A Good Neighborhood, Therese Anne Fowler

I came into A Good Neighborhood a bit timid. I’d seen mixed reviews. Some hated it. Some loved it. I was worried about which side I’d fall on.

Perhaps because I live in the South or maybe because I’m a raging empath, I feel hard and fast into this book.

Xavier’s story is one that was so promising and uplifting—he was going places—until a selfish, racist, piece of trash decided his own life and desires mattered more than anything.

I loved everything about this book, until the ending. I wanted, well, I can’t tell you what I wanted without spoiling the ending.

I have a feeling this is a story that will stay with me for a while.

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the gifted copy.

Ugh. I don’t even know where to start with this review. I enjoyed the writing and the side characters but I had some issues with Lydia and how she basically abused sleeping pills to keep visiting her dead fiancé and it’s never addressed. She also didn’t really consider how her actions impacted those around her and really only cared when it affected her.

I knew the ending before I finished the first chapter because it’s how every book like this ends.

That said, this was a bittersweet book with a hopeful (predictable) ending.

The Lost Husband, Katherine Center

Guys. I did it. I actually finished a book for a buddy read! Definitely helps that I was hosting it

This was just the book I needed right now. Sweet, inspiring, emotional, perfect. I loved Libby and her helicopter mama bear style because that’s 100% me. I loved O’Connor and his take no BS approach to protecting his people. I want to be Jean when I grow up.

I loved this book. Loved it all. And, I cannot wait for the movie!

Before He Vanished, Debra Webb

Thank you to Harelquin for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

Before He Vanished grabbed me immediately and didn’t let go until the last page. Normally, I’m all about trying to solve the mystery, but I was so wrapped up in the story that I didn’t even try to guess what had happened. And I’m glad I didn’t, because I’d have been wrong. Very wrong.

From the Publisher:
His disappearance changed her life forever.

Twenty-five years ago, Halle Lane’s best friend vanished from their Tennessee town. When a childhood photo brings Liam Hart to Winchester, Halle is certain the man is the same child who vanished. Now Liam seeks out Halle to help him investigate the circumstances of his mysterious past. Can Liam and Halle uncover the truth before a killer buries all traces of the boy Halle loved—and the man he may have become—forever?

Exclusive Excerpt:

The shower was like heaven on earth. Her body had needed the hot water so badly. Her muscles relaxed and she took her time, smoothing the soap over her skin and then shampooing her hair. She was grateful for the toiletry pack that included not only soap, shampoo and the usual, but disposable razors, as well.

By the time she was finished, her bones felt like rubber. She dried herself, slipped on underwear and the nightshirt and then used the hotel dryer to dry her hair. That part took the longest of all. When she exited the steamy bathroom the delicious aromas of room service had her stomach rumbling.

“Oh my God, that smells good.” She rushed to the table where the silver service sat. “Why aren’t you eating?”

“I was waiting for you.” He joined her at the table.

Ever the gentleman.

Halle curled her feet under her in her chair while Liam removed the covers from the dishes. Fish, chicken, vegetables. He had ordered all sorts of dishes and they all looked amazing.

“I thought we’d try a little of everything.”

A bottle of white wine as well as a bottle of rosé had her licking her lips.

“I wasn’t sure which one you preferred.” He gestured to the iced-down bottles. “And I didn’t forget dessert.” The final lid revealed a heavenly-looking chocolate cake with fudge icing.

“I may die right now.” She wanted to taste it all.

“Eat first.” He placed a linen napkin over his lap and stuck his fork into a tiny, perfectly roasted potato. She watched him eat and it was the sexiest thing she had ever seen. She didn’t fight it. Surrendered to instinct and that was how they ate. No plates, just taking whatever they wanted with a fork or fingers and devouring. They drank the wine and laughed at stories from their respective childhoods. From all the stories he’d told her, she could not wait to meet his sister, Claire.

By the time they were finished, she was feeling a little tipsy. The food was mostly gone and both bottles were drained. She felt more relaxed than she had in decades. They had discussed the day’s events and Burke and Austen—and Derrick. The man was still convinced she had a thing for Derrick. No way. She’d also told him what her mom had to say about any friends from Nashville the Clarks might have had, which was none who ever appeared at their door. She and Liam agreed that was somewhat unusual considering how social the Clarks had been in Winchester.

“You know,” she said, after polishing off the last of the wine in her glass, “I wrote you dozens of letters.”

“Me?”

She frowned and shook her head. “Andy.” Then she stared at him. “No. You. I mean you. Whatever you believe, I know you’re him.”

“Okay.” He laughed, his eyes glittering with the soft sound.

God, his mouth was sexy when he was relaxed. She put her hand to her mouth just to make sure she hadn’t said the words out loud.

“Tell me about the letters,” he prompted.

“I told you what was going on in Winchester. Who was doing what at school. I even put pictures with the letters.” She laughed. Placed her glass on the table. “It was silly, I know. But I wanted to still feel you and that was the only way I could.”

She blinked. He had moved. He was suddenly next to her, on his knees, staring into her eyes, and her breath caught.

