The Man I Never Met by Elle Cook

The Man I Never Met is an unexpected, wonderfully surprising, engaging story of sight unseen love and the perils which come with it.

Hannah, who lives in England answers her cell phone one day. It’s Davey from America who has a job interview in England and has a question. She tells him he has the wrong number but wishes him good luck before she hangs up.

What she never expected to happen was to get another call from Davey, telling her his good news. He got the job and is moving to England. This starts their sight unseen relationship. They begin texting each other about themselves and their lives. Then the relationship takes a new turn when they send a picture of themselves to each other. As they seem to both like what they see, they spend more time together via FaceTime, watching movies together, falling asleep together, and Hannah showing him England. They finally decide to take this relationship to a new level and with Davey coming in less than thirty days, Hannah begins to apartment hunt for him.

Then the big day arrives, and Hannah is bursting with excitement as she waits at the airport to finally meet the man of her phone dreams. But when everyone has disembarked, there is no Davey. Quite confused, she doesn’t understand what this could mean.

And then she discovers the shocking reason which will change the destiny of both their lives forever.

They try to move on, even though they cannot stop thinking about the other, many times picking their phone up to send a text to the other, but that never happens. Life goes on and yes, they both go on but with a sadness they seem never to be able to let go of.

But sometimes if the love is meant to be, no matter how hard you try to deny it, no matter how long it takes you can possibly one day find a way back to what could have been. Even though Hannah and Davey never fully met, perhaps kismet could possibly intervene, but only if they choose to listen to their feelings.

The Man I Never Met tugs at your heart and with each passing page gives hope to the hopelessness and elation to the despair as they try to find their way back to each other.

Thank you #NetGalley #Dell/RandomHouse #TheManINeverMet #ElleCook/LornaCook for the advanced copy.

A Wish for Winter by Viola Shipman

Some heartbreaks can keep us so frozen in time that we can never really move on, always wanting to play the what if game, never wanting to let go of the love, good memories, and yes, even the guilt. Some are unable to give themselves the permission to leave it all behind and start anew.

This is the case for Susan Norcross. She lost both her parents in a car accident when she was a young teenager. She blames herself. Not the person who hit them. Everything in her life is based on what they would have done or what she thinks they would have wanted her to do. Now turning forty the same age her mother was when she died, she begins to feel her life start to slip away, just as her mother’s did. Although she was raised by her grandparents and has true friends who know her pain and try to help her, she still can’t help but listen to that internal voice. Her mom’s and dad’s.

Now, she manages her family’s very popular bookstore called Sleigh By the Bay which indeed is an homage to all things Christmas all the time, even with her grandparents dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus. Both her parents and grandparents met and fell in love while dressed in Santa suits, so the name of the store is totally appropriate! Susan is still waiting for her Santa to arrive. Unfortunately, she thinks her Santa may not be coming down her fireplace anytime soon! She can’t help but feel sad because the thinks she will never experience what her parents and grandparents had.

Her best friend Holly has a different take on the problem. She thinks Susan needs to get out there and mingle with Kringle. Don’t wait for him to come to you, you go and make it happen! And that’s just what Holly convinces Susan to do. She reluctantly agrees to go on a Santa Run where everyone is dressed as Santas for a good cause. And she meets a Santa! But can only see his eyes. They agree to meet after the race. He never shows up. Typical Susan luck. End of story…or is it?

Holly devises a plan in which though mathematics she promises to find Susan’s Santa for her. At this point, Susan just wants to be left alone, but she knows Holly will never let this go. Susan agrees and what she learns is so much for than just finding someone who is wearing a Santa suit. She begins to see with the help of those around her what her life has been like and what it used to be. She learns you can let go of the pain and sorrow and still keep those happy memories alive and treasure them.

You can also begin to create new memories, for yourself and all those around you. Will Susan get her Santa ending? Well, sometimes when you least expect it, miracles happen right under your red reindeer nose!

A Wish for Winter is another Shipman masterpiece. It has all the pieces to make a beautifully made story. Love, sorrow, forgiveness, and friendship intertwined.

Thank you #NetGalley #GraydonHouse #ViolaShipman #AWishforWinter for the advanced copy.

The Lindbergh Nanny by Mariah Fredericks

So much has been written about the 1932 kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh, Jr., son of aviator Charles Sr. and his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh. But, because she kept an extremely low profile for the rest of her life, not much is really known about Charlie’s nurse (nanny) who was the last person to see the baby alive, as well as the person who had the difficult duty of identifying his remains.

