#BookReview: You Were There Too by Colleen Oakley

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Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Date of Release: January 7, 2020

Summary:

Mia Graydon’s life looks picket-fence perfect; she has the house, her loving husband, and dreams of starting a family. But she has other dreams too — unexplained, recurring ones starring the same man. Still, she doesn’t think much of them, until a relocation to small-town Pennsylvania brings her face to face with the stranger she has been dreaming about for years. And this man harbors a jaw-dropping secret of his own—he’s been dreaming of her too.

Determined to understand, Mia and this not-so-stranger search for answers. But when diving into their pasts begins to unravel her life in the present, Mia emerges with a single question—what if?

Acclaimed author Colleen Oakley delivers a heart-wrenching and unforgettable love story about a woman who must choose between the man she loves and the man fate has chosen for her in a novel that reminds us that the best life is one led by the heart.

Review:

Colleen Oakley totally shocked me with the last scenes of “You Were There Too”! This story was poignant, intense and beautiful! With a completely unexpected ending! I had to remind myself to breathe!

The story of Mia Graydon and the boy, Oliver she was dreaming of grew extremely intense after they met in person. It was quite the ride!  I was so invested in Mia’s choices. It was as if each decision reflected upon my life somehow.

Colleen Oakley really made me think long and hard about my Dreams and my thoughts on destiny and listening to those little hints about fate that I sometimes ignore as I walk through my life.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

4 Stars.

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Author Bio:


Colleen Oakley’s novels have been named best books by People Magazine, Us Weekly, Library Journal, and Real Simple, and both were long-listed for the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize. Formerly the editor-in-chief of Women’s Health & Fitness and senior editor of Marie Claire, her articles and essays have been featured in The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Women’s Health, Redbook, Parade, Marie Claire and Martha Stewart Weddings. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, four kids and the world’s biggest lapdog, Bailey. Her fourth novel THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLAND will be published by Berkley/Penguin in summer 2021.

#BookReview: This Won’t End Well by Camille Pagán

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Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Date of Release: February 26, 2020

Summary:

An ingeniously witty novel about the risks—and rewards—of opening your life to new people by Amazon Charts bestselling author Camille Pagán.

No new people: that’s Annie Mercer’s vow. It’s bad enough that her boss sabotaged her chemistry career and her best friend tried to cure her with crystals. But after her fiancé, Jon, asks for space while he’s gallivanting around Paris, Annie decides she needs space too—from everyone.

Yet when Harper moves in next door, Annie can’t help but train a watchful eye on the glamorous but fragile young woman. And if keeping Harper safe requires teaming up with Mo, a maddeningly optimistic amateur detective, who is she to mind her own business?

Soon Annie has let not one but two new people into her life. Then Jon reappears—and he wants her to join him in France. She’s pretty sure letting anyone get close won’t end well. So she must decide: Is another shot at happiness worth the risk?

Review:

Camille Pagán always delivers novels where her characters crack wide open, and we get to watch as they try to heal their souls! She writes with truth and honesty about their trials and tribulations. But, we do find ourselves laughing out loud and smiling as she has them walk their path!

I adored Annie Mercer! I was rooting for her! When I closed “This Won’t End Well”, I felt very close to Annie!

This novel was written using a rather invigorating approach, that I found to be genius! It was so original! She had her protagonist Annie Mercer share texts, emails and journal entries as she told us her story!! It felt more intimate! So cool!

The very essence of this story is hope and never giving up on yourself.

Truly unforgettable!

5 Stars.

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Author Bio:

I’m the author of six novels, including This Won’t End Well, I’m Fine and Neither Are You, and the #1 Kindle bestseller Life and Other Near-Death Experiences, which was recently optioned for film. My novels have been translated into nearly two dozen languages.

I’ve written for Fast Company, Forbes, The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Parade, Real Simple, Time, and many others.

When I’m not at my computer, you’ll find me with my nose in a book, running after my two kids, or planning my next trip (most likely to Puerto Rico, where my husband was born and raised). Visit me at www.camillepagan.com.

