Mrs Bambi Knows by Chris Mason @rararesources

About the Book:

In a small town in Oregon, everyone wants to kill the local advice columnist, Mrs Bambi. If only they knew who she was.

Mrs Bambi’s advice is so snarky that people have long since stopped asking for it. Instead she eavesdrops on conversations and writes the letters herself. The readers would lynch her, but no one knows who she is.

In fact, Mrs. Bambi is not a woman. The column is written by Richard, a quiet widower with a young daughter.
The uneventful part of Richard’s life is nearly over: he begins dating Pam, a well-known realtor and a sports addict. When people begin to learn the identity of Mrs. Bambi, Richard is threatened and humiliated in public. Despite the pleas of his editor, his friends, and Pam, he refuses to stop writing the column.
The only thing that can prevent disaster is for the town to finally learn the whole truth about Richard, which is much larger than the simple mystery of Mrs. Bambi.

Set in 1995, Chris Mason’s skillful storytelling brings a tale of humour and romance – and not a little peril – charmingly to life in the mind of the reader.

About the Author:

 Born in Ohio, Chris has moved around too much for anyone’s good, living in several places that might be considered tourist attractions. He mines those experiences for the settings of his books.He lives in Florida with his wife, two dogs, two cats, and a smart-aleck macaw who has pets of her own.

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Richard is a single father whose daughter is Miriam. The night before this scene he met his best friend A.M. at a bar, where she tried to get him to ask out one of the single women there. Pamela was one of those women.

The moment they stepped inside the library door, Miriam ran off to find her frog books. Richard grabbed a book and headed for a table to wait for her.

Pamela Castle was sitting there with a yellow legal pad in front of her, surrounded by thick, open volumes. Her long, curly hair was tied back today. She was dressed up for work in a lacy white blouse.

A.M. had said she was a realtor. What could he think of to say to a realtor? Ah, nuts. Richard walked to her table and took the chair at the opposite corner. Pamela looked up at him briefly, smiled politely, and went back to her work. She was wearing a red skirt. He liked red. He opened one of his books and stared at it without reading.

He wasn’t very good at this. A.M. was right, it was time for him to start dating again, but he didn’t know how. He wasn’t even sure how to start a conversation with Pamela, let alone ask her out. The last woman he’d asked out was Rosalind, and that was thirteen years ago. Unlucky number; maybe he should wait another year.

Miriam squeaked to a stop at his elbow. “Hey, Dad, look what I found!” She dropped a thin book on the table in front of him. Glossy pages showed closeups of tropical rain forest frogs. One of them had skin the same shade as Pamela’s skirt.

“Cool. Are you going to take it home?”

“Yeah, but I’m not done yet.” She bounced away.

“How old is she?” Pamela said.

He blinked at her in surprise. “Nine. She’ll be ten next month.”

“She has a lot of energy.”

“You should see her after she eats chocolate.” Pamela smiled and started to reach for one of the books in front of her. In desperation, he said, “Do you have any kids?”

“Not yet. Maybe someday.”

“They’re not as much trouble as people say. You just have to paper train them early on, give them treats when they roll over, and keep a short leash. You know.”

She frowned. “Are you talking about kids or dogs?”

“One little critter is a lot like another.”

She laughed, confused. “Well, you and your wife must be very proud. She seems like a very nice little girl.”

“Oh, um, thanks.”

She must have heard something in his voice. “I’m sorry. Are you divorced?”

“No, um, her mother died. In childbirth.”

Pamela’s face contorted in embarrassment and polite sympathy. “I’m really sorry.”

“That’s okay.”

“So… Then you’ve raised your daughter all by yourself?”

“Sort of. My friends help out a lot. They take her one evening every week to give me a night off. I spend the rest of the week undoing the spoiling she gets on Friday nights.”

“How do they spoil her?”

“Junk food. TV. Horseback rides.”

“But horseback rides aren’t bad for her, are they?”

Richard got up and moved to the chair directly across the table from her. “They are when she comes home wanting me to buy her a horse.”

“So how do you undo that?”

“I take her for long drives in the city.”

Pamela laughed loudly, but stopped abruptly. Both of them looked around to see if anyone was staring. Two volunteers were shelving books and the full-time librarians were both behind the checkout desk at the opposite end of the room. No one had noticed.

Richard held out his hand and said, “My name is—”

“Richard Lantz.” She shook his hand. Her skin was cool. “I’m Pam Castle. I’ve seen you around. You live on Oak Street at Ninth, right?”

She knew who he was? He felt his heart racing. “How did you know that?”

“I’m in real estate. It’s my job to know everybody and where they live.”

“What else do you know about me?”

“You do computers, right?”


“Well, that’s it. I don’t even know your daughter’s name.”

“It’s Miriam.”

“That’s an unusual name.”

Richard gathered his courage. “Do you believe in harmonic convergence?”

“What is it?”

“I’m not sure exactly. But I believe in it.”

She laughed, more quietly this time. “How can you believe in something when you don’t know what it is?”

“Ask a Catholic.”

“I’m Catholic.”

“Oops. Sorry. But then you know what I’m talking about.”

“No, I don’t.” Her eyes were twinkling. He thought that might be a good sign.

“It wasn’t an accident that I sat at this table,” he said.

“You mean a Higher Power made you sit here so we could have this silly conversation?”

“No, I mean I saw you at Pig’s Wings last night.”


That sounded bad. He hurried on. “Then I saw you again at Safeway this morning.”

“Are you following me?” Decidedly cool.

“No, no, that’s what I mean by harmonic convergence. Before yesterday I’d never seen you before. I brought Miriam to find frog books, and here you were. That’s the third time I’ve seen you in twenty-four hours. It must mean something.”

“Yeah, it means we live in a really small town.”

“No, I think it means something more than that.”

“Like what?”

He took a deep breath. “I think it means I’m supposed to ask you out.”

She was silent for a moment, watching him. He suddenly realized that she was smiling faintly.

“Is that what you’re doing?” she said.

“Not yet.”

She leaned back and waved her hand at him. “Go on, then.”

“Okay.” He took another deep breath, then had a thought. “Wait a second. Do you go by Pamela? Pam? Pammie?”

“If you call me Pammie I’ll bop you with this book. Call me Pam.”

“Pam. Okay. Pam, would you like to go out to dinner with me next Friday?”

“Sure,” she said, smiling.

Tilly’s Tuscan Teashop by Daisy James @daisyjamesbooks @rararesources

About the Book:

Welcome to Tilly’s Tuscan Teashop, the first book in a brand new series from the author of the Hummingbird Hotel and the Cornish Confetti Agency series.When photographer Natalie Nicholson’s beach hut studio – and everything she’s spent the last two years working on – is destroyed in a fire, she doesn’t think things can get any worse. Until she sees her boyfriend Josh Clarke on Instagram frolicking on a palm-fringed Balinese beach with a fellow cabin crew member.Devastated and heartbroken, she heads to Italy to help out at her sister’s English teashop in the heart of the Tuscan countryside, where she encounters sun-dappled hilltop villages with attractive terracotta bell towers, cobbled piazzas housing world-famous art and architecture, and a national fixation with getting from A to B as quickly as possible whether in a glamourous Ferrari, a scarlet Vespa, or a snail-like ape.With handsome local filmmaker-cum-waiter Matteo Ferretti on hand to guide her, can Tilly learn to ditch her workaholic ways and embrace the Italian pursuit of la dolce vita? Or will she miss out on her chance at a happy-ever-after?

