As part of our Best Books of 2014 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Australian author Liane Moriarty proves that the success of her fifth novel, The Husband’s Secret, was no fluke. Not since Where’d You Go, Bernadette has the competitive nature of parents of school-aged children been so deftly skewered—and Moriarty is also adept at creating emotional moments that have real impact. Thanks to Moriarty’s genuine writerly chops, this juicy page-turner is a pleasure that’s anything but guilty.
Taisy Cleary and her twin brother, Marcus, haven't seen much of their father since he left the family when they were toddlers. Now, Wilson Cleary wants Taisy back in his life: He's writing a memoir, and needs her help. Taisy's reluctant visit also means meeting her teenaged half-sister for the first time.
That's the setup for Marisa de los Santos' new novel, The Precious One, coming from Morrow on March 24. De los Santos is an insightful writer when it comes to releationships, and the estranged father/stepsister one should provide plenty of drama. Willl you look for it in March?
Best-selling British author Amanda Prowse, who often draws comparisons to the beloved Jodi Picoult, is making her U.S. debut this fall. After her self-published debut, Poppy Day, took off in 2011, Prowse was picked up by Head of Zeus and has become a household name across the pond.
What Have I Done? is the second novel in Prowse's No Greater Love series, and it hits American shelves for the first time next week. The story follows Kathryn Booker, the wife of the beloved headmaster of Mountbriers Academy, a posh private school. To the average onlooker, Kathryn lives a life of domestic bliss: She lives in a charming cottage with a perfectly manicured garden; she has a doting husband and two precocious children. But Kathryn knows it's all a lie, and every day she endures abuse from her astonishingly cruel husband, until one day, she decides to break free.
Kathryn Booker watched the life slip from him, convinced she saw the black spirit snake out of his body and disappear immediately through the floor, spiraling down and down. She sat back in her chair and breathed deeply. She had expected euphoria or at the very least relief. What she couldn't have predicted was the numbness that now enveloped her. Picturing her children sleeping next door, she closed her eyes and wished for them a deep and peaceful rest, knowing it would be the last they would enjoy for some time. As ever, consideration of what was best for her son and daughter was only a thought away.
The room felt quite empty beside the blood-soaked body lying centrally on the bed. The atmosphere was peaceful, the temperature just right.
Kathryn registered the smallest flicker of disappointment; she had expected to feel more . . .
"Emergency, which service do you require?"
"Oh, hello, yes, I'm not too sure which service I require."
"You are not sure?"
"I think I probably need the police or ambulance, maybe both. Sorry. As I said, I'm not too sure . . ."
"Can I ask you what it is in connection with, madam?"
"Oh, right, yes, of course. I have just murdered my husband."
What are you reading?
Debut author Graeme Simsion had a surprise bestseller on his hands last fall with The Rosie Project. On December 30, the Australian author returns with a sequel that promises to be every bit as charming: The Rosie Effect (S&S). Don and Rosie, now married, are living in New York City. Don is pleased with the success of the Wife Project, but now he's about to embark on the Father Project—Rosie is pregnant. But is he too wrapped up in learning how to be a dad and in sorting out his best friend Gene's tumultuous love life to notice that Rosie needs him, too?
Did you read The Rosie Project? Looking forward to this sequel?
Carla Buckley, author of Invisible and The Things That Keep Us Here, has returned with a thought-provoking new novel (out today!), The Deepest Secret. Eve Lattimore's utmost devotion to her family—and especially to her fragile son Tyler—is tested when she finds herself in the middle of a car accident that results in horrific consequences. The ripples from Eve's actions spread quickly, and the suspense builds in tandem, resulting in an unexpected, well-crafted climax.
Buckley kindly agreed to answer some questions about the book. Here's a preview from the Q&A:
Your stories often center on family conflicts and dynamics. What is it about this subject that interests you?
I guess the easy answer is that I came from a dysfunctional family and that I’m still working through the lessons of my childhood, but I’ve come to believe that we all come from dysfunction in one way or another! I think the reason I’m drawn to talk about family dynamics is because it’s the universal language we all speak: We all have families and our roles within them shape us into the people we become. It seems a particularly fraught and vulnerable process. What if you make a mistake—can you ever undo the damage? What if you’re faced with a terrible dilemma—will you make the right choice? Can you forgive yourself if you don’t? I hope my readers recognize themselves in my characters and ask themselves what they would do if faced with the same issues. [continue reading this interview . . .]
For more on Buckley's inspiration for the book, over-protective mothers, happy endings and her next project, read the full interview here.
Best-selling author Elizabeth Hoyt has been writing historical romance novels for the past 10 years. The latest from this five-time Romance Writers of America RITA Award finalist is Duke of Midnight, our Top Pick in Romance for October. Our reviewer, Christie Ridgway, calls the book "a sensual tale of forbidden love." Read Christie's full review here.
