Fiona Davis delivers with her second novel: The Address

33607640I was introduced to the beautiful writing style of Fiona Davis in 2016 with her debut novel The Dollhouse.  It was such a captivating story with a lot of historical facts that compelled me to research the building and the occupants.

This time around, Fiona takes us to The Dakota, a new hotel opening in New York City in 1885.  Critics at the time were quoted as saying The Dakota will undoubtedly be known as ‘The Address’ of New York’s West Side.  Once again, Fiona made a historical building so fascinating I was constantly researching the history.

Our main character in The Address, Sara Smythe, travels from England to New York to manage The Dakota, something she has never done before.  While working as the head housekeeper at a posh London hotel, she has a chance meeting with Theodore Camden, the architect for The Dakota.  Theodore wants Sara to run the Dakota for him and insists she must come to America and accept the position.

Sara insists that she will not be like her mother who fell for her employer, but as Sara and Theodore’s friendship progresses, so does their romantic relationship.  Even though Theodore has a wife and children, the two of them can’t stay away from each other.

Then we jump forward 100 years to Bailey Camden who is fresh out of rehab.  She blew up her interior design career when her party girl habits took a dark path leaving her penniless, jobless and homeless.  To try and make money and get her career back on track, she takes a job from her best friend and cousin Melinda to redecorate Melinda’s apartment at the Dakota.  The apartment Melinda inherited from her ancestor Theodore Camden.

Fiona does a great job of taking historical events and winding a fascinating story of greed, passion, love and sacrifice taking the reader on a journey through dual timelines alternating between 1885 and 1985.  She shines a spotlight on how women were treated in 1885 as a second class citizen.  The fact that women could be put in a crazy house without a trial is horrible.

I felt sorry for Sara and what she went through.  All the sacrifices she made.  I also was glad that Bailey became strong and fought for what she thought was right. As for Melinda, I wanted to smack her.  What a bitch.

Fiona Davis is making a name for herself in the historical fiction genre.  Her stories take the reader back in time entertaining them and educating them.  She takes dual timeline stories and eventually ties them together for a great revelation that the reader won’t see coming.  The Address is well worth the read and I would put this at the top of your to be read list.

Book Description:
After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility–no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda–Camden’s biological great-granddaughter–will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages–for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City–and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich–and often tragic–as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden–and the woman who killed him–on its head.

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives –and lies–of the beating hearts within.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

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Come Sundown is an emotional roller coaster ride

31415529I always associate Nora Roberts with romance trilogies where sisters fall in love, brothers fall in love, best friends fall in love and sometimes all three in the same storyline.  So it always surprises me when I come across one of her books that has romance but also a large element of Criminal Minds.  Come Sundown is one of those books.

The book has two very strong storylines that eventually merge/catch up with each other.  The story starts out with Alice Bodine.  A young girl who left home, not on good terms with her family, the night of her sister’s wedding.  After struggling for a few years, Alice decides to return home but she never makes it there.  Her car breaks down, a guy gives her a ride, but instead of taking her the few miles to her family’s ranch, he kidnaps her.  Her family never knew Alice was headed home so they think she wants nothing to do with them with her disappearance.

The second storyline takes us more than 20 years into the future to Bodine Longbow, a young professional woman who runs the Bodine Ranch and Resort.  She has her hands on everything, which made me wonder how she had time for a personal life let alone getting any sleep.  Then Callen (Cal) Skinner comes back home.  A childhood friend of Bodine and her brothers who is amazing with horses.  He’s soon hired on at the ranch along with his horse and he soon starts a relationship with Bodine.  The same time of Cal’s return, women start turning up dead, which makes a local police officer and childhood enemy of Cal’s, point his finger right at Cal.  He is determined to put Cal in jail.

The Bodine Ranch and Resort is a tightknit team.  Everyone is treated like family whether they are family or just work there.  Roberts does a great job of pulling the reader into the lives of the characters and making you care for all of them.  So when one of them goes missing, everyone hurts.

This is a heart-pounding, terrifying and laugh out loud story that will take you on a roller coaster of emotions.  When women start going missing and showing up dead, my heart would race and I kept saying not her.  Like that would make a difference.

