My 2022 WFWA reads

I often write about the wonderful Women’s Fiction Writers Association, the WFWA. I so enjoy being active in this fantastic group – and I always enjoy reading and reviewing as many new releases by fellow WFWA authors as I can.

I decided to compile my WFWA reads for 2022, including my full reviews for these excellent novels.

2022 WFWA Reads

Hope you will have the chance to enjoy these incredible stories, too!

Since there is no way I could rank these fabulous novels, I’m simply listing them in alphebetical order – and suggest you read them all…


A Life Unraveled

Jill Hannah Anderson

A Life Unraveled coverI was in the mood for a gripping and emotional psychological thriller, with strong character development. A Life Unraveled fully delivered, and I tore through its pages.

Lily Gallo is a kindergarten teacher in a small, lakeside Minnesota town. Lily has a supportive home life, with a loving husband and three young daughters. Her life is full, with family, friends, colleagues and a strong sense of community.

That all changes one day when Lily goes for her habitual early morning jog. On that run, she is brutally attacked by a young, teenage boy and has to fight for survival.

Lily’s recovery is slow and hard-fought. It becomes even more painful when a large segment of the close community turns against her when the attacker emerges as the star of the local football team. Lily has to maneuver around an unfamiliar landscape – whom to trust. At the same time, Lily’s own behavior becomes increasingly erratic, threatening the perfect family environment she’s worked so hard to construct.

I enjoyed Anderson’s writing style and the sense of community she created in this Minnesota hamlet. It touches upon numerus themes: a sense of belonging, loyalty, trust and how overcoming trauma can unravel a previously fulfilling life. A highly enjoyable read.

Caper Crush

Kathy Strobos

Caper Crush coverThis is the third Strobos novel read, all part of the loosely connected New York Friendship series.

This is the story of Miranda,a young, struggling artist trying to make it in the Big Apple. To make ends meet, Miranda plays in a rock band and waits tables while she awaits her big break in the art world. With a prestigious, new art show on the horizon, it seems this may be the moment she’s been waiting for … until the central canvas in the exhibition is stolen, jeopardizing her participation in the show.

William is the handsome, but unimaginative accountant who is the nephew of her uncle’s husband. Their paths have crossed at family events, but they have never been close, until Miranda enlists William to assist with an investigation into who stole her artwork., and slowly realizes she may have misjudged the smart and sexy businessman.

This was a quickly paced and fun opposites-attract story, with the added attraction of mystery surrounding the art heist. I’m not a series reader, but I like this formula of loosely connected stories and mutual friends, that allows a reader to see familiar characters, without necessitating complicated back stories or enjoying the novels as stand-alones. A fast and enjoyable read.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy – all thoughts are my own.

Charlotte’s Story

Carolyn Korsmeyer

Charlotte's Story book coverWhat a fun read for an Austen lover like me! For those who love Pride and Prejudice, this novel follows character Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth Bennet’s perceptive and practical friend.

While I love all Austen stories, I am wary of retellings of Austen’s tales that dare to rewrite Austen’s core characters. I do, however, love stories like these that develop the minor characters from Austen’s stories. And Korsmeyer has done an impressive job of bringing Charlotte Lucas to life in this novel, while not changing the beloved core story at the heart of Pride and Prejudice.

I was quickly engrossed in Charlotte’s life as she embarks on her new life as the wife of Mr Collins, playing court to the formidable Lady Catherine De Bourgh. I enjoyed that the author develops characters like Anne De Bourgh and Mary Bennet, who have minor roles in the original novel. Korsmeyer’s Charlotte is an intelligent and perceptive narrator, bringing her surroundings to life and grounding the readers in the atmosphere and details of Austen’s time.

A beautiful love letter to Jane Austen and a highly enjoyable read. Highly recommended.

Dare Not Tell

Elaine Schroller

Dare Not Tell coverI’ll preface this review by saying I love historical fiction, and that WWI is one of my favorite eras in the genre. So I was especially excited to read this novel.

WWI was a devastating stain on an optimistic turn-of-the-century period, an era that witnessed such impressive advances in science and technology, with far too many of those advances channeled into rapidly changing warfare. It was not only the map of Europe to have undergone such a profound upheaval post-war, but also the psyches of young men who fought in that brutal war, and returned home to suffer silently with profound psychological and emotional trauma.

Schroller does a masterful job of touching upon many of these issues, and fully bringing the era to life. In this novel, she delves into the complexities of the battlefield and the longstanding trauma that endured in the minds of many soldiers for years after the Armistice.

Schroller has created two compelling characters in Joe, a young Australian soldier, newly arrived in France. On his first day of leave in Paris, he meets Sophie, a young American nurse, tending to wounded soldiers in Paris’ American Hospital.

