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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. 

Valerie Francis

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

Well, you’re not going to believe this. Reece Witherspoon and I picked the same book for our February book clubs. Sort of.  Late last year, I came across THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE by Marie Benedict and was fascinated by the premise. Benedict writes historical fiction, much like Philippa Gregory,

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Valerie Francis

A Girl Named Howard

This month, rather than recommend one book to read, I’m recommending the entire body of work of one author because Anne Rice, who passed away December 11, 2021, single-handedly revolutionized the role of vampires in literature.  Yes, vampires.  And the impact she’s had is more significant than you might realize.

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Valerie Francis

The Christmas Bookshop

If you’ve had it up to your eyes with holiday preparations and are looking for a light-hearted story to escape into, The Christmas Bookshop, by Jenny Colgan, might be just the ticket. The title is a bit misleading, in my opinion. Yes, there’s a bookstore. Yes, the plot unfolds in

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