I’m putting together this post as I listen to Mary Balogh‘s interview on the Fated Mates podcast. I highly recommend listening to it. Mary is so well spoken, so talented, and very passionate about the romance genre. She’s also a friend and a fellow member of my writing group. So, needless to say, this post is taking forever to write because I’m distracted by listening to one of my favourite writers, Sarah MacLean, talk writing with Mary.
This reading year is starting off strong. My first read of this new year is by Kate Clayborn, who is one of my very favourite authors, and this book just made me love her writing even more. I’m delighted to recommend it.
Longtime personal assistant Georgie Mulcahy has made a career out of putting others before herself. When an unexpected upheaval sends her away from her hectic job in L.A. and back to her hometown, Georgie must confront an uncomfortable truth: her own wants and needs have always been a disconcertingly blank page.
But then Georgie comes across a forgotten artifact—a “friendfic” diary she wrote as a teenager, filled with possibilities she once imagined. To an overwhelmed Georgie, the diary’s simple, small-scale ideas are a lifeline—a guidebook for getting started on a new path.
Georgie’s plans hit a snag when she comes face to face with an unexpected roommate—Levi Fanning, onetime town troublemaker and current town hermit. But this quiet, grouchy man is more than just his reputation, and he offers to help Georgie with her quest. As the two make their way through her wishlist, Georgie begins to realize that what she truly wants might not be in the pages of her diary after all, but right by her side—if only they can both find a way to let go of the pasts that hold them back.
This delicious and sweet book has it all. Characters so real you can’t help but love them. Kate Clayborn carries us along on an intimate journey of self discovery grounded by great writing, great dialogue and great depth. It was a multi-sensory delight from beginning to end, from milkshakes and green beans in pasta to dock boards underfoot and a dog named Hank. It’s charming, it’s rich, and it will tug at all your heartstrings.
It also just so happens that I saw a great clip between Kate Bowler and Elizabeth Gilbert talking about ‘purpose anxiety‘ and it reminded me of this book. One of the things Elizabeth Gilbert talks about is our obsession with finding our higher purpose, in narrowing that down to an absolute and then putting a significant amount of energy into nurturing and honouring that higher purpose. That’s aside from living our life, which is a pretty big deal. And I think that’s what this book is about at its core: making a good life for yourself, focussing on the moment, and not having to make everything about a higher purpose.
I read some great books in April. Two of those came in the form of ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy) from Netgalley and I loved them both! Every Summer After by Carley Fortune and When It Falls Apart by Catherine Bybee.
Categories: Women’s Fiction / Contemporary Romance / Canadian Author / Canadian Setting /
Six summers to fall in love. One moment to fall apart. A weekend to get it right.
They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart.
Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek—the man she never thought she’d have to live without.
For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books—medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her—Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart.
When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past.
Every Summer After is Carley Fortune’s debut novel. It starts with the present then takes us back to summers in Barry’s Bay, Ontario. It’s no secret that I LOVE a Canadian setting, and there’s nothing better than summer in Canada. On Persephone Fraser’s first day at the lake, she meets the boy next door, Sam Florek.
Best friends and summer neighbours, Persephone and Sam lead separate lives during the school year. But during the summers they are inseparable, spending days an idyllic summer bubble. Until the reality of college and adulting sets in and decisions are made that can’t be undone. Twelve years later they meet again.
Whether you still dream of your first love, or have moved on and left it in the past, this book will speak to you. All the looks back will resonate. You’ll fall in love with Persephone and Sam and Barry’s Bay. I wish I could read it again for the first time. Highly recommend!
Bonus Book: When It all Falls Apart by Catherine Bybee
Categories: Contemporary Romance / Romance / Single Dad / Family Romance /
A bittersweet romance about the power of love in the face of heartbreak and loss.
Brooke Turner has always had a complicated relationship with her father. But when his health takes a turn for the worse, she drops everything to care for him. He’s her dad, after all, and he needs her. What Brooke doesn’t anticipate is the unraveling of her long-term relationship and a cross-country move to San Diego’s Little Italy.
Luca D’Angelo is the oldest of three children and a single father to a young daughter. When his mother rents the top floor of their house to Brooke, he’s angry. Who is this beautiful stranger with no ties to the neighborhood? Can she be trusted in such close proximity to his family?
As Luca learns of Brooke’s difficult journey with her ailing father, his heart softens. And Brooke, who witnesses Luca’s struggle as a single parent, develops feelings for him too. But when it all falls apart, will love heal their wounded hearts?
