The Good Wife by Jane Porter

The Good Wife by Jane PorterBook Review
Title: The Good Wife (A Brennan Sisters Novel)
Author:  Jane Porter
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Released: September 3, 2013
Pages: 432
ISBN-10: 0425253678
ISBN-13: 978-0425253670
Stars:  4.5

The Good Wife which asks the question, “Is it possible to love someone too much?” is the third book (and hopefully not final!) in the Brennan Sisters series by award-winning, national bestselling author Jane Porter who has more than five million copies of her books in print.  It’s also the one that caused me to shed the most tears.  Read it with a box of Kleenex at your side! I absolutely adore this series and Library Journal calls it, “An investment worth making for fans of smart women’s fiction.”  I couldn’t agree more.

This is the youngest Brennan sister’s story, that of beautiful Sarah Walker, wife of Tampa Bay Ray’s designated hitter and all-around “Spartacus” force of nature, N’awlins native Boone Walker, and mother of rambunctious eight-year-old son Brennan and his little sister Ella.  As the story opens, Sarah and the rest of her family are mourning the loss of their beloved mother to cancer and are attending her funeral.  Emotions are high, nerves frazzled, tempers at the boiling point. Sarah doesn’t approve of her sister Kit’s biker boyfriend Jude, her brother Tommy and his wife Cass are fighting over his unwillingness to try again to have a baby, there’s tension between Meg and Jack, and their sister Brianna is obviously ill but isn’t talking. All is not well in their big Irish Catholic family and we know for sure that nothing will be the same again.

Sarah, who gave up going to law school to marry her professional baseball player husband, is seriously struggling with trying to forgive him for cheating on her three years earlier. She wants to trust him but finds that she can’t and despite Sarah’s best efforts she’s spending her days obsessing over Boone and what he’s up to when he’s not home with her, which is most of the time as he’s on the road with the team.  Her family notices that she’s drinking too much wine and she’s lonely and exhausted at having to move her children and home yet again when Boone is traded to the Oakland A’s.

In the meantime we’re introduced to stunning bakery & café owner Lauren Summers who is trying to get on with her life after losing her seventeen-year-old sun Blake ten months earlier in a car accident. She’s left the business she owned with her sister Lisa in Napa to work for a struggling café owner in Alameda because she needed to get away and grieve in private.  Lauren is a friend of Sarah’s oldest sister Meg who we hear a lot more about in this book and who endures another tragedy after spending the last year trying to save her marriage after having an affair on her husband Jack.

Boone meets Lauren in Mama’s Café in Alameda and they soon become friends as he loves the food there, not to mention her company.  Lauren is someone he can talk to when Sarah, who is pushing him away, can’t be reasoned with.  At first Lauren develops a crush on him but when she finds out that he’s married with children and that he loves his wife, she tells herself that she can’t think about him in that way. Boone introduces her to his teammate, Chris Stier (who I happen to know was inspired by actor Chris Hemsworth…talk about heavy sigh!), who Lauren is determined not to give the time of day to.  But he’s not just a dark blonde, pony-tailed, hulking, overly confident, handsome athlete, he’s also smart, thoughtful and looking for a real relationship.

I love that Jane Porter’s male love interests are tall, muscular, handsome men who could charm the habit off a nun.  I’m attracted to both Boone and Chris, but for me, they’re not quite Jude Knight, who has been the one I would desire the most of all the men in Jane’s books and for that reason and the fact I relate the most to sister Kit, The Good Daughter is still my favourite of the Brennan Sisters novels.

There is a lot going on in this book, which is the longest in the series, and I love that we get to reconnect with Sarah’s sisters, Meg, Kit and Brianna.  These characters are by now old friends and we care about them and want to see them happy.  And even though Lauren is a new character, I found myself caring more about her than Sarah.  Is Lauren going to allow Chris into her heart?  Can she forget about Boone?  Will Sarah believe that Boone’s relationship with Lauren is truly platonic?  These questions and many more are waiting to be answered and once you start reading The Good Wife, you won’t want to put it down until you find out how it all turns out.

