Staff Picks

Staff members of the Boca Raton Public Library share some of their favorite books.

Recommended by Amanda A., Youth Services

Brightly Burning

Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne is an excitingJane Eyre retelling that takes place hundreds of years from now in space,when Earth is no longer livable. When young engineer Stella Ainsley leavesher home ship for a job opportunity, she meets the elusive Captain Hugo, whochanges her life forever. There she finds things going astray and must figureout who she can trust. Fans of Cinderby Marissa Meyer will love this, as well as fans of young adult sciencefiction. 

Recommended by Lynne, Youth Services

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New of the World by Paulette Jiles

When a kidnapped white girl is returned to the white community from the Kiowa tribe, a retired captain agrees to take her back to her relatives in San Antonio, Texas. As they join together to fight common elements found in a lawless 1870 Texas, their relationship grows in spite of not having a common language or culture. Was a National Book Award finalist. Highly recommended.

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No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear

This is a young reader's version of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. In 1959, in Holcomb, Kansas, a small quiet farming community, the Clutter family is brutally murdered. Told from the point of view of a teen friend of Nancy Clutter, Carly Fleming, an outsider in the community, relates how Nancy’s friends react to the murder, how they seek to clear the prime suspect’s name, and what happens to her life when Carly’s father is appointed to defend the killers. Recommended.

Recommended by Kodi, Account Services

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Educated: a memoir by Tara Westover

Educated, by Tara Westover, is both difficult to read and impossible to put down.

Tara grew up with a overly religious father who believed that the government was out to get them and everything that happened was the will of the Lord. She spent days helping her mother with herbs and scavenging for her father. They were never allowed medical attention, not even for head injuries or burns from an explosion. In the most incredible turn of events, Tara found it within herself to seek out education in anyway she could, which ultimately led her to a college classroom where she first learned about the Holocaust, slavery and the civil rights movement.

Tara's story is both inspiring and heartbreaking. Her struggle with wanting to learn more versus the beliefs she was raised on and her loyalty for her family form an engaging story that strings you along until the bitter end.

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Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Brilliant debut novel! I was hesitant about a thriller as a first novel, but it was very well done. The story follows a woman who breaks free of her small town only to find herself back in the middle of everything when a case pops up that demands her attention. Ritter weaves past memories into the story giving the reader a full look into a complicated and harrowing story. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

Recommended by Nancy D., Collection Services

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Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

Two young girls are abducted from a strip mall parking lot and their family hires a well known bounty hunter, Alice Vega, to find them, Vega teams up with a former detective from the local police force and they go on a frantic search for the young girls. They go places and find connections the local police cannot. As they close in on the kidnappers, they are both relieved and shocked at who has committed this crime.

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The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

This is a great detective story set in Australia.  Gemma Woodstock, a local police officer in a small Australia town, had attended high school with the beautiful Roselind Ryan. Now, Gemma is the lead detective in the death of her old school mate who has been murdered and left floating in a nearby lake.

Roselind was always a quiet beauty who had a mysterious air about her. She had left the small town years before, only to return later to teach in the same high school that she and Gemma had attended. During the investigation, Gemma finds herself reliving some painful memories from those high school days. Everyone is a suspect from the woman's family members who didn't always get along with her, to the school principal who's relationship with Roselind seemed to be unusually close, to even her students, who sometime were infatuated by her beauty and brooding manner.

Recommended by Joleen, Instructional Services

The Which Way Tree Book Cover

The Which Way Tree by Elizabeth Crook

Elizabeth Crook’s The Which Way Tree is a sweeping story about Samantha, a young girl who travels out into the wild to avenge her mother’s death after a brutal panther attack. Narrated by Samantha’s half-brother Benjamin, the entire tale is told in first person plain-speak, adding authenticity to the characters and backdrop. The Which Way Tree is the perfect mixture of fun, suspense, poignancy, and humor, all tied up in a surprise ending that will leave you wanting to read more by Elizabeth Crook.

Recommended by Kim, Collection Services

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Days of Night by Jonathan Stone

This book is about a murder that takes place at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Joe Heller is a retired police detective who is called to fly down under to investigate the murder. He discovers that living and working in Antarctica comes with very unique challenges: darkness for weeks, isolation, and the quirky behavior of the facility’s scientists and inhabitants. As he works to reconstruct the scene of the crime, McMurdo’s communications systems shuts down suddenly. As the inhabitants discover that they’ve lost contact with the “upper” world, they begin to panic and fear sets in as more murders occur. Is the lost communications due to a pathogenic issue affecting the rest of the planet or is this the cruel workings of a psychopath at McMurdo?

