Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Excerpt and Review of "The Summer Getaway" by Susan Mallery, Served with Fish with Three Herb Salsa & Braised Little Gems

Aloha! I am excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Except Tour for The Summer Getaway by Susan Mallery. Along with the excerpt, I am posting a review and a dish that I think suits the summer mood of the book.

HQN; Original edition (March 15, 2022)
Hardcover 416 pages

Publisher's Blurb:

One woman discovers the beauty in chaos in this poignant and heartwarming story about the threads that hold family together from #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery.

With her divorce settlement about to run out and a mortgage she can’t afford, Robyn Caldwell needs a plan for her future. She nurtured her family and neglected herself. But how’s she supposed to think when her daughter has become the most demanding bride ever, her son won’t even consider college, her best friend is on the brink of marital disaster and her ex is making a monumentally bad decision that could bring everything crashing down on Robyn’s head? So when her great-aunt Lillian invites her to Santa Barbara for the summer, Robyn hops on the first plane.

But it’s hard to run away when you’re the heart of the family. One by one, everyone she left behind follows her across the country. Somehow, their baggage doesn’t feel as heavy in the sun-drenched, mishmash mansion. The more time Robyn spends with free-spirited Lillian, the more she sees the appeal in taking chances—on dreams, on love, on family. Life is meant to be lived on purpose. All she has to do is muster the courage to take a chance on herself.

My Quick Review:

I enjoy Susan Mallery's books for beach and pool reads as they are easy to pick up, put down, and get swept away to a vacation escape in between. They cover the gamut of relationships from family to romance and always with some character growth thrown in. Robyn is a likeable character, as are many of the supporting characters. I wanted to explore her Aunt's historic Santa Barbara house and all its treasures (and also want to know where I can get a relative to leave me a mansion or its contents--I promise to take the 15 cats with it!) ;-) Is the story completely realistic, no, but it is a good soapy drama that was fun and engaging to read and I found myself wanting to stay with the characters after I finished.


Author Notes: #1 NYT 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. 

Visit her at



Robyn faked her way through lunch. She preferred to mull over Madison’s bombshell before
talking about it. She alternated between disbelief and resignation. What had Cord been thinking? Dating his daughter’s fiancé’s twin sister? Really? Couldn’t he settle for someone only ten years younger who wasn’t related to Kip?

Once she was home, she quickly texted her ex, asking him to stop by that evening. Within
seconds, he answered with, What did I do now?
She ignored the question.

Six works for me. See you then.

She thought about texting Harlow and asking her about her father dating Zafina, but decided that wasn’t a good idea. Based on her daughter’s silence on the subject, she would guess Harlow didn’t know. Better to find out if it was a weekend fling that could be ignored or something that was going to blow up in their faces.

“Dammit, Cord,” she muttered, wondering why, four years after their divorce, she was still dealing with his messes.

In the kitchen, she got out ingredients for a citrus marinade. Once she’d juiced the oranges and the limes, she chopped basil before turning her attention to the chicken pieces. She carefully removed the skin and any visible fat. While she’d always tried to provide healthy meals for her family, since she’d started dating Jase, she’d become even more aware of the food she prepared. She put the chicken and marinade into a large resealable plastic bag. She’d just finished when Austin, her youngest, walked into the kitchen.

“Hey, Mom,” he said, stretching before slumping onto one of the bar stools by the large island. 
His dark blond hair fell into his eyes. He was tall and lean, with that too-skinny look teenaged boys had. Sometime in the next couple of years he would start to fill out.

“You’re home early.”

“It was only a six-hour fishing charter.”

“That’s why you were gone before sunrise.”

“I had to be on board by five thirty.”

“Pesky fish and their timetables.”

Austin flashed her a grin. “I blame the fishermen.”

“Them, too.”

Austin, barely eighteen and a recent high school graduate, eyed the plastic bag. “More chicken?”

“It’s healthy.”

“Did you have to start dating a cardiologist? All we ever have is chicken and fish.”

She held in a smile. “That’s not true. Last week I made vegetarian enchiladas.”

“I know, but I try not to think about it. Couldn’t you start seeing a guy who owns a rib place? That would be better for me.”

“It’s not bad for you to learn to eat healthy. You won’t be eighteen forever.”

“I’m figuring I’ll be eighteen for about a year.”

She laughed. “I think you’re right. You hungry?”


She cleaned up, then walked to the refrigerator. “Isn’t there leftover Thai?” A takeout dinner she and Austin had shared. Something they would only have when Jase wasn’t coming over.

“I had it for breakfast.”

“There’s still some of the poached salmon. I could heat that and put together a salad.”

Austin made a gagging noise in the back of his throat. “I want something good.”


