Mon
Mar 30 2015 4:15pm

Second Chances: Women’s Fiction Best Bets for March 2015

Recipe for Disaster by Stacey Ballis

If the shelves are dusty and the pots don’t shine, it’s because I have better things to do with my time.
~Author Unknown

Better things to do with your time like reading! Once you see all the selections for this month, you definitely be saying that spring cleaning can wait. Check out the March women’s fiction smorgasbord. Paraphrasing the LAY'S® commercial—bet you can’t just pick one!

Recipe for Disaster by Stacey Ballis

To an outside observer, Anneke Stroudt is a mess—her shirts are stained, her fingernails stubby, her language colorful. But, despite her flaws, Anneke’s life is close to perfect. She has a beautiful historic house to restore and a loving fiancé who cooks like a dream.
 
Until Anneke’s charmed existence falls apart when she loses both her job and her future husband in one terrible day. In need of a new start, she packs up her disgruntled schnauzer and moves into her half-finished home, where she throws her pent-up frustration—and what little savings she has—into finishing the renovation.
 
But at the first step into the house’s overhaul, Anneke is sidetracked when she discovers a mysterious leather-bound book, long hidden away, filled with tempting recipes and steamy secrets from Gemma Ditmore-Smythe, the cook for the house’s original owners. Slowly, with the help of some delicious food and Emma’s life lessons, Anneke begins to realize that, just like a flawless recipe, she’s been waiting for the right ingredients to cook up a perfect life all along…

Strengths: Atypical heroine; Great combination of house remodeling and cooking; Wonderful insight into imperfect relationships and female friendships; HEA.
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: Perfect book for HGTV fans.

Dog Crazy by: A Novel of Love Lost and Found by Meg Donohue

As a pet bereavement counselor, Maggie Brennan uses a combination of empathy, insight, and humor to help patients cope with the anguish of losing their beloved four-legged friends. Though she has a gift for guiding others through difficult situations, Maggie has major troubles of her own that threaten the success of her counseling practice and her volunteer work with a dog rescue organization.

Everything changes when a distraught woman shows up at Maggie’s office and claims that her dog has been stolen. Searching the streets of San Francisco for the missing pooch, Maggie finds herself entangled in a mystery that forces her to finally face her biggest fear-and to open her heart to new love.

Packed with deep emotion and charming surprises, Dog Crazy is a bighearted and entertaining story that skillfully captures the bonds of love, the pain of separation, and the power of our dogs to heal us.

Strengths: Appealing imperfect Characters; Exploration of symbiotic relationship between human and animals; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts:  Perceptive insights into the crippling effects of agoraphobia. Dog lover delight!

Little Street Beach Bakery by Jenny Colgan

A quiet seaside resort. An abandoned shop. A small flat. This is what awaits Polly Waterford when she arrives at the Cornish coast, fleeing a ruined relationship.

To keep her mind off her troubles, Polly throws herself into her favorite hobby: making bread. But her relaxing weekend diversion quickly develops into a passion. As she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, each loaf becomes better than the last. Soon, Polly is working her magic with nuts and seeds, chocolate and sugar, and the local honey—courtesy of a handsome beekeeper. Packed with laughter and emotion, Little Beach Street Bakery is the story of how one woman discovered bright new life where she least expected—a heartwarming, mouthwatering modern-day Chocolat that has already become a massive international bestseller.

Strengths: Hopeful view of heartbreak and starting over; Embodiment of simple-life fantasy; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Perfect for arm chair travelers and bakers.

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

A year after getting divorced, Helen Carpenter, thirty-two, lets her annoying, ten years younger brother talk her into signing up for a wilderness survival course. It's supposed to be a chance for her to pull herself together again, but when she discovers that her brother's even-more-annoying best friend is also coming on the trip, she can't imagine how it will be anything other than a disaster. Thus begins the strangest adventure of Helen's well-behaved life: three weeks in the remotest wilderness of a mountain range in Wyoming where she will survive mosquito infestations, a surprise summer blizzard, and a group of sorority girls.

