Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Release Week Review: The Quiet Tenant by Clemence Michallon

 


A pulse-pounding psychological thriller about a serial killer hiding in plain sight, narrated by the women in his life: his 13-year-old daughter, his girlfriend—and the one victim he has spared.

About The Quiet Tenant

Aidan Thomas is a hard-working family man and a respected member of his community. He’s also a kidnapper and serial killer who has murdered eight women. And there’s a ninth he has earmarked for death, a woman he’s renamed Rachel, imprisoned in a backyard shed fearing for her life.

When Aidan’s wife dies, he and his 13-year-old daughter Cecilia are forced to move. Aidan has no choice but to bring Rachel along, introducing her to Cecilia as a “family friend” who needs a place to stay. After five years of captivity, surely Rachel is too brainwashed to attempt to escape. But Rachel is a fighter and survivorand recognizes Cecilia might just be the lifeline she has waited for all these years.

As Rachel tests the boundaries of her new living situation, she begins to form a tenuous connection with Cecilia. And when Emily, a local restaurant owner, develops a crush on the handsome widower, she finds herself drawn into Rachel and Cecilia’s orbit, too. Told through the perspectives of Rachel, Cecilia, and Emily, The Quiet Tenant explores the psychological impact of Aidan’s crimes on the women in his life–and the bonds between those women that give them the strength to fight back. 

Buy Links

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What I thought about The Quiet Tenant

I'm always on the lookout for a good thriller I could sink into and the synopsis for this one was very intriguing.  The whole idea of living a secret life is an interesting one and then there's the endless question of how they get away with it and what eventually trips them up.  

The Quiet Tenant is told from the point of view of the victims in the story and how their relationship with the serial-killer-hiding-in-plain-sight molds and shapes them and their actions.  There is no happy ending here for anyone, although there is hope, which I was thankful for.

The three pov's in this story are a victim that the killer keeps around, the killer's daughter and a women he's involved with.  While I didn't always like the "voice" of the writing, I did like the choice of these three woman in telling the story.  They have three unique perspectives and they each bring a piece of the story to the reader.  Emily, the girlfriend is particularly interesting in the way that she needs Aidan. 

I'm not about to give any spoilers, although I didn't experience any surprises in this story.  It's not about suspense or mystery or solving a crime. What I liked most was that the author created a certain atmosphere here that evoked a number of tension-filled emotions, and that was good.

Overall, I did enjoy this psychological thriller and will be looking for more from this author in the future. 


About Clémence Michallon  

Author photo credit: Gabrielle Malewski

I'm an author and an award-nominated journalist at The Independent, based in New York.

My debut thriller THE QUIET TENANT will be published in 2023 by Knopf in the US and Little, Brown in the UK. Rights have sold in 30 territories. You can find out more about the book here.

I also wrote a novel in French, which was published in 2020. It's about a female bodybuilder tasked with managing her sister's bakery. Really, it's about bodies and the ways in which we try to feel at home in them. You can find out more about it here.

I studied political science and journalism at Sciences Po in Paris, as well as journalism at City, University of London, and I have an MS degree from Columbia Journalism School.

http://clemencemichallon.com/ 


 

Monday, June 19, 2023

5 Stars for The Sweetheart List (Sunrise Cove #4) by Jill Shalvis

 


New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis returns to Sunrise Cove with a beguiling, lighthearted story about fresh starts, second chances and true love.

When Harper Shaw’s life falls apart, she knows it’s time for a change. She removes everything that doesn’t spark joy—from her soul-sucking job to eating kale to making lists—and sets off for the last place she was happy, Lake Tahoe (who wouldn’t feel good there, right?) to fulfill her dream of opening her own bakery.

With her Sugar Pine Bakery in between a tavern, owned by sexy, grumpy Bodie Campbell, and a bookstore, run by her new BFF, she feels a peace she’s never experienced since…well, forever.. Then she meets Ivy, a teenage runaway, who barrels into her heart. She sees a lot of herself in Ivy and takes her under her wing, but the teenager has secrets…

When those secrets explode, it changes Harper’s new world, and she’ll learn, it’s never too late to start over, it’s never too late to figure out your life, and best of all, it’s never too late to let yourself believe in love.

