Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Reviews at Amazon--June 2021

We're posting some reviews at our Amazon accounts, as either they've been sitting in queue for a while and deserve their time in the sun, fall under our featuring policy, or they're new reads that we couldn't wait to post at the blog. You can check them out at the links below. Hope we can help you find your next favorite book!





Pleased to meet Camille a book giveaway

Today we welcome Camille Baker to CLC. Her debut novel, Have We Met?, is publishing tomorrow. Thanks to Lake Union, we have TWO copies to give away!

Camille Baker earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from The Ohio State University. There, she took sign language classes for fun and wrote stories during business classes that didn’t hold her interest. After graduating, she completed the interpreter training program at San Antonio College. Camille now resides, interprets, and writes in South Chicago. 

Visit Camille online:

After losing her best friend to cancer, Corinne’s life is in flux. She has moved back to Chicago, is considering her next career move while she temps and has absolutely no time to look for love―until a mysterious dating app called Met suddenly appears on her phone, and with it, an invitation for Corinne to reconnect with four missed connections from her past. One of them, Met says, is her soul mate.

Corinne doesn’t believe the app for a second, but when she very quickly finds herself with back-to-back blasts from the past, she’ll have to consider if maybe she’s wrong about it. The thing is, Corinne’s also been introduced to a really great guy outside the app’s influence. As their feelings for each other grow, Corinne has to wonder: With her apparent true love still out there, should she tap yes to the next match?

With help from a new group of friends, her loving if annoying family, and maybe a touch of fate, can Corinne come to terms with the loss she’s still reeling from, take control of her career, and find love along the way?

“A fun and current read, Baker’s debut about a modern woman finding her place in the world is sure to satisfy. Perfect for those longing for this decade’s Sex and the City.” 
—Liz Talley, USA Today bestselling author

Have We Met? is the perfect blend of fantasy, fun, and hope, with a cast of characters who will make you believe in soul mates and remind you that the love stories we write are the ones we get to read over and over. Camille Baker’s debut novel is a true delight!” 
—Denise Williams, author of How to Fail at Flirting

In one sentence, tell us what the road to publishing was like for you.
It was like hiking up a giant sand dune, wrestling with my plastic disc sled the entire climb, then finally reaching the top and gliding down in a rush of excitement.

How are you similar to or different from Corinne?
Corinne and I both are stubborn when it comes to finding a job that aligns with passion. I went through the same process of corporate America disillusionment as her, only a bit earlier. She’s definitely more adventurous romantically than me. If I had an app show up on my phone sending potential soul mates, there would be no book because I’d just ignore them all.

If Have We Met? was made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
Ooh if I had casting power I would put my actress friend Tyler Gabrielle in the lead role of Corinne. She’s talented, already has the Texan/Chicagoan background, and I’d love to be like Issa Rae and put all my friends on. Since I don’t have any other actor friends, that’s as far as I could help.

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?
I’ve been doing a lot of comfort re-watches and I recently caught Just Wright on TV. It’s a perfect romcom!

What is your favorite thing about living in Chicago?
Food is up there in ranking, but my absolute favorite thing is how connected I feel to my family there. When riding around with my grandmother, she’ll point out the block my late aunt used to live, the mosque another aunt attended for Pre-K, and describe how neighborhoods changed over the decades she’s lived there. The elders of my family have many stories with Chicago as the backdrop, and it’s like I can feel their energy thrumming through me when I move around the city.

What is something you learned about yourself during the pandemic?
I learned how to listen to my body and the signals it sends me. Sometimes it’s as simple as picking out the best tea for however I feel in the morning. I also started daily stretching and pole dancing. Connecting to my body through movement is extremely soothing.

Thanks to Camille for chatting with us and to Blankenship PR 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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends July 6th at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Amy Mason Doan is a ray of a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Amy Mason Doan back at CLC today to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Lady Sunshine. Melissa enjoyed Lady Sunshine and reviewed it on Goodreads earlier this year. She's here to tell us how she became a songwriter while working on this novel and she has one signed copy for a lucky reader!

Amy Mason Doan is the bestselling author of LADY SUNSHINE, THE SUMMER LIST and SUMMER HOURS (Graydon House).  All are emotional, layered stories about secrets, lifelong friendship, and the inescapable tug of the past. “Doan’s characters leap off the page,” says Publishers Weekly. Library Journal says they're "sure to please fans of Kristin Hannah and Elin Hilderbrand."