“I don’t know if I’m this Andy you loved so much when you were a kid,” he said softly, so softly she shivered, “but I would really like to be the guy you care about now.”

Her heart swelled into her throat. She started to suggest that it was the wine talking, but it wasn’t. The truth was in his eyes. Those blue eyes she knew as well as her own. And despite her wine consumption, she was stone-cold sober as she considered what could happen between them tonight.

“I’m really glad, because I would hate to think I’m in this alone,” she confessed.

He kissed her so sweetly that tears stung her eyes. Then he stood and pulled her into his arms. He carried her to the nearest bed.

No matter what happened tomorrow, she would always cherish this night.

In Five Years, Rebecca Serle

Review: In Five Years, Rebecca Serle—Thank you to the publisher & NetGalley for the gifted copy.

When was the last time a book made you sob? Not just shed a tear or two, but physically sob?

Y’all, it’s been a while for me. But, I didn’t realize how much I needed that cry.

In Five Years was an incredible story of female friendship and the love between friends. Dannie and Bella were both strong, empowering, and engaging women and their friendship and story is one I’ll be carrying for a while.

Also, I’m not a hugger, but I need a big one after this book.

Writers & Lovers, Lily King

Wow. Just wow. I’d read mixed reviews before picking up Writers & Lovers, so I came into it with neutral feelings but as soon as I met Casey, I felt a connection to her. I felt her fears, anxiety, passion, and honesty, and I’m not sure I’ve ever related to a character more.

I couldn’t stop turning the pages but I also didn’t want it to end. If I could give this book 10 stars, I would.

The Grace Kelly Dress, Brenda Janowitz

Two years after Grace Kelly’s royal wedding, her iconic dress is still all the rage in Paris—and one replica, and the secrets it carries, will inspire three generations of women to forge their own paths in life and in love.

Paris, 1958: Rose, a seamstress at a fashionable atelier, has been entrusted with sewing a Grace Kelly—look-alike gown for a wealthy bride-to-be. But when, against better judgment, she finds herself falling in love with the bride’s handsome brother, Rose must make an impossible choice, one that could put all she’s worked for at risk: love, security and of course, the dress.

Sixty years later, tech CEO Rachel, who goes by the childhood nickname “Rocky,” has inherited the dress for her upcoming wedding in New York City. But there’s just one problem: Rocky doesn’t want to wear it. A family heirloom dating back to the 1950s, the dress just isn’t her. Rocky knows this admission will break her mother Joan’s heart. But what she doesn’t know is why Joan insists on the dress—or the heartbreaking secret that changed her mother’s life decades before, as she herself prepared to wear it.

As the lives of these three women come together in surprising ways, the revelation of the dress’s history collides with long-buried family heartaches. And in the lead-up to Rocky’s wedding, they’ll have to confront the past before they can embrace the beautiful possibilities of the future.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT:

The mother of the bride, as a bride herself
Long Island, 1982

She loved the dress. She loved the veil that went with it, too, though she wasn’t sure if it could be salvaged. It was showing signs of age, its edges curling and tinged with brown. But that wouldn’t dull her excitement.

Today was the day she would be trying on her mother’s wedding dress. Even though Joanie had tried it on countless times as a child—it was a favorite rainy-day activity with her mother—today felt different. She was engaged, just like she’d dreamed about ever since she could remember. When she tried the dress on this time, it was for keeps. She was completely in love with the dress.

“Let me help you get it on,” Joanie’s mother said, her French accent coming through. It was always more pronounced when she was feeling emotional. With her American friends, Joanie noticed, her mother always tried to sound “American,” softening her accent and using American expressions. But when they were alone, she could be herself. Let her guard down. Joanie knew exactly who her mother was, and she loved her for it.

Her mother handed Joanie a pair of white cotton gloves and then put on her own set. The first step in trying the dress on, always, so that the oils in their hands wouldn’t defile the fabric. She laid the large box on her bed and nodded her head at her husband, her signal to give them privacy. The door closed to Joanie’s childhood bedroom, and she and her mother were alone.

The white cotton gloves were cool and smooth on her skin. Joanie opened the box slowly. So slowly. It was sealed with a special plastic that was supposed to keep it airtight so that the dress would not oxidize and turn yellow. She and her mother laughed as they struggled to set the dress free. The last time she tried the dress on was the summer before her sister died. It was after Michele’s death that her mother brought the dress into the city so that it might be cleaned properly and preserved for just this day. At the time, Joanie hadn’t understood the connection between her sister’s sudden death and her mother’s tight grip on family heirlooms, but now, a year into her psychology degree at NYC University, she understood. It was so hard to hold on to things that were important to you, things that mattered, and preserving her wedding dress, this memory, was her mother’s way of taking control of something. It was something she could save.

The dress was just as beautiful as she’d remembered. Crafted from rose point lace, the same lace used on Grace Kelly’s iconic wedding dress, it was delicate and classic and chic and a million other things Joanie couldn’t even articulate.

“Go on,” her mother said, holding the first part of the dress—the bodice with the attached underbodice, skirt support, and slip—out for her to take. As a child, it had thrilled Joanie to no end that the wedding dress her mother wore was actually made up of four separate pieces. It was like a secret that a bride could have on her special day, something that no one else knew.