This is my first time reading Catherine Bybee and it definitely won’t be my last. The first book in the D’Angelo series, When It All Falls Apart takes place in Little Italy in San Diego. There is enough heart, family and Italian food in this book to satisfy everyone. There is the relationship with Brooke and Luca, of course. But’s it’s also about what happens when relationships with parents are not only hard but heartbreaking. There is no such thing as the perfect family. It’s also true that family leaves scars that are hard to heal.
I loved the dialogue. I loved the setting. Who can resist a loud Italian family? But I also appreciated the honest look at what happens when it all falls apart. I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read the next one in the series. Definitely recommend.
Until next time…
Who else is looking forward to summer? I’d love some summer reading suggestions! Bonus points if they have a Canadian setting.
Sundays seem like a good time to talk about the books I’ve read! I don’t give ratings, or stars, or gold crowns. Just offering a few of my thoughts. This week I’m talking about Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin.
AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.
When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind.
Ayesha Shamsi has no time for a relationship, and even less interest in an arranged marriage. She’s busy adulting, putting aside her passion, and accepting a job that will allow her to repay her uncle and aunt for the financial and emotional support her family received since immigrating to Canada. Her younger cousin is on a different path. One slightly more self-absorbed and flightier. Ayesha is enlisted to encourage Hafsa to make a success of her latest career adventure. Hafsa is busy collecting marriage proposals. Enter ultra conservative Khalid, who becomes engaged to Hafsa, sort of…
I loved everything about this modern Pride and Prejudice retelling set in a Muslim community in Toronto. It’s full of interesting and complex characters who bring the setting to life. The main characters, Ayesha and Khalid have very differing views on arranged marriages and I wondered how the author would bring these two together. I knew very little of how arranged marriages look in contemporary times. But the book is full of relationships, both past and present, that give insight into all the different ways people find each other.
I felt an immediate connection to Ayesha, much like I did with Elizabeth Bennett. And Khalid was a challenge at the beginning, much like Mr. Darcy. So, it shouldn’t be surprising to say Khalid turned out to be one of my favourite romance heroes. But before that happened, I had to work through some perceived misconceptions of how I thought arranged marriages work and what the power dynamic looks like within an arranged marriage.
This book is full of humour and witty, charming dialogue. The plot is perfect. The writing is rich and generous and the author managed to make me laugh while also tugging on my heartstrings. Highly recommend!
Sundays seem like a good time to talk about the books I’ve read! And so begins Book Talk Sunday. I’m not going to give ratings, or stars, or gold crowns. I’m just going to offer a few of my thoughts.
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
Published: 2021 by Simon & Schuster (Originally Published in 2008)
Length: 528 pages
Series: Slains, Book 1
Categories: Fiction / Historical / Romance
Tags: Scottish / Jacobite / Time Slip / Genetic Memory / Time Travel
1707. The walls of Slains castle shelter Jacobite rebels, who are conspiring to sail the young, exiled James Stewart from France into Scotland to reclaim his crown—and a young woman caught up in their plot.
Present day. Writer Carrie McClelland is enchanted by an impromptu trip to Cruden Bay, Scotland, and decides to settle in the tiny village, hoping to find inspiration for her novel about the Jacobite uprising in the area’s evocative past—and in the haunting ruins of the castle.
She creates a heroine named after one of her own ancestors, Sophia Paterson, and quickly finds the words flowing, almost faster than she can write them down. But, discovering that her novel inexplicably contains more fact than she can remember researching, Carrie wonders if she could possibly be dealing with ancestral memory—in effect “recalling” what her ancestor lived.
The only way to discover the truth is to continue writing and to bring to light the whole of Sophia’s story. With each new chapter, Carrie uncovers the tale of an innocent entangled in a dangerous enterprise, the secret of forbidden love, and the final betrayal that cost James his throne—and may cost Sophia her heart.
It’s probably no surprise that I can’t resist a book who’s main character is a writer. In The Winter Sea Carrie McClelland is busy writing her latest book and has created a character she names after an ancestor that lived in 1707 Scotland. When a brief research trip takes her to Cruden Bay, she feels compelled to stay and rents a cottage. Nearby are the remains of Slains Castle that overlooks the North Sear from its cliff top. The story pours out of her and Carrie soon realizes she knows more details than she should about her long-ago relation’s life, that she has, in fact, inherited her memory.
The characters, both 18th century and 21st century, are richly developed by an author who clearly loves and respects history. The shift in time between the present, written in 1st person, and the 1700s, written is 3rd person, makes for seamless reading. Both time periods are brought to life by the characters, setting, plot, and Kearsley’s attention to detail. I also love how Kearsley handles the idea of Carrie inheriting her ancestor’s genetic memory. It is a type of time travel that fascinates me. There is always some sort of mystical element to Kearsley’s books that draws me right in.
