Review: Any Day Now by Robyn Carr

Sierra shows up at Sullivan’s Crossing and finds more than just her brother and sister-in-law with welcoming arms. Sierra finds a father figure, some peace of mind, and Connie (Conrad) the firefighter. 

Carr did a wonderful job pacing the romance and the family dynamics, making the relationships realistic as they grew. I liked that Sierra and Connie had a support system, and that the people around them were part of the fabric of the story – not just background characters. 

I’m not exactly a fan of the “quirky drifters appearing at the campground” type setting of these Sullivan’s Crossing books … but the endearing characters make up for it. 

-Calliope 

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Review: Kiss Me at Willoughby Close by Kate Hewitt

I love these quick and fun Willoughby Close novels. Trying circumstances send a person to Willoughby Close to rent a cottage on manor property. The person grows in various ways, gets a hand up if necessary, chooses a direction, and makes their life the best they can. Kiss Me is Ava’s story… and boy howdy does she need a cottage to live in after her rich husband dies and leaves her with next to nothing, not even one of their several homes. 

At Willoughby Close, Ava learns how to interact with people on a friendly and neighborly level, reach out when someone needs help, and show her true colors instead of putting on a façade. Ava finds more than just her strength at Willoughby… she also finds the handsome and sensitive alpha groundskeeper, throwing a wrench into all her plans to be independent. 

While Ava is surrounded by good people who want to help her, she does plenty of helping herself — and even taking the time for a young woman who could use a break. 

I love that Hewitt focuses on second chances, and it’s uplifting to see good people making something positive out of those chances. 

-Calliope

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Review: Return to Huckleberry Hill by Jennifer Beckstrand

This installment of The Matchmakers series is just as good as the rest were – and fine to read as a standalone. What sets this one apart is the angst! Most of Beckstrand’s other books are fun and flip, adventuresome and whimsical. In Return to Huckleberry Hill, Reuben deals with the demon of pride, and though I didn’t feel bad for him in the least, I did sympathize with those around him. 

Fern King, too, deals with demons. Oh how I wanted to cry for her — trying to be strong, always showing a cheerful face, never complaining, yet truly dying inside. Fern endures so much, and I really almost couldn’t take it! (I’ll never forgive you, Ms. Beckstrand, if Barbara Schmucker doesn’t get her due.)  But Fern also gets to see Reuben and her brother John in a new environment – and witness their growth (or lack of it). 

Anna and Felty remain the cute elderly couple that gets in everyone’s business trying to make love connections. I haven’t tired of them yet, and I’m almost endeared to Anna’s creative cooking.  

This is a non-traditional Amish novel in that it doesn’t center around faith and obedience as much as some might; yet Beckstrand gives the main characters the gift of self-reflection… something that made me want to be best friends with Fern, and let me forgive Reuben for almost all of his trespasses. 

-Calliope

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Review: The Book of Summer by Michelle Gable

New England family saga set in a beach town – my cup of tea! Author Michelle Gable puts the reader on Cissy’s bicycle for a Nantucket journey through time. The Cliff House holds memories and secrets – and Gable does a phenomenal job weaving them together. With flashbacks to the 1940s, we find out what the Cliff House meant to Cissy’s mother … then fast forward to find out what makes it so hard for Cissy to leave. 

My favorites parts were the Bess parts. Love that Cissy’s daughter came to “save” her from herself -and Mother Nature.  Bess is a woman I can identify with – good head on her shoulders, self-reliant, smart. When she’s dealt a raw deal, Bess puts it aside to help her mom. And when high school ex boyfriend Evan comes into the picture, Bess lets herself lean on him just a little bit. 

I’m not a flashback kinda reader, so I wish this was actually two separate books. I loved the Ruby-Hattie friendship and the marriage issues described in the ’40s and could’ve read about that all day long.  I also totally enjoyed some of the contemporary romance going on in the 2010s – as well as the mother-daughter dynamic and the environmental issues that arose on the island cliffs. But mostly the romance. 🙂

-Calliope 

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Review: The Final Vow by Amanda Flower 

This is number three in a series – and I so wish I had read the first two, well, first. I totally dug the storyline: Kelsey Cambridge, historical farm director gets herself embroiled in a murder mystery. And I dug the characters: bridezilla, jerky ex, perky assistant, grouchy good old boys club, Wonder Woman wedding planner, and uber-supportive wannabe boyfriend. But I struggled to empathize with them, because I didn’t get to know them deeply enough. I almost felt my heartbeat faster when things got a little dicey for Kelsey, but for the most part I was on an even keel, just watching the events unfold but not really feeling them. 

I think I need to read number four though. Now that I’ve been introduced to Kelsey et al, I need to see where the romances go, how the Cherry Foundation decides to proceed, and if ringing the bell makes it into daily rotation at Barton Farm. By the end, I was invested, and now I need more!

-Calliope

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Review: Every Other Wednesday by Susan Kietzman

This is the story of three women moving from one phase to another in their life journeys, meeting for lunch to vent and learn and make decisions.

I would’ve liked more depth of character and personality in Joan, Ellie and Alice. I saw a lot of their behaviors but didn’t feel like I knew them very well. And because I didn’t know them, their behaviors annoyed me instead of endearing me, which is too bad because this could’ve been a terrific book. 

Unfortunately, the book seemed more like a list of “sins” (in the characters’ eyes) — gambling, homosexuality, a woman making her own money —  than a story of three authentic women. 

I did like the title, and it reminded me of another “Wednesday” book I’ve read — one I absolutely adored: The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton, which got 4 fat and happy stars from me. 

-Calliope 

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Review: Four Bridesmaids and a White Wedding by Fiona Collins 

What a hoot! Wendy’s getting married, and the bridesmaids do some early celebrating on a spa weekend. Except the spa part falls through and they’d never guess what was in store for them instead. 
Collins successfully writes this romcom with a true ensemble cast. Each woman reminded me of someone I know in real life, so reading this book became something of a movie in my head with my friends as the actors.  I won’t name names here, but if you read it you might recognize yourself. (For the record, I’m either Tasmin or JoJo.)

Four Bridesmaids is lighthearted for sure, but does take a somewhat serious look at the sacredness of relationships and our responsibilities in maintaining them. Collins also illustrates the strong bonds of female friendship. Sometimes all it takes is knowing you’ve found a kindred spirit to shine the light of truth on your life, and give you a happy nudge forward. 

-Calliope 

Buy FOUR BRIDESMAIDS AND A WHITE WEDDING ($2.99 hey now!)