The best novels about marriage, love, and figuring out what you really want

Who am I?

I love beautifully written, character-driven books where I can bury myself in the details of the protagonists’ daily lives and watch their stories unfold in a realistic, often frustrating, way. Keepers builds on this fascination, in that the book is loosely based on family lore – some of it really happened! My books, and many of my short stories, have a basis in reality. True life, mostly historical, is where I get my inspiration, spiralling the mundane into drama for the pleasure of my readers. Australian by birth, I now live in England. To date, I have published an MG fantasy trilogy and its prequel, Keepers, and a book of short stories.


I wrote...

Keepers

By Cheryl Burman,

Book cover of Keepers

What is my book about?

In 1950 Australia, Raine believes her unplanned marriage to the volatile Teddy is working out fine. They have their own place, humble though it is. Their baby thrives. But when Teddy abandons his young family, a grieving and furious Raine faces hard choices – made harder when she discovers she’s bearing their second child. Are the words of the telegram the real reasons behind Teddy’s desertion? Was there ever a future for them, or had his harridan mother been right all along? And what about the faithful, devoted Alf? He’s always looked out for Raine and would love to do so forever.

With her baby nearly due, Raine sets out on a punishing journey to face the truth. And make the most important decision of her life.

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The books I picked & why

The Robber Bride

By Margaret Atwood,

Book cover of The Robber Bride

Why did I love this book?

I love anything by Atwood, but this book had me hooked from the first sentence. Three women become friends, united against a common enemy–the unpredictable and glamorous Zenia, who attempted to steal away their boyfriends/husbands many years before. They believe her dead, but when she re-appears, old threats surface. The unravelling of the different tales past and present, and the way the women unite and fight back to save their relationships is a complex and page-turning story.

By Margaret Atwood,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Robber Bride as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Zenia is beautiful, smart and greedy, by turns manipulative and vulnerable, needy and ruthless; a man's dream and a woman"s nightmare. She is also dead. Just to make sure Tony, Roz andd Charis are there for the funeral. But five years on, as the three women share an indulgent, sisterly lunch, the unthinkable happens; 'with waves of ill will flowing out of her like cosmic radiation', Zenia is back...


The Mermaid of Black Conch

By Monique Roffey,

Book cover of The Mermaid of Black Conch

Why did I love this book?

An exotic location, a bit of magical realism (another favourite genre of mine), and a bittersweet love story of a very different kind. When the fisherman David rescues and falls in love with the centuries-old mermaid, Aycayia, she begins to return to her original, human form. But it seems their love is not enough to guarantee a regular style of happy ever after. I loved the exquisite writing, the heart-stopping moments of potential horror, and the lightening of what could have been a dark story by the injection of some farcical ‘baddies’. 

By Monique Roffey,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Mermaid of Black Conch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Escape to the ocean with the entrancing, unforgettable winner of the Costa Book of the Year - as read on BBC Radio 4.

'Mesmerising' MAGGIE O'FARRELL
'A unique talent' BERNARDINE EVARISTO
'Wonderful' BRIDGET COLLINS
'Brilliant' CLARE CHAMBERS

Near the island of Black Conch, a fisherman sings to himself while waiting for a catch. But David attracts a sea-dweller that he never expected - Aycayia, an innocent young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid.

When American tourists capture Aycayia, David rescues her and vows to win her trust. Slowly, painfully, she transforms into a woman again. Yet…


Book cover of In the Sweep of the Bay

Why did I love this book?

I devoured this novella for its humanity and its writing. Ted and Rene marry in the ‘frail optimism’ of the 1950s, she to assume the expected role of mother and housewife, he to continue with his career as a ceramics designer in the family firm. Over time, misunderstandings and the inability to talk to each other drive a wide wedge in their marriage. Ted is almost a bystander in this process, helpless in not knowing what to do about it as things get worse and worse. 

A heart-rending, simple, and beautifully told tale of a marriage which slowly dissolves into silences while maintaining the perfect façade.

By Cath Barton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Sweep of the Bay as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This warm-hearted tale explores marriage, love, and longing, set against the majestic backdrop of Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Fells, and the faded splendour of the Midland Hotel.

Ted Marshall meets Rene in the dance halls of Morecambe and they marry during the frail optimism of the 1950s. They adopt the roles expected of man and wife at the time: he the breadwinner at the family ceramics firm, and she the loyal housewife. But as the years go by, they find themselves wishing for more...

After Ted survives a heart attack, both see it as a new beginning... but can a…


Hamnet

By Maggie O'Farrell,

Book cover of Hamnet

Why did I love this book?

What I loved about this book is how it delves so deeply into the relationship between Agnes and her husband (Shakespeare, although never named), primarily from her point of view. Even dealing with months of separation at a time, the marriage appears strong. But when Agnes hears her husband has written a play named after their dead son, without consulting or telling her, she feels totally betrayed. Her furious sorrow takes her way, way out of her comfort zone, all the way to London to confront him. And in that confrontation, she finds understanding, of him and of herself.

By Maggie O'Farrell,

Why should I read it?

27 authors picked Hamnet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE 2020 WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION - THE NO. 1 BESTSELLER 2021
'Richly sensuous... something special' The Sunday Times
'A thing of shimmering wonder' David Mitchell

TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.

On a summer's day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a sudden fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London.

Neither…


The Music Shop

By Rachel Joyce,

Book cover of The Music Shop

Why did I love this book?

I remember 1988, the arrival of the CD and old-fashioned record shops. But what I loved most about this book was the portrayal of Frank, the record shop owner with the gift of being able to pick the right music for his customers but unable to help himself. For me, the mystery of Ilse was a background tune to the real story of how these two unlikely characters overcome their various emotional burdens to finally reach out to each other. Sorry about the spoiler!

By Rachel Joyce,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Music Shop as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BBC Radio 4 BOOK AT BEDTIME from 17-28 July. From the author of the world-wide bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, a new novel about learning how to listen and how to feel; and about second chances and choosing to be brave despite the odds. Because in the end, music can save us all ...
1988. Frank owns a music shop. It is jam-packed with records of every speed, size and genre. Classical, jazz, punk - as long as it's vinyl he sells it. Day after day Frank finds his customers the music they need.
Then into his life…


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The Rosewood Penny

By J.S. Fields,

Book cover of The Rosewood Penny

J.S. Fields

New book alert!

What is my book about?

The dragons of Yuro have been hunted to extinction. 

On a small, isolated island, in a reclusive forest, lives bandit leader Marani and her brother Jacks. With their outlaw band, they rob the rich to feed themselves, raiding carriages and dodging the occasional vindictive pegasus. Thanks to Marani’s mysterious invulnerability, this mostly works out well…until Marani and her quirky band of outlaws plunder the carriage of the very bossy princess Nuria.

The princess’s carriage contains not just gold, but a dragonscale comb that belonged to Marani’s murdered mother. Worse yet, Princess Nuria seems to know exactly who Marani is, maybe more than Marani herself.

The Rosewood Penny

By J.S. Fields,

What is this book about?

The dragons of Yuro have been hunted to extinction.

On a small, isolated island, in a reclusive forest, lives bandit leader Marani and her brother Jacks. With their outlaw band they rob from the rich to feed themselves, raiding carriages and dodging the occasional vindictive pegasus. Thanks to Marani’s mysterious invulnerability, this mostly works out well…until Marani and her quirky band of outlaws plunder the carriage of the very bossy princess Nuria.

The princess’s carriage contains not just gold, but a dragonscale comb that belonged to Marani’s murdered mother. Worse yet, Princess Nuria seems to know exactly who Marani is,…


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