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Monday, December 23, 2019

Husband Material by Emily Belden

Husband Material by Emily Belden
Published by Graydon House ISBN 9781525805981
Trade paperback, $15.99, 304 pages

Emily Belden's first novel, Hot Mess, (my review here) appealed to me because it was set in the restaurant world, and my husband and I owned a restaurant at one time. Her interesting characters and sharp writing style (which had lots of clever lines that made me laugh out loud) hooked me right away.

I was pleased to see that she has a new novel, Husband Material. Her new protagonist Charlotte, who works in analytics for a social media influencers company, is hiding something from her roommate and coworkers: Charlotte lost her husband five years ago when he died of a sudden stroke.

Charlotte is working on a new dating app that analyzes a person's social media posts and history to predict if the person is the perfect match. It gives her stats on how likely a second date would be, how likely they would be to marry, and how likely they would be to divorce. She has been trying it out on herself, but to no avail. Her Tinder dates haven't gone any better.

She brings a disastrous first date to her best friend's wedding, a setup by her best friend. He looks like a contestant from The Bachelor, and unfortunately he acts like one too, or as she puts it "he reminds me of a guy who gets sent home on night one of The Bachelor." Charlotte is so appalled by his comments and behavior, she asks him to leave before dinner is served.

When she returns home from the wedding, a package is waiting for her. The mausoleum where her husband Decker's ashes resided burned during a wildfire, and now the urn with his ashes are in her apartment. A letter accompanying the urn states that the company is no longer in business and she may do what she wishes with them.

This throws Charlotte for a loop, and brings back people into her life she hasn't seen since her husband died. Charlotte goes to the home of her former mother-in-law, a wealthy woman who has no love lost for Charlotte since she blames Charlotte for her son's death.

Charlotte also reconnects with her husband's best friend Brian, now a pediatrician. Brian offers to help her find another resting place for Decker's ashes, and then asks her if she'd like to go to a baseball game with him.

Husband Material contains the interesting characters and sharp wit seen in Hot Mess. (I wonder if her next novel's title will be two words beginning with H and M?) Brian's fancy car has air vents that can be customized to release scents like "freshly baked waffles", and Charlotte lamenting that her "aerobic capability caps at power walking to my Ubers before I get charged the late fee" are two examples of her wit.

While it would have been easy to make the mother-in-law strictly a Wicked Witch of the West character, a plot twist near the end shows a different shade. The plot twist is one I didn't see coming, and it certainly throws a interesting curveball.

Emily Belden's second novel Husband Material is even better than her first. I liked that it's not strictly a romance, it's more a story about Charlotte facing her future by dealing with her past. I highly recommend it.

Thanks to Harlequin for inviting me to be a part of their Romance & Women's Fiction blog tour, and providing me with an egalley for an honest review.

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz Williams

The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz Williams
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062660312
Hardcover, $26.99, 406 pages
When we last left Gin Kelly, she had just had a harrowing encounter with her violent stepfather and his gang of Prohibition-violating criminals that left Billy Marshall, the man who loved her, badly beaten in Beatriz Williams' second Wicked City series novel, The Wicked City.

The third novel of the Wicked City series, The Wicked Redhead, picks up in 1924 in the aftermath of the violent event. Gin and Billy's brother Anson, a Prohibition agent who is Gin's lover, have escaped to Cocoa Beach, Florida with Gin's young sister Pasty. They are staying with Anson's friends Simon and Virginia to recuperate.

Although Anson wants to provide a safe life for Gin and Patsy, he is drawn to helping the feds fight the scourge of pirates who are attacking the illegal rum runners, as well as the unlawful liquor distributors filling the waters off the east coast.

Gin is angry that Anson would undertake such a dangerous mission. When Anson and Billy's indominable mother comes to Cocoa Beach, she wants to bring Gin back to Long Island to help her son Billy's recovery. She offers Gin a quid pro quo- if Gin comes backs to New York to help Billy, she will give Gin some information about her family that could change her life.

The scenes between Gin and Mrs. Marshall are the strongest of the book. These two characters are tough, strong ladies. Mrs. Marshall may not be sympathetic, but she loves her seriously injured son and will do anything to help him. As the mother of sons, I understand that.

In 1998, Ella's story also picks up where we left her in The Wicked City. Ella has left her cheating husband and moved into a small apartment where Gin used to live. Ella finds racy vintage photographs of Gin, and wants to know more about this redheaded woman who also has a connection to her great-aunt Julie.

Once again, there is a violent confrontation involving Anson and Gin at the end of their story. There are also a few explicit sex scenes early on in the book, and Williams knows how to raise the pulse of her readers. Williams' leaves readers with more to tell in Gin and Ella's stories, so I'm sure we will see these ladies again in another book.

