought that her life was progressing exactly as planned but for Claire Black everything is about to be unraveled...

When Claire's creepy new boss Nick promotes her to a job she doesn't understand; it's obvious to everyone but her that he wants something in return. To make matter worse, she accidentally upsets the very man that Nick told her to avoid, the unbearably sexy Vice-President, Satish Bhatt.

Things get even stickier for Claire when her "friends" decide that sabotage is the answer, her roommate Sally drops a bombshell and Claire starts to want a lot more of the man she supposed to avoid. A man who seems to have secrets of his own.

Unraveled is the first book in the Jersey Girls series. If you like fast-paced, breezy, funny chick-lit with characters you fall in love with and a dash of intrigue and suspense that will keep you turning pages, you will love Unraveled.


When Mousy Maureen gets dumped... again, she is convinced that she is destined to live a small boring life as a corporate hack. But then she meets Brad, a wealthy, charming sexy entrepreneur turned art investor. When Brad invites her to join him on a fantasy trip to The Bahamas, Maureen decides it’s time to take life into her own hands. She will shed her mouse and get Brad and her happily ever after. She packs her new wardrobe and her guide to “Make Every Man Want You” and heads off to paradise.

Will Maureen succeed in transforming from Mousy Maureen to Magnificent Mo? Will Brad be her happily ever after? Or will Paradise have surprises even Mo couldn’t have foreseen?


She has rules, "No men, no friends, no distractions." He’s about to make her break them.

Since the day she came close to losing everything, straitlaced Nandita lives by her rules. But on college graduation day her life starts careening downhill. She gets rejected from the graduate program of her dreams then realizes she has six months to leave the country and return to her controlling parents in India. Her worst nightmare. And creepiest of all, she has a stalker. A man with dark penetrating eyes is following her everywhere.

Ravi’s angry about everything. His life is poisoned by secrets. And now his summer has been highjacked by blackmail. He’s forced into a job he doesn’t want involving a breathtakingly beautiful girl he’s too nervous to approach. But could she be the antidote to his poison?

Will Nandita and Ravi break their rules and risk uncharted territory? Or will they follow them and end up right back where they started?

Find out Nandita’s fate and catch up on the rest of the Hoboken Crew in the thrilling Jersey Girls series finale.

Lisa-Marie Cabrelli has a weird accent - it's kind of English, with some Jersey twang and Scottish slang thrown in. That happens when you're born in England, move to NJ as a teenager and marry a sexy Scotsman.

If you like to read breezy, fun books that you can't put down, then she'd love it if you'd read her books and then emailed her with questions, ideas, or insults.

Lisa-Marie travels a lot. You'll find most of her favorite locations popping up in her books. She's struggling with some serious empty nest syndrome since her daughter flew the nest, which is why she fosters lots of kittens. It doesn't help much. Visit Lisa-Marie at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends October 22nd at midnight EST.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Book Review: Seven Days of Us

By Jami Deise

As I wrote this review, I was hunkered down at my parents’ place in Central Florida waiting for a hurricane. Although my folks were gone and it was just me, my husband, and my dog, their home was the perfect environment in which to read and review Francesca Hornak’s debut novel, Seven Days of Us, about a British family quarantined together over Christmas. Often compelling, sometimes tedious, and a bit overlong, reading the book definitely mirrored the emotions of being quarantined, whether due to illness or weather.

Andrew and Emma Birch’s daughter Olivia has been treating victims of the lethal Haag virus in Africa, and she must isolate herself for seven days after returning to England to ensure she’s not sick. Since it’s so unusual for Olivia to return home for Christmas, her family is eager to quarantine with her, and they retreat to Emma’s family estate in the country. But rather than enjoying the jolly Christmas holiday that Emma tries so hard to create, Olivia is distant and guarded. And no wonder—she had a secret, forbidden relationship with another doctor, and soon as he returned home, he was diagnosed with Haag and put in isolation. Olivia doesn’t tell her family the truth.

