Review: Remember My Beauties, by Lynne Hugo

About the book Remember My Beauties Remember My Beauties

Imagine a hawk’s view of the magnificent bluegrass pastures of Kentucky horse country. Circle around the remnants of a breeding farm, four beautiful horses grazing just beyond the paddock. Inside the ramshackle house, a family is falling apart.

Hack, the patriarch breeder and trainer, is aged and blind, and his wife, Louetta, is confined by rheumatoid arthritis. Their daughter, Jewel, struggles to care for them and the horses while dealing with her own home and job—not to mention her lackluster second husband, Eddie, and Carley, her drug-addicted daughter. Many days, Jewel is only sure she loves the horses. But she holds it all together. Until her brother, Cal, shows up again. Jewel already has reason to hate Cal, and when he meets up with Carley, he throws the family into crisis—and gives Jewel reason to pick up a gun.

Every family has heartbreaks, failures, a black sheep or two. And some families end in tatters. But some stumble on the secret of survival: if the leader breaks down, others step up and step in. In this lyrical novel, when the inept, the addict, and the ex-con join to weave the family story back together, either the barn will burn to the ground or something bigger than any of them will emerge, shining with hope. Remember My Beauties grows large and wide as it reveals what may save us.

For more information on this and other Switchgrass titles, be sure to visit their website HERE.

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About the author, Lynne Hugo Lynne Hugo

Lynne Hugo has published ten previous books, including poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Her memoir, Where the Trail Grows Faint, won the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize in 2004, and her sixth novel, A Matter of Mercy, was awarded an Independent Publisher silver medal for best regional fiction in 2014. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, she lives in Ohio with her husband and their yellow Labrador retriev

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My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I had a difficult time reading this book. The story is well-crafted. The characters are believable and dimensional. The horses (which are the ‘beauties’ in the title, but also characters in their own right) are powerful and lovely.

But I found myself getting sucked into the bitterness and anger that so many of the characters are feeling, and that made the read a difficult one for me.

One could argue that in provoking such a response, author Lynne Hugo has done her job, and done it exceedingly well. After all, literature is meant to inspire dreams and catalyze ideas. Literature, and all art, is sometimes a window, yes, but at other times it’s also a mirror.

I don’t have anywhere near the kind of anger and bitterness that Jewel, for example, feels towards her parents. I have an excellent relationship with my mother, and nearly three decades into their marriage, my stepfather and I have become really good friends. But there are old issues that resurface sometimes, and this book, Remember My Beauties brought a couple of them to the surface.

Art – literature – can be a mirror, but I’d prefer it if it wasn’t mine.

But aside for recognition of emotional tone (because the specific circumstances of the characters in this novel are completely foreign to me), I also felt annoyed at the characters. “You’re making poor choices,” I wanted to scream at them. “Just communicate!”

Ultimately, this book is not the story just of Jewel, caretaker for aging, sick parents, mother of a young woman who has dropped out of life, wife of an everyman (Eddie) who, while he may not have a heart of actual gold, has enough of a gold overlay to make his intentions shine. Sure, it seems like he’s muddling through his marriage at times, but doesn’t everyone muddle through in their own way?  It’s also not just the story of Carley (Jewel’s troubled daughter), or Hank and Louetta (Jewel’s parents) or even her brother Cal, back in their lives after a seven-year absence.

It’s the story of one family, and how their lives weave around each other, sometimes tacking out to the fringes for a breather, other times existing at dead center, and of how their horses keep them together, even when secrets and old hurts threaten to tear them apart.

It’s beautifully written, and while much of it is, as I said, tinged with bitterness and anger, there are reasons those two emotions are prominent, and at the end, while they are not completely gone, an air of Hope has pushed them mostly aside.

If you’re looking for an easy, breezy beach read, this is not your story.

If you want a story you can chew on, one that makes you examine your own life and choices, even as you’re reading about the lives and choices of Hugo’s fully-realized characters, read Remember My Beauties. You may find it a bit of a difficult read, but trust me, you’ll be glad you stuck with it, when you get to the end.

Goes well with scrambled eggs, home fries, and strong, black coffee.

Lynne Hugo’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, June 22nd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, June 22nd: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Monday, June 27th: BookNAround

Wednesday, June 29th: Travelling Birdy

Thursday, July 7th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Monday, July 11th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Wednesday, July 13th: Reading Cove Book Club

Monday, July 18th: Bibliophiliac

Wednesday, July 20th: Back Porchervations

Monday, July 25th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Monday, August 1st: Mama Vicky Says

Rises the Night

by Colleen Gleason

Rises the Night isn’t just the second installment of Colleen Gleason’s series about Victoria Gardella, slayer of vampires and wearer of lace and corsets, it’s also the second novel in this period that I’ve read and enjoyed, and it’s all because Gleason manages to make her characters ride the edge between being truly period and truly contemporary.

As with the original book in the series, a continuing theme is protagonist Victoria’s struggle between the demands of the society in which she lives, and the calling she has answered. While the first novel raised that issue, however, this one really explores it, as well as giving Victoria a bit of dark romance on the side.

I’m afraid to even mention character names because I don’t like to spoil things, and I’m terrible at not giving away plot points. Suffice to say that even though Victoria is wearing bodices and full skirts instead of sleek black port authority clothing, she is every bit as much an action hero as a certain blonde vampire slayer we all watched on television, and every bit as star-crossed when it comes to love.

Read this book!

The Rest Falls Away

by Colleen Gleason

I’m not a huge fan of the Regency period, and especially not a fan of Regency romances. All those demure teas and heaving bosoms tend to cause a lot of eye-rolling around here. When an author takes the time to visit my blog, however, and pitch her own work, without being at all arrogant, but just being another blogger, I take note. Colleen Gleason left a comment here a few weeks back, and even though the period her Gardella Vampire Hunter series is set in is not my favorite, I’m a sucker for bloodsuckers being offed by spunky heroines, so HAD to check out her work.

The Rest Falls Away introduces us to Victoria Gardella Grantworth, debutante (though a little older than the other young women coming out that year, due to family issues), and the latest to be called to the family tradition of vampire hunting. In this – being chosen rather than doing the choosing – she is not unlike the more modern Buffy, whom the author herself notes is an influence.

What follows, once Victoria takes up her stake and commits to her destiny, is not bodice ripping (a little slow unbuttoning, perhaps…) or bosom heaving, but a realistic presentation of what a female action hero would have had to deal with if living in such a time. Skirts not meant for running and fighting, pants not acceptable on the female form, sleeves meant to be frothy rather than fitted…fashion alone is a major issue, and not just in terms of where one can hide a stake.

There is, of course, requisite romance with Phillip, the Marquess of Rockley, and – as always happens when one of the characters is a hero – romance is not a reward as much as yet another thing to be balanced and protected, or pushed aside when a life must be saved.

Gleason’s characters all ring true, even those like Sebastian the owner of the vamp-friendly bar who are a bit over the top, and her plot moves at a comfortable pace. Maybe I was inspired in part by the season – I’m writing this review having just given the last of my candy to a stray trick-or-treater, after all – but not only could I not put this book down, I’m already a third of the way through the sequel.

You’ll note Ms. Gleason’s presence in my blogroll. You’d do well to include her works on your shelves.