Wednesday, August 28, 2013


THREE LITTLE WORDS (Fool’s Gold #12)
Author: Susan Mallery
Published July 30, 2013 by Harlequin HQN
Genre: contemporary romance novel, women’s fiction, chick lit
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“You were there with me, every step of the way. You kept me company when I was lonely. You reminded me what I was fighting for, and in the end, you brought me home.”

From the cover - Isabel Carlisle thinks she's cursed in the romance department. Her teenage crush, Ford Hendrix, ignored all her letters. Her husband left her for So Isabel has come home to dust off her passion for fashion and run the family bridal shop until her parents are ready to sell it. Then she'll pursue her real dreams. At least, that's the plan, until sexy, charming Ford returns and leaves her feeling fourteen all over again....Seeing Isabel all grown up hits bodyguard trainer Ford like a sucker punch. Back when heartbreak made him join the military, her sweet letters kept him sane. Now he can't take his eyes-or his lips-off  her. The man who gave up on love has a reason to stay in Fool's Gold forever-if three little words can convince Isabel to do the same.

My review – This ‘romantic comedy’ moves along at a placid pace and not one, but  two different love story threads are well harmonized against the backdrop of a welcoming ‘small town’ California and its close-knit community. The lively banters and punchy dialogues between the lead characters, Isabel and Ford, infuse the romance with  a captivating dose of humor, keeping the overall tones on the light-hearted side of the romance spectrum. Isabel’s witty and self-deprecating remarks playfully match Kent’s easy and laconic charm, and the author will deftly shift  their ‘friends-to-lovers dance’ on some more intense and emotional grounds at the end of the novel. They’re friendly relationship had never been just a matter of friendship after all, actually more loaded with emotional connection than Kent will ever be able to admit to friends and family, let alone  himself. With her warmth, juvenile candor, and open-hearted letters reaching him over a decade on the Iraq and Afghanistan war frontlines, Isabel was “the only steady object in a rapidly spinning world”. Even now that he is back in society, she is still his buffer, providing him with that safe haven of familiarity and stability he needs to fit back among  civilians.  But what I found even more absorbing was the love story between secondary characters Consuelo (Ford’s comrade in arms and now martial arts instructor) and Kent (Ford’s brother and high-school teacher) …for me, they stole the lead couple’s thunder. What makes their romance even more appealing to my taste is the ‘opposites attract’ theme: when ‘every-guy’s-fantasy' Consuelo and 'math geek' Kent meet, two completely different worlds collide, and that makes for some friction and angst that will tug at your heart-strings. The tough pint-size commando possesses the beauty of a war goddess, but underneath the ‘emotional Kevlar’ she keeps wearing to shield her heart from the danger of getting too involved with a man, Consuelo hides a much more vulnerable personality. Deeply wounded and craving for ‘normality’, she longs for the joy of letting herself  be a woman in the strong arms of a dependable man. A devoted teacher and divorcee father of a teen-age son, smart and sensible Kent is more than meets the eye: “the suburban dad with a sexy edge” is Consuelo’s ultimate ‘dream man’.
Heart-grabbing, loaded with humor and emotions, Three Little Words by Susan Mallery is a charmingly funny, deliciously sexy, and emotionally satisfying read. 

Did your first love turn into the real deal? Or is your ‘dream man’ worlds apart from who you are?

Become a follower of Mina's Bookshelf and answer my question in the comments section below for a chance to WIN the fantastic prize generously offered by the publicist:

1 Susan Mallery FOOLPROOF BRIDAL KIT is up for grabs for a lucky follower of this blog. The kit includes 1 copy of Three Little Words and OPI, Rise&Shine, TRESemme, Gillette, Secret beauty products and more... Follow, comment away, and don't forget to add your email address. Good luck!

***Review copy graciously offered by the publicist in exchange for an unbiased and honest opinion.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


And the winners are...

