Tag Archives: Susan Wiggs

The Tangled Knot: Women’s Fiction, Summer 2013

Autumn is officially here, but let’s take one last look at the books of summer, shall we?

My usual reading agenda of popular fiction consists of regency and contemporary romance and mystery/thrillers. I usually toss in a book or two that is classified as “women’s fiction.” Typically, while there may be elements of romance involved, the focus is on the personal transformation of the main female character and how she responds to the trials and tribulations of life. Publishers target the marketing of these stories to women readers. Some of these tales are funny while others take a more serious look at problems and relationships. This summer, marriage at its various stages formed the common theme of all of these books.

Andrews, Mary Kay. Ladies’ Night.

ladiesWhen lifestyle blogger Grace Stanton discovers her husband in a compromising position with her personal assistant, she drives his cherished sports car into their pool. The divorce judge declares she must attend expensive anger management sessions. There, Grace meets other women and a man in similar straits. Their post-therapy cocktails reveal they have much in common, including a need for friends, suspicion of the methods of the wacky therapist assigned to them, and distrust of the no-nonsense judge who was put them all in this odd, court-mandated situation. Andrews’ stories always have a light touch, and her characters are just like someone you know.

Cook, Claire. Time Flies.

When Melanie’s husband of many years hooks up with a younger woman, she becomes more and more reclusive. Her grown boys keep fliesin touch, but are focused on their own lives. Melanie has a paralyzing fear of driving on highways. She’d rather dance with a mop than face dating after all the years of marriage. Her welded junk sculptures are cathartic and meaningful to her creative side, but she wallows in her isolation. Then her friend BJ nags her into attending their high school reunion. As they journey down memory lane with an oldies soundtrack, catching up with each other in that way only best friends can after being parted for a long time, Melanie comes to understand that looking forward is better than looking back. Cook’s breezy, personal writing style engages and satisfies as her funny observations about people and life make Melanie’s trip a satisfying experience for the reader as well.

Delinsky, Barbara. Sweet Salt Air.

sweetsaltair Friends from childhood, food blogger Nicole invites Charlotte, a professional travel writer, to visit for the summer and help her prepare a cookbook based on the cuisine of her family’s Maine island summer retreat. As the weeks pass, and Nicole’s surgeon husband faces a medical crisis of his own, the friends reconnect, share and uncover secrets that can pull them back as close as they once were…or drive them forever apart. Delinsky never fails to provide a thoughtful look at life’s problems and the choices we make.

Hilderbrand, Elin. Beautiful Day.

Could a Nantucket wedding be anything less than perfect? Following the wedding planning advice left behind by her deceased motherbeautiful in a “Notebook,” Jenna, the bride, and her groom’s families gather for a dream wedding. However, their complex, intertwined, and often dysfunctional interactions make for a funny, sad, satisfying read, even if you need a spreadsheet to keep track of all the family members.

Kinsella, Sophie. Wedding Night.

weddingHa! Told from the alternating points of view of two British sisters, this comedy of errors almost meets the high expectations for laugh-aloud humor of other Kinsella stories. Disappointed when her long-time beau presents vacation tickets instead of an engagement ring, frustrated Lottie drops him and runs directly into a whirlwind relationship with an old boyfriend, Ben. Within days the couple hie off to Greece to get married! Lottie’s practical older sister, Fliss–recently and bitterly divorced–feels she must step in to thwart Lottie’s impulsive rebound wedding. Hilarity ensues.

Porter, Jane. The Good Daughter (A Brennan Sisters novel).

Life is becoming complicated for Kit Brennan. She’s pushing 40, single, teaches school, and is a middle sister among four, all of whom daughterare coping with the reality of their mother being in the last stages of cancer. Kit is fresh from a long-term relationship with a man who just would not get married. She has a student facing dangerous family issues at home, a new house, a loudly ticking biological clock, and she’s just met a new guy who could be “the one”…except that he doesn’t quite meet her family’s high expectations to be a suitable match for the “good” daughter of the family.

Wiggs, Susan. Apple Orchard.

apple Who knew that there are apple orchards in Sonoma wine country? Not antiques expert Tess Delaney, who also discovers the family she never knew she had there. A workaholic, totally focused on her career, Tess has the shock of her life when an attorney appears out of the blue to tell her she may soon inherit a business she knows nothing about–growing apples. As she begins to unravel her own life story, Tess learns about the perils and sufferings of WWII on resistance fighters, and the impact of that experience as they began life afresh in America. Why did her parents separate? Why didn’t she know she had a half-sister? Wiggs can spin a family tale like few others–her Lakeshore Chronicles series is top-notch. Check them out too!

Weisberger, Lauren. Revenge Wears Prada.

Ten years have passed since Andrea Sachs worked for demanding editor Miranda Priestly at Runway magazine. Andrea and formerrevenge enemy/colleague Emily become reacquainted and start their own successful bridal magazine, The Plunge. After a few years, its commercial popularity has drawn the attention of Miranda’s magazine publisher. So, the partners face a dilemma: should they sell out for big bucks and be affiliated with Miranda’s controlling editorial influence, or remain their own women? This conflict has the potential of splitting up the partners, and what impact will coping with marriage,  in-laws, babies, and lost friendships have on this weighty decision for Andy? This is a satisfying sequel to the popular novel The Devil Wears Prada.


