Book Reviews · Recommendations

Winter at the Beach (Moonlight Harbor, 2) by Sheila Roberts

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Winter at the Beach
(Moonlight Harbor, 2)
By: Sheila Roberts

Published: October 2018
Published by: MIRA
Format Read: Paperback
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Holiday Story

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis

USA TODAY bestselling author Sheila Roberts takes readers on a wintry trip to the harbor in her latest holiday novel…

The town of Moonlight Harbor needs to convince tourists that the beach is still the place to be—even when the sunshine goes south for the winter. Jenna Jones, new proprietor of The Driftwood Inn, has the perfect idea: a holiday festival called Seaside with Santa.

Jenna is happy to throw herself into planning the event. With all the decorating, preparation and extra reservations at the inn because of the festival—and with two wonderful but very different men hoping to claim more of her time and her heart—Jenna is busy. Busy, but happy. Even with her troublesome ex in the picture, life feels as close to perfect as she’s ever known.

Until the weather turns her festival into a farce. Suddenly Mother Nature is not only raining on Jenna’s parade, the old bat’s trying to blow the floats and their princesses out to sea. Soon everyone is without power and the road out of town is blocked. And Jenna has a full motel.

After the generator conks out, she’s not so sure she and her guests will make it through to the New Year in one piece. But with a little pulling together and a lot of holiday spirit, everyone might find that life—and Christmas—is always good at the beach.

My Thoughts

The Holiday season is fast approaching, in this second installment of Sheila Roberts Moonlight Harbor series. In desperate need to bring more guests to her Inn, during the off season, Jenna comes up with an idea for another festival.

It was nice to be reunited with the characters in the small town of Moonlight Harbor, picking up only a couple of months after book one left off. With Christmas fast approaching, Jenna presents the towns business people with the idea of hosting a Seaside with Santa festival which would include; a Santa Claus parade, vendors on the pier and contests. Naturally they think her idea is brilliant and set to work making the arrangements.

This was a cute story, although predictable. My favourite character Aunt Edie, is the heart of this series and anyone would be lucky to be stranded in her home. Reading about all the delicious food she would make, made me long for the holiday season. And readers can try out some of the tasty treats for themselves with the inclusion of several recipes at the back of the book.

Unfortunately, I liked the main character Jenna less in book two than I did in the first installment. It was as if she was the first person to ever suggest Christmas festivities. Her so-called “love triangle” was so uneventful that it became boring when it was mentioned over and over again. However there were some sweet moments and the novel did keep my attention.

Winter at the Beach was a quick and cozy holiday novel that I would recommend to those who enjoy stories in the Hallmark style.

Additional Notes

Moonlight Harbor Series by Sheila Roberts

1. Welcome to Moonlight Harbor

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Book Reviews · Challenges · Recommendations · Wrap-ups

Monthly Wrap-up: July-August 2019

The past couple of months have been very busy for me and unfortunately I fell into quite a reading slump. So I decided to hold off on posting my wrap-ups for both July and August. Thankfully I have been much more productive (reading wise) during the month of September, so I have decided to do a catch-up post.

Total Books Read in July: 1
Total Books Read in August: 2
Total Books Read in 2019 (at the end of August): 25

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L.A Candy (L.A. Candy, 1)
By: Lauren Conrad

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 2.5/5

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A Family of Strangers
By: Emilie Richards

Genre: Mystery, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5/5
Note: I was sent a copy of A Family of Strangers by Emilie Richards, from the publisher, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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It’s Not What It Looks Like
By: Molly Burke

Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir
Rating: 4/5

DNF

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The Red Queen
By: Philippa Gregory

Genre: Historical Fiction
Quick Thoughts: I was so disappointed to have to discontinue reading The Red Queen. I have really enjoyed reading previous books by this author and began with high expectations. Unfortunately the time line didn’t interest me and I was quite bored by the main character.

Challenge Update

2019 New Release Challenge: 1
2019 TBR Jar Challenge: 1

August/ September TBR Jar Picks

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Book Reviews · Recommendations

Mini Audio Book Reviews: August-September 2019

Today I am sharing my quick thoughts on the audiobooks I listened to during the months of August and September.

