REVIEW: THE SWALLOW’S NEST, BY EMILIE RICHARDS

Three women fight for the chance to raise the child they’ve all come to love…

When Lilia Swallow’s husband, Graham, goes into remission after a challenging year of treatment for lymphoma, the home and lifestyle blogger throws a party. Their best friends and colleagues attend to celebrate his recovery, but just as the party is in full swing, a new guest arrives. She presents Lilia with a beautiful baby boy, and vanishes.

Toby is Graham’s darkest secret—his son, conceived in a moment of despair. Lilia is utterly unprepared for the betrayal the baby represents, and perhaps more so for the love she begins to feel once her shock subsides. Now this unasked-for precious gift becomes a life changer for three women: Lilia, who takes him into her home and heart; Marina, who bore and abandoned him until circumstance and grief changed her mind; and Ellen, who sees in him a chance to correct the mistakes she made with her own son, Toby’s father.

A custody battle begins, and each would-be mother must examine her heart, confront her choices and weigh her dreams against the fate of one vulnerable little boy. Each woman will redefine family, belonging and love—and the results will alter the course of not only their lives, but also the lives of everyone they care for.

My Thoughts: Lilia, Graham’s wife, and the woman who has been raising little Toby since he was three months old, was the narrator I came to root for. I liked the excerpts from her blogging posts, including her opening lines: “Feathering your nest with imagination and love.” I enjoyed her thoughts about family and growing up in Hawaii, and the feeling of betrayal she felt when she learned of Graham’s infidelity. Then I rooted for her as she came to love the little boy and eventually forgive Graham. She always seemed to put the little boy first, even when the challenges of the custody case sometimes made her struggle.

Despite the annoying characteristics we first see in Marina, the birth mother, eventually I started to feel a bit of compassion for her, especially after we were granted an up close look at her mother and how she grew up. But then she would do something that would make me wonder about her judgment and her ability to put the child’s needs first…and I would revert to disliking her, worried about what would happen to the child if she grew bored or frustrated with him.

The least sympathetic character, in my opinion, was Ellen, the paternal grandmother, whose coldness and judgmental attitude put me off. But then we caught a glimpse of moments from her past as she spent time in the home she lived in when Graham was a baby. The house she bought after they moved and which she hung onto for sentimental reasons, although she maintained that it was an investment. Despite the evidence that she regretted the mistakes of the past, however, I felt insufficient hope that she could make the child’s needs a priority.

I wasn’t sure how the custody battle would turn out…I had my wishes, and then I thought about how courts usually rule with regard to biological connections. Would The Swallow’s Nest end in a way that would serve the child best? Would the characters come to accept the decision? I couldn’t stop turning the pages, so this one earned 5 stars from me.

***

REVIEW: A GIRL’S GUIDE TO MOVING ON, BY DEBBIE MACOMBER

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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.

REVIEW: THE CRY, BY HELEN FITZGERALD

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Joanna Lindsay and Alistair Robertson had built their happiness on the pain of others. Their love affair broke apart the marriage between Alistair and his wife Alexandra, and caused him to lose contact with his daughter Chloe when Alexandra took her to Melbourne.

Joanna hadn’t known he was married at first, but when she discovered that fact, she continued the relationship. It was only when Alexandra caught them together that the marriage was over.

Now Joanna and Alistair have a nine-week-old baby, Noah, and they are on a flight to Melbourne, from Glasgow.

Throughout at least part of the flight, Noah has been crying incessantly. Other passengers have complained and Joanna is more and more stressed out. Alistair does little or nothing to help, sleeping and eating just fine. Joanna is at her wit’s end.

Then there is a problem in the security check regarding liquids; the attendants require that the bottles be emptied, even though they were medicine. More must be obtained, in a rush. There was a mix-up later, apparently, and much of what transpires in the rest of The Cry will come down to what actually happened. And then, when an awful discovery is made, Joanna and Alistair are lying and leading the authorities and media astray.

What will Joanna discover, underneath the lies that Alistair has told her? How will she finally resolve the terrible dysfunction of her relationship with Alistair and find peace at last?

The story alternates between Joanna’s perspective and Alexandra’s, and it flashes back and forth in time. Another page-turner that had no happy ending, but there is a kind of resolution. 4.5 stars.