Fiction, Young Adult, Romance, Women's Fiction, Suspense

September Reads!

Since it is unlikely that I will finish another book by tomorrow, here are the books I read this month! Any of the ones with 4 or 5 stars are worth your time. Some quick thoughts:

Thank You For Listening: This unique book, written by a woman who narrates audio books, is about people who narrate audio books! The main characters are great, a lot of their communication is through emails and texts, and the big reveal is very sweet. (Some steaminess.)

Rich Blood: This is a legal thriller with twists and turns aplenty! Jason Rich is a billboard-ambulance-chasing lawyer who must now defend his sister accused of murdering her husband. It keeps you guessing until the very end. I definitely want to read more by this author!

That Fine Line/Double or Nothing: These Cindy Steel books are fantastic, with a lot more going on than the covers would lead you to believe. They are clean romances with tons of hilarity, heart, and homespun characters that you will love. They are the first and second of a four-book series that I plan to continue. Extremely enjoyable!

A Pumpkin and a Patch/How to Get Over Your Ex in Ninety Days: Jennifer Peel is another author I was thrilled to discover this month! Her characters are smart, sensitive, and constantly learning from their mistakes. These clean romances are winners! Highly recommended!

The Deep End/Guaranteed to Bleed/Clouds in My Coffee: These are the first three books in a multi-book cozy mystery series. They are very entertaining, set in the 1970s among the Kansas City country club elite. Money might buy some nice things, but it can’t stop some people from being murdered…*cue sinister laugh* I plan to continue with this clever series!

The Bodyguard/What You Wish For/How to Walk Away: Books by Katherine Center, need I say more? You know I absolutely adore this woman. Hubby and I listened to all three of these in September, sometimes for hours. And guess what? We’re having a tough time finding other audio books we enjoy as much.

I hope you find something you love from this list! Happy Reading!!

One more thing,” as Detective Colombo would say… The “Most Messed Up Book Award” for September goes to Verity, by Colleen Hoover. If you’ve read anything by the popular and divisive “CoHo” then I can tell you that Verity is not within her “normal” style. Some people love it, some people despise it. I just wanted to vacuum that story out of my brain. It. Is. Twisted. And I know I’m not alone in that opinion. You’ve been warned!

Cover Reveal, Fiction, Romance, Series & Collections, Women's Fiction

COVER REVEAL: Return to Satterthwaite Court, by Mimi Matthews

AVAILABLE April 11, 2023

Cover reveal! USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews’ highly-anticipated RETURN TO SATTERTHWAITE COURT releases April 11, 2023. Available to pre-order at your favourite online retailer now. https://www.mimimatthews.com/books/somerset-stories/return-to-satterthwaite-court/ 

SYNOPSIS:From USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews comes the long-awaited sequel to her critically acclaimed novels The Work of Art and Gentleman Jim.

The only son of a famous love match, ex-army lieutenant Charles Heywood is determined to make amends for his past mistakes by giving his mother the impossible—the deed to her long-lost childhood home, Satterthwaite Court. But arranging to purchase the remote west country estate is more difficult than Charles ever imagined. The property is mired in secrets, some of which may prove deadly. If he’s going to unravel them, he’ll need the assistance of someone as daring as he is.

At one and twenty, Lady Katherine Beresford has already earned a reputation to rival that of her infamous parents. As skilled with pistols as she is on horseback, she’s never met an obstacle she can’t surmount—or a man she can’t win. That is, until she encounters the infuriatingly somber Lieutenant Heywood. But Kate refuses to be deterred by the raven-haired soldier’s strong, silent facade. After all, faint heart never won a handsome gentleman.

From the wilds of rural Somersetshire to the glittering ballrooms of early-Victorian London, Charles and Kate embark on a cross-country quest to solve a decades’ old mystery. Will the greatest danger be to their hearts—or to their lives?

*****

Thank you to Mimi Matthews for choosing me to be part of the team to reveal the cover to next year’s book!

Books 1 and 2 of the series are some of my favorites! And now the children of these beloved characters will have a story of their very own in Return to Satterthwaite Court!

If you’re new to the historical romance genre, this series is where you want to start. Plenty of swashbuckling good fun too!

Book 3 releases April 2023!
Author Spotlight, Cozy Mysteries, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, Series & Collections, Women's Fiction

June & July 2022 Reads

I even added stars next to my July favorites!

