Showing posts with label Women's fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Women's fiction. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Putnam Adult, July 2014) is pure 'women's fiction.' It follows three women: Madeline, Celeste as the two old friends meet Jane and her son while attending kindergarten orientation with their own children and take her under their wing.

Moriarty builds a whole story around the dangers of keeping secrets and telling small lies. It all actually begins with a murder investigation and goes back in time to an incident that occurred at the school during kindergarten orientation. At the center of this story, and providing much of its humor, you will find 'helicopter' moms who spend most of their time micro-parenting and behaving worse than their kindergarten children at the school yard. There are 'mom cliques,' fights, malicious gossip, and petitions bandied about that affect both kids and parents. It is all done with biting humor and a healthy dose of sarcasm, but I found it all mean, petty, thoughtless, and generally detrimental to the little ones.

There are, however, other darker threads running through the story that are not humorous at all. First we have the issue of 'bullying' in school, which of course is mishandled by all adults concerned because they are too busy 'outdoing' each other and playing the judgmental card to really pay attention to the children. Second, we have a conflict between a mother and teenage daughter who decides to move in with her father and his new wife, the ex-husband who abandoned them both early on. Then, there are two 'violence against women' threads: a current 'physical abuse behind closed doors' thread that grows increasingly violent as the story unfolds, and the other a past experience with date-rape that still affects the victim deeply and as a result the victim's child.

This novel is rather tough to describe. It is bitingly humorous, but darkly so. There are moments when it is easy to laugh, particularly at the adults' ridiculous behavior -- Madeline for example has some great lines. But, the dark and violent moments are tough to read through. Moriarty portrays the abused woman's delusional state of mind, self-blame, and the progression of violence in the relationship quite well. I am, however, deeply disappointed that after all is said and done the state of her children's mental health is neglected.

And that is my main problem with this novel. It is ambitious in that it tackles multiple issues affecting women and children. Some aspects of these multiple threads are well rendered yet there is so much going on that some issues are superficially touched on while others are ignored. The narrative is well done and entertaining enough to keep readers involved. Unfortunately, the entertainment factor or light approach often takes away from the seriousness of heavier issues and vice versa. As the perfect example I will use the climactic scene, a combination comedic farce (bordering on slapstick) with dark revelations culminating in murder.

I believe that Big Little Lies will appeal to women's fiction readers who may be fans of Moriarty's light and mordant humorous approach to serious subject matter or fans of books with a similar style. I am leaving a lot of what goes on out of this post: dysfunctional children, poor parenting, a romance with a happy ending, infidelities, and more. I enjoyed a few out-loud laughs toward the beginning, before the numbing truth surfaced and those horrifying violent scenes began to trickle in. In the end I found the story to be well written with some admittedly good messages, but over-the-top and somewhat confounding.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

TBR Review: Broken by Megan Hart

I'm late posting my review for this month's TBR Challenge. I read the book early this month, but worked extremely late last night and did not have a chance to finish my rough draft of the review until this morning. Regardless, I decided to post the review because I simply loved the book I chose to read. The theme for August is "Luscious Love Scenes." I chose to read Broken by Megan Hart for two reasons: the book has been in my TBR for a long time and I loved Dirty.

Broken is a sort of erotic women's fiction with conflicted characters and a thought provoking plot dealing with issues such as loss of self and emotional cheating. That's a simplistic way of summarizing this gripping, deeply emotional book.
This month my name is Mary. My name is different every month—Brandy, Honey, Amy…sometimes Joe doesn't even bother to ask—but he never fails to arouse me with his body, his mouth, his touch, no matter what I'm called or where he picks me up. The sex is always amazing, always leaves me itching for more in those long weeks until I see him again.
Joe -- A man looking for intimate connection and personal recognition in all the wrong places and with all the wrong people. Once per month Joe and Sadie meet for lunch and Joe plays Scheherazade, regaling Sadie with details of his erotic x-rated one-night stands. For most of the book, the "luscious sex scenes" come from Joe's narrative, as interpreted by Sadie. Initially, through Sadie's perspective the reader perceives Joe as a sexualized character, a manwhore who picks up women for sex on a regular basis. But ever so slowly small details about Joe are revealed through his erotic tales and conversations with Sadie. Eventually, Joe emerges as a man riddled with guilt and hungry for the intimacy that comes through a real connection with another.

Adam -- A man who has allowed tragedy to make him too proud to give and too resentful to enjoy life. Sadie's husband Adam was a brilliant poet with a powerful personality and love of adrenaline that swallowed everyone around him. They met at college and married after Sadie finished her doctorate in psychology. One year later, Adam became a quadriplegic after a tragic ski accident that changed their lives. Years later, he refuses to leave the house or to have physical contact or allow real intimacy with his wife even though it is possible. His love for Sadie is tinged with a large dose of resentment.
My real name is Sadie, and once a month over lunch Joe tells me about his latest conquest. But what Joe doesn't know is that, in my mind, I'm the star of every X-rated one-night stand he has revealed to me, or that I'm practically obsessed with our imaginary sex life. I know it's wrong. I know my husband wouldn't understand. But I can't stop. Not yet.
Sadie -- A giving woman sucked dry to the bone by loving, giving and not receiving, loses herself in the process. Sadie loves her husband Adam. She is a psychologist with a thriving practice, but when she comes home taking care of Adam is her priority. She has no social life and no one to give her emotional support except for paid assistants at home. Once a month, she does what she needs to do to stay sane. She meets Joe for lunch and listens as he regales her with his sexual adventures. Sadie becomes obsessed and in her fantasies, she becomes a place holder for all the women in Joe's x-rated one-night stands. To alleviate the loneliness and increasing sense of isolation, Sadie memorizes details of those stories for later and guiltily uses them as a substitute for pleasure when she is alone.

Physical and intimate emotional connection to another and individuality. Most humans crave that physical and intimate connection with another, but once that connection is broken, the individual is often left floundering. That is what happens to Sadie. The title Broken applies to all three characters, as well as to relationships.

Adam is broken physically and emotionally after his accident. Sadie is broken after she stops being an extension of the brilliant man Adam used to be, and their connection as husband and wife is severed when he stops giving and becomes resentful of her love and care. After Sadie loses that connection with Adam, she also loses herself. Joe is a broken man due to guilt, family disappointment, and lack of intimacy, yet he seeks women who only appreciate him on the surface for his beauty, sexual prowess, or financial security. Should Joe and Sadie's meetings be considered emotional cheating or mutual therapy sessions? Initially, I believe that is exactly what they were because both Sadie and Joe took the missing pieces of their lives from each other.

