Contemporary Fiction, Review

The Gustafson Girls by Becky Doughty: series review

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Hi, reader friends! I had so much fun with our last series review, I thought we’d feature them more often!

Unlike our previous series features, today’s books were not part of a series-long binge read on my end (individually, yes! completely binge-worthy). I’ve read them as they were released over the last couple of years so I feel the need to apologize for not sharing them with y’all sooner! Better late than never, right?!

Meet the Gustafson Girls

When Paul and Simone Gustafson are killed by a drunk driver, the lives of their four daughters change irrevocably. Although raised by loving grandparents, it’s the G-FOURce—the Gustafson Four Sisters Club—that binds them together when their differences would tear them apart. All grown up now, Juliette has become the quintessential doormat, Renata, two years younger, the self-appointed matriarchal figure. Phoebe is borderline narcissistic, according to Renata at least, and Gia is on the verge of a major identity crisis.

But they’re still a force with which to be reckoned as they continue the time-honored tradition of meeting together to love and support one another, and if necessary, to intervene in each others lives.

What none of the sisters has been willing to address is the hovering presence of Angela Clinton, the senior class darling who drove her cherry black 1970 el Camino into the side of their parents’ car on the night of Juliette’s high school graduation. But Angela’s prison sentence is winding down; soon she’ll be eligible for parole, so face her, they must. Will the G-FOURce be strong enough to hold them together as they step into the eye of the storm that’s been brewing for the last fifteen years? Will they finally be able to let go of the past and embrace the future, no matter what it holds?

Juliette and the Monday ManDates

Juliette Gustafson is heart-broken after waiting nearly ten years for a proposal from her boyfriend that never came. Determining she isn’t “getting over Mike” quickly enough, her three younger sisters come up with The Monday ManDates; an intervention plan requiring Juliette to endure what turns out to be a series of remarkably disastrous blind dates.

Between TheraPaul, Frisky Frank, TAZ the rock star, and the stoic Tim Larsen, the Monday ManDates are doomed from the start. Then there’s Victor Jarrett, the police officer with an affinity for pulling Juliette over when she’s at her very worst. But no one is more surprised than Juliette when she meets the one man who can right the wrongs in her past and change her future, if she will only let herself fall in love with him.

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Renata and the Fall from Grace

Renata Gustafson Dixon’s life is going exactly the way she wants it. Almost. A wonderful husband, four boys who fill her life with mostly joy and sometimes a little heartache now and then. She and John are giving things one last shot for the icing on the cake; a little girl with copper curls like John’s and cupid bow lips like Renata’s.

Then Juliette, the oldest of the four Gustafson sisters, opens up a can of worms labeled ‘Angela Clinton’ at a G-FOURce meeting. Things are said and accusations made that can’t be taken back, sending Renata’s carefully-constructed world spinning out beyond her control. Renata must learn to set aside her own will and lean on the strength of those who love her before she loses all hope for the future.

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Phoebe and the Rock of Ages

Phoebe Gustafson has been running wild her whole life. A gifted artist, she portrays people and places the way she wishes they were, not the way she really sees them. Her jaded perspective is born out of disillusionment, betrayal, and loss, and of memories too painful to dwell on. Rather than face the past, Phoebe charges full throttle into the future, never investing in anything or anyone for longer than it takes to finish a job.

Trevor Zander, a gifted musician, is bone-weary of always being on the go. He dreams of putting down roots and staying in one place longer than the time it takes to plan the next tour. While on a much-needed break, he happens upon a damsel not in distress, but he can’t resist helping her anyway. He’s entranced by the view of the world through Phoebe Gustafson’s eyes, and commissions her to help him redefine his image and brand.

When a family emergency and the charming, unconventional Jesus-Freak, Trevor Zander, converge on her life at the same time, will Phoebe find the courage to remove her blinders and discolored filters so she can truly see life, and love—and herself—the way they really are?

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Gia and the Blast from the Past

Gia Gustafson is officially coming of age… but now what? She feels like she’s standing still, while everything – and everyone – around her is moving at lightning speed. Her best friend, Ricky Zander, is acting like a stranger, her grandparents have grown old almost overnight, and her sisters have all found their happily-ever-afters.

Once again, Gia is the odd Gustafson Girl out.

Then there’s Angela Clinton, the girl who plowed her el Camino into the side of Paul and Simone Gustafson’s car when Gia was only four. After spending most of her adult life in jail, Angela is finally coming home, and she wants to make amends with the four sisters she made orphans so many years ago.

As if life wasn’t confusing enough, the gorgeous new guy at work is doing his best to sweep Gia off her feet, and Ricky is having none of it.

So when a stranger she’d recognize anywhere shows up unannounced on her doorstep, Gia isn’t so sure she’s ready to grow up after all.

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My Thoughts

The authentic and completely endearing Gustafson sisters are dear friends of mine. Readers, prepare yourselves for the full spectrum of human emotion in this story (well, except terror… no nightmares!)

