Thursday, December 13, 2018

Here’s to a Second Helping of Elin Hilderbrand!


I think it is time for a little summer in December.  As I write this review there is a winter weather watch just northeast from here.  Everyone is out getting their groceries to prepare for hazardous conditions in Georgia.   So one item that should be included in with those groceries is Here’s To Us by Elin Hilderbrand. 


“Laurel Thorpe, Belinda Rowe, and Scarlett Oliver share only two things; a love for the man they all married, Deacon Thorpe--a celebrity chef with an insatiable appetite for life--and a passionate dislike of one another. All three are remarkable, spirited women, but they couldn't be more different. Laurel: Deacon's high school sweetheart and an effortlessly beautiful social worker; Belinda: a high-maintenance Hollywood diva; and Scarlett: a sexy southern belle floating by on her family money and her fabulous looks.

But their fragile detente threatens to come crashing down after Deacon's tragic death on his favorite place on earth: a ramshackle Nantucket summer cottage. Deacon's final wish was for his makeshift family to assemble on his beloved Nantucket to say good-bye. Begrudgingly, Laurel, Belinda, and Scarlett gather on the island as once again, as in each of their marriages, they're left to pick up Deacon's mess. Now they're trapped in the crowded cottage where they all made their own memories--a house that they now share in more ways than one. 

Before the weekend is over, there are enough accusations, lies, tears, and drama to turn even the best of friends--let alone three women who married the same man. Will they be able to put aside their differences long enough to raise a glass in Deacon's honor?” (Amazon)

My Thoughts:

I found this novel rather entertaining!  Ms. Hilderbrand always does a brilliant job of telling a story from many points of view.  Many characters had very raw and real tendencies in their character.   I was not a fan of the Deacon character and the type of life he chose to lead.  I also loved some of the recipes mentioned throughout the novel.  Of course there is always the lovely background of Nantucket for any of Elin’s novels.  
I hope to visit Winter in Paradise and hope to see you there too! 

Rating:

4/5

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

What Difference Can One Summer Make?


Let’s take a trip to the beach!  Today I want to take a step back to one of Elin’s first novel Summer People.  Pull up a chair for some rich relationships and great beach scenery.  What would a town like Nantucket have to offer a grieving family?


“Every summer the Newton family retreats to their beloved home on Nantucket for three months of sunshine, cookouts, and bonfires on the beach. But this summer will not be like any other. When Arch Newton, a prominent New York attorney, dies in a plane crash on his way home from a business trip, his beautiful widow, Beth, can barely keep things together. Above all, though, she decides that she must continue the family tradition of going to Nantucket, and at the same time fulfill a promise that Arch made before he died.

Beth invites Marcus, the son of Arch's final and most challenging client, to spend the summer with her and her teenage twins, Winnie and Garrett, who have mixed reactions to sharing their special summer place with this stranger. Always a place of peace before, Nantucket becomes the scene of roiling emotions and turbulent passions as Marcus, Winnie, and Garrett learn about loss, first love, and betrayal. And when they stumble upon a shocking secret from Beth's past, they must keep it from destroying the family they've been trying so hard to heal. “(Amazon)

My Thoughts: 

I enjoyed the novel.  It is shorter than most of her other novels.  It focuses on the subject of grief and how it affects the main characters involved.  What are the consequences of their action?   I think Summer People was her debut novel.  I will continue to be a fan of Elin Hilderbrand!  I hope you will check out her latest novel Winter in Paradise.

Rating:

4/5

Thursday, November 15, 2018

There Just Isn’t a Nativity Like This…


Thank you to Sally Kilpatrick and Kensington Press for a copy of Oh My Stars.  I was given this copy in exchange for an honest review.

We are back in the town of Ellery Tennessee for one of their traditional festivities their live nativity located in the Dollar General’s parking lot.  It is not your typical nativity.  Mary is a chain smoker.  Joseph is a reluctant doctor.  Oh and did I mention that Joseph also does farm work with one of the wise men. 

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“Like most things in Ellery, Tennessee, this year’s Drive Thru Nativity is a little unconventional. The Dollar General parking lot doubles as a Bethlehem stable, and widowed writer Ivy Long, who’s been roped into playing Mary, sure as heck isn’t a virgin. But then comes an unexpected development: a genuine, real-life baby left in the manger, with only a brief note. And somehow, in the kerfuffle that follows, Ivy finds her life is about to change . . .

The holidays are a bittersweet time for Ivy—filled with memories of her beloved late husband and reminders that life doesn’t always offer the happily-ever-after her readers expect. So when Ivy ends up with custody of the baby, she can only chalk it up to a Christmas miracle. She doesn’t know if it will be forever, but with help from family, she’ll make little Zuzu’s first Christmas a good one. The nativity’s Joseph, aka Gabe Ledbetter, has a pediatrics background that’s coming in mighty handy. In turn, Ivy is helping Gabe find his place in the quirky community. If that place turns out to be somewhere near Ivy, well, maybe this particular Christmas story will turn out to be merry and bright after all . . .”(Amazon)

My Thoughts: 

I loved this novel!  I thought the nativity was a little unorthodox with its characters such as  chain smoking Mary, a lost baby, and Joseph who is a doctor but also farms.  It made for an entertaining read.  The town of Ellery is a place that readers will want to come back and visit time and again. I have loved the characters that Sally Kilpatrick introduces to her readers.   This book creates a magical setting for the holidays. Readers will enjoy finding out if this family will stay together or not.

Rating:

4/5

Purchase a copy of Oh My Stars here


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Literary Book Gifts That Are Not To Miss!

