Genre: Women's Fiction

Sunday Spotlight: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

Posted November 10, 2019 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 4 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

What to do when everyone you’ve always relied on seem to disappear at the moment you need them the most? Look to yourself for the answers. From Stephanie Butland, the author of The Lost for Words Bookshop, THE CURIOUS HEART OF AILSA RAE (St. Martin’s Griffin, October 29, 2019, $17.99), will warm readers from the inside out. An emotional story about love and loss, Butland’s thoughtful imagination will tug at the heartstrings of all readers.

Sunday Spotlight: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie ButlandThe Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Women's Fiction
Pages: 397
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Ailsa Rae is learning how to live. She's only a few months past the heart transplant that - just in time - saved her life. Life should be a joyful adventure. But . . .

Her relationship with her mother is at breaking point. She knows she needs to find her father. She's missed so much that her friends have left her behind. She's felt so helpless for so long that she's let polls on her blog make her decisions for her. And now she barely knows where to start on her own.

And then there's Lennox. Her best friend and one time lover. He was sick too. He didn't make it. And now she's supposed to face all of this without him.

But her new heart is a bold heart.

She just needs to learn to listen to it . . .

Excerpt

9 October, 2017

Ailsa is alone when it happens.

‘We think we have your heart.’ Bryony, the transplant coordinator, is smiling from ear to ear, for once. Given that her usual message is No News Yet, that’s hardly surprising.

Ailsa feels her hands fly to her chest, as though to protect what’s in there, hold it before it dies. She makes herself move them to her lap. They are shaking. So is her voice.

‘A new heart?’ And then she feels the patched-up heart she has summon up the life to expand with hope: with permission.

Her head is a scramble of thoughts, the practical and the terrible. She needs to be nil by mouth, so when did she last eat? Where is her mum? If she’s getting a heart, that means someone, somewhere has died.

Ailsa’s mother rushes in behind Bryony, breathless, bringing cold air and cigarette smoke with her. They fight the stuffiness of the room for a second before being absorbed. ‘They told me at the nurses’ station to get along here fast. What’s happened?’ She steps across the room; her hand is in her daughter’s. All Ailsa can do is nod at her, squeeze her fingers, because her throat has tightened and her mouth is drier than usual. She wants to say: I wish you had been here when Bryony came in. You deserved to hear it with me. But that’s silly, and unimportant, and anyway, you don’t get to choose these things. You get to accept them.

‘We need to have you prepped and in theatre in three hours,’ Bryony says. ‘Hold onto your hats.’ She flips open the file in her hand, picks up Ailsa’s notes from the bottom of the bed, and so it begins.

Or ends, depending on which way you look at it.

From The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland. Copyright © 2019 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group.

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: November 2019

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Stephanie Butland

Author Photo

Stephanie Butland is a writer, who is thriving after breast cancer. (She used to say she was a survivor, but that was a bit lacking in joie de vivre.)
Although she’d never have chosen it, her dance with cancer has changed her life in many positive ways. Now she is happier, healthier, and more careful with her precious life and the precious people and things in it.

Her writing career began with her dance with cancer, and now she is a novelist.

Aside from writing, she works as a speaker and trainer, and she works with charities to help raise awareness and money in the hope that cancer will soon be about as scary as a wart.

She lives in Northumberland.


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Joint Review: Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane

Posted October 9, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Joint Review: Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlaneReviewer: Holly and Rowena
Don't You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: January 10, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Women's Fiction
Pages: 433
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-half-stars

Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to rise again…

The hilarious new heartbreaker from Mhairi McFarlane!

If there’s one thing worse than being fired from the grottiest restaurant in town, it’s coming home early to find your boyfriend in bed with someone else.

Reeling from the indignity of a double dumping on the same day, Georgina snatches at the next job that she’s offered – barmaid in a newly opened pub, which just so happens to run by the boy she fell in love with at school: Lucas McCarthy. And whereas Georgina (voted Most Likely to Succeed in her school yearbook) has done nothing but dead-end jobs in the last twelve years, Lucas has not only grown into a broodingly handsome man, but also has turned into an actual grown-up with a business and a dog along the way.