About the Author:

Daisy James loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. She especially likes to create sunshine-filled settings in exotic locations – the Caribbean, Tuscany, Cornwall, Provence – so she can spend her time envisioning her characters enjoying the fabulous scenery and sampling the local food and d
When not scribbling away in her peppermint-and-green summerhouse (garden shed), she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and teacups are a must.
Daisy would love to hear from readers via her Facebook page or you can follow her on Twitter @daisyjamesbooks, or on Instagram @daisyjamesstories.

Contact Daisy:


My Review:

Daisy James is a favourite author of mine, and her books are great. I’ve reviewed a fair few now. Great that this is first in a new series so I could get the backstory straight away. 

Tilly and friends are likeable and Blossomwood Bay is quaint…until there’s an unthinkable tragedy. Tilly experiences more than she should when she has challenges in her relationship that make her rethink where she wants to be. 

Tuscany is amazing and I was happy she had her sister. I was wondering what was going to happen with Matteo and eager to find out if Tilly was going to find her new life or not. 

Daisy James has an excellent way with words, setting, romance, realistic characters descriptions of food and sunny places. Her books always make me forget about all my troubles. 

I’m looking forward to the next novels in the series.

Thanks to Daisy James, Boldwood Books and Rachel’s Random Resources for my eARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. 

5 stars

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The Sea Glass Beach by Tanya Pritchard @rararesources

About the Book:

In 1950’s southern Ireland, single mother Theresa gives birth to a child she names Roisin. Arrangements are in hand for the adoption when Theresa changes her mind. The child, gifted and intuitive, is viewed by the local community as ‘odd’. Reeling from the news of Roisin’s heart-breaking expulsion from convent school, Theresa makes a momentous decision. To protect her daughter, she must send her away.
Canada’s wild beauty serves as a backdrop to a year of challenges for Roisin. She encounters trauma and devastating loss, but also gains a new family and finds love with the enigmatic Cal. Death, grief and culpability are potent forces she must somehow come to terms with. Can a tiny model boat unshackle her from her past and help her journey into a hopeful future?

About the Author:

Tina Pritchard spent most of her life engaged in bringing up a family, taking a social science degree, working as a lecturer, a trainer and more recently as an independent celebrant conducting funerals, weddings and naming ceremonies. Her first book, a psychological thriller, In A Deep Dark Wood, was published in 2021. The Sea Glass Beach is a departure in genre and started life as a short story morphing over the years into a novel. It is a work of fiction inspired in part by her own mother’s experience of giving birth to a child at Sean Ross Abbey Mother and Baby Home in the 1950’s. That child, born all those years ago in Co Tipperary, Ireland, is the author of this book.
Tina loves to write and has won competitions for both her short stories and her poetry. She lives in a beautiful part of the world and gains much of her inspiration from walking her badly behaved terrier, Horace, in the Derbyshire countryside.

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This extract follows Theresa’s invitation to attend a meeting with the school Principal, Sister Agnes, to discuss Roisin’s educational future.

Approx 452 words

Theresa felt a flare of anger and her cheeks flushed red. Had this woman any concept of what she was saying? Did she know her daughter at all? It seemed, with little forethought, she was ready to deprive her child of the opportunities an education would afford her. It was a ridiculous proposition. Everyone knew how much Roisin hated being confined. Putting her to work in the laundry would be akin to keeping a wild bird in a cage. Over my dead body Theresa thought, outraged by the idea. They want to sap the life and spirit out of her and I am not having it. Whatever the consequences.
She stood, knees knocking and pushed back the chair. It made a sharp scraping sound against the wooden boards. Theresa didn’t care. Her legs felt insubstantial, as though turned to jelly, but inside her anger had become white-hot. Head held high, she paused to take a deep breath. ‘I can’t and won’t agree to your offer,’ Theresa said, holding back tears of rage. ‘but I do ask one thing of you. I don’t want it mentioned by anyone at the school. I should be the one to tell her when I feel the time is right.’
Her composure regained, she strode from the room, down the corridor and out through the front door, slamming it with such force behind her, the windows rattled.
If Theresa had chanced to look back, she would have gained some satisfaction from seeing Sister Agnes’ demeanour. The nun, having observed Theresa’s indignant retreat, had pushed back her own chair and was attempting to stand. Her knuckles, gnarled with age, were gripping the edge of her desk. She appeared diminished and unsecured, as though steadying herself in a gale. On her wizened face was a look of complete bewilderment.
Theresa had always been so respectful and compliant. What on earth was she thinking, stomping out in such high dudgeon? As far as Sister Agnes was concerned, the recommendations were in everyone’s interest, including Roisin’s. Theresa should be grateful. It was a sorry state of affairs when someone in her position could afford to turn her nose up at such a well-thought out offer. The notion her proposal, rejected in such a cavalier manner, might have far-reaching consequences escaped Sister Agnes completely. She wasn’t to know she would be the catalyst for momentous change. Had she had one iota of awareness of her role in altering the course of direction of not one, but two lives, she likely would have remained untroubled. It would be out of her hands and in the remit of the Lord. What will be will be, as she was so fond of saying, ad nauseam.

The Highland Hens by Judy Leigh @JudyLeighWriter @bookandtonic @rararesources

About the Book:

In the imposing Glen Carrick House overlooking Scotland’s famous Loch Ness, lives eighty-eight-year-old Mimi McKinlay, cared for by her three adult sons. Hamish has inherited his mother’s musical talents, Fin is the responsible brother, and Angus has the complicated and brooding personality to match his dashing good looks.
But what all the brothers share is a concern that their beloved mother is living in her memories of her days on stage, while letting her present days pass her by.

Jess Oliver is at a turning point. Amicably divorced after years of being married, this trip to the Highlands is a first taste of independence. It isn’t long before the beauty and hospitality of Scotland captures her heart.

When Mimi and Jess’s paths cross, a friendship is formed that will change both women’s lives. And as together they find ways to look forward instead of to the past, long forgotten dreams are within reach, and every new day is fresh with possibilities.

Take a trip to the Highlands with Judy Leigh for an unforgettable story of glorious pasts and fabulous futures, of love, friendship, family and fun. The perfect feel-good novel for all fans of Dawn French, Dee Macdonald and Cathy Hopkins.

Contact Judy:




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Bookbub profile:

About the Author:

Judy Leigh is the USA Today bestselling author of The Old Girls’ Network and Five French Hens and the doyenne of the ‘it’s never too late’ genre of women’s fiction. She has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in Somerset

My Review:

I was really happy to get a copy of Judy Leigh’s novel, The Highland Hens. I enjoyed Heading over the Hill, Chasing the Sun and Lil’s Bus Trip.

Mimi is 88 and lives with her sons Finlay, Angus and Hamish. The close-knit family relationship is excellently portrayed.
I loved Mimi’s recollections of her past as a dancer and performer and the description of her costumes was excellent.

Another character in the novel is Jess Oliver, who is trying to get over her divorce. I was pleased when she had the chance to meet Mimi and liked how they got on.

Judy Leigh has done it again. In Mimi, she has created a loving, funny and stand-out character who sparkles. Each character is unique. Judy has a real talent for relationships across family generations and creates a believable family dynamic.

Thanks to Judy Leigh and Boldwood Books for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

4 stars

Buy the Book here:

The Boardwalk Bookshop by Susan Mallery

The Boardwalk Bookshop : A Novel
Susan Mallery
On Sale Date: May 31, 2022
Trade Paperback
$16.99 USD

About the Book:

With her unique brand of witty, emotional storytelling, Susan Mallery’s latest is a heartfelt tale of friendship between three women brought together by chance who open a bookshop together on the boardwalk of the California beaches and ultimately become one another’s family. Fans of Elin Hilderbrand, Robyn Carr and Susan Wiggs will love The Boardwalk Bookshop!

