Review

When We Found Home by Susan Mallery

book coverPublished: HQN
Date: July 2018
Format: Hardback
Pages: 424
Genre:  Mainstream Fiction
Source: Own book

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Life is meant to be savored, but that’s not easy with no family, limited prospects and a past you’d rather not talk about. Still, Callie Smith doesn’t know how to feel when she discovers she has a brother and a sister–Malcolm, who grew up with affection, wealth and privilege, and Keira, a streetwise twelve-year-old. Callie doesn’t love being alone, but at least it’s safe. Despite her trepidation, she moves into the grand family home with her siblings and grandfather on the shores of Lake Washington, hoping just maybe this will be the start of a whole new life.

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I finished When We Found Home, I’d tried to make it stretch out, but well… I just loved reading it, and of course when I do that the pages tend to turn until there are no more!

We are introduced to a family new in the making and of a little odd make up. There is Malcolm – he’s been with his grandfather for a long time and now runs the family business. However he does still remember his early days when as a young boy he was brought in under the family umbrella. It takes many years later for the grandfather to discover that there are two more girls, fathered by his wayward son. Now he has them all under the same roof and he is happy.

So many favourite characters! Although we don’t get Keira’s point of view we certainly get to know her from the other characters, especially her sister and brother. She is whisked into an alien environment and its not until Callie turns up that she receives any understanding. Malcolm is good but he’s a guy who just has no idea! We also get to know Callie through Delaney – barista and with a main character viewpoint of her own. I loved and felt for Keira through their eyes.

Each character has their own wounds and growing challenges, for themselves and in relation to each other. There is some romance of course, however we are also exploring family, life choices, facing up to a one time mistake and moving on, being orphaned and turfed into the foster system. As well as that there is envy and jealousy, distrust and other nasties.

I loved this book and the best part is when I have forgotten it in a few years I can happily read it all over again! Oh how happy it is to have favourite authors who deliver the best so consistently.

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Review

Sisters Like Us by Susan Mallery

book cover

Published:Harlequin
Date: 23rd January 2018
Format: 3-ARC
Pages: 432
Genre: Mainstream Fiction
Source:Publisher via NetGalley

Rating 4.5 stars
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Divorce left Harper Szymanski with a name no one can spell, a house she can’t afford and a teenage daughter who’s pulling away. With her fledgling virtual-assistant business, she’s scrambling to maintain her overbearing mother’s ridiculous Susie Homemaker standards and still pay the bills, thanks to clients like Lucas, the annoying playboy cop who claims he hangs around for Harper’s fresh-baked cookies.

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Sisters Like Us is #4 in the Mischief Bay series, while part of a series it is very much a stand alone as well. I had been anticipating it with reading relish because so far I have really liked this series.

There are two sisters – Stacey who is about to become a Mom, she is about 6 months pregnant and as sure as can be that she will not make a good mother. Her mother – Bunny sent her the message in childhood that there was something wrong with her, and every since she has believed it.  She has a wonderful husband Kit and his insightful nephew Ashton who would most likely hold a different opinion entirely about Stacey.

Harper runs her own business and seems often to be overwhelmed by it, taking on too much and not standing up to one demanding client. Her mother – Bunny is always harping on to her about getting all the home things right. As the book opens she isn’t getting things quite right with her daughter Becca, who is struggling with some pertinent issues.

We also meet the police cop from the book A Million Little Things.  He uses Harper’s business to deal with some of the details of his life like paying his bills. I really liked him and his approach especially to Becca, although I felt one thing he did was really not quite in character, but everyone seemed to understand!

So this story deals with mothers and daughters – what makes a good mother? How can you juggle an important job and be a mother too? And the messages we receive as children from our parents can have a huge impact.  As well we see two sisters who do really support each other, teenage friendships explored, the need for a strong father in one’s life and what makes a great teenage romantic relationship.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book – just as I expected.