Meeting Lucas again not only throws Georgina’s rackety present into sharp relief, but also brings a dark secret from her past bubbling to the surface. Only she knows the truth about what happened on the last day of school, and why she’s allowed it to chase her all these years…

Georgina Horspool is having a pretty awful day. She gets fired from one of the crappies restaurants in town, then goes home and finds her boyfriend in bed with someone else. But it turns out those might have been blessings in disguise, since that leads her into a job at a new pub. Except it turns out her ONE TRUE LOVE from high school, is one of the owners. Only, it turns out he doesn’t remember her. George can’t decide if she’s thrilled or heartbroken about that. As she learns from past mistakes and tries to go forward is a positive way, she finds herself falling in love with this boy all over again…

Holly: I got the audiobook so I could listen while I was at work and on my commute. I enjoyed the narrator, but she had a pretty heavy British accent that was hard to understand at times. I listened to about half, then read the rest.

What did you think?

Rowena: I read my eARC of this book so I had no problem with the accents in my head. LOL. I really enjoyed this one. Right from the jump, I was invested in what happened between Georgina and Lucas. There were parts of the book that moved slowly but for most the part, I wanted to know what happened at every turn. Sure, I wanted knee Lucas in the balls a time or two but in the end, I really liked him and Georgina together.

Holly: I wouldn’t classify this as romance. It definitely read more like women’s fiction. The book was more about Georgina’s personal journey and her relationship with Lucas was a side-note. I thought it was really slow in parts, too. The middle especially seemed to drag. But, like you, I was invested in Georgina’s journey, and wanted to see how things would turn out for her and Lucas. I really liked the way the end played out, though I didn’t fully buy into their HEA. I don’t think we saw enough on-page development of their current-time romance.

Rowena: I agree I wouldn’t call this a romance either since the focus of the book was more on Georgina’s growth as a person, finally moving on from her past.

I really loved seeing Georgina’s growth. I loved seeing her really grow into an actual relationship with her sister and her mother and then eventually, with Lucas. She had a great support system and my heart hurt for her when the people in her support group found out the truth about her past. I hurt for them all. I loved her personality and seeing her really rock it up there on stage at the open mic nights. Her Mom and sister annoyed me right up until they started supporting Georgina. I couldn’t stand the Step-Dad but loved seeing Georgina’s sister really step up when Georgina needed her to.

Holly: I couldn’t stand Georgina’s step-dad either, and I felt sorry for her mom, but I’m glad she came to a good place with her family. Especially her sister, Esther. I was pissed at her a good portion of the book, but she really came through in the end.

Man, I definitely cried at the end. Her last open mic night had all the feels.

Rowena: I agree. That last open mic night made me cry and love Georgina all the more. I’m glad that everything worked out for her in the end. She definitely deserved it and I thought Lucas handled entering her life again well.

I really connected with Georgina, right from the jump and enjoyed seeing her really come into her own. I also like Mhairi McFarlane’s writing style and enjoyed the way that she brought Georgina’s world to life. I definitely want to read more books by her.

Holly: I liked McFarlane’s writing, too, and I’ll definitely be looking for more books from her in the future.

Rowena: This one was one of my favorite reads of the month and I enjoyed it so much, I’m giving it a 4.5 out of 5. What about you?

Holly: I enjoyed it, but not as much as you did. I’m going to give it 3.75 out of 5. I really liked Georgina’s personal growth, but the romance was lacking and it was really slow in the middle.

Final Grade

Holly: 3.75 out of 5
Rowena: 4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars


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Review: The Key to Happily Ever After by Tif Marcelo

Posted April 18, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: The Key to Happily Ever After by Tif MarceloReviewer: Rowena
The Key to Happily Ever After by Tif Marcelo
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Gallery Books
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Women's Fiction
Pages: 320
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars

A charming romantic comedy about three sisters who are struggling to keep the family wedding planning business afloat—all the while trying to write their own happily-ever-afters in the process.