I loved Dirty, but Broken just goes beyond that for me. Broken is erotic women's fiction at its best because although the sensuality is on the high scale, and sex plays a central role in this evolving drama, the main focus of the story goes much deeper than that. This story ties three people with complex issues, but Broken is all about Sadie's journey -- how due to tragic circumstances, she loses herself through the years eventually finding a way to survive, discovering value in herself as a person and a woman who can finally look in the mirror and recognize her true self again.

"There you are Peter!"-- Hook

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Review: Changing Lanes by Kathleen Long

Abby Halladay has the perfect life. Or, rather, she will…as long as everything goes exactly according to plan. Abby never leaves anything to chance—not her job as a syndicated columnist, not her engagement to her fiancé, Fred, and certainly not her impending wedding in Paris (New Jersey, that is).

Unfortunately for Abby, even the best-laid plans often go awry—like when Fred runs away to Paris (France, that is), her column is canned, and her dream home is diagnosed with termites. Forced to move back in with her parents and drive her dad’s cab, Abby’s perfect life has now officially become the perfect disaster.

Then a funny thing happens. Slowly but surely, Abby begins letting go of her dreams of perfection. As she does, the messy, imperfect life she thought she never wanted starts to feel exactly like the one she needs.

Poignant and heartfelt, Changing Lanes celebrates the unexpected joys of everyday life—and the enduring promise of second chances.
In the book summary for Changing Lanes by Kathleen Long the female protagonist is presented as a woman whose 'perfect life' unravels all at once so that she must shift gears to accommodate all the changes that come along with the unraveling. The words perfect, imperfect, and planned life are prominently used in the summary. I wanted to know what this woman believed a perfect life would entail. Additionally, a few questions immediately popped up: what drives a person, in this case Abby, to plan the details of her life to the point that she doesn't know the people around her (her fiancé) let alone herself, so than when life's little surprises come along they indeed become disasters?

Abby Halladay is the type of woman who plans her life in minute detail and believes that being thought of as "predictable" is a compliment. Her life goes into a tailspin when she loses her job as a syndicated advice columnist and finds out that the beautiful Victorian home she's supposed to move into is riddled with termites. But as she arrives at her parents home in Paris, New Jersey where she'll be staying temporarily, Abby's life goes from disaster to catastrophe when her fiancé Fred calls to say that he is in Paris... France! The reason he gives for leaving two months before their planned wedding? He is. . . "bored!" This humiliating moment is magnified as it is witnessed by high school friend and next door neighbor, Mick O'Malley. Abby hasn't seen Mick since he left town years ago in disgrace right after a graduation party. Now Mick is back in town to care for his mother Detta.

Abby's family offers temporary solutions to her problems. A place to stay, a job driving her retired father's taxi cab, and 24 hours after getting dumped by Fred her mother begins inviting men to dinner so Abby can "move on with her life!" Abby is in denial, she doesn't want to drive a cab, nor does she want to move on. . . she wants to talk to Fred to find out if he will be back before the wedding! What? Why is she not angry with Fred? But Abby's family doesn't talk things out as a rule. It's a loving family that always kept masks firmly in place. Abby recognizes this, but she herself is very much a part of the family.

I couldn't understand certain aspects of Abby's rather frustrating personality. She plans everything and for her it is all about doing what is right, being nice and polite, and making sure everything falls into place in her life. Image is key to Abby. Even as the 30 year-old woman who returns to Paris, she won't take responsibility for a mistake if it damages her image. Kathleen Long takes her time with Abby's character growth so that even as this character takes steps forward, moments of doubts and lack of confidence return. Questions: Why does Abby refuse to see Fred's actions for what they are? Why is she still contemplating marriage when Fred returns from France?

It takes a village to help Abby change lanes. First, an encounter with Mick's mother Detta changes her perspective after they share a magical moment. Later, her family -- mother, father, sister, and grandmother -- all contribute to Abby's decisions about her future. As Abby begins to see her family members anew, she also begins to appreciate life's moments and discovers what she wants out of life. This is the bulk of the story with Abby driving the cab, helping her family and others around town see their own happy moments, and using Mick as a sounding board when needed. Question: Why does Abby go around town fixing other people's lives so easily and naturally when she can't figure out how to fix her own?

You wonder if there is a romance in this story? Well, yes and no. Mick and Abby reveal pieces of their lives to each other, but they leave much unsaid in between the lines. Their conversations are always left unfinished or end abruptly with either one or the other not saying what they really have to say. So, although there is a romance and a happy ending, it is not a satisfying one where the characters' feelings for each other are explored in-depth. On the other hand, although as a character Fred has little page time, his presence is felt from beginning to end and drives much of what happens in Abby's life. This off-page secondary character is well done. Question: Why doesn't Abby show her anger when she confronts Fred?

Despite the fact that Kathleen Long introduces some pretty heavy subjects as the core to Changing Lanes, she approaches this women's fiction story with humor and a light touch. It is a quick read and not heavy at all. As a matter of fact, in my opinion, the heavy subjects are treated with too light a touch and not enough substance. Were my questions answered? Some were, others were left unanswered.

Category: Women's Fiction
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Amazon Publishing/May 14, 2013
Source: ARC for review
Grade: C

Visit Kathleen Long here.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hilcia's Weekly Reads + News

It's Sunday and a beautiful day! Hope you are having a good day too! My schedule is a bit more relaxed and not only did I read this past week, but I had the chance to visit a few of my favorite sites  and found a few interesting bits to share.

Weekly Reading:

My week began with A Family Affair by Mary Campisi. I thought this book might be a romance, but it turned out to be more contemporary fiction with a romance that develops in the middle of the whole angst-ridden storyline about a dysfunctional family. When Chrissy's father dies, she finds out that for fourteen years he had a second, secret family. Devastated, she keeps the information from her mother and goes to confront his father's long-time mistress only to find more than she expected. Campisi uses the dual narrative style, alternating between Chrissie and her Uncle Harry. There's a problem with finding sympathetic or unselfish characters in this story, and the romance felt as if it was tagged on quickly after much hostility between the couple. I would say there's much promise in the premise and some good elements to the story, but the execution doesn't live up that promise. Grade C-

Next I decided to check out Megan Hart's upcoming release, The Favor.