Brought together by chance, Bree, Mikki, and Ashley become fast friends and open up a beachfront bookshop together, bringing together their three different businesses. To celebrate, each Friday at sunset they pop open champagne on the beach and enjoy the sunset together. Little did they know that that chance meeting and this simple ritual would make them one another’s family.

Bree owns the bookshop. Funny that she can’t stand authors. They’re far too demanding. But when NYT bestselling author Harding Burton, the memoirist who wrote about being paralyzed as a teenager and how he fought his way back, comes in, Bree never expected to actually like him. But anything beyond casual sex is out of the question for her. She trusts no one—a brutal first marriage and a painful childhood taught her well. Still as much as she wants to walk away, she can’t quite do it…

Ashley, Harding’s brother, owns the muffin shop and she has her own problems. She’s been happily in love with her boyfriend, Seth, for eight years. He’s thoughtful, supportive, kind, generous…but he hasn’t proposed and, she can’t hold it in any longer. When he announces that marriage isn’t for him, she’s shocked. And as much as she wishes this was enough, the truth is that she wants to be married. But what now?

And Mikki, the gift shop owner, is getting a second chance. She married her high school sweetheart, but three kids and completely different interests made them drift apart until they divorced a few years ago. They’re still close for the kids, but when someone new enters her life, he makes her feel appreciated and alive. Suddenly Mikki’s ex is making her dinner and asking her advice and Mikki must choose between the man she loved and let go of—and a chance for a brand new beginning.

About the Author:

Susan Mallery is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship and romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—forty million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two Ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as Mom.

Q&A with Susan Mallery

What are your Favorite: food, beverage, pet, place visited, place you would like to visit, car, etc?

Favorite food: Chocolate and bread are tied for first place.

Favorite beverage: wine—I’m a big fan of Washington wines, which is why I wrote The Vineyard at Painted Moon, a book that came out in 2021.

Favorite pet: A mom isn’t supposed to have favorites, but I’ll confess just to you—Alex, my cat, is my guy. He always wants to be close to me, and I love that, too. You’ll often see him when I do virtual events, usually demanding dinner and affection, in that order. I do love my dog Kelli, too, but she’s more into her daddy than she is me.

Favorite place visited: My husband and I enjoy cruises. We’ve visited so many wonderful places, but one country whose beauty surprised me was Estonia. It’s filled with historical character and charm, and the people are warm and delightful.
I also love visiting my hometown, Los Angeles. That’s why I set The Boardwalk Bookshop in LA, so I could spend a few months in California—in my imagination, that is.

Place I would like to visit: Our next cruise will be to the British Isles, and I’m very excited. I’ll share pictures on Facebook and Instagram. I’m @susanmallery in both places, if you’d like to travel there vicariously.

Favorite car: My husband’s a total car guy. I’m mostly indifferent, though there are features I love. Heated seats are very nice, but a heated steering wheel is true luxury. When I need to know what kind of car a character would drive, I describe the character to Mr. Mallery and let him decide.

Tell us about your latest book, who is the main character(s) and what can we expect when we pick it up?

The Boardwalk Bookshop is about three strangers—Bree, Mikki and Ashley—who lease a beachfront retail location together and the friendship that blossoms among them. Bree owns the bookshop, Mikki the gift shop, and Ashley the bakery. I wanted to explore the transformative power of friendship. Because they have one another, these women are empowered with the strength and courage to change their lives. The Boardwalk Bookshop is an emotional, uplifting story that you’ll finish with a happy sigh. And I hope it will inspire you to strengthen your own bonds of friendship.

Bree is one of the most wounded characters I’ve ever written—hurt by neglectful parents when she was young, and by repeating that pattern with the man she married. Now widowed, she’s determined to protect herself at all costs. Then Ashley’s brother comes to her bookshop, a motivational author and adventurer who has inspired the world with his story. . . and teaches her that loneliness is a choice she doesn’t have to make. If only she can find the courage to risk her heart again.

Mikki is kind of rocking her divorce, or so she thinks. She and her ex have remained friends, and the whole family still celebrates holidays together. But when she starts dating again and meets a guy with real potential, things get messy fast. Mikki is one of those women who goes into mom mode for anyone in need of nurturing. She also has a wicked sense of humor and a very special, secret relationship that I know will make readers laugh. And maybe blush.

The youngest of the three friends, Ashley is deeply in love with the guy of her dreams. And he loves her, too! Finally, she found The One. Except she’s about to discover that Seth doesn’t believe in marriage. He believes that love is stronger when people make a choice every day to stay together. Can she be happy with him forever, even if she never becomes his wife?

Which of the characters in The Boardwalk Bookshop would you want to have a drink/coffee and a chat with?

I love them all, but if I have to choose, I’ll go with Bree. She’s the most complicated and the most snarky, and I find snarky, complicated women endlessly amusing. Plus, she owns a bookshop! Hello!

My Review:

Three women, three business ideas.

When Bree, Mikki and Ashley see a store for rent on the California coast, they all have very different ideas for how they would use the store if it were theirs
Driftaway Books, The Gift Shop and Muffins to the Max: three very different businesses. How do they solve this problem?

The Boardwalk Bookshop is born.

The women have very different problems in life and very different pasts.

Will The Boardwalk Bookshop help the women forget their pasts and move on?

The Boardwalk Bookshop is my seventh book by Susan Mallery and I have enjoyed all the ones I have reviewed by her so far.

The Boardwalk Bookshop is the perfect summer novel and Susan’s signature writing style, great way to create settings and characters is something I always like.

Thanks to Susan Mallery and MIRA Books for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

4 stars

Contact Susan:

Twitter: @susanmallery
Facebook: @susanmallery
Instagram: @susanmallery
Author website:

