‘My Not So Perfect Life’ by Sophie Kinsella

mnspl-skSTORY: Katie Brenner has the perfect life: a flat in London, a glamorous job, and a super-cool Instagram feed.

Ok, so the real truth is that she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job, and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t really hers.

But one day her dreams are bound to come true, aren’t they?

Until her not-so perfect life comes crashing down when her mega-successful boss Demeter gives her the sack. All Katie’s hopes are shattered. She has to move home to Somerset, where she helps her dad with his new glamping business.

Then Demeter and her family book in for a holiday, and Katie sees her chance. But should she get revenge on the woman who ruined her dreams? Or try to get her job back? Does Demeter – the woman with everything – have such an idyllic life herself? Maybe they have more in common than it seems.

And what’s wrong with not-so-perfect, anyway?

REVIEW: Catherine (Cat) Brenner lives in London and battles the tube travel commute every day which take her well over an hour one way. Her boss, Demeter, complains about her 25-minute commute, which makes Cat roll her eyes. Cat works at a branding and strategy agency called Cooper Clemmow. Demeter is married with two children, makes an enormous salary, and lives in a stunning house. Cat, on the other hand, lives in a tiny room and barely makes enough to get by.

Demeter is juggling lots of contracts and depends on her assistant to help her. Unfortunately, Demeter is not liked by many in the office because they feel as though they were passed over for her job.

Cat is trying hard to make friends at work and to try and get noticed by her boss. One day, a handsome man named Alex asks Cat to help him look over some items to decide if they would be worth supporting/branding them. She soon finds out that he is Demeter’s boss. She dreams about how wonderful it would be to date him. She gets embarrassed when her drunken co-worker tells Alex at the office Christmas party that Cat has a crush on him. Mortified, Cat cannot face him.

Cat’s name is actually Katie and she grew up on a farm in the countryside. Her mother passed away when Katie was little and it was her father who raised her. Katie heads home for the Christmas break. Her Dad has always had a lot of get-rich schemes that never paned out. Katie suggests that he offer a country vacation spot complete with yurts, great good, and lots of games and exercise. She even does up a fabulous brochure and after working it through, it becomes a reality. This is a good thing because as soon as Cat gets back to work after Christmas break, Demeter fires her. Totally shocked, she heads back home and tells her Dad she is on sabbatical from her job. So, she delves in and works to make the vacation spot a success.

They get many people coming and enjoying themselves. When Demeter and her family show up, Katie disguises herself and does all she can to get back at Demeter under the guise of healthy exercise. But when Alex arrives to see Demeter, things get really rough.

This is a terrific story that only Sophie Kinsella can write. I have loved all of her books and this one did not disappoint. Grab a copy of this book and come join the fun. I’m betting you will love the story.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

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‘The Dressmaker’s Dowry’ by Meredith Jaeger

tdd-mjSTORY: An exquisite ring, passed down through generations, connects two women who learn that love is a choice, and forgiveness is the key to freedom…

San Francisco: 1876

Immigrant dressmakers Hannelore Schaeffer and Margaret O’Brien struggle to provide food for their siblings, while mending delicate clothing for the city’s most affluent ladies. When wealthy Lucas Havensworth enters the shop, Hanna’s future is altered forever. With Margaret’s encouragement and the power of a borrowed green dress, Hanna dares to see herself as worthy of him. Then Margaret disappears, and Hanna turns to Lucas. Braving the gritty streets of the Barbary Coast and daring to enter the mansions of Nob Hill, Hanna stumbles upon Margaret’s fate, forcing her to make a devastating decision…one that will echo through the generations.

San Francisco: Present Day

In her elegant Marina apartment overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, Sarah Havensworth struggles to complete the novel she quit her job for. Afraid to tell her husband of her writer’s block, Sarah is also hiding a darker secret—one that has haunted her for 14 years. Then a news headline from 1876 sparks inspiration: Missing Dressmakers Believed to be Murdered. Compelled to discover what happened to Hannelore and Margaret, Sarah returns to her roots as a journalist. Will her beautiful heirloom engagement ring uncover a connection to Hanna Schaeffer?

REVIEW: Sarah Havensworth, age 30, and her husband, Hunter, are at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco attending a fancy charity event hosted by Sarah’s mother-in-law, Gwyneth. Sarah does not care for mingling with large crowds of people but when Gwyneth asks for her help with these charity events, she knows she cannot refuse.

Sarah’s master’s thesis is due soon. It consists of a novel she hasn’t finished writing due to writer’s block. She is more interested in the history of San Francisco and has written many well-received articles along that line. When she searches for stories of old San Francisco, she discovers one about two missing dressmakers in the late 19th century. The girls were thought to have been murdered. Thus begins Sarah’s story.