Amy grew up in Danville, California and now lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter. Amy has an M.A. in Journalism from Stanford University and a B.A. in English from U.C. Berkeley.

Visit Amy online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest

Sign up for Amy's free virtual party taking place on Wednesday, June 30th at 8:30 pm EST.

For Jackie Pierce, everything changed the summer of 1979, when she spent three months of infinite freedom at her bohemian uncle’s sprawling estate on the California coast. As musicians, artists, and free spirits gathered at The Sandcastle for the season in pursuit of inspiration and communal living, Jackie and her cousin Willa fell into a fast friendship, testing their limits along the rocky beach and in the wild woods... until the summer abruptly ended in tragedy, and Willa silently slipped away into the night.

Twenty years later, Jackie unexpectedly inherits The Sandcastle and returns to the iconic estate for a short visit to ready it for sale. But she reluctantly extends her stay when she learns that, before her death, her estranged aunt had promised an up-and-coming producer he could record a tribute album to her late uncle at the property’s studio. As her musical guests bring the place to life again with their sun-drenched beach days and late-night bonfires, Jackie begins to notice startling parallels to that summer long ago. And when a piece of the past resurfaces and sparks new questions about Willa’s disappearance, Jackie must discover if the dark secret she’s kept ever since is even the truth at all. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

“Amy Mason Doan creates a whole world and mood with her exquisitely crafted novel, LADY SUNSHINE. It’s replete with late-70s nostalgia and Doan masterfully renders the lives of musicians and those who are drawn to them, no matter the price. A delicious daydream of a book.”
—Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author of 28 Summers

“An engrossing tale of secrets, memory, music, and the people and places you can never outrun. A fantastic summer read.”
—Laura Dave, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me

“This book is gorgeous. A gold-drenched, nostalgic dream with a fierce female friendship at its heart.”
—Marisa de los Santos, New York Times bestselling author of I'll Be Your Blue Sky

Three Things I Learned from Becoming a Closet Songwriter
(plus an exclusive excerpt from my new novel LADY SUNSHINE)

By Amy Mason Doan

It’s after one a.m., and there are footsteps on the kitchen floor above me. I freeze. I’m in the basement, writing by the amber light of a child’s fairy-tree lamp. 

I shut my notebook, slide it under a sofa cushion, and wait. I know those light footsteps; it’s my teen daughter. One floor up, she opens the refrigerator door, closes it. Rummages in the pantry, walks to the staircase, back up to her bedroom. Only then do I reach for the notebook again.

Why am I so secretive? I’m an author; odd hours are part of my lifestyle. If my family saw me scribbling away in a notebook in the middle of the night, they wouldn’t be surprised. They couldn’t be more supportive of my writing. 

But this is a special notebook. It’s not my good-luck novel drafting one, with its tattered cardboard cover made from an old VHS case for the movie “Prelude to a Kiss,” which I use for new story ideas. Not the graph-paper notebook in which I draw the fictional lakes and houses and towns in my novels. This is a dollar-store school comp book with daisies on the cover. And it doesn’t hold prose or character sketches or maps—it hides song lyrics.  

I have scant musical training – a little junior-high choir, clarinet lessons I abandoned in 5th grade because my teacher shook his head and scolded me about my poor “hand-span” (and because I could never get the hang of spitting on my reeds).  But two years ago, drafting my latest novel, LADY SUNSHINE, I became a closet songwriter. 

LADY SUNSHINE is about a woman named Jackie who inherits a sprawling seaside property from relatives she hasn’t seen in two decades. She’d spent one glorious teenage summer there 20 years before, in 1979, when “The Sandcastle” was a gathering spot for musicians, artists, and free spirits of all kinds. But she’d left abruptly under mysterious circumstances. I can’t say much more without spoilers, but some of the clues about what happened to her in 1979, and the reason she’s summoned back 20 years later, are hidden inside song lyrics. 

So my new pastime started as novel research...with a dash of procrastination.

One day in 2019 I found myself humming a fictional song that a character sings early in the book. Only the title (“Catch the World”) is mentioned in that scene, but I felt compelled to write out the whole song and set it to music. I had to know the song existed, even if no one ever heard it but me. That first tune was nothing fancy – just a chorus and refrain, simple rhymes, the most basic chord progressions—but the act of making it feel more real was liberating. 

