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Let It Snow–love, snow, and family

Let It Snow

by Sue Moorcroft

Let It SnowCome along for a peek at a British view of Christmas and snow with side trips to Switzerland where Lily and the Middletones, a motley crew of adults and teens, really experience snow with accumulated depth. They embark on a trip that displays the musical talents of the informal singing group as well as Lily’s work as an exhibition artist at a Swiss Christmas Market in Sue Moorcroft’s Let It Snow.

There are lots of complex relationships to watch develop. The back story is critical as Lily and Zinnia are sisters with two “mums,” Patsie and Roma, a situation that caused them grief from classmates as children and later from other adults. Zinnia’s biological father was an anonymous sperm donor, but Lily discovers as an adult that her conception was the result of a heterosexual affair between her mother and a much older man. Her desire to meet her other family upsets both her mothers and her sister, and she is fearful of how her brothers will respond to meeting her. Lily’s family situation gets tied into the pub she works at part time and her business endeavors in Switzerland. Lily has a romantic entanglement with Isaac, the temporary manager of the pub. Their relationship gets complicated when Isaac’s ex re-enters the picture.

I enjoyed watching the intermingling of lives and surprising conflicts that prove to make the story even more interesting. Moorcroft is a master of enticement with setting and mood. I really wanted to be at that Swiss Christmas Market with expensive cuckoo clocks and chocolates. I had visions of hot chocolate, bratwurst, and fondue (but not all at the same time) transferring to my tastebuds. When Lily stood up for herself, I was proud. When she was in physical or emotional pain, I felt for her. Lots of good outcomes make for a happy conclusion, but this tale is close enough to life that not everyone experiences a fairytale ending.

An added bonus to this story is the inclusion of some excitable kids—it is Christmas, after all. An equally enthusiastic Dalmatian named Doggo  accompanies his humans to Switzerland and is quite accommodating to whatever adventures come his way.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Avon Books (U.K.) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

Publication:   September 26, 2019—Avon Books (U.K.)

Memorable Lines:

Feelings don’t always take account of right or logic or justice. They come from inside and sometimes they’re all that matter.

As they reached the car park, fresh flakes of snow began, stinging skin like love bites from the Snow Queen.

‘Pretty,’ Lily breathed, eyes reflecting the thousand lights suspended like stars in the night sky above rows of stalls like little red chalets with snow on the roofs. Each stall glittered with stars and lanterns so the entire market seemed luminous.

The Empty Nesters–friends pulling together

The Empty Nesters

by Carolyn Brown

BrownCarolineEmptyNesters-27584-CV-FL-v1.inddHaving just finished a nonfiction book about the empty nest season of life, I enjoyed reading a fictional take on it. Carolyn Brown’s The Empty Nesters is a smiling, wipe a few tears kind of book. Four neighboring military families provide support for each other with retired and childless Tootsie and Smokey taking on a grandparenting role. The three other men are part of a team that frequently leaves for extended secret missions so the wives are left behind to raise their daughters.

Life is not always easy. We join their story with each of the four women at a different stage of the empty nest. A road trip in a mobile home to Tootsie’s old family home helps the women sort through various problems. The younger women have all just sent their daughters away to basic training. One mother is divorced and still has trust issues. Tootsie is recently widowed and still grieving, and the other two fear for their own family dynamics. Luke, Tootsie’s nephew, drives on the trip. He is handsome, single, rich but down to earth, and kind. These characters are people you would like to get to know from Diana who has decided love is not in the cards for her to Carmen who takes out her fury over a cheating, scumbag husband by splitting logs for hours.

You’ll enjoy the meetings of the Empty Nesters as they share with each other and support each other. Watching them work through calamities and successes makes you feel like you are a part of the group. We don’t get to know the daughters very well, but they reflect well on their mothers who worked hard to raise them right under difficult circumstances.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Montlake Romance for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:  5/5

Category: General Fiction (A), Romance

Notes: Includes some mild swearing

Publication: August 20, 2019—Montlake Romance

Memorable Lines:

It might have seemed strange to someone else, but with all the recent events, his comment was a life preserver in the midst of an ocean—a simple  compliment to hang on to when the stormy waters of life were sweeping over her.

“When we get old, the biggest blessing in the world is simply to be needed”

Tootsie brought out a bottle of wine from her secret stash on the top shelf of her closet and piled sugar cookies high on a platter. Meetings weren’t held in the South, especially Texas, without food and something to drink, so it was only right that the first official meeting of the empty nesters should at least have something.

Death on a Summer Morning: an absolutely gripping cozy mystery novel

Death on a Summer Morning

by Betty Rowlands

Death on a Summer MorningPreviously published as Deadly Obsession by Severn House, this cozy mystery by Betty Rowlands is being published anew as Death on a Summer Morning by Bookouture as part of a thirteen book series centered around Sukey Reynolds, a Scene of Crime Officer responsible for photographing and collecting evidence at crime scenes. Sukey has a nose for detective work which often leads her into scenarios that she is not prepared for, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend DI Jim Castle.

