Fiction from Bingham, Cane, McKinnon, and Porter, plus Two Debuts | Xpress Reviews

Week ending April 17, 2015

Bingham, Lisa. Into the Storm. Diversion. Apr. 2015. 345p. ISBN 9781626816985. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781626816992. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Into the Storm stays true to its title as there is never a dull moment for the characters of this World War II–set novel. The plot focuses on the Blunt family and their neighbors, thrust together during the London air raids. American RueAnn Tolliver chases to England after her new husband, Charles, and finds herself reluctantly welcomed by her mother-in-law and the Blunt family. Twins Susan and Sara struggle to keep their family together during very difficult times of rationing and the harsh realities of their country at war and under attack. With a bit of espionage interlaced with Charles’s story line, the romance and the historical detail make for an intriguing novel.
Verdict Into the Storm reads swiftly and easily, with elegant writing that draws the reader into the tale. The stories of quite a few of the characters eventually intermingle, but one can sense the rush to the end; the novel would have been better suited if a few pages had been added to flesh it out. While the story reveals grief and sorrow as the characters develop, the romance brings a happy-ever-after feel, with perhaps a touch of incredulity. Still, this latest from Bingham (Silken Dreams; Silken Promises) is a very enjoyable historical novel with stronger character development than romance, as the heat rating is very low-key.—Marie Burton, Rockwall, TX

Cane, Emma. Ever After at Sweetheart Ranch: A Valentine Valley Novel. Avon. May 2015. 384p. ISBN 9780062323422. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062323439. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Lyndsay De Luca, a small-town math teacher, is anticipating the release of her first novel. No one knows she has been writing stories during her free time, let alone published a book. As the publication date gets closer, Lyndsay becomes concerned that Will Sweet, the inspiration for the book’s love interest, will realize the similarities between himself and the male lead. Will is a local cowboy content with his life of farming and steady stream of nonserious relationships. How could he really commit to someone after the death of his first love? Brittany died too young, and Will can’t seem to have a life when she lost her chance at one. However, he doesn’t mind casual dates. When Lyndsay asks him out, he jumps at the chance to take their friendship to the next level. Soon, a good time starts to become more. Can Will allow himself to accept love?
Verdict Cane’s (Sleigh Bells in Valentine Valley) character development is well done and hooks the reader into all the folks in Valentine Valley. Romance readers will love the town, the people, and the story of Lyndsay and Will.—Jessica Strefling, Pepperdine Sch. of Law Lib., Malibu, CA

Diamond, Laura Nicole. Shelter Us. She Writes Pr. Jun. 2015. 272p. ISBN 9781631529702. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631529719. F
[DEBUT] The loss of a child can tear a marriage apart or make it stronger. In the case of Sarah and Robert Shaw, she’s lost in crowds, sees home as a safety net, and struggles to cope with the daily needs of her two young boys. Robert disappears into his work as a law professor during the day but throws himself into parenting when he’s home. When Sarah sees a young homeless mother and her toddler in a stroller, she becomes fixated on helping them. It’s the first time she’s felt compelled to help anyone since her daughter died. Yet, even as she lies and deceives her husband about her actions, Sarah questions herself. Is she helping Josie and Tyler in order to find her own way out of darkness and ease her own hurt? When Sarah’s reckless actions lead her to betray her family, it takes two relatives to bring her back to sanity and reality, forcing her to realize what she stands to lose.
Verdict Although the author’s intention in her debut novel is to focus on the homelessness of women and children, the primary focus becomes Sarah’s obsession and what it does to her family and marriage. Recommended for book groups interested in discussing issues relating to women, the loss of a child, and family relationships, with homelessness as a secondary issue.—Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

McKinnon, Hannah. The Lake Season. Emily Bestler: Atria. Jun. 2015. 380p. ISBN 9781476777641. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781476777665. F
Iris Standish is convinced her marriage is dead and gone, so she packs up and heads to her parents’ home after receiving a cryptic postcard from her sister and hearing “I want a separation” from her husband. She arrives three weeks earlier than she had intended and lands in the midst of her sister Leah’s wedding preparations. As well, Cooper Woods, Iris’s old high school flame, is doing barn renovations for her parents, and their farm is a thriving produce market with which she is expected to help. Not only is she frustrated that the changes in her childhood home happened without her knowledge, but she’s convinced no one told her because she just was not important, or she is not as loved as her sister. Miscommunication abounds, and when the smoke clears, Iris has learned some important lessons.
Verdict Fans of Debbie Macomber and those looking for a great summer read will enjoy this first foray into adult fiction by McKinnon (Franny Parker; The Properties of Water). Though wordy at times, the story features engaging character development and an on-again, off-again romance that will keep readers intrigued.—Jane Blue, Andrews P.L., NC

Porter, Jane. It’s You. Berkley. Jun. 2015. 336p. ISBN 9780425277157. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780698178861. F
itsyou041715Porter (The Good Wife; The Good Daughter) succeeds with another gratifying treasure to add to her repertoire. Dr. Alison McAdams, aka Ali, has suffered a life-altering loss and doesn’t know what she’s supposed to do to move forward, or how to live life fully again. She’s called to visit her ailing father at a senior care center in Napa, CA, and though she doesn’t know what she can offer or how she can be of help, she packs her bags and goes. Once there, she gets the opportunity to see her father and many of his peers—men and women who went through World War II and had their own share of tragedy and loss. She’s particularly intrigued by 94-year-old Edie, a tenacious but loyal woman who inspires Ali in ways she didn’t think were possible.
Verdict Once more Porter is able to write about painful life situations with dignity, grace, and authenticity. What might be heavy and depressing in other writer’s hands is gentle and cathartic in Porter’s.—Anne M. Miskewitch, Chicago P.L.

Tyson, Tiffany Quay. Three Rivers. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Jul. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9781250063267. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466868366. F
[DEBUT] Melody tours with a subgrade Christian rock band, though her faith has flatlined. When she confronts the band leader on stage using some choice vocabulary, scandal ensues, and she is cast adrift. After receiving word that her father is in hospice care, Melody heads home to Mississippi to help her disabled brother keep the family afloat. The storms of their mother’s infidelity threaten to shipwreck the family even as a dangerous flood brings life-threatening danger to the valley. Obi, a Native American who is caught in his own vortex after he unwittingly kills a young man, is also traveling south with his son and finds a hiding place on Melody’s family’s property just as the storms begin.
Verdict Tyson’s debut is a modern Southern novel with a dark gothic feel and a few elements of magical realism. Some of the resolution feels forced, and the novel’s characters aren’t as complex or likable as those in the novels of Sarah Addison Allen, whose works share similar elements and might be a better choice for readers of the Southern fiction genre.—Julia M. Reffner, Midlothian, VA

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