Buy Links

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AUDIO: Amazon | Google Play | Barnes & Noble

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 What I thought about The Sweetheart List

Whenever I start a Jill Shalvis book, I know I'm going to get a sweet story with likable characters. And there's also the emotional content -- it's always there with this author. The Sweetheart List was a sweet little story of three people trying to find their place in the world... and there's a dog, too.

Harper Shaw packs up her belongings and moves to Sunrise Cove in Lake Tahoe for a new start. Her last relationship didn't work out and her father doesn't even know she's around. So she sets out for the last place she was happy and decides to start a bakery business. The first person she meets is Bodie Campbell, who happens to be one of her landlords and a local business owner.

Bodie has some problems he's working through as well. A former ATF agent, he's working through some serious losses from his last mission and adjusting to a new life. His family is there for him, and they are a rowdy bunch of siblings who keep Bodie from losing it. The banter between among the siblings is just terrific and provides some nice humor. 

When Bodie encounters a young runaway named Ivy at his bar, he is immediately worried about her. What he doesn't know yet is that Ivy has a secret that involves Bodie and it's a doozy.

The pace here was great for me, I was able to finish this story in a day. The writing is smooth and just flows, and before I knew it, I was 75% through the story. Harper, Bodie and Ivy's lives are intertwined and there are a few roadblocks caused by some incorrect assumptions that need to be taken care of before they can all find their HEA. 

The Sweetheart List was a very pleasant story about new found friends and the beginnings of love in Sunrise Cove. The characters are very likable and the story moves along at a good clip to keep things interesting. I really enjoyed this story -- it was perfect read for sitting out in the sun on a hot summer day.



About Jill Shalvis


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis writes warm, funny, sexy contemporary romances and women’s fiction. An Amazon, BN & iBooks bestseller, she’s also a two-time RITA winner and has more than 10 million copies of her books sold worldwide.

Jill lives with her family in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters (Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is mostly coincidental). She does most of her writing on her deck surrounded by more animals than humans. Which is quite astonishing considering she’s a city girl who was plucked from the wilds of L.A. to the wilds of the Sierra’s. Most of her books come from a combination of hard work, cookies, and hot guy pics, and not necessarily in that order.

Jill often travels to reader weekends & conventions where she LOVES getting to meet and hang-out with readers. The only problem being she tends to get lost in her hotels. So if you ever see NYTimes Bestselling author Jill Shalvis roaming the halls, someone please return her immediately.

 

Connect with Jill

Website: http://jillshalvis.com/

Tumblr: http://jillshalvis.tumblr.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JillShalvis/[

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JillShalvis/

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Reviews: Kyland and Stinger by Mia Sheridan (Sign of Love Collection)

 

A full-length, standalone romance from the New York Times bestselling author of Archer's Voice.

Dirt poor. Hillbilly. Backwoods hick. Mountain folk.

Tenleigh Falyn struggles each day to survive in a small, poverty-stricken, coal mining town where she lives with her sister and mentally ill mother. Her dream of winning the college scholarship given to one student by the local coal company and escaping the harshness of her life, keeps her going.

Kyland Barrett lives in the hills, too, and has worked tirelessly—through near starvation, through deep loneliness, against all odds—to win the Tyton Coal Scholarship and leave the town that is full of so much pain.

They're both determined not to form any attachments, but one moment changes everything. What happens when only one person gets to win? When only one person gets to leave? And what happens to the one left behind?

Kyland is a story of desperation and hope, loss and sacrifice, pain and forgiveness, but ultimately, a story of deep and unending love.

THIS IS A STANDALONE SIGN OF LOVE NOVEL, INSPIRED BY TAURUS. New Adult Contemporary Romance: Due to strong language and sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.

Buy Links

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  What I thought about Kyland

I love a deeply emotional story and this author always delivers on a high-emotion, brutal-reality based sort of characters and setting so I was really looking forward to digging into this story of two people wanting to get out of poverty with a competition for a scholarship. Anyone who has ever lived in a small town has had the thought of "getting out" so that made for an easy connection in the story for me.

Tennleigh and Kyland are both competing for the high school scholarship in the poor coal town where they live. It's not difficult to see where this story is going, so it's not about surprises -- it's about how these folks deal with the hand they have been dealt. I liked that about the story. But Kyland and Tenleigh have different reasons and different futures they envision as they look forward which end up really impacting their lives.