Live Interview:

#BookReview: Husband Material by Emily Belden

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Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Date of Release: December 30, 2019

Summary:

Sometimes love is unpredictable…

Twenty-nine-year-old Charlotte Rosen has a secret: she’s a widow. Ever since the fateful day that leveled her world, Charlotte has worked hard to move forward. Great job at a hot social media analytics company? Check. Roommate with no knowledge of her past? Check. Adorable dog? Check. All the while, she’s faithfully data-crunched her way through life, calculating the probability of risk—so she can avoid it.

Yet Charlotte’s algorithms could never have predicted that her late husband’s ashes would land squarely on her doorstep five years later. Stunned but determined, Charlotte sets out to find meaning in this sudden twist of fate, even if that includes facing her perfectly coiffed, and perfectly difficult, ex-mother-in-law—and her husband’s best friend, who seems to become a fixture at her side whether she likes it or not.

But soon a shocking secret surfaces, forcing Charlotte to answer questions she never knew to ask and to consider the possibility of forgiveness. And when a chance at new love arises, she’ll have to decide once and for all whether to follow the numbers or trust her heart.

Review:

Spunky! Lovable! Uplifting! Super-Cute Read from Emily Belden!

“Husband Material” was so hilarious and light hearted considering Charlotte is a widow with a pretty heavy story to share. She is hiding this reality from everyone until her husbands urn shows up on her doorstep, being delivered 5 years after his death.

This story wraps up her past, present and possibly future in a Beach Bag Worthy Romantic Comedy! I loved her! If there is a fictional character I’d want to be friends with, Charlotte is definitely that girl!

Anytime is a great time to get to know Charlotte Rosen!

4 Stars.

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Author Bio:

Emily Belden is a food journalist, social media marketer, and storyteller. She is the author of the novels Hot Mess and Husband Material, and of Eightysixed: A Memoir about Unforgettable Men, Mistakes, and Meals. After she tiled her bedroom floor in over 60,000 pennies – all heads up for good luck – she was a guest on The Today Show and her story was covered by media outlets across the country. A Chicago native, Emily lives with her rescue dog in the West Loop, conveniently close to many of the city’s best restaurants.

Live Interview:

 

#BookReview: Time With Norma Jeane: A Time Travel Novel by Elyse Douglas

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Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Date of Release: January 13, 2020

Summary:

A young woman is hurled back to 1954 to spend a week with Marilyn Monroe.

Together, they embark on their own personal journeys — one a coming-of-age — the other, Marilyn’s journey, a struggle to reconcile with her past and perhaps change the future.

Review:

I hear “Norma Jean” & “Novel” together and I often stop in my tracks. I love both fiercely! So, I had to read this novel,

Elyse Douglas brings Marilyn Monroe to life with breathtaking and genuine beauty inside and out in “Time with Norma Jeane”. Elyse captured her very essence! It was lovely.

Darla stumbled into an almost surreal adventure with Marilyn Monroe after her Mother died. Literally! Stumbling from 1998 to 1954, right in to the helping hands of Marilyn! Such an odd sensation! Fate? Time Travel?

No matter the reason, Darla was going to spend time with Marlyn! Along the way both of their lives might change…

This Time Travel novel is told so brilliantly, there is such an ease….I was in awe! Truly taken away, I could not put this story down until the very end!  I felt like I’d gone back to 1954!

I fell in love with Darla, and grew more inspired by Ms, Norma Jean!

It’s amazing what a pen can do when put to paper!

It’s super talented whimsy when Elyse Douglas holds that pen! It’s beautiful!

You won’t want the story to end! I didn’t.

5 Stars.

About the Author: (Too interesting not to share)995D1576-F33E-4A34-B6E6-E8E4C954567F


Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the husband and wife writing team of Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington. Elyse began writing poems and short stories at an early age and graduated with a Master’s Degree in English Literature. Douglas grew up in a family of musicians, astrologers, and avid readers. Some of Elyse Douglas’ novels include: “Time Change,” The Summer Letters,” “Daring Summer,” The Christmas Eve Letter” and “The Christmas Town.” They reside in New York City.

