Author Archive | marybeth

Fiction: A Window Or A Mirror?

Today’s post by our very own Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen

If you read fiction (and please don’t tell me if you don’t because… I’m not sure we can be friends) why do you read it? What do you want out of the story when you open that new book?

I was thinking about this the other day as I ran. (And please understand when I say “the other day” that is a generalization because it has lo been many days since I have run, thanks to all the rain. I hear confession is good for the soul. Hopefully by the time you read this I will have been to that new gym.)

Back to “the other day” when I was running. And thinking. I was thinking about some of the comments I’ve gotten on my new novel THE WISHING TREE. And how some people love my “lighter” books, books that are more romantic and dreamy. And some really like the ones where I dig in and really examine issues.

And I thought about how some people want a window when they read– a way of looking at the world beyond. And some want a mirror– they want to see themselves and the people they love, maybe in a new way or in a way that helps them think differently. There really does seem to be a dividing line among readers as far as what they look for in stories. The window people would tell you they just wanted to be entertained and transported. The mirror people would tell you they want to learn something about the human experience; they want to be challenged

And as I ran (if memory serves), I thought about how the best writing is the kind that is both window and mirror. The kind that shows you a world beyond but also makes you look inside yourself. Maybe that’s what all writers should be aiming for. Maybe it’s the ones who manage it who become the bestsellers, meeting both types of readers right where they are, enticing them with one, but surprising them with the other. And showing them the value in both.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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March Book Club Selection

Lost Lake Image

There are times when reading a book becomes so much more than just your eyes scanning words on a page. In those times, the act of reading becomes an encounter, a memory, a moment. And when that happens, that book, that author, that character becomes as familiar as a family member, as fond to you as an old friend. Reading transcends the boundaries of paper and ink and we know we will be different for having read that author, found that book, met those characters and visited that setting.

That happened for me one winter weekend as I sat in a warm pancake house and disappeared inside the pages of Sarah Addison Allen’s THE SUGAR QUEEN. When I looked up from the story, I was honestly surprised the ordinary world still existed. I devoured that book and went on to read everything Sarah had written, gobbling them up until there was nothing left. Then I had to wait for more titles, eagerly anticipating the next.

And so when we at She Reads learned that Sarah Addison Allen had a title coming out this year, we begged for early copies, hoping–expecting– that we would be able to share the book with you as a monthly selection. And so this month of March, we are happy to be able to do so. We invite you to disappear inside the pages of LOST LAKE, to meet the citizens of this forgotten place, to learn the secrets the land– and people– hide. There is a bit of magic and mystery, a lot of love and hope. It is a story of new beginnings best shared, we think, during this month when winter loses its grip and spring begins to glimmer ahead of us. We hope that you will lose yourself in this story like we did. That you will look up and be surprised the world is still there.

The wonderful publishing team at St. Martin’s Press is giving away five copies of LOST LAKE to our lucky readers this month. See the entry form below for details.

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LOST LAKEFrom the author of New York Times bestseller Garden Spells comes a beautiful, haunting story of old loves and new, and the power of the connections that bind us forever…

The first time Eby Pim saw Lost Lake, it was on a picture postcard. Just an old photo and a few words on a small square of heavy stock, but when she saw it, she knew she was seeing her future.

That was half a life ago. Now Lost Lake is about to slip into Eby’s past. Her husband George is long passed. Most of her demanding extended family are gone. All that’s left is a once-charming collection of lakeside cabins succumbing to the Southern Georgia heat and damp, and an assortment of faithful misfits drawn back to Lost Lake year after year by their own unspoken dreams and desires.

It’s a lot, but not enough to keep Eby from relinquishing  Lost Lake to a developer with cash in hand, and calling this her final summer at the lake. Until one last chance at family knocks on her door.

Lost Lake is where Kate Pheris spent her last best summer at the age of twelve,  before she learned of loneliness, and heartbreak, and loss. Now she’s all too familiar with those things, but she knows about hope too, thanks to her resilient daughter Devin, and her own willingness to start moving forward. Perhaps at Lost Lake her little girl can cling to her own childhood for just a little longer… and maybe Kate herself can rediscover something that slipped through her fingers so long ago.

One after another, people find their way to Lost Lake, looking for something that they weren’t sure they needed in the first place:  love, closure, a second chance, peace, a mystery solved, a heart mended.  Can they find what they need before it’s too late?

At once atmospheric and enchanting, Lost Lake shows Sarah Addison Allen at her finest, illuminating the secret longings and the everyday magic that wait to be discovered in the unlikeliest of places.

