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Sisters Series #2

What Happiness Looks Like

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Joely Shupe had a vision of what her thirties would look like: she’d be the mother of two, finger painting with her kids during the day and cooking dinner for her loving husband at night. Instead she’s a single mother struggling to provide for her only child.

To make matters worse, her ex-fiancé, Jake, shows up--unemployed and reeling from a personal tragedy. He claims he’s ready to parent the daughter he abandoned five years ago. Joely is more interested in Dalton, a devoted father to his own son, who offers to take care of her the way no man ever has. Should Joely risk her daughter bonding with someone new or with the man who broke her heart?

Meanwhile, Joely’s sister, Kate, has the husband and the home, but no baby. After several failed attempts at fertility treatments, Kate’s husband is ready to give up. Kate believes his solution to their problems will tear them apart.

For Joely and Kate, one thing is for sure: this is not the life they expected. Is it time to adjust their idea of what happiness looks like?

BONUS: Book club discussion questions are included at the end.

268 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 29, 2011

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About the author

Karen Lenfestey

15 books73 followers
Karen Lenfestey, a Midwest Writer’s Fellowship winner, writes “happy endings with a twist.”

Karen has a B.A. in Advertising from Purdue University and a M.S. in Counseling from Indiana University. She is active on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter and on her website, www.karensnovels.com.

To be the 1st notified of new releases and giveaways, sign up on www.karensnovels.com.

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5 stars
139 (37%)
4 stars
128 (34%)
3 stars
86 (23%)
2 stars
13 (3%)
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7 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 27 of 27 reviews
Profile Image for Candace.
108 reviews16 followers
June 22, 2012
What Happiness Looks Like, by Karen Lenfestey, is a moving story about two sisters and what their lives have become. Joely is a single mother raising her five year-old daughter, Anna. She is also dealing with the debilitating disease of Lupus, as well as her ex who has decided to make an appearance in her and Anna's lives after five years.

On the surface, Joely's older sister, Kate, seems to have it all. She has a great job, a lovely home, and a perfect husband. However, the one thing needed to complete the family her and Mitch desire is a baby, which doesn't seem to be in the cards for them. What Happiness Looks Like carries the reader through Joely's and Kate's struggles and triumphs as they each try to find their own version of true happiness.

Joely has a picture in her head of what happiness is. She dreams of a small, cozy house with a loving husband, who is a great father to Anna. She would also love to pursue her dreams of being an artist. Joely's reality is that she is an unemployed mother living with her sister, Kate. She hasn't picked up a paintbrush since Anna was born, and she long since gave up finding 'the one' due to her Lupus. Joely's one bright spot is Anna, who is a super bright and loving little girl that is full of life.

Kate's version of happiness is having her own baby with her husband. However, it's normally your best laid plans that fall apart. Kate and Mitch decided to wait until her career was established before trying for a child. Once she was ready for a baby it seemed her aging body had other plans. After miscarriages, IVF, and Artificial Insemination, Mitch and Kate have begun to drift apart. Mitch is ready to try using a surrogate, but Kate isn't prepared to let go of the dream of having her own biological child.

I really enjoyed Lenfestey's, What Happiness Looks Like. She wrote an honest portrayal of the struggles many women face today. I warmed instantly to the character of Joely. She was fun, witty, and a wonderfully, loving mother. I took me a little while to rally behind the character of Kate. I believe this is because at times I could see a little of myself in her. Kate was the older, responsible sister who worked as an adolescent counselor. She was super opinionated and wasn't afraid to share what she thought you were doing wrong. However, as What Happiness Looks Like unfolded, I truly began to like and feel for Kate. Beneath her cold exterior was a scared woman with insecurities just like everyone else. I quickly latched on to her story and wanted the best for her.

At the end of What Happiness Looks Like, Lenfestey wrote a passage that has stuck with me since finishing her book. Because it has resonated so deeply within me I felt I should share it with you in the hopes that it would do the same.

"All of this time she thought she knew what happiness looked like: building sandcastles on the beach, posing for the Christmas card family photo, hearing other moms say, "she looks just like you". Only now, seeing the dimple return to Mitch's smile, [...] now she knew the truth. She knew that happiness wasn't about any of those images. It was a feeling. And today everything felt right." (Lenfestey 261).

I am so glad I had the opportunity to read and review Karen Lenfestey's, What Happiness Looks Like. It is a great read that will pull at your heartstrings and leave you rooting for both Joely and Kate. It also has some nice romance throughout which is always a plus! If you order yourself a copy of What Happiness Looks Like, you won't be sorry!

