Book Review and Author Interview: The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms

THE MATCHMAKERS OF MINNOW BAY: A Novel

By: Kelly Harms

Published: August 9, 2016

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Fiction/Contemporary Fiction

Kelly Harms’ sophomore novel focuses on Lily, an artist, who has lived her life relying on others to clean up her life-messes. Her best friend, Renee, doesn’t seem to have much time for her in her attorney/mom life. Her gallerist/boyfriend, Mitchell, is only concerned about the next piece she is creating and not the current mess Lily has found herself in. Lily is stuck and since she hasn’t turned out a painting lately, she is being evicted from her apartment after missing rent. While cleaning out her apartment, Lily finds an envelope that takes her back to a night in Vegas and a man she has totally forgotten about, Ben Hutchinson. Once the shock of the contents of the envelope has sunk in, she jumps in her hatchback loaded with everything she has ever owned and travels to Minnow Bay, Wisconsin, to find Ben and make things right.

Lily is a character you love, yet are annoyed with. Lily has lived in her artist bubble for ten years and her naivety has let the people in her life walk all over her. During Lily’s stay in Minnow Bay, some new characters emerge that have their own life issues and yet offer Lily kindness, generosity, and the reality check she needs. Minnow Bay is much like many other small towns in the Midwest where news travels faster that you can walk to the mailbox. It has all the quirky characters and small town struggles of staying afloat in the middle of the winter season. It also has people who genuinely care about each other and they are just the people that Lily needed to walk into her life.

Harms’ book is a light read and one that could easily be read in a weekend. The romance is light and without graphic detail. The friendships are heartfelt and humorous. The story is a bit silly and predictable. But, the whole package works. Harms has the skill to put the reader into the scene of the story, with the location, the temperature, the scenery, and the emotions. It’s all there and the reader can visualize the story playing out before them. It’s not a skill all authors have and she has it. Her writing reminds me of Beth Kendrick or Jane Green, both authors I have written about before. Her characters will stay with you and when the book ends you’ll be wanting to know more.

Favorite Quotes:
“I swear I hear the sound of my panties hitting the floor.” page 29
“As long as you take a few moments for stars now and then, your soul will stay alive.” page 40

Kelly Harms – submitted photo
Kelly Harms is the author of THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS OF SHIPWRECK LANE and THE MATCHMAKERS OF MINNOW BAY. She has also worked with New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors, Edgar, RITA, and Agatha award winners, and Indie Next List Picks in her time as an editor at a division of HarperCollins and later as an agent at the Jane Rotrosen Agency. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her son Griffin and puppy Scout.
My interview with author, Kelly Harms –
I caught Harms for a few minutes to chat while painters had just arrived at her home. Her 5-year-old son was at school and her precious golden doodle puppy was at her feet. Her personality flowed through the phone and I can see how she writes such fun novels. Her first book, THE GOODLUCK GIRLS OF SHIPWRECK LANE centers on the dream of finding a forever home.  It was special to her because she was also getting ready to relocate to Madison, leaving New York City, the place where she had spent her roaring 20’s. Her newest book, THE MATCHMAKERS OF MINNOW BAY, is inspired by the lake areas of Northern Wisconsin and has a bit of the same feel with the main character, Lily, needing to revisit where she is in her life. She is stuck in the past and determined not to move forward in her life. Harms states, “I was also tired of treading water and needed to move forward in my life. I needed to write from the perspective of someone who had much to offer and was at a crossroads in life. There is magic in who steps into your life in that moment to help you move forward.”

After working in publishing for almost a decade (which she says was the best job in the world), she was able to rub elbows with some of her writerly heroes like Susan Wiggs. Harms states, “It was a formative time for me. Every day was a master class where I could learn from the best writers in the business.” Her early years in the business allowed her to create life-long friendships with some fabulous authors…many of whom offered wide praise on her second book.

Kelly Harms’ novels are for readers looking for fun and pleasure. “The fact that I write love stories is no surprise because my parents had a beautiful love story that lasted 47 years,” says Harms proudly.  Harms didn’t always want to be a writer but instead had plans to be a doctor. Fortunately for us readers, organic chemistry was extremely difficult for her and after taking it two times, she decided to look at other options, taking an internship at a magazine with a book section. “I knew right away that I needed to be near where books were being made.”  Harms said she was always an avid reader and her mom would say she was great at making up stories. I’d say she is too.  Having the opportunity to learn from the best commercial fiction writers out there encouraged her to take a leap of faith and write her first book. Harms states, “It was a 10-year-long overnight success.”

Kelly Harms takes inspiration from authors like Marisa de los Santos, Fannie Flagg, Jane Green, Jo Jo Moyes, and Susan Wiggs who “write from a place of bold, fearless optimism. There are no perfect characters, no bad guys, just people muddling along in life.” Harms typically reads outside her genre while writing to not be influenced by what she is reading at the time. But, when I asked what book she is most excited about this fall, she stated, “the new Maria Semple book (TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT). I’ll be sitting by my mailbox waiting for it to arrive.”

Harms will read snippets from her novel, answer questions, but mostly talk off the cuff. “We are all there because we love books.” Fans will be thrilled to hear she is working on another Minnow Bay book focusing on the character, Colleen. “I’m also having an affair with a story of a woman who steps away from her busy life as a mom and wife and what happens when she does.” Kelly Harms definitely has the talent to write the stories readers want to read. 

To purchase a copy of THE MATCHMAKERS OF MINNOW BAY, click the photo below:

A post from today, 8 years ago – The Give Begins 
A post from today, 5 years ago – Scenes from Our Week – Week 1 
A post from today, 5 years ago – The 10-Day Give – Day 9

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com. 

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