Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review & Excerpt From "The Stepsisters" by Susan Mallery and a Few Sparkling Wine Cocktail Recipes

I am happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Stepsisters, a new novel by Susan Mallery. With my review I have an excerpt of the book and a couple favorite sparkling wine cocktail recipes, plus one from the author.

Paperback: 416 Pages
Publisher: MIRA; Original edition (May 25, 2021)

Publisher's Blurb:

Once upon a time, when her dad married Sage’s mom, Daisy was thrilled to get a bright and shiny new sister. But Sage was beautiful and popular, everything Daisy was not, and she made sure Daisy knew it.

Sage didn’t have Daisy’s smarts—she had to go back a grade to enroll in the fancy rich-kid school. So she used her popularity as a weapon, putting Daisy down to elevate herself. After the divorce, the stepsisters’ rivalry continued until the final, improbable straw: Daisy married Sage’s first love, and Sage fled California.

Eighteen years, two kids and one troubled marriage later, Daisy never expects—or wants—to see Sage again. But when the little sister they have in common needs them both, they put aside their differences to care for Cassidy. As long-buried truths are revealed, no one is more surprised than they when friendship blossoms.

Their fragile truce is threatened by one careless act that could have devastating consequences. They could turn their backs on each other again…or they could learn to forgive once and for all and finally become true sisters of the heart.


Below is an excerpt from fairly early on in the book: Excerpt: #9

He went into Krissa’s room first. Their daughter opened her eyes and smiled at him.

“Daddy, you’re back! How was the conference?”

He sat on the edge of her bed and smoothed her dark hair off her face. “More important, chipmunk, how are you? Mom said you got sick.”

“Uh-huh. Ben had a virus.”

“And he shared it with you? We’ll have to talk to him about that.”

She sat up to hug him. Lucky must have heard his voice because the yellow Lab came racing into the room, tail wagging. Sheba jumped off the bed and wanted her share of attention. Even the normally aloof feline Nala seemed relatively pleased to see Jordan. At least that was Daisy’s interpretation of her tail flick.

Jordan petted both dogs and spent a few minutes rubbing ears and accepting kisses, then he gathered Krissa in his arms and stood.

“Let’s go see your brother.”

Daisy started to tell him that Krissa should stay in bed, then reminded herself that doing so would cause father and daughter to give her that look they shared, the one that said she hated when they had fun. Which probably wasn’t what they were thinking at all, but was what always came to mind for her. 

They all trooped into Ben’s room, the dogs leading the way. Ben, in bed, playing on his tablet, looked up and grinned when he saw Jordan.

“Dad! You’re back.”

Jordan put Krissa down and hugged Ben. “My man, how are you feeling?”

“Better. Krissa’s sick now.”

“That’s your fault,” Krissa told him, climbing onto the bed and slipping under the covers. Lucky climbed up next to her and Sheba settled on the foot, making the full-size bed suddenly a little small.

Daisy sat at the desk chair, figuring they would all talk for a bit, then she and Jordan would excuse themselves to discuss the next step, so she wasn’t prepared for Jordan to say, “I want you to know we love you both very much.”

She stood and stared at him. “What are you doing?”

He waved his hand in her direction without looking at her, as if brushing her off.

“You know how sometimes there’s too much going on and you need quiet time in your room?” he asked.

Both of their children stared at him, wide-eyed. Ben nodded slowly.

“Jordan,” Daisy said, walking toward him. “We need to talk first.”

“I’ve got this.” He smiled at the kids. “Sometimes parents need a time-out, too.”

She swore silently. “Jordan, they’re sick. This isn’t the time.”

Tears filled Krissa’s eyes. “What are you s-saying?” Her voice cracked. “Daddy, no!”

“It’s okay,” he told her.

Ben’s lower lip trembled and he glanced between them. “Mom?”

She moved close and offered what she hoped was a comforting smile. “It’s okay. You’re going to be fine. We love you, like your dad said. The thing is…”

She paused, mostly because she didn’t know what the thing was at all.

Krissa’s crying turned to sobs and Ben had to brush his eyes. Daisy thought longingly of being strong enough to cuff her husband on the back of his head—an immature and unhelpful wish, but one that was heartfelt.

She shooed Lucky and Sheba off the bed, then sat down and held open her arms. Both kids flung themselves at her. 


You can see the list of bloggers with excerpts here

My Review:

This is the fourth Susan Mallery book I have reviewed for this blog. I feel like she is one of the summer book bag queens--fairly prolific authors with books about relationships, family and romance that usually publish in the spring into summer months and are perfect for the beach or pool. The Stepsisters brings the family drama in immediately when Daisy reeling from her husband's sudden "time out" from their marriage, her son home sick with the flu, leaves work where she's an anesthesia nurse, trying to get her young daughter home from before the passed on flu bug fully hits. She's too late and is cleaning her daughter up on the side of the road when her estranged stepsister drives by and stops. Sage is back in California, her latest marriage a bust and trying to regroup and she gives a reluctant Daisy a ride home when her car won't start (can anything else happen to Daisy? Of course, it's a drama!). Krissa is shocked to learn she has a sort-of aunt and neither sister is comfortable or happy around each other due to years of taunting from Sage and the fact that Daisy's husband was Sage's first love. Neither woman has plans to get back together when Daisy is dropped off, but that plan changes when Daisy's father calls her to tell her that the youngest sibling, Cassidy, (half-sister to each) has take a bad fall off a cliff in Patagonia and needs to go to Daisy's house (their childhood home) to recover. Through stops and starts, the three sister begin to form a  bond and even friendship, but can they put aside past and present hurts to let it happen?

