Tue
Aug 18 2015 10:00am

Love in All Forms: Women’s Fiction Best Bets for August 2015

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

Where there is love there is life.
-Mahatma Gandhi

The selection for August is vast—did I ever do some reading!—and the stories are varied, but at the heart it is all about love: love for family, love for partners, and even love for pets. Celebrate as we head toward the end of summer, by being lazy, and grabbing something wonderful to read.

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

Rachel Blum and Andy Landis are just eight years old when they meet one night in an ER waiting room. Born with a congenital heart defect, Rachel is a veteran of hospitals, and she’s intrigued by the boy who shows up alone with a broken arm. He tells her his name. She tells him a story. After Andy’s taken back to a doctor and Rachel’s sent back to her bed, they think they’ll never see each other again.

Rachel grows up in an affluent Florida suburb, the popular and protected daughter of two doting parents. Andy grows up poor in Philadelphia with a single mom and a rare talent for running.

Yet, over the next three decades, Andy and Rachel will meet again and again—linked by chance, history, and the memory of the first time they met, a night that changed the course of both of their lives.

A sweeping, warmhearted, and intimate tale, Who Do You Love is an extraordinary novel about the passage of time, the way people change and change each other, and how the measure of a life is who you love.

Strengths: First love; Culture diversity; Multi-faceted characters; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: So much to enjoy—love story with multi-racial couple, glimpses of Jewish religion, and a wonderful elderly man that impacted so many lives.  

Step Dog by Nicole Galland

Step Dog by Nicole Galland

Sara Renault fired Rory O’Connor from his part-time job at a Boston art museum, and in response, Rory—an Irish actor secretly nursing a crush on his beautiful boss—threw caution to the wind, leaned over, and kissed her. Now Sara and Rory are madly in love.

When Rory’s visa runs out on the cusp of his big Hollywood break, Sara insists that he marry her to get a green card. In a matter of weeks they’ve gone from being friendly work colleagues to a live-in couple, and it’s all grand . . . except for Sara’s dog, Cody, who had been a gift from Sara’s sociopath ex-boyfriend. Sara’s over-attachment to her dog is the only thing she and Rory fight about.

When Rory scores both his green card and the lead role in an upcoming TV pilot, he and Sara (and Cody) prepare to move to Los Angeles. But just before their departure, Cody is kidnapped by Sara’s ex—and it is entirely Rory’s fault. Sara is furious and broken-hearted. Desperate to get back into Sara’s good graces, Rory takes off and tracks Cody and the dog-napper to North Carolina. Can Rory rescue Cody and convince Sara that they belong together—with Cody—as a family? First they’ll need to survive a madcap adventure that takes them all across the heartland of America.

Stepdogis a refreshing and hilarious romantic comedy that asks: How far would you go for the one you love?

Strengths: Comedic scenarios, Appealing characters, Surprising villain, HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: Galland is not afraid to tell it like it is in a wonderful (tail) waggish way! Not all men understand the need for a dog underfoot—at least in the beginning.

Peach of a Pair by Kim Boykin

Peach of a Pair by Kim Boykin

March, 1953. Nettie Gilbert has cherished her time studying to be a music teacher at Columbia College in South Carolina, but as graduation approaches, she can’t wait to return to her family—and her childhood sweetheart, Brooks—in Alabama. But just days before her senior recital, she gets a letter from her mama telling her that Brooks is getting married...to her own sister.

Devastated, Nettie drops out of school and takes a job as live-in help for two old-maid sisters, Emily and Lurleen Eldridge. Emily is fiercely protective of the ailing Lurleen, but their sisterhood has weathered many storms. And as Nettie learns more about their lives on a trip to see a faith healer halfway across the country, she’ll discover that love and forgiveness will one day lead her home...

Strengths: Multi-generational stories;Unique time period; Southern charm and setting; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Wonderful story about forgiveness –the impossible becomes possible with the bonds of sisterhood. Realistic 1950’s setting.

Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt

Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt

Welcome to Hartley-by-the-Sea in England’s beautiful Lake District, where two sisters who meet as strangers find small miracles tucked into the corners of every day....

When Lucy Bagshaw’s life in Boston falls apart, thanks to a scathing editorial written by her famous artist mother, she accepts her half sister Juliet’s invitation to stay with her in a charming seaside village in northern England. Lucy is expecting quaint cottages and cream teas, but instead finds that her sister is an aloof host, the weather is wet, windy, and cold, and her new boss, Alex Kincaid, is a disapproving widower who only hired her as a favor to Juliet.

