Readers' Favorite

July 9, 2021

Strong Women in Fiction

by Susan Roberts

The definition of Women's Fiction is that it embraces themes that revolve around the home, family, and community. Often, women’s fiction asks that characters overcome staggering real-life challenges.  I think that one of the most important parts of this genre is that it tells the reader stories about strong women who have learned how to use their strength for the success of their families and friends and, in some cases, for the betterment of the world.

I have reviews of six books that feature strong women - two are historical fiction, one is a thriller and the other three are books about families.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided an honest review.

The Happiness Thief by Nicole Bokat

"I think I killed my mother." (p1)

The Happiness Thief is a well-written suspense novel about two sisters that will keep you turning pages until the end.  I was pretty sure that I knew how it would end but the ending was so much better than I anticipated that it still had an element of surprise for me.

The Happiness Thief
May 2021; She Writes Press; 978-1647420574
ebook, print (280 pages); domestic thriller
Natalie and Isabelle are stepsisters and have been close since Natalie's mother married Isabel's father when they were young.  Natalie is 41 years old and her life is a total mess.  Her husband has left her and she has to balance their daughters' life between her house and her ex-husband's house with his new girlfriend.  Natalie has had PTSD since her mother died in a car accident decades earlier.  She was with her mother when the accident happened and even though she has no memory of the accident, she is sure that she caused it somehow.  She travels to a retreat with her sister where a late-night accident causes her PTSD to get worse. When she starts to get anonymous emails, her life becomes even more unsettled and she relies on her sister even more.  Isabelle is very popular and known as The Happiness Guru.  She's written books about happiness and held frequent retreats on achieving a happy life.  She's happily married and has always been the rock that Natalie could lean on.  As Natalie and a newspaper reporter start digging into the emails, she finds out secrets that her family and sister have kept from her that can change her entire focus on her life.

This is a fantastic psychological suspense novel.  I'm always drawn to novels about sisters and this is a perfect example of the love/hate relationship that exists between some sisters.  Nicole Bokat is a new author for me and I intend to read some of her earlier books.  

Buy The Happiness Thief at Amazon

The Audacity of Sara Grayson by Joani Elliott

The Audacity of Sara Grayson
May 2021; Post Hill Press; 978-1642937824
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); humorous fiction
Sara's mother has just died.  Cassandra was a mega-famous author and the world was waiting for the last and final book in her much loved and made into a movie series Ellery. When Sara and her sister go to the reading of their mother's will - she is astounded and appalled that Cassandra wanted Sara to write the final book in the series.  To say that Sara is insecure is putting it mildly.  Her first attempt at a novel years before had been rejected and she now spends her days writing greeting cards and coupons.  Her husband left her and she has only her dog, Gatsby to keep her company.  Her sister is very supportive but she isn't the one who's been asked to write the book that the world is waiting for.  Sara decides NOT to write the book until the publisher makes fun of her at a business lunch.  She decides then and there that she WILL write the book and it will be successful.  Along the way she discovers some hidden family secrets that cause her to question what she knew about her mother.  Will  Sara become strong enough to write the book that her mother has requested - will she be able to become strong enough to move past the criticism and her failed first novel?  And if she does, how will it affect her life and her view of herself?

I really like the character of Sara.  Yes, she was insecure - not unstable as the blurb says.  But why not, this final request from her mother is a huge responsibility.  This is a book that will give you a main character to enjoy but also to laugh with.  This is a debut novel and I look forward to future books from this author.

The Wedding Planner by Kimberly Thomas 

The Wedding Planner
April 2021; Indie; 979-8744045975
ebook, print (192 pages); women's fiction
Rina is a wedding planner but this time she's planning her son's wedding and that makes it even more stressful.  Along with the bride's parents who are relieved that they don't have to pay anything and a maid of honor who is rude and inconsiderate, Rina has her hands full trying to plan this wedding at the Archer Inn.  Plus while she is trying to plan the wedding,  her husband's second family wants to get to know her family better.  When her husband died earlier, she found out that he had another wife and daughter.  Despite the shock, she got to know the other family a bit and now the daughter wants to spend time with Rina's two sons.  She gets in way over her comfort level trying to make everyone happy and her family at the Archer Inn helps her make the wedding a success.

This is book 5 in The Archer Inn series.  You need to read the series in order for maximum enjoyment. You can read my reviews of the first four books in the series.  This has been a great series full of love, second chances, and family taking place in the Florida Keys.

Buy The Wedding Planner at Amazon

When I Last Saw You by Bette Lee Crosby 

"Family's not just blood's anybody you care about.  Would you deny a woman with no other family the small pleasure of doing something nice for somebody she cares about." (loc 465)

When I Last Saw You
May 2021; Bent Pine Publishing; 978-0998106779
ebook, print (358 pages); southern fiction
I have been a fan of Bette Lee Crosby since I read her first book and have read all of her books since then.  Her new book establishes her role as one of the premier writers of women's fiction.  This book is women's fiction combined with historical fiction and it's fantastic.  I wanted to finish it last night but fell asleep reading and it was the first thing that I picked up this morning.  It's that good!

