15 Fresh starts in fiction

Sweet, sparkly, and thoroughly Southern. Like all the women in her family, Claire Waverley possesses a unique magic: she uses edible flowers to prepare foods that affect the eater in “curious ways.” Years ago, Claire’s sister fled town—and her Waverley gift—but she discovers her own sort of magic when she returns. What to say about this book? The romance verges on twee, the magic is impossible, but put them together and it sings. If you’re not down with supernatural food or a magical apple tree, skip this one—but you should know how many readers call this “a wonderful surprise.” Allen’s long-anticipated next novel, Other Birds, is due out August 30. Open-ish door. For fans of Emily Henry’s Book Lovers and Maria de los Santos’s Love Walked In.
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In a plot reminiscent of The Holiday, a grandmother and granddaughter switch flats to shake up their stalled lives. Though Leena is twentysomething and Eileen 79, they have one thing in common: their lives have lost their luster, and their love lives are depressing. And so Leena proposes a two-month change of scenery for each. The lonely Eileen will take over Leena’s London flat so she can enjoy the city’s bustle and meet eligible bachelors, and workaholic Leena will enjoy a needed break in Eileen’s Yorkshire cottage, doing her chores and taking Eileen’s turn in the neighborhood watch group. This sweet, lighthearted tale makes for a joyful summer escape.
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This was one of my favorite Montgomery novels as a kid, but I haven't read it in twenty years. This new edition, illustrated by Canadian artist Jacqui Oakley, was just released last spring, and provided the perfect opportunity to revisit an old favorite. Highly recommended for Green Gables fans.
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I was utterly absorbed by this wistful novel about first love, coming of age, and Shakespeare, from the author of One Day. 16-year-old Charlie Lewis doesn’t have much to look forward to. He’s struggling in school, his family’s fallen apart, he’s caring for his depressed father, and he can’t see beyond what seems like an endless summer. But then one day he’s out for a bike ride and literally stumbles into a beautiful girl and a local theater production of Romeo and Juliet. When Charlie asks the girl to coffee she gives him an ultimatum: he has to join the production. Charlie doesn’t see himself as “one of those theater kids,” but he can’t say no to Fran—and this decision changes his whole world. Perceptive, bittersweet, and stirring.
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Hurston's classic is written in dialect, which is tricky for some readers—unless they choose the audio version. This atmospheric story about expectations, marriage, and unexpected love is richly atmospheric, set in the deep South's Florida Everglades in the 1920s. A classic for a reason, with well-developed characters and a thought-provoking story line.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this slow-burning, sexy, and socially engaged series opener, with cameos from some Reluctant Royals characters, featuring a whip-smart queen and a shy but sexy king. When Shanti Mohapi marries the king of Njaza, he tells her that they're to be married in name only, with no relationship and practically no contact with each other. But when he realizes that he needs to make changes to the fabric of his country, Shanti is the best advisor and partner he could ask for. As they work together to create new beginnings for Njaza, they can't help but fall in love. Cole has a well-deserved reputation for writing intelligent, inclusive novels, and also for writing open door romance, so heads up for several such scenes.
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From the author of The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living. Pastry chef and author Miller takes her readers back to Guthrie, Vermont in her feel-good novel about following your dreams … after finally figuring out what it is you actually want. Nora Huckleberry (that name!) has lived in the same small town all her life, where she raised her baby sister and ran the family diner alongside her dad. When Peggy the cake maker unexpectedly dies, Nora and her sister inherit a house, land, and a host of complications——including the handsome man who wants to buy Peggy’s property to build a big-box store. Everyone in town has an opinion about what Nora should do. If you like the sound of two headstrong sisters, small town vibes, and plenty of food, this may be your perfect summer novel.
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Single father Danny was just fired from his construction job. In addition to struggling to pay his rent, he can't seem to connect with his son Will, who's been silent ever since his mother died a year ago. In a move of desperation, Danny spends his last few bucks on a panda costume to become a park performer. When he chases off some bullies in the park who were taunting his son, Will opens up to him—not knowing that it's his dad in the bear costume. Wanting to comfort his son, Danny continues the charade. Charming side characters round out this story of grief, love, and connection.