Ever try to find the perfect gift for your favorite book enthusiast and not find anything you like? Or Literary Book Gifts is a new company that specializes in just that. With tees and tote bags from popular titles such as Pride and Prejudice as well as from lesser known works such as Howards End there is something for everyone in the collection!
perhaps you hoped to find a special bookish treat for yourself?
I started the online store as a way to bring people together over their shared love of literature. Novels are meant to be not only read, but shared. Book covers, and book related artwork is an amazing platform to do just that.
I'll talk little about a couple of the designs in the collection.
This Don Quixote T-Shirt t-shirt for men comes in a cream print on eleven different color choices to choose from. I like this design because it captures the energy of the novel. And of course, the windmills!
This Little Women Tote Bag makes a perfect give for any Louisa May Alcott fan. It comes in a blush pink background with an off-white print. The handles are black and made of 100% cotton for comfort and durability. Every tote bag comes in three different sizes to choose from. Instead of being flat, I elected for boxed corner totes to make sure they fit all the books you can carry!
If you saw anything you liked you can use this exclusive promo JENCEYWRITES20 at checkout to receive 20% off any order! This promo does not expire.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Have You Ever Wondered What It Is Like To Join a Sorority?


Thank you to Tandem Literary and St. Martins Press for a copy of Rush by Lisa Patton.  I was given a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Have you ever wanted to know what it is like to be a member of a sorority?  Or what kind of experiences one might have? I did not experience being involved with sororities, when I was in school.  So what better setting than a SEC school such as Ole Miss.  So settle down and relax for a story steeped in tradition and history.


Synopsis:

“Cali Watkins possesses all the qualities sororities are looking for in a potential new member. She’s kind and intelligent, makes friends easily, even plans to someday run for governor. But her resume lacks a vital ingredient. Pedigree. Without family money Cali's chances of sorority membership are already thin, but she has an even bigger problem. If anyone discovers the dark family secrets she's hiding, she’ll be dropped from Rush in an instant.

When Lilith Whitmore, the well-heeled House Corp President of Alpha Delta Beta, one of the premiere sororities on campus, appoints recent empty-nester Wilda to the Rush Advisory Board, Wilda can hardly believe her luck. What’s more, Lilith suggests their daughters, both incoming freshman, room together. What Wilda doesn’t know is that it's all part of Lilith’s plan to ensure her own daughter receives an Alpha Delt bid―no matter what.

For twenty-five years, Miss Pearl―as her “babies” like to call her―has been housekeeper and a second mother to the Alpha Delt girls, even though it reminds her of a painful part of her past she’ll never forget. When an opportunity for promotion arises, it seems a natural fit. But Lilith Whitmore slams her Prada heel down fast, crushing Miss Pearl’s hopes of a better future. When Wilda and the girls find out, they devise a plan destined to change Alpha Delta Beta―and maybe the entire Greek system―forever.” (Amazon)

My Thoughts: 

I loved this novel!  I always say there is a little truth in fiction.  In this story readers are treated to what it is like to be a rushee and or work at the sorority house. The main characters of Wilda and Lilith and then there daughters interested me in seeing how the story would play out.   Who knew how much went into the process of being a rushee, and how it would impact our main characters.   I found the story to be a page turner from the beginning to the end.   I could identify greatly with Pearl’s experiences working at the house, and her desire to better her circumstances.  I loved how the author showed how much Pearl loved her girls, and they in return. 

Rush for me was a gratifying experience!  I look forward to another novel by Lisa 

Patton.  You can purchase a copy of Rush here.

Rating:

4.75/5



Tuesday, September 11, 2018

How Do Legacies Stretch?


How much experience do you have with working in a family business?  Have you ever felt like you play a role in this business or are you happy to pass it onto someone else to take care of?  The story that I am sharing today is about two sisters and the family business they are the heir apparent to; in Sarah Creech’s The Season of the Dragonflies.  Which sister will take over the business?


Synopsis:

For generations, the Lenore women have manufactured a perfume unlike any other, and guarded the unique and mysterious ingredients. Their perfumery, hidden in the quiet rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, creates one special elixir that secretly sells for millions of dollars to the world’s most powerful—movie stars, politicians, artists, and CEOs. The Lenore’s signature perfume is actually the key to their success.
Willow, the coolly elegant Lenore family matriarch, is the brains behind the company. Her gorgeous, golden-haired daughter Mya is its heart. Like her foremothers, she can “read” scents and envision their power. Willow’s younger daughter, dark-haired, soulful Lucia, claims no magical touch, nor does she want any part of the family business. She left the mountains years ago to make her own way. But trouble is brewing. Willow is experiencing strange spells of forgetfulness. Mya is plotting a coup. A client is threatening blackmail. And most ominously, the unique flowers used in their perfume are dying.

Whoever can save the company will inherit it. Though Mya is the obvious choice, Lucia has begun showing signs of her own special abilities. And her return to the mountains—heralded by a swarm of blue dragonflies—may be the answer they all need. (Amazon)

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this novel.  I always am interested in family sagas and how the author influences the direction of the story.  This story for example is about sisters, and each have their own gifts.  I was drawn from the first page where the author shares about the beginning of the business.  Who would run the business in the future?  Who is the possible heir apparent?  The author goes onto explore the conflict between both sisters Mya and Lucia.  One wants to control her destiny while the other is just looking for direction, in her life.  How often do we as readers feel that our lives take us down one path only to turn down another?   The plot is not predictable and readers will not see who wins control of the business until the end.  This novel is page turner and one that I was able to finish with great satisfaction.  

