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May 26, 2021

4 Books of Women's Fiction to Toss in Your Beach Bag

by Susan Robert

This weekend is Memorial Day - the unofficial start of summer in the United States. Do you know what you will be reading this summer? Beach reads have been coming out for the past couple of months so there is plenty to choose from. Today, I have 4 books that published in April that will be perfect for your summer reading list. 

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

The Last Night in London by Karen White 

The Last Night in London
April 2021; Berkley; 978-0451492012
audio, ebook, print (480 pages); women's fiction
"Hogwash.  What's the point in reinvention if a person can't leave their past in the past?  I never intended to parade mine around like a new outfit."
(loc 4378)

This wonderful new historical fiction by Karen White is a fantastic read -- it's a dual timeline novel with mystery, romance, fashion, and family.  The Prologue gives us a mystery - who is the woman that is carrying the baby in London as the bombs are dropping all around her.  I didn't want to put down the book until I found out the answers to those questions at the end.  Along the way, there was a story full of interesting characters during WWII and in the present day.

1940's - Precious and Eva meet at the train station in London and they quickly become roommates and best friends and felt like sisters.   They are both beautiful and are in London to achieve their dreams of becoming models. They are very different from each other - Precious is from America and is quick to talk about the family that she left behind.  Eva is ashamed of her past and her poverty and has reinvented herself into a new person.  Despite this difference, they both become popular models and have sparkling social lives until the war starts to affect them.  Eva falls in love with an aristocrat and feels like her life is perfect until she makes some poor decisions and ends up in the midst of intrigue and secrets.  As she tries to protect her secrets and wait for her boyfriend to return to London, her friendship with Precious remains the most important part of her life.  Can this friendship be sustained as the bombs fall on London and change their world?

Current - Maddie is an American journalist who travels to London to interview Precious.  She plans to write an article about fashion before the war and wants stories from Precious to go along with pictures of dresses from the era.  Maddie's life has been scarred by the death of her mother and her fear for her own health so she is careful not to get emotionally close to anyone.  Maddie and Precious get close and as her stories of WWII begin to unravel, Maddie learns that many of her stories can be applied to her own life and maybe help her find happiness.

In a dual timeline novel, I normally like one storyline better than the other but in this book, I found both storylines and the characters in them to be interesting and intriguing.  The star of the novel is Precious and she is a big part of both timelines and a character that I won't soon forget.  I loved the way that the two storylines were interwoven and came together at the end.  I also enjoyed the romances - both past and present-day and thought that the entire book was fantastic.

A Road Trip to Remember by Judith Keim

A Road Trip to Remember
April 2021; Wild Quail Publishing; 978-1732749474
audio, ebook, print (306 pages); women's fiction
This is another great book from Judith Keim about a Grandmother/granddaughter road trip from Boston to Florida.  It's filled with the fun of the trip, the love between the two women, the emotions of saying goodbye to old friends, and the ability to change your life no matter what age you are.  It made me smile and I also shed a few tears but mostly I enjoyed the lessons that were learned on this adventuresome road trip.

Aggie is in her 70s.  Despite her protests, her husband's new wife had convinced her to sell her family home and move into assisted living.  She misses her home but is making the best of the move and has made lots of new friends.  She asks her granddaughter Blythe to take her to Florida to Seashell Cottage during spring break.  They both agree to keep the trip a secret from Aggie's son and wife because they know that they will discourage this trip.  Once they get started on the trip, Blythe finds out that it has been well planned so that Aggie can stop and spend time with her special friends from college and to say a final goodbye to them.  Her main goal is to see Donavon again - he was the love of her life in college and through a misunderstanding, they broke up and both still had some bad feelings toward each other.  She wanted to apologize to him after all these years and to see him one more time.  She also wants the trip to remind Blythe that there is more to life than work - that she needs to relax and find fun in life away from her job.

I loved Aggie - she and I are similar ages and I could just imagine traveling to spend time with my friends from college.  She was spunky and full of life and a joy to read about.  This is a wonderful book full of love of family and friends and finding the joys in life no matter what age you are!  It was fantastic to go back to Seashell Cottage with these two wonderful characters.