Yet, despite everything, the vast wilderness has a way of making Helen's own little life seem bigger, too. And, somehow the people who annoy her the most start teaching her the very things she needs to learn. Like how to stand up for herself. And how being scared can make you brave. And how sometimes you just have to get really, really lost before you can even have a hope of being found.

Strengths: Amusing survival journey with revealing analogy of life’s lessons; Character growth; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Interesting underlying theme of deceptive first impressions and the emotional quandary women face when they discover they’re attracted to a younger man.

Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Niell

Kate McDaid thought that going to the reading of her great-great-aunt’s will would be just another non-event in her ordinary life. A junior copywriter at an advertising agency in Dublin, she was used to spending her days wrangling clients, over-indulging in chocolatey products, and whiling away nights at the pub with her best friends, using her trusty bicycle to get around town. Instead, Kate finds out that the will and her aunt (also known as the Red Witch of Knocknamee) dictates that Kate must publish a series of strange poems called “The Seven Steps” under her own name in order to inherit the rest of her aunt’s estate.

And those poems? They’re a mysterious treatise on the importance and existence of fairies…

Kate decides to publish the Steps on a friend’s website, thinking that the low traffic on the site would let her posts go unnoticed. She never could have imagined that in a matter of days, she would find herself a local celebrity with her own group of devotees and the target of a mysterious and glamorous newspaper reporter. Even Dublin’s rock-and-roll sweetheart—and Kate’s onetime fling—writes a song inspired by the Steps.

While the Steps strike a chord across Ireland and the world, Kate takes the message to heart. But as the tone of each Step moves from free-spirited to sinister, Kate must decide if she will go through with publishing all seven Steps—or protect humankind from an ancient evil.

Infused with just enough magic and everyday familiarity that anyone can relate to, this fantastic debut is a page-turner with the perfect mix of humor and mystery.

Strengths: Irish Setting; Imaginative; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts:  Forget what you thought of Disney type fairies, these have an agenda. Tongue-in-check view of fame.

Traveling Tea Shop by Belinda JonesThe Traveling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones

Laurie Davis has always followed her passion. After escaping family drama to start a new life in New York City, she’s up for whatever challenges life brings. So when an opportunity arises for her to use her travel industry expertise and serve as an assistant and tour guide for her idol, Pamela Lambert-Leigh, star of television’s Tea-Time with Pamela, she jumps at the chance.

But Laurie’s exciting adventure ends up entailing a lot more than scouting locations for the cake queen’s new cookbook when Pamela’s sassy mother and sulky, rebellious daughter tag along for the trip. As they cruise around bakeries in New England trading local delights like Red Velvet Cake and Whoopie Pies for British specialties such as Victoria Sponge and Bakewell Tarts, more secrets than recipes are revealed.

Now, in between rediscovering romance, learning to forgive family, and finding the best dessert on the East Coast, Laurie, Pamela, and the gang might find there’s nothing a nice cup of tea, a sweet treat, and a little bit of friendship can’t heal…

Strengths: Imaginative way to impart American History via Food; Multi-generational romances; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: Perfect for food lovers and history buffs.

If We Lived Here by Lindsey J. Palmer

Razor-sharp and thought-provoking, Lindsey J. Palmer's incisive new novel both celebrates and skewers modern relationships and their milestones, offering a witty and wise look at what it takes to commit—to love, to a home, and to the life that's right for you.

After three years of dating and trading nights at their respective New York City apartments, Emma Feit and Nick O'Hare are moving in together. Or they will be, as soon as they find the right place. For two happily-in-love professionals—Nick's a teacher, Emma tutors college-bound teens—with good credit and stellar references, how hard can it be? As it turns out, very—in ways that are completely unexpected.

Suddenly Emma is filled with questions about cohabiting, about giving up her freedom—not to mention about who's going to clean the toilet. And while her best friend plans a dream wedding to her wealthy fiancé, and her older brother settles into suburban bliss, Emma must figure out what home means to her—and how on earth to get there.

Strengths: City setting—Perceptive insights about the unpredictable progression of romantic relationships; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Perfect for readers craving a book with a more urban feel.

