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February 16, 2021

5 Books for Fans of Women's Fiction

by Susan Roberts


The Romance Writers of America organization defines women's fiction as, "a commercial novel about a woman on the brink of life change and personal growth. Her journey details emotional reflection and action that transforms her and her relationships with others, and includes a hopeful/upbeat ending with regard to her romantic relationship."  It's one of my favorite genres to read and I have reviews of 5 books that cover different sub-genres - three are historical fiction - one set in Ireland in the 1920s, one during WWII, and one during the 1980s.  The other two are set in modern times - one in London and one in a small neighborhood in NY.

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

A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel

A Dance in Donegal
February 2021; Revell; 978-0800739638
audio, ebook, print (354 pages); romance
"Moira had always longed to see the places of which her mother often spoke with nostalgia and longing.  She wanted to smell the sweet aroma of the burning peat and hear the crashing waves upon the rocky Irish shores.  Why had her mother never made a return visit?  Moira would never know."
(p. 21)

It's 1921 and Moria had just graduated from Boston Normal School and was ready to start her career as a teacher when her mother died unexpectedly.  To honor her mother's last wishes, Moira agrees to go to the small town in Ireland where her mother grew up and to become the town teacher.  When she arrives, she's greeted with friendship from some of the residents and utter dislike from others.  Rumors about Moira's mother aren't mentioned to her but she gradually became aware of the scandalous family reputation her mother left behind years ago. Moria must rely on the kindness of her new friends to find out the secrets that her mother had hidden from her for her entire life. She also meets a man in town who seems to always be there when she needs help.  Can she fall in love and stay in small-town Ireland or will her mother's secrets drive her back to Boston?

I loved the descriptions of Ireland in this book and I enjoyed the book. It was very interesting to read about a small town in the 20s and all of the gossip that goes on between the residents. A Dance in Donegal was very religious and the characters relied on their beliefs to get them through their lives.

Buy A Dance in Donegal at Amazon

The Girl from the Mountains by Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger 

The Girl from the Mountains
January 2021; Bookouture; 978-1800191617
audio, ebook, print (316 pages); historical fiction
The story of one young woman’s exceptional courage in the darkest of times, set in the stunningly atmospheric mountains of Czechoslovakia during the Second World War.

The Girl from the Mountains is a World War II story about a young girl with no confidence in herself who becomes strong and learns to love herself and others during the tumultuous years of the war.

Magda lives on her family farm with her parents and brothers. She was born with a large birthmark on her cheek and had been made fun of for her entire life so she was shy and reclusive.   In 1938, the family's main concern was on the work involved in the farm.  As the German army moved closer to Czechoslovakia,  the mood darkens for the family.  The Germans take their farm and send the two boys to the German Army and Magda is forced from the family home  She is hired as a nanny by the Tauber family.  Dr. Tauber and his family are Jewish but believe that he is an asset to the community and that they will be safe from the Nazis.  When the Gestapo arrests them, Magda is able to hide their newborn baby who is rescued by the local resistance.  After working with the German family who took over the house and being treated poorly, she makes a major mistake and manages to escape before she is arrested.  She has a price on her head and spends time moving to new safe houses.  With nothing left in her life, she begins to go on missions with the resistance and puts her life on the line.  The longer the war goes on, the more reckless she becomes and is totally changed from the shy young woman she was.

This is an excellent book about how important strong women were during the war and what they accomplished.  The author did a lot of work on her research and it shows and helps make the story more believable.  This is an excellent read for people who enjoy historical fiction about strong women.


We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida

We Run the Tides
February 2021; Ecco; 978-0062936233
audio, ebook, print (272 pages); women's fiction
’We are thirteen, almost fourteen, and these streets of Sea Cliff are ours. We walk these streets to our school perched high over the Pacific and we run these streets to the beaches, which are cold, windswept, full of fishermen and freaks. We know these wide streets and how they slope, how they curve toward the short, and we know their houses.’
(p 1)

An achingly beautiful story of female friendship, betrayal, and a mysterious disappearance set in the changing landscape of San Francisco 

It's 1984 and Eulabee lives in a high priced neighborhood in San Francisco.  She's 13 years old and goes to a private school with her best friends - Julia and Faith and her very best friend Maria Fabiola.  Maria is very popular and the girl that everyone wants to be friends with and Eulabee is thrilled to be her best friend.  Until...one day on their walk to school, the girls see a man in a car and Maria says that she saw him doing something bad.  The other two girls agree with her and claimed that they saw the same thing and when Eulabee refuses to back up her story, the friendship is over.  It's not just over but the three girls, led by Maria, turn the girls at the school against her and Eulabee, once a popular girl becomes an outcast.  Despite the pain of being an outcast, she remains true to herself and refuses to lie for her friend.

