Home of writer DLWhite

[Review] A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick

A Light in the Wilderness Book Cover A Light in the Wilderness

September 2, 2014

Letitia holds nothing more dear than the papers that prove she is no longer a slave. They may not cause white folks to treat her like a human being, but at least they show she is free. She trusts in those words she cannot read--as she is beginning to trust in Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant cattleman who wants her to come west with him. Nancy Hawkins is loathe to leave her settled life for the treacherous journey by wagon train, but she is so deeply in love with her husband that she knows she will follow him anywhere--even when the trek exacts a terrible cost. Betsy is a Kalapuya Indian, the last remnant of a once proud tribe in the Willamette Valley in Oregon territory. She spends her time trying to impart the wisdom and ways of her people to her grandson. But she will soon have another person to care for. As season turns to season, suspicion turns to friendship, and fear turns to courage, three spirited women will discover what it means to be truly free in a land that makes promises it cannot fulfill. This multilayered story from bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick will grip readers' hearts and minds as they travel with Letitia on the dusty and dangerous Oregon trail into the boundless American West.

When I was invited by the publisher to read this book via an offer from NetGalley, I only hesitated for a second. I’m a sucker for historical fiction, set in the US in the 1800’s. Add a beautiful cover and an intriguing blurb and I am game.

That said, had this not been based on a true story, I probably would have stopped set it aside, rolling my eyes at the story of a freed slave marrying a white Irish immigrant and setting off with him across the country, where along the way they meet and commune with several other friendly whites who treat Leticia Carson like family. I know enough of my history to know that sympathetic friends would have been hard to come by.

Knowing that this novel was built on the backs of history made it worthwhile to push through, to read of the trek from Missouri to Oregon, and more importantly to explore the bonds of friendship and relationship where the law stood in the way. Davey and Leticia were married in words only… though she was free, he could never claim her as his wife. Several moments of foreshadowing ring Letitica’s fears about what could happen to her, their property, the life they’d built, should something happen to Davey.

The most irritating character throughout this book was Davey. I couldn’t figure out his motivation for doing the things he did, saying the things he said. He lied, he took shortcuts, he left his family in grave peril for the hollow promises of money and riches. I also didn’t understand his reluctance to make Leticia feel safe and secured. Surely she made her preferences known but he continually brushed her off as if her feelings weren’t important. With so many against their union lurking in the shadows, I felt Davey was irresponsible and cowardly when it came to caring for his wife. She risked so much to be with him.

This novel was well written, a bit slow in pacing and changing POV a few times, which I found refreshing. I was just thinking about the Grapes of Wrath the other day… this book reminds me a lot of that novel– a family venturing west for a better life, meeting joy and tragedy along the way. This was an excellent read.

[Review] Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers

Accidents of Marriage Book Cover Accidents of Marriage

Adult Fiction, Literary Fiction
Atria Books
September 2, 2014
NetGalley, Atria

Accidents of Marriage explores a topic rarely shown in fiction: the destruction left in the wake of spouse’s verbal fury. Ben never meant to hurt Maddy. He never imagined his recklessness would lead to tragedy. 

Maddy is a social worker trying to balance her career and three children. Years ago, she fell in love with Ben, a public defender, drawn to his fiery passion, but now he’s lashing out at her during his periodic verbal furies. She vacillates between tiptoeing around him and asserting herself for the sake of their kids – which works to keep a fragile peace – until the rainy day when they’re together in the car and Ben’s volatile temper gets the best of him, leaving Maddy in the hospital fighting for her life.

Randy Susan Meyers takes us inside the hearts and minds of her characters, alternating among the perspectives of Maddy, Ben, and their fourteen-year-old daughter. Accidents of Marriage is a provocative and stunning novel that will resonate deeply with women from all walks of life, ultimately revealing the challenges of family, faith, and forgiveness.

ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE explores a topic rarely shown in fiction: the damaging effects of a spouse’s emotional abuse

This book reminds me so much of Lisa Genova’s science and medicine based novels. In Lisa’s book Left Neglected, she details a woman’s struggles with putting her life back together after a near fatal accident that resulted in a brain injury. I find such stories extremely interesting, so even though this book is mainly a story about a marriage falling apart, I decided to read it because adding a traumatic injury on top of a festering and failing marriage just makes for some good dramatic reading.