Although after the baby died, she went back to her home in Scotland, she found it difficult to get another job anywhere doing anything. She was looked at as a monster because the media had dubbed her as someone suspicious in the death. The experience affected her in so many ways. She never married or had children. It was only much later in her life that she decided to an interview to tell her story as she absolutely knew it.

Betty Gow came to the United States to be with a man she had been dating back home in Scotland. Unfortunately, that did not work out. Desperate to find a job, someone suggested her to the Lindbergh’s who were looking for a nurse for their baby Charlie. When she got the job, she couldn’t believe her luck.

Although the Lindbergh’s were a bit different, traveling frequently and leaving the baby at home, and Charles Sr. whom she dubbed as odd with “different” views, she adored the baby and got along well with the other staff. She enjoyed going out with the others from the household for drinks and even started dating a sailor named Henrik. She was very cautious with everyone, not wanting to overstep her boundaries for fear of being fired.

But everything changed the night Charlie disappeared. Suddenly she was thrust into the media and Betty became the Lindbergh Nanny forevermore. The media, suspicious of her from the start accused her of having something to do with the kidnapping. She could not fight back. And then her boyfriend was arrested.

All the while, Betty is grieving the loss of a child she adored, while suffering intolerable guilt blaming herself. If only…what if I had done… .

As much as the sensationalism of the kidnapping caused her anxiety, the trial of the kidnapper was an even greater worry as she played out different scenarios in her mind as to perhaps someone from the household possibly aiding with the kidnapping, knowingly or unknowingly. But her strength and intelligence were certainly on display as she aptly answered all questions thrown at her.

The story told by Betty is one of terror, horror, unresolved questions and dreadful guilt which lasted until the day she died.

Although most of the book is based on actual interviews, etc., Frederick’s does take liberties with some of her storytelling which she makes sure to tell the reader in the Afterward.

Although someone was brought to justice for this appalling murder, to this day there are still conspiracy theories as to who else could have been involved. But through it all no one ever really rallied around Betty Gow, the Lindbergh Nanny whose only crime was loving and taking care of a baby in her charge. Until now.

Thank you #NetGalley #MonotaurBooks #MariahFredericks #TheLindberghNanny for the advanced copy.

No Stranger Here by Carlene O’Connor

In the small town of Dingle, Ireland there has been a murder. The body of wealthy Johnny O’Reilly, horse owner was found dead on a beach, dressed in his suit as he was last seen at the party he had attended. Surrounding his body are a set of curious clues and footsteps leading away from him, but none coming towards him.

Needless to say, when someone from a prominent family in a small town is murdered, well, the gossip mill goes into overdrive. But for one former resident of the town, Dimpna Wilde who is a veterinarian like her father who still lives in Dingle, she and her son Ben have not been back there in years for many reasons. One being her marriage fell apart when her husband was accused of cheating clients and then killed himself leaving Dimpna to feel it her obligation to carry his burden, as well as her own.

So, as her animal clinic in Dublin goes into foreclosure for non-payment and her son traveling to parts unknown, when two police detectives come to her to tell her of O’Reilly’s unfortunate fate, she fears for her parents in Dingle who has a rocky relationship with him all of course, due to her. She picks up and heads back to a town which harbors nothing but horrible memories.

You see years ago, something terrible happened to Dimpna and she accidentally caused the death of one of O’Reilly’s prized horses. She has never been able to forgive herself and also feels guilty knowing her parents have had to live with her mistake while still living in the town.

What she finds as she returns is chaos. Her father unbeknownst to her is in the midst of dementia, but still working and at times unable to process what is going on. A drug which was found in the murder victim’s system seems to have come from his veterinary practice. Her parents seem to be two of many suspects in the town. So, while Dimpna reluctantly tries to put her father’s practice back in order, trying to avoid the people of her past who still haunt her to this day, she is also there to find out who really killed O’Reilly if not just for her parent’s sake.

As the detectives begin to look into the murder, and Dimpna finds interesting clues which then opens the door to her troubled past, she can’t help but think perhaps her father is to blame. But is he being set up? If so, by who? With so many suspects and with her father’s decline, she must wade lightly through the waters to find the true story. But, her curiosity could be the death of her.

No Strangers Here is quite the thriller, with a wonderfully thought-out mystery and incredible plots which will keep the reader engaged in the story up until and including the ending.