This is such a wonderful book.  I could not put it down.  I have already recommended Come Sundown to several friends and family and I recommend it while on vacation or wrapped up in a blanket on the couch on a quiet day.  This one is well worth your time.

Book Description:
The Bodine ranch and resort in western Montana is a family business, an idyllic spot for vacationers. A little over thirty thousand acres and home to four generations, it’s kept running by Bodine Longbow with the help of a large staff, including new hire Callen Skinner. There was another member of the family once: Bodine’s aunt, Alice, who ran off before Bodine was born. She never returned, and the Longbows don’t talk about her much. The younger ones, who never met her, quietly presume she’s dead. But she isn’t. She is not far away, part of a new family, one she never chose—and her mind has been shattered…

When a bartender leaves the resort late one night, and Bo and Cal discover her battered body in the snow, it’s the first sign that danger lurks in the mountains that surround them. The police suspect Cal, but Bo finds herself trusting him—and turning to him as another woman is murdered and the Longbows are stunned by Alice’s sudden reappearance. The twisted story she has to tell about the past—and the threat that follows in her wake—will test the bonds of this strong family, and thrust Bodine into a darkness she could never have imagined.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

A Million Junes is a magical love story

30763950Two families who hate each other for generations.  I’m sure the first thing you think of is the feud of the Hatfields and McCoys.  But there are two other families that have hated each other for generations – the O’Donnells and the Angerts.

In A Million Junes by Emily Henry, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have held a grudge against each other for generations.  Generations of fathers that worked hard to stay away from each other even though they used to be best of friends.  Enter the younger generation who want to be together despite the feud.

June O’Donnell is the latest in a long list of Jacks and Juniors.  As the daughter Jack O’Donnell, one of the rules she must follow is to stay away from any of the Angerts.  June has been curious of Saul Angets, who lives across the field and through the woods.  She has internet stalked this forbidden guy.  She has seen him from afar.  Then they meet and the pull they have towards each other can’t be denied.  Such a pull it makes them wonder why their families began feuding in the first place.

Besides a love story, this is a magical story.  There are a lot of magical things that happen in June’s world.  Cherry trees grow overnight from a seed.  If you leave shoes in the yard, Coywolves will come and get them so make sure they aren’t your favorite pair.  And there are white floaty, fluffy balls that can soak into your skin and show you a memory, a memory that might not be yours.  The memories will feel real like June is being transported back in time.

This story might not be for everyone.  You have to like magical stories that stretch your beliefs.  But I think if you like a story with a little bit of magic, laughs, family drama, and an enjoyable love story, you will find that Emily Henry will take you on a journey that will make you fall in love with June and Saul and look at dandelion dust floating in the wind differently.

Book Description:

For as long as Jack “June” O’Donnell has been alive, her parents have had only one rule: stay away from the Angert family. But when June collides—quite literally—with Saul Angert, sparks fly, and everything June has known is thrown into chaos.

Who exactly is this gruff, sarcastic, but seemingly harmless boy who has returned to their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, after three mysterious years away? And why has June—an O’Donnell to her core—never questioned her late father’s deep hatred of the Angert family? After all, the O’Donnells and the Angerts may have mythic legacies, but for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them.

As Saul and June’s connection grows deeper, they find that the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers seem to be conspiring to reveal the truth about the harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations. Now June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored, and she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Sunshine Sisters isn’t all sunshine

32867521The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green is about the relationships within one family.  Ronni Sunshine is the perfect selfish Hollywood diva who cares more about her image than her three daughters who can’t wait to get away from her, and a husband who can’t make her happy no matter what he does.  To the general public, Ronni is a wonderful person who has the perfect family.  But behind closed doors it’s another story.  Ronni is narcissistic and often a cruel mother.

When the veil comes off and her mood comes out, Ronni treats her daughters differently and the daughters react in different ways to Ronni’s cruelness.  Nell, who is the oldest, withdraws within herself and when she turns 18, flees to a farm a few miles away where she befriends the owner, who becomes a stable mother figure.  Nell seemed like a genuine, down-to-earth person who worked tirelessly to fill the voids she didn’t get from her childhood.

