B O O K R E V I E W : The Tenderest of Strings

Thank you so much to Regal House Publishing and Over the River PR for including me on the book tour for The Tenderest of Strings by Steven Schwartz.

The Rosenfeld family has moved from Chicago to Welton, Colorado, where Reuben purchased the local paper. Although relocating was supposed to give them a new start, their elder son, Harry, a loner, comes home with injuries he won’t explain, younger son Jamie still suffers from the asthma that the dry Colorado air was to have alleviated, and Ardith, a stay-at-home mother, has become embroiled in an affair with the town’s doctor. Reuben, unaware of the affair, wonders at Ardith’s distance. Meanwhile, the fixer-upper they purchased remains in disrepair, so decrepit that it is mistaken for a haunted house attraction on Halloween.

Despite the malaise afflicting the Rosenfelds, inertia maintains their fragile bonds until they learn of a fatal hit and run accident the night of a raucous barbecue they attended. The death acts as a key unlocking secrets with repercussions for the entire family and the larger community.

I really enjoyed The Tenderest of Strings, at heart a family drama exploring the strength of love and possibly of forgiveness in the wake of trauma. The characters were extremely flawed but at the same time very likable, and I thought Schwartz did an excellent job developing distinct tones for the primary point of view characters. The young, rebellious teen Harry’s journey was particularly emotional to me.

Some comic relief comes from the paper, where reviews of local fast food restaurants are popular and the sole reporter has a column about the highly-exaggerated exploits of her toddler daughter.

If you like family dramas, books about small towns, or are looking for Jewish representation, add The Tenderest of Strings to your TBR. I also think fans of Richard Russo would enjoy the novel.

B O O K R E V I E W : The Siren of Sussex

Thanks to Berkley Publishing or including me on the book tour for The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Mathews which went on sale January 11 and for a gifted copy of the book.

In this historical romance, Evelyn Maltravers arrives in London for the season determined to find a wealthy husband. It is the only way she can ensure the future of her younger sisters and her beloved horse since her family lives only on a small inheritance of her Aunt Nora. Yet, with her penchant for blurting out honest opinions and looks that have been overshadowed by her older sister’s, Evelyn knows that she’ll be overlooked in the ballrooms. Instead, she has a plan to bewitch a potential suitor through her riding prowess. She just needs a phenomenal riding habit as part of her wardrobe—and she knows just the designer, the tailor who dressed the Pretty Horesbreakers.

Ahmad Malik, able to flatter every size and shape with his designs, has worked with beautiful women before but none have bewitched him like Evelyn. She, too, confesses her love, but with barriers of race and class, not to mention Evelyn’s need to provide for her family, a happy ending between them is impossible, unless they are willing to put aside their dreams and flout the expectations of polite society.

Evelyn’s spunk and determinedness won me over. She was resolved not to be boxed in by the rules of what “ladies” should do. I also found Ahmad completely swoony with such an interesting backstory.

Evelyn made friends with three other women participating in the season (all of whom will have their own books in the series, I believe). They gravitate towards each other because they are awkward and not popular among society men, but that’s what makes them so endearing, and I look forward to seeing more of them.

The book is also, of course, filled with references to 1860s fashion and history. I was particularly amused by the older adults’ fascination with spiritualism, including crystal balls, seances, and spirit advisors—based on real events, but it also touched on more serious issues such as colonialism.

Fans of Evie Dunmore’s A League of Extraordinary Women will enjoy this!

Note: This has lots of sexual tension but is closed door!

Impeccably researched, brimming with passion and chemistry, and a loving tribute to Victorian fashion and horsemanship, The Siren of Sussex is a page-turning, powerful, and endearing love story about two people rising above the pressures of society to follow their hearts. A five-star fantastic read!—Syrie James, USA Today bestselling author

Happy Publication Day! 🎉

“Like all collectors, I exist in a perpetual state of want that bears no reasonable relationship to the quantity of unread books mounting up on my shelves.”

—Pamela Paul

Thanks so much to the publishers for the gifted copies!

R E V I E W: Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

Single mother April Parker raised her daughter in Willow Creek, but now that Caitlin is graduating and leaving for college, she plans to sell her house and move to the city. Before she can list it, though, she has a long list of updates and repairs from her real estate agent to deal with.

Mitch Malone, the handsome, gym teacher, is a player known for wearing a revealing kilt at the town’s Renaissance Faire. When he asks April to pose as his girlfriend at an upcoming party for his grandparents’ anniversary, she agrees—as long as he helps her with her home repairs.

As they spend time together, their relationship heats up, especially when Mitch’s family dinner turns into a family weekend, but April reminds herself that she will be moving soon. What started as just an act, though, could turn into more—if April could let go of her plans, but even Mitch might not be enough to keep her in Willow Grove.

I enjoyed Well Matched as much as Well Met, the first book in the series. Mitch’s cousin, Lulu, was hilarious, and his family was infuriating—thinking he settled when becoming “only” a gym teacher—but they also began to come around. This book had several scenes at the Faire because April, the quintessential non-joiner, volunteered as a ticket-taker to support Caitlin. Seeing the Faire from that front-of-house perspective was different and fun. The couples from Well Met and Well Played made appearances as well.

A good choice for those who like the fake-dating trope or age-gap romances.

Some open-door steam.

Thanks to Berkley Romance and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review! I also ordered a signed, finished copy from Mostly Books (Tucson, AZ) and got stickers and a print of April and Mitch!

R E V I E W: The Twelve Days of Snowball by Kristen McKanagh

Adorable kitty Snowball, a lovable troublemaker, recently found her forever family at the Weber Haus bed and breakfast settling in as greeter, entertainer, and sometimes matchmaker. Her first success, in fact, was getting Emily and Lukas together. She loves everyone but Daniel Aarons, a ruggedly handsome contractor—who almost ruined her plans.

This Christmas, though, brings a new manager to the growing inn, Sophie Heidt, who had been betrayed at work and in love by her last boyfriend.

A master snoop, Snowball realizes that that Sophie and Daniel have a growing attraction to each other. But when Emily has family emergency and Lukas and owner Miss Tilly leave with her, entrusting the inn to Sophie, Daniel’s interference infuriates Sophie. Snowball knows she’ll have to be more proactive to get these two together —and her best plans involve causing trouble!

Told from three points of view—Sophie’s, Daniel’s, and Snowball’s, The Twelve Days of Snowball is a cute Christmas enemies-to-lovers romance. I enjoyed how “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was humorously woven into the novel. Giselle, Sophie’s nemesis in planning the Christmas Market on the Weber Haus grounds, was fun to hate. The second half of the book, in particular, moved quickly, as Sophie and Daniel began to admit their feelings but face unexpected obstacles. And of course, Snowball was precious throughout!

Thanks to Kristen McKanagh and Let’s Talk Books Promo for including me on the tour and for a signed, gifted copy of the book!