Hannalore Schaffer – San Francisco – 1876

Hanna and her siblings are at the mercy of their drunken father. He takes what little money they earn and then beats them. Often, Hanna will go hungry so her siblings can eat. Hanna works as a seamstress at a tailor’s shop and hides some of the money she makes under a floorboard at home. She hopes to save enough to run away with her siblings.

Margaret O’Brien works with Hanna and is in a similar situation having the responsibility for the care of her many siblings.

One day, two gentlemen come into the shop for repairs to some clothes. Their names are Lucas Havensworth and his cousin, Robert. Lucas is very kind to the girls but Robert is arrogant with them.

One Sunday afternoon, Margaret and Hanna meet to enjoy a few hours walking around San Francisco. There, they see Lucas and Robert who stop and talk to them. As the two men prepare to depart in a carriage, a drunk man accosts Hanna and Margaret, but Lucas intervenes and punches the man. The man becomes very angry and swears he will kill the girls one day.

The story switches back and forth from 1876 to present day San Francisco. We see the very desperate way many people in the city lived and how they struggled. We also see the enormous amount of drinking and opium places and the people addicted to them. As Sarah delves further into researching what happened to the girls, she finds she being threatened by someone who doesn’t want her to find out the truth. In addition, she is hiding something very awful from her own past.

For some reason, this book just didn’t grab me as being realistic. I’m not sure I can say that I would care to recommend the book. I believe this is the author’s first novel so I look forward to reading what she writes next as I think every author needs second chances.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘The Mistress’ by Danielle Steel

tm-dsSTORY: Natasha Leonova’s beauty saved her life. Discovered on a freezing Moscow street by a Russian billionaire, she has lived for seven years under his protection, immersed in rarefied luxury, while he pursues his activities in a dark world that she guesses at but never sees. Her home is the world, often on one of Vladimir Stanislas’s spectacular yachts manned by scores of heavily armed crew members. Natasha’s job is to keep Vladimir happy, ask no questions, and be discreet. She knows her place, and the rules. She feels fortunate to be spoiled and protected, and is careful not to dwell on Vladimir’s ruthlessness or the deadly circles he moves in. She experiences only his kindness and generosity and believes he will always keep her safe. She is unfailingly loyal to him in exchange.

Theo Luca is the son of a brilliant, world famous, and difficult artist, Lorenzo Luca, who left his wife and son with a fortune in artwork they refuse to sell. Lorenzo’s widow, Maylis, has transformed their home in St. Paul de Vence into a celebrated restaurant decorated with her late husband’s paintings, and treats it as a museum. There, on a warm June evening, Theo first encounters Natasha, the most exquisite woman he has ever seen. And there, Vladimir lays eyes on Luca’s artwork. Two dangerous obsessions begin.

Theo, a gifted artist in his own right, finds himself feverishly painting Natasha’s image for weeks after their first meeting. Vladimir, enraged that Lorenzo’s works are not for sale, is determined to secure a painting at any price. And Natasha, who knows that she cannot afford to make even one false move, nevertheless begins to think of the freedom she can never have as Vladimir’s mistress. She cannot risk her safety for another man, or even a conversation with him, as Theo longs for a woman he can never have.

From Moscow to the Riviera, Paris, and London, The Mistress is a riveting tale of vast fortune, cruelty, creative genius, and daring courage, as uncompromising individuals chart a course for collision.

REVIEW: The 500 foot yacht, Princess Marina, named for his mother, is owned by Vladimir Stanislos, 49, one of the richest men in Russia whose worth is estimated at $40-$50 billion. His mistress is Natasha Leonova, 26, whom he has been with for 7 years. She had a very poor life as a child and he rescued her off the streets of Russia. She was very sick with pneumonia and he nursed her back to health. Natasha knows that he refuses to have any children with a mistress. But she is the perfect companion who always knows what he needs from her. Vladimir is an art lover and collector and Natasha enjoys it as well. They spend time on their yacht or at one of their other residences around the world.

Maylis Luca is the widow of famed artist, Lorenzo Luca. Their son, Theo. is also a talented artist. Maylis owns a posh restaurant in Cap d’Antibes which displays a number of Lorenzo’s paintings, but none are for sale. Occasionally, Theo helps out at the restaurant when they are short handed.

One night, Vladimir and Natasha have dinner at the restaurant. Both are very taken with Luca’s paintings and want to buy one. However, Maylis gives them a firm no even though Theo encourages her to sell it. Theo thinks Natasha is very beautiful, but he does not care for Vladimir and his arrogant manner. However, when Vladimir offers an outrageously high figure for the painting, Maylis accepts the offer.