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The Love Connection

Romance readers love series books. Favorite characters featured in one story will play supporting characters in the other tales. So, like life, the initial love affair continues on.

Summer is a good time for reading romance series. You can read them all in a row – a most satisfying venture!- or you can begin a series and pace them over a designated period without losing hold of the thread of the ongoing relationships. Many romance series are written as trilogies and published in quick sequence, but others continue on, year after year, like a healthy rose bush producing beautiful blossoms season after season.

Grandma Is Cutting Flowers And Red Roses In Garden Stock Image

After Lady Agatha tended her roses, she would visit the local library for more series romances...and a glimpse of Giles, the handsome librarian.

Whether historical (like the regency genre set from 1790 – 1820 when the Prince Regent of England, George IV, ruled as proxy to his father during the “madness” of George III), or contemporary, romances ever-satisfy by providing that necessary happy ending.

Historical and Regency Romances:

Stephanie Laurens’s Cynster novels: The devilishly handsome sons and other relations of Sebastian Cynster, the Duke of St. Ives and their fair ladies are chronicled over fifteen steamy Regency novels. Check out the latest, Temptation and Surrender, for a treasure hunt and an unexpected love affair in a rundown tavern.

Eloisa James’s Desperate Duchesses sextet: it’s four stories down, and two to go!  When the Duke Returns, Duchess By Night, An Affair Before Christmas, Desperate DuchessesThis Duchess of Mine (release date May 26, 2009), and A Duke of Her Own (series conclusion, release date July 28, 2009) are rich in the historical detail and quaint societal mores of the Georgian period.  Whether finding love or rekindling an old passion, playing chess or dueling for honor, these Dukes and Duchesses portray English aristocracy and its excesses with droll humor and breathless seduction.

Mary Balogh’s Huxtable series:  These Regency period stories chronicle the romances of three sisters, a brother and second cousin Constantine -who may or may not be a despicable rake and a cad. The sisters’ stories, all 2009 paperback publications are: At Last Comes Love (Margaret’s story),  First Comes Marriage (Vanessa’s story), Then Comes Seduction (Katherine’s story), and Seducing an Angel (Stephen’s story).

These will be followed next year with an as-yet-untitled tale of enigmatic cousin Constantine. Balogh has said she writes connected books because “…often three books are not enough. Four are better, but why not get greedy and go for five?”

Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick’s Arcane Society novels:  Bridging the gap between the present and the past, Krentz writes contemporary romances and her alter ego Quick provides historical love stories, both with a paranormal twist. 21st Century and late Victorian era detectives from the Jones and Jones Psychic Investigation Agency use a wide variety of unique psychic gifts to solve intriguing mysteries often related to the quest of members of the centuries-old Arcane Society to uncover the secret paranormal research of the society founder alchemist Sylvester Jones in the 1600s. The series begins with Second Sight, followed by White Lies, Sizzle and Burn, The Third Circle, Running Hot, and The Perfect Poison.

Contemporary Romance

Lisa Kleypas’s “Travis” trilogy:  Kleypas, a great Regency writer, has recently published a contemporary series. Wealthy Texas mogul Churchill Travis’s children, Gage, Haven and Jack are each featured in complex, bigger than life sagas: Sugar Daddy, Blue-Eyed Devil, and Smooth Talking Stranger.

Susan Wiggs’s Lakeshore Chronicle:  Following several generations of the Bellamy family and friends in the rural New York resort town Avalon, these intriguing tales focus on the good and bad decisions people make and how those choices can impact the next generation. Start with the first story and follow this series in order: Summer at Willow Lake, Dockside, The Winter Lodge, Snowfall at Willow Lake, and the recently published Fireside.

Robyn Carr’s satisfying Virgin River Series is set in the redwood forests of northern California. A group of buddies from the U. S.  Marines who have served in the Middle East have settled there to start their civilian lives and seek contentment in love and family. Each story stands strongly alone but, read together, they paint a portrait of a community of friends. Titles include: Virgin River, Shelter Mountain, Whispering Rock, A Virgin River Christmas, Second Chance Pass, Temptation Ridge, and Paradise Valley.

Linda Lael Miller’s Mojo Series:  Can former biker bar waitress Mojo Sheepshanks parlay her special talents for winning at Vegas and seeing dead people into a successful new career as a private investigator in Cave Creek, Arizona? Miller’s other series have focused on settling the west and contemporary ranch life, but this quirky contemporary series with a paranormal element is sure to amuse readers and frustrate hunky homicide cop Tucker Darrogh. Check out Deadly Gamble and Deadly Deceptions.

These should be more than enough to get you started, but the list of quality series romances, both historical and contemporary, goes on and on. For more suggestions, ask a librarian!



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