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All Women's Fiction Coverage

Everyone has a different opinion of Valentine's Day. It's a groan-worthy Hallmark holiday. The most romantic day of the year. An occasion to watch bad romantic comedies with friends. An excuse to eat an entire box of Russell Stover candies.

No matter how you feel, you can probably agree that books that celebrate love—whether pulse-pounding romantic love, obsessive love, familial love or love between friends—are books to cherish. In honor of Valentine's Day, we want to share our nine favorite literary love stories of the early 2000s. Now grab a hunk of chocolate and keep reading . . .

Bel Canto (2001)

Would any list of love stories be complete without this novel? The relationships in a group of terrorists and hostages sound anything but sexy—but trust me that this unusual cast will have you crying and sighing after about 30 minutes of reading. Bonus: You'll find yourself in love with opera after author Ann Patchett has cast her spell.
Read more in BookPage.

The Time Traveler's Wife (2003)

Audrey Niffenegger's story of Henry (a punk-loving, time traveling librarian) and Clare (an artist) has become a contemporary classic. It's clever, heart-breaking and romantic—and I envy the reader who hasn't discovered it yet.
Read more in BookPage.

The History of Love (2005)

"Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering." Need I say more about Nicole Krauss's wonderful book?
Read more in BookPage.

The Myth of You & Me (2005)

Leah Stewart's graceful story attempts to answer this central question: Can a friendship ever be mended once the bonds of trust have been shattered? This is one of our favorite novels about the complicated love between friends.
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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005)

Lisa See writes beautifully about two girls in 19th-century China who build a friendship that exceeds even their love for their own families.
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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) 

Junot Díaz's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel addresses teenage love, obsessive love, unrequited love and more. It's hip, high-energy and hysterical.
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The Post-Birthday World (2007)

Lionel Shriver's cleverly constructed novel (think Sliding Doors) is about passionate love, comfortable love and the love that could have been. If you love to ask "What if?" this book is for you.
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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008)

This delightful novel about the people of the Channel Island of Guernsey includes a tender love story that will make your heart flutter. Even better, the novel itself is practically an ode to booklovers. (And the way author Annie Barrows finished the book for her dying aunt Mary Ann Shaffer is lovely, too.)
Read more in BookPage.

My Abandonment (2009)

This pick falls into the "unconventional" category of love stories, but we think Peter Rock's spare, haunting novel is one of the most fascinating stories of parent/child love published in recent years.
Read more in BookPage.

Everyone has a different opinion of Valentine's Day. It's a groan-worthy Hallmark holiday. The most romantic day of the year. An occasion to watch bad romantic comedies with friends. An excuse to eat an entire box of Russell Stover candies. No matter how you feel, you can probably agree that books that celebrate love—whether pulse-pounding […]

BookPage IcebreakerBookPage Icebreaker is a publisher-sponsored interview.


What would it be like to discover as an adult that everything you thought you knew about your family was wrong? And that you have birth relatives you've never met? That's the dilemma facing Quinn Weller, the Los Angeles chef at the heart of Jill Shalvis' intriguing new novel, Lost and Found Sisters.

Still grieving the death of her sister, Beth, two years earlier, Quinn receives the shock of her life when a lawyer informs her that she was adopted when she was two days old. Shaken and confused, she leaves her busy life in L.A. behind and heads to the small town of Wildstone, California, to find out more about her inheritance from the mother she never knew.

This compelling women's fiction title is a departure for Shalvis, who made her career as a romance writer. A true multi-tasker, the author told us more about Lost and Found Sisters while walking three dogs on a trail near her home in the Lake Tahoe area. 

Lynn: This is your first book in the women’s fiction category after almost 20 years of writing romance. It’s good to see a successful author make the move to branch out creatively like this. What was the impetus for this new direction?

Jill: I had wanted to write a bigger story for a long time, and this particular idea has stuck with me. I tried to do it as a regular romance but it was too big and it needed more point of views than would work within my mainstream romances. So I was lucky enough that HarperCollins wanted a bigger story from me. They contracted me to do both—romance and women’s fiction. The idea was all mine, they just gave me an opportunity to do it and I’m happy to go for it.

What was different about the way you approached this book, compared to writing a romance?