But they fall for each other anyway, in spite of knowing it's probably not going to work out like some fairy tale. I liked this story. It had some bite to it. Told in alternating points of view, it's easy to get to know these characters and want something good for them, although it does take a while for them to get there.

So an enjoyable, emotional story with an interesting setting and situation.

Grace Hamilton was the girl with a plan. She knew exactly where her life was going and prided herself on always achieving her goals. It was who she was, and how she lived her life. She never stepped outside the lines, and never considered what she might desire and whom she was actually trying so hard to please. Until him…

Carson Stinger was a man who didn’t play by any rules except his own. Working in the adult entertainment industry, he didn’t care what others thought and took each day as it came, no direction, no plan. He knew what women wanted from him and believed it was all he had to offer. Until her…

When circumstances forced them to spend several hours together, they walked away changed. But for two people who never should have meshed, overcoming the reality of their vastly different lives wasn’t possible. At least not yet…

THIS IS A STAND-ALONE SIGN OF LOVE NOVEL, INSPIRED BY SCORPIO. New Adult Contemporary Romance: Due to strong language and sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.

 Buy Links

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What I thought about Stinger

Grace Hamilton is a planner, as in, she has her life mapped out and that is that. She's at a law conference in Vegas when she meets Carson Stinger, of the adult entertainment industry. They get stuck with each other and their lives are changed. It's only a weekend, right? And with a porn star, you've got to expect some steam and there is plenty of that, so much so that an impact is made that carries forward through the years.

Grace and Carson are separated for a few years, but they've never forgotten each other. There are some hurdles when they are reunited, but that is to be expected. As a matter of fact, there weren't any big surprises along the way.

Overall, I enjoyed this. It's what I expect from this author and I wasn't disappointed.
 

 

About the Author

Mia Sheridan is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author. Her passion is weaving true love stories about people destined to be together. Mia lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband. They have four children here on earth and one in heaven.

 

Friday, June 16, 2023

Blog Tour Review: 5 Stars for Love, Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood

Rival physicists collide in a vortex of academic feuds and fake dating shenanigans in this delightfully STEMinist romcom from the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis and Love on the Brain.

The many lives of theoretical physicist Elsie Hannaway have finally caught up with her. By day, she’s an adjunct professor, toiling away at grading labs and teaching thermodynamics in the hopes of landing tenure. By other day, Elsie makes up for her non-existent paycheck by offering her services as a fake girlfriend, tapping into her expertly honed people-pleasing skills to embody whichever version of herself the client needs.

Honestly, it’s a pretty sweet gig—until her carefully constructed Elsie-verse comes crashing down. Because Jack Smith, the annoyingly attractive and arrogant older brother of her favorite client, turns out to be the cold-hearted experimental physicist who ruined her mentor’s career and undermined the reputation of theorists everywhere. And he’s the same Jack Smith who rules over the physics department at MIT, standing right between Elsie and her dream job.

Elsie is prepared for an all-out war of scholarly sabotage but…those long, penetrating looks? Not having to be anything other than her true self when she’s with him? Will falling into an experimentalist’s orbit finally tempt her to put her most guarded theories on love into practice?

 

Buy Links

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Google Play | Kobo  | Penguin Random House

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What I thought about Love, Theoretically


About the Author

I'm Ali, and I write contemporary romcom novels about women in STEM and academia. I love cats, Nutella, and side ponytails. I'm also currently learning to crochet, so as you can tell I'm a super busy gal with an intense and exciting life! 

My favorite thing in the world is to explore traditional romance tropes—and to picture how they’ll play out in academic settings.


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Thursday, June 15, 2023

Available Now! 5 Stars for Trust Me (Evidence Under Fire #2) by Rachel Grant

 

Synopsis

Taken hostage by terrorists, an archaeologist must risk everything when a SEAL attempts to rescue her too soon…

Archaeologist Diana Edwards is on a mission to uncover the link between artifact trafficking and terrorism. Just when she’s making progress, she’s kidnapped and forced to work for the very people she’s trying to stop. The nightmare deepens when she discovers the man who arranged her abduction is a terrorist everyone believes to be dead. A team of SEALs is sent in to save her, forcing her to make an impossible choice if she wants to stop looted artifacts from being used to fund brutal attacks across the globe.

