Echo Key Haven by Katie Prescott

Echo Key Haven by Katie Prescott
Dolphin Cove: Book 1
Publisher: Scott Street & Second Publishing
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

A heartbroken widow. A husband’s secret legacy.

Olivia and her friends must solve the mystery of what her husband didn’t tell her before he died.

Olivia Crawford had every intention of selling the old Barker place when she returned to Echo Key to see the falling-down old mansion her late husband bought. It was supposed to be where they would spend their sunset years together, fulfilling his dream of becoming an innkeeper. Instead, it’s a reminder of the nightmare that stole her beloved, leaving her alone.

Well, not alone. She has her best friend, Jen, and her dear aunt, Coretta, with whom they spent so many summers in Echo Key as children.

No one is more surprised than Olivia when Jen, whose own heart is hurting after a nasty divorce, convinces her to fix it up and run the inn together. It’s a crazy plan, and Olivia doesn’t do crazy. Her partner in life was the dreamer.

Olivia just hopes that keeping his dream alive will be the best way for her to live without him. And maybe find new happiness in the Florida haven that is Echo Key.

When tragedy strikes Olivia must make some difficult decisions. When the time comes will she be able to make the right choice?

This was an entertaining read, and I found the characters in this one to be amusing. Gus, Deke, and Coretta we’re especially fun to read about! I enjoyed the concept of a large mansion being renovated into a bed and breakfast and found the descriptions of the rooms to be humorous as the ladies walked through the house.

There was also a bit of mystery to the house itself, which was touched in in this one but seemed to be part of the larger overall plot of the series. There was also a bit of mystery on a smaller scale where the growing crime in the neighborhood was causing some conical conversations from some of the senior ladies in Echo Key. I enjoyed Coretta’s relationship with Olivia, as well as Olivia’s friendship with Jen. They made for an interesting dynamic and kept the story interesting.

Overall, the story was a bit slower and not quite as deep as I normally read but was fun as a quick weekend or vacation read. Even though it starts a bit slow, it does offer a good beginning to what is likely to be an enjoyable series.

*All Rhodes Lead Here by Mariana Zapata

*All Rhodes Lead Here by Mariana Zapata
Publisher: Avon and Harpers Voyager, Avon
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

The people we lose take a part of us with them…but they leave a part of themselves with us too.

Aurora De La Torre, or Ora to her friends, knows moving back to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, a place that was once home and is now full of bittersweet memories of her late mother, isn’t going to be easy. Starting your whole life over probably isn’t supposed to be.

But after breaking up with her longtime, famous musician boyfriend, hiding out in a small town in the mountains might be the perfect remedy for a broken heart. And checking out her landlord who lives across the driveway just might cure it, too.

Only Tobias Rhodes didn’t rent out the apartment to her, rather it was his teenage son, Amos. Fiercely protective of his family and distrusting of strangers, gruff and grumpy Rhodes initially keeps little miss sunshine Ora at a distance. But over days and weeks, long hikes and fireside chats, Aurora breaks down his walls and soon an unbreakable friendship blossoms into a once-in-a-lifetime love.

When I first read this book in 2021 I thoroughly enjoyed it. Now that it has been rereleased, I decided to read it again and I found that I loved this story just as much the second time around. Mariana Zapata knows how to paint a picture and make the story come alive.

All Rhodes Lead Here is a slow burn, emotional story with realistic character development. The two main characters Rhodes and Aurora, are confident, successful people, but they also have insecurities in some areas of their lives.

Aurora is recovering from a breakup that left her devastated. She had no power or control in her last relationship and is now on a mission to achieve some goals she has set for herself to regain her self esteem. Aurora is slowly learning to believe in herself again, face her fears and regain her confidence that her last relationship destroyed. She has nowhere to go and nothing to show for the years she wasted on her past relationship so she decides to move to Pagosa Springs, Colorado. She meets Rhodes when she rents an apartment from him.

Rhodes is the strong silent type and he keeps his emotions hidden behind his stoic demeanor. He is perfect for Aurora because he is protective, has a big heart and he is willing to wait to give Aurora the time she needs before starting another relationship.

I enjoyed reading Rhodes and Aurora’s story, they have loads of chemistry and I loved all of their interactions. These two cautious people are perfect for each other. This beautiful story is filled with emotion and yearning and it immediately drew me in. I cared about the characters and I couldn’t stop reading until they found their happily ever after. I loved this endearing story and I think you will too.