This book is due to release on June 25th, but once I had it in my hot little hands I read it immediately! Why? Well, it's Megan Hart and once begun, I couldn't put the book down but will post my review closer to the release date. I can give this much information to fans of this author as clarification -- so the book can be read with the correct expectations and won't end up disappointing. The Favor falls under the contemporary fiction or literary fiction category, this book is NOT an erotic or a traditional romance. Reading a book with the right mind-set always helps me.

I followed up by picking up the digital edition of When Love Comes to Town by Tom Lennon.This is a "vintage" young adult LGBT book set in Ireland in the 1990's. This coming-out story was initially released 20 years ago.  In many respects it is dated, but sadly, I found that it is also still very relevant. I read this story with both time and place in mind, which was not easy to do. Additionally, despite the title of the book which makes it seem as if it is a romance, I would say that this story falls more under the gay fiction with romantic elements category. I enjoyed it and will review it soon.

I also read Changing Lanes by Kathleen Long. Which did not signify that I really changed lanes in my choice of reading material at all since this book is also contemporary or women's fiction. There is a romantic thread that runs through the storyline but it is not the focus of the story. I love that Changing Lanes is set in a very recognizable New Jersey, but I'll tell you all about that in my review. This book releases May 14th.

But of course I didn't just read fiction the whole week! I also read poetry.

Throughout the week I picked up and slowly read Senegal Taxi by Juan Felipe Herrera, a small volume of poetry that is both political and raw in content. Herrera uses the voices of three children to focus his poetry on the suffering and horrors of war in Darfur. Reading Senegal Taxi was a heart-wrenching experience that has not loosened its grip on me yet. Juan Felipe Herrera was appointed California's 2012 Poet Laureate. Upcoming highlights.

Looking for The Gulf Motel by Richard Blanco
is the other poetry volume I chose to read last week. Blanco's uses a narrative style in this emotional biographical piece that touched and in some ways soothed me. I recognized and connected with many of his personal conflicts as the child of a loving, if tough and judgmental, immigrant Cuban family. I laughed in some places, but strongly felt his emotional anguish and nostalgia in others. This is a book I will definitely re-read. Richard Blanco just won The Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Poetry. Upcoming highlights.

And, I concluded my week by reading the novelette “The Fountain” by G. David Nordley from Asimov's SF Magazine. My first encounter with Nordley's work turned out to be solid. I enjoyed the science fiction details in this piece, but most of all I really like the way Nordley portrays an alien race that is so different from humans, yet end up teaching humans a lesson or two about compassion. I was absorbed by this piece all the way to the end. Read Carl's detailed review at SF Signal here. Grade: B
Replacing Google Reader: I am experimenting with Feedly vs. The Old Reader to see which one works for me. So far, I'm loving Feedly's format. It was a snap to transfer information across devices, and I found that it updates RSS signals quicker than The Old Reader.

Editorial Post: If you haven't check it out yet, don't miss Wendy's post "Libraries, What Are They Good For?" at The Misadventures of Super Librarian. In her excellent post, Wendy tackles controversial reactions to digital lending by authors who see libraries as "The Problem."

SFF: The 2013 Aurora Award nominees have been announced by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association. The awards will be presented at Can-Con ( in Ottawa, Oct 4 – 6, 2013. Check out the list here.  From the novels nominated on that list the only book I have in my TBR is The Silvered by Tanya Huff!

LGBT: Congratulations to Trebor Healey for winning the 2013 James Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize and The Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction

 for A Horse Named Sorrow (University of Wisconsin Press)

. I've dubbed this "Trebor Healey Week."

Looking forward to another great reading week!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Contemporary & LGBT Releases: April/May 2013

Here are a few recent and/or upcoming releases already in my possession that I'm hoping to read soon!


Contemporary Romance
The Best Man by Kristan Higgins (Harlequin HQN)
February 26, 2013

Sometimes the best man is the one you least expect…

Faith Holland left her hometown after being jilted at the altar. Now a little older and wiser, she's ready to return to the Blue Heron Winery, her family's vineyard, to confront the ghosts of her past, and maybe enjoy a glass of red. After all, there's some great scenery there….

Like Levi Cooper, the local police chief—and best friend of her former fiancé. There's a lot about Levi that Faith never noticed, and it's not just those deep green eyes. The only catch is she's having a hard time forgetting that he helped ruin her wedding all those years ago. If she can find a minute amidst all her family drama to stop and smell the rosé, she just might find a reason to stay at Blue Heron, and finish that walk down the aisle.

Women's Fiction
What Tears Us Apart by Deborah Cloyed (MIRA/Harlequin)
March 26, 2013

Love lives in the most dangerous places of the heart. The real world. That's what Leda desperately seeks when she flees her life of privilege to travel to Kenya. She finds it at a boys' orphanage in the slums of Nairobi. What she doesn't expect is to fall for Ita, the charismatic and thoughtful man who gave up his dreams to offer children a haven in the midst of turmoil.

Their love should be enough for one another-it embodies the soul-deep connection both have always craved. But it is threatened by Ita's troubled childhood friend, Chege, a gang leader with whom he shares a complex history. As political unrest reaches a boiling point and the slum erupts in violence, Leda is attacked …and forced to put her trust in Chege, the one person who otherwise inspires anything but.

In the aftermath of Leda's rescue, disturbing secrets are exposed, and Leda, Ita and Chege are each left grappling with their own regret and confusion. Their worlds upturned, they must now face the reality that sometimes the most treacherous threat is not the world outside, but the demons within.

Contemporary Romance
Love Irresistibly by Julie James (Berkeley)
April 2, 2013

A former football star and one of Chicago’s top prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cade Morgan will do anything to nail a corrupt state senator, which means he needs Brooke Parker’s help. As general counsel for a restaurant company, she can get a bug to the senator’s table at one of her five-star restaurants so the FBI can eavesdrop on him. All Cade has to do is convince Brooke to cooperate—and he’s not afraid to use a little charm, or the power of his office, to do just that.


A savvy businesswoman, Brooke knows she needs to play ball with the U.S. Attorney’s office—even if it means working with Cade. No doubt there’s a sizzling attraction beneath all their sarcastic quips, but Brooke.

