Thu
Feb 26 2015 6:30pm

Freedom in Choice: Women’s Fiction Best Bets for February 2015

New Uses for Old Boyfriends by Beth KendrickSeveral February books take a look at the heartrending time during World War II, so it seems apropos to use a quote by Viktor E. Frankl—“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation”as the introduction to this month’s selection.  The beauty of this quote is that it applies to all of life’s lessons. Readers have quite a variety to choose from this month, from lighthearted and humorous books to books that illuminate parts of our tragic past. No matter what your taste preference, you’ll be sure to find something that will appeal.

New Uses for Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendrick

After growing up in privilege and marrying into money, Lila Alders has gotten used to the good life. But when her happily-ever-after implodes, Lila must return to Black Dog Bay, the tiny seaside town where she grew up. She’s desperate for a safe haven, but everything has changed over the past ten years. Her family’s fortune is gone—and her mother is in total denial. It’s up to Lila to take care of everything...but she can barely take care of herself.

The former golden girl of Black Dog Bay struggles to reinvent herself by opening a vintage clothing boutique. But even as Lila finds new purpose for outdated dresses and tries to reunite with her ex, she realizes that sometimes it’s too late for old dreams. She’s lost everything she thought she needed but found something—someone—she desperately wants. A boy she hardly noticed has grown up into a man she can’t forget...and a second chance has never felt so much like first love.

Strengths: Appealing characters, humorous setting, second chance at love, HEA
Measure of Love: Tablespoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: It’s always great revisiting the setting of Black Dog Bay; lighthearted with hints of life’s lessons.

The Unexpected Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell (U.S. release)

Sophie has no interest in finding love. But what happens when love finds her?

Sophie Wells is a successful photographer with a focus on putting the past firmly behind her. When Josh Strachan returns to the seaside town of Cornwall from the States to run his family's hotel, he can't understand why the fun, sexy girl has zero interest in letting him-or any man for that matter-into her life. He also can't understand how he's been duped into employing Sophie's impulsive friend Tula, whose crush on him is decidedly unrequited. Both girls remain mum about the reasons behind Sophie's indifference to love. But that doesn't mean Josh is going to quit trying...

Strengths: Engaging characters, courtship trope, British setting, HEA
Measure of Love: Tablespoon
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: It’s always fun to read British Chick-Lit/Women’s fiction. As always, Mansell integrates both serious and comedic themes.

The Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan MalleryThe Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan Mallery

Nicole Lord wants to be a good wife, but there's a difference between being supportive and supporting her husband, who quit his job to write a screenplay she's never seen. He won't even help take care of their son, leaving Nicole to run the house and work full-time. 

Sacrificing a personal life for her career is how Shannon Rigg became VP at her firm, but she wonders now whether she made the right choice. An exciting new relationship with a great guy convinces her that it might not be too late—until he drops a bombshell that has her questioning whether she really can have it all. 

Although Pam Eiland adores her husband, she feels restless now that the kids are grown. Finding sexy new ways to surprise him brings the heat and humor back to their marriage, but when unexpected change turns her life upside down, she'll have to redefine herself. Again. 

Through romance and heartbreak, laughter and tears, the girls of Mischief Bay will discover that life is richer with friends at your side.

Strengths: Three unique tribulations, multi-generational friendships, character growth
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: A great celebration of friendship as each woman helps the others cope with life’s challenges.

The Secret of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

Three generations of women
Secrets in the present and from the past

A captivating tale of life, loss, and love…Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is determined to keep the details surrounding her own pregnancy—including the identity of the baby’s father— hidden from her family and co-workers for as long as possible. Her mother, Grace, finds it impossible to let this secret rest. The more Grace prods, the tighter Neva holds to her story, and the more the lifelong differences between private, quiet Neva and open, gregarious Grace strain their relationship. For Floss, Neva’s grandmother and a retired midwife, Neva’s situation thrusts her back sixty years in time to a secret that eerily mirrors her granddaughter’s—one which, if revealed, will have life-changing consequences for them all. As Neva’s pregnancy progresses and speculation makes it harder and harder to conceal the truth, Floss wonders if hiding her own truth is ultimately more harmful than telling it. Will these women reveal their secrets and deal with the inevitable consequences? Or are some secrets best kept hidden?

Strengths: Interesting family dynamics, multi-generational story, British setting, HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Plenty of twists and turns as each generation of women reveals their secrets.  

The Nightingale by Kristin HannahThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

 
FRANCE, 1939
 
In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front.  She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth.  While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely.  But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war.   The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France—a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women.  It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

Strengths: Admirable heroines, Distinctive backdrop, Poignant story
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Kristin Hannah writes a heartfelt story effectively illuminating the tragedies of war and the courage of the women involved.

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

She stood at a crossroads, half-aware that her choice would send her down a path from which there could be no turning back. But instead of two choices, she saw only one—because it was all she really wanted to see…

Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades...beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden—one that will test her convictions and her heart.

