REVIEW: The Goodbye Cafe by Mariah Stewart

The Goodbye Café (Hudson Sisters #3)

Mariah Stewart

Simon & Schuster

$16.00 Trade paperback (ISBN 9781501145124)

$7.99 ebook (ISBN 9781501145162)

THE GOODBYE CAFE Mariah Stewart book cover

The Goodbye Café is the third and final installment in Mariah Stewart’s Hudson Sisters series. It chronicles the romantic challenges of Allie Hudson Monroe, the eldest of the sisters.

***WARNING: REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS**

Allie worked with her biological sister Des and previously unknown half-sister Cara to renovate the Sugarhouse Theatre in Hidden Falls, Pennsylvania, per the last will and testament of their late father. Also per their father’s will, Allie and her sisters will only collect their inheritances once the theatre is reopened to the public. That moment will come none too soon for Allie, who yearns for her more sophisticated life in California — despite the divorce from her husband, and despite Allie returning to the joy of painting that she abandoned years ago after her marriage.

Allie also yearns for the distance so that she can get back to her secret vice: drinking. After being caught driving under the influence by Hidden Falls sheriff Ben Haldeman, Allie had been more careful but the stress of raising her teenage daughter Nikki, on top of the terms of her inheritance, sometimes drove Allie to take a sip from her secret alcohol stash. As life throws Allie several more curveballs as she prepares to leave Hidden Falls, will she succumb to her alcoholism, or use her newfound personal growth and family ties to overcome it — and open herself up to an unlikely romance?

This was my least favorite installment in the series, perhaps because Allie is not as sympathetic a character as her sisters Des and Cara. The author may have intended to write Allie as more uptight than the other two, but the uptightness came across as extreme brittleness in some instances. The alcoholism subplot, which may have been intended to soften Allie’s sharp edges and make the character more empathetic, seemed more of an afterthought and could have been explored more.

Another throwaway subplot surrounded their aunt Barney Hudson, in a sins-of-the-father type of way. Again, that subplot seemed more of an afterthought and could have been spun off into a separate novel, as Barney Hudson is one of the stronger characters in the series.

The budding romance between Allie and Ben was over-the-top cliché (mutual dislike turning to sexual chemistry and love), even for a romance novel which formulaically includes a Happily Ever After (HEA) ending. Oddly enough, the subplot featuring Nikki and teenage bullying made for a more engaging storyline.

Overall, The Goodbye Café does provide series closure but also opens the door for other books featuring the Hudsons and their kin. Hardcore Mariah Stewart fans will enjoy it, but for new readers, this may not be the book with which to try out Stewart.

The Goodbye Café can be found at most bookstores, as well as online.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: Dune Drive by Mariah Stewart

Dune Drive (The Chesapeake Diaries, Book 12)

Mariah Stewart

Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster

Release Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 9781501154416 (mass market)

Price: $7.99 (mass market)

 

**Disclaimer: I was given a free advance copy of Dune Drive via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review**

 

New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart returns with Dune Drive, the latest installment in her Chesapeake Diaries series set in the fictitious beachside locations of Cannonball Island and St. Dennis on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Dune Drive sees another island descendant return to this ancestral home to escape the past and find a brighter future.

Christiana “Chrissie” Jenkins makes the painful yet necessary decision to leave New Jersey and her abusive boyfriend of five years with no warning. She returns to Cannonball Island to stay with her great-grandmother, Ruby “Gigi” Carter, and start the healing process in the place where she had such good childhood memories — and to stay off the radar so that her ex-boyfriend won’t find her. As she starts to put her life back together she crosses paths with Jared Chandler, the son of the owner of a diving recovery company and good friend of her cousin, Owen. Jared, who considers women a temporary distraction, finds himself thinking of a more permanent future with Chrissie while Chrissie, who is still working on her self-esteem and jump-starting her new life as a restaurant chef, wonders how someone like Jared could ever be with someone like her. As Chrissie and Jared find their way to each other, the cloud of Chrissie’s ex-boyfriend looms until everything comes to a head after a memorable birthday party.