The Good Wife is full of gut-wrenching emotion, expressed honestly as always through the very authentic characters that Jane Porter has created. Its theme of the impact of infidelity on not only the couple involved but also their extended family is perfectly realized.  It also possesses a lot of love, humour, hope and redemption and is a story that I’m sure every woman can relate to in some way.

There has been some interest in these books being made into a television series and I can only implore the powers that be to please make it happen!  I’m someone who had never read romance or chick lit novels (except for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Daisy Dooley Does Divorce) before I discovered Jane Porter’s contemporary women’s fiction novels, but I credit her with influencing me to read more of them in the future.

Weighting For Mr. Right by Patricia W. Fischer

Weighting For Mr. Right by Patricia W. FischerBook Review
Title: Weighting For Mr. Right
Author:  Patricia W. Fischer
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Released: November 13, 2012
Pages: 430
ASIN: B00A78F83E
Stars:  3.5

There are times when you read a book and it is so relatable to your own life that you can’t put it down. While you read this book all of your own major issues are pushed to the surface and you’re forced to confront them as you read the fictional version of what could be your life.  That’s how I felt as I read Weighting For Mr. Right by Patricia W. Fischer.  The author, who happens to be a Facebook friend, offered this book in Kindle version for free on Amazon over the past weekend and for some reason, I decided to take advantage of it, downloaded it to my new Kindle for PC program and then transferred it to my iPhone.  I spent the next four days glued to my iPhone reading a book on it for the first time ever. 

Weighting For Mr. Right is the story of an intelligent, pretty, overweight nurse named Megan Sayla who on the day of her wedding to one of the richest bachelors in Dallas, hears herself saying no at the alter to the question, “Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?”  Megan has an epiphany and realizes that she just can’t settle for Travis Carter (or his horribly snobby, shrew of an overbearing mother), even though he’s a nice guy, because he’s just not Mr. Right.  She runs out of the church and we catch up with her in a men’s bathroom at a local car wash where she falls apart as a handsome, young, brown haired, green eyed man named Jacob Dante listens. Jacob talks to her through the stall wall, really listens to her, and gives her the strength to move forward.  Their conversation is so compelling for both of them that they just have to meet each other and when they do, despite the fact that Megan is stuffed into a wedding dress, with hair teased two feet above her head and heavy make-up running down her face, Jacob is immediately attracted to her.  She does speak seven languages after all, one of them being Italian, which really turns Jacob on!  Of course he doesn’t reveal his true feelings for her because he believes that it’s too soon after she’s left her fiancé and it is.

As Megan has minimized her life so much to fit into Travis’ she has nowhere to live and ends up moving in with her overachieving cousin, Sam, who does not get along with Megan’s best friend, a decidedly gluttonous and underachieving Lydia who loves Megan because she has always accepted her for who she is.  Sam wants what she believes is best for her cousin and encourages Megan to join a gym that Jacob just happens to run (and co-own) and Megan finds herself with a new, enthusiastic cheerleading squad in her personal trainer, Carmen and her brother Jacob (although Megan doesn’t know Carmen is Jacob’s sister).  Megan starts a new nursing job at the children’s hospital where Sam works as well as a part-time tutoring gig and the rest of the time she spends at the gym trying to figure out how to deal with Jacob’s psycho ex-girlfriend, Angela.  In the meantime, Sam keeps secrets from Megan and her life changes drastically by the end of the story.

As Megan pushes forward with her goals to change her body and her life, finding confidence to stand up for herself in every situation for the first time, not everyone around her is happy with her transformation.  As her lifestyle change becomes more and more successful, her best friend becomes more and more alienated from her as she’s threatened by the new Megan.  Lydia is in fact, a prime example of a selfish, self-absorbed, unhappy woman who behaves as if she’s a teenager even though she’s in her mid-thirties.  Megan questions the path she’s on and we’re left wondering if she’ll believe in herself enough to finish what she’s started and stick to her new way of life.

