Jan 30 2015 4:15pm

Life and Death: Women’s Fiction Best Bets for January 2015

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one
—Khalil Gibran

While not all of this month’s books deal with death, many do—whether it be facing death, still mourning the death of a love one, or discovering secrets after the death of a family member. It seems apropos that the books in the middle of winter speak of the bleak and sorrowful, but end on an upward note, as we move toward spring.

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

In this richly told story where Sliding Doors meets P.S. I Love You, Kristin Harmel weaves a heart-wrenching tale that asks: what does it take to move forward in life without forgetting the past?

After her husband’s sudden death over ten years ago, Kate Waithman never expected to be lucky enough to find another love of her life. But now she’s planning her second walk down the aisle to a perfectly nice man. So why isn’t she more excited?

At first, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she’s really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband’s hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.

Strengths: Heartwarming, alluring premise, appealing characters, HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Taps into our greatest fantasies or beliefs—that our loved ones never leave us. They are just on a different plane, watching out for us, and guiding us.

The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

Rachel, Max, and their daughter Ellie had the perfect life—until the night Rachel’s heart stopped beating. She was thirty-six.

Just as her family can’t forget her, Rachel can’t quite let go of them either. Caught in a place between worlds, Rachel watches helplessly as she begins to fade from their lives.

This fresh debut novel touches on the various stages of bereavement, from denial to acceptance. As Max and Ellie work through their grief, Rachel too struggles to come to terms with her death. And as her husband starts to date again, Rachel realizes that one day Max will find love, and that Ellie will have a new mother figure in her life.

Strengths: Thought provoking, Stages of Grief, Moving forward
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: High
Thoughts: Explores the premise that after death our love ones miss us as much as we miss them and they are able to see as we move forward. Tissue alert.

House Broken by Sonja Yoerg

In this compelling and poignant debut novel, a woman skilled at caring for animals must learn to mend the broken relationships in her family.…

For veterinarian Geneva Novak, animals can be easier to understand than people. They’re also easier to forgive. But when her mother, Helen, is injured in a vodka-fueled accident, it’s up to Geneva to give her the care she needs.

Since her teens, Geneva has kept her self-destructive mother at arm’s length. Now, with two slippery teenagers of her own at home, the last thing she wants is to add Helen to the mix. But Geneva’s husband convinces her that letting Helen live with them could be her golden chance to repair their relationship.

Geneva isn’t expecting her mother to change anytime soon, but she may finally get answers to the questions she’s been asking for so long. As the truth about her family unfolds, however, Geneva may find secrets too painful to bear and too terrible to forgive.

Strengths: Compelling, Multi-generational characters, strengths and frailties of families
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Don’t let the cute dog on the cover fool you. This book takes a compelling look at rarely talked about concealed and hidden family secrets. It’s a definite page turner.

Before I Go by Colleen Oakley

A heart-wrenching debut novel in the bestselling tradition of P.S. I Love You about a young woman with breast cancer who undertakes a mission to find a new wife for her husband before she passes away.

Twenty-seven-year-old Daisy already beat breast cancer three years ago. How can this be happening to her again?

On the eve of what was supposed to be a triumphant “Cancerversary” with her husband Jack to celebrate three years of being cancer-free, Daisy suffers a devastating blow: her doctor tells her that the cancer is back, but this time it’s an aggressive stage four diagnosis. She may have as few as four months left to live. Death is a frightening prospect—but not because she’s afraid for herself. She’s terrified of what will happen to her brilliant but otherwise charmingly helpless husband when she’s no longer there to take care of him. It’s this fear that keeps her up at night, until she stumbles on the solution: she has to find him another wife.

With a singular determination, Daisy scouts local parks and coffee shops and online dating sites looking for Jack’s perfect match. But the further she gets on her quest, the more she questions the sanity of her plan. As the thought of her husband with another woman becomes all too real, Daisy’s forced to decide what’s more important in the short amount of time she has left: her husband’s happiness—or her own?

Strengths: Thought provoking, Poignant, Relatable situations
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: High
Thoughts: There are many roads to acceptance, and mourning—in letting go of life’s hopes and dreams. Getting there is not always straight forward.

Girl Before the Mirror by Liza PalmerGirl Before the Mirror by Liza Palmer

An account executive in a Mad Men world, Anna Wyatt is at a crossroads. Recently divorced, she’s done a lot of emotional housecleaning, including a self-imposed dating sabbatical. But now that she’s turned forty, she’s struggling to figure out what her, life needs. Brainstorming to win over an important new client, she discovers a self-help book—Be the Heroine, Find Your Hero—that offers her unexpected insights and leads her to a most unlikely place: a romance writers’ conference. If she can sign the Romance Cover Model of the Year Pageant winner for her campaign—and meet the author who has inspired her to take control of her life—she’ll win the account.