Contemporary Romance
Big Boy by Ruthie Knox (Samhain)
April 2, 2013
A Strangers on a Train Story
Meet me at the train museum after dark. Dress for 1957.
When Mandy joins an online dating service, she keeps her expectations low. All she wants is a distraction from the drudgery of single parenthood and full-time work. But the invitation she receives from a handsome man who won't share his real name promises an adventure--and a chance to pretend she's someone else for a few hours.

She doesn't want romance to complicate her life, but Mandy's monthly role-playing dates with her stranger on a train--each to a different time period--become the erotic escape she desperately needs. And a soul connection she never expected.

Yet when she tries to draw her lover out of the shadows, Mandy has a fight on her convince him there's a place for their fantasy love in the light of day.

Contemporary Romance/Fiction
Changing Lanes by Kathleen Long (Brilliance Corporation)
May 14, 2013

Abby Halladay has the perfect life. Or, rather, she will, as long as everything goes exactly according to plan. Abby never leaves anything to chance --- not her job as a syndicated columnist, not her engagement to her fiance, Fred, and certainly not her impending wedding in Paris (New Jersey, that is). Unfortunately for Abby, even the best-laid plans often go awry, like when Fred runs away to Paris (France, that is), her column is canned, and her dream home is diagnosed with termites.

Forced to move back in with her parents and drive her dad's cab, Abby's perfect life has now officially become the perfect disaster. Then a funny thing happens. Slowly but surely, Abby begins letting go of her dreams of perfection. As she does, the messy, imperfect life she thought she never wanted starts to feel exactly like the one she needs.

Poignant and heartfelt, Changing Lanes celebrates the unexpected joys of everyday life and the enduring promise of second chances.


M/M Romance
An Ordinary Boy by Brian Centrone (Seventh Window Publications)
February 23, 2013

Tom Grove’s family is rich, his grandparents are famous, and he’s beautiful. He can have anything he wants, but all Tom really wants is to be an ordinary boy. Like his best friend, Marissa, Tom wants to fit in, make friends and date sexy boys. It would also help if he could be free of his father’s weighty expectations, his mother’s insane demands, and his older brother’s snide remarks.

When Tom begins his first year of college, he believes he’s going to come out and start a new life. But Tom’s plan to come out of the closet and meet hot college boys isn’t exactly foolproof. His new roommate is a straight jock, the gay club at school is made up of outcasts, and the lines between going out to dinner and a date are blurry at best.

If that isn't challenge enough, Tom has to learn how to navigate drunken college parties, the campus social hierarchy, and the attentions of the wrong sort of boys. What begins as a journey to independence turns into a series of mishaps, love, heartache, soul searching, awkward situations and the realization that life is less like an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog and more like the everyday low prices of Wal-Mart.

And to make matters worse, he still has to make it through freshman year.

Historical Gay/General Fiction
My Dear Watson by L.A. Fields (Lethe Press)
April 4, 2013

One of the most famous partnerships in literature yields, over time, to a peculiar romantic triangle. Sherlock Holmes. Dr. John Watson. And the good doctor’s second wife, whom Doyle never named. In L A Fields's novel, Mrs. Watson is a clever woman who realizes, through examining all the prior cases her husband shared with the world's greatest consulting detective, that the two men shared more than adventures: they were lovers, as well. In 1919, after the pair has retired, Mrs. Watson invites Holmes to her home to meet him face to face. Thus begins a recounting of a peculiar affair between extraordinary men.

“You are such a unique person,” Holmes says poisonously. “What a shame that history will most likely never remember your name.”

The question Mrs. Watson faces: Did Holmes simply take advantage of her husband’s loyalty and love, or did the detective return those feelings? And what to do now that the pair are no longer living together at Baker Street and Watson has other claims on his affections? My Dear Watson offers readers a romance that requires as much reasoning to puzzle out as it does passion. Mrs. Watson proves a worthy opponent—in intellect, in guile, in conviction—for the great detective.

Lesbian/General Fiction
Broken in Soft Places by Fionna Zedde (Bold Strokes Books)
May 14, 2013

Some mornings, Sara Chambers wakes in bed next to her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s lover wondering how she ended up there. Beautiful, successful, and a force to be reckoned with at her Atlanta law firm, Sara is still powerless in her attraction to the rebellious and reckless, Rille Thompson.

As college girlfriends, Sara and Rille’s relationship had been incendiary, burning away Sara’s innocence and self-respect even as it widened her world beyond her wildest imagination. Now, almost twenty years later, Rille still pushes Sara beyond her limits, bringing a third lover into their bed and domestic lives when their monogamy gets stale. The hold Rille has over Sara—and their new lover—becomes as powerful as it is dangerous. Can Sara pull herself free in time, or will her life turn to cinders in the wake of Rille’s powerful flame?

AND, looking forward to the release of:

Contemporary Romance/Suspense
Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts (Putnam Adult)
April 16, 2013
For more than three hundred years, Bluff House has sat above Whiskey Beach, guarding its shore—and its secrets. But to Eli Landon, it’s home…

A Boston lawyer, Eli has weathered an intense year of public scrutiny and police investigations after being accused of—but never arrested for—the murder of his soon-to-be-ex wife.

He finds sanctuary at Bluff House, even though his beloved grandmother is in Boston recuperating from a nasty fall. Abra Walsh is always there, though. Whiskey Beach’s resident housekeeper, yoga instructor, jewelry maker, and massage therapist, Abra is a woman of many talents—including helping Eli take control of his life and clear his name. But as they become entangled in each other, they find themselves caught in a net that stretches back for centuries—one that has ensnared a man intent on reaping the rewards of destroying Eli Landon once and for all…

Friday, May 11, 2012

Review: A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale

Continuing with favorite writers that I have recommended throughout the past three years, today I am reviewing the last book released by a favorite writer in the women's fiction with contemporary romance elements category: Lisa Dale.

I tend to love Lisa Dale's books, not only because of her beautiful prose and excellent writing skills, but also because from that first book I read in 2009 to this last one, I've found that she has developed a great knack for balancing out both contemporary women's fiction and romance. Her stories have HEA's (happy-ever-afters), but they also have some of the best characteristics found in women's fiction. Her books are usually character driven, and throughout them I've found that whatever the main subject may be, finding a path to personal growth and forgiveness are always part of her exploration. So here it is:

A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale

An unforgettable novel about love, forgiveness, and letting go.