I enjoyed Mallery's latest, even though it took the characters time to grow on me. Daisy in once sense is the easiest to like and root for--well off, a loving father but she lost her mother young and the wife and stepdaughter he ends bringing home are both spoiled and cruel. When Daisy's and Sage's half-sister is born, Daisy hopes to have a sister who she can love, who loves her back but when the marriage ends in divorce, Sage and Cassidy move out into a less-rich neighborhood, and Cassidy grows to dislike Daisy. Sage is definitely a piece of work--not a nice girl and not that nice as an adult although she is trying to improve herself and go back to school and stand on her own and I got to like her. (Even if I spent much of the book yelling at her in my head about her life choices). We meet Cassidy the younger sister with broken bones and a concussion combined with an attitude, and so it takes time to get to know and grow to like her. The villains in the story, Sage and Cassidy's mother and Daisy's husband are definitely jerks and very self-serving, although the rest of the surrounding cast; the kids, Daisy's friend and housekeeper, Daisy and Cassidy's father, and the potential love interests of Sage and Cassidy are great. The book is fairly predictable but it goes with the genre and Mallery's writing draws me in and keeps me interested in the story. I wanted to see how things resolved and I enjoyed the process of getting there, so if you are looking for an easy-breezy summer read and like family drama and relationship novels, you should enjoy The Stepsisters


Author Notes: No.1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives – family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages. Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur.

You can connect with Susan at her website and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

Susan Mallery generally has some sort of food going on in her books and The Stepsisters definitely had some food inspiration. Mentions included: soup and toast for lunch, pork chop with green beans and almonds, golden beet salad, a grazing plate of olives, cheeses, crackers, apple, grapes and a glass of red wine, Brie on a rosemary cracker, tequila and limes for Margaritas, guacamole and chips, chicken taquitos, chocolate, soufflé', brownie, espresso, coffee, glass jars of yogurt and avocado toast topped with sliced tomato, burgers, cookies, quiche, kettle corn, fruit and cheese, carnitas in the pressure cooker, pizza, sushi, beer, blackberry mojitos, mushroom tarts, fried cauliflower, polenta fries, chicken, macaroni and green salads, Berry Bellinis, chocolate lava cake, chicken taco salad, In-N-Out Burger, chocolate martinis, grilled cheese sandwiches and salad. 
I ran out of time to make a dish for this book but my contenders were polenta fries, the avocado toast or one of the drinks--especially the Berry Bellinis that Daisy makes her sisters saying how "easy and yummy" they are. The author includes a recipe for them in the back of the book (along with one for a Bel Air Cobb Salad) just in case you'd like to try them.

Berry Bellinis
From The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery

1 1/2 cup mixed berries
1/4 cup sugar
1 bottle sparkling wine, chilled

Place the berries and sugar in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Taste and add a little extra sugar if necessary. Strain if desired. 

Put about 1 Tbsp of the berry puree into a champagne glass and top with sparkling wine. Serve immediately.

Since I used to make and post cocktails on my blog more often, here's a couple of favorite fruit and sparkling wine combinations. Be kind to the photos--they are from the earlier days of blogging!

Raspberry Sake Sparkler
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

raspberry liqueur (I used framboise)
sparkling sake (or a sparkling wine or champagne)
fresh raspberries to garnish

In a champagne flute, place 2 Tbsp of raspberry liqueur. Top with sparkling sake and serve, garnished with fresh raspberries.

Limoncello Champagne Cocktails with Mint
Bon Appétit, May 2010
(Makes 2 Servings)

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup limoncello
2 tablespoons sugar plus additional for dipping Champagne flutes
Lemon peel strips from 1 lemon
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice plus 1 lemon wedge
1 cup (about) chilled Champagne or sparkling wine

Place mint, limoncello, 2 tablespoons sugar, and lemon strips in blender; blend until mint is finely chopped (lemon peel will be coarsely chopped), 10 seconds. Strain into small cup; discard solids. 

Run lemon wedge around rim of 2 Champagne flutes. Dip rims into sugar. Divide limoncello mixture and lemon juice between flutes. Top with Champagne.

Notes/Results:  I think anyway you go with fruit and champagne, Prosecco, sparkling sake or sparkling wine, you'll end up with a great and refreshing cocktail to enjoy. I'm sure I will be trying out Mallery's Berry Bellinis recipe one of these days!

Note: A review copy of The Stepsisters was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.   
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here. 


1 comment:

  1. At the top of my summer TBR! I can't wait to read this one. Sara @ TLC Book Tours


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