Theo is so obsessed with Natasha that he spends an enormous period of time painting her from memory working until he feels it is perfect. When he gifts her with the painting, Vladimir becomes jealous and revenge erupts.

This is a typical Danielle Steel novels that rambles along making it a very easy read. Of course, there are a lot of repeated sentences but that is the signature of this particular author. I have read a number of her books but not all. I chose to read this particular novel because it takes place in my beloved Paris and the south of France. If you are looking for a nice story with lots of descriptions, do pick up this book. It is quite good.

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‘Fatal’ by John Lescroart

f-jlSTORY: Kate loves her life. At forty-four, she’s happily married to her kind husband, Ron, blessed with two wonderful children, and has a beautiful home in San Francisco. Everything changes, however, when she and Ron attend a dinner party and meet another couple, Peter and Jill. Kate and Peter only exchange a few pleasant words but that night, in bed with her husband, Kate is suddenly overcome with a burning desire for Peter.

What begins as an innocent crush soon develops into a dangerous obsession and Kate’s fixation on Peter results in one intense, passionate encounter between the two. Confident that her life can now go back to normal, Kate never considers that Peter may not be so willing to move on.

Not long after their affair, a masked man barges into the café Kate is sitting in with her best friend, firing an assault weapon indiscriminately into the crowd. This tragedy is the first in a series of horrifying events that will show Kate just how grave the consequences of one mistake can be.

REVIEW: Kate and Ron Jameson have a happy marriage, two children, and live in San Francisco. When their friends invite them to have dinner with them and another couple, new to them, something about the guy, Peter Ash, sparks a passion in Kate and she wants to have sex with him. Knowing this is a crazy idea, she can’t seem to stop before herself actually bringing it to fruition. After an afternoon in a hotel room and agreeing that this is a one time thing, Kate seems to be able to put it behind her, but Peter realizes that if this ever got out, his wife would ruin him.

Kate’s good friend, Beth Tully, is a single mom with one daughter. Kate and Beth have been best friends since college. Beth spent years as a patrol cop and is now an inspector and is quite good at her job.

Kate and Beth have met up at a popular public place for coffee where Kate is about to confide in her about her affair with Peter. Just then, terrorists strike the area killing and injuring many people. Both Kate and Beth are injured.

Months later after lots of healing, Beth is just back at her job just as Peter Ash is murdered. As Beth and her co-worker, Ike, investigate his murder, many things open up and it appears the killer might be among Kate’s friends and family.

This is my first book by John Lescroart and now I realize why my husband is such a fan of his. This mystery is well-written with characters that seem so real, it’s like talking about your next-door neighbor. The book kept my interest all the way through making me wonder who the murderer was. I liked this book very much. My only skepticism is the “terrorist” attack centered on a small place in San Francisco. Had there been other attacks elsewhere, it may have seemed more feasible. But, that did not stop me from giving this book 5 stars.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘The Marriage Lie’ by Kimberly Belle

tml-kbSTORY: Even the perfect marriage has its dark side… 

Iris and Will’s marriage is as close to perfect as it can be: a large house in a nice Atlanta neighborhood, rewarding careers and the excitement of trying for their first baby. But on the morning Will leaves for a business trip to Orlando, Iris’s happy world comes to an abrupt halt. Another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board, and according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers on this plane.

Grief-stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. But as time passes and there is still no sign of Will, she reluctantly accepts that he is gone. Still, Iris needs answers. Why did Will lie about where he was going? What is in Seattle? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to find out what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she receives will shock her to her very core.

REVIEW: Will and Iris Griffith have been married for seven years and are very much in love. They have bought their dream home in Atlanta and are finally trying for a baby. Will is a computer scientist and Iris is a school counselor for a swanky private school.

Will has just left for a business trip to Florida when Iris learns that a plane taking off from the Atlanta Airport has crashed. Irish quickly checks and finds with great relief that it is not the plane Will is on. That is until she learns that his name is on the passenger list of the plane that crashed and was heading to Seattle.

Grief overwhelms her as she tries to sort through not only the loss of her husband but why was he on a different plane than he said he was going to be. Iris’s family comes to try and comfort her and help figure out why Will lied to Iris.

As her family helps her dig into Will’s past, more questions arise. Who is Will and what really happened to him? Soon, they discover that they might be exposing a bigger mystery that can mean certain danger.

This is a very moving story that exhibits the depth of grief and how it affects people. In addition, the plot the author has put together is quite good. This book kept my attention from the first to last page and I highly recommend it.