Maddie and Ben are in love… madly in love but recently can’t seem to keep things on an even keel. Their marriage is good, but…. and they’ve been living on the ‘but…’ more often than they care to admit lately. Ben has a terrible temper that has worsened as time has gone on, resorting to screaming and throwing objects in his tirades. Maddie has turned to what my friends and I call “Better Living Through Chemistry” to make it through life. Her teen, Emma and two younger children, on top of her demanding social work job keep her in a constant state of awareness and ‘on edge’. Maddie just can’t keep things straight, can’t do anything right and it’s all she can do to keep the peace. 

In the pouring rain through Boston traffic and high speed, reckless driving, Maddie’s life transitions in the blink of an eye from worrying about lunches and her small group meeting of battered women and whether or not her husband, a prominent attorney, will come home in a decent mood. Instead, Maddie is tasked with learning basic skills and brain function again, even how to speak in more than four word sentences. How to cook, how to drive, how to live. Due to her brain injury, Maddie is different. She says what’s on her mind with no filter, which is a turnaround from the pre-accident Maddie that just tried to get along.

Ben is an angel, dedicated and calm and understanding. And there’s a reason for that. He doesn’t want Maddie to discover the real cause of her accident, why she’s broken and put back together. Ben wants to be the hero of this story, but when Maddie discovers that it wasn’t just a simple accident, that Ben’s temper had a strong hand in her current state, Maddie has difficult, life changing decisions to make. And so does Ben.

Some parts of this book were extremely engaging. I had the largest problem with the conclusion to the story. I thought I would find it cathartic to see Maddie finally stand up for herself, but I didn’t dislike Ben enough to want a complete dissolution. I wanted him to learn his lesson… which I felt he did. I wanted him to WANT to make things better, for life to be different, because the family had gone through so much already. 

It’s difficult to review this book without giving much of it away. Suffice it to say that it’s highly emotional and expressive– I felt Maddie’s pain and sorrow and frustration. I sometimes sympathized with Ben and with Emma, who bore the Lion’s Share of care while Maddie was recovering… so much for a 14 year old to handle. The pacing was slow enough to agonize with the family, yet quick enough to keep the pages turning to see just what happened next. This is a novel of a breaking apart but also a putting back together and though the conclusion seemed… abrupt while also vague, it also sparked a bit of hope that this family will heal. 

[Review] In Doubt by Drusilla Campbell

In Doubt Book Cover In Doubt

Literary Fiction
Grand Central Publishing
August 26, 2014
NetGalley/Grand Central Publishing

Defense Attorney Sophie Giraudo is about to open a new legal practice in her hometown of San Sebastian, California, when the beloved governer is shot and seriously wounded during a celebration in the town park. The only thing more shocking than the crime itself is the identity of the would-be assassin: a seemingly gentle teenager named Donny. Driven by her desire to understand what could make a person with no history of violence suddenly commit such a terrible act, Sophie reluctantly agrees to take him on as a client, knowing that, at least, it will bring her some income. But soon she realizes that she also has personal motivations for taking the case: a desire to prove to her overbearing mother that she is not the reckless and self-destructive tennager she used to be, to prove to her ex-husband, who happens to be the prosecuting attorney, that she can win her case, and to prove to herself that the traumatic events of her adolescence no longer define her.

As she digs deeper into Donny's past, Sophie begins to suspect that he might not be the cold-blooded killer everyone thinks he is. Does Donny's narcissistic mother really have her son's best interest in mind? Is Donny's mentor who runs Boys Into Men, a program for disadvantaged youths, the altruistic man he claims to be? Is Donny a deranged murderer, or a victim of his circumstances acting out of desperation? As Sophie races to uncover the truth, she is forced to come to terms with her past and to fight for what she knows is right...even if it means risking her reputation and possibly her life.

In Doubt by Drusilla Campbell depicts the story of a defense attorney that unwittingly finds herself in the middle of the biggest crime to ever hit the small town of SanSeb– San Sebastian, California. Danny Crider, fresh out of the Boys into Men Boy’s Home, has shot the governor,hometown hero Maggie Duarte. Crider’s mother, Elena, is especially hurt because she feels a strong connection to the Governor. Elena takes Donny’s crime so seriously that, while she pays for Donny’s defense, she refuses to see him.