Cassie B. - 1 Kindle copy of EVERVILLE: THE FIRST PILLAR by Roy Huff


Emma - 1 print copy of UNCORKED by Rebecca Rohman 



Lynn "Romance Reader Enthusiast" - 1 print copy of CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE by Bella Andre 


Congratulations to the winners (please check your email) and many thanks to all the lovely followers who stopped by and entered the contests. I hope you'll stay tuned: more giveaways are on the way!



Good Luck!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

THE BOOKSTORE by Deborah Meyler (Books & Wine # 7 - ARC #review)

Author: Debora Meyler
Published August 20, 2013 by Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster)
eBook, 352 pages
Genre: women's fiction, chick lit, romance, contemporary novel, New York
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Buy it on Amazon

"...the reassuring smell of paper, new paper, soft old paper, recalling each person to the first time they really did press their nose into a book."

Blurb - "A witty, sharply observed debut novel about a young woman who finds unexpected salvation while working in a quirky used bookstore in Manhattan. Impressionable and idealistic, Esme Garland is a young British woman who finds herself studying art history in New York. She loves her apartment and is passionate about the city and her boyfriend; her future couldn’t look brighter. Until she finds out that she’s pregnant. Esme’s boyfriend, Mitchell van Leuven, is old-money rich, handsome, successful, and irretrievably damaged. When he dumps Esme—just before she tries to tell him about the baby—she resolves to manage alone. She will keep the child and her scholarship, while finding a part-time job to make ends meet. But that is easier said than done, especially on a student visa. The Owl is a shabby, second-hand bookstore on the Upper West Side, an all-day, all-night haven for a colorful crew of characters: handsome and taciturn guitar player Luke; Chester, who hyperventilates at the mention of Lolita; George, the owner, who lives on protein shakes and idealism; and a motley company of the timeless, the tactless, and the homeless. The Owl becomes a nexus of good in a difficult world for Esme—but will it be enough to sustain her? Even when Mitchell, repentant and charming, comes back on the scene? A rousing celebration of books, of the shops where they are sold, and of the people who work, read, and live in them, The Bookstore is also a story about emotional discovery, the complex choices we all face, and the accidental inspirations that make a life worth the reading."

My review -  Well, I managed to do with this book something I haven't been able to achieve in a very long the whole thing in one uninterrupted sitting. Yes, it was that good and engaging. And it's a debut novel, so kudos to this British author for finding her distinctive voice and her way to my 'bookworm heart' at her first release. The Bookstore had several features that appealed to my reader's sensitivity: the introspective tones, the numerous literary references, the heroine's personality (sweet, naive, and yet smart and articulate), the vivid characterization of  supporting cast (extremely likable, humane, and memorable characters, well drawn with all their quirky nuances), strong sense of space (New York City) and loving portrayal of a community (The Owl bookstore and its patrons) that shields and supports Esme throughout her heartaches and some life-altering decisions. I think that labeling Deborah Meyler's debut novel as 'fluffy chick lit' doesn't really do justice to the graceful and intelligent outpouring of emotions that the author delivered in quite an effortless way: The Bookstore reads easily and pleasantly. It's light without being fluffy, and emotionally nuanced enough to please those readers who enjoy a little bit of angst in their romantic reads. You can expect chick lit books to be 'shallow' most of the time, albeit entertaining. This one has a different caliber of quality and depth. I recommend it. Not every reader will immediately connect with Esme (those who like spunky and self-asserting heroines may not warm up to her right away), but I relate to this gentle character on a  personal level. Like her, I left my native country behind to study and work abroad; like her, I've always been fascinated to no end by books; like her, I wore my heart on my sleeves and got it broken in a way that seemed irreparable; like her, I found in myself a resiliency I had no idea I possessed...could this be the portrait of every woman? Yes, it could. Esme is an extremely relatable character. Had the author pulled the strings of her emotional resolution a little more tightly at the end, it would have been just perfect. I will certainly read more from this author. A very promising debut.