Navy SEAL Chris Flyte has one job to do, but the hostage won’t cooperate, endangering him and everyone on his team. After he completes the mission and Diana is safely on American soil, her story of abduction and being forced to dig becomes suspect. But when she shows up on his doorstep saying she’s seen one of her abductors, Chris has to wonder if the archaeologist is lying, or if a terrorist has followed her home.

“Grant’s thrillers never disappoint with her strong characters, masterful plotting, and sharp attention to archaeological detail.” - New York Times Bestselling Author Christina Dodd

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What I thought about Trust Me

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this Evidence: Under Fire series from Rachel Grant, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on the follow-up called Trust Me.

Archeologist Dr. Diana Edwards is working in the Middle East when she is abducted by the very artifact traffickers she's been trying to expose. Oh yeah, and there's that secret group that she's involved with that connects what she's doing with terrorism, so it isn't long before Diana finds herself in a heap of trouble.

When the Navy Seals are sent in, the impossible happens and Navy Seal Chris Flyte must choose to trust Diana in a way that goes against everything he is as a Navy Seal. I really felt for him in this situation and I totally wondered what Diana was thinking at that moment. But there is a connection between Chris and Diana that has him going along with her crazy plan.

Even though I didn't always like Diana, I did like the relationship between Chris and Diana which only grows over the course of the non-stop action in this story of artifact trafficking and terrorism funding. I really liked the level of action in this book -- people are always in motion and things are happening and I just don't want to put the book down!

I really enjoyed this story of a very gutsy archeologist and her quest to protect the artifacts and their history. It takes the work of many friends and colleagues in many agencies to help her get out of a very tricky and very dangerous situation, along with a very competent and attractive Navy Seal. I loved that they had some real rocky moments in their relationship which added to this romantic suspense international story. There's a complexity to the story that I liked as well -- as a reader I felt like I was solving the mystery of what was going on, right along with the main characters.

So, great action, complex story, interesting secondary characters and a satisfying romance. There's a nice setup for the next book, and now I can't wait for more!  



About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Rachel Grant worked for over a decade as a professional archaeologist and mines her experiences for story lines and settings, which are as diverse as excavating a cemetery underneath an historic art museum in San Francisco; surveying an economically depressed coal mining town in Kentucky; and mapping a seventeenth century Spanish and Dutch fort on the island of Sint Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles.

In all her travels and adventures as an archaeologist, Rachel has found many sites and artifacts, but she’s only found one true treasure, her husband, David. They met while working together excavating a four thousand year old site about to be destroyed by the expansion of a sewage treatment plant in Seattle. Despite their romantic first meeting, she has no intention of ever setting a story at a sewage treatment plant.

Rachel Grant lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2023

5 Stars for Charm City Rocks:A Love Story by Matthew Norman

Synopsis

When a single dad meets the former rock-star crush of his youth, everything they thought they knew about happiness and love is thrown into chaos in this hopeful, heartwarming romantic comedy.

“Bound to charm readers from page one . . . You’ll root for everyone in this sweet love story.”—Elissa Sussman, bestselling author of Funny You Should Ask

Billy Perkins is happy. And why wouldn’t he be? He loves his job as an independent music teacher and his apartment in Baltimore above a record shop called Charm City Rocks. Most of all, he loves his brainy teenage son, Caleb.

Margot Hammer, on the other hand, is far from happy. The former drummer of the once-famous band Burnt Flowers, she’s now a rock-and-roll recluse living alone in New York City. When a new music documentary puts Margot back in the spotlight, she realizes how much she misses her old band and the music that gave her life meaning.

Billy has always had a crush on Margot. But she’s a legitimate rock star—or, at least, she was—so he never thought he’d meet her. Until Caleb, worried that his easygoing dad might actually be lonely, cooks up a scheme to get Margot to perform at Charm City Rocks.

It’s the longest of long shots, but Margot’s label has made it clear that any publicity is an opportunity she can’t afford to miss. When their paths collide, Billy realizes that he maybe wasn’t as happy as he thought—and Margot learns that sometimes the sweetest music is a duet.