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It’s Not What It Looks Like
By: Molly Burke
Narrated by: Molly Burke
Published: August 2019
Published by: Audible Original
Genre: Memoir
Format Read: Audiobook, Audible
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

Listening Length: 3 hours and 5 minutes

In an audiobook like none you’ve ever heard before, blind YouTube star Molly Burke speaks with authenticity and candor about being a purple-haired, pink-loving fashion and makeup lover in a seeing world.

Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, Burke has been legally blind since age five, and became completely sightless as a teenager. Here, she tackles the preconceived notions we have around blindness, her struggles with bullying and anxiety, inclusivity, how she built her successful influencer business (with over 1.8 million followers), and what it’s really like to travel the globe with her service dog, Gallop, now that everyone has an emotional support animal. (Hint: Really hard!)

This is a beautifully voiced, honest, and rousing journey of a young woman who has made it her mission to make us see her and the disability community in a totally new way.

Quick Thoughts

I came across Molly Burke’s It’s Not What It Looks Like, when perusing Audible one day. I had not heard of the YouTube star and motivational speaker before, but was instantly intrigued by her story. Despite her medical problems and struggle with mental health, this was quite an upbeat and optimistic memoir. I especially found it interesting learning about the process of obtaining a service dog. I would highly recommend It’s Not What It Looks Like to those who enjoy memoirs. This would also be a great book for young people and their parents who may be struggling with health problems.

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
By: Deborah Moggach
Narrated by: Nina Wadia
Published: February 2012
Published by: W.F. Howes
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Format Read: Audiobook, Audible App.
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:

When Ravi Kapoor, an over-worked London doctor, is driven beyond endurance by his disgusting and difficult father-in-law, he asks his wife: ‘Can’t we just send him away somewhere?

Somewhere far, far away.’ His prayer seems to have been answered when his entrepreneurial cousin, Sonny, sets up a retirement home, recreating a lost corner of England in a converted guesthouse in Bangalore. Travel and set-up are inexpensive, staff willing and plentiful – and the British pensioners can enjoy the hot weather and take mango juice with their gin.

These Foolish Things is a brilliant comedy of manners, mixing acute observation with a deeper message about how different cultures cope in the modern world…

Quick Thoughts

A few years ago I saw the movie adaptation of Deborah Moggach’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and absolutely loved it. I was happy to have found the audio version on Audible and was eager to find out if I loved the book as much. Like in the movie, it compares the British culture to that of the Indian, in a way that was both humorous and touching. I enjoyed reading of these comparisons and found the differences to be quite fascinating. Unfortunately, however I didn’t love the book as much as the film, as I had a hard time keeping track of the numerous characters. Still I think it is a good representation of how the older generations are affected by the modern world and I would recommend to those interested in learning about different cultures.


Book Reviews · Recommendations

A Family of Strangers by Emilie Richards

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A Family of Strangers
By: Emilie Richards

Published: June 2019
Published by: Kindle Edition
Format Read: ARC, Net Galley, eBook, Kindle App
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery

Rating: 3.5/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of A Family of Strangers by Emilie Richards from the publisher, via Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Could a lifetime of memories…be a lifetime of lies?

All her life Ryan Gracey watched her perfect older sister from afar. Knowing she could never top Wendy’s achievements, she didn’t even try. Instead Ryan forged her own path while her family barely seemed to notice.

Now Wendy shares two little girls with her perfect husband while Ryan mourns the man she lost after a nearly fatal mistake in judgment. The sisters’ choices have taken them in different directions, which is why Ryan is stunned when Wendy calls, begging for her help. There’s been a murder—and Wendy believes she’ll be wrongfully accused.

While Wendy lays low, Ryan moves back to their hometown to care for the nieces she hardly knows. The sleuthing skills she’s refined as a true-crime podcaster quickly rise to the surface as she digs for answers with the help of an unexpected ally. Yet the trail of clues Wendy’s left behind lead to nothing but questions. Blood may be thicker than water, but what does Ryan owe a sister who, with every revelation, becomes more and more a stranger?

Is Wendy, who always seemed so perfect, just a perfect liar—or worse?

-Goodreads

My Thoughts

What would you do if your sibling was in trouble and turned to you for help, no questions asked? What if you learned that your loved one wasn’t the person you thought you were? That is exactly what happens to Ryan Gracey, the main character in Emilie Richards novel A Family of Strangers.

