Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Quirky Look at Old Age in America

An elderly but vital eccentric, the last resident of an island near Seattle, defies government bureaucracy and a family curse to gain custody of her orphaned great-grandchildren.

Annie's Second Wind

Annie’s Second Wind

Annie Pippins Perkins is the last of seven sisters to take charge of Seven Sisters Island, home to her family for over a hundred years. Annie has always lived life on her own terms and yet with a clear acceptance of the limitations and responsibilities resting on her–like her sisters before her, she’s fated to live only seventy-seven years. Annie is estranged from her only child and hopes the move back home will allow her some chance of reconnecting with her daughter and granddaughter. Annie’s solitude is broken as assorted odd ducks, most of them elderly and facing their own impending deaths, find their way to the island. Together, they create their own community of weirdos and band together when tragedy strikes.

Utilizing an amazing setting and quirky characters, author Wally Carlson offers a rich mix of laugh-out-loud humor, touching meditations on the nature of family, and an unflinching view of aging. The point-of-view (“global” omniscient that includes plenty of old-style author intrusion) offers some challenges. In places, it’s easy to lose track of who is speaking. This didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the novel or my appreciation of the colorful cast. After reading the back cover description, I was surprised by how long it took to get to the event that leads to Annie’s fight for her great grandchildren. The book has a long set up, with the entire first third devoted to Annie and the island. I like meaty books with lots of texture and detail, but more impatient readers will likely get a little antsy waiting for the advertised story line to take off. Believe me, this book is well worth the exercise of some patience.

ANNIE’S SECOND WIND is a wonderful example of American magic realism, a real one-of-a-kind…just like its heroine.

First Love in the Shadow of a Parent’s Alcoholism

A young women who grew up in a family damaged by her father’s alcoholism and her mother’s emotional alienation struggles to negotiate her first adult romantic relationship.

Shadow Heart (Broken Bottle #1)

Shadow Heart

Nikki is complex character. Unable to trust her own feelings or the intentions of those around her, she spends a lot of time in her own head. She survived her troubled childhood by focusing on how she’d get out–via acceptance to a top university. To achieve this, she’s dedicated herself to her school work and extra-curricular activities. Her latest project is leading a booster/cheer squad for her local minor league baseball team. In the course of this latest effort at plumping her CV, Nikki catches the eye of one of the players. What begins as friendship slowly evolves into something more. Dealing with this relationship challenges Nikki’s future plans, her carefully cultivated coping mechanisms, and her heart.

Pamela Taeuffer does a great job depicting Nikki’