Review

Secrets of the Tulip Sisters. Susan Mallery

book cover

Published: MIRA (Australia)
Date: 10th July 2017
Format :e-ARC
Pages: 384
Genre:Contemporary Romance
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating:
4.5 stars             Add to Goodreads

The relationship of sisters Kelly and Olivia Van Gilder has been, well… complicated ever since their mother left them as teens, though it’s the secrets they have been keeping from each other as adults that have unwittingly widened the chasm. But one thing they do share is the not-so-secret torch they carry for the Martin brothers.

In the small enclave of New Holland, Washington, Griffith and Ryan Martin were demigods. While Griffith was the object of Kelly’s high school crush and witness to her mortal teenage humiliation, Ryan was for Olivia the boy who got away-something she’s never forgiven Kelly for-and the only person since her mother who appreciated her wild streak.

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Secrets of the Tulip Sisters was a winning read for me. I really enjoyed the characters, the constant roller coaster ride of relationships between various people, and most of all the sisters themselves, Kelly and Olivia.
Both girls hold secrets that the other doesn’t know and some of them could push them over the brink of never speaking to each other again! Olivia has just returned home after many years away. Their mother left them when they were young girls, just let me say… no one would want her for a mother and that’s for sure. I liked both girls and the journey they take as they renew their relationship, and reach out into romantic relationships as well.
Olivia is a very organised person with a number of talents that see her making herself very useful to the people of Tulpen Crossing  as she sets about showing them how they might improve their businesses. Its not long into the time she realises Ryan isn’t the one for her, however unbeknown to her Sven, the one she attaches herself to might be a time bomb waiting!
Kelly has a best friend Helen, they are great mates, however Helen is falling for someone that is going to rock Kelly’s world. How will that work out? I wasn’t sure right to the last move, but it all worked out for the best in the end.
I loved the job that Griffith  had building tiny houses, and the tulip growing business that Kelly is so involved in. These combined with Olivia’s love of design and improving the appearance of her sister and others just sweetened this story.
Griffith was a piece of work! He is determined to have a relationship with Kelly but no commitment or love, he was burned once in marriage and never again. Of course the man is living in lala land, he’s on the road even though he doesn’t realise it. His care and concern over Kelly is admirable and the lengths he goes to – superb. Especially with one difficulty that Kelly has that he deals with by some research and very straight talking.
A wonderful, romantic story with that something extra that made it a delightful read.
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Review

A Million Little Things. Susan Mallery

book cover

Published:
Date: February 28th 2017
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 368
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating:
4.5 stars                      Add to Goodreads

Zoe Saldivar is more than just single-she’s ALONE. She recently broke up with her longtime boyfriend, she works from home and her best friend Jen is so obsessed with her baby that she has practically abandoned their friendship. The day Zoe accidentally traps herself in her attic with her hungry-looking cat, she realizes that it’s up to her to stop living in isolation

Her seemingly empty life takes a sudden turn for the complicated-her first new friend is Jen’s widowed mom, Pam. The only guy to give her butterflies in a very long time is Jen’s brother. And meanwhile, Pam is being very deliberately seduced by Zoe’s own smooth-as-tequila father. Pam’s flustered, Jen’s annoyed and Zoe is beginning to think “alone” doesn’t sound so bad, after all

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A Million Little Things – #3 in Susan Mallery’s Mischief Bay series, is a book I looked forward to from the time I knew it was in the pipeline. I had enjoyed the first two and was so ready to dive into the next one. And… it delighted me as much as the first two.

We have three women – Zoe, Jen and Pam. Zoe and Jen are friends, Zoe works from home and I loved the opening scene where she deals with a misbehaving ladder to the attic. Jen has a little guy who is perfect in every way, but… he isn’t talking and she is worried. Surely by now that milestone should have been celebrated. Added to that she is hyper alert over every little germ and obsessive over organic food. In other words a bit of an uptight mess.  So much so it is impacting on her marriage and her friendship with Zoe.