In a romance, which I love and will never stop writing, the romance is the core of the story. And in this book, the sisters are the core of the story. There’s still romance in it—in fact there’s two romances in it—but I think it’s the sisters that drive the story.

"I feel like my yearning [for a sister] was fulfilled, in a way, by writing this book."

You get to write about some issues and situations in Lost and Found Sisters that you probably haven't broached in your romance novels. Which ones were the most interesting for you to explore?

In addition to being women’s fiction and romance, I think this is also a New Adult story because Tilly is a young character. And that excited me the most. I have three daughters, and they're at an age that fascinates me—they’re all in their early 20s. I’ve always wanted to write a younger heroine, but I didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do in a romance. You can't give a 22-year-old a happy-ever-after and expect it to be real and lasting. That’s a little unrealistic. So when I started writing Tilly, I thought I’m finally going to get to do this voice that I have inside me that I’ve been yearning to write. I really enjoyed writing her story. And with the longer word count and the extra point of view, I was able to take things deeper in this book.

Let’s talk about sisters, which, as you said, are at the core of this novel. I have two sisters, and they’ve always been an important part of my life. I can’t imagine not having sisters. So I wondered: Do you have sisters? What was your relationship with them growing up?

I didn’t have a sister and I always, always wished for a sister. It was a deep fantasy of mine to find out that maybe I had been adopted and had this huge family I didn’t know about. But that never happened [laughter]! It was something I yearned for, and I feel like my yearning was fulfilled, in a way, by writing this book.

But you do have daughters, and I assume that after raising three girls, you’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of sibling relationships?

Yes, I’ve seen it all. In fact, we had my three daughters and then we took one in, so I really raised four teenage girls. And I have truly seen it all and experienced it all through their eyes. That also lent some power to the voice in the book, I think, because I could see the things that are real that are going on in their lives, and fictionalize them. I love studying them and I love studying their relationships, which are very complicated, as you probably know, with sisters.

Yes, I think it’s probably one of the most complicated relationships in life. How close in age are your girls?

Very close. Let’s see, I’ve got 22, 23, 24 and 26.

I can only imagine the teenage years!

I call them the deep dark years of hell. I’m not sure how we all survived, but we did.

In addition to sisters, adoption is also at the core of this story. At one point, Quinn's good friend Brock tells her, "I'm sorry, [your parents] should've told you, but it doesn't change anything about who you are. It doesn't. You're still smart, funny and amazing." Is Brock right? How do you feel about the decision by Quinn’s parents not to tell her she was adopted?

There are two points of view—one is the writer in me, or if I were, say, a friend of Quinn’s. Both of those people think she should have been told. But the mother in me can understand why they didn’t tell her. It doesn’t make it right, but I can understand.

And would you say the same thing about her birth mother, Caroline, and the choice she made to give her daughter up for adoption?

Again, as a mother, I don’t understand the choice Caroline made, but I can appreciate that she made it, and that she wanted Quinn to have something she thought she couldn’t give her.

Let’s talk about more about Tilly, Quinn's younger sister. She’s such an interesting character and so believable as a teen who’s just lost her mother. How did you approach her part of the story?

In my original vision for this book, it was going to be told from Tilly’s point of view. But that was years ago, in my head, and the reality was that Quinn really needed to be the narrator so we could fully understand Tilly—because Tilly was too young to understand all the nuances of everything that was going on. So if I’d done it from her point of view we would have missed a lot.

Quinn's antagonist, Lena, must’ve also been a fun character to write.

Oh yeah. I love her.

You love or you hate her? Which is it?

Both! I think she’s incredible. She’s been through a rough time and she’s a survivor. I tried to make her more than just a villain so we could understand where she was coming from. I needed someone for Quinn to butt heads against, a brutally honest point of view so Quinn could hear some hard things, and that’s where Lena came from. I needed that person for Quinn.

And she worked very well in that role. And then there is Lena’s old flame, Mick. Sparks start to fly between Mick and Quinn, and you’ve included some steamy scenes between the two of them. But those scenes don’t dominate the story. Was that hard? Did you have to fight the inclination to focus more on the romantic parts of the story?

Definitely. I love Mick and I love Dylan and I really wanted to write about the two romances, but there was also the core relationship of the two sisters that was drawing me. So I was lucky that I got to write all of it.

