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June 29, 2020

4 Summer Reads for Fans of Women's Fiction

by Susan Roberts

 Women's fiction makes great summer reading. So many beach reads come out in May, June, and July, you may have missed these 4 books, but they need to be on your vacation reading list.
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

A Million Little Lies by Bette Lee Crosby

A Million Little Lies cover
June 2020; Bent Pine; 978-0998106786
ebook, print (262 pages); family life
"There's all kinds of families, Darla Jean.  Some people are born into belonging to one another and that's their family.  But there's another kind of family, one created by people who love each other and are willing to hold onto what they've found.  We're that kind of family."

Bette Lee Crosby is one of those authors who writes books that you know you're going to love even before you read the first page.  Her characters are always well written and they all change and grow throughout the story. The plot is a feel-good story but there is always some laughter and tears - not sad tears but happy tears.  I've read most of her books and A Million Little Lies is my new favorite.

The year is 1960 and Suzanna and her seven-year-old daughter, Annie, escape from a bad life in the middle of the night with very little money but plans and dreams for the future. Several days later with just enough money to buy bus tickets to New Jersey to live with a girlfriend, they are both hungry. Suzanna sees a newspaper article about a memorial luncheon for a prominent man in the small town she was in. She hopes to blend in with the other mourners and goes to the open-house buffet so that she and her daughter can eat.
Ida, the elderly widow changes all of her plans. She and her husband were estranged from his son who had taken his infant daughter and moved away years earlier. When Ida saw Suzanna, she greeted her with open arms because she thought she was Darla Jean, her long lost granddaughter. Suzanna decides to play along and take on the role of granddaughter but just for one night. 

One night turns into many nights and soon Suzanne and Annie are treating Ida as a grandmother. Suzanna knows that it is wrong to pretend to be Darla Jean but it makes Ida happy and it gives security to Suzanna and Annie. They soon develop a great relationship and all three of them are very happy.  

But how long can Suzanna/Darla Jean keep up the lies without the truth coming to light? What will Ida's reaction be when she finds out the truth? Suzanne and Annie begin to love Ida as a real grandmother and she worries about the truth being revealed but she is tired of living a lie and pretending to be someone she isn't.  Along with that dilemma, there are two old boyfriends looking for her and a  possible new romance. Will Suzanna continue to live a lie or will the truth come out??

This story is lovely - the relationship between Ida and Suzanna and Annie is so sweet and they really depend on each other. There is a lot of tension around whether Suzanna will tell the truth or continue her lie and whether she will disappear as she has in the past or tell the truth and accept the consequences. Both Ida and Suzanna are well-written characters and I was hoping for the best in their relationship. They will tug at your heart and I promise, there will be happy tears as they both learn that family isn't just what you've been born into but more importantly, it is made up of people you love that you want to spend time with. Thank you Better Lee Crosby for another book with characters that I won't soon forget.

Buy A Million Little Lies at Amazon

Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle

Hieroglyphics cover
July 2020; Algonquin Books; 978-1616209728
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); literary fiction  
"We are all haunted by something - something we did or didn't do - and the passing years either add to the weight or diminish it. Mine have diminished, perhaps because I've spent time thinking about it all.  It might sound silly but I've seen these bits and pieces as my contribution to evolution,  the unearthing and dusting of the prints and markers that led me here."
(p 9)

I am very close in age to one of the main characters in this wonderful novel and I understand Lil's need to search her past and figure out how she ended up where she is now.  Some of her quest for the truth in her past get a bit jumbled up but her intentions remain the same - Who am I and how did I get to this point in my life?

Lil and Frank married young and after 50 years at their house in Boston, they re-locate to a home in North Carolina to be close to their daughter.  Lil is determined to leave a history for her children and grandchildren so she starts going through her notes and letters and diary entries from her life. Frank is becoming obsessed with the home he grew up in and keeps visiting the house to try to get the current owner to let him go through the house.  Shelly a single mom with one son, doesn't have good memories of her upbringing and doesn't allow Frank into the house or near her son.  Both Frank and Lil are spending time looking at their pasts while Shelly is trying not to think about her past.  

Hieroglyphics reveals the difficulty of ever really knowing the intentions and dreams and secrets of the people who raised you. In her deeply layered and masterful novel, Jill McCorkle deconstructs and reconstructs what it means to be a father or a mother, and what it means to be a child piecing together the world all around us, a child learning to make sense of the hieroglyphics of history and memory

After reading this book, I wonder if it's time to collect all of my notes and letters and try to make some sense of my life to share with my son and my grandson and help them learn more about my life but more importantly for me to figure out how I got to where I am now.

