Sep 21 2015 1:00pm

Each Day is a Masterpiece: Women’s Fiction Best Bets for September 2015

The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick

Be true to yourself. Make each day a masterpiece. Help others. Drink deeply from good books. Make friendship a fine art. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
John Wooden

Making each day a masterpiece, helping others and building a shelter against a rainy day is all up to you. But we can help with discovering good books. If you looking for examples of the art of friendship, handling adversity and new beginnings—well, you'll find all that between the cover of September’s selections.

Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick

With echoes of the alchemy of Practical Magic, the lushness of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, and the darkly joyful wickedness of the Witches of Eastwick, Ellen Herrick’s debut novel spins an enchanting love story about a place where magic whispers just beneath the surface and almost anything is possible, if you aren’t afraid to listen.

The Sparrow Sisters are as tightly woven into the seaside New England town of Granite Point as the wild sweet peas that climb the stone walls along the harbor. Sorrel, Nettie and Patience are as colorful as the beach plums on the dunes and as mysterious as the fog that rolls into town at dusk.

Patience is the town healer and when a new doctor settles into Granite Point he brings with him a mystery so compelling that Patience is drawn to love him, even as she struggles to mend him. But when Patience Sparrow’s herbs and tinctures are believed to be implicated in a local tragedy, Granite Point is consumed by a long-buried fear—and its three hundred year old history resurfaces as a modern day witch-hunt threatens. The plants and flowers, fruit trees and high hedges begin to wither and die, and the entire town begins to fail; fishermen return to the harbor empty-handed, and blight descends on the old elms that line the lanes.

It seems as if Patience and her town are lost until the women of Granite Point band together to save the Sparrow. As they gather, drawing strength from each other, will they be able to turn the tide and return life to Granite Point?

The Sparrow Sistersis a beautiful, haunting, and thoroughly mesmerizing novel that will capture your imagination.

Strengths: Enticing story arc; Compelling characters; Delightful mystical element; Heartfelt HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Charming story and characters –very much looking forward to next book!

Maternity Leave by Julie Halpern

Maternity Leave by Julie Halpern

Julie Halpern's Maternity Leave tells the profane, profound and just plain funny story of a professional woman who thinks she's ready for a baby but her maternity leave proves otherwise.

Thirty six year old Annie Schwartz-Jensen is a middle school teacher on maternity leave-a time she imagined as uninterrupted, blissful bonding with her baby. Instead she is dealing with her body leaking from every possible orifice, a baby who won't sleep, a husband who still wants to have sex with her (is he nuts??), single friends who are clueless, and a mother who picked now to take a vacation. The only people who REALLY understand Annie are the wonderful people she spends sleepless nights with on QVC: Keep those velveteen table runners and non-jiggle stretch pants coming!

As Annie navigates life with her new baby, she realizes that not all Mommies are created equal. But she is determined to find her way, love her baby, her husband, herself—-even if she has to wear nipple protectors for the rest of her child-bearing life.

Strengths: Riotous Humor; Post-pregnancy scenarios;Unpredictable plot; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: A truly hilarious read! Profanity, but it fits the story line.

Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo

Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo 

From a bright new talent comes this debut novel about a young woman who travels for the first time to her mother’s hometown, and gets sucked into the mystery that changed her family forever

Mattie Wallace has really screwed up this time. Broke and knocked up, she’s got all her worldly possessions crammed into six giant trash bags, and nowhere to go. Try as she might, Mattie can no longer deny that she really is turning into her mother, a broken alcoholic who never met a bad choice she didn’t make.

When Mattie gets news of a possible inheritance left by a grandmother she’s never met, she jumps at this one last chance to turn things around. Leaving the Florida Panhandle, she drives eight hundred miles to her mother’s birthplace—the tiny town of Gandy, Oklahoma. There, she soon learns that her mother remains a local mystery—a happy, talented teenager who inexplicably skipped town thirty-five years ago with nothing but the clothes on her back. But the girl they describe bears little resemblance to the damaged woman Mattie knew, and before long it becomes clear that something terrible happened to her mother, and it happened here. The harder Mattie digs for answers, the more obstacles she encounters. Giving up, however, isn’t an option. Uncovering what started her mother’s downward spiral might be the only way to stop her own.