The Summer Skies by Jenny Colgan

The Summer Skies by Jenny Colgan
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Morag MacIntyre is a Scottish lass from the remote islands that make up the northernmost reaches of the UK. She’s also a third-generation pilot, the heir apparent to an island plane service she runs with her grandfather. The islands—over 500 dots of windswept land that reach almost to Norway—rely on their one hardworking prop plane to deliver mail, packages, tourists, medicine, and the occasional sheep. As the keeper of this vital lifeline, Morag is used to landing on pale golden beaches and tiny grass airstrips, whether during great storms or on bright endless summer nights. Up in the blue sky, Morag feels at one with the elements.

Down on the ground is a different matter, though. Her grandfather is considering and Morag wonders if she truly wants to spend the rest of her life in the islands. Her boyfriend Hayden, from flight school, wants Morag to move to Dubai with him, where they’ll fly A380s and say goodbye to Scotland’s dark winters.

Morag is on the verge of making a huge life change when an unusually bumpy landing during a storm finds her marooned on Inchborn island. Inchborn is gloriously off-grid, home only to an ancient ruined abbey, a bird-watching station, and a population of one: Gregor, a visiting ornithologist from Glasgow who might have just the right perspective to help Morag pilot her course.

A woman trying to chart her own path.

Morag knows what she wants in life—to get the heck away from the Scottish winters and find the sun and warmth of Dubai. But she can’t control the circumstances and ends up on an island. The writing was good and the story interesting, but it did take a while to get moving and was a slow start. I did like the characters, though and the journey of her coming into her own. I liked that she had to go on the journey and how she did it. It was fascinating and uplifting, too.

If you’re looking for a good romance with a great journey, then give this book a try.

There’s No Coming Back From This by Ann Garvin

There’s No Coming Back From This by Ann Garvin
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

It seems lately that Poppy Lively is invisible to everyone but the IRS.

After her accountant absconded with her life savings, newly bankrupt Poppy is on the verge of losing her home when an old flame, now a hotshot producer, gives her a surprising way out: a job in costumes on a Hollywood film set. It’s a bold move to pack her bags, keep secrets from her daughter, and head to Los Angeles, but Poppy’s a capable person—how hard can a job in wardrobe be? It’s not like she has a choice; her life couldn’t get any worse. Even so, this midwesterner has a lot to learn about the fast and loose world of movie stars, iconic costumes, and back-lot intrigue.

As a single mom, she’s rarely had time for watching movies, she doesn’t sew, and she doesn’t know a thing about dressing the biggest names in the business. Floundering and overlooked, Poppy has one ally: Allen Carol, an ill-tempered movie star taken with Poppy’s unfiltered candor and general indifference to stardom.

When Poppy stumbles upon corruption, she relies on everyone underestimating her to discover who’s at the center of it, a revelation that shakes her belief in humanity. What she thought was a way to secure a future for her daughter becomes a spotlight illuminating the facts: Poppy is out of her league among the divas of Tinseltown.

Poppy must decide whether to keep her mouth shut, as she’s always done, or with the help of a scruffy dog, show the moviemakers that they need her unglamorous ways, whether the superstars like it or not.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Poppy Lively sure is desperate. By trusting the wrong person at the wrong time, her entire life has been sent into a tailspin, one she doesn’t think she’ll be able to pull herself – or her daughter – out of in time. So, what does a mom do when there’s nothing left to do? She accepts a job from a man she hasn’t seen in over a decade and moves across the country for a job. Of course she does, right?

Poppy Lively is your typical Midwestern mom. Hardworking, loving, and dedicated to her only child, So dedicated that she does everything in her power to make sure that her daughter has no idea that they’re about to lose everything. Her journey from single mom in Wisconsin to the costume department on a move set in Los Angeles is one that so many make, but never for the reasons she chose.

Her transformation is amazing. When she arrives in LA, Poppy is uncertain, confused, and hopeless. She has no one and nowhere to go, so she sneaks about trying not to get caught surviving. The more desperate her situation becomes, the less she starts to care about what others might think and sets her eye on the prize. Along the way, she gets some very unexpected help from a movie star, an arrogant but traumatized young woman, and a dog that was thrust into her care.

Packed full of laughter, life lessons, and a ton of spunky characters, There’s No Coming Back from This is an entertaining adventure of one woman who is out of her element. Poppy is a brilliant light in a city full of burnt-out bulbs. Even in her lowest moments, I was rooting for her and knew she’d succeed in the end.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
Publisher: Atria books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Dannie Kohan lives her life by the numbers.

She is nothing like her lifelong best friend—the wild, whimsical, believes-in-fate Bella. Her meticulous planning seems to have paid off after she nails the most important job interview of her career and accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal in one fell swoop, falling asleep completely content.

But when she awakens, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. Dannie spends one hour exactly five years in the future before she wakes again in her own home on the brink of midnight—but it is one hour she cannot shake. In Five Years is an unforgettable love story, but it is not the one you’re expecting.