Married with a young son, Joe has no intention of being unfaithful to his wife, nor does Sophie want to act on her attraction for this handsome and kind, but also very married, Aussie soldier. A friendship with a strong underlying current of sexual attraction forms, and the letters between Joe and Sophie help each to cope with their wartime burdens.

Their paths cross twenty years later, when they are free to act on their attraction. On a second honeymoon through Europe, their travels through France bring back many painful memories for Joe, alongside long-buried secrets that begin to emerge.

This was a beautifully written story, with a rich sense of place, that had me fully immersed in the WWI era and 1939 France. I loved that the story was told through dual timeline perspectives, allowing for realistic reflection about what happened during the war era. Joe and Sophie were such engaging characters and I fully enjoyed following along as their story unfolded. I highly recommend this novel!

Daughter of The King

Kerry Chaput

Daughter of The King coverThe year is 1661, and Isabelle is a Huguenot living in La Rochelle, France. The Edict of Nantes that was signed by King Henry IV at the end of the previous century was expected to ease tensions between the majority Catholics and minority Protestants in France, and the Thirty Years’ War that ravaged northern Europe was concluded a little over a decade earlier with a peace treaty that managed to diffuse many of the long-simmering religious tensions, but the violence still persists in this French port city.

Isabelle and her fellow Huguenots who choose not to convert to Catholicism survive as second-class citizens on the edges of society, worshiping in secret and finding creative ways to sew their Bibles into their clothing. But as the violence mounts, Isabelle and her community are forced to leave their community.

Alone and unprotected, Isabelle eventually converts and will become one of the filles du Roi –the Daughters of the King, who were sent to the French settlement in Quebec, Canada. In exchange for a financial arrangement and a new life, they agree to marry one of the French settlers in “New France” and to help populate and forge this new society.

Although I’ve always been fascinated by European history in general, including the religious wars in Europe, I did not know about this Daughters of the King campaign. I was especially drawn to this segment of the novel, and following Isabelle along on her journey to this new, wild land, where she and the other filles must learn about survival in their new reality and select a husband. The scenes of the “matchmaking events”, hosted by the nuns, were beautifully portrayed.

One aspect niggled. I was surprised how much Isabelle rallied her fellow filles against the idea of predestination – that God’s will is predetermined. The Huguenots are the French version of Calvinists, and this is a central tenet of their religion, so it left me wondering if Isabelle’s strong connection to her religion was more cultural than spiritual, but I note this is the first novel of a series, so Chaput may explore this aspect in future episodes.

Beautifully researched and written, with rich descriptions and details, Chaput’s novel is a fascinating story of seventeenth century religious tensions in Europe and the shift towards creating a new society in the New World. Highly recommended.

Divine Vintage

Sandra Young

Divine Vintage coverThis enjoyable story should have a broad appeal. Whether you are a fan of contemporary women’s fiction, historical fiction, romance, mystery or paranormal tales, there’s something for you in Sandra Young’s engaging debut novel.

Fleeing from a controlling boyfriend and in possession of money left to her following the death of her beloved grandmother, Tess decides to change her life. She moves to Michigan City, where she purchases property and opens a vintage clothing shop: Divine Vintage.

Early on, Tess meets Esther, the owner of an old Victorian house in town. Town gossip knows the spectacular home was witness to the tragic murder in 1913 of a beautiful newlywed, Phoebe, who died at the hands of her wealthy, adoring husband, Edward. But was the murder-suicide as clear cut as it seemed at the time?

Tess becomes obsessed with the old case when it becomes evident that Phoebe’s clothing holds memories that only Tess can divine. Likewise, Esther’s handsome, architect nephew, Trey, appears to serve as a conduit for Edward. Together, Tess and Trey piece together the complex and emotional story leading up to that fateful night, while simultaneously navigating their own burgeoning romantic feelings.

This was a fun novel right from the outset. The author, herself a collector of vintage clothing, is skillful in describing the beautiful early twentieth-century fashions, while simultaneously imbuing them with faded memories that crescendo throughout the novel. I was fully invested in both the modern and historical stories, and in the parallel romances of Phoebe and Edward and modern-day Tess and Trey. I highly recommend this novel.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this novel, in exchange for an honest review.

Love’s Journey Home

Gabi Coatsworth

Love's Journey Home coverI admit to not being an autobiography reader, with the exception of political autobiography. Nevertheless, I was fully engaged in this beautifully rendered tale of one woman’s story of love and loss.

Gabi Coatsworth has created an honest and well-written depiction of a whirlwind, transatlantic romance. An Englishwoman falls hopelessly in love with Jay, a married, American businessman and they enter into a passionate affair. Years later, when his marriage disintegrates, their happy ever after begins.