You can read the next excerpt at From the TBR Pile tomorrow:

Here are the rest of the stops on the excerpt tour:

Monday, February 21st: Books Cooks Looks  
Tuesday, February 22nd: Reading Reality 
Wednesday, February 23rd: SusanLovesBooks 
Thursday, February 24th: Kahakai Kitchen 
Friday, February 25th: From the TBR Pile 
Friday, February 25th: View from the Birdhouse 
Sunday, February 27th: Subakka.bookstuff 
Monday, February 28th: Laura’s Reviews 
Tuesday, March 1st: Bookchickdi 
Wednesday, March 2nd: The Bookish Dilettante 
Thursday, March 3rd: What is That Book About 
Friday, March 4th: The Romance Dish 
Sunday, March 6th: The Cozy Book Blog 
Monday, March 7th: Girl Who Reads 
Tuesday, March 8th: Bibliotica 
Wednesday, March 9th: Helen’s Book Blog 
Thursday, March 10th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers 
Friday, March 11th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy 
Sunday, March 13th: Novel Gossip 
Monday, March 14th: Books and Bindings 

What food would I pair with this book? As it was set in Florida and California and on the water in both, a healthy fish dish is in order.
I have all kinds of fish recipes on the blog but this book took me back to a 2010 post, where I made three local fish with Nigella Lawson's Three Herb Salsa and Braised Little Gems (Lettuce) from her Forever Summer cookbook. These dishes definitely have that healthy, summer vibe going on.

You can find the recipes here.

Note: A review copy of "The Summer Getaway" 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.


Friday, February 18, 2022

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "On a Night like This" by Lindsey Kelk, Paired with Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Happy Aloha Friday! I am very excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for On a Night Like This, a new rom-com novel by Lindsay Kelk. Accompanying my review is a suggested recipe pairing, fudgy and delectable frosted brownies. 

Publisher's Blurb:

Within days of wishing she could change her life, Fran Cooper is acting assistant to a celebrity, on a yacht in the Mediterranean, and en route to a tiny Italian island and the glittering Crystal Ball, along with the world’s rich and famous.

When she – quite literally – bumps into a handsome American called Evan, a man able to keep his cool in the face of chaos, the magic really begins.

Evan makes her a promise: no last names, no life stories, just one unforgettable night. Yet Evan belongs at the Crystal Ball and Fran is a gatecrasher. They may be soulmates, but their homes are an ocean apart, and their lives a world apart. They’ll never meet again – unless, on a night like this, everything can change forever…

Publisher: HarperCollins (January 18, 2022)
Paperback: 352 pages

My Review:

Sometimes I need a good frothy feel good book, not at all taxing and with a sense of humor and fun. On a Night Like This was just that--a rom-com in book form, and just what I needed for the February blues. Fran Cooper is feeling stuck in her life in a small English town, engaged but not happily, and looking for a job that doesn't involve being a teacher which is the plan her fiancé's family is pushing her towards. A temporary opportunity to do was she does best, be a personal assistant, pops up and she is soon on a yacht headed to the social event of the year, while babysitting a mega-famous singer. Of course things begin to go very off course and soon Fran is crashing the Crystal Ball and runs into Evan, the handsome stranger she had a "meet cute" with earlier in the day. Although they come from different worlds, they decide to hang out for just one magical night...

I really enjoyed this book, it's predictable sure (think Cinderella without the stepmother and stepsisters), but it was a lot of fun, sweet and cute and I enjoyed Fran and watching her finally begin to come into her own. Evan is fairly swoon-worthy and although the romance is a bit insta-lust/love, it works. There is enough snark in Fran, her friend Jess to make me laugh out loud several times and keep a smile on my face. If you are looking for = good winter escape feel-good romance, On a Night Like This is a great pick!  


Author Notes: Lindsey Kelk is a writer and children’s book editor. When she isn’t writing, reading, listening to music, or watching more TV than is healthy, Lindsey likes to wear shoes, shop for shoes, and judge the shoes of others. Born in England, Lindsey loves living in New York but misses Sherbet Fountains, London, and drinking gin and elderflower cocktails with her friends. Not necessarily in that order.

Find out more about Lindsey at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Food Inspiration: 

There was quite a lot of food in On a Night Like This from British snack foods to pepperoni pizza. Mentions included muffins, coffee, custard pudding, banana bread, a ham sandwich, Hobnobs, Terry's Chocolate Oranges, pasties, tea sandwiches, scones, chicken and spicy rice, tropical fruit, a giant freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie, Percy Pigs, McCain oven chips and a Findus crispy pancake, Toblerone, assorted cocktails, orange San Pellegrino, cheesecake, cheese, sandwiches, sliders, macarons, chocolate brownies, tea, a bag of Quavers, and Bailey's. 

