Friday, July 3, 2020

Book Review - The Summer House by Lauren K. Denton

My Review

The Summer House is the story of Lily Bishop, who wakes up one morning to find her husband Worth has left her a goodbye letter and divorce papers - right after they relocated to Alabama's Gulf Coast for his job. Stuck in a new place with no family, Lily scrambles to find a job. She finds work as a hairdresser at a senior apartment community, where she can live above her shop. At Safe Harbor, she becomes friends with Rose, a divorced woman in her 60's who owns the community. She also slowly becomes friends - with some romantic interest - with Rose's nephew, Rawlins, who is a single father. Over the summer Lily finds a way to reinvent her life, with a little help from her friends.

I wanted to read this book because I have read all of Lauren K. Denton's books and loved every single one of them. The Summer House sounded like a perfect beach read!

This is my favorite Lauren K. Denton book yet!  I absolutely loved everything about it.  Lily is such a sweet, likable protagonist.  She is a kind, gentle soul who longs for a happy life like her childhood in North Georgia.  Her husband, Worth, was a poor match for her -- he is very driven, from an Atlanta society family, and he doesn't share Lily's love of the simple things in life.

I loved the slow building friendship/romance between Lily and Rawlins.  Rawlins is so sweet with his young daughter Hazel.  He is devoted to his Aunt Rose (who is also Lily's boss) and works hard as a shrimper.

Rose is also an interesting character.  She is cool and reserved, but she has been hurt in the past too, and is just cautious with her heart.  As she spends takes care of Hazel for Rawlins, befriends Lily, and has an unlikely romantic interest of her own, she blossoms. At one point Hazel remarks:  "'Aunt Rosie is named after a flower too,' Hazel said. “Rose and Lily.” (Kindle position 1638).

The descriptions of small town southern life on the Alabama Gulf Coast are just lovely.  They made me want to pack my bags and spend some time there!  For instance:

The weathered cedar house was up on stilts, with a screened porch up a set of stairs. Twinkle lights were strung all along the ceiling of the porch. Down below the house, two hammocks and a wooden swing hung from the rafters. On the other side of the patio, grass stretched all the way to the water and a short dock. As she watched, a brown pelican glided to a stop and perched on top of one of the posts. She laughed. 'It doesn’t get more picturesque than this.'" (Kindle position 2939).

Safe Harbor is also a charming place, full of quirky active seniors.  The chapters are punctuated by little daily newsletters about life at Safe Harbor.  They are fun to read and sometimes have some humor too!

I highly recommend The Summer House as a perfect summer read.  It is such a lovely, relaxing book getaway!

Book Synopsis
Sometimes it takes losing everything to find yourself again.

Lily Bishop wakes up one morning to find a good-bye note and divorce papers from her husband on the kitchen counter. Having moved to Alabama for his job only weeks before, Lily is devastated, but a flyer at the grocery store for a hair stylist position in a local retirement community provides a refuge while she contemplates her next steps.

Rose Carrigan built the small retirement village of Safe Harbor years ago—just before her husband ran off with his assistant. Now she runs a tight ship, making sure the residents follow her strict rules. Rose keeps everyone at arm’s length, including her own family. But when Lily shows up asking for a job and a place to live, Rose’s cold exterior begins to thaw.

Lily and Rose form an unlikely friendship, and Lily’s salon soon becomes the place where residents share town gossip, as well as a few secrets. Lily soon finds herself drawn to Rose’s nephew, Rawlins—a single dad and shrimper who’s had some practice at starting over—and one of the residents may be carrying a torch for Rose as well.

Neither Lily nor Rose is where she expected to be, but the summer makes them both wonder if there’s more to life and love than what they’ve experienced so far. The Summer House weaves Lauren K. Denton’s inviting Southern charm around a woman’s journey to find herself.


Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Author Bio
Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books. Her debut novel, THE HIDEAWAY, was a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Amazon Charts bestseller. Her second novel, HURRICANE SEASON, released in spring of 2018, is a USA Today bestseller. GLORY ROAD will release in March, 2019.

Connect with Lauren

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Book Review and Giveaway - A Spark of Romance by Jamie K. Schmidt

My Review
A Spark of Romance is a small town romance. Kayleigh Baker grew up in Mulberry and now serves as the town Fire Chief. She has a lifelong crush on the boy next door, police chief Liam MacAvoy.  They are friends who banter back and forth - although there clearly is a romantic spark.  This summer, though, there is an obstacle between them.  Kayleigh wants to host the town's annual 4th of July fireworks show in honor of her late mother.  Liam worries about the safety and cost.  As they work through this conflict, they also both want to get closer.

I wanted to read A Spark of Romance because I like small town stories and this looked like a fun, light summer read.