Although I found this story to be predictable, reading as the mystery of Ryan’s sister Wendy unfolded, kept my attention.

What fascinated me the most was Ryan’s podcast Out in the Cold and how she explored unsolved crimes. I wish that this would have played more into the overall story. In fact I think that this would have made for an interesting premise for a book on its own. Instead her sluthing skills, she gained in her career assisted her in uncovering the truth behind Wendy’s disappearance.

Although A Family of Strangers wasn’t as thrilling as I hoped, I would still recommend it to fans of the mystery genre.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

L.A. Candy (L.A. Candy, #1) by Lauren Conrad

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L.A. Candy
(L.A. Candy, #1)
By: Lauren Conrad

Published: June 2009
Published by: HarperCollins
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: YA Lit, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

Los Angeles is all about the sweet life: hot clubs, cute guys, designer…everything. Nineteen-year-old Jane Roberts can’t wait to start living it up. She may be in L.A. for an internship, but Jane plans to play as hard as she works, and has enlisted her BFF Scarlett to join in the fun.

When Jane and Scarlett are approached by a producer who wants them to be on his new series, a “reality version of Sex and the City,” they can hardly believe their luck. Their own show? Yes, please!

Soon Jane is TV’s hottest star. Fame brings more than she ever imagined possible for a girl from Santa Barbara-free designer clothes, the choicest tables at the most exclusive clubs, invites to Hollywood premieres-and she’s lapping up the VIP treatment with her eclectic entourage of new pals. But those same friends who are always up for a wild night are also out for a piece of Jane’s spotlight.

In a city filled with people chasing after their dreams, it’s not long before Jane wakes up to the reality that everyone wants something from her, and nothing is what it seems to be.

-Goodreads

My Thoughts

Well.. you know what they say “write what you know”. And former reality television darling, Lauren Conrad did just that. Pulling from her own experiences on the MTV hit series Laguna Beach and The Hills, Lauren writes a “fictional” tale of being plucked from obscurity and put in the spotlight in front of millions of viewers.

As I was a fan of both of those shows in their hay-day, I remember being excited to hear that L.C. (as she was often referred to) had wrote her own book. Unfortunately I didn’t pick it up until ten years after it was released. And that greatly affected my reading experience and in turn resulted in my low rating. Because truth be told, my interests have changed a lot since then. I am no longer captivated by the lifestyles of the rich and famous, like I used to be. Although I once enjoyed watching reality television shows like the fictional L.A. Candy, now I wouldn’t call it my cup of tea. In fact I haven’t even watched a single episode of the recently re-vamped Hills series, nor do I plan to.

Had I read this book back when it was released in 2009, I guarantee that I would have enjoyed it much more. However 32 year old me found it boring. What should have been a quick read was dragged out because I fought to keep myself interested in the story.

L.A. Candy did give a behind the scenes peek into reality T.V, which was informative. Knowing Lauren’s story and how her life was depicted on the shows, it was easy to tell who had influenced her characters and the direction she took the book. Due to a somewhat cliffhanger of an ending, I feel curious to read the second novel in this series.

Even though the writing wasn’t fantastic and it didn’t hold my interest as much as I would have hoped, I would still recommend it to fans of Laguna Beach, The Hills and Lauren Conrad.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

At the Mountain’s Edge by Genevieve Graham

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At the Mountain’s Edge
By: Genevieve Graham

Published: April 2019
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Format Read: ARC, eBook, Kindle App
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of At the Mountain’s Edge by Genevieve Graham, from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

From bestselling author Genevieve Graham comes a sweeping new historical novel of love, tragedy, and redemption set during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush.

In 1897, the discovery of gold in the desolate reaches of the Yukon has the world abuzz with excitement, and thousands of prospectors swarm to the north seeking riches the likes of which have never been seen before.

For Liza Peterson and her family, the gold rush is a chance for them to make a fortune by moving their general store business from Vancouver to Dawson City, the only established town in the Yukon. For Constable Ben Turner, a recent recruit of the North-West Mounted Police, upholding the law in a place overrun with guns, liquor, prostitutes, and thieves is an opportunity to escape a dark past and become the man of integrity he has always wanted to be. But the long, difficult journey over icy mountain passes and whitewater rapids is much more treacherous than Liza or Ben imagined, and neither is completely prepared for the forbidding north.

