The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel

9781982112295_7b330Review originally appeared in Library Journal, July 2019.

Alternating between the vineyards of war-torn 1940s France and present day, the lives of Ines and Michel, newlywed owners of the famed champagne house, Maison Chauveau, and the head winemaker’s Jewish wife, Celine Laurent, are forever altered. As Germans are pillaging homes and sending Jews to prison camps, a frightened Celine draws nearer to Michel for protection, thereby pushing Ines into the arms of another and setting off a chain of dangerous betrayal. The labyrinths of wine cellars beneath Chauveau conceal not only champagne from the Germans, but resistance weapons, Jewish refugees, and forbidden love affairs. Presently, Liv, 41, unemployed and newly divorced after 12 years and many unsuccessful attempts at pregnancy, abruptly departs for Paris with her 99-year old Grandmother Edith, a loving woman, both stylish and eccentric. Unsure of Edith’s motives, Liv questions Edith’s connection to Chauveau and Reims. Readers learn Edith’s painful secrets, and will appreciate the importance of family legacy and the passionate venture of champagne making. Unfolding in multiple viewpoints, the writing is atmospheric and rich, showcasing heavily researched topics of champagne making and French resistance efforts. VERDICT: Harmel’s touching story of love and loss in World War II France will appeal to fans of Pam Jenoff and Kate Quinn.

Regretting You by Colleen Hoover

Regretting You

Librarian Laura’s Review

Having read all of Colleen Hoover’s books and knowing how amazing she is, I was overjoyed to see she had another book coming out this December. I had no idea that this book would surpass all her others for me, putting it at #1 in my CoHo lineup. If you don’t read any of her others (and I guess we can still be friends if this happens) read this one! This is the one I want you to remember – it’s just so well written and so heart wrenching. She ripped my heart out over and over…but in a good way!

First off, let me mention, that compared to the other CoHo books, the romance in this book is very tame (no steam!). So if that was holding you back from reading one of her amazing books, read this one! The story has the typical angst and romance, but it’s just a more tamed down version. It still gave me goosebumps and tears, so I’m not knocking it in any way!

Talk about an impossible situation, 34 year old Morgan is babysitting her 2 month old nephew, Elijah, for her younger sister and best friend, Jenny, on Jenny’s first day back to work at the hospital where Morgan’s husband of 16 years, Chris also works. She gets a call to come to the hospital because Chris has been in an accident. She arrives to find Jonah, Jenny’s fiance and father of her nephew also waiting for news. They soon learn that Chris and Jenny were together and both in an accident, and that neither survived. In an instant, Morgan’s husband and best friend are gone – her entire support system vanishing in a moment. Now, imagine you were Morgan for a moment – imagine the gamut of feelings you would feel when you then discover that Chris and Jenny were having an affair (for who knows how many years of your marriage) and keeping it secret right under your nose for years! How can Morgan begin to pick up the pieces of her shattered heart while caught in a whirlwind of anger, shock, disbelief, loss, betrayal, and grief. Though she never felt goosebumps or butterflies and married Chris when she found out she was pregnant at age 17, she did love her husband. He was the kind of guy everyone loved. How will she keep the hurt from her daughter, Clara, who thought her father hung the moon? She can’t tell Clara, because Chris was an amazing father to her. How can she ruin that for her own daughter? Morgan and Clara’s relationship was already a bit rocky before the accident, and now the foundation has shifted, causing an epic battle of the wills.

And then there’s Jonah…Morgan is still unhappy with him for leaving town after high school without a word or a visit since. She and Jonah were always able to communicate without words, and she felt a special connection to him back then, even though Jonah was dating her sister Jenny and Morgan was pregnant with Jonah’s best friend Chris’s baby. So, of course, Morgan stifled her feelings and went on with her life, putting all her energy into raising Clara and keeping a happy household, while her dreams of going to college slowly faded into the distance. But, Jonah, being the upstanding man she knew he would become, has come back home to raise Elijah and marry Jenny. Now, Jonah is left alone with a 2 month old baby and some of the same crippling feelings of anger, betrayal and grief as Morgan. Can you see the writing on the wall, my friends? Only, Morgan is strong willed and selfless. She is determined to keep her feelings for Jonah bottled up, taking the blame from her daughter in order to keep her from knowing the painful truth about her father and Jenny, who Clara was closer to than her own mother. Morgan will have a tough time, however, with the ever-present, ridiculously handsome, attentive and loving Jonah back in her daily life. 