 

#BookReview: The Weight of the Heart by Susana Aikin (Goodreads Author)

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Reviewer: Serena Soape

Date of Release: March 26, 2020

Summary:

Set in contemporary Spain, Susana Aikin’s latest novel is a colorful, beautifully written examination of memory, romance, and the intricacies of family duty.

On a sweltering August day in Madrid, Anna, Julia, and Marion return to their childhood home. The once grand mansion, furnished with exotic objects and art that reflected the cultures of their English father and Spanish mother, once bustled with visitors. But since their father’s death, all three sisters have been reluctant to go back, still feeling the weight of his domineering influence. Julia believes that before the house can sell, it needs to be cleared of negative energy, and she has planned a limpieza, or cleaning ritual.

Marion, the oldest, fears what the ceremony might unleash. Anna, the youngest and most capable and ambitious of the trio, is skeptical of the Cuban santera hired by Julia. Still, she is wary of antagonizing her siblings, or of stirring up old resentment.

But as the ceremony progresses, guilt and recrimination become impossible to ignore. And if there’s a chance of bringing their house and their lives out of the shadows, it rests in the sisterhood, strength, and indomitable love that remains when the ghosts of the past surrender at last.

Review:

An intriguing novel about complicated family relationships and how they dealt with so many unexpected situations is what Susana Ailkin has given us. She provides many situations that are thought-provoking to the point you want to hug the sisters.

The characters were well developed and the three sisters Anna, Julia and Marion were well developed. Delia and Constantine were very memorable with their “limpieza” of the house.

“The Weight of The Heart” is an emotional and intense story with many complex situations throughout that kept me turning the pages.

 

I finished this tale of sisterhood in one evening.

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for fair and honest review.

4 Stars.

#BookTour & #BookReview: The Liar and other stories by Alison Ragsdale

FEB91DEB-8D48-4E1E-87D8-590C59BDBAFAIt is a great pleasure to be one of Today’s Stops on Kate Rock Book Tours for “The Liar and other stories” by Alison Ragsdale! She is one of my most favorite authors! Thank you Kate Rock and Alison Ragsdale for this opportunity!

Date of Release: March 29, 2020

4E88F245-4B4A-44C0-A490-9CC195A299EFOrder Here: https://www.amazon.com/Liar-Other-Stories-Alison-Ragsdale/dp/173303773X

Website: http://www.alisonragsdale.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alisonragsdalewrites/

38A7F526-B44C-49F4-B5DE-615D91C37E93Summary: 

An accomplished liar who finally faces the truth about herself. A self-conscious lawyer who must quell her secret crush on her best friend’s fiancé. A stray dog that heals the hurt of his rescuers. A food critic who makes a startling discovery while reviewing a stylish bistro. A young widow who finds hope in the discarded wedding veil that floats out of a truck, and lands at her feet. With these, and other tales of love, regret and hope, The Liar and other stories will make you laugh, cry, and marvel at the strength of the human spirit.

Review by Annie Horsky McDonnell:

Life and all of its remarkable facets are captured by Alison Ragsdale in “The Liar and other stories”. There is so much hope and warmth pouring out onto these pages!

Each story has it’s very own heartbeat!

Ultimately, You will be moved!

Don’t miss this glimpse into Alison Ragsdale’s thoughts!

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

Review by Serena Soape:

Alison Ragsdale has given us a charming yet serious series of short stories with “The Liar and other stories”.

All of the stories in the collection are believable and definitely relatable. I love how the endings told us enough but also allowed me to have my own “beyond the ending”

My favorite stories were “Homeless”, “The Guardian” and “Whisper”.

I absolutely recommend this, as well as, Alison’s other books!! You will not be disappointed !!!

I received a copy of this book by the author in exchange for fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

Thank you Alison Ragsdale for another amazing book!

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#BookReview: The Ruby of the Sea by Peggy Lampman

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Book Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Date of Release: February 5, 2020

Summary:

From the award-winning author of The Promise Kitchen comes a riveting new story of twin sisters caught in their mother’s crosshairs on what to do about their disturbed younger sister.