Hilarious, gripping, and unexpectedly wise, The Art of Crash Landing is a poignant novel from an assured new voice.

Strengths: Flawed heroine; Fascinating secondary characters; Thought-provoking history; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Mesmerizing story of how the past affects the present but also reaffirms history is not the future. A very likeable flawed heroine.

Season of Salt and Honey by Hannah Tunnicliffe

Season of Salt and Honey by Hannah Tunnicliffe

Frankie is a runaway bride. Or rather, she is running away from her fiancé’s funeral, the unthinkable event that has thrown her entire life into crisis. Frankie and Alex were high school sweethearts and each other’s first loves. They should have been together forever. But Alex died in a surfing accident, and now Frankie is walking away from her family, driving north and east, letting her body do the thinking, all the way into the Cascade Mountain range.

At Alex’s family cabin, Frankie can give in to her grief and think about nothing. There are no aunts trying feed her just a few polpette or just a taste of affogato, despite her lack of appetite; none of Alex’s family around to look questioningly at her left ring finger, no one there to perform for. Except for Jack, the cabin’s caretaker, who has been tasked with forcing Frankie out of the property that isn’t rightfully hers. And except for Bella, Frankie’s wild-child younger sister who deserted the family years ago only to reappear at Frankie’s lowest moment to dredge up painful memories from the past.

But Frankie learns she can’t hide—not from her family, not from the past, and not from truths about Alex she’d rather not face. The seasonal magic of the forest and its welcoming residents remind her that everything—flowers to bud, bread to rise, a heart to heal—takes its own time. This stunning novel, from the author of The Color of Tea, is a feast for the senses, with a message of forgiveness, hope, and the many ways to find and give love.

Strengths: Candid view of long-term relationships; Heartfelt characters; Appealing family bonds; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: No bad guys in this story. A wonderful story of flawed but genuine characters. Loved that the author didn’t rush the stages of grief.    

Cold Feet by Amy FitzHenry

Cold Feet by Amy FitzHenry 

Pre-wedding jitters turn into serious doubts in this fresh and funny debut about tying the knot and untethering from the past...

Everyone’s expecting her to walk down the aisle.
But something is telling her to run.

Emma Moon's mother thinks it's acceptable to miss her only daughter's wedding rehearsal dinner for a work obligation. Her father left when she was six months old. Emma hasn't exactly been raised to be a happily-ever-after kind of girl.

So when her anxieties get out of hand, Emma and her best friend, Liv, decide to take a road trip to San Francisco, find her long-lost father, and put her family issues to rest.

But her quest for the truth stirs up events and emotions she didn’t expect. The urge to run away may just be a part of Emma’s genetic makeup, because she’s growing more and more tempted to do just that…

Strengths: Fractured mother-daughter bond; Surprising secrets; Engaging Characters; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Enticing story of forgiveness; friendship and second chances.

Sit! Stay! Speak! by Annie England Noblin

Sit! Stay! Speak! by Annie England Noblin 

Echoing the novels of Mary Alice Monroe, Allie Larkin, and Holly Robinson, this charming debut novel tells the unforgettable story of a rescue dog that helps a struggling young outsider make peace with the past.

Addie Andrews is living a life interrupted.  Tragedy sent her fleeing from Chicago to the shelter of an unexpected inheritance—her beloved aunt’s somewhat dilapidated home in Eunice, Arkansas, population very tiny.  There she reconnects with some of her most cherished childhood memories.  If only they didn’t make her feel so much!

People say nothing happens in small towns, but Addie quickly learns better. She’s got an elderly next door neighbor who perplexingly dances outside in his underwear, a house needing more work than she has money, a best friend whose son uncannily predicts the weather, and a local drug dealer holding a massive grudge against her.

Most surprising of all, she’s got a dog. But not any dog, but a bedraggled puppy she discovered abandoned, lost, and in desperate need of love. Kind of like Addie herself. She’d come to Eunice hoping to hide from the world, but soon she discovers that perhaps she’s finding the way back—to living, laughing, and loving once more.

Strengths: Heartwarming story; Appealing characters; Mystery element; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: low
Thoughts: Engaging story of second chances— for canines and humans.