As Liza’s family nears the mountain’s peak, a catastrophe strikes with fatal consequences, and not even the NWMP can help. Alone and desperate, Liza finally reaches Dawson City, only to find herself in a different kind of peril. Meanwhile, Ben, wracked with guilt over the accident on the trail, sees the chance to make things right. But just as love begins to grow, new dangers arise, threatening to separate the couple forever.

Inspired by history as rich as the Klondike’s gold, At the Mountain’s Edge is an epic tale of romance and adventure about two people who must let go of the past not only to be together, but also to survive.

-Goodreads

My Thoughts

At the Mountain’s Edge has been one of my most anticipated releases from this year (2019). In fact I have been patiently waiting for any of Genevieve Graham’s books to come to the top of my TBR pile for quite some time now, as all of them have caught my interest. Needless to say I was very excited when I was accepted to read and review an ARC of this book via Net Galley.

I’ve always been a fan of historical fiction from various different eras, but I am especially intrigued by those that are set in my home country of Canada. This particular novel follows those who went north for the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800’s. This story was very much centered around the different settings including the journey from Vancouver to Alaska, the Chillkoot Pass and on to Dawson City. I appreciated how the author chose this approach as it interested me more than the Liza’s personal storyline. However I was fascinated by Ben’s career as a Mountie and the roles they played in the Gold Rush.

Unfortunately I didn’t fall in love with this book, like I thought I would and was disappointed by the dialogue. I thought it could have better represented the time period. Instead it came across as more modern.

Even though At the Mountain’s Edge wasn’t one of my favourite books I’ve read this year, it still kept my interest and I would recommend it. I still look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Snow Fence Road by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

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Snow Fence Road
By: Phyllis Edgerly Ring

Published: June 2013
Published by: Black Lyon Publishing
Format Read: Paperback
Genre: Literary Fiction, Romance, Inspirational Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5

Note: I was sent a copy of Snow Fence Road by Phyllis Edgerly Ring, from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

A village on the coast of Maine holds painful secrets- the kind only the miracle of new love can heal. Tormented by her fiance’s death, Tess Johansen escapes to the only place that can still comfort her-the Spinnaker Inn in coastal Maine. Here in this place by the sea she feels close enough to the man she lost to numb the pain, if not the guilt. For local craftsman, Evan Marston, the ramshackle inn serves only as a grim reminder of the accident that shattered his life and killed the woman he once loved. But while the Spinnaker’s walls may hold guilt and grief and suspicion, they might also house a bright new spark. Drawn together by a love they never expected, Tess and Evan begin to unravel the mysteries of their pasts and question the miracle at work in their wounded hearts-until one fateful evening along a snow fence road …

-Goodreads

My Thoughts

Author Phyllis Edgerly Ring was kind enough to send me a copy of her book Snow Fence Road, in celebration of its audiobook release on Audible. I jumped at the chance to read another one of her books as I loved her previous release The Munich Girl.

Although Snow Fence Road was a contemporary unlike the historical fiction of The Munich Girl, it still packed the same emotional punch that seems to be a signature for Ring’s writing. This was a story of life after tragedy and the possibility of finding love again.

Although it did take me some time to get into the story, I enjoyed how it unfolded and learning about the histories of the characters. I also liked the setting at an old Inn and the visions for bringing it back to its glory days. I would have liked to have seen this aspect developed more. However as it was only a short novel, it was only right that the relationships took more precedence.

I would recommend Snow Fence Road to those who are fans of short literary fiction with a focus on romance.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

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Serious Moonlight
By: Jenn Bennett

Published: April 2019
Published by: Simon Pulse
Format Read: ARC, eBook, Kindle App
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 5/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett, from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

-Goodreads

My Thoughts

Serious Moonlight was a surprise 5 star read for me and among my favourites, that I’ve read this year to date. Set in the beautifully described Seattle, readers follow as two young people navigate a new romance and try to solve a mystery of a reclusive author.

There were so many things that I loved about this book including; the mystery and pop culture references and quotes, the diversity of the characters and the chemistry they had together. I found both Birdie and Daniel to be very relatable. I appreciate how the author chose to represent two very different health afflictions with a character who was deaf in one ear, and another who suffered narcolepsy. Both of which I hadn’t previously read about in young adult fiction.