I guess you could say that I’ve read a lot of books in the last two months! People ask how I do it and this is my answer:

  • I live in a small town where there isn’t much to do.
  • I’m still living the pandemic lifestyle, staying home even more than usual.
  • My husband has had to work lots of overtime lately.
  • We don’t have kids.
  • I sleep terribly.
  • I read fast.
  • My online book group has tons of motivational activities.
  • I upgraded my Kindle from a Basic to a Paperwhite Signature. (I was getting eye strain from the Basic. My poor eyes are so happy now!)

Some books I skim, some I give a great deal of attention to, and there are even some that I start and don’t finish (I don’t list these.) You may recognize some titles from previous posts. There are still a few I plan to acknowledge here, but the ones who had the greatest impact on me have already been reviewed. It’s difficult to get to everything.

I also get asked about authors. Which authors do I recommend? This is a TOUGH question! Everyone’s tastes are different. Please keep in mind that just because I love a book doesn’t mean everyone else will love it. This is why it’s important to read several reviews (unless you’re really brave)–and not just mine–before buying a book. Join Goodreads, read reviews on Amazon, join NetGalley, find a Facebook group for your age and genre preference. Being proactive is the only way to find what YOU enjoy reading.

But to answer the author question, here are some favorites–all fiction. You can find all of them in the “author” section of this site.

I hope this gives you a little glimpse into authors to research and whose works to pursue. For the devoted reader there is truly something for everyone. ❤️

Email subscribers: Visit readwithkristie.com to see the site in its entirety.

HAPPY READING!

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction

Two Fun, Witty Reads…

Here are two books I read recently that are extremely enjoyable. Happily, they also have intelligent, witty characters and plots with plenty of depth. A win-win!

THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL, by Abbi Waxman–seriously, one of the funniest books I have ever read! Laugh-out-loud-at-crazy-hours-in-the-morning funny. There were times I would try to read a passage aloud to my husband and it was so hilarious that I couldn’t even get the words out because I was laughing so much. So who is Nina Hill? She is an introverted employee of a bookstore–one of a tiny group of women who work there–and a trivia team champion. Her recall for facts is amazing (once you learn about racehorses’ birthdays, you’ll never forget) and all of her time is spent reading for competitions, reading for her weekly book group, and reading for fun (Thursday nights only.) Her life is all about planning and learning as much information as possible. This is all fine and good until some unexpected family secrets come to the surface, upending Nina’s organized existence, but also giving her insight into why she is this way. A delight from start to finish with excellent supporting characters. 9/10 Stars

WHEN IN ROME, by Sarah Adams will be available September 20th. I’d seen fellow readers talk about it and was happy when my request for an advanced copy was quickly approved. A fun companion book to Norah Goes Off Script and The Bodyguard where a celebrity and a “normal” person find their lives intersecting. Pop star Amelia “Rae” Rose idolizes Audrey Hepburn and, taking a cue from Princess Ann in Roman Holiday, decides to escape her chaotic life by driving to Rome–Rome, Kentucky, that is, where she ends up stranded in the front yard of grumpy pie shop owner Noah Walker. In a plot that’s a hybrid of Notting Hill and Sweet Home Alabama, Amelia finally has a chance to breathe and reevaluate her life. Like with the previous book, When in Rome also has wonderful supporting characters, partly because they are actually supportive. Another 9/10 Stars.

Fiction, Philosophy, Romance, Short Stories, Women's Fiction, Young Adult

Ten Books-At-A-Glance

Here are 10 other books I’ve read recently with their 1-5 Star ratings on Goodreads. None of them made great impressions on me, but I still found the ones with 4 stars enjoyable. The biggest surprise was Someone To Wed, by Mary Balogh because the female main character was such a pillar of strength, despite her challenges. The biggest disappointment was the advanced copy (available Sept 20) of Lucy By the Sea, by Pulitzer-Prize winning author Elizabeth Strout. It is about a divorced couple co-habitating during the Covid pandemic. Personally, I think it is much too soon for a story on this subject. If you’re interested in any of them, I’m happy to answer questions in the comments.

Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction

Nora Goes Off Script, by Annabel Monaghan

It’s very satisfying when a book lives up to the hype! I’m happy to say that with Nora Goes Off Script, by Annabel Monaghan, mission accomplished.