Buy Links

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Penguin Random House 

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What I thought about Charm City Rocks

In this twist of a rockstar romance, Billy Perkins is a single dad living over Charm City Rocks, a record store in Fells Point. His son Caleb is about to make some college decisions, but he's concerned about his dad's happiness if he were to go away to school. After some mistaken digestibles, Caleb contacts Margot Hammer, his dad's longtime crush who happens to be the drummer from a now defunct famous female rock band called Burnt Flowers. It's impulsive and crazy and he doesn't expect anything to come of it, but it does.

Margot Hammer is lonely.When she hears about the request to come to Baltimore, she decides to do it. She too has a young daughter who is concerned about her happiness. And then something magic happens in Baltimore in that romantic sort of way. Margot and Billy have a quiet relationship and it's almost like if you aren't paying attention, you could miss these two falling for each other, but they are good together and I found myself really wanting them to make it work.

There's lots going on all around them with kids and exes and money makers and a rekindling of the band. But at the core of it is happiness, and it's right there for Margot and Billy to grab onto. I liked that they both had supportive people in their corner, people who would encourage them to take the chances they needed to take.

I really enjoyed this story. I liked the subtle emotional content and how skillfully the words made me fall for these characters. In spite of things moving a bit slowly in spots, I was eager to keep reading this until I found out what happens to Billy and Margot in the final pages. I really liked the romance between them and I was rooting for them all the way. That's the way a romance should be, and I thought this was really terrific. There are some interesting secondary characters as well. It will be on my favorites of 2023 list for sure. 


ABOUT MATTHEW NORMAN
 
 
Matthew Norman was born in Omaha, Nebraska. His debut novel, Domestic Violets, was nominated in the Best Humor category at the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards. Since then, he’s written four other novels. We’re All Damaged was an Amazon bestseller, Last Couple Standing was named one of the best books of 2020 so far by Esquire, All Together Now was one of the New York Post’s best books of the summer in 2021, and Charm City Rocks. His essays about writing have appeared on the sites Literary Hub and Writer Unboxed. He lives with his wife, two kids, and two dogs in Baltimore, Maryland and, occasionally, Fenwick Island, Delaware.
 

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Blog Tour Review & Excerpt: The Little Italian Hotel by Phaedra Patrick


 

The Little Italian Hotel

Author: Phaedra Patrick 

On Sale June 6, 2023

Park Row Books

Paperback Original

ISBN 9780778387121

Price: $18.99

Book Summary: 


When a relationship expert’s own marriage falls apart, she invites four strangers to Italy for a vacation of healing and second chances in this uplifting new novel from the author of The Messy Lives of Book People.

Ginny Splinter, acclaimed radio host and advice expert, prides herself on knowing what’s best for others. So she’s sure her husband, Adrian, will love the special trip to Italy she’s planned for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. But when Ginny presents the gift to Adrian, he surprises her with his own very different plan—a divorce.

Beside herself with heartache, Ginny impulsively invites four heartbroken listeners to join her in Italy instead while live on air. From hiking the hills of Bologna to riding a gondola in Venice to sharing stories around the dining table of the little Italian hotel, Ginny and her newfound company embark on a vacation of healing.

However, when Adrian starts to rethink their relationship, Ginny must decide whether to commit to her marriage or start afresh, alone. And an unexpected stranger may hold the key to a very different future… Sunny, tender and brimming with charm, The Little Italian Hotel explores marriage, identity and reclaiming the present moment—even if it means leaving the past behind.

Buy Links

 

Harper Collins | Bookshop.org | Barnes & Noble | Amazon 


PRAISE:



“The Little Italian Hotel is a charming story about healing, new friendships, and second chances at life.” -BOOKLIST

“A story about broken hearts meeting and mending. With its intriguing premise, colorful mix of characters and gorgeous setting, it was a real treat to read. Phaedra Patrick always writes so beautifully and this book is like a burst of sunshine.” –Hazel Prior, author of HOW THE PENGUINS SAVED VERONICA