Sister of Versailles: A Novel by Sally Christie

Sister of Versailles: A Novel by Sally Christie 

A sumptuous and sensual tale of power, romance, family, and betrayal centered around four sisters and one King. Carefully researched and ornately detailed, The Sisters of Versailles is the first book in an exciting new historical fiction trilogy about King Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” monarch, and the women who shared his heart and his bed.

Goodness, but sisters are a thing to fear.

Set against the lavish backdrop of the French Court in the early years of the 18th century, The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters—Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne—four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail.

Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best foot—and women—forward. The King’s scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, the four sisters—sweet, naïve Louise; ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne—will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power.

In the tradition of The Other Boleyn Girl, The Sisters of Versailles is a clever, intelligent, and absorbing novel that historical fictionfans will devour. Based on meticulous research on a group of women never before written about in English, Sally Christie’s stunning debut is a complex exploration of power and sisterhood—of the admiration, competition, and even hatred that can coexist within a family when the stakes are high enough.

Strengths: Factual premise; Fascinating characters; Extreme sibling rivalry; Historical time-period
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Gives validity to the saying –truth is stranger than fiction. If you love history, then you’ll love this compelling tale!

Fear of Dying by Erica Jong

Fear of Dying by Erica Jong

Four decades ago, Erica Jong revolutionized the way we look at love, marriage and sex. Her world-wide bestseller, FEAR OF FLYING opened the doors for writers from Jennifer Weiner to Lena Dunham. Now she does it again by giving us powerful, new perspective on the next phase of women's lives. Full of the sly humor, deep wisdom and poignancy we know from her poetry, fiction and essays, she delivers the novel women everywhere have been waiting for...

As the afternoon of life looms over Vanessa Wonderman, she watches her parents age, attends doctor appointments with her pregnant daughter, and sits by the hospital bed of her husband, Asher, fifteen years her senior. With her best years as an actress behind her, she's discovering that beginnings are easy, but endings can be hard.

Could her fountain of youth fantasies be fulfilled on A site inspired by the writings of her best friend, Isadora Wing, it promises “no strings attached” encounters-and Vanessa is so restless that she's willing to try anything.

Fear of Dying is a daring and delightful look at what it really takes to be human and female in the 21st century. Wildly funny and searingly honest, it is a story for everyone who has ever been shaken and changed by love.

Strengths: Feminist premise; multi-generational characters; Exploration of family bonds; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: High
Thoughts:  Thought-provoking and philosophical tale of the woes of aging.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho 

In this sparkling debut, magic and mayhem clash with the British elite...

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

Strengths: Imaginative premise; Appealing characters; Comedic androcentric (male) vs. gynocentric (female) power struggle; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: low
Thoughts: Perfect for readers who enjoy historical fantasy and strong heroines. 

All the Difference by Leah Ferguson

All the Difference by Leah Ferguson 

New Year’s Eve. A time for resolutions. A chance to make a change. And for thirty-year-old Molly Sullivan, a night that will transform her life forever…

All it takes is one word—yes or no—to decide Molly’s future. As the clock counts down to midnight and the ball slowly begins to drop, Molly’s picture-perfect boyfriend gets down on one knee and asks her to marry him. She knows she should say yes, especially considering the baby-sized surprise she just discovered she’s carrying. But something in her heart is telling her to say no…

Now, Molly’s future can follow two very different paths: one where she stays with her baby’s father, despite her misgivings and his family’s unreasonable expectations, and one where she ventures out on her own as a single mother, embracing all the hardships that come with it.

And by the time the next New Year is rung in, Molly will know which choice was right—following her head or listening to her heart…

Strengths: Divergent contrasting scenarios; Genuine challenging decisions; Multi-faceted characters; Uplifting ending  
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Engaging journey to the same ending.  

Middle of Somewhere by Sonja Yoerg

Middle of Somewhere by Sonja Yoerg

A troubled, young widow hikes from Yosemite Valley deep into the wilderness on the John Muir Trail to elude her shameful past in this emotionally gripping story from the author of House Broken.