Nine years ago, Lauren Matthews prosecuted the case of a lifetime. But her error in judgment sent an innocent man to prison. Now Arlen Fieldstone has finally been released, and Lauren has only one thing on her mind: asking forgiveness. How can she make up for nine years of his life? To get to Arlen, Lauren must first get through Arlen's best friend, Will Farris, who hasn't forgiven her for destroying Arlen's life.
In the steaming summer streets of Richmond, Virginia, three people's lives collide. Lauren needs forgiveness. Arlen needs hope. And Will? He needs something too, something that no one can know—especially not Lauren...
A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale is a character driven novel with complex characters, but not an overly complicated plot. With this novel, Dale excels at digging into her characters' motivations and in keeping the reader glued to the pages to find who these people really are deep down inside.

There are three main characters: Lauren Mathews, Will Farris, and  Arlen Fieldstone. Plus there's Eula, Arlen's ex-wife, who serves as a strong secondary character. Lauren Matthews was hailed a prodigy when she prosecuted and won the case that sent Arlen Fieldstone to prison for a crime he didn't commit. Her successful career is based on that one case. When Arlen's case is retried, found not guilty and released after nine years in prison, Lauren begins to question everything about her life. There are reasons behind reasons for these questions, but the one thing she clearly knows is that she needs to ask for Arlen's forgiveness to get on with her life. Will he grant her what she needs?

Arlen Fieldstone's life went on hold when he was nineteen years old and accused of a crime he didn't commit. He lost his wife Eula and his future. Arlen wants freedom but no longer knows what the word freedom really means. After nine years he continues to live in a prison made up of fear, anger and resentment. What does he have to do to find real freedom?

Will Farris is Arlen's childhood friend. He never doubted Arlen and he's the only person there for him now. When Lauren walks through the door of his antique store, Will remembers her from the trial. His initial feelings for her are portrayed as a mixture of attraction and repulsion, dislike and personal obsession. Will's initial response is to protect Arlen and places himself between the two. However through daily contact Will's view of Lauren changes as do his feelings, and as she reveals herself to him, a key turns and he feels the need to open the door that will reveal to Lauren the real man behind the facade. But can he?

In A Promise of Safekeeping, on the surface, Dale's characters don't seem to have anything in common but beneath it all they do. They are all holding on to feelings or things that imprison them just as surely as Arlen was imprisoned for those nine years. None of them really know what freedom means and it takes truth, forgiveness and love to free them.

There is a rather dramatic scene at the end that I did not expect of such a well paced (I read this novel in one sitting) character driven novel, plus the end felt rushed and abrupt after the depth found in the rest of the story. However in this case, the ending did not detract from my overall enjoyment of A Promise of Safekeeping.

As with her previous novels, I love Dale's prose in this novel. I can't say it enough, but she definitely has the touch when it comes to fusing contemporary romance and women's fiction, because yes there is a satisfactory romance between Will and Lauren. Plus what can I say about the fact that Dale brings a couple of interesting subjects including that of wrongful incarceration to women's fiction? This is a character driven novel and Dale's deft execution when it comes to creating complex characters comes through. Recommended.

Category: Women's Fiction/Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Penguin/January 3, 2012
Grade: B+

Visit Lisa Dale here. Read excerpts here.

Other books by Lisa Dale:
Simple Wishes
It Happened One Night
Slow Dancing on Price's Pier

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Review: Sunset Bridge (Happiness Key #3) by Emilie Richards

In Sunset Bridge, the third and last book of the Happiness Key trilogy, Emilie Richards writes a wonderful story of close friendships between five women, a romance for two of them and still manages to include a suspense story line with action that kept me interested until the end. Of course in this story the characters take center stage. Their lives are full of real life issues, their reactions are relatable and as in real life, there's humor to go along with all the drama.

Tracy has come a long way from the person she used to be, the cold socialite with a con man ex-husband who left her broke and broken. Out of her little community of friends at Happiness Key, she created a close-knit family and also found Marsh Egan, a man who makes her happy. But things change between Tracy and Marsh once she realizes what her bouts of nausea really mean. An unplanned pregnancy is the last thing Tracy needs, especially when her relationship with Marsh is just taking off... now, how will she be able to tell weather he wants her for herself or for the baby?

Janya's seems to be content in her arranged marriage to Rishi and the life they've made for themselves at Happiness Key. They long to have a family and after a few years of marriage their hopes seem to be dimming. However, tragic circumstances bring two small children to Janya and Rishi... but, will they be able to keep them?

After years of being a mother and the wife of a cop, loud and opinionated Wanda finally realizes her dream and opens Wanda's Wonderful Pies. She's happy with her life, her husband and her friends, but things are about to change for her. Her daughter Maggie is moving back home after leaving her job and live-in boyfriend in Miami, and their mother-daughter relationship is not exactly a close one. Plus, her business is about to take off in unexpected directions.

Maggie quit her job as a cop in Miami after an investigation didn't go her way. To her way of thinking, long-time lover and cop Felo didn't back her up either, so she left him too. Now she's coming back to work with her mother at the pie shop and to live at Happiness Key. Her future is as uncertain as her feelings for Felo. When a couple is murdered, Maggie finds herself involved in an investigation after agreeing to help a friend... and her future might not be the only thing hanging in the balance.

Alice loves her granddaughter Olivia, but as she recuperates from her stroke keeping up with the young girl becomes harder each day. How will she manage to maintain the pace and her health?

In Sunset Bridge, Richards weaves a story of friendship, love and suspense that flows and that kept me turning those pages. Although at the beginning it took me a while to orient myself, soon the characters began to take shape and became people who interested me.

There's Tracy who with her hormonal changes, her insecurities and pregnancy issues drives Marsh nuts throughout the story. Marsh is a guy and of course clueless for much of the story, although I admit to feeling sorry for him more than once when well... he didn't read Tracy's mind or gave the right answer at the right time. Theirs is a humorous and frustrating situation that I enjoyed to the end. And then there's Maggie... with her angsty and very serious trust and control issues. I was pulling for Maggie to wake up and smell the roses, as I fell in love with her man Felo myself. These two story lines gave the book that touch of romance that I needed to really enjoy this book.

However, the central story is about the friendship, and I love the way the women support each other throughout all types of situations, both light and dire. Best of all I really enjoyed the way they tell each other the truth, and call each other out when they're wrong without being either pushy or interfering. The older women, Wanda and Alice, don't have a problem telling the younger ones, especially Tracy and Maggie, why they're decisions are questionable. Janya falls in between, she is young but has wonderful insight and wisdom, making her one of my favorite characters in this story.