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Chapter One

“I thought there’d be more sex.”
Bree Larton stared at her seventy-something-year-old customer, not sure how to respond. Bursting out laughing would be inappropriate and Ruth would take offense. “You need to tell me what you want so I can get you the right book,” Bree said with a gentle smile. “You wanted a political thriller. Most of them aren’t sexy.”
Ruth, barely five feet tall but feisty as a badger, pursed her lips. “Not true. James Bond has sex all the time and he spends his day saving the world. I want a book like that. Ticking bombs, financial collapse, kidnappings and then everyone jumps into bed.” She winked. “That would be a good book.”
“I can do a sexy thriller. Maybe international?” Bree started walking toward that section of the bookstore. “A couple of options come to mind. Now, on the sexy part—do you want monogamy or can the partners play around?”
Ruth’s eyes brightened. “I’d like them to play around, but nothing too kinky. And no groups. That’s just too hard to keep track of.”
Bree held in a chuckle. “All right. We’ll limit the body parts, add a little European flair.” She held out a book with a hunky guy on the cover. “If you like this one, the author has five more stories waiting for you.”
Ruth, an unnaturally yellow blonde wearing cherry-red lipstick, clutched the book to her narrow chest. “I’ll take it.”
Bree suggested several additional authors. Ruth browsed for a few more minutes, then carried a stack of books to the register.
“I think I would have been a good sidekick for James Bond.” Ruth passed over her credit card. “Back in the day, I was quite the looker.”
“You still are,” Bree told her.
Ruth waved away the comment. “I’m too old for espionage, but I wouldn’t say no to dinner with a charming man.” Her smile turned sly. “I’ll just have to keep living vicariously through you.”
“Sadly, I’m lacking a man these days.”
Ruth leaned close. “What I admire about you, Bree, is that you’re not holding out for love. You go after what you want. When I was your age, that wasn’t an option. Not in polite society anyway. I was born in the wrong time.”
Bree honest to God had no idea what to say. “I guess we have to work with what we have.” She tucked a flyer into the shopping bag. “Harding Burton is signing here in a couple of weeks.”
Ruth looked at the poster next to the counter. Her bright red lips curved into a smile. “He’s a good-looking man.”
Bree mentally shrugged. “I suppose.”
“You don’t think he’s exceptionally handsome? Those eyes, that smile. Isn’t he the one who was hit by a car and left for dead on the side of the road when he was just a teenager?” Ruth clucked her tongue. “So tragic. But he pulled through and walked again and now look at him.” Her gaze darted to Bree. “You should have your way with him and then tell me all about it.”
Bree held in a wince. “First, I’d never tell you about it and second, I don’t date authors.”
Between her late husband and her parents, she knew enough about the type to want to avoid them forever. At least on a personal basis. Work-wise, she was stuck. What with owning a bookstore and all.
“Harding seems exception-worthy,” Ruth told her. “He might have some interesting scars you could trace and—”
Bree held up her hands in the shape of a T. “Stop right there. If you’re interested in Harding’s scars, go for him. How could he resist you?”
“I’m old enough to be his mother.”
Grandmother, Bree mentally corrected, but kept silent. She had a soft spot for the ever-outspoken Ruth.
“Maybe he’s into older women,” she said instead.
“Wouldn’t that be nice.”
Ruth was still laughing when Bree walked her out of the store. Anson, Ruth’s driver, was waiting in the no-parking fire lane. Anson helped Ruth into the Mercedes. Bree stayed outside until the car drove away.
Early evening on the beach in Los Angeles was nearly always magical but in June, if the skies cleared, it was the stuff of dreams. Warm air, palm trees, sand and surf. Honestly, she shouldn’t admit to having any real problems in her life. Even Ruth’s impossible book requests were insignificant when compared with the view outside the front door of her store.
Until six months ago, Driftaway Books had been located about two miles north and a good three blocks inland from the actual beach. Last fall, when the current space had come up on the market, Bree had stopped in to drool and dream. But beachfront came at a premium, and the square footage had been nearly double what she’d needed.
In one of those rare moments when fate stepped in and offered an unexpected opportunity, that very day two other women business owners had also been swooning over the same retail space. They’d agreed it was an unbelievable location, right there on the sand, but it had also been too big and expensive for each of them.
Impulsively, Bree had suggested they go get coffee together. Over the next hour they’d discussed the possibility of sharing the lease. Bree generally didn’t trust people until she got to know them, but there had been something about Mikki and Ashley that had made her want to take a chance. By the end of the week Driftaway Books, The Gift Shop and Muffins to the Max had signed a ten-year lease and hired a contractor to remodel. Bree had changed the name of Driftaway Books to The Boardwalk Bookshop, the final step in fully claiming the business as her own. The first Monday after the holidays, they’d moved in together.
Bree looked at the long, low building. Huge display windows were shaded by blue-and-white-striped awnings. The large glass doors could slide completely open, blurring the line between retail and sand. She and Mikki, the gift-store owner, had their stores on either side, with Ashley’s muffin selection taking up the middle space.
Big, bright displays showcased books, gifts and muffins, grouped together in seasonal themes. An array of beach books, sunscreen, flip-flops and wide-brimmed hats enticed tourists who had shown up to the beach unprepared.
Bree headed back inside, aware of the approaching sunset. She collected blankets and champagne glasses, then paused to straighten the poster announcing a book signing by Jairus Sterenberg, author of the popular Brad the Dragon children’s books. Jairus lived in next-door Mischief Bay and was always a pleasure at signings. He was one of the few authors Bree liked. He arrived early, stayed late and asked only for a desk and a glass of water. The man even brought his own pens.
At the other end of the spectrum was a not-to-be-named famous mystery author who was a total nightmare. Demanding, slightly drunk and very handsy, he’d patted her butt one too many times at his last signing and had been banned from the store. Despite pleas from his publicist and a written apology from the author himself, Bree had stood firm. She owned The Boardwalk Bookshop and she made the rules. No literary books, no existential anything and no guys touching women without their permission. Not exactly earth-shattering, but she could only control her little corner of the world.
Mikki saw her and smiled.
“Once again, we’re waiting for Ashley. Have you noticed that?”
“Young people today,” Bree teased.
Mikki, a generally upbeat kind of person, with thick blond hair and more curves than Bree and Ashley combined, laughed. “I like that. I’m only ten years older than her, so if she’s young, then I’m less old than I thought. Maybe I won’t mind turning forty this fall.”
“You’re not seriously worried about it, are you?”
Mikki wrinkled her nose. “I don’t know. Sometimes. Maybe. Forty sounds a lot worse than thirty-something.”
“Forty is the new twenty-five.”
Mikki’s humor returned. “If I’m twenty-five, then Ashley’s barely eleven. That could create some legal issues with our lease.” She waved the bottle of champagne she held. “Come on. This needs our attention. When Ashley’s done texting love notes to Seth, she knows where to find us.”
They left the store and walked out onto the sand. With the approach of sunset, the temperature had cooled and the Friday crowd had cleared. The sky had started to darken, while the part that kissed the ocean still glowed bright blue with a hint of yellow.
To their left were a grove of palm trees, a handful of kiosks and a boardwalk that went all the way to Redondo Beach. To the right were more shops and restaurants, benches, parking and hotels. In front of them was the Pacific Ocean. Big, blue and tonight, unexpectedly calm.
They stopped about thirty feet from the shore and sat on the blankets. Mikki held up the champagne.
“Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé,” she said proudly. “Ladies Know Wine gave it 93 points and said it had ‘delicious hints of sweet earthiness that complement fruit flavors including strawberry and peach with a hint of spice in this perfectly balanced rosé champagne.’”
Bree grinned. “I don’t know which is more impressive. That you’re branching out from traditional champagne or that you can quote a Ladies Know Wine review that well.”
“I love Ladies Know Wine. I savor every issue. If Ladies Know Wine were a man, I would make him fall in love with me. Then we’d have sex.”
“Earl would be crushed.”
Mikki unwrapped the pink foil and tucked it into her khaki pants pocket. “Earl would need to get over it.” She held up the bottle. “Look at the shape of that. It’s beautiful. And the label. Kudos to the design team.”
She held the cork in her left hand and used her right to grip the bottom of the bottle. Instead of pulling on the cork, as often happened in movies, she rotated the bottle several turns until the bottle and cork separated without a hint of a pop.
Last fall the three of them had signed the lease late on a Friday. They’d been so excited, they’d driven out to their new location. The sunny, warm day had promised a beautiful sunset. Bree happened to have a bottle of champagne in her car and had suggested they share it to celebrate their new venture. The following Friday they’d done the same and a tradition had been born.
The first time Bree had opened a bottle of champagne with her business associates, she’d popped the cork and the frothy liquid had spilled over. Mikki’s expression of horror had been so clear as to be comical.
“You’re letting out all the bubbles,” she’d explained. “It changes the essence of the champagne and ruins the experience.”
“Ruins is kind of strong,” Ashley had pointed out. “It’s still really good champagne. Better than what I usually have. Of course most of my champagne drinking is done at weddings where they’re buying for two hundred, so price is a concern.”
“Champagne needs to be treated with reverence,” Mikki had told her. “Don’t drink bad champagne.”
From then on they’d alternated providing the Friday night sunset champagne. Ashley always ran her selection past Mikki, but Bree took her chances by picking it herself.
Mikki poured them each a glass, then put the bottle into the sand, pushing down a little to keep it upright.
“To us,” she said, touching her glass to Bree’s. “And to perfect sunsets.”
Bree smiled and then took a sip. She closed her eyes as she let the bubbly liquid sit on her tongue for a second before swallowing. Mikki was going to ask her how she liked it, and saying it was fine was never an option.
“Delicious,” she said, holding in her smile. “I taste a lot of berry with a hint of citrus. It’s surprisingly creamy.”
Mikki looked at her with approval. “That’s what I get, too. It’s really drinkable. I like it.”
“Noooo! You started without me!”
The shriek came from behind them. Neither of them turned around. Instead, Bree held out the third glass and Mikki filled it. Ashley, a tall, slim redhead with big blue eyes and a full mouth, plopped down next to Mikki. Her lips formed a pout.
“You didn’t wait,” she accused. “You’re supposed to wait.”
“You’re supposed to be on time,” Mikki reminded her. “Every Friday you text with Seth and run late. You agreed either you show up on time or we’re starting without you.”
Ashley ducked her head. “I thought the pressure would help. Instead, I just feel guilty.”
Mikki sipped her champagne. “I’m sure your chronic tardiness has to do with your mother.”
Ashley laughed. “My mom can take your mom anytime.”
Mikki grinned. “I don’t know. Rita would bring her Eeyore self to the party and then talk about how everyone’s good time depressed her.”
“I can see that happening,” Ashley admitted. “Then I’ll toast to both our mothers. And Seth, who is amazing. I in no way feel guilty about texting with him. He loves me and I love him.”
Bree held in a groan. “Yes, we know. It’s all so wonderful.”
Mikki bumped shoulders with Ashley. “She’s jealous.”
“No, no.” Bree held up her glass. “You are welcome to your cooing and clucking relationship.”
“We don’t cluck. What does that even mean?”
“I have no idea,” Mikki admitted. “Bree?”
“It’s just an expression.”
“Clucking is an expression?”
Bree chuckled, then glanced out at the sinking sun. Light reflected on the moving water. A family walked along, close to the waves. An older boy ran ahead, while the parents held hands with a younger child.
They looked happy, she thought, studying them the way she would an unfamiliar species. No doubt the mom and dad loved their children, took care of them. Mikki did that, too, with her two kids. And Ashley’s parents were wonderful. But not all parents were good.
Mikki refilled their glasses. “Ashley, a lot of customers are talking about your brother’s book signing. When are we going to meet him?”
“Monday,” Ashley said. “He’s moving into his new place.”
Harding, Ashley’s brother, after several months on the road for book signings and research, had returned to Los Angeles. He’d leased a house and was supposedly hard at work on book number three. In the meantime, he would be signing at The Boardwalk Bookshop where he would, no doubt, pull in a crowd.
Authors, Bree thought with a silent sigh. An annoying but necessary species. Customers liked book signings, so she had authors come in.
“I can’t wait to meet him,” Mikki said. “Such an interesting story. Bree, are you excited about the signing?”
“More than words can say.”
Mikki studied her. “That’s sarcasm, right?”
Bree laughed. “Yes. That’s sarcasm.”
“How can you own a bookstore, love books and hate writers?”
“I don’t hate them. I just don’t want them in my life.”
“You’re so weird.” Mikki turned to Ashley. “Help me out here. Tell her how weird she is.”
Instead of joining in the teasing, Ashley dropped her gaze. “Yes, well, we should talk about Harding. Or more specifically, him and you.”
Bree shifted back so she could angle toward Ashley. “I’ve never met the guy.” Which meant there shouldn’t be a problem. Unless…