What are the chances that most overweight girls would find a Jacob Dante to not only help them with their weight loss battle but actually be interested in them as a girlfriend too? I suspect not that many, but this is a chick lit/romance novel, and we read them to escape reality, right?  The dialogue in the book is sharp, witty and realistic, although sometimes ridiculous and the language when it comes to sex wouldn’t make it through the editing process by a professional publishing company.  However, it’s also quite funny and the characters, although some of them are almost caricatures, are entirely relevant.

The problem with this book for me, aside from the many typos in it, the constant switching back and forth between narrators, and that all the women can do when they’re nervous is “tuck a lock of hair behind her ear”, is the fact that only in a chick lit novel would a woman like Megan (or a woman like me), find a man like Jacob Dante.  A man who is totally hot, physically ripped, smart, sensitive and successful in business, whose three sisters have taught him quite a bit about women…and who likes a woman for her brains and personality, in spite of her less than perfect looks…I mean, where in the real world does a man like that exist?

I love that Fischer wrote about a beautiful, intelligent woman who battles her weight as well as her self worth while realizing that she shouldn’t settle for a relationship with anyone who isn’t Mr. Right (story of my life).  When Megan stands up to Sam and tells her that she could never really understand how much pain she was in after completing a 22 mile bike ride as well as resistance training because Sam has always been in shape and she doesn’t have a clue what Megan is really going through was very poignant and real. Sam had no idea that what she was doing to Megan was really hurting her.

As one of the broken ones, I could also relate to Carmen, Jacob’s younger sister whose fiancé left her just before their wedding for another, thinner woman, and whose rebound guy had ruined her financially.

I also thought that the relationship struggle between Megan and Lydia was quite realistic.  What it’s really about, for Megan, is learning to love herself enough to make the effort every single day to do the right thing when it comes to food and to when it comes to standing up for what she believes in.  Megan’s struggle to stick to her lifestyle change and to accept how it will affect her relationships for better or for worse is one that every overweight woman who has tried to do the same will empathize with.

Unfortunately, the last quarter of the book wasn’t as good as the rest of it and I caught myself rolling my eyes at the love scene between Megan and Jacob while being disappointed that less care was taken with the writing which felt hasty and over simplified.  The Epilogue which is written from Megan’s perspective was not entirely satisfying either, as Sam’s situation is not resolved and Angela is written off in a pithy manner.  These are things that prevented me from giving Weighting For Mr. Right a four star review, but I would definitely be willing to read more of Patricia W. Fischer’s work as she has a promising future as a romance novelist.

Juliet by Anne Fortier

Book Review
Title: Juliet
Author: Anne Fortier
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: 2010
Pages: 464
ISBN-10: 1554684994
ISBN-13: 978-1554684991
Stars: 4.0

When HarperCollins Canada asked me if I would like to be a part of their blog tour for author Anne Fortier and her impressive sophomore novel, Juliet, I jumped at the chance after reading the book’s synopsis.

“Juliet” follows Julie Jacobs on a trip to Siena, Italy where she is to locate an old family treasure. Soon she is launched on a precarious journey into the true history of her ancestor Giulietta, whose legendary love for a young man named Romeo turned medieval Siena upside down. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in Shakespeare’s unforgettable blood feud, she begins to realize that the notorious curse — “A plague on both your houses!” — is still at work, and that she is the next target. It seems the only one who can save her from her fate is Romeo . . . but where is he?

Juliet is a splendid romantic mystery set in Siena, Italy involving 25-year-old American Juliet Jacobs, a.k.a. Giulietta Tolomei, a direct descendant of THE Juliet of Romeo and Juliet notoriety. Juliet’s story is told in two centuries, Jacobs’ own, and the 14th century when the original Romeo and Giulietta’s tale unfolded in Siena – not Verona as Shakespeare had us believe.

When Juliet’s guardian, her great Aunt Rose, passes away, she leaves her entire estate to Juliet’s heinous twin sister Janice (the opposite of Juliet in almost every way) with whom she has an estranged relationship. For the single Juliet, who has never shown much ambition beyond teaching Shakespeare in summer camp, she leaves a mysterious key to a safety deposit box in her home town of Siena and a letter encouraging her to discover a treasure that will unlock the secrets of her own ancestry as well as the death of her parents. So begins Juliet’s exciting journey to medieval Tuscany where she uncovers history changing secrets and events that will put her life at risk while possibly introducing her to her own Romeo.

