revital_AMAZONI recently heard from an author friend with whom I’d lost contact over the past few years.  I was happy to receive her email asking me to help format her newest endeavor. I didn’t know much about the project, except it was nonfiction–self-help–unlike her two previous books, both novels, I had read and reviewed.

When she sent me the manuscript, I felt as if I’d entered into Gladys Knight’s world when I saw the title and began reading, Revital Shiri-Horowitz’s book, It’s Just Your Imagination – Growing Up With a Narcissistic Mother Revital was “Killing Me Softly” with her words.

Not literally, of course. But I was struck that despite our different backgrounds, cultures, and details of our lives, we both experienced the same emotional responses to being raised by women who were unable to love us unconditionally because of their own mental condition.

With precise dissection and brutal honesty, Revital paints the picture of her childhood where she was never good enough and could never please her mother. It’s a childhood where love could be withdrawn as easily as it was given. It left the young girl always feeling as if she didn’t deserve love. The girl turns into a woman feeling the same way and always questioning any expressions of love or affection. It’s difficult to trust anyone when the one person a child looks to for love that never wavers, wavers in that love.

It’s a tough road to travel, and only a person who has done it can really understand, and I understood every single word Revital wrote in this book.

But it’s more than just a recounting of a childhood fraught with drama and rejection and judgement. The book offers insight into how and why the grown woman struggles to toss out the dismissive words, “It’s just your imagination” carelessly stated by a mother who never owns up to her role in the child’s emotional well-being.

Revital also shares expert advice and offers steps to overcome the damage inflicted by a narcissistic mother. It’s a primer for me who lived a similar childhood, but it’s also a map for my loved ones who now live with the debris left over in my psyche. I plan on giving a copy of the book to my husband, my daughter and good friends who often don’t understand my feelings of failure, rejection, and invisibility when nothing in their reality of me supports those feelings.

I’m inspired by Revital’s honesty and bravery in coming out with her story and with her advice for healing.  It’s Just Your Imagination is a book of hope, and I thank her writing it.

Click here to purchase.

Revital Shiri-HorowitzAbout Revital Shiri-Horowitz:  (See Author Wednesday post) Revital Shiri-Horowitz is an experienced teacher and presenter to Jewish communities and audiences. Using her own life story and excerpts of her novels, Revital Shiri-Horowitz generates a warm and uplifting experience for the listener. Her overall mission is to connect her audiences to their roots so that they can be closer to themselves.

Revital Shiri-Horowitz was born and raised in Israel. As a kid, she wrote poetry and short stories. She’s been writing in her journal almost every day since she was nine years old, and up to the time she met her husband, but never imagined that one day she would become a published author in more than one language, and in so many countries, and even continents.

Revital went on to earn a BA in Hebrew Literature and Geography from Tel Aviv University, an MA in Geography from Haifa University, and an MA in Hebrew Literature from Tel Aviv University.

She was an assistant professor of Geography in Haifa and Tel Aviv Universities, and has been an editor for Hebrew-language books.

Other Books

Daughters of Iraq coverDaughters of Iraq (Amazon) – Read my Book Review

Hope to See You Soon (Amazon) – Read my Book ReviewHopeToSeeYouSoon

Book Review Friday – The Dolan Girls

DOLAN_GIRLS_largeOne of the first full-length books I ever read was a biography of Annie Oakley. I loved that sharpshooting sassy woman, and it started me on a lifelong love affair with reading. So it gave me pleasure to read S.R. Mallery’s latest work, The Dolan Girls and discover that my Annie Oakley played a role in this rollicking Wild West romance set in the years before, during, and after the Civil War.

I admire Ms. Mallery’s ability to delve into the past as she’s done in her short stories and her previous novel, Unexpected Gifts. But with the latest novel, she immerses the reader in the feel of what it must have been like during those days of high expectations for what the West held for those fleeing the East and the disappointments that lay waiting like a rattlesnake in the grass. It was called the “wild” west for a reason. It was a place where the law was written as needed, and often, the outlaws were writing those laws. From this world of lawlessness, came the inevitable services, such as houses where men could drink, relax, and enjoy the beauties of the night. Ms. Mallery sets her novel up in such a place, but Madam Ana’s is not a place of ill-repute as you might imagine. The Madam sets a tone of civility and gentility with all her girls and the patrons who frequent the place. She’s the Madam with a heart of gold, shown when she takes in two abandoned girls, Cora and Minnie, who eventually take over the running of the place.

There’s plenty of violence and heartbreak in this novel, but there’s also love between men and women and the love in families, such as the one that exists at Madam Ana’s. The Pinkerton detective who rides into town wearing a white hat disrupts the peace and fights to win the heart of Cora. Cora’s daughter Ellie, is caught up in a love affair with one of the horse trainers from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. It is this show that brings dear Annie to town. And when the entire household at Madam Ana’s is treated to front row seats to watch the shenanigans, Ms. Mallery shines in her descriptions, transporting the reader back to the late 1800s Nebraska.

Ms. Mallery uses her fine paint brush to bring us a portrait of a time often romanticized, but not often personalized with such exquisitely drawn characters. Annie Oakley was exactly as I imagined her. And Buffalo Bill is a hoot. So is the sister Minne and her romp with a famous photographer.

But there are serious moments as well as Cora deals with her past and her present. I’m thrilled knowing that we’re not done with The Dolan Girls. Word out on the street and in the wild west says Ms. Mallery is hard at work on a sequel.

Lasso that bull, S.R.!

Click here to read Author Wednesday on The Dolan Girls.

Purchase The Dolan Girls.