After her too-good-for-work husband leaves her swimming in debt, cable channel script-writer Nora Hamilton has some choices to make. Fortunately, her marriage collapsing has also turned into a story idea for the best script of her life. The studio even wants to release it to theaters and film it on location at her historic home.

Unfortunately, actor Leo Vance (former Sexiest Man Alive,) is also at a crossroads. Refusing to sell his soul to Hollywood’s materialistic labels, Leo offers Nora one thousand dollars a day to stay at her house for one week after shooting wraps. Nora has bills to pay, so how can she refuse? But what is in it for Leo? He wants normal, which means eating pancakes with Nora and the kids, following her around the grocery store, and drinking coffee each morning on the porch.

It’s a silly premise and there are a couple of predictable steamy scenes, but it works. The book is an absolute delight. A combination of philosophical and frothy, Nora and Leo are the puzzle pieces missing from each other’s lives. His interaction with the kids and the town’s bucolic setting is very cute, a testament that you just never know what Life has in store.

9/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction

Come Down Somewhere, by Jennifer L. Wright

AVAILABLE September 5, 2022

After a couple of disappointing books that I refused to finish–my time is too valuable–I was pulled into the story of Olive and Jo in Come Down Somewhere. Now I’m in the midst of that awed exhaustion a reader gets after finishing an incredible book.

Beginning during World War II but set on US soil, the novel takes place in Alamogordo, New Mexico. I never knew the significance of that place. I do now. It was the site of the Trinity nuclear test–the first detonation of such a weapon–the fallout of which was much more than atomic.

Revolving around the lives of two teenage girls, Olive Alexander and Jo Hawthorne, we see war from the view of those on the American home front. Even those who are not enlisted and called up are affected. Everyone and everything is affected. Emotions are heightened, relationships are strained, allegiances are intensified.

Olive’s story takes place mainly in 1944 when her family’s ranch is taken over by the US Army. While her mother, uncle, and brother dutifully move into a small casita on the property, Olive is outraged–not only by the apparent apathy of her family, but because she is shuffled off to live with her grandmother sixty miles away.

Jo’s story mostly chronicles her return to the area in 1952. Once God-fearing and optimistic, Life has severely challenged her faith. She’s there to visit her father, Richard–Sargent Hawthorne–once the proud military leader who supervised activity on the Alexander ranch, who now lays dying, silenced by throat cancer.

Back and forth between these two timelines, we see an ebb and flow of friendship, beliefs, family, betrayal and loving sacrifice. The writing is beautiful, the characters are complex, and the story is singularly unique. This is one I will remember for a long time. I highly recommend this novel. It would make a great book club selection.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tynedale House Publishers for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. Come Down Somewhere is a true winner.

9.5/10 Stars

More on the Trinity Nuclear Test HERE.

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Women's Fiction

The Hotel Nantucket, by Elin Hilderbrand

AVAILABLE June 14, 2022

This is the first time I’ve read one of Elin Hilderbrand’s novels and, yes, I get it. I get why this author’s books are everywhere: grocery stores, newsstands, airports, etc. What I do not get is why the cover makes it look like a light little read. This is a meaty ensemble piece with multiple story lines. I picture a cover that’s a version of a Downton Abbey poster, showing the hotel staff and their more memorable guests.

At the center is general manager of the Hotel Nantucket, Lizbet Keaton, who is hired to bring the newly renovated space back to its former glory. We meet staff as she’s interviewing them and guests as they check in. Then there’s the self-appointed conscience of the hotel, Grace Hadley, the 19 year old ghost (or is it 119?) who died in a fire at the hotel back in 1922. She’s protective, nurturing, and mischievous, depending on what she thinks people deserve. She’s a lot of fun as she lurks in places where only a ghost can hide, acting as our eyes, ears, and entertainment.

Everyone has a back story, everyone has an agenda, everyone has a reason to work or stay at the hotel. Although most of the book is from the POV of Lizbet, Ghostly Grace, and sometimes Sweet Edie, there is a hidden narrator who remains unnamed. Despite being a bit long, I couldn’t put this book down. Know that the language and adult situations are at about a PG rating. Thank you NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. This is a very enjoyable book!

9/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction

The Bodyguard, by Katherine Center

AVAILABLE July 19, 2022

Throw in a bit of While You Were Sleeping, mixed with Notting Hill, and It Happened One Night…you get The Bodyguard, Katherine Center’s upcoming book and one of the most entertaining reads I’ve had in years.

