Heart’s Refuge by Cheryl Harper

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫  4.5 stars

Sarah Hillman’s no-kill animal shelter, Paws for Love, is in dire need of funding. Desperate for help, she reaches out to Will Barnes, a former H.S. classmate, and owner of Barnes Financial. Trouble is, Sarah was formerly the little rich, snarky, mean-girl who taunted her classmates, including Will, and “Beanpole Barnes” doesn’t feel much compassion for daddy’s little rich girl when she approaches him for assistance—at least initially. Sarah verbally taunted Will’s sister, Jen, too. And Jen and her two friends are the source for the funds needed to keep Paws for Love running. But Sarah seems to have changed, there’s no denying that, and Will’s attitude towards her begins to soften. Could it be that the shift in financial status since Bobby Hillman skipped town, leaving his shady luxury auto business behind and his daughter broke, has humbled her? Only time will tell, but meanwhile Paws for Love is a worthy cause and Will feels an obligation to seek aid for the foundering shelter. Sarah may be slowly winning his heart, too. Can Sarah be trusted, or is she putting on an act to get what she wants?

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How can you grow to love a mean-girl character? A former bully?  In Heart’s Refuge, Cheryl Harper makes you do it. This story stole my heart. The sweet shelter animals, the main character’s transformation and the community support were all reasons why I enjoyed Heart’s Refuge so much. This book is part of a series, and I suspect that a few loose ends will be tied up in the next book. Even so, I loved it and would definitely recommend this sweet, heartwarming story.

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Until next time….

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The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4-stars

Roxanne Cartwright, 47, is Fashion Director for YourStyle magazine.  A 30-year veteran in the magazine industry, she’s an ace at what she does and enjoys putting together glamorous fashion shoots for the magazine.  So when she’s told by her new boss that the magazine is being taken in a new direction to cheap, figure-fixing pieces, Roxanne is shocked to learn that her position will be replaced by the new fashion-director-in-chief, Tina Court, who will oversee the transformation. Wary of her imminent dismissal, Roxanne uses her temporary time off from work to escape from London and retreat to her sister’s home in the small village of Burley Bridge in Yorkshire, where they grew up.  After their mother’s death two years before, Della used her mum’s collection of cookbooks to open a cookbook bookshop and effectively changed the Burley Bridge landscape as Roxanne remembered it.  The success of the bookshop has necessitated an expansion, and Roxanne heads to the village to help her sister with the finishing touches before the upcoming party and unveiling of the expanded space.  At first reluctant to relinquish certain duties to her domestically impaired sister, in time Della realizes Roxanne’s effectiveness in handling matters in her absence and the two women become a great team.

Meanwhile, Roxanne is confused about her fashion photographer boyfriend back in London, Sean, who didn’t seem particularly displeased that she’d be leaving for two months.  Sean is the first responsible boyfriend Roxanne’s ever had. Prior relationships consisted of a host of losers, and until Sean she wasn’t much concerned about having a stable relationship with anyone. The idea of a responsible, reliable man who fussed over her and could provide security seemed boring to Roxanne.  But ever since she started dating Sean, suddenly she’s craving commitment.  Nevertheless, something is off-putting about him. She’s heard rumors of his being a philanderer, but she can’t seem to resist his good looks and impish charm.  She believes she’s in love with him, although his odd behavior, particularly that of chiding her for inconsequential incidents, is starting to get on her nerves. Roxanne finds herself continually making allowances for Sean’s bad behavior whenever he apologizes, and she feels conflicted in her emotions about him. Especially since she’s met the owner of the Bakery on Rosemary Lane, Michael.  He’s handsome, talented, available, and he seems to be interested in her.  Suddenly, Sean doesn’t dominate her every thought.  But then Sean shows up and surprises her in Burley Bridge while in Michael’s company, rendering her noticeably flustered. What will Roxanne do?