Her parents are also hiding secrets. Emma has just been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, but she’s keeping that news to herself because she doesn’t want to spoil Christmas—even though she’d be in extreme danger if Olivia turned out to be a Haag carrier. Andrew has been contacted by a son whom he never knew existed, Jesse. And Jesse, having not heard back from Andrew, has decided to come to town anyway. Younger daughter Phoebe, planning her wedding, is too frivolous for secrets, but her fiancé George might have one.

The book is written in third person, and each character gets a point of view. I found Emma to be the most easy to identify with, and her tireless efforts to give her family a perfect Christmas despite her illness—even while they belittled her and took her for granted—were almost heartbreaking. I found it hard to appreciate the other characters because of this, especially Phoebe, who is 29-going-on-19. Olivia is self-righteous, Andrew a coward, and George a blowhard. Jesse, as blameless as Emma, is the only other character who comes off consistently well.

As the book progresses and the reader gets to know the characters better, their shortcomings become more understandable and easier to forgive. At the same time, though, the book started to feel too long. It seemed appropriate, though. Seven days is too long to spend cooped up with your family, and it was fitting for the reader to feel that way, too.

Because of the book’s structure, it’s rather obvious how things will unfold—secrets will be revealed, the question of who gets sick will be answered. Life, however, isn’t so binary. After the hurricane hit, what kind of life I had to return to was completely unpredictable.

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 13, 2017

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Mind Game by Iris Johansen from
St. Martin's Press
Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz from St. Martin's Press
The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia from St. Martin's Press

Adirondack Audacity by/from L.R. Smolarek
Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan from TLC Book Tours (e-book via NetGalley)
Degrees of Love by/from Lisa Slabach
How Not to be a Bride by/from
Portia MacIntosh (e-book)

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
The Broken Girls by Simone St. James from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Review: Kindred a special giveaway

By Sara Steven

Dashing and successful, Richard Bingham has been voted one of the top ten bachelors in New York City. After unwittingly offending a reporter from Manhattan Life magazine, he finds himself on the receiving end of an article that makes his quest of finding the perfect mate nearly impossible. 

After one dating disaster too many, Richard decides it’s time to seek professional help, so he signs up for the matchmaking services of the East Side Yenta. 

Philippa Fielding is single and searching for love in London, but her accidental profession of “Message Deliverer from the Great Beyond” puts most men right off. 

Will Pip’s new "Spirit Helper," Bertram, be able to set her on the course for true love with a message for Richard? 

Matchmaking, misunderstandings, and mayhem abound in this fast-paced romantic comedy about love, life, and the afterlife!
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Philippa can’t catch a break. She’s been chosen to deliver messages from beyond the grave, a profession most people don't believe in or scoff at. And Richard is no exception. He’s had his share of women who are a few cards short of a full deck or out for his money, and in his opinion Philippa is just another tally to add to that list, particularly when she stands firm on the way she feels about spirits and communication with the dead.

The East Side Yenta is working her magic, trying to find a perfect match for Richard, while Philippa is allowing herself to open up a bit and entertain the idea that there might be someone out there for her, too. Yet Richard and Philippa are completely drawn to one another. Can a potential relationship survive quirky professions, other potential love interests and a long-distance relationship, or are they better off finding love on their own terms, and closer to home?

Kindred Spirits was such a fun, unique twist on the intricacies of relationships. With matchmaking services, online dating, blind dates or more unconventional methods, nothing was off limits. I really enjoyed the other supporting characters in this story, like Bertram, Philippa’s “spirit helper”. He reminded me of the guardian angel Fred from Drop Dead Diva. For those of you who have read Dineen’s fantastic novel, The Reinvention of Mimi Finnegan, this will feel like a coming home party for some of the best characters ever created. Richard and Philippa were key players in Mimi, and now we get to see the world through their eyes, particularly when it comes to finding (and losing) love. And even if you haven’t read the Mimi books as of yet (and if you haven’t, you totally should), Kindred is told in such a way that allows the reader the chance to get to know Richard and Philippa from the very beginning, which is pretty great, because they’re worth knowing.