Hannah Brooks is a petite woman in her twenties who is also a highly-trained protection agent. Her life is at a crossroads when she is assigned to protect Jack Stapleton, movie star and celebrity extraordinaire. He’s resistant, she’s determined. She can also kill you with a napkin.

Despite going off the grid a few years ago after a family tragedy, Jack is still a target. There are rabid fans, a sweater-knitting stalker, and ever-predatory paparazzi. But under those chiseled abs he’s a fairly down-to-earth person seeking normality and connection. At Jack’s request, Hannah must keep her identity a secret from his family, posing as his girlfriend instead.

There is humor, romance, action, tears, and, yes, even depth as Hannah and Jack spend more time getting to know each other in these unusual circumstances. Their banter is equally hilarious as it is heartwarming.

Katherine Center has done it again. This book is the reason I signed up with NetGalley. My thanks to them and to St. Martin’s Press for this advanced copy. I loved it.

9.5/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Author Spotlight, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction

Author Spotlight: Jennifer Ryan

Jennifer Ryan is known for her tales of bucolic village life in World War II England. She grew up listening to her grandmother’s stories of the time period, longing to write while working as an editor for different publishing houses. After receiving an MA in Fiction from Johns Hopkins University, she wrote her debut novel, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. I enjoyed that book very much in 2019– a personally dramatic year–and it never received a mention on this site. It’s time to fix that, along with introducing you to her upcoming book, The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle.

The Chilbury Women’s Choir: Told through a series of letters, we learn about the lives of several different women in the village of Chilbury in 1940. The war is raging and the vicar has decided to close the choir until the men return. The ladies take it upon themselves to establish a ladies’ choir (shock and horror) in their absence.

The characters who write the letters have very different personalities, a true testament that perception is everything. There is service, there is gossip, and there are lessons learned. I read and listened to this book. The audio book was especially enjoyable because of the multiple narrators. 9/10 Stars

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle, Available May 31, 2022: This book is a treat from start to finish. I loved it. Cressida Westcott is a renowned London fashion designer whose home and studio are destroyed in the Blitz. She finds refuge in her family’s manor where her niece, Violet, and nephew, Hugh, now live. Violet is thrilled to meet her famous aunt and invites her to the local village sewing circle. The newest project is to mend and update Grace Carlisle’s mother’s wedding dress. Rationing has made it impossible to get materials for a new dress and Grace, the vicar’s daughter, is engaged to be married. We cycle through the lives of Cressida, Violet, and Grace, whose stories become more entwined as time goes on.

This book is very special. I loved all the characters, their individual journeys, and–yes–the positive effects the war has on their lives. Each of them experienced their share of losses before the story begins and a few bumps after, but the majority of the novel is about their separate epiphanies and realizations about what is really important. People are humbled, they learn more about themselves, the British class system is called into question, and the American soldiers even make an appearance. Highly, highly recommended. 9.5/10 Stars

Historical Fiction, Romance, Series & Collections, Women's Fiction

Genre Spotlight: Romance

I wandered into the Romance genre recently. Here are some quick reviews. There are Victorian and Regency romances, some are parts of a series, a few have wounded veterans. Most are pretty clean, which I prefer.

The Lost Letter, by Mimi Matthews tells of Sylvia Stafford and the Earl of Radcliffe. She’s a governess and he’s brooding and distant, like Rochester from Jane Eyre. There is a series of misunderstandings and meddling servants. If only everyone communicated better, those misunderstandings would be resolved quicker. A pleasant, but often frustrating story. Very clean. 7/10

The Work of Art, by Mimi Matthews is a book I enjoyed very much. Phyllida Satterthwait is living with relatives she barely knows. Her unusual eyes (one blue, one green) bring her to the attention of a man known as “The Collector.” Meanwhile, she befriends Captain Arthur Heywood, a kind neighbor, recently wounded in battle. The relationship between Phyllida and Heywood is very sweet, with the overall theme of two people rescuing each other. 8.5/10

Heartsight and Heartfelt, by Kay Springsteen are quick reads. Trish is cleaning out her late grandmother’s North Carolina house. She’s recently divorced with daughter, Bella, who has Down’s Syndrome. Their neighbor is Dan Conrad, to whom Bella takes to very quickly. Dan is adjusting, not easily, to life out of the military. A friendship develops between the single mother and the veteran. Both books are fairly clean, maybe a mild PG rating.