I found this book to have a lot more “depth” and interest than a typical murder mystery. Reading about the weather conditions natural to Antarctica, and the types of personalities that are attracted to working in such isolation made this for a very interesting read.

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Two Lost Boys by L.F. Robertson

Two Lost Boys is a debut novel by L.F. Robertson, a practicing defense attorney in California.  The main character is Janet Moodie, a death row appeals attorney.  She's called on by another attorney for her expertise on a case for client Andy Hardy, who is on death row.  Along with his brother, Emory, Andy was convicted of the rape and murder of two women.  However, Emory only received a life sentence.  Janet feels that Andy's lawyers missed some mitigating evidence that would have kept him off death row.  Andy has a very low IQ, is very slow and shy, and Janet feels that he really wasn't the ringleader of the crimes that he and Emory are serving time for.  Through Janet's research into Andy's background, she unearths some deep family secrets and discovers what a terribly dysfunctional family he grew up with.  I enjoyed this story as I found the character very realistic and it was also a very fast and easy read.

Recommended by Marcella, Collection Services:

Tin Man

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

Sarah Winman’s Tin Man is a short novel that packs an enormous emotional punch. The strongly developed, likeable characters instantly draw you into their world as they deal with passion, love, heartbreak, and redemption in all of their splendid varieties. The novel’s first half is told from lonely, stoic working class widower Ellis Judd’s perspective, sharing the story of his family life, thwarted artistic ambitions, and relationships with his best friend and early lover Michael and his late wife Annie. Ellis, Annie, and Michael shared a unique bond for years until a rift develops and Michael leaves for London. Ellis and Annie are left bereft, without word for years. The novel’s second half shares Michael’s story as related in his diary, including his life after his departure and his ultimate return to Ellis and Annie and their small town of Oxford. This is one of those rare books that had me crying at the heartbreak that life can bring while simultaneously relishing its beauty.

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The Italian Party by Christina Lynch

Michael and Scottie Messina arrive in 1950s Siena, Italy after a whirlwind courtship to begin his career as a Ford tractor salesman promoting American products (and values) overseas during the height of the Cold War campaign against Communism. Like many blissful newlyweds, they don’t quite know their partner as well as they think they do. Unlike most newlyweds, however, the secrets they harbor are life changing in nature (no I’m not going to mention them here , don’t want to give away the fun). These secrets are rather quickly revealed as Michael and Scottie attempt to settle into their new roles, new rustic town, and new culture, forcing them to rethink themselves, their marriage, and America’s role in the world. Meanwhile, they explore the beauty of Italy and meet a variety of intriguing locals. The Italian Party is indeed a fun, well-written party of a book that includes a great story, charming characters and settings, Cold War political intrigue, a whirlwind tour of Italian culture and the expatriate community, and an examination of marriage 1950s style. I enjoyed every aspect of this book.

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The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu’s latest novel The Hunger provides a gripping fictional recounting of the already fascinating tragedy of the infamous Donner Party, the wagon train to California that became stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountains over the winter of 1846-47. Rumors of poor judgment, strife and cannibalism haunted the survivors, but what if something more led to their downfall? Something mysterious and evil that stalked the party, hidden in the shadows and whispers of the wind, as they made their way West, battling misfortune after misfortune along the way. The Hunger is a spellbinding read on many levels. Katsu’s fictional rendering of the historical members allows us to personalize them and get a sense of how such a perilous journey would have felt. The addition of a supernatural element gives insight into ancient Native American beliefs such as shapeshifters while the wagon train members’ questioning of what exactly is haunting them gives insight into the psychological impact of the unexplainable. Are they going mad? Is there a witch (or worse) in their midst or are they persecuting and labeling out of fear? Are they being stalked by wolves, men with a disease that makes them hunger for flesh, or something worse? I recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction, the supernatural, well-developed characters, or just a really well-written, atmospheric and fun read.

Night Child Book Cover

The Night Child by Anna Quinn

The Night Child is a powerful, insightful, and emotionally wringing exploration of one woman’s journey through childhood abuse, suppressed memories, and PTSD. High school English teacher Nora Brown is leading a simple, quiet life with her husband and daughter until the day she sees the apparition of a floating child’s face in her classroom. As she begins to question her sanity, the tensions underlying her marriage and the secrets of her past slowly begin to emerge, forcing her to seek therapy. There, she discovers that the child is actually a split personality, a young, vulnerable but brave girl named Margaret, who calls herself the “bad one” and feels called to protect both Nora (the “good one”) and her six-year old daughter Fiona. Margaret remembers the bad things she did with her father so that Nora can forget, but as Fiona reaches the age when Nora’s abuse began, Margaret senses danger and begins to emerge in Nora’s consciousness. The emotional narrative traces Nora’s journey as she seeks to uncover and deal with her suppressed memories of the traumatic abuse in her past so she can finally heal.

