Readers' Favorite

February 5, 2024

Reading a Second Book by Favorite Authors

by Donna Huber

After reading a phenomenal novel by an author the expectations for the next novel by that author is set pretty high. I recently read three books by authors who I've only read one book before - a book I loved. Did the second book live up to my expections?

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

Where Coyotes Howl by Sandra Dallas

book cover of historical fiction novel Where Coyotes Howl by Sandra Dallas
April 2023; St. Martin's; 978-1250277909
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); historical fiction

A couple of years ago, I read Dallas's Little Souls which is set during the Progressive era of the early 1900s. I loved the novel. 

Where Coyotes Howl is set just a couple of years before Little Souls. The story takes place on the prairies of Wyoming. In many ways it could have been set in the 1800s for how wild west the small town was.

It was more of a love story than I was expecting, but I don't think I would call it a romance novel. It was more of a slice of life type of novel as we follow Ellen and Charlie through the ups and downs of life in a pretty unforgiving place.

Though set a good 20 years before Kristin Hannah's The Four Winds, Where Coyotes Howl gave me many of the same vibes.

I loved the characters and learning about 1916 Wyoming. It is a sweet story and oh the ending. This was not an easy place to live - think about the early settlers of the West and life hasn't changed too much by this point. And women had it hard. It was a lonely life. The nearest neighbor would be miles away and the husbands could be way for days on end tending to the cattle on the ranch.

I know this book came out last year, but if you missed you or like me have had it buried in your to read pile, you need to pick up this book now. It is so compelling. You want the characters to succeed.

Buy Where Coytoes Howl at Amazon

Only the Beautiful by Susan Meissner

book cover of historical fiction novel Only the Beautiful by Susan Meissner
April 2023; Berkley; 978-0593332832
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); historical fiction

I really enjoyed The Nature of Fragile Things and was looking forward to reading another book by Meissner. Only the Beautiful got a bit buried in my to read pile, but when I had an opening in my reading list I picked up this book.

It was a little slow for me in the beginning. It is set during the WWII years, but it isn't about the war. 

The first half of the novel is focused on Rosie who has been orphaned and the couple who her family worked for takes her in. Foster care in the 1930s didn't look quite like it does now. It was often a way to get cheap labor and that Celine saw "caring" for Rosie would get her a cheap maid isn't surprising. Of course, Celine tells everyone that she is helping Rosie gains skills that she can later use to support herself. But I'm not sure she really cared beyond her own benefit.

I don't usually mind dual-timeline stories, but I wasn't crazy about how this one was structured. Meissner employed a similar trope in The Nature of Fragile Things but I didn't think it worked as well in Only the Beautiful. 

The book opens with Rosie being committed to a mental institution but we flashback often to what happened after her parents died and she was taken in by the Calverts. We keep skipping back and forth until the story of why she is being committed is fully revealed. The conclusion of "the before" coincides with Rosie reaching the age of majority and is no longer in the care of the state. 

The second half the novel focuses on Helen Calvert, the sister of Truman Calvert. She spent the war years in Europe and therefore the story does touch on the war a little. Helen's present day is after the war though when she returns to the States and learns the fate of Rosie. In her storyline we flashback to her years in Europe in during the war. 

It wasn't difficult to follow the back and forth changes in the timeline in either storyline. I just found getting these little snippets kind of annoying and it slowed down the story.

I've read a couple of novels that feature mental institutions in the 1800s and they were horrorfic. I liked getting glimpse of the mental institution in the 1930s. It is not nearly the horrorfic place of a century before. The staff do actually seem to care for the well-being of the patients. They aren't just drugged and constrained. However, there was still so much unknown in psychiatry that even well-meaning praticioners often did horrible things (at least by today's standards). It was still pretty easy to have someone committted for little cause.

I read so much WWII fiction that Helen's storyline didn't shed any new light on the era. I knew what the Third Reich thought of people who were less than the perfect Arayan. People with physical or mental disabilities were taken from their families and placed in the "care" of the Third Reich. They were killed, at best, or experiemented on, at worst.

I enjoyed Helen's section of the story more than Rosie's. It reminded me of An Invincible Summer by Betta Ferrendelli. 

Only the Beautiful was an okay story. I think I was expecting more because I enjoyed the previous novel so much. 

Buy Only the Beautiful at Amazon

The Mystery Guest by Nita Prose

book cover of mystery novel The Mystery Guest by Nita Prose
November 2023; Ballantine Books; 978-0593356180
audio, ebook, print (304 pags); mystery

When I read The Maid I thought it was a stand alone novel. I kind of wish it had remained a stand alone novel. Part of the reason I enjoyed The Maid so much was because it was unique. The main character is neurodivergent. While many novels now have a neurodivergent character, this is one of the few (maybe only) novels that have a neurodivergent main character.

The Mystery Guest felt like a cookie cutter novel. Because it was so much like the first novel, I wonder if Prose felt pressured to write another book featuring Molly because of the success of The Maid and never had any intention of writing series. There were some conituity issues between the two books.  And it felt like several times the author took the easy way out of a plot point.

For example, when Molly's school wants her to repeat a grade because of her lack of social adeptness. The teacher tells Molly's grandmother that she can pay for extra services. But it is pointed out that Molly attends a public school. By law, the school has to provide those services for free. The scene made it feel like the novel was not set in present day. You can tell the author needed a way to put Molly in the house where her grandmother worked and that she chose this.

It was enjoyable enough if you are wanting a mindless read. Several of the characters from the first book are in this book, so if you enjoyed the characters are interested in where they are four years later, you will want to read this book. I'm not sure if a third novel is planned in this series, but I more than likely won't read it.

Buy The Mystery Guest at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us. Get even more book news in your inbox, sign up for our newsletter today! Or Follow Girl Who Reads with Bloglovin. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.


Post a Comment