I enjoy Williams' style of writing, and I found one particular passage enlightening. Gin thinks-
"That's the trouble, isn't it? You never can see yourself from the perspective of someone else. You never do know how you look."
For those who read the Schuyler Sisters novels by Williams, you'll be happy to know that they play a part in this series as well. And I loved that the law firm of Willig, Williams & White is mentioned, a nod to Williams' writing partners authors Lauren Willig and Karen White, whose latest book, All the Ways We Said Goodbye publishes in January.

Fans of Beatriz Williams will enjoy The Wicked Redhead, but I do suggest that you read The Wicked City first in order to fully appreciate the new novel.
Beatriz Williams' website is here.
My review of The Wicked City is here.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Beatriz Williams' tour. The rest of her stops are here:

Instagram Features

Tuesday, December 10th: Instagram: @owlslittlelibrary
Tuesday, December 10th: Instagram: @jessicamap
Wednesday, December 11th: Instagram: @book.hang.o.ver
Thursday, December 12th: Instagram: @girlwithnoselfie
Friday, December 13th: Instagram: @downtogetthefictionon
Saturday, December 14th: Instagram: @lavieestbooks
Sunday, December 15th: Instagram: @wherethereadergrows
Monday, December 16th: Instagram: @tarheelreader
Tuesday, December 17th: Instagram: @bookishblissandbeauty
Wednesday, December 18th: Instagram: @thephdivabooks

Review Stops

Tuesday, December 10th: The Pages In-Between
Wednesday, December 11th: Jessicamap Reviews
Thursday, December 12th: Instagram: @lauralovestoread
Friday, December 13th: Reading Reality
Friday, December 13th: View from the Birdhouse
Sunday, December 15th: Girl Who Reads
Monday, December 16th: bookchickdi
Tuesday, December 17th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, December 18th: The Reading Corner For All
Thursday, December 19th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, December 23rd: Always With a Book
Monday, December 30th: Instagram: @babygotbooks13
Tuesday, December 31st: Instagram: @libraryinprogress
Thursday, January 2nd: Instagram: @kraysbookclub
Friday, January 3rd: Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Monday, January 6th: Instagram: @shereadswithcats

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Friday 5ive- Christmas books

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention during the week.

I know you'll be surprised to know that I have a lovely collection of Christmas books that I display during the holidays. The following are five of them that I think you may like.

1) Many writers have a Christmas book in their collection, and the late Dorothea Benton Frank's The Christmas Pearl is one of the best. It takes place in her beloved Low Country of South Carolina, where 93 year-old Theodora is remembering the the beautiful family Christmas' of her childhood as her bickering family comes home for the holidays. The edition I have has dozens of down-home family recipes at the end. We all miss Dottie.

2) In the historical romance genre, Lauren Willig's The Mischief of the Mistletoe is her Christmas novel from her popular Pink Carnation Series. While teaching at a girls school in Bath, England, Arabella and her friend Reginald find a Christmas pudding with a cryptic message inside that will lead them into a Christmas caper. The cover of this one is so lovely.

3) Mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark writes a series of Christmas books (some with her daughter Carol Higgins Clark), and her Silent Night takes the reader on a New York City adventure as young Brian follows a man who steals his mother's wallet into the subway and this changes the life of the thief and Brian.

4) I adore Mary Poppins, and when I saw this slim volume of Christmas stories, Aunt Sass, by P.L.Travers, I had to have it. Travers wrote these three stories to give as gifts to her friends about three people who influenced her- a Chinese cook, a foul-mouthed ex-jockey, and Aunt Sass, the inspiration for the character of Mary Poppins.

5) Last year the New York Public Library published 100 Christmas Wishesa beautiful collection of vintage holiday cards that would delight any fan of Christmas.  It's so pretty to thumb through, and I got my copy signed by Rosanne Cash, who wrote the forward.

Do you have a favorite Christmas book? Share it in the Comments section.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Friday 5ive- Christmas Ornaments

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post where I share five things that caught my attention this week.

It was time to put up the Christmas tree again and I enjoy going through all the ornaments, remembering where I got them and what they mean to me. Here are five that I particularly enjoy.

1) The best ornaments are the ones that our sons made in elementary school. These take front and center position on our tree every year and they always will.

2) One of the most popular shops at The Holiday Market at Bryant Park is the one that sells personalized ornaments. I stop by every year, and three years ago I got this one with all of our names on it. 

3) One of my newest ornaments comes from the New York Public Library Gift Shop. Since I volunteer at the Book Cellar book shop located in the Webster branch of the NYPL, this one is very appropriate.