The novel juxtaposes between Juliet’s first person narrative in modern day and a third person narrative of the never before revealed events in the lives of the original Romeo Marescotti and Giulietta Tolomei. It will likely be a far more intoxicating read for those who have sound knowledge of Shakespeare’s play but I believe it will stand up as an above average read for lovers of historical fiction and romantic mystery even if you don’t. Juliet boasts a dramatic cast of intriguing characters including Juliet’s family butler Umberto, Eva Maria Salimbeni, her nefarious nephew Alessandro Santini, and the artist Maestro Lippi who will keep you riveted to the plot every step of the way!

Anne Fortierwho is as beautiful as the Juliet we all imagine, writes with splendor, intelligence and elegance and I was captivated by this story from Chapter 1. Her heroine is a complex character who is far from perfect which makes her refreshingly interesting and Fortier has obviously done a great deal of research, not only about medieval and modern day Siena, but also about Romeo and

Sir Frank Dicksee\’s Painting of Romeo and Juliet

Juliet. Like the Capulets and Montagues, she writes of two families who have been feuding for centuries – the Tolomeis and Salimbenis (who actually existed) – and her description of Siena is so perfect that you will find yourself fully immersed in it without any hesitation. For an armchair tourist like myself, I was in heaven!

There are so many deceptive twists and turns in this adventurous novel that it will keep you guessing until the final pages. The only thing that disappointed me about it was the “love scene” in Chapter VIII.II and without giving away anything, I’ll just say that it was a pretty big disappointment at that. My star rating dropped from 4.5 to 4 because of it.

However, it has been a joy to stumble upon a read this good. I worried for nothing about being able to read the book fast enough for HarperCollins’ deadlines, but I needn’t have as I could barely put it down. Reading Juliet is the perfect way to spend a chilly autumn day and I will be recommending this fascinating book, which will change your perception of Romeo and Juliet forever, to my girlfriends for a long time to come.

Anne Fortier, PhD. will be appearing at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto from October 30 – November 1 so don’t miss this opportunity to see her in person and to ask her all about the adventures of Juliet!

Thank you HarperCollins Canada! Find out more about the upcoming Juliet Blog Tour with Anne Fortier at www.facebook.com/HarperCollinsCanada, twitter.com/HarperCollinsCA and through the Savvy Reader Newsletter at www.harpercollins.ca/members/newsletters/samples/19.html

Fifteen Minutes of Shame by Lisa Daily

Fifteen Minutes of Shame by Lisa DailyBook Review
Title: Fifteen Minutes of Shame
Author:  Lisa Daily
Publisher: Plume
Released: 2008
Pages: 304
ISBN-10: 0452289130
ISBN-13: 978-0452289130
Stars: 3.5

Fifteen Minutes of Shame by “experienced dating expert and virgin novelist” Lisa Daily is chick lit at its guilty pleasure finest. It’s the equivalent of enjoying People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive issue (usually the only issue I buy all year) in that it’s clearly style over substance, but it’s undeniably delicious. It won’t really stimulate your intellect but it will make you laugh and reminisce about your own dating exploits.

TV dating expert Darby Vaughn has just been dumped by her once seemingly perfect celebrity publicist husband Will Bradley, and his ex-wife, reality show actress Gigi Bissanti, who informs the media that she is getting back together with her husband and their two children so that they can be a family again. Darby is informed of this as she’s about to be interviewed by Matt Lauer on The Today Show for her latest book about how to snag a man called The Dreamgirl Academy (based on Lisa’s real life Dreamgirl Academy classes for women) and promptly vomits into a chrysanthemum arrangement on the coffee table before fainting on national television.

So much for Darby’s marriage, family, career, or reputation! Or is it? With the help of her weasel-like husband’s ex-assistant Kendall who takes over as Darby’s publicist, her “dreamgirl” best friends, and one of Sarasota, Florida’s finest divorce attorneys: the handsome, integrity-laden Holt Gregory, Darby slowly picks up the pieces of her shattered life.

