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Friday, May 28, 2021

Friday 5ive- May 28, 2021

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention during the week. The Friday 5ive took a few weeks off because we finally made a trip to our home in Florida after 15 months.

1) Every time I see the calming blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, I feel so peaceful. It was great to walk along the beach every morning, feel the warm water and sand between my toes. 

2) We had lunch with friends at Columbia restaurant, where our server was an amusing gentleman named Norbert, who put on quite a show as he prepared our sangria and Columbia 1905 salads tableside. 

3) I made a new recipe this week- Joy Bauer's made a healthier Egg Roll Bowl on the Today Show. It was delicious, made with ground turkey, cabbage, chopped mushrooms, and soy sauce, rice vinegar and a homemade duck sauce. We loved it and it moves into regular dinner rotation. 

4) I finished another virtual bike race- 750 miles from Boston to Bar Harbor. The t-shirt for this one is so soft, I think it will be a favorite for awhile. 

5)  I finished nine books in the two weeks we were away and there were a few standouts.
Chris Whitaker's novel We Begin At The End had me gasping out loud at a few points. Walk is the chief of police of a small tourist town. When he was a teenager, he testified against his best friend Vince in the hit and run case where a young girl was killed. Thirty years later, Vince is released from prison. Star, the sister of the young girl killed, was Vince's girlfriend. She now has a teenage daughter, Duchess Day Radley, who fancies herself an outlaw, and cares for her younger brother Robin, and Star, who is an alcoholic and can't hold a steady job. All these lives collide in ways that bring more misery to everyone. It's a remarkable story about the family you're born with and the one you create. It's a powerfully emotional novel. 

Beatriz Williams' spy novel, Our Woman in Moscow, takes place at the beginning of the Cold War. Iris Digby's husband is accused of being a Russian spy, and her family defects to Moscow. When she sends her estranged twin sister Ruth a postcard asking her to come to Moscow to help her when she gives birth to her fourth child, FBI agent Sumner Fox convinces Ruth to help him extract Iris from Russia. It's a real page turner, with twists and turns you don't expect.  

I hope you all have an enjoyable and safe Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

The Rooftop Party by Ellen Meister

The Rooftop Party by Ellen Meister
Published by MIRA ISBN 9780778309512
Trade paperback, $15.99, 336 pages

If you are someone who enjoys watching the home shopping networks, Ellen Meister's novel The Rooftop Party is a must-read for you. It's the second novel featuring Dana Barry, a successful host on the Shopping Channel, who once again finds herself in the midst of a death at the network.

At a party for the Shopping Network staff,  Dana tries to convince Ivan, the new CEO, that her idea of selling a new skin care line is a great idea. Ivan wants to eliminate all the fashion product lines, the bread-and-butter of the Shopping Channel, and sell only electronics. This idea panics the staff as they assume most of their jobs will be eliminated.

As Ivan is hitting on Dana, and grabbing her, the lights suddenly go out and Ivan's body is found on the sidewalk below. Dana doesn't know what happened as someone put something in her drink, and all she remembers is someone pulling her away before she passes out.

Dana's boyfriend, police detective Ari, is called to the scene to investigate. Dana is desperate to find out what happened; what if she was the one who pushed Ivan over the edge? She must find out what Ari knows.

She turns to her assistant Ashlee, a former beauty contestant from Tennesee, to help her uncover what happened at the roof party. Ashlee is my favorite character in the book, she is such a hoot. She always has a hilarious way of saying things- such as "she squeezes a quarter so tight the eagle screams". Ashlee is one smart cookie, and always up for a scheme. She's Ethel to Dana's Lucy.

Another thing I enjoyed was Dana finding a great deal on an apartment on the West Side of Manhattan. When she saw how fabulous it was and what a steal it was, she snatched it up without consulting Ari, even though he would be moving in with her. That infuriated Ari, but as someone who lives in Manhattan, I know Dana made the right decision. You do not wait if you find a good apartment, that is rule number one.

The Rooftop Party is a rom-com mixed with a mystery that adds up to a highly entertaining read. I truly enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at a shopping channel, even though I don't usually watch them on TV. The characters are interesting, the plot moved along, and even though I felt the ultimate reveal of the murderer was a bit of a letdown, it is still a terrific book. I didn't read the first book in the series, Love Sold Separately, but I am going to buy it because I like these characters so much. (You will not be lost if you didn't read the first one.) I hope there is a third book coming; who knew working at the Shopping Channel was so dangerous?

