Review: The Secret of You and Me, by Melissa Lenhardt – with Giveaway

Secret of You and Me - BNR

About the book, The Secret of You and Me

  • Genre: Women’s Fiction / Romance
  • Publisher:  Graydon House (Harlequin)
  • Date of Publication: August 4, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 352
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

Secret of You and Me - CoverTrue love never fades—and old secrets never die . . . 

Nora hasn’t looked back. Not since she fled Texas to start a new life. Away from her father’s volatile temper and the ever-watchful gaze of her claustrophobically conservative small town, Nora has freed herself. She can live—and love—however she wants. The only problem is that she also left behind the one woman she can’t forget. Now tragedy calls her back home to confront her past—and reconcile her future.

Sophie seems to have everything—a wonderful daughter, a successful husband, and a rewarding career. Yet underneath that perfection lies an explosive secret. She still yearns for Nora—her best friend and first love—despite all the years between them. Keeping her true self hidden hasn’t been easy, but it’s been necessary. So when Sophie finds out that Nora has returned, she hopes Nora’s stay is short. The life she has built depends on it.

But they both find that first love doesn’t fade easily. Memories come to light, passion ignites, and old feelings resurface. As the forces of family and intolerance that once tore them apart begin to reemerge, they realize some things may never change—unless they demand it.

Praise for this book:

  • “A compelling story of second chances and being true to yourself.”
    Harper Bliss, bestselling author of Seasons of Love
  • “Lenhardt convinces in her portrayal of the conflict between desire and control.” —Publishers Weekly

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Interabang Books

(Personalized/signed copies available through Interabang)
Amazon | IndieBound | Bookshop | Goodreads

A portion of royalties from this book are going to the It Gets Better Project.

(Click for more details.)


About the author, Melissa Lenhardt

Melissa LenhardtMelissa Lenhardt is a women’s fiction, mystery, and historical fiction author. Her debut mystery, Stillwater, was a finalist for the 2014 Whidbey Writers’ MFA Alumni Emerging Writers Contest, and Sawbones, her historical-fiction debut, was hailed as a “thoroughly original, smart and satisfying hybrid, perhaps a new sub-genre: the feminist Western” by Lone Star Literary Life. The New York Times called her sixth novel, Heresy, “An all-out women-driven, queer, transgender, multiracial takeover of the Old West”. The Secret of You and Me, her seventh novel and her first contemporary women’s fiction novel, was published on August 4, 2020.

When Melissa isn’t writing, she’s thinking, “I really should be writing,” and eating Nutella or peanut butter straight out of the jar. A lifelong Texan, she lives in the Dallas area with her husband, two sons, and two Golden Retrievers.

Connect with Melissa:

Facebook | Instagram  | Website | Goodreads | Amazon  | BookBub | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATSet in the recent history of Texas, just a few years before gay marriage became a national right, Melissa Lenhardt’s novel  The Secret of You and Me is not so much a coming of age story, as the lead characters are adults, as a coming of identity story. It’s a wonderful novel, a candid lesbian romance, wrapped around a host of difficult subjects: death, loss, desire, (in)fidelity, parenthood, childhood, the lens of nostalgia, and coming out. More than that, though, it’s a compelling drama rooted in family, both chosen and blood, and how we define it and ourselves.

The structure of the novel is in (mostly) alternating chapters from Nora (the central character) and Sophie’s (Nora’s best friend/first love) points of view. Lenhardt’s choice to shift between these equally dimensional women gives us greater insight into both, as well as their perspectives on the various supporting characters, most importantly Nora’s aunt, Emmadean, and Sophie’s, husband, daughter, and AA sponsor Charlie, Logan, and Todd, respectively. By doing this we get to see each woman’s view of herself, as well as of the other, and I think the novel is richer for the split POV.

I also felt that Lenhardt has an excellent ear for dialogue and a flair for family dynamics. From the earliest chapter, where Nora, newly arrived “home” is eating enchilada casserole, to the last I felt like I was in that small town, hearing the gossip from the locals, and watching everything unfold. So cinematic is the author’s writing, that I told a friend, “I could easily see this novel as movie on Amazon Prime or a Hulu original.”

As the person many of my friends have chosen to come out to, to reveal that they were trans to, to share their marital issues with, this novel really resonated with me. While I do not support infidelity, even in fiction, I certainly understand it as a symptom – an expression – of deep unhappiness. Lenhardt handled all of these revelations with grace and poise, and at times I felt as though I were watching friends share their stories.

While some of the subjects within this novel are serious, the story itself is not uncomfortably heavy. It’s a romance, just not a conventional one, and definitely worth the read.

Goes well with enchilada casserole and cold Shiner Bock, right from the bottle.

(As noted above, a portion of royalties  from this book are going to the It Gets Better Project. Click for more details.)


Giveaway

TWO WINNERS each get a signed hardcover copy of the book and their choice of
either a FaceTime call or virtual book-club visit with the author.

 August 11-21, 2020

(U.S. Only)

Secret of You and Me - Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 


Visit the Other Blogs on This Tour

Click to visit the  LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE for direct links to each post on this tour, updated daily, or visit each blog directly.