I was struggling a little with LADY SUNSHINE’s plot at that point, and questioning my instincts as a writer. I had two successful novels under my belt, but it felt good to let go and write something that no one would ever see. 

Several songwriters in LADY SUNSHINE hide their work, so, without planning to, I did the same. My “songwriting research,” as I called it to myself, became my little secret. During the day, I hid my daisy notebook under the seat cushions of our sagging basement sofa. I often wrote inside it when I couldn’t sleep, giving my “research songs” a hazy, dream-like quality that I liked. After I finished each one, I’d sing it into my phone in the dark, when I was too sleepy to judge or second-guess.

Maybe that’s why in the novel, when Jackie first hears another of the songs, she initially thinks she’s dreaming:

“The next morning, as I’m unlocking my rental car, I hear the song again.

I squeeze the key chain. It’s real. It’s no radio, no dream. Someone’s strumming the same fragment of melody I heard last night. So beautiful—and so familiar…A tiptoeing start in the key of G, the abrupt shift from major to minor a full two minutes in, later than you’d expect.

‘Hey,’ I say. It comes out barely above a whisper.

The sound gets richer, more intricate. Mesmerizing, fast as sudden raindrops against the window…”

My songs are not as intricate or mesmerizing as the one Jackie hears in this scene. That’s not false modesty; it’s true. Their structures are repetitive and, too often, nursery-rhymish. But writing my “research songs” made me a better novelist, and taught me more than I’d have ever imagined when I first began dashing out lines in my cheap daisy notebook:

It’s never too late and we’re never too old.  I didn’t try my hand at my first novel, THE SUMMER LIST, until after I turned 40. But I still have to remind myself, constantly, that it’s never too late to pursue a new passion. The excitement of songwriting was one visceral, late-night reminder of that fact. 
Joy matters most. What I told myself was “procrastination” or “excessive research” helped me rediscover the joy that had been missing from my work. By taking a step back from my too-punishing (and self-imposed) drafting schedule, I rediscovered the heart of my story, got to know my characters without forcing the relationship, and made working on the new novel fun again. It wasn’t fun every day—writing a novel will always be grueling at times. But carving out some secret time away from my “official” writing schedule reminded me how excited I’d felt when I first began writing fiction. I’d kept that practice a secret for months, too…and didn’t tell anyone about it until I felt ready. 

The magic happens deep down. I thank Judy Collins for this one. To learn how to structure a song, and because they’re mentioned frequently by one folk-loving character in the novel, I read up on some of my favorite 60s and 70s singer-songwriters—Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Joan Armatrading, Joan Baez. There’s an unapologetic earnestness to their music that has always appealed to me. My novels tend to have that same heart-forward quality, but in my more down moments, I’ve wondered if my preference for emotional, nostalgic stories was too dated. 

Here’s what Judy Collins said: “I don’t think you get to good writing unless you expose yourself and your feelings. Deep songs don’t come from the surface; they come from the deep down.” The same is true of deep novels, and I no longer apologize for the heart in mine.

In total, I wrote 13 songs. A baker’s dozen. Will I ever share them with anyone? I’m not sure. I didn’t know that I was even ready to admit they existed until a few weeks ago, when an interviewer asked me how I’d come up with the fictional song titles mentioned in the book and the truth popped out. 

“Actually, they’re not just titles,” I said, surprising myself. “I wrote them.” 

“So they’re real?” she asked.

I hesitated a second, then said, “Yes. They’re real.”

Thanks to Amy for visiting us and 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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends July 5th at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us

Monday, June 28, 2021

Spotlight and Giveaway: Mona at Sea

Today we are pleased to feature Mona at Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James. Thanks to SparkPoint Studio, we have one copy to give away!

A darkly funny coming-of-age tale set against the backdrop of the Great Recession that takes the audience on a wild journey through a strange, uncertain modern America. For fans of Chloe Caldwell's I'll Tell You in Person and Ottessa Moshfegh's My Year of Rest and Relaxation.

Mona Mireles is a quintessential overachiever: a former spelling bee champion and valedictorian of her college class, she has a sterling résumé and a wall of plaques and medals in her bedroom that stretches floor to ceiling. She's also broke, unemployed, back at home with her parents, and completely adrift in life and love. Mona is seven months out of college and desperately trying to reassemble the pieces of her life after the Wall Street job she had waiting for her post-graduation dissolves in the wake of the Great Recession. When her reaction to losing her job goes viral and she is publicly branded the "Sad Millennial," Mona begins a downward spiral into self-pity, bitterness, and late-night drunken binges on cat videos. Mona's the sort who says exactly the right thing at absolutely the wrong moments, seeing the world through a cynic's eyes. 

