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Hayley and the Hot Flashes
Jayne Jaudon Ferrer
Poet Ferrer pivots to escapist fiction in an energetic story of reconnected female friendships, road tripping, and navigating the realities of aging without giving up on joie-de-vivre. Thirty-five years after Hayley Swift left her hometown of Skerry, South Carolina—and her four best friends and fellow bandmates—to pursue a solo country music career, she’s headed back home for a last-chance tour. But some bad luck puts her planned backup singers out of commission, and soon her old posse is reunited for a music making group adventure, including more than a little bit of drama—and romance with the men supporting the tour.

Ferrer builds this story as a true ensemble with a sitcom aesthetic, giving every character their own unique arc: Hayley’s opportunity to give her friends another chance sits alongside Meg’s romance with the pianist and reemergence as a writer, Amanda’s desperate to redefine herself as more than a mother, C.J.’s navigating a surprise pregnancy, and Sue’s struggling with emerging dementia. Ferrer successfully builds the bulk of the narrative with playful, high-energy banter that evokes a sense of camaraderie among the group, bolstered through plenty of lighthearted conflict, and the men in the story have a quirky sparkle that will resonate with readers.

Fans looking for the music-centered story the setup promises may be underwhelmed by performance scenes that lack the exhilaration of playing on stage, and Ferrer’s choice to cut the road trip short to focus on the characters’ reinspired perspectives, while poignant, leaves the rest of the story somewhat blunted—and contributes to the sense of disconnect that threatens the heavier moments in the backstory (like the death of Hayley’s parents). Still, Ferrer’s playful but spot-on treatment of menopause will be entertaining for readers who can relate, and the likable cast earns a mostly happy ending.

Takeaway: A small town story of female friendships with an entertaining mix of music and romance.

Comparable Titles: Kathleen Basi’s A Song for the Road, Nancy Thayer’s Hot Flash Club series.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: NA
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-