8/11/20 Author Interview All the Ups and Downs
8/11/20 Review Tangled in Text
8/12/20 Review Momma on the Rocks
8/12/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
8/13/20 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
8/14/20 Top Six List Texas Book Lover
8/14/20 Review Bibliotica
8/15/20 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
8/16/20 Guest Post The Page Unbound
8/17/20 Review Missus Gonzo
8/17/20 Review Rainy Days with Amanda
8/18/20 Audio Spotlight Book Bustle
8/19/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
8/19/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
8/20/20 Review It’s Not All Gravy
8/20/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading

 

LoneStarLitLife

LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

 

 

Review: A Sunset in Sidney, by Sandy Barker

A Sunset In Sydney - Banner

About the book, A Sunset in Sydney

 

  • Publisher: One More Chapter (July 3, 2020)
  • Publication Date: July 3, 2020
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

A Sunset in Sydney CoverHow far would you go in the name of love?

Sarah Parsons has a choice ahead of her. After the trip of a lifetime she’s somehow returned home with TWO handsome men wanting to whisk her away into the sunset.

Pulled in two directions across the globe, it’s making life trickier than it sounds. Her gorgeous American, Josh, wants to meet Sarah in Hawaii for a holiday to remember. Meanwhile silver fox, James, plans to wine and dine her in London.

It’s a lot to handle for this Aussie girl, who had totally sworn off men!

Join Sarah after her adventure in One Summer in Santorini, for the heart-warming and uplifting third novel in The Holiday Romance series.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Google Play | Kobo | Waterstones | Goodreads


About the author, Sandy Barker

A Sunset in Sydney - Author Photo Sandy BarkerSandy Barker is an Australian writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list and a cheeky sense of humour. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob.
Many of Sandy’s travel adventures have found homes in her writing, including her debut novel, a contemporary romance set in Greece, which was inspired by her true-life love story.

Connect with Sidney:

Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATWhen the world around you is in turmoil, and all your travel plans have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, a light, happy romance is practically medicinal.

Sandy Barker’s third entry into her Holiday Romance series, A Sunset in Sydney, fills that prescription perfectly. It’s light but not too fluffy, keeps you entertained, and has really engaging characters, as well.

Sarah, our protagonist, opens the novel with a complaint many of us wish we’d had when we were young and single: two love interests. James a “silver fox” she meets while sightseeing, and Josh, whom she meets on the same vacation, on a ten-day sailing trip, and whom she immediately has what she calls a “Ross and Rachel, will they / won’t they” relationship.

Both men are engaging, witty, attractive. James is in London, where Sarah’s sister Cat also is, so she uses her time there to meet up with him, and Josh, the “cute American” has made plans to meet her in Hawaii four months after their initial sailing trip.

What follows is typical romance novel fare, made distinctly original by Barker’s handling of both comedy and flirtation. Instead of a cookie-cutter story, we are treated to a tale about people who are all searching for what they truly want out of love and life, with trial and error, doubts and insecurities, misfires and marvelous encounters, all wrapped up in a package of well-written dialogue, and characters you truly enjoy spending time with.

This was my first introduction to Barker’s work, but I’m hooked and can’t wait to read the other novels in this series, as well as her other writing.

Overall, this is the perfect light read, for summer, for quarantine, or just for a murky, damp weekend when you want to escape into someone else’s life for a while.

Goes well with grilled tequila lime shrimp and a margarita on the rocks.


A Sunset in Sydney Full Tour Banner

 

 

Review: Gates of Mars by Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays – with Giveaway

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About the Book, Gates of Mars

  • Series: The Halo Trilogy (Book1)
  • Genre: Science Fiction / Detective (hard-boiled)
  • Publisher:  Pumpjack Press on Facebook
  • Date of Publication: June 16, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 336
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Gates of Mars - CoverIN THE AGE OF SURVEILLANCE, HOW CAN A PERSON GO MISSING? 

The year is 2187. Crucial Larsen, a veteran of the brutal Consolidation Wars, is working as a labor cop on Earth. The planet is a toxic dump and billions of people are miserable, but so what? It’s none of his business. He’s finally living a good life, or good enough. But then Essential, his beloved kid sister, disappears on Mars. When Halo—the all-powerful artificial-intelligence overseeing Earth and Mars on behalf of the ruling Five Families—can’t (or won’t) locate his sister, Crucial races up-universe to find her.

In the Choke, the frigid, airless expanse outside the luxury domes, Crucial uncovers a deadly secret from Essential’s past that threatens to shatter his apathetic existence … and both planets. Blending science fiction with the classic, hard-boiled detective story, Gates of Mars is a page-turning, futuristic thrill-ride featuring a gritty, irreverent anti-hero, Crucial Larsen. The first book of the Halo Trilogy, Gates of Mars is the eighth novel by award-winning authors, Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall.