I look forward to reading more by Sarah Creech in the future.  You can purchase her current book here.

Rating:


4.5/5


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

So Which is Better Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard?


Another summer delight from one of my favorite authors Elin Hilderbrand in her novel  The Identicals.  In this story a set of twins is separated by two different settings one is in Nantucket while the other is in Martha’s Vineyard.  I personally have not been to either but would love the chance to go to both.  Are the twins really the same or different?

Elin Hilderbrand




Synopsis:

Nantucket is only eleven miles away from Martha's Vineyard. But they may as well be worlds apart for estranged twin sisters Harper and Tabitha Frost. After not speaking for more than a decade, Harper and Tabitha switch islands-and lives-to save what's left of their splintered family. But the twins quickly discover that the secrets, lies, and gossip they thought they'd outrun can travel between islands just as easily as they can. Will Harper and Tabitha be able to bury the hatchet and end their sibling rivalry once and for all? Before the last beach picnic of the season, there will be enough old resentments, new loves, and cases of mistaken identity to make this the most talked-about summer that Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced in ages. (Amazon)

My Thoughts:

I loved this novel.  It was like going back and reading a version of the parent trap.  The major difference is that both twins are grown and living their own lives.  Readers will find this novel very satisfying.  I loved how she used the settings of Martha Vineyard and Nantucket to compare and contrast the twin’s different lives.  It was fun learning a little about Martha’s Vineyard too.  This novel is definitely something you want in your beach bag.  

Rating:

5/5

To purchase a copy of  Elin's current novel The Perfect Couple here.


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

How Much Courage Do You Have to Walk Away?


My first book in the BookSparks Summer Reading Challenge is How to Walk Away by Katherine Center.  She is a new author to me but is very popular in the world of Women’s fiction and circulates well where I work, at the Dunwoody library.  In her latest book, she tackles the issues of rehabilitation and how does one recover?  Who does it impact the most? Where does the support come from in a difficult time such as this?

Katherine Center


Synopsis:
Margaret Jacobsen is just about to step into the bright future she's worked for so hard and so long: a new dream job, a fiancĂ© she adores, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in a brief, tumultuous moment. In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Maggie must confront the unthinkable. First there is her fiancĂ©, Chip, who wallows in self-pity while simultaneously expecting to be forgiven. Then, there's her sister Kit, who shows up after pulling a three-year vanishing act. Finally, there's Ian, her physical therapist, the one the nurses said was too tough for her. Ian, who won't let her give in to her pity and who sees her like no one has seen her before. 
Sometimes the last thing you want is the one thing you need. Sometimes we all need someone to catch us when we fall. And sometimes love can find us in the least likely place we would ever expect.  (Amazon)
My Thoughts: 
I loved this book!  I don’t know of many books that tackle the topic of this kind of intense injury, and what circumstances might be like afterwords.  I think that many of us can identify with Maggie’s experiences, in this book.  Ms. Center did a great job of creating a great cast of characters, even the one that I loved to hate the most Chip.  As a reader part of me could not believe Chip’s response to the situation.  I could not wait to him to be out of the picture.   I found the story was interesting and kept my focus with very little lag, in the middle.  The conclusion was unexpected and very satisfying. 
Life can  have  many complicated twists and turns.  It depends how one chooses to respond to those difficulties or how God can change our perspective.   Keep pressing forward because you never know where life might take you!
Rating:
4.7/5
You can purchase a copy of How to Walk Away here.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Step Back in Time with Kristin Harmel


Thank you to Goodreads and Gallery books for a copy of The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel.  I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is the first time that I have had the opportunity to read  a book by Kristin Harmel.  I had heard many good recommendations about her books, in the past.  I love a good historical fiction book that includes mystery and intrigue or more specifically the resistance during World War II in Paris.  Can she make this as exciting as the Nightingale by Kristin Hannah?

Kristin Harmel




Synopsis:

When newlywed Ruby Henderson Benoit arrives in Paris in 1939 with her French husband Marcel, she imagines strolling arm in arm along the grand boulevards, awash in the golden afternoon light. But war is looming on the horizon, and as France falls to the Nazis, her marriage begins to splinter, too.

Charlotte Dacher is eleven when the Germans roll into the French capital, their sinister swastika flags snapping in the breeze. After the Jewish restrictions take effect and Jews are ordered to wear the yellow star, Charlotte can’t imagine things getting much worse. But then the mass deportations begin, and her life is ripped forever apart.

Thomas Clarke joins the British Royal Air Force to protect his country, but when his beloved mother dies in a German bombing during the waning days of the Blitz, he wonders if he’s really making a difference. Then he finds himself in Paris, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and he discovers a new reason to keep fighting—and an unexpected road home.

When fate brings them together, Ruby, Charlotte, and Thomas must summon the courage to defy the Nazis—and to open their own broken hearts—as they fight to survive.  (Amazon.com)

My Thoughts: 

Kristin Harmel is one of my new favorite authors.  I loved The Room on Rue Amelie!  The chapters are short and contribute to making the book an easy read.  I loved how the author wove the plot into the character driven story lines.  The readers will come to care for and cheer for these characters by the end of the book.   The pace slowed a little for me in the middle.  I encourage readers to press on because the story only becomes more interesting with a fascinating ending.

Rating:


4.7/5

To purchase a copy of The Room on Rue Amelie here.


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Come Read With Us!

With permission from Karen White.
Today I am posting an excerpt from The House on Tradd Street, which is the first book in the TraddStreet series written by Karen White.  I have this excerpt to celebrate the upcoming paperback release of  The Guests on South Battery.  So read along and catch up with me, and don't forget to get your copy of The Guests on South Battery which was also reviewed here.
 