Thanks to Whitney Dineen for the book in exchange for an honest review and to Karan & Co for including us in their blog tour. Visit all the other stops.

Enter Whitney's Gift Basket Giveaway

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Peggy Lampman is welcome a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

A side effect from seeing (and listening to) Hamilton is that whenever I see the name Peggy, I want to put "And" before it. This has been the case every time today's guest has e-mailed me. Meet Peggy Lampman, whose sophomore novel, The Welcome Home Diner, published today. Thanks to Lake Union, we have THREE copies to give away!

Peggy Lampman’s passion is writing novels, which use food-centric and romantic themes as a means for breaking down familial and cultural barriers. Her debut novel, THE PROMISE KITCHEN, and  latest novel, THE WELCOME HOME DINER, reflect this fascination. She grew up in Alabama and planted roots in her college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan where she owned a specialty food store and wrote a food column.

Visit Peggy online:
Website * Blog * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest

Betting on the city of Detroit’s eventual comeback, cousins Addie and Samantha decide to risk it all on an affordable new house and a culinary career that starts with renovating a vintage diner in a depressed area of town. There’s just one little snag in their vision.

Angus, a weary, beloved local, is strongly opposed to his neighborhood’s gentrification—and his concerns reflect the suspicion of the community. Shocked by their reception, Addie and Samantha begin to have second thoughts.As the long hours, problematic love interests, and underhanded pressures mount, the two women find themselves increasingly at odds, and soon their problems threaten everything they’ve worked for. If they are going to realize their dreams, Addie and Samantha must focus on rebuilding their relationship. But will the neighborhood open their hearts to welcome them home?

What was the most challenging and most rewarding part of writing THE WELCOME HOME DINER? 
When writing this book, I was walking a thin wobbly tightrope trying to give voice to the sentiments of a multi-racial cast with widely differing backgrounds. I’ve seen authors raked over coals after unintentionally offending a culture the writer didn’t fully understand. While writing this book I took authenticity seriously, which was most challenging.

That said, I also wanted this book to be a fun, romantic read and not come across as didactic. One of my main characters is Addie, a co-owner of the diner. A lovely, well-educated caucasian, Addie was born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth. Albeit flighty and self-absorbed—particularly in her romantic life––she has a big heart and “Save the World" attitude. And then there’s the equally beautiful LaQuisha, a black single mother coming from a vastly different background who works for Addie’s eatery. Addie learns much about the world through the eyes of LaQuisha and her child.

When writing a character, it's easy to fall into seemingly inoffensive cultural cliché. However, writing about a people and culture of which you’re not intimate—or at the very least, familiar with––has the potential of fostering hurtful and damaging stereotypes. While writing this book, I befriended people I’d never have met in my day-to-day, attended community activist meetings (which I’ve always been loathe to do in the past) and read journals to absorb as many perspectives as time allowed. Of course in retrospect, the hours spent on active listening and reading were rewarding on a multitude of levels. THE WELCOME HOME DINER is a better read for it. I feel that the book paints an accurate depiction of sentiments felt by a diverse people living in today’s Detroit. And I have grown considerably by gaining a broader perspective about unfamiliar communities of which I previously could not attach a story. .

What feedback did you use from THE PROMISE KITCHEN while writing THE WELCOME HOME DINER? 
When writing THE WELCOME HOME DINER, I toned down the lyricism. Many writers that hail from the Deep South (myself included), write in a poetic, lyrical voice. Set in rural Georgia and Atlanta, THE PROMISE KITCHEN reflects this style. Interestedly enough, readers from the South universally love the book while some of my Northern readers felt that my descriptions slowed the pace. THE WELCOME HOME DINER is set in Detroit and I tried to reflect my tone to mirror this much different environment. I also added an extra cup of romance to Welcome Home (-:

Do you base any of your characters on yourself?
I can absolutely find pieces of myself—my background, outlooks, opinions—splattered throughout my characters. Writing is cathartic—it’s digging at the roots of my anxiety and insecurities, and then pulling them out.