Lush with devastating secrets, lies, romance and psychological drama…”You tell me about a family without a certain amount of dysfunction, and I’ll tell you that family is lying.”

After aimlessly traveling the country for fifteen years, Linnea Chandler returns to her hometown of Key West, Florida keeping the genesis of a life-altering phobia to herself—not a good idea, as she comes to find out. The 19th Century lighthouse that she, her parents and two sisters call home also has a troubled past, carrying the frightening myth that eerily mirrors the mystery of her younger sister today. Should Linnea run while she can?

The women must decide to what extremes they are willing to go to protect their secrets. Ignore the brutality behind the retrieval of spoils from a fatal shipwreck in 1857? Defy a 2017 hurricane threatening to pummel their town? And when their world is upended, do the women have the strength to move forward?

Review:

Every once in a while I read a story that hits home for me in a lot of ways! “The Ruby of the Sea” is that story!

Peggy Lampman wrote a remarkable novel full of soul-stirring and poignant moments that touched my heart, bringing every emotion to the surface. I literally felt every sentiment pulling from my soul. My senses were heightened! There was no holding back!

Peggy Lampman wrote about family, and all of its fabrications with an evocative insightfulness. Happiness was almost enchanting! Feral Chickens. History, Magical! A gorgeous 19th century lighthouse. Even each crack was written about beautifully! Mental illness and it’s acceptance. Each word leading to the next; like a poem, a love letter. A perfectly planned execution, like a lyrical dance!

There was a piece of me in each character. Between that and Peggy Lampman’s writing, I was left with a sense of awe and appreciation when I closed the book.

Staring at it’s beautiful cover, knowing the Chandler family had left their mark and I was left better for knowing their story! and, no review I write can express my love for this book and my gratitude!

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

#BlogTour – The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz

82098BEB-CD11-493F-A87F-5A31F92B9155The Grace Kelly Dress : A Novel

Brenda Janowitz

On Sale Date: March 3, 2020

9781525804595, 1525804596

Trade Paperback

$16.99 USD, $22.99 CAD

Fiction / Contemporary Women

336 pages

ABOUT THE BOOK:

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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Brenda Janowitz is the author of five novels, including The Dinner Party and Recipe for a Happy Life. She is the Books Correspondent for PopSugar. Brenda’s work has also appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, Salon, Redbook, and the New York Post. She lives in New York.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Author website: http://www.brendajanowitz.com/

Facebook: @BrendaJanowitz

Twitter: @BrendaJanowitz

Instagram: @brendajanowitzwriter

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/241404.Brenda_Janowitz

BUY LINKS:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Apple Books

Indie Bound

Harlequin Trade Publishing

Books-A-Million

Kobo

Review:

Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Brenda Janowitz took us on a deeply sincere and contemplative journey in her generational sweeping novel “The Grace Kelly Dress”.

It was truly sentimental, touching, and inspirational! I love books that wrap stories of friendship, love and family around a cherished item. This was magnificent! We forget how important our wedding dresses are to us, and what they symbolize. Thank you for this sincere and beautiful reminder.

As I was reading I was so full of nostalgia for my wedding dress…sitting in a box, carefully preserved, as Joan’s was so that it stays in pristine condition; to pass it down to a loved one.

Now I must decide my wedding dresses adventure!! It’s time.

5 Stars.


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.

 

A82A9CA6-5165-4421-9CB0-022F9EAF3156Q&A with Brenda Janowitz:


Q: You write that you’ve always loved wedding dresses. What fascinated you about Grace Kelly’s dress in particular, and how did you come up with the idea for this novel?

A: Ever since I first laid eyes on this iconic garment, I’ve been in love. To me, Grace Kelly’s wedding gown is the ultimate dress. Beautiful, elegant, and refined– what more could any bride want?

 My agent sent me an article from The Today Show about a wedding dress that had been passed down through eleven generations. The moment I heard the story, I knew that I had the idea for my next novel.