Excerpt.

Chapter 1

Pewter reflections of scarlet hibiscus colored the dirt-smudged windows of the old house, like happy memories of youth trapped inside the shell of an old man. The broken pediments over the windows gave the house a permanent frown, yet the leaf-filtered sun against the chipped Tower-of-the-Winds columns lining the side piazzas painted the house with hope. It was almost, I thought, as if the house were merely waiting for a miracle.

I studied the house, my Realtor’s mind trying to see past the wreckage. It was a characteristic Charleston single house, turned perpendicular to the street so that its short side abutted the sidewalk. The entry door, with an ornate cornice and Italianate filigree brackets, opened onto the garden-facing piazza, where I knew I would find the main entryway into the house. I wrinkled my nose, already smelling the inevitable decay I would encounter once I’d entered the house.

Despite the enviable south of Broad location, any potential buyer for this property would have to be blind or incredibly stupid. In my vast experience at selling historic real estate in the city, I would bank on the latter. The rhythmic pulse of rope against tree trunk punctuated the muggy Charleston morning air, catching my attention and drawing me to the peeling wrought iron fence to peer into the side garden. I wasn’t sure if it was curiosity that made me stop or just reluctance to continue. I hated old houses. Which was odd, really, since they were my specialty in the realty business. Then again, maybe not so odd, considering the origins of my dislike. Regardless, old houses gave me plenty of reasons to dislike them. For one thing, they smelled of lemon oil and beeswax mixed with mothballs. And always seemed to accompany the slow gait of an elderly person too old to keep up the house yet too stubborn to let it go.

Like the owner had exhausted all hope of finding something in the future that would ever be as good as the past. Depressing, really. It was all just lumber and plaster in the end. Seeing nothing, I pushed open the stubborn gate covered with climbing Confederate jasmine, the rusted hinges reluctantly giving up ground. I picked my way carefully over the cracked walkway of what must have once been a prized patterned garden, my high-heeled pumps avoiding cracks and tall weeds with prickers that would tear at my stockings and silk suit with little provocation. A fall of shadow from the rear of the garden caught my attention. Ignoring the drops of perspiration running down the front of my blouse, I gingerly stepped across the weeds to get a better look. An overgrown flower bed encircled a fountain where a cherub in the middle sat suspended in the perpetual motion of blowing nonexistent water from stone lips. Thick weeds as tall as my hips crept into the fountain, grasping at the cherub’s ankles. A gecko darted out from the chipped cement edging the fountain and ran along the side. Clutching my leather portfolio, I followed it to the back side of the statue, not completely sure why. Sweat trickled down my nape, and I raised a hand to wipe it away. My fingers felt icy against my skin, a sort of warning sign I had begun to recognize when I was still very small. I concentrated on ignoring the pinpricks that raced up my spine and made me listen to things I didn’t want to hear and that other people couldn’t. I was eager to leave, but I stopped at the sight of a splash of red while my beautiful and expensive Italian leather heels sank into thick mulch. A small kidney-shaped area had been cleared of weeds and there, sprouting from fresh cedar clippings, grew four fat bushes containing the most vibrant red roses I had ever seen.

 They were like brightly dressed young girls sitting in the back pew of a crumbling church, and even their scent seemed out of place in the forlorn garden. I turned away, feeling an abiding sorrow that seemed to saturate the air in this part of the yard. The heat that pressed down on me seemed to have a cold center to it, and I felt out of breath, as if I’d run a long distance. Jerkily, I stumbled to the shade under a live oak tree. I leaned against the tree trunk and looked up, searching for my breath in a garden that seemed to be soaking up air and even time itself. Spanish moss draped shawllike on the ancient limbs of the tree, its massive branches testifying to its years on this earth, its roots reaching out toward the house.

 The sound of the swing continued to reverberate throughout the overgrown garden, and when I turned my head, I again caught a movement of shadow from the corner of my eye. For a moment, I thought I could see a woman wearing an old-fashioned dress pushing an empty board swing suspended by rope from the oak tree. The image was hazy, the edges of it dim and fading. The pinpricks invaded the back of my neck again, and I abruptly turned toward the piazza and marched across the garden, unconcerned now about my panty hose or anything else except getting my errand over with. I crossed the marble-paved piazza, then pressed hard on the front doorbell and then again as I willed somebody to answer it quickly. It took forever before the slow, shuffling steps could be heard behind the closed door.

I saw movement through the beveled-glass window in the door, etched in the pattern of climbing roses, the pattern deflecting light and color and separating the person on the other side of the door into a thousand fragments. I sighed, knowing that it would take another five minutes for the old man to unlock all the dead bolts and another twenty for him to allow me to get to the point of our meeting just as surely as I knew that if I turned around to face the sound of the swing, I would see nothing at all. The door swung open, and I took a surprised step backward as I found myself staring up into large brown eyes magnified by what looked like the bottoms of Coke bottles stuffed into wire eyeglass frames. The man had to be at least six foot three, even with the hunched shoulders beneath the starched white oxford cloth shirt and dark jacket, and he wore a linen handkerchief neatly tucked into the coat pocket. I whipped out one of my business cards and held it out toward the old man.

“Mr. Vanderhorst? I’m Melanie Middleton with Henderson House Realty. We spoke on the phone yesterday.” The man hadn’t made a move to take my card and was still staring at me through his thick glasses. “We made an appointment for today so that we might discuss your house.”