Despite the invitation she offered, Juliet is startled by the way Lucy catapults into her orderly life. As Juliet faces her own struggles with both her distant mother and her desire for a child, her sister’s irrepressible optimism begins to take hold. With the help of quirky villagers, these hesitant rainy day sisters begin to forge a new understanding…and find in each other the love of family that makes all the difference.

Strengths: English setting, Complex relationships, Character growth; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Charming story of how two women become true sisters, and bring out the best in each other.

It Started with Paris by Cathy Kelly

It all started with Paris. At the top of the Eiffel Tower, a young man proposes to his girlfriend. In that second, everything changes, not just for the happy couple, but for the family and friends awaiting their return in Ireland.

Leila's been nursing a broken heart since her husband suddenly left her, but she's determined to put on a brave face for the bride. Vonnie, a widow, has finally dared to let love back into her life, but a curveball arises that puts another's safety at risk. And Grace, a school principal, finds that her son's impending union brings her ex-husband back into her daily life, and starts to ponder past decisions and wonder if her divorce was in fact a mistake.

As these three women gather around the young couple to prepare for the wedding, they'll each have to address their own demons and find a way to move forward, whatever the cost.

Strengths: English setting, Appealing characters; Multi-story arcs, HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: At the end of the book the characters will feel like friends.

Starlight on Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs

Starlight on Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs

When caregiver Faith McCallum arrives at the enchanted lakeside estate of Avalon's renowned Bellamy family, she's intent on rebuilding her shattered life and giving her two daughters a chance at a better future. But she faces a formidable challenge in the form of her stubborn and difficult new employer, Alice Bellamy. While Faith proves a worthy match for her sharp-tongued client, she often finds herself at a loss for words in the presence of Mason Bellamy—Alice's charismatic son, who clearly longs to escape the family mansion and return to his fast-paced, exciting life in Manhattan…and his beautiful, jet-setting fiancée. 

The last place Mason wants to be is a remote town in the Catskills, far from his life in the city, and Faith McCallum is supposed to be the key to his escape. Hiring the gentle-hearted yet strong-willed caregiver as a live-in nurse gives his mother companionship and Mason the freedom to return to his no-attachments routine. For Faith, it means stability for her daughters and a much-needed new home. When Faith makes a chilling discovery about Alice's accident, Mason is forced to reconsider his desire to keep everyone, including his mother, at a distance. Now he finds himself wondering if the supercharged life he's created for himself is what he truly wants…and whether exploring his past might lead to a new life—and lasting love—on the tranquil shores of Willow Lake.

Strengths: Credible single-mother struggles; Admirable characters; Poignant; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Adroitly and delicately touches on some of the issues of life as a quadriplegic.

Silver Linings by Debbie Macomber

Silver Linings by Debbie Macomber

Set in Cedar Cove’s charming Rose Harbor Inn, Debbie Macomber’s captivating new novel follows innkeeper Jo Marie and two new guests as they seek healing and comfort, revealing that every cloud has a silver lining, even when it seems difficult to find.
 
Since opening the Rose Harbor Inn, Jo Marie Rose has grown close to her handyman, Mark Taylor. Jo Marie and Mark are good friends—and are becoming something more—yet he still won’t reveal anything about his past. When Mark tells her that he’s moving out of town, Jo Marie is baffled. Just when she is starting to open herself up again to love, she feels once more that she is losing the man she cares about. And as she discovers the secret behind Mark’s decision to leave, she welcomes two visitors also seeking their own answers.
 
Best friends Kellie Crenshaw and Katie Gilroy have returned to Cedar Cove for their ten-year high school reunion, looking to face down old hurts and find a sense of closure. Kellie, known as Coco, wants to finally confront the boy who callously broke her heart. Katie, however, wishes to reconnect with her old boyfriend, James—the man she still loves and the one who got away. As Katie hopes for a second chance, Coco discovers that people can change—and both look to the exciting possibilities ahead.
 
Heartwarming and uplifting, Silver Linings is a beautiful novel of letting go of the past and embracing the unexpected.