Praise for this book:

“An indelible introduction to an interplanetary saga and its sublime characters.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The authors’ imaginations again run wild, this time a science fiction/detective series looking at what our lives may hold in the not too distant future if everything that can go wrong does go wrong. And they’ve done it with their trademark undercurrent of humor that lifts an otherwise dreary future into something resembling—do I dare say?—hope. Their best work to date. And the giraffes? You’ll have to read Gates of Mars to find out. I’m already wishing they could write faster.” —Renee Struthers, East Oregonian newspaper

“With twists and turns true to some of the best noir detective pieces—but with an other-world setting and futuristic society—along with psychological insights and connections, Gates of Mars is a riveting, unexpected story, filled with intrigue and change. Sci-fi and detective story readers alike with find Gates of Mars one of a kind, worthy of avid pursuit.” —Midwest Book Review

Buy, read and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the Authors, Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays

Gates Of Mars - AuthorClark and Kathleen wrote their first book together in 1999 as a test for marriage. They passed.

Gates of Mars is their eighth co-authored book.

Connect with Clark and Kathleen:

Facebook ║ Instagram

Connect with Kathleen:

Goodreads ║ Amazon ║ Facebook ║ Twitter

Connect with Clark:

Goodreads ║ Amazon ║ Facebook ║ Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATI’ve been a science fiction fan for as long as I can remember, and I have a special fascination with Mars, so this novel, the first in a new trilogy, was a perfect fit for me.

In Gates of Mars authors Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays give us dystopian future for Earth, with the additional information that anyone who’s anyone has packed up and relocated to our reddish neighbor. This basic premise is the center of everything that happens, but it’s also the start of some serious world building, for the future which Crucial Larsen inhabits is both grim – a significant portion of the population is unemployed and lives in portable pods – and fascinating – you can buy immersive scenarios to sleep in, but they can be interrupted by work, or family, calling you.

Because this is the first book in a planned trilogy, it would have been easy to make the plot secondary, to let the world building dominate the story, but McFall and Hays didn’t do that. Rather, the intricacies and details of Crucial’s world came from the plot, so we, as readers, are never flooded with backstory or exposition, rather, we discover it as Crucial lives it.

But fantastic details (like cloned giraffes on Mars!) aside, this is also a detective story. War veteran-cum-labor cop Crucial must track down his missing sister, while staying off the grid as much as possible, because HALO is watching everything (think of HALO as a cross between Orwell’s Big Brother and Star Trek: Discovery‘s Control).

It takes a lot of talent to combine a detective plot with a sci-fi setting, and make us care about the characters even when their flaws are all too visible, but McFall and Hays have that talent. They also infuse their work with just enough wry humor to keep things from being overwhelming.

If you want a gritty space saga that’s also a compelling neo-noir mystery, look no further than Gates of Mars. You won’t be disappointed, but you will be left wondering: how long must we wait for book two?

Goes well with any food that doesn’t come in tube. (I recommend a BLT on multigrain bread and a tall glass of sweet tea.)


Giveaway

Gates of Mars - Giveaway

TWO WINNERS: One Winner: First edition copy of A Very Unusual Romance 

One Winner: All four books in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection 

June 29-July 8, 2020

(U.S. Only)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Click to Visit the LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE

Or, visit the blogs directly:

6/29/20 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
6/29/20 Review Forgotten Winds
6/29/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
6/30/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
6/30/20 Review Sybrina’s Book Blog
7/1/20 Author Interview StoreyBook Reviews
7/1/20 Review Book Bustle
7/2/20 Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
7/2/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
7/3/20 Review Books and Broomsticks
7/3/20 Review Bibliotica

 

LoneStarLitLife

LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

Sun, Sea and Sangria, by Victoria Cooke

Sun, Sea, and Sangria

About the book, Sun, Sea and Sangria

 

  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Publisher: HQ Digital (June 10, 2020)
  • Publication Date: June 10, 2020
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

Sun, Sea and SangriaKat swore off dating many years ago, after her marriage ended in a catastrophic mess. Having moved to the Canary Islands for a fresh start, she has never had much time for romance, channelling all her energy into managing all-male dance troupe – the Heavenly Hunks.

 

With golden beaches, sparkling blue water and relaxing after work with a glass of sangria – or three – for Kat, it’s summer all year round. But despite life being postcard perfect, Kat can’t help but wonder if she is missing out on the most important thing of all… love.

The dancers are all well-known for their flirtatious antics and aren’t looking for anything serious… except Jay. Sitting by the pool, watching the sun reflecting in the water, Kat feels like she can tell him anything.

Handsome, caring and a good listener, he ignites a fire in Kat’s heart that scares her witless. But her relationship with Jay should stay strictly professional… right? There is absolutely no way that she can be his boss and his date.

As the temperature rises, will Kat be able to take the plunge, let go of her past and find romance in paradise?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Get Book | Goodreads


About the author, Victoria Cooke

Suns Sea - Victoria Cooke New ImageVictoria Cooke grew up in the city of Manchester before crossing the Pennines in pursuit of a career in education. She now lives in Huddersfield with her husband and two young daughters and when she’s not at home writing by the fire with a cup of coffee in hand, she loves working out in the gym and travelling. Victoria was first published at the tender age of eight by her classroom teacher who saw potential in a six-page story about an invisible man. Since then she’s always had a passion for reading and writing, undertaking several writers’ courses before completing her first novel, ‘The Secret to Falling in Love,’ in 2016 which was selected for onscreen adaptation in April 2020.

Her third novel, Who Needs Men Anyway? became a digital bestseller in 2018.

