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Originally published May 12, 2013 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 12, 2013 at 10:55 PM

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On Mother’s Day, three new novels about motherhood

This Mother’s Day, readers can choose from three new novels by Seattle-area authors that explore motherhood: “Heart Like Mine” by Amy Hatvany, “Three Sisters” by Susan Mallery and “Starting Now” by Debbie Macomber.

Special to The Seattle Times

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It’s Mother’s Day, and here’s a trio of new novels by Seattle-area authors that will turn readers’ thoughts toward motherhood and its many ramifications. In these pages we encounter all kinds of mothers: troubled, hopeful, too-young and bereaved. The settings and plots are remarkably varied; the hopes and dreams are more similar.

“Heart Like Mine” by Amy Hatvany (Atria Books/Washington Square Press, 345 pp., $15). Readers of Amy Hatvany know that in her books, they will encounter stories that are a cut above most popular fiction from an author who is good at creating troubled, complex characters. This knack serves her well in the new “Heart Like Mine,” where the Seattle-based author puts a new twist on the usual dilemma of the new stepmom-to-be who must deal with difficult stepchildren.

Her protagonist, childless 36-year-old Grace, is so newly engaged to a divorced father of two, Victor, that they haven’t announced their new status yet. But the sudden death of Victor’s ex-wife, Kelli, throws a devastating punch into their plans. It’s one thing to be a noncustodial stepmother with occasional visits from the children, but quite another to be in loco parentis full-time to grieving, confused kids. The backstory of Kelli’s tormented past adds an extra dimension to this dilemma. There are no easy answers here, but the engaging characters find their own way forward.

“Three Sisters: A Blackberry Island Novel,” by Susan Mallery. (Harlequin Mira, 340 pp., $14.95) The title of this new novel by Seattle author Mallery refers not to siblings, but to houses: The “three sisters” are three historic Queen Anne-style houses, located side by side on the fictitious Blackberry Island in Puget Sound. Two of those houses are charmingly refurbished; the third, full of decay and dirt and nonfunctioning plumbing, is the new home of protagonist Dr. Andi Gordon. This attractive pediatrician has just been left at the altar and has fled to start a new life. (If this phenomenon occurred in real life as often as in popular fiction, a whole cottage industry of Wedding Unplanners would have sprung up by now.)

Andi sets about remodeling the derelict house as her future living/office space for her pediatric practice, with the help of hunky builder Wade King. Despite the attractive appearance of the other two houses, all is not well with the inhabitants. One neighbor, Deanna, is still suffering the consequences of an abusive childhood, and her five daughters are more regimented than an Army platoon. On the other side of the house, neighbor Boston and her husband (Wade’s brother) are still consumed with grief over the death of their infant son. Marital problems abound (with more interesting complexity than you often find in genre fiction), and so do the witty quips that make this one fun to read.

“Starting Now: A Blossom Street Novel” by Debbie Macomber (Ballantine Books, 338 pp., $26), The prolific Port Orchard author Debbie Macomber returns her readers to the cozy world of Blossom Street, the fictitious byway in Seattle that’s home to A Good Yarn Shop (knitting has been a running motif in Macomber’s fictional yarns). This is where the dedicated, driven lawyer Libby Morgan retreats when she is suddenly laid off by her law firm, whose managing partner’s patronizing farewell advice is to “enjoy life.”

Libby’s workaholic ways have already cost her a marriage; her husband took a hike when it became clear that she’d always be too busy to start a family. But now, volunteering at the yarn store to knit hats for premature babies at Seattle General Hospital, she meets Dr. Philip Stone (dubbed “Heart of Stone” by the nurses), a doctor who is even more driven than Libby, and the two draw closer. The yarn-store milieu also brings Libby together with sweet-natured but troubled Ava, who is 13 and pregnant — unbeknown to the harried grandmother with whom she lives.

Just as Libby is reinventing her life, her former law firm calls with the offer she had been hoping for when she was fired instead: a partnership. Macomber fans will have no difficulty predicting, and enjoying, Libby’s eventual decision.

Melinda Bargreen is the former classical music critic for The Seattle Times. She’s a freelance contributor to the Times and reviews concerts for 98.1 Classical KING FM (www.king.org).

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