I loved the relationship between Sophie and Moray that takes place in the past. It’s a very slow burn, as much of the emphasis is placed on what is happening around the character and the historical efforts of the Jacobites to return a Stewart King to the throne in Scotland. The relationship between Sophie and Moray is much more nuanced than the relationship between Carrie and Graham in the present. Both are sweet, both are engaging, but the earlier one is definitely given preference.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was entertaining, informative, and gorgeously written. I don’t know what more you can ask of a book. Definitely recommend if you are drawn to historicals that take place outside of Victorian and Regency England. Susanna Kearsley’s books would definitely appeal to fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
For me, it’s always Susanna Kearsley’s love of detail, her warm writing, and the mystical part of her books that keeps me turning pages, even when there’s a daunting 528 of them.
An overhead view of Slains Castle, which is also said to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s setting in Count Dracula. In a tweet Kearsley explains where the main rooms mentioned in The Winter’s Sea could be found.
Have you read The Winter Sea or any other of Susanna Kearsley’s books? What did you think of them?
It’s Friday and you’re asking yourself: “What should I read this weekend?” If you like small town, contemporary romance, then I’ve have just the book for you! And if, like me, second chance romances are you’re absolute favourite, then this is the book for you! If you like tales of forbidden love, family conflict, and babies, then same! Bonus – you get a chance to enter Jana’s giveaway!
Five Things You Need to Know About the Masonville Series
This small-town series is set in the fictional town of Masonville, North Dakota. I’ve given the town a population of 6,000 because I once lived in a town of that size. It’s big enough to have a lot of services, like a hospital and vet clinic, but small enough that everyone knows your business!
In each of the books, the characters have a past trauma or unhappiness they must work through before they can be whole again. And before they can accept love into their lives.
Right now I have four books planned for the series. Several of heroes and/or heroines in each book work in the town’s veterinary clinic. Two of the heroines and one hero are brother and sisters from the Saunders family.
This is the fourth romance series I’ve written. I think I’m getting the hang of this thing! Each book in the series will be a stand-alone story, but as with every series, I think the reading experience is enhanced when read in order.
I am currently at work on book 2 of the series, Garrett and Blair’s story. Garrett is Lauren’s brother, the heroine from CHILD OF MINE, book 1, and Blair works at the vet clinic with Cole, the hero from book 1. See? It all fits together!
Lauren didn’t intend to sleep with her brother-in-law Cole on the day of her husband’s funeral. But now that she is pregnant, she’s not sorry. Cole’s given her a baby, a long-wished-for miracle. He’s been her friend forever, though she never told him or anyone else how unhappy her marriage to his cheating brother was. And she’s afraid to tell the small town that considered her husband a hero that the baby isn’t his.
Cole’s been in love with Lauren since he was sixteen. It kills him that everyone believes the baby is his dead brother’s. All he wants is to claim the baby, and Lauren, as his own. Though she marries him, will Lauren’s heart ever be his?
Lauren must tell the truth or risk losing Cole. Is her newly-discovered love for him greater than her fear of scandal in her hometown?
I’m so happy to be able to tell you about my friend, Jana Richards‘ newest releases. Her Love at Solace Lake Series is available this month. All. Three. Books! Can you believe it? No waiting months to see how the story ends. Part of me is very unhappy with you, Jana! It takes commitment and organization to be able to deliver three books in one month. Lies and Solace, Book One was available March 14. Secrets and Solace, Book Two is available today. The final instalment of the trilogy, Truth and Solace, is available for pre-order and will be delivered to your ereader on March 28.
Love is worth the risk…
When their grandfather dies, the Lindquist sisters, Harper, Scarlet and Maggie, inherit the northern Minnesota fishing lodge that had been in their family for three generations. The inheritance is bittersweet. They were raised at the lodge by their grandparents. The natural beauty of the place hasn’t changed, but the building itself is crumbling and desperately in need of repair. The lodge also reminds them of what they lost. Twenty-two years previously, their parents died there in what was ruled a murder/suicide.
As the sisters struggle to breathe new life into the failing lodge, old fears and questions rise to the surface even as new love presents itself. Why did their father murder their mother? What truths did their grandparents keep from them? The sisters must fight to keep the wounds of the past from putting their futures, and their fledgling relationships, in jeopardy.