With her thirtieth birthday looming, Liz Kroft is heading for the hills—literally. Her emotional baggage weighs her down more than her backpack, but a three-week trek promises the solitude she craves—at least until her boyfriend, Dante, decides to tag along. His broad moral streak makes the prospect of confessing her sins more difficult, but as much as she fears his judgment, she fears losing him more. Maybe.

They set off together alone under blue skies, but it’s not long before storms threaten and two strange brothers appear along the trail. Amid the jagged, towering peaks, Liz must decide whether to admit her mistakes and confront her fears, or face the trail, the brothers and her future alone

Strengths: Complex ethical scenarios; Genuine forgiveness; Convincing danger; Uplifting ending   
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Gripping story of redemption and forgiveness. Other reviewers have compared it to the movie Wild.

Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

The year is 1883, and in New York City, it’s a time of dizzying splendor, crushing poverty, and tremendous change. With the gravity-defying Brooklyn Bridge nearly complete and New York in the grips of anti-vice crusader Anthony Comstock, Anna Savard and her cousin Sophie—both graduates of the Woman’s Medical School—treat the city’s most vulnerable, even if doing so may put everything they’ve strived for in jeopardy.

Anna's work has placed her in the path of four children who have lost everything, just as she herself once had. Faced with their helplessness, Anna must make an unexpected choice between holding on to the pain of her past and letting love into her life.

For Sophie, an obstetrician and the orphaned daughter of free people of color, helping a desperate young mother forces her to grapple with the oath she took as a doctor—and thrusts her and Anna into the orbit of Anthony Comstock, a dangerous man who considers himself the enemy of everything indecent and of anyone who dares to defy him.

With its vivid depictions of old New York and its enormously appealing characters, The Gilded Hour is a captivating, emotionally gripping novel that proves Sara Donati is an author at the height of her powers.

Strengths: Wonderful sense of place and time; Enlightening view of previous rigid morality, Appealing characters; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: Compelling beginning of brand new series.    

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon

Over the course of ten Mitford novels, fans have kept a special place in their hearts for Dooley Kavanagh, first seen in At Home in Mitford as a barefoot, freckle-faced boy in filthy overalls.

Now, Father Tim Kavanagh’s adopted son has graduated from vet school and opened his own animal clinic. Since money will be tight for a while, maybe he and Lace Harper, his once and future soul mate, should keep their wedding simple.

So the plan is to eliminate the cost of catering and do potluck. Ought to be fun.

An old friend offers to bring his well-known country band. Gratis.

And once mucked out, the barn works as a perfect venue for seating family and friends.

Piece of cake, right?

In Come Rain or Come Shine, Jan Karon delivers the wedding that millions of Mitford fans have waited for. It’s a June day in the mountains, with more than a few creatures great and small, and you’re invited—because you’re family. 

By the way, it’s a pretty casual affair, so come as you are and remember to bring a tissue or two. After all, what’s a good wedding without a good cry?

Strengths: Appealing characters; Continuation of beloved series; Sweet humor; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: Fans of this series will rejoice in this wonderful heartfelt culmination of Lace’s and Dooley’s courtship.

Gates of Rutherford by Elizabeth Cooke

Gates of Rutherford by Elizabeth Cooke

Return to the stately environs of Rutherford Park and the embattled Cavendish family—from the author of The Wild Dark Flowers.

The rain fell softly on the day that she was to be married…Sometimes the longing for the old untouched days at Rutherford would return to her; the innocence of it all, the feeling that England would never change…

Charlotte Cavendish has been dreaming of her old home at Rutherford Park. It is April 1917; she is nineteen years old. And everywhere there is change. The war still rages on the Continent, where her brother fights for the Royal Flying Corps. Her parents’ marriage is in jeopardy, with her mother falling for a charming American in London.

But not all is grim. Charlotte is marrying Preston, the blinded soldier whom she nursed back to health. Her parents couldn’t be happier about this. The young man hails from a well-established and wealthy family in Kent, and he’s solid and respectable. They hope he’s the one to tame their notoriously headstrong daughter.

But as time passes, Charlotte slowly comes to the realization that she is not truly happy. And for a reason she is only just beginning to understand. A reason she dare not reveal to the family—or the world…

Strengths: Historical element; Continuing story arc; Multi-faceted characters; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Third book in series—fans won’t want to miss the winning continuation of Rutherford Park!

Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell

Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell

As a girl, Genevieve Martin spent the happiest summer of her life in Paris, learning the delicate art of locksmithing at her uncle’s side. But since then, living back in the States, she has become more private, more subdued. She has been an observer of life rather than an active participant, holding herself back from those around her, including her soon-to-be-ex-husband.

Paris never really left Genevieve, and, as her marriage crumbles, she finds herself faced with an incredible opportunity: return to the magical city of her youth to take over her late uncle’s shop. But as she absorbs all that Parisian culture has to offer, she realizes the city also holds secrets about her family that could change her forever, and that locked doors can protect you or imprison you, depending on which side of them you stand.

Strengths: Foreign setting; Familial mystery; Intriguing premise; Uplifting Ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: High
Thoughts: Who wouldn’t love to run away to Paris? Wonderful sense of place—and a bit of Parisian history.

The Scent of Secrets by Jane Thynne

The Scent of Secrets by Jane Thynne

The colorful, lively streets of Paris come as a welcome relief to Clara Vine after the dour countenance of Berlin, where bunkers and bomb shelters are being dug, soldiers march the streets in their high boots, and Jewish residents rush to make it home before curfew. Though Clara is in Paris to make a film, her true work is never far from her mind. Approached by a British intelligence officer, Clara is initially confounded by his request: Get close to Eva Braun and glean as much as she can about the Führer’s plans and intentions. Clara has already established friendships with several high-ranking Nazi wives, but Eva Braun is another matter altogether. Hitler keeps his “secret” girlfriend obsessively hidden, fiercely guarding their relationship as well as Eva’s delicate psychological state. From the gilded halls of the decadent City of Light to the cobbled, quaint streets of Munich, and even to the chilling, rarefied air of the Berghof, Hitler’s private mountaintop retreat, Clara flirts with discovery at every turn—and a dangerous, devious plot unfolds.

Strengths:WWII setting, Intrepid heroine, Spirited Intrigue, Uplifting Ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: Noteworthy face to individuals in Hitler’s inner circle. Perfect for fans of novels with WWII settings!


Learn more about the books mentioned in this post: 

Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick  
Maternity Leave by Julie Halpern  
Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo  
Season of Salt and Honey by Hannah Tunnicliffe  
Cold Feet by Amy FitzHenry  
Sit! Stay! Speak! by Anne England Noblin  
Sister of Versailles: A Novel by Sally Christie  
Fear of Dying by Erica Jong  
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho  
All the Difference by Leah Ferguson  
Middle of Somewhere by Sonya Yoerg  
Gilded Hour by Sara Donati  
Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon  
Gates of Rutherford by Elizabeth Cooke  
Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell  
The Scent of Secrets by Jane Thynne  

















Scarlettleigh, Blogger


Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Maggie Boyd
1. maggieboyd66
The Scent of Secrets by Jane Thynne and Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho both sound excellent. Thanks for bring them to my attention.
Lee Brewer
2. LeeB.
I've read both The Sparrow Sisters (excellent) and Maternity Leave (very funny). Will check out the rest.
3. Kareni
What an intriguing assortment of books! Thanks for this post.
Melissa DeCarlo
4. Melissa DeCarlo
So happy to see The Art of Crash Landing on your list! Thanks! :)
5. Scarlettleigh
@Melissa DeCarlo- and I was happy to read The Art of Crash Landing! Great characterization!

@Kareni--Thanks. That is what I am aiming for in the blog!

@LeeB. The Sparrow Sisters is excellent! Of course I'm always drawn to books with a hint of the mystical. And Maternity Leave was super funny.

@maggieboyd66-- WWII setting is one of my favorite time periods and Sorcerer to the Crown is a great combination of different subgenres. Reminded me a bit of steampunk--but of course there is no mechanical devices --just magic.
6. Scarlettleigh
@Kareni --after your post on the other women's fiction blogs stating which books you enjoyed, I'm getting a better feel on your likes--

I think you would enjoy Sparrow Sisters, and Season of Salt and Honey.
7. Kareni
Thank you, Scarlettleigh, for the recommendations. Both books do sound appealing.
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