There’s also a parallel story going on with Clara and her love interest, Miller. Her father was against her dating Miller, but Jonah “Uncle Teacher” is both she and Miller’s history teacher, and he assures Morgan that Miller is in fact one of the good ones. Clara and Miller’s story feels like a wonderful YA book that is interspersed with Morgan and Jonah’s story and I loved them both so much! Clara and Miller’s story has humor, awkward dating moments, setbacks and so much love.

I will forever associate watermelon jolly ranchers and the color orange with these wonderful characters you have created, Colleen. You are everything that I aspire to be as an author someday. And, pretty please, keep ’em coming!

Thank you to Montlake Romance for the advanced reader’s copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Q&A with Author Colleen Hoover

You are ‘label-less’ in the fact that you write in several genres. Readers never know what to expect next. If someone asks, how do you label yourself?

When I self-published my first novel I had no idea what genre to put it in. I thought I had written a drama but it turns to that I had written a romance. I’ve learned a lot since then, but I still don’t put a lot of weight in genre when I write. When your best friend is begging you to read a book, it’s not going to matter what genre it is when someone you trust is passionate about the story.

To keep all of your stories and characters straight, you must be very organized.

I’m the most disorganized person you will ever meet! I have no schedule. I can’t wake up before nine in the morning. I probably don’t go to bed until like three in the morning. I usually work about 16 hours a day.

What happens if you get blocked when you are writing?

If I get stuck writing, I go for a drive and play music. Music really helps me plot. I love The Avett Brothers, X Ambassadors, Airborne Toxic Event…I could go on and on.

What can you tell readers about your latest release Regretting You?

I would spoil it if I told you about it! Most of my books are like that. I can’t say what they are about or it spoils it. But I can say that Regretting You is told from a dual point-of-view centered on the inner lives of both a teen and adult protagonist.

Sounds like lots of different types of readers will be interested!

Absolutely. I wanted to write a book that bridged the gap between young adult and contemporary romance so that mothers can read with their daughters. I think it’s exciting to see people sharing reading experiences.***

Excerpt: Regretting You by Colleen Hoover

Despite knowing I just pissed my mother off by being half an hour late for curfew, I still can’t stop smiling. That kiss with Miller was worth it. I bring my fingers to my lips.

I’ve never been kissed like that. The guys I’ve kissed in the past all seemed like they were in a hurry, wanting to shove their tongue in my mouth before I changed my mind.

Miller was the opposite. He was so patient, yet in a chaotic way. It was like he’d thought about kissing me so often that he wanted to savor every second of it.

I don’t know that I’ll ever not smile when I think about that kiss. It kind of makes me nervous for school tomorrow. I’m not sure where that kiss leaves us, but it felt like it was a statement. I just don’t know what exactly that statement was.

My phone buzzes in my back pocket. I roll over and pull it out, then fall onto my back again. It’s a text from Miller.

Miller: I don’t know about you, but sometimes when something significant happens, I get home and think of all the things I wish had gone differently. All the things I wish I would have said.

Me: Is that happening now?

Miller: Yes. I don’t feel like I was entirely forthcoming with you.

I roll onto my stomach, hoping to ease the nausea that just passed through me. It was going so well…

Me: What weren’t you honest about?

Miller: I was honest. Just not entirely forthcoming, if there’s a difference. I left a lot out of our conversation that I want you to know.

Me: Like what?

Miller: Like why I’ve liked you for as long as I have.

I wait for him to elaborate, but he doesn’t. I’m staring at my phone with so much intensity that I almost throw it when it rings unexpectedly. It’s Miller’s phone number. I hesitate before answering it, because I rarely ever talk on the phone. I much prefer texting. But he knows I have my phone in my hand, so I can’t very well send it to voice mail. I swipe my finger across the screen and then roll off the bed and head to my bathroom for more privacy. I sit on the edge of the tub.

“Hello?”

“Hey,” he says.

“Sorry. It’s too much to text.”

“You’re kind of freaking me out with all the innuendos.”