Thank you #KensingtonBooks #BetweenTheChapters #CarleneO’Connor #NoStrangersHere for the advanced arc.

Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger

Last Girl Ghosted is a heart-stopping mystery ride in which you never quite know where you are going and are stunned by the time you finally get there.

Wren met him on a dating app. Against her will. She was content in the life she built for herself. Podcaster, advice columnist who grew her business to where she could live comfortably. She always tried to live in the present never wandering back to who, where and what she had come from.

But when her best friend finally convinces her to try opening her mind to allowing someone into her life other than her, she reluctantly agrees. And although she had a few misses, she finally seemed to meet someone who got her. They began spending all their time together. Sure, he was a bit of a mystery, but so was she. Sure, she never met any of his friends, but she never introduced him to her best friend. As they grew closer, she decided to tell him her deep dark secret. Something no one else knew, her best friend didn’t know the full story really. And then he just disappeared. Ghosted her. Vanished. Took himself off of all social media. When she finally goes to where she thinks he works, it doesn’t exist.

And then she questions why? Is it possible her terrible secret was too much for him? Now, regretting her decision to tell him, she decides this must be her fault. Even though he is gone, she just can’t seem to forget him.

But when she is contacted by a detective who has been looking for this man, who seems to have had few different names on the same dating app, she cannot and does not want to believe it’s the same person. It seems this man she seems to be the link to some missing women over the years. But they are missing, she is not. It can’t be the same person.

Then she begins to get strange messages. Are they from him? Is this her imagination? She is unsure who to believe, the detective she doesn’t fully trust or this man who makes her so happy. And what about those other women? Is there really a connection? So, Wren decides to find out.

What happens next is breathtaking, galvanizing race against time with shocking revelations and an ending which will blow you away.

Dead and Gondola by Ann Claire

Dead and Gondola is quite a ride! No pun intended! The story is very funny, with a quirky cast of characters, a wonderful mystery with references to all-time favorite aficionado of crime, Agatha Christie as well as a purrfectly fastidious cat!

Ellie and Meg Christie own a bookshop in a small town in Colorado named The Book Chalet. With a last name like Christie, it is not a surprise they are obsessed fans of the writer herself. Even their shop cat, Agatha is an homage to the master! The town is so high in the sky that during the winter with all the snow, the preferred method of travel is gondola.

When a stranger wanders into the bookstore while a seance is going on and suddenly disappears, leaving a duffle bag with a rare Agatha Christie novel inside, they are dumbfounded. That same evening their elderly employee seems to have upped and vanished as well. But the next day when the women find the same man dead on a gondola, well, they feel the need to become Miss Marple and do a bit of sleuthing, against the wishes of the police.

With the help of their Gran who is the pipeline to gossip in the small town, they try to figure out just who the murdered man is and why he had been in their bookstore. When they finally find out who he is the mystery deepens as to why he came to town. He was not a well-liked man and caused people great distress when he had lived there.

As they follow the clues, it seems there are no shortage of suspects. And to add to their anxiety, their employee still has not shown up, leaving them to believe something has happened to her as well. It seems someone is trying to prevent them from getting too close to the truth. With a break in at the bookstore and Agatha going missing, someone seems to be trying to tell them to drop the investigation.

Solving the case seems questionable until some good intuition and their mentor Agatha Christie intervene. Hopefully they will bring the murderer to justice before someone else is killed.

Dead and Gondola is a delightful cozy which should be read with a cup of cocoa and a furry pet animal curled up on your lap. Hopefully the Christie sisters will have a second act!

Thank you #NetGalley #Bantam #AnnClaire #DeadandGondola for the advanced copy.

Deliberate Cruelty by Roseanne Montillo

Having been an avid fan of Truman Capote ever since I read In Cold Blood back in the 1980’s, I have voraciously devoured (sort of obsessively) anything and everything written about him. But Deliberate Cruelty goes well-beyond Truman’s notoriously brutal, demeaning and uncaring personality. This book shows the exact reason all his so-called friends decided he was a piranha. It is also the story of what seems to have led to his decent into alcohol which ultimately caused his death.

It all started with Truman’s hatred of a socialite named Ann Woodward who was married to banker Billy Woodward. In 1955 Ann either accidently or intentionally shot and killed her husband Billy one night thinking he was a prowler in the house. But because of Ann’s position in society, she was never actually charged with a crime and her punishment was to be ostracized to Europe alone without her two children.