A Spark of Romance is a sweet, old fashioned love story.  The small town setting is very appealing.  There are some charming descriptions of the county fair, which is a big deal for this town -- pie judging, a chili cook-off, treats on the midway, and rides like the ferris wheel. 

There was also an overarching sense of neighbors helping neighbors and everyone knowing everyone else.  I found this comforting and very nice for a read this summer.

Kayleigh and Liam are so obviously perfect for each other -- and they have decades of friendship and chemistry.  They both make little missteps here and there that push the other person away.  I enjoyed the slow give and take of their courtship.

There is also some cute humor involving Kayleigh's neighbor and her very naughty husky dog.  At one point Kayleigh is cooking her first romantic dinner for Liam and the neighbor's husky, Quinn, actually climbs up on his roof!  Kayleigh has to engineer the rescue with some disastrous results (although the dog is completely safe and happy).

I recommend A Spark of Romance for fans of small town, clean romances.  It is a sweet, old fashioned story -- would make a great Hallmark movie!  It makes a fun weekend read.

Book Synopsis
Is she out of reach?

Fire Chief and former Army sergeant Kayleigh Baker is determined to save Mulberry’s annual Fourth of July fireworks display. She doesn’t want to disappoint the kids and the fireworks are a bittersweet memory of her mom’s last summer. As the town prepares for the summer parade and picnic, Kayleigh works to convince her former high school crush — now the straight-laced police chief — to help her cause.

Does he stack up?

Police Chief Liam MacAvoy doesn’t like the chaos the fireworks cause for his department and can’t hide his relief when they’re cancelled. But now he’s got the woman he’s been in love with for as long as he can remember asking for his help. How can he say no? What he’d really like is to show her that fireworks and town traditions are not the only things worth fighting for.

Can the boy next door and the town hero find the courage to finally seize their chance at love?



Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Author Bio
USA Today bestselling author, Jamie K. Schmidt, writes contemporary love stories and paranormal romances. Her steamy, romantic comedy Life’s a Beach reached #65 on USA Today, #2 on Barnes & Noble and #9 on Amazon. Her Club Inferno series from Random House’s Loveswept line has hit both the Amazon and Barnes & Noble top one hundred lists and the first book in the series, Heat put her on the USA Today bestseller list. Her dragon paranormal romance series from Entangled Publishing, has been called “fun and quirky” and “endearing.” 


Connect with Jamie

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Win a cute 4th of July bracelet!

Friday, June 26, 2020

Book Review and Giveaway - The Woman in the Green Dress by Tea Cooper

My Review
The Woman in the Green Dress is a historical novel set in Sydney, Australia in 1853 and London - and then Sydney - in 1918.  It is the story of a mysterious woman in a green dress, a white kangaroo, an opal that is said to carry a curse, an unusual little curio shop, a botanist who falls in love, and a woman post-World War I who is desperatley trying to find out if her husband survived the war.

I wanted to read this novel because it sounded so unique. I have not read a lot of historical fiction set in Australia, and I was very inrigued by the setting. As someone who sells vintage items for a living, I was particularly curious about the curio shop.

This is a dual storyline novel. The 1918 storyline is about Fleur Richards, a British woman who has received unofficial word that her Australian husband died in World War I. She receives a sizable inheritance which she doesn't want to accept, so she travels to Sydney to learn the truth.

In Sydney the story flashes back to 1853, an Austrian botanist newly arrived and intrigued by a beautiful young woman who has made friends with a white kangaroo, the curio shop the girl's aunt runs, and an assortment of mysterious stories including a huge opal and an unusual curio shop.

Initially I was much more interested in Fleur's storyline and her search for her lost husband in 1918. The 1853 storyline was much more complex with many characters and locales and it took me longer to really become invested in that story.  Then, about halfway through the book, I suddenly found that story completely fascinating and just could not put the book down!

This is such an unusual book.  It combines mystery, romance, and topics like opals, the properties of arsenic, and taxidermy in the 1800's.  I have been thinking about it since I finished reading, something that I always consider a hallmark of a really exceptional read.

I recommend The Woman in the Green Dress for fans of historical fiction, for anyone interested in Australia, and for anyone looking for a unique glimpse at history that is rarely addressed in fiction.

Book Synopsis
A cursed opal, a gnarled family tree, and a sinister woman in a green dress emerge in the aftermath of World War I.

After a whirlwind romance, London teashop waitress Fleur Richards can’t wait for her new husband, Hugh, to return from the Great War. But when word of his death arrives on Armistice Day, Fleur learns he has left her a sizable family fortune. Refusing to accept the inheritance, she heads to his beloved home country of Australia in search of the relatives who deserve it more.