Meredith takes a lot of abuse from Ronni.  She is told she needs to lose weight, that she isn’t pretty enough.  This breaks Meredith and she flees to England to stay with relatives.  Meredith is a people pleaser and wants everyone to be happy.  Because of her mother’s comments over the years, Meredith doesn’t feel she deserve to be treated with respect, which leads her to be engaged to a who acts like she isn’t good enough as herself.

Then there is Lizzy who doesn’t take any crap from Ronnie.  While growing up, she laughed at the things Ronni said and did, never taking it seriously.  Lizzy really came across just as selfish and self-centered as Ronni.  Now a famous TV chef, Lizzy doesn’t care who she hurts with her actions, including her husband and child.

The main focus of the book is bringing the three girls together again to be with Ronnie, who has become ill and wants them by her side as she passes.  Once again making everything about her and bringing the attention to her, the center of attention.  This story is also about the relationship between the sisters, who are not close and are so very different.

The Sunshine Sisters shows that families can look all rainbows and sunshine on the outside, the inside, behind closed doors, might not be what it seems.  It’s probably why on the news, the neighbors say “they were such a nice and loving family” when something goes wrong with a family member or an entire family.

I have four older sisters so it was interesting for me to see how the sisters were very different yet could support each other after being reacquainted. There were relationships where I wanted to smack people on the back of the head and relationships where I wanted to stand up and cheer.

I have pretty much read all of Jane Green’s books and have enjoyed every one of them.  Like her other books, I had a hard time putting The Sunshine Sisters down.  When I wasn’t reading the book, I found myself thinking about the sisters.  The Sunshine Sisters looks like a fun cheerful book, but instead it dives into family dynamics that aren’t so filled with sunshine.

Book Description:
The New York Times bestselling author of Falling presents a warm, wise, and wonderfully vivid novel about a mother who asks her three estranged daughters to come home to help her end her life.

Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters.

As soon as possible, tomboy Nell fled her mother’s overbearing presence to work on a farm and find her own way in the world as a single mother. The target of her mother s criticism, Meredith never felt good enough, thin enough, pretty enough. Her life took her to London and into the arms of a man whom she may not even love. And Lizzy, the youngest, more like Ronni than any of them, seemed to have it easy, using her drive and ambition to build a culinary career to rival her mother’s fame, while her marriage crumbled around her.

But now the Sunshine Girls are together again, called home by Ronni, who has learned that she has a serious disease and needs her daughters to fulfill her final wishes. And though Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy are all going through crises of their own, their mother s illness draws them together to confront old jealousies and secret fears and they discover that blood might be thicker than water after all.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Light We Lost asks the question: is a first love your one true love

33637339When I first started reading The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. I didn’t understand why Lucy Carter was telling Gabe Samson about their relationship from when they first met. It felt weird to me. I thought maybe it was a look back at what their life was like.  But I soon got used to the narration and was pulled into Lucy’s life.

Lucy first met Gabe on September 11, 2001 while they are in college.  On a rooftop under a grey cloud of ash, she kissed him for the first time and lost her heart forever. They move in together and start planning their life.  But Gabe is unfulfilled living in New York and being in a relationship. As he pursues his photography, he realizes he needs to go abroad and capture the struggles and political turmoil.  He wants to head to the Middle East and asks Lucy to go with him. But Lucy loves her job and knows following Gabe around the world will only make her resent his pursuit of his passions while she suppresses hers. So Gabe leaves and they move on living separate lives.

Lucy eventually meets Darren and even though she keeps comparing him to Gabe, she loves him differently but just as much as Gabe. They marry and soon have their daughter Violet. Even though Lucy has a wonderfully supportive husband and a good marriage, she seems to be connected to Gabe. She looks for his photos, she emails with him and she takes his phone calls. When he is in town, she drops everything to see him.

There were times I wanted to smack Lucy for what she was doing to her marriage. There were times I wanted to smack Darren for his jealousy even though Lucy was with him and I wanted to smack Gabe for always pulling Lucy back into his life making it hard for her to leave him in the past where he belonged.  The character I loved the most was Violet.  What an adorable little girl.

This book made me smile but it also made me cry and it broke my heart in so many different ways. As the book progressed and things were revealed, I never would have expected the revelation at the end. It really made me change my view of Lucy’s narrative. This book snuck up on me. I almost abandoned after about 50 pages and I’m so glad I stuck it out. This was such a good book. If you pick this book up, give it a chance because it won’t disappoint.

