In St. Petersburg, Florida, it is summer break for Sadie Ford, a divorced mom and teacher, but before she can even plan her days ahead, her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has turned her world upside down.

Thinking that Scarlett is at her dad’s house, Sadie is stunned to discover, from one of her daughter’s friends, that Scarlett has taken off for Paris to “lose her virginity” to Luc Rollande, the exchange student she’d had eyes for the previous year.

Sadie isn’t really the impulsive type, but suddenly she finds herself packing a large purse with essentials and a couple of changes of clothes, booking a plane ticket, and heading across the ocean herself.

Meanwhile, her older daughter, Evangeline, is safely ensconced at Tulane University.

As we follow Sadie in her pursuit of her daughter, we learn more about her before the divorce, what life looked like for her when her children were small and controllable, and how this new beginning she is stuck with is suddenly very frightening. In the early hours following her landing in Paris, we see Sadie struggle to navigate the arrondissements, and find her way into the apartment building where Luc lives.

Eventually she connects with Luc’s father Auguste, whose own apartment is down the street from his ex-wife Corinne’s, and despite the slight language barrier, they manage to talk about how to find their missing children. By now, both Sadie and Auguste realize that something more is going on with the teenagers, and between the two of them, they might just be able to bring them home safely.

I liked how, from Sadie’s first person narrative, we see her impressions of Paris, when she isn’t worrying endlessly. How she describes her reactions to the people she meets, like Corinne and her new husband Georges, and how their constant speaking in French around her, even though they knew English, made her feel excluded.

Paris Runaway, an intensely engaging novel, kept me rapidly turning pages, losing sleep, and eagerly trying to figure out what would happen in the end. Would Sadie and Auguste find the kids and extricate them from disaster? What would happen with the developing connection between them afterwards? I definitely wanted to know, so I very happily kept reading…and now I’m awarding 5 stars to this novel.




It was just a normal April when Mona’s husband of twenty years, Brian, announced rather casually that he was moving out and wanted a divorce. He has fallen in love with a younger woman.

Their three teenaged daughters, Miranda, 16, and 14-year-old twins Lauren and Jessica, had just left for school, and Mona had settled in to think about writing her next novel. A best-selling romance novelist with the pen name Maura Van Whalen, she had decided to switch from historical romance to something contemporary.

Brian’s announcement and actions swept her off course a bit, but even after considering what a divorce would mean in her life, and not liking the upheaval, she had to admit that she wasn’t actually broken-hearted. In fact, wouldn’t it be a perfect novel to write about a woman in her forties who is dumped by her husband, and finds her happily-ever-after without a man?

Better Off Without Him was a delightful book about starting over, making better choices, and learning how to be who you want to be. Some of those choices included dating again, but with men who were already friends. Practice dating, as her daughters called it. A summer at the Long Island Shore house, which Mona had bought years before with her own money, would offer some opportunities to find men to date. And back at home in New Jersey, there was Ben the plumber, who was handsome, a good friend, and surprisingly available. So even though Mona plans to design her life to suit herself, does that mean she can’t fall in love again…someday?

I enjoyed the story, the dialogue, which was full of funny tidbits and movie references, and Mona’s humorous first person narrative. Brian was a despicable character who, predictably, thought he could still come and go in the house whenever he wanted. I liked how Mona was able to put him in his place. 4.5 stars.




Leanne and her daughter-in-law Nichole are both starting over, after their respective divorces. Both husbands had been cheaters, and they each finally decided that they deserved better.

The relationship between the women is more like that of a mother and daughter. They move into apartments across the hall from each other, and become a support system to one another. They also make some rules for their new lives. Rules that will help them put the past behind them and move on.

A Girl’s Guide to Moving On was narrated in first person alternating perspectives, so the reader could feel connected to each of the women. Leanne was the most damaged by her experiences, in my opinion, because for most of her thirty-five year marriage to Sean, she knew that her husband was cheating. When she finally gathered up the courage to leave, she was emotionally battered.

Nichole left after first discovering Jake’s infidelities, but even though she hadn’t lived with the knowledge very long, it definitely hit her hard.

How will each of the two women learn to stand on her own two feet? What will their first dating experiences be like for them? Can they stand up to the two men who treated them badly when those very men now show signs of jealousy over their new lives?

I liked how we got to see the women struggling and achieving their goals. Their new friendships with two unique men, Nikolai and Rocco, were interesting, as the men were definitely nothing like their ex-husbands. What conflicts arise that almost derail the lives the women have created?

Characters from another novel, Last One Home, also made an appearance in this book: Nichole’s sisters Karen and Cassie. I enjoyed getting to peek into their lives, too. The connections between them had grown stronger since we last saw them.