Stewart’s return to the popular Chesapeake Diaries series is predictable yet charming and full of local color,  but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I have previous installments in the series. The character of Chrissie Jenkins, unfortunately, is one with which I have least connected over the series. One of the nitpicks I have with Dune Drive is the treatment of a weighty subject such as domestic violence in such a lighthearted novel. Since this is supposed to be a traditional contemporary romance instead of a suspenseful romance, it was expected for the domestic violence issue to be glossed over to a degree; however, Stewart’s self-improvement, “You go, girl” theme of Chrissie’s personal redemption was a bit too saccharine. The book almost read like she took the movie Sleeping With The Enemy and boiled it down to a palatable romance novel.

Another issue I had with this book was the sheer number of secondary and tertiary characters. While it’s admirable that so many characters are a signal to Stewart’s fans that the Chesapeake Diaries series will go on for quite some time, it got overwhelming at times, especially during the events of Delia Wright and Gordon’ Chandler’s wedding weekend. I had a difficult time keeping up with the convoluted genealogy.

A bright spot was the interesting twist involving Chrissie’s estranged mother and the disappearance of Chrissie’s brother Luke when she was eight years old. Stewart did a good job of hinting that there was a backstory to that situation without giving any type of clue to that backstory.

As is the norm in the Chesapeake Diaries series, the true star was Ruby Carter, the psychic, no-nonsense, island-dwelling matriarch who celebrated her 101st birthday in Dune Drive. Her character alone is a good reason to start any book in this series, and I hope that Stewart’s plans for the series include Ruby living for at least another ten years.

Dune Drive is a good beach read and fans of Stewart and/or the Chesapeake Diaries series won’t be disappointed.

Thanks for stopping by.

REVIEW: The Chesapeake Bride by Mariah Stewart

 

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THE CHESAPEAKE BRIDE

11th in The Chesapeake Diaries series

Mariah Stewart

Pocket Books

August 29, 2017

ISBN 9781501154355

$7.99

Treasures and home sales and history–oh my! Mariah Stewart returns with The Chesapeake Bride, the latest offering in her Chesapeake Diaries series.

Cassidy Logan, a respected architect, returns to Cannonball Island on the Maryland Eastern Shore in the hopes of renovating some vacant historical homes on behalf of her father’s real estate development company. Enter Owen Parker, local playboy, who has not spent extended time on the island in many years. The grandson of the oldest living person on Cannonball Island, Owen is hired by another island son to dive for what seems to be a historical ship that sank in the Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812, along with another sunken ship that was long rumored to have contained treasure. Of course, the discovery of such historical finds would put a major wrench in Cassidy’s development plans (and could cancel them altogether), and it doesn’t help that Owen–with whom she shares a definite chemistry that she tries to avoid–constantly misconstrues her attempts to highlight the island’s history for marketing purposes as exploitation of that history. Owen’s footloose and fancy-free ways also grate against Cassidy’s need for stability, and how the two reconcile their vastly different personalities and world views with their growing interest in each other is yet another display of Ms. Stewart’s writing skill.

Ms. Stewart once again provides a light, entertaining read that is not your usual treacle-sweet romance. The subtle yet pointed commentary on history versus commerce, and gentrification, is an interesting thread and elevates the story beyond the traditional. The inclusion of strong female characters of different educational and socioeconomic levels (including island matriarch Ruby Parker, who is a spry 100 years old) is a treat; Ms. Stewart aptly demonstrates that a woman’s fortitude comes in different packages, and all are equally respected (and needed). The only drawback to the book is the somewhat clichéd pairing of Cassidy and Owen, especially so early in the book. While this is the traditional method of the “happily ever after” template of romance novels, sometimes readers would like a bit of a twist and challenge in their main characters reaching that happy ending.

The Chesapeake Bride also gives a nod to its predecessors in the series, and gives enough incentive to go back and read the rest of the books–although the mentions can be a bit heavy-handed at times. While the book can be dismissed as beach reading (and it certainly serves its purpose in that regard), there is enough substance in this book to make even the most romance-averse reader give it a shot. The Chesapeake Bride, as one of Ms. Stewart’s signature books, was pleasant from start to finish.

