THE SWEET TASTE OF MUSCADINES by Pamela Terry


Publisher: Ballentine Books
Release Date: March 16, 2021

β˜† Stunning Debut β˜†

THE SWEET TASTE OF MUSCADINES is a gorgeously written novel about siblings who uncover shocking family secrets after their mother Geneva Bruce dies unexpectedly.

Lila and Henry have avoided their childhood home in Wesleyan, Georgia, for most of their adult lives. Their relationship with Geneva was strained, yet their younger sister (who never left) was very close to their mother. All three Bruce children are baffled as to why Geneva died under the muscadine arbor in the middle of the night, and they also have no idea about the secrets she kept hidden for decades that will upend their lives.

The prose is lovely and lyrical, and you can pull passages from every page and say “wow!” As someone who grew up in small-town Georgia, I can say that the author perfectly captured the South in her rich descriptions and within her characters. If you enjoy compelling women’s fiction with true Southern flair, move this book to the top of your list! β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

πŸ“š Find THE SWEET TASTE OF MUSCADINES on Goodreads πŸ“š

THE PUSH by Ashley Audrain


Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Release Date: January 5, 2021

β˜… BOTM Club Pick β˜…

Wow! I’ve seen THE PUSH getting a lot of buzz on Instagram, and I can certainly see why. The subject matter is chilling and flat-out tragic, but I couldn’t quit reading.

The story is told in second person, with the narrator being Blythe, and the “you” she’s taking to, her husband, Fox. Blythe’s own mother, and her mother before her, were cold & neglectful. Was it mental illness, or simply a lack of desire to be a mother? Blythe wants to give her new baby, Violet, the love and affection she missed as a child. But, things don’t go as planned, and Blythe soon senses that something is wrong with Violet.

This book tackles the struggles of motherhood, generational trauma, and the “nature versus nurture” debate in a gripping way. My mind kept wrestling over Blythe and Violet’s characters, wondering if there really was something “off,” or whether it was imagined. Either way, what a devastating situation to be in.

THE PUSH is a remarkable debut novel from Ashley Audrain, and she’s definitely going on my auto-buy list! β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

πŸ“š Find THE PUSH on GoodreadsΒ πŸ“š

THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS by Susan Meissner


Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Release Date: February 2, 2021

THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS is a wonderful and absorbing story of survival, friendship, and motherhood. Set during the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, this work of historical fiction weaves together a bit of mystery and an emotional family drama with characters I won’t soon forget.

Sophie is an Irish immigrant who answers a mail-order bride ad placed by a man in San Francisco. It seems like widower Martin Hocking can provide her with the life she craves β€” a comfortable home far away from the slums in New York City, and a child to raise named Kat, the young daughter of Martin and his deceased wife.

Sophie’s relationship with her new husband is odd, and sometimes his behavior is unusual, but she has security and a family, and that’s what matters. That is, until a very pregnant woman named Belinda shows up at her house the night before the great earthquake. The lives Sophie, Kat, and Belinda have known are about to come crashing down figuratively & literally!

I won’t go further into the plot, but just know that if you’re a fan of 20th century historical fiction, I highly recommend THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS. Susan Meissner is a gifted story teller who creates complicated characters readers will understand and enjoy. β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

“It is the nature of the earth to shift. It is the nature of fragile things to break. It is the nature of fire to burn.”

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

πŸ“š Find THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS on GoodreadsΒ πŸ“š

BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME by Julia Claiborne Johnson


Publisher: Custom House
Release Date: January 5, 2021

Set in 1938, BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME gives a snap shot of life on a Nevada dude ranch for out-of-state wealthy women seeking a quickie divorce. They simply live there for six weeks to establish residency, and then they’re free.

The story is told through Ward’s eyes, a young man working as a ranch hand at the Flying Leap. He becomes entangled in the drama and shenanigans of two clients, Emily and Nina, one leaving a cheating husband in San Francisco, and the other an heiress working on divorce number three.

The unique premise grabbed my attention, because I love 20th century historical fiction, especially pre-WWII. While the book had plenty of charm, overall it wasn’t a good fit for me. Maybe humorous fiction isn’t my cup of tea? I did enjoy watching the friendship grow between the unlikely pair of Emily and Nina, though their relationship didn’t end up how I expected it to, and at times they were hard to take.

The book begins in 1988, with Ward in a nursing home telling what happened the year of 1938 at the Flying Leap to an unknown character. At times I would forget that I was in Ward’s head, with him just describing what was going on with other characters. Then he would go off on a tangent about something else, which was jarring. I think this was a case of loving the premise, and not the execution.

BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME has a lot of heart, and mixes comic relief into the sad & stressful situation of these characters. Maybe not as enjoyable as I thought it would be, but I know many readers will love it.Β β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

πŸ“š Find BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME on GoodreadsΒ πŸ“š

THE HEATWAVE by Kate Riordan


Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: August 18, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…


Under the scorching French sun, a tense homecoming unearths a long-buried family secret in this deliciously propulsive beach read of a mother’s greatest fear brought to life.

Elodie was beautiful. Elodie was smart. Elodie was manipulative. Elodie is dead.

When Sylvie Durand receives a letter calling her back to her crumbling family home in the South of France, she knows she has to go. In the middle of a sweltering 1990’s summer marked by unusual fires across the countryside, she returns to La Reverie with her youngest daughter Emma in tow, ignoring the deep sense of dread she feels for this place she’s long tried to forget.

As memories of the events that shattered their family a decade earlier threaten to come to the surface, Sylvie struggles to shield Emma from the truth of what really happened all those years ago. In every corner of the house, Sylvie can’t escape the specter of Elodie, her first child. Elodie, born amid the ’68 Paris riots with one blue eye and one brown, and mysteriously dead by fourteen. Elodie, who reminded the small village of one those Manson girls. Elodie who knew exactly how to get what she wanted. As the fires creep towards the villa, it’s clear to Sylvie that something isn’t quite right at La Reverie… And there is a much greater threat closer to home.

Rich in unforgettable characters, The Heatwave alternates between the past and present, grappling with what it means to love and fear a child in equal measure. With the lush landscape and nostalgia of a heady vacation read, Kate Riordan has woven a gripping page-turner with gorgeous prose that turns the idea of a summer novel on its head.


THE HEATWAVE is a completely absorbing family drama and simmering psychological thriller!

In the summer of 1993, Sylvie and her teenage daughter, Emma, return to their home in the South of France after a ten year absence. After she learns of some vandalism on the property, Sylvie decides it’s time to fix up La Reverie and sell it. This is a difficult place to face again, as it’s filled with painful memories of the tragedy involving her troubled first child, Elodie. Emma remembers very little about her older sister, and Sylvie’s not sure how much longer she can shield her from their disturbing family secrets.

“I would die for her, without hesitation. I am her mother. It’s just that, sometimes, I wish I wasn’t. I am her mother but I wish I wasn’t.”

The story is told from Sylvie’s point of view in alternating time periods β€” during the summer of 1993, and then 1968 forward β€” as we learn about the disturbing mother/daughter relationship between Sylvie and Elodie during her childhood. What does a mother do if her child is evil? How far would she go to protect one daughter from the other? Elodie’s character was truly creepy! The tension surrounding what she might do next was unsettling.

THE HEATWAVE is an atmospheric Gothic suspense with an amazing and unique setting. The characters and their conflicts are memorable, the writing and descriptions are gorgeous (I enjoyed the French mixed in), and the reveal at the end was perfect. Highly recommended.

β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.