Something strange happens to Dannie, a corporate lawyer. Dannie lives in New York with her fiancé, David, when one night she wakes up five years in the future with a different man. They spent some heated moments together; then Dannie wakes back up in her present. What happened to David? Why weren’t they still together?

Suspense is achieved with this in mind, and it increases when Dannie’s best friend Bella introduces Dannie to her new boyfriend, the man Dannie had woken up next to in the future. Dannie would never betray Bella or David, so she is determined not to allow herself and Bella’s boyfriend to become close, but they do—in a way. Dannie increases her efforts to get closer to David and speed up the time until she marries him, yet she still hesitates.

This story is a good exploration of friendship and being true to oneself. Dannie’s job is an expedient backdrop to the plot and offers a peek into a demanding industry. Dannie makes some hard choices, especially when she receives some shocking news. She discovers more about herself and faces strong emotions.

In Five Years is an entertaining book showing life in New York at its best. It is worth the read.

Uncontrollable by Sara Staggs

Uncontrollable by Sara Staggs
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

At 36-years-old, Casey Scott appears to have it all: a booming career as a civil rights litigator, a loving husband, and two sweet young children. But she also has epilepsy, and her worsening seizures threaten to destroy the life she toiled to build.

When her doctor says she is likely to die if her seizures are not controlled, Casey is at a crossroads: will she choose her career and lifelong aspirations, or her family and health?

The decisions she makes affect her marriage, children, and future in ways she could never expect.

Told by Casey and her husband, Uncontrollable is an emotional roller coaster that examines both what happens when the life we may be forced to live is not the life we planned to live, and the compromises we make to survive in the face of adversity.

Painful, but beautiful…which is a lot like life.

Casey has seizures from her epilepsy and it’s taking a toll on her life. She’s already stressed and over her head, but she’s not about to tell anyone she’s in too deep. That’s not how she’s wired. That said, the balances in her life and her stresses are about to become too much for her to handle. This is the story of how she has to learn to balance and let go, while potentially getting what she wants.

This book and the author show how having a chronic illness can be a pain, but also something possible to live with. It’s not the hardest thing to handle, but it’s difficult at times. Casey is flawed and human, which makes her an interesting character. I liked how she had to learn to power through in a way she wasn’t used to. There’s a sensitivity to her character, too. I liked the dynamic between her and Jonah as well. The book showed how life isn’t always clean and the messiness is what makes it great.

If you’re looking for a book to challenge you, but also stay with you long after the last page, then this is the book for you.

Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin

Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin
Publisher: Europa Editions
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Literary Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Violette Toussaint is the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne, France. Traversing the grounds by unicycle, tending to her many gardens—and being present for the intimate, often humorous confidences of visitors—Violette’s life follows the predictable rhythms of mourning. But then Violette’s routine is disrupted by the arrival of Julien Sole, the local police chief.

Julien has come to scatter the ashes of his recently deceased mother on the gravesite of a complete stranger. It soon becomes clear that Julien’s inexplicable gesture is intertwined with Violette’s own complicated past.

What would it be like to be a young caretaker of a cemetery? What would you learn and experience from this? Violette often ponders the lives of the dead as she looks at their birth and death dates. She has her own issues to deal with as well. She wants to be happy. She is deserted by her husband and loves her daughter; then tragedy hits.

The years roll on as Violette describes her life, her loves, family, friends, and the search for answers. Her narration and insights are written as if a friend were speaking in an elegant way, but she makes many lists throughout the story. Her thoughts and observations offer readers a lot to think about and touch upon many emotions.

The book is layered and complex and crosses time and characters’ perspectives. It starts with Violette appreciating the good she could find in things around her, but the book takes a turn into more serious territory.

It is an intelligent story with cleverness abounding. Turns of action and discoveries will take readers by surprise. The mood is enveloping, and one will be treated to French culture along the way. Why not check out this character-driven tale of a woman with unusual life circumstances and be entertained while being given plenty to think about?

Three by Valerie Perrin

Three by Valerie Perrin
Publisher: Europa Editions
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

1986: Adrien, Etienne and Nina are 10 years old when they meet at school and quickly become inseparable. They promise each other they will one day leave their provincial backwater, move to Paris, and never part.

2017: A car is pulled up from the bottom of the lake, a body inside. Virginie, a local journalist with an enigmatic past reports on the case while also reflecting on the relationship between the three friends, who were unusually close when younger but now no longer speak. As Virginie moves closer to the surprising truth, relationships fray and others are formed.

Valérie Perrin has an unerring gift for delving into life. In Three, she brings readers along with her through a sequence of heart-wrenching events and revelations that span three decades. Three tells a moving story of love and loss, hope and grief, friendship and adversity, and of time as an ineluctable agent of change.