We were curious about the books Hoyt has been reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three recent favorites:
NOWHERE BUT HOME
By Liza Palmer
Liza Palmer’s previous book, More Like Her, was both laugh-out-loud funny and thought-provoking, which is kind of like doing a triple backflip off the high dive for an author, so when I heard Palmer had another book out, I was psyched. Nowhere but Home more than met my expectations. In rural Texas, the heroine, Queenie Wake, has come home with her tail between her legs, having failed in New York as a chef. But she finds her art blossoming when she turns to her mother’s recipes and starts cooking last meals for the prisoners about to be executed at the local prison. The term ‘feel good’ usually makes me wince—it sounds so schmaltzy—but Nowhere but Home is a true feel good book, one with a spine of steel.
THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE
By Simone St. James
The Haunting of Maddy Clare was a Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards finalist in two categories—and won both, so naturally I was intrigued. Set between the wars, The Haunting of Maddy Clare has a wistful, melancholy tone and a spot-on period sensibility that gradually draws you into a mystery combined with a ghost story and a romance, all perfectly balanced. A simply wonderful read.
THE SPYMASTER'S LADY
By Joanna Bourne
This book had been sitting in my to-be-read pile for simply ages, and when I finally picked it up, I couldn’t figure why it’d taken me so long to read. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, The Spymaster’s Lady pits a French heroine spy against the English spymaster hero tasked with learning all her secrets in a battle of wit and skill that travels all the way from the coast of France to London. The action is fast and fun; the romance is visceral and hot; and Bourne has a rich, lovely voice that elegantly evokes the time period in a virtuoso performance. The Spymaster’s Lady is the type of book that made me fall in love with historical romance in the first place.
Calling all Debbie Macomber fans. Did you know that there's a new TV series called "Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove" airing on Hallmark Channel? Based on Macomber's best-selling Cedar Cove series of books—including 50 Harbor Street, 44 Cranberry Point and Rose Harbor in Bloom, which comes out on August 13—the show stars Andie MacDowell as Olivia Lockhart, a well-respected judge in the small coastal town of Cedar Cove.
Judge Lockhart is considering leaving her hometown in order to take a dream-job position as a federal judge. But what about her budding romance with the mysterious, new-to-town newspaper reporter Jack Griffith (played by Dylan Neal)? And her daughter, just coming off of a broken engagement? And the townspeople, who look to her for guidance? Will she really leave? Guess we'll have to tune in to find out! Will you be watching?
"Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove" airs on Hallmark Channel on Saturdays at 8 p.m. (EDT)/7 p.m. (CDT). Read more about the show and watch full episodes here.
I picked up Grace Grows thinking it would be a slow and easy read—book dessert, so to speak. The next thing I knew, I had devoured the entire book in one evening and was ravenously re-reading my favorite scenes!
So what makes Grace Grows so addicting? First of all, Grace is one of the most relatable characters I've found in women's fiction in a long time. She has it all—the beauty, the steady job, the fiancé—but on the inside she second-guesses herself and feels just as fat in those jeans as the rest of us.
Second, Tyler Wilkie has got to be the hottest man in fiction—if only he were real! And he has flaws, too, plus a touching vulnerability that haunts Grace throughout the book and forces her to be vulnerable with him as well.
Not only does Tyler Wilkie write beautiful love songs about Grace, we can actually listen to his songs on the album, written and recorded by Shelle Sumners' husband Lee Morgan on the book's website here.
My Q&A with Shelle Sumners proves she is just as interesting as her wonderful characters. In the interview, she told us that she is working on a sequel to Grace Grows about Tyler's sister Beck. I can hardly wait!
Anyone else have a fictional crush?
On the occasion of the publication of her 70th novel (!), author Emilie Richards offers advice for aspiring writers.
Today, my 70th novel hits bookstores. While most readers shake their heads in wonder, I know authors for whom 70 was a signpost on a longer journey. Still, for someone like me, who thinks every published novel is a miracle, 70 is delightful, particularly since this book, One Mountain Away, is the first of a continuing series.
Counting books is like counting birthdays. It's always good to pause when a zero's winking back at you. This week I've asked myself what I've learned since author copies began to overflow into my attic. Why have I continued writing? What one secret could I share with someone struggling to write a first novel?
Before you write that first sentence ask yourself this: What kind of book will you want to write 70 times? You're sure if you write a novel about the Amish or a vampire clan you'll get published, even though neither subject excites you? You might be right, but you might also be forced to write variations for the rest of your career, no matter how hard you try to break free.
In the mid-1980s, when publishers were enthusiastically scouting for new romance authors, I sensed I had found my niche. Did I want to tell the story of two people falling in love? Well, yes, that interested me, but I also realized there were other kinds of relationships to explore, as well. I was interested in the way people grow and change, the way they reach out or don't, the way they form bonds inside and outside families, and the way that they heal the wounds that life inflicts.
Could I write those stories inside the romance genre? Was it wide enough, deep enough? Did anyone care enough to read them? I thought so, and I was right.
Seventy novels later, the books I write are classified as women's fiction. They're longer novels, and the emphasis is different. One Mountain Away is about reconciliation and forgiveness more than romance. But in the most important ways, they are the same novels. Luckily I left myself room to grow.
A far greater writer said it best. "To thine own self be true." Just remember you may need to be true to yourself 70 times or more. Choose wisely.
When Alice Buckle answers a marital happiness survey after it mysteriously arrives in her inbox, she gets more than she bargained for in Researcher 101.
For a teaser, check out this book trailer:
Are you as intrigued as I am?