All’s fair in love and business.

The de la Rosa family and their wedding planning business have been creating happily ever afters in the Washington, DC area for years, making even the most difficult bride’s day a fairytale. But when their parents announce their retirement, the sisters—Marisol, Janelyn, and Pearl—are determined to take over the business themselves.

But the sisters quickly discover that the wedding business isn’t all rings and roses. There are brides whose moods can change at the drop of a hat; grooms who want to control every part of the process; and couples who argue until their big day. As emotions run high, the de la Rosa sisters quickly realize one thing: even when disaster strikes—whether it’s a wardrobe malfunction or a snowmageddon in the middle of a spring wedding—they’ll always have each other.

Perfect for fans of the witty and engaging novels of Amy E. Reichert and Susan Mallery, The Key to Happily Ever After is a fresh romantic comedy that celebrates the crucial and profound power of sisterhood.

I’m a sucker for family drama’s and though I thought this book would be a lot lighter than the book actually was, it was still an enjoyable reading adventure. This book follows the de la Rosa sisters, Mari, Jane, and Pearl as they take on the running of the family wedding planning business. The story focuses on the dynamics between the sisters, and we also get a small love story for each of them. There’s a lot going on with this and I thought Marcelo did a nice job of weaving all of the little side stuff into the bigger story being told. Between the family business in crisis and the romances, there’s a lot of things to focus on without the book as a whole being crammed.

Mari is the oldest and she’s the controlling sister. The one that sets rules and bosses everyone around. Jane is the middle sister who is the peacemaker and then there’s the creative artist, Pearl. Pearl is the youngest sister who nobody trusts to get the job done. They’re all going through their own personal struggles and I was really invested in their lives. I wanted to know everything and fix everything for all of them. I thought Marcelo did a really great job of fleshing out each character because they were all super different but they were also flawed and just real, and raw. They each took turns getting on my nerves but I felt for each sister, how I feel for my own sisters. I loved each of them and wanted them to find their happy endings.

There’s loads of drama but there’s also humor and a whole lot of charm mixed in for good measure. I’m glad that I read this book and I will definitely be reading more from Tif Marcelo. I think I enjoyed this book a lot more than I enjoyed the contemporary romances that I read by her last year. She’s got great stuff and I’m adding the rest of her books to my TBR pile. I definitely recommend this book if you’re in the mood for family drama, bridezillas, and love. This one packs in all of that.

Grade: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Buddy Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Posted April 11, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Buddy Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel CleetonReviewer: Ames & Rowena
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Publisher: Penguin, Berkley
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Format: eBook, Print
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First
Genres: Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 394
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 A-Z Reading Challenge, Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana takes us on an emotional journey to Cuba, in both the past and the present as our main characters, Marisol Ferrera and Elisa Perez, battle through emotions, secrets and the hardships of war, all while falling in love with men that came with their own complications.

Rowena: This was really angsty and while I did end up enjoying it (I even cried), it was a bit slow to start. What did you think, Ames?

Ames: I have to agree. It took me a good while to get into it. Part of it was that in an odd switch I wanted to read this book in print, not in e-format. It’s usually the other way around. So I finally made my way to the bookstore and then I couldn’t finish this book fast enough!

And the angst wasn’t emotional angst. It was -oh my god we’re in the middle of a revolution and we could die- kind of angst. Which I was totally into. I can admit that I don’t know a heck of a lot about Cuba but this book did a really good job of making what happened, relevant and thought-provoking as well as providing a dangerous background for our main character’s grandmother.

Rowena: Yes, the romance took a back seat to all of the angst from everything else that was going on. Once I got the hang of both timelines, all of the characters, and what was going on, I zipped right through this book. My heart hurt and then it soared for both Elisa and what she lived through, how hard her life was even though on the surface, her life looked pretty fluffy, it was anything but and for Marisol, too. When she gets to Cuba, she’s expecting to hear stories of her beloved grandmother through people who once loved her and confided in her but she found so much more than that and I was so here for all of it.