MY THOUGHTS:  I really enjoyed this book.  I loved reading about Roxanne’s life both in London and then Burley Bridge.  I appreciated that she was a middle-aged woman, as most female protagonists I read about are much younger.  I could easily relate to some of the witty references with regard to her age, and how it sometimes made her feel in the fashion world.  And yet, this book could be read by persons young and old.  Roxanne was a very chic, hip character, and didn’t come across as dowdy in any way.  The relationship she shared with her sister, and that which she developed with Michael’s daughter, Elsa, was endearing and added to my enjoyment of the book.  I was interested to know how she would resolve her relationship issues, but events that transpired in the book ultimately dictated her decision, and I was happy about her choice.  The only negatives I have about this book are that I’m not sure why it’s called The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane since the Bakery in the story is not center stage.  It’s more in the background, so I found that a little misleading.  Also, I’m not sure how to categorize it.  Although it reads somewhat like a romance book, there wasn’t very much romance in it.  At least not enough leading up to the outcome of the story, in my humble opinion.  There was sort of a few themes going on too.  I would have liked to have seen a little more fulfilling wrap-up of everyone and everything at the end.  Aside from that it was a very good read.  It kept me interested and I would read another book by Ellen Berry in the future.

I received an E-ARC of this book from the publisher via netgalley.  All of the opinions stated in this review are my own.

Painting the Moon by Traci Borum

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Noelle Cooke has just received word that her reclusive great aunt has died and left her Primrose Cottage and her art gallery, in a little village called Chilton Crosse in England. Settled in a beach house in California and relatively content, Noelle still can’t help but to recall the fond memories of spending time as a young girl with her Great Aunt Joy and grandmother, “Gram,” in the bucolic, tranquil setting of the English countryside. The memories prompt her to immediately arrange a trip to England to settle details regarding her aunt’s estate. Being back in the familiar surroundings of summers spent during adolescence is a welcome respite for Noelle. Having not been in contact with her aunt for several years after many attempts, Noelle is hoping she will uncover why her Aunt Joy suffered a meltdown during a gallery event and retreated to her cottage for nearly a decade. As Noelle navigates Primrose Cottage she discovers a room with a locked door.  Could the contents of that room hold the answers to what happened to her?

Not long after returning to England to claim her inheritance, Noelle is reacquainted with two old friends, both of whom she spent time with when she visited during the summers. Her friend Jill, a sassy, outspoken and generally lovely person is now married and faring well domestically and financially. Her other friend, Adam Spencer, is now a very handsome Architect. Noelle is dismayed to learn that Adam, her childhood sweetheart that got away before things developed romantically between them, is engaged to a woman named Laurel. But if Adam and Laurel’s relationship is solid, why does Adam seem to find so much pleasure in Noelle’s company?

Painting the Moon was a delightful read. I enjoyed getting acquainted with both the primary and secondary characters— particularly Mac, the gardener, who proved to be an asset in many ways to Noelle. I liked the steady progression of the story, and wondering what had happened to aunt Joy to cause her to become a recluse. And what, if anything, would become of Adam and Noelle. There’s also secrets and hidden treasures that added a bit of intrigue to the story.

I enjoyed this book and recommend it highly. Thank you Kathy of Katie’s Cottage Books for reviewing this book on your blog. As a result I have found another great author. And thank you, Traci Borum, for providing me with an e-copy of your book.

 

Second Chance Romance by Jill Weatherholt

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4-stars

Divorce attorney, Melanie Harper, is a sad soul. She lost her family in a tragic accident and now she’s all alone, living in her three-story townhouse in Washington, DC. She lives to work. The only family she has left is her 65 yr. old aunt Phoebe who operates The Coffee Bean, aka “The Bean,” with co-owner, Jackson Daughtry, and lives happily down in the valley of a little town called Sweet Gum. Phoebe continually invites her niece to come visit, but she’s always too busy. Until now. Melanie decides to visit, but she intends to convince her aunt to come back and live with her in DC.  Jackson, paramedic and handsome, young, silent partner to The Bean, is not happy about this new development. Phoebe has been like a mother to him, especially after his mom, Phoebe’s best friend since childhood and original co-owner of The Coffee Bean, died only one year after his father. And though he feels frustrated by her plans to take Phoebe away, he can’t help but notice how attractive she is. But women are off limits for Jackson. He has some major trust issues since his wife abandoned their family—he and his young daughter, Rebecca. Life being unpredictable, Jackson and Melanie wind up working together. Will this turn out for the best, or will a sudden appearance from his ex-wife derail any hopes of them finding love.