Want more Mariah Stewart? Well, Simon and Schuster is hosting an End-of-Summer giveaway! Win a free copy of Driftwood Point, the 10th installment in the Chesapeake Diaries series and the story of Lisbeth Parker (Owen’s sister) and Alec Jansen.  How cool is that?

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END OF SUMMER GIVEAWAY:

We’re celebrating The Chesapeake Bride and Summer 2017 with one giveaway for Driftwood Point, 10th  in The Chesapeake Diaries Series by Mariah Stewart! The last day for entries will be Friday, September 22nd (the official last day of summer!) The winner will receive one copy of Driftwood Point. U.S. only, please. Leave a comment (no spam, please) or shoot me your email address if you’re interested but remember – you can only win once!

NOTE FOR THE NEW YEAR:

Look for Gallery Books’ second installment in Mariah Stewart’s all-new trade original women’s fiction series, The Hudson Sisters, following a trio of reluctant sisters as they set out to fulfill their father’s dying wish—and discover themselves in the process. Book 2, The Sugarhouse Blues, will publish March 2018!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Stewart is the award-winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous novels and several novellas and short stories.  A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and two rambunctious rescue dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors country life and tends her gardens.  Visit her website at mariahstewart.com, like her on Facebook at AuthorMariahStewart, and follow her on Instagram at mariah_stewart_books.

 

 

 

Doubt

I’m re-reading Zero Day by David Baldacci, which is the introduction of his John Puller character. As I get into the story, one overwhelming thought continues to loom:

Why can’t I write like this?

My next Bastille novel is not progressing as I’d like, though I am loathe to admit it. I can tell because I’m finding too many other distractions. When a book is flowing for me, I focus on it and little can detract me from getting the words on the pages. Nowadays? I’m obsessing over tracing my family tree and going through boxes of old books, and thinking about whipping up a homemade batch of eggnog (’tis the season!). This effortless distraction is a clear sign that all is not well in the Tiffverse.

Why can’t I write like Baldacci?

I’m in awe of the way his words flow across the page, how he brings John Puller (and even Puller’s cat, named AWOL) to life, how even the scenery of the book leaps off the page. And I wonder how I can get to that level, or even a fraction of it, within the next month or so. Granted, Baldacci has been writing for almost half of my lifetime, and has many more books published to his credit. I’m a rookie author, he’s a veteran, and thus I should not really expect myself to be on his level right now. But I’m an overachiever, so of course I expect that of myself. 😀 Seriously, I don’t know how to be a rookie because I’m used to being around veterans. That being said…

Why can’t I write like that?

I am beginning to wonder, especially in light of feedback on my first novel, The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille, if I am forcing myself to write in the romance genre; by that, I mean forcing myself to write within the carefully proscribed parameters/formula of the romance genre. Which would explain why I am having such a problem making progress on this installment of the Bastille Family Chronicles. My writing tends to naturally cross genres, so it’s difficult for me to stick to one or the other–which really irritates me when it comes time to classify my book for sales purposes (although at least most sellers offer the options of choosing different categories at once, so as not to pigeonhole in one genre). Still, I may be trying too hard to be one thing, instead of letting my writing be what it is. And that’s where I’m getting hung up.

That may be why I’m writing different books in different genres so early in my writing career; I don’t want to be pigeonholed, since the stories I write aren’t always about love and romance. My writing style is as eclectic as my reading selections, and I want to represent that to the fullest. I enjoy writing thrillers and suspenseful novels, and commercial fiction; more, dare I say, than writing romances. Then why am I writing romances? Simple: I like those too, and I read those, and that was the first book that I completed that was ready for publication. Plus, I’d already planned a six-book series around the Bastilles and their love lives. However, I am not solely or primarily defined as a romance author, as authors such as Nora Roberts or Brenda Jackson are.

Perhaps if I focus less on the “romance” label  (e.g., The Bastille Family Chronicles) and just write the story (e.g., A Bastille Family novel), it will take care of itself.

I will ponder that as I embark on yet another session of procrastination.

Thanks for stopping by.

