Book Talk Tuesday: HAPPILY THIS CHRISTMAS

If it’s Tuesday, this must be a book review. It’s been a while since I posted a book review. Not because I haven’t been reading, but after reading quite a few books for review, I took a break and read for myself. I did read some great books that I will review in the next few weeks, but I’m starting with a Christmas book. Of course. Since it’s officially Fall, there are only twelve weekends between now and Christmas. That’s twelve chances to curl up with some hot chocolate, or a latte, or tea, and this endearing book.

Susan Mallery takes us back to Happily Inc, the wedding destination town in the California desert. This is Wynn’s story. We’ve met Wynn in the other Happily Inc stories. She runs the graphic design and printing shop and she’s a single mom of a young teenage boy.

Wynn has kept her heart to herself and refused to consider a long-term relationship. Until the good-looking police officer, Garrick, moves in next door. They wave greetings occasionally and she watches him mow his lawn, but that’s it. Until he asks her to help him get his home ready for his adult daughter, Joylyn, to come stay. She’s pregnant and her husband is deployed. They’ve been estranged for several years and he has no idea why or what happened. He’s hoping this means they can heal the past and restore the loving relationship they used to have.

Of course, it’s not that easy.

I really enjoyed this one a lot. Of course, we all know I’m a huge Susan Mallery fan. And a huge fan of Christmas stories with Happily Ever After endings.

Wynn and Garrick had believable chemistry and they were cognizant that they both had their children living with them, so they didn’t tumble into bed at the first spark, disregarding that fact. Joylyn was a pill at first, but she softened and became likable. Some of our previous Happily Inc protagonists had cameos and walk-on parts, so we got to catch up with Renee and Jasper, Bethany and Cade, Carol and Matthias, and the others.

This was a fun addition to the Happily Inc library and I highly recommend it!


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but it did not induce me to review it, either favorably or not.

Book Talk Tuesday: THE FRIENDSHIP LIST

Ellen and Unity have been best friends since forever. Now in their mid-thirties, the women are forced to acknowledge an unpalatable truth: they’re stuck.

TFLEllen has been immersed in raising her son, Cooper, alone, and working. That’s all she’s done for the last seventeen years. When she overhears Coop tell a friend that he can’t go away to his dream school for college because his mom needs him too much, Ellen realizes she has to make some changes.

Unity’s been a widow for three years. Everyone keeps badgering her to move on, but she’s fine with where she’s at: living in her dead husband’s childhood home and sleeping in his bed. She’s got her business and her friends at the local “older adults” housing development. She’s just fine, thank you very much, but she wants to help Ellen.

Unity comes up with a list of challenges that will force both of them out of their ruts. They’ll wear bikinis in public. Get a tattoo. Sing karaoke. Unity proposes the project to make Ellen feel that Unity is trying to move on, but she has no intention of actually changing in any ways that really matter. Sure, she’ll go indoor skydiving with a nice man, but there can never be anything more between them.

The friendship between the women is genuine. They have a big fight at the beginning, but then are able to work through it.

The two male love interests are great characters. Ellen’s story line is friends to lovers with her coworker and Cooper’s coach, Keith. Keith could be a little over the top in his reactions and interactions with his teenage daughter, but it was still entertaining. Thaddeus is the perfect romantic hero: tall, dark, handsome, charming, and rich. Unity knows he’s special and worth trying to change for. If only she could.

Of course, Susan Mallery is one of my favorite authors and this book is as good as I’ve come to expect. I enjoyed it a great deal and I’ll buy a copy for my friend who loves her, too.


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but it did not induce me to review it, favorably or not.

 

Book Talk Tuesday: SISTERS BY CHOICE

I love opening new books by my favorites authors and a new book by Susan Mallery qualifies in every way.

SISTERS BY CHOICE is her newest and it’s my favorite read of the year so far. We return to Blackberry Island, off the coast of Washington state, in Puget Sound, and spend time with three cousins.

Sophie has just returned to the island to rebuild her cat toy/supplies business after a fire destroyed it in Southern California. She ignores helpful suggestions that she let her employees do their jobs while she does hers. She’s the one who grew the company singlehandedly. She’s the one who knows the company better than anyone else. She’s the one who works tirelessly for the company. She’s also the one who threatens the future of her beloved company by her dogged determination to do it all.

cover-sisters-by-choiceKristine loves life as a homemaker, her husband, and their three sons. She also loves her side career baking the cookies and brownies she sells to local tasting rooms, even as she dreams about opening her own bakery. Because her husband isn’t supportive, Kristine keeps those dreams to herself. Until the perfect location becomes available. Then Kristine may have to choose between her family and her own dreams.

Twenty-year-old Heather skipped going to college off the island to stay home and take financial care of her indolent and demanding mother. She feels trapped and resentful. Sophie bringing her business to Blackberry Island means Heather can quit two of her part-time jobs for one full-time job with the cat toy company. But as Heather learns about business and real life, she also learns she has to take care of herself before she can take care of anyone else.