There is a reason novels often end at this optimistic HEA moment. Real life is far messier.

Gabi and Jay weather complications and the difficulty of creating a large, blended family, but Jay’s alcoholism eventually takes its toll on the couple. Nevertheless, when Jay learns he has cancer, Gabi returns to care for him, and to reexamine the life they built together.

A story of love, loss, expectations, suffering and – ultimately – hope, this is an honest and beautiful portrait of a marriage, with all its complications.

The Art of Traveling Strangers

Zoe Disigny

The Art of Traveling Strangers coverI enjoyed this women’s fiction novel set in the 1980s. It felt like the Odd Couple’s European Tour, with art.

Claire Markham married young and put the needs of her family over her own. As her daughter grows older, she begins to question why she accepts her relationship with a controlling husband. Therapy sessions lead to an ill-advised affair and the break-up of her marriage. As an art history professor on a non-tenure track, her growing financial woes also weigh on her. When approached by Viv, a student in her class desperate to go on a summer European tour, she feels obliged to accept an offer that will pay her handsomely for organizing a private art tour through Italy and on to Paris.

What ensues is the strongest portion of the novel, with Claire intent on the delivering the perfect art tour of Milan, Varese, Florence and Rome, and a distracted Viv set to eschew almost every museum in favor of high-end shopping and exclusive hotels and clubs. The Italian and art descriptions are strong and really well-written, but I especially enjoyed Viv’s short attention span and ingenuous methods of evading churches and museums.

As different as these two women are, both have major issues to work through, and their unlikely friendship makes each of them stronger. This will appeal to readers of women’s fiction, especially those who enjoy segments on travel and art history.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this novel, in exchange for an honest review.

The Truth of Who You Are

Sheila Myers

The truth of Who You Are coverThis luscious historical novel had me fully grounded in the hillbilly life of rural Tennessee in the 1920s and leading up to the Great Depression.

This compelling story is told through the perceptive eyes of young Ben Taylor, the oldest of five children of a land-rich, cash-poor hillbilly family. Ben is the ideal protagonist, a sensitive boy well grounded in his beloved mountains and the life and traditions of his kinfolk, one who can observe the world around him with intelligence and a dose of innocence.

The novel opens with our protagonist working at the local newspaper. We are soon transported back to the 1920s, when young Ben is one of five children living in the Appalachian mountains. His father is a local and his mother a northerner, and Ben has aunts and cousins living on the mountain slope. Life is difficult for a large family, and becomes even more difficult when his younger brother suffers from consumption (tuberculosis) and requires expensive cures. Falling into debt, the family falls prey to competing interests: the local lumber companies and the federal government – each eager to buy up their land for a pittance.

Ben, like many of his community, will eventually work for the government that destroyed the way of life for Ben and many of the mountain-dwelling community. Ben works for the WPA program that develops the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The entire novel is filled with lush descriptions and compelling historical details. Ben makes for an insightful protagonist, bringing the era and the mountain people to life. I highly recommend this novel.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this novel, in exchange for an honest review.

Unbroken Bonds

D.W. Hogan

Unbroken Bonds coverIt’s 1956, and wrong-side-of-the-tracks Nashville teenager Joanna is in love with an older, married man. Being with Jack is exciting, and gets her out of her chaotic home headed by her drunken, abusive father. But an unplanned pregnancy changes everything and gets Joanna shipped off to the Frances Weston Home for Unwed Mothers in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Popular cheerleader and Homecoming Queen Mary attends high school with Joanna, but travels in entirely different social circles. But when she gets pregnant by her football star boyfriend, her wealth and privilege don’t protect her from suffering the same fate as Joanna.

Joanna, Mary and other girls who’ve been shipped off by their embarrassed families live at the home run by Catholic nuns until their babies are born, and they are coerced into giving up all rights over their children, who can then be adopted to respectable families. For a hefty price. The girls’ parents, eager to hide the mark of shame their daughters have cast on their households, are only too willing to go along with this practice.

Their time together in the home allows the girls to form strong friendship bonds, and they break house rules by staying in contact following their departure. We follow this tight knit group of friends as they embark on their adult lives, as society and views on the roles of women are rapidly changing all around them. The longer time frame of this story allows the women to reflect on the abusive nature of the transaction they were forced to make in order to return to “respectability”.

A well-researched and beautifully written novel. This moving story is filled with rich characters facing difficult choices, and constrained by the shame of their families and expectations of the time. This story also sheds light on the sometimes abusive systems some of these women faced in unscrupulous homes for pregnant, unmarried women. A must-read story.

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