I found Daniel to be especially charming and loved how he worked to win over Birdie’s affections.

Jenn Bennett’s Serious Moonlight was a wonderful romance with a touch of mystery, that I would highly recommend. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs, 2) by Jacqueline Winspear

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Birds of a Feather
(Maisie Dobbs, #2)

By: Jacqueline Winspear
Read by: Kim Hicks

Published: January 2004
Published by: Audiogo
Format Read: Audiobook, Library Book
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis

It is the spring of 1930, and Maisie has been hired to find a runaway heiress. When three of the heiress’s old friends are found dead, Maisie must race to find out who would want to kill these seemingly respectable young women before it’s too late. As Maisie investigates, she discovers that the answers lie in the unforgettable agony of the Great War.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Private investigator Maisie Dobbs is back in the second installment of Jacqueline WInspear’s series. Like the first book, she is on the case of a mystery linking to World War I.

This series is of great interest to me as it is explores the aftermath of the first world war and the lasting affect it had on those who lived through it. Although 15 years have passed, the roles that some played during those terrible years, still haunt them.

One of the many reasons why I liked the Maisie Dobbs, book one so much was due in part to the methods of deduction used in solving the mysteries. This method was even more compelling to me in Birds of a Feather and in the end I enjoyed it more than the first.

Initially I was disappointed that Rita Barrington wasn’t the narrator, but as I listened I realized that that Kim Hicks was a great fit for the role as well.

Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series is a clever historical mystery that I would highly recommend.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Mini Contemporary Reviews: April-May 2019

Today I would like to share with you two reviews of contemporary books, that I read during the months of April and May.

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Me Before You
By: Jojo Moyes


Published: December 2012
Published by: Penguin Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:


The beloved New York Times bestseller—with more than five million copies sold—by the author of One Plus One and The Girl You Left Behind

They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

-Goodreads

Quick Thoughts

Me Before You is a beautiful story of the relationship between a man whose life has been forever altered and the women who is hired to assist him. This book made me cry, smile and laugh. I couldn’t put it down. Yes it’s subject matter is quite controversial, however I felt that the author did a good job of presenting both sides of the debate. I would highly recommend Jojo Moyes Me Before You to fans of contemporary fiction and books that have been adapted to film.

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Welcome to Moonlight Harbor
(Moonlight Harbor, Book 1)
By: Sheila Roberts

Published: April 2018
Published by: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romace
Format Read: Library Book, Paperback
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis


USA TODAY bestselling author Sheila Roberts returns with a brand-new series set on the charming Washington coast

Once happily married, Jenna Jones is about to turn forty, and this year for her birthday—lucky her—she’s getting a divorce. She’s barely able to support herself and her teenage daughter, but now her deadbeat artist ex is hitting her up for spousal support…and then spending it on his “other” woman.

Still, as her mother always says, every storm brings a rainbow. And when she gets a very unexpected gift from her great-aunt Edie, things seem to be taking a turn for the better. Aging Aunt Edie is finding it difficult to keep up her business running The Driftwood Inn, so she invites Jenna to come live with her and run the place. It looks like Jenna’s financial problems are solved!

Or not. The town is a little more run-down than Jenna remembers, but that’s nothing compared to the ramshackle state of The Driftwood Inn. Aunt Edie is confident they can return it to its former glory, though Jenna feels like she’s jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the beach fire.

But who knows? With the help of her new friends and a couple of handsome citizens, perhaps that rainbow is on the horizon after all. Because, no matter what, life is always good at the beach.

Featuring all the warmth, romance and trademark humor of Sheila Roberts’s writing, this new series will delight longtime fans and welcome a generation of new readers.

Goodreads

Quick Thoughts

Welcome to Moonlight Harbor kicks off Sheila Roberts series of the same name and follows a woman and her daughter starting over after a messy divorce. I am always drawn to stories that feature some sort of renovation and the aspect I enjoyed the most in this book was the refurbishing of the Driftwood Inn. Although it had its cheesy moments and some that made
me roll my eyes, it was a cute story with a light hint of romance. It also featured a colorful cast of characters and encompassed the small town atmosphere. I am interested to see where the author will take this series in her further releases. Welcome to Moonlight Harbor would make for an enjoyable beach read, that I would recommend to fans of contemporary fiction.