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on their Summer 2021 Women's Fiction Tour.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery

The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery
Published by MIRA ISBN 9780778331803
Trade paperback, $16.99, 416 pages

When you read a novel by Susan Mallery, you know you're getting a story where you will care about the characters. Her latest book, The Stepsisters, is no exception.

Daisy is having a very bad day. Her husband Jordan blindsided her with a text telling her he was moving out, when she picked up her sick eight year-old daughter Krissa from school the little girl vomited all over the car, herself, and Daisy, and then her car wouldn't start and who comes to her rescue but her former stepsister Sage, a woman she dislikes and hasn't seen in years.

Sage moved back home to LA with her mother after her third divorce from an Italian count. Now broke and working at a designer clothing boutique waiting on horrible rich women, Sage is stuck and has to figure out what her next step in life is and how to keep her mother from stealing her expensive designer handbags that Sage plans on selling to make money.

When Daisy was just a young girl, her father Wallace married Sage's mother to give Daisy a mother after her own died. Sage was jealous of Wallace's love for Daisy, and treated Daisy badly. Sage was beautiful and popular in high school, and Daisy was smart and kind.

Sage's mom and Daisy's dad had a daughter of their own, Cassidy, who is now a travel writer. When Cassidy has a bad fall on a trip, Wallace asks Daisy to take her into their family home to recuperate. With her own life in turmoil, Daisy is reluctant to take in Cassidy who, like Sage, really dislikes Daisy.

So the three women circle warily around each other, back in each other's lives and unhappy about it. The one thing they can all agree on is that they adore Krissa and Daisy's 10 year-old son Ben. Can the children bring these sisters back together again?

The Stepsisters is a wonderful book that will take you away from your own troubles as you read about these three sisters. Daisy wants to make her marriage work, and has no clue why her husband left. Sage needs to discover why she marries for money and not love, and Cassidy has to figure out why she ran away from a terrific guy who truly cares for her. Why do the sisters keep making relationship mistakes?

Mallery's characters are always well-drawn and you feel like they could be your neighbors. (Well, maybe not Daisy, she lives in a huge mansion.) She has a knack for pulling you into her story, and making you root for her characters to get their lives together and live happily ever after. You'll want to put The Stepsisters in your bag for your next flight or beach day, and pick up an extra copy for your sister.

Thanks to Harlequin Books for putting me on Susan Mallery's tour.

My review of Susan Mallery's The Vineyard at Painted Moon is here.

Monday, May 24, 2021

These Americans by Jyotsna Sreenivasan

These Americans by Jyotsna Sreenivasan
Published by Minerva Rising Press ISBN 9781950811069
Trade paperback, $17, 212 pages

One of the books that ended up on my Favorites Bookshelf is a novel, And Laughter Fell From The Sky, by Jyotsna Sreenivasan. It is the story of two young Indian-Americans who are trying to find love and where they belong in the world while still respecting the wishes of their families. It's a wonderful story, with characters you care about and it's so beautifully written.

Sreenivasan's newest book, These Americans, is a short story collection that mines similiar territory. In the eight stories in this book, Indian characters are trying to find their place in America, while still holding on to the things they cherish in their Indian culture.

The book opens with "Mirror", where a young Indian woman is giving birth in 1967. Her husband is a doctor at the hospital, but he is not with his wife while she is in labor. She is unaware of American birth customs, which are so different from back home. Women help other women give birth in "nursing homes", not male doctors in hospitals as in America. She is embarassed to have people poking in her and when they offer her a mirror to watch the birth, she at first refuses. 

There are interesting stories that deal with children assimilating in America. Amiya is mortified when her teacher wants the class to represent India in the school International Day festivities. Amiya wants to blend in, not stand out. Malini's older brother Pramod is having difficulty in school, cutting class, smoking cigarettes, and failing, suggesting he may be depressed. His father thinks he is lazy, and when the school suggests counseling after he is suspended, it is not discussed further.

I found "Mrs. Raghavendra's Daughter" very moving.  A widow for ten years, Mrs. Raghavendra raised her daughter Anjana on her own. She plans to travel to visit Anjana, who works in Washington, DC, and feels she can't rest until she finds her daughter a husband. She doesn't know that Anjana's roommate Susan is more than just someone to share the rent. Anjana goes to great lengths to hide this from her mother, but Susan suggests that maybe her mother is more understanding than she believes. I loved the character of Mrs. Raghavendra.