The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase

Sarina Mahler thinks she has her life all nailed down: a growing architecture practice in Austin, Texas, and an any-day-now proposal from her loving boyfriend, Noah. She’s well on her way to having the family she’s hoped for since her mother’s death ten years ago. But with Noah on a temporary assignment abroad and retired Olympic swimmer—and former flame—Eamon Roy back in town asking her to renovate his new fixer-upper, Sarina’s life takes an unexpected turn. Eamon proves to be Sarina’s dream client, someone who instinctively trusts every one of her choices—and Sarina is reminded of all the reasons she was first drawn to him back in the day. Suddenly her carefully planned future with Noah seems a little less than perfect. And when tragedy strikes, Sarina is left reeling. With her world completely upended, she is forced to question what she truly wants in life—and in love.

Full of both humor and heartbreak, The One That Got Away is the story of one woman’s discovery that, sometimes, life is what happens when you leave the blueprints behind.

Strengths: Dream come true plot; Characters with unique careers; Relevant conflict, HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts:  Who doesn’t daydream about the one that got away!

Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran

When French perfumer Danielle Bretancourt steps aboard a luxury ocean liner, leaving her son behind in Poland with his grandmother, she has no idea that her life is about to change forever. The year is 1939, and the declaration of war on the European continent soon threatens her beloved family, scattered across many countries. Traveling through London and Paris into occupied Poland, Danielle searches desperately for her the remains of her family, relying on the strength and support of Jonathan Newell-Grey, a young captain. Finally, she is forced to gather the fragments of her impoverished family and flee to America. There she vows to begin life anew, in 1940s Los Angeles.

Through determination and talent, she rises high from meager jobs in her quest for success as a perfumer and fashion designer to Hollywood elite. Set between privileged lifestyles and gritty realities, Scent of Triumph is one woman's story of courage, spirit, and resilience.

Strengths: Courageous heroine; Star-crossed lovers; Daunting saga; Splendid sense of time and place, capturing the unease and turmoil of the 1940’s; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: A engaging story featuring a larger-than-life heroine.

Senseless Acts of Beauty by Lisa Verge Higgins

Tess has a secret. For fifteen years she has been furtively following the life of the daughter she gave up as an infant for adoption.  But when Sadie runs away from home determined to find her birth mother, Tess has no choice but to hunt down the desperate girl in the one place she dreads—Pine Lake, where a terrible, buried secret threatens to destroy them both.

Strengths: Compelling mother-daughter relationships, Exploration of adoption pitfalls; Flawed-but Relatable Characters
Measure of Love: Dash
?Introspection Level: Medium?
Thoughts: Mother-daughter relationships can be so powerful—both loving but also contentious. Senseless Acts of Beauty captures it all.

The Wednesday Group by Sylvia True

Gail. Hannah. Bridget. Lizzy. Flavia. Each of them has a shameful secret, and each is about to find out that she is not alone… Gail, a prominent Boston judge, keeps receiving letters from her husband's latest girlfriend, while her husband, a theology professor, claims he's nine-months sober from sex with grad students. Hannah, a homemaker, catches her husband having sex with a male prostitute in a public restroom. Bridget, a psychiatric nurse at a state hospital, is sure she has a loving, doting spouse, until she learns that he is addicted to chat rooms and match-making websites. Lizzy, a high school teacher, is married to a porn addict, who is withdrawn and uninterested in sex with her. Flavia was working at the Boston Public library when someone brought her an article that stated her husband had been arrested for groping a teenage girl on the subway. He must face court, and Flavia must decide if she wants to stay with him. Finally, Kathryn, the young psychologist running the group, has as much at stake as all of the others.

As the women share never-before-uttered secrets and bond over painful truths, they work on coming to terms with their husbands' addictions and developing healthy boundaries for themselves. Meanwhile, their outside lives become more and more intertwined, until, finally, a series of events forces each woman to face her own denial, betrayal and uncertain future head-on.

Strengths: Thought-provoking subject; strikingly illustrates women’s empowerment and their capacity for forgiveness; Strong female bonds
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: High
Thoughts: A candid look at relationships after the supposed HEA.