Ann’s upbringing was similar to Truman’s in there was no stable relationship with their parents, they were left to be raised by relatives and grew up very poor. Later in life both would reconnect with their mothers and take care of them. Could this have been the impetus for what Truman did and why? No one will really know.

After Capote hit it big with In Cold Blood, the first non-fiction book ever written, he became not only the talk of Manhattan, but was also invited to every party, lunch, dinner or vacation in which the elite had. He became their entertainment, telling stories and making them laugh. Although Ann Woodward was not one of his admirers.

So, when years later Truman decided to write a book about Ann killing her husband, no one understood why. But write he did and not only about Ann, but about all those friends, all women he had met and seduced into telling him their secrets. These women were known as his “swans” and they took him everywhere, on vacation, to lunch, to parties. They gossiped to him about the people at those places and about the intimate details of their own lives, thinking Truman was a true friend.

But Truman had no interest in secrets. He had more interest in celebrity. So, as he was writing the book, he received an offer from a magazine to excerpt some of the juicy details he had been writing about which included Ann and unbeknownst his female friends, them.

Ann Woodward heard about Truman’s magazine story and never read it. She killed herself just before it was published. Truman never up until the day he died understood or blamed himself for her death. He also lost all of his swans as their juicy bits of gossip were printed and although their real names were never used, the veil as to who they really were was not very high. The embarrassment they all lived through would change many of their lives forever, again with Truman never understanding what he actually had done.

Without his flock, Truman became a shell of himself and although he tried to make amends with a few of them, he was dumped from their society never to return. And thus, his spiral began in earnest.

Deliberate Cruelty is the perfect title for this story. In Capote’s life he ruined many a friendship and relationship, but it seems, to keep his fame he would destroy lives, even if it meant someone’s death without an iota of regret.

Thank you #NetGalley #AtriaBooks #DeliberateCruelty #RoseanneMontillo for the advanced copy.

The Bookshop of Secrets by Mollie Rushmeyer

The Bookshop of Secrets has mystery, intrigue, suspense, wonderful characters, kindness, but most especially, love!

When Hope Sparrow walked into a bookshop called Dusty Jackets, she never thought the name would be as appropriate to fit the store, but unfortunately it did. Hope went there to find books that her late mother had left her in which held secrets to a family she never knew.

Her plan of getting in and out of the town of Wanishin Falls without anyone really noticing seems to have gone up in smoke. The elderly couple who owns the bookshop are way over their heads in being able to assist her. The husband is in the throes of dementia and although he was a friend of his mother’s has no idea where the books she left could be. In order to find them, Hope agrees to a job at the shop keeping an eye on Ulysses, the husband while trying to sort through books and giving Ulysses wife Mags a break.

Uncomfortable around people, this is Hopes worst nightmare, but finding these books and understanding her history is more important. When she meets the owner of the local diner and tells her she has always dreamed of having a traveling bookstore/cafe, Kat hires her on the spot to cook.

Soon she becomes more involved in the town and the community, but she begins to feel hopeless. Her mother died when she was very young, and Hope was raised in the foster care system. But unfortunately, she found herself in horrible trouble and spent the next ten years trying to get out and never wants anyone to know what happened to her. Those secrets are frightfully buried deep in her psyche.

But now, as she tries to find out her past and a legend of buried treasure her mother would always tell her about, as much as she finds comfort in the townspeople, especially Ulysses’ and Mags’ grandson Ronan, she won’t let herself imagine a life here, for fear of embarrassment. She truly believes no one would forgive her for what she had done.

As Hope proceeds to find the hidden books, and make sense of their meaning with the help of these wonderful people, how will she be able to give them up if the mystery is solved?

With no faith, Hope feels lost, but with renewed promise from others she is able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully release the demons she has carried for so many years.

The Bookshop of Secrets is much more than finding a mysterious treasure. It is much more than finding where you belong. It is much more than putting your past behind you. It is finding peace.

Thank you #NetGalley #LoveInspiredTrade #MollieRushmeyer #TheBookshopofSecrets for the advanced copy.

In the Middle of Hickory Lane by Heather Webber

In the Middle of Hickory Lane is another heartwarming, touching, magical story from Heather Webber, author of Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe.

In this story, the day Emme Wynn shows up in Sweetgrass, Alabama, in the middle of Hickory Lane to meet relatives she never knew because her mother left the town when she was a baby and never came back, there is major commotion going on. You see, a sink hole opened up on the street and skeletal remains discovered. Everyone is of course talking about the bones and if they are her great-grandparent’s who had gone missing back in the 1960’s.