In this case, Sukey arrives at the home of a somewhat elderly man who appears to have fallen down the stairs. Both the man’s younger fiancée and his estranged daughter are convinced there is more to the story, but are at odds with each other in every other way. Meanwhile a headless torso is found in a watery ditch, and the police have the unpleasant and difficult task of identifying the body.

The characters in this book include Fergus (Gus), Sukey’s amiable son who is ready to enter university. Caught in time between teenager and adult, he acts as a sounding board when Sukey needs a listening ear. The plot moves quickly; the setting is important to the plot and well described. I ended the book satisfied with the outcomes, but wanting to read more in this series.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Although this book is #6 in the Sukey Reynolds Mystery Series of 13 books and it is my first Betty Rowlands book, I had no problem jumping into the series and already have another waiting in my queue based on my enjoyment of this book.

Publication:   July 22, 2019—Bookouture

Memorable Lines:

A short time later, the garden was empty of birds. They had all taken fright at the high, thin scream of terror and the crash of broken crockery and glass that shattered the peace of the morning.

“My father’s death was no accident; he was murdered.” The blue eyes that had made such an impression on Dalia Chen blazed with an almost fanatical intensity.

“In the hope that Sabrina will stop tilting at windmills, I’ll do what I can to get her and Elspeth to talk to each other.”  …Fergus grinned. “I’d love to be a fly on the wall if those two ever get together. It’ll be the mother of all cat fights!”

The Printed Letter Bookshop–books as a pathway to healing

The Printed Letter Bookshop

by Katherine Reay

The Printed Letter BookshopThis fictional work opens with the rather stark and extremely well attended funeral of Maddie and shares the perspectives of her estranged, but much loved, niece Madeline and of Janet and Claire, two ladies who are employees and friends of Maddie. What follows takes us into the lives and families of all of these ladies. They struggle with work and relationships, but Maddie leaves each an encouraging letter listing books that will help them in their life journeys. Maddie has a reputation for matching up readers with just the right book. Life is a battle for each of these ladies, and there is some characteristic in one or more of them that readers can identify with.

Part of The Printed Letter Bookshop draws attention to Proverbs 31 in the Bible which describes a wise woman and provides a model for the characters in forming their aspirations. I followed the ups and downs of the characters with hopes for successful resolutions to their problems. Will Madeline continue on her intended path to become a successful law partner? Will the town’s beloved bookshop survive during an online economy and after some bad business decisions? Can Janet find restoration with her husband and children? Is there a way for Claire to be a good mom while meeting her own needs? The story builds at an adequate pace as we are introduced to the characters and storyline, but accelerates towards the end as things come to a head for each of the characters in solving their personal dilemmas. Although there is closure for each of the ladies, it is not a puffy pink, cotton candy kind of resolution. There are surprises, heartbreaks, and difficult situations along the way as they learn what is important, how to forgive, and the need to avoid jumping to conclusions based on appearances.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Christian Fiction

Notes: I would LOVE to visit this bookstore!

Publication:  May 14 , 2019—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

You can miss your family so much you have to look down to see your chest rise and fall, to confirm that it hasn’t been cut open and you’re not bleeding out and you’re still breathing. Friends can’t hurt you like that, nor can they fill that fissure.

“I remember Aunt Maddie saying you could lose yourself in a book and, paradoxically, find yourself as well.”

I do remember that his resignation ignited my anger. Anger always comes first for me. Anger keeps embarrassment, humiliation, shame, all manner of painful emotions at bay—for a time. But it requires so much fuel. And while it burned hot that night, and for a couple weeks after, it soon flickered out. Shame replaced it, and shame doesn’t need much fuel to thrive. It can live on tiny nibbles for years, possibly a lifetime.

The One Saving Grace–love or lust?

The One Saving Grace

by Julie Houston

The One Saving GraceAs I went through each one of three books I chose to read as an introduction to author Julie Houston, I watched her develop as a writer. Her plots have become more complex, her characters have more depth, and she has found a balance that uses less vulgar language.

The One Saving Grace is the second book about Harriet and her long-time friend Grace. They did everything together as children, adored and hated “Little Miss Goodness” Amanda in unison as teenagers, and now they find themselves torqued around as adults by Amanda again. But Amanda is the least of their worries as the past becomes enmeshed in the future with unpredictable romances popping up and Harriet’s husband’s ex-girlfriend lurking the the background with revenge on her mind.

In the first book about Harriet and Grace, Harriet is confronted with an unplanned pregnancy she can not cope with on many levels. In this book, her moral dilemma is an affair. As I read the book, the author led me to somewhat understand Harriet’s temptation. As I stand back, book finished,  and look at her predicament, however, I have a hard time reconciling the Harriet who was devastated by the suspicion of her husband having an affair with the the Harriet who is willing to lose her family to temporarily satisfy her carnal desires. Sex is a major theme in the book, but is never described in detail.