Connect with Victoria:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATMy first introduction to Victoria Cooke’s writing was when I read and reviewed her lovely novel A Summer to Remember last year, so I was eager to jump into another of her books, especially since her stories are such a great escape from the every-day. In this summer of lockdown, a novel that takes place in Tenerife and features a cast of hunky male dancers was just what I needed.

But, Cooke’s books are never the fluff they might seem. In this novel, Sun, Sea and Sangria, we get a protagonist in Kat who isn’t some idealistic twenty-year-old. Rather, she’s eight years out of a bad marriage, and pointedly not-dating while managing the Heavenly Hunks. It’s a breathtaking relief to encounter a character who has experience in both love and life, and has learned from it, and I really appreciated Kat’s journey – she had healing to do that she’d been compartmentalizing for the better part of a decade, and when love walked  – danced – into her life again, she had to prepare herself. I loved that. I loved that even though she wasn’t a fresh-faced college kid, she was still unsure and cautious. I think most of us are, and it made her character seem that much more real.

The leading male, Jay, was, likewise, not as young as the rest of the dancers. He, too, brought experience into the story, even if his initial overtures to Kat were strictly professional.

Dating someone you work with is always a risky proposition, but Cooke makes that a plot point, and does so with the same deftness she does everything else. I had no trouble envisioning any of the characters or settings, though I think this book should be sold with a bottle of sangria on the side.

Overall, this is a lovely, flirty, flight of fancy with just enough realism to keep it from becoming saccharine. The perfect summer read. Even in quarantine.

Goes well with pulled pork sandwiches and drinks with umbrellas and rum. Lots of rum.


Sun Sea and Sangria Banner

Review: All Things Left Wild, by James Wade – with Giveaway

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About the book, All Things Left Wild

  • Genre: Adventure / Rural Fiction / Coming of Age
  • Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
  • Publication Date: June 16, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 304 pages
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

All Things Left Wild - coverAfter an attempted horse theft goes tragically wrong, sixteen-year-old Caleb Bentley is on the run with his mean-spirited older brother across the American Southwest at the turn of the twentieth century. Caleb’s moral compass and inner courage will be tested as they travel the harsh terrain and encounter those who have carved out a life there, for good or ill.

Wealthy and bookish Randall Dawson, out of place in this rugged and violent country, is begrudgingly chasing after the Bentley brothers. With little sense of how to survive, much less how to take his revenge, Randall meets Charlotte, a woman experienced in the deadly ways of life in the West. Together they navigate the murky values of vigilante justice.

Powerful and atmospheric, lyrical and fast-paced, All Things Left Wild is a coming-of-age for one man, a midlife odyssey for the other, and an illustration of the violence and corruption prevalent in our fast-expanding country. It artfully sketches the magnificence of the American West as mirrored in the human soul.

Praise for this book:

  • “A debut full of atmosphere and awe. Wade gives emotional depth to his dust-covered characters and creates an image of the American West that is harsh and unforgiving, but — like All Things Left Wild — not without hope.” — Texas Literary Hall of Fame member Sarah BirdDaughter of a Daughter of a Queen
  • “James Wade has delivered a McCarthy-esque odyssey with an Elmore Leonard ear for dialogue. All Things Left Wild moves like a coyote across this cracked-earth landscape—relentlessly paced and ambitiously hungry.” — Edgar Award finalist David Joy, When These Mountains Burn

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon ┃ BookPeople ┃ Bookshop.orgIndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, James Wade

All Things Left Wild - authorJames Wade lives and writes in Austin, Texas, with his wife and daughter. He has had twenty short stories published in various literary magazines and journals. He is the winner of the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest and a finalist of the Tethered by Letters Short Fiction Contest. All Things Left Wild is his debut novel

Connect with James:

Website | Facebook | Blog | InstagramYouTube | Goodreads


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATMy first reaction to James Wade’s novel All Things Left Wild was that the writing was both vivid and incredibly lyrical. I could have easily read three hundred pages of James Wade just describing the scenery and been completely satisfied. But this is not a nature guide, it’s a novel, and the story was as powerful as the opening scene-setting was beautiful.

What I liked was the way Wade depicted the pain that Caleb clearly felt. Whether riding a stolen horse through the dry Texas landscape or sharing his theory about why people really wear black at funerals, Caleb’s words express unwritten pain and unspoken longing, though it’s not always explicit what he’s longing for. Conversely, Shelby is much more what-you-see-is-what-you-get. Sure, he’s the older brother and guiding force, but he’s just as broken as his younger sibling, though he expresses it differently. Wade’s craft really shows in both the similarities and contrasts of the Bentley Brothers.

As to the villain of the story, Dawson could easily have been a cardboard figure, only existing to provide the boys with an impetus to run, but in Wade’s care he becomes equally vibrant and dimensional as the boys. His story, of course, is more mid-life crisis than coming-of-age, but it’s still a story of the way environment and experience change us, no matter how old we are, or what our lot in life might be.

Overall, this is a story that has several gritty elements but is elevated to literary fiction by the quality of the writing and the well-paced plot. Wade never lets us get bored, and while he may linger in a scene  from time to time, letting us watch a hawk take flight, or feel the hot and dusty wind, that propensity for description only makes the novel seem more real.