We met Pam in the first book, a lively woman who had the sudden loss of her husband to deal with. She is Jen’s mother and up until now has been worried about Jen and her anxiety over little Jack. However there is some likeness between mother and daughter, as Pam too has been a little on the anxious side. It becomes full blown when her son who she set up to get to know Zoe, meets a hiccup in his life that she just can’t get her head around: she is in danger of losing her son if she can’t give up her need to keep him safe.  Pam has until now had a good friendship with Zoe and Zoe kind of sees her as a mother figure, someone to go to as her own mother has died.

There are some great men in the book as well. Kirk is Jen’s husband and he has taken on new work with the LAPD and has a new partner – Lucas, and Jen doesn’t really approve of him. She has judged him on certain appearances and found him lacking. That changes through the story and it was one of the interesting aspects of proceedings. Steven – Pam’s son is a great guy and I really liked him, he was strong minded and made his own decisions for happiness.

All in all I found this a very satisfying and enjoyable read. I liked the characters, their issues and the explorations of them. It was a perfect, light read.  Keep them coming Susan Mallery.

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Review

Daughters of The Bride. Susan Mallery

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Published: Harlequin
Date:July 12th 2016
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source:Publisher via NetGalley
Rating:
                   Add to Goodreads

With Joy, Love and a Little Trepidation, Courtney, Sienna and Rachel Invite You to the Most Emotional Wedding of the Year… Their Mother’

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Susan Mallery does it again. She has written a very engaging romantic story with a cast of intriguing characters. As their mother prepares for the wedding she has always dreamed of, her three daughters have to confront their own dreams and the things that are holding them back.
Courtenay  is the youngest of the girls. She is a bit of a klutz and her mother and one of her sisters especially, believes her life is going nowhere. They think that she surely do better for herself than be a maid in a hotel. When she was growing up, her mother was struggling to raise three girls after her husband had died leaving her penniless. Courtenay and her learning difficulties were somewhat overlooked and Courtenay suffered. Unbeknown though to her family she is intending to be more than a maid.
Rachel is the eldest, she has an eleven year old son and is divorced. When her Dad died her mother relied on Rachel to support her and get through. That’s left Rachel with a bit of a control issue, a slight martyr complex and the belief others can’t help or do it as well as her. Eldest of families just may see where she is coming from! 
Sienna the middle one is beautiful and clever. She is a professional fund raiser for a a non profit company that helps battered women. Up until now she has needled Courtenay and treated her with a slight disdain.
The Romance. Well obviously the bride Maggie and her soon to be husband Neil. However things are hotting up for her girls. Courtenay is swept of her feet by Quinn – grandson of Joyce the hotel owner. However all she is looking for is a bit of fun. Right? Rachel while divorced is finding her ex husband is back in her life and perhaps there is hope for a reconciliation. And Sienna has David who espouses that he loves her. Really! 
Each of the girls and their mother must face up to how life has gone for them and to become aware of how precious family is and really in spite of some issues they love each other. So this is a book that is more than a romance. There is serious growth for all characters – so a very satisfying read.
Review

The Friends We Keep. Susan Mallery

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The Friends We Keep
Susan Mallery
Published: Mira
Date: February 23rd 2016
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 416
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Thanks to the Publisher via NetGalley
Rating:
4 stars                            Add to Goodreads

After five years as a stay-at-home mom, Gabby Schaefer can’t wait to return to work. Oh, to use the bathroom in peace! No twins clamoring at the door, no husband barging in, no stepdaughter throwing a tantrum. But when her plans are derailed by some shocking news and her husband’s crushing expectations, Gabby must fight for the right to have a life of her own.

Getting pregnant is easy for Hayley Batchelor. Staying pregnant is the hard part. Her husband is worried about the expensive fertility treatments and frantic about the threat to her health. But to Hayley, a woman who was born to be a mom should risk everything to fulfill her destiny—no matter how high the cost.

Nicole Lord is still shell-shocked by a divorce that wasn’t as painful as it should’ve been. Other than the son they share, her ex-husband left barely a ripple in her life. A great new guy tempts her to believe maybe the second time’s the charm…but how can she trust herself to recognize true love?