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Sarah Addison Allen is the New York Times Bestselling author of Garden Spells (2007) The Sugar Queen (2008) The Girl Who Chased the Moon (2010) and The Peach Keeper (2011). She was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina.


About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Picture This: A Visit With Ariel Lawhon

Today’s post by our very own Ariel Lawhon | @ArielLawhon

Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon

I’d never heard of Joseph Crater until I read an article about him in The New York Post nine years ago. I didn’t know that his disappearance was the biggest missing person’s case of the twentieth century or that he was a household name for almost fifty years. But in all of that, what intrigued me most was his wife Stella, and her strange yearly ritual. Starting on the first anniversary of her husband’s disappearance, she would go to a bar in Greenwich Village and order two drinks. She’d raise one in salute, “Good luck, Joe, wherever you are!” Then she’d drink it and walk out of the bar, leaving the other untouched on the table. She did this every year for thirty-nine years. After reading that article Stella Crater took up permanent residence in my mind. I’d close my eyes and she’d be there, in that corner booth, a glass of whiskey in her hand, practically daring me to tell her story.

The wonderful thing about writing historical fiction is that there is often an existing record of the people you are recreating. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, there are pictures as well. Little glimpses into the past. After reading that article I began digging into the Crater story. I read Stella Crater’s memoir, THE EMPTY ROBE. And I read as many articles and biographies on Joseph Crater as I could find, namely VANISHING POINT: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF JUDGE CRATER AND THE NEW YORK HE LEFT BEHIND. And slowly the pieces came together. Three women. One missing judge. And secrets none of them were willing to tell.

These are the pictures I kept on hand while writing THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS. Real people. Real events. Real places. Because sometimes the truth makes the best fiction after all.

Picture This WMM

* Starting top left and going clockwise: Stella Crater holding the missing person’s circular decades after her husband’s disappearance, the only known photo of showgirl Ritzi, Maria and Jude Simon (as I’ve always thought of them–no pictures of them actually exist), Governor Al Smith, Owney Madden, and Joseph Crater the year he disappeared.

You can see all the real characters in the novel on this Pinterest board.

There’s still lots of time to enter this month’s book club giveaway. And don’t hesitate to let Ariel know if your book club plans on reading THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS. She’s available for Skype chats and local in-person visits.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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February Book Club Selection

WMM_promobox_Banner

For most of us, February means the last pass through winter, highlighted by Groundhog Day, the Superbowl, and Valentine’s Day. But otherwise, as CS Lewis said, “Always winter but never Christmas.” So how can we beat the winter blues that inevitably set in this time of year?

With a great story.

And at She Reads this month, we’ve got one for you, and by one of our own no less!

THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS is a romp through New York in 1930. Populated by gangsters and crooked politicians, society ladies and dancers, this story is nothing like your day-to-day life and yet… you will find the three women mentioned in the title strangely recognizable. At the center of this book is a real-life missing judge, Joseph Crater, who to this day has never been found. What happened to him the world may never know. But author Ariel Lawhon has cleverly re-imagined what might have happened if three women in his life really did know… but for their own reasons chose not to tell.

We invite you to join us this month to hear from Ariel, co-founder of this site and the mother of four little boys she fondly refers to as ”The Wild Rumpus,” about how and why she wrote the book, and how she balances writing, reading and life with her passel of sons. Snag a copy of the book (signed copies are available at Parnassus Books in Nashville and Foxtale Book Shoppe in Atlanta–both stores are happy to ship) and join us in discussing this great story. You might just forget how cold it is outside.

In celebration of the true events that inspired this novel, we have a special giveaway this month. One book club will receive five copies of THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS and a set of commemorative shot glasses so you too can participate in the famous toast found in its first pages. (See the entry form below for details)

WMM Book Club Prize

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wifemaidmistress (1) (1)A tantalizing reimagining of a scandalous mystery that rocked the nation in 1930—Justice Joseph Crater’s infamous disappearance—as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.

They say behind every great man, there’s a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge’s wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge’s bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband’s recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city’s most notorious gangster, Owney “The Killer” Madden.

On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge’s involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?

After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge’s favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks—one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale—of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.

With a layered intensity and prose as effervescent as the bubbly that flows every night, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a wickedly entertaining historical mystery that will transport readers to a bygone era with tipsy spins through subterranean jazz clubs and backstage dressing rooms. But beneath the Art Deco skyline and amid the intoxicating smell of smoke and whiskey, the question of why Judge Crater disappeared lingers seductively until a twist in the very last pages.