Wildstone, the small town in California where much of the story takes place, doesn’t have street lights, billboards, drive-throughs, reliable cell service, Thai takeout or Uber. Why did you want to set the novel in a town like this one and what does it contribute to the story?

It makes Quinn an automatic fish out of water, for one thing, coming from the big city of L.A. We’ve all heard about small towns but not everyone has actually experienced one, so I was trying to make that setting come to life—and poke a little fun at it, the culture of it. There’s a place in the middle of the state of California where we go—there are a couple of beaches in the area, it’s outlined by ranches and green rolling hills, and it’s one of my favorite places. So I kind of “stole” it, let’s say, for Wildstone.

You also had some personal inspiration for Quinn’s experience, I assume, because you live in a small town now but you grew up mostly in L.A.

Yes, and growing up, I was that girl who couldn’t imagine a small town and who poked fun at it if I went to one. I’d never tried to live in a small town until about 15 years ago. We moved to a small town near Lake Tahoe and it was quite the transition. I still have that big city girl in me, but now I’m happy to visit the city and go home.

Your books have always included a lot of comedy, and this one does as well even though it deals with serious subjects. Why is that important to you?

Life can be really hard if you let it. Certainly I’ve had a lot of complications and trials and tribulations like everyone else, and it’s my way of coping, to try to find the funny in everything. I’ve found that really works in fiction, too. If I’m talking about something really serious and there’s something funny going on in the background, that makes it OK.

Do you think your romance fans will follow you to this new book? Or do you expect to attract a new group of fans?

All of it! I hope my romance readers follow me. I think I gave them enough romance in this book to make them happy. And I also hope to reach new readers—people who haven’t given romance a shot before and people who love women’s fiction.

What would it be like to discover that everything you thought you knew about your family was wrong? That's the dilemma facing Quinn Weller, the Los Angeles sous-chef at the heart of Jill Shalvis' intriguing new novel, Lost and Found Sisters.

Susan Mallery makes a second visit to her Mischief Bay series in The Friends We Keep, which follows three best friends living in a sunny California town as they confront questions about motherhood, marriage and love. Reading a Mallery book is like catching up with old friends, and her latest has all the warmth her readers have come to love.

Pilates instructor Nicole, whom Mallery acolytes will remember from The Girls of Mischief Baythe first book of the series, is fresh off a divorce and wondering if she should risk her heart—and the heart of her young son—on a promising new romance. Gentle Hayley is desperate for a baby, but her near-sighted drive to get pregnant is putting a strain on her health, her finances and her relationship with her very concerned husband. Meanwhile, Gabby is gearing up for a return to the workplace after spending the past five years raising her twins and playing the role of bad cop with her 15-year-old stepdaughter, Makayla. Gabby has spent those five years putting other people first, and she’s looking forward to having some time away from the house, the pets, the husband and the kids as a working woman. Gabby’s relationship with the difficult Makayla has always been strained, but when Makayla reveals a shocking secret, Gabby worries that she's about to be pushed well beyond her breaking point.

Some of the strings of this story are tied up a little too neatly, but Mallery isn’t one to shy away from the realities of day-to-day life—love handles, sick kids, laundry woes and all. Luckily, even when in a crisis, these three women can always count on each other to tell the difficult truths, look out for each other's best interests, and, of course, they're always available for a chat over milkshakes.

 
Susan Mallery returns to the sunny California town of Mischief Bay in The Friends We Keep, which follows three women as they confront questions about motherhood, marriage and love.

“I was born blue.” This is our introduction to Kali Jai, named after the goddess of destruction in the Hindu pantheon. When we meet Kali again decades later, she is known as Paula Vauss, a brash, sharp-tongued Atlanta lawyer and narrator of Joshilyn Jackson’s new novel, The Opposite of Everyone.

Paula is a successful divorce attorney in her mid-30s, handling mostly BANK (Both Assholes, No Kids) cases. Her love life constitutes a series of sabotaged romances—the second a relationship begins to smell of intimacy or monogamy, she runs the other way. Her only family is her mother, to whom she has not spoken since college. Their only form of contact is a monthly check that Paula dutifully mails to frequently changing addresses. It is clear that Paula has managed to avoid dealing with her troubled past by pouring herself into her career. But when one of her checks is returned, Paula realizes her mother has gone missing, and she is finally forced to confront her traumatic history—with the help of her longtime friend and erstwhile lover who means more to her than she is willing to admit.