Although Sunset Bridge is the last book of the series and the relationships have been developed throughout the first two books, Happiness Key and Fortunate Harbour, in my opinion it stands quite well on its own. This is a wonderful story about friendship between different women from different cultures, of different ages and ways of life. I really enjoyed it and recommend it as a great read.

Category: Women's Fiction
Series: Happiness Key
Publisher/Release Date: Mira, June 21, 2011
Source: ARC Planned Television Arts, Ruder Finn
Grade: B+

Visit Emilie Richards here.

Happiness Key, Book 1
Fortunate Harbour, Book 2
Sunset Bridge, Book 3

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review: The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed

Every summer, Samantha Wheland joins her childhood friends—Isabel, Kendra and Mina—on a vacation, somewhere exotic and fabulous. Together with their mixed bag of parents, they've created a lifetime of memories. This year it's a beach house in Honduras. But for the first time, their clan is not complete. Mina lost her battle against cancer six months ago, and the friends she left behind are still struggling to find their way forward without her.

For Samantha, the vacation just feels wrong without Mina. Despite being surrounded by her friends—the closest thing she has to family—Mina's death has left Sam a little lost. Unsure what direction her life should take. Fearful that whatever decision she makes about her wealthy French boyfriend's surprise proposal, it'll be the wrong one.

The answers aren't in the journal Mina gave Sam before she died. Or in the messages Sam believes Mina is sending as guideposts. Before the trip ends, the bonds of friendship with her living friends, the older generation's stories of love and loss, and Sam's glimpse into a world far removed from the one in which she belongs will convince her to trust her heart. And follow it.
The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed is her debut novel. This is a book that left me with mixed feelings and deep thoughts about life, death, friendships, family, love and more. Although I'm sure many consider this novel women's fiction, for me it had a more literary flavor, perhaps because of the style in which it is written, the prose, and the depth with which the different subjects are approached.
Birth and Death are the two occurrences in a person's life that seem to say one thing: we are not the ones calling the shots. "The only consolations are love and best friends." That's what Mina told me two days before she died.
That's how this story begins and right there is the substance of this story. After losing Mina, Samantha herself feels lost, and grief and guilt make her question a lifetime of personal decisions. She wants to grieve on her own but her friends won't allow it, and Isabel, Jesse, Lynette, Cornell and Arshan come down to Tegucigalpa, Honduras to help her go on. All of them, including Isabel and Kendra go through the grieving process, consolidating their friendship and love, and going through a journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Mina seemed to have been the axis around which the rest of the friends rotated and although dead, she is very much a part of their rough journey.

Through Samantha's character and quantum physics (and what some would call magical realism), Cloyed goes forth in her attempt, a creative one if I may say so, to disprove the fact that "we are not the ones calling the shots." You'll find references to both the Copenhagen Interpretation and the Many World Theory -- which theorizes that there are "a number of parallel universes, and everything that could possibly have happened in our past, but didn't, has occurred in the past of other universe or universes."

However, although science is very much a part of this quest, there's also a mixture of interesting characters in this story. Isabel is half-half Panamanian/American, Kendra is half-half African American/White and Mina's parents were born in Iran with Samantha being the red head American in the group. The author uses this mixture of races and cultures, as well as the setting in Honduras, to address racial and cultural differences. And as if that were not enough, while relating their personal experiences, the Baby Boomer parents in the story also get into history as the reader is treated to their personal struggles and first person points of view on the 1960's U.S. Civil Rights struggle, the Iranian Revolution and South American politics, as well as and the struggle of the Garifuna population in Honduras where the group of friends is staying.

There's a generational theme in this story. The parent's older generation making a connection with the younger one by imparting experiences often fraught with controversial subjects, but flawed or not, all leading in one way or another to lessons in life and love. The friendship and bond between Sam, Isabel, Kendra and Mina is deep, the connection between them supposedly making them stronger. Instead I found them to be fragile, fragile to the point of brittleness and therefore easily broken and in need of saving. The younger women's sense of hopelessness weighs heavily for most of this story, even through the lighter moments.

As you can see this is an ambitious undertaking by Ms. Cloyed, and although the four friends are there as characters, as is the journey of the self, this not necessarily your typical women's fiction read. This is where my mixed feelings come in about The Summer We Came to Life, as some of its strengths can also be considered its weaknesses. At one point there are as many meaningful subjects discussed or debated as there are shifts in points of view. Those constant shifts were problematic for me through the beginning of the book, and even a few times later when I sunk into the story. On the other hand, I quite appreciated Cloyed's creative blending of magical realism (if magical realism is her objective) with science, and found both her prose and in-depth characterization to be excellent throughout.

Finally I'll say that The Summer We Came to Life is not an easy read, but it is one that made me think and that's always a plus for me. This is Deborah Cloyed's debut novel and it's very good in my opinion. I would like to see what comes next from this author.

Category: Women's Fiction
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Mira, May 31, 2011
Source: ARC Planned Television Arts, Ruder Finn
Grade: B-

Visit Deborah Cloyed here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday Review: Slow Dancing on Price's Pier by Lisa Dale

A family learns that time can erase mistakes when the heart remains true- from a refreshing new storyteller.

Fifteen years ago, Garret Sorensen's family, trust, and heart were destroyed when Thea Celik betrayed him and married his brother. Now they are divorcing. Garret's ready to finally mend his relationship with his brother. But being back in Newport, Rhode Island, triggers a lot of memories-all leading back to Thea.

Thea's not ready to let go of the Sorensens-even if it means being around Garret. As they cautiously circle around each other-finding themselves drawn together-they realize following their hearts could cast them adrift.
Lisa Dale always seems to surprise me. There's something about her books that seem to touch me in one way or another, it's that writing style of hers that does it every time.

Each chapter of Slow Dancing on Price's Pier begins with Thea's newspaper column From "The Coffee Diaries" by Thea Celik. In this one page column Thea explores the history of coffee, but of course there's more there as each gorgeous little story applies to her life and to that of those around her. I love the way Dale uses them in conjunction with the story.
"It's fire that forces the transformation from seed to bean. Roasting alters the seed's makeup -- an intense molecular restructuring.