You can read an excerpt of THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS here.

You can add the book to your Goodreads list here.

You can view photos of the real people who inspired the book on this Pinterest board.

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Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (whom she calls The Wild Rumpus, except on the days when she calls them The Barbarian Horde–if you ever visit her you’ll know why). Her novel, THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS, is based on the still-unsolved disappearance of a New York State Supreme Court Judge and was published by Doubleday this week. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart, that marrying her best friend was the best decision she ever made, and that a good nap can cure all ills. And coffee. She really, really believes in coffee.

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About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Italy’s Calling – Two Books That Will Warm Your Heart

Today’s post by our own Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

Ever feel like escaping to gorgeous Italy? Have you ever dreamt of the food, the scenery, the history, the wine… For most of us, that’s not possible. But for the characters in these books, it is. The good news is, we can escape to Italy vicariously through them! So put these books on your TBR list and start planning your Italian getaway… if only in your mind.

Three Months In FlorenceThree Months In Florence by Mary Carter

Lena Wallace is a dutiful art professor’s wife and mother of two teenage daughters. For sixteen years she’s been the one organizing schedules and taking care of everyone – especially during Alex’s frequent business trips to Italy. Only after a series of mysterious phone calls does she start to question his absences. When she flies out to Florence to visit him, she learns that her husband has a flat and a mistress there – and he wants to end their marriage. Stunned and grief stricken, Lena decides she’s going to stay in Florence and get her husband back, but the further Lena goes to win Alex, the less she recognizes herself. And in this magical and inspiring city, she begins to evaluate what really matters to her family, and to her own life…

Add this book to your Goodreads list.

Lake ComoLake Como by Anita Hughes

Hallie Elliot has a perfect life. She is an up-and-coming interior designer in one of San Francisco’s most sought after firms, and has just recently become engaged to Peter, a brilliant young journalist. But when she stumbles upon Peter and her boss in what seems to be a compromising position, her trust in her perfect life is shaken.

So Hallie escapes to Lake Como, Italy  to spend time with her half-sister, Portia Tesoro, an Italian blueblood dealing with the scandal of a public estrangement from her cheating husband. While staying in the Tesoro villa, Hallie falls in love with the splendor and beauty of Lake Como, and finds work designing the lakeside estate of a reclusive American tech mogul. The caretaker of this beautiful estate is a handsome man named Angus, and Hallie finds herself drawn to his charm and kindness, despite hints of a dark secret in his past.

But just as Hallie is beginning to find her footing on Italian soil, she uncovers a family secret that upends all the truths she’s believed about herself, and calls into question the new life she’s built in Lake Como.

Sisterhood, family, career, and sumptuous descriptions of Italian life fill the pages of this newest offering by Anita Hughes. Lake Como is a heartbreaking and heartwarming story of love, self-discovery, and the quest for truth.

Add this book to your Goodreads list.  

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Keep Your Eye Out For New Novels By Powerhouse Southern Writers

Today’s post by our own Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

Hailing from North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia, it’s no secret that the She Reads team loves its southern fiction. And we’re just tickled to hear that we’ve got some amazing new reads by some of the best southern authors out there coming up this fall and winter. If you love southern novels, put these on your watch list. And tell your mama and your sister and your cousins and your best girlfriends to, too. Because if there’s one thing southern girls like to do, it’s to share good things with those they love. These books fall into that category for sure.

The Funeral DressThe Funeral Dress by Susan Gregg Gilmore (due out  September 3, 2013)

Emmalee Bullard and her new baby are on their own. Or so she thinks, until Leona Lane, the older seamstress who sat by her side at the local shirt factory where both women worked as collar makers, insists Emmalee come and live with her.   Just as Emmalee prepares to escape her hardscrabble life in Red Chert holler, Leona dies tragically.   Grief-stricken, Emmalee decides she’ll make Leona’s burying dress, but there are plenty of people who don’t think the unmarried Emmalee should design a dress for a Christian woman – or care for a child on her own. But with every stitch, Emmalee struggles to do what is right for her daughter and to honor Leona the best way she can, finding unlikely support among an indomitable group of seamstresses and the town’s funeral director. In a moving tale exploring Southern spirit and camaraderie among working women, a young mother will compel a town to become a community.