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Three friends – three journeys, where will it lead each of them? Susan Mallery again managed to capture my attention as I delighted in The Friends We Keep. These kinds of books of hers are the ones I love the most. They delve into issues that could happen to anyone and take the women through the ups and downs as they learn and grow through them.
Nicole we met in the first Mischief Bay book, and so I was eager to find out where she was now. We find her divorced and managing really well with her son, while Eric her ex husband is still a pain in the butt where fatherhood is concerned. Nicole has an issue with Brad the Dragon writer who has taken over her son’s life in reading. She thinks the author must be making a mint of money from the books and merchandise and is quite anti towards him. A left over from her husband who had left her to become a screen writer, Nicole does not trust and is afraid to love. When by chance she meets Jairus the author, there is a hilarious first encounter, she is in for a long roller coaster ride into a possible new relationship.
Gabby is the mother of 5 year old twins and one fifteen year old stepdaughter.  Gabby loves her family but is eager to get back to work, until suddenly there is a spanner in the works. And Andrew her husband seems to have stopped listening to her. Gabby needs to find her voice and she does!  I loved the relationship build between Makayla (stepdaughter) and Gabby. It had me reading on, wondering with each curve ball where things would go next. To begin with Gabby is the stepmom with ‘all the pain but none of the power.’ Up until now Makayla who lives with Gabby and Andrew most of the time has been like and honored guest and Andrew allows that to happen.
Hayley seemed to be the most lost of all the women. She was adopted and has always had to vie with a sister who was born about a year after Hayley was adopted. Morgan has always been demanding and well… bitchy! Hayley has never felt really loved and so her desire to have a baby is really important to her. Yet the possibility is looking less and less likely. While Nicole her friend seems to understand, others think she should ‘get over it. To accept reality and adopt’. I was so unsure how her story would pan out, but I have to admit as I closed the book, it was her story that brought tears of happiness to my eyes.
As the women live their lives they are there for each other. Sounding boards to the one needing it. Their friendships were vital and important. I loved how each woman found her voice and her true heart’s desires. A great read.
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Review

The Girls of Mischief Bay. Susan Mallery

The Girls of Mischief Bay   Susan Mallery

The Girls of Mischief Bay
Susan Mallery
Published: Harlequin
Date: 24th February 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 416
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Nicole Lord wants to be a good wife, but there’s a difference between being supportive and supporting her husband, who quit his job to write a screenplay she’s never seen. He won’t even help take care of their son, leaving Nicole to run the house and work full-time at her Mischief Bay Pilates studio. Can she say enough is enough without losing the man she loves?

Sacrificing a personal life for her career is how Shannon Rigg rose to become vice president in her firm, but she wonders now whether she made the right choice. An exciting new relationship with a great guy convinces her that it might not be too late—until he drops a bombshell that has her questioning whether she can have it all. And if she can, does she want it?

Although Pam Eiland has a beautiful house and a husband she adores, she feels… restless. She wonders who a stay-at-home mom becomes after the kids are grown. Finding sexy new ways to surprise her husband brings the heat and the humor back to their marriage, but when unexpected change turns her life upside down, she’ll have to redefine herself. Again.