My character's career choices, as well, reflect my own. I owned a specialty food shop for twenty years and wrote a food column for a local paper. To date, all of my female protagonists work in the food industry in some capacity. Bad incidents I’ve experienced in my life sometimes play into my plots, as well. For example, I had a harrowing experience with a linen company that I put into THE WELCOME HOME DINER. I had a blast making the bad guys even more despicable than I experienced. Revenge, at last, is sweet!

Superficially speaking, my characters are much like the Mr. Potato Head toy. In my case, one character has my hair, another character has my nose. I’ve stared into my eyes many times drawing inspiration from the irises and corneas, and then painting them into a character. My friends are wary when I stare at them too long!

If THE WELCOME HOME DINER were to become a movie, who would play the lead characters?
Lead: Samantha-Cate Blanchett, Addie-Christina Ricci (oh she’d be so perfect!)
Supporting: Quiche-Halle Berry, Addie’s mother-Jane Fonda, Jessie-Whoopi Goldberg, David-Andrew Lincoln (sigh), Uriah-Jared Padlock, Angus-Denzel Washington, Braydon-Isaiha Mustafa

If you could take us on a tour of the town where you live, where would we go first?  
I live in my adopted town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Home to the University of Michigan, it’s where I attended college. I would NOT, however, give you a tour of the stadium (-:. I would take you to the historic Kerrytown area. First stop: Zingerman’s. There you will eat the most most amazing Rueben (or veggie rueben, if preferred) of your life. Or perhaps we’ll split a sandwich; we’re not done yet! Next, we’d trot across the cobblestone street, shop for produce in the Farmers Market and then head over to Miss Kim’s for fusion Korean fare. We’ll order several small plates to share. When touring the town of Ann Arbor with me as your guide, you can rest assured you will never be hungry!

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?
La La Land. It struck all the right cords—musically and soulfully-- and was a lovely antidote to the gruel of editing THE WELCOME HOME DINER. I was raised in a theatrical household and my mother was the original fan girl for musical theater. She has passed away, but I’m certain that she would have gone nuts over this film. Indeed, I felt as if she were with me. And she was, somewhere deep inside, and that makes me smile.

Thanks to Peggy for visiting with us and to Lake Union for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends October 15th at midnight EST.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Book Review: How Hard Can It Be?

By Jami Deise

One of the many benefits of being a book reviewer is the opportunity to read books before they’re published. Usually a month or two before a book is released, the publisher will make it available to reviewers so they have enough time to read and write about it so the review is published around the same time the book is released. Never before, however, have I felt guilty about reading a book so far in advance of its release to U.S. readers.

Friends, Allison Pearson has written a sequel to her international blockbuster I Don’t Know How She Does It. The bad news is, it’s not available in the U.S until June 2018! The good news is, if you’re really desperate to read it, there seem to be third-party sellers on Amazon that can get it to you faster.

Didn’t publishers learn anything from Harry Potter?

Luckily for me, Melissa knows I Don’t Know How She Does It is one of my all-time favorite books, and she made sure I was one of the early reviewers to the sequel. Is it good enough to pay extra for a copy now rather than wait for its U.S. publication this summer? Maybe…

When we first met Kate Reddy in 2002, she was in her kitchen at two o’clock in the morning, trying to make store-bought pies look homemade for her daughter’s school’s bake sale. An enormously successful hedge-fund manager, Kate’s career was so all-encompassing that she barely had time for her small children, Emily and Ben, or her often-clueless, often-helpless husband Richard. In creating a new fund, Kate is thrown together with American Jack Abelhammer, and develops an enormous crush on him. But rather than throwing over hapless husband Richard—who can’t pull his own weight either at home or at the office—Kate quits her job and moves her family to the country so that Richard can bask in the glory of being the main family breadwinner.