“The perfect balm for an aching heart, The Little Italian Hotel is an entrancing journey from unexpected (and unwelcome) life events to healing and found family. You’ll wish you could join this delightful cast of characters in the cozy, welcoming Splendido hotel.” —Amy E. Reichert, author of The Kindred Spirits Supper Club

"Phaedra Patrick has done it again with this absolute charmer of a novel. With keenly observed characters and Patrick’s signature wit, The Little Italian Hotel celebrates the healing power of community and insists that it’s never too late to bet on yourself. I loved this transportive, life-affirming novel." —Amy Meyerson, bestselling author of The Bookshop of Yesterdays

"A heart-warming and life-affirming story of five heartbroken strangers trying to wade through on their own—and learning that sometimes all we need is each other. Throw in a charming Italian hotel, a handsome proprietor and Patrick's perceptive wisdom and witticisms, and you've got the perfect summer read." —Colleen Oakley, USA Today bestselling author of The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise

Excerpt

Mountains

 

“Hi, it’s Ginny Splinter, I’m listening. Tell me your wor­ries…”

It was something she said so many times a day on her Just Ask Ginny radio show it had become second nature, like sprin­kling sunflower seeds on her muesli or kissing her husband, Adrian, on the cheek before he left for work each morning.

Ginny arrived early at the Talk Heart FM studio that day to pass a financial planning article to a security guard who’d confided to her he was struggling to pay his rent. She stopped to chat to the young receptionist whose boyfriend wouldn’t commit to anything more serious between them.

“You shouldn’t rely on him for your own self-esteem. Never forget you’re a prize worth winning,” Ginny told her with a kind smile. “Come talk to me anytime.”

The receptionist wiped a tear from her eye. “Do you re­ally mean that?”

“A promise is a promise. Stay strong, sweetheart.”

 

Ginny walked away with a glow in her chest, touched when others trusted her with their personal issues. She wasn’t one to toot her own horn, but when her friends wept into their char­donnay, she was the one they turned to for good advice and packets of tissues. Where others saw paths littered with bro­ken glass, she chose to picture the sun rising over the moun­tains. It was probably why thousands of folk from Greenham, Ginny’s leafy northwest England hometown, tuned in to her daily advice show.

Throughout her fifteen years on the air, there wasn’t a prob­lem Ginny hadn’t tried to fix, whether it was loneliness, retire­ment worries, body dysmorphia, noisy neighbors or bullying at work. She offered solutions for the lost loves, secret loves and the never-been-in-loves. Empathy was her superpower.

Other people’s issues made her appreciate her happy mar­riage all the more. Her twenty-fifth wedding anniversary was just around the corner and she couldn’t wait to celebrate it in style. Whenever Ginny thought about the surprise holiday she’d booked for her and Adrian, in Italy, she couldn’t help smiling. Next month, in June, they were going to be stay­ing in a gorgeous little village, Vigornuovo in Bologna, for three whole weeks. It would also be the perfect opportunity to renew their wedding vows, to reaffirm their love and com­mitment to each other and to have some fun, too.

The thought of spending quality time alone with her hus­band made a rush of warmth flood her skin. Ginny couldn’t wait to wander the side streets of Venice at dusk and admire Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. More than anything, she wanted to reignite the spark in her marriage. She and Adrian had been so busy recently that they were like cars speeding along a motorway in opposite direc­tions. It made her feel uncharacteristically listless, especially now that their daughter, twenty-four-year-old Phoebe, had left home to move in with her fiancé, Pete, and was busy ar­ranging her own wedding.

Ginny usually advised fellow empty nesters to keep busy by taking up a new hobby, perhaps home baking or walking a neighbor’s dog, but she was struggling to practice what she preached. Her hormones had felt out of balance for some time and sticking HRT patches to her backside, to banish her hot flashes, hadn’t proved to be the wonder cure she’d hoped for.

Last week, she’d had a worrying urge to rip open her blouse on the high street and flash her lacy bra to passersby. “See, I’m here, still desirable, not invisible!” she’d wanted to shout. But really, she wanted her husband to make her feel that way. The Italian holiday was going to be the perfect solution.

When she stepped into the elevator at work, Ginny was faced with a new life-sized poster of herself. She had an au­burn high ponytail with a trademark curl at the end, and was wearing a pastel blue skirt suit with animal print heels. Her face had been airbrushed, removing every wrinkle, and she’d been given a golden halo and wings.

