‘Meant to Be Mine’ by Hannah Orenstein is a touching romance about fate and love

Meant to Be Mine by Hannah Orenstein

Does fate determine whom we are destined to spend our lives with, or is it simply chance? In “Meant to Be Mine,” Hannah Orenstein’s delightful romance forces main character Edie Meyer to consider that very question. Edie’s grandmother Gloria has correctly predicted the date on which all her family members will meet their bashert, which is Yiddish for the true love that is meant to happen. She predicted her own meeting with Edie’s Grandfather Ray, and the couple was blissful for many decades of marriage.

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‘The Treehouse on Dog River Road’ by Catherine Drake is a sweet story of family and love

The Treehouse on Dog River Road by Catherine Drake

A novel with the word “treehouse” in the title doesn’t seem as if it would be about life changes and making important decisions. On the other hand, that word does imply family and fun. Catherine Drake’s debut novel, “The Treehouse on Dog River Road,” brings us an intrepid main character who spent two years in Kenya building houses. Then she got a job in finance. Now she’s wondering what she wants to do in life. And when you are in your late twenties, and you don’t know what you want to do in life, sometimes spending a summer taking care of family is just what is needed to clear your head. At least, that’s what Hannah Spencer is hoping when she agrees to take care of her young niece and nephew for several months when her sister Molly and Molly’s husband, both college professors, have an opportunity to travel to South America to do research. Hannah had managed to get laid off from her very unsatisfying job with enough of a severance package that she can figure out what she wants to do next and where she wants to do it, and she has all summer to figure it all out.

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‘The Homewreckers’ by Mary Kay Andrews is a sweet Savannah mystery

The Homewreckers

Mary Kay Andrews (MKA) is known for her sweet Southern summertime stories that are filled with slow-moving tides, warm beaches, a mystery, and plenty of romantic drama. “The Homewreckers” brings us to Savannah, with its beautiful avenues and lovely historic homes. We meet Hattie, who works in her late husband’s family construction business with her father-in-law, her best friend Cass, and Cass’s mother, who runs the office. As the story begins, Hattie has poured her life savings into a beautiful old home, hoping to restore it and make a profit. But the historic home needs a much larger than expected infusion of cash to bring it to the point where it will make money, and Hattie is forced to sell at a loss.

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‘Honor’ by Thrity Umrigar is a heartrending and thoughtful story of love and hatred

Honor by Thrity Umrigar

“Honor” is a perfect title for Thrity Umrigar’s powerful novel about India and the horrors that are perpetrated in rural areas in the name of religion and honor. For while honor is a noble concept, the foul acts perpetrated in its name are not. Umrigar makes it clear that while India is the setting for this tragic story, the prejudice and hatred toward women, toward others of a different religion, toward others who are considered to be less worthy, are not confined to any one country. Such prejudice and hatred are endemic to almost every country.

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‘The Paid Bridesmaid’ by Sariah Wilson: a delightful romance about that strange profession: the paid bridesmaid

The Paid Bridesmaid by Sariah Wilson

Reading Sariah Wilson’s last two novels, “The Paid Bridesmaid” and “The Seat Filler” has opened my eyes about employment opportunities I never realized existed: seat fillers and paid bridesmaids. Who knew you could actually hire a maid of honor to help you with all those pesky details like organizing a bachelorette party or giving a heartfelt speech at the wedding reception? In her latest novel, we meet Rachel Vinson, who started her company with the brilliant thought that brides who didn’t have many friends, or friends who couldn’t be bothered to really help with the wedding, or friends who might cause drama, might want a few professional bridesmaids to do the actual bridesmaid work. And really, have you ever thought about the work involved in being a bridesmaid? I had not.