The Opposite of Everyone hurtles forward at a breakneck pace and is chock full of twists. Paula’s brutal honesty and loyal heart will make readers root for her. Jackson has woven a multilayered story that uses both folklore and mythology to explore the deep bond of mother to child and the way that the tales we tell can both define and constrain us.

A closed-off lawyer is finally forced to confront her traumatic family history—with the help of her longtime friend and erstwhile lover who means more to her than she is willing to admit

Fans of Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic are sure to enjoy The Witches of Cambridge by Menna van Praag, a gentle story about a group of women with supernatural gifts and a bevy of romance problems.

This is an ensemble story that touches on the lives of five women, all witches: Amandine, Noa, Cosima, Kat and Helena. Amandine, a professor at Cambridge University, can feel other people’s emotions, as well as divine what artists felt while making a work of art. Amandine has always had a close and happy relationship with her husband, but she can sense that he has a secret, and it's threatening to drive them apart. Noa, a student at the University, can read people’s secrets. Unfortunately for her, she also feels compelled to blurt them out, a habit that plays havoc with her social life. Noa falls madly in love with a painter who offers to cure her of magic, but as their relationship progresses, she finds herself giving up her dreams to advance his own. Cosima, a baker, uses kitchen magic to bring people luck or love, and despite life-threatening health problems, she attempts to use magic to become pregnant against the advice of her sister, unlucky-in-love mathematics professor Kat. Amandine’s mother, Heloise, a recent widow, can see the future, but her magic has faded following the death of her husband. Her story begins as she emerges from crippling grief and depression, and she soon develops an interest in a fellow widower.

The characters tend to find that their magic is a liability rather than an asset when it comes to matters of the heart. Van Praag’s writing is lyrical and the story sweetly affirming. A running theme through this novel is the importance of honesty—Noa’s characteristic of candor that she so loathes is crucial to healing the various wounds of the women. Like one of Cosima’s confections, The Witches of Cambridge attempts to comfort rather than challenge the reader, and it has a lulling—but never boring—quality. 

Fans of Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic are sure to enjoy The Witches of Cambridge by Menna van Praag, a gentle story about a group of women with supernatural gifts and a bevy of romance problems.

Life looks bleak for Mattie Wallace. Penniless and three months pregnant, she has just walked out on her deadbeat boyfriend with six trash bags in the trunk of her ’78 Malibu. With no friends, no family and now no boyfriend, she heads to the only place she can even barely call home: her ex-stepfather’s doublewide in a Pensacola trailer park. Reluctantly, he takes her in, and just as their father-daughter bond begins to rekindle, Mattie learns that her grandmother has died and the inheritance is hers to claim. She and her trash bags hit the road again, bound for her late mother’s hometown of Gandy, Oklahoma.

Like many mother-daughter relationships, Mattie and Genie’s was a complicated one. With no a biological father in the picture, her mother was the only family Mattie knew. A tight-lipped alcoholic, Gertie never divulged many details about her upbringing, which never bothered Mattie—until now. When she arrives at the unfamiliar home of a grandmother she never met, Mattie finds her mother’s old room has been untouched for nearly 35 years. In fact, Genie’s room looks just like she vanished from it without a trace, which—to Mattie’s surprise—is exactly what happened.

Much to her annoyance, Mattie finds herself unable to cash in on her inheritance as planned. She’s stuck in Gandy and forced to rely on its quirky citizens, most of whom are anything but charming. From a drunken priest to a Goth teenager, Mattie befriends some unexpected characters who help her survive until the money comes in. Soon enough, she learns that these small-town folks are more than just weird—they hold the secrets of her mother’s elusive past.

Grief, laughter, sarcasm, heartache, sadness—Melissa DeCarlo’s debut novel has it all. Starting out with light-hearted humor thanks to the narration of its spunky protagonist, The Art of Crash Landing evolves into a compelling, genuine story about a woman’s search for her identity. Though DeCarlo recounts Mattie’s many failures, regrets and yes, even a few crash landings, our heroine ultimately demonstrates an art that every human hopes to master: the art of letting go.  

Life looks bleak for Mattie Wallace. Penniless and three months pregnant, she has just walked out on her deadbeat boyfriend with six trash bags in the trunk of her ’78 Malibu.

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