Review

Between You And Me by Susan Wiggs

Book CoverPublished: William Morrow
Date: June 26th 2018
Format:  Hardback
Pages: 356
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

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Caught between two worlds, Caleb Stoltz is bound by a deathbed promise to raise his orphaned niece and nephew in Middle Grove, where life revolves around family, farm, faith—and long-held suspicions about outsiders. When disaster strikes, Caleb is thrust into an urban environment of high-tech medicine and the relentless rush of modern life.

Dr. Reese Powell is poised to join the medical dynasty of her wealthy, successful parents. Bold, assertive, and quick-thinking, she lives for the addictive rush of saving lives. When a shocking accident brings Caleb Stoltz into her life, Reese is forced to deal with a situation that challenges everything she thinks she knows—and ultimately emboldens her to question her most powerful beliefs.

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Do you ever read a book slowly, especially as you get to the end. Read a few pages, walk away and do something else. And then go back. That’s what I did as I came to the final pages of this book. I just didn’t want to leave Reese, Caleb, Hannah and Jonah.

Both Reese and Caleb are similar in that parental expectations loom large in their respective lives. Reese is the only child of two very successful doctors… and they want to her too to climb to the top of the medical tree. But is it what she herself wants, where does her passion in medicine lie?

Caleb has lived his life in the Amish community, but only stays there because of a promise to his brother John to watch over Hannah and Jonah, his niece and nephew as they grow. His struggle revolves around what he really believes and what he has promised.

While this story situates the faith struggle in the Amish community, this question of what is true and right for a person, applies to any faith community I believe. Every religious group has its wonderful and positive attributes and… the darkness of beliefs somehow that have become twisted and well… stupid!  We all need to ask – what is life giving? And this story explores that very much.

So in short, a book that I identified with and really enjoyed.

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Over The Teacups, Review

Over The Teacups #6

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book coverWhy?Susan Wiggs is a favourite author and I have liked and loved every contemporary fiction book she has written, so it was an auto-buy for me.

Plot?This is the story of so many, mainly that of Camille and her daughter Julie. But also Julie’s father and his grandparents. Camille is an expert photographer but since the death of her husband five years ago she has not lifted a camera. Her daughter Julie a young teen is going through a tough time with some very overt bullying happening to her. Onto the scene comes Finn, who seeks out those who are lost – mainly soldiers and brings them home. He has a special mission to find his father.

What Appeals to Me?I loved the characters, yes Camille was a little prickly, but five years isn’t that long in the scheme of things so its understandable she hasn’t quite moved on. I liked her story and that of Julies as they let go and move on. I loved the small vignette WW11 story and the outcome from that. And of course it was delightfully set in both the east coast of the USA and Provence, France. Loved the writing too. Such an appealing read all round.

And so… the next Susan Wiggs book will of course be an auto-buy!

book coverWhy? I had a bit of spare reading space and was perusing Amazon and when I saw this one I clicked! Eloisa James right!

Plot? This one is set in Georgian times, when they wore wigs and powdered their hair and the women wore very low cut dresses! Alaric is the hero and Willa the heroine. They are pretty much their own persons and don’t worry too much about wigs and powder. He is back from big adventures, is a writer and very popular with the ladies. What follows is a love adventure with an evil killer thrown in and a skunk who knows when to leave a stink.

What Appeals to Me? Well written and fun. Light and warm mostly. I haven’t met a pet skunk in a book before, plus the plot moved along well and was rather unique. Also there is a large Wilde family and plenty more stories to be told. It ends with a cliff hanger for one of the brothers – North and its sure to deliver.

And so… Sighting next book in series – Too Wilde to Wed which promises to publish about May 2018.

book coverWhy? Well Catherine Anderson is pretty much an auto-buy for me and when I need a really good comfort read, I can always rely on her to deliver.

Plot. This is the story of 1) Tanner who is about 78 and living in an assisted apartment while he heals from a fall. And the woman who runs the place is a dragon. 2) Crystal his grand daughter who is keeping the home fires burning while her grandfather is in care. She is looking after his dog who is a total handful. Somehow she has a young kitten on her plate as well. 3) And then there are a couple of love interests and a small bit of mystery thrown in.

What Appeals to me. I liked the two sets of couples – one younger and one older – both full of wisdom and emotion. I liked Rip – the unforgettable dog, and feel good emotional story.

And so… The next Catherine Anderson book can’t come soon enough! An auto-buy. There is a lovely interview with Catherine Anderson on Goodreads about this her latest book.