Another mother/daughter story, "Hawk", is the strongest and longest story in the book. Manisha has come to help her mother Bhagya, a doctor, move from Manisha's childhood home to an apartment. Bhagya gives Manisha a letter she wrote to her on Manisha's first birthday, explaining all her hopes and dreams for her baby daughter in America.

Bhagya spent most of her time at the hospital, building a stellar career as a doctor, yet as an Indian woman not getting the respect and promotions she deserved. Manisha was raised by nannies and her parents sent her to a prep school, where Manisha stood out from the privileged white boys who populated the school.

Manisha is now a sixth grade English teacher at an exclusive private school, and she enjoys her job and the students. She was hired as part of the school's new approach to diversity, the watchword of the year. One of her fellow teachers gives her tips on how to get along with the principal, parents, and students in order to stay under the radar. 

Over the course of the year of the story, we see the struggles of Bhagya, who is having trouble concentrating. She writes her life story in a series of letters to Manisha, and we see what she had to endure to become a successful doctor in America.  

"Hawk" is such an intriguing story of these two women, I would love to see a full-length novel sharing their entire life story. I found myself wanting to know so much more about them, and a further exploration of the mother/daughter dynamic.

Sreenivasan brings her characters to life, and in reading these stories that move from birth to death we learn the breadth of what it means to be an Indian-American, to try to blend your own culture with the culture of the people now surrounding you. These Americans is a perfect read for Asian American Pacific Islander Month, and will help you to be more empathetic to others, a goal of reading great fiction. I highly recommend it.

My review of And Laughter Fell From The Sky is here.

The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan

The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan
Published by Harlequin ISBN 9781335180926
Trade paperback, $15.99, 432 pages

If your idea of a fun vacation is a road trip along historic and scenic Route 66, Sarah Morgan's novel The Summer Seekers will take you there in a Mustang convertible no less. It's the story of three women in different stages of life who choose to escape from their lives, if only for a little while.

Kathleen is a vibrant eighty year-old widow, living in her family home by the sea in Cornwall, England. After she surprises an intruder in her home with a smash of her frying pan to his head, her daughter Liza becomes convinced that they should move Kathleen to a retirement home and sell the family home.

Instead, Kathleen plans a trip to America, traveling from Chicago to California along the famous Route 66. She advertises for a driver, and twenty-something Martha shows up. Martha is looking to get away from her family's home following the death of her beloved grandma and the collapse of her short-lived marriage after she catches her newlywed husband in bed with another woman.

The fact that Martha is not a very experienced (or good) driver doesn't faze Kathleen, nor does Liza's disapproval. Kathleen and Martha fly to Chicago, and Kathleen shows Martha the good life, starting with fancy cocktails and lobster risotto at the rooftop restaurant of their hotel.

For twenty years Kathleen hosted a television travel show called The Summer Seekers. It took her away from home and Liza, and their relationship suffered as a result. Perhaps because of that, Liza is a very hands-on mother to her twin teenage daughters. She does everything for her children and loving-but-work-obsessed husband Sean. They depend on her for everything.

When Sean forgets their anniversary, Liza leaves and goes to her mother's home to get away to think. She relaxes, and indulges in a lot of 'self-care'. She enjoys being responsible only for herself, walking the beach, and even taking up painting again. 

Kathleen picks up a hitchhiker named Josh much to the dismay of Martha. Kathleen encourages Martha to open herself up, and she hopes to make a love match between Josh and Martha. The three continue on their way along Route 66, seeing the sights and eating in the best reviewed diners.

Martha, Kathleen, and Josh become close spending so much time together. They draw each other out, and eventually Martha discovers why Kathleen wants to go to California.

The Summer Seekers has characters you care about, and you will root for Kathleen, Martha and Liza to each to find what they are seeking. You'll feel the wind blowing through your hair as your ride along Route 66, and the sea breeze and sun on your face as you walk along the beach with Liza. Toss this one in your beach bag, it's a great summer escape.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on their Beach Reads Summer Tour.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman

The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman
Published by Graydon House ISBN 9781525896002
Trade paperback, $16.99, 416 pages

If you've ever had a really tight-knit group of girlfriends when you were a teenager, Viola Shipman's The Clover Girls is made for you.

Four girls- Emily, Veronica, Elizabeth and Rachel- meet at summer camp in Michigan back in 1985. They bond together and nickname themselves 'The Clover Girls' after they find a four leaf clover. 