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A MINIMALIST SUMMER PICK. One of the best books I’ll read all year; my husband loved it, too. It’s 1974, and Leni Allbright’s father Ernt, a former Vietnam POW, suffers from terrifying PTSD. The family moves to Alaska in search of a fresh start, but they're utterly unprepared for the harsh reality that greets them. As Large Marge says, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next…. Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” But she doesn’t yet know Leni fears the violence in her home more than the landscape. As winter draws near and darkness closes in, Ernt’s mental health deteriorates, with disastrous consequences for the family and community. Yet Leni will survive—and maybe even thrive. A riveting coming of age story featuring a fabulous setting, amazing female leads, and ultimate redemption. But wow, is it tense in the meantime.
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Ben De Becker just came out as nonbinary, and their parents kicked them out, forcing them to move in with their estranged sister Hannah and her husband. In the midst of trauma and heartbreak, Ben starts at a new school determined to keep a low profile and to not make any new friends. But when Nathan Allan turns his charisma and charm towards Ben, they start to build a sweet friendship, which might even lead to something more. With the help of Hannah, a therapist, and chance at happiness, Ben begins to heal. This book is ultimately hopeful, but mind your triggers.
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In the debut novel from Pop Culture Happy Hour host Holmes, a grieving widow and a disgraced Major League pitcher start over after each suffers their own kind of tragedy. Evvie’s husband dies in a car accident, but the truth surrounding his death is painful for reasons her small town community can never know. Dean’s career took a nosedive when he inexplicably developed “the yips”—he’s unable to pitch for reasons that might be all in his head, but nobody can figure it out. Because Evvie needs the income a boarder would bring, and Dean needs a refuge, a mutual friend connects the two. Out of mutual kindness and witty banter, a friendship develops, and then something more … but starting over as a grown-up is complicated. A warm, witty, and satisfying summer read.
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Natalie Tan returns home to San Francisco after her estranged mother's death and finds a changed city and the unexpected inheritance of her grandmother's restaurant. When the neighborhood seer tells her she must cook three recipes from her grandmother's cookbook for her struggling neighbors in order for the restaurant to succeed, she couldn't be less interested. After all, her neighbors didn't help her deal with her mother. Or did they? This lush debut shows how we can find community and support in unexpected places. And it's guaranteed to make you hungry!
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A young writer turns her life around in this 2020 novel from the author of Euphoria. Casey Peabody’s life is a catastrophe: she’s grieving her mother, buried in debt, floundering in her love life, and fed up with waiting tables while she labors to finish the novel she’s been working on for six years. But then slowly, slowly, she starts to pull it together. This novel has it all, while never feeling weighed down: a story of growing up, finding love, grieving loss, and a tribute to the writing life. This book was slow to hook me, but once I was in, I was IN. It also has one of the most exuberant, satisfying endings I've read in ages. 
From the publisher: "The first rule of book club: You don't talk about book club. Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott's marriage is in major league trouble. Welcome to the Bromance Book Club. Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville's top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it'll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife."
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This is the story of an endearingly cranky bookseller and how his life changed when an unexpected package showed up at his bookshop. For devoted readers, this book is a wonderful reminder of the power of books, and how they can bring people together. But be warned: this book can explode your to-be-read list. At the beginning of each chapter, the narrator recommends a book—or sometimes, a short story—to his daughter, describing what it’s about and why she’ll enjoy it. (He’s a bookseller: he can’t help himself.)
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Olivia Monroe (who you may remember as Alexa’s sister in The Wedding Date) is back in L.A., freshly arrived from NYC to finally start an all-female law firm with an old friend. She hasn’t even had a chance to find a place to live when she meets a cute guy in the hotel bar and enjoys lively banter about her favorite subject: dessert. It’s not until Olivia turns on the tv later that she realizes there’s a reason he looked so familiar: Max is the hot-shot new California senator who is everything Olivia is not: wealthy, privileged, and a total workaholic. This relationship could never work. But when he begins wooing Olivia by sending her baked goods, she decides she’ll see where it goes. Fast and fun.
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