Connie for b2b

‘The Widower’s Wife’ by Cate Holahan

tww-chSTORY: Ana Bacon, a young housewife, tumbles off a cruise ship into the dark and deadly waters, but did she take her secrets with her?

Investigator Ryan Monahan is a numbers man. So when his company sends him the Bacon case, which could net a ten million dollar payout, Monahan doubts that her death is just a tragic accident. But the husband has a substantial alibi and a number of witnesses claim to have seen Ana fall. So the official ruling seems to be substantiated.

Still, the more Monahan uncovers about Ana’s life, the more he realizes how many people would kill to keep her secrets hidden. And the closer he gets to the truth, the greater the odds grow that he, too, will take a fatal fall.

REVIEW: Ryan Monahan is an ex-cop working as an insurance investigator checking on an insurance claim for the death of Ana Bacon, age 31. She reportedly fell off a cruise ship at night in the middle of the ocean and neither she nor her body has been found. The double indemnity policy on her is for $10 million.

Ana was married to Tom, age 34, at the time of her death and the mother of a young daughter, Sophia.

Ryan does not think that Ana’s death was suicide but he also realizes that there is not enough evidence to prove Ana’s death.

Tom Bacon had lost his job as a well-paid stock trader due to a bad call. Something like this means he will probably never be able to work in the business again.

Ana has had to get a job as an administrative assistant. However, the salary she is able to make will not cover the expenses of their lavish home and lifestyle.

As Tom and Ana become more desperate for money, they devise an elaborate plan but not everything works as they had thought.

The characters in this book are well written and the plot is brilliant. Be prepared for a story that will keep the reader turning pages and learning a lot at the same time.

Connie for b2b

‘The Other Widow’ by Susan H. Crawford

tow-shcSTORY: Everybody’s luck runs out. This time it could be theirs . . .

It isn’t safe. That’s what Joe tells her when he ends their affair—moments before their car skids off an icy road in a blinding snowstorm and hits a tree. Desperate to keep her life intact—her job, her husband, and her precious daughter, Lily—Dorrie will do everything she can to protect herself, even if it means walking away from the wreckage. Dorrie has always been a good actress, pretending to be someone else: the dutiful daughter, the satisfied wife, the woman who can handle anything. Now she’s going to put on the most challenging performance of her life. But details about the accident leave her feeling uneasy and afraid. Why didn’t Joe’s airbag work? Why was his car door open before the EMTs arrived? And now suddenly someone is calling her from her dead lover’s burner phone. . . .

Joe’s death has left his wife in free fall as well. Karen knew Joe was cheating—she found some suspicious e-mails. Trying to cope with grief is devastating enough without the constant fear that has overtaken her—this feeling she can’t shake that someone is watching her. And with Joe gone and the kids grown, she’s vulnerable . . . and on her own.

Insurance investigator Maggie Devlin is suspicious of the latest claim that’s landed on her desk—a man dying on an icy road shortly after buying a lucrative life insurance policy. Maggie doesn’t believe in coincidences. The former cop knows that things—and people—are never what they seem to be.

As the fates of these three women become more tightly entwined, layers of lies and deception begin to peel away, pushing them dangerously to the edge . . . closer to each other . . . to a terrifying truth . . . to a shocking end.

REVIEW: Dorrie is meeting Joe Lindsey and the weather in Boston is quite bad. They are driving along as he tells her they must stop seeing one another and their affair must end. He starts to tell her his is afraid of something when the car skis and slams into a tree. Dorrie is alive but Joe has died. She has to get out so no one will know they were together. He wouldn’t want his wife, Karen, and their two sons to know he had been having an affair with Dorrie. As she flees the wreckage, she sees a car coming right at her.

Karen Lindsey works at a bookshop with her good friend, Alice, and they have just had dinner together. She thinks Joe is out of town, but when she gets home, the phone is ringing with bad news.

Dorrie had worked with Joe at his home renovation business. She is married to Samuel and the mother of a teenage daughter, Lily. Due to his drinking, Dorrie and Samuel have not had a good marriage for the last few years.

After the funeral, it is found that a million dollar insurance policy was taken out on Joe not long before he died. Thus, Maggie Brennan, who works for the insurance company, is tasked to look into the claim to see if Joe’s death could possibly have been suicide.

We learn more about the characters and see their lives intertwine. What was Joe afraid of that he was mentioning just before he died? Are there extenuating circumstances surrounding Joe’s accident?

I found this to be a very well written mystery that knitted together very well. It’s a tale that keeps the reader’s interest too. I highly recommend it.

Connie for b2b