The backstory on Emma is that her unmarried mother took her away in punishment to her father. Her mother proceeded to in the next years, steal, swindle, lie, have many relationships, some dangerous to both her and Emme, and go from town to town, state to state when people caught on to her. Then on Emme’s eighteenth birthday she wished Emme a happy birthday and told her good luck with her life. Emme now in her late twenties, has never seen her mother again.

But her determined grandmother who never really knew why Emme’s mother took her away, finally found her and convinced her to come back to Hickory Lane and stay with her and her other family. Extremely unsure of what is to come, Emme, who has never stayed in one place for long, just as her mother taught her, never even unpacks, for fear she will have to leave quickly. And although she wants to find her roots and get to know her family in Sweetgrass, she has a secret which she knows will destroy that hope.

Cara Bee Hazelton is related to Emme. She is not sure what to think of her. She is very protective of her grandmother and takes care of her. She does work and loves to garden on Hickory Lane. She keeps to herself and does not date. She tends to suffer from insomnia as she has too many past hurtful memories on her mind. But after Cora Bee has an accident, she hesitatingly agrees to let Emme stay with her to help her get around.

As Emme begins to meet the people of Sweetgrass, she begins to let her guard slip a bit. For the most part, people have accepted her, even Cora Bee, and most don’t ask about her past. As for Cora Bee, she begins to feel in Emme she has finally found a true friend.

But unfortunately for both of them, when some of their secrets come out, some not very nice, they will both be challenged by the news, and their friendship could be damaged, just as they both already feel damaged by their pasts which neither of them has been able to let go of.

As for those bones, when forensics comes back, the mystery of where the couple went will only deepen. You see, in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business, secrets which are buried deep in the soil will eventually come to the surface and shock everyone. Will all these puzzles be solved? Will Emme and Cora be able to put their pasts behind them and start anew?

Webber’s new book does not disappoint. It has bits and pieces of mystery, romance, strong women, incredible secrets and friendship which all come together to make for an exciting read and a satisfying ending.

Built to Last by Erin Hahn

Built to Last is an adorably funny look at a group of former teen heartthrobs who grew up together on a television series, had crushes on each other (some first loves), made some mistakes then went their separate ways years ago. But they never stopped thinking about each other. Some were missed, others, not so much! Sometimes we must leave those we care about behind in order to grow and learn about ourselves before we can find a way back to what we had. This story is a wonderfully heartfelt example of how love can prevail, no matter what the circumstances.

Years ago, Shelby Springfield was a child actor/singer who had it all and then unfortunately had a horrible breakdown. Her mom, her manager, was absolutely no help and added to Shelby’s pressures. But what made her situation worse was when the love of her life, fellow actor Cameron Riggs left for college, Shelby decided to date another actor. Unfortunately, that turned into a nightmare as he broke up with her after cheating with her best friend and THEY wrote a song about Shelby’s break-up which became a hit.

Totally traumatized at the time, she reached out to the only person she knew would understand, Cameron. But even though he rushes to her side, what she really wants he can’t give her for fear they both will regret it. And that was the last time they saw each other.

Ten years later, Shelby has cleaned up her act, works with her father building and refinishing houses and furniture. She is sober and has left her previous life behind. Cameron works as a documentarist for a company called Nat Geo and travels around the world.

When they both get a call from the ex-boyfriend, Lyle that there is an offer for the trio to get back together with Shelby and Cameron working on a pilot for a reality DIY show where they find a house and redo it, with Lyle being the showrunner. Shelby is not interested but knows the money would certainly help her dad, so she hesitatingly decides to say yes. Cameron, who has never stopped caring about Shelby jumps at the chance to work with her although he knows nothing about building and refinishing in order to try and make up for what happened the last time they saw each other.

Of course, Shelby and Cameron must try and work together without bringing up the past, and Lyle seems to be a terrible instigator who wants to cause drama between them for the sake of the project. Is it possible for Shelby and Cameron to be able to try and get back what they had years ago, even though some would like nothing more than to cause them heartache and embarrassment.

Built to Last is a wonderful, romantic, witty and fun read! I look forward to a sequel!

Thank you #NetGalley #Griffin/St.Martin’sPress #OliverWehner #BuilttoLast #ErinHahn for the advanced copy.