Strengths: Multifaceted characters, Appealing female camaraderie, Surprising Secret, Uplifting ending, 
Measure of Love: Tablespoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Lighthearted story about old and new loves

Summer at Hideaway Key by Barbara Davis

Summer at Hideaway Key by Barbara Davis

Pragmatic, independent Lily St. Claire has never been a beachgoer. But when her late father leaves her a small house on Hideaway Key—one neither her mother nor she knew he owned—she’s determined to visit the sleepy spit of land along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Expecting a quaint cottage, Lily instead finds a bungalow with peeling shutters and mountains of memorabilia. She also catches a glimpse of the architect who lives down the beach….
 
But it’s the carton of old journals in the front room that she finds most intriguing. The journals were written by her mother’s sister, an infamous beauty whose name has long been banned from the St. Claire home. The journals tell a family tale Lily has never heard, of her mother and her aunt as young girls in Tennessee and the secrets that followed them into adulthood. As she reads, Lily gains a new understanding: about her family and about herself. And she begins to open her heart—to this place, these people, and the man next door. But can she ever truly learn to trust, to believe that love is not a trap but a harbor? And is it true that hearts, even broken ones, can be forged anew?

Strengths: Multi-time periods; Stunning Secret; Heart-rending scenarios; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Heartbreaking past and joyous future.

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.
 
Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.
 
Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family.

Strengths: Flawed but appealing characters; Societal issues; Familial bonds; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Compelling story of a woman’s voyage to true motherhood. Thought provoking scenarios on life as an illegal.

Two Across by Jeffrey Bartsch

Highly awkward teenager Stanley Owens meets his match in beautiful, brainy Vera Baxter when they tie for first place in the annual National Spelling Bee-and the two form a bond that will change both of their lives.

Though their mothers have big plans for them-Stanley will become a senator, Vera a mathematics professor-neither wants to follow these pre-determined paths. So Stanley hatches a scheme to marry Vera in a sham wedding for the cash gifts, hoping they will enable him to pursue his one true love: crossword puzzle construction. In enlisting Vera to marry him, though, he neglects one variable: she's secretly in love with him, which makes their counterfeit ceremony an exercise in misery for her.

Realizing the truth only after she's moved away and cut him out of her life, Stanley tries to atone for his mistakes and win her back. But he's unable to find her, until one day he comes across a puzzle whose clues make him think it could only have been created by Vera. Intrigued, he plays along, communicating back to her via his own gridded clues. But will they connect again before it's all too late?

Strengths: Post-War World II setting; Unique premise; Star-crossed lovers; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: The crossword puzzle portion is charming, as are the characters as they finally get it right.

The Cottage Next Door by Georgia Bockoven

The Cottage Next Door by Georgia Bockoven

What should have been the best day in Diana Wagnor's twenty-nine years easily turns into the worst when her job is downsized, she discovers her fiancé in bed with her best friend, and she watches her cherished grandmother's house burn to the ground.

Clearly it's time to start over and get out of Topeka, Kansas, where she's spent her whole life. But what should she do? And how does she ever trust herself in another relationship when her one indisputable skill seems to be picking the wrong man?

Diana finds her answers at the cottage next door to the beach house with the help of a tall, sculptured, soft-spoken Californian, and a heart-shaped piece of sea glass.

Strengths: Returning characters; Appealing love story; Magical premise; HEA
Measure of Love: Tablespoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Fans will be delighted at the return to this series.

The Best of Enemies by Jen Lancaster

The Best of Enemies by Jen Lancaster

Jacqueline Jordan knows conflict. A fearless journalist, she’s spent the past decade embedded in the world’s hot spots, writing about the fall of nations and the rise of despots. But if you were to inquire about who topped Jack’s enemy list, she’d not hesitate to answer: Kitty Carricoe.

Kitty reigns supreme over the world of carpools and minivans. A SAHM, she spends her days caring for her dentist husband and three towheaded children, running the PTA, and hiding vegetables in deceptively delicious packed lunches.

Kitty and Jack haven’t a single thing in common—except for Sarabeth Chandler, their mutual bestie. Sarabeth and Jack can be tomboys with the best of them, while Sarabeth can get her girly-girl on with Kitty. In fact, the three of them were college friends until the notorious frat party incident, when Jack accidentally hooked up with Kitty’s boyfriend…

Yet both women drop everything and rush to Sarabeth’s side when they get the call that her fabulously wealthy husband has perished in a suspicious plane crash. To solve the mystery surrounding his death, Jack and Kitty must bury the hatchet and hit the road for a trip that just may bring them together—if it doesn’t kill them first.