Heartsight is the kind of book I could see adapted into a made-for-TV movie. Trish and Dan are great characters with excellent chemistry. There is some suspense and action, but it mostly focuses on these two getting to know each other. 8.5/10

Heartfelt is a mess. A very chaotic plot, frenzied pace, too many new characters, and Bella needed to be written better. It is disappointing. 5/10

See Me, by Autumn Macarthur is part of the Chapel Cove series. It reads like a Hallmark movie, but Jake and Bronte are so likable that I didn’t care. Both are entering new chapters in their lives and necessity brings them together. This is a Christian romance, so there are religious discussions. I found it very endearing. 8.5/10

Turn to Me, by Becky Wade will be available May 3, 2022. It is part of the Misty Rose Romance series and also a clean Christian romance. I wanted to like this one more. Luke and Finley are great characters, along with Finley’s coworkers and Luke’s family. He is an ex-con who promised Finley’s father he would protect her. She’s mourning her fiancee who was killed in a car accident. The main plot is great, but there is a lot of fluff–including a detracting side romance that I all but skipped. This could be a winner with better editing. 7/10

In Front of Me, by Dana LeCheminant is part of the Simple Love Story series. There are recurring characters in the series, but this one focuses on Lissa Montgomery, Brennan, and his roomate, Steve. There’s a bit of a love triangle, but not really. Like See Me, this is about two people who need each other. Most of it is from Lissa’s point of view and readers can easily identify with her. Fairly clean. 8/10

Isabelle and Alexander, by Rebecca Anderson is barely worth a mention. This book had so much potential, but poor pacing made it fall short. Clean romance. 6/10

Falling for the Guarded Duke, by Sally Forbes also could’ve been better. I liked the main characters, Olivia and Alexander, very much as well as the basic plot. Alexander’s younger brother is terrible, with motives that do not make much sense. There are some errors that should’ve been caught before the book went to print and the word “giggled” is used to excess. Clean romance. 7.5/10

The Arrangement and The Escape, by Mary Balogh are part of The Survivor’s Club series. It’s a unique premise. Six men and one woman have suffering a variety of injuries in the Napoleonic War. Some wounds are physical, some are emotional. After three years convalescing together, the friends reunite annually to update and support each other. The writing is actually very good. However, this series has some steamy scenes. (Think Titanic steamy–with description.) Personally, I found those scenes unnecessary and a bit “blush-worthy.” I would give 7.5/10 to The Arrangement and 8.5 to The Escape.

Thoughts: Like any genre, Romance can be done well or not. I prefer reading about the relationships and dialogue between characters more than private moments and torrid affairs. Mimi Matthews is an author whose books I’ll keep pursuing. Most others in the genre will be Advanced Reader Copies from NetGalley.

Fiction, Mystery, Women's Fiction

The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave

Rarely does my impatience for a book motivate me to buy it instead of waiting for it to become available through the online library. But 65,000 stellar ratings on Amazon cannot be wrong, so I held my breath and purchased The Last Thing He Told Me sight unseen. I was not disappointed.

We all know there are things in life that are unreliable, but we hope for a few constants. In Hannah Hall’s life it was Owen, her husband of 18 months. Until it wasn’t. Owen has disappeared, leaving only a cryptic note. “Protect her.”

The rest of the story takes us on a seesaw of flashbacks of their courtship and the present, while Hannah pieces together clues that might lead up to why her life is suddenly spiraling out of control. Few can be trusted, but her past eventually prompts her to make a final, life-changing decision.

If this sounds vague, it’s only because this novel contains one of the most engrossing stories I’ve ever read. I could not put it down. The less details you know, the better. It’s a book to be experienced and that experience is quite the ride. Be aware that the language is of a PG-13 rating.

9.5/10 Stars

Fiction, Romance, Series & Collections, Women's Fiction

Westcott Bay Series (Books 1-3,) by Amelia Addler

Continuing my journey into light mysteries and clean romances is the Westcott Bay series by Amelia Addler. Although it took me a while to get into the lives of the characters, by the time I finished the third book, they had become familiar friends.

Following the formula of so many similar books, this series begins with newly divorced Margie Clifton, who is starting over on the San Juan islands in Washington State. (A place I still need to visit, considering that I have lived in Washington for ten years.) Margie takes over her brother, Mike’s, property, which includes a huge barn just right for an event center.