Goes well with: steak cooked over an open fire, and a shot of whiskey.


Giveaway

All Things Left Wild - giiveaway

 

TWO WINNERS: A signed copy of All Things Left Wild

JUNE 18-28, 2020

(US ONLY)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE 

Or see below for direct links to participating blogs:

or visit the blogs directly:

 

6/18/20 Author Video StoreyBook Reviews
6/18/20 Excerpt Missus Gonzo
6/19/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
6/19/20 Scrapbook Book Fidelity
6/20/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading
6/21/20 Author Interview Forgotten Winds
6/22/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
6/23/20 Review The Page Unbound
6/23/20 Guest Post KayBee’s Book Shelf
6/24/20 Top Ten The Clueless Gent
6/25/20 Review Book Bustle
6/25/20 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
6/26/20 Author Interview Texas Book Lover
6/27/20 Review Max Knight
6/27/20 Review Bibliotica

LoneStarLitLife

LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

Review: The English Wife, by Adrienne Chinn

About the Book, The English Wife

The English WifeTwo women, a world apart.

A secret waiting to be discovered…

VE Day 1945: As victory bells ring out across the country, war bride Ellie Burgess’ happiness is overshadowed by grief. Her charismatic Newfoundlander husband Thomas is still missing in action.

Until a letter arrives explaining Thomas is back at home on the other side of the Atlantic recovering from his injuries.

Travelling to a distant country to live with a man she barely knows is the bravest thing Ellie has ever had to do. But nothing can prepare her for the harsh realities of her new home…

September 11th 2001: Sophie Parry is on a plane to New York on the most tragic day in the city’s history. While the world watches the news in horror, Sophie’s flight is rerouted to a tiny town in Newfoundland and she is forced to seek refuge with her estranged aunt Ellie.

Determined to discover what it was that forced her family apart all those years ago, newfound secrets may change her life forever…

This is a timeless story of love, sacrifice and resilience perfect for fans of Lorna Cook and Gill Paul.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the Author, Adrienne Chinn

Adrienne ChinnAdrienne Chinn was born in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, grew up in Quebec, and eventually made her way to London, England after a career as a journalist. In England she worked as a TV and film researcher before embarking on a career as an interior designer, lecturer, and writer. When not up a ladder or at the computer, she can usually be found rummaging through flea markets or haggling in the Marrakech souk. Her second novel, The English Wife — a timeslip story set in World War II England and contemporary Newfoundland — is published in June 2020. Her debut novel, The Lost Letter from Morocco, was published by Avon Books UK in 2019. She is currently writing her third novel, The Photographer’s Daughters, the first of a 3-book series, to be published in 2021.

Connect with Adrienne:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATI’ve been obsessed with the musical Come From Away, which tells the story of how the people of Gander, Newfoundland welcomed the “plane people”  – the travelers of the thirty-seven international flights that were diverted away from U.S. airspace after the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001.

The English Wife is not connected to the musical, and yet, because I know the play, the contemporary parts of this wonderful novel felt very familiar to me, as they also take place in Gander, Newfoundland, beginning on September 11th, 2001, and continuing from there, as one of the many vibrant female characters in the story, Sophie, is one of the “plane people.”

But, not all of the novel takes place in Gander – half the story is set in England during World War II, where we meet Ellie and Dottie, sisters living with daily fear of bombings, as well as the thrill of being young women (well, Dottie is really just a girl when we first meet her) in the first blushes of young love.

The story is a sweeping family drama, with three strong women at the center – Ellie and Dottie in the distant past, and Sophie in the recent past – but there are also male characters who add to the tale, for they are the love interests, the people who gently push the women to greater achievements, and the quiet presences who balance their partners.

Thomas and George, in the WWII sections, and Sam in the more contemporary parts of the story are those central male figures, and they are each as interesting and dimensional as the women with whom they interact.

Rounding out the story is a host of supporting characters, most importantly Emmett (Emmy), Florie, and Becca (Sam’s daughter, who is deaf.)

Author Adrienne Chinn weaves the historical and contemporary parts of her tale together with great aplomb, and her craft is really highlighted by her use of the Newfoundland dialect and the way she describes people using sign language with Becca. (As an aside, I’m now curious as to whether Newfoundlanders use ASL or BSL or something specifically Canadian.) Her skill with dialogue does as much to tell us about her characters as their physical descriptions do.

Overall, this was a story rich in cultural and historical detail, family drama, and a plot that had the perfect pace for a novel  that blends history, romance, personal tragedy, and layered relationships into a satisfying and compelling whole.

Goes well with corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and a really good ale.

The English Wife Blog Tour

 

Review: The Outlaw’s Daughter, by Margaret Brownley – with Giveaway

The Outlaw's Daughter

About the book, The Outlaw’s Daughter

  • Western / Historical Fiction / Clean & Wholesome Romance
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
  • Date of Publication: May 26, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 384
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

The Outlaw's DaughterHe may be a Texas Ranger, but he only has eyes for the outlaw’s beautiful daughter . . . 

