Book Club



Summer at the Art Cafe

Ahhhhh, summer has finally arrived!

I’ve gotten some requests for a romance, so this month I’ve chosen a charming story from Sue McDonagh, a debut author out of Wales.

Before I go further, a brief word about romances. It’s an easy genre to poke fun at and the uninitiated love to roll their eyes, criticizing it as somehow low brow or a less valid form of literature than say, thrillers.

They don’t understand that these stories are keeping the publishing industry afloat. It’s big business and without them, companies wouldn’t be able to bring more literary novels to the market. Believe it or not, over 90% of books, regardless of how well-written they are, sell fewer than 250 copies.

If you’re curious to learn more, I highly recommend the documentary Love Between The Covers.

Ok, back to this month’s selection!

It was the setting that initially caught my attention. An art cafe in a seaside Welsh village sounds like heaven, and Summer at the Art Cafe is as light and fresh as the ocean breeze.

This is a hard genre to innovate, but I think Sue McDonagh has done a fine job. Her protagonist, Lucy, has won a motorbike in a charity fundraiser but since she doesn’t know how to ride, she must take lessons.

Enter the bearded, blue-eyed handsome instructor, Ash. He also happens to be a police officer, so there’s a couple of great uniform scenes too.

This delightful love story is all the more interesting because of the performance story contained within it. (Will Lucy ever get her licence?) Weaving a secondary story into a book isn’t an easy thing to do, especially for a first-time novelist. McDonagh is herself a cyclist and former police officer so that side of the story has plenty of authenticity without overshadowing the love affair between Lucy and Ash. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Available in print, digital and audio versions. Visit your local library or click here to buy the ebook. If your library doesn’t carry this book, ask them to order it.

Audiobook Review

The audiobook is read by Charlotte Stevens who gives an enjoyable performance. However, she sounds much older than the protagonist (who is 35) and I found that a little disorienting at first. Note: There is some mild content in this novel, so if there are little ears about, the audiobook, while excellent, might not be the best option. 

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Valerie Francis


A friend of mine recently recently recommended Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. It’s a great book (lots of “content” though so you’ll definitely want earphones if you’re listening to the audio). Brodesser-Akner used to work for GQ, so it’s like reading a really long GQ article. Her authorial

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Valerie Francis

The Hunting Party

I don’t know about you, but I could use a literary escape these days, and for me, that means mysteries! If you like Agatha Christie, you’ll like The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. Alfred Hitchcock said that mysteries are intellectual puzzles, and I agree. (I’m not likely to disagree with

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Valerie Francis

The Night Circus

This month I’m recommending a book that was recommended to me by my friend and colleague, Leslie Watts. Leslie is also my editor. (Yes, even editors have editors!) Like the novel I’m currently writing, The Night Circus is a non-linear narrative that has multiple, interweaving storylines. So, Leslie suggested we

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