Fifteen Minutes of Shame is well-written and exceedingly funny with dating tips from the Dreamgirl Academy or advice columns by Darby Vaughn published at the end of each chapter. However, I wanted to like Darby more than I did, and I found it just a bit of a stretch to believe that she would risk everything she had ever worked for to fight for custody of Will’s children, even though she had raised them for 3 years while Will and Gigi concentrated on their respective careers. It was interesting to consider the rights of step-parents in custody cases and I can understand how a step-parent can fall in love with someone else’s children, but what I couldn’t understand was how Darby managed to have such a successful career of her own, up until she discovered Will’s infidelity, and still found time to be the primary caregiver of his children.

Darby’s career never really falls apart as she begins taping a reality dating show within weeks of her public humiliation, and while you feel sorry for her in the beginning, it doesn’t take long for your empathy to dissipate because she just doesn’t really have to struggle much to pull her life together in the aftermath.

The development of her relationship with her attorney was predictable and the whole, rather clichéd story felt like a series of segments on Entertainment Tonight – which is okay, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Even though by the end of the book we see some growth in Darby’s emotional intelligence, she’s just not the kind of woman I could realistically cheer for. I didn’t think she deserved Holt Gregory (who really was written as the perfect man) and couldn’t understand why a man like him would fall for her because she didn’t seem to be deep enough for him. But then again, what do I know? I’m still single and am probably in dire need of Lisa Daily’s dating advice!

I just don’t play games of any kind when it comes to relationships with men and I don’t think that anyone else’s list of rules about the dos and don’ts of dating can apply to women in a universal fashion. But can they make you laugh? Hell, yes!! I mean, isn’t the fact that “in 80% of marriages, at least one partner will have an affair” a side-splitter?! Call me cynical; it’s okay. I confess.

At A Loss For Words by Diane Schoemperlen

At A Loss For WordsBook Review
Title: At A Loss For Words
Author:  Diane Schoemperlen
Publisher: Phyllis Bruce Books
Released: January 17, 2008
Pages: 160
ISBN 10 – 0002008815
ISBN 13 – 978-0002008815
Stars:  3.5

I wrote this review for HarperCollins early this year.

As a single, forty-something female, it’s frightening how much I relate to fellow Kingstonian, Diane Schoemperlen’s excellent new novel (January 2008), At A Loss For Words (A Post-Romantic Novel). I could swear this is a work of non-fiction, allowing readers a peak into Schoemperlen’s real life because it’s so full of truth. I figure that if I am deeply moved by it because of having had such a similar experience in dealing with a long distance relationship with a man who very quickly into our getting to know each other (after we had slept together of course) suddenly became so busy and had so many excuses as to why he wasn’t calling, emailing or driving the two hours east to see me – then I’m sure there are many women out there who feel the same way.

This is a WONDERFUL, well-written, humourous book about the desperate nature of human relationships and how we all question our sanity when we’re in love. Diane has managed to write just about everything that I felt about my most recent relationship (and others), although I’m sure I wasn’t quite as obsessive about writing to him as her unnamed character is! It was smart to write the characters without names because the reader can insert whatever name she or he want and suddenly, the story could be theirs. Remarkably, I even had the same Mr. Wonderful doll that my best friend gave me. However, after ending the relationship – because I found out that I wasn’t the only woman he was dating, but in fact he was sleeping with at least three other women at the same time which shed a bright light on his many excuses: why he was tired so often, couldn’t find the time to spend an entire day with me and was a pretty lousy lay – I threw out Mr. Wonderful because I realized that he doesn’t exist.

All men lie to the women in their lives. All of them. And we lie to them too. Diane knows that and has managed to maintain a sense of humour about the sad truth of it all. The way in which she writes about ideas to cure writer’s block and her use of references to horoscopes, websites and music all add to the contemporary realism of this story.

I will recommend this book to every woman that I know who is out there dating or thinking about it! How the human race manages to evolve, I do not know. Diane, call me! I’m sure we could talk!