If I were picking something to represent the book in food, I'd go with something chocolate, like a delicious brownie. Nothing comforts and soothes like chocolate and this recipe for Chocolate Fudge Brownies with The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting from the Joy the Baker Cookbook are still one of my favorites. The Ovaltine powder in the frosting is addicting and definitely moreish. And if you want to enjoy it with a cup of coffee laced with Bailey's, well I won't tell anyone. ;-)

Note: A review copy of "On a Night Like This" 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.


Friday, February 11, 2022

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Midnight in Everwood" by M.A. Kuzniar, Served with Three Chocolate Recipes

Happy Aloha Friday! I am happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Midnight in Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar, a reimagining of the story of The Nutcracker.  Along with my review, I have paired it with three favorite chocolate recipes that fit the vibe of this book. 

Publisher's Blurb:

The Nutcracker for adults, perfect for fans of Robert Dinsdale’s The Toymakers, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Stephanie Garber’s Caraval. 
’It was a rainy day that the magic came, and once magic has entered your life, you stay in its glittering clutch forever’

Nottingham, 1906
Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered. At the wishes of her family, she will be obligated to marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But when a mysterious toymaker, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in her life. Although Drosselmeier’s magic is darker than Marietta could have imagined…

When he constructs an elaborate theatrical set for her final ballet performance, Marietta discovers it carries a magic all of its own. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself walking through a land of snow-topped fir trees leading to a frozen sugar palace silent with secrets and must find a way to return home.

In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…

Publisher: HQ (January 25, 2022)
Hardcover: 384 pages

My Review:

I am a fan of fairytale and classic retellings and reimaginings, especially when they are given a spark of new life and changed enough not to be just a rehash of the original story and Midnight in Everwood fits this description. I am a little sad I didn't get to read it closer to Christmas, given it's setting and timing of the Christmas holidays, but it works well as a wintery book. Although you will find elements to the original Nutcracker story, in Kuzniar's world, the action focuses on 21-year-old Marietta Stelle, who has a passion for ballet but whose place is her upper class society must be upheld by leaving her lessons and dreams pf performing and marrying well. There is a Drosselmeier, a doctor of some sort who is now a rich and mysterious toymaker and neighbor, and Marietta's parents would like nothing more than for her to marry him. Dr. Drosselmeier, is in agreement, darkly obsessed with Marietta who is troubled by his attentions, and afraid of the glimpses she gets of his magic. When he offers to construct a stage for her final dance performance of Sleeping Beauty, Marietta, trying to escape his clutches, ends up transported to a magical land where nothing is as it seems and escaping the castle outside Everwood seems impossible.

The setting of Everwood and the castle will make your mouth water--particularly if you crave sweets, but those delicious treats--rich and heavenly drinking chocolate, peppermint scented bathing pools, buttercream balls with costumed dancers and delicate and intricate pastries, made to please the King, do not come without a price. I did enjoy the magical setting of the book which is both beautiful and foreboding as the prison and the forrest surrounding it seem impenetrable and have a gothic feel to them. 

The book is tagged as adult and historical fiction and fantasy and I would say that it is new adult, or even young adult for a more mature teen. There is mention of violence to women, misogyny, and a mild sex scene but nothing graphic. It has romance definitely, and it's a good one, but the strongest relationships in it are between Marietta and her beloved older brother, Frederick, who must hide his homosexuality from his parents and society, and especially with the two women from other worlds who she meets while being held captive at the castle. It also is a coming of age story for Marietta, who grows from a willful and sheltered girl to a brave and strong woman. There are strong messages for female empowerment and following your dreams. 

If you like fantasy, magic, suspense, fairytales, ballet and confection, but told with a darker, edge, Midnight in Everwood is a wonderful book to curl up with and escape. I very much enjoyed it! 


Author Notes: Maria Kuzniar spent six years living in Spain, teaching English and travelling the world which inspired her children’s series The Ship of Shadows. Her adult debut novel Midnight in Everwood was inspired by her love of ballet and love of The Nutcracker. She lives in Nottingham with her husband, where she reads and writes as much as can. 

You can learn more about Maria on her website and Instagram.


Food Inspiration: 

Midnight in Everwood is full of wonderful food and confections with detailed descriptions of goblets of molten chocolate, fairy cakes, petits fours topped with swirls of buttercream, buttery crisp pastries with a river of salted caramel sauce melting over your tongue, a white chocolate and snowberry cake, sweet and light and tasting of Christmas morning, chocolate mice with cherries for noses, a bathing pool with large toffee-scented bubbles, and many more.

I suggest pairing it with some decadent truffles and/or good drinking chocolate like these:

Easy French Hot Chocolate by Chocolate & Zucchini 

Nigella's Hot Chocolate with Rum

My own Dark Chocolate Hearts with Fresh Raspberries

Note: A review copy of "Midnight in Everwood" 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.