January 23, 2018
Mischief Bay, Book No. 4
A delightful look at sisters, mothers, and daughters in today's fast-paced world, told with Susan Mallery's trademark warmth and humor.
Divorce left Harper Szymanski with a name no one can spell, a house she can't afford, and a teenage daughter who's pulling away. With her fledgling virtual assistant business, she's scrambling to maintain her overbearing mother’s ridiculous Susie Homemaker standards and still pay the bills, thanks to clients like Lucas, the annoying playboy cop who claims he hangs around for Harper's fresh-baked cookies.
Spending half her life in school hasn't prepared Dr. Stacey Bloom for her most daunting challenge—motherhood. She didn't inherit the nurturing gene like Harper and is in deep denial that a baby is coming. Worse, her mother will be horrified to learn that Stacey's husband plans to be a stay-at-home dad. . . assuming she can find the courage first to tell Mom she's already six months pregnant.
Separately they may be a mess, but together Harper and Stacey can survive anything—their indomitable mother, overwhelming maternity stores and ex’s weddings. Sisters Like Us is a delightful look at sisters, mothers, and daughters in today's fast-paced world, told with Susan Mallery's trademark warmth and humor.
"[It’s] refreshing to see sisters who get along in fiction; Harper and Stacey always support each other no matter what drama happens in their personal and professional lives . . . An emotional and humorous look at the bonds between the women in an endearingly flawed family."
"Sisters Like Us . . . [is] a great story that truly captures the spirit of family, and especially the bond between sisters. Any reader who grew up with sisters like the two protagonists, or a mother like theirs, will relate to this . . . crisp writing and characterization certainly keep it at a high level of enjoyment throughout."
RT Book Reviews
"I love Mallery as she writes books that make my heart happy . . .The setting and characters are those that they reader can relate to because she they real, flawed and engaging. This book is original and fun to read with topics that are both light and deep in perfect measure."
Mrs. Mommy Book Nerd
"Sisters Like Us by Susan Mallery is funny, realistic, and the most engaging women’s fiction novel that I’ve ever read."
". . . many laugh out-loud moments . . . The stories are real, the characters, most of them, delightful, and I love Mallery's humor. Her storytelling draws me in and makes me care. I'm caught up in what's happening. She has a knack for writing family dynamics and for interpersonal relationships."
Bea's Book Nook
"I really got into this story to the point where I was squealing when certain things happened... I liked that Becca was one of the narrators, as I always enjoy hearing a teenage perspective in a novel. Susan did a great job making Becca seem realistic. She was awkward and impulsive, dealing with peer pressure and feeling lonely and left behind."
Chick Lit Central
5 Stars! "I love the way Susan Mallery always makes her characters 100% relatable!! I loved reading about the complicated and delicate dynamics between mothers, daughters and sisters. I felt that this novel takes the Women’s Fiction and Romance genres and melds them together perfectly! Sisters Like Us captivated me the entire way through and I honestly didn’t want it to ever end."
Steph and Chris's Book Reviews
5 Stars "There were some laugh-out-loud moments as well as some what-are-you doing moments...If you need a fun, heartfelt read, give SISTERS LIKE US a try."
4.5 Stars "[R]ich in emotional context with nice touches of humor and characters readers should find interesting and engaging. If you like novels that balance family dynamics with romance and do a stellar job with both, I recommend you include Sisters Like Us on your January TBR list. I’m adding it to my huge collection of Susan Mallery keepers."
The Romance Dish
"I really enjoyed this book. There is some romance but what really stands out is the women themselves. All 3 are so different and in such different phases of life and I think I connected to each of them in a different way. This is a light read but not a fluffy one. There is heart and emotion and the characters came alive as I read."
I Wish I Lived in a Library
Grade: A+ "Sisters Like Us is an amazing look at family dynamics, love, and growing up. Most especially, it’s about getting over yourself. I loved that, while Sisters Like Us is the fourth book in the Mischief Bay series and there were drop-ins by previous characters, there is nothing in the storyline that requires reading the other books."
"To me Susan Mallery is contemporary romance’s Mary Poppins. She is practically perfect in every way... The characters are funny, light hearted and complex. They deal with every emotion possible and still manage to stay together as a family in the end. Mallery is one of the best..."
Kimberly, Books n' Kisses
4.5 Stars "So this story deals with mothers and daughters - what makes a good mother? How can you juggle an important job and be a mother too? And the messages we receive as children from our parents can have a huge impact . . . I thoroughly enjoyed the book - just as I expected."
The Book Date
5 Stars! "Sisters Like Us put me on an emotional roller coaster from the first page until the last. This book is heartwarming, compelling and entertaining. I loved every page of this novel and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys women’s fiction."
"Some of the moments in this story are heart-wrenching, and some will just plain warm your heart. These three ladies are strong characters with admirable traits, although they are also flawed. They are surrounded by supporting characters you will grow to love and learn to hate as the storyline moves along."
