Ashna Raje fears losing her restaurant, her connection to her late father, his legacy. Ending up on a reality cooking show with her first love was not her solution, nor his preference, as he’s moved away from that life to become soccer star Rico Silva. Old wounds open and heal in this second of the Raje series, a standalone novel in itself. If you like Jane Austen or not, Dev’s take on her work is fresh and delicious, with moments that take your breath away, as when Rico saves Ashna’s toes from being severed by her dropped chef”s knife, diving across the room and damaging further his career-ending injury. Dev makes romance novels more accessible to those of us who don’t prefer them by making the stories credible and the characters delightfully flawed, yearning and yet drawing back, again and again until dear reader is just as frustrated. I didn’t read romance until I won a set of novels by Sonali Dev. There’s so much more going on than the steaminess and sexual tension, although there’s plenty of that amongst the dynamics of family and friendship and careers. I highly recommend this book and basically anything by Sonali Dev. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher William Morrow Paperbacks through NetGalley.
She was just a girl.
With a trust fund none knew about.
A girl born into the wrong time.
I should have lived in Victorian America, when melancholy was in high fashion—she’d whisper as I lay spooned around her. More often than not, I found her curled up in bed, staring at the wall. Only I witnessed her bravery in rising after days of feeling like nothing. She remained alive by sheer will.
And my cooking. I loved to cook for her. She ate everything and delighted in it, even when the beast held her tighter than I ever could. Food comforted her, and kept her alive, if not lively.
She rarely left her little home overlooking the river. The little house hung like an afterthought upon the bluff, threatening to come unmoored at any moment and tumble into the river. Incredibly, she worried not at all about the inevitable possibility. Her reason—This house will fall when I’m ready.
I love this house—she said quietly—Did you know it used to be a hermitage before this area was developed? I did, but shook my head, encouraging her to continue with the story about our local river king, whom most called a saint for the miraculous happenings during his time in this home.
Susurrations of gossip followed her through town as she walked, head up, eyes straightforward, never lingering to purchase anything beyond necessities.
Until I followed her home one day and she invited me in as though she were expecting me. From that day on, I made her purchases along with my own, but nothing staved off the beast, her modern day melancholy. The conversation that first day immersed us in an ongoing dialogue of slightly differing philosophies and worldviews, with matching intellectual curiosities. Love blossomed that day.
I saw it happen.
On my way up the switchbacks with an angelfood cake and a handful of wildflowers, the ground trembled. A cracked formed on the edge of the bluff just under the overhanging edge of the house. It shook, and slowly shifted downward.
Until it tumbled and slid down into the river. A hand may have appeared out the window. Perhaps not.
There’s no explanation for my continued climb to what was now the top, where I found the beast dangling. It lives in me. I shall not love in that way again.
Journalist Rory Garcia struggles in her relationship and her career, seeking stability in both. On her way to cover a protest, she is thwarted by roadblocks, yet she finds herself investing in a story that calls to her despite her skepticism of its veracity. Kate and Ian return in their friend Dee’s tale to Rory of their time-bending romance, as they make their way to their daughter Hope’s graduation, valedictorian of a special class, those born on or close to 9/11. Impellizzeri moves her characters in and out of time and dimensions and lives carefully and credibly, so that by the end, Dear Reader is fully satisfied by not only the romance at the crux of the tale, but by all the connections and possibilities. I received a digital copy of this wonderful story from the author for an honest review. Although I was a bit confused throughout the story, the ending pulled it all together beautifully and left me with a book hangover.
Annie has had it with people, declaring that she is accepting no new people into her life after her fiance moved to Paris to find himself, her career stalled due to a sexual harassment incident, and her closest friends have become “concerned.” Told in epistolary style through Annie’s journal and email correspondence, Dear Reader is privy to Annie’s private thoughts—her frustrations and confusions—as she stumbles into new friendships despite her declaration. Pagán infuses humor into the story as Annie faces challenging decisions. Fans of Ann Garvin and Sonali Dev will appreciate Pagán’s delightfully flawed characters and realistic storyline which offers no clear-cut answers to life’s hard questions. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this wonderful novel by one of my favorite authors from the publisher Lake Union Publishing through NetGalley for an honest review.
