Here is the monthly round up of books Word Wenches have enjoyed recently. I hope you find some new reads you'd enjoy!
Pat Rice here:
Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt is women’s fiction of the philosophical, emotional sort, except a lot more original than most. There’s a couple of up-and-down romances to keep the stakes high, but the real focus is on the development of a relationship between half-sisters who barely know each other. The younger grew up in the US, the older in the UK, and their only common ground really is their fury at their narcissistic mother. I enjoyed watching their lives grow as their relationship grows. There were a lot of loose threads at the end, obviously leaving room for more stories in the series. This is a well-written, quieter novel you can sink into, enjoy getting to know the people of the small Cumbrian town, and watch the sisters open up and become stronger.
Susan King weighs in:
So it's the middle of winter, and I just read a story set in the endless snow and ice of Antarctica, and loved it. Whiteout by Adriana Anders is a thriller-romance that's fast, clever, full of tension and heart, and compelling. Angel Smith is spending a few weeks as a cook at a research base in Antarctica and becomes equally curious and irritated with enigmatic, tough, gorgeous scientist Ford Cooper.
When the base is violently taken over, Angel and Ford are soon on the run in a truly threatening, dangerous, spectacular environment. To get to the next outpost, they must work together to survive as they encounter their worst fears and face tremendous challenges, both physical and emotional–and Anders goes all out on every part of that. It's as much a thriller–baddies and danger abound–as it is an intensely emotional love story, and it kept me riveted. The authenticity in setting, science, survival tactics, and the depth of character and story are impressive and fascinating, leading to the next book in the series, which will be out next summer, and I'll be looking for it!
I am fast turning into Sarah Morgan’s biggest fan – having read One More for Christmas I went looking for more of her books and found A Wedding in December, yet another fantastic story which I read in one sitting. Just couldn’t put it down. When Rosie White impulsively decides to get married at Christmas in Aspen, Colorado, rather than celebrate the holidays with her UK family as usual, she surprises everyone – and not in a good way. Her parents are heading for a divorce, but haven’t told their daughters yet, and her mother had been looking forward to a traditional family Christmas (plus she’s terrified of flying). They try to keep it together for Rosie’s sake and decide to pretend they’re still a couple, but they dread the wedding.
Older sister Katie isn’t happy either and worries that Rosie is making a huge mistake. She’s determined to save her from herself, but the incredibly good-looking best man Jordan starts to interfere … It all turns into a Christmas none of them will ever forget – and me neither! The characters were so real (Jordan is a truly delicious hero!) and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen. I loved the setting as well – Colorado in the snow, how much more Christmassy can you get? And the ending was everything I’d hoped for. Going off to find even more of this author’s books now!
I too read Whiteout by Adriana Anders and loved it so can only add my recommendation for this book. I was on tenterhooks the entire time, hoping the main characters would beat the bad guys and get home in one piece with no frozen limbs. Just want to add one warning – do not read the epilogue because you’ll be given a cliffhanger for the next book in this series, Uncharted, which isn’t out till August!
And while we’re talking about Adriana Anders, can I recommend an older book of hers which I read back in 2017 – Under Her Skin. It was a very dark romance, featuring themes of domestic violence and sexual abuse, but I found it ultimately extremely satisfying. It is not for the squeamish and there is a lot of sex, but if you don’t mind that, I would highly recommend it.
Uma is in hiding from a very abusive ex and has been running for six months, trying to stay one step ahead of him. She comes to a small rural town for a specific purpose (can’t say what as that’s a spoiler) and ends up working for an agoraphobic old woman. At first it seems like a disaster, but the woman has an enigmatic neighbour called Ivan, with a dark past of his own. Once he and Uma meet, sparks fly, and watching these two damaged and lonely people finding each other was simply wonderful.
I’ve read some of Seanan McGuire’s work and find it interesting. The most recent one I’ve opened is the novella-length Young Adult., LGBT story, In An Absent Dream. Lundy, a solitary, book-loving teen, can open doors into the Goblin Market — a country she likes better than the stifling loneliness of the real world. Much good world-building. Many life choices involving friendship, loyalty, and dealing with imperfect worlds. The prose is lyric and the story avoids the usual YA stereotypes. It's a standalone in the Wayward Children series that won the Hugo, Nebula, Alex, and Locus Awards. Job
Anne Gracie's turn:
Like the rest of the world, I've been watching Bridgerton on TV, but I've also been reading a lot, as is my habit. This month I've read quite a bit of "mainstream" fiction that nevertheless had a romance at its heart.