In that way, I think coffee cherries aren't much different from people. Heat and pressure change us. When we walk through fire -- and we all do at some point -- we come out the other side to find ourselves altered. If we're lucky, we become richer, more complex, more alluring people because of our trials. But sometimes, we just get burned."
Slow Dancing on Price's Pier is a complex story of friendship and love that involves one woman, two brothers, and a family. It's a triangle that begins when the three are carefree and young and ends years later after their great friendship has been interrupted by competition, jealousy, wrong choices, misunderstandings and yes... love.

The story begins with Thea and Jonathan's separation after years of marriage. The news comes as a shock to his family, friends and to everyone on Price's Pier where Thea runs her beloved coffee shop. Unbeknown to everyone, Jonathan cheated on their marriage, yet he refuses to talk to Thea, see her, or to pick up his own daughter for the weekend. Instead, Jonathan sends his brother Garrett to take care of his responsibilities.

Garrett and Thea have not seen or talked to each in fifteen years, since Thea married Jonathan. He hates her, doesn't want her as part of his family and makes no bones about it. But Garrett finally has a chance to reconcile with his brother now that Jonathan is divorcing Thea, so he'll do whatever is necessary for his brother and agrees to play go-between. He even gives Jonathan a divorce party, here's his toast:
"Sometimes a man has to take the long way to find out a woman isn't who he thought she was. You know what they say. It's hard for a man to lose a woman. Sometimes, it's damn near impossible. Believe me, I've tried. "

"Jeez, Garrett." One of his friends cut in. "Whose divorce party is this anyway."
Garrett and Thea's meeting is a tough one. He's hostile and shocked to finally see her again... she's just shocked to see him, to feel his hostility and just wants him to go away. Thea doesn't want to lose the only family she has left in the country -- Garrett and Jonathan's family -- especially as her own parents are back in Turkey, and she's afraid that this is the end of that relationship. Garrett is honest with Thea about the fact that he doesn't want her to be a part of his family any longer and acts the ass with Thea. But... but... there is such history there! As Dale begins to slowly unravel their story, the reader discovers that there are such strong emotions and more than enough reasons behind all these initial uncomfortable actions.

Thea on decaffeinated coffee and Jonathan:
Serious coffee drinkers know the importance of decaf coffee when it comes to round-the-clock consumption....Whatever the method of decaffeination, most decaf coffees still contain some small amounts of caffeine. There's just no way to get rid of it completely. Nature insists. 
Garrett and Jonathan met Thea when they moved to Newport, Rhode Island as teenage boys. Their friendship was deep and meaningful while it was on equal terms and they balanced each other's weaknesses and strengths. Garrett was the star athlete who loved to take risks while Jonathan was studious and methodical, but Thea was a bit of both. She stepped in between the brothers and became the much needed balance. Unfortunately after Jonathan graduated and went away to college and Garrett was a senior in high school, Thea and Garrett fell in love and the dynamics changed between the three friends. The circumstances and choices made by these three young people changed their lives in ways that affected them for the long haul.

Thea on a real cup of coffee and Garrett:
"The fact is, there's nothing in the world like a good cup of smooth, dark coffee -- but as with so many things, sometimes it takes a substitute to make you appreciate the real thing." 
What did I like about this book? Well, I don't like triangles because I tend to like one man (or woman), and really dislike the other. I thought it would bother me that the triangle includes brothers, but in the end it didn't make a difference and it didn't bother me at all. In the beginning this story was tough because Jonathan didn't seem to have any backbone as he didn't take responsibility for his actions, and Garrett despite his confused thoughts, was quite hostile toward Thea. Thea herself seemed to be more concerned about keeping Jonathan's family at any cost than about her own personal happiness.

However, as Dale unravels the story (and yes she uses flashbacks a few of times), everything falls into place and there's an understanding of the characters and their human actions and reactions. Particularly if you take their youth into consideration. Their present actions and reactions, on the other hand, are a different matter. Although the reactions by the adults are still human and flawed, I thought at times they also came off as immature. Jonathan and his family seem to me to be pretty selfish in many ways, just as Thea seemed to be too darn accommodating.

But did I enjoy the romance? Yes, I did. I loved that the emotions between Garrett and Thea felt real -- especially those coming from Garrett. Weather it was hostility, contempt, passion or love, Garrett's emotions oozed out of him. It's true that Thea compromised her feelings, but what they all did was hide from reality. Frankly by the end of this story I liked both characters and really enjoyed their story.

Slow Dancing on Price's Pier is a family drama by Ms. Dale full of memorable characters and situations, as well as a memorable romance. I continue to enjoy her prose, and particularly the way she balances out (what I think of as) this fusion between women's fiction and contemporary romance. It just seems to get better with every book she writes. I look forward to reading her next book and hope we don't have too long a wait before that next release.

Category: Contemporary Romance/Women's Fiction
Series: None
Released: Penguin Publishing, April 5, 2011 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B+

Visit Lisa Dale here. Read an excerpt here.

Other books by Lisa Dale:
Simple Wishes
It Happened One Night

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Review: Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

When Arlene Fleet headed off to college in Chicago, she made three promises to God: She would never again lie, she would stop fornicating with every boy who crossed her path, and she'd never, ever go back to her tiny hometown of Possett, Alabama (the "fourth rack of Hell"). All God had to do in exchange was to make sure the body of high school quarterback Jim Beverly was never found.

Ten years later, Arlene has kept her promises, but an old school-mate has recently turned up asking questions. And now Arlene's African American beau has given her a tough ultimatum: introduce him to her family, or he's gone. As she prepares to confront guilt, discrimination, and a decade of deception, Arlene is about to discover just how far she will go to find redemption - and love.
I read Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson when it was first released in 2005. It was Ms. Jackson's debut novel and one that made my keeper shelf for different reasons. This is a women's fiction book, but it's also considered "Southern Fiction." Ms. Jackson is from the South and those roots can definitely be appreciated and recognized in her writing, characterization, subject matter and humor.

Gods in Alabama is one of those books with an unforgettable first line, one that "hooked" me into reading it and became engraved in my mind. Every time I looked at my bookshelf and saw the title of the book, I remembered it.
"There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel's, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus. I left one back there myself, back in Possett. I kicked it under the kudzu and left it to the roaches..."
Thus begins this complex story written in first person as seen through Arlene Fleet's point of view. Lena left Possett, Alabama for Chicago ten years ago right after high school. At that time, she made a deal with God: she would not have sex, would never lie, and would never again return to Possett, Alabama as long as that one "god" she kicked under the kudzu and left to the roaches was not discovered.