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The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

The Chalk Man is an intense debut suspense thriller centered on a series of tragic events that impact twelve-year-old Eddie and his group of childhood friends in a small English town. Eddie narrates the story in alternating chapters: as a boy watching the events unfold in 1986 and as an adult in 2016, still living in his childhood home and dealing with the fallout of that long ago year. The tragedies include the accidental disfigurement and later murder of a young girl named Elisa, whose killer (and head) were never found. [Yes, this book is not for the squeamish] The mystery deepens as stick figures drawn with chalk, at first a harmless childhood game of coded messages, take on a sinister meaning as they begin to mysteriously appear and lead the way to tragedy. After receiving a threatening stick figure in the mail , adult Eddie finally unravels the mysteries of those long ago events, revealing numerous surprise twists along the way.

Recommended by Nancy J., Collection Services:

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Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

This is a debut novel by Karen Cleveland is a former CIA analyst who has used her knowledge acquired from her years of work to create a realistic novel of espionage and suspense

Vivian Miller is a CIA analyst involved in the counter terrorism section of the agency. She is charged primarily with the task of uncovering sleeper cells, agents who have been planted here from Russia early on to obtain classified information by blending in with the rest of the American population. During an examination of a file on the Russian handler of these sleeper cells, she discovers shocking information pertaining to Matt, her husband of ten years, information that simply upends her whole world!

How Vivian chooses to handle this information and what she, Matt and their four young children become exposed to as a result of what she does takes you down a very twisted road  which places her and her family in a great deal of danger. Karen Cleveland manages to keep you at the edge of your seat as to what will happen and whether Vivian can ever restore her normal family life. The ending will simply astound you.

The Address Book Cover
The Address by Fiona Davis

This intriguing novel by Fiona Davis center around the most famous apartment building in New York City, the Dakota.  The story goes back and forth between 1984 when the building was built and 1984. In 1884 Sara Smythe arrives in New York from England to help manage the opening of this new apartment building and manage the staff.  She falls in love with the much-married architect Theodore Camden and their affair has far reaching consequences in 1984 for Bailey Camden an interior designer and questionable descendant of this man. The building holds many secrets, especially in its basement storage area and the halls of the apartments themselves.  This is a good read, and sophomore novel of writer Fiona Davis.  Her debut novel was The Dollhouse, and after reading The Address, I’m planning on backtracking and reading Ms. Davis’s first book.

Recommended by Lydia, Account Services:

Dreams of Falling

Dreams of Falling by Karen White

Dreams of Falling kept me captivated throughout the book. The story is about 3 women who were friends since childhood and the daughter and granddaughter of one of the women who died as a young woman and how her death affected all involved. A secret unfolds as they go back in time to the 1950's. Beautiful story about friendship, love and forgiveness.

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White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht

Having spent her entire youth under Japanese occupation, a young woman in World War II-era Korea follows in her mother's footsteps as an elite female diver, only to be forced into prostitution to save her beloved younger sister. This was a beautifully written debut novel albeit a difficult subject, an eye opener and I learned a lot through the story.  I look forward to reading more of her future books.

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We Were Strangers Once by Betsy Carter

Fascinating book since this was written from a different perspective compared to other World War ll books.  The characters who are Jewish escape Germany as things start to get difficult for Jews in Europe before the war actually begins. They come to America and the book shows the difficulties they faced as immigrants here. The book starts with their family history so it gives you a sense of who they were before and what they had to sacrifice as immigrants.

Recommended by Amy, Instructional Services:

Spoonbenders Book Cover
Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
Johnny Carson stole his Carnac the Magnificent from the amazing Telemachus family; Teddy the charismatic con man, his wife Maureen, a real psychic, and their three gifted children. Or, more accurately, Carson mocked them with his act after one disastrous night on national TV. This is the story of the no long amazing Telemachus family – or maybe they really are amazing! Frankie who tries too hard and almost loses everything, Irene who is afraid to risk anything, and Buddy, who lives in his own world. Or maybe he is more in the real world than any of them. This is a riotous and moving romp which includes the supernatural, the mob, love, teen angst and coming of age in one glorious tale!