The All Girl Filling StationThe All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg (due out  November 5, 2013)

The one and only Fannie Flagg, beloved author of  Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven,  and  I Still Dream About You,  is at her hilarious and superb best in this new comic mystery novel about two women who are forced to reimagine who they are and what they are capable of.

Mrs. Sookie Poole of Point Clear, Alabama, has just married off the last of her three daughters and is looking forward to relaxing and perhaps traveling with her husband, Earle. The only thing left to contend with now is her mother, the formidable and imposing Lenore Simmons Krackenberry—never an easy task. Lenore may be a lot of fun for other people, but is, for the most part, an overbearing presence for her daughter. Then one day, quite by accident, Sookie discovers a shocking secret about her mother’s past that knocks her for a loop and suddenly calls into question everything she ever thought she knew about herself, her family, and her future.

Feeling like a stranger in her own life, and fearful of confronting her mother with questions, Sookie begins a search for answers that takes her to California, the Midwest, and back in time, to the 1940s, when an irrepressible woman named Fritzi takes on the job of running her family’s filling station. With so many men off to war, it’s up to Fritzi and her enterprising younger sisters to keep it going. Soon truck drivers are changing their routes to fill up at the All-Girl Filling Station. But before long, Fritzi sees an opportunity for an even more groundbreaking adventure when she receives a life-changing invitation from the U.S. military to assist in the war effort. As Sookie learns more and more about Fritzi’s story, she finds herself with new answers to the questions she’s been asking her whole life.

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion  is a perfect combination of comedy, mystery, wisdom, and charm. Fabulous, fun-loving, spanning decades, generations, and centered on a little-known aspect of America’s twentieth-century story,  The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion  is Fannie Flagg, the bestselling “born storyteller ” (The New York Times Book Review), at her irresistible best.

guests-on-earthGuests On Earth by  Lee Smith (due out  October 15, 2013)

Evalina Toussaint, the orphaned child of an exotic dancer in New Orleans, is just thirteen when she is admitted to Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. The year is 1936, and the mental hospital is under the direction of the celebrated psychiatrist Robert S. Carroll. His innovative program of treatment for mental and nervous disorders and addictions is based on exercise, diet, art, and occupational therapies—and experimental shock therapy.

Evalina finds herself in the company of some notable fellow patients, including Zelda Fitzgerald, estranged wife of F. Scott, who takes the young piano prodigy under her wing. Evalina becomes the accompanist for the musical programs at the hospital. This provides privileged insight into the events that transpire over the next twelve years, culminating in a tragic fire—its mystery unsolved to this day—that killed nine women in a locked ward, Zelda among them. At all costs, Evalina listens, observes, remembers—and tells us everything.

Guests on Earth  is a mesmerizing novel about a time and a place where creativity and passion, theory and medicine, fact and fiction, are luminously intertwined by a writer at the height of her craft.

MooriseMoonrise by Cassandra King (due out  September 3, 2013)

When Helen Honeycutt falls in love with Emmet Justice, a charismatic television journalist who has recently lost his wife in a tragic accident, their sudden marriage creates a rift between her new husband and his oldest friends, who resent Helen’s intrusion into their tightly knit circle. Hoping to mend fences, the newlyweds join the group for a summer at his late wife’s family home in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Helen soon falls under the spell not only of the little mountain town and its inhabitants, but also of Moonrise, her predecessor’s Victorian mansion, named for its unique but now sadly neglected nocturnal gardens. But the harder Helen tries to fit in, the more obvious it is that she will never measure up to the woman she replaced.

Someone is clearly determined to drive her away, but who wants her gone, and why? As Emmet grows more remote, Helen reaches out to the others in the group, only to find that she can’t trust anyone. When she stumbles on the secret behind her predecessor’s untimely death, Helen must decide if she can ever trust—or love—again.

The Invention of WingsThe Invention Of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (due out  January 7, 2014)

Hetty “Handful ” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. The Invention of Wings follows their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired in part by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented. This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at one of the most devastating wounds in American history, through characters whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Lemons, Lavender, Apples, and Camellias

This summer at She Reads we’ve noticed a trend around the idea of natural surroundings being influential in the lives of characters. Maybe you’re not one to long for the coast or the lakeside come summertime. Maybe you prefer to simply be outdoors, immersed in nature. If so, you should take a peek at these nature-inspired stories, and maybe add a few to your summer reading list!