Set in suburban Tucson amid the financial and social malaise of the early 2000s, 23-year-old Mona must not only find a job, but quickly learn to navigate the complexities of adult relationships within the black hole of her parents' shattering marriage. At her mother's urging, Mona grudgingly joins a support group for job seekers, and slowly begins to see that all is not lost, and that perhaps losing the job on Wall Street was a blessing in disguise. She might even learn what it is she finds meaningful in life. The question is: Will she be brave enough to go after it? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Before becoming a writer, Elizabeth Gonzalez James was a waitress, a pollster, an Avon lady, and an opera singer. Her writing has appeared in The Idaho Review, The Rumpus, Ploughshares Blog, and elsewhere, and has received numerous Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations. Originally from South Texas, she currently lives with her family in Oakland, California. Read more of her work at her website.

Visit Elizabeth online:

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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends July 4th at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us

Friday, June 25, 2021

Book Review: The Woman Means Business

By Cindy Roesel

Samantha Cedarwood isn’t taking on life the easy way. In Esselle Mason’s debut novel THE WOMAN MEANS BUSINESS, she’s just divorced her husband, has decided to start a business and moves into a new house and village. But before she can try and get her company off the ground, the very private Samantha has to get used to her very forward neighbors walking into her house unexpected, at any time. Apparently, the residents of West Volesley haven’t heard about having boundaries.

Carole is a feisty successful business woman who has sex on her mind 24/7 and wants to teach Samantha how to relax. That often starts with a bottle of wine or a martini at any hour of the day. Mrs. Doughy is a know it all who thinks everyone wants her opinion. She wanders in and out of Samantha’s house offering lots of unsolicited advice. Ten-year old Britney is a sassy tween with the wisdom of a twenty-plus year old. It’s her self-appointed job to help Samantha keep things in perspective. Finally, there’s Kent, the village hunk who has been pursued by every female in town and is giving out mixed messages to Samantha.

Samantha can barely afford her mortgage and is pinching pennies to start her new marketing company in a barely furnished house. She starts out by making cold calls, which only put her in a funk. The couple of meetings she has, are with ugly excuses for men, who send her confidence south. 

It’s when Samantha opens up to taking advice and becoming part of the community that things begin to look up. THE WOMAN MEANS BUSINESS is about starting over, learning how to reach out for help and discovering one’s self-confidence comes from within. I enjoyed the book. All the characters were well-developed and a bit quirky. Author, Esselle Mason says she has more books about Samantha’s journey in West Volesley in the works. Stay tuned.

Thanks to Esselle Mason for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Book Review: Thanks for the Love

By Sara Steven

When your life crumbles around you, it's hard to find something to be thankful for. Nevertheless, Gabby Marshall is determined to start anew in sunny Miami. New city, new job, and two new interesting roommates bring lots of new opportunities for a fresh start.

As well as some challenges and surprises.

Gabby's putting her heart and soul into her new career, without the distraction of love getting in the way. Yet she keeps crossing paths with the gorgeous and welcoming Theo Jorgenson. Maybe Gabby could make one little exception and allow Theo in … except her new roommate and Theo are sworn enemies.

Life in Miami could be promising … or it could fall apart. Again. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

Gabby has a lot of courage! After getting her heart broken, she moves away from the life she’s known in Orlando, which means leaving behind the family and friends who have been her support system even through the worst of times. She picks back up in Miami, but it means an entirely new environment, a new job as a real estate agent, and moving in with roommates she doesn’t know. While reading about her experiences with all of this, I kept reflecting on the fact that Gabby has been completely uprooted, and I appreciated how that was reflected well. So much change all at once isn’t easy for anyone, particularly after already dealing with damaging hurt. 

Coming from a background of property management, I really enjoyed Gabby’s experiences in the real estate world, and when she describes the people she works with, there was one character in particular who reminded me of Christine from the Netflix show, Selling Sunset. It made for an interesting work environment for Gabby. Through all of her endeavors, I loved how Theo was thrown into the mix of it all, only raising the stakes on her happiness and giving her pause. Should she continue to focus solely on her career? Is she ready to even entertain the idea of starting a new relationship with someone, so soon?