Karen Lenfestey has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book, What Happiness Looks Like, for the purpose of review.
Profile Image for Holly Michael.
Author 2,056 books53 followers
February 29, 2012
Kate and Joely became my bffs when I read Karen Lenfestey’s, “A Sister’s Promise.” Karen more than delivers a great read with her second book, “What Happiness Looks Like,” (It’s a solid stand-alone book, if you haven’t read Karen’s first book.)

Picking up “What Happiness Looks Like” was like opening the door to a favorite girlfriend (two in this case). Kate and Joely are back and it’s time to grab a cup of coffee, sit with them, and find out what’s happening in their lives.

While reading “What Happiness Looks Like,” wet laundry doesn’t get put in the dryer and dirty dishes remain in the sink. Karen’s well-defined, very likable characters face real life issues that strike at the heart of every woman. Her well-crafted fast-paced novel urges you to see the sisters through it all to the end, cheering them through struggles and difficult choices.

What does happiness look like for Joely? The life she’s living isn’t what she planned for herself. She’s made mistakes, wrong choices, and struggles with Lupus, but that’s what makes her real. Who can’t relate? Her affair with Jake, her old fiancé (a married man) resulted in Joely conceiving Anna. Now, she’s a single mom, living with her sister. When Anna’s father comes back into their lives, Joely must protect her daughter’s heart in a way she’s not been able to protect her own. Can she trust Jake after he abandoned them and left them broke? Will her past determine her future? She likes another man, who better fits her definition of what happiness looks like.

What does happiness look like for Kate? She’s a career driven counselor, at age forty, battling infertility. Her firm stance on getting pregnant is driving a wedge between Kate and her husband, Mitch. She covets secrets and wonders if she should reveal them to her husband. Like Joely, Kate’s dreams of a happy life, aren’t coming together as she imagined, either.

As the sisters resolve to figure out the difference between fairy tales and what they really need in their lives in this heartwarming tale, you’ll keep filling your coffee cup and turning pages until the characters finally discover what their happiness really looks like. The ending does not disappoint.
Profile Image for Angieleigh.
686 reviews124 followers
June 10, 2012
I received a review copy of What Happiness Looks Like in exchange for my honest review.

I haven't read Ms. Lefenestey's first book, A Sister's Promise, so I went into this without knowing anything about the characters. I wasn't overly fond of any of the characters except for maybe the precocious Anna Jo. Joely irritated me a lot because she couldn't seem to make up her mind about anything!

Kate just really...made me wanna kick her in the butt. I know that what she was feeling was normal and that all of her reactions to things were normal, but I disliked how she seemed so abysmal most of the time. I'm so glad that a few of the paths I thought this book was taking turned out to be wrong, though.

I loved how realistic the ending was. Not too happily ever after, not depressing...just right. This is a book that you want to curl up with in a chair on a rainy day and just read until it's over. I know it seems crazy that I really liked this book - but dislike two of the main characters for a good portion of it - but it truly was enjoyable. And thankfully Joely and Kate redeem themselves well before the book is over.
Profile Image for Don Miller.
Author 46 books7 followers
December 7, 2011
"What Happiness Looks Like" is a good read. The story is multi-dimensional. The characters are well developed and have some intriguing quirks. The book kept me turning pages and I look forward to reading Lenfesty's next novel.
Profile Image for Kris Brooks.
7 reviews15 followers
September 6, 2012
Loved this book, following her other book "A Sister's Promise". Wonderful couple of books to keep in the car and read a few pages while waiting for a train, red light or whatever!
Profile Image for Norma B.
77 reviews
April 12, 2018
The 2nd series book from A Sister's Promise...it continues with the two sisters lives ,one battling her fertility issues and the other...well, it doesnt disappoint although it has to many issues for one sister. I felt like the other sister's main issue was sort of ignored in most of the book. But the author did give her support and I wasnt disappointed. I still reccomend this book.It continues with the 3rd series but I dont think I will continue anymore because I get attached to my characters and if they drift away in the next series, the series doesnt mean much to me then.
14 reviews1 follower
February 15, 2018
Good Read

Enjoyed the story. Well written, easy read. The characters were interesting with a good conclusion. I look forward to the next in the series.
20 reviews
February 21, 2018