My thoughts
The Girls of Mischief Bay is the first book in a new series by Susan Mallery.  As I read on into the book I began to really enjoy it and followed each of the three main characters with interest as their stories played out.  Three women who are friends – Nicole, Shannon and Pam. Nicole is in her thirties, Shannon is almost forty and Pam is fifty.  I wonder why it is called The Girls of Mischief Bay, these are women – not girls!
Nicole teaches pilates and works hard in her business and loves her young son Tyler.  However her husband Eric has up and left his work and settled in to write a screenplay – oh and to go surfing in the morning.  Meanwhile Nicole struggles on working hard and paying the bills.  Eric seems to be very wrapped up in his own life and vision.  He was a remote kind of character, we never really got inside his head and I had little to no empathy for him.  Nicole and he are drifting apart and this is the struggle and challenge in life for Nicole.
Shannon is very successful – a six figure yearly income. She is a CFO and very competent at her job, prepared to work the long hours it takes.  Yet she hankers for something more, and meets Adam, someone she is attracted to.  He is divorced and shares the custody of his two children week about. For Shannon the challenge is forming a loving and trusting relationship and discovering the ups and downs of moving towards a relationship that could really be ‘the one’.  Shannon is discovering the need to have a child and realises her time is running out.  Will Adam go along with that need, after all he has two children already?
Pam has a loving husband and three grown children – and a delicate little dog – Lulu.  She and John have been married for thirty one years, as the story opens she is struggling with ageing.  She is noticing all those wrinkles and other signs of ageing that no one tells you about until it happens to you! I identify with Pam!  It makes her a little insecure, yet she is such a competent and talented woman who is so supportive of her friends and family.  She also feels her sexual relationship with her husband John is somewhat ‘meh’ so she decides to book a surprise retreat weekend geared towards spicing it up. However soon Pam is dealing with a lot more serious issues than these.
Life throws a number of curve balls for these women to face and work through.  At times I wanted to shake one or two of them, but like in real life it all takes time and things begin to change as time goes by.  For each of these women it was a facing of  the end of one way of life and the beginning of something new. Another stage in life – and with that comes loss and grief, insecurity and being totally thrown.  It also makes way for something new.  
Nicole is to be the main character in the next book and I look forward to seeing where her life leads. She deserves something really good, while she accepts responsibility for what has happened so far, I want her to become really confident in who she is and reach for the stars.  I look forward to meeting again these three friends and their wider circle of family and friends. I wish it was already written.
4.5 stars
Review

Evening Stars. Susan Mallery

Evening Stars
Susan Mallery
Published: Harlequin Mira
Date: 25th February 2014
Format: e – ARC
Pages: 368
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source:  Publisher via NetGalley

Small-town nurse Nina Wentworth has made a career out of being a caretaker. More “Mom” than their mother ever was, she sacrificed medical school—and her first love—so her sister could break free. Which is why she isn’t exactly thrilled to see Averil back on Blackberry Island, especially when Nina’s life has suddenly become…complicated.

Nina unexpectedly finds self juggling two men—her high school sweetheart and a younger maverick pilot who also wants to claim her heart. But as fun as all this romance is, Nina has real life to deal with. Averil doesn’t seem to want the great guy she’s married to, and doesn’t seem to be making headway writing her first book; their mom is living life just as recklessly as she always has; and Nina’s starting to realize that the control she once had is slipping out of her fingers. Her hopes of getting off the island seem to be stretching further away…until her mother makes a discovery that could change everything forever.

My thoughts.
Evening Stars is the third book in the Blackberry Island books by Susan Mallery. I had read the first two and had been eagerly anticipating Evening Stars.  
This is the story of Nina – nurse on the island, someone who had very little childhood, she had to be the carer for her younger sister Averil and indeed their mother, who has never really grown up.  So Nina has pretty much sacrificed herself for them, and has a somewhat martyr chip on her shoulder – in the nicest of ways.  She settled for nurse – her heart called for doctor, her heart lost out.  She loved Dylan, but with some miscommunication lost the relationship.  Averil her sister, is married but returns home to sort herself out – she senses something wrong within herself but is not sure what. Averil and Nina love each other, but they sure can bicker and have bouts of ‘no speaks’.
Nina is then confronted with her lost love Dylan and a dashing young pilot who steps in and provides Nina with quite a bit of ‘hot sex’ and seems a decent kind of guy.  Yet Dylan keeps making appearances as well and where is that going?
Throw in a mother Bonnie who is delightful, somewhat canny – makes great buys for their antiques store and her partner who balances out her irresponsible approach to many things,  and you have a somewhat interesting household. Add  in a lucky find and some moments of epiphany and finally all things work out.
I did not feel a great deal of emotional connections to the main characters, I liked them, but really I wasn’t hanging out for their next moment of angst.   Sure I was happy with the way things turned out, but for me there was something missing.  Generally I love books that have the characters’ growth as the centre and the romance a little more in the background, I liked this book but didn’t fall in love with it as I did with the first two books in this series.
3 stars
Blackberry Island 
Evening Stars
Review

Summer Nights by Susan Mallery

Book cover of Summer Nights.

