In this charming romantic comedy, author Elinor Lipman writes lovable characters, smart dialogue, and zany situations. Thirty-something Faith Frankel returned to her small Massachusetts hometown after a stint in New York City. She spends her days writing thank you notes as a fundraiser for a local private school while her fiancé “finds himself” on a walk across America. Faith impulsively buys a semi-decrepit cottage, setting off a hilariously bizarre series of events (including a mystery). On Turpentine Lane is a gem, deserving of a read or listen (narrated beautifully by Mia Barron). I can’t wait to read more by Lipman.
Sophie Kinsella introduces another delightful character in Katie Brenner. In My Not So Perfect Life, country girl Katie is fulfilling her lifelong dream of living and working in London. According to her Instagram account, life is rosy. And yet, reality is quite different.
In this fast-paced witty novel, Kinsella covers workplace culture, social media “truth” vs. reality, and making assumptions/being quick to judge people. A fun yet thought-provoking look at life in the 21st century.
The Barbizon Hotel was the home to women who moved to New York City to start modeling or secretarial careers, aspiring actresses and poets, or those just waiting to meet the man of their dreams. The Dollhouse opens in 1952 with Darby McLaughlin leaving the Midwest to begin Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School and moving into the Barbizon. She is immediately intimidated by other women especially the Eileen Ford girls (aspiring models). Darby is lonely and homesick, but is befriended by a maid working in the hotel. Esme introduces her to jazz clubs, nightlife, and romance.
In the present day Barbizon, Rose Lewis a journalist now living in the condo Barbizon with her boyfriend. She hears a story about Darby and Esme and wants to explore it further. So she introduces herself to the older residents, hoping to interview them about the history of living in the Barbizon.
Both storylines are easy to follow even as the stories get more and more interwoven. Fiona Davis’ characters are likable and well defined. What was especially interesting was a glimpse into the fashions, morals, and expectations of young women in the 1950s.
When librarian Nina is made redundant, she decides to follow her dream of owning a bookstore. With a gift for connecting people to the right book, she buys a van, which she christens “Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After.” However, making her business work is not an easy task. With limited resources, she moves from where she lives in Birmingham to northern Scotland, because it seems that the people there have a real need for a bookstore and her mobile one is even a better idea, because she can travel to lots of small towns. Soon, she finds herself becoming part of a community–and maybe even finding love.
Readers can relax and forget all their troubles with The Seafront Tearoom – the perfect vacation read any time of year. Make no mistake, the three female protagonists’ lives are not trouble free. Charlie (Charlotte), Kat, and Seraphine are all working through major changes in their personal and professional lives. Luckily, their lives converge in a tea room in Scarborough and are never quite the same. Even Letty, the charming owner of The Seafront Tearoom, has secrets from her past that surface during the course of the story.
Vanessa Greene allows readers to meander through the English countryside sipping tea and nibbling on sweet cakes as the characters resolve their conflicts and live happily ever after. Please don’t allow that last statement to be a spoiler. The Seafront Tearoom is a relaxing journey complete with the characters’ favorite recipes to try with a cup of tea at the end of the book.
Take one part Meg Cabot’s (of The Princess Diaries fame) brand of romantic comedy and one part modern epistolary novel and you get a delightfully endearing story. Told through phone chats, social media messages, journals, and emails, The Boy is Back follows high school sweethearts Becky and Reed as they reconnect after a decade apart. Mix in a wacky family, small town shenanigans, and a few misunderstandings for a sweet and breezy read.
And if you’re a fan of epistolary novels, check out our list.
When renowned pastry chef Olivia Rawlings sets a banquet hall on fire with her Baked Alaska dessert, she decides that it is time to move on and find another job and another life. The safest place she can think of is Guthrie, Vermont, where her best friend Hannah lives.
The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living is delightful and fun to read. Olivia comes to realize that the small town offers her a sense of belonging and purpose. This sweet story from debut author Louise Miller is filled to the brim with yummy desserts and warm feelings. A treat!
Stay tuned for other foodie fiction – a featurette is coming from Jennifer later this month.
In this charming romantic comedy, the central character is this season’s hottest little black dress. Told from various points of view, Nine Women, One Dress shares the stories of an ensemble of New Yorkers whose lives are touched by the “it” dress. Despite jumping from character to character (men and women), the engaging story flows smoothly and keeps you invested in all of the lives we visit. Jane L. Rosen’s debut is a delightfully lighthearted read.
After a devastating injury at Wimbledon, 24-year-old Charlotte “Charlie” Silver questions her coach and her sedate lifestyle, but not her future in the sport of tennis. How far is she willing to go to make it to the top? In this delightfully snarky fast-paced coming of age tale, Lauren Weisberger provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of competitive tennis. Perfect for the beach!
In a departure from her Spellman mysteries, Lisa Lutz explores the friendship between three women over a twenty-year span. Anna, Kate, and George meet in college. Through heartbreak and triumph, their lives are revealed in an engaging story with multiple perspectives and a non-linear timeline.
While this is women’s fiction and not mystery, How to Start a Fire has the signature Lutz quirky characters and quick wit. A clever yet reflective look at the ebbs and flows of lifelong friendships.