Suffice it to say, as much as I loved this book, I hated the ending. The Sarah Jessica Parker theatrical version improved on it, but the sequel is based on the book, not the movie.

So what’s Kate been up to all these years?

Pearson may have been working on this sequel for a while, because in Kate’s world, it’s about 2012. Ben and Emily are teenagers, and Kate hasn’t been working. She’s still fixing up the fixer-upper she and Richard bought at the end of the first book.

In How Hard Can It Be?, Pearson continues her talent at capturing the zeitgeist, especially where teenagers are concerned. Emily, caught in a Mean Girls-like friendship, is obsessed with social media. Ben is obsessed with video games. Neither of them would be caught dead without their smart phone. (The U.S. obsession with extra-curricular activities doesn’t appear to have caught on in Kate’s British hamlet, however.)

Now 49, Kate is forced to find fulltime work because Richard, even more of a dunderhead than he was in Know, has lost his architect job and is pursuing a therapy degree. Not only does the degree cost a lot of money, but Richard must pay for his own therapy as part of training. In his spare time, he’s developed a very expensive cycling hobby.

When Kate meets with a career counselor, she’s told that at her age, she’s virtually unemployable. Already suffering the indignities of peri-menopause, Kate takes a page from Sutton Foster’s book and lies about her age. Wisely, she only shaves off seven years, but it also requires her to lie about Ben and Emily’s ages, too.

The new age helps—Kate finds a temporary job, filling in for a woman on maternity leave, at her old hedge fund. Instead of running the fund, though, she’s given marketing duties, and there’s no one left at the firm who was there in her heyday. Soon Kate is back on the same merry-go-round; Richard refuses to lift a finger around the house, while Kate has added a long commute on top of her work duties and teenager-managing.

Kate’s not the same person she was in 2002. Her years of being out of the workplace, not to mention the memory problems that peri-menopause bring, have sapped her confidence and some of her abilities. At times, she comes across as a pushover. Still feeling guilty for having worked so many hours when Emily was young, she gives the girl whatever she asks. She takes care of Richard’s dementia-ridden mother because Richard can’t handle medical situations. And she never confronts Richard about his spending or commitments.

I read a lot of women’s fiction, humorous and dramatic, and many female protagonists fall into this pushover trap. It’s frustrating, because I want my fictional heroines to be more like role models. Kate Reddy was the original protagonist who couldn’t have it all, who quit her job to stay home, but there were many others who followed that same path. (See, A Window Opens… until it closes, however.) Yet it’s a sadly realistic one. Women are expected to put their children’s needs first, and those needs have grown geometrically in the last few decades. At the same time, so have career demands. And in relationships, we’re expected to be the “cool girlfriend,” who doesn’t nag a husband or boyfriend who has an important hobby, or regular guys’ nights, or a career that requires out-of-town projects for ten years straight. Fictional women are either Kate Reddy, or they are Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne. Either they put everyone else first, or they are bat-shit crazy.

There’s an interesting subplot in which Kate acts as a mentor to the younger Alice, advising the young woman to dump her commitment-phobic boyfriend in order to find someone willing to marry and impregnate her. With all Kate’s problems in juggling career and family, I didn’t know why she was so determined to push her lifestyle on someone else.

However, I was much more pleased with Hard’s ending than I was with Know’s. Perhaps a woman needs to be pushing fifty in order to finally realize that if she doesn’t put herself first, everyone else will put her last. As a woman who just turned 50, it’s a lesson I’m trying to learn myself.

Thanks to HarperCollins UK for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: A Dress the Color of the Sky

We're excited to feature Jennifer Irwin's debut novel, A Dress the Color of the Sky, which publishes on October 17th. Jennifer is sharing TWO copies right here!

For too many years, Prudence Aldrich has been numbing the pain in her life with random sexual encounters. Her marriage to cold, self-centered Nick is, not surprisingly, on the rocks. But after several dangerous experiences with strangers, Prudence finally realizes the needs therapy to stop her self-destructive behavior, and so she checks into the Serenity Hills rehab center.