 Once I decided to write about a wedding gown, there was only one thing I envisioned: Grace Kelly on her wedding day. So, when it came time to describe what this heirloom dress looked like, I found myself describing Grace Kelly’s gown– the lace sleeves, the cummerbund, the full skirt. I quickly realized that the characters in the book should be as enamored of this design as me, and The Grace Kelly Dress was born!

Q: You alternate between three characters’ stories. Did you focus more on one before turning to the others, or did you write the novel in the order in which it appears?

A: I like to write in a very straightforward manner, and that usually means writing each chapter in order, from beginning to end. So, I approached this book in this same way, at first.

But then, I realized that in order to make each story have the meaningful arc I was looking for, I’d need to focus on one story at a time. So, I broke the book apart into three different documents, and worked on one timeline at a time. This enabled me to fully immerse myself in each protagonist’s life, as well as the time period I was exploring.

Once I’d completed all three timelines, the real work began. I wove the book back together, and that was when the book took its true form, as I made sure that the different timelines all spoke to each other in a meaningful way. It certainly made the book take longer to write, but I think that by working on each timeline separately, I was able to do the individual stories justice.

Q: Tell us a little about your story and the story world you’ve created.

A: The Grace Kelly Dress is the story of three generations of women, and the wedding dress that binds them together. It’s a story about love, friendship, and family, and it’s entirely different from anything I’ve ever written before. I hope that readers will join me on this journey, and come to love these women as I do.

Q: Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?

A: When my agent sent me a clip from The Today Show about a wedding dress that had been passed down through eleven generations of a family, I knew that I had the idea for my next book. It had everything I love to write about in one place– multiple generations, a wedding dress, and lots of room for friction. The image of a wedding gown is one that is so incredibly powerful to me. The way one chooses to dress for her wedding day says so much about that person, and how she wants to present herself to the world.

Q: The book is set in the New York area and in Paris. How important is setting to you in your writing?

 A: Setting is so incredibly important! Where a character lives and how she interacts with her environment says so much about who she is. Rocky, our protagonist in 2020, lives and works in Brooklyn, and it says as much about who she is as the tattoos she proudly wears all over her body. Joanie, in 1982, lives a sheltered life on Long Island, but when she goes into New York City, she finds a world much larger than the one she was living. And Rose, in 1958, is in Paris, but as a poor orphan, lives a different type of sheltered life, working in a highly regarded atelier during the day, and doing not much else.

Q: What kind of research did you do for this book, and did you learn anything especially surprising?

 A: I’ve never written in a timeline other than the present, so there was a ton of research to be done! I had to research the two different time periods, 1982 and 1958. Even an innocuous detail like the brand of watch that a character is wearing can throw a reader out of the narrative if the author hasn’t gotten it just right.

 The most enjoyable research I did was about Grace Kelly herself, and, of course, her iconic gown. I read Kristina Haugland’s incredible book, Grace Kelly: Icon of Style to Royal Bride, and then had the opportunity to speak with her as well. I loved learning every detail I could about this beloved dress, but by far the most interesting thing I learned was this: Grace Kelly’s gown consisted of four separate parts, each of which needed to be put on separately. What a wonderful secret for a bride to have on her wedding day!

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’ve loved writing about an heirloom item and the family that owns it, so I’m doing it again! I’ll be focusing on another family and another heirloom that has been passed down. Heirlooms are so incredibly important to me– I wear one of my Grandma Dorothy’s rings every day, and I love having a piece of her with me as I go through my day to day.

Q: How did you get the idea for this novel?

A: The idea came to me when my agent sent me a clip from The Today Show about a wedding dress that had been passed down through eleven generations. I couldn’t get over how incredibly special that was, and I immediately started to think about what it would mean for a family to have an item like that. How would each woman change the dress to fit her personality? How would the time she was living in have an effect on those choices? And what if one woman didn’t want the dress?

 Q: Is Grace Kelly one of your favorite actresses? What is your favorite Grace Kelly role?

