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DREAMING IN CHOCOLATE

A pleasantly sweet tale about true love, fate, and family.

A woman runs a magical chocolate shop in this heartwarming story from Crispell (The Secret Ingredient of Wishes, 2016).

Penelope Dalton and her mother, Sabina, run the Chocolate Cottage. They sell plenty of “regular” chocolate, but their most popular offerings include a little something extra: magic. Their special wares can make people dream about their futures and become temporarily happy or lucky. The magic comes from a mysterious cabinet that provides them with recipes for what they really need, like truffles that can mend a broken heart. But even though Penelope makes these chocolates, she doesn’t trust them. For all the magic her chocolate can produce, it can’t cure her daughter, Ella, who has an inoperable brain tumor. Ella doesn’t have long to live, so Penelope spends most of her time helping her check items off her bucket list—things like eating cake for breakfast and dyeing her hair purple. But a big distraction comes to town in the form of Noah Gregory, Penelope’s high school sweetheart—and, unbeknownst to him and everyone else, Ella’s dad. Under the hot chocolate’s spell, Penelope once dreamed that Noah was her true love—but when she told him so and he left town, she assumed the magic was wrong. Now that he’s back, Penelope has to juggle her feelings for him, her cynicism about the magic, and the desire to tell him the truth about Ella. All of this takes place in the charmingly named town of Malarkey, home to many quirky residents who love festivals and hold town meetings to mediate disputes—sort of like a fantastical version of Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls. How the cabinet came to produce magical recipes is never really explained in detail, and most townspeople seem to accept the magic a little too readily. That’s forgivable, though, since the focus here is more on the fraught relationships between characters instead of the mechanics behind the magic. Readers looking for a feel-good story with a little bit of enchantment sprinkled in will eat this one up.

A pleasantly sweet tale about true love, fate, and family.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-08907-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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IT ENDS WITH US

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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THE LAST LETTER

A thoughtful and pensive tale with intelligent characters and a satisfying romance.

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A promise to his best friend leads an Army serviceman to a family in need and a chance at true love in this novel.

Beckett Gentry is surprised when his Army buddy Ryan MacKenzie gives him a letter from Ryan’s sister, Ella. Abandoned by his mother, Beckett grew up in a series of foster homes. He is wary of attachments until he reads Ella’s letter. A single mother, Ella lives with her twins, Maisie and Colt, at Solitude, the resort she operates in Telluride, Colorado. They begin a correspondence, although Beckett can only identify himself by his call sign, Chaos. After Ryan’s death during a mission, Beckett travels to Telluride as his friend had requested. He bonds with the twins while falling deeply in love with Ella. Reluctant to reveal details of Ryan’s death and risk causing her pain, Beckett declines to disclose to Ella that he is Chaos. Maisie needs treatment for neuroblastoma, and Beckett formally adopts the twins as a sign of his commitment to support Ella and her children. He and Ella pursue a romance, but when an insurance investigator questions the adoption, Beckett is faced with revealing the truth about the letters and Ryan’s death, risking losing the family he loves. Yarros’ (Wilder, 2016, etc.) novel is a deeply felt and emotionally nuanced contemporary romance bolstered by well-drawn characters and strong, confident storytelling. Beckett and Ella are sympathetic protagonists whose past experiences leave them cautious when it comes to love. Beckett never knew the security of a stable home life. Ella impulsively married her high school boyfriend, but the marriage ended when he discovered she was pregnant. The author is especially adept at developing the characters through subtle but significant details, like Beckett’s aversion to swearing. Beckett and Ella’s romance unfolds slowly in chapters that alternate between their first-person viewpoints. The letters they exchanged are pivotal to their connection, and almost every chapter opens with one. Yarros’ writing is crisp and sharp, with passages that are poetic without being florid. For example, in a letter to Beckett, Ella writes of motherhood: “But I’m not the center of their universe. I’m more like their gravity.” While the love story is the book’s focus, the subplot involving Maisie’s illness is equally well-developed, and the link between Beckett and the twins is heartfelt and sincere.

A thoughtful and pensive tale with intelligent characters and a satisfying romance.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-533-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Entangled: Amara

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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