We Run the Tides is a beautiful coming of age story set in San Francisco before the tech bubble took over the town.  Life is simple and free and teenagers are filled with conflicting emotions. I loved the way the story ended in 2019 so that we were able to find out how the four friends were doing.

This book was unlike most books that I've read. Yes, there was some action but the plot was simple and free and it made me smile as it brought back memories of being a teenager - both the good and the bad.  I plan to check out this author's earlier book because I enjoyed this one so much.

Buy We Run the Tides at Amazon

West End Girls by Jenny Colgan

West End Girls
January 2021; William Morrow; 978-0062869623
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); romance
West End Girls is a light fluffy book and perfect to read on a depressing winter day. I do have a major problem with it -- as I was reading, I kept thinking that I'd read it before but it published in 2021 so how was that possible. After doing some research, I found out that it was originally published in 2006.  I need to watch dates on books that I order more closely because this is the second time that it's happened with one of Jenny Colgan's books.

Lizzie and Penny are twins but totally different in both looks and attitudes. Penny is blond and thin and always looking for a good time. Lizzie is very introverted and not happy with her extra weight. They live with their mother in a poor part of London and when they get a chance to stay at their grandmother's flat in Chelsea, they both know that their lives are going to change drastically.  Penny tries to totally reinvent herself.  She becomes a receptionist at an art gallery and her main job is to sit and look pretty.  Lizzie gets a job at a restaurant and works very hard learning how to cook.  In the evenings, Penny wants to party and Lizzie wants to stay home.  They are both looking for love but in all the wrong places.  After the trials and tribulations that they go through, they both learn what's really important in life.

Buy West End Girls at Amazon

Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan

Good Neighbors
February 2021; Atria Books; 978-1982144364
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); psychological thriller
"My theory is this:  Maple Street has stuck with us because no one has adequately resolved the mystery..  It's a nightmare in plain sight.  We ask ourselves how an upstanding community could conspire toward the murder of an entire family, and we can make no sense of it.
But what if we've overlooked the most obvious explanation?  What if the accusations lodged against the Wilde family were true?  In other words, what if they had it coming." (p4)

It's July 4 and the neighbors on Maple Street in a suburb on Long Island have gotten together for a barbeque...all but one family was invited. The Wilde family is the newest family in the neighborhood and are very different from the other families - Arlo is an ex-rock star who is covered in tattoos that cover up his track marks, his wife Gertie is an ex-beauty queen who has seen the dark sides of life and their two children Julie, a pre-teen who not only smokes but has taught the other children in the neighborhood how to smoke and Larry, a 7-year-old who is definitely on the Autism spectrum. Despite their differences, the Wilde family is thrilled that they've left the city and moved out to quiet suburbia where they were hoped to be welcomed by their new neighbors, especially the queen bee Rhea. The Wilde family wonders why they weren't invited to the picnic and they assume that it was an oversight so they grab a bag of chips and join the picnic only to realize that it wasn't a mistake - no one, especially Rhea wanted them there. As they are leaving the picnic a huge sinkhole opens in the park and in the next few days, one of the children on Maple Street disappears into the sinkhole. The grief causes neighbors to turn against neighbors and some hurtful rumors are started and passed around the neighborhood with each family adding more false information to the rumor - or was the rumor really true. The entire neighborhood appears to want vigilante justice; rocks are thrown through windows, mirrors are broken, people get hurt and still, the animosity of neighbor against neighbor continues to grow. Where will it all end? Will the truth ever be known?

Good Neighbors was very addictive - I changed my mind several times on who to trust and who was telling the truth. It was a tragic story and one that we see played out over and over in our lives when a rumor gets started and then repeated and exaggerated. I enjoyed the way that the author presented the story and interspersed it with newspaper articles, interviews, and research on the neighborhood that were done in 2043 looking back at the entire incident and still trying to understand it.
  
Buy Good Neighbors at Amazon
 
Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. Since her travel plans had to be canceled for this year, she is starting to make plans for travel in 2021. 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 historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.


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