This beautifully written book is a look at aging and memories of the past.

Buy Hieroglyphics at Amazon

A Wedding at Lakeside Resort by Susan Schild

A Wedding at Lakeside Resort cover
June 2020; Longleaf Pine Press; 978-1732824966
ebook, print (290 pages); southern fiction
"Many brides are not in their twenties.  Many women were getting married and  re-married in their forties, fifties and sixties."
(p 67) 

A Wedding at Lakeside Resort is book 4 in the Lakeside Resort series. It was so much fun to go back to the campground and catch up with the characters - Jenny and Luke, Claire and Landis, and all of their friends including two dogs Buddy and Bear and Levi, the miniature horse, who are all house pets. Jenny is an over-40 woman who inherited a half-built campground from her father and decided to finish the cabins and try to run a successful campground.  It's a quiet place with very little interference from the outside world. People go there to relax, hike, swim, and enjoy themselves. 

In this book, the main theme is about Jenny's upcoming wedding to Luke.  She has a bad history with men and is nervous about her wedding but knows that she loves Luke and wants to marry him. As she is working through her feelings about the wedding, she finds out that the 7 acres next to her campground may be sold and the main person who is interested wants to build a deluxe development which would totally ruin the serenity of her Lakeside Resort.

I highly recommend this series - it's a fun series with well-written characters that you'll come to love. It also has a main character over 40 which is something you don't see often enough. The series is full of fun and adventure, problems and solutions, love and friendship, and happily ever after endings for everyone. It's a perfect series to read during the current confinement that we are all in - or anytime you want to read a book with characters that you'll learn to love.  I hope that there will be other books in this series -- I'm not ready to say goodbye to Lakeside Resort and all of the wonderful characters that I've met there.

Note:  A Wedding at Lakeside Resort is book 4 in the Lakeside Resort Series.  ou really need to read this series in order for optimum enjoyment. Trust me, once you read book 1, you're going to love the series.

The Lakeside Resort Series:
Christmas at the Lakeside Resort - read my review.
Summer at the Lakeside Resort - read my review.
Mistletoe at the Lakeside Resort - read my review.

A Summer of Surprises by Judith Keim

A Summer of Surprises cover
May 2020; Wild Quail; 978-1732749481
audio, ebook, print (294 pages); contemporary  
"Maybe this summer she could simply be friends with a man.  A man she could trust not to hurt her.  A man she'd keep at a distance."

The roles we are given in our families at an early age can affect us through the rest of our lives. Jill and Cristal don't have a close relationship because their mother managed to keep them from being friends by always catering to Cristal and demeaning to  Jill. She always referred to  Cristal as the pretty one and Jill as the smart one.  Now that they are adults, Jill feels she is just plain and normal and is a teacher while Cristal is a party girl who is always looking for a good time and expects everyone to cater to her.  As the novel begins, Cristal has asked Jill to go to Florida from her home in upstate New York to house-sit at Seashell cottage on the Gulf Coast while she and the owner go to Europe.  Jill agrees, even while she is wondering what the catch is, and drives to Florida only to find out that the cottage is being renovated and she is supposed to clean and cook for the two men who are working there - one of whom is bringing his spoiled 8-year-old daughter. She decides that it's worth staying - the house is on the beach and she will still have a lot of free time.  Plus she needs to get away from her home and the memories of her deceased abusive husband.  

As the summer goes on, Jill begins to change and she stands up to her mother and gains more self-confidence. She begins working in a summer camp that helps children learn how to feel better about themselves and it helps her as much as the kids. She has decided to change her whole life and start over again in Florida. When her sister and mother show up at Seashell cottage, she has to decide whether she will continue being just the smart one or whether she will remain being happy with the person that she is becoming.

This book has it all -- a beautiful setting at the beach, a hunky guy doing renovations, and a summer job at a campground.  There is a bit of romance, a lot of family drama, and a lot of changes for Jill during that summer.

This is a great book with characters who made me smile. The entire book left me feeling happy!

 Buy A Summer of Surprises 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. i am very familiar with bette lee, but it's been a little while since i've read her work. glad you enjoyed it
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. Sherry, her books continue to get better and better. Give one of her newer books a try - I think you'll enjoy it.

  2. These all look good. Definitely the perfect beach reads.

  3. The covers on all of these are great. I've been seeing A Million Little Lies all over the place lately. It's on my wish list. Hieroglyphics sounds amazing.

  4. Susan, thank you so much for including A SUMMER OF SURPRISES in your collection of beach reads. I so appreciate it! I'm thrilled that readers are loving this book and appreciate your support! Hugs...