I enjoyed both.
Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda This is a French book, with a beautifully eccentric cast of characters. Camille is slowly fading away—she barely eats, she lives at the top of an old apartment building in a freezing little attic, and she's in a bad way. Downstairs lives Philibert, a desperately shy man in a huge, ornate apartment, owned by his noble family. One freezing night he discovers Camille unconscious, brings her downstairs and begins to look after her. He shares his flat with Franck, a foul-mouthed passionate chef, who is also trying to care for his elderly grandmother, who lives in the country and loves her garden. It's a lovely story, about how these four very different characters connect, and grow. I first saw it as a movie, starring Audrey Tautou, which I loved. I've had the book sitting on my TBR pile for ages, and finally pulled it out. Highly recommended.
I also read and liked This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens which is about a man and a woman born on new year's day, one minute apart in the same hospital, who accidentally meet up thirty years later. He is successful, she is . . . not. But the connection keeps happening, and soon all kinds of connections are made, and their worlds begin to change. An enjoyable read.
I really enjoyed Jennifer Robson's The Gown, a wonderful dual-timeline novel about one of the women who did the elaborate embroidery on Queen Elizabeth’s wedding dress, and the secrets her granddaughter discovers about her life.
So I snapped up her new book, Our Darkest Night, which is a novel about Italy in WWII . Two longtime friends, a Jewish doctor in Venice and rural Catholic priest, see the danger building for Jews in Nazi-occupied Italy, and come up with a plan to protect the doctor's daughter, a cultured, educated young woman who serves as her father’s medical assistant. A friend of the priest, a young farmer who does clandestine work with the partisans, offers a “sham” marriage to take the daughter to his family’s farm in the countryside where she’ll be safe.
Forced to leave all she knows, Nina is thrown into a totally alien world, and must cope with learning how to scrub floors, wash clothes and fit into the rhythms of country life. It’s a task made even more daunting because she and Nico can’t share her dangerous secret with anyone—even his family. That Nico is a kind, honorable and caring man is her one lifeline, and as Nina slowly finds her place in his family, the two them form a friendship that slowly deepens into true love.
However, a local Nazi officer turns out to be an old nemesis of Nico, and begins probing into the backstory of Nico's new mysterious wife, forcing both of them to make some heartrending decisions about how to protect the people they love. It’s an incredibly powerfully emotional story about love and sacrifice—be warned there are some very intense scenes of the evil man does to his fellow man. But it’s also ultimately a very redemptive story about the power of love, hope and family.
The three red-headed Sweeney sisters grew up in Southport, Connecticut with a loving mother who died too young, and a father, William Sweeney, who is a famous and beloved writer of the 'self-absorbed white guy who drinks too much and behaves badly because he's a writer" school of literature. His sudden death from a heart attack brings all three sisters home to Southport to hold a grand Irish wake, deal with his estate, look for his missing unpublished memoir, and decide what to do with the house. They're very different, but they understand each other, laugh together, and always have each other's backs.
And then due to the power of DNA testing, another Southport girl shows up as a half sister because of one of Daddy's flings. Can a blonde connect with three bonded redheads? The complications of learning how to deal with each other and their father's complicated legacy cause ripples of change and unexpected outcomes. This is smart, often funny women's fiction, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Leap of Faith by Trisha Ashley
Several of the Wenches are fans of Trisha Ashley's smart, funny chicklit novels. This is an early book, originally titled The Urge to Jump, and it's very enjoyable. The heroine, Sappho Jones, writes fantasy novels and the Right Man and the Wrong Man in real life seem to be merging with characters in her fantasy saga. The story has the very adventurous Sappho Jones returning to the village in Wales where she lived as a girl, and having to sort old friends, get rid of her ex, deal with the weird cat a friend gives her, and maybe find the right man to be a sperm donor–or perhaps something more? Fun!
So here you are. Happy reading in February!