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August 25, 2019

7 Women's Fiction Novels to Wrap Up Summer

by Susan Roberts

Women's fiction is an umbrella term for women-centered books that focus on women's life experience that are marketed to female readers.  I have seven women's fiction books today that show how varied the novels are that fall into the genre of women's fiction-- one is family life humor, one is a suspense novel, the third is a novel about an extremely dysfunctional family, two books about older women at pivotal points in their lives, and two books about women who have to make a decision whether to accept and forgive their past and start overlooking towards a happier life in the future. All of them are great books to wrap up the summer and head into fall with.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

The Floating Feldmans by Elyssa Friedland 

The Floating Feldmans
July 2019; Berkley; 978-0399586897
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); satire
"The Feldmans, all seven of them, were going to take a cruise. Everyone would be a captive.  Her captives.  Nobody could claim they had friends to visit or that they needed to cut the trip short for work. They would be stranded together on the high seas and she, as the one footing the bill, would be in charge of making sure it was all smooth sailing." (Loc 1006)

The Feldmans are a dysfunctional family. They all have secrets from each other and no one seems to understand anything about the other members of the family. The novel is told in multiple voices and we get to hear everyone's opinions on family issues and on each other.

Annette is turning 70 and decides that she and her recently retired husband, David, should take the family on a cruise to celebrate. Their two children can barely spend a few days with them so a week-long cruise is going to be difficult for all of them. Their son has always been a mystery to them - he never reached the goals that they had set for him and has always felt underappreciated. He shows up for the cruise with his new much younger girlfriend. Annette's daughter, Elsie is married with two teenage children. There is little to no communication between Elsie and her children and she is keeping a major secret from her husband...but is he also keeping a secret from her? With all this deception going on, spending 7 days on a cruise is either going to make them or break them...

This compelling novel is about being part of a family and trying to accept each other. The dash of humor that's thrown in, makes it all the more realistic.

Buy The Floating Feldmans at Amazon

The Two Lila Bennetts by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke 

The Two Lila Bennetts
July 2019; Lake Union Publishing; 978-1542093712
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); women's fiction
"Karma's a bitch, and I have no doubt you'll get yours." (loc 218)

I have enjoyed all of the books by Liz and Lisa and loved their new book. They tried something very different in this book and I thought that it was a huge success. I couldn't put the book down until I got all of my questions answered and knew how Lila's life was going to turn out.

This book is told in two voices -- not in two time periods or by two different people but by one person - Lila Bennett - with her life split in two with different outcomes for each. In one scenario, Lila is kidnapped and forced to apologize to the people she has hurt. In the other scenario, she goes home to her husband but due to circumstances wants to make amends to the people she's hurt. Ok, so who is this Lila Bennett. She is an attorney who fights for people even if she thinks they are guilty, she plays dirty and is really an unlikeable person. Or is she? She loves her mom, even though her mom irritates her; she loves her husband but then why is she having an affair, she loved her best friend but then why did she cheat her out of a prime job... Lila is ruthless and arrogant and driven to win at any cost. Can she change and become a better person? As important, who has kidnapped her and why? My opinion changed several times but I didn't even imagine the ending!

So clear your calendar before you start this book and jump on the roller coaster ride that Liz and Lisa create for you! You're bound to lose some sleep over this one!

“Maybe all we are is the sum of our choices, each one leading us down a different path, each with its own unique outcome.”

Buy The Two Lila Bennetts at Amazon

Under Currents by Nora Roberts

Under Currents
July 2019; St. Martin's Press; 978-1250207098
audio, ebook, print (448 pages); domestic thriller
"Not much more than a year ago, I was barely able to go through the motions.  We're both rebuilding our lives and we're doing a pretty good job of it." (p293)

Undercurrent definition -  an underlying feeling or influence, especially one that is contrary to the prevailing atmosphere and is not expressed openly.

 I used to read every book that Nora Roberts wrote.  Over time,  I began to feel that her yearly trilogies were all based on basically the same plot and I got bored with them.  For the past several years, she has been publishing a new stand-alone title every summer.  I thought they were excellent books with great plots and interesting character.  Under Currents is this summer's book and it was a fantastic book to read.

Summer is officially here because we have a new stand-alone by Nora Roberts. As with many of her part books, this one is about family and love and forgiveness. Parts of this book were painful to read but the overall feeling of the book was love.