Read an excerpt of The Dolan Girls.

1861: Young Kisses

Cora Dolan refused to talk about what had happened six years earlier, ten miles above town. Sealed up as tight as a snail in the cold she was, even to her sister Minnie, who was there with her the whole time; even with Thomas, who held her heart.

Cora Dolan refused to talk about what had happened six years earlier, ten miles above town. Sealed up as tight as a snail in the cold she was, even to her sister Minnie, who was there with her the whole time; even with Thomas, who held her heart.

Yet one star-flushed night, as the wind’s edges were chilling and the shortening days were trumpeting the around-the-corner autumn, the two sweethearts pressed against a neighbor’s barn door, and Cora opened her mouth to share her past, then paused.

“What is it, Cora?” Thomas whispered, his steady arm around her sixteen-year-old waist, his mouth brushed against her ear. “Tell me what gets you sad sometimes. Let me help you.”

She forced a smile. “I’m all right, truly I am,” she said, placing her right hand gently over her heart for a couple of seconds. With her arms then draped over his broad shoulders, she uplifted her face for a kiss.

“Oh, Cora,” he said softly, his lips heading toward hers, “I love it when you put your hand over your heart. It’s so sweet. So trusting.”

Suddenly, a horse’s sudden clop-clop broke their embrace, sending them scurrying off to Cora’s residence. Several blocks away, still running, laughing, holding hands, they slowed their pace down to a stroll as they passed the livery stable, the local blacksmith, the church shut tight for the night, the brand new post office, and the local saloon with its strong bouquet of whiskey and beer wafting into the air. Finally, they stopped in front of the red-curtained Madam Ana’s, South Benton’s second watering hole, the place for pleasuring most any man.

And home to the Dolan girls.

“I guess it’s good-night, then,” her young suitor murmured, angling for another kiss.

A male snicker rang out. “Well, well, well. What do we have here?”

Out from behind the southeast porch post stepped a slightly older young man, his black hat cocked forty-five degrees, his leather jacket opened, his six-shooter holstered just below his waist. He moved in close.

“Cora, sweet thing, why in the world do you waste your time with such a greenhorn, huh?” he sneered. “Be like the gals you live with and try a real man for once!”

Thomas stepped in front of Cora. “Wes, that’s no way to treat a lady. Let her be!”

The stepbrothers faced each other. “Don’t you threaten me!” Wes spat back, splaying his tall, wiry legs and fingering his new grown mustache as if to further prove his manhood.

“That’s rich––me threatening you. Now, leave us alone!”

As Wes half walked, half hitched away, chortling, Cora clutched her protector. “He’s always so scary,” she whispered…

“… I think you’re beautiful, Cora. In fact, you’re perfect.”

Concentrating on his piercing blue eyes, she leaned in for a kiss. All of a sudden, they heard Madam Ana inside, laughing with one of her customers while an out-of-tune piano clunked loudly in the parlor. Although the kiss ended up much shorter than he would have liked, he said nothing when Cora turned and swung the front door open to head toward the back of the house where she shared a bedroom with her sister Minnie.

Just inside, Cora walked into the parlor, with its red velvet wallpaper and red carpeting, stretching out onto the large, winding staircase that led upstairs. She continued on, past the central eye-catchers of the room:  a large maroon settee, piled high with plump, satin pillows, and a glittering chandelier hovering overhead that word had it, cost a small fortune. Nothing was too good for the ambitious Madam Ana Prozinski from Russia, she was always being told.

“Cora!” called out Becky, a voluptuous blonde squeezed into a purple, gusset-enhanced corset, high-heeled boots, and her famous black velvet choker. “While we’ve been workin’ here a month of Sundays, you get to make a night of it! For two cents, I’d love to know what you’ve been doin’!”

“Yup, I reckon she just got a lick and a promise!” added a red-petticoated Julie to a chorus of shrieks and laughter.

Amy, in a rose-colored shimmy and fishnet stockings, chimed in. “Look at her red face! Did you ever see anything so perty? It’s just like…”

“She’s always pretty!” Julie interrupted. “Talks fine, too. Must be all those speakin’ lessons from Pete she’s always taking.”

“Yeah,” Becky said, chuckling. “She talks like one of them refined ladies, but she’s also so pretty she could be one of us. I’ll bet she could bring in those cowboys by the wagonloads! She’s…”

Madam Ana strode into the room “Girls, enough!” You know I take no stock in dis kinda talk. Leave Cora be. Now go back to verk!” She looked around at her employees and clapped twice. “Now!” she barked.



On-Lucky-Shores-Front-Only-Large (2)Kerry Donovan stopped by Author Wednesday this week to talk about his new thriller On Lucky Shores

I edited the novel, but my review has nothing to do with my professional work as a book editor. My review considers what makes a novel interesting and intriguing, and well, thrilling, if that’s the genre, which On Lucky Shores is. Kerry knows how to deliver on all levels. The book opens with the rugged and handsome drifter colliding into a mountain town and rolling into the lives of its inhabitants. But first there’s an accident, a secret, and an untimely death.

That’s just the first chapter. Chet Walker eventually makes it into the town of Lucky Shores intent on finding a place to play his music, delivering a message loaded with mystery from a dying man, and staying out of trouble. But trouble rides on the case of his guitar from the site of the accident he witnessed to the hospital where he fends quite nicely for himself against the local ruffians. But he has yet to encounter the sheriff, the doctor, the mayor, or the lovely woman running the local cafe.

It’s that woman at the cafe to whom he must deliver his message–a message that will spin the town all around, causing its residents to race up the mountains surrounding it. Josephine is adorable, and Chet finds himself drawn to her.