It doesn’t help that one of her roommates loathes Theo. It seems there were a lot of miscommunicated moments that led to that, and Gabby isn’t sure if she should have loyalty to Theo, or the roommate. 

I really enjoyed Gabby’s story, and seeing the growth progression that comes from her. Even though she has completely “rerolled” her life, she’s making it work as best as she can, despite the lows, because they might lead to eventual highs. There’s another novella in the Thankful series that came out in May, and I’m looking forward to reading it! 

Thanks to Melissa Baldwin for the book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for the Love can be purchased here.

More by Melissa Baldwin:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Spotlight: Between You and Me

Is her new husband really who she thinks he is?

When young doctor Lauren Matheson meets Joe, an older divorced businessman, at a glittering poolside in California, it’s a chance encounter that seems life-changing for them both. Back home in London, their feelings only strengthen. But Lauren soon discovers that building a happy future with Joe is going to be an uphill struggle…

She’s determined to be a good stepmother to his children, four-year-old Toby and complicated teen Grace. But under the watchful eye of Meredith, Joe’s intimidating ex-wife, Lauren can’t seem to do a thing right. Why won’t Joe ever take her side against Grace? And what really happened between him and Meredith?

As her husband retreats into a cold, secretive version of the dashing man she met in California, Lauren starts to wonder if she’s made a costly mistake. Was Joe ever the man she thought she married?

“Page-turning pleasure!” 
—Catherine McKenzie, USA Today bestselling author

“Mason is so gifted at exploring relationships and delving deep into her characters, and this books is truly one of her best. Between You and Me features the perfect blend of loveable and complex characters, which kept me hooked until the end!” 
—Soraya M. Lane, bestselling author of Wives of War and The Last Correspondent

Purchase links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK

Carol Mason is the Amazon Charts and Kindle #1 bestselling author After You Left (more than 300,000 copies sold), The Secrets of Married Women, The Last Time We Met, The Shadow Between Us, Send Me A Lover, and Little White Secrets, which hit the Bookstat digital bestsellers list top 3 in the week of its launch. She was born in the North East of England where most of her novels are set. She now lives in Canada with her Canadian husband, a rescue dog from Kuwait and a three-legged cat. When not writing, Carol loves to read, cook and binge watch Netflix. 

Visit Carol online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Visit all the stops on Carol's blog tour:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Leah Mercer's books are a safe a book giveaway

It's always a treat to have Leah Mercer visit us. Her novels are always heartfelt and thought-provoking. Today she is here to talk about her latest novel, Safe from Harm. She has TWO print copies to share with some lucky readers!

Leah Mercer was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the east coast of Canada. Her first ambition was to be a journalist, but after completing a master’s in journalism, she soon realized she preferred anything other than reporting the news. After trying her hand at public relations, teaching and recruitment in various countries around the world, she finally settled in London and returned to writing… fiction, this time. Her first two novels, Who We Were Before and The Man I Thought You Were, were shortlisted at the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards. Leah loves books, running, and visiting historic houses with her husband and their son.

Visit Leah online:


When Ali retreats to her seaside cottage, all she wants is to be alone. To reconnect with a place that has always felt like home until her baby is born.

But then her life collides with the people living in the house next door, Michael and Meg, and she is immediately welcomed into their perfect life with their beautiful baby Jem. As they help her prepare for her own arrival, Ali knows she has made the right choice for her baby in returning to Seashine Cottage.

When Michael leaves suddenly for a work trip, and Meg impulsively invites Ali to move in, it becomes clear things aren’t as perfect as they first seemed.

Meg is holding on to a dark secret. And as her behaviour becomes ever more erratic – leaning on Ali for increasing amounts of help – while Michael shows no signs of returning, Ali begins to worry.

Does she need to protect herself and her unborn child from the new friend she thought would help keep her safe? And what about her own devastating secret… the one she’s been running from?

From the bestselling author of Who We Were Before comes an unputdownable and heartbreaking read about how far we will go to protect those we love the most. Perfect for fans of The Silent Daughter, Diane Chamberlain and Kerry Lonsdale. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is something you learned from writing your previous novels that you applied when writing Safe from Harm?
I love writing from different points of view – you can see this in almost all of my novels. The interplay between the different characters and generations (a grandmother and granddaughter, in Safe from Harm) has always fascinated me. I try to link the different narratives so that one mirrors or reflects the other in some way. It’s difficult sometimes, but so satisfying when it works!