Review

Family Tree. Susan Wiggs

book cover

Published: William Morrow
Date: August 9th 2016
Format:
Pages: 368
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Rating:
4.5 stars              Add to Goodreads

Annie Harlow knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Manhattan home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child.

But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a year-long coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she’s lost.

Grieving and wounded, Annie retreats to her old family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the town where she grew up, the people she knew before, the high-school boyfriend turned ex-cop. And with the discovery of a cookbook her grandmother wrote in the distant past, Annie unearths an age-old mystery that might prove the salvation of the family farm.

My thoughts banner
It is always with a sense of delight that I pick up a new book by an author whose books I have always enjoyed. This one was like sinking down into a warm cozy bath on a cold day. It was almost everything I love in a good book.
Annie is a wonderful character, going for her dreams but finding that things haven’t worked out quite the way she thought. Her partner and husband Martin just might not be the best thing going for her. When an unusual accident lands her in a coma in hospital his narcissistic self does what he does best, looks after Martin.
Annie’s family are wonderful although not perfect. She has a Gran she idolised and loved – and although no longer alive she lives on in Annie. Annie’s parents divorced when she was about ten years old and she has never quite gotten over her father walking out on his family. She sees her mother with a talent as an artist who has never fulfilled her dreams. She stayed back from going on to develop her abilities – choosing instead to care for her family.  Yet when Annie is down it is family who stands by her.
Fletcher is a person who has put his roots down in Switchback. He and Annie go way back, have loved each other and parted. Annie’s desire to spread her wings and follow her dreams have meant they have had to part. Now with Annie back in town there is a possible second chance.
As Annie recovers from  injuries sustained in a freak accident she is determined and feisty. However she must start from scratch and discover who she is now and what she wants to do. It takes awhile but the journey just endeared her to me and I was delighted by all the steps she takes. 
The only thing I didn’t like about the book was the Now/Then part of the storytelling. I’d be immersed in the now, and then would be taken back into the past. Necessary but just something I don’t particularly like. I prefer a linear story. But I guess I’d be in the minority and the telling of a story just might have needed it.
One of those books I just want to go on forever!  
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Review

Starlight on Willow Lake. Susan Wiggs

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Starlight on Willow Lake
Susan Wiggs
Published: MIRA
Date: 25th August 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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We’ve reached #11 in the Lakeshore Chronicles by Susan Wiggs with Starlight on Willow Lake.  I’ve enjoyed every one of them, including this one. I’ve tended to think of this series as contemporary romance, but Starlight I think falls more into the women’s fiction realm, as the emphasis is on the growth of two women and two girls. Yes there is some heartwarming romance, but its not centre stage.

Faith is in her mid-thirties, she is a struggling widow with two girls, Cara a teen and Ruby a second grader with diabetes. At a crucial time, Faith lands a job with Alice Bellamy in her beautiful house beside Willow Lake in Avalon.  Alice is a quadriplegic and Faith is a nurse.  Faith is the right person for Alice, she is a straight talking, perceptive carer who will trigger many a ripple in the Bellamy household. Alice’s sharp commands are ably countered by Faith, her experience and ability not to get hooked by Alice’s anger and dejection are just what Alice needs.

Alice is also a widow and lost her husband in the same misadventure that she was badly injured in by an  avalanche in New Zealand.  Now she moves about in a wheel chair that she blows into so she can move about.  She has been a keen athlete in the past and being in a wheelchair now is not easy for her.  She thought she had a rock solid marriage but she has just been shaken up by a letter that has arrived from France.

Cara and Ruby are both delightful and there presence calls out the best in Alice.  She finds herself challenging the girls and in doing so meets many a challenge herself.  Ruby has so many fears, yet by the time the story is told so many of them have been faced.

Mason her son is persuaded by Faith to return to the house by the lake from Manhattan because she believes it is essential for Alice to have his support.  He has an almost fiance, but as time goes by and as more of the weeks pass, perhaps Alice knows more than he does about affairs of the heart.

I loved the characters, all the little details and warmth of family. The struggle and courage of both Faith and Alice to overcome what life has thrown at them.  There is a theme of hope, love and living fully, and delighting in the talents and gifts given.

While this is part of a series, it can very easily read as a stand alone book.

Susan Wiggs has woven her magic again. Sigh of satisfaction!

4 stars

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The Beekeeper’s Ball. Susan Wiggs.