Prudence blames herself for her irresponsible behavior and is filled with self-loathing. She’s convinced she is completely at fault for Nick’s manipulative attitude and believes with therapy, she can return their relationship to its idyllic beginnings. However, her therapist and the other members of her rehab group see the person behind the pain. As Prudence learns for about herself and the reasons for her behavior, including startling revelations about her childhood, she begins to understand the basis for her lack of sexual self-respect. She also learns she is not entirely to blame for the failure of her marriage. With the positive reinforcement of everyone at Serenity Hills, Prudence learns not to define herself by her past. But moving forward would mean letting go of Nick for good, and Prudence isn’t sure she can.

A native New Yorker and captivating storyteller with a flair for embellishment, Jennifer Irwin currently resides in Los Angeles with two cats, a dog and her boyfriend. After earning her BA in Cinema from Denison University, she worked in advertising and marketing raised three boys, and ultimately became a certified Pilates instructor. While she has written screenplays and short stories since her college days, A Dress the Color of the Sky is her first novel. Visit Jennifer at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends October 10th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Book Review: Holiday in the Hamptons

By Sara Steven

Professional dog-walker Felicity Knight loves everything about New York…until her ex-husband starts working at her local vet clinic. She hasn’t seen Seth Carlyle in ten years, but one glimpse of him – too gorgeous, and still too good for her – and Fliss’s heart hurts like their whirlwind marriage ended yesterday. So when her grandmother in The Hamptons needs help for the summer, it seems the perfect way to escape her past…

Their relationship might only have lasted a few scorching months, but vet Seth knows Fliss – if she’s run away to The Hamptons, it’s because she still feels their connection and it terrifies her. He let her go once before, when he didn’t know any better, but not this summer! With the help of his adorable dog Lulu, and a sprinkling of beachside magic, Seth is determined to make Fliss see that he’s never stopped loving her… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

As I’ve said in nearly every single review I’ve done for all the books in the "From Manhattan with Love" book series, I love the characters Sarah Morgan has created. They’re so good, because they’re so real! Fliss is just the latest example of that. She is fine with the surface stuff, the stuff that’s safe to share with those around her. Yet, if anyone tries to delve deeper into her life, she clams up. Too much has gone on for her to ever feel as though she can trust someone, which leads to a lot of issues with her loved ones.

Like Seth. He’s her biggest mistake, and she wants to avoid him at all costs. Even if that means creating a diversion and running off to the Hamptons. But as is often the case when we work so hard to steer clear of the past and all the unfinished business that’s often left lurking there, the business has a way of finding you when you least expect it, and that’s exactly what Fliss encounters.

There are a lot of unresolved issues between Fliss and Seth, and even between Fliss and herself. So much of her behavior stems from a really rough past that has continually come back to haunt her. Only, how do you heal from decades of hurt?

It’s in the flawed characters and their stories, that make Morgan’s books such an enjoyable read. We want to see how or if someone can overcome an obstacle. Or, whether their personal story is something we’re able to relate to in some way. I could completely understand what Fliss went through, and why she is the way she is. I could also understand Seth’s perspective, when it comes to trying desperately to hold onto the one person he loves. You can’t help but root for this tragic couple, and hope against hope that there will be a second chance for them.

Thanks to Harlequin  for the book in exchange for an honest review. Purchase the book here.

More by Sarah Morgan:

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: Abby Page

We're pleased to feature Abby Page by P.A. Laver today. Thanks to Endeavour Press, we have one copy to give away!

Those we love will guide us long after they have gone…

Abby Page, a married mid-30s Gen Y has just had her world turned upside down. Her husband of twelve years has unexpectedly left her for another man – and she has just been made redundant from her ten year position as a senior bookkeeper.

Could it get any worse?