Excerpted from The Boardwalk Bookshop by Susan Mallery, Copyright © 2022 by Susan Mallery Inc. Published by MIRA Books.

Lil’s Bus Trip by Judy Leigh @JudyLeighWriter @bookandtonic @rararesources

About the book:

It’s always a good time for a road trip…
When 82-year-old Lil decides to book herself, her 65-year-old daughter, Cassie, and her friend Maggie on a bus trip across Europe, she hopes for a little adventure to counteract the monotony of life in sheltered accommodation.
Along with three members of the Salterley Tennis Club and the Jolly Weaver five-a side football team, whose ideas of a good time are rather different to Lil’s and strikingly at odds with each other’s, the merry band of travelers set out on their great adventure.
From moving moments on the beaches of Normandy, outrageous adventures in Amsterdam, to the beauty of Bruges and gastronomic delights of France, the holiday is just the tonic Lil, Maggie and Cassie needed.
And as the time approaches for them to head home, Lil makes an unexpected discovery – even in her advancing years, men are like buses – there isn’t one for ages then two come along at once. Is Lil ready to share her golden years, and can the ladies embrace the fresh starts that the trip has given them. Or is it just too late to change…

Where to Buy:

About the Author:

Judy Leigh is the bestselling author of A Grand Old Time and The Age of Misadventure and the doyenne of the ‘it’s never too late’ genre of women’s fiction. She has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in Somerset.

Contact Judy:

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My Review:

After Heading over the Hill, and Chasing the Sun, I was really looking forward to another Judy Leigh book. In her latest book, 82-year-old Lil, her 65-year-old daughter, Cassie, and her friend Maggie are in for an adventure when she books them on a bus trip across Europe. They aren’t alone and have members of a tennis and football club on board.

I thought “Oh, this sounds fun” and what fun it was. I loved this journey and book at a time when travel is still not easy around the world. This helped me forget about that and focus on their journey.

I liked Lil, Cassie and Maggie and thought how spontaneous Lil was. How her decision to have fun came into being. The locations they visit are varied and I felt as if I were there with them. By now, I know that Judy Leigh is si skilled at showing human interaction and making a setting visual.

I have been to Normandy and Bruges. It was good to revisit them and get to know other places. Perfect uplifting escapism with lots of laugh-out-loud moments for the summer or any other time of year. The book has come at the perfect time for me.

Thanks to Judy Leigh, Boldwood Books and Rachel’s Random Resources for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

4.5 stars

Worn Out Wife Seeks New Life by Carmen Reid @thiscarmenreid @carmenreidwrites @bookandtonic @rararesources

About the Book:

Tess Simpson needs a break!
Under appreciated at home, overlooked at work and now her beloved dog Bella has died. Tess has simply had enough!
So in a spur of the moment act, Tess books a holiday of a lifetime for her, her two grown up kids and useless husband Dave. Maybe they can use the break to reconnect with each other?
But when the kids refuse to go, and Dave breaks his leg, Tess’s dream holiday looks seriously in doubt. And then there’s River Romero, the glamourous LA screen writer who is supposed to be house-sitting for Tess whilst she’s away….
Everything about River sounds so much more exciting than Tess’s boring life in Stratford Upon Avon. From her beautiful LA condo and the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Tess wonders whether a bit of River’s LA life might be exactly what she needs? So when River suggests a house swap, Tess jumps at the chance!
With Dave happily ensconced in the summer house at the bottom of the garden, the kids not needing mum anymore, Tess packs her bags and heads off for the adventure of a lifetime.
But real life isn’t like the movies, and when Tess arrives in LA, things aren’t exactly as they seem.
Will Tess find what’s she’s looking for or is getting away from it all isn’t all perhaps not all it’s cracked up to be?