The Lavender GardenThe Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley

La Côte d’Azur, 1998: In the sun-dappled south of France, Emilie de la Martinières, the last of her gilded line, inherits her childhood home, a magnificent château and vineyard. With the property comes a mountain of debt—and almost as many questions . . .

Paris, 1944: A bright, young British office clerk, Constance Carruthers, is sent undercover to Paris to be part of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive during the climax of the Nazi occupation. Separated from her contacts in the Resistance, she soon stumbles into the heart of a prominent family who regularly entertain elite members of the German military even as they plot to liberate France. But in a city rife with collaborators and rebels, Constance’s most difficult decision may be determining whom to trust with her heart.

As Emilie discovers what really happened to her family during the war and finds a connection to Constance much closer than she suspects, the château itself may provide the clues that unlock the mysteries of her past, present, and future. Here is a dazzling novel of intrigue and passion from one of the world’s most beloved storytellers.

The Lemon OrchardThe Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice

In the five years since Julia last visited her aunt and uncle’s home in Malibu, her life has been turned upside down by her daughter’s death. She expects to find nothing more than peace and solitude as she house-sits with only her dog, Bonnie, for company. But she finds herself drawn to the handsome man who oversees the lemon orchard. Roberto expertly tends the trees, using the money to support his extended Mexican family. What connection could these two people share? The answer comes as Roberto reveals the heartbreaking story of his own loss—a pain Julia knows all too well, but for one striking difference: Roberto’s daughter was lost but never found. And despite the odds he cannot bear to give up hope.

Set in the sea and citrus-scented air of the breathtaking Santa Monica Mountains, The Lemon Orchard is an affirming story about the redemptive power of compassion and the kind of love that seems to find us when we need it most.

The Apple OrchardThe Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs

Tess Delaney makes a living restoring stolen treasures to their rightful owners. People like Annelise Winther, who refuses to sell her long-gone mother’s beloved necklace—despite Tess’s advice. To Annelise, the jewel’s value is in its memories.

But Tess’s own history is filled with gaps: a father she never met, a mother who spent more time traveling than with her daughter. So Tess is shocked when she discovers the grandfather she never knew is in a coma. And that she has been named in his will to inherit half of Bella Vista, a hundred-acre apple orchard in the magical Sonoma town called Archangel.

The rest is willed to Isabel Johansen. A half sister she’s never heard of.

Against the rich landscape of Bella Vista, Tess begins to discover a world filled with the simple pleasures of food and family, of the warm earth beneath her bare feet. A world where family comes first and the roots of history run deep. A place where falling in love is not only possible, but inevitable.

And in a season filled with new experiences, Tess begins to see the truth in something Annelise once told her: if you don’t believe memories are worth more than money, then perhaps you’ve not made the right kind of memories.

The Last CameliaThe Last Camellia by Sarah Jio

On the eve of the Second World War, the last surviving specimen of a camellia plant known as the Middlebury Pink lies secreted away on an English country estate. Flora, an amateur American botanist, is contracted by an international ring of flower thieves to infiltrate the household and acquire the coveted bloom. Her search is at once brightened by new love and threatened by her discovery of a series of ghastly crimes.

More than half a century later, garden designer Addison takes up residence at the manor, now owned by the family of her husband, Rex. The couple’s shared passion for mysteries is fueled by the enchanting camellia orchard and an old gardener’s notebook. Yet its pages hint at dark acts ingeniously concealed. If the danger that Flora once faced remains very much alive, will Addison share her fate?

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Say “I Do” To These Titles (A Roundup of Wedding-Themed Novels)

One thing we noticed as we previewed upcoming summer titles– a lot of us have weddings on our mind! If you’re a fan of Four Weddings or Say Yes To The Dress, are prone to buying bridal magazines in bulk or have multiple Pinterest boards dedicated to wedding ideas,  then we’ve got some titles you’re sure to love this summer!

The EngagementsThe Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

(This book made news recently when  Reese Witherspoon optioned it for film– so read it before it becomes a movie!)

From the New York Times best-selling author of Commencement and Maine comes a gorgeous, sprawling novel about marriage—about those who marry in a white heat of passion, those who marry for partnership and comfort, and those who live together, love each other, and have absolutely no intention of ruining it all with a wedding.

Evelyn has been married to her husband for forty years—forty years since he slipped off her first wedding ring and put his own in its place. Delphine has seen both sides of love—the ecstatic, glorious highs of seduction, and the bitter, spiteful fury that descends when it’s over. James, a paramedic who works the night shift, knows his wife’s family thinks she could have done better; while Kate, partnered with Dan for a decade, has seen every kind of wedding—beach weddings, backyard weddings, castle weddings—and has vowed never, ever, to have one of her own. 