He acted as if he hadn’t heard me. “I saw you in the garden.” He continued to stare and I rubbed my hands up and down my arms, feeling as if it were thirty degrees outside instead of ninety-eight. “I hope you don’t mind. I wanted to get a good look at the lot.” I turned to face the garden as if to illustrate my point and realized that the sound of the swing had stopped the moment the door opened. The lot itself was large by historic district standards, and I couldn’t help but think of the wasted space the house was occupying and how much more useful it would be as a parking lot for the nearby shops and restaurants. “Did you see her?” His voice startled me.

It was deep and very soft, as if it didn’t get much use, and he was unaware of how much breath he needed for each word. “See who?” “The lady pushing the swing.” He had my full attention now. I looked into his magnified eyes. “No. There was nobody there. Were you expecting somebody?” Instead of answering, he stepped back, opening the door farther, and made a courtly sweep of his hand. “Won’t you come in? Let’s sit in the drawing room and I’ll get us coffee.” “Thank you, but that’s really not necessa . . .” But he had already turned away from me and was shuffling through a keystone arch that separated the front hall from the stair hall. A faded yellow Chinese paper covered the walls, and I had the fleeting impression of elegant beauty before I looked closer and saw the buckling and the peeling and did a mental calculation of the cost of restoring handpainted wallpaper. I stepped through a pedimented doorway into the room Mr. Vanderhorst had indicated and found myself standing in a large front drawing room with tall ornamented ceilings capped with elaborate cornices circling the room.

A dusty crystal chandelier dominated the room, its remaining crystals seemingly held in place by thick cobwebs. An intricate plaster medallion on the ceiling above the chandelier finalized my initial impression of the room as a wedding cake that had been left out in a warm room too long. Smelling the old beeswax, I wrinkled my nose again, comparing my  surroundings to my brand-new rented condo in nearby Mt. Pleasant complete with plain white walls, wall-to-wall carpeting, and central air. I would never understand people who felt privileged to pay a great deal of money to saddle themselves with a pile of termite-infested lumber like this, and then continued running themselves into bankruptcy from supporting the horrendous upkeep such an old house demanded. I shuddered, thankful that my own military-brat upbringing had never fostered any root-growing tendencies or warm and fuzzies toward ancient architecture. I looked around the room, careful not to touch anything that would get dust on my hands and clothes. Sheets covered most of what looked like antique furniture except for a faded grospoint-covered Louis XV armchair and matching ottoman as well as an enormous mahogany grandfather clock.

A small black-and-white dog lay curled on the ottoman and looked up with large brown eyes that strongly resembled those of my host. The thought made me smile until I spotted the huge crack in the plaster wall that snaked up from the baseboard to the cracked cornice in the corner of the room. My eyes drifted from the large water spot on the paint-chipped ceiling to the buckled wood floor underneath. I felt exhausted all of a sudden, as if I had somehow absorbed the age and decay of the room. I moved to one of the floor-to-ceiling windows, hoping daylight might perk me up. Pushing aside a faded crimson damask drapery panel, and almost choking on the smell of stale dust, I paused, wondering if the small etchings I saw on the wall were actually hairline cracks in the plaster. I leaned forward and squinted, wishing I’d brought my glasses.

A pale gray line stretched from the top of the baseboard to about four feet from the floor. Small markings bisected the line at approximately one-inch intervals, and tiny numbers were written in a delicate handwriting next to each demarcation. Squatting to see better, I realized I was looking at a growth chart, with the initials MBG written alongside the vertical line along with the age of MBG starting at one year. Tracing my finger along the line, I saw that it stopped at MBG’s eighth year. “That was mine.” The voice came from directly behind me, and I jumped, wondering how he had managed to move so quietly.

 “But the initials . . . aren’t you Mr. Vanderhorst?” His eyes focused on the pencil marks on the wall, and I noticed that an antique writing desk had been pulled away from the wall to expose the marks and now stood almost in the middle of the room. “MBG stands for ‘my best guy.’ My mother used to call me that.” The soft tone of his voice reminded me of my own little-girl voice pretending to speak long distance on the phone to my absent mother. I looked away. A tray with delicate china teacups and a plate of pecan pralines had been laid on an uncovered side table. Moving toward it I spotted a large frame set on the table holding a sepia-toned portrait of a young boy sitting on a piano bench. Again, Mr. Vanderhorst’s voice sounded right in my ear. “That was me when I was about four years old. My mother was an amateur photographer. She loved to take my picture.”

He shuffled behind me and pulled off a dusty sheet from a delicate Sheridan armchair and indicated for me to sit. I sat, placing my leather portfolio on the floor by my feet, then leaned forward to spoon four cubes of sugar and a splash of cream into my coffee, noticing the rose pattern on the teacups. I had expected the ubiquitous antique blue-and-white Canton china found in most of the houses in Charleston’s historic district. The roses on this set of china were bright red with large blooms of layered petals, nearly identical to the roses I’d seen in the neglected garden.

 I took a praline and placed it on a small rose-covered plate, then took another, aware of Mr. Vanderhorst watching me. Nervously, I sipped my coffee. “Those are Louisa roses—my mama’s hybrid and named after her. She cultivated those, you see, in the garden. They were famous for a while—famous enough to have magazines coming from all over to photograph them.” His eyes fixed on me behind the thick glasses, studying me as if to gauge my reaction. “But now the only place in the world you can find them is right here in my garden.” I nodded, eager to move on to the subject at hand. “Are you a gardener, Miss Middleton?” “Um, no, actually. I mean, I know what a rose is, and what a daisy looks like, but that pretty much covers all of my gardening terms.” I smiled tentatively. Mr. Vanderhorst sat down across from me in a matching chair and  picked up a teacup with slightly trembling hands. “This house had beautiful gardens when my mother lived here.