Who are you more similar to in Safe from Harm, Ali or Meg? 
That’s such a good question! Although the two women are very different, they both have the ultimate goal of protecting their child above all else – something I think any parent can relate to. There’s an element of me in both of them: like Meg, I love losing myself in my work. And like Ali, sometimes I just want to be alone!

If Safe from Harm were made into a movie, what are some songs that would be on the soundtrack?
I love the song ‘All We Do’ by Oh Wonder. It’s the title track for a popular TV show in the UK, Unforgotten, and I think the haunting tune reflects the mood of my novel so well. ‘Breathe Me’ by Sia is another song that I can picture weaving through the film. The words are so emotive and evocative. Both songs speak to the need for safety, friendship and protection, central themes in my novel.

Which TV series are you currently binge watching?
I’ve run out of shows! I’m currently re-watching Motherland. I absolutely adore its acerbic wit and can relate to many of the struggles. I’ve also recently finished re-watching My Brilliant Friend, the TV adaptation of the novels by Elena Ferrante.

What is something you've learned about yourself during the pandemic?
I’m a former teacher, so I should have found home-schooling easy, right? I’ve discovered it’s much easier to teach other people’s children than your own!

What is your go-to breakfast item?
Instant oats with a splash of maple syrup every time! Along with a cup of VERY strong coffee, of course.

Thanks to Leah for chatting with us and 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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends June 27th at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us

Monday, June 21, 2021

Book Review: A Second-Hand Husband

By Sara Steven

Natalie and Carl are newlyweds, but the honeymoon period is over already.

Carl has just announced he has bought their first home at auction without telling Natalie where it is, never mind showing her a picture of it.

Natalie is horrified to discover that the dream home is in Little Wyford, mere minutes away from Carl’s ex-wife Antonia. And to make matters worse, Antonia’s palatial country mansion has a fully-functioning roof (and a heated swimming pool!), unlike the ramshackle cottage Carl has bought for them…

Antonia is Little Wyford’s Queen Bee, mistress of the book club, organiser of the Christmas Fair and leader of the ladies-who-lunch. No matter how hard she tries, Natalie just doesn’t fit in, and when Antonia insists on referring to Carl as ‘Our Husband’, Natalie’s dreams of happily-ever-after take another nose dive.

Second-hand furniture has much to recommend it, especially when doing up a country cottage, second-hand clothes can be ever-so chic, but second-hand husbands are proving to be a very bad idea indeed… Can Natalie ever escape the label of Wife Number Two or is she destined to share her husband forever? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

While A Second-Hand Husband provides plenty of story surrounding Natalie and Carl, I felt the bigger story was on Natalie and Antonia. Coming from my own background and experience as “Wife Number Two,” as well as having a former spouse who is remarried, I could completely relate to Natalie. In the beginning of any relationship, particularly in her shoes given the quick walk to the altar with Carl, she has obvious questions and preconceived notions on what the ex-wife is like, and when there are stepchildren involved, it’s hard to know how to fit into a situation that already feels settled and in place.

Natalie explains in great detail where some of her insecurities have come from, and why she can’t help but feel compelled to compare herself to Antonia. It doesn’t help that Carl isn’t supportive and due to his character makeup, he doesn’t seem to know how to communicate well or be there for his new wife. For many chapters, Carl was obnoxious and overbearing, and didn’t seem to take anything that Natalie had to say into consideration. He bought a home for the both of them, without any input or thought from Natalie. Who does that? Apparently Carl. He’d often flip flop from unsupportive husband to attempting to appease and soothe Natalie when he’d upset her, and we’d see glimpses of the man he could become, if he’d only get over himself. 

There was a huge contrast between his motives, and Natalie’s. But both characters have deep fears that make them react that way. For Carl, if he steamrolls over everyone, it means he’s important, because for so long, he’s felt like he’s lacking. And for Natalie, she just goes along with whatever someone else wants her to do, so that she’ll feel acceptance. Then there’s Antonia, who portrays herself to be perfect, but she’s anything but. It creates moments of drama and tension, and particularly towards the end of the story, I wasn’t sure what would happen--if Natalie would have her fill of being “Number Two.”

What I could see, though, were the changes over time that manifested within the pages of A Second-Hand Husband, for all three characters, for better or for worse. It made for an interesting, funny--at times, painfully so-- and intense read with plenty of moments that led to growth and change, and I really appreciated that.