The relationships among the sisters are the foundation of their stories but there’s plenty of faith and romance to appeal to readers (like me) who might not gravitate towards women’s fiction. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even realize these were categorized as women’s fiction until halfway through the second book so don’t let the label scare you off (again, if you are like me)!

As many people with siblings can confirm, personalities tend to vary widely within a family and that is certainly true of the Gustafsons. What isn’t as widely recognized is the fact that even when two people live through the same event (or grow up in a family together), each person’s experience is unique. I was captivated by the way each sister was impacted by and processed the tragic deaths of their parents.

Since I LOVE romance, I want to take a moment to impress on y’all just how swoony the guys within this story are. In no particular order (spoiler-free, as always!), leading men include a patient and devoted friend (great foundation for a romantic relationship, right?!), a broody officer (tall, dark, and handsome in uniform, thank you!), a hard-working carpenter (strong, muscular man with power tools), a former military man (more muscles, don’t forget your fans, ladies!), and a pastor who rides a Harley and plays the guitar (yes, that’s all in one handsome package).

Faith elements of this story vary from concepts of forgiveness and grace to practical applications of prayer and grief. While the Gustafson grandparents play the important role of spiritual leadership, they are realistically flawed yet humble enough to ask for forgiveness. For a story full of LIFE that makes you laugh, cry, and quite possibly swoon, I highly recommend The Gustafson Sisters series! I am earnestly hoping for a spin-off series because I do NOT want their story to end!

I purchased the first three books and requested the opportunity to read the fourth book through the author.
The opinions expressed are my own.

 

About the Author

Becky Doughty is the author of the award-winning Elderberry Croft SeriesThe Fallout SeriesThe Gustafson Girls Series, Waters Fall, and more. She writes in the genres of Women’s Fiction, Christian Romance, and Coming of Age/Young Adult.

Becky is also the voice behind BraveHeart Audiobooksa rapidly growing library of (mostly) family-friendly audiobooks.

According to Becky, “Some of my fiction is written from a Christian worldview (and clearly labeled), and some of it is written for the General Market. All my stories, however, are light on language, violence, and sex, so if you’re looking for a book you don’t have to shove under the couch cushion when visitors stop by, you’ve come to the right place!” Her favorite people are edge-dwellers, those who live on that fine line where hope and despair meet, where love is the only answer and grace becomes truly amazing.

Becky is married to her champion of almost 30 years. They have three children, two of whom are grown and starting families of their own, and they all live within a few miles of each other in Southern California. They share their lives with too many animals, a large vegetable garden, and a strange underground concrete room they’re certain was built for dark and sinister purposes….

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The Gustafson Girls series


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Don’t y’all just love sister stories?! Do you have sisters, reader friends?

25 thoughts on “The Gustafson Girls by Becky Doughty: series review”

  1. This sounds like a fun series. Thanks for the review.

    I have lots of sisters–6 of them! My twin sisters both passed away about 7 years ago 3 months apart. I also have 2 brothers. We never lacked for playmates when I was growing up. If we got tired of each other, we just went to my aunt’s house which was a block away and played with some of our cousins. She had 8 kids. 😀

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  2. Beth Erin – My goodness, what a lovely bright spot in my week! Thank you for sharing about the Gustafson sisters, and I love that they have found a place in your heart. Look for an email from me, okay?

    Becky

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  3. I think the only thing I have read by Becky is the Pemberton Manor prequel novella. I really enjoyed it and your post reminded me to go back and see if any more in this serial novel have been released. I just downloaded Episode 01=)

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  4. You’ve just highlighted my all-time favorite series! There are certain lines, concepts, even a couple of prayers that have really moved me & impacted my life this year, especially in the two more intense books. I escape back into their world when I need a break from reality, because I really like these sisters & they’ve all touched my life in some way.

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  5. I love sister stories! I unfortunately don’t have a biological sister. I do, however, have a very dear friend that I say is my sister by choice. She is more than a fiend and everything I know a sister should be plus some. She proved that when we were full time caregivers for Mom during cancer and Alzheimer. While other “friends” went on with the lives and faded into never never land, Glenda stayed by my side be it long distance since we don’t even live in the same state. I felt like she was always with me and I knew she was only a phone call away. Even now a few years after Mom’s passing, she still makes a point to call me every Wednesday night to just chat. I can’t visualize being any closer if she was my blood sister.

    Thank you for the information about and review of this series. I know I would love to read about the Gustafson Girls!

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  6. Fun review! I knew a family whose name was Gustafson, and couldn’t help thinking of them while I read this. I have Juliette, and am now excited to read it soon so I can then read the next ones. Thank you for highlighting Becky & her books!

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  7. I’ve read the first two books in the series and Beth’s review nails it. One of my sisters loves this series even though she doesn’t usually read “romance.”

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  8. Great review! I love series that center on a family, allowing readers to meet each sibling and connect with them. I really like the synopsis of each Gustafson sister’s story, too. And I do like sister stories. I have a sister, so it’s great reading about that kind of relationship and identifying with it. I can’t wait to read these books.

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