Four generations of an Italian American family in suburban New Jersey gather often for dinners at which the noise level is set at an 11, with frequent arguments between Varina’s grown children. Varina, 70, loves her family and the Italian grocery store she runs, but would like a calmer life that’s also more adventurous. Her mother Sylvia tries to set Varina up with suitable men yet ends up finding romance at 92 with a nice man who loves dancing, in the sweetest part of this engaging novel. Visiting a travel agency to book a European river cruise, Varina makes friends with Ruth, and enjoys her friendship more than the dinner dates she’s having. Son Dante remodels buildings with help from family friend Paulie, who has a crush on Dante. I really enjoyed Sylvia, Varina, and Paulie’s points of view, though not as much that of colorful and disruptive Donatella. Each chapter begins with a few Jersey Italian words and phrases, which slightly disrupted the flow of this otherwise compelling read. Adriana Trigiani is a good readalike author, and I’m strongly reminded of the movie Moonstruck.
Overworked lawyer Louisa “Lulu” Malone has had it with her demanding boss and resigns in a spectacular manner while visiting a Renaissance fair. Her cousin Mitch encourages her to spend some time offline, and along with her new friend Stacey, connects her with the Dueling Kilts music troupe. Lulu travels with the group from fair to fair, staying in an RV, befriending guitar player Dex MacLean, and helping a trio of tarot card readers. Dex has quite a reputation on the fair circuit, but Lulu soon realizes how serious he is about his music. Their developing relationship feels real, adding depth to this fun and enjoyable read. The author’s other romantic comedies are also set at least partly at Renaissance fairs. The first book is Well Met, but they also work as stand-alones. Readalike authors include Ali Hazelwood, Jill Mansell, Lucy Score and Jasmine Guillory. I’m delighted that Well Traveled will be a December LibraryReads pick.
What Anglophile hasn’t dreamed of buying a cottage in a charming English village? Made redundant when her public library closes, Jess impulsively buys Ivy Cottage in a small Devon town, and opens a little library in a red phone booth with 10 boxes of books left to her by her beloved grandmother Mimi. Soon she’ll need a paying job, but for now she’s weeding the lush garden, making friends, and falling for handsome neighbor Aidan and his tween daughter Maisie. Charming and well-written; perfect summer reading. Readalikes includes novels by Jill Mansell, Jenny Colgan, Jojo Moyes, and Katie Fforde
Laurie has always admired her Great Aunt Dot, a world traveler who lived to be 93. Her home in Calcasset, Maine, was a quiet refuge for Laurie as she was a middle child with four brothers. In Calcasset to sort through Dot’s belongings, Laurie is having a mid-life crisis as she turns 40. Her best friend June is happily married with three kids, but Laurie has always enjoyed living alone. She has just canceled her upcoming wedding, but is still looking forward to returning to Seattle, where her house and garden are designed just how she likes it. Laurie’s former boyfriend Nick is now the director of the Calcasset Library, and sparks fly when they spend time together, but Nick has never wanted to leave small town Maine.
A very enjoyable part of this book is the adventure of a carved and painted wood duck Aunt Dot kept in a cedar chest. Is it valuable? Apparently not, or has Laurie been scammed by a con man? Nick helps with research and Laurie’s brother Ryan, an actor, helps in the quest to get the duck back. Laurie finally is able to decide what she really wants in this engaging read.
Set in the same town as Holmes’ debut, Evvie Drake Starts Over, this is not a sequel. Readalikes include novels by Jennifer Crusie, Mary Kay Andrews, Abbi Waxman, and Beth O’Leary.
I recently read a historical romantic comedy and two contemporary romantic comedies, or rom-coms, and enjoyed reading all three books. If you’re in the mood for some light, entertaining reads, check out one or more of these titles.
Hugh Standish, an earl in 1820s England, has a matchmaking mother who lives in America with his stepfather. He doesn’t think he’d make a good husband, and invents a fiancée named Miranda to keep his mother from finding him a real wife. His letters about the fictional Miranda’s serious illness and father’s death have delayed any wedding plans, but Hugh has run out of excuses. When Hugh helps a lovely engraver collect money she’s owed, he is stunned to learn her name is Minerva. Quite soon, Miranda and two two younger sisters are visiting his country estate, along with an actress hired to play their mother, getting lessons in etiquette and fine dining, when his family arrives early. Hugh’s mother is surprised to learn that Miranda can’t ride a horse or sing, and is getting suspicious. Some very funny scenes delight the reader while Hugh and Miranda bicker, and of course, fall in love. Readers of Julia Quinn’s Smythe-Smith quartet will likely enjoy.
Kate Sweet, an event planner known for weddings with an “aww” moment, is asked by her best friend to fill in and organized horror writer Drake Matthews’ book launch. The pair are uncomfortable spending time together, especially after a disastrous introduction. Drake is secretly writing a historical romance, while super-organized Kate is struggling with her plans for the elaborate book party. While I’ve never heard of a book launch quite so elaborate, it makes for entertaining reading. Kate and Drake’s chemistry is fun to read about, especially as the both deny their mutual attraction.
Another pretend relationship turns friends into lovers when April Parker asks Mitch Malone for help with some home improvements so she can sell her house and move to a nearby city. Mitch, a high school gym teacher and coach, is known for his performances in a kilt at the local renaissance Faire, yet needs a pretend girlfriend for a big family dinner. When Mitch’s family unexpectedly visits the Faire, April steps in again, and somehow their relationship doesn’t feel so fake anymore. Well Played and Well Met are the earlier rom-coms set at Willow Creek’s Renaissance Faire.
A local bookseller always has a copy of Pilcher’s Winter Solstice on her display of favorite winter reads, even though it was published in 2000. The enduring appeal of the late author of The Shell Seekers and September is shown in this new collection of short stories that are delightful for cozy winter reading, perhaps with tea and a scone or hot cocoa and a cookie. If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming read, but too busy to read a long novel, enjoy a story or two at a sitting, each with a pen and ink illustration. These stories are set at life’s turning points; a holiday, a move, a visit home, the beginning or ending of a romance. They have a strong sense of place, resilient women, attractive men, and often a seaside setting, with a dog, horse, or young child to add appeal. This title is also available from Media on Demand/Libby as an eBook and a downloadable audiobook. Readalike authors include Maeve Binchy, Josie Silver, and Jenny Colgan.
Four years after judge Dominic De Vere voted Sylvie Fairchild off Operation Cake when her unicorn cake exploded and showered him with edible glitter, the pair are rival business owners in Notting Hill, London. Sylvie has opened Sugar Fair, a bakery straight out of a fairy tale, across the street from the traditional De Vere’s, where delicious cakes are beautifully decorated, mostly in white or perhaps ivory. Sylvie is asked to fill in as a judge on Operation Cake, where she gets to know the stern and prickly judge as a fellow business owner, and they gradually become friends. When Princess Rose announces her engagement to John Marchmont, the pair are finalists to bake the royal wedding cake, and end up doing research on the royal family together, with witty banter, tender moments and irresistible chemistry. I thoroughly enjoyed Dominic and Sylvie’s story, and the audiobook narration of Billie Fulford-Brown. A second Palace Insiders is planned, featuring Dominic’s younger sister.
Addie LaRue will likely win your heart, but almost no one she meets in her remarkable long life remembers her. Desperate to avoid marriage to a widowed man with children, Addie prays for “a chance to live and be free”. Unfortunately, the sun has set and a spirit from the dark answers her plea. Luc grants her freedom, but she can’t even say or write her own name. When someone steps through a door, they forget her. Born in a small French village in the late 17th century, Addie struggles to survive, and to thrive. After many decades, she can make friends quickly, learns to read and speak several languages, and influences artists and musicians. It’s an amazing life, but Addie’s often lonely. She may see Luc once a year, if that. One day in New York City in 2014, she steals a book. When she returns it to the bookstore, Henry remembers her. And so her life changes, again, while Henry finds someone who sees him as he really is, but there’s a catch. The audiobook is skillfully narrated by actor Julia Whelan. Readalikes include How to Stop Time by Matt Haig and A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness A wonderfully immersive, character-focused read, Schwab is quite the storyteller and Addie LaRue is unforgettable.
Grace Porter celebrates earning her Ph.D. in astronomy with a short vacation in Las Vegas with friends Agnes and Ximena. She wakes up the last morning with a hangover, a wedding ring, and a picture of Yuki Yamamoto, who hosts a late night radio show in New York City. Back in Portland, Grace tries to live up to the expectations of her father, Colonel Porter. Biracial and queer, Grace is struggling to land an astronomy job, which she somehow thought would be easy. Grace is used to working hard and living up to her father’s expectations. Her response is to flee, visiting Yuki and her roommates in NYC, then her mother at the family orange grove in Florida. Essentially ghosting her friends for long stretches, they are still there when she needs them. I would have liked more about Grace’s astronomy studies; with perhaps a cool field trip to an observatory in Hawaii or Chile. But Grace’s story is much more about an identity crisis, her relationships with her friends, Yuki, and her parents, and learning to accept her own imperfections and uncertainties. Grace and Yuki are memorable characters, and this is an appealing and compelling read.
This is an enjoyable coming of age story set in an alternate American future, in which George Washington was crowned king. In this sequel to American Royals, Beatrice is now America’s first queen, and is feeling burdened with her new responsibilities, especially the expectation that she will marry a nobleman. Her fun-loving sister Samantha is now the heir, and has her own romantic problems, as does her friend Nina, along with Nina’s rival, Daphne. There is more pomp and circumstance than glitz and glamor in this second book. The main characters are appealing and I didn’t predict the ending. While the author could write another American Royals book, none is currently planned. Perfect for royal watchers looking for an entertaining read.