Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Publisher: Gallery Books
Published: April 2017
Genre: women’s fiction
Summary: Caroline Murphy swore she’d never go back to Peachtree Bluff. But when her New York high society husband cheats on her with a high-profile model, Caroline escapes the gossip with her daughter for the safety and quiet of her mother’s home. Ansley is the proud owner of a waterfront interior design business in Peachtree Bluff. She welcomes Caroline with open arms–and finds her second daughter Sloane, a military wife with two young sons, and third daughter Emerson, an up-and-coming actress in town for a film shoot, joining them for the season. Ansley lovesher daughters, but the chaos of their lives upends the steady constancy of her own carefully constructed life. Just as she’s beginning to get the hang of new responsibilities, someone from her past appears, one who can shed light on her daughters’ history and potentially tear the threads of Ansley’s family apart.
Mini Review: This novel explores the dynamics between sisters and mothers and daughters, what it means to be in a successful marriage, and the many ways one can live life on their terms. While Caroline and Ansley have their opinions of how to be happy (and I’m erring on the side of Ansley for Caroline’s decisions, and I’ve no clue what I’d do if I were Ansley in her situation), the events surrounding the women in Peachtree Bluff prove there is no one correct answer to life’s surprises. The small-town atmosphere, Southern charm, and emotional core are at the heart of this enjoyable beach read.
This qualifies as book 6 of 16 in my TBR challenge.
My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
Publisher: William Morrow
Published: April 2018
Genre: women’s fiction
Summary: American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.
When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.
Mini Review: I really enjoyed the first half of this novel and wasn’t too pleased with the second half of the novel. Mostly because I kept thinking, “This story trope again? Why? This could’ve been so much more!” I enjoyed the writing of the first half as well, while the second half seemed to have a more cinematic quality to it rather than its more literary beginning (which makes sense, since it was written primarily as a screenplay–sink into the location and set-up and meet all the cast, then focus on minute details in conversations during The Event). That said, I love stories set in Oxford, I love Victorian literature, and I loved Ella’s political leanings and believe in education and the arts. Getting to be with this character (at least for the first half!) was an absolute joy.
This qualifies as book 4 of 5 in my fun library books challenge.