Unfortunately, yes, but help is on its way. Barbara, her mother, has turned up to provide maternal advice in her hour of need. Just one small problem, Barbara passed away two years ago – but now she’s back and talking to Abby from the hall mirror.

Abby would be the first to admit that she was never the perfect daughter. She’s always been too mouthy, too honest, too tall, and has a bump on her nose. And lately she’s developed a really shitty attitude.

But Abby’s bubble of ignorant bliss has burst. The world is not as she thought. From complacency and conformity she is now experiencing the cruel realities of being on her own and unemployed.

Abby Page is willing to tell you her story, warts and all. There could just be a lesson or two in here on how to survive and even thrive in a world of deceit and treachery – and all with a little help from dead people. And then there’s that other thing. Fancy discovering the joys of sex at 35!

"A witty and relatable book." – Holly Kinsella, author of Uptown Girl

P.A. Laver is the pen name of a reclusive hobby writer from Australia who has written in a variety of genres over the years that include the joys of chick lit. The first published novel in the genre was Cutting Words, written in 2009, but only published in 2016. It poked a finger at the egos and ambitions within the publishing industry. That it was published at all speaks volumes for Endeavour Press (UK) who, like P A L, seem to appreciate self-deprecating humour.

Married with twin daughters and also grandchildren, P.A. has arrived at the age of retirement. The enjoyment of family and travel are now a priority, along with the writing of stories that seek to mix wit with the challenges of life, especially those within the workplace.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends October 8th at midnight EST.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Book Review: The Break

By Melissa Amster

Amy's husband Hugh isn't really leaving her.

At least, that's what he promises. He is just taking a break - from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. For six-months Hugh will lose himself in south-east Asia, and there is nothing Amy can say or do about it.

Yes, it's a mid-life crisis, but let's be clear: a break isn't a break up - yet . . .

It's been a long time since Amy held a briefcase in one hand and a baby in the other. She never believed she'd have to go it alone again. She just has to hold the family together until Hugh comes back.

But a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman?

Because falling in love is easy. The hard part - the painful, joyous, maddening, beautiful part - is staying in love.
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I’ve always been a fan of Marian Keyes, ever since I picked up Watermelon in 1999. She is one of the reasons why I started this blog. When I found out that she had a new book published, I knew I had to get my hands on it right away and read it as soon as possible.

I love how Marian creates these large families for her characters and that some of them have interesting quirks and personality traits. Not only does Amy have a bunch of siblings, but she also is a mother to three girls (even though one isn’t even hers). I think I enjoyed the family gathering parts of this story the most.

The story itself is compelling, although very long. There are scenes from the present, as well as a lot of flashbacks that explain why Amy feels the way she does in the present. However, I felt she could be rather inconsistent and sometimes hypocritical. I felt lukewarm toward her most of the time, even when she was feeling incredibly sad. Amy is interesting overall and I wish I could see what she was wearing because she has such unique fashion tastes.

I liked the interactions between characters and seeing how the story unfolded, as I had no idea how things would turn out. I also appreciated the shout-out for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Amy and I have that in common, at least.) There is one part I wish hadn’t taken place, but it impacted another part of the story. Although I’m sure there could have been different ways to go about the latter if they changed the part I wasn’t so keen over.

If you are a Marian Keyes fan, you will appreciate the same things I did about The Break. I can tell she put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into it. It is an entertaining read, overall. If you have never read her books before (and why haven’t you?!?), I would suggest starting with one of her earlier novels and understanding her writing style and character developments before embarking on this one.

Of course, I was trying to cast this in my head (there are a lot of characters, so I probably won’t get to them all):
Amy: Emily Mortimer
Hugh: Gerard Butler
Maura: Maria Doyle-Kennedy
Josh: Christian Bale
Alastair: Ed Weeks
Neeve: Bonnie Wright
Sofie: Ella Wahlestedt
Kiara: Bel Powley
Derry: Rachel Weisz
Lilian (Mum): Ann Margret

Thanks to Michael Joseph for the book in exchange for an honest review.