The Beekeeper's Ball

The Beekeeper’s Ball
Susan Wiggs
Publisher: Harlequin Mira.
Date: June 24th 2014
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 368
Genre: Contemporary/Historical
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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Isabel Johansen, a celebrated chef who grew up in the sleepy Sonoma town of Archangel, is transforming her childhood home into a destination cooking school—a unique place for other dreamers to come and learn the culinary arts. Bella Vista’s rambling mission-style hacienda, with its working apple orchards, bountiful gardens and beehives, is the idyllic venue for Isabel’s project…and the perfect place for her to forget the past.

But Isabel’s carefully ordered plans begin to go awry when swaggering, war-torn journalist Cormac O’Neill arrives to dig up old history. He’s always been better at exposing the lives of others than showing his own closely-guarded heart, but the pleasures of small-town life and the searing sensuality of Isabel’s kitchen coax him into revealing a few truths of his own.

The dreamy sweetness of summer is the perfect time of year for a grand family wedding and the enchanting Beekeeper’s Ball, bringing emotions to a head in a story where the past and present collide to create an unexpected new future.

My thoughts
The Beekeeper’s Ball is the second book in the Bella Vista Chronicles.  It is a worthy follow up to The Apple Orchard.  I loved the setting, the family atmosphere, the mystery, the history, the courage and the depths of both emotional warmth and sadness.
This story centres mainly on Isabel, raised by her grandparents, never having known her parents who were taken from her from birth.  She has ventured out into the world for awhile, but now feels safest at Bella Vista.  She loves to cook, it fulfils her to nourish others with her food and care.  This can be especially seen in the way she takes in Jaime, a young woman, who happens by. Isabel sees something of herself in Jaime, and is ideally suited to reach out to her.
Into her world arrives Cormac O’Neill, their first meeting is full of drama.  Indeed Isabel’s world will never be the same as he breezes in, bringing fresh insights into her life.  He has come to write the biography of Magnus.  I loved the way he fits into the family, bringing his own gifts and open to receive what is offered by this new opportunity.
Most of all I loved the story of Magnus, his wife Eva and Annaliese.  At first I had been reluctant when reading the blurb for the story. I thought to myself I dislike being taken backwards and forwards, being pulled from one story into another.  I was so wrong. I loved this part of the story.  I had been drawn towards Magnus in The Apple Orchard.  Annaliese too was very much part of that book.  Now the mysteries of their lives are revealed in this book.  We are taken back into Denmark during World War 2, into the courageous worlds of Magnus, Eva and Annaliese.  What hardship and cruelties they endured, how amazing that out of such horror, these people could move into the future with such positivity and letting go.  For me this was the best part of the book.  
I sense there are more stories to be told in Bella Vista Chronicles.  I want to know more about the family and their neighbours – Ramon’s family, and his daughter Lourdes. There is still mystery surrounding Isabel’s father, and I would love to follow Jaime a little more. And of course to follow this wonderful family a little longer along the road would be rewarding reading.  
4 stars 
Review

Candlelight Christmas

Book Cover

Candlelight Christmas
Susan Wiggs
Published: Harlequin Mira
Date: 29th October 2013
Pages:336
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Format: e-Arc
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Summary from Goodreads

A single father who yearns to be a family man, Logan O’Donnell is determined to create the perfect Christmas for his son, Charlie.  The entire O’Donnell family arrives to spend the holidays in Avalon, a pretty post-card town on the shores of Willow Lake, a place for the family to reconnect and rediscover the special gifts of the season.

One of the guests is newcomer to Willow Lake, Darcy Fitzgerald.  Sharp-witted, independent and intent on guarding her heart, she is the last person Logan can see himself falling for.  And Darcy is convinced that a relationship is the last thing she needs this Christmas.

Yet between the snowy silence of the winter woods, and toasty moments by a crackling fire,  their two lonely hearts collide.  The magic of the season brings each of them a gift neither ever expected; a love to last a lifetime.

My thoughts
This is number ten in the Lakeshore Chronicles and I am always ready to return to Willow Lake and the many wonderful characters there.  I was really delighted to meet Charlie again – now ten years old and his Dad, Logan.  Logan and Daisy are the parents of Charlie although there relationship was not to be.  Daisy chose the right man for her!  However Logan deserves to have his story and find that love that lasts a lifetime.

I liked that this story was told alternatively from the point of view of Logan, Darcy and at times Charlie.  I know that some readers don’t like children in a book, but I do, and Charlie’s parts were just so heartwarming.  Logan makes a great Dad for Charlie, and this book explores fatherhood a little, looking at the relationship of Logan with his Dad as well.  It shows us two children who have no Dad at all – a druggie and no hoper.  Logan reaches out to these children as well.  I am hoping for another Lakeshore book in the future that includes Maya and her children Andre and Angelica.  I am sure there are a few possible Bellamy’s available!