But for me, the best thing about the novel was my reactions and thoughts as I read it through the first time. I couldn’t figure out who done did it. I’d think I knew who the villain was, and then I didn’t. Not until the very end, near the climax, did I know for sure. And that’s the mark of a true author of a thrilling mystery. I’m not a fan of always knowing exactly who did what to whom. I like the tension created from not knowing, when every scene could be loaded with real clues or clues meant to confuse the reader who is suddenly headed down the wrong road out of town.

The book also contains a romantic thread in the growing attraction between Josephine and Chet. So even though there’s mystery, intrigue, and thrilling parts, I also enjoyed the the sweet and tender love that grows. Perhaps the genre is best described as romantic suspense.

Perfect combination. I recommend you give it a try yourself. You won’t be disappointed. And I must say for an English bloke living in France, Kerry Donovan did an excellent job of adapting to the Rocky Mountain setting and making it believable. [Go Broncos!]

Kerry_J_Donovan - Web pagesAbout Kerry: Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. He spent most of his life in the UK, and now lives in Brittany with his wife of thirty-eight years. He has three children and three/four grandchildren, all of whom live in England. Family apart, Kerry has three loves: making furniture, sport, and writing (but not necessarily in that order).


Purchase Links:

On Lucky Shores Amazon US

On Lucky Shores Amazon UK





During January, I read two novels by two authors whose work I admire. One is a bestselling traditionally published author, and the other is an Indie Author who I’ve followed since the publication of her first novel.

Both have written novels set in the west – one in San Francisco and one in an anonymous location either in western Canada or western United States. And both populated their new releases with characters overflowing in narcissism. Not only are the antagonists under the illusion that the world revolves around them, but the protagonists also suffer from this affliction. And most importantly, both novels are captivating reads filled with tension created by a certain depravity within the human condition.

ChinaDollsChina Dolls by Lisa See – I was first introduced to Lisa See in 2009 when my sister-in-law lent me a copy of Peony in LoveSince reading that haunting love story, I’ve been a fan and read most all of her books. Her latest release China Dolls is no less captivating, but not quite as poetic as some of her other books.

Set in San Francisco following the depression in the years leading up to World War II, this novel follows the lives of three very different young women as they follow their dreams and hearts. One of them, Ruby, is Japanese trying to pass as Chinese to avoid the bigotry and fear of her ancestral homeland. The other two, Grace and Helen, are Chinese but from very different circumstances and families. The three of them meet in 1938 and end up in a very fragile and volatile trio of “China Doll” performers.

All of the three protagonists think only of themselves when crises occur, and they hit with vicious frequency. It’s hard to imagine how they could be friends again after some of the things that happen. But they are sewn together with a thin thread that sometimes breaks, but is always mended by some invisible force sewing them together in a patchwork quilt of familiarity.

China Dolls is a compelling read, and even though I didn’t really like the three main characters, I couldn’t wait to find out how they might squirm out of their most recent predicaments.

The novel explores the internment policies of the United States during World War II, and the reader is taken into the camps where the Japanese were herded during those dark and scary days. Given what’s happening today with all Muslims marked by those claiming to follow Islam, the story is a haunting reminder of what we did previously, and why it didn’t work then and should never be considered now. It’s worthwhile to read for this part of the story alone.

I did find one aspect disturbing and thought the author had a chance to speak out against domestic violence in the life on one of the characters (trying not to give out a spoiler here!), but instead she chose to push it aside. Instead, the abuser is excused because of the hardships in his early life. In my mind, there is no excuse for abuse of anyone, particularly a young defenseless child.

Lisa See is a master storyteller, and she shines in this novel. How else to explain why I continued reading with anticipation a novel dotted with characters I didn’t admire or want to be? These three women are anti-heroes in some ways, yet their stories are compelling and presented in a fascinating package.

MaelstromMaelstrom by Francis Guenette – The title of this thriller is appropriate on several levels. The plot is a maelstrom of conflicts. The characters are embroiled in a maelstrom of emotions. The events could be described as nothing else besides a maelstrom.

Also, the creation of this work of fiction created a maelstrom of emotions in its producer and writer, who took the draft of a manuscript began by her mother, June Guenette, many years ago. After June’s death in 1997, the manuscript went to Francis’ son and was seemingly lost until a few years ago. Francis took the original seed of an idea and turned it into the page-turning, twisted story of a fictional town in the rugged western regions of the North American continent. But as she took typewritten white placemat pages and turned them into a manuscript, the author suggests she went through her own maelstrom to bring the novel to publication.

If you’ve read any of the books in the Crater Lake Series by Francis Guenette, be prepared to be as shocked as I was. There are very few likable characters, until perhaps the end. And any compassion felt for some of the younger ones is born of pity and not true empathy. Never will you meet such evil, narcissist folks as the ones who roam and rule the streets of Haddon. I don’t usually read books filled with such horribly violent scenes, such as populated the pages of this novel, but because the author created a compelling story, I found myself guiltily escaping back to my Kindle to find out if and when the worst of the worst would get their due.

Ms. Guenette once again proves her prowess as a gifted storyteller with her descriptive setting of the isolated town and its towering castle on the hill, Casa Destino. Long-held resentments and prejudices dominate the action of the novel. The two main antagonists, Sheriff Calder and Mayor Thatcher, dominate the scenes. The man set to inherit Casa Destino after the death of his adopted father, Myhetta, appears to be unfeeling and unemotional through much of the story. But eventually, some redeeming qualities do appear toward the end. But he has been so damaged, as has everyone around him, that it’s unclear what fate holds for him. Never have I read a novel filled with so much human depravity. I feel as if I need a very hot shower to wash it all away.