Recommended by Ellen, Public Services:

Reincarnation Blues Book Cover
Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
Milo, a soul close to “Becoming One with Everything,” can’t get it right even after 9,995 lives. Does he care? No, he does not. He relishes living and, when he dies, he hangs out with Death, his friend and lover. Unfortunately, Milo’s time is almost up: a soul must graduate in 10,000 lives or fall into oblivion. He tries the usual gambits - hermit, philanthropist, holy man, self-sacrifice – nothing works. In the meantime, Death decides her job is unfulfilling and quits. Now, how will Milo ever find her again? The cleverly-written story is engaging and smart, with amusing insights about philosophy, religion, and the net effect of being oneself. If you like Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, or Jasper Fforde, you’ll enjoy Michael Poore.

Recommended by Helen, Collection Services

House of Broken Angels

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

Across one bittersweet weekend in a San Diego neighborhood, revelers mingle celebrating the lives of family patriarch Miguel “Big Angel” De La Cruz and his mother, recounting the many tales that have passed into family lore.  Urrea’s storytelling takes readers right into the midst of the family’s celebrations, feeling as if you are there in person witnessing the trials and tribulations of this fascinating family.

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The Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton

A wildly entertaining debut about a Brooklyn Heights wife and mother who has embezzled a small fortune from her children's private school and makes a run for it, leaving behind her trust fund poet husband, his maybe-secret lover, her two daughters, and a school board who will do anything to find her.  Told from the points of view of Nathan, Marion's husband, heir to a long-diminished family fortune; Ginny, Marion's teenage daughter who falls helplessly in love at the slightest provocation; Jane, Marion's youngest who is obsessed with a missing person of her own; and Marion herself, on the lam--and hiding in plain sight.

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Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Oliver Ryan, handsome, charismatic, and successful, has long been married to his devoted wife, Alice. Together they write and illustrate award-winning children's books; their life one of privilege and ease-- until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers a blow to Alice that renders her unconscious, and subsequently beats her into a coma. As Alice hovers between life and death, the couple's friends, neighbors, and acquaintances try to understand what could have driven Oliver to commit such a horrific act.

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Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

Just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonized an island off the coast. They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers-- chosen male descendants of the original ten-- are allowed to cross to the wastelands. At the first sign of puberty, their daughters face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. One summer little Caitlin Jacob sees something so contradictory to the laws of the island that she must share it with the others.

Recommended by Tinetra, Collection Services

A False Report Book Cover

A False Report by T. Christian Miller

Marie is a 18 year old foster child from Washington. Marie is the young lady who’s a victim of rape. Marie reported that she was raped but, no one believed her story not even her foster mother or close friends. Since, no one believed Marie’s story about being raped; she told the police that she made-up the story. Then, Marie was charged with making false accusations. The story starts to alternate between the events of Marie’s rape investigation and several years later in Colorado when other rape investigations takes place. The police starts to tie-in the newer crimes back to what happened with Marie in 2008. As the start putting the clues and patterns of the serial rapist, they realize that it’s the same guy that raped Marie. The police finally finds the serial rapist which is Marc O’Leary. I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to spoil the story for you. The story is very descriptive about how the victims were raped and how the rapist looked and behaved. The story gives valuable information about understanding the rape reports, crime investigations, legal history and the police procedures of the rape cases. This is an eye-opener because brings awareness to the history of what rape victims go through and the unfair justice system. My heart was broken many times as I read about what happened to these rape victims. I know how it feels because I’m a survivor.

Recommended by Deborah, Youth Services

Beautiful Music

Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian

Zadoorian gives us a coming of age story, Detroit style, set in the 1960's. Music, specifically Rock music with a capital R, is as much a character in this story as is Danny Yzemski, the boy who eschews fresh air and buries himself in his basement, assembling model cars. After his father dies suddenly and his mother disappears into alcohol and pills, Danny negotiates his way through his world, holding onto music, late night radio, and his music magazines, Creem, Crawdaddy, and Rolling Stone, among others. Danny encounters twists and turns, potholes, and speedbumps in his path but he keeps moving forward, all the while listening to his Iggy Pop, his Jimi Hendrix and focusing on his dream to be a late night radio D.J.

The Ensemble

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

The ensemble in this novel is in fact, a chamber music quartet comprised of four exceptionally talented and ambitious and unique musicians who meet at the very start of their careers, recognize in each other a  passion for the music as well as the potential for success on the concert stage, and throw in their lot with each other. We get not only four fascinating life stories, but what feels like a backstage pass into the rarified world of classical chamber music.