Five Things you need to know about Solace Lake
It’s based on a real place in Minnesota. Sort of. North-central Minnesota is a lovely place with lots of trees and beautiful lakes. My husband and I have golfed in the area a couple of times, and we stayed at a very nice golf resort. I used that resort as the model for Miller’s Golf Resort, the neighbour to the Solace Lake Lodge, and the place of employment for Harper, the heroine of book 1, LIES AND SOLACE. However, Solace Lake and the fishing lodge that Harper is trying to save are entirely products of my imagination.
A murder/suicide took place in Solace Lake. Twenty-two years before book one begins, the Lindquist sister’s parents died in the lake in what the police called a murder/suicide. The sisters, then aged ten, eight and sixteen months, were raised by their maternal grandparents at the fishing lodge.
Their parents’ deaths leave scars on each of the sisters. Harper is left with feelings of abandonment. Scarlet feels guilty, somehow responsible for their deaths. Maggie never knew her parents. Everything she knows about them came from someone else’s remembrances. She feels cheated.
The Hainstock brothers come from a dysfunctional family. Their father was an alcoholic and their mother an enabler. Their childhoods were chaotic, and both of them, especially Cameron, have vowed that they won’t do that to their own children.
Luke and Maggie have a history – They first fell in love when Maggie was fourteen and Luke eighteen. But too many years, and too many secrets have put a wedge between them that’s going to be difficult to overcome.
She can’t live with one more lie. He can’t tell the truth.
Harper Lindquist is convinced she’s found the answer to her financial prayers. Unless she pours cash into crumbling Solace Lake Lodge, she’ll lose her family’s legacy. Her would-be savior arrives in the middle of a Minnesota blizzard and she’s determined to prove to her reluctant, and trapped, financier the lodge is a sound investment. But Harper isn’t completely honest with him. And she has no idea the lake is hiding secrets of its own.
Ethan James is a liar, but his money is very real. He isn’t convinced a broken-down inn is a smart investment opportunity. But the more he understands Harper’s dreams and desires, the more he wants to be the man to make them come true. The trauma in both their pasts means neither can fully trust the other. They must find the courage to love, to trust, and to accept, or yesterday’s sorrows will keep them apart.
No matter how deeply buried, secrets rise to the surface.
Scarlett Lindquist has agreed to help her sisters rebuild the dilapidated fishing lodge in Minnesota they inherited from their grandparents. Although the lengthy restoration is bringing the three sisters closer together, Scarlett’s support is temporary. Her leave of absence from her job in Chicago is temporary and she has no intention of staying at Solace Lake Lodge, where the lake holds dark secrets. When frightening childhood memories resurface, they are tempered by her fascination with an irritating contractor. If only she could trust her feelings for him. If only he could trust her.
Cameron Hainstock meets Scarlett at his brother’s wedding to her sister and their attraction is instantaneous. But Cam avoids the beautiful marketing executive. All his efforts are aimed at battling for custody of his only child. When the unimaginable happens and Cam faces the biggest challenge of his life, he’s reluctant to accept help to halt his downward spiral. Can they learn to trust each other and fight for a future together or will they go their separate ways?
Maggie Lindquist left Solace Lake determined never to return. Circumstances have pulled her back and she’s helping to restore her family’s dilapidated fishing lodge. When she agreed to the plan she didn’t expect to have to work side by side with the man who abandoned her ten years earlier. She didn’t expect to like him, or want him ever again. But can she trust him as she once did?
Luke Carlsson rushes home to tend to his ailing mother. Her lengthy illness means he needs to stay, at least temporarily. And to stay, he needs to work. Solace Lake Lodge offers him a job and an opportunity to work with the woman he’s never stopped loving. But the restoration is unleashing secrets hidden for decades and no one is left unscathed. Especially not Maggie and Luke, whose love needs to be resilient enough to forgive, and strong enough to build a future together.
Well…March has entered like a lion in my neck of the woods with our area getting between 20 and 25 centimetres (8 to 10 inches) of snow. I know we’re not supposed to go on and on about the weather, because how boring, but holey moley that was a lot of shovelling. More so for Jack than me, if I’m being honest, which I almost always am. Also, a huge thank you to our snow blowing neighbours, of which we have three. Each of them took to heart the help a neighbour shovel out campaign and made runs up and down our sidewalks and driveway.
Also, of special interest to me as I’m the parent of a child with special needs, is the fact that March 7th marks the annual R-word: Spread The Word To End The Word campaign. We can all agree the R-word needs retiring, like other hurtful words that mock and malign have been in the last few years.