 A: YES! Grace Kelly, to me, is the ultimate Hollywood story: beautiful, talented, and then she married a prince. I love all of Grace Kelly’s films, but I particularly adore To Catch a Thief. It’s so romantic and flirty, and it’s got Cary Grant.

Q: What is one of the biggest challenges you have in a story like this that spans different times in history?

A: One of the biggest challenges for me, was the massive amount of research. When writing in another time period, I underestimated how carefully every sentence would have to be researched. The characters needed to sound like they lived in the time period I was presenting, and every reference needed to be spot on– from what the characters were wearing, to the types of music they listened to, to the way they styled their hair. Is it any wonder that my current work in progress will take place in the present?

Q: What is the significance of the title: The Grace Kelly Dress?

A:  The Grace Kelly Dress refers to the wedding dress that is handed down through three generations of women. The gown in my book was initially created in 1958, and at that time, the bride wanted the dress that everyone wanted at that time: something that looked just like what Grace Kelly wore when she married Prince Rainier in 1956.

Q: Are any of your characters based on real people you know?

A: They say that your first novel is all about you, that each and every character is you, and I think that was true of my first novel. (First two novels, perhaps!) But this is my sixth novel, so at this point, all of the characters are products of my imagination. That said, everything inspires me, so parts of real life always have their way of making their way into my work. So, I suppose a better way to answer this question would be to say: no, not on purpose.

Q: Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

A: I found Joanie, in 1982, to be the most challenging to write. I first created her character while working on the 2020 timeline, at which point we only know her as Rocky’s mother. It took a lot of thought to figure out who she would be at age 20, and how she would grow into the woman we see in 2020. Additionally, since we meet her mother in the 1958 timeline, it was important that the reader see a connection there, too.

On the first round of edits, I completely trashed the original 1982 storyline and re-wrote it from the ground up. I think that I needed the first draft to truly learn who she was, and how to create her story.

Q: What did you learn when writing the book?

A: I’ve learned so much this time around, but the lesson that most resonated for me was that writing is re-writing. From the first draft of this novel to the second, the book changed dramatically, and I think that the story is ultimately better for it. But when you’re a newer writer, it’s so hard to cut things, and it’s even harder to completely trash a part of the book and start from scratch. But really, editing the book is the thing that makes it better, and ultimately, makes you a better writer.

Q: Were you a young writer, a late bloomer, or something in between?

A: I’ve always loved to write. In fact, it’s the reason I became a lawyer. But I was one of those unhappy lawyers, so for my 30th birthday, my best friend, Shawn, organized a group gift– she got all of our friends together and sent me to my first writing class. It’s the thing that helped me to take my writing more seriously, and the place where I began writing what would become my first novel.

 Q: Do you have a dedicated writing space?

 A: I do have an office in my house, but I’m one of those writers who just gets the work done whenever and wherever she can. In fact, I’m on my laptop right now while my kids are at the kitchen table doing homework!

 Q: Any type of writing ritual you have?

 A: I wish I could say that I have certain rituals and that I have a process for letting the muse in, but the truth is, I’m just a busy working mom, so I write when I can. Sometimes, I’m dictating full chapters on the voice memo app on my phone. Sometimes, I’m jotting notes on the backs of receipts. I say: do whatever works!

Q: What is your favorite genre to read, and why?

A: I love to read, and I love reading all different types of genres. I think it makes you a better writer to be more widely read. That said, I have a soft spot for upmarket commercial fiction. If Reese Witherspoon can make a limited series HBO drama out of it, I’m in!

 Q: What message do you hope readers take away from your story?

 A: The main thing is that I want readers to really enjoy the story and have a great reading experience. As for a takeaway, it’s been really moving to have readers reach out to me to discuss the role that heirloom items have had in their own life. I always tell my kids: it’s people who are important, not things. But I do believe that certain things, like these heirlooms that are passed down, have meaning. They show us where our family has been, and each one has a story connected to it. Stories are powerful, and the stories about where we come from are so incredibly meaningful.