At the Water’s Edge by Sara GruenAt the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

After disgracing themselves at a high society New Year’s Eve party in Philadelphia in 1944, Madeline Hyde and her husband, Ellis, are cut off financially by his father, a former army colonel who is already ashamed of his son’s inability to serve in the war. When Ellis and his best friend, Hank, decide that the only way to regain the Colonel’s favor is to succeed where the Colonel very publicly failed—by hunting down the famous Loch Ness monster—Maddie reluctantly follows them across the Atlantic, leaving her sheltered world behind.

The trio find themselves in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands, where the locals have nothing but contempt for the privileged interlopers. Maddie is left on her own at the isolated inn, where food is rationed, fuel is scarce, and a knock from the postman can bring tragic news. Yet she finds herself falling in love with the stark beauty and subtle magic of the Scottish countryside. Gradually she comes to know the villagers, and the friendships she forms with two young women open her up to a larger world than she knew existed. Maddie begins to see that nothing is as it first appears: the values she holds dear prove unsustainable, and monsters lurk where they are least expected.

As she embraces a fuller sense of who she might be, Maddie becomes aware not only of the dark forces around her, but of life’s beauty and surprising possibilities.

Strengths: Distinctive setting; Multi-facet, flawed characters; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: The ingenuous combination of the naïve belief in the Loch Ness monster versus the horror of war creates a wonderful sense of time and place.

Day We Met by Rowan Coleman

A gorgeous husband, two beautiful children, a job she loves—Claire’s got it all. And then some. But lately, her mother hovers more than a helicopter, her husband, Greg, seems like a stranger, and her kids are like characters in a movie. Three-year-old Esther’s growing up in the blink of an eye, and twenty-year-old Caitlin, with her jet-black hair and clothes to match, looks like she’s about to join a punk band—and seems to be hiding something. Most concerning, however, is the fact that Claire is losing her memory, including that of the day she met Greg.

A chance meeting with a handsome stranger one rainy day sets Claire wondering whether she and Greg still belong together: She knows she should love him, but she can’t always remember why. In search of an answer, Claire fills the pages of a blank book Greg gives her with private memories and keepsakes, jotting down beginnings and endings and everything in between. The book becomes the story of Claire—her passions, her sorrows, her joys, her adventures in a life that refuses to surrender to a fate worse than dying: disappearing.

Strengths: Poignant, heart-felt subject, Engaging characters, Happy for Now
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: High
Thoughts: Sensitive and thoughtful, even uplifting story about a grim diagnosis.

 

Learn more about the books mentioned in this post:

Recipe for Disaster by Stacey Ballis  
Dog Crazy by: A Novel of Love Lost and Found by Meg Donohue  
Little Street Beach Bakery by Jenny Colgan  
Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center  
Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Niell  
The Traveling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones  
If We Lived Here by Lindsey J. Palmer  
The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase  
Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran  
Senseless Acts of Beauty by Lisa Verge Higgins  
The Wednesday Group by Sylvia True  
At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen  
Day We Met by Rowan Coleman  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


Scarlettleigh, blogger

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5 comments
Lee Brewer
1. LeeB.
I've read the books by Donohue, Colgan, Center and Coleman. All excellent. The Day We Met was a tearjerker.

Will check out the others. Thanks!
lauralee1912
2. lauralee1912
Dog Crazy has been showing up on my Amazon suggestions because of my many purchases of books with dogs. :) I may have to relent.
Maggie Boyd
3. maggieboyd66
At the Water's Edge sounds very interesting. Love books that take place in that time period.
Jan Moran
4. Jan Moran
Thank you for including Scent of Triumph! Thought I'd mention that since it's about a French perfumer during WWII, I'm offering my new ebook, Vintage Perfumes, free with any purchase of Scent of Triumph (for a limited time) so that readers can look up the vintage perfumes referenced.
More details here: http://www.janmoranwrites.com/2015/03/20/free-ebook-vintage-perfumes-is-free-with-scent-of-triumph/
Thanks, and enjoy!
Kareni
5. Kareni
I finished Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Niell today. What a fun read!
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