Texas Ranger Matt Taggert is on the trail of a wanted man. He has good reason to believe that Ellie-May’s late husband was involved in a stagecoach robbery, and he’s here to see justice done. But when he arrives in town, he discovers the thief has become a local hero . . . and his beautiful young widow isn’t too happy to see some lawman out to tarnish her family’s newly spotless reputation.

Ellie-May’s shaken by her encounter with the ranger. Having grown up an outlaw’s daughter, she’ll do anything to keep her children safe—and if that means hardening her heart against the handsome lawman’s smiles, then so be it. Because she knows Matt isn’t about to give up his search. He’s out to redeem himself and find proof that Ellie-May’s husband wasn’t the saint everyone claims . . . even if it means losing the love neither expected to discover along the way.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Margaret Brownley

Margaret BrownleyNew York Times bestselling author Margaret Brownley has penned more than forty-six novels and novellas.

A two-time Romance Writers of American RITA® finalist, Margaret has also written for a TV soap and is a recipient of the Romantic Times Pioneer Award. Not bad for someone who flunked eighth-grade English. Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence.

Connect with Margaret:

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My Thoughts

MissMelissHATI don’t read a ton of romances, but when I do I always enjoy the vicarious thrill of that first meeting between characters you know are destined for a fantastic journey together, and in Margaret Brownley’s third installment in her Haywire Brides series, The Outlaw’s Daughter, we get that, and more.

In Matt Taggert, we get the rugged hero every woman secretly dreams about – he’s handsome, he’s stable, and he’s got a strong moral code that sometimes brings him into conflict with his own family. That’s the kind of dilemma that really intrigues me because it’s typically internal – the character has to work it through on their own, or with the help of one close friend.

In Ellie-May, we are given a strong woman who is smart, compassionate, and kind, but also lives in the real world. She’s a fiercely protective mother, and also a good friend, as her relationship with Anvil demonstrates really well. Sure, he’s an employee, but she never treats him as a lesser being.

The plot was a carefully crafted balance of family drama (the truth about Ellie-May’s dead husband and later, the truth about Matt’s brother) romance (Ellie-May and Matt are a perfectly executed example of the classic will-they/won’t-they dance), leavened by moments of warm humor and cozy homespun scenes.

While this is an historical novel, author Brownley makes the language feel fresh and accessible, and makes her characters jump off the page. They are vivid and dimensional and you can almost smell the saddle oil and the heady aromas of home cooking.

While I haven’t read a lot of westerns, this spring I’ve made myself be more open to the genre, and one of the things I’m finding is that these “period” novels are full of strong women characters who are the kinds of people I’d love to have as friends. In The Outlaw’s Daughter, Margaret Brownley has given us not just a great story, but a heroine worthy of being a friend. Read this book.

Goes well with beef stew and homemade bread.


Giveaway

Giveaway Outlaw's Daughter SMALL

TWO WINNERS each receive signed copies of the first two books in the Haywire Brides series, Cowboy Charm School and The Cowboy Meets His Match

May 26-June 5, 2020 (US ONLY)

 

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The Outlaw’s Daughter Blog Tour

Click to visit the LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE  for direct links to each post on this tour, or use the links below to visit each blog directly:

5/26/20 Promo All the Ups and Downs
5/26/20 Review Missus Gonzo
5/27/20 Review StoreyBook Reviews
5/27/20 Review Book Bustle
5/28/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
5/28/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading
5/29/20 Review Books and Broomsticks
5/29/20 Review The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
5/30/20 Review Book Fidelity
5/31/20 Review Bibliotica
6/1/20 Review The Page Unbound
6/1/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
6/2/20 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
6/3/20 Review It’s Not All Gravy
6/4/20 Review Forgotten Winds
6/4/20 Review Momma on the Rocks

LoneStarLitLife

 

LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

Review: Resurrecting Rain, by Patricia Averbach

About the book, Resurrecting Rain

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Golden Antelope Press (February 3, 2020)

Resurrecting RainDeena’s house is being auctioned off at sheriff’s sale and her marriage is falling apart. As her carefully constructed life unravels, her thoughts return to the New Moon Commune outside Santa Fe where she was born, and to Rain, the lesbian mother she had abandoned at fourteen. No one, not even her husband and children, know about New Moon or that she sat Shiva for Rain in exchange for living in her Orthodox grandmother’s house in an upscale suburb of Cleveland.

Deena’s story unfolds with empathy and wit as a cascade of disasters leaves this middle aged librarian unmoored from her home and family, penniless and alone on the streets of Sarasota, Florida. The novel is populated with deftly drawn characters full of their own secrets and surprises–from Deena’s blue haired freegan daughter who refuses to tell her parents where she lives, to the octogenarian TV writer who believes that crows are the reincarnated souls of Jews lost in the Holocaust. Deena loses her house, but will she find a home? Maybe the crows know.

Resurrecting Rain explores the unanticipated consequences of the choices that we make, the bonds and boundaries of love and the cost of our infatuation with materialism. At its heart the novel is a tale of loss and redemption, a reevaluation of our material culture and an appreciation for the blessing of friends and family. It demonstrates that sometimes you have to lose everything before you find yourself.