As these lives and marriages unfold in surprising ways, we meet Frances Gerety, a young advertising copywriter in 1947. Frances is working on the De Beers campaign and she needs a signature line, so, one night before bed, she scribbles a phrase on a scrap of paper: “A Diamond Is Forever. ” And that line changes everything.
A rich, layered, exhilarating novel spanning nearly a hundred years, The Engagements captures four wholly unique marriages, while tracing the story of diamonds in America, and the way—for better or for worse—these glittering stones have come to symbolize our deepest hopes for everlasting love.

Chose the Wrong GuyChose The Wrong Guy, Gave Him The Wrong Finger by Beth Harbison

At twenty-one, Ashley Barton was on her way to the altar to marry Burke Morrison, her high school sweetheart, when something derailed her. Rather, someone derailed her—another man who at the last minute begged her to reconsider the marriage. He told her that Burke had been cheating on her. For a long time. And on top of that, he loved her more than Burke, and claimed he would treat her better than Burke ever could. Ashley, stunned, hurt, and confused, struggled with the obligation of fulfilling her guests’ expectations—providing a wedding—and running for her life.
She chose running. With the best man. Who happened to be Burke’s brother, Frank.
This relationship doesn’t work either. How could it, when Ashley had been engaged to, in love with, Frank’s brother? Ashley opts for neither, and, instead, spends the next seventeen years working in her family’s Middleburg, Virginia, bridal shop, Talk of the Gown, where she subconsciously does penance for the disservice she did to marriage.

But when the two men return to town for another wedding old anger, hurt, and passion resurface. Just because you’ve traded the good guy for the bad guy for no guy doesn’t mean you have to stay away from love for the rest of your life, does it?

The Best ManThe Best Man by Kristan Higgins

Faith Holland left her hometown after being jilted at the altar. Now a little older and wiser, she’s ready to return to the Blue Heron Winery, her family’s vineyard, to confront the ghosts of her past, and maybe enjoy a glass of red. After all, there’s some great scenery there….

Like Levi Cooper, the local police chief—and best friend of her former fiancé. There’s a lot about Levi that Faith never noticed, and it’s not just those deep green eyes. The only catch is she’s having a hard time forgetting that he helped ruin her wedding all those years ago. If she can find a minute amidst all her family drama to stop and smell the rosé, she just might find a reason to stay at Blue Heron, and finish that walk down the aisle.

The Week Before the WeddingThe Week Before The Wedding by Beth Kendrick

After enduring a chaotic childhood, Emily McKellips yearns for a drama-free life, complete with a white picket fence. Her dreams are about to come true: She has a stellar career, a gorgeous house, and a fiancé any woman would die for. But as friends and family arrive in picturesque Valentine, Vermont, for her wedding, an uninvited guest shows up.

Ryan is Emily’s first husband from a disastrous starter marriage. They wed on a whim, only to discover that combustible chemistry couldn’t ensure a happily ever after. But Ryan is no longer the headstrong boy she left behind. He’s now a successful film producer who just happens to be scouting a resort in Valentine with his adorable retriever in tow.

As the bridesmaids revolt and the mothers of the bride and groom do battle, Emily is surprised to discover new sides of both her ex and her fiancé. She thought she had life and love all figured out, but the next seven days might change her mind—and her heart.

Wedding NightWedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

Lottie just knows that her boyfriend is going to propose during lunch at one of London’s fanciest restaurants. But when his big question involves a trip abroad, not a trip down the aisle, she’s completely crushed. So when Ben, an old flame, calls her out of the blue and reminds Lottie of their pact to get married if they were both still single at thirty, she jumps at the chance. No formal dates—just a quick march to the altar and a honeymoon on Ikonos, the sun-drenched Greek island where they first met years ago.

Their family and friends are horrified. Fliss, Lottie’s older sister, knows that Lottie can be impulsive—but surely this is her worst decision yet. And Ben’s colleague Lorcan fears that this hasty marriage will ruin his friend’s career. To keep Lottie and Ben from making a terrible mistake, Fliss concocts an elaborate scheme to sabotage their wedding night. As she and Lorcan jet off to Ikonos in pursuit, Lottie and Ben are in for a honeymoon to remember, for better . . . or worse.