Donny is quiet, to a fault. He refuses to assist in his own defense so Sohpia Giraudo, fledgling defense attorney that only took the case for the fee, finds herself digging into Donny’s past for clues. Why did he shoot the Governor? He says he doesn’t know, but how could he aim and shoot and not know why? Sophia surmises that something in his past, specifically something regarding his father’s disappearance from his life, is overbearingly inappropriate and compulsive mother, and Iva and Roman, the couple that own Roman’s Gardens and run Boys into Men.

While I enjoyed reading this novel and trying to figure out the mystery alongside Sophia, I couldn’t help feeling unfulfilled. I feel like so many issues were uncovered but left to wither in the sun. Donny’s stoic silence was an interesting plot point at first but eventually he was just annoying. There was no introspection as to why he wouldn’t speak about his actions. Sophia’s investigator, Camp, whose daughter has been missing for two years– we get a hint that he may have possibly found her, but that glimmer of hope falls a bit flat for me. As did the mention of her childhood rapist, specifically she and Camp walking down to the house where he used to live. If she wasn’t going to ask Camp to find him…. ???

Some characters were very thin- Camp and Ben especially. Brad as well… I just didn’t get him. Anna, in contrast was so vivid I practically had her cast in the movie in mind mind. Iva as well was so sympathetic and empathetic, I really felt for her, especially when she discovered the truth about her husband.

This book can be a lesson in how justice really works. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes without a whole lot of palatable answers. Sometimes justice is just barely served. And sometimes that’s just enough.

I was granted a copy of this novel for review from NetGalley.

[Review] No Limits by Lori Foster

No Limits (Ultimate, #1) Book Cover No Limits (Ultimate, #1)
Ultimate Fighter Series

August 26th 2014
NetGalley/ Harlequin

Cannon Colter is quintessential hero material: chiseled jawline, shredded body—the works. He's also the guy who rescued Yvette Sweeny from kidnappers, only to put an end to her romantic dreams. These days, she's older, smarter, determined to face whatever life throws her way. Even the prospect of sharing a house and business with Cannon. 

Cannon knew Yvette wanted him three years ago. But she was young—and some things are worth waiting for. Thrown together by her grandfather's legacy, he realizes how deep Yvette's scars really go, and how much danger lurks in their quiet town. As pent-up desire explodes between them, protecting her becomes the only fight that matters. And he'll break all the rules to do it.

Once upon a time there was a book called Getting Rowdy that starred a handsome rough and tumble hunk and a minor character named Cannon. Cannon was one of those guys that should be bad news but was surprisingly vigilant about protecting his community. He ran a rec center that went pretty far in keeping kids off the street. He taught them boxing and gave them a place to go. He watched over his neighborhood and got pretty close to Rowdy.

Then there was Dash of Peril, in which Cannon played a bigger part and got to play hero to Yvette, who had been kidnapped, nearly raped and doused with kerosene. After the horror of that ordeal, Cannon and Yvette became close and ALMOST hooked up, but the trauma of it all drove her away to California. Cannon went on to become a famous fighter with the SBC… and Yvette loved and watched him from afar.

No Limits is a return to the Brotherhood that I’ve come to love, this closely knit group of men and women, small town shop owners and law enforcement, bound and determined to keep their corner of the world safe. It is also a book focused majorly on Cannon, and if you’ve read my other Lori Foster reviews, you know I’ve been on the edge of my seat waiting for this one!

Let me just say…………….. it doesn’t disappoint. There’s something about that sexy, smoldering, good guy under the bad guy facade that I just adore about him. He’s so protective, it’s instinct– not just about Yvette, either. At one point he’s angry with one of the fighters at the Rec Center for making remarks about his sister’s roommate. Cannon has an innate need to protect people, and he does it well. Easily. With his fists. *shrug* Hey, they deserved it.

No Limits was a great read, to me. I know some were expecting more fighting action, but we really needed to get Cannon’s story out of the way, and the way he dealt with Yvette’s stalker ex, there was plenty of fight in this novel. There was also some good ole lovemaking.