In spite of her reluctance, she soon finds herself the sole owner of a remote farm and a dilapidated curio shop full of long-forgotten artifacts, remarkable preserved creatures, and a mystery that began more than sixty-five years ago. With the help of Kip, a repatriated soldier dealing with the sobering aftereffects of war, Fleur finds herself unable to resist pulling on the threads of the past. What she finds is a shocking story surrounding an opal and a woman in a green dress. . . a story that, nevertheless, offers hope and healing for the future.

This romantic mystery from award-winning Australian novelist Tea Cooper will keep readers guessing until the astonishing conclusion.


Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound | Kobo

Author Bio
Téa Cooper is an award-winning, bestselling author of Australian historical fiction. In a past life she was a teacher, a journalist and a farmer. These days she haunts museums and indulges her passion for storytelling.


Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away 5 paperback copies of The Woman in the Green Dress! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. 

Giveaway Rules 
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on June 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open to the US only. 
– Only one entry per household. 
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. 
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.  


Book Review - The Key to Everything by Valerie Fraser Luesse

My Review
The Key to Everything is a historical novel that begins in 1947 Savannah.  Peyton Cabot is 15 years old when a family tragedy prompts him to retrace his father's long ago bicycle ride from Savannah to Key West.  Over the summer trip he discovers his dreams, a sense of family, and first love.

I wanted to read The Key to Everything because I am originally from Savannah and was intrigued by the setting.  I also love vintage Florida and was curious about that aspect of the novel.

This novel is such a lovely, leisurely road trip!  Peyton is such a likable, kind-hearted young man and I enjoyed his pursuit of an unlikely dream - to travel to Key West on bicycle.  My father was just a little older than Peyton during this time period and I found the novel particularly interesting because of this connection.

The details of life in Savannah and vintage Florida (especially St. Augustine and Key West) were lovely.  The author does a beautiful job at evoking another time and place, with passages like:

"St. Augustine was a marvel. Peyton had grown up around historic architecture in Savannah, but this place was seriously old. Everywhere, you could see remnants of Spanish buildings— and others still intact and in use. Tourists swarmed the centuries-old fort on the waterfront. He picked up a map in a candy shop, where he couldn’t resist the aroma of chocolate, and wandered cobblestone streets while he nibbled on fudge. Eventually, he made his way to the Ponce de Leon, a grand hotel built by the man who had dreamed up the railroad to Key West. It looked like something out of Arabian Nights." (Kindle location 1242)

The coming of age aspect of this book and the iconic nature of Peyton's journey (and his father's journey years ago) was so moving.  This passage encapsulates the family legend:

"The boys listened as their Uncle Gil retold his favorite story, the same one he told at every spring picnic. 'Marshall says to me, he says, ‘I believe I’ve seen all this ol’ camp has to offer.’ And I says, ‘What you plan on doin’ about it ?’ That’s when he pointed at the bicycles Papa had left for us. He says, ‘I’m gonna ride my bicycle to Key West and see what those islands look like.' The cousins finished the story with their uncle, repeating his favorite line in unison: 'And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the last time Marshall Cabot ever let anybody tell him what to do.'" (Kindle location 120).

I truly enjoyed The Key to Everything and recommend it highly for fans of historical fiction, southern fiction, and for anyone interested in life in Georgia and Florida during the 1940's.  

Book Synopsis
"Promise me you'll never come back here, Peyton. It's too much--it's just way too much."

Peyton Cabot's fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the heroic but reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from World War II a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon and distancing himself from his son. A tragic accident shows Peyton the depths of his parents' devotion to each other but interrupts his own budding romance with the girl of his dreams.

Struggling to cope with a young life upended, Peyton makes a daring decision: He will retrace a journey his father took at fifteen, riding his bicycle from St. Augustine, Florida, all the way to Key West. Part declaration of independence, part search for self, Peyton's journey will bring him more than he ever could have imagined--namely, the key to his unknowable father, a longed-for reunion, and a calling that will shape the rest of his life.

Author Bio
Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of the Christy Award-winning Missing Isaac and Almost Home, as well as an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse received the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society for her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana. A graduate of Auburn University and Baylor University, she lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, Dave.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Dear Abby - Dachshund Puppy Discovers Fruit

Dear Friends,

My friend Shari sent me a wonderful short video. I really enjoyed seeing how other dachshunds live - across the world in the Netherlands - and thought you might enjoy this one too.  The video features Loulou and Coco the dachshunds.  First there is dinner, then a walk by the lake, and then they try some fruit as a treat.  They try strawberries and blueberries and discover both are delicious!  (I could have told them that.)  Then they have a nice nap because they have had a full day.

Here is the little video:

I hope you enjoyed spending some time with Loulou and Coco. If you have a dog, does your pup like fruit? I love it in little bites - especially bananas!

Have a great weekend!

Abby xoxoxo