Second Chance Romance is a very sweet account of how two emotionally scarred individuals learn to trust and to have faith in love again after suffering loss. I chuckled at the main characters’ verbal sparring when they first became acquainted with each other. Jackson’s young daughter, Rebecca, is a prominent figure in the book and she is adorable.

I enjoyed this quick, light romance book. If you’re looking for a little sweet escape from more emotionally draining reads, you’ll find solace in Second Chance Romance.

Till Death do us Tart by H.Y. Hanna

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 4.5 stars

Gemma Rose, owner of the Little Stables Tearoom in Oxford, has had her cat, Muesli, entered in the village fete cat show by her well-meaning mother, Evelyn Rose. Muesli, a common moggie cat, has no chance of winning this pure breed expedition. Dame Claire Eccleston, a snobbish, uppity opponent in the contest, makes this fact clearly known when she scornfully insults Muesli with the common farmhouse moggie designation. As Gemma anxiously awaits the judging of the cats, a scream rings out, and Dame Claire is knocked down in the crowd. But the woman doesn’t get back up. She’s dead, presumably of a heart attack, clutching an angina pill in one hand as she lay on the ground. She was at risk after all, being overweight and continually warned by her doctor to watch her intake of fattening desserts. She’d callously ignored his advice, even wolfing down rich cake she brought to the fete. But when her manner of death is called into question, Gemma sets out to uncover the real cause of death and the culprit behind the murder. This will prove to be a daunting task since Dame Claire Eccleston, Gemma quickly learns, was disliked by almost everyone she’d come in contact with.

Till Death do us Tart is another entertaining instalment in the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries series. H.Y. Hanna delivers yet another solid mystery, infused with intellect and wit that keeps you engaged from start to finish. Her audio narrator for the series, Pearl Hewitt, is outstanding. Her portrayal of the characters’ emotions—astonishment, exasperation, horror, chagrin, further enhances the story. Her impersonations can’t be beat, from the old biddies, to the maid at Eccleston House, and even Muesli the cat, are some of the best I’ve ever heard. An intrinsic quality that serves this series well.

If you enjoy well-crafted British cozy mysteries, you’ll love Till Death Do us Tart. And for those who like listening to audiobooks, this one is a winner.

A Mother Like Mine by Kate Hewitt

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5-stars

Abby Rhodes has returned to the home of her youth, her grandmother’s little flat in Hartley-by-the-Sea, a lovely coastal village in the Lake District, with her 3-year old son, Noah, in tow. Mary, who raised Abby since the age of 2, has suffered a heart attack.  Since Abby needed somewhere to go after abandoning her veterinary education in Liverpool due to unforeseen circumstances, returning to Hartley-by-the-Sea to help manage the family’s beach café with her grandmother became a feasible option. Two years later Abby is finally feeling settled when her estranged mother shows up and announces that she’s moving in. Abby is not in the least bit amused by her mother’s sudden arrival and pronouncement that she’ll be staying on indefinitely. Laura Rhodes took off when Abby was a toddler, rarely returning to visit.  As a result, Abby feels no real connection or attachment to her mother, and her attitude towards Laura clearly reflects her feelings.