“I couldn’t,” Joanie said, hands at her side. Knowing how carefully preserved the dress had been, what the dress had meant to her mother, it was hard for Joanie to touch it. She didn’t want to get it dirty, sully its memory. “It’s just so beautiful.”

“It’s yours now,” her mother said, smiling warmly. “The dress belongs to you. Put it on.”

Joanie kicked off her ballerina flats, and her mother helped her ease the bodice on. Joanie stood at attention as her mother snapped the skirt into place, and wrapped the cummerbund around her waist. Joanie held her hands high above her head, not wanting to get in the way of her mother’s expert hands, hands that knew exactly where to go, fingers that knew exactly what to do.

“You ready in there, Birdie?” her father yelled from the hallway, impatient, his French accent just as strong as the day he left France. Joanie always loved how her father had a special nickname for her mother. When they first married, he would call her mother GracieBird, a nickname of Grace Kelly’s, because of the Grace Kelly–inspired wedding gown she wore on their wedding day. Eventually, it was shortened to Bird, and then over time, it became Birdie. What would Joanie’s fiancé call her?

Joanie inspected her reflection in the mirror. Her shoulder-length blond hair, recently permed, looked messy. Her pink eye shadow, which had always seemed so grown-up on her sister, made her appear tired and puffy-eyed. But the dress? The dress was perfect.

Her mother opened the door slowly, and her father’s face came into view. His expression softened as he saw his daughter in the wedding dress. She walked out into the hallway, towards him, and she could see a tear forming in the corner of his eye.

She turned to her mother, about to tell her that Daddy was crying, when she saw that her mother, too, had teared up. Joanie couldn’t help it—seeing her mother and father cry, she began to cry as well. She could never keep a dry eye when someone else was crying, least of all her parents, ex-pats from Europe who hardly ever cried.

Michele’s presence floated in the air like a haze, but no one would say it. No one dared mention that she would have worn the dress first. Should have worn the dress first.

“And look at us,” her mother said, her hands reaching out and grabbing for her husband and daughter. “All of us crying like little babies.”

All three embraced—carefully, of course, so as not to ruin the dress.

Her father kissed the top of her head. “Give us a twirl.”

Joanie obliged. The dress moved gracefully as she spun. Joanie curtsied, and her father gently took her hand and kissed it.

“I know what you’re thinking,” her mother said, her voice a song.

“What?” Joanie asked absentmindedly, while staring at her reflection in the mirror. She knew the first thing she’d change—the sleeves. The dress needed big, voluminous sleeves, just like Princess Diana had worn on her wedding day.

“Or I should say who you’re thinking about,” her mother said, a gentle tease.

“Who?” Joanie asked, under her breath, twirling from side to side in front of the mirror, watching the dress move.

“Your fiancé,” her mother said, furrowing her brow. “Remember him?”

“For sure,” Joanie said, spinning around to face her mother. “My fiancé. Yes. I knew that. And, yes. I was.” But the truth was, she had completely forgotten.

Excerpted from The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz. Copyright © 2020 by Brenda Janowitz. Published by Graydon House Books. 

Safe House, Jo Jakeman

Thank you to Berkley for the gifted copy.

Y’all … I could NOT put this book down. I was intrigued from page one and felt so conflicted. I didn’t know who to trust. And let’s just say that I did NOT see that ending coming.

From the Publisher:

She’s paid the price for giving her ex a false alibi, and now she’s moved to a seaside village to escape her past–but more than her lie follows her there in this chilling and twisty psychological thriller from the author of the acclaimed The Exes’ Revenge.

One day, a woman turns up in a remote coastal village. She’s bought a crumbling, long-vacant cottage and calls herself Charlie Miller. Charlie keeps to herself, reluctant to integrate with the locals. If they ever find out who she really is, and what she’s done, she’ll lose what little she has left.

Charlie served two years in prison for providing a false alibi for a murderer. It was the mistake of a woman in love, a woman who couldn’t believe her boyfriend was guilty–or lying to her. All she desperately wants now is a fresh start.

As Charlie slowly lets down her guard and becomes friendly with her neighbors, she can’t shake the feeling that someone is watching her, someone who knows what she did. When one of her new friends suddenly disappears, Charlie’s worst fears are confirmed. She must confront her past head-on, but as she knows all too well, everything is far more dangerous than how it appears.

The Sunday Potluck Club, Melissa Storm

Thank you to the Kensington Books for the gifted copy. Out 3/31/20.

The Sunday Potluck Club solid sweet romance! I loved the groups of four friends and the way they all interacted with and supported each other.

I really related to Amy and the way she felt compelled to be the helper and peacemaker, but I also loved how her character grew and learned to stand up for herself.

Can’t wait to read the next one!

Dominicana, Angie Cruz

I’m not sure I have the words to adequately review this book.

I was enthralled with Ana’s voice and her story. When we meet her, Ana is just fifteen. Her entire life is dedicated to her family and she sacrifices everything for them. Her strength and determination amid everything she’d been dealt was inspiring.

The voice and writing style were unique and it helped pull me deeper into Ana’s narrative and world.