Viki Ferrell, Fresh FIction
"Susan Mallery likes to make us sit and take notice of ourselves and probably identify with her characters, or at least acknowledge that they remind us of someone we know. There isn't a character in SISTERS LIKE US that you won't bond with on some level, true Susan Mallery. Her characters are real and awesome even on their worst day. I was so sorry when I came to the last page; it was like leaving good friends. This is a must-read."
Sandra Wurman, Fresh Fiction
"I think that Sisters Like Us may be my fave of the series- because I love those sisters- Harper and Stacey... What I liked:... The romance. I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil it- but the romance had me grinning. Bottom line: Pick this book up to read now to escape the January blues or save it for the beach."
Traveling with T
5 out of 5 "This book really explored the complicated relationships between family: mother and daughters, sisters, daughter and father... I highly recommend any of Susan Mallery’s novels for their warmth, sprinklings of humor, and the realistic and heartwarming exploration of women’s lives."
5 Stars "The plot was relevant and realistic, the storyline was well-crafted and entertaining, and the writing was crisp, yet thoughtful and sensitive. The characters were wildly flawed, singularly quirky, and fascinating."
Books and Bindings
"Mallery writes with an effortless ease that keeps you turning pages. A lovely story with gentle life lessons and tons of heart."
"What a delightful read... fantastic characters. Mallery wrote them so well that I felt like (and wanted them to be) my friends. I definitely recommend this book and this series!"
Palmer's Page Turners
"The setting and characters are... real, flawed and engaging. This book is original and fun to read with topics that are both light and deep in perfect measure."
Mrs. Mommy Book Nerd
4.5 Stars "[A] delightful story about two sisters dealing with the challenges in their lives...well-written and entertaining and this story will stay with you long after the last page."
4.5 Stars "Charming and heartfelt, funny but with some wonderfully poignant moments, Sisters Like Us was everything you could hope for and more from a Susan Mallery book."
Calliope, Random Book Muses
"I loved this one! The characters are archetypes in some ways. Harper is the perfect homemaker, Stacey is the nerd, Becca is the temperamental teenager. But in Mallery’s world, they’re also real people I feel like I know . . . Sisters Like Us is both new and familiar. In the best way. I highly recommend it!"
"I loved that from the beginning these sisters respected each other's choices and loved each other for who they were . . . Perfect beach read."
5 Stars! "[A] big breath of fresh air . . . it will be a book that I will read again and again, for many years."
Cara's Book Boudoir
On the audiobook: "[Narrator Tanya] Eby gives a unique voice to each of the characters: the competent Lucas, one of Harper's clients; the strident Harper and her timid teenage daughter; and both sisters' overbearing mother . . . a thoroughly appealing audio experience."
"Susan Mallery's latest shows just how strong the connection between sisters can be."
There wasn’t a holiday on the calendar that Harper Szymanski couldn’t celebrate, cook for, decorate, decoupage, create a greeting card about or wrap in raffia. There were the biggies: birthdays, New Years, Fourth of July. But also the lesser celebrated: American Diabetes Association Alert Day, Auntie’s Day, National Massage Therapy Awareness Week. Why weren’t there greeting cards to honor that? Didn’t everyone need a good massage?
Despite a skill set that made Martha Stewart look like a slacker, Harper had never figured out a way to monetize her gift for setting a table to commemorate anything. She’d tried catering about ten years ago, but had quickly discovered that her need to overbuy and overdeliver had meant losing money on every single job. Which left her in the awkward position of trying to make a living the hard way—with two semesters of community college and sixteen years of being a stay-at-home mom.
Retail jobs and the pay that went with them hadn’t been close to enough to support herself and her daughter postdivorce. Three online aptitude tests had left her even more confused—while getting her degree in biochemistry and going on to medical school sounded great, it wasn’t actually a practical solution for an over-forty single mom with no money in the bank. Then an article in the local paper had provided an interesting and almost-viable idea. Harper had become a virtual assistant.
If there was one thing she knew it was how to take care of the details. You didn’t get good at a basket weave Fourth of July cake without paying attention. One year after filing her business permit, Harper had five main clients, nearly a dozen more who used her services intermittently and almost enough income to pay her bills. She also had her mother living in the apartment over the garage, an ex-husband dating a gorgeous blonde who was—wait for it—exactly fourteen years younger than Harper because they shared a birthday—a sixteen-year-old daughter who had stopped speaking to her and a client who was desperately unclear on the concept of virtual in the world of virtual assistants.
“You don’t have to drop off your bills every month,” Harper said as she set out coffee, a plate of chocolate chip scones that she’d gotten up at five-thirty that morning to bake fresh, a bowl of sugar-glazed almonds and sliced pears.
“And miss this?” Lucas Wheeler asked, pouring himself a mug of coffee. “If you’re trying to convince me coming by isn’t a good idea, then stop feeding me.”