***eGalley ARC generously offered by the publisher in return of an unbiased and honest opinion.


Italian wine connoisseur Andrea Mussone blows me away every time with his wine suggestions...always spot-on. This is his "The Bookstore" wine pairing. Cheers! "A meditation, special wine balance between sweetness and bitterness is Barolo Chinato. Made in Piedmont, a region in the North-West of Italy, originally it was served warm just as mulled wine for medicinal purposes against colds and fevers, or offered to friends as a sign of hospitality. Nowadays it’s a great, superb, mediation wine, perfect after dinner, and unbeatable with bitter chocolate and chocolate desserts in general. It's produced by using Barolo DOCG wine (a Nebbiolo grape variety), infused with calissaja quinine bark, Red China root, Rhubarb root, gentian and a blend of aromatic herbs and spices (including scented cardamom seeds, cinnamon, coriander, iris flower, mint, and vanilla), aged for about one year in oak barrels and then laid down for length maturation. Every producer has a different secret recipe, but the first one to develop and promote Barolo Chinato was Giulio Cocchi, starting from 1891 in Asti, Piedmont. Honey and bitter notes with roasted orange, cloves, cherries, eucalyptus and dried figs at the nose. On the palate Barolo Chinato is definitely aromatic, smooth, a battle of bitter versus sweet characters with spices, rhubarb, date, sultana and cloves. A long, intense, unforgettable finish." (Guest blogger Andrea Mussone, Italy)

Andrea Mussone, Italy


Friday, August 23, 2013

FREE Kindle Promo - EVERVILLE: THE FIRST PILLAR (Everville #1) by ROY HUFF

Amazon # 1 international best-selling fantasy novel
Add it on Goodreads

FREE on Amazon (Kindle edition) from August 25 through August 29!!! Don't miss this awesome opportunity and download your free copy today. Click HERE to grab it.


"Owen Sage is the emblematic college freshman at Easton Falls University. With all the worries about his first year in college, he was not prepared for what would happen next. His way of life was flipped upside down when he mysteriously crossed into another dimension, into the beautiful land of Everville. His excitement was abruptly halted when he discovered that there was a darkness forged against both the natural world, which he knew well, and the new land which he discovered, Everville. He must devise a plan to save both worlds while joining forces with the race of Fron and The Keepers, whom both harbor hidden secrets he must learn in order to gain power over the evil that dwells in The Other In Between. With a race against time to save both worlds, his short time at Easton Falls did not quite prepare him for the evil, dark forces he must fight in order to conquer The Other In Between."


THE CITY OF WORMS, book #2 in the EVERVILLE series, debuts August 25 on Amazon with a .99 cents Kindle promo. This offer will last until September 3. Click HERE to download it.


"College freshman Owen Sage has just started to understand the darkness trying to overtake Everville and the earthly realm. With the help of The Keeper and the Fron army, Owen has managed to buy some time, but new problems have already emerged, new secrets need to be revealed, and the race against time to stop Them from conquering both dimensions has only just begun. The Keeper, Owen Sage, and his friends at Easton Falls University must now battle threats from within. To do it, they must reunite with familiar creatures and join forces with new ones as they navigate their journey to the truth that awaits them in Everville."

Monday, August 19, 2013

CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE by Bella Andre (#Review & #Giveaway)

Author: Bella Andre
Series: The Sullivans (book #3)
Published  July 30, 2013 by Harlequin Mira
Genre: contemporary romance, chick lit, women's fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 
Add it on Goodreads
Buy it on AMAZON

"Not all risk is bad."

