Digging In by Loretta Nyhan

Digging In by Loretta Nyhan
Publisher: Lake Union
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (263 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

In Loretta Nyhan’s warm and witty Amazon Charts bestselling novel, a widow discovers an unexpected chance to start over—right in her own backyard.

Paige Moresco found her true love in eighth grade—and lost him two years ago. Since his death, she’s been sleepwalking through life, barely holding on for the sake of her teenage son. Her house is a wreck, the grass is overrun with weeds, and she’s at risk of losing her job. As Paige stares at her neglected lawn, she knows she’s hit rock bottom. So she does something entirely unexpected: she begins to dig.

As the hole gets bigger, Paige decides to turn her entire yard into a vegetable garden. The neighbors in her tidy gated community are more than a little alarmed. Paige knows nothing about gardening, and she’s boldly flouting neighborhood-association bylaws. But with the help of new friends, a charming local cop, and the transformative power of the soil, Paige starts to see potential in the chaos of her life. Something big is beginning to take root—both in her garden and in herself.

This author tackles a hard subject. How do you go on when your other half dies in a freak accident? There was no warning, life isn’t the same and your helpmate is gone. It doesn’t help when your child doesn’t want to talk about it either. What makes this story even more meaningful is that the author’s own husband died while playing golf. Her story isn’t this story but it makes it even more touching.

Paige had been in love with him since the eighth grade and is trying to learn to live without him. Then her boss dies and his son takes over the company. Her home and her clothes and her life are all a mess and now she might lose her job…

It’s very easy to fall into oblivion when a major traumatic event shakes up your life. She’s emotionally unstable, is fighting with her neighbor, and the folks in the housing association think she’s losing touch with rationality. She thinks they may be right.

Ms. Nyhan takes you through Paige’s life as she fumbles around trying to put her life back together. She finds a man she likes and decides to take it slow and see how it goes. Her son rebels. She’s gardening even if she really doesn’t know how because she’s friends with a lady from the Farmer’s Market. And the road isn’t clear yet but she’s finding her direction.

The story sounds authentic and the author makes you feel her sorrow and her uncertainty. Paige can’t give up but she’d like to. Then, with the help of friends, she perks up and starts making a new life. Everyone has gone through that at some time in their life. Did you do as well as Paige?

A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang

A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang
Publisher: Lake Union
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (333 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Just beyond the Gilded Age, in the mist-covered streets of New York, the deadly Spanish influenza ripples through the city. But with so many victims in her close circle, young socialite Allene questions if the flu is really to blame. All appear to have been poisoned—and every death was accompanied by a mysterious note.

Desperate for answers and dreading her own engagement to a wealthy gentleman, Allene returns to her passion for scientific discovery and recruits her long-lost friends, Jasper and Birdie, for help. The investigation brings her closer to Jasper, an apprentice medical examiner at Bellevue Hospital who still holds her heart, and offers the delicate Birdie a last-ditch chance to find a safe haven before her fragile health fails.

As more of their friends and family die, alliances shift, lives become entangled, and the three begin to suspect everyone—even each other. As they race to find the culprit, Allene, Birdie, and Jasper must once again trust each other, before one of them becomes the next victim.

The author takes us back in time to the days of moneyed people having more stature than the poor and women being possessions of men. It’s also the time of the Spanish Flu and the war with the Germans. Besides worrying about friends and family being called to duty, Allene has more to worry about. She’s engaged to marry a man she doesn’t love and her friends from the past have been banished from the house. She doesn’t understand why her father hates them so but she has to follow his rules while living in his house.

The reader learns about wartime rules, how the poor survived, and how bleak some of their lives were. It’s realistic but not too in depth about the flu, which is a blessing. When Allene reconnects with her friends, she’s happy to be reunited. When people in their lives begin dying, she starts to get worried. They are not dying from natural causes, they are being poisoned!

This is a tantalizing mystery that gives the reader enough details to ferret out the killer but she always holds back the final clue. The killer is a surprise. The reason why makes sense. And the survivors have to recover and move on.

This world in the past is one that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Who wants a man telling you what to wear, what to think, and your whole goal in life is to make him happy? Even if you inherit money, if you marry, it all becomes his. It’s no wonder people in this day and age did desperate things. The ending is a bit sad but it’s appropriate. Justice does prevail.

Not Perfect by Elizabeth LaBan

Not Perfect by Elizabeth LaBan
Publisher: Lake Union
Genre: Women’s fiction, Contemporary
Length: Full length (331 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Tabitha Brewer wakes up one morning to find her husband gone, leaving her no way to support herself and their two children, never mind their upscale Philadelphia lifestyle. She’d confess her situation to her friends—if it wasn’t for those dreadful words of warning in his goodbye note: “I’ll tell them what you did.”

Instead, she does her best to keep up appearances, even as months pass and she can barely put food on the table—much less replace a light bulb. While she looks for a job, she lives in fear that someone will see her stuffing toilet paper into her handbag or pinching basil from a neighbor’s window box.

