The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick (2016)

Arthur Pepper has lived a simple, routine, lonely life since his wife, Miriam, passed away a year ago. His children are busy with their own lives, and he is grieving the love of his life. While searching through a wardrobe, Arthur finds his wife’s beautiful gold charm bracelet with a collection of charms. His curiosity leads him from York, England, to Bath, London, and Paris tracking the origin of the bracelet and the significance of each of the charms. His journey takes him out of his comfort zone and leads to adventures; new experiences, such as coming face to face with a tiger; and meeting different people. He discovers a side of his wife of forty years that he never knew and learns about himself in the process. Arthur’s interactions with his nosy widowed neighbor, Bernadette, and her teenage son, Nathan, enhance the story.

Phaedra Patrick’s The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a heartwarming, poignant, and amusing story.

 

My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith (2017)

Paul Stuart is a food/wine writer with a deadline. His focus is diverted when his live-in girlfriend of four years runs off with her trainer. Escaping to Tuscany sounds like a solution for both problems. The story starts like a madcap adventure in Italy, but develops into a study of humanity with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

Once his transportation issue is resolved, thus the title of the book, Paul is free to explore the beautiful countryside and research local food and wine. His route is definitely not a typical tourist package. Paul has command of the Italian language and quickly makes friends. He serves as a confidant to a few local men and even lends a helping hand in a longtime conflict. During the course of his stay, he entertains three ladies (two from his past and a new love interest). His working vacation may be just what was needed for his personal and professional dilemmas.

Alexander McCall Smith is well known for his long running series, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and others, but the standalone novel My Italian Bulldozer stands out as a feel good read.

The Seafront Tearoom by Vanessa Greene (2015)

seafrontReaders 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.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (2011)
Eleanor Brown’s likable debut has lots of family drama, a touch of Shakespeare, and a happy ending!

Dr. James Andreas, a Shakespeare scholar, has three daughters. When his wife is a diagnosed with breast cancer, he calls them home with a quotation from Titus Andronicus: "Come, let us go; and pray to all the gods/For our beloved mother in her pains." And so they return, all in their thirties, to the small college town where they were raised.

The three Andreas sisters – “dependable” Rosalind, “sexy” Bianca, “carefree” Cordelia –speaking with one voice, are the novel's first-person narrative…an unusual perspective but it works well here. With a touch of comedy the three sisters together tell the whole story, tracing each one's worries and indiscretions, yet still creating a unity, even in moments of strident confrontation. Or as the author says: "We love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much." Ultimately it is the story of young women becoming “adults.”

And even though the happy endings are a little predictable, it is a good read. Indeed…all’s well that ends well!

La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith

La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith (2009)
After losing her husband, La (short for Lavender) goes to live in a small house in the English countryside owned by her in-laws. The time is the late 1930s and when WWII begins, La occupies herself by helping a local farmer with his chickens and leading an amateur orchestra made up of locals and men from the local airbase.

This is a quiet story about a woman who lives a simple life yet touches the lives of many.


Visit the author's website and read a review from the Washington Post.

Life with Strings Attached by Minnie Lamberth

Life with Strings Attached by Minnie Lamberth (2005)
Life with Strings Attached, Minnie Lamberth's first novel, is the winner of the Paraclete Press Award for Fiction. It is graced with strong writing and a decidedly southern charm. Set in Evergreen, Alabama, in the summer of 1972 seven-year-old Hannah Hayes is concerned with keeping her beagle Pumpkin free from the bad influences of the neighbor's dog and convincing the adults in her life that she is called to be her community's first girl preacher. Told with humor and insight this story is not sentimental, but is an authentic tale of growing up. It held me right up to the end!

Read reviews at Amazon.com and visit the author's website.

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani (2009)
A light but very entertaining book for a beach or trip read, especially if you've been or are going to Italy. Valentine, raised in a true Italian family, lives with her aging grandmother as they try to keep their family business (a high-end Italian shoe designer/ manufacturer) up and running. Love enters in for both Valentine and grandma and the ending has a twist. Chick lit, maybe, but I truly enjoyed it!