Sadly, I haven’t been able to keep them up. I can just find enough energy to keep up the small rose garden by the fountain. That was my mama’s favorite.” I nodded, remembering the odd little garden and the sound of a swing, then took another sip of coffee. “Mr. Vanderhorst, as I mentioned on the phone yesterday, I’m a Realtor, and my real estate company is very interested in obtaining the listing for your house.” I set my cup down and reached inside my portfolio to pull out the information on the property values in the neighborhood, as well as brochures that explained why my company was better than any of the other dozens of real estate companies in the area. “You’re Augustus Middleton’s granddaughter, aren’t you? Your granddaddy and my daddy were at Harvard Law together, you know.

They even started out clerking in the same law firm, and Augustus was best man at my daddy’s wedding.” My arm felt awkward and heavy as I kept it extended in Mr. Vanderhorst’s direction while he ignored it. Finally, I leaned across and placed the information on the table between us, then picked up my coffee again. “Ah, no. I wasn’t aware that our families knew one another. Small world.” I took a quick sip of my coffee. “So, anyway, as I mentioned, my company is very interested—” “They had some kind of a falling-out when I was about eight. Never spoke to each other again. Saw each other occasionally across a courtroom but never exchanged another word.” I focused on swallowing without choking and breathing slowly, and made a conscious effort to still my leg from twitching.

Damn. Had Mr. Vanderhorst brought me out here just so he could tell me about my grandfather Gus? Was he about to ask me to leave? And couldn’t he have just told me this on the phone to save me the trouble? “Despite their disagreement, my daddy always thought him to be one of the most honorable men he’d ever met.” “Yes, well, he died when my father was only twelve, so I can’t really say.” “You favor him a great deal, you know. Your father, too, although we’ve never met. I’ve seen pictures of him and your mother in the paper every once in a while. You don’t look a thing like her.”

Thank God. If he started talking about my mother, I’d have to leave. There was only so much sucking up I was prepared to do to get this listing. “Look, Mr. Vanderhorst, I’ve got another appointment I need to get to, so I’d like to go ahead and discuss—” Once again he interrupted me as if I hadn’t spoken. He glanced down at the two pralines on my plate and seemed to grin. “Your grandfather had a legendary sweet tooth, too.” I opened my mouth to deny it, but Mr. Vanderhorst said, “Do you like old houses, Miss Middleton?” For a moment, I wondered if there were hidden cameras pointed on me to be replayed later on one of those stupid reality television shows.

I felt my mouth working up and down as I tried to figure out how truthful I should be. As if not wanting to hear outright lying, the little dog jumped off the ottoman, gave me a withering look, then ran out of the room. “They’re, um, well, they’re old. Which is nice.” Brilliant. “What I meant to say is that old houses are really popular right now in today’s real estate market. As you probably already know, prices and interest in historic real estate have increased dramatically since the nineteen seventies when the Historic Charleston Foundation sponsored the restoration of the Ansonborough neighborhood. People are buying old houses as investment properties, fixing them up, then selling them for a nice profit.” I risked taking another sip of coffee, hoping he wouldn’t steer the conversation away again. I eyed the pralines, still untouched on my plate, and decided that eating one would give Mr. Vanderhorst too much of a chance to change the conversation again. “As I said on the phone, your lawyer, Mr. Drayton, contacted us about possibly listing your house. I understand that you’re thinking about moving into an assisted-living facility and have no relatives who would be interested in owning the home.” While I spoke, Mr. Vanderhorst left his untouched coffee and pralines and walked to one of the tall windows that looked out into the garden. I could see part of the old oak tree from where I sat. I paused, waiting for him to confirm what I had just told him and took the opportunity to bite into a dark chocolate praline.

His voice was soft when he finally spoke. “I was born in this  house and I’ve lived here my entire life, Miss Middleton. As did my father, and grandfather, and his grandfather before him. This house has been lived in by a member of the Vanderhorst family since it was built in 1848.” The chocolate stuck in my throat. Here it comes. He’s not selling the house and I’ve just wasted an entire morning. I swallowed and waited for him to continue, my conscience tugging at me, reminding me of almost identical words my mother had once said to me. But that had been a long, long, time ago, and I was no longer that girl who had listened with so much hope in her heart.

“But now I’m the only one left. All of those generations before me who worked so hard to keep this house in the family. Even after the Civil War, when things were tight, they sold their silver and jewelry and went hungry just so they could hold on to this house.” He turned to face me, as if remembering that I was in the room. “This house is more than brick, mortar, and lumber. It’s a connection to the past and those who have gone before us. It’s memories and belonging. It’s a home that on the inside has seen the birth of children and the death of the old folks and the changing of the world from the outside. It’s a piece of history you can hold in your hands.” I wanted to add, It’s an unbearable weight of debt hanging around your neck, pulling you down until you land face-first into insolvency. But I didn’t say anything because Mr. Vanderhorst’s face had lost its color, and he seemed to be swaying on his feet. I jumped up and led him to his chair, then handed him his cup of coffee.

“Can I call a doctor for you? You’re not looking well.” I put the coffee on the table next to him and took his hand, remembering what he’d said about his house. It might be just brick and mortar to me, but it was his whole life—a life nearing its end with no family left to refurbish the garden or enjoy the rose china. It saddened me and I didn’t want it to, but I held tight to his hand anyway. He ignored the coffee. “Did you see her? In the garden—did you see her? She only appears to people she approves of, you know.” I was torn between answering him and calling his doctor. But something he had said I had heard before and once, a million years ago, I had believed with all my young and gullible heart. It’s a piece of history you can hold in your hands. I looked into his eyes and allowed myself to see his need and understand his pain.