This suspenseful tale is sure to touch the heart of its readers. It begins with three childhood friends: Adrien, Etienne, and Nina who promise to always be together. Decades later, a body is found inside a lake, and a journalist, Virginie, discusses the case. She thinks about the three friends. Could they have something to do with it?

We are taken back to 1986 in a provincial area of France, where these kids make big plans. The story unfolds in such a natural way while holding one’s interest. Details bring this passage to life while relationships are explored.

Time passes, and readers cross decades to see the friends later in time. Unexpected things have become of them. Why is this? This is answered by going back in time again. The back-and-forth timelines make for a quick pace and is done smoothly.

While the suspense gets stronger, readers are charmed with the day-to-day episodes of the characters’ lives. The protagonists and their supporting characters are delineated well.

Themes of friendship and dreams, love and choices add layers of complexity to this heart-rending tale. Also, people who love animals will appreciate the aspect of the book that brings their needs to awareness.

Babe in the Woods by Jude Hopkins

Babe in the Woods by Jude Hopkins
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

It’s September 1995, the first year of the rest of Hadley Todd’s life. After living in Los Angeles, Hadley returns to her hometown in rural New York to write and be near her father. In addition to looking after him and teaching high school malcontents, Hadley hopes to channel her recent L.A. heartbreak into a play about the last moment of a woman’s innocence. But she seeks inspiration.

Enter Trey Harding, a young, handsome reporter who covers sports at the high school. Trey reminds Hadley of her L.A. ex and is the perfect spark to fire up her imagination. The fact that Trey is an aspiring rock star and she has L.A. record biz connections makes the alliance perfect. She dangles promises of music biz glory while watching his moves. But the surprising twist that transpires when the two of them go to Hollywood is not something Hadley prepared for.

This book wasn’t at all what I expected, and that’s not a bad thing.

If you’re going into this expecting a romance, stop right now. That isn’t what this book is… it’s a well written novel about a woman’s search for meaning. There’s a point where Hadley, the main character, describes the play she’s trying to write: “It’s about loss of innocence. When exactly we lose—women, that is—when we inevitably fall into disillusionment and despair. I want to know the exact moment before we lose our illusions about romantic love.”

And really, this book is basically the play, but in real life (for Hadley, anyway).

She’s surrounded by friends and family, she’s smart and interesting and ambitious. But really what matters most to the plot is how dissatisfied with life she is, and how she’s searching for something more. Hadley is 35 years old. And life isn’t what she’d expected it to be. And so, we readers follow her on a journey of self-discovery. That sounds as if the story is a bit dull, and it’s not. And I especially think women of a certain age will appreciate this story more than others.

There are decisions Hadley makes, and things she does, that make me want to give her a slap upside her head. As smart as she is, she sometimes does really stupid things, but … don’t we all? She makes strides forward along with a few back, until she really discovers the meaning of life as it pertains to her.

I won’t say I absolutely loved this book, but I did like it quite a bit. It’s nothing like I expected, or even like anything I typically read. But it was absolutely engaging and real and–even better–I really liked Hadley. I wish I could sit in on one of her writing group meetings or share a conversation over coffee. I think she’d be a really good friend.

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*Hollyland by Patricia Leavy

*Hollyland by Patricia Leavy
Publisher: She Writes Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

What happens when a seemingly ordinary woman with a passion for the arts falls in love with a Hollywood star known for his bachelor status and quick temper with the paparazzi? Something extraordinary.

Dee Schwartz is a writer and arts researcher. Ryder Field is a famous actor descended from Hollywood royalty. On the night they meet outside a bar, their connection is palpable. Ryder’s mother—legendary actress Rebecca Field, half of Hollywood’s golden couple when she died—was kidnapped and murdered by a crazed fan in a shocking event that forever tarnished Tinseltown. Dee’s mother, too, died when she was young. Bonded by this loss, the two embark on a love story that explores their search for magic—or “gold dust”—in their lives. Everything changes, however, when Dee mysteriously disappears after an awards ceremony. Is history repeating itself? Can there truly be a happily ever after in Hollywood?

Set against the backdrop of contemporary Los Angeles, Hollyland is a poignant novel that moves fluidly between romance, humor, suspense, and joy.

Hollyland is a Hollywood romance story about Ryder and Dee. Ryder and Dee meet and instantly fall for each other, even though they come from completely different worlds. Dee is an academic who lives her life quietly and in her head. Ryder is a famous actor who comes from Hollywood royalty and he lives his life on the pages of newspapers and magazines.

I love romance stories about Hollywood and was excited to read this one. Although the dialogue was a little cheesy at times, I still enjoyed Ryder and Dee’s story. I loved the way Ryder treated Dee and their story stole my heart.