A deeply satisfying story of starting over, finding oneself again, and developing confidence kept me rapidly turning pages. 4.5 stars.






Zach and Sophie Anderson have the perfect life in their gorgeous Boston home, with their two wonderful children, Jonah, 15, and Lacey, 10. Or at least it seems to be perfect on the surface.

So when Sophie finds a suspicious notation on Zach’s calendar, she has to confront him about it. And he is all too eager to share that he is in love with Lila, his associate, and wants a divorce.

Reeling from the news, Sophie decides to pull an “Aunt Fancy,” a term she uses to describe the wild and crazy ways that her now deceased aunt dealt with things: she took some money from her inheritance from Aunt Fancy and rented a guest cottage on Nantucket for the summer.

In nearby Cambridge, Trevor Black, who runs his own computer business from his rented apartment, and whose wife has tragically died, is raising his four-year-old son and facing some challenges with Leo’s behavior. He decides that a change will be a good thing. So off they go to Nantucket…to a cottage they have rented.

Imagine their surprise to discover that they have each rented the same cottage–from the Svenson cousins who are not big on checking what the other is doing–and will have to find some sort of compromise. After they each check the other’s references, they give it a try.

What follows is an intriguing adventure that leads the adults and the children on an unexpected summer of discovery and a big start toward healing and starting over.

But there will also be lots of visitors to the cottage for each of them, from Sophie’s friend, the aggressive Angie, who makes a play for Trevor…and then tries to reel in Hristo, the wealthy Bulgarian who has his own yacht.

Then comes the mother of one of Leo’s friends, Candace, who boldly announces to Sophie that she and Trevor “belong” to each other. But is that the truth, or wishful thinking on her part?

Right away, I was intrigued and found The Guest Cottage: A Novel a lovely mix of nostalgic moments, possibilities of new love, and a wide variety of adventures that were fun to read about. What happens by summer’s end is the stuff of romance and the unexpected treasures of life. I enjoyed this one a lot, despite its predictability; it felt like a true comfort read that left me smiling. 4.5 stars.


When Raymond Gaver’s plane crashes enroute from LA to NY, Charlie Leveque, his attorney, is the one to tell Raymond’s ex-wife Martha. Martha, who remembers hating Charlie for his role in turning her world upside down in the divorce from Raymond.

And now she discovers that he is the executor of the estate and the one to whom she must address financial requests for her son Jack.

Sorting through the detritus of a life abruptly ended brings these characters in close proximity with one another, and then, almost by accident, Charlie and Martha become friends. She begins to understand that he is not to blame for how Raymond tore her life apart, and, in fact, he has gone through his own divorce and is left trying to figure out how to raise his teenage daughter Phoebe. They realize they have more in common than they thought.

As their relationship begins to change and they become close, they discover that, as it turns out, their children are tight friends, who may be more than friends. Instead of making life easier, this complicates things.

The journey of these characters in forging their new lives, separately, and later together, is beautifully wrought, set against the backdrop of Manhattan life with all of its complexities.

Gutcheon has a unique talent for showing us what life looks like in Manhattan in the 1990s, and especially how to navigate life after divorce in these times. She is brilliant at dialogue, showing us the delightfully awkward movements of adults discovering new love, just as she also takes us right into the world of teenagers, with all their funky behaviors and appearances. We begin to see each of the characters; we hear what they hear and chuckle at their flaws, foibles, and missteps. Here is an excerpt that spotlights some of the issues for Martha and Charlie:

“Martha looked doubtful. She was so tired she could hardly remember why it was she couldn’t just fall into his arms and go to sleep. Why couldn’t they just tell the children to behave themselves? Think of the pleasure of cooking breakfast together for all three children, of going to bed together two nights in a row, of going to the supermarket together and deciding together what to cook, of taking a walk together without having to arrange baby-sitters or take three subways to get to each other to do it. Think of sitting together in lamplight after dinner, reading and looking forward to going upstairs to bed together, instead of looking forward to going out in the rain, getting in a cab, and going sixty blocks to sleep alone.”

We meet other characters along the way, like Sophie, Charlie’s ex-girlfriend, and her sister Connie, whose marriage is falling apart. These characters intersect with the others, almost randomly, but their appearances somehow shape and redefine the lives of our major players.

But what obstacles will appear to seemingly derail their lives? How do the complexities of sharing their domestic lives somehow prevent or complicate those ordinary moments? And how, finally, will each of them sort it all out so that the domestic pleasures can be accessible to them?

I loved Domestic Pleasures : A Novel and thoroughly enjoyed savoring the lives of such colorful and real characters that made me root for them, and long for their victories, even as they struggled. There were humorous and sad moments, just as there are in real life, in this memorable tale that I highly recommend for anyone who enjoys touching, piercing stories of love lost, found, and embraced once again. Five stars.