Read an excerpt and review at Bookreporter.com and visit the author's website.

The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart

The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart (2008)
When all of his regular customers are going bald or deserting him for a snazzy new barber in the next town, Guillaume Ladoucette gives up barbering for matchmaking. Trying to pair up his friends and neighbors, though, turns out to be harder than Guillaume imagined. Especially when he can't even manage his own love life. A charming story set in a magical town and chock full of good French food and eccentrics.

Read an interview with the author and explore the publisher's reading guide for this title.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (2008)
At the end of WWII, writer Juliet Ashton has just published a collection of the humorous columns she wrote about London during the war. Now she is at loose ends trying to find her next project. Through a happy accident, a used book with her name in it lands on the Channel Island of Guernsey and into the hands of Dawsey Adams. Through letters to Dawsey and others on Guernsey, Juliet learns about what occupation under the Germans was like and finds the inspiration for her next book.

The story is told entirely in letters between Juliet and her many friends and is very charming. Some might feel it is a bit too charming and even sentimental, but anyone willing to enter into the time and place of the book and who enjoys quirky eccentrics will find a satisfying read. The book is reminiscent of Helen Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road for its depiction of England right after WWII and its discussion of literature through letters from Hanff and the friends she made at a bookshop in England. For another story of the Channel Islands under German occupation, see the British miniseries Island at War.
Visit the book's website and read reviews of the book at Amazon.com.

The Used World by Haven Kimmel

The Used World by Haven Kimmel (2007)
Contemporary setting in small town about three women and the relationships in their lives. Fast, easy read with twists and an interesting way of life in small town USA today. The story has an interesting ending and all is well. The author's use of descriptions in her story makes for good reading flow. A person should read this book 30 years from now to know the terminology and setting of life in the beginning of the 21st century.

Read reviews at Amazon.com and visit the author's website.

A Cedar Cove Christmas by Debbie Macomber

A Cedar Cove Christmas by Debbie Macomber (2008)
Mary Jo Wyse is pregnant; she heads to Cedar Cove in search of David, the father of her baby. Following her are three overprotective brothers (the three Wyse men). Although she doesn’t find David, Mary Jo is embraced by the close knit Cedar Cove community. A nice light read that’s good for the holidays.

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson (2008)
Mr. Malik, a widower living in Nairobi, loves his Tuesday morning bird walks--and Mrs. Mbikwa--the widow who leads them. Mr. Malik, a shy and modest man, has a dream of dancing with Mrs. Mbikwa at the annual Hunt Club Ball. First, though, he must win the right to invite her by seeing and identifying more birds species within a one week period than does his arch nemesis in life and love, the flashy Harry Khan. While Harry flies around Kenya identifying birds, Mr. Malik stays closer to home and deals with stolen cars, his lively young houseboy, and Somalian kidnappers. Will Mr. Malik’s kind and generous heart win his lady love in the end? A charming story told with affection and humor.

Read an interview with the author and reviews from Amazon.com.

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo (2007)
This is a travel book and an enlightenment book with very funny moments. The two diametrically opposed personalities encounter forced togetherness on a road trip from the East Coast to a family Midwest farm. The author carves out two distinct men, one who is patient about the differences in people and one who is not tolerant of different people. Fast, laugh-out-loud read which provokes reflection on one's own personality traits.

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland (1999)
The title of Girl in Hyacinth Blue could also be titled Life of a Painting. All who read this book will enjoy art more because of the wonderful description of the painting and the way the owners of it enjoy its beauty.

Set in Amsterdam from 1939 to 1945, the story gives a wonderful history of the life of the people during WWII. Since the story gives the historical account of the painting Girl in Hyacinth Blue from present day to its beginning, you're reading a memoir backwards to find out how the painting came to be in the current owner's home.

Enjoy an easy read while you learn.

Visit the publisher's website for a reading guide and an interview with the author.