Praise for Resurrecting Rain:

“Averbach unspools her story with dark humor and a mounting sense of calamity. Her prose is measured yet vigorous, capturing the chagrin Deena feels with each new humiliation…Averbach approaches Deena’s problems with restraint and seriousness and has things to say about materialism and self-exploration… an organic and quite captivating plot. A finely drawn story of a woman losing everything and finding herself.”
 -Kirkus Review

“A deftly crafted novel by an author with an engaging narrative storytelling style — extraordinary and unique-— highly recommended, especially for contemporary literary fiction collections. “Resurrecting Rain” is one of those novels that linger in the mind of the reader long after the book itself has been set back upon the shelf.”
-MidwestBook Review

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Patricia Averbach

Patricia AverbachPatricia Averbach, a Cleveland native, is the former director of the Chautauqua Writers’ Center in Chautauqua, New York.

Averbach’s second novel, Resurrecting Rain, the contemporary story of a woman who loses her house but finds her home, was released by Golden Antelope Press in 2020.

Her first novel, Painting Bridges, was described in a Cleveland Plain Dealer review as “introspective, intelligent and moving.” Her poetry chapbook, Missing Persons, received the London based Lumen/Camden award in 2013 and was selected by the Times of London Literary Supplement (Nov. 2014) as one of the best short collections of the year.

Previous work includes a memoir about her early career as Anzia Yezierska’s sixteen year old literary assistant and an article about the Jewish community in a virtual world called, Second Life. Her work has appeared in Lilith Magazine, Margie, The Muse, and The Blue Angel Review.

Connect with Patricia:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissAs much as I enjoy all fiction, I always find it really refreshing when the protagonist of a story is a mature adult. Not old, just not twenty. Patricia Averbach’s novel Resurrecting Rain is the perfect example of such a novel, because when we initially meet Deena she’s a librarian with a failing marriage, among other catastrophic life events.

What I loved about this story was the way Averbach wove together Deena’s past and present. The novel never felt like it was overwhelming you with exposition, but rather, the backstory was offered in context, so we got to see our main character fully formed, and in the process of forming.

I also appreciated the way Averbach wrote dialogue. From Deena’s grandmother to her mother to herself, each character had a distinct voice and tone, and yet, the sense that they were all connected by family ties was also evident in the characterization, the descriptions, and even some of the speech patterns. This attention to detail is what made Resurrecting Rain really sing for me.

Overall, this novel is proof that one can have a coming-of-age experience at any point in their life. Deena, when we meet her, is a character in flux, but as her story progresses she becomes more and more herself, owning her past and, building on it. This not only made for a satisfying read, but it also made her feel more real.

Averbach is definitely a writer whose work I’ll be reading more of, and Resurrecting Rain is a novel I’m recommending to every woman I know.

Goes well with: coffee and an onion bagel with cream cheese and lox. Capers and tomato optional.


Patricia Averbach’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

TLC BOOK TOURSWednesday, April 15th: Audio Killed the Bookmark

Wednesday, April 22nd: Really Into This – author guest post

Monday, April 27th: BookNAround

Monday, May 4th: Books, Cooks, Looks

Thursday, May 7th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Monday, May 11th: Pacific Northwest Bookworm – author guest post

Monday, May 11th: @pnwbookworm

Monday, May 18th: Eliot’s Eats

Wednesday, May 20th: Bibliotica

Thursday, May 21st: Kahakai Kitchen

TBD: Friday, April 17th: Blunt Scissors Book Reviews and @bluntscissorsbookreviews

TBD: Wednesday, April 29th: Openly Bookish

TBD: Thursday, May 7th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Review: Lost in Oaxaca, by Jessica Winters Mireles

About the book, Lost in Oaxaca

 

  • Print Length: 328 pages
  • Publisher: She Writes Press (April 21, 2020)
  • Publication Date: April 21, 2020

Lost in OaxacaOnce a promising young concert pianist, Camille Childs retreated to her mother’s Santa Barbara estate after an injury to her hand destroyed her hopes for a musical career. She now leads a solitary life teaching piano, and she has a star student: Graciela, the daughter of her mother’s Mexican housekeeper. Camille has been grooming the young Graciela for the career that she herself lost out on, and now Graciela, newly turned eighteen, has just won the grand prize in a piano competition, which means she gets to perform with the LA Philharmonic. Camille is ecstatic; if she can’t play herself, at least as Graciela’s teacher, she will finally get the recognition she deserves.

But there are only two weeks left before the concert, and Graciela has disappeared—gone back to her family’s village in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. Desperate to bring Graciela back in time for the concert, Camille goes after her, but on the way there, a bus accident leaves her without any of her possessions. Alone and unable to speak the language, Camille is befriended by Alejandro, a Zapotec man who lives in LA but is from the same village as Graciela. Despite a contentious first meeting, Alejandro helps Camille navigate the rugged terrain and unfamiliar culture of Oaxaca, allowing her the opportunity to view the world in a different light—and perhaps find love in the process.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Jessica Winters Mireles

Jessica Winters MirelesBorn and raised in Santa Barbara, California, Jessica Winters Mireles holds a degree in piano performance from USC. After graduating, she began her career as a piano teacher and performer. Four children and a studio of over forty piano students later, Jessica’s life changed drastically when her youngest daughter was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two; she soon decided that life was too short to give up on her dreams of becoming a writer, and after five years of carving out some time each day from her busy schedule, she finished Lost in Oaxaca. She also knows quite a bit about Oaxaca, as her husband is an indigenous Zapotec man from the highlands of Oaxaca and is a great source of inspiration. She lives with her husband and family in Santa Barbara, California.