Along the way we meet Chief Deputy Hank Kowalkski (newly widowed, so you have one guess what’s going to happen) and Morgan Allen, who is on the island to piece together the puzzle of her mother’s death in a hit-and-run accident. Margie’s daughter, Jade, also visits and, later on, her older sister, Tiffany. Each bring their own subplots.

Over the course of three books (Book 4 will be released in December 2020,) we follow each of the women on their individual adventures of self-discovery and renewal. Morgan is the focus of Book 2, Jade in Book 3, and I’m guessing Tiffany will be spotlighted in the upcoming Book 4.

Aside from an unusual tactic the author uses to describe what several characters are doing at the exact same time, the plots are a bit bland. Margie’s and Hank’s characters feel like sitcom parents after Book 1 and the entire family is just a little too perfect. Morgan, along with newcomers Luke and Matthew, add the most spice to an otherwise bland series. There is potential for these characters, though. Let’s hope the author finds it as the series progresses.

Book 1: Saltwater Cove

Book 2: Saltwater Studios

Book 3: Saltwater Secrets

A lukewarm 8/10 stars.

Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction

Bluebird Bay Series, by Denise Grover Swank and Christine Gael

It is fun to find a new series and immerse yourself in it for a couple of days, which is all the time it took me to read these three books by Denise Grover Swank and Christine Gael.

The Sullivan sisters: Celia, a housewife; Stephanie, a veterinarian; and Anna, a wildlife photographer, are each at a crossroad in their lives. Celia’s husband has abruptly left, Stephanie is mourning her husband’s death in a boating accident, and unmarried Anna is finding less and less fulfillment in a job that requires constant travel. In addition, they have their widower father, Red, to contend with as he battles dementia and becomes both more cantankerous and more a danger to himself and others.

Over the course of three books we follow the sisters on their journeys of love, loss, and personal rediscovery. Celia, the sensible housewife, who has always acquiesced to her former husband, finally has the opportunity to live freely. Stephanie discovers something about her deceased husband that throws her whole marriage into suspicion. Funny, gregarious Anna, faces her own mortality. Like any siblings, they bicker and compete, but go into full-on “sister mode” when one is is trouble.

The books read like an entertaining nighttime soap, just on the fringe of reality, until the final book, which downgrades to a daytime soap with a wild, uncharacteristic ending. Despite that, they are fun and mostly well-written, with smooth transitions from one sister’s story to another. I enjoyed them. They make no apologies about being quick, light reads and in the end we should all be so lucky to come from a family that supports each other like this one.

Book 1: Finding Tomorrow

Book 2: Finding Home

Book 3: Finding Peace

8.5/10 Stars

Christian Fiction, Fiction, Women's Fiction

Courting Mr. Emerson, by Melody Carlson

I have always enjoyed Melody Carlson’s books, but Courting Mr. Emerson might be my favorite one so far.

George Emerson is a fifty-five year old high school literature teacher. He has never married, has no friends, and his entire life is as buttoned up and starched as the shirts he wears every day. “Casual” is not in his vocabulary. He avoids anything social and is easily overwhelmed. But he is also well-mannered and kind, with a hidden strength that rises to the surface when necessary.

Enter Willow West, a free-spirited artist and gallery owner who visits the high school one day to ask George to write a college letter of recommendation for her grandson, Collin. Something about George intrigues Willow and, through a combination of circumstances and her dogged determination, she decides to befriend him.

The rest of Courting Mr. Emerson is like a dance between these two characters. (Characters I would LOVE to see on screen.) The more Willow tries to take George out of his comfort zone, the more he resists. Sometimes Willow is successful, sometimes not. When she is, it’s a step forward. When she isn’t, it’s a few steps back. There are apologies and renewed efforts. Little by little, George makes progress. As he does, we begin to understand what made him that way and why he believes God has turned His back on him.

It is refreshing to see Melody Carlson write through the eyes of a male protagonist like George Emerson. It’s a very different plot than other books she’s written. Willow West is a wonderful character. She’s caring and wise, but far from perfect. Her life is upended when her vagabond daughter, Josie, who is Collin’s mother, appears, bringing resentment and anger that has built up over the years. Willow handles her daughter expertly and even George plays a supportive role.

The entire story takes place over a summer that turns out to be an educational one for everybody. There is laughter and tears, new-found faith and healing. I love everything about this book.

9.5/10 Stars