Sisters by Choice

Mira: Harlequin. (Blackberry Island, Bk. 4). Feb. 2020. 448p. ISBN 9780778309390. pap. $16.99. F
Another ensemble cast of strong female characters bonded in friendship drives Mallery’s fourth novel set in the Pacific Northwest town of Blackberry Island (after Evening Stars). Sophie, a successful businesswoman who sells cat toys, starts casually dating an exercise instructor who is more than meets the eye; Kristine has a business plan to start her own bakery but is not getting support from her husband; and Heather, a smart, hardworking 20-year-old, is burdened by supporting her freeloading, lazy mother. Women who build their own business or careers is a hallmark of Mallery’s large-hearted books, and this is no exception. Her characters are well developed, flawed yet likable, and they achieve personal growth by the end of the book. Yet there are obstacles to overcome here that are heavier than her usual. The two toxic characters—Heather’s mom and Kristine’s husband—act in destructive ways and weigh down the book’s mood.
VERDICT If readers don’t mind the toxic relationships and heated arguments that dominate the story, there is still the happy ending to look forward to, and three endearing main characters to root for. [See Prepub Alert, 8/12/19.]
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