4) Whenever we travel, I pick up an ornament for our tree. This one is from our trip to Ireland.

5) A family member gave us this Wegmans ornament to remind us of home, and that it does. (Although now there is a Wegmans in Brooklyn I have yet to see.)

Do you have favorite ornaments for your tree? Share them in Comments below.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Meet Me On Love Lane by Nina Bocci

Meet Me On Love Lane by Nina Bocci
Published by Gallery Books ISBN 978-1982102043
Trade paperback, $16, 282 pages

This past summer I read On the Corner of Love and Hate a sweet romance novel by Nina Bocci.  (My review here) It is set in the small tourist town of Hope Lake, Pennsylvania, and tells the story of Emma Peroni,  who works in the Ecomonic Development Office of the town and is the daughter of the long-serving and popular mayor.

Emma is terrific at her job, and resents her coworker Cooper, the handsome ladies' man her father is grooming to become the town's next mayor. I loved the small town setting of Hope Lake, and coming from a small town, I felt the characters to be realistic portrayals.

So I was happy to find that Bocci has a second novel in what she calls her Hopeless Romantics series, Meet Me On Love Lane. Charlotte Bishop returns to her hometown of Hope Lake after having left with her mother when she was ten years old.

They moved to New York City after her parents' divorce, and 21 years later she comes home after her mother's death and her career as an events planner falls apart. She shows up unannounced at her doctor-father's office, much to his delight and surprise.

Charlotte moves in with her elderly grandmother Imogen, a retired doctor and popular figure in town. People are constantly stopping by Imogen's house to drop off food, run errands, or pick her up for her one of four book club meetings. One of her many visitors is Henry, the high school English teacher.

 Henry also works at the town's bookstore, and runs several book clubs. He is popular with town's residents, from the very young to the more mature. He is single, and seems to be keeping his eye on Charlotte from a distance, yet always there when she needs a ride or a helping hand.

Charlotte reconnects with her best friend Emma, and Nick and Cooper, her other childhood friends. She doesn't recall Henry at all, even though as children they were all thick as thieves. She also meets the hunky Dr. Max, who works with her father and would like to become better acquainted with Charlotte.

With no plan in sight (or money), Emma convinces Charlotte to stay in town and temporarily run a new florist shop. Charlotte is still trying to sort out her conflicted feelings about being back in Hope Lake, her attraction to Dr. Max, and why she can't remember Henry from years ago.

Meet Me On Love Lane is a strong second novel in the Hopeless Romantics series, beautifully picking up where On the Corner of Love and Hate left off. It made me happy to be back in Hope Lake and to meet more of the town's residents. The way Bocci describes the lovely town square, I can picture it clearly in my mind's eye.

I enjoyed that Emma and Cooper also played a prominent role in Charlotte's story, it felt like catching up with old friends, and I liked meeting more of the town. I want to shop at the bookstore, grab some lunch at Casey's, and stop by Late Bloomers to pick up a bouquet of flowers. Give me a terrific love story in a small town, with a local business owner in it and I am all in!

I went to Nina Bocci's website and was overjoyed to see that there is a third novel in the series due in April 2020. I cannot wait to return to Hope Lake then.

If you are a Hallmark Channel fan, Meet Me On Love Lane is the novel for you. I highly recommend it.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Nina Bocci's tour. The rest of her stops are here:
Monday, December 2nd: Bookchickdi
Wednesday, December 4th: Reading Reality
Thursday, December 5th: Read Love Blog – review and guest post
Friday, December 6th: @lifeinlit
Friday, December 6th: The Sassy Bookster – guest post
Monday, December 9th: @pieladybooks
Tuesday, December 10th: @everlasting.charm
Friday, December 13th: @inquisitivebookworm
Tuesday, December 17th: Nurse Bookie and @nurse_bookie
Wednesday, December 18th: Hallie Reads
Thursday, December 19th: Girl Who Reads
Friday, December 20th: Tar Heel Reader and @tarheelreader
Monday, December 23rd: From the TBR Pile – review and guest post
Monday, December 23rd: Thoughts on This ‘n That – review and guest post
Tuesday, December 24th: Jathan & Heather – review and guest post
Thursday, December 26th: Openly Bookish
Friday, December 27th: Not in Jersey and @notinjersey
Monday, December 30th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Monday, December 30th: Broken Teepee – guest post
Tuesday, December 31st: Books & Bindings
Thursday, January 2nd: Kahakai Kitchen
Friday, January 3rd: What is That Book About
Monday, January 6th: The Romance Dish
Tuesday, January 7th: Bookish Bliss and Beauty and @bookishblissandbeauty
Wednesday, January 8th: Kritter’s Ramblings