He was right, of course. There was an easy, logical solution. Stop taking care of people and they would go away. Or at least be around less often. There was just one problem—when someone stopped by your home, you were supposed to take care of them.
“I can’t help it,” she admitted, wishing it weren’t the truth. “It’s a disease. I’m a people pleaser. I blame my mother.”
“I’d blame her, too, if I were you.”
She supposed she could take offense at Lucas’s words, but he was only stating the obvious.
In some ways Harper felt as if she was part of the wrong generation. According to celebrity magazines, fifty was the new twenty-five, which meant almost forty-two should be the new what? Eleven? Everyone else her age seemed so young and carefree, with modern attitudes and a far better grasp of what was in style and popular.
Harper was just now getting around to listening to the soundtrack from Hamilton and her idea of fashionable had a lot more to do with how she dressed her dining room table than herself. She was like a 1950s throwback, which might sound charming but in real life kind of sucked. On the bright side, it really was her mother’s fault.
“Speaking of your mother, where is she?” Lucas asked.
“At the senior center, preparing Easter baskets for the homeless.” Because that was what women were supposed to do. Take care of people—not have actual careers that could support them and their families.
“I, on the other hand, will be paying your bills, designing T-shirts for Misty, working on the layout of a sales brochure and making bunny butt cookies for my daughter.”
Lucas raised an eyebrow. “You do realize that bunny butt is just a polite way of saying rabbit ass.”
Harper laughed. “Yes, but they’re an Easter tradition. Becca loves them. Her father is dropping her off tomorrow afternoon and I want the cookies waiting.”
Because maybe if there were bunny butt cookies, her daughter would smile and talk to her the way she used to. In actual sentences that shared bits of her life.
“You sorry you didn’t go?” Lucas asked.
“To the memorial? Yes.” She thought for a second, then added, “No. I mean I would have liked to pay my respects and all, but Great-Aunt Cheryl is gone, so it’s not like she would miss me showing up.”
The drive from Mischief Bay to Grass Valley would take practically the whole day. Harper couldn’t imagine anything more horrible than being trapped in a car with her ex, his girlfriend and her daughter. Okay, the Becca part would be great, but the other two?
The worst of it was that while Great-Aunt Cheryl was actually Terence’s relative, Harper had been the one who had stayed in touch, right up until her death two months ago.
“Terence is forty-four. What is he thinking, dating a twenty-eight-year-old?” She glared at Lucas. “Never mind. You’re the wrong person to be having this particular conversation with.”
Because while her client was a handsome, single, fifty-year-old man, he also dated women in their twenties. In his case, their early twenties.
“What is wrong with you?” she demanded. “Is it all men or just you and my ex? Oh, dear God, the one thing you have in common with Terence is me. Did I do something to make you all date twenty-somethings?”
“Calm down,” Lucas said mildly. “I was dating younger women long before we met. It’s not you, it’s me.”
“Where have I heard that before?” She glanced pointedly at the clock on her microwave. “Don’t you have crimes to solve?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m going.”
He rose and carried his dishes to the sink. Lucas was about five-ten, nicely muscled with a belly way flatter than hers. He wore jeans, cowboy boots and a long-sleeved shirt. He was a detective with the LAPD, and from what she’d learned about him in the nine months she’d been working for him, he’d always been a cop.
He returned to the table and slipped on his shoulder holster, then grabbed his blazer. “How do you make bunny butt cookies?”
She laughed. “It’s easy. You take a round sugar cookie frosted in pink icing, add two small oval sugar cookies decorated with pink candy for feet, use a miniature marshmallow for the tail and viola—bunny butt cookies.”
“Save me a couple.”
“I promise.” She would put them in a little box that she would decorate for the holiday. Because she simply couldn’t hand someone cookies on a plain paper plate. If she tried, the heavens would open and release a plague of locusts at the very least.
Oh, to be able to buy packaged cookies from the grocery store. Or prepared spaghetti sauce. Or a frozen entrée. But that would never happen because it wasn’t what Harper was supposed to do.
She carried the rest of the dishes over to the sink, packed up the uneaten food, then retreated to her large craft room with its built-in shelves and giant tables and cupboards. After finding a nice bunny-butt-cookie-sized box, she studied her ribbon collection before selecting one that would coordinate. While her glue gun heated, she sorted through her fabric remnants to find one that was Easter appropriate and wondered what other women did with the time they saved by not making every stupid thing by hand.
But Harper was her mother’s daughter and had never been very good at bucking tradition. Her sister, Stacey, was the rebel while Harper did what she was told. It wasn’t that she didn’t like making bunny butt cookies or decoupaging gift boxes, it was that she wanted just a little more in her life. More challenges, more money, more communication with her daughter. And while it was fun to blame all her problems on her mother, Harper couldn’t help thinking that in reality, everything she wanted but didn’t have was very likely her own damn fault.