Not even the entire San Francisco Fire Brigade could extinguish the flares and sparks flying between Megan Harris (sensible woman, over-cautious mother, widow and CPA) and Gabe Sullivan (determined man, focused and heroic firefighter, stunning male specimen and single). Their personalities and walks of life couldn't be more different, the way they deal with danger and risks completely opposite: Megan steers away from them with all her might and loves routine; assessing unexpected risks and facing danger is what Gabe's job is all about. No fire ever plays the same game, certainly not the fire  he is called to put out on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Two of the people he rescues from the apartments on 1280 Conrad Street will change his life  and his commitment to ever form an emotional attachment with fire victims. Personal belongings and family heirlooms are not the only things that will go up in brief eye-contact with the young woman trapped in her bathroom with her little daughter and Gabe's heart is seriously 'on the line of fire'. The connection is immediate, an intoxicating blend of desire to protect her, admiration for her strenght and courage, pure physical attraction. Love at first sight, in some very unusual circumstances. Mutual and raging with the same intensity of the flames surrounding them. They both try to deny it, fight it, give it a different name - gratitude for the heroism of a man who puts his life in danger to save other people's lives, admiration for the resiliency and determination of a young mother trying to protect her daughter.
And these are not the only challenges Gabe and Megan need to face before being able to open their hearts to some emotional risks - five years earlier she lost her fighter pilot husband during a mission. She promised she would never fall again for a man in a dangerous line of work,  she wouldn't let her daughter experience loss all over again. Life for Megan is and needs to be well-organized and predictable as one of the balance-sheets she works on every day. No gray areas, no heartaches, no men, especially not Gabe's kind. Gabe, after all, isn't looking for love or a settled life, not with a fire victim anyway. He tried once, and it went wrong. Terribly wrong.
But when the heart is spellbound (by a stunning woman and her adorable daughter) and the brain is overwhelmed with that delicious and uncontrollable lust, there is no life-rule, no fear, no reason that can hold two soul mates apart. After several attempts at keeping a good distance between them, and with a little help from a smart seven year old, Megan and Gabe will run into each other at a skiing resort and that brief getaway will be their undoing, 'one last kiss' after another...the foreplay between these two characters is simply irresistible: hearts flare up, and senses too. As you can expect from an accomplished romance writer like Bella Andre, desire and sensual tension are always in full-throttle.

***Review copy graciously offered by the publicist in return of an unbiased and honest opinion.

1 print copy of Can't Help Falling In Love is up for grabs! Follow the blog, leave a comment and email address for a chance to win. Open to US residents only.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Coming Up Next On Mina's Bookshelf

Too much of a good thing is simply wonderful...books, books, and more books. Books as far as the eye can see...


 Coming up on Mina's Bookshelf

Can't Help Falling In Love by Bella Andre (Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway)
Three Little Words by Susan Mallery (Blog Tou: Review & Giveaway)
You Got To Be Kidding! by Dr Joe Wenke (Blog Tour: Review & Author Spotlight)
Declan's Cross by Carla Neggers (Blog Tour: Q&A)
Love Gone Mad by Mark Rubinstein (Blog Tour: Review & Author Spotlight)
Annie Brown (Blog Tour: Author Spotlight)
The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure (Blog Tour: Review)
Getting Rowdy by Lori Foster (Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway)
Rasputin's Shadow by Raymond Kohury (Blog Tour: Review & Q&A)
Lies You Wanted To Hear by James Whitfield Thomson (Blog Tour: Review)
The Book Of Someday by Dianne Dixon (Blog Tour: Review)

House Of Tides by Anna Richell
The Bookstore by Debora Meyler
The Angel Stone by Juliet Dark
Uncharted by Tracey Garvis-Graves
Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
The Passion Of The Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig
and more...

Friday, August 16, 2013

SAVING PARADISE by Mike Bond (#Review & #Giveaway)

Author: Mike Bond 
Published November 20, 2012 by Mandevilla Press
Edition: paperback, 302 pages 
Genre: contemporary novel, suspense, thriller, crime fiction 
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Buy it on Amazon

"When tracking evil, follow the money."