Mallery writes romance and women’s fiction. SISTERS BY CHOICE is women’s fiction, with a dash of romance. Sophie is determined to stay single, but she meets a man who is just as determined that they deserve a future together. Kristine and her husband have a happy marriage on the outside, but when Kristine shares her dreams, it turns out they have some deep issues that need to be worked out.

I enjoyed seeing all three women grapple with their problems and emerge stronger and with better lives than they thought possible at the beginning of the book. They were cousins, but they support and love each other as sisters should.

I love this book and highly recommend it!


I received a free copy of this book, but that did not induce me to review it favorably.

Book Talk Tuesday: Meant to be Yours

It’s no secret I love Susan Mallery’s books. I love her women’s fiction. I love her Fool’s Gold series. And I love her Happily Inc stories, too. This is book #5 set in Happily Inc, a wedding destination town in the California desert.

MtbYRenee has been working for Pallas at Weddings out of the Box for a while now. We haven’t gotten to know her very well in previous books. Same with Jasper Dembenski, a veteran with PTSD and a bestselling thriller writer. Neither is looking for a relationship, so it seems perfect for them to agree to a “friends with benefits,” arrangement. Especially since Jasper needs helping writing a feminine point of view for his newest book.
Of course, this is a romance, so it isn’t long before feelings get tangled up. Mallery does a great job dropping hints about Renee’s past hurts and struggles without making us wait toooooo long for the details.

And of course, we know, just like one of the characters tells him, Jasper isn’t nearly as broken as he thinks he is.

I loved how both Jasper and Renee had to learn some things about themselves and each other as they traveled the road to happily ever after.
I’m already looking forward to the next installment in Happily Inc!


I received a copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review, just give my opinion. Which I gladly did.

Book Talk Tuesday: The Summer of Sunshine and Margot

It’s the beginning of summer so it must be time for a Susan Mallery novel!

Which is one my happy times of the year, along with Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the day the roadside strawberry stands open.

slide-feb2019-coverThe Summer of Sunshine and Margot, is about twin sisters Sunshine and Margot Baxter. Margot is an etiquette expert, hired to help Bianca, a famously outrageous movie star, tame her impulses and become the wife of a diplomat. Sunshine is a nanny, determined to put her impulsive and wild days behind her, to go to college, and make something of her life.

Alec, Bianca’s son, likes his quiet life in his quiet house with his quiet ancient manuscripts. Because he loves his mother, he’s prepared to accommodate her desire that her new etiquette teacher move into the house with them.

Declan is the widowed father of Sunshine’s newest charge. The one thing he doesn’t need or want is this growing attraction to his son’s nanny. They’re just beginning to heal after the loss of his wife. His feelings for Sunshine threaten to undo the lives of all three of them.

One of the things I particularly loved about this book is the way Mallery was able to present each character in so few words in the first pages, but I quickly felt that I knew them intimately. As a writer, that’s a part of the craft  I’m working on and I greatly admire Mallery’s skill.

I loved this book and highly recommend it! I couldn’t put it down!


I received a free copy of this book from the author.

 

Book Talk Tuesday: CALIFORNIA GIRLS

Since I am one, it could be argued that I’m predisposed to like Susan Mallery’s newest women’s fiction book, CALIFORNIA GIRLS. Since I’m already a Mallery fan, that wouldn’t be far from the truth.

This one just may be my favorite of her women’s fiction books. It’s the story of three sisters who are all dumped by the men in their lives the same week.

cover-california-girlsFinola is a local morning television host in Southern California who finds out her husband has been cheating on her with a pop star. On live television.

Ali’s fiance’ calls off the wedding, but he doesn’t have the guts to do it himself. His brother has to break the news to her.

Zennie’s not heart-broken when her casual boyfriend bows out of their nascent relationship, but still it’s not nothing to her. And she’s surprised to find out just how much she misses Clark in the following days and weeks.

The three women travel somewhat parallel journeys of self-awareness and growth. Finola learns to accept her own part in the breakdown of her marriage. Ali learns to stand up for herself in her job as well as in relationships and her life. Zennie’s gift to her best friend also teaches Zennie what matters in life.

The women’s mother, Mary Jo, is a secondary character, as are the men in their lives.

The women, and Mary Jo, are distinctly different characters with different character arcs and paths, that all end with a “happily ever after,” that each earns her own way and that may not be what you expected at the beginning.

I loved this book and highly recommend it!


I received a free copy of this book, but was not required to post a positive review. That was my choice, because I positively did love it!

BOOK TALK ON A THURSDAY: Not Quite Over You

We’re back in Happily Inc for another visit! I love Susan Mallery’s small towns, quirky characters, real life emotions, and fun plots.

In NOT QUITE OVER YOU, Silver Tesdal, owner of AlcoHaul (a portable bar that can be towed to wedding and party venues) wants to expand. Her high school boyfriend wants nqoyto invest in her business. And maybe in her life. The only problem is a secret she’s been keeping from him for a few years.

One thing leads to another and pretty soon they’re partners in business and in bed.

Silver knows she has to come clean and when she does, Drew takes the news hard, but comes around pretty quickly.