But when Abby observes the interaction between her mother and grandmother, she discerns that their dynamic is much the same as what exists between herself and Laura.  Why is there so much resentment in their family?  In small doses Abby begins to question Laura about events in her mother’s life, and her answers cause Abby to rethink the assumptions she’s made about her mother, and her grandmother.  Both women submit to learning more about one another when tragedy strikes and Laura comes through for her daughter in ways she could never have imagined.  Carefully concealed within the mysterious layers of her mother’s rigid facade are compassion and decency—characteristics that Abby didn’t know her mother possessed. Nevertheless, Abby interacts cautiously with her, defenses always up, afraid that her mother will leave her again.  Abby is clearly suffering from abandonment issues, and she wants to protect Noah from the disappointment and pain that Laura caused her when she fled motherhood. Of course Noah views his “nana” in a benevolent manner, as a young child would, oblivious to the flaws that caused the rift between Laura and his mother.

But when circumstances necessitate that Laura and Abby align themselves to handle matters relating to the future of the beach café, Abby can’t deny Laura’s practical business sense and keen judgment. Soon, mother and daughter are collaborating on ideas about changes to the tired looking beach café, and as they share space together more regularly, the negative, pre-conceived ideas Abby once held about her mother are slowly replaced by feelings of empathy and compassion, as she learns the truth about Laura’s not-so-glamorous life when she left Abby behind.  Laura has even adopted a more selfless attitude and puts Abby and Noah’s needs ahead of her own. She’s starting to resemble a real mother.  Still, Abby has questions. Who is her father? Why did her mother choose to give birth to Abby when it clearly had a tremendous negative impact on her young life?  These questions and many more are what will cement or destroy the relationship that mother and daughter are slowly building.

My Thoughts:

I devoured this book. I loved it. Kate Hewitt portrays emotion in such a profoundly realistic way.  Relatable, life-altering situations—marriage, children, death, are spoken of in such a way that it caused me to stop and ponder.  I love books that evoke that reaction.  And her ability to convey the natural conversational quality of the characters is one of the many reasons why I’ve enjoyed every single book of hers that I’ve read. I also appreciate how she incorporates beloved characters from prior books in the series. Knowing some of their back stories gave the book more depth.

I highly recommend A Mother Like Mine. It’s book three in the Hartley-by-the-Sea series, and can be read as a standalone.

Thank you, Netgalley, for a free e-ARC of A Mother Like Mine.  In exchange I have provided an honest review.

Cozynookbks **Author Interview**: Kate Hewitt – A Mother Like Mine

MotherLikeMinePaperback:  384 pages

Publisher:  Berkley (August 2017)

Series:  Hartley-by-the-Sea – Book #3

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction


Welcome to England’s beautiful Lake District, where a reluctant reunion forges a new bond between a daughter and her wayward mother….
 
Abby Rhodes is just starting to get her life on track. After her fiancé’s unexpected death, she returned with her young son to the small village where she grew up and threw herself into helping her ailing grandmother run the town’s beach café. Then one evening, her mother, Laura, shows up in Hartley-by-the-Sea and announces her plan to stay. After twenty years away, she now wants to focus on the future—and has no intention, it seems, of revisiting the painful past.
 
Laura Rhodes has made a lot of mistakes, and many of them concern her daughter. But as Abby gets little glimpses into her mother’s life, she begins to realize there are depths to Laura she never knew. Slowly, Abby and Laura start making tentative steps toward each other, only to have life become even more complicated when an unexpected tragedy arises. Together, the two women will discover truths both sad and surprising that draw them closer to a new understanding of what it means to truly forgive someone you love.

See my 5-star review for A Mother Like Mine here.

**INTERVIEW**

I’d like to extend a warm welcome to one of my favorite authors, USA Today Bestselling Author, Kate Hewitt.  Kate wrote A Mother Like Mine, released August, 2017, and it was an EXCELLENT read.  It’s part-3 of her Hartley-by-the-Sea series, but it can be read as a standalone.  Kate has so kindly granted me the privilege of an interview.  So without further ado, let’s find out all about Kate Hewitt and A Mother Like Mine.