Ginny Splinter, Advice Angel, said the tagline.

Ginny pursed her lips. She didn’t like that her lines had been erased. She’d earned them over forty-nine years of life experience, like gathering stamps in a passport.

In the office, she waved at her latest producer, Tam. There was a conveyor belt of young graduates keen to join Talk Heart FM, using it as a training ground before migrating to bigger and better roles elsewhere. Tam was the latest recruit. She buzzed with ideas and her oversized black-rimmed glasses screamed ambition.

Tam propelled her chair across the office at great speed while sitting in it. “Gin, babe,” she said, tapping a pen against her teeth. “Thought we’d shake things up today and take some live calls, if you’re up for it?”

Ginny sat down at her desk and frowned. “Are you sure that’s sensible? We’ve got time to run through the show and handpick a few problems. It gives me time to digest them and give my best advice.”

Her mind flicked back to a live call during which a woman had set fire to her husband’s clothes after discovering his affair. Fortunately, he’d not been wearing them at the time. After­ward, Ginny had fielded lots of calls from concerned listeners and had to assure them everything was okay. Since then, all her producers preferred to pre-record conversations.

Tam drummed her fingers on the table. “Come on, Gin. Today’s lead news story is about a herd of sheep escaping into Greenham town center.” She fanned a yawn with her hand. “You must be bored of the same old format, too. We don’t want Just Ask Ginny to become the missionary position of ad­vice shows.”

Ginny narrowed her eyes. She knew her audience well. “Playing some great music, reading out listeners’ letters and giving them advice on air, plus a few pre-recorded interviews is a proven formula,” she said. “And the new poster makes me look like someone off Love Island.”

Tam slow-blinked and tapped her teeth again. “Hmm…” she said, looking Ginny up and down critically. “Not sure about that.”

Ginny was increasingly aware she was now twice the age of her colleagues. It felt unbelievable, laughable even, that she and Adrian would both turn fifty later that year. She always told callers that age was just a number, but she was finding the milestone confusing. One minute, she treated herself to a new pair of sparkly stilettoes, and the next she found herself reading reviews for thermal nightdresses. She bought pretty lingerie and vitamins to improve her energy levels. She was far from being old, but her youth sometimes seemed like a distant memory.

“I’ve made my decision.” Tam pointed her pen at Ginny’s chest like a pistol. “Let’s go for the live calls.”

Ginny tried not to growl.

A few minutes later, she went live on air, playing songs by Ed Sheeran, Adele and Coldplay, slotting in a couple of her own choices by Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Strokes.

Many of the callers seeking advice used a pseudonym and sometimes even affected a fake voice. Ginny nervously gnawed the inside of her cheek as she took a live call from Confused of Greenham. The woman didn’t know whether to enter a third marriage with a kind, generous man she didn’t love, or to pursue a fling with a younger pizza delivery guy.

“Picture yourself five years from now,” Ginny said. “You’re lying on your sofa, wrapped in a blanket with a dose of the flu. A hand gently sweeps the hair off your clammy forehead. You open your eyes and see someone holding out a cup of hot tea and some aspirin for you. Is it your fiancé or the pizza guy?”

“My fiancé, I suppose,” Confused said.

“Then there’s your answer. You can get pizza anytime from any place. Care and understanding are more difficult to come by.”

Ginny wrapped up the call and Tam’s weary voice came through her headphones. “Try making the next call sexier, Gin,” she said. “We don’t want listeners nodding off.”

“I’m here to help, not titillate,” Ginny said through gritted teeth. She ran a hand down her ponytail and picked up a call from the next person on the line. “Hello, it’s Ginny Splinter, I’m listening. Tell me your worries.”

The woman’s voice sounded shaky. “Oh, hello. It’s Miss…Peach.”

 

 

“Well, hi there, Miss Peach. Thanks for joining me today,” Ginny said. “Is there anything you’d like to share?”

The caller’s words stuttered out. “I only stayed with my husband for the sake of our child. You make a promise and then you’re stuck with it, for life. I wish I’d got out while I had the chance… I’ve wasted so much precious time and now I don’t know what to do.”