There’s a bunch of details I am leaving out, but I am not one to rehash a story when I give a review. Read the blurb, buy the book, READ IT.

Now I’m trying to figure out who the next book is about?? Armie? Denver? Stack? And who is the love interest? Hmmmm… Rissy? Vanity? Cherry? SO MANY OPTIONS. I trust Lori to write us up some good stories to read.

Excellent story, long awaited, but well worth it!

[Review] Mean Streak by Sandra Brown

Mean Streak Book Cover Mean Streak

Grand Central Pub
August 19, 2014
NetGalley, Grand Central Publishing

Dr. Emory Charbonneau, a pediatrician and marathon runner, disappears on a mountain road in North Carolina. By the time her husband Jeff, miffed over a recent argument, reports her missing, the trail has grown cold. Literally. Fog and ice encapsulate the mountainous wilderness and paralyze the search for her.

While police suspect Jeff of "instant divorce," Emory, suffering from an unexplained head injury, regains consciousness and finds herself the captive of a man whose violent past is so dark that he won't even tell her his name. She's determined to escape him, and willing to take any risks necessary to survive.

Unexpectedly, however, the two have a dangerous encounter with people who adhere to a code of justice all their own. At the center of the dispute is a desperate young woman whom Emory can't turn her back on, even if it means breaking the law.

As her husband's deception is revealed, and the FBI closes in on her captor, Emory begins to wonder if the man with no name is, in fact, her rescuer

I’m a moderate Sandra Brown fan so I was excited to see that she had a new book releasing in August. Thanks to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing, I was able to obtain a pre-publication copy of this novel and give an honest review.

The main character, Emory Charbonneau, is one of those perfect people. Rich, so she can donate her time at a clinic, which she does. Fit, dedicated, really into charitable causes and such. And her husband, Jeff, just doesn’t understand her passion for things other than him, so there’s a rift between them that doesn’t look like it’s going to have a chance to heal. Needing to run from her problems, I’m supposing, Emily has planned a long run to train for an upcoming charity race. It’s conveniently foggy in them thar hills and Jeff is conveniently worried about her safety.

As I’ve said before with Sandra Brown, it wasn’t awful – I was certainly entertained and the pages kept turning- but she has written better novels. The WHODUNIT Suspense portion of the story was confusing to me. I could tell that it was supposed to be, but the “real killer” kept switching back and forth and the final twist, which was supposed to be a surprise, wasn’t much of one. It fell awfully flat, for me and everything sort of wrapped up in a big bow, as they often do.

I did not, in any way, buy the Romantic portion of this story. Not. even. a little. bit. I gathered that she came to trust the strange man who held her captive in his cabin and wouldn’t let her leave (because of the fog, but he could mysteriously get up and down the hill when he needed her to do something for him), but I felt like the romantic relationship was a huge stretch. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to go with it, so I skipped most of the ‘activity’ between Emory and her Captor.

I appreciated the mystery and intrigue in this story. The romantic part of romantic suspense didn’t hold up for me at all.  That said, I’m already waiting for Sandra’s next novel.


Welcome to The Sweet Escape, home of writer Melinda Jones. I blog about my adventures as a Literary Fiction/Romance/ Women's Fiction reader and writer. My work has appeared at IndieInk.org, Short-Story.net and Storyfix.com.

I enjoy reading (lots and lots of reading) writing, candy, Sprite, and things flavored with raspberry... but not raspberries themselves. I blog Mondays and Fridays and random Wednesdays and Sundays as time and material allows. I hope you'll drop by often and share in the joy (uh huh) of writing! Enjoy your stay!



A Proud Stop on the Forever Starts Tonight Blog Tour!

Check back here on September 18th for my review of Roni Loren's steamy new release Forever Starts Tonight! FST Blog Tour Button

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 13 other subscribers

GOODREADS 2014 Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Curvy has read 4 books toward her goal of 85 books.

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Curvy has read 37 books toward her goal of 50 books.

my read shelf:
Curvy's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)
I have agreed to read 21+ books from NetGalley this year. I track this via a Goodreads list.

NetGalley Review Challenge

NetGalley Review %