Drew’s family has been grooming him for a career and there are certain expectations. Those are part of the reasons Silver broke up with him after high school and not much has changed more than a decade later.

NOT QUITE OVER YOU employs some common romance tropes, but in Mallery’s capable hands they don’t feel overused or stale. I enjoyed Silver and Drew’s wrong-side-of-the-tracks story and I recommend it! Especially if you love fun and funny stories!


I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for a honest review. I honestly loved it.

 

Book Talk Tuesday: WHY NOT TONIGHT

It’s so much fun to go to my mailbox and find a new book. Whether it’s one I ordered from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or an Advanced Reader Copy from an author I review, or a gift from someone else. I love getting books. I love reading books. I don’t care if they’re hardbound, paperbacks, or electronic versions. I love them all.

It was a sweet day indeed when I found a copy of Susan Mallery’s latest, WHY NOT TONIGHT in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago. It’s the latest addition to Mallery’s new Happily Inc series.

WNT by smRonan Mitchell is the last Mitchell brother to find his one and only. He pulled away from the family–and his brothers, including his twin–after he learned a truth about his father. His brothers are still there for him, but have tired of his continual withdrawal. Ronan and two of the others have inherited their father’s artistic talent. Except Ronan’s having a hard time creating art, and an even harder time enjoying it. He’s been hugely successful and money isn’t an issue.

Natalie Kaleta is also an artist. Part-time. She also works at the gallery that handles Ronan’s art. She’s a glass-half-full-no-heck-it’s-plenty-whether-full-or-empty kind of gal. She’s had her share of heartbreak, but has managed to retain her sunny disposition.

A freak storm and freakier incident with Natalie’s car maroons them at Ronan’s mountain hideaway. Their growing attraction makes the isolation … problematic. At least from Ronan’s point of view.

As the story progresses, the couple become a couple. Ronan responds to Natalie’s optimism. She blossoms under his belief in her talent and her art. They each have issues on their road to happily ever after, but they do make it. Come on, this is a romance, did you have doubts?

I love all of Mallery’s books, and WHY NOT TONIGHT is typical of her romances. Fun and funny and light, but with a deeper message about family and doing what you love and having to pay bills.

I highly recommend it!


I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Book Talk Tuesday: WHEN WE FOUND HOME

Susan Mallery’s segue from romance only author to romance and women’s fiction has been rather seamless and painless for this fan. I’ve loved her romance, especially her Fool’s Gold and Happily, Inc. series. But her women’s fiction is also engaging. It has Mallery’s trademark humor and some eccentric secondary characters, but the issues are real and handled with heart.

cover-when-we-found-home

In When We Found Home, there are three point of view characters: Delaney, Callie, and Malcolm. Callie and Malcolm have discovered they’re half-siblings with another half-sister, Keira, who’s twelve years old. Their grandfather has brought them together to be a family. Each was raised differently and they struggle to put their disparate lives together into a new kind of family.

Delaney has also gone through tremendous upheaval in the last few months. She’s dating Malcolm, but not sure she deserves him and a happy ever after.

 

I loved this one!

Family dynamics can be challenging even for traditional families. I’m not unfamiliar with the issues that arise when you add half- and step-members and create a blended family. Mallery did a great job showing that love and grace and acceptance go a long way, which is a good lesson for all of us.

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I received a free advance copy of When We Found Home from the author, in exchange for a honest review. Which I’ve done.

BOOK TALK ON A THURSDAY: SISTERS LIKE US

After a summer and fall foray into Happily Inc. Susan Mallery now returns us to Mischief Bay. Harper and her sister Stacey couldn’t be more different. Harper was a full time wife and mother, happily making home a haven for her family. Until her husband decided he SLUwanted a divorce. Harper wasn’t educated or trained to be anything other than a wife and mom and she had to scramble to put food on the table for her daughter. She opened a business as a virtual assistant and is now overworked and underpaid. Just like most personal assistants, 😉
Stacey is a brainiac nerd, who’s more comfortable in her medical research lab than with most real people. She’s pregnant with her first child and is terrified. She’s scared she won’t bond with the baby, that she won’t know what to do, that her husband will love the baby more than he loves her.
Harper and Stacey are opposites, but they stand together against their overbearing mother. Harper’s teenage daughter, Becca, is also a viewpoint character.
The three women navigate life and change in their own ways.

I loved this one! The characters are archetypes in some ways. Harper is the perfect homemaker, Stacey is the nerd, Becca is the temperamental teenager. But in Mallery’s world, they’re also real people I feel like I know. Harper knows she’s on a hamster wheel of perfection, but she can’t see how to climb off. I’ve been on that wheel a time or two myself.

There are some familiar characters who return from the previous Mischief Bay books. Lucas, the guy we’ve gotten to know for his penchant for dating twenty-year-olds, is back and even showing signs of maturing. Lulu, Pam’s Chinese Crested dog, has a cameo appearance.

Sisters Like Us is both new and familiar. In the best way. I highly recommend it!

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I received a free copy of the book in return for a honest review. We both kept our side of the bargain.