Welcome to Book Chat with Julie! Summer is right around the corner and this month’s fiction selections feature some matchmaking grandparents, entertaining elephants, and an earl’s heir disguised as a valet!

Kaylee Baldwin’s new romantic comedy “A Summer (Mis)Match,” is one of my favorite books so far this year. Julia’s grandmother has decided that she’s going to help her granddaughter find true love. She enlists the aid of her friends in their retirement community and the results are hilarious.

Julia, a second-grade teacher, “bumps” into Logan Kent after an exhausting last day of school where the students were allowed to put makeup on her and let’s just say, she’s not looking her best. Despite that, Logan and Julie feel that zing of attraction between them. Logan, a veterinarian who cares for elephants, is going through a painful anniversary of losing his mom though meeting Julia shows him he can still laugh and feel happiness. They cross paths again and the energy between these two jumps right off the page.

But, as in every good romance, there are some pretty big obstacles in their way. Not only are they both dealing with some difficult personal circumstances, it’s also revealed that their grandpas are bitter rivals and will do anything to keep them apart! There are some laugh-out-loud moments with the grandfathers getting up to mischief in their bid to ruin any romance while the grandmothers are doing all they can to encourage Logan and Julia. I loved the depth of the characters and how real their problems felt, but the addition of the animals—from feisty elephants to alligators in costumes—was genius. I loved the animals almost as much as the people! So, if you like quirky characters and a romantic comedy with heart, then this is the book to start your summer reading with.  

The second recommendation for your summer reading is Josi Kilpack’s new historical romance, “The Valet’s Secret.” This second chance romance for two people who have loved and lost was so heartfelt and tender. The author was adept at weaving together the threads of hope into even the most difficult circumstances.

Rebecca Parker had a happy marriage, but is now widowed and her only child is grown and moved a short distance away. Rebecca helps her ill-tempered father with his art, and her life is very predictable and quite lonely—until she’s nearly run down on the road by a man riding on a spirited horse. When he comes to her aid there is a feeling and connection between them that she’d never thought to have again. They give in to a forbidden kiss, and it’s as if Rebecca has come alive again. This chance encounter gives her hope that perhaps she truly can have love in her life once more.

Unbeknownst to her, she has not kissed a valet, a man of her station, but Kenneth Winterton, the heir to an earldom. Kenneth feels the same connection to Rebecca, but now caught in his web of lies, he doesn’t see a way to tell her of his deception without hurting her. When she is hired to help serve at a dinner party given by a baroness, she is stunned to see the “valet” she kissed sitting at the table. Realizing he is not who he said he was, she is broken-hearted and rebuffs his apologies, but can’t deny there is something between them—a connection that seems to get stronger whenever they are together. But he’s the heir to an earldom and she’s an artist’s daughter. There doesn’t seem to be any common ground for them to base a romance on. True love comes at a price, but are they willing to pay it?

I loved this gentle romance and how our hero and heroine found a piece of their heart that they thought was gone forever. It is somewhat unusual to find historical romances that feature people later in life, but I found it refreshing. Their insecurities about what others would think of them, including their grown children, and whether their differences were too great to possibly make a life together, is still relatable today. There were little shades of a Cinderella story with evil relatives, a beautiful gown and slippers that somehow don’t stay on their owner, but there are some unexpected twists as well that kept me turning pages. The Valet’s Secret is a slow-build romance that’s perfect for a lazy summer afternoon of reading.

Behind the Scenes—An Interview with Author Kaylee Baldwin

I really enjoyed my chat with Kaylee Baldwin this month. I’ve always been fascinated by romantic comedy writers because I wish I could be more funny in real life! But I like to laugh and definitely enjoyed a lot of laughter while reading her new book.

If you’d like to hear more of my thoughts, you can tune into my Book Chat with Julie podcast. Kaylee is also the featured guest at my Book Chat Book Club on June 16th. If you would like to join the Book Chat Book Club, you can click here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1055727957843897

Here is a little bit of our chat:

Julie: Logan is a vet for elephants. Did you have to do much research?

