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February 9, 2020

6 Winter Books that Fans of Women's Fiction Should Read

by Susan Roberts



There is nothing better than curling up with a good book on a cold winter day. And this winter there has been a tremendous amount of wonderful new releases in women's fiction. Here are 6 books you don't want to miss.

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


Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown


Recipe for a Perfect
December 2019; Dutton; 978-1524744939
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); women's fiction
"The sun always returned...as long as you were strong enough to wait for it." (loc 3971)

This wonderful new book by Karma Brown looks at women's role in the 1950s and today. The two main characters live in the same house 60 years apart. They never met each other but their stories are intertwined in many different ways.

1950s - Nellie lives with a husband who abuses her. She hides her scars from her neighbors and becomes the perfect housewife well known for her kindness, her garden and her baking. As we learn more about Nellie, we find out that there is much more to her than the perfect housewife that she lets the world see.

Present Day - Alice and her husband Nate decide to leave NYC and buy a fixer-upper in the suburbs. Alice is a modern-day woman who has always worked and isn't sure what to do with her life. When she finds an old 1950s cookbook in the basement along with some magazines, she starts to spend time reading them and trying out the recipes.

Despite the differences, there are many parallels between the 2 women - both have husbands who are anxious to start a family while neither of the women is ready. Both women are hiding secrets from their husbands but don't have a problem with it. When all is said and done - is there really much difference between the expectations of a wife in 1950 and in 2020?

The characters in this book and well written and representative of the times they live in. I didn't always like Alice and her secrets but I understood her reasons. I enjoyed the way that the book was written with advice to 1950s wives or old recipes at the beginning of each chapter.  Here is some of the advice from books and magazine articles from the 1950s:

"Don't expect your husband to make you happy while you are simply a passive agent.  Do your best to make him happy and you will find happiness yourself."

"Remember your most important job is to build up and maintain his ego."

"Nagging is a devastating emotional disease.  If you are in doubt about having it, ask your husband.  If he should tell you that you are a nag, don't react by violent denial - that only proves he is right."

"The average man marries a woman who is slightly less intelligent than he is.  That's why many brilliant women never marry.  They do not come in contact with sufficiently brilliant men or fail to disguise their brilliance in order to win a man of somewhat less intelligence."

The recipes were for items from Baked Alaska to mint jelly to boiled cookies.  One was for tuna casserole baked with potato chips on top that I remember my mother making when I was young.  And no, I have no plans of replicating that recipe.

Overall this was a fun read that would be a great book club read.

Buy Recipe for a Perfect Wife at Amazon

All the Silent Voices by Elena Mikalsen

All the Silent Voices
January 2020; Wild Rose Press; 978-1509228898
ebook, print (334 pages); thriller
"How did Richard find me?  How is this possible?  I try very hard not to sway.  Everything spins and the nausea is back.  I need to think straight;  I can't be sick right now. I must figure out what to do." (loc 233)

Twenty-one years ago, Emma Shephard was sexually assaulted and forced to leave college.  Her rapist, Richard,  was a big man on campus and the star football player so the school didn't even listen to her and tried to convince her that it was all her fault.  Twenty-one years later she has a loving husband and a daughter ready to go away to college.  She has never told her husband about the assault.  Emma and Aidan are both in executive positions at the same company.  When the company is bought out, her whole world falls apart when she finds out the new owner is the man who raped her 21 years earlier.  It makes her sick even to look at him and she avoids meetings - she isn't sure if he remembers her and doesn't want to spend any time around him.  Her husband thinks that he is a great guy and a fantastic businessman and keeps praising him while at the same time Emma is quietly falling apart.  Her feelings soon turn to anger as she begins to make plans for  revenge and I was reminded of this phrase:

Revenge is a dish best served cold 
An old, widely used phrase expressing the sentiment that revenge that is delayed, and executed well after the heat of anger has dissipated, is more satisfying than revenge taken as an immediate act of rage.

Will Emma get her revenge or will the actions in the past threaten her husband and daughter and the life that they've built.  Will Emma be able to make the right decisions so that her family can find happiness in their future?  Will her marriage survive her secrets from the past?