As a former Special Forces soldier deployed in Afghanistan, Sam Hawkins (aka Pono) has witnessed death, loss, and horrendous tragedies aplenty. Convicted for the murder of Afghani civilians, Pono has served some jail time in a military prison, yet another dehumanizing experience. Now he is out on parole, surfing, writing, and teaching foster care kids how to ride the waves. There is probably no better place than Hawaii to keep the demons of those haunting memories at bay. Hawaii is home. Hawaii is paradise. Or is it? When Pono stumbles upon the lifeless body of a young and beautiful woman floating off the coast of Waikiki, he is stunned. For a man who has seen more war casualties than he would ever care to count, the drowning of Sylvia Gordon, investigative reporter for The Honolulu Post, strikes him as particularly heart-wrenching and odd. According to the initial police report, the journalist has been floating dead in the ocean for at least six hours (strangely without being devoured by the sharks) and her lungs are filled with fresh water (not ocean water). Nonetheless, the local police dismisses the case as accidental death. 
Pono lives his life in the pono way, the righteous way ('pono' is the Hawaiian word for righteousness), loving and protecting others: emotionally drawn by the haunting memory of the reporter's lifeless body, he sets out to investigate the truth behind her death, and what he finds out is bone-chilling. Sylvia was on the trail of a billion-dollar, taxpayer-subsidized scam, and she was ready to blow the whistle to the press. Governor, electric company, investment bankers, foreign developers, industrial wind companies, all masquerading as environmentalists, are trying to impose an industrial-wind and high-voltage undersea cable project ('Big Wind') on Molokai and Lanai, the most beautiful islands in the Pacific Ocean. Two major problems: Big Wind would have a terrible environmental, human health and social impact, without even producing any significant reduction of emissions and fossil fuel use. Moreover, the people involved in this project won't stop in front of anybody or anything (by means of lobbying, blackmail, bribery, intimidation, homicide) in order to get their money-making-machine running. For Pono is Kabul all over again: big western corporation and politicians are no better than Afghani drug lords. They're even worse, actually.

"...we've been given a pearl and [we] are crushing it into concrete.

Pono is morally committed to save the paradise of his fathers, even if that means having to use his military training, a few not-so-legal tricks, and all the help he can get from fellow veterans and questionable characters. His frenzied quest for justice will take him through an intricate web of conspiracy and corruption, misleading clues, unpredictable twists, and a list of possible suspects so long it made my head spin and threw me off-balance. The aspect of SAVING PARADISE that intrigued me the most is the thematic poignancy. There is, in fact, a strong connection between the facts narrated in this crime-story and the author's personal history. In 2012, Mike Bond, international energy expert, environmentalist, war correspondent and human rights advocate, exposed a very inconvenient truth about the use of wind as a source of renewable energy. Bond's environmental message is strongly delivered using the narrative formula of a hard-boiled detective story: the raw prose, the gritty dialogues, the pulse-racing action, and the unhinged avenger trope will certainly appeal to all fans of 'conspiracy theory' thriller novels.


"Let the truth be told." 

Mike Bond was called the "master of existential thriller" by BBC and "one of the 21st century's most exciting authors" by the Washington Times. He is a descendant of the Hawaiian people and its early missionaries, a bestselling novelist, international energy expert, war and human rights correspondent and award-winning poet who has lived ad worked in many remote, dangerous parts of the world. His critically acclaimed novels depict the innate hunger of the human heart for good, the intense joy of love, the terror and fury of battle, the vanishing beauty of the natural world, the sinister vagaries of international politics and multinational corporations.
His Aloha State thriller, SAVING PARADISE (Mandevilla Press, 2012), played a major role in stopping the Big Wind and the Inter-island Cable Project in Hawaii. This project would have destroyed major parts of Molokai, Lanai and Maui with more than 40 square miles of wind turbines 42 stories high, all connected by high voltage cables through the Hawaii National Humpback Whale Sanctuary. In addition to drastic environmental and social effects on all three islands, it would have had a catastrophic impact on whales, dolphins and other ocean species including endangered monk seals and turtles.