It’s HERE! And new directions

It’s here! It’s here! Or, to be more grammatically correct, they’re here: the hard copies ordered during the pre-release offer of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille (informally known as The Camille Chronicles).

 

The Camille Chronicles shipped box 080614

I have been basking in the wonder that occurs when your published book is held in your hand. This is a culmination of a lifelong dream, and of over fourteen years of active and not-so-active work on my craft. And it’s here, in my hand.

Of course, part of my joy is dulled by the anxiety of hoping that the book is well received, but that was already covered in a previous post.  So I’ll move on. 🙂

I have more books on the way (the pre-release did REALLY well), so my weekend will be spent autographing books and packing them for shipment. The autographs will be personalized, of course, and will be emotional because I will try to convey to each person who ordered a pre-released copy how grateful and appreciative I am for their support and love. Most of the people who ordered have known me for at least ten years, and most have known me for over twenty. That’s a lot of sentiment to squish into relatively few words. But gratitude is good for the soul. 🙂

In other news, one of my character’s story started gelling in my head, and I had to get it down. And then a plot twist came to mind, so I abandoned the draft of what I’d initially planned to be the next release, to work on this one. A writer’s work is never done, and we cannot control when The Muse decides to visit. It’s when S/he doesn’t visit, that there’s a problem. 😀

 

Thanks for stopping by.

It’s Almost Here! The Camille Chronicles Pre-Release

Hi all,

It’s almost here! The release of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille (informally known as The Camille Chronicles ) occurs on August 4, 2014

 

Camille ebook cover

I’m excited, nervous, and glad. It’s been a long time coming…fourteen years, to be exact. The print copy will be available via CreateSpace/Amazon, and the e-book versions will be available in Kindle and NOOK.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I’m giving my readers the opportunity to get a FREE autographed copy of The Camille Chronicles. You just pay shipping, and I will send it to you as soon as the book arrives to me from the printer.

On the day of release, the regular price will be $14.95, no autographs. Or $16.96 plus s/h, if you want it autographed.

Free…$14.95…no-brainer! 🙂

If you’d like your FREE autographed copy (you just pay shipping), you can order securely here. Please make sure that you specify the proper shipping address, and how you’d like your name spelled. Please understand that this offer will ship after the August 4 release date.

You have six (6) days to take advantage of this offer!

Offer expires Saturday, August 2, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. EST

**the listed shipping price is for USA orders only. If you are ordering from another country, please send me an email so that your shipping costs will be calculated accurately.

Thank you all for following my brain droppings over the past couple of months and, as always, thanks for stopping by.

A Surgeon and a DEA Agent Walk Into A Hospital…

A surgeon and a DEA agent walk into a hospital…

Camille ebook cover

(well, it’s better than a bar!).

How does that work, anyway? A forty-something neurosurgeon who is as beautiful as she is brilliant, and a Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration who tends to talk in song lyrics?

Who does that? 🙂

The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille (which is informally known as The Camille Chronicles) is a story about a demographic that is usually overlooked within the contemporary romance genre: women (and men) of a certain age (40 years old and up). Instead of twenty-something, nubile young women without much life experience who hook up with thirty-something, world-weary men, The Camille Chronicles offers a different take on love and dating past your thirties.

Set primarily in Baltimore, Maryland, The Camille Chronicles shows what happens when two people of two very different temperaments, from different backgrounds and vastly different professions, meet and sparks fly. See what happens when Camille Bastille, MD, a neurosurgeon from New Orleans meets Special Agent Andrew Paxson, a DEA agent from Chicago. To add a fun twist, the story incorporates the type of real music that is not often played on the radio anymore, and is usually relegated to Pandora, Spotify, or satellite radio. I’m talking Jodeci, Susan Tedeschi, Maxwell, Fleetwood Mac, Sly and the Family Stone, even The Sound of Music!

Save your shekels this weekend, because the pre-sale of The Bastille Family Chronicles happens MONDAY, July 28. How cool is that?

In case you missed it, learn a little about Dr. Camille Bastille and her five medical siblings in “Introducing the Bastilles“, a short story crafted especially for my readers.

See you Monday, and thanks for stopping by.

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