Beautiful DayBeautiful Day by Elin Hildebrand

The Carmichaels and the Grahams have gathered on Nantucket for a wedding. Plans are being made according to the wishes of the bride’s late mother, who left behind The Notebook: specific instructions for every detail of her youngest daughter’s future nuptials. Everything should be falling into place for the beautiful event–but in reality, things are far from perfect.

While the couple-to-be are quite happy, their loved ones find their own lives crumbling. In the days leading up to the wedding, love will be questioned, scandals will arise, and hearts will be broken and healed. Elin Hilderbrand takes readers on a touching journey in BEAUTIFUL DAY–into the heart of marriage, what it means to be faithful, and how we choose to honor our commitments.

And if you’ve got room in your beach bag for one more novel, I (ahem) have a wedding themed novel as well. Check out recent posts on this blog to learn more about The Wishing Tree!

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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A Little Chill In The Summertime

Today’s post by our co-founder, Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

Looking for a little chill in the dead of summer? Well look no further than between the covers of these new thrillers. Whether they’re downright scary or just a little disturbing, you’re bound to find something that will keep you turning pages during these warm summer nights.

Accidents Happen by Louise Millar

Kate Parker lives her life in a state of heightened anxiety, constantly afraid that something terrible will happen to her and her ten-year-old son, Jack. She obsesses over statistics to make them safe. There’s a reason for Kate’s nervousness. She lost her parents in a freak traffic accident on her wedding night, and her husband Hugo was murdered. It’s time for Kate to move on and start a new life.

When Kate meets Jago, it feels like she’s about to get that new beginning. Soon, though, her doubts return—despite the fact that everyone thinks she’s irrational. But is she imagining things? Or does she have a real reason to worry? After all, accidents happen.

The Never List by Koethi Zan

For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List “: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

Lie Still  by Julia Heaberlin

When Emily Page and her husband move from Manhattan to the wealthy enclave of Clairmont, Texas, she hopes she can finally escape her haunted past—and outrun the nameless stalker who has been taunting her for years. Pregnant with her first child, Emily just wants to start over. But as she is drawn into a nest of secretive Texas women—and into the unnerving company of their queen, Caroline Warwick—Emily finds that acceptance is a very dangerous game.

It isn’t long before Caroline mysteriously disappears and Emily is facing a rash of anonymous threats. Are they linked to the missing Caroline? Or to Emily’s terrifying encounter in college, years earlier? As the dark truth about Caroline emerges, Emily realizes that some secrets are impossible to hide—and that whoever came for Caroline is now coming for her.

He’s Gone by Deb Caletti

The Sunday morning starts like any other, aside from the slight hangover. Dani Keller wakes up on her Seattle houseboat, a headache building behind her eyes from the wine she drank at a party the night before. But on this particular Sunday morning, she’s surprised to see that her husband, Ian, is not home. As the hours pass, Dani fills her day with small things. But still, Ian does not return. Irritation shifts to worry, worry slides almost imperceptibly into panic. And then, like a relentless blackness, the terrible realization hits Dani: He’s gone.

As the police work methodically through all the logical explanations—he’s hurt, he’s run off, he’s been killed—Dani searches frantically for a clue as to whether Ian is in fact dead or alive. And, slowly, she unpacks their relationship, holding each moment up to the light: from its intense, adulterous beginning, to the grandeur of their new love, to the difficulties of forever. She examines all the sins she can—and cannot—remember. As the days pass, Dani will plumb the depths of her conscience, turning over and revealing the darkest of her secrets in order to discover the hard truth—about herself, her husband, and their lives together.

What  A Mother Knows by Leslie Lehr

Michelle Mason can’t remember that day, that drive, that horrible crash that killed the young man in her car. All she knows is she’s being held responsible, and her daughter is missing.

Despite a shaky marriage, a threatening lawsuit, and troubling flashbacks pressing in on her, Michelle throws herself into searching. Her daughter in the one person who might know what really happened that day, but the deeper Michelle digs, the more she questions the innocence of those closest to her, even herself. As her search hurtles toward a shattering revelation, Michelle must face the biggest challenge of her life.

A poignant story of the unshakable bond between mother and child, What a Mother Knows is about finding the truth that can set love free.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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“The Bigs” Reading Roundup

Today’s post by our co-founder, Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

Every summer I expect to have a new book from the authors I think of as “The Bigs,” and I’m not referring to their size. I’m thinking of their reputation, their standings on the various bestseller lists, and their talent. I thought I’d share what I’m looking forward to  from “The Bigs” this summer.