Emily is the mom of the group. After her brother died, her parents thought it would be good for her to away from all the sadness. She is smart, kind, and caring. 

Veronica is the confident, funny leader of the group, a real beauty. Rachel is the talented one, she sings and dances, and wants to be a movie star. Liz is the creative one, always designing clothes for the others and herself. Veronica and Rachel as the shining stars bond together, leaving Liz and Emily together.

As the story moves to 2021, a letter from Emily to each of them asking them to reunite for a week at Camp Birchwood, arrives. Emily and Liz have stayed in touch, but we find that something happened during their last summer together that tore the four friends apart.

Liz is a real estate agent who spends much of time caring for her elderly mother who has dementia and lives in a nursing home. She is devastated that her own children and grandchildren do not visit her mother or even seem to show any empathy towards Liz. Liz is expected to be the caretaker for the entire family.

Veronica went on to a successful modeling career. Now she is married to a successful architect, and mom  to a teenage son and daughter. They live in Los Angeles, and all that that lifestyle entails, yet Veronica is unfulfilled with her life, a void she fills with junk food that she hides from her family.

Rachel became a sitcom star in the 1990s, and now she is a public relations consultant to conservative politicians.  She is a very public face, appearing regularly on cable talk shows, defending ideals that confound her family and friends.

When the friends reunite, old wounds come up to the surface. They relive past slights and hurts. Why did Emily want them to come back together; can they forgive, forget, and move on? Can they become the friends they once were?

There are a lot of 1980s touchstones here. The movie The Breakfast Club plays a big part, and books like Flowers in the Attic, and songs like Journey's Open Arms will bring back memories for those of us who grew up in that era.

I related best to Liz, and I think most readers will find themselves doing the same. The characters of Veronica and Rachel seemed too similar to me, and I sometimes had a difficult time remembering which was which, as each woman takes turns narrating the story. They had lives that most of us don't lead.

I didn't go to summer camp, but if you did, you will get an extra layer of satisfaction from this story, remembering and comparing your own experiences.  

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on their Beach Reads Summer Blog Tour.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

New in PaperbackThe Falling Woman by Richard Farrell

The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell
Published by Algonquin Books ISBN 9781643751399
Trade paperback, $16.95, 352 pages

In Richard Farrell's debut novel The Falling Woman, Erin is fighting a tough battle with pancreatic cancer. When she and her husband Doug, who has been by her side caring for her, receive the latest test results, the news is not great. She is not in remission, but she will need to continue treatment, to keep fighting.

Erin is tired, and not sure how much longer she can fight. She decides to fly to a cancer survivors retreat, something that concerns Doug. The flight that Erin is on crashes over the Kansas farmland, and it appears there are no survivors.

But Erin is thrown from the plane and lands in a barn. She is found by the owner, and taken to the hospital. Before she can be questioned by the authorities as to what happened, Erin disappears.

Charlie is an investigator for the NTSB. This accident is the first major case he is assigned to, and if he does a good job, he will move up the ranks and gain respectability. He is assigned to identify the 123 bodies, a gruesome and difficult task, but one he takes very seriously.

When rumors of a female survivor swirl, the media leaps on the story. The lead investigator assigns Charlie to track the woman, and determine whether she exists or it is a hoax. This upsets Charlie, he feels it is a waste of time, and he is in a no-win situation.

Erin hides out in a cabin in Virginia, she has decided not to tell anyone that she is alive. Her husband and daughters have already mourned once, and they will have to mourn all over again when she dies of cancer.

Charlie tracks her down and tries to convince her that she must come forward. She owes it to her family, and the families of the other six women who hold out hope that it is their loved one who is the survivor.

The scenes between Charlie and Erin are the heart of this intriguing story. Can he convince her to come forward and save his job or will Erin convince him that she is entitled to live out her final days in peace? Charlie also confides in Erin about a major step he and his wife have to decide.

We see the government bureaucracy at work as the higher-ups in the NTSB want to shift blame for anything that can go wrong with the investigation, and I found the steps the investigators took at the crash sight intriguing.  I liked the character of Lucy, the investigator who put forth the idea that other people have survived plane crashes and maybe someone did here as well.