For Anna, taking control means taking chances, including getting to know Sasha, her pretty young colleague on the project, and indulging in a steamy elevator ride with Lincoln Mallory, a dashing financial consultant she meets in the hotel. When the conference ends, Anna and Lincoln must decide if their intense connection is strong enough to survive outside the romantic fantasy they’ve created. Yet Lincoln is only one of Anna’s dilemmas. Now that her campaign is off the ground, others in the office want to steal her success, and her alcoholic brother, Ferdie, is spiraling out of control.

To have the life she wants—to be happy without guilt, to be accepted for herself, to love and to be loved, to just be—she has to put herself first, accept her imperfections, embrace her passions, and finally be the heroine of her own story.

Strengths: Appealing Characters, HEA,
Measure of Love: Tablespoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: There are some great tongue-in-cheek scenes for romance readers and romance convention attendees.

My Father’s Wives by Mike Greenburg

Jonathan Sweetwater has been blessed with money, a fulfilling career, great kids and Claire, his smart, gorgeous, sophisticated wife. But there is one thing Jonathan never had: a relationship with his father.

Percival Sweetwater III has been absent from his son’s life since Jonathan was nine years old. A five-term U.S. senator, now dead, Percy was beloved by presidents, his constituents, and women alike, especially the five women who married him after Jonathan’s mother.

Jonathan hasn’t thought about Percy or the hole he left in his life for years. Dedicated to Claire and his family, he’s nothing like his serial monogamist father. But then Jonathan discovers evidence that everything in his marriage may not be as perfect as he thought. Hurt and uncertain what to do, he knows that the only way to move forward is to go back.

On this quest for understanding—about himself, about manhood, about marriage—Jonathan decides to track down his father’s five ex-wives. His journey will take him from cosmopolitan cities to the mile-high mountains to a tropical island—and ultimately back to confront the one thing Jonathan has that his father never did: home.

Strengths: Character growth, HEA, Male Perspective on Martial Problems
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Interesting leap from martial problems to father’s martial history.

The Love Book by Nina Solomon

It all starts when four unsuspecting women on a singles' bike trip through Normandy discover a mysterious red book about love. But did they discover it—or did the book bring them together? Magical words, spells, conjurations, and a little dose of synchronicity abound in The Love Book, an anti–rom com about the misadventures of four women who embark on a soul mate–seeking journey. Somehow The Love Book insinuates itself into their lives and has its way with them. But there is more than matchmaking afoot. The four women—Emily, Beatrice, Max, and Cathy—are each nudged, cajoled, inspired—perhaps “guided”—despite themselves, to discover love, fulfillment, and the true nature of what being a soul mate really means. While on the surface a lighthearted romp, the novel is a serious exploration of the difficulties women routinely encounter when their lives do not turn out the way society, their families, and they themselves may have planned.

Strengths: Depiction of women at different stages in life, Character growth, HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: This books will definitely appeal to readers that believe that the universe gives us what we seek out.

The List by Joanna Bolouri

Phoebe Henderson may be single but she sure doesn't feel fabulous. It's been a year since she found her boyfriend Alex in bed with another woman, and wine-fueled nights of relationship analysis with her best friend Lucy have done nothing to improve her dating situation.

Faced with another year without love, Phoebe confronts her fears and decides to forgo romantic love altogether. She comes up with The List: ten things she's always wanted to do in bed but has never had the courage to try. One year of pleasure, no strings attached. Simple, right? In a chaotic, embarrassing, exhilarating, and ultimately transformational year of self-discovery, Phoebe finds surprises, friendship, confidence, and even love, through good and bad sex.

Strengths: Character growth, Winning Premise, HEA,
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: Fun filled British Romp about finding “the one”

What are you reading this January?


Learn more about the books mentioned in this post:

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel  
The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman  
House Broken by Sonja Yoerg  
Before I Go by Colleen Oakley  
Girl Before the Mirror by Liza Palmer  
My Father’s Wives by Mike Greenburg  
The Love Book by Nina Solomon  
The List by Joanna Bolouri  









Scarlettleigh, blogger

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Maggie Boyd
1. maggieboyd66
House Broken sounds really interesting. I love books about family secrets.
Lee Brewer
3. LeeB.
Well I have three of these on hold at the library and have read the Harmel book. Excellent! The Oakley story is a tearjerker but very well written.
4. Kareni
I just finished The Life Intended today; it was definitely an enjoyable book.
5. Scarlettleigh
@Kareni-- Oh I really liked the book. The theme is that our deceased love ones are still looking after us is one of my favorite
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