As with the previous review, this novel explores the dangers of bigotry and genetics. It’s a lesson in how not to live life. One relationship stands out as one with some virtue, and that’s the one between Myhetta and his best friend, Laird. Loyalty above all else withstands all the tests. And the love of a mother for her child shines through in both Myhetta’s mother, Ayha, and Laura Thatcher for the son she adopted when she married the mayor.

Myetta and Laura emerge as the main characters, eventually. They change the most during the course of the novel, and for once, it’s in positive ways.

Fast-paced and riveting, this novel requires a score card. The characters are many and their intertwined lives require the reader to always pay attention or be lost in the maelstrom.





I had the privilege to beta read this novella from the upcoming Christmas Pets and Kisses by Aubrey Wynne. Dante’s Gift is a lovely contemporary romance with bits of history and a trip to Italy in the mix. I loved all the characters, but really fell in love with the grandmother in this story. Sweet and romantic, Dante’s Gift crosses oceans and generations to melt even the hardest of hearts.
Dante’s Gift – Aubrey Wynne
Seventy years ago, a collie mix brought two hearts together in war torn Italy. Will their story help their grandson find his own Christmas love?


~ Anne Landers
Chapter One
The piles of discarded clothes resembled the glorious Chicago skyline at dusk. The deep sunset colors cluttered the floor and the bed as Katie James systematically emptied out the huge walk-in closet. She shook her head in frustration each time she gazed at the mirror in a new outfit.
This was the night. The night Dominic would pull a dazzling ring from his pocket and ask her to become his wife. He had been like a kid with a big secret for the past three weeks: distracted, smiling for no apparent reason, and cracking stale jokes. All sure signs that he plotted with the “happy gods.” Several times when she’d texted or called, he told her he was Christmas shopping. Ha! No man bought holiday gifts in October. He said to dress up because he had something special planned. There could be only one explanation—a proposal.
Looking out the window from her Lake Point Tower condo, she watched the sailboats bob in Lake Michigan and played out the evening in her mind. Dominic would be dressed in a tailored suit that hugged his wide shoulders. His long fingers would betray his nervousness as they combed through his thick, dark wavy hair. She would shiver delicately when those smoky eyes caressed her face. He would reach for her hand—
Good grief, get a hold of yourself. This is real life not some sappy chick flick.
A loud buzzing announced company had arrived. She waded through the sea of outfits and pushed the intercom.
“Jazzy? Is that you?”
“No, it’s Cinderella. Hurry up and let me in. The creepy doorman is staring again.”
Katie pushed the button with a laugh. Her best friend had a love-hate relationship with Thomas. He would smile at her, she would call him a lecherous old man, and he would respond with a wink. If he didn’t smile at her, Jasmine rushed to check her make-up. He must not have flashed a grin because she made it up to the forty-fourth floor in record time and pounded on the door.
“Come in, it’s open.” She watched the slim blonde rush to the hall mirror for a quick self-inspection. “You look fine. He does it on purpose, you know.”
“I don’t want to talk about it. He’s lucky he’s not bad-looking for an older guy or I’d have slapped him by now.” Jasmine plopped onto the couch. “What are you wearing tonight? I came to give my approval. I have a better sense of romance than you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Her friend snorted. “You’re a CPA. Accountants are efficient not romantic.”
“I’m a tax consultant but I could use another opinion. My room looks like a tornado hit it. I’ll pour you a glass of Merlot and put on a fashion show.”
An hour later, both women stood in front of the full-length mirror with huge grins. Katie turned from side to side, watching the vibrant jade dress sway under the black silk jacket. A hint of cleavage peeked out from the scooped neckline. “You are brilliant. I would have never put this together.”
“That’s why I design clothes and you add numbers. See how the darker colors showcase that deep auburn hair?” Jazzy said as she arranged the mass of waves into a loose chignon, leaving long curls to frame her oval face. “I wish you would show more leg, but this is subtly sexy. Now where are the green topaz earrings and pendant your parents bought you last Christmas? They’re the exact color of your eyes.”
An hour later, after a professional make-up session, she gave her friend a hug. “Good luck tonight. I hope it’s everything you have dreamed of since we were girls.”
Katie laughed. “No, you hope it’s everything you have dreamed of since we were young. ”
“Same thing. I admit I always thought I’d find my soul mate first, though.”
She rolled her eyes. “You know I don’t believe in that. Love, yes. True love, love at first sight, fate? No. Compatibility, similar backgrounds and interests, friendship—those are the things that determine lasting love.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. But you can’t tell me your stomach never flips when he looks at you a certain way, or your legs get wobbly during a particularly passionate kiss.” Jazzy waggled her finger and ignored the second roll of eyes. “Now remember to get at least a little teary-eyed when he pops the question. Pinch yourself if you have to but let him know how much this means to you. We both know you’re lousy at saying what you feel.”
“You make me sound like a cold fish,” she said with frown. “I don’t ooze emotion but I can show affection. Besides, I didn’t have much practice in my family.”
“When was the last time you gave me a hug?”
“Just now.” Katie bit her lip, knowing what was next.
“No, I hugged you. There’s a difference. I’ll get off my soapbox if you promise to try to make tonight as special for Dom as he is making it for you. Throw sensibility to the wind and kiss him in public.” She headed for door. “And for god’s sake, don’t forget to tell him you love him. He should not have to take it for granted when he puts a ring on your finger.”