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White Houses by Amy Bloom

In White Houses, Amy Bloom fastens an imagined love story between Eleanor Roosevelt and her long time friend, Lorena Hickok to a scaffolding made up of bits and pieces of the history of Franklin Roosevelt's ascent into politics in the 1930's and 1940's and Eleanor's role in that process. It is an engaging mix of gossip, history, and an inside look at a the deep and complicated relationship between the aristocratic Eleanor and the hardscrabble newspaper woman, Lorena.

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Mothers of Sparta by Dawn Davies

In her memoir "Mothers of Sparta", Dawn Davies' words rush like a fast moving river, inundating us with clever and colorful description and wise and dark and deep and sometimes humorous insights into what it means to be a child, to be a wife, to be a mother, to be a person in this crazy world. Those words could overwhelm and batter and bruise but Davies' deftness with words and her light touch leave us feeling as though we just rafted down a gentle river, albeit through some wild and untamed vegetation.

Recommended by Brenda, Collection Services

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Brass by Xhenet Aliu

Told in biting parallel narratives, the stories of a Lithuanian immigrant waitress and her illegitimate daughter follow the former's struggles to secure a better life and the latter's determined efforts to connect with the father she never knew.

I liked the mundane details (such as store names and brand names), the humor, and the structure of parallel mother/daughter stories.  Highly recommend.

Recommended by Maria, Digital & Technology Services

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Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

A woman prone to secret temporary comas that make her appear to be dead receives protection from a redemption-seeking former lover who would save her from being buried alive by her fortune-hunting husband.

Recommended by Michel, Instructional Services

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An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Less than a few months into 2018 and yet I've found one of the best books of the year. An American Marriage is an exquisitely written account of three people in love and how their lives and relationships are affected when one, Roy, is sent to jail when wrongfully convicted of the rape of an older woman. His wife, Celestial, eventually decides that she cannot remain married to him, and tells him so three years into his 12-year sentence. However, two years after that, Roy is finally freed thanks to the efforts of Celestial's uncle. Roy goes home to see his wife (and her new fiancé Andre) to try and convince her to give them one last chance.

Within the intricacies of this strange relationship is the understanding of how race has impacted the lives of these three people. Roy was damned from the moment a white woman accused him of her rape, becoming yet another victim of a stilted justice system. He becomes yet another victim when his wife abandons him in prison to fend for himself without any familial support. The characters in this book are all driven by their identity as African Americans, an undercurrent of awareness that their experience of the American Dream is already different from what others may consider 'normal.'

This book is an emotional tour de force that I would recommend to every fan of contemporary fiction and would make a great book club read. It dragged my heart through the ringer and left me breathless at the final confrontation between these three passionate people.

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A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee

A State of Freedom is an enlightening, impeccably crafted novel, both tender and terrifying. It further explores the questions raised by Neel Mukherjee’s previous novels, A Life Apart and The Lives of Others: what is it to be a migrant, what it is to be poor, vulnerable and powerless, and what it is to be free – or to try to be.

The novel is formed of five interconnected sections with different voices and related characters, whose stories echo, frame and shape each other. This structure serves it perfectly – the contrasts and parallels: there are those who have the uneasy comfort of being rich and surrounded by the poor, and those like Milly, the domestic servant, who is familiar with poverty and hunger, who works to make what the rich enjoy, and prizes their leftovers.

This is a book about the tension between duty and obligation, particularly to family, and the desire (and need) to escape; and it is also about art, the limitations of those who make it and the limitations that are placed upon them, and what they come to recognize about themselves and others through the attempt. While never an easy read, a State of Freedom succeeds in creating a thought-provoking experience that I would highly recommend to readers who enjoy contemporary Indian authors and to book clubs looking for lively discussions.

Recommended by Nicole, Account Services

You Me Everything

You Me Everything by Catherine Issac

"You know the old saying 'first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage?'  Well, for Jess and Adam, the baby in the baby carriage came a little earlier than expected.  While Jess was ready, Adam was not, and Jess decides to leave and raise their son William on her own.  10 years later Jess and William take a trip to a beautiful chateau in France to spend 5 weeks with Adam.  During those 5 weeks, William will get to know dad, Jess will get a vacation from everyday life struggles, and things won't get complicated.  Well... that's what Jess hopes for, but like Jess knows all too well, life doesn't always turn out as planned.  A fantastic read!"