Buy A Road to Remember at Amazon

NOTE:  This is the 4th book in the Seashell Cottage series and can be read as a standalone.  The other books in the series are:
A Christmas Star  
A Change of Heart
A Summer of Surprises - read my review

Under the Southern Sky by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Under the Southern Sky
April 2021; Gallery Books; 978-1982117726
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); women's fiction
"But now I've had a couple decades to think about it, and I've realized the way we treat people is really all we have."
(loc 3115)

Kristy Woodson Harvey never disappoints her readers and this is another fantastic book from her.  I've been a loyal fan since her first book and she is the #1 southern fiction author that I recommend to my friends.  She always tells a fantastic story from a southern perspective with lots of salty ocean air in the background.

Amelia and Parker were best friends growing up in Cape Carolina.  Years later, Amelia's marriage has just broken up and she is in jeopardy of losing the job she loves as a reporter.  Parker lost the love of his life to cancer and has been unable to move forward with his life for three years.   When Amelia is researching an article about frozen embryos, she discovers that there are embryos for Parker and his wife that are considered to be abandoned and will soon be destroyed.  Parker had forgotten about the embryos in his grief and decides that he wants to find a surrogate so that he can have a baby to remind him of his late wife.  Telling Parker about the embryos brings Parker and Amelia back into contact with each other at a time in their lives that they are both grieving and trying to move forward.   Can they help comfort each other as they attempt to move forward in their lives?

I loved the characters in this novel - they were both well-written and very real - people that we know in our normal lives - even as they were faced with a huge moral question involving frozen embryos.  This is a beautifully written story about love and loss, family and friendship.  And the reminder that family is more than sharing blood - it is also made up of the people you love and care about.

This is Southern Fiction at its best written by one of the best authors currently writing.  You absolutely don't want to miss Under the Southern Sky!

Reunion Beach: Stories Inspired by Dorothea Benton Frank

Reunion Beach
April 2021; William Morrow; 978-0063048935
audio, ebook, print (416 pages); short stories
"This is for the fans of Dorothea Benton Frank.  She loved and appreciated every one of you."

When Dorothea Benton Frank died at 67 years of age in September 2019. she left behind not only her family and many wonderful friends but also millions of loyal fans.  We enjoyed her books set in the lowcountry of South Carolina and featuring strong women characters of all ages.  She was planning her next book when she died and the title was Reunion Beach.  

A group of authors who loved her decided to put together a book in memory of her with the same title.  This book features short stories from some of the best southern authors writing today as well as remembrances from her editor, her son and daughter, and husband.  Before each story, each author shares a memory of Dottie and this entire book shares their memory of her spirit, her love of her family and friends, and the literary legacy that she has left behind.  

If you haven't read her books, she left behind 20 memorable novels (see the list here). I can't recommend a book for you because I loved them all! Reunion Beach is a beautiful memorial to a fantastic woman and writer who helped to bring the lowcountry alive for her readers.

About the Authors
  • Elin Hilderbrand lives on Nantucket, has three children, and is the author of 27 novels, including SUMMER OF ‘69. Elin Hilderbrand met Dottie in the spring of 2017 at the annual Post & Courier luncheon in Charleston and Elin says, “It was love at first sight.” The two authors proceeded to meet on Nantucket every chance they got and they texted and emailed non-stop. 
  • Adriana Trigiani is the New York Times bestselling author of eighteen books in fiction and nonfiction, published in 38 languages, making her one of the most sought-after speakers in the world of books today. 
  • Patti Callahan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fifteen novels including the Historical Fiction,  Becoming Mrs. Lewis—The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis and Surviving Savannah. Patti and Dottie met when Patti’s first book was released in 2004 at a SIBA conference where the friendship was instant and long-lasting. 
  • Cassandra King is an award-winning author of five bestselling novels and two nonfiction books in addition to numerous short stories, essays, and magazine articles. Her latest book, Tell Me A Story, a memoir about life with her late husband, Pat Conroy, was named SIBA’s 2020 non-fiction Book of the Year. A native of LA (Lower Alabama), Cassandra resides in Beaufort, South Carolina, where she is honorary chair of the Pat Conroy Literary Center. When Pat gave Dottie Frank a blurb for her first book, Sullivan’s Island, Cassandra invited Dottie for a visit to Fripp Island, and the Conroys and Franks became fast friends. 
  • Nathalie Dupree is the author of fourteen cookbooks. She is best known for her approachability and her understanding of Southern cooking, having started the New Southern Cooking movement now found in many restaurants throughout the United States and co-authoring Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking. 
Buy Reunion Beach 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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