"She couldn't think past the two children, living in cruelty and fear and violence. And somehow surviving it, not being dragged down by those ugly under currents." (p 203)

The novel is divided into three sections:

Section 1 is The Cruelty of Lies and is about Zane and his sister Britt and their parents. From the outside, they had a fantastic life - Graham, the dad, was the head of surgery at a local hospital and mom spent her time on committees. Both kids were fantastic students - Zane played baseball and Britt was talented on the piano. The only problem is that this was the view from the outside. Inside the home, Graham was a controlling and abusive person. He regularly beat his wife and on this day, he beat his son for coming to his mom's defense. It's difficult to read parts of this section and to see such cruelty.
The next two sections are about Zane returning to his home town to open up a law practice. He wants to re-connect with his friends despite his bad memories during the time he was growing up. When he returns, he meets Darby, a talented landscaper who has just moved into town and has secrets of her own. Will Zane and Darby be able to forget their difficult memories and move ahead with love or will their pasts continue to haunt them?

This is a character-driven book about Zane and Darby. They are both very well written and it was easy to hope for the best outcome for their lives. As normal with Nora Roberts, this was a real page-turner of a book and kept me enthralled until the end. It's an enduring story of love and family and the ability to get beyond bad things in the past and look toward a brighter future.

Warning - Be aware that this book some difficult scenes of domestic violence.

Buy Under Currents from Amazon

The Bridge Between by Lindsey P. Brackett

The Bridge Between
July 2019; Firefly Southern Fiction; 978-1645260769
ebook, print (299 pages); southern fiction
"Was it just lowcounry storms or her uncertain future keeping her awake?  More often than not, it was the creaking of those old rockers on the front porch.  Memories rolled over her, keeping time with thunder and flashes of lightning.  During storms, Daddy had always sat on the back porch, watching.  Clouds the color of the steel wool Mama used on the cast iron skillet, would bank low over the tidal creek then moved across the pastured and pines.  (loc 14)

The Bridge Between takes us to beautiful Edisto Island in South Carolina.  The descriptions are so real that you can almost smell the salt air and the pluff mud while you are reading this later life coming of age novel.  NOTE:  Even though this book is a continuation of the 2017 book Still Waters, it can be read as a standalone.

Louisa lives in her old family home on Edisto Island with her triplet sons.  Her daughter lives nearby as does her ex-husband David.  Lou and David have shared custody of the three boys which often brings them in uneasy contact with each other.  Even though they have divorced, there is a lot of strong feelings between them.  Lou grew up on Edisto and when she graduated from high school, she couldn't wait to get away to the 'real world' and continue her education.  Yet, here she was back on the island, still unsure of the direction she wants her life to go.  Should she get a job or go back to school?  She is not happy with her life but is unsure of where she'll find happiness.  The book deals with lots of problems that we all face - in-laws, jealousy and trying to find your place in the world.  As Lou struggles, her relationship with her ex-husband continues to grow stronger which causes even more problems for Lou.  Will she find out what she wants in life and be able to reach for it without hurting those who love her?

I really liked the main characters of Lou and David.  Even though they were divorced, they worked together to provide a good family for their children.  Neither was sure what the future held for them but they were both willing to take a chance with their careers and their futures.  I hope that this isn't the last we read about these characters on Edisto Island - I hate to say goodbye to them.

Buy The Bridge Between at Amazon

Still Waters by Lindsey P. Brackett

Still Waters
 September 2017; Firefly Southern Fiction
978-1946016232; ebook, print (274 pages)
southern fiction
"In the top left frame was a sunset view of Still Waters, her grandparents' beach cottage.  Indigo ocean and deep purple sky streaked orange as the sun's orb sank low on the horizon.  Next was a dawn shot of the cottage taken in soft, hazy light.  A classic beach bungalow with the Atlantic in the background and the sea grass waving in the breeze." (p 7)

Still Waters is the debut for this author and after reading it, I can't wait to read her new book that publishes in the summer, 2019. She takes us to the Lowcountry of SC to Edisto Beach for a story of family, love, and redemption.

Cora Ann has just graduated from college and the internship that she hoped for was put on hold so she returns home. She lives a very rigid life and it's difficult for her to cope with changes so when her grandmother asks her to come to Edisto Beach and help her with some projects. Even though she used to love the ocean and the beach house, she is very reluctant to go back due to a tragedy that happened when she was a child - a tragedy that she can't forgive herself for. It's also the place where her grandfather died and her parents' marriage ended. She loves her grandmother so she decides to go but is not happy about it and she wants everyone around her to avoid their happiness. Her grandmother, Nan, has a plan for Cora Ann's summer and a plan to get her to fully accept the past and look forward to the future. Will Nan be successful or will Cora Ann continue to live her life based on things that happened in the past? Will Cora Anne choose between a life driven by guilt, or one washed clean by the tides of grace?