Taking a deep breath, I said, “Yes. I saw her. But I don’t think it’s because she approves of me. I . . . seem to see things that aren’t there on a kind of regular basis.” Some of the color returned to his face, and he actually smiled. He leaned over and patted me on the leg. “That’s good,” he said. “That’s very good news.” He leaned back and drank his coffee in three big gulps before standing as if nothing had happened. “I hope you don’t mind me ending our nice meeting so abruptly, but I have a few things I need to do this morning before my lawyer arrives.” He pulled a clean linen napkin off the serving tray and put the pralines, complete with the rose-covered china plate, into it before twisting the napkin into a knot on top and handing it to me. I stood, stunned, his actions again rendering me speechless. Finding my voice, I blurted out, “But we haven’t even discussed . . .” I took the napkin-covered plate as he shoved it into my hands. “And I can’t take your plate. I don’t know when I’ll be back this way to return it.” He waved his hand in dismissal. “Oh, never you mind about that. It will be back amongst the other plates sooner than you’d think.”

I wanted to be angry over wasting my morning for a pointless visit. But when I looked down at the plate in my hands, all I could feel was a peculiar regret. Over what? It’s a piece of history you can hold in your hands. Once again, I was seven years old and standing hand in hand with my mother in front of another old house. I felt in my bones what Mr. Vanderhorst was talking about, no matter how much or how long I wanted to deny it, and I allowed a foolish tenderness toward the old man to shake my heart loose.

Mr. Vanderhorst leaned across and gently kissed my cheek. “Thank you, Miss Middleton. You’ve done this old man a world of good by your visit today.” “No, thank you,” I said, surprisingly close to tears. It had been a long time since anyone had kissed me on the cheek, and for a moment I wanted to ask if I could stay for a while longer, eating pralines and drinking coffee while chatting about old ghosts—both the living and the dead kind. But Mr. Vanderhorst had already stood, and the moment passed. Mechanically, I hung my portfolio over my shoulder and clutched the loaded napkin carefully as Mr. Vanderhorst led me to the front door.

 We passed a music room dominated by a concert grand piano, and I remembered the photo of the little boy sitting on the bench. I didn’t have time to linger as Mr. Vanderhorst’s surprisingly strong hand on my back propelled me toward the front door. For a man who shuffled, he seemed determined to get me out of the house. Which was fine with me, really. I’d wasted enough of my day. I stepped outside onto the piazza and turned back to say goodbye. He was beaming now, his eyes bright, shiny pennies behind the thick glasses. “Goodbye, Mr. Vanderhorst. It’s been a pleasure meeting you.” I was surprised to find that I really meant it. “No, Miss Middleton. The pleasure was all mine.” I walked down the piazza toward the door leading to the sidewalk, feeling his gaze on me. When I got to the door, I remembered the plate I was holding. I turned and saw Mr. Vanderhorst watching me from the doorway of the house, as much a part of it as the piazza columns and leaded-glass windows. “I’ll bring back the plate as soon as I can.” I even imagined I’d look forward to a return visit. “I have no doubt that you will, Miss Middleton. Goodbye.” I opened the door, then shut it behind me, feeling him watching me through the garden gate until I disappeared from his view. I didn’t once turn toward the garden, where the sound of a rope swing against old bark had once again begun to punctuate the muggy morning air. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Travel with Dorothea Benton Frank in All Summer Long


When I think of Summer I think of all the places I would like to go.  My dream trips would be to visit Europe more specifically London England, Paris France, and Venice Italy.   I of course would want to take friends with me and visit these sites.  In All SummerLong by Dorothea Benton Frank Nick and Olivia are granted this opportunity through one of Olivia’s clients.  Is this opportunity everything they would hope?

Dorothea Benton Frank:


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Synopsis: 

All Summer Long follows one charming New York couple – prominent interior designer Olivia Ritchie and her husband Nicholas Seymour, an English professor and true southern gentleman.  They are seemingly polar opposites, yet magnetically drawn together and in love for more than fourteen years.

As they prepare to relocate to Charleston, S.C., Olivia, the ultimate New Yorker, has reservations about the promise she made to retire in the Lowcountry, where Nick wants to return home and lead a more peaceful life.  Nick is ecstatic.  Olivia is not.   She can’t let Nick know that their finances are not what he thought.   Her client list is evaporating, their monetary reserves are dwindling and maybe that house she picked out on Sullivans Island needs too much work.  Thank God, for her assistant, Roni Larini, her right (and sometimes left) hand.

As they find themselves pondering the next step of their lives, Olivia and Nick travel with her billionaire clients and their friends and are swept up into the world of the ultra-rich and explore the globe with a cast of zany eccentrics over one tumultuous, hot summer. (Amazon)

My Thoughts: 

I enjoyed the story.   I would bring this one to the beach. Olivia and Nick are very likable as characters.  The billionaire and his wife are not my favorite characters in this story.   The author does a great job of developing the characters.  I also liked the changing of settings from New York City, to Charleston, to Nantucket, to Spain, and more.  I love to travel and this book has many destinations with interesting results.  I did feel that the story had some pacing issues, but overall a great beach read!

Rating:

4/5
To purchase a copy of Dorothea Benton Frank’s current novel By Invitation Only here.




Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Visit With Family Can Become So Much More


I met Lisa Wingate a couple of years ago when she stopped by FoxTale Book Shoppe on tour for The StoryKeeper.  I loved Before We Were Yours and could not wait to dive into this one.   Will this be one to check out at the beach?

Synopsis: 

Successful New York editor, Jen Gibbs, is at the top of her game with her new position at Vida House Publishing -- until a mysterious manuscript from an old slush pile appears on her desk. Turning the pages, Jen finds herself drawn into the life of Sarra, a mixed-race Melungeon girl trapped by dangerous men in the turn of the century Appalachia. A risky hunch may lead to The Story Keeper's hidden origins and its unknown author, but when the trail turns toward the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a place Jen thought she'd left behind forever, the price of a blockbuster next book deal may be higher than she's willing to pay. (amazon)

My Thoughts: 

I enjoyed the story of The Storykeeper.    I am always intrigued when the author writes about the publishing industry from a fictional perspective.  Jen Gibbs story arc  is her position of an editor did much to drive the plot.  I was not however as much of a fan of the Rand and Sara part of the story.  Ms. Wingate did a great job researching the life in Appalachia.  I listened to the audiobook.  I liked the narrator but her use of a different voice for the male roles was a turn off for me. 

One theme explored in this story is family.  Jen Gibbs family was conflicted due to its past entanglements with a cult.  Where  Owen’s family was divided by the past as well.  Rand was also conflicted due to his family because he could not bring Sarra into his world of wealth and privilege.   I loved how each of these characters rose above to step out of their defined roles as established by their families and history.  I don’t know that I would have the courage to do the same.

To purchase a copy of the recent release of Tending Roses here. 

Rating: 


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Saturday, July 7, 2018

How Do You Define Clutch with Lisa Becker and Suzanne Barbetta


Thank you to Audiobookworm Promotions and Lisa Becker for a copy of Clutch the audiobook.  I was given this copy in exchange for an honest review.

Lisa Becker brings us a coming of age tale in her 2015 release of Clutch. Today we celebrate the release on Audible of the audiobook of Clutch.  The main character is Caroline Johnson who is on a journey of sorts which is totally inspired by her Aunt Mimi. Have you ever had a family member that inspires you?  What would you do with the opportunities that come your way?

Synopsis:

Caroline Johnson, a single purse designer who compares her unsuccessful romantic relationships to styles of  handbags – the “Hobo” starving artist, the “Diaper Bag” single dad, the “Briefcase” intense businessman, etc. With her best friend, bar owner Mike by her side, the overly-accommodating Caroline drinks a lot of Chardonnay, puts her heart on the line, endures her share of unworthy suitors and finds the courage to discover the “Clutch” or someone she wants to hold onto. (Amazon)

My Thoughts:

Clutch is a cute story of Caroline  and Michael’s friendship.  I wondered if it would ever be any more than that.  I love how the author used handbags to describe each of the men in Caroline’s life.   Suzanne Barbetta did a great job bringing to life the characters of Mike and Caroline.  It made the readers appreciate the humor of many of the situations with her narration.  I have been a fan of Lisa’s for a long time.  I hope she will do well for a long time.

Purchase a copy of Clutch here.

Rating:

4/5

Visit Lisa on her social media platform:


Visit Suzanne Barbetta media platform: 








Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Let’s Journey Back to the Beach House One More Time


Thank you to Gallery Books and Mary Alice Monroe for sending me a copy of Beach House Reunion.  I was given this copy in exchange for an honest review.

The perfect way to begin the summer is to make another trip to the beach house.  It is three years after the events of the previous book Beach House for Rent which has been reviewed here.  Also I hope that everyone has seen the Beach House movie that so perfectly introduced readers to Lovie’s family and many of the characters we will see in this book.

Synopsis:

Cara Rutledge returns to her Southern home on the idyllic Isle of Palms. Everything is comfortingly the same, yet each detail is rife with painful memories. Only through reconnecting with family, friends, and the rhythms of the lowcountry can Cara release the hold of the past and open herself to the possibility of a new love, career, and hope for the future.

Meanwhile, her niece Linnea, a recent college graduate who doesn’t know where her life will take her, leaves her historic home in Charleston, with all its entitlement and expectations, and heads to her aunt’s beach house. On the island, she is part of the freer, natural ocean lifestyle she loves, rejoining the turtle team, learning to surf, and falling in love. Remembering the lessons of her beloved grandmother, Lovie, the original “turtle lady,” Linnea rediscovers a meaningful purpose to her life and finds the courage she needs to break from tradition.

In this heartwarming novel, three generations of the Rutledge family gather together to find the strength, love, and commitment to break destructive family patterns and to forge new bonds that will endure long beyond one summer reunion. (maryalicemonroe.com)

My Thoughts: 

I always look forward to each summer to sharing the latest Mary Alice Monroe book.  I will confess that I have not read all of the Beach House Books.  I still enjoyed Beach House Reunion.  Ms. Monroe moves the book forward three years from Beach House for Rent.  Cara comes back bringing a new daughter into the family.  She hopes to get family involved while she hunts for a new job.  Linnea the daughter of Palmer comes to help Cara.  I enjoyed seeing her blossom as a character in this book, and see what Palmer’s family is like.  Palmer does not have an easy path in this book.  It concludes with a magical ending, which changes Palmer’s mind about the beach house.   My only issue with the book is the timing of some of the things mentioned in the book like the hurricane that happened last year or the age or Heather’s baby. 

To purchase a copy of Beach House Reunion here.

The Beach House movie air again on Wednesday June 27th at 9pm est or purchase it here.

Rating:

4/5

Please visit Mary Alice on her social media platforms