 

 

 

 

#BookReview: You Were There Too by Colleen Oakley

9781984806468_YouWereThere_CV
Reviewer: Serena Soape

Date of Release: January 7, 2020

Summary:

Acclaimed author Colleen Oakley delivers a heart-wrenching and unforgettable love story about a woman who must choose between the man she loves and the man fate has chosen for her in a novel that reminds us that the best life is one led by the heart.

Mia Graydon’s life looks picket-fence perfect; she has the house, her loving husband, and dreams of starting a family. But she has other dreams too — unexplained, recurring ones starring the same man. Still, she doesn’t think much of them, until a relocation to small-town Pennsylvania brings her face to face with the stranger she has been dreaming about for years. And this man harbors a jaw-dropping secret of his own—he’s been dreaming of her too.

Determined to understand, Mia and this not-so-stranger search for answers. But when diving into their pasts begins to unravel her life in the present, Mia emerges with a single question—what if?

 

Review:

Colleen Oakley has given us an emotional and thought-provoking page-turner with “You Were There Too”.

Once I picked this up, I found myself not wanting to do anything but keep reading until I finished.

The characters were faced with many difficult and tough decisions throughout this novel.

The ending was definitely unexpected and wowed me!

I am thrilled that this was selected as our book club read this month. I have found another new author, and I look forward to reading her other books.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for fair and honest review.

4.5 Stars.

 

#BookTour, #BookReview & #Giveaway – Wildland by Rebecca Hodge

E495379A-6C23-43A4-A836-EAD0D2C84F49I’m so honored to be part of Kate Rock Book Tours for “Wildland” by Rebecca Hodge! Such a pleasure and amazing opportunity! Thank you Kate Rock and Rebecca Hodge!

Date of Release: February 11, 2020

75019EE2-2254-4E9E-ADEE-6F9E30445867Rebecca Hodge is giving away an awesome Prize Package (see graphic):  

Here is the link to share:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/52592b2c7/?

Order link: https://amzn.to/34DLPq6

Website: https://www.rebeccahodgefiction.com/

Instagram: @rhodge.fiction

Review:

Everything in “Wildland” by Rebecca Hodge screams “Fervent”!

From the wild fires that began raging in the mountains to the deep, hot, and burning desire for Kat Jamison to determine her life’s next chapter; every moment was so deeply experienced.

As I joined Kat on her path and those of the other characters, I was so immersed I could not let go! I turned the pages with the same sense of urgency I’m sure each character was either trying to escape the Blue Ridge Mountains or rescue them!

Intense, powerful, inspirational!

Wildland left me breathless. Holding my dogs tighter! Appreciating my life!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

Summary:

For fans of Jodi Picoult and Anita Shreve comes an exhilarating debut novel of one woman’s courage in the face of catastrophe.

She’ll do anything to save them.

But what will she do to save herself?

When Kat Jamison retreats to the Blue Ridge Mountains, she’s counting on peace and solitude to help her make a difficult decision. Her breast cancer has returned, but after the death of her husband, her will to fight is dampened. Now she has a choice to make: face yet another round of chemotherapy or surrender gracefully.

Self-reflection quickly proves impossible as her getaway is complicated by a pair of abandoned dogs and two friendly children staying nearby, Lily and Nirav. In no time at all, Kat’s quiet seclusion is invaded by the happy confusion of children and pets.

But when lightning ignites a deadly wildfire, Kat’s cabin is cut off from the rest of the camp, separating Lily and Nirav from their parents. Left with no choice, Kat, the children, and the dogs must flee on foot through the drought-stricken forest, away from the ravenous flames. As a frantic rescue mission is launched below the fire line, Kat drives the party deeper into the mountains, determined to save four innocent lives. But when the moment comes to save her own, Kat will have to decide just how hard she’s willing to fight to survive–and what’s worth living for.

A heart-pounding novel of bravery, sacrifice, and self-discovery, Wildland will keep you on the edge of your seat to the very last page.

Praise for Wildland:

“Heart-stopping…Hodge shows great skill in writing a story that’s both touching and exhilarating.”

—Diane Chamberlain, New York Times bestselling author of The Dream Daughter