  1. Each book in the Hartley-by-the-Sea series focuses on relationships–sisters, friends, mother/daughter. What inspired you to write a series based on relationships?

I think relationships are fundamental to our existence as well as our happiness, and every relationship, no matter how loving or close, is complex. Both those things compel me to write about them.

  1. Although the Hartley-by-the-Sea series can certainly be read as standalone books, I love how you incorporate many of the beloved characters from prior books in the series into each successive book. How do you manage to transition characters so flawlessly from one book to the next?

Thank you for saying it’s flawless! I usually go back and re-read the prior book before writing the next, so it’s all fresh in my mind, and having lived in a village, weaving lives together in a neighborly way feels natural.

  1. You’re very adept at depicting fictitious events in your books in an utterly realistic way. Do you draw from your own life experiences, and/or that of others, in order to achieve this?

I think every writer draws from their own emotional experience, even if the events are different. I often find my life experiences coming into my novels almost by accident—kind of like therapy for me! The emotional experiences that shape my own life are definitely in my books, in one way or another. For example, in A Mother Like Mine, the experience of Annie and Laura during Mary’s death was taken from my experience of my father’s death.

  1. One of the things I love about your books is that they have an atmospheric quality that enables the reader to become immediately immersed in the narrative, as well as the setting. Is it challenging to accomplish this, or does it come naturally to you?

I love writing about setting, and I find it is so important in grounding a reader in place and experience. It’s something that is a big part of my writing and always has been, so in that way it comes naturally, although as with any aspect of writing I try to improve.  : )

  1. As an American ex-pat living in the UK for over a decade, what’s one of the most significant adjustments you’ve had to make as far as your writing’s concerned, or otherwise?

I think the biggest adjustment has been in accepting that I sound more and more British, and my books are aimed more and more for a British audience, although admittedly one that occasionally finds my word choice jarring. I still definitely have a foot in both worlds, which is not always comfortable.

  1. Since British and American culture differ in many respects, do you find it easier to write about British or American characters/settings? Why or why not?

I find it easiest to write about Americans in Britain, or British people in America, because in some ways that is my experience—as I said in the previous answer, a foot in both worlds.

  1. Although Hartley-by-the-Sea, a lovely coastal village, is not an actual place in the UK, the beautiful Lake District, wherein it is situated, is. Can you tell us why you chose this location for the series?

Hartley-by-the-Sea is a fictional version of the village I lived in, St Bees. Having lived there, it was easy to write about, although I admit I did start confusing fiction with reality at one point and called the local pub The Hangman’s Noose, which is not its name in real life!

  1. You’ve written over fifty books. Are you ever at a loss as to what to write next, or does subject matter come naturally to you?

I always have a few ideas percolating, but some are more persistent and well-formed than others.

  1. Your books move fluidly from beginning to end without waning, a challenge which some authors lament about. Which section of a book do you find it most difficult to write: beginning, middle or end?

Definitely the middle! I always get to a certain point, about a hundred pages in, and wonder how on earth I can spin this story out and make it interesting! Usually that means I need to take a walk and have a good, long think about the plot and characters.

  1. A Mother like Mine concludes with an opportunity to expound upon Laura’s and Abby’s stories. Will we be reading more about them in the future?

At this point, I am not going to write any more Hartley-by-the-Sea stories, sadly! But I do have a series set in another village in the Lake District, called The Holley Sisters of Thornthwaite.

  1. What’s next for you?

The aforementioned series, and I am also working on a new novel I am really excited about—something more issue-driven and very emotional, similar to my novels This Fragile Life and When He Fell.

Thank you, Kate Hewitt, for the opportunity to interview you today.  All the best with the new projects.  I look forward to finding out more about them.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Laurie!


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Kate Hewitt

Kate Hewitt is the author of over 50 novels of romance and women’s fiction.  A former diehard New Yorker and American ex-pat, she now lives in a small market town in Wales with her husband and five children.  She loves telling an emotionally compelling story whatever the genre.  Learn more about her here.

 

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