1968 - Atlanta.  Margaret has just buried her husband of over 50 years and is facing immense grief.  She is shocked when asked to update her will and name beneficiaries.  She had no children and no family and didn't know what to do.  Well, she did have family but they lost touch years ago and suddenly she felt an urge to find her lost brothers and sisters.  She hires Tom, a retired investigator, to help her find her brothers and sisters. The quest takes them all over the South as they try to find the family that she hasn't seen in 60 years.

1901 - West Virginia.  Eliza married Martin, the love of her life.  Their family was growing so he rented an apartment in Charleston where he worked and came on the weekends while she stayed in her mother's house with the children.  As time passes, he comes home less frequently and she is suspicious that he has another woman.  When their 6th child is born, he won't come home and when she gets pregnant again, he wants her to drink some tea that will supposedly make her lose the baby.  She feels that every child is a gift from God ad refuses to end her pregnancy.  He gets angry and stays gone for months while she has to struggle to keep the children fed.

The way that the story is written we get alternating chapters from 1968 and 1901.  Both of these women are stronger than they think they are and both have a strong love of family.  These women were beautifully written and I understood the struggles that each of them faced.  The author tied the two time periods together beautifully and the reader has a beautiful well-told story featuring two strong and resilient women.

This is a beautiful story of family - both family by blood and family made up of the people we care about.  It's about love and loss, strength and courage.  These are two fictional women that I won't soon forget.

Buy When I Last Saw You at Amazon
(the ebook is a free read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers)

When the World Was Ours by Liz Kessler

Three friends. One memory.
Vienna. 1936.

When the World Was Ours
May 2021; Aladdin; 978-1534499652
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); YA historical fiction
This is a powerful book about three young children and the ways that the Holocaust totally changed their lives.

It's based on the true story of the author's father's escape from Europe in 1939.  The children are nine when the story begins and don't really understand what's going on in Vienna - they feel that they own the world as they know it.  

Leo, Max, and Elsa are best friends and are sure that their friendship will last forever.  But Austria is in the midst of change after the Nazis take over the country and their friendship is sorely tested.  Leo is Jewish and lives with his parents in a nice part of town.  The family is very close to each other and as Leo starts seeing the results in the streets of the German hatred of the Jewish people, he becomes fearful,  When his father is arrested, he and his mother try to find a way out of the country to safety.  Their struggle to get out is unbelievable and difficult.  Elsa is also Jewish and her family moves to Prague early in the war because they feel that they will be safer there.  But when the Germans invade, their lives become hell as they are moved into the ghetto.  Leo is completely different - not only is he not Jewish but his father is a high-ranking member of the Gestapo.  Leo had always tried to get acceptance from his father and follows his example by changing his beliefs and learning to believe as his father does.  Even though all three of the friends frequently think about each other, their lives have gone in totally different directions as they realize that the world is no longer theirs and that friendship will not endure forever.

This is a heartbreaking story about seeing the innocence and friendship of the children totally destroyed by the terrible happenings in their country. They went from being young and idealistic to being older than their years by what they experienced.  This is a story of love and friendship, hate and war, and the effects that it has on children.  The three main characters were very well written and memorable.  This novel is classified as YA but it would be meaningful to anyone to read the story of the loss of innocence during a horrific time in our world history.

Churchill's Secret Messenger by Alan Hlad

"I want you to work in occupied France...Your role will be to organize and act as a liaison to London."

"A surge of revenge flowed through her veins.  Despite Jepson's candor that her life would be at risk, she turned to him and said "I can give you a decision now, Captain.  My decision is yes.'" (p 57)

Churchill's Secret Messenger
April 2021; ‎ A John Scognamiglio Book
978-1496728418; ebook, print (416 pages)
historical fiction
I read a lot of WWII fiction and some of it gets kind of boring and repetitive.  That is not the case with this new WWII book by Alan Hlad.  The book is so suspenseful that I was enthralled until the last page.  It's full of wonderful characters who end up in dangerous conditions as they work to destroy the Nazi hold on Paris.

London, 1941: Rose works as a secretary in the Cabinet War Rooms beneath the streets of London.   Her brother was killed at the beginning of the war and she works as much as possible to do her part to end the war.  When Churchill becomes aware that she is fluent in French, he has her interviewed to be part of the SOE - a secret group that sent spies to France to work with the resistance.  She accepts the job and her role is to act like a cosmetics salesperson so that she can bicycle all over Paris without suspicion.  Her real job is to get information about the Nazi's plans and to send information back to London.  The consequence of discovery will be death and every minute she is in Paris is fraught with danger.   One of Rose's first assignments it to work with Lazare - a member of the French Resistance who is upset to see what is happening to his beloved city at the hands of the German troops.  He risks danger every minute as he does what he can to free Paris.

Rose is a strong resilient woman who wants to make sure that Churchill's faith in her is justified and that she can help her country defeat the Germans.  Rose and Lazare work well together and try to spend more time with each other but in war-torn Paris, the job has to take precedence over any personal relationship.  Will they be successful and live until the end of the war?

Be sure to read the author's notes at the end of the book where he describes some of the situations and people that the novel is based on.  

Note:  I was lucky enough to have a chance to tour the Cabinet War Rooms in London and it helped make the beginning of this book even more real for me.  I'd love a chance to go back again now that I've read this book. 

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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