“Time out! I promise to wear my heart on my sleeve and follow all the rules of Miss Jasmine’s School of Romance, if you promise to leave now,” she agreed and pushed her friend toward the door. “Go pretend you hate Thomas and leave me in peace. I’ll call you first thing in the morning.”
“Call me from the bathroom afterwards. I want to know all the details.”
Katie shut the door. From the other side came a muffled, “And text me a picture of the ring.”
She chuckled as she heard the ding of the elevator and pictured her friend adjusting her hair and taking a quick peek in the mirror before the door opened. The handsome doorman would give her a sly smile. Jazzy would glide past as if she hadn’t noticed, but Thomas would know better from the exaggerated sway of her hips.
Checking her makeup for the umpteenth time, she thought about what her friend had said. Overt affection had never been part of her upbringing. It’s not that they didn’t care for one another. Her parents just didn’t talk about it or physically show it. A nanny had raised her until she turned thirteen. Katie had thrown a tantrum at the mention of a boarding school. She finally won the public education battle and met her best friend the first day of math class.
It wasn’t until her teens that she began to build a genuine relationship with her mom. Her father often absent, she began to accompany her mother to some of the local charity events and volunteer activities. Her mother’s popularity surprised her. She watched Eleanor use her gracious manner and good looks to charm the most tightfisted businessmen to open their checkbooks. Her fund-raising abilities were legendary; she gathered the most prominent guests and always met or exceeded the goal.
Her parents exposed her to the arts and entertainment provided in Chicago, adding a sophistication beyond her years. She could spot a rare painting out of a collection of copies, identify any classical piece of music, and knew an excellent wine from a mediocre vintage by the time she turned twenty-one. She also knew right from wrong, grey from black and white, and that everyone must give back in some way. Her business education began on her sixteenth birthday with extensive travel that led to internships with foreign finance companies. She would soon be ready to take her place as CEO at James’ Financial Services.
But was she ready to share her heart and her bed with a man? Dominic Lawrence checked off all the must-haves on her list. He had a thriving organic food business that provided fresh produce to the best restaurants in the city and suburbs. Successful, check. Her family approved of his background; he had a similar upbringing and the same values. Shared ethics, check. They loved the cultural activities Chicago offered: plays, opera, museums, and festivals. Both physically active, they enjoyed biking and running along the lake, hiking and skiing in the winter. Compatibility, check.
His Italian descent gave him the tall, dark good looks she’d always preferred. Handsome, check. He was devoted to a grandmother in Italy and wanted children but did not insist on having them right away. Family man, check. There would be no issues with in-laws and holidays since his parents had died in a car crash ten years earlier, and he was an only child. Not that it was a plus, but she had heard horror stories from her friends about their monster-in-laws fighting over which side had more time with the grandchildren.
On the other hand, they were complete opposites in so many ways, which she considered a plus and minus. He appreciated comedy and musicals and tolerated her docudramas and incessant reading. Adds variety, check. She liked to have a plan for everything but enjoyed his spontaneity. Flexible, check. He believed in being frugal throughout the week but letting loose on vacation. She balanced a checkbook to the penny and weighed the importance of every expenditure. Minor flaw #1. She considered punctuality a virtue, while he considered time an approximation. Minor flaw #2.
In general, they complemented one another. He softened her black and white outlook; she gave some edge to his grey areas. Katie found herself enjoying his unexpected surprises. His love of people drew her into unexpected and delightful conversations with perfect strangers. Dominic ticked each box. He wasn’t perfect but his flaws defined him as much as his strengths.
No, she didn’t throw her arms around him in a passionate hug each time he walked through the door. No, she didn’t gush, “I love you” every time he made her heart skip a beat. But he did make her heart skip a beat, and her body responded each time he wrapped his arms around her in a passionate hug. His huge heart and Italian affection had been overwhelming at first but thought she had come a long way in the past year. Dominic called her “a work in progress.”
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons played on her cell phone. “Dom” appeared in bright letters and she quickly swiped the screen. “Hey there. Not cancelling on me, are you?”
“Not a chance. Finished up the week’s orders and cleared some days on next month’s calendar.” He paused then continued in a low, caressing tone, “I miss you, Kathleen James. It’s been a week since I’ve held you in my arms. No more extended business trips if you want me to remain a gentleman.”
Her pulse raced as his deep voice flowed through her like a rich cup of coffee. “Don’t threaten me, Mr. Lawrence. You’re the one working twelve-hour days. Besides,” she added, getting into the spirit of the game, “maybe I like an old-fashioned rogue once a in awhile.”
The moan on the other end made her chuckle. “Are you still picking me up at seven?”
“What time is it now?”
“Grrr. It’s six-fifty.” She tapped her foot on the hard wood floor. “You’re late again, aren’t you?”
“Is that your toe making a staccato beat? I-am-ir-ri-ta-ted. Why-can’t-he-be-on-time.” She could hear the grin in his tone. Sense of humor, check.
“You took the words right out of my—” A knock at the door. “Hang on a minute, okay?”
Not expecting anyone, she looked through the peephole. A charcoal-grey eye stared back at her. She quickly opened the door.
“Boo!” He held out a bouquet of white and pink flowers.
The aroma of white roses and star lily gazers filled the room. Thoughtful, check. Then he pulled her close, nibbling at her lips as her arms went around his neck. When the kiss deepened, the flowers fell to the floor. Katie leaned into him, allowing his strong hands to hold her up.
Strong and sexy. Check.