Strengths: Droll narrative; Outlandish scenarios; larger-than-life characters; HEA
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: low
Thoughts: Lighthearted and fun with a surprising twist!

A Measure of Happiness by Lorrie Thomson

A Measure of Happiness by Lorrie Thomson

Katherine Lamontagne isn't Celeste Barnes's mother, but ever since Celeste graduated high school and her parents abandoned Hidden Harbor, Maine, she's acted the part. At twenty-two, Celeste worked at Katherine’s bakery, and hoped to buy the business once Katherine took early retirement. But when Katherine reconsidered that decision, Celeste fled to culinary school in New York—only to return two months later, a shadow of the girl who’d stormed out the door.

Katherine knows the signs of secret heartbreak. Years ago, she gave up her baby son for adoption—a regret she’s never shared with either her ex-husband or Celeste. She longs for Celeste to confide in her now. But it will be a stranger in town—an engaging young wanderer named Zach Fitzgerald—who spurs them toward healing. As both women are drawn into Zach’s questioning heart, they also rediscover their own appetites for truth and for love—and gain the courage to face the past without being imprisoned by it.

Uplifting, emotionally rich, and deeply satisfying, A Measure of Happiness illuminates the nature of friendship, motherhood, hope—and the gifts of second chances.

Strengths: New beginnings; Difficult challenges; Character growth; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Inspiring story of twowomen who develop courageandconfidence

Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

It's 2006 in the Manhattan of the young and glamorous. Money and class are colliding in a city that is about to go over a financial precipice and take much of the country with it. At 26, bright, funny and socially anxious Evelyn Beegan is determined to carve her own path in life and free herself from the influence of her social-climbing mother, who propelled her through prep school and onto the Upper East Side. Evelyn has long felt like an outsider to her privileged peers, but when she gets a job at a social network aimed at the elite, she's forced to embrace them.

Recruiting new members for the site, Evelyn steps into a promised land of Adirondack camps, Newport cottages and Southampton clubs thick with socialites and Wall Streeters. Despite herself, Evelyn finds the lure of belonging intoxicating, and starts trying to pass as old money herself. When her father, a crusading class-action lawyer, is indicted for bribery, Evelyn must contend with her own family's downfall as she keeps up appearances in her new life, grasping with increasing desperation as the ground underneath her begins to give way.

Bracing, hilarious and often poignant, Stephanie Clifford's debut offers a thoroughly modern take on classic American themes - money, ambition, family, friendship - and on the universal longing to fit in.

Strengths: Flawed characters; Character growth; Moral repercussions; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: N/A
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: The quest for prestige and status can make a person do insane and very unwise things as Evelyn and her family discover.

The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore

The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore

The Hawthorne family has it all. Great jobs, a beautiful house in one of the most affluent areas of northern California, and three charming kids with perfectly straight teeth. And then comes their eldest daughter's senior year of high school . . .

 Firstborn Angela Hawthorne is a straight-A student and star athlete, with extracurricular activities coming out of her ears and a college application that's not going to write itself. She's set her sights on Harvard, her father's alma mater, and like a dog with a chew toy, Angela won't let up until she's basking in crimson-colored glory. Except her class rank as valedictorian is under attack, she's suddenly losing her edge at cross-country, and she can't help but daydream about the cute baseball player in English class. Of course Angela knows the time put into her schoolgirl crush would be better spent coming up with a subject for her term paper—which, along with her college essay and community service hours has a rapidly approaching deadline. 

Angela's mother, Nora, is similarly stretched to the limit, juggling parent-teacher meetings, carpool, and a real-estate career where she caters to the mega rich and super-picky buyers and sellers of the Bay Area. The youngest daughter, Maya, still can't read at the age of eight; the middle-child, Cecily, is no longer the happy-go-lucky kid she once was; and the dad, Gabe, seems oblivious to the mounting pressures at home because a devastating secret of his own might be exposed. A few ill-advised moves put the Hawthorne family on a heedless collision course that's equal parts achingly real and delightfully screwball.