1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed

Strengths: World War II British setting, Multi-facet characters,
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: The mother-daughter bond is one of strongest, yet at times one of the most turbulent especially when a young woman is coming of age.  Family responsibility conflicts with ambition.

Shadows Over Paradise by Isabel WolffShadows Over Paradise by Isabel Wolff

Sometimes the only way forward is through the past.

Jenni Clark is a ghostwriter. She loves to immerse herself in other people’s stories—a respite from her own life, and from a relationship that appears to be nearing its end. Jenni’s latest assignment takes her to a coastal hamlet in England, where she’s agreed to pen the memoir of an elderly farm owner named Klara. Jenni assumes the project will be easy: a quiet, ordinary tale of a life well lived.

But Klara’s story is far from quiet. She recounts the tale of a family torn apart by World War II, and of disgraceful acts committed against a community in the Japanese prison camps on the Pacific island paradise of Java. As harrowing details emerge and stunning truths come to light, Jenni is compelled to confront a secret she’s spent a lifetime burying.

Weaving together the lives of two very different women, Isabel Wolff has created a captivating novel of love, loss, and hope that reaches across generations.

Strengths: Unique Setting, Appealing blend of past and present.
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: The past and the present collide as one woman’s story eerily mimics another woman’s hidden secret

Amherst: A Novel by William Nicholson

From an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and the author of Motherland, a novel about two love affairs set in Amherst—one in the present, one in the past, and both presided over by Emily Dickinson.

Alice Dickinson, a young advertising executive in London, decides to take time off work to research her idea for a screenplay: the true story of the scandalous, adulterous love affair that took place between a young, Amherst college faculty wife, Mabel Loomis Todd, and the college’s treasurer, Austin Dickinson, in the 1880s. Austin, twenty-four years Mabel’s senior and married, was the brother of the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson, whose house provided the setting for Austin and Mabel’s trysts.

Alice travels to Amherst, staying in the house of Nick Crocker, a married English academic in his fifties. As Alice researches Austin and Mabel’s story and Emily’s role in their affair, she embarks on her own affair with Nick, an affair that, of course, they both know echoes the affair that she’s writing about in her screenplay.

Interspersed with Alice’s complicated love story is the story of Austin and Mabel, historically accurate and meticulously recreated from their voluminous letters and diaries. Using the poems of Emily Dickinson throughout, Amherst is an exploration of the nature of passionate love, its delusions, and its glories. This novel is playful and scholarly, sexy and smart, and reminds us that the games we play when we fall in love have not changed that much over the years.

Strengths: Accurate view of complex interpersonal relationships both past and present, Character growth,
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: High
Thoughts: Unique interpretation of Emily Dickinson’s past.

Blue Stars by Emily Gray TedroweBlue Stars by Emily Gray Tedrowe

Emily Gray Tedrowe has written an extraordinary novel about ordinary people, a graceful and gritty portrayal of what it’s like for the women whose husbands and sons are deployed in Iraq.

BLUE STARS brings to life the realities of the modern day home front: how to get through the daily challenges of motherhood and holding down a job while bearing the stress and uncertainty of war, when everything can change in an instant. It tells the story of Ellen, a Midwestern literature professor, who is drawn into the war when her legal ward Michael enlists as a Marine; and of Lacey, a proud Army wife who struggles to pay the bills and keep things going for her son while her husband is deployed. Ellen and Lacey cope with the fear and stress of a loved one at war while trying to get by in a society that often ignores or misunderstands what war means to women today. When Michael and Eddie are injured in Iraq, Ellen and Lacey’s lives become intertwined in Walter Reed Army Hospital, where each woman must live while caring for her wounded soldier. They form an alliance, and an unlikely friendship, while helping each other survive the dislocated world of the army hospital. Whether that means fighting for proper care for their men, sharing a six-pack, or coping with irrevocable loss, Ellen and Lacey pool their strengths to make it through. In the end, both women are changed, not only by the war and its fallout, but by each other.

Strengths: Female bonding, Character growth, Complex life challenges
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: High
Thoughts: A compelling story on a difficult subject

***

To find out more about each book mentioned:

New Uses for Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendrick

 

The Unexpected Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell

 

Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan Mallery

 

The Secret of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

 

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

 

Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

 

Shadows Over Paradise by Isabel Wolff

 

Amherst: A Novel by William Nicholson

 

Blue Stars by Emily Gray Tedrowe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Scarlettleigh, blogger

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
4 comments
Lee Brewer
1. LeeB.
I've read the books by Beth Kendrick, Susan Mallery, Jill Mansell and Isabel Wolff and have the Hannah on reserve at the library. Excellent column!
Scarlettleigh
2. Scarlettleigh
Wow LeeB, you have been busy. I'll have to step up my reading to get this column in faster (grin)
Maggie Boyd
3. maggieboyd66
The book by Wolff sounds like something I would really enjoy., thanks for bringing it to my attention. ;-0
Kareni
4. Kareni
Blue Stars sounds intriguing and, very fortunately, my library already has it on order! Thanks for writing this column, Scarlettleigh.
Post a comment