About the Author

Award-winning author Aubrey Wynne resides in the Midwest with her husband, dogs, horses, mule and barn cats. She is an elementary teacher by trade, champion of children and animals by conscience, and author by night. Obsessions include history, travel, trail riding and all things Christmas. Her debut story, Merry Christmas, Henry, received Best Short Romance in the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Choice of 2013 and her humorous shorts include Pete’s Mighty Purty Privies, also Best Short in P &E 2014 and Top 100 Laugh Out Loud List on Goodreads. Aubrey’s first love is historical romance and the medieval fantasy Rolf’s Quest, will be released in 2016.
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I wrote about my experience with reading The Truest Pleasure by Robert Morgan on the blog Silver Threading in July. Click here to read my post for Mindful Monday and the personal impact the novel had on my life.

From my professional view as a reader and an author, the book and its creator also impressed me. I met Robert Morgan at a writer’s conference years ago. His novel Gap Creek had recently been released and selected by Oprah for her book club. I remember two things vividly about his presentation, which occurred in 2000 or 2001. First, he hung up on Oprah. He thought a friend had set him up for a prank. Then Oprah, ever persistent called back, and finally convinced him the call was real. That made me laugh and share in his humbleness at being selected for what would turn him into one of the South’s most popular authors.

Second, he spoke about the use of dialect in his novels. His books are mostly set in the mountains of North Carolina nearly one hundred years ago. He cautioned against using dialect — dropping letters, losing whole syllables, and phonetically attempting to capture the twang of a region. He maintained that only confuses the reader and takes away from the story. He said instead he used the words and sentence patterns of the setting and era. Instead of using “got,” he would use the vernacular “fetch.” I wholeheartedly agreed with him and so does the style manual for writers Strunk and White Elements of Style. Dialect should only be used when a writer is very, very good at it. Very few are. I’ve carried that bit of advice with me ever since and I preach it whenever I can — even now!

I bought The Truest Pleasure at that conference and never opened it to read until this past month when I moved to Smokies1North Carolina, near the setting of this story. His writing once again captivated and transported me to another time. Because I sat on my front porch with the Smoky Mountains within view, I could imagine the harshness of the life in those hills without the luxuries of today. However, because of Morgan’s crisp descriptions of the setting, the life of those hardy souls sang of beauty and peace. From the main character, Ginny, the reader’s senses come alive:

The day I fell in love with the shoals I was standing with my feet in water, below a big rock. It was like the water was talking, quoting scripture or muttering a poem. The river pulled at my feet heavy and powerful. The surface appeared to sort and resort a puzzle, scattering pieces and gathering them again.

But I was looking at the tall hemlocks pointing straight up the side of the mountain. I looked through the tops of the lower trees toward the pines further up, right to those on top of the ridge. And then I saw a cloud moving. It was like I was standing and looking right up the ladder of trees into heaven.

This excerpt shows not only Morgan’s descriptive ability, but the technique he uses to express Ginny’s regional dialect without confusing the reader. I read passages such as this one, and it forced me to stop and look around at my surroundings to see the trees and hear the water gushing below the porch. I breathed deeply and silently thanked this author for giving me this moment of communion with nature.

The story of the marriage between Ginny and Tom expresses the brutality of a relationship when both partners refuse to budge. The concept of religion and how it’s practiced come into focus as Ginny continues her spiritual quest at tent revivials where she’s drawn to testify and speak in tongues. This behavior frightens Tom who keeps his emotions to himself and does not approve of Ginny’s extravagant behavior. They are unable to discuss their differences although they love one another deeply and at moments during the marriage fulfill the passion burning within both of them. It’s only toward the end that Ginny’s revelation of life’s truest pleasures allows her to look at her husband in a different light — one filled with love.

Family jealousies and struggles plague Ginny, but also bring her great joy. It’s a saga worth reading. And I also plan on reading Robert Morgan’s other novels as I sit on my porch in the mountains contemplating a life filled with the truest pleasures.

Click here to purchase The Truest Pleasure on Amazon.


The much anticipated novel arrived in the mail only days after its release. I eagerly began reading the continuation of Scout’s journey in Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.

I’ve stayed away from reading other reviews before I wrote this one. I’ve heard the rumors about the betrayal some feel in the portrayal of one of the twentieth century’s most beloved heroes and father. Heroes fall a long distance off those pedestals created by an adoring public. And so Atticus Finch has taken one of the biggest falls into the abyss of humanness.

Even though I haven’t read the other reviews yet, I did check on Amazon to see how the book is doing. It beat records for pre-orders and is still No. 1 in some categories. It has received 1,641 reviews with an average 3.8 ranking (out of five).

I believe book reviews should be about the quality of the writing and story telling ability. If I disagree with a character’s viewpoint, then the author has done the job of making at least one reader feel something about the writing. Go Set a Watchman certainly achieves all those things. It’s a compelling story, filled with the quality writing expected from Harper Lee based on the literary genius of To Kill a Mockingbird. I found it fascinating to learn that Ms. Lee wrote this book first in the mid-fifties. Publishers rejected it, and one asked for her to change the character of Jean Louise “Scout” Finch to a child rather than the grown woman who comes home to Maycomb, Alabama, after the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown versus the Board of Education in 1954.

Once I started reading, I couldn’t put the book down. That doesn’t happen to me very often these days. I couldn’t wait to meet the grown up Scout to learn how she grew out of her tomboy phase. Her adult character rang true to the beloved Scout of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a marvel how Ms. Lee took what she originally created in the adult Scout and transformed her into the child. She’s adept at characterization. I loved Alexandra “Aunty” and Uncle John. Both characters provided foils and moral low and high points in the story. Atticus is mostly absent from the main part of the novel, and that added to the tension as some shocking details come to light and nearly send Scout back to New York City forever. I read as fast as I could so I could get to the part where Atticus declares true or false the accusations building in Scout’s mind against him.