Where to Buy:

About the Author:

Carmen Reid is the bestselling author of numerous woman’s fiction titles including the Personal Shopper series starring Annie Valentine. After taking a break from writing she is back, introducing her hallmark feisty women characters to a new generation of readers. Her first title for Boldwood will be published in July 2021. She lives in Glasgow with her husband and children.

Contact Carmen:

Bookbub profile

My Review:

Worn Out Wife Seeks New Life is the story of two women who want more from life.

Tess Simpson is a wife and mother who feels like no-one appreciates her at home or work.

River Romero is a scriptwriter from LA who wants an escape.

From the synopsis, I was reminded of the film The Holiday which I loved, for this book has the same escapist vibe. I did find it was easy to get into for the first few scenes and then felt let down when I realised this was a daydream. It was so atmospheric.

Then much of the first chapters was work-centered which I didn’t find that enthralling as it took away from the fun opening but which did provide some of Tess’s workplace backstory and a sense of “this is my dream life versus this is the reality. ” It did feel very drawn out.

I was much more interested when Tess and River ended up in their respective hose swap properties. For River, it was Tess’s rural home and Tess ended up in LA. Once the swap begins, it’s fun, and there are some funny parts but we also experience each character’s reality in life before, during and after the house swap. Will they appreciate what they really have? Will they want to come home? Will others in their life appreciate them more?

I did find it hard to relate to Tess and River at times.

Worn Out Wife Seeks New Life is an escapist book and it’s well-written but I would have liked less chapters filled with exclusively work-related situations for Tess and I expected the swap to take place sooner.

Thanks to Carmen Reid, Boldwood Books and Rachel’s Random Resources for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

3.5 stars

The Beach Reads Book Club by Kathryn Freeman @KathrynFreeman1 @rararesources

About the Book:

Welcome to the Beach Reads Book Club…where love is just a page away…
When Lottie Watt is unceremoniously booted out of her uptight book club for not following the rules, she decides to throw the rulebook out the window and start her own club – one where conversation, gin and cake take precedent over actually having read the book!
The Beach Reads Book Club soon finds a home for its meetings at Books by the Bay, a charming bookshop and café owned by gorgeous, brooding Matthew Steele, and as the book club picks heat up, so too does the attraction between Matt and Lottie.
If there’s anything Lottie has learned from the romances she’s been reading, it’s that the greatest loves are the ones hardest earned.
A love letter to chicklit, romance, romcoms, whatever you want to call them!

Where to Buy:


About the Author:

A former pharmacist, I’m now a medical writer who also writes romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a sexy hero. With a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), any romance is all in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn’t always about hearts and flowers – and heroes come in many disguises.

Contact Kathryn:

Please use all the blurb and author details on your all possible can your review (if you are reviewing) go onto Amazon and Goodreads, as the more Amazon reviews on a book, the more visible it becomes to others on Amazon, and increases eligibility for promotions.

My Review:

I loved the title and synopsis of The Beach Reads Book Club and couldn’t wait to get started with it. I have always wanted to join a book club and this is the kind of club I want to belong to. Books, gossip drink and cake.

I have reviewed The Kiss Quotient on my blog and I enjoyed it. It was nice seeing a book I have featured in the book club. I identified with Lottie over not getting on in some clubs, but it’s not book clubs I didn’t like.

Lottie is the kind of person I’d like to know in person. Bubly, helpful and thoughtful, she’s the opposite of serious Matt. Will opposites attract in this novel?

The bookshop has a catchy name and I loved the atmosphere there. The characters are certainly unique in this novel. The only thing that did make me feel bad was the use of the term Asperger’s which could offend people who have it. I don’t but as a person with severe physical and visual disabilities, I feel strongly about how people with any disability are portrayed or referred to in books.

Apart from this, The Beach Reads Book Club is a relaxing novel with a good pace. If you’re looking for steamy romance though, you won’t get it here as the romance is cute and slow burn. If you like slow burn romance, then this is the novel for you. I like both types of romances but would have liked this to be hotter. That said, I find it unique that the book is summer-themed but has a slower pace to the romantic scenes. Many summer novels have a quick summer fling and it is nice that there’s more than that here. The pacing helps the reader linger over the romance scenes.

Thanks to Kathryn Freeman, Rachel’s Random Resources and One More Chapter for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

4 stars.

The Castle by Anne Montgomery @amontgomery8 @annemontgomery

Anne Montgomery Contemporary Women’s Fiction TouchPoint Press

About the Book:

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six- hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.
One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.
Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.
One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target.
In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic
presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

About the Author:

Anne Butler Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. Her first TV job came at WRBL-TV in Columbus, Georgia, and led to positions at WROC-TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP-TV in Phoenix, Arizona, and ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award-winning SportsCenter. She finished her on-camera broadcasting career with a two-year stint as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery was a freelance and/or staff reporter for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archaeological pieces. Her previous novels are A Light in the Desert, The Scent of Rain, and Wild Horses on the Salt. Montgomery taught journalism and communications at South Mountain High School in Phoenix for 20 years. She is a foster mom to three sons, and spent 40 years officiating amateur sports, including football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball. When she can, she indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, musical theater, and playing her guitar.


Why write a novel about rape? For author Anne Montgomery the reason was personal. While attending college, Montgomery was sexually assaulted. She became a statistic. Today, one out of every six women in the United States will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Like 80% of those victims, Montgomery never went to the police.
“I believed they would have blamed me. I was on a date with a sweet-faced farm boy who played for my university’s football team. I’d had a few drinks. I willingly followed him into his dorm room. What did I expect would happen? So, I said nothing.”
Add to that experience the fact that Montgomery spent 20 years teaching in a Title I high school, where the vast majority of her students lived in poverty. It was during that time she came to understand another sad statistic: Four out of five rapes are committed by someone the victim knows.
“I kept meeting young girls who’d been sexually assaulted, always by a family member or friend. Sadly, many of these teens were ostracized by their loved ones when they came forward, told they were lying, or that the assault was their fault.”
In The Castle [Touchpoint Press, September 13, 2021] Montgomery introduces Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, who is recovering from the gang rape she suffered in the Coast Guard. The reader follows Maggie through her depression, anger, and ultimate healing.

A reporter in TV and print for 15 years, Montgomery investigated the behavior and psychology of rapists, the profile of a victim, and the ways sexual assault survivors can heal. Engaging and influential, Montgomery is available for interviews, Q&A’s, and byline articles around the launch of The Castle focusing on topics that include:
• The signs of sexual violence and how to help someone in need
• Surviving and thriving after sexual violence
• The need to change the way society addresses sexual assault and its victims
• Channeling life experience – both traumatic and joyous – through the fictional
characters in her work.

My Review:

TRIGGER WARNING: Rape, a missing child and battle with depression

Maggie is a park ranger who is back at work after taking time off. The Castle is not my first novel by Anne Montgomery. I loved A Light in the Desert and was really happy when Anne contacted me to offer a review copy of The Castle as I so wanted to experience her writing again.

The Castle deals with depression rape and a missing child as I stated in the trigger warning at the start of this review, so if you stay clear of themes like these, this is not the book for you.

The Castle is first and foremost women’s fiction, with Maggie experiencing a hunt for a child she sees in the dramatic landscape where the book is set. The plot then turns dark and the novel becomes a twisting thriller with turns as tight as a road full of hairpin bends.

I was gripped from start to end. The synopsis is very self-explanatory so I won’t cover more of that.

Anne Montgomery is, in my opinion, a master storyteller and I have only reviewed two of her books. Her writing is at once refreshing, gritty and absorbing and leaves me shocked, concerned for the characters yet satisfied at an amazing novel.