Bellewether is my favourite kind of book and reading it gave me so much joy. I didn’t want it to end. Very well written in Susanna Kearsley’s usual clever style, I fell in love with the characters and I also felt like I was given a glimpse into the every day life of the times. The book is set Long Island, New York, in both present day and during the last year of the Seven Years War . It also had a Canadian connection, which I very much appreciated.
The heroines of each time have both had their lives upended, both having suffered tragic personal loses. Charley Van Hoek is settling into her new job as curator of the Wilde House Museum when she learns of the long ago doomed romance between a French Canadian lieutenant, Jean-Phillipe de Sabran and Lydia Wilde. She is determined to include their history in the museum’s tribute to Benjamin Wilde, Lydia’s famous brother. Not everyone on the museum board agrees with her, but luckily the Wilde house is happy to help her figure it out.
Romance, war, historical intrigue, Bellewether has it all. And I didn’t guess the twist until the end!
*I received this ARC courtesy of Netgalley
* Book Available April 24, 2018
A bit about the Seven Years’ War
The Seven Years War (1756–63) was the first global war, fought in Europe, India, and America, and at sea. In North America, imperial rivals Britain and France struggled for supremacy. Early in the war, the French (aided by Canadian militia and Aboriginal allies) defeated several British attacks and captured a number of British forts. In 1758, the tide turned when the British captured Louisbourg, followed by Québec City in 1759 and Montréal in 1760. With the Treaty of Paris of 1763, France formally ceded Canada to the British. The Seven Years’ War therefore laid the bicultural foundations of modern Canada.
Have you heard of or read other books by Susanna Kearsley? If you like time slip novels, check her out! Also, please share your recommendation of other books who feature characters who differently abled!
Monday was National Tell a Fairy Tale Day and I’ll let you in on a not so little secret, Beauty And The Beast is my favourite fairy tale. Or, more accurately, the more modern Disneyfied version of La Belle et La Bete written in the 18th century by French novelist Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve is my favourite fairy tale.
La Belle et La Bete VS Beauty and the Beast
One would assume the older version of the fairy tale would be the more gruesome and deadly. Surprisingly, it’s not. While the theme of learning to love, irregardless of appearances, is at the center of both tales, in the original the Beast is not being punished for a wrongdoing, he is the victim of an injustice. He refuses to marry his governess, an old and wrinkled evil fairy. so she curses him. A good fairy intervenes and promises a reversal of the evil spell if he can find someone to love his beastly self. She also camouflages the castle in a fog and puts everyone to sleep. Or turns them to stone, I can’t remember.
Also, there is no deadline in the original fairy tale. No fading rose. But a rose does cause problems in the original, as Belle’s father picks one for her from the Beast’s garden, to which the Beast takes great exception.
There is no Gaston, no Le Fou, no singing servants in the 18th century version. But there are costumed monkeys and birds. And, of course, both versions of the fairy tale include a courtship (with notable differences), and Belle does leave to visit her family in both versions. The Beast’s curse is broken in each and the handsome prince once again has his looks. But where the Disney version ends, the original has more to it. Mainly, a nasty mother-in-law who’s not impressed with her new daughter’s-in-law less than noble standing and a plot twist worthy of The Sixth Sense.
It’s Valentine’s Day! A day for cards and chocolates, and who doesn’t love chocolate! But if your love is a passionate reader, remember to stop by the bookstore after you hit the flower shop and the card store.
The Top Five Reasons To Give Books For Valentine’s Day:
Nothing says I Love You! like a well chosen book. Even a misguided choice will do. Giving a book says they understand and support your obsession.
You can return books. Let’s face it, sometimes your significant others might know you love books but they’re clueless about what you actually like to read.
Books don’t make you sneeze.
There’ll be some of it left over the next morning, unlike the chocolate you inhaled.
Books are full of good ideas, especially romance novels. They just might have a sexy suggestion or two for later.
Also, if you’re solo this Valentine’s Day, because, hey, you choose to be, you can take yourself to the bookstore and buy your own book! How about organizing a Galentine’s Day book club with flowers and chocolates for everyone.
Likewise, if you’re suffering this V Day, and are in need of comfort. You don’t even have to leave the house to find some solace, eBooks have you covered.
Thought Of The Week:
I read this article in the Chicago Tribune which ponders the future of the romance novel in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
“Romance offers that comfort read, but it also offers resistance. You have a lot of feminists who are writing romance, Alisha Rai, Alyssa Cole, Sarah MacLean, and they’re all putting that kind of thread through their books. Resistance has always been there. Women have always had to resist in order to get what they want out of life,” Beverly Jenkins
Go ahead and buy yourself a treat this Valentine’s Day and get that book you’ve been wanting to read. You deserve it.