“Oh. No, it’s all good. Don’t be nervous. I just should have said this to you in person.” Miller inhales a deep breath, and then on the exhale, he starts talking. “When I was fifteen, I watched you in a school play. You had the lead role, and at one point, you performed a monologue that went on for like two whole minutes. You were so convincing and you looked so heartbroken I was ready to walk onto the stage and hug you. When the play was finally over and the actors came back out onto the stage, you were smiling and laughing, and there wasn’t a trace of that character left in you. I was in awe, Clara. You have this charisma about you that I don’t think you’re aware of, but it’s captivating. I was a scrawny kid as a sophomore, and even though I’m a year older than you, I hadn’t quite filled out yet, and I had acne and felt inferior to you, so I never worked up the courage to approach you. Another year went by, and I continued to admire you from afar. Like that time you ran for school treasurer and tripped walking off the stage, but you jumped up and did this weird little kick and threw your arms up in the air and made the entire audience laugh. Or that time Mark Avery popped your bra strap in the hallway, and you were so sick of him doing it that you followed him to his classroom, reached inside your hoodie, and took off your bra and then threw it at him. I remember you yelling something like, ‘If you want to touch a bra so damn bad, just keep it, you perv!’ Then you stormed out. It was epic. Everything you do is epic, Clara. Which is why I never had the courage to approach you, because an epic girl needs an equally epic guy, and I guess I’ve just never felt epic enough for you. I’ve said epic so many times in the last fifteen seconds—I’m so sorry.”

He’s out of breath when he finally stops talking.

I’m smiling so hard my cheeks ache. I had no idea he felt this way. No idea.

I wait a few seconds to make sure he’s done; then I finally respond. I’m pretty sure he can hear from my voice alone that I’m smiling. “First of all, it’s hard to believe you were ever insecure. And second, I think you’re pretty epic, too, Miller. Always have. Even when you were scrawny and had acne.”

He laughs a little. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

I can hear him sigh. “Glad I got that off my chest, then. See you at school tomorrow?”

“Good night.”

We end the call, and I don’t know how long I sit and stare at my phone.

***

About the Book

Title: Regretting You
Author: Colleen Hoover
Release Date: December 10, 2019
Publisher: Montlake

Summary

Morgan Grant and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike.

Morgan is determined to prevent her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. By getting pregnant and married way too young, Morgan put her own dreams on hold. Clara doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her predictable mother doesn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body.

With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara.

While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see. With each passing day, new secrets, resentment, and misunderstandings make mother and daughter fall further apart. So far apart, it might be impossible for them to ever fall back together.

Author Biography

Colleen Hoover is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of several novels, including the bestselling women’s fiction novel It Ends with Us and the bestselling psychological thriller Verity. She has won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance three years in a row—for Confess (2015), It Ends with Us (2016), and Without Merit (2017). Confess was adapted into a seven-episode online series. In 2015, Hoover and her family founded the Bookworm Box, a bookstore and monthly subscription service that offers signed novels donated by authors. All profits go to various charities each month to help those in need. Hoover lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys. Visit http://www.colleenhoover.com.

Social Media Links

Website: http://www.colleenhoover.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorColleenHoover/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/colleenhoover
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5430144.Colleen_Hoover

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Blackberry & Wild Rose by Sonia Velton

9781538507759_1faedOriginally published in Library Journal, May 2019.

Velton’s intriguing historical fiction spotlights both the successes and hardships of Huguenot silk weavers in 18th century England. Young and alone, Sara Kemp, arrives in Spitalfields, London. She is soon swept away to the Wig and Feathers tavern by a forceful brothel proprietress, thus beginning a dangerous, dismal life of prostitution. Esther Thorel, the wife of one of the finest master silk weavers, offers Sara a position as lady’s maid and a fresh start away from her unsavory past. Esther, a painter, longs to design silks, but her husband Elias dismisses her talent while resenting her barrenness and inability to provide a son to teach his trade. Enter Bisby Lambert, an exquisitely talented journeyman commissioned by Elias to weave his masterpiece on the Thorel’s attic loom. As the weaving begins to take shape, the tumultuous Thorel household, full of secrets and longing, begins to unravel.  The story unfolds in alternating points of view between Sara and Esther, women of vastly different life circumstances who are both harboring secrets. VERDICT: Fans of Tracy Chevalier and Jennifer Chiaverini will be captivated by Blackberry & Wild Rose for its atmospheric, historically-rich drama and forbidden romance.