***Review copy graciously offered by the publicist in return of an unbiased and honest opinion.

The publicist is offering 1 complimentary copy of SAVING PARADISE to a follower (US resident) of this blog. Please leave a message in the comment section below for a chance to win. Good luck!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

THE CLEANER OF CHARTRES by Salley Vickers (Books & Wine #6)

Published June 27, 2013 by Viking Adults
Edition: hardcover, 304 pages
Genre: contemporary fiction, mystery, women's fiction, romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Buy it on Amazon

"I often wonder if happiness isn't knowing what should and what should not be explained." 
Nobody recalls exactly when Agnès Morel, a beautiful and illiterate young woman, first arrived in Chartres: with her brightly colored clothes, exotic look, and quiet presence, she seems to have always been around, smoothing away some of the daily cares of the people of the medieval town. Twenty years earlier, Father Paul, now Dean of Notre Dame, had found her asleep in a niche of the cathedral, and although tramps were not allowed to use the church as a shelter, the young priest had turned a blind eye and let the homeless girl rest peacefully under her heavy coat, curled up like a cat between the strong and saint arms of the cathedral's pillars.
An ace at housework and woman of a few words, Agnès has been spending the past twenty years building a reputation as a conscientious cleaner, accomplished ironer, and reliable babysitter. While religiously scrubbing the cathedral's floors, keeping Prof. Jones and Father Paul's houses clean and organized, babysitting the infant nephew of her former charge Philippe, and posing as a model for a local painter, her compliant manners and helpful attitude have earned the respectful  sympathy of the inhabitants of the French town and the romantic interest of a young restorer. Alas, she becomes the victim of a ruthless as well as groundless witch-hunt: fueled by malice and jealousy, old and bald Madame Beck, a woman who has nothing better to do with herself than sowing gossips and discord, starts spreading defamatory rumors about Agnès. And what is worse, the old bat decides to delve into the past of the taciturn and mysterious woman, threatening to reveal her darkest secret and destroy her peaceful existence. 
Agnès' past, in fact, is starkly painful: no parents, no relatives, no knowledge of her background or sense of belonging in anybody's heart. A foundling, rescued by a farmer and raised by the nuns, as a child she was affected by a learning disability that prevented her from mastering the ability to read or write. Industrious and always willing to learn, Agnès' childhood was marked by tragedy and traumatic events, and now that she has found an harbor of consolation in the majestic cathedral and its town, history seems to repeat itself with a vengeance. 

It took me a while to get into this story, but once I did, I found it quite interesting and enjoyable. Different, I would say. Elaborate like the facade of a Gothic cathedral, as rich and beautiful as a mosaic in a stained-glass window, The Cleaner of Chartres' opening chapters summoned my attention with an array of colorful characters, dual timeline, and poignant backstories that made a full and beautiful sense when the last piece of the puzzle was laid down in the form of a startling epiphany. The simultaneous introduction of multiple characters, as essential to the story as the central character itself, may initially confuse and distract the reader, but the inhabitants of Chartres will eventually cling to a corner of your heart with their moving humanity, quirkiness, and pitiful dramas. Salley Vickers' novel can better be described as a modern fairy tale, and a dark one at that. Of that form of storytelling, Vickers' novel features the typical plot structure, motifs, and dramatis personae. Written with the grace and sensitivity of an author who obviously has an understanding of human psychology (Vickers is a former university professor of literature and Jungian psychotherapy), this story lacks the 'fantasy' element (in its place the author introduced the 'mystical' and the 'divine') but it features all the archetypal figures populating a traditional folktale: the heroine/victim of an intrigue/spell (Agnès), a villain (Madame Beck), a donor/helper/rescuer (Jean Dupère, the farmer who found her wrapped in a tablecloth on a frigid winter night; Prof. Jones who teaches her how to read; Abbé Paul who exposes Madame Beck's evil scheme), the prince (Alain, the cathedral restorer who loves her for what she is), and the castle (the cathedral of Notre Dame). In the vein of a fairy tale, the resolution is rather uplifting: hope prevails, order is restored, and the heroine elevates herself above misfortunes and adversities. 