I really liked the way that Cleeton wove this tale. She brought everything going on in Cuba to the front of a very compelling story and I really enjoyed it.

Who was your favorite character?

Ames: Elisa was definitely my favorite character. My heart definitely hurt for what she went through. But I liked how we learned about her story through Marisol’s eyes. I agree with you, I like the way Cleeton wove these two stories together. I liked Pablo more as an old man than when he was younger. His experience and his heartbreak was what made me cry. I really wonder how Elisa and his life would have worked out if Elisa knew the truth. This was a bittersweet book. And I promptly pre-ordered Beatriz book once I was done. LOL.

Rowena: Same. I connected with Elisa’s story and her struggles with every single thing that she went through. From her struggles with loving a man who was fighting on the opposite side of the side her father supported to the way that her family had to creep out of the country to survive and everything that she felt with toward her brother and not being able to know for sure that he was safe and all of that.

I felt the same way about older Pablo. He missed out on so much and my heart for him and just everything. His love for Elisa was true and it was strong and it lasted his entire life even though he moved on. It was so heartbreaking. I’m super glad that I read this one and will definitely be reading more from Cleeton, she’s got magic hands weaving the good stories. I need more of that in my life.

Are you going to read When We Left Cuba? I’m already reading it and so far, it’s just as fantastic as this one was. I give this one 4.25 out of 5 stars, what about you?

Ames: I am planning on reading When We Left Cuba. I needed to read something light and fluffy after Marisol and Elisa’s story though so I’m glad I have a bit of a wait until it’s released. I know I’m going to want to read it in paperback. LOL

I’m giving Next Year in Havana 4.25 out of 5 as well. Despite a bit of a slow beginning it’s definitely an engrossing story and it hits you in the feels. I highly recommend!

Final Grades

Ames: 4.25 out of 5
Rowena: 4.25 out of 5

Related Books

Next Year in Havana
When We Left Cuba

four-stars


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Review: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Posted April 9, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: When We Left Cuba by Chanel CleetonReviewer: Rowena
When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton
Publisher: Penguin, Berkley
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Women's Fiction
Pages: 368
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars

In 1960s Florida, a young Cuban exile will risk her life--and heart--to take back her country in this exhilarating historical novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.

Beautiful. Daring. Deadly.

The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez--her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro's inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost.

As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future--but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything--not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart...

Chanel Cleeton strikes again with another emotionally driven story that hit me in every single feel in my body. After finishing Next Year in Havana, I looked forward to jumping into this book because I was mighty interested in getting Marisol’s Great-Aunt’s story. Beatriz Perez was the real deal in the first book and she is just as intense and amazing in her book…maybe even more so because we got her front and center with every single page.

Beatriz really stands out in this book. She makes this entire story work. She’s bold, she’s beautiful and she makes no apologies for who and what she does. She was also brave as hell. She knew what she stood for and even though she fell in love with a man who complicated the hell out of her beliefs, and her life, she didn’t apologize for her love for him either. I admired the hell out of her because she was fierce in her beliefs and her loyalties.

This story takes place when the relationship between the US and Cuba was not good and it shows us how complicated living during this time was and I just really enjoyed the drama, the passion and the romance between Beatriz and her boo thang. It wasn’t an easy read. There are things that happen that I wasn’t too comfortable with but because Chanel Cleeton wrote these things in (see content warning above) a way that I couldn’t help but understand, I didn’t mind it too much. There were times when my heart hurt for everything that Beatriz went through and there were times that I about swooned over how passionate Nick and Beatriz’s romance was. There was also times when I cheered for Beatriz because the bitch likes to get shit done. She’s probably my favorite character in both this book and Next Year in Havana and I’m SO glad that I read it.

Do I recommend this book? You bet your ass I do. Go forth and read this one, you won’t regret it. I promise.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

Related Books

Next Year in Havana
When We Left Cuba

four-stars


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