No surprises here. The story line continues from book one and it's just basic novel writing 101. On to book 3.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
402 reviews2 followers
October 8, 2019
If the author was a teenager, I would be impressed. Sadly, she is not.
Profile Image for Nicole Green.
Author 22 books76 followers
May 28, 2012
I really liked Karen's first novel, but she has raised the bar with her sophomore effort. A second book is tough. Sometimes authors fall short with their second books due to expectations, not understanding themselves as writers well enough yet, or for other reasons. This is certainly not the case with What Happiness Looks like. This book is full of complex characters, is well-layered, and has a plot that will keep you turning pages. And the ending will grip you as it is a little heartbreaking yet completely satisfying. I am drawn to character-driven stories, but my favorite stories are both character-driven and well-plotted. And Happiness has both elements in abundance.

All of the characters are fully realized, including secondary characters. You want to root for them all, and you want them all to "win" even though you know that's impossible. For me, that's the best kind of story. There are also strong, emotion-filled relationships between these characters that keep the tension high--whether that's the bond (and stretching of the bond) between sisters, the relationship between estranged lovers who've had a child together, a husband and wife who are having trouble conceiving, and more.

I also like the way the book picks up where A Sister's Promise left off in dealing with complex questions of motherhood, who should be a mother, and who gets to decide the answer to that question. On an even larger scale, encompassing both genders, the central question of this book is, what does it take to be a good parent; how do you earn that right? And who gets to take that away from you if anyone does? And when do you cross the line from wanting to be a parent even if you're not the ideal choice to being selfish because there may be others who can do the job better than you can? These are big questions I often think about--especially as I used to see disadvantaged children go through the legal system in various ways--and so I was really drawn to seeing how those questions played out in this book. I'm especially grateful that the book didn't give concrete answers. There's no black and white moralizing and preaching in this book. It acknowledges that these questions are too big to have only one answer, but they are things we need to think and talk about. In my opinion, that's what the best books do.

At moments funny, at times sad, and always incredibly well-written, Happiness will have you turning pages and asking questions until the very end. You won't want to miss this book. I love Joely, Karen, and the rest of the crew. I hope to see at least some of them in Karen's future books.
Profile Image for Jo-Anne.
1,629 reviews9 followers
March 15, 2014
What Happiness Looks Like is about two sisters, Kate and Joely, and the problems each has in her life. Joely is a single mother who has lupus which can be debilitating so she has moved in with her sister, Kate, and Kate's husband, Mitch. Kate, has a wonderful husband, good job and a nice home so it looks like everything is great for her. Not so. Kate and Mitch desperately want a baby but have not been successful in getting pregnant.

Joely's ex shows up after no contact for five years and she doesn't want anything to do with him. But she does want Anna to know her father so lets him have supervised visits. Five year old Anna is so excited to finally meet her father and to spend some time with him.

Kate was almost obsessed with having her own baby with Mitch. They tried IVF and Artificial Insemination but nothing worked. Mitch wants to use a surrogate but Kate wants to have her own child so won't agree to Mitch's idea.

Since I haven't read the first book in this series, A Sister's Promise, I didn't know anything about the characters. Even so, I thought the character descriptions were well done. I didn't like or dislike Kate and Joely. They were good people but both tended to be controlling/opinionated with others. Anna Jo was a cutie and I liked the little girl a lot.

The author made these lady's lives seem quite real. I felt Kate's pain at not being able to have a child and Joely's mistrust of her ex when he shows up and wants back in her life as well as to be part of Anna's life. I thought the final 10% or so felt rushed like the author was hurrying to tie everything up. I would have preferred more details. Even with that, I did like the way the story ended and wasn't expecting that ending.

I received a review copy of What Happiness Looks Like in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Rebecca Elswick.
Author 4 books50 followers
May 11, 2012
What Happiness Looks Like is the first book I've read in a long time that had me reading when I should have been sleeping! The characters were vivid and the plot believable; especially the sister relationship which was at the heart of this story. I didn't know this book was a sequel until I finished it, but I'm glad to know there is more to Kate and Joley's story.

Joely Shupe and her gifted five-year-old daughter,Anna, are living with her sister Kate and her husband Mitch. This is not the life single-parent Joely imagined for herself. Her sister, Kate, who is approaching forty and is childless, is suffering her own disillusionment in her exhausting measures to get pregnant.

Joley's fierce love of and devotion to her daughter is realistic and touching. She must deal with Anna's first year of school and the sudden appearance of Anna's father who for the first time, wants to be a part of her life. It isn't long before Joley realizes he wants to be a part of her life, too. At the same time, Kate is dealing with her own life changes and the tolls her inability to carry a child is taking on her marriage.

