Jeanie Randall believed she had finally found her happily-ever-after with Matthew King. Handsome, wealthy, and with a big, albeit creepy fairytale house, he might actually be her white knight.

The downside? He had teenage twins, Scarlett and Luke. Jeanie had her own teenager, Frank, but he was already away at school, only occasionally spending time with the newly created family.

Hoping to blend the families successfully, Jeanie does everything in her power to make everyone happy, but things start going awry almost immediately. Some secrets from her past, which she had been planning to share with her new husband, are spilled in the worst possible way. Who could have sent the damning e-mails to all the key individuals, from Matthew to her new employers?

Now I had my eye on pretty little Scarlett, the daddy’s girl, but Kaye was also an unlikeable ex-wife who could create furor wherever she went. Lots of screaming phone calls from her to Matthew frequently tore him away, leaving Jeanie alone…again. She could have had plenty of motive. And Scarlett spent much of the time scowling and barking at her new stepmother.

The Stepmother was not just a remake of the fairytales we all love, since it had lots of additional twists and turns that made me wonder who was behind the evil pranks that seemed geared toward driving Jeanie mad.

The novel was also a tale of sisters: Jeanie, the eldest, with little sis Marlena, the one who always leaned on big sister, but who now has her own life mapped out as a journalist. Their stories are alternately narrated, and we learn a lot about their own dysfunctional family. So the two of them are adept at families that are full of scars and old wounds, as well as secrets and lies.

I loved how we finally learn what has happened to Jeanie in the big old King house…and how she finally discovers a way to create her own happiness. 5 stars.



Married to Books-BOOKISH LOGO

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What better way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is from an Amazon Vine ARC called Untethered, by Julie Lawson Timmer.





Beginning:  Char slumped low in the pew, fretting about the casket.  It took her brother, Will, a moment to realize what she was doing.  Like everyone else, he had risen with the priest’s invitation and was waiting, a hand extended, to help her up and walk her to the social hall.


56:  Char gasped and covered her mouth with one hand while she reached out with the other, holding the towel to Morgan.  Morgan snatched it, wrapped herself in it, and ran to the bathroom.  As the bathroom door closed, the sound of the teenagers’ voices and footsteps rose from the staircase.


Synopsis:  When Char Hawthorn’s husband dies unexpectedly, she is left questioning everything she once knew to be true: from the cozy small town life they built together to her relationship with her stepdaughter, who is suddenly not bound to Char in any real way. Untethered explores what bonds truly form a family and how, sometimes, love knows no bounds.

Char Hawthorn, college professor, wife and stepmother to a spirited fifteen-year-old daughter, loves her family and the joyful rhythms of work and parenting. But when her husband dies in a car accident, the “step” in Char’s title suddenly matters a great deal. In the eyes of the law, all rights to daughter Allie belong to Lindy, Allie’s self-absorbed biological mother, who wants to girl to move to her home in California.

While Allie begins to struggle in school and tensions mount between her and Char, Allie’s connection to young Morgan, a ten-year-old-girl she tutors, seems to keep her grounded. But then Morgan, who was adopted out of foster care, suddenly disappears, and Char is left to wonder about a possible future without Allie and what to do about Morgan, a child caught up in a terrible crack in the system.


What do you think?  Does this family novel with its complex issues resonate with you?  Do you want to keep reading?