***Review copy generously offered by the publisher in return of a fair and unbiased opinion



(Photo credit:

Somellier extraordinaire Andrea Mussone graced the blog, once again, with a wine & food pairing that is simply divine...such a lovely fit for a lovely novel! "Located not far from the lovely city of Chartres, the Loire Valley is the wine region where Pouilly Fumè is made. It stretches for about 600 miles along the Loire River. The two main white grape varieties of this region are Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc.
Pouilly Fumè is a dry white wine with the most body and concentration of all the Loire Valley wines and it’s made with 100% Sauvignon Blanc. “Fumè” in French means smoked and one of the reasons for this word comes probably from the white morning mist that blankets the area. As the sun burns off the mist, it looks as if the smoke is rising. Another one is definitely because the grape character recalls the flint.
Generally, at the nose Pouilly Fumè has citrus, grassy/herbaceous, white-fleshed fruit and litchi, white flowers, vegetal, spicy and mineral notes, while on the palate it has some fresh fruit (citrus, grapefruit, lime, apple, peach), subtle spiciness, limestone minerality and very good freshness. It’s medium to full bodied with a long lasting bouquet and taste. Generally it’s not aged in wood. 
Pouilly Fumè is considered to be one of the most elegant Sauvignon Blanc expression in the world. Some California Sauvignon blancs are also called "Fumé Blanc" and to create this name, Mondavi took Fumé from Pouilly-Fumé and Blanc from Sauvignon Blanc, combined them and created his own clever wine name.
Great food pairing with smoked salmon, turbot with hollandaise sauce, white meat, chicken, veal with cream sauce." (Guest blogger - Andrea Mussone, Italy)

Andrea Mussone, Italy

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A HUNDRED SUMMERS by Beatriz Williams (Books & Wine #5)

Published May 30, 2013 by Putnam Adult
Edition: hardcover, 357 pages
Genre: women's fiction, chick lit, historical, romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
BUY IT on Amazon 

"I wish I could remember more. I wish I had taken down every detail of Nick's appearance, his expression, his outline against the gray buildings of the station, because I was not to see him again until the summer of 1938, the summer the hurricane came and washed the world away."
Lovely romantic drama! I didn't expect any less from the author of Overseas - the heart-melting trope of time travel and eternal love between a WWI British officer and a modern day Wall Street analyst put Beatriz Williams on my map in 2012, and her latest release consolidates for me her status of 'must-read' writer in the women's fiction genre. If 'star-crossed-lovers' stories are your cup of tea, if your heart was held captive by The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks) or Sand Dollar (Sebastian Cole); if you, like me, grew up consuming Hollywood adaptations of popular novels such as A Summer Place by Sloan Wilson (1958) and The Sins Of Susan Slade by Doris Hume (1961), then there is a strong chance you will love A Hundred Summers. As maudlin as any good 'love-story-thwarted-by-external-forces'  can be, Williams' novel is a moving 'first person POV' remembrance  of how two fated lovers crossed each other's paths during their college years (fall of 1931, New Hampshire) and how social conventions, scandalous family secrets, and the schemes of an unsuspected player, tore them apart. 