Soon, blindsided by catastrophe, surprised by romance, and stunned by the kindness of a stranger, Tabitha realizes she can’t keep her secrets forever. Sooner or later, someone is bound to figure out that her life is far from perfect.

I’ll start by saying I really enjoyed this book. I liked Tabitha, the main character, from the beginning, and who wouldn’t? She’s now a single mom to two children because her husband’s suddenly disappeared, leaving her with a once lavish lifestyle and no way to pay for it. She can’t ask for help or let anyone know about her predicament because he’s left a note that concludes with a threat about telling people what she did. But what exactly did she do? Tabitha like many of us feels she’s done one too many things and feels the guilt.

The story pulled me in immediately and I liked the way the author made Tabitha a sympathetic character by opening with Tabitha taking things for them to eat but keeping tabs on what she’d need to pay back once she got a job.

It’s a believable story and I think that’s what made it work, well at least for me. The dialogue is natural sounding and the pacing spot on for an enjoyable read.

I also enjoyed the bigger question the story asks and that is can anyone be truly perfect and do the little imperfections in our lives really prevent us from being perfect?

If you like women’s fiction with some believable characters and interesting conflict, I think you’ll enjoy this one.

A Drop of Ink by Megan Chance

A Drop of Ink by Megan Chance
Publisher: Lake Union
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (465 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Penniless and disgraced, Adelaide Wentworth is feeling rather desperate. With nothing left to lose, she and her sister, Louisa, flee to Lake Geneva with Adelaide’s lover, the infamous poet Julian Estes. There, Louisa hopes to persuade Bayard Sonnier—celebrated writer and her former lover—to advance Julian’s career. He is their last hope for salvation.

At the Villa Diodati—the place that inspired the writing of Frankenstein sixty years earlier—Louisa plots to rekindle her affair with Bayard, while Adelaide hopes to restore her fading love for Julian by being the muse he needs.

But soon, secrets are revealed, passions ignited, and hidden talents discovered. Adelaide begins to imagine a different life. Confused, she turns to Giovanni Calina—Bayard’s assistant and a man with his own secrets and deep resentments—and the two form a dangerous alliance. No one leaves unscathed in this richly imagined, emotionally nuanced tale of passion, ambition, inspiration, and redemption.

Talk about entangled relationships!!

This book is complicated, I won’t lie. The relationships going on and how they intertwine are very interesting. Ms. Chance’s writing flows well, too. For a book that’s well over 400 pages, spot on writing is a must. Like I said, the author nails it.

I liked how the characters are complicated and flawed. They’re creative, and creativity can be both a blessing and curse. I liked how they worked out their issues and found their ultimate endings. I won’t give anything away. You’ll have to read it for yourself. But if you want a book that’s got lots of parallels to Pride and Prejudice are fun.

If you want a book that’s intricate, fun and has unique parallels to historical events, then this might be the book for you.

The Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams

The Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams
Publisher: Lake Union
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Two decades after the Civil War, Josephine Marcus, the teenage daughter of Jewish immigrants, is lured west with the promise of marriage to Johnny Behan, one of Arizona’s famous lawmen. She leaves her San Francisco home to join Behan in Tombstone, Arizona, a magnet for miners (and outlaws) attracted by the silver boom. Though united by the glint of metal, Tombstone is plagued by divided loyalties: between Confederates and Unionists, Lincoln Republicans and Democrats.

But when the silver-tongued Behan proves unreliable, it is legendary frontiersman Wyatt Earp who emerges as Josephine’s match. As the couple’s romance sparks, Behan’s jealousy ignites a rivalry destined for the history books…

At once an epic account of an improbable romance and a retelling of an iconic American tale, The Last Woman Standing recalls the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral through the eyes of a spunky heroine who sought her happy ending in a lawless outpost—with a fierce will and an unflagging spirit.

Wyatt Earp is a western legend. He was a man of strength both in spirit and in body. He tried to maintain the law in Tombstone and the OK Corral gun battle is a historical site. This is the story of his woman. She’s so very different from him and his lifestyle it’s amazing that they fell in love.

The author does a very nice job of mixing history and fiction. She remains true to the facts but gives them life by creating her story. She shows that both Josephine and Wyatt had the determination and desire to be together despite the odds. You can feel their characters as you read this story.

Josephine was Jewish and from San Francisco. She moves to Tombstone to marry Johnny Behan, a man she’s met and has decided she loves. She was quite naïve when she arrived but she learned quickly. Behan wasn’t all that anxious to get married and she refuses to become his mistress. As time goes on, she ends up bedding him but she still isn’t getting married. Then she comes home with his son and finds him in her bed with another woman. That’s the end of that relationship for her.

How Josephine and Wyatt get together, how Behan tries to get even for her leaving him, and the gunfights at that time make interesting reading. There’s plenty of action, her words flow well, and all you can do is hope things will work well.

My favorite part is the dynamics between Josephine and Wyatt. Both of them had other partners before they found each other but the dance between the two with the best prize being their love is what makes this book good.