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by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I'm discussing different book genres/categories. Each day, I will give a few details about the ...

November 10, 2019

5 Books for Women

by Susan Roberts

Women's fiction is an umbrella term for books that are marketed to female readers, and includes many mainstream novels, romantic fiction, "chick lit," and other sub-genres. It is distinct from Women's writing, which refers to literature written by (rather than promoted to) women. There exists no comparable label in English for works of fiction that are marketed to males.  (Goodreads)

As you can see from the above description of Women's Fiction, it's an umbrella term for many different genres. In today's post, I have five books that would be considered women's fiction - a suspense novel, a romance novel, two historical fiction novels and a coming of age novel.

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The Lying Room by Nicci French

The Lying Room
September 2019; Simon & Schuster; 978-1471179235
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); suspense
"One evening a few months ago, after she had biked home from work through the pouring rain and was making supper, still in her yellow cycling jacket with soaking trousers and squelching shoes and water dripping from her hair, she had thought:  I can't go on like this.  I've had enough.  Enough of always being in a hurry, always a bit behind, always feeling that there was something she'd forgotten." (p4)

The novel begins with a very domestic scene. Neve, a 40ish mom is fixing breakfast and packing school lunches for her three children and making tea for her husband who starts his day by unloading the dishwasher. This is a normal morning for families all over the world. But we soon find out that life isn't as happy as it first appears. Neve, after 20 years of marriage, has decided to add some excitement to her life by having an affair with her boss Saul. Why not - her life has gotten in a rut, she is the major breadwinner in the family and her children have gotten to the age that they don't really need her anymore. As the family is having breakfast, she receives a text from Saul to meet him at the flat he rents because he misses her after the fun evening they'd had the day before. When she arrives at the flat, she finds Saul brutally murdered and immediately goes into survival mode. To cover it up, she lies to her husband, her family, her friends, and the police. As her lies get more confusing, she lies to cover her lies. I was reminded of the line "Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive.” The rest of the book is full of twists and turns as Neve keeps changing her story and changes her opinion over and over about who really killed Saul.

This was an interesting novel and I didn't have a clue who the 'bad guy' was until near the end of the novel and enjoyed all of the red herrings. My main problem with this book is that I really didn't like any of the characters. I thought that Neve hid too much of herself from those she loved, I thought that her husband was a lazy person who didn't contribute emotionally to the family and I didn't like their daughter Mabel who had a terrible attitude toward her parents. I also didn't like any of Neve's work friends. It's really difficult to get invested in a story if you don't really connect with any of the characters. That said, this book did have a lot of promise and an interesting storyline so I plan to try some different books by this author.

Buy The Lying Room at Amazon

And Now There's You by Susan S. Etkin

And Now There's You
September 2019; SparkPress; 978-1684630004
ebook, print (326 pages); romance
"Leila slowly pivoted; she leaned against the doorframe and crossed her arms the way a mother would position herself before scolding her child. 'All right. Let’s get this out in the open. My daughter and my business partner decided for my birthday they’d give me a consultation with Dr. Goodwin. They were concerned I’d become a hermit after my husband’s death. I was totally against it, but I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. That’s all there is to it. It’s unfortunate the two of us were paired up. I think you’ll agree it’s important to keep our relationship totally professional.'”  (p 55)

This is an entertaining romance about finding love after 50. I always enjoy reading a book with older characters - the problems of life aren't just for the 30-year-olds as much of the current writing wants you to believe.

Leila is in her mid-fifties and she's been a widow for 5 years since her husband died from cancer. He was the love of her life and it took her a long time to recover from his death but now her daughter and best friend have decided that it's time for her to find a man - not necessarily to marry again but for companionship - to have someone to go to dinner and parties with. To make this happen, they give her a birthday gift of an appointment with a professional matchmaker. Her response to this gift was between 'appreciated and infuriated' but they wouldn't take no for an answer. After extensive questions, the matchmaker gives her the name and bios of three men that she feels would be good matches. She's shocked that one of the men on the list is an architect that she had recently met on a new design consultation. She goes on dates with the first two men - man #1 expects sex on the first date and man #2 still misses his late wife too much to have a new relationship so she finally decides to go on a date with Ayden, the architect, who both interests her and infuriates her. The rest of the novel is full of love and rejection and reconciliation and the major question is whether Leila and Ayden will get their 'happily ever after'.

I enjoyed this book because the characters were older but I thought that the book could have been much better than it was. I wasn't really interested in the characters. The main characters, Leila and Ayden just didn't know what they wanted out of life so it made them seem to indecisive. I think the book would have been much better if it had been about 100 pages shorter - that way we could have seen some indecision from both of the main characters but it wouldn't have been repeated over and over.

I think that this author has a lot of potential to be an excellent romance writer and I will look at her future books.

Buy And Now There's You at Amazon

Monarch Manor by Maureen Leurck 

Monarch Manor
July 2019; Kensington; 978-1496719782
audio, ebook, print (288 pages); women's fiction
"Amelia felt complete when she was at Monarch Manor. She loved the butterflies that found sanctuary in the gardens, the veranda that protected the soft swish of the white wicker rocking chairs and the summer cicadas that lulled her to sleep each night. But most of all, she loved that the estate rested on the shores of Geneva Lake. The water was a sparkling, magical beauty that pulled her near and begged her to jump in." (p1)

This is a beautifully written novel about families with special needs children. It's a dual timeline with Amelia and her deaf son John in 1923 and Erin and her autistic son Will in present day. Both stories are full of love of mothers for their sons and how they work to help their sons find their place in the world despite their special needs.