The way the tough subjects are dealt with is humbling and brave on the part of the author and Maggie.

I felt true fear for Maggie, but she is also a strong person to be admired.

The worldbuilding in the book is amazing, as is the attention to detail.

Thanks to Anne Montgomery for an ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

4 stars

“HOLY CRAP!” MAGGIE DROPPED the phone. Someone peered from outside the darkened window. A child. Big eyes in a bronze face. “Hey! You can’t….” But the boy—nine maybe ten—disappeared. She heard a laugh, a light tinkling sound like tiny brass bells on the breeze.
Maggie scrambled for the phone, punched in the number, and made her report. Then she grabbed a flashlight from under the counter and bolted out the back door of the Visitor Center.
A half-moon lit the concrete trail. There was no sign of the boy. The wind pushed through massive Arizona Sycamores, their star-shaped leaves fluttered, the sound mimicking a stream rushing over small river rocks. Maggie rushed down the path. Her Nikes would have served her better than the brown ankle boots that were part of her uniform.
The laughter came again, this time from the wild land amidst the rocks—huge slabs of fractured white limestone that over the centuries had tumbled down the escarpment. Striving to avoid the vicious prickly pear that dotted the slope and the jagged pieces of stone that could slice skin like a honed blade, Maggie left the safety of the trail and pushed past the mesquite and pungent creosote bushes toward the base of the cliff, boots crunching on the rocky rubble that littered the ground.
Her gaze drifted up the sheer stone wall to The Castle, a prehistoric edifice almost iridescent in the moonlight. She could make out the small windows and even ancient logs that jutted from the structure, all of which had been felled and carted up the cliff face many hundreds of years earlier.
Maggie gasped. To her horror, she saw the boy ascending the wall. She flashed on the day she’d scaled the precipice with archaeology students from New Mexico State University. A seasoned climber, she was comfortable in the harness and helmet, but the ladders were touchy. The feel of rock beneath her hands and feet provided a much more solid sense of security. But there were no ladders propped against the ragged limestone now, nor was the child dressed in any protective gear. In fact, he didn’t appear to be wearing clothes at all.
Frozen, she watched the boy mount the wall like an animal, arms and legs working with almost preternatural ease. Then Maggie saw the child hoist himself over the ledge before he disappeared into the cave that held The Castle in its belly.
AT SIX-FOOT-THREE, Jess Sorenson towered over her friend. She folded the slim spiral notebook and tucked the pad into the back pocket of her uniform pants. Like Maggie, Jess sported a gray button-down short-

sleeve shirt and forest green slacks. But Jess was a National Park Service Law Enforcement officer, so she also wore a sidearm.
“You don’t believe me.” Maggie slumped into a desk chair in the office at the Montezuma Castle Visitor Center.
“Look, sweetie…”
Maggie glared.
“I’m just saying that we’ve had a search team out here for,” Jess checked her watch, “five hours now.
And they’ve found nothing. And you have to admit….”
“They think I’m still crazy, right?” Maggie jumped from the chair and paced the room, a palm pressed
against her forehead.
“I didn’t say that, but….” Jess creased her brow. “You know I have to ask.”
“No, I’m no longer medicated, if that’s what you’re curious about.” Maggie turned toward the east-facing
windows of the Visitor Center, where the morning sun had yet to offer even a hint of illumination.
Jess nodded and reached again for the notebook. She jotted the information in blue ink, stuck the pen in her breast pocket, and ran her fingers through short, shockingly white hair. “Maybe you need some more
time off,” she said softly.
Maggie closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I know what I saw.”
Jess stared for a long time. “I believe you. But the other guys….” She spread her hands wide.
“I have to work, Jess. Sitting around is doing me no good. I just think too much when I’m alone. When
I’m here, I feel better. I can’t go back to the house.”
“I know.” Jess perched on the corner of a nearby desk. “So, what do you want to do? Should we file a
report with the local authorities? Ask if any young boys are missing?”
“They’ll send me home.”
“They might.”
“But what if a child is out there injured?” Maggie pointed toward The Castle, unable stop tears from
spilling down her cheeks.
“Do you think the child was hurt?”
Maggie blew out a breath and closed her eyes. She pictured the boy scaling the wall like one of the
ubiquitous brown lizards that scampered among the rocks, his tinkling laughter playing on the breeze. Suddenly the memory seemed wrong. How could the vision be real? She stared at Jess, frowned, and collapsed into a chair.
Jess got up, walked over to Maggie, and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “I’m gonna call the guys off. Let’s get you to bed.”
Maggie lifted her head and peered from bleary eyes. “What about the report?”
“I think we need to err on the side of caution and tell the local folks, just in case. But maybe we can make it sound not so….”
“Crazy?” Maggie finished the sentence.
“Come on, now.”
Maggie allowed Jess to help her from the chair. Then she picked up the straw-colored hat with the flat
brim and dark leather band that symbolized her profession. Her job was all that mattered now. By making the report Maggie was putting her employment at risk. But what if a child was lost or injured, and they stopped the search because she chose to say nothing? Maggie couldn’t live with that.

MAGGIE DRAGGED HERSELF from bed. After slipping on a pair of khaki shorts and an overly large navy-blue T- shirt bearing the words Plant Lady: I dig dirt, she made a cup of instant coffee, heavily laced with sugar and milk.
Maggie pushed through the screen door to the tiny porch that fronted her one-bedroom apartment, let the door snap shut behind her, and placed the steaming mug on a round wrought iron table. She’d slept until noon—not a surprise considering her run in with the boy/spirit/hallucination—so the sun was directly overhead. Birds chattered noisily in the surrounding bushes and trees. A speckled brown and white roadrunner, who sprinted about the grounds frequently and exhibited little fear of humans, tilted his head as she sat at the table, then went back to pecking among the rocks in a search for insects and lizards.
The apartment, one of several in a tidy row, sat on National Park land, just a short walk from The Castle. One of the benefits of being a National Park Ranger was the opportunity to live at work. Maggie had recently requested one of the simple flats—a bedroom, kitchenette, tiny living room, and bath—because the thought of returning to her house on Beaver Creek was overwhelming. Memories lingered there, once vibrant and joyful, now nothing but dust and shadow, thoughts that clawed at her gut like a small rodent anxious to eat its way out. She fingered the ragged scars that bisected her wrists—cuts that were partially concealed by a pair of colorful tattoos—then stared at the cerulean blue of the high desert sky.
Maggie, who’d grown up in the bulging metropolis of Phoenix, Arizona, had enjoyed the small-town feel of the Beaver Creek area, which encompassed the communities of Lake Montezuma, Rimrock, and McGuireville. On the way home from The Castle, she’d pass Vickie’s Grill—where a sign proclaimed you could get good home cooking—the Feed Store, and Candy’s Creek Side Cottage with its colorful kitschy décor that always made her smile. Further down the road stood the Montezuma-Rim Rock Fire Department, the town post office, and the most popular spot in town, Flora’s Bakery, where indescribably delicious confections came in pink boxes tied with twine. Then Maggie would turn onto the unpaved, dusty lane with the long row of metal mailboxes, mostly black and white and green, some with their red flags at attention, signaling mail within. Maggie’s was the fourth box from the right, turquoise with white flowers and a yellow butterfly that Charlie had insisted on.
Her tiny house was embraced by an ancient Arizona Sycamore, some of the tree’s branches having kissed the earth untold years earlier, after which they’d rebounded into the high desert sky, massive in their height and breadth. She’d felt connected to the tree with the mottled skin—pale green, brown, and white—cool to the touch, verdant star-shaped leaves. She couldn’t wrap her arms completely around the trunk, though she’d tried.
Charlie had loved the tree. Maggie stopped worrying as he’d grown older, no longer concerned that the boy might fall from the enormous limbs.
Bits of Charlie’s life assaulted her as she sipped her coffee. A hand-painted wooden frame clutching a picture of the two of them, smiling on a hike when he was six. A small pair of boots, laces untied, caked with dried red mud. The collection of minerals on the bedside table, including the strange geometrically-shaped white rocks called pseudomorphs, they’d found sifting through the sandy bottom of the open-pit salt mine in Camp Verde.
Maggie forced the thoughts away, not wanting to think about the house she still owned but dared not enter. For six months she’d stayed away. Jess periodically checked on the property and picked up the mail. Maggie continued to pay the mortgage, but the water and electricity had long since been turned off.