 

Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

9780316435512_a7bb1Winter in Paradise will be released on October 9, 2018.

The start to her new Winter series, Winter in Paradise is a not a Holiday novel (like the Winter Street series), but it takes place in January, hence the “Winter” series. Most of the novel takes place on the island of St. John in the Virgin Islands, a much loved vacation and writing destination of the author, Elin Hilderbrand. All of her previous books take place on her beloved home of Nantucket. Readers will love the rich setting details Elin writes into each scene, allowing them to feel like they are experiencing St. John, right along with the characters.

Irene Steele lives in an immaculately restored Victorian home in Iowa City, Iowa. She has been happily married to Russ, a business man who travels frequently, for many years. They have raised two sons, Baker and Cash, who are both adults making their own decisions, both good and bad. Baker is a stay-at-home dad to his 4-year old son Floyd. He dabbles in day trading while his wife Anna, a cardiac surgeon, mostly supports the household. The younger son, Cash, lives in Colorado where he manages two outdoor supply stores (handed to him by his father), both of which he has run into bankruptcy. The only thing he has left to his name is his beautiful golden retriever, Winnie.

Irene is feeling blue, spending New Year’s Eve alone with Russ away on yet another business trip. She has surrounded herself with luxury in her spare-no-expense home, but with no one else to share it with, she is sort of lost. Out of the blue she receives a phone call from the secretary of Russ’s mysterious business partner, Todd, whom Irene has never even met. She is told that Russ was involved in a helicopter crash in the Virgin Islands and that Russ, the pilot, and a local woman were all killed. Reeling from this news, she is then thrown for another loop when she is told that Russ has concerns there and owns a property. Irene decides that she must go to the Virgin Islands to tie up any loose ends with the property and figure out why Russ had a home thousands of miles away that she knew nothing about. What and who she uncovers in the Virgin Islands will change her life forever.

I won’t give away any more plot, because you’ll have to read it yourselves. Irene and Russ aren’t the only ones with drama in this family. Just wait until you read about Baker and Cash – like father, like son, as they say. Written in alternating points of view between five characters, the story unfolds over the course of just a few days. This book was fabulous. I couldn’t put it down! The story line has just the right amount of romance, betrayal, suspense, humor, and rich details of the Virgin Islands.  And, of course, it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. I can’t wait for the next installment to come out (do I have to wait another whole year!?).

The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff

9780778320586_8acb2

Emma, a young Jewish woman living in Poland during WWII, is forced to assume a new identity as a Polish girl named Anna. A newlywed, Emma’s husband Jacob is in the Jewish resistance group and he is forced to go into hiding just a short time after they are married.  Emma and her parents are taken into the Jewish ghetto to live in cramped quarters with no comforts of home. Luckily, Emma is secretly taken out of the ghetto in the middle of the night by one of the resistance group members. She assumes the role of a Polish gentile named Anna, a niece to a wealthy Catholic woman named Krysia, who is Jacob’s aunt. Krysia is also involved with the resistance but Emma is much safer in her care than in the Jewish ghetto. Fearing for Jacob’s safety, the uncertain future of her aging parents in the ghetto, as well as her own future, Emma must press on, living a life of lies and secrets in order to remain safe from the Nazis.

To complicate matters further, Emma is introduced at Krysia’s dinner party to Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking, powerful, and extremely handsome Nazi official. Emma knows she should loathe the Kommandant, but he is sweet, caring, and very much interested in her. “Anna” goes to work for the Kommandant, which allows her to secretly assist the resistance group in gathering information from the Nazis. She never dreamed she would be so comfortable in the presence of a Nazi official, much less spend all her time with him and become his “girl.” As the war intensifies in and around Krakow, Anna gets even closer to the Kommandant in order to carry out a most dangerous mission for the resistance group. Torn between her vows to Jacob and her feelings for Richwalder, Emma must decide which path to take.

When the secrets of her true identity threaten to come out, Emma’s life will never be the same again. The ending will have readers reeling. I cried for Emma, who lost so  very much, but still had the courage to carry on despite the circumstances.  This is a beautifully written story with a fast-paced story-line which readers will enjoy from beginning to end.

Thank you to Harper Collins MIRA for an advanced digital review copy.