Book Description:
Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Life of a Vaudeville Star

30320011I think Nicola Italia has become my new favorite romance writer.  This time in The Vaudeville Star, we are introduced to Ruby Mae Sutton, a southern belle from Mississippi who is sent off to finishing school in Connecticut when she is 15.

Ruby has been madly in love all her life with Ford Rutledge, who is engaged to her sister.  Ruby doesn’t want Ford to marry her sister.  She thinks her cold-hearted sister is very wrong for Ford.  So she decides to convince him, putting him in a compromising position, hence sending Ruby to finishing school.

While at the finishing school, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides she wants to be a vaudeville singer.  Ruby builds fans including the King of New York who becomes obsessed with Ruby.  This is also where Ruby meets Ford again and finds her love for him still exists.

The characters are well developed and their personalities came through strong.  As I was reading, I felt invested in the characters’ lives and was cheering for them.  At almost 300 pages, I thought there was more to tell.  I wanted more of Ruby, Ford, Bessie and the other Vaudeville performers.  This book was well worth my time and it will be well worth your time.  Pick it up today.

Book Description:
On a Mississippi Plantation, Ruby Mae Sutton throws herself into the arms of the only man she has ever loved, Ford Rutledge.  At fifteen years old, she has given her heart away and is not ashamed to brazenly declare her love to the twenty-five-year-old man, who is also the fiancé of her sister.

But Ford has no intention of taking advantage of the blond beauty, even though her reckless behavior causes his engagement to be broken.  Ruby is sent off in disgrace to a boarding school in Connecticut, where she remains for the next three years.

Once in Connecticut, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides to leave after graduation for the bright lights of New York and the vaudeville stage.  Ford also decides to make his home in New York and suddenly finds himself face-to-face with Ruby Sutton, the very grown and very beautiful rising star of the vaudeville stage.

As Ruby’s star ascends, she makes a huge conquest with the King of Manhattan: William Parker.  King Parker begins to take an interest in Ruby’s career, and more importantly Ruby herself, as Ford finally realizes he is in love with her.

King finances a tour to Europe as his interest in Ruby takes a turn toward the more obsessive.  Ruby finds herself torn between her true love for Ford and the obligation she owes King.  She must tread carefully between the two men, and the brutal murder of someone they all know causes everyone to wonder who had the motive.

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Murder at The Dollhouse

30039173The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis is such a fascinating story!  This is a story about Rose Lewin who in 2016 moved into the Barbizon Hotel in New York City with her newly divorced boyfriend and Darby McLaughlin who in 1952, moved from Ohio into the hotel to attend classes at the Katherine Gibbs secretarial school.

Barbizon Hotel had a long history as a safe and secure place for young women who came to New York City to study, look for a job or look for a husband.  Over the years it eventually was turned into condos.

Rose, a former network reporter takes a job that is a step down so she can be with her boyfriend.  As she is leaving the building, she meets an unfriendly elderly resident in the elevator.  She finds out that a few of the long-term tenants of the former hotel are living on the fourth floor.  She learns that the unfriendly woman was involved in an accidental death that took place back in the 50’s.

As Rose starts to investigate the accident from the 1950’s, we learn about Darby’s life at the Barbizon Hotel where she wasn’t treated nicely by the women on her floor and how she becomes friends with the hotel’s maid named Esme.  Esme introduces Darby to the darker side of New York City.

The story switches back and forth between Darby’s story from the 1950’s and Rose in 2016.  It shows how their lives progress and eventually intertwine.  I remember reading about rooming houses in New York where women lives with a housemother.  The Barbizon hosted famous women like Sylvia Plath, Liza Minelli, Candace Bergen and Joan Crawford.

I loved this book and found it so fascinating.  It was hard to put it down.  Fiona does a great job pulling the reader into the lives of the women at Barbizon Hotel.

I was able to read this book through the First to Read Program from Penguin Random House.

Book Description:
Fiona Davis’s stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City’s glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success in the 1950’s, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon’s glitzy past.

 When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn’t belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that’s used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

Over half a century later, the Barbizon’s gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. It’s a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose’s obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat