“Secrets of Our House” by Rea Frey

top revewier

Genre: Family Drama/Women’s Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s PressSecrets of our House
Pub. Date: February 8, 2022

Women’s fiction seems to be an umbrella term for books about women’s love-life experiences that publishers market to female readers. I have never understood the genre’s name. Women like me enjoy many genres. Novels that are classified as women’s fiction are often clumsily written and filled with silly romantic clichés. Yet, they are not labeled romance, beach books, or chick-lit novels, where you expect the tale to be sappy.  No one would ever call “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy women’s fiction although the story revolves around a woman’s extramarital affair. A more modern example is “We Were the Mulvaneys” by Joyce Carol Oates. A daughter’s reputation is damaged by a rape that tears the family apart. Oates never writes women’s fiction, although her novels often focus on a woman’s love-life experiences. Does anyone have an alternative name for the genre?

This women’s fiction novel revolves around a middle-aged married couple and their 17-year-old daughter. The wife secretly longs for a man who is not her husband. The husband secretly desires a divorce. And the daughter secretly desires not to go to college, but to marry the boy she loves. Get it? Lots of secrets. The repetitive marital angst is way over-the-top. The mother acts like a lovesick teenager no different than her daughter. The young lovers can also irritate with all their drama. At least their angst is age-appropriate, unlike the adults. Where Tolstoy or Oates might portray such a relationship in a believable, engaging way, Frey delivers all the trappings of a plot-driven commercial fiction.  It makes me wonder, do publishers believe women prefer to read books in which the writing only tells a story without stimulating their minds?  Is it just me who thinks this way? Nevertheless, the only part of the novel that I did appreciate is the beauty of nature that is described encompassing their house in the mountains of North Carolina. These sentences paint a colorful picture that shows us a talented author but not enough for me to be able to enjoy the rest of the book.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Find all my book reviews at:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list…
https://books6259.wordpress.com/
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/review…
https://www.facebook.com/martie.neesr…
https://twitter.com/NeesRecord\
https://www.instagram.com/martie6947/
https://www.amazon.com/

“That Summer” by Jennifer Weiner

Genre: Women’s Fiction
Publisher:  Simon & Schusterthat summer
Pub. Date: May 11, 2021

I have enjoyed the author’s earlier works. “Good In Bed” or “In Her Shoes,” were fun beach reads with a moral that made the novels a bit more than chick-lit. “That Summer” is marketed as a beach read. However, it is not.  The setting takes place on a beach, but that’s about it. It is a decent #MeToo story, but not one that I would choose for light-hearted summer beach reading.

Find all my book reviews at:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list…
https://books6259.wordpress.com/
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/review…
https://www.facebook.com/martie.neesr…
https://twitter.com/NeesRecord\
https://www.instagram.com/martie6947/
https://www.amazon.com/
https://www.pinterest.com/martienreco…\

“Paris Never Leaves You” by Ellen Feldman

Genre:  Historical Fiction/Women’s FictionParis Never Leaves You
Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date:  June 2, 2020

When did Women’s Fiction morph into Romance Fiction?  Or is it just me who feels the shift?  Traditional women’s fiction focuses on a woman’s lifetime journey. There is frequently a love interest.  A romance novel focuses entirely on a woman’s romantic relationships and usually has a happy ending. This novel has two timelines: during and post WWII.   Our heroine has a romance going on in both—just not necessary.  One love interest is understandable. The survival of her child and herself depended on it. The other feels like an add-on simply to keep romance readers happy.

During the war, the woman has an eighteen-month-old baby. She works in a tiny bookstore in occupied Paris.  In the next decade, her daughter is a young teen and she works in a NYC publishing house. Although unhappy with the feel of a romance novel, there were parts of the story that I did enjoy. As a reader, I was delighted to find myself reading a book about books. I read to learn and to be entertained simultaneously, which is why historical fiction is my favorite genre. I applaud the author’s research. I did learn something new regarding WWII German soldiers. I cannot say more for it would be a spoiler. I thought she did a good job of showing the impossible choices the mother needed to make, during the war, to keep her child alive. As well as capturing the woman’s overwhelming sense of survivor’s guilt once she was safely living in the States.

Still, I do not think that “Paris” will pose any threat to other WWII historical fiction books.  In the classic, “Sophie’s Choice,” the good versus evil smacks you in the face. In this novel, it feels colorless. There are scenes showing the horrors committed against the Jews, but the brutalities are not as pronounced.  Your jaw will not drop from shock.  Possibly this was the author’s intention since the story revolves more around the main character’s personal journey than war crimes. The character Sophie also has a romance when she is out of Nazi Germany and is living in Brooklyn, NY.  Hers is a violent relationship, which she accepts due to her posttraumatic stress from the war years. Unlike this novel, that romance enhanced Sophie’s tale.

Maybe I was expecting too much. Ellen Feldman is a 2009 Guggenheim fellow, which lead me to believe I would be reading a literary novel.  The book held my interest for the author’s moral analysis of her characters. The mother struggles with what is right and wrong in both of her love affairs.  Her male characters are also wrestling with their consciousnesses.  Feldman creates further tension with her daughter. The mother never tells her teenage daughter secrets from their past causing a rift between them.  However, I am simply not a fan of contemporary romance.  If you are, and you enjoy historical fiction this one is for you.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Find all my book reviews at:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list…

https://books6259.wordpress.com/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/review…

https://www.facebook.com/martie.neesr…

https://www.instagram.com/martie6947/

https://www.pinterest.com/martienreco…\

https://www.amazon.com/

https://twitter.com/NeesRecord

“The Wife Between Us” by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Genre:        Mystery,  Thriller & Women’s FictionThe wife between us
Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date:  Jan. 9, 2018

No real review here, just my thoughts as a reviewer. There was so much buzz about this book. And, it received such high ratings, which may be the reason why I was so disappointed in it. So many of my book blogger friends loved this novel, making me feel very alone in my opinion. Unfortunately, I thought this book was written on an eighth-grade reading level (please don’t hate me), which makes it a very fast read. The first part of the novel held my interest but, I figured out the twist just a few pages in, which was a letdown. I found the second half plain old boring. Women’s Fiction should have been a heads up for me. I don’t really care for that genre (even though I love the old women’s classics such as, “Wuthering Heights”). But, for me, today’s Women’s Fiction is very different and often dull. So there is no way I can recommend this novel. Maybe, as an easy read beach book with a decent but strained twist at the end, but that is as far as I can go. Still, many others loved it so you might want to ignore my thoughts and give it a try.

I received this novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Find all my book reviews at:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list…
Leave Me Alone I am Reading & Reviewing: https://books6259.wordpress.com/
Twitter: Martie’s Book Reviews: https://twitter.com/NeesRecord

“A Mother’s Confession” by Kelly Rimmer

You know that when there is a contemporary novel about a perfect married couple with their beautiful, perfect baby,a-mothers-confession sooner or later you will learn that something is amiss.   The dark secret in this marriage was that the husband was a wife abuser.  Still, the wife had a complete mental breakdown after her husband commits suicide.

This is a character driven novel that is narrated by the young mother and her mother-in-law.  The chapters alternate between them.  The mother-in-law raised her son to believe that he could do no wrong no matter how much wrong he did.  At a very young age, he showed signs of serious anger issues, but his mother was determined to believe that he was and would always be perfect.  All of her own identity went into who her son was.  They had an extremely toxic relationship, to the point of being able to say that this is a novel about two women loving the same man.

The author, Kelly Rimmer, answers the unsympathetic question of “why don’t they just leave?”   As shown in the end-notes, Rimmer did her homework.  On this subject she wrote similar to Anna Quindlen’s novel “Black and Blue.”   Though Quindlen, as a Pulitzer Prize journalist winner wrote about domestic violence in a less sentimental manner than Rimmer.  Quindlen’s style of writing may not appeal to those who enjoy Rimmer, whose novel is a soul searching book with much emotional appeal.

The interactions between the two mothers were upsetting as well as fascinating to read. Although, I found fault that the mother-in-law was written as a one-dimensional character.  She was almost too easy to hate, which I did.  My main issue with this book is that is it is marketed as having a breathtaking twist.  The supposedly blindsiding incident was obvious very early on in the story.  I actually thought the author was not hiding it.  So I kept waiting for the twist right up until the last page.  This does not make the story any less of a heart-wrenching read, but it did spoil it for me.  I am having a hard time understanding how other Advanced Copy Reviewers (ACR) missed it.   I probably will not read Rimmer again, but if you are in the mood for a real tear-jerker, this one is for you.

Find all my reviews at https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/4793025-martie-nees-record?shelf=read

 

“In Twenty Years” by Allison Winn Scotch

Publication Date: July 1, 2016

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Twenty years after their college graduation five roommates and once best friends are summoned to their alma mater via a lawyer’s letter.  The letter was sent to them from their deceased sixth roommate.  Of course in college they think they will be friends forever.  Two decades later they hardly know one another.

I liked the concept of this novel and expected to thoroughly enjoy it.  However, the story was lacking (hard to connect to the characters, way too chick lit) and unbelievable (one becomes a rock star, another a Martha Stewart type of CEO, another Hollywood plastic surgeon to the stars) in many ways.  Furthermore, I found this preachy tale promising that if we remember who we are deep inside our younger selves’ life can and will be better.  Oh please.  I am old enough to remember “The Big Chill” when it was released in 1983.  Maybe my mediocre review is due to my comparison to that wonderful sweet, sad and still funny story.