A familiar ache of compassion rose in Ginny’s chest. It was something she welcomed but had also learned to control, so other people’s problems didn’t affect her too deeply. “I’m sorry to hear that,” she soothed. “It sounds like you’ve been through a tough time. There’s nothing you can do to change the past, but you can take control of your future.”

“What if it’s too late for that?”

“It’s never too late to move on. Focus on yourself and con­sider what you really want from life—”

“And what if I don’t know?” Miss Peach snapped. “What if I’ve forgotten how to think about me?”

Ginny hmm’d and delivered a sympathetic pause while considering what advice to give her caller. People often just needed a gentle push in the right direction. “Why not make a list of all the things you enjoy, perhaps a walk in the country or a trip to the cinema. Try to get to know yourself again and—”

“As if that will work,” Miss Peach interrupted, her tone growing more brittle. “And what do you know anyway? You think you’re little Ms. Perfect, don’t you?”

Ginny’s scalp prickled and her mouth dried. Her uneasy sensation made the room tilt a little. She waved a hand, try­ing to get Tam’s attention through the glass partition, but the producer was busy scrolling on her phone. “This call is about you, not me,” she told Miss Peach. “Please don’t let your re­grets eat you up.”

“I’ve seen photos of you and your husband in a magazine. Adrian, isn’t it? You think you have such a marvelous life to­gether.”

Ginny’s heartbeat began to thump ominously in her ears. A few thousand people would be listening in to this conversa­tion. Oh, god, she hoped Adrian or Phoebe weren’t tuning in. Organizing a wedding was stressful enough for her daughter without this. Ginny drew a finger across her neck, indicating to Tam she was thinking of cutting the caller off.

Her producer didn’t notice.

“Shouldn’t you address your own problems before you lec­ture other people?” Miss Peach continued. “Do you even know what your husband gets up to at work? How well do you really know him?”

Ginny hesitated and rubbed the double lines between her eyebrows. Of course she knew Adrian, from the way the moles on his back formed a diamond shape, to how he liked his toast served warm, not hot, and with butter spread right to the edges. He didn’t like the bedroom to be stuffy so he slept with the window ajar, even if it meant Ginny had to wear socks in bed during winter. He thought Porsches were works of art but would feel like a cliché owning one. He could be grumpy until his morning coffee kicked in and he enjoyed a nice glass of Rioja most evenings. He loved dogs, hated cats, liked dark chocolate but never white and sang Oasis songs while he shaved.

Nevertheless, something icy seemed to slither down her spine. “Miss Peach, what do you mean by—?” Ginny started.

“Ask him,” Miss Peach said.

“Ask him what?”

But there was a click and the line went dead.

 Excerpted from The Little Italian Hotel. Copyright © 2023 by Phaedra Patrick. Published by Park Row Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

What I thought about The Little Italian Hotel

Advice radio-show host Ginny Splinter gets her heart broken on her anniversary and gets stuck with an Italian holiday that she can't get refunded.  So she decides to take 4 heartbroken strangers on the vacation with her. 

This story is very much about the journey and discoveries made along the way.  I liked Ginny.  She has a great character arc in this story and really looks at herself and her relationships in a thoughtful and meaningful way once her heart starts to mend.  All of the characters are interesting in their own way and there's a nice level of humor to keep things from getting too sad.  

The setting at The Little Italian Hotel was lovely and added to the story.  The author's descriptions of this really worked for me and made it easy to feel that I was transported along with the characters to this vacation spot.  The secondary characters are a likable bunch and while their stories weren't completely resolved, they round out the heartbreak aspect to the story. 

Overall, an entertaining women's fiction story with interesting characters and a great setting that can be read in a day.  A perfect vacation or beach read.

 
 
 About the Author

Phaedra Patrick is the bestselling author of several novels, including The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, which has been translated into twenty-five languages worldwide. Her second novel, Rise and Shine Benedict Stone, was made into a Hallmark movie. An award-winning short story writer, she previously studied art and marketing and has worked as a stained glass artist, film festival organizer and communications manager. Phaedra lives in Saddleworth, UK, with her family.

Social Links

 

Author Website: https://www.phaedra-patrick.com/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/phaedrapatrick 

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

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14203653.Phaedra_Patrick 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/phaedrapatrick 

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