Swimming, Scones and (Reliably) Sweet Endings

During this turbulent year, I've been tempted to revive a reading habit I dropped long ago: flipping to the end of a book before I start it, to make sure everything will turn out all right. (My mother used to scold me about this practice, but I've caught her doing it, too.) Fortunately, some of my favorite feel-good authors provide stories where I know the characters will get their happy ending, without me having to sneak-read the last page.

switchBeth O'Leary's two novels, The Switch (Flatiron, $16.99) and The Flatshare (Flatiron, $26.99), center on young women who find themselves in a rough patch. In The Switch, Leena trades living situations with her grandmother Eileen, in the hopes that a change of scenery will pep them both up. The Flatshare finds Tiffy reeling from a breakup and agreeing to share a one-bedroom flat with Leon, whose work schedule is opposite hers, so they never have to meet. (Or do they?) O'Leary's narratives are filled with charming characters whose pluck and compassion sustain them through trying times.

Mornings with Rosemary (Simon & Schuster, $16.99), Libby Page's debut, follows a community in Brixton, South London, and its fight to save the local pool. The charge is led by Kate, an anxious young journalist, and Rosemary, age 86, who has been swimming at the pool all her life. Page's warm-hearted novel helped restore my faith in humanity during a bruising election season.

Finally, Jenny Colgan's amusing novels of life in Kirrinfief, Scotland--which began with The Bookshop on the Corner (Morrow, $14.99)--featuring a mobile bookshop and wryly humorous locals, make me want to bake a batch of scones immediately. Many of Colgan's characters end up in Kirrinfief nursing old wounds, but the fresh air and kindness bring healing, and the Scottish shortbread doesn't hurt.