Jean Louise is caught in the shades of gray areas of adulthood, with one foot back in the world of Scout and her brother Jem, and the other area where she faces the harsh realities of a culture not ready for change. She’s polarized, and most of the time, she feels as if she belongs no where, or even worse, that she doesn’t even exist at all. Her Uncle John plays the role of mediator between those worlds in this novel. He tells her at a crucial moment in her awakening, “You’ve walked into the middle of a revolution.”

There are some uneven points in the novel, but it could be a literary technique Ms. Lee chose. Two or three times there’s a subtle shift in point of view, but for the most part, the reader knows the story only from Scout’s point of view.

Atticus may have fallen off his white horse, but he gives his reasons, which are both shocking and parental. His views on race relations, and the whole African American race as a whole, jar with his other persona from years earlier. However, he wisely knows that for Scout to shift into full maturity, she must not view him as infallible.

Harper Lee has written a book of a time and era that existed in this country. Attitudes such as the ones portrayed in the novel still exist in pockets or have shifted to other groups. Arguments about states’ rights versus the federal government give this novel an eerily relevant and insightful view of the lengths folks might go to to protect the status quo. You could insert “gay” or “illegal immigrant” instead of the “Negro” of this novel to understand how timely her novel really is. She hasn’t written a racist book as some suggest, but she’s written a book about the history of an era in which some of the characters are racist. It’s who she’s portrayed as the racist that has upset folks.

She knocked down an icon in Atticus Finch, but perhaps it was time. An icon in the most original sense of the word means something that is idealized and then is destroyed before it is worshiped to the exclusion of all else. The icons of the past were literally smashed on the steps of cathedrals and annihilated so as not to become too powerful.

He was letting you break your icons one by one. He was letting you reduce him to the status of a human being. -John Finch to Jean Louise in Go Set A Watchman

While I’m not sure Atticus Finch needs to be destroyed completely, in the real world, he most likely would have held some of the beliefs espoused in Go Set a Watchman, with his privileged status of a southern gentleman who was born shortly after the Civil War.

Finally, just a personal aside. As she flashed back to her childhood,I kept waiting for a reference to Boo Radley. Nothing. So perhaps the character only came to her upon revision for the Pulitzer Prize winning To Kill a Mockingbird.

I recommend reading this book for its outstanding literary content and its historical perspective. We need to remember our history because we sure are doing a terrific/horrific job of repeating it.


TALES_final_fullTales To Count On by S.R. Mallery, a unique collection of short stories, contains a variety of genres, including historical, Gothic, and fantasy. They are organized by word count, which the author says often determines the story when written under the constraints of submission guidelines. Interesting concept that developed into a full-blown eclectic combination of historical, contemporary, and mysterious stories.

Full disclosure: I edited and formatted this book. The “work” became a labor of love as I became enamored with the characters and the delightful storytelling ability of Ms. Mallery. Reading them provided me with hours of enjoyment. I’m a fan of S.R. Mallery’s writing, which is what brought us together in the first place. Click here to read my reviews of her other books, Sewing Can Be Dangerous, another collection of short stories, and Unexpected Gifts, a delightful novel of one young woman’s discovery of her roots.

If you’ve ever read any of the O Henry short stories and enjoyed them, you’ll be in for a treat with her newest book. Each one has some type of twist at the end. That’s a tricky task for an author who has to lead the reader down one path and completely change direction by the end to surprise even the most astute detectives. S.R. Mallery is a master at the technique and proves it thoroughly in Tales To Count On.

The craft of short story writing requires a special talent. Maybe that’s why they aren’t as popular as they once were. Maybe it’s because the big name magazines are no longer at the forefront of the publishing world as they were during the heyday of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Salinger, and Parker. Those writers made their names and their leap to literary infamy through the publication of short stories in The New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly. It takes a talented writer to create a short piece that contains all the same elements within a full-length novel. There must be characterization, believable dialogue, conflict, rising tension, and a climax. There must be a compelling story with mood to set the tone and powerful settings and descriptions. All of these techinques must occur in 500 to 4,000 words. And that’s just what they do in S.R. Mallery’s Tales To Count On.

The range and depth of the stories caused me to sit back in awe of her genius when I first read them. Preparing to write my review, I reread some of them and my awe only increased. She explores issues, such as domestic abuse, mental illness, employer/employee relations, PTSD, and abusive parents. The stories take the readers to varied settings and time periods. Her point of view shifts as a literary technique in one story involving a traffic jam, allowing the reader the unique perspective of voyeuristically peeking into the lives of a varied group of travelers and the impact the stalled vehicles have on each character’s world.

Each of the multi-layered characters are developed with efficient precision from the snarky journalist whose karma comes back to haunt him to the young woman portrayed as a sexy young virgin during the French Revolution. Shocking endings all, so I can’t say much more than I have. What I can say is readers of all preferences will find something to love in this collection of stories that reveal much about the human condition.

Most of all, the shocking endings show the reader that nothing is as it seems on the surface.

If you’re looking for stories that are intelligent, well-designed, and edge-of-the-seat worthy, then you won’t be disappointed with Tales To Count On.

Click below to read my interviews with S.R. Mallery on Author Wednesday.

 S.R. Mallery – December 4, 2013

S.R. Mallery – April 22, 2015

Purchase Links

S.R. Mallery Amazon Author Page

Barnes & Noble Page

Kobo Page


NOTE: Because Amazon frowns upon authors leaving reviews for other authors, I no longer leave reviews on their retail site. However, I will continue to review books here on my own blog for Book Review Friday. Authors are welcome to share my reviews with their own social media networks and to publish excerpts of my reviews as editorial reviews on Amazon. My list of TBR books is long, but I’m always willing to consider new works. If I enjoy a book, I review it.