Daniel Green finds purpose in secretly designing and creating crop circles within a secret organization who have field agents across the country. On his significant fifteenth crop circle, he feels drawn to the family of the farmer who hired him, and his life may just find another purpose. Boyce carefully presents the process of designing and making the crop circles, delving into the psyches of those who choose to do this work, and offering very human reasons for their hire. I received a copy of this wonderful story from the author’s agent Eric Smith for an honest review, and I highly recommend this book.
The ghost is in a purgatorial state, believing that if he can just remember, he can move on. The fortune teller, his companion in spirit—literally—assists him in filling in his memory. As the story progresses forward and backward throughout his life, Dear Reader meets the ghost’s family, connections that come and go in his mind, bringing emotions forth that yet again obscure memories. Reference to the ghost as the hanged man portends his metaphysical status, and the conclusion is satisfying in its complete lack of resolution potential, possibly the best ending in fiction. It’s a beautiful thing when an author leads the way to the only inevitable conclusion through a pathway that could only have happened that way, maintaining the integrity of the characters’ personalities. Banks at last evokes compassion for a man who had few redeeming qualities in life, an impressive feat. I received this excellent story of beautiful writing from the publisher Amberjack Publishing through NetGalley.
Grace Kelly brought British journalist James Henderson into French parfumeur Sophie Duval’s life when she hid in Sophie’s shop to avoid another paparazzi, setting in motion the tale of the star-crossed lovers, resurrecting the Duval family business, and laying the foundation for the parallel story of Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Gaynor and Webb paint a lush, yet pragmatic picture of Monaco, the Monegasques, and the Princess, with foremost the blossoming emotions of Sophie and James, characters clearly not products of their time, but who stand out from the crowd. Francophiles, parfum lovers, and Grace Kelly fans will love this novel, though other readers will appreciate the descriptive details of the setting and the intriguing characters. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
On the night Cassie Hanwell received the Austin Fire Department’s Valor Award—the youngest and first female—for saving children from a sinking school bus, the unexpected presenter takes her back to the night that formed her opinion of love and family. Her award night again changes her life drastically, returning her reluctantly to family and more than one potential disaster. Center’s skills draw readers into the lives of her complex and deeply flawed characters, causing at least this reviewer to gasp out loud multiple times at wondrous and astonishing events. She brings tears with realistic emotional turmoil and unforeseen joy. Fans of Ann Garvin, Camille Pagan, and Liane Moriarty will appreciate Center’s writing style, sense of humor, and credible, relatable characters. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
Ray Caster follows friendship and romance advice from the followers of his blog. His loyalty to his friend Turbo Dan waxes and wanes, but his love for Shadoe remains true to the end. Hart’s social experiment turned into a blog, turned into a book, turned into a movie, and turned again into a book. He’s getting exceptional mileage from a character he created many moons ago to deflect criticism as an online neophyte. Hart is a unique creative and this shows in his work. I highly recommend anything he writes, no matter how old, how different, how silly, or if it’s not your favorite genre. He transcends genre. He shared his book with me because I’m awesome too. If you love to laugh, you’ll love this!
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Dr. Trisha Raje brings modern day morés and an introverted personality to this Austen classic as she subconsciously creates problems from miscommunication. Unexplored emotions and hesitance toward introspection lead Dr. Trisha to misadventures. Dear Readers watch her spar with the sexy caterer, whose mother’s favorite book inspired her to name him Darcy—he goes by DJ. She attempts to reconnect with her family, guilt-ridden by a long ago transgression of her friend, who has shown up recently to lure in the caterer. Dr. Trisha remains focused on his sister, her patient, how she can aid her in reframing her outlook toward her future as an artist without sight. Dev’s work is, as usual, lush and gorgeous and emotional and sexy as hell, with complex, realistic characters in complicated situations in which they must untangle themselves, eventually giving in to intense feelings. A brilliant storyteller, she carefully weaves into a well-known story a contemporary character, her Indian-American culture, and a romance inspired by, well, gourmet food. Of course. I was fortunate to receive a copy of this wonderful story through Edelweiss.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Award winning author Sonali Dev writes Bollywood-style love stories that let her explore issues faced by women around the world while still indulging her faith in a happily ever after. Her books have been on NPR, Washington Post, Library Journal, and Kirkus Best Books of the year lists, but Sonali is most smug about Shelf Awareness calling her “Not only one of the best but also one of the bravest romance novelists working today.” Sonali lives in Chicagoland with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog. Find more at sonalidev.com.