Summer Nights #8 Fool’s Gold series
Susan Mallery
Harlequin 2012
378 pages
Paperback
Genre: contemporary romance
Source: my own

Summary from back cover.

Horse whisperer Shane Stryker is done with passion.  This time round, he’s determined to meet someone who will be content with the quiet life of a rancher’s wife.  And the fiery, pint-sized redhead who dazzles him at the local bar definitely does not fit the bill.

Small town librarian Annabelle Weiss has always seen herself as more of a sweetheart than a siren, so she can’t understand why Shane keeps pushing her away. Shane has formed the totally wrong impression of her but only can help her with a special event for the next Fool’s Gold festival. And maybe while he’s at it, she can convince him to teach her a few things about kissing on hot summer nights, too – some lessons, a girl shouldn’t learn from reading a book.

My thoughts:
Like the other books in this series it was very enjoyable.  In many ways a good old fashioned romance.  This is Annabelle’s and Shane’s story, we met them in the previous book as this is the second in the 2012 trilogy.

I think why I liked this book was because of all the animals, they were such fun.  I like animals in a romance story, they just give that added dimension to it, and make it just that little bit more heartwarming.  I loved Khatar the “mean” horse that falls for Annabelle, and of course then there is an elephant and more horses, an unwelcome pony and a pig…. and the list goes on!

The romance was one of those on and off again romances with little hiccups along the way.  Shane is attracted to Annabelle, but both of them have past relationships that went sour, and so it takes sometime before trust is established.  One part that just did not work for me was when Annabelle’s ex showed up with some news that to me seemed more of a filler than anything.  My opinion is that it did not heighten the tension or advance the plot.  When I had finished reading that part I thought, really….!

A quick and very pleasant read.

a rating of four.
Do you enjoy having animals play a part in a book?  If so which one comes to mind?

Review

Three Sisters. Susan Mallery.

Three Sisters
Susan Mallery
Kindle Edition
Published February 2013
233 pages.

Goodreads Summary
After Andi Gordon is jilted at the altar, she makes the most impetuous decision of her life – buying one of the famed Three Sisters Queen Anne houses on Blackberry Island. Now the proud-ish owner of the ugly duckling of the trio, she plans to open her own pediatric office on the first floor, just as soon as her hunky contractor completes the work. Andi’s new future may be coming together, but the truth is she’s just as badly in need of a major renovation as her house. 

When Deanna Phillips confronts her husband about a suspected affair, she opens up a Pandora’s Box of unhappiness. And he claims that she is the problem. The terrible thing is, he’s right. In her quest to be the perfect woman, she’s lost herself, and she’s in danger of losing her entire family if things don’t change. 

Next door, artist Boston King thought she and her college sweetheart would be married forever. Their passion for one other has always seemed indestructible. But after tragedy tears them apart, she’s not so sure. Now it’s time for them to move forward, with or without one another. 

I loved this book once I was immersed in it.  While the three houses are the Three Sisters, the unrelated women in the story bond and become as close, if not closer than any real sisters.  They each have their life issues to face and soon find themselves bonding and supporting each other.  All three are dealing with issues that could go either way.  They might wallow in self pity and depression, or sink under a compulsive disorder.  Or….

Andi is the doctor, as the reader I might think she has it all together and that she might be superior to Deanna and Boston.  But no, she owns her own issues and is on a level footing with the others as they struggle with theirs.  

Does all end happily? Well yes.  However it is through the courageous facing of issues that the ending is a happy one.  It could have gone the other way.

I love a book like this.  It makes me question my own values and issues and see that we are all human and in this life the compassionate companionship of others has a very important role to play.

5 stars