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‘The Last Rose of Shanghai’ by Weina Dai Randel is a gripping novel about turbulent life in wartime China

The Last Rose of Shanghai
by Weina Dai Randel

“The Last Rose of Shanghai” by Weina Dai Randel paints a vivid portrait of life in Shanghai during WWII, during the Japanese occupation both before and after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. It’s an in-depth study of not only the Jewish refugee situation, but also how wealthy Chinese families lived and the rules that they lived by. The story is told from the viewpoints of Aiyi Shao, the youngest daughter of a wealthy Shanghai family; Ernest Reismann, a German refugee who arrived in Shanghai with nothing but a camera and his younger sister; and also from Aiyi Shao’s point of view in 1980 as she is trying to convince a documentarian to research and film a documentary about Ernest’s life during the war.

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‘The Christmas Bookshop’ by Jenny Colgan is just what we expect — a sweet, touching story of family and romance that warms our hearts

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan’s books are predictable, but we like them — a lot — nonetheless. We know that in the pages of her books, we are treated to a “vacation” of sorts in whatever exotic locale she chooses (although if you live in Edinburgh, it’s not quite so exotic), wherein ordinary people will have extraordinary adventures and end up the better for it. And those adventures aren’t epic and huge, but small events that serve to change the lives of the people involved.

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‘The Wish’ by Nicholas Sparks is a two-hanky read

The Wish by Nicholas Sparks

True to form, Nicholas Sparks’ latest novel, “The Wish,” covers the gamut of emotions from love to loss and will have readers crying gently into a tissue before the end. In this story, we meet Maggie Dawes, a noted photographer who is dying from melanoma. So from the very start, Sparks is upfront that this book is about someone who will probably die by the end of the story. We are forewarned. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have some surprises in store for us.

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‘Drown Her Sorrows’ by Melinda Leigh is the third mystery in her Bree Taggert series

Drown Her Sorrows by Melinda Leigh

I’ve really enjoyed books about women sheriffs, and Melinda Leigh’s Bree Taggert series fits the bill nicely. The third book in the series, “Drown Her Sorrows,” can be read as a stand alone book, but the whole series is so good, why not start with the first one, “Cross Her Heart” and then continue with “See Her Die.” Bree Taggert has returned to her hometown, Grey’s Hollow, where her abusive father killed her mother as eight-year-old Bree cowered under the porch with her four-year-old sister and infant brother. In the first book, Bree returns to solve her sister’s murder, and she stays when she is offered the position of county sheriff.

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‘The Matzah Ball’ by Jean Meltzer is a perfect holiday almost-fairy tale romance

The Matzah Ball
by Jean Meltzer

Matzah balls are soft and filling and satisfying in warm soup. However, “The Matzah Ball” by Jean Meltzer might better be compared to the rugalach that her characters love to nosh on, sweet and sometimes nutty, but made with love (and honesty) and with a texture that melts in your mouth. This story is filled with lots of love in the best tradition of any romance novel, but it’s also much more. Meltzer provides us with an inside look at a main character who is strong and successful, and at the same times struggles with a chronic disease.

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‘Bluebird’ by Sharon Cameron is a stunning work of fiction based on real events that are shocking

Bluebird by Sharon Cameron

Sharon Cameron demonstrated her ability to write engrossing historical fiction based on real events in her masterful book, “The Light in Hidden Places.” In some ways, “Bluebird,” based on real, shocking events, is the antithesis of that story. As a contrast to the first story that focuses on heroes that appeared in unlikely places during WWII, “Bluebird” unveils true villains who masqueraded as heroes. The main character, Eva, is a veritable hero, but we meet many of the truly evil beings whose bigotry, arrogance, and racial prejudice stoked the fires of hate during that time.

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‘Blind Tiger’ by Sandra Brown is an action-packed historical fiction with a fascinating female main character

Blind Tiger by Sandra Brown

Exploring the bleak times during Prohibition becomes a thrill-ride in Sandra Brown’s “Blind Tiger.” The story is set right after the “Great War,” and is filled with nonstop action as we meet Laurel Plummer, who ends up in small-town Foley, Texas, after her husband abandons her in his father’s one-room shack. Laurel is left with her sickly, premature newborn, Pearl, in a drafty cabin with no running water or electricity. Laurel, as we come to find out, is a tough character and not one to let a desperate situation keep her down.

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