Lily Dane is an old-fashioned girl, an honest and clean beauty. Unlike her childhood friend Budgie Byrne, who is "the exact fleshy representation of male desire", Lily is a diligent college student, yearning for the excitement of a journalistic career rather than batting her eyelashes at Graham Pendleton, the handsome star of the college football team. Unlike her wild and seductive friend, she is not a femme fatale, certainly not the kind of girl guys take on their car backseat for some fun. Neither is she interested in flirting with them - they are too conventional to catch her fancy. Until she meets Nick Greenwald, Graham's football team mate. "There is something so intense, so fulminant about his expression, like a man from another age." Handsome, solid and determined, Nick is a man in a thousand. Coming from a wealthy family, his place in society is secured as future head of his father's company, but like Lily he dreams of something more sublime and brilliant. The attraction between Nick and Lily is mutual and immediate, their romance a match made in heaven. Except that Nick is Jewish. Although not an observant one, Nick lives in a time of great hostility toward his faith, in an environment where nobody would touch Jews and their money with a ten foot pole. Unfortunately, his religious background and her family's disapproval are not the only insurmountable obstacles on Lily and Nick's way to happiness. Someone is secretly working to drive them apart.

True love transcends the test of time, defying the spell of a jealous enemy and the wrath of nature itself: seven years later, on the eve of the deadly hurricane that swept up the New England coast (September 21, 1938), our 'once-lovers' meet again in Seaview, Rhode Island, only to find out that love is more powerful than any disruptive force. Following a bizarre turn of events, Nick is married to Lily's childhood friend (obviously a marriage of convenience for the fascinating but penniless Budgie), and Lily, still single and craving for love, is ready to accept the courtship of Budgie's ex, Graham. Allowing herself to be happy with another man may help her ban from her mind the image of her first and only love married to another woman. Little does she know that Nick and Budgie's marriage is far from being perfect. Like the ocean on the turning tide, the sentiment that drew our protagonists together in their youth was never really gone or diminished... like a receding wave, it was just waiting for the moment to make it back to the shore. The memories of a love that could not come into full bloom at its first try keep flooding back in a whirlwind of nostalgic remembrances that repeatedly switch timeline between 1931 and 1938. The narration keeps shifting between past and present at a comfortable pace, through pleasant dialogues, a realistic regional 'feel' (the North-East) and a vivid description of a glamorous historical milieau (the aftermath of the Stock Market Crash and the pre-WWII era). The heady swirls of a Gershwin melody, the dazzling gowns and the hair pomade, the champagne cocktail parties and the scent of a Rhode Island summer are depicted by the author with great romantic flair and heart-wrenching drama. The delicate courtship and the intoxicating chemistry that sweep Nick and Lily in each other's arms are rendered with a luminous prose and irresistibly intimate and sensuous tones. A beautiful love story. Memorable and intense.



Somellier extraordinaire Andrea Mussone is back on the blog with a wine and food pairing that perfectly complements the sweet and dramatic tones of Beatriz Williams' historical romance novel.
"As a wine, and more precisely as a grape variety to be enjoyed with “A Hundred Summers”, I’ve immediately thought of a Gewurztraminer. The German name means “spicy Traminer”. It takes its name from the village of Tramin, located in South Tyrol, the German-speaking province in northern Italy, and it dates back to the XVI century. It generally offers the best results in cooler climates, growing either in the Old and New World. Quality speaking, Alsace (France) is probably one of the most interesting growing region, followed by Germany, Italy, California, Pacific Northwest, Australia, New Zealand, and Eastern Europe. Gewurtztraminer has high natural sugar content and the wines are white; it may be dry, medium dry, mellow or sweet. It’s one of the most pungent grapes. The nose is generally aromatic, floral, fruity and spicy with hints of rose petals, apricot, peach, exotic fruits such as lychee, grapefruit, passion fruit, mango and pepper. The fruit characteristics follow through on the palate; the wines are often medium to full bodied but always delicate, soft, off-dry on the sweet side, fresh, luscious, elegant and aromatic, even when fully dry. Great pairing with spicy Oriental, exotic and sweet-salty dishes, shellfish, foie gras, soft and strong cheeses, pastry and tarts."

Andrea Mussone, Italy