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK

Claire Calman is a writer and broadcaster known for her novels that combine wit and pathos, including the bestseller Love is a Four-Letter Word. She has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Loose Ends. Her first book for Boldwood was published in June 2020.

Visit Claire online:
Website * Twitter

Sign up for Claire's newsletter.

Visit all the stops on Claire's blog tour:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us

Friday, June 18, 2021

What's in the a giveaway


Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley); Enter our giveaway!
In Another Light by A.J. Banner from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley)
Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes by Alexa Martin from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Paper Doll Lina by Robyn Lucas from Kathleen Carter Communications
The Lily Garden by Barbara Josselsohn from Bookouture (e-book via NetGalley)
Where It All Lands by Jennie Wexler from St. Martin's Press  (e-book via NetGalley)
Sunrise by the Sea
by Jenny Colgan from William Morrow (e-book via NetGalley)
When You Get the Chance by Emma Lord from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)
The Love Study by Kris Ripper from Carina Press (e-book)
The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty from Henry Holt

Maps for the Getaway by Annie England Noblin from HarperCollins (won from Goodreads)
Too Good To Be Real
by Melonie Johnson from St. Martin's Press
Act Cool by Tobly McSmith from HarperCollins (e-book via NetGalley)
Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult from Ballantine (e-book via NetGalley)
As If On Cue by Marisa Kanter from Simon and Schuster (e-book via NetGalley)
The One True Me and You by Remi K. England from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)


The Next Ship Home by Heather Webb from Tall Poppy Writers (e-book via NetGalley)
Kill All Your Darlings by David Bell from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)


In a Nutshell by Cindy Dorminy from Red Adept (e-book)
Secrets on the Italian Island by T.A. Williams from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book via NetGalley)
The Boy in the Photo by Nicole Trope from Grand Central Publishing (e-book)
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams from Grand Central Publishing (e-book)
Write My Name Across the Sky by Barbara O'Neal from SparkPoint (e-book via NetGalley)

The Castle 
by/from Anne Montgomery (e-book; not available online yet)
Anarchy in High Heels by Denise Larson from SparkPoint Studio (e-book)
The Promise of Summer by Bella Osborne from Rachel's Random Resources  (e-book via NetGalley)
Mom Rules by/from Hilary Grossman (e-book)
The Girl in the '67 Beetle by/from Linda Lenhoff (e-book)

What could be in YOUR mail:

Frieda's Song by Ellen Prentiss Campbell. Ellen has TWO copies to give away!

Check out Sara's review.

Frieda's Song, a novel, is inspired by renowned psychiatrist Frieda Fromm-Reichmann. Fleeing Nazi Germany in 1935, she came to the Chestnut Lodge Sanatorium in Rockville, Maryland. Frieda worked there for the rest of her life, establishing the Lodge's reputation for innovative treatment of mental illness, dying in her custom-built cottage on the grounds under mysterious circumstances in 1957. Decades later, psychotherapist Eliza Kline and her teenage son Nick live in Frieda's cottage, next door to the closed and abandoned hospital. 

As told by Frieda, Eliza, and Nick, the novel explores the tension between love and work, the strength and limits of relationship, and what healers must do to heal themselves. Frieda's Song is a tale of the way history and chance, and the work and people we love, shape our lives-and how the past is always present, haunting us. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends June 23rd at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us

Book Review: Lost, Found, and Forever

By Sara Steven

Justine Becker could not be more in love with her rescue dog, Spencer. He's her best friend and colleague at her dog supply store, Tricks & Biscuits, in upstate New York. When she discovers a heartbreaking social media post trying to locate a dog that looks suspiciously like Spencer, Justine realizes that her beloved pup might actually belong to someone else.

Her worst fears are realized when she and Spencer meet up with Brooklyn-based Griffin McCabe, and he wants Spencer back. He claims he is the dog's rightful owner, and has the paperwork to prove it. But Justine refuses to roll over and let him take Spencer without a fight.

It's not easy juggling Spencer's burgeoning new career as a dog actor, along with the demands of her life upstate, all while constantly trying to prove she's a better pet parent than Griffin. Their not-so-friendly competition teeters on the edge of flat-out hate, so when romantic feelings for Griffin catch Justine off guard, she needs to determine if it's all part of his plot to win the pup back, or if the guy who was good enough for Spencer might also be good enough for her. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Lost, Found and Forever offered me so much more than what I had anticipated. To be honest, I didn’t read the synopsis before digging in, and I figured it would be an adorable read because it centers around an adorable dog. However, I didn’t know that I’d end up on a roller coaster ride of emotions, starting when Justine faces potentially losing her beloved fur baby, Spencer.