Adding to the conflict is the disease Lupus, adoption, fertility questions, joblessness,and men who do not live up to the sisters' idea of commitment. Joley and Kate must take their individual paths to discover that true happiness isn't always what "your sister" wants for you, but is what happiness looks like for you.
Profile Image for Samantha March.
1,102 reviews285 followers
May 28, 2013
I received a copy of What Happiness Looks Like by Karen Lenfestey in exchange for an honest review.

I enjoyed about the first 3/4 of the book. The family dynamic between sisters Joely and Kate was interesting to read about, and I like books that have a very real feeling towards them. I like reading about women’s situations, and this story definitely fit that bill. I actually didn’t even realize this was the second book in a series until about halfway through, when Kate was talking about how her husband Mitch had left her previously. I thought something more should be said about that, then looked it up to realize it’s book two, and I’m sure that situation had been discussed in the first book. That being said, I really didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not having read A Sister’s Promise, so that’s good! Now, I said I enjoyed the first 3/4 book – the ending just fell flat to me. I got confused by the relationship Joely had with both Dalton and Jake, and Kate’s struggle with infertility had me scratching my head at points. I almost felt like maybe it was being rushed, because all of sudden everything is wrapped up and I was a bit lost. Overall a good read and I would like to check out the first book as well.
**3.5 stars**
Profile Image for Mayda.
2,968 reviews57 followers
February 24, 2013
People often envision what their lives will be like in years to come. Newly-married couples might think of the children they will have in five years. Career-minded individuals consider where they will be on the corporate ladder. Joely Shupe was no different, but while her dream of a perfect family complete with husband and two kids might have been the life she ordered, it was not the one she got. Author Karen Lenfestey gives us a charming tale of the somewhat rough road that romance sometimes takes on its way to happily-ever-after. This well-written tale with its twisting plot and likable characters is sure to entertain and intrigue you. This book will leave you wanting to read more about Joely and the love of her life, and as luck would have it, you can do just that in the sequel, “On the Verge.”
Profile Image for Esther Somorai.
166 reviews1 follower
June 22, 2013
***Paperback Edition ISBN 9781466415171***
I won this book in a second chance giveaway from the author. Thank you so very much.

I really like this well written, engaging story that keeps you reading to the very end. Good interaction between the sisters, other family members, etc. Life is throwing some curves that these characters have to deal with. Suffice it to say, there's a lot going on in this story. A very satisfying read.
Profile Image for Literary.
1,036 reviews149 followers
May 10, 2012
This story really drew me in. I found myself getting caught up into the story the further I read. The characters and their situations one can relate to. There is quite a bit of relationship dynamics between characters and some emotional moments that intensified the story. A great choice for mother's day!
Profile Image for Melodie.
589 reviews64 followers
March 14, 2012
This is the sequel to A Sister's Promise. It picks up on Joely and Kate Shupe's lives in their quest for happiness and fulfillment.
This is just like curling up with your girlfriends and catching up . I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
April 20, 2012
Joely Shupe is a young, single mother faced with some tough decisions concerning her future and that of her child after being diagnosed with lupus. Karen painted a picture of hope and the determination for Joely to get through each day no matter what lupus threw her way. Well done, Karen!
Profile Image for Maria.
Author 2 books24 followers
May 14, 2012
I really liked this book :). It was amazing and it taught us a lot of things, and it was really amazing.

I wish I could read more books of this author :b. It has a really cool writing and it's very creative. I loved the ending :b
Profile Image for Joyce Mosby.
50 reviews1 follower
April 17, 2013
Joely has Lupus. She also has a young daughter. She has moved into her sister's home to get help during her bad days. She finds love and a career again . It shows a realistic character. I have an autoimmune disease too and her character is believable. It was a fun, clean read. I recommend it.
June 17, 2016

Can't wait to read the final book in this three book series. Recently discovered this author and I am devouring every book she has written. Fast paced and excellent.

Great reading
Profile Image for Jeanie.
21 reviews10 followers
July 7, 2012
This is the follow up to A Sister's Promise. I enjoyed "getting to know" these sisters. :)
Profile Image for April Labonte.
2 reviews
May 11, 2016

Such a touching relatable story as I too find myself in so many of the same scenarios right now in my life!
Displaying 1 - 27 of 27 reviews

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