B O O K R E V I E W : The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

The Younger Wife 
Sally Hepworth
St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: April 5, 2022

Tully and Rachel Aston can’t believe their fifty-something father, Stephen, is dating Heather, a woman younger than them who he met when she redecorated the house he shared with their mother before her dementia became so bad she had to go to a nursing home.

When the couple announce they are engaged, Tully and Rachel are sure Heather only wants to marry Stephen for his money. And their father is so swept up in the romance, he’s determined to divorce their mother to expedite his wedding.

The sisters begin asking questions, trying to uncover Heather’s past. In doing so, however, they also excavate mysteries of their own family, laying bare long-held secrets and seeing family members differently, unearthing truths some want kept buried.

The Good Sister was one of my favorite reads of 2021, so I was so excited to read this year’s The Younger Wife. Like Hepworth’s other books, The Younger Wife has excellent writing, interesting characters, and lots of family drama. I particularly liked the social contagion—how the hint of an idea spread and the characters started seeing evidence for it everywhere. Rachel, a baker, has a suitor who is very into puns which I loved!

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for sending me an advanced readers copy!

B O O K R E V I E W : Business Not As Usual

Thank you to Berkley Romance and NetGalley for the eARC of Business Not As Usual by Sharon C. Cooper, publishing Tuesday, Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

Dreamy Daniels, assistant to a brilliant software engineer who unfortunately is also a micromanager treating his his employees poorly, can’t wait to start her own non-profit helping female entrepreneurs. She just needs to finish her degree (only one more semester)—and win the lottery!

Dreamy and her grandfather have been playing the same numbers for years, and she’s sure their lucky day is on the horizon. Meanwhile, her charm, vibrant personality, and eclectic style win over those she meets, including Karter Redford, a potential investor in her boss’s company. Although her boss flubbed the meeting, Dreamy salvaged the opportunity.

Karter, son of a famous actor and Hollywood socialite, and successful businessperson himself, knows better than to mix business and pleasure, but he can’t stop thinking of Dreamy. And although Dreamy swore off men after her last boyfriend, she can’t deny the attraction between them. Yet, the two come from radically different worlds.

A light-hearted romance, Business Not As Usual has great representation, a fabulous female lead, and a wonderful cast of secondary characters, including Dreamy’s cousin and grandfather and Karter’s sister, driver, and assistant.

It was difficult to see the impact of class differences on Dreamy’s self-esteem, though Cooper contextualizes it with information from Dreamy’s past. I also had a hard time with Dreamy’s belief in and reliance on the lottery and almost wish that hadn’t been part of the story.

This would be a good option for those looking for a quick, feel-good age-gap romance.

B O O K R E V I E W : I’m So (Not) Over You by Kosoko Jackson

I’m So (Not) Over You 
by Kosoko Jackson
Publication Date: February 22, 2022

Thank you to Berkley Romance for a gifted copy of the book!

Aspiring journalist Kian Andrews never understood why his boyfriend, Hudson River, broke up with him just as they were graduating from Northeastern. When Hudson unexpectedly texts Kian, Kian can’t resist meeting him, hoping to find resolution. Instead, Hudson admits he never told his parents they split and begs him to attend a family dinner as his boyfriend.

Kian agrees but finds himself invited to Georgia’s biggest wedding of the year. If Kian goes as Hudson’s plus-one, Hudson promises to introduce him to one of the most prominent magazine editors in the business.

Soon, the fake relationship feels very real, but the class issues that drove them apart are only heightened as the two men navigate the expectations of Hudson’s wealthy family, owners of the Rivers & Valley brewing company.

I love the representation in the book and how it addresses race, class, and sexuality. Kian’s BFF, the newly minted lawyer, no-nonsense Divya is a fun character who delights in giving Kian reality checks. I wish that there had been more backstory about their relationship and circumstances surrounding their breakup. Without this information, it was difficult to understand why a second chance was worthwhile. Also, much of the narration moved via Kian’s inner dialogue, and I think I would have preferred less contemplation and more action. I’m excited that Kosoko Jackson transitioned from writing YA to adult novels and look forward to seeing his future endeavors!

B O O K R E V I E W : If You Ask Me by Libby Hubscher

If You Ask Me
by Libby Hubscher
Publication Date: March 8, 2022

Thank you to Berkley Publishing for a gifted copy of the book!

Violet Covington, aka North Carolina’s most popular advice columnist “Dear Sweetie,” revels in her idyllic life, living with her husband, Sam, in their dream home in a gorgeous neighborhood. However, when she comes home early one afternoon and finds Sam in bed with another woman, she realizes her life was perfect only on the surface.

Full of hurt and anger, Violet’s done with politeness. She strikes a new, take-no-prisoners tone in her column, and her posts quickly go viral. At the same time, her behavior off the job becomes reckless. One night, she drags mosts of Sam’s belongings into the cul-de-sac, dousing them with his expensive scotch before igniting them.

When the fire department arrives to extinguish the blaze, Violet meets Dez, a handsome and compassionate firefighter. While others in Violet’s life try to reign in her newly discovered voice, Dez accepts Violet for who she is. As much as she loves being with him, though, she’s not sure the timing is right or that she can give him everything he wants and deserves.

If You Ask Me has both extremely hilarious moments and poignant moments, some of them in the letters to Dear Sweetie and her replies. As much as this is a romance, it’s also a story of Violet letting loose and finding her authentic voice after realizing she’s been following unspoken rules of behavior and ignoring her own desires. At the same time, she develops more compassion for her true friends. There are also several serious themes, including infertility and racism and privilege in the workplace.

I found the book a satisfying and even inspiring read, though I did wish for more of Dez’s backstory and more communication and less assumption-making on Violet’s part.

This is a great book for readers who like stories of self-discovery and resilience.

TW: infidelity, infertility, miscarriage, drunk driving

B O O K R E V I E W : A Deadly Affair by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie’s novels are always reliably entertaining and exquisitely plotted, but until this book, A Deadly Affair, I’d not read any of her short stories. This collection is built around the theme of love gone wrong.

While I do prefer the full-length mysteries which allow for more character development and elaborate puzzles, these were fun, quick reads featuring Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Mr. Quin, Parker Pyne, and Tommy and Tuppence.

My favorite story, “The Face of Helen,” concerned a beautiful woman Quin and Satterthwaite encounter at the opera who is involved in a love triangle. The mystery is so diabolically clever! I also quite enjoyed “The King of Clubs,” where only Poirot’s little gray cells point to the killer.

It was also interesting to read the short story “A Death on the Nile” which is similar to the Poirot book only in terms of the title as well as an excerpt from Christie’s autobiography about her early love affairs. I didn’t as much care for the two Tommy and Tuppence stories. Either they felt more dated than the others, more reliant on slang, or both.

You can grab this book and read the stories in any order. It’s a great choice if you are looking for a slump-buster or low-commitment mystery!