For ten years the deal held up, she's now a teacher's aid at a local University and working on her PhD. Lena's African American boyfriend loves her and because he's also the son of a Baptist preacher, he seems to understand and goes along with her need for celibacy. But all of that is about to come to an end when to Lena's great surprise and frustration, Rose Mae Lolley from Possett shows up at her door with a question that Lena will not and cannot answer -- and Lena can't lie. Against her better judgment, Lena finds that after all these years she must return to Possett, Alabama to head off the troubles that Rose Mae Lolley brought back to her door. To Lena's way of thinking, God broke their deal.

Joshilyn Jackson begins this story at the end and works her way to the beginning of the story, making the beginning, the end. I remember the first time I read this book not being able to put it down because I wanted to know what happened in the beginning. It's fast paced, with only a couple of slower chapters in the middle and then picks up again to the end. We get to know what happens to Lena through some flashbacks, confrontations with her family, and Lena's dialogue with her boyfriend, Burr. It was a fascinating ride to the surprising twist in the end the first time, and an even better ride the second time around for me.

Gods in Alabama is an interesting mixture of heavy subjects and witty, humorous prose. Through Lena's guilt-ridden eyes and conscience, Jackson tells a story full of family conflicts, murder, rape, racism, guilt, redemption and immense love. She throws in a bi-racial romance and sets it all in a small southern town full of unforgettable characters. But, the best part of this book is that while reading about all these heavy subjects, all of which she addresses fully and without reserve, there is not a "heavy" feel to this book.

Jackson uses her gift for humor and wit to tell Lena's story and the writer's southern roots definitely show in the telling. There no such thing as southern "flavor" in this book, there is much more than that. The way she describes the setting, the usage of language and humour make you feel as if you're right there in Possett and these elements make the story come alive. The characterization was excellent in most instances, however in some cases she seemed to gloss over the characters and they came off a bit stereotypical. Lena and Aunt Flo's characters were flawlessly developed, but I do wish that cousin Clarice had been better drawn. She was an important character in this story whose motivations stayed 'sketchy' in my mind, both through my first read and this time around.

I thought Gods in Alabama was an excellent debut novel for Joshilyn Jackson. Then and now, I loved her gift for telling this type of story with wit and humour. I enjoyed Ms Jackson's writing style and meant to follow up on her other releases. I'm sorry to say I didn't. However, re-reading this book made me look her up again and it turns out that she now has a backlist I can enjoy. I'm interested in reading her second release, Between, Georgia. Also, this is a huge coincidence, but she has a new book Backseat Saints coming out June 8, 2010 featuring Rose Mae Lollie and I'll definitely be reading that one.
"There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel's, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus..."
Tell me that's not a great first line. Hah! :)

Genre: Contemporary Women's Fiction
Series: None
Release Date: April 13, 2005
Grade: B+

Visit Joshilyn Jackson here.

Nath's 2010 Re-Read Challenge - March Review

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Review: Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin

Meet Rachel White, a young attorney living and working in Manhattan. Rachel has always been the consummate good girl -- until her thirtieth birthday, when her best friend Darcy throws her a party. That night, after too many drinks, Rachel ends up in bed with Darcy's fiance. Although she wakes up determined to put the one-night fling behind her, Rachel is horrified to discover that she has genuine feelings for the one guy should run from. In her wildest dreams (or worst nightmare?) this is the last thing on earth Rachel could ever have imagined happening.

As the September wedding date nears, Rachel knows she has to make a choice. In doing so, she discovers that the lines between right and wrong can be blurry, endings aren't always neat, and sometimes you have to risk all to win true happiness.
I don't usually read contemporary women's fiction or 'chick-lit', but this book was a loan from my daughter. We don't exchange books very often, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity when she recommended it. Thank you Big V!

Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin was her debut novel. She tackles some pretty controversial subjects in her first book: infidelity being the obvious one, but with that comes the question, what constitutes betrayal? Is there such a thing as justification for betrayal? Who exactly betrays whom in this novel? It turned out to be both interesting and fun to find out.

Written in first person through Rachel's point of view, Ms. Griffin weaves a complex story about relationships, a damaging, toxic friendship and its consequences. Consequences that affect not only the two people involved, in this case Rachel and Darcy who have been best friends since childhood, but all those caught in the middle.

Rachel's thirtieth birthday serves as the catalyst. Darcy throws Rachel a "surprise" birthday party where everyone drinks too much. At the end of the night, the last ones left at the bar are Rachel and Dexter. Dex is Darcy's fiancé and Rachel's old friend from law school. The two friends decide to go to another bar for more conversation and drinks. Before they know it, Rachel and Dex end up in each other's arms -- a mistake that interestingly enough neither seem to regret too deeply.

Rachel realizes her feelings for Dex are deeper than she first thought as she attempts to forget the "Incident." The fact that her feelings seem to be reciprocated by Dexter makes it tougher to move on. Slowly, but surely, the two embark on a sober affair that turns out to be both physical and of the heart. As a couple, you can feel their connection and chemistry, but their situation turns out to be both difficult and complex.

At this point Dex and Rachel are cheating, but the fact that Darcy is written as a manipulative, superficial, immature, and self-centered character makes it easier to actually root for them. It was an interesting dilemma. Darcy is an unsympathetic victim. Or, is she a victim? Rachel, on the other hand, is down to earth and a likable person -- it's easy to connect with her and to sympathize with her ongoing insecurities and conflicts.

There are no black and white answers here; instead you'll find plenty of gray areas. Through Rachel, Ms. Griffin explores some pretty uncomfortable questions about the limits of friendship and how far a person can or will go to maintain that friendship. The breaking point is what she highlights in this book. Her characters are flawed and none are innocent or spared.

Ms. Griffin does an excellent job of character development while telling the story from Rachel's perspective. Her characters' personalities come through crystal clear. Rachel, Dexter, Darcy, Marcus, Hillary and Ethan are a great cast of characters that kept my attention even while I either disliked them or disagreed with their decisions.

A combination Sex in the City / 'chick lit' book, Something Borrowed felt like a fast paced soap opera, with some great twists, wonderful characterization and dialogue and I couldn't stop reading until the end. I have the follow up book, Something Blue, Darcy's story, and will definitely read it.

Genre: Contemporary Women's Fiction
Series: Followed by "Something Blue"
Released: March 10, 2005
Grade: Solid B

Visit Emily Griffin here.