Both Logan and Darcy have been through divorce and Darcy especially is not quite ready to enter into another relationship where she might be vulnerable to disappointment and loss.  Watching her grow through this during the book is wonderful, and I loved how she was with Charlie. Logan and Darcy are given the time to grow in their relationship to the very satisfying conclusion.

This is definitely a Christmas book.  While it begins in the summer, the main chunk of the book is set in the holiday Christmas season.  It will touch your heart, and remind you about the real spirit of Christmas, where there is family, thoughtfulness, seeking to make others happy and real love. And as we all know not everything turns out perfect because it happens to be Christmas – well there is a touch of the imperfect too for these characters.  However what really matters is totally there.

I know all Lakeshore Chronicles readers will love this addition.  Don’t feel turned away if you haven’t read the previous ones, but want a great Christmas season story – this book delivers. It could stand alone.

5 stars.

Review

The Apple Orchard

The Apple Orchard   (Bella Vista #1)
Susan Wiggs
Hardback book
Published April 30th 2013
Harlequin: Mira

Summary from front flap cover.

Tess Delaney makes a living restoring stolen treasures to their rightful owners. People like Annelise Winther, who refuses to sell her long-gone mother’s beloved necklace—despite Tess’s advice. To Annelise, the jewel’s value is in its memories.

But Tess’s own history is filled with gaps: a father she never met, a mother who spent more time traveling than with her daughter. So Tess is shocked when she discovers the grandfather she never knew is in a coma. And that she has been named in his will to inherit half of Bella Vista, a hundred-acre apple orchard in the magical Sonoma town called Archangel.

The rest is willed to Isabel Johansen. A half sister she’s never heard of.
Against the rich landscape of Bella Vista, Tess begins to discover a world filled with the simple pleasures of food and family, of the warm earth beneath her bare feet. A world where family comes first and the roots of history run deep. A place where falling in love is not only possible, but inevitable.


The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs – the hardback edition, is beautifully turned out.  The dust jacket when peeled back reveals a cover that is exactly the same. It invites you in as a reader, and tempts a sample. I rarely buy hardback books these days, however Susan Wiggs is an author I can’t resist.  I found it a little cumbersome to read as it’s quite large and heavy, not something easily read while in the bath for instance!  Although there is something about a hardback like this that inspires reverence in me when I pick it up to read.

There are ten sections to The Apple Orchard, each part starts with a recipe.  Now I am no cook, but each one as I glanced over it, inspired me and I thought – oh I want to try this out sometime. The very last one for Baked Hot Chocolate sounds decadent and yummy.  Isabel the half sister of Tess, is a wonderful cook and when she is stressed she bakes up a whirlwind of goodies.  Her kitchen would be warm and welcoming.

The story opens with Marcus in the orchard – he is the grandfather of Isabel and Tess.  I immediately took a liking to this gracious old man.  On one level we rarely meet him throughout the book, yet his life is woven in and out as the story unfolds.  Fittingly the end of the book also has Marcus as a focus.

In the beginning of The Apple Orchard Tess is a highly successful professional with an anxiety disorder, her main focus is her job in the city.  She is aiming to be a high flyer.  However Tess is lonely, she has a tenuous relationship with her mother and has never known her father.  When she is suddenly faced with a family she never knew about, her world turns upside down.  Dominic the man who brings her the news of this family, is very linked to her lost family, and as she visits this new family, Dominic becomes an important person in her life.  His two children also play their part in opening up Tess’ heart. They are adorable.

As the story of Magnus is traced back to his roots in World War 11 the story turns somewhat dark, and we learn so much more about him and how he finally came to America.  What an indomitable spirit.   Tess finds as they search through Magnus’ belongings looking for a lost treasure, that they are piecing together the story of Magnus and their family.  

As Tess spends time in Sonoma, in the country, her values change.  She learns to slow down and to savour family, friends and a life that is lived more in the moment.  From being a person who has avoided such festivities as Christmas and Thanksgiving – Tess gradually finds she loves the very things she has so long avoided.

As I finished the last few pages I felt somewhat touched and tearful.  No, it wasn’t a sad ending, rather a perfectly satisfying and happy ending.

I would recommend this book to readers who like a story that is based on family, friendship,  good food and a little mystery.  There is a romance in the book, but this story is not just a romance – it leans more towards what might be women’s fiction as it explores relationships between mother and daughter, sisters and friends.  Readers who like authors such as Kristan Hannah, Emilie Richards, and Robyn Carr to name but a few, should enjoy this book.

This book is the first, I can’t wait to read Isabel’s story.