No More Mulberries - web readyNo More Mulberries by Mary Smith captured my attention because I love to read stories set in cultures different from my own, but with the commonality of the human condition to draw me into the plot. The author managed to pull me into the story within the first page.

Set in rural Afghanistan, Miriam and Iqbal exist in a marriage of convenience for both, although the restrictions for Miriam are anything but convenient. She married Iqbal believing he was a certain way only to find out after moving back to his homeland that he wasn’t at all what she imagined. The book shows a marriage in turmoil, lacking in communication between the two partners. It wouldn’t matter where this story was set–the marriage resonates with brutal honesty about the nature of relationships when two people are motivated by prior histories and experiences. It’s also a universal truth that only heartbreak and dissatisfaction come from couples who keep things hidden and who hope somehow the other partner will know how they feel through osmosis.

Of course, the complications from living in a society where women are supposed to remain hidden, away from the men, and Miriam’s presence as a foreigner from Scotland, without the proper training to be the docile wife of the local doctor, adds to the conflicts the marriage endures. The landscape of Afghanistan described by Ms. Smith is complicated–harsh, yet beautiful in its own haunting way. The setting in Edinburgh provides a strong contrast as she describes it in more formal, colder terms. The opposing forces create an even more compelling picture of Miriam’s huge adjustment in leaving her homeland to settle in an environment diametrically opposed to where she spent her youth.

The point of view shifts between husband and wife, which is a good thing because it would be hard to have sympathy for the cold and stubborn Iqbal otherwise. His background is slowly revealed to give a more complete picture of the man and his motivations. Miriam’s story is doled out to the reader throughout the book. It’s an intriguing choice for the author to do it this way. As the reader, I yearned to find out why she made the choices she did. Why did she marry Iqbal? Why did she go with him to Afghanistan when she had a perfectly fine career in Edinburgh as a midwife?

Then there’s her first husband, Jawad. The story of their love affair, marriage, and subsequent tragedy sets a parallel course with the story of Miriam’s and Iqbal’s marriage. Miriam realizes that Iqbal isn’t to blame for all of the trouble in their marriage. She’s done her own form of mental damage without intention or consciousness. It’s through the telling of both their stories that the story swells to its conclusion.

As the story unfolded, I felt drawn into the life of all of the characters created by Ms. Smith. I understood their wounds and pleasures. But I also found myself trying to imagine what it would be like to live under such primitive conditions. Her descriptions of health practices and beliefs seemed so archaic based on how and where I’ve lived that I had to keep going back and checking the dates given at the beginning of the chapters. The story is set mostly in 1995 with flashbacks ten years in the past. The political backdrop in 1995 gives a haunting quality to reading the story in a post-9/11 world. Hatred of Russia and the United States fuel the rise of the Taliban as shown in this novel. A tension existed in Afghanistan that the reader knows will only strengthen in the next six years after the story ends.

All in all, No More Mulberries is a superb read with many rich layers of tension-building plot, life-like characterization, believable dialogue, and riveting settings. Did I mention that this novel is the first one for Mary Smith? Amazing.

Mary Smith - web readyClick here for my interview with Mary Smith on Author Wednesday.


CDN (book antiqua) Front Cover 6x9 JPEG Final ProofChasing Down the Night  – Crater Lake Series, Book 3 by Francis Guenette

I’m not usually a reader of novels in a series. That changed when I fell in love with Francis Guenette’s Crater Lake setting and characters. Beginning with the first book in the series, Disappearing in Plain Sight, I settled in with Izzy and Liam, Beulah and Bethany, and all the others, becoming a part of their oddly matched family as much as the stragglers who visit them throughout the three novels.

The injured souls who come to the lake and the camp on Northern Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, arrive with low expectations, but desperate for some type of healing. In Chasing Down the Night, characters from the first two novels, such as Dylan and Lisa, still need to find some kind of resolution from their past, but the reader is also introduced to three new residents at the camp with their own challenges to overcome. The intertwining of their lives, along with the newly hired cook from Toronto, play an important role in the unfolding of the ensuing dramas.

There’s a soap opera quality to the story line, which is carried artfully to the third novel. In the deft hands of the author, the story never degenerates into scandal or salaciousness intended to sell books. Instead, I find the intense dramas that converge on this outrageously beautiful place to be a road map for how we might all handle the mountains and valleys of our own lives.

From Izzy’s quiet determination to ignore her own grief and traumas to Lisa’s using her body to achieve her goals, lessons on coping, acceptance, and love emerge.

Ms. Guenette isn’t content to simply write a novel of people’s inability to express themselves or to cope with life’s challenges. She addresses issues of race–in this case, of tribal loyalties and prejudices–and the psychic abilities of dear sweet Robbie, who sees what no one else can. Then there’s the other injured soul out in the wild, but I’ll let other readers discover how that fits with the rest of the story in a perfect symmetry with all the wounded lives who come to the lake to heal.

I miss these characters and hated for Chasing Down the Night to end. I want more, and I want more than anything to visit Crater Lake and be embraced in the warm arms of the people who call it home.

Purchase Links for Chasing Down the Night

Amazon U.S.

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

Interviews with Francis Guenette on Author Wednesday

May 25, 2015

May 21, 2014

November 6, 2013

Book Reviews of Crater Lake series

Disappearing in Plain Sight

The Light Never Fades