The First Affair by  Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Following college, Jamie McAllister wins a prestigious internship at the White House that she has no idea will irrevocably alter her life. An unexpected flirtation with the handsome and charismatic Gregory Rutland quickly leads to an emotional relationship she is ill equipped to handle at twenty-two. Each time she tries to extricate herself Greg is unable to find the strength to let her go. Meanwhile, the opposing party mobilizes to annihilate his presidency by any means necessary.

As Greg’s conflicting desires drive her to the breaking point, Jamie can’t help but reveal intimate details to those closest to her. But she must have unburdened herself to the wrong person—because within a matter of weeks Jamie finds herself, and everyone she loves, facing highly calculated destruction at the hands of Greg’s political enemies.

With her every mistake dragged out for the world to judge, Jamie has to endure an unprecedented trial in the court of public opinion—with the fate of the President, his party, and the country at stake.

Now, years later, can the woman infamously known as the “girl in the blue dress ” make sense of this affair, and the trauma it wrought, for the world—and for herself?

Family Pictures by Jane Green

From the author of Another Piece of My Heart comes Family Pictures, the gripping story of two women who live on opposite coasts but whose lives are connected in ways they never could have imagined. Both women are wives and mothers to children who are about to leave the nest for school. They’re both in their forties and have husbands who travel more than either of them would like. They are both feeling an emptiness neither had expected. But when a shocking secret is exposed, their lives are blown apart. As dark truths from the past reveal themselves, will these two women be able to learn to forgive, for the sake of their children, if not for themselves?

Fly Away  by Kristin Hannah

Tully Hart has always been larger than life, a woman fueled by big dreams and driven by memories of a painful past. She thinks she can overcome anything until her best friend, Kate Ryan, dies. Tully tries to fulfill her deathbed promise to Kate—to be there for Kate’s children—but Tully knows nothing about family or motherhood or taking care of people.

Sixteen-year-old Marah Ryan is devastated by her mother’s death. Her father, Johnny, strives to hold the family together, but even with his best efforts, Marah becomes unreachable in her grief. Nothing and no one seems to matter to her . . . until she falls in love with a young man who makes her smile again and leads her into his dangerous, shadowy world.

Dorothy Hart—the woman who once called herself Cloud—is at the center of Tully’s tragic past. She repeatedly abandoned her daughter, Tully, as a child, but now she comes back, drawn to her daughter’s side at a time when Tully is most alone. At long last, Dorothy must face her darkest fear: Only by revealing the ugly secrets of her past can she hope to become the mother her daughter needs.

A single, tragic choice and a middle-of-the-night phone call will bring these women together and set them on a poignant, powerful journey of redemption. Each has lost her way, and they will need each one another—and maybe a miracle—to transform their lives.

An emotionally complex, heart-wrenching novel about love, motherhood, loss, and new beginnings, Fly Away reminds us that where there is life, there is hope, and where there is love, there is forgiveness. Told with her trademark powerful storytelling and illuminating prose, Kristin Hannah reveals why she is one of the most beloved writers of our day.

Ladies’ Night by Mary Kay Andrews

Grace Stanton’s life as a rising media star and beloved lifestyle blogger takes a surprising turn when she catches her husband cheating and torpedoes his pricey sports car straight into the family swimming pool. Grace suddenly finds herself locked out of her palatial home, checking account, and even the blog she has worked so hard to develop in her signature style. Moving in with her widowed mother, who owns and lives above a rundown beach bar called The Sandbox, is less than ideal. So is attending court-mandated weekly “divorce recovery” therapy sessions with three other women and one man for whom betrayal seems to be the only commonality. When their “divorce coach ” starts to act suspiciously, they decide to start having their own Wednesday “Ladies’ Night” sessions at The Sandbox, and the unanticipated bonds that develop lead the members of the group to try and find closure in ways they never imagined. Can Grace figure out a new way home and discover how strong she needs to be to get there?

The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen

An all-expense-paid week at a luxury villa in Jamaica—it’s the invitation of a lifetime for a group of old college friends. All four women are desperate not just for a reunion, but for an escape: Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie is shattered by the news that a genetic illness runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her wealthy husband an unforgettable thirty-fifth birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks already splitting apart their new marriage.

Languid hours on a private beach, gourmet dinners, and late nights of drinking kick off an idyllic week for the women and their husbands. But as a powerful hurricane bears down on the island, turmoil swirls inside the villa, forcing each of the women to reevaluate everything she knows about her friends—and herself.

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About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

read more