All the Silent Voices is not only a real page-turner but the main character Emma is so well written that you feel like her friend.  I could feel her pain and anger as she had to make decisions to save her family.  Unfortunately, this book is based on stories that are happening every day at colleges and workplaces around the country.  The author says in her acknowledgments:  "As I finished writing this story, #MeToo movement was gathering speed and women began to tell their stories.  But many women, like Emma, still felt their stories cold never be heard.  They were not famous, were too frightened, their attackers too powerful, and their voices were silenced.  I hope this book gives them some hope."

Buy All the Silent Voices at Amazon

Dedication
The world is full of silent voices;
Those whose voices have been taken away
by abuse, fear, and evil,
Those who have been terrified into silence,
Those who haven't had their day in court,
Those who have suffered in pain
And who hide in the shadows
instead of walking proudly
and greeting their future with joy.
One day, I believe you will find your strength
and let your voices roar.
This Story is for you.

Lavender, Loss & Love at the Villa des Violettes by Patricia Sands

Lavender, Loss, and Love
January 2020; 978-1660686414
ebook, print (220 pages); women's fiction
"It's all about family...simple as that.  They come in all shapes and sizes." (p 155)

I feel like I've just returned from a trip to France.  Patricia Sands writes so descriptively about the beauty of France that the reader can almost smell lavender in the air.  The food is also written about in such a way that you can almost see it and taste it. Of course, it would be better to actually be in France but if you can't get there, this will help.

Once again we are back with our old friends - Kat and Philippe as they set out on the new adventure of opening a bed and breakfast.  They also spend time with characters that we know from previous books - I especially enjoy Simone and Delphine.  Kat and Philippe are in love with each other and in love with their friends and family and as important, they love where they live in the south of France.  They have a real joie de vivre despite some of the issues that happen to friends and family.

My advice is to get comfortable and take a trip to the south of France with Patricia Sands as your guide.  You'll be glad that you did!

NOTE:  This is book three in this series, but Lavender, Loss & Love... can be read as a standalone novel! However, the series is so much fun that you probably want to read all of the books!

Buy Lavender, Loss & Love at the Villa des Violettes at Amazon

Where Have All the Boys Gone? by Jenny Colgan

Where Have All the Boys Gone
January 2020; William Morrow; 978-0062869647
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); women's fiction
Jenny Colgan is a Scottish author who has published more than 30 books in the last 20 years.  As with any other craft, you get better the longer you work at it and that is certainly true with this book.  I was unaware that it was a republished book that was originally published in 2005 - if I'd known that, I wouldn't have bought it.  I love this author's newer books - they are filled with humor and friendship and love.  Where Have All the Boys Gone? is filled with attempts at humor along with lots of love and friendship.  I enjoyed the book but not nearly as much as I have enjoyed the books that she's written in the last five years.

Faced with the harsh reality that there are 25,000 more women than men in London, Katie’s dating prospects are at an all-time low. While she’s glad it’s not a man’s world anymore, it wouldn’t hurt if there were more eligible bachelors.

There are very few eligible men in London and there are lots of single women looking for a man.   After a terrible date, Katie decides that she needs to move to rural Scotland where there are lots of men and only a few women.  She doesn't get the job but later is transferred there to help with a PR campaign.  She and her friend move to a small town in Scotland on a temporary basis.  They immediately become a great interest to the men in town but is that what they really want?  Katie is trying to make the best of her job with a boss who is always grouchy and almost impossible to work for.  She falls for the local newspaper owner but is he what she really wants out of life?  When she's in Scotland, she misses the excitement of London but when she returns to London she realizes that she misses the quiet and peaceful life that she had in rural Scotland.  She has to make a decision about where she'll spend the rest of her life or is there a way she can have it all?

Where Have All the Boys Gone? was a fun easy read with several interesting characters.  My advice is to read Jenny Colgan books when you want a laugh and a great light-hearted story with well written female characters but read her books written in the last 5 years - they are all great to read.

The Cafe by the Sea - read my review
Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery - read my review
The Bookshop on the Corner - read my review

Buy Where Have All the Boys Gone? at Amazon

The Ruby of the Sea by Peggy Lampman

"Red sea glass is extremely rare.  Some call it the ruby of the sea."