Griffin lost his own beloved dog, Leo, which is traumatic enough. But when he finds out that his best friend is alive and well and has been recently adopted by Justine, it turns into a conundrum. Who does the dog truly belong to? In the moments between Justine and Griffin, where they are battling it out and trying to top one another in order to secure the ownership of Spencer--or is it Leo?--, I felt a lot of nervous energy. I could only imagine what it would feel like to go through something like that with one of my own pets, and it’s hard to know for sure who the dog should truly belong to. 

On top of that, Spencer has not only become an important part of Justine’s life, but he’s also become a lifeline. Having recently gone through events that created PTSD, losing Spencer would mean more to Justine than merely losing a beloved pet. It doesn’t help that she’s beginning to see the good parts to Griffin, too, only adding to the confusion. Is he someone she can trust? Or, is it all in the name of pet ownership?

Once I started in on Lost, Found, and Forever, I had a tough time putting it down. At nearly every turn, there was a heightened moment that kept me on edge and kept me guessing as to what decisions Justine would go with, and if Griffin would become a friend, or more, to her. If there could be some way to reach harmony, even in a tough situation where the right choice isn’t an easy one to make. Justine’s story was a delightful surprise, well worth the five stars I’ve given it!

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

More by Victoria Schade:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Spotlight and Giveaway: Blush

We are excited to feature Jamie Brenner's latest novel, Blush, today. Melissa has enjoyed her previous novels and has this one in her five-book pile. It looks like the perfect beach or pool read. Thanks to Putnam, we have FIVE copies to give away!

From acclaimed author Jamie Brenner comes a stunning new novel about three generations of women who discover that the scandalous books of their past may just be the key to saving their family's future. 

For decades, the Hollander Estates winery has been the premier destination for lavish parties and romantic day trips on the North Fork of Long Island. But behind the lush vineyards and majestic estate house, the Hollander family fortunes have suffered and the threat of a sale brings old wounds to the surface. For matriarch Vivian, she fears that this summer season could be their last—and that selling their winery to strangers could expose a dark secret she's harbored for decades. Meanwhile, her daughter, Leah, who was turned away from the business years ago, finds her marriage at a crossroads and returns home for a sorely needed escape. And granddaughter Sadie, grappling with a crisis of her own, runs to the vineyard looking for inspiration. 

But when Sadie uncovers journals from Vivian's old book club dedicated to scandalous novels of decades past, she realizes that this might be the distraction they all need. Reviving the "trashy" book club, the Hollander women find that the stories hold the key to their fight not only for the vineyeard, but for the life and love they've wanted all along. 

Blush is a bighearted story of love, family, and second chances, and an ode to the blockbuster novels that have shaped generations of women. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

“In Blush, her latest summer page-turner, author Jamie Brenner indulges readers with the story of three generations of headstrong women united in their efforts to buck male authority and save their family’s struggling winery on the North Fork of Long Island. Brenner’s fizzy tale of wine-making lore, family secrets, forbidden love—and a shared appreciation for Jackie Collins and Judith Krantz novels, make for an intoxicating read.” 
–Mary Kay Andrews, author of The Newcomer

“This book about three generations of women discovering their power at a North Fork vineyard is delicious, delightful, and smart. Reading it feels like drinking a crisp glass of rosé on a hot summer’s day.” 
–Jill Santopolo, author of Everything After

“Brenner’s splendid novel depicts three very different women who find inspiration and guidance in the beloved, trashy novels of the eighties. I have no doubt that Judith Krantz and Jackie Collins are cheering from above at this feminist beach book that’s sharp and funny, bursting with heartbreak and longing. Blush delights the senses and will thrill you to your core.” 
–Fiona Davis, author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue 

Photo by Kathleen O'Donnell 
Jamie Brenner is the author of five novels, including The Forever Summer and The Wedding Sisters. She grew up in suburban Philadelphia on a steady diet of Jackie Collins and Judith Krantz novels, and later moved to New York City to live like the heroines of her favorite books. Jamie now divides her time between Philadelphia and Provincetown. 

Visit Jamie online:
Website * Facebook * 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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends June 22nd at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us