March Mainstream Overview

In mainstream fiction this month, many of the stories focus on transition. Whether the characters were trying to deal with death in the family or becoming the person they always thought they could be, change is celebrated in all of its different forms across the genre. But when it comes to everyday changes, few are as daunting as making new friends out of strangers, the subject of Four of a Kind by Valerie Frankel, so we asked the author by to chat about the four heroines in her new release. We also round up a series trend and suggest an unusual new read and much more in this month's roundup!

Four of a Kind by Valerie Frankel 

The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley

Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by
Kristina McMorris

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March marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring, so it’s only fitting that several stories this month take on an important moment of transition: the loss of a loved one. In Rachel Hore’s A Place of Secrets, a widow tries to move on after her husband’s death and in the process stumbles onto a mystery of unexpected proportions at her job as an auction house appraiser. Meanwhile, Hilma Woltizer’s latest novel takes on the plight of a widower who is reluctant to start dating again, despite the fact that his friends and family all think he is An Available Man. And if you’re looking for a story that’s guaranteed to make you tear through a box of tissues, we suggest you try Lucinda Riley’s The Orchid House. The story follows heroine Julia Forrester who is struggling with the grief of losing both her husband and young son. Says RT’s Susan Mobley, “This is an intricate story of love, heartache and hope, as well as an intriguing mystery. Peopled with fascinating characters and giving a captivating and well-detailed look at the past, this is a story that once started, is hard to put down until it’s finished.” Hopefully, these three tales will leave you with new insight about a dark, difficult subject matter.


The mood in mainstream isn’t all gloomy. In fact, one vibrant bright spot in this month’s new releases is the a fun, fairytale-esque story from Rowan Coleman, Lessons in Laughing Out Loud. The heroine in this book is a thirty-six-year-old, size eighteen, divorcee named Williow Briar. Willow has spent most of her time growing her career as a talent agent, and when she's not at work she hangs out with her platonic best friend Daniel and her skinny twin sister. But everything changes when Willow acquires a pair of fantastic shoes from a local thrift store. Who knew new footware could inspire such a change? This tale of self-discovery is sure to have you pruning of your closet in advance of a springtime shopping spree. (And doesn't this adorable cover almost seems to shout, “Vive la Season!”?)


The newest novel from Valerie Frankel, the aptly titled Four of a Kind, features four Brooklyn mothers who come together to form the Diversity Committee for their children’s schools. They seem like polar oposites, so in an attempt to break the ice, they play a special game of poker — instead of trading chips they trade secrets. The story a beautiful ode to the power of friendship and is told through each woman’s point of view, truly illustrating the way that a few hours together can inspire big changes.

Before you make friends with the Four of a Kind quartet, we asked Frankel to introduce these four ladies, Bess, Alicia, Robin and Carla. The author also shares a secret that she knows about each of her characters which didn’t make it into the book …

“A 40-year-old beautiful blonde with four kids, a big gorgeous house and a rich, handsome husband, Bess represents the women others might look at jealously and assume she has a perfect life. But Bess has her fair share of troubles. Her teenage daughter Amy and second-wave feminist mother Simone have teamed up against Bess. Her daughter resents her Mom, and feels misunderstood. Simone is embarrassed by Bess's choice to become a housewife. Bess struggles with the choice herself. She compares herself to other women, too, and admires those with careers, or something else that is wholly theirs, and unconnected to family and home. The first secret she tells the other players at the poker game: That her mother, a famous author and inspiration speaker, considers her life of domesticity a waste. A secret Bess doesn't share with her friends: When she was in high school and college, she was a bit of a slut, seeking approval and attention from men she didn't get at home, with a deceased father and neglectful mother.

Petite, self-described as a "mousy brunette," 35-year-old Alicia has used humor to compensate for what she considers to be her shortcomings. She's not beautiful, or socially skilled, or all that successful as an advertising copywriter. But she has managed to support her family. Her husband, a recession victim, has been unemployed for two years, is now a house-husband and primary caregiver to her nine-year old son. Alicia is a coper. Despite her job and family duties, she managed to get her son into a pricey private school on a full scholarship. She feels inferior to the other mothers, though, especially beautiful Bess. As she and the poker players get to know each other better, she sees that, despite their resources, they're also struggling. The first secret Alicia tells the women at the game: That she and her husband haven't had sex in years. The secret she doesn't tell them: Her wild attraction to a younger co-worker has become an obsession.

Robin, 37, is a single mother, a flaming redhead and Zogby pollster. Both her parents died, leaving her a sizable inheritance. She spent some of that money on Bariatric surgery. She reduced by 150 pounds, and can now eat only a few bites at a time. She can, however, drink as much as she likes, and often does. Robin also is a closet smoker, which her daughter Stephanie suspects and disapproves of. Stephanie believes her father was a sperm donor, but she is actually the product of a one-night stand. Since the pregnancy, which began when Robin was at her weight high, Robin had dated men she met online, but felt nothing for any of them. She tried to connect with men, and women for friendship, but felt incapable of trusting them, and herself not to say or do something offensive. The first secret she divulges: That she'd had her stomach stapled to lose weight after her daughter was born. A secret she didn't tell anyone: A lingering affect of having been a fat teenager with a hypercritical mother, Robin believes no man will ever love her.

A type-A over achiever in her late 30s, African American Carla became a doctor despite having grown up poor and fatherless with a religious mother who valued God more than science. She married a man who would be everything her father wasn't, meaning reliable and dedicated to their children—two sons. Carla held the family together, but sagged under the responsibility. When her husband loses his job due to the recession, Carla is forced to cling to her job at a hospital pediatric clinic. She dreams of owning her own practice, but can't see how to make that happen under her family's financial pressure. She hopes to keep her sons at their expensive private school. But with her husband out of work, and Carla clinging to her job despite hospital budget cuts, she is force to choose between her family, and her dreams. The first secret she tells at the game: That she saved the life of a child at her job, but resented the girl's ungrateful parents. A secret she never tells her friends: That her sex life with her husband has taken on an angry undertone.”

- Valerie Frankel


And because change results in growth and the dawn of new things, we’re spotlighting a few new projects that we are very much looking forward to getting our hands on:

The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle tackles a subject that could be ripped from the headlines. The story follows a family that is shaken to the core when the parents find out that their teenage daughter had had an affair with her teacher — and then the girl supports him through the arrest and trial. Talk about an impossible situation.

A career-oriented single mother searches for clues that her daughter’s suicide was something more sinister in Kimberly McCreight's Reconstructing Amelia. Stock up on kleenex, guys, this novel will investigate first loves, mean girls and the digital remnants of the life this teenager left behind!

It looks like the focus will be on family struggles for at least two upcoming reads. Want to learn more about what you can expect in the genre? Make sure to join us every Monday on the RT Daily Blog for our column Forewords >>

For more genre coverage be sure to keep your eye on the RT Daily Blog and check out RT’s Everything Mainstream Page!