Connect with Jessica

Website | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissIn Lost in Oaxaca, author Jessica Winters Mireles gives us a story that mixes romance, adventure, and an exploration of the human condition with just enough suspense to keep things interesting. More, she weaves these components into a seamless whole and a compelling story.

We initially meet our protagonist, Camille, on a bus in Mexico, but just after our initial meeting, we are treated to the first of many flashbacks exploring her earlier life. This method of telling a story from both ends and the same time is not new, but in Mireles’s hands it doesn’t feel anything but organic.

Mireles is particularly adept at both giving us the essence of a character with comparatively little backstory  – we get a sense of who Alejandro is from his very first appearance, for example – and writing truthful dialogue. While I’ve never been to Oaxaca, I’ve spent an extensive amount of time in  Baja Sur, on the Pacific side of Mexico, and I really appreciated the way Spanish words and phrases were used to lend authenticity to the characters, without ever seeming like the author was either pandering or creating stereotypes rather than real people.

Overall, Lost in Oaxaca is a gripping story with vivid, dimensional characters whom we care about from the first page.

Goes well with: chicken mole, blue corn tortillas and Bohemia beer.

 

Review – First Herd to Abilene, by Preston Lewis – with Giveaway

First Herd to Abilene

About the book, First Herd to Abilene

  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Western / Humor
  • Publisher: Wolfpack Publishing
  • Date of Publication: February 5, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 449
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

First Herd to AbileneAn H. H. Lomax Western, #5

HISTORICALLY SOUND AND HILARIOUSLY FUNNY! H.H. Lomax meets Wild Bill Hickok in Springfield, Missouri, and is responsible for Hickok’s legendary gunfight with Davis Tutt. Fearing Hickok will hold a grudge, Lomax escapes Springfield and agrees to promote Joseph G. McCoy’s dream of building Abilene, Kansas, into a cattle town, ultimately leading the first herd to Abilene from Texas.

Along the way, he encounters Indians, rabid skunks, flash floods, a stampede, and the animosities of some fellow cowboys trying to steal profits from the drive. Lomax is saved by the timely arrival of now U.S. Marshal Hickok, but Lomax uses counterfeit wanted posters to convince Hickok his assailants are wanted felons with rewards on their heads.

Lomax and Wild Bill go their separate ways until they run into each other a decade later in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, where Hickok vows to kill Lomax for getting him fired.

First Herd to Abilene is an entertaining mix of historical and hysterical fiction.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

AmazonBarnes and NobleBookshop.org | Goodreads


About the author, Preston Lewis

Preston LewisPreston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series, The Memoirs of H. H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.

Connect with Preston:

WEBSITE ║ FACEBOOK ║ GOODREADS AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE


My Thoughts

MissMelissOne of the first musicals I was ever in as a kid was Annie Get Your Gun, so when I read the description of this novel, and saw that Wild Bill Hickok was a character, I knew I had to read it, even though I had not read books 1-4 of this series. I’m not a frequent reader of true westernsi, but I’m really glad I took a chance on First Herd to Abilene, because reading it was a rich and rewarding experience.

First, this novel is written in first person, which proves that the author, Preston Lewis, is incredibly talented, because sustaining a first-person narrative is incredibly difficult to do well. And boy, howdy, does Lewis do it well. I felt like Lomax was telling me his story over a campfire, while we shared barbecued meat and cold beer. This novel is completely immersive, and thoroughly enjoyable.

What worked particularly well was the insertion of real, historical characters into the story. Lewis clearly knows his history well, and it shows, because never once are you pulled out of the story because a detail doesn’t ring true.

In addition to grand adventure and some very human moments, this novel has humor woven into it from the first line to the last. Some of the humor comes from situations, but some is also in the name – almost all of Lomax’s relatives are named after famous (or infamous) historical figures – George Washington Lomax, for instance.

If you want a book that blends craft, style, and story into a truly satisfying whole, read First Herd to Abilene. It’s a rollicking good adventure with attention paid to history.

Goes well with barbecued brisket sandwiches and cold beer.


Giveaway (ends May 8)

Giveaway

1ST PRIZE: 

Signed Copies of First Herd to Abilene and Bluster’s Last Stand

2ND PRIZE: 

Signed Copy of First Herd to Abilene

APRIL 28-MAY 8, 2020

(US ONLY)

 

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CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE

FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY

OR GO DIRECTLY TO THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

4/28/20 Excerpt The Page Unbound
4/28/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
4/29/20 Review Max Knight
4/30/20 Author Interview Forgotten Winds
5/1/20 Review The Clueless Gent
5/2/20 Scrapbook Page All the Ups and Downs
5/3/20 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
5/4/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
5/5/20 Author Interview Texas Book Lover
5/6/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
5/7/20 Review Books and Broomsticks
5/7/20 Series Spotlight #Bookish
5/8/20 BONUS Review Bibliotica

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