This is a lovely well-written novel with very likable characters. I especially enjoyed Nan who loved her granddaughter and tried to help her change her life. I also loved the setting of Edisto Beach and made me want to pack up and take a vacation at the beach in a small cottage.

This is a novel about family and love and forgiveness - not forgiveness of others but forgiveness of ourselves.

Buy Still Waters at Amazon

Lindsey P. Brackett writes southern fiction infused with her rural Georgia upbringing and Lowcountry roots. Her debut novel, Still Waters, inspired by family summers at Edisto Beach, released in 2017. Called “a brilliant debut” with “exquisite writing,” Still Waters was named an INSPY finalist and the 2018 Selah Book of the Year. Her second novel, The Bridge Between, releases July 31, 2019.

Window on the Bay by Debbie Macomber

Window on the Bay
July 2019; Ballantine Books; 978-0399181337
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); family saga
"My nest was now empty.  The silent house had never felt louder.  It was as if I could hear the hollowness surrounding me.  While I had been looking forward to this time, I wasn't completely sure what I wanted to do with myself.  I'd spent the last sixteen years as a single mom, dedicating my life, my resources and my everything to my two children, all the while juggling a full-time career.  It hadn't been easy being both mother and father."  (loc 148)

It's always fun to pick up a Debbie Macomber book because you know that's it's going to be an easy read with a happily ever after ending. Though this book tackled some problems that you don't see in normal romance novels, it was still a satisfying read.

Jenna and Maureen became friends in college and planned to visit Paris after they graduated. The trip never happened because Maureen got pregnant and married. Jenna also married her boyfriend and had two children. After only a few years, he decided that he didn't want to be married and after their divorce, he had very little contact with his children. As the book begins, we find out that Jenna and Maureen are both empty nesters who are unsure of how to live their lives without children. One of their first decisions is to plan their Paris trip again. As their lives continue to change, they both decide to try dating again which causes complications. Maureen starts to date a construction worker who visits the library frequently and Jenna starts to date the doctor who took care of her mother. Neither one of the women knows if they can learn to trust men again or if they will get their happily ever after.

This was a light fun read. I didn't enjoy it as much as other books by this author because I didn't like several of the characters. I thought that Jenna was way too controlling with her children - she said they she was glad that they were grown up but felt like she had to control every aspect of their lives. I also didn't like Logan, the construction that Maureen dated. He didn't seem very willing to make changes in his life to make her happy.

Will Jenna and Maureen be able to relax and enjoy the changes that are happening in their lives? Will they get their happily ever after? It's time to read this light romance book and find out.

Buy Window on the Bay at Amazon

Lulu's Cafe by T.I. Lowe

Lulu's Cafe
June 2019; Tyndale House Publishers
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); romance
"Some scars don't ever heal.  No matter how awfully bad you want them to.  They're just too deep."  (P281)

Lulu's Cafe is a well-written book about domestic violence. I want to warn you right now that there is a lot of violence in the first part of the book and it was difficult to read. Once I got past that part, the book was a wonderful story about creating a family out of people you love and who care about you. It was a story of love and change and hope for the future.

Gabriella has bounced around in the foster care system her entire life. So when a handsome man asks her to marry him and moves her away to a wonderful home, she felt like her life had finally taken a turn for the better. That is, until he hit her the first time, locked her in a closet for days and punished her for anything he felt was an indiscretion on her part. After 10 long years of torture and abuse, she packs a bag and gets on a bus. She has cuts on her face and scars all over her body. She runs away to Rivertown, SC. where she doesn't know anyone and isn't sure how long she'll stay. She changes her name to Leah. When she goes into Lulu's Cafe for breakfast, Lulu sees the scars and realizes that she needs help and offers her a job and a place to live. She got more compassion from a total stranger than she had ever received from anyone in her life. As she tries to fit into life in Rivertown, she has to learn to leave her memories behind as she tries to find a better life and put herself back together. Exploring the resiliency of both the heart and the spirit, Lulu's Cafe shows how love and family can heal old scars no matter how deep they seem.

This is a beautiful book about love and family and Leah is a character that I won't soon forget.

Buy Lulu's Cafe at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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