The Ruby of the Sea
January 2020; Alliance Press; 978-0578637099
ebook, print (400 pages); women's fiction
 "Glass that's been tumbling through the ocean for decades develops a patina of the sea.  It has a great deal of depth and often tells a story.  Red glass was expensive to make so they saved it for important items." (p188)

This is one of those rare books that I had to wait a few days before I could write my review.  The characters continued to resonate in my thoughts after the last page and I wanted to make sure that I could wait to give an honest review.  My short review is YOU MUST READ THIS NEW NOVEL by Peggy Lampman. My longer and more in depth review follows:

This beautiful and well-written novel is about a family in Key West, Florida - not just the Key West that we've all seen in movies or as tourists but the Key West that isn't full of tourists and souvenir shops.  Twin sisters Linnea and Delphina were very close when they were younger but now they are nothing alike and not close to each other at all.  They are in their early 30s and Linnea has moved to Idaho and returns home rarely while Delphina runs a snorkeling company with her husband in Key West and is proud to be part of the island.  They have a younger sister Ivy who spends most of her time at home alone creating art.  Their parents run a b&b and the twins think they are overly protective of Ivy and vow that they will spend some time with their sister and find out what's going on in her life.

All of the sisters are hiding secrets from each other and as those secrets are gradually revealed throughout the book, the reader can only feel more compassion for each of them.  Parts of the novel are fun - parades in Key West, chickens roaming the streets but parts of it are very difficult and deal with mental illness and dysfunctional families. "You tell me about a family without a certain amount of dysfunction, and I’ll tell you that family is lying." A hurricane heading towards Key West makes the family members realize the things that are most important in life are not their possessions but each other.

First off, I love stories about sisters plus I love stories set in southern locales so this book was a hit for me.  But more than that, it was a story that made me laugh out loud in parts and made me 'ugly cry' a few pages later.  The characters are well written and very real and it becomes easy to identify and care about them. I loved-loved-loved this novel and highly recommend it.

Buy The Ruby of the Sea at Amazon

A Light Last Seen by Grace Greene

A Light Last Seen
February 2020; Kersey Creek Books
978-1732878501; ebook, print (318 pages)
southern fiction
"Time and memories are fluid.  Just when you think the artifacts of your past have been carefully packed away and left securely behind, the ghosts of them - the memories - grab you like quicksand and suck you right back into what you wanted to forget.  The present is never free of the past." (p 14)

Readers can always depend on Grace Greene to give them a beautifully written book with well developed and believable characters. Her new book is no exception and is my new favorite book by her.

Jaynie lives in rural Virginia with her mother and older brother. Her father died years earlier in an accident and her mother had never gone on with her life after he died. She has a bad temper and takes it out on her children - especially her daughter. The only person in Jaynie's world that she feels cares about her is her elderly neighbor Ruth who listens to her and gives her lots of advice for her future. As she planned, Jaynie left town as soon as she graduated and took a job in the city. When she moved, she leaves behind - and forgets - parts of her past. She even takes a new name and everyone calls her Ruth. Her memories of her childhood are that her mother was never a mother to her and that her life was miserable. Seventeen years after leaving, Jaynie returns to her home. She plans to be there briefly, sell her mother's house and start over again somewhere new. Things have changed and she realizes that she needs to stay longer than she's planned. A longer stay may be vital to her future because if she wants to change her future and find happiness, she needs to remember her past and make changes to her present attitudes to find happiness.

A Light Last Seen is a novel about family and love and forgiveness -- not just forgiveness of people who have wronged you but more importantly forgiveness of yourself. You have to know where you came from and who you are right now to be able to move into the future with a good outlook on life. It was very interesting to she Jaynie reconcile with her past and grow as a person. This book has fantastic characters, a bit of mystery and a great romance with the boy next door -- what can be better than that.

Buy A Light Last Seen at Amazon

Author Links
I hope you'll visit me at gracegreene.com ~~~ I love to hear from readers.
You'll also find me here:
Twitter: @Grace_Greene
Facebook: facebook.com/GraceGreeneBooks
Goodreads: goodreads.com/Grace_Greene
Pinterest: pinterest.com/gracegreeneauth/
Amazon's Author Central: amazon.com/author/gracegreene


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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