The best part of The One Saving Grace is the surprises that reveal motivation and the resolution of conflicts. The theme of postnatal depression is also important in this book and one not to be overlooked as it affects not only Grace, who desperately wanted a baby, but also her family and friends.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Aria for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

Notes: This is the second book about Harriet and Grace, but works great as a standalone as Houston inserts background information as needed.

Publication:   February 19, 2019—Aria

Memorable Lines:

I actually felt a bit miffed that someone else was after Mrs. Doubtfire…like when you were a teenager, you might not fancy that spotty, tongue tied guy with the bum fluff on his top lip who’s been drooling over you for months, but you certainly don’t want him going off with anyone else.

I’d make my way up to the gym machines to face Tina Trainer, who had obviously taken her instructions at the same place Dante got his inspiration for the Inferno.

Envy I’d always reckoned to be the most corrosive of all emotions, eating into one’s soul like a particularly pernicious acid….Envy is a mere novice, a total non-starter compared to her grown-up sister, Guilt.

Coming Home to Holly Close Farm–starting again

Coming Home to Holly Close Farm

by Julie Houston

Coming Home to Holly Close FarmI had strong mixed feelings as I read Coming Home to Holly Close Farm. The tale begins with Charlie (Charlotte) having the worst Friday of her life when she discovers her lover is married with three children. Fallout of this revelation is that she also loses her home and job in one fell swoop. Charlie is a likable main character—smart, attractive, funny, and like many women, gullible when it comes to believing the one she loves.

Author Julie Houston’s book is actually two interwoven stories, and Houston handles that complexity well. One, of course, is the story of Charlie as she starts to rebuild her life. The other is the story of Madge, Charlie’s great-grandmother, and her love of a bomber pilot in World War II. Madge kept her past a secret from all of her family and as the story develops you can see why. It is only revealed because Madge, in her nineties, decides to sell part of Holly Close Farm with the proviso that the buyer must hire Charlie to be the architect for the house renovations. Once that decision is made, the secrets begin to trickle out.

My difficulty with the book is partly one of personal taste. I read it based on the appeal of the plot summary. It seemed like a gentle romance with a complex plot. It is a good plot, but too much of the book is about characters who bed hop, and it is replete with British vulgarisms. In the second chapter there is an extensive description of bawdy pranks on an airliner. This type of humor set a bad tone for me and though that is the worst of it in the book, the other elements continue. While I enjoy Britishisms in books to enhance the setting and characters, the vulgarisms detract for me.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Aria for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

Notes: includes bawdy humor and British vulgarities

Publication:  February 5, 2019—Aria

Memorable Lines:

Funny how sorrow makes you slop around in old trackies, eschewing the shower and make-up, but fury has quite the opposite effect.

“You know, war invades not only countries but also the mind and spirit.”

“…finance and big business and being in the centre of London was never really my thing but you get yourself on the treadmill and it’s going so fast you can’t get off.”

The Spirit in Question–mysteries abound in the old playhouse

The Spirit in Question

by Cynthia Kuhn

The Spirit in QuestionHaving enjoyed the first two cozy mysteries in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery Series, I was looking forward to another. This book has many good features. Readers are filled in on background quickly. The series branches out from the typical college professor tenure issues by focusing on Professor Lila Maclean’s role as dramatic consultant to a play written by one Stonydale professor and directed by a visiting professor from France. The play is embroiled in conflicts over changes the director wants to make as well as picketing by the local historical society over potential damages to the Opera House, an old theater with a flamboyant and murderous past. 

Cynthia Kuhn, the author of The Spirit in Question, chooses to develop her plot with a lot of paranormal activity, even bringing in the Spirit Wranglers who try to prove ghostly existence for their TV viewers. Is a ghost responsible for accidents and murders or is there a human element at work? Not a fan of paranormal novels, I did not enjoy this cozy mystery as much as the others in the series. I did enjoy watching Lila unravel some of the mystery threads and obtain a confession. I’m assuming the author will drop the paranormal focus in future books and resume mysteries that look more at life in the Colorado university town of Stonedale and Lila’s role there as a professor.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #3 in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery Series, but effective as a standalone

2. Author and characters seem to be unable to decide if there was paranormal activity involved in the mysterious happenings in the theater.

Publication:   October 2, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

I knew I needed to focus the conversation so that she wouldn’t begin regaling me with a cascade of memories about the time she went here or there with future celebrity x, y, or z. Once that train left the station, there would be no stopping it.

Gavin scratched his head, resulting in a dry little scratchy sound that made me want to run for the nearest tank of hand sanitizer.

…somehow it was difficult to think of him as actively guilty. He was more like a casualty swept up in the tsunami of her relentless determination.

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