Kaylee: I did a lot of research on elephants and their veterinary care. I have a long-standing love of elephants (which has led to me being gifted elephant statues and paintings, and necessitated regular visits to our local zoo) so I was excited for the chance to deep-dive into my research. Elephants are so incredible, and I loved every minute of reading articles in animal medical journals, watching an abundance of YouTube videos on the care and handling of elephants, and reading scientific articles. Most of the anecdotes in A Summer MisMatch come from real-life experiences and observations from wildlife biologists and elephant keepers.

Julie: How much fun did you have writing the grandparents and their shenanigans?

Kaylee: Shenanigans may be the very best part of writing romantic comedy, and working with a team of seven grandparent characters who are extremely smart (and a little bored, going from successful careers to retirement) gave me so much material to work with. My own grandma had a penchant for matchmaking, and it was fun to think about her while I wrote. 

I will say that writing the grandparents’ text exchanges was the most fun of all.

Julie: Without spoilers, what was your favorite scene?

Kaylee: One of my favorite parts of writing romance is that emotional connection that two characters get to engage in–especially for the first time.

Julia is writing a children’s picture book about elephants and she asks Logan to meet her at an outdoor restaurant downtown to interview him. She brings her brother with her, who has Down Syndrome, and he wants to dance to the band that’s playing–even though no one else is dancing. And he wants Julia to dance too! She feels self-conscious about dancing in front of so many people, but her brother’s lack of inhibition and verve for life soon overcome her own shyness and she dances with him. She looks up at one point and realizes that Logan has arrived and is watching Julia and her brother with the kind of smile that makes her heart zing. He approaches and joins in their dance–and soon a crowd follows–and the entire downtown atmosphere becomes full of energy and silliness and takes on this almost-magical quality. 

They’ve both gone through some very hard things before the book begins, and I felt like I got to gift them with this pocket of joy. 

Julie: The characters in the book felt so real. Are any of them based on real people?

Kaylee: There’s a character named Cameron who has Down Syndrome, and he is based on my own teenage son with Down Syndrome. In A Summer Mismatch, Cameron is Julia’s younger brother, and he’s staying with her for the summer while their parents do a once-in-a-lifetime tour of Europe. I absolutely loved writing Cameron’s character. He is in parts sweet and happy, moody and unruly, loves all things water and elephants, is learning to communicate with the help of a speaking device, adores his sister and grandparents, is mischievous, and fits seamlessly into the lives of these people he loves and who love him back fiercely. 

Thank you so much for our book chat today. I hope you’re set to start the summer off with two fun books!   

A Summer (Mis) Match by Kaylee Baldwin published by Sweetly Us Press, 270 pages, available in softcover and ebook.

The Valet’s Secret by Josi Kilpack, published by Shadow Mountain, 261 pages, available in softcover, audio, and ebook.

After winning $10 in a second-grade writing contest, Julie Coulter Bellon knew she wanted to be a published author someday. That dream came true and she is now the author of thirty books. She is also a podcast host for Authors Off the Page and Book Chat with Julie.

In the Non-Fiction Corner with Lauren

I have never found a Jerry Borrowman book that I didn’t like, and “Why We Fought” was no exception. In fact, this might be my favorite one yet! 

Borrowman captures his audience’s attention with his unique writing style and vast knowledge of little-known stories that are bound to entertain and thrill anyone with an interest in World War II.  These compelling accounts of unknown heroes practically jump off the page with the right blend of their ordinary lives and extraordinary heroism and will stay with the reader long after they’ve turned the last page.

With double agents and fake armies, I loved this book and only wished that it was longer! I particularly enjoyed the story of one double agent named Juan Pujol who saved countless lives by fooling the Nazi’s into thinking D-Day was going to take place at a different beach. I loved that even though there are several characters and facets to each of the seven stories included in the book, the author makes it easy to understand with descriptive detail that doesn’t leave the reader lost or bored. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about WWII.

Lauren is from Utah and has been an avid reader her whole life. She graduated from BYU in History and currently teaches elementary school and works at a rare bookstore. She is also a docent at the Church History Museum. Her passions include traveling, spending time with family, learning about history, and of course, reading.