Erin is helping her mother clean out her grandmother's cluttered home so that the house can be sold. As she is going through piles of 'mementos' she finds an envelope of old pictures. She's unsure who is in the pictures but she knows that they are distant family and she is amazed to see that the young boy in the picture looks exactly like her son Will. She goes on a quest to find out about the people in the pictures and what happened to them. At the same time, she is overly stressed at home while she tries to find the best place for her son to go to a school that will provide him with the best chance of learning to live with his needs. Her husband and Will's twin sister are helpful but Erin is the person who really worries about her son. Her research of the pictures leads her to Monarch Manor, now a dilapidated mansion, and she continues to try to find out more about the family. She soon finds out that Amelia and her son drowned on a stormy night when they were on a boat ride on Geneva Lake. But she still has hope that somehow the connection will help her with trying to help Will. The further she digs, the more discrepancies she finds. Did Amelia and John really die?

Amelia is visiting Monarch Manor with her son John, who is deaf. Her husband has just died and her mother in law wants to send John away to a school for 'people like him' so that he will no longer cause embarrassment to the family. Amelia is heartbroken and knows that she needs to do something to keep her son with her because she knows that she can help him learn to live a good life. Do they really drown or is it just a way to escape from her mother in law and her plans?

This is a beautiful story about love and the lengths women will go for their families and their children.

Buy Monarch Manor at Amazon

Previous books by Maureen Leurck: Cicada Summer (see review here)

I Never Told You by Bernie Brown

I Never Told You
October 2019; Moonshine Cove Publishing
978-1945181696; ebook, print (284 pages)
women's fiction
"This day, September 10, 1965, her darling daughter Katya was leaving home for the Walker College of Commercial Art to pursue her dreams of becoming a fashion illustrator. The house back in Weaver would be a tomb without her rushing up and down the stairs with The Dave Clark Five blaring from the radio... And  no more heart to heart talks, no more bowls of popcorn and late-night movies and costume critiques. Anna couldn't bear her daughter's leaving but she would have to." (p 11)

I read about this debut novel in a Facebook group and pre-ordered it from Amazon so that I could have it on the day it was published. I love reading books by debut authors and I love reading books by NC authors and this book was all that I hoped for. Bernie Brown wrote a terrific first novel and I am definitely looking forward to her future novels.

Anna and her daughter Katya live in a small town in Iowa where Anna owns a dress shop. It's just been the two of them for years and they are best friends. Anna is sad when Katya moves to Chicago to go to college but realizes that its part of growing up. At the same time,  Anna is also excited to know that she'll be able to spend more time with Dave, her married lover. They've had to sneak around for years because she didn't want her daughter to know about her affair with a married man. Katya soon has secrets of her own when she finds herself attracted to girls and her biggest fear is that her mother will find out and hate her. When the inevitable happens and they find out each other's secrets, they both claim that they never want to see each other again. Can they become a loving mom and daughter again or will their bitterness and hurt totally end their relationship with each other?

This is a beautifully written novel about family and love;  betrayal and forgiveness. This was a thought-provoking book that is as applicable today as it was in the 1960s - people still trying to be who they are without guilt and without prejudice.

Buy I Never Told You at Amazon

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland 

October 2019; St. Martin's Griffin; 978-1250217011
audio, ebook, print (419 pages); romance
"All I can do for now is doze and think,  and doze again. My heart is getting weaker, my body bluer. People I haven't seen in awhile are starting to drop in...We all pretend were not getting ready to say goodbye. It seems easiest.  But my mother cries when she thinks I'm seeping so maybe here, now, is time to admit that I might actually be on the way out." (p3)

The Curious Heart of Alisa Rae is a heartwarming look at a transplant patient. Once someone gets a new heart, their life totally changes - they go from being an invalid to learning to do things that they could never do before because of their health. This is Alisa's story from an almost dying 28-year-old to a brave and fearless woman who is anxious to live her life to the fullest.

Ailsa has spent all of her life as a heart patient. She was born with a bad heart and has been in and out of the hospital and had numerous surgeries since she was born. She's now 28 and getting closer to death than she ever has before. She can't do anything but lay in bed and try to breathe, never knowing if it will be her last breath. Suddenly she gets the word that there is a heart available and it's hers. Once it's transplanted she has to heal in two ways - she has to heal physically and she has to heal emotionally and not be afraid to start living her life as a normal 28-year-old woman would.

Once she starts to feel better, she wants to live by herself instead of with her mother. Her mother, who had been at her daughter's bedside for years, takes it badly and feels like her daughter is shoving her out of her life. Then when Alisa asks about her biological father, her mother really gets upset. Alisa starts having lots of adventures - she takes Tango lessons, she meets a television star who had a cornea implant and their relationship gets steamy and she is starting to live a good life. She wants to be brave and fearless but she still relies on other people's opinions. She has been writing a blog for years and asks questions of her readers and often takes their advice. It upsets her mother that she'll take direction from the results of her blog polls before she'll take advice from her mother.

I like the way that the book was laid out. Not only do we get Ailsa's story told by her but we also get frequent blog posts and lots of tweets to learn more about her thought process and where she is at in her life. It was a unique and interesting way to tell the story.

This is a heartwarming story about learning to live life to its fullest after living a totally confined life. You'll love watching Ailsa grow and become braver and stronger as she realizes that she can have a life and plan a future.

You can also check out MK's review.

Buy The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae 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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  1. thanks for sharing. it's bloggers like you who are giving me some ideas for other posts, besides tours and reviews. thanks for sharing
    sherry @ fundinmental