There is action and two characters thrown together who have to convince the other of what is morally right. The Falling Woman feels like a cross between The Fugitive movie and Ann Napolitano's novel Dear Edward.  Readers will spend time wondering what they would do in Charlie and Erin's positions. Farrell's first novel is thought-provoking, it will be interesting to see where he goes with his next one.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for putting me on Richard Farrell's tour.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff

The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff
Published by Park Row Books ISBN 9780778389385
Trade paperback, $17.99, 336 pages

Author Pam Jenoff adds to her growing canon of WWII stories about courageous women with her latest novel, The Woman with the Blue Star. 

Sadie is eighteen years-old when she and her parents are forced to flee into the sewer tunnels of Krakow to avoid being captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. Pawel, a handyman who Sadie's father showed kindness to, repays him by hiding Sadie's family and an Orthodox family- a father, his adult son Saul, and his elderly mother- in the sewer and bringing them small stores of food when he can.

They escaped with few belongings, and are forced to live in a cramped area of the sewer. The smell is atrocious, and the boredom is nearly as bad as the fear of being discovered by the Nazis. One day, Sadie wanders to the sewer grate and on the street above, her eyes meet a woman close in age to her.

Ella peers down and she is shocked to see Sadie. Ella's father is deceased, and she lives with her stepmother, a woman who entertains German soldiers in the family home, much to Ella's disgust. Ellas's stepmother reminds her repeatedly that she can kick Ella out of her home anytime she wishes.

Ella decides that she must help Sadie, even if it puts her own life in jeopardy. She brings Sadie food, and they form a deep friendship. Ella even takes things further, becoming involved in the resistance movement, risking her own life.

Jenoff based her novel on the true stories of Jewish people who hid in the sewer tunnels in Krakow during the war. I had never heard these stories, and she does an admirable job placing the reader right down there with Sadie and the others. You can feel the claustrophobic atmosphere surrounding you as you read, and wonder if you yourself would have the courage to do what Sadie and Ella did.

At its heart, The Woman with the Blue Star is a story of the bond of friendship that bring two young women together, and the courage they show, in the face of grave danger. The amazing resilience of the human spirit is on full display as well. Fans of Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale will want to add this to their To-Be-Read list.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on Pam Jenoff's tour.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Friday 5ive- May 8, 2021

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

1) Spring has sprung here in NYC and in addition to the pollen in the air, we have beautiful tulips blooming, like these pretty ones in shades of pink along 72nd St.

2) Sunday is Mother's Day, and one of the things I most grateful that my mother gave me is a love of reading. She read my favorite book to me, Miss Suzy, countless times and I even have a copy of the book in my collection. Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!

3) I finished my 9th virtual bike ride, this one was a 340 mile Tour de Fleur Virtual Spring Challenge. We virtually rode a route that included Buffalo and Eric County Botanical Gardens and six more, such as Sonnenberg Gardens, in Western New York. We got some great swag for this one- gardening gloves, a packed of wildflower seeds, a tote bag, t-shirt, and of course a fun medal.

4) If you are a 30 Rock  and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt fan, you must head over to the Peacock streaming network (it's free!) and watch Girls 5Eva, a comedy about a 90's girl group that is having an unexpected resurgence. Renee Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton), Busy Phillips (Dawson's Creek), the always hilarious Paula Pell (A.P. Bio), and singer Sara Bareilles play the reunited band as they try again for stardom. The writing is sharp and one-liners fast and furious, and Sara Bareilles is a revelation. She is so funny and a really terrific actress. I watched the premiere episode and can't wait to binge the rest. Tina Fey executive produces. 

5) I read two terrific books this week that I enjoyed a great deal. Susan Mallery always writes characters we care about and her new novel,  The Stepsisters, continues in that vein. Daisy, Sage and Cassidy are related in various ways- stepsisters, half-sisters- and haven't seen each year in years. They never got along, and now circumstances bring them together as adults. Can they reach a truce or maybe even have a true sisterly relationship? My full review publishes on May 24th.

Ellen Meister's The Rooftop Party will appeal to anyone who wants a peek at the behind-the-scenes on the addictive shopping channels. Dana is a successful host on the Shopping Channel who wants to get her acting career moving. When the new CEO of the company is pushed off the roof at a staff party, Dana can't remember what happened and fears she may have done it after he tried to force himself on her and possibly roofied her drink. With the help of her hilarious  and efficient Tennesee beauty-pageant assistant Ashlee (I loved her!), Dana must find out the truth before her NYPD detective boyfriend assigned to the case does. It's a rom-com mystery mix and it's a fun read. My full review posts on May 25th.