A half an hour and two cups of coffee later, Maggie stared at a Queen butterfly that rested on the wooden porch railing. The creature lazily opened and closed white-spotted orange and black wings, and flitted to a nearby patch of milkweed.
Maggie jumped, startled by the sound of a vehicle. A late model green Jeep Wrangler pulled to a stop in front of the last apartment in the complex. A tall man wearing a Colorado Rockies baseball cap unfolded himself from the driver’s seat and spoke into a cellphone as he slammed the door. He ended the call and slipped the phone into his back pocket. Then, he opened the rear of the vehicle and hoisted a large silver cylinder to his shoulder. His phone rang.
“What!” He walked up the wooden steps to the apartment. “I’ll call you back.” He put the cylinder on the porch floor and fumbled with a key.
Maggie recognized the object, strangely incongruous in the desert. It was a scuba tank.

Author Q&A: The Lily Garden by Barbara Joselsohn @BarbaraJoss @chicklitcentral @bookouture #booksontour

About the Book:

Caroline remembered how her mother would head to the garden as the first signs of spring approached, rolling up her sleeves and planting wildflowers as the sun set. But there was a lot she didn’t know about her mother, and the family secrets hidden in her hometown that would change everything…

When Caroline left Lake Summers thirty years ago, she thought she’d never go back to the place where she lost her parents. But when she finds out that the town’s lily garden lovingly built by her mother is going to be destroyed, she knows she must return from Chicago to save it.
Welcomed by the warm smile of her mother’s best friend Maxine, and piles of pancakes at her cozy little restaurant in town, Caroline and her daughter Lee immediately begin their campaign to save the garden. And Caroline soon learns that she isn’t the only person invested in their plan: handsome historian Aaron is new to town but he sees how special the garden is too. As Caroline gets to know him, strolling along the sparkling lakeshore, she can’t imagine anywhere else she’d rather be.

But then Caroline learns a terrible secret about the day her mother died. If she continues fighting to save the garden, she may uncover more painful truths that will affect her whole family. But if she leaves now, she will have to give up a future with Aaron, and the beautiful town that has always been in her heart…

An utterly uplifting and heart-warming story about forgiveness and family. Perfect for fans of Carolyn Brown, Debbie Macomber and Mary Alice Monroe.

Where to Buy:


About the Author:

Barbara Josselsohn is an award-winning writer who loves crafting stories about strong protagonists facing a fork in the road. Her novels include The Bluebell Girls, The Lilac House, The Last Dreamer, and her newest release, The Lily Garden. She has published hundreds of articles about family, home and relationships in national and regional publications, and also teaches novel writing at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. She lives just north of New York City and enjoys escaping to the beach or the mountains whenever she can. Other than writing, her biggest passion is her family: her husband, her three kids, and her indefatigable shih-poo! Visit her online at, @Barbara_Josselsohn_Author (Instagram), @BarbaraJoss (twitter) or


  1. Where did the inspiration for the book come from?

The central relationship in THE LILY GARDEN is between a mother and her seventeen-year-old daughter as they embark on a college road trip, which quickly becomes an even more consequential journey for both of them. So the main inspiration came from my own relationships with my two daughters. I’ve found it really hard sometimes to see my daughters growing up. I love that they’re becoming independent adults, but I also miss having them as babies! Those months before a daughter moves out on her own are so intense and emotional. I wanted to explore how a mom and daughter can struggle to rework their relationship — and come out smiling on the other side! So that was the original seed for the book. As I began to let the story unfold, however, the book became about so much more. It became about family — the one your born into and the one or ones you choose to create at various times of your life.

  1. Do you have any tips for how I can hook people from the beginning in my own books?

For me, books start with a character and a deep “want” — something a character yearns for with her whole heart. Wanting to be heard, wanting to be acknowledged, wanting to be accepted, wanting to be loved — these are universal, and very relatable. These “wants” motivate us to take action — sometimes productive and sometimes not so helpful. Give me a unique character, a strong want, and a plan that may or may not work, and you’ll have me hooked from page one!

  1. How can I create a beautiful and visual setting (like a garden) for a book?

I take lots of pictures when I’m researching a book. For example, I live twenty minutes away from the extraordinary New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, and I go there all the time and take pictures of plants and flower that move me, that sing out to me, that connect with me. I print these out and put them on a bulletin board in my office, and then I begin to find the words to describe them, and to convey how they make me feel. I also use scented candles, music playlists, and scented lotions to help me get deep inside my imagination. Smells and sounds can be so evocative when you’re trying to create a setting and a mood!

  1. Which was the hardest part of writing this? And the easiest? Why?

In the book, my main character – Caroline – is trying to save her hometown from destroying the lily garden that her mother created and cared for many years earlier. She faces a lot of roadblocks and resistance, and for me, those were the hardest scenes to write. I was so invested in Caroline’s quest, so it was hard for me to see her struggling. These easiest scenes to write were the romantic scenes between Caroline and Aaron, the handsome college professor she befriends. It makes me smile, to put myself into the shoes of a character who’s falling in love. I sometimes write with my writing group on Zoom, with the camera on while I’m working on a scene. My critique partners tell me that they always know when I’m writing a love scene, because I look so happy!

  1. How can I make my writing emotional and people love the characters?

People love characters who are real to them. So don’t be afraid to make your characters flawed, to have them misbehave sometimes or act out of jealousy or fear. The more human they are, and the more they struggle to do the right thing or to prevail against enormous odds, the more we will become emotionally invested in their story.

  1. What do you love to do when not writing?

I love to spend time with my family doing fun things — going to the beach, hiking, eating out at fun restaurants. I also love New York City, which is about a half-hour drive from where I live. I’m so happy to see the city opening up again. I cannot wait for Broadway shows to come back — and it looks like they will in just a few weeks!

  1. What is the best thing about being an author?

The best thing is that I get to make up stories! I truly think that’s the most fun thing in the world to do. I love inventing characters and putting them in different locations, with different challenges and experiences and memories. I also have to say that I love speaking to readers. There’s no better feeling than hearing that a story you wrote touched someone’s life or expressed something they always felt but didn’t know how to articulate.

  1. What is your favourite scene in the book? Why?

My favorite scene is the evening Caroline takes Aaron to the lily garden for the first time. She brings him up to the little footbridge in the middle of the garden, and it’s there, with the moon above reflecting in the inlet below, that she begins to tell him about her memories of the garden and her mother, who died so young. I just love that moment when a character realizes she’s found someone she can trust, someone she can open up to, someone who wants to hear everything she wants to say. I love the tingle Caroline feels when she thinks about kissing him!