A Lowcountry Christmas. Mary Alice Monroe

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Published: Gallery Books
Date: 25th October 2016
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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As far as ten-year-old Miller McClellan is concerned, it’s the worst Christmas ever. His father’s shrimp boat is docked, his mother is working two jobs, and with finances strained, Miller is told they can’t afford the dog he desperately wants. “Your brother’s return from war is our family’s gift,” his parents tell him. But when Taylor returns with PTSD, family strains darken the holidays.

Then Taylor’s service dog arrives—a large black Labrador/Great Dane named Thor. His brother even got the dog! When Miller goes out on Christmas Eve with his father’s axe, determined to get his family the tree they can’t afford, he takes the dog for company—but accidentally winds up lost in the wild forest. The splintered family must come together to rediscover their strengths, family bond, and the true meaning of Christmas.

My thoughts banner
I’ve loved the Lowcountry Summer series by Mary Alice Monroe, and what a wonderful early Christmas surprise to be presented with a #5 in the series – A Lowcountry Christmas.

It was everything I love in a story and it was just so good to go back in Taylor’s life to when he first was discharged from the Marines, after experiencing a terrible explosion that left him shattered and suffering from PTSD. He can’t cope with returning to his family for Christmas, finds crowds threatening, and his family are bewildered and find it difficult to understand.
The McClellan’s are finding it difficult economically, Jenny and Alistair work really hard, but the shrimping business is in decline and they just can’t afford the dog that Miller has his heart set on. So when Taylor receives his lifeline – the service dog Thor, Miller is really upset. And then there is more than one grumpy Scrooge in the family. In fact poor Jenny is the only one keeping the Christmas spirit alive among her men.
This is a beautifully written story, it sucked me in right from the beginning and I loved every word and minute of it. It is a perfect Christmas story and is linked with little quotes and references to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  
Yes, this could be read as a stand alone, but readers of the series will I think just find that extra piece of satisfaction with it. And if you haven’t reached this series yet, starting with this one would work I do believe.
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A Lowcountry Wedding. Mary Alice Monroe

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Published:Gallery Books
Date: May 3rd 2016
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 448
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
4.5 stars             Add to Goodreads

Nothing could be more enchanting than a summer wedding—or two!—in Charleston’s fabled lowcountry. A centuries-old plantation, an avenue of ancient oaks dripping moss, a storied ballroom, a sand dune at sunset…

Yet when a stranger arrives, a long held family secret could silence the bells ringing for the Muir sisters. Scandals surface, family bonds are questioned, and promises are broken and renewed.

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It was with much excitement that some of we readers learned there was a fourth book set in the lowcountry, with the three Muir sisters and Mamaw. Harper and Carson are in the final count down to their weddings. Dora had seemed all settled and all was well. Or so we thought. However life does go on, and we were taken further along on the journey.
I had listened to the first three in this series on audiobook and loved the narration by the author. However I couldn’t wait when I saw this one, I wanted to get down and read it. I love the description of the setting, all the sights and sounds of that part of the world. 
Mary Alice Monroe certainly takes a surprising step in this book, I really don’t want to say any more because to do so would be to spoil the surprise for other readers. I can only say I loved the surprise, and while the sisters found it hard to come to grips with it, what a gift for them.
The book covers the two months lead up to the wedding and all that goes on before a wedding. Finding the right dress and making the final decisions about the venue. Harper and Carson seem to have got mixed up and oddly are planning a wedding that the other would be more comfortable in. 
All three sisters are still dealing with issues and growing through them. Harper has money and how does that leave Taylor feeling? Carson wants to know she has work and will never be without it. Dora is on the verge of a new job and a newly minted divorce. She wants to prove her independence and ability to prove herself much to the chagrin of Devlin. So you see, plenty of ways all this could go. I wondered if there would be a wedding by the end and would Mamaw survive without a hear attack!
Lastly but not the least, Delphine makes some appearances – significant ones and she also has the honor of the epilogue. Perfect.

The Summer Girls. Mary Alice Monroe

The Summer Girls
Mary Alice Monroe
Published: Blackstone Audio
Date: 2013
Format: Audiobook
Length:  11hrs 42 min
Narrated: Mary Alice Monroe
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Own audiobook
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Three sisters reunite on Sullivan’s Island off the coast of South Carolina after years of separation in this heartwarming first novel in a new trilogy from a beloved author. 80-year-old Marietta Muir is a dowager of Charleston society who has retired to her historic summer home on Sullivan’s Island. At the onset of summer, Marietta – “Mamaw” – seeks to gather her three granddaughters – Carson, Eudora, and Harper – with the intent to reunite them after years apart.

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The Summer Girls written and narrated by Mary Alice Monroe was well worth the listen and I will be eagerly listening to the next two in this trilogy.  It is about three girls – half sisters, and their grandmother – Mamaw.  They have all been invited to her house for the summer, and with a somewhat tentative approach they all end up responding to the invitation.
Eudora (Dora) is the oldest and has a young son who is autistic.  She is in the process of seeking a divorce from her husband.  Carson has turned up from California where she has just lost her job. Harper is the youngest, and works as an editor in her mother’s firm.  While the girls did meet up for summers when they were young, they are not particularly close.  Perhaps this summer that will all change.
This story is mostly about Carson, she is a keen surfer and enjoys being out on the sea, until a chance encounter changes things up a bit for her.  She also befriends Nate and helps him to learn to swim. Together they befriend a dolphin, that will have far reaching consequences.   Carson also forms a relationship with Blake, a keen kite surfer and who also works on tracking the local marine life in this area.  A bond forms between Carson and Blake, although it is not really centre stage.  The story is more about how Carson is faced with her past and present and must decide how she is going to move into the future.
I liked all the characters, Mamaw was a wonderful southern character, the girls were all different and each had their flaws and strengths.  I look forward to reading the next two books to find out the developments.
There is an environmental message to this book, it is not tacked on, but rather becomes very integral to the plot.  I liked the way it was done and it is an important message.  I also liked Mary Alice Monroe narrating the book, sometimes I shy away from an author reading their own book, but it works well on the whole.
4.5 stars