Sharp and topical, The Admissions shows that if you pull at a loose thread, even the sturdiest of lives start to unravel at the seams of high achievement

Strengths: Relevant topic; Goal oriented dilemmas, Valuable lessons, Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: N/A
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: How easy it is to justify our actions—but there are always repercussions, even if it takes a while. Engrossing read on how easy it is to take that one step down a slippery slope!

Don’t Get Me Wrong by Marianne Kavanagh

Don’t Get Me Wrong by Marianne Kavanagh

Kim and Harry are total opposites who happen to have the same favorite people in the world: Kim’s older sister, Eva, and her young son, Otis. Kim has never seen what her free-spirited big sister sees in a stuck-up banker like Harry and has spent her childhood trying to keep him out (must he always drive the most ostentatious cars and insist on charming everyone he meets?), while Harry’s favorite occupation is provoking Kim.

Both Harry and Kim are too stuck in their prejudices to care about what’s really going on beneath the surface of each other’s lives. They’ll never understand each other—until the worst of all tragedy strikes. Faced with the possibilities of losing the person they both love most, long-buried secrets come to a head in ways that will change both Harry and Kim forever.

As in her “hilarious, poignant, and profound” (Daily Mail) novel For Once in My Life, Marianne Kavanagh tackles the bonds of family, friendship, and love through sophisticated storytelling. Don’t Get Me Wrong is a witty and heartwarming book that will charm readers everywhere.

Strengths: English setting; Character growth; Strong familial and friendship bonds; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: You can’t always go by first impression, as this story aptly tells.

Summertime Girls by Laura Hankins

Ally Morris and Beth Abbott were beyond inseparable. From the very first time they met, the girls knew they’d found a once-in-a-lifetime friendship. But sometimes, life can’t help but get in the way.

As time goes by, disappointments and petty resentments begin to alter what they once thought was forever. Ally’s boho lifestyle leaves her drowning in confusion and cheap whisky, while a terrible secret threatens to shatter Beth’s carefully controlled world. By the time they need each other most, Ally and Beth are nearly strangers to each other.

When a family crisis prompts Beth to contact Ally for help out of the blue, the girls reunite in Maine. But the distance between them is overwhelming. To save their friendship, Ally and Beth will have to confront painful moments in their past and redefine who they are—before their incredible connection fades away for good…

Strengths: Bonds of friendship, Convincing scenarios, Character growth; Uplifting ending;
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Two young women on the path of destructiveness. Very oblivious on one, but the other will surprise you.

***

Learn more about the books mentioned in the post: 

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner  
Step Dog by Nicole Galland  
Peach of a Pair by Kim Boykin  
Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt  
It Started with Paris by Cathy Kelly  
Starlight on Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs  
Silver Linings by Debbie Macomber  
Summer at Hideaway Key by Barbara Davis  
We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh  
Two Across by Jeffrey Bartsch  
The Cottage Next Door by Georgia Bockoven  
The Best of Enemies by Jen Lancaster  
A Measure of Happiness by Lorrie Thomson  
Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford  
The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore  
Don’t Get Me Wrong by Marianne Kavanagh  
Summertime Girls by Laura Hankins  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Scarlettleigh, Blogger

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6 comments
Lee Brewer
1. LeeB.
I've read a couple of these and quite enjoyed them but now off to the library website to see if the others are there. Thanks for the recommendations!
Kareni
2. Kareni
What a bunch of enticing choices! Two Across by Jeffrey Bartsch sounds particularly appealing.
Scarlettleigh
3. Scarlettleigh
@Kareni --Jeffrey Bartsch probably is thinking "what is my book doing in women's fiction"<g> but he wrote a great heroine. The time period was fun as was all the back information on crossword puzzles, especially to a crossword puzzle failure. . . I can't imagine making them up since I rarely am able to solve them. The variety in this month's books is outstanding. There is something for everyone!

@LeeB -- You've got a great selection to pick from. . .
Maggie Boyd
4. maggieboyd66
Two Across sounds really good as does Peach of a Pair. I'll have to check the library for them.
Kareni
5. Kareni
I read Two Across today. It lost me a bit in the middle, so I did skim a bit. I'll certainly try another book by the author as there was much I enjoyed.
Scarlettleigh
6. Scarlettleigh
@Kareni

I agree--it did have a slow middle. I skimmed the middle at first too, and then after I read the ending (super-sweet) I went back and read the middle again. Sometimes, when I think a book is slow it is me--I'm just tired of reading! I'm glad you found a new author.
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