Stay safe and socially distant, wash your hands, wear a mask when necessary, and get your vaccine if you are able. We all want to have a fun summer.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

New in Paperback- Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle

Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle
Published by Algonquin ISBN 9781643751382
Trade paperback, $16.95, 336 pages

When a book pulls you into its orbit as Jill McCorkle's Hieroglyphics does, you know you are in for something special.

Lil and Frank are elderly, retired and moving from the home where they raised their family in Boston to North Carolina to be near their daughter and grandchildren. Frank also grew up in that area, and one thing he wants to do is see the house where he lived with his mother, brother and stepfather.

Frank knocks on the door of his old home, and finds single mom Shelley living there with her young son Harvey. Shelley works as a stenographer at the courthouse, and has to record the trials of people charged with horrific crimes.

She is haunted by the terrible things that people do, and her young son Harvey is obsessed with ghosts, graveyards and serial killers, which upset the other children and teachers with whom he comes into contact.

Shelley is reluctant to allow Frank into her home, knowing that women who are too trusting get killed. Frank leaves, but he is drawn to the house and trying to come to terms with how his life there as young boy affected his adult life.

Frank's father was killed when he was young boy, and Lil lost her mother to cancer when she was a young girl. When they began dating, these losses bonded them together.

While packing up their old home, Lil finds notebooks and letters that she kept. In these notebooks she logged her daily life, filled with mundane things such as the weather for the day, and her daily tasks. They were also filled with more- her deeper thoughts about her marriage, her struggles as a woman, wife, and mother.

McCorckle brings her characters to life through their memories. When Lil remembers lovingly taking out the Christmas ornaments to decorate the tree, or how being alone in her dance studio reminded her of her mother, although these memories belong to Lil, they bring to mind our own memories.

Through Frank and Lil, we see how marriage can be difficult, and through Shelley we see how tough it is to be a single parent with a child who others see as an outsider.

Hieroglyphics is the kind of book that sneaks up on you. As you read, you are drawn into Lil, Frank and Shelley's interior worlds, and you find yourself feeling as if you know these characters on a  deeper level. As McCorkle writes, "A story is easier to fall into than your own life." I highly recommend Hieroglyphics.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for putting me on Jill McCorkle's tour.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

New Girl In Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan

New Girl in Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan
Published by Graydon House ISBN 9781525811500
Trade paperback, $16.99, 336 pages
If you are charmed by the lovely cover of Damhnait Monaghan's debut novel, New Girl in Little Cove, wait until you read the delightful story inside.

Rachel O'Brien left the metropolis of Toronto for the small town of Little Cove in Newfoundland, which, while technically part of Canada is a province unto itself.

After the death of her beloved father, and her mother heading to Australia on sabbatical, Rachel takes the only job she can get as a French teacher at a small Catholic high school in Little Cove. She replaces the teacher who ran away with the parish priest.

Set in 1985, we meet the interesting people in the small town of Little Cove. The first person she encounters is Phonse, the kindly school handyman who is also a mean fiddle player. He directs her to the home of Lucille, the woman who rents Rachel a room.

Rachel has a hard time adjusting to the small town vibe of Little Cove. Everyone is curious about her, and in true small town manner knows everybody's business. There is no library, big grocery store, or  restaurants. A fun Friday night is hanging out with the Holy Dusters, Lucille and her friends who hook beautiful rugs.

The other new teacher at school is Doug, who has lived in Little Cove his entire life, caring for  his mother. Rachel is attracted to Doug, but he has a fiancee who lives elsewhere. Rachel works hard to connect with her students, but she has a few missteps, including one that could seriously jeopardize her employment. 

Seeing Little Cove through the eyes of Rachel is enlightening. As she gets to know the residents, she becomes attached. Growing up she played the violin, and Phonse gave her fiddle lessons that she put to good use as she joined him and some of her students playing in the local pub. Her rescue of a dog that fell through the ice makes her hero in the eyes of the town.

New Girl in Little Cove  combines elements of the Broadway show Come From Away and Schitt's Creek, with a dash of Netflix's Derry Girls. If you enjoyed any or all three of those (like I did), pick up New Girl in Little Cove. It will put a big smile on your face as you read, and if you come from a small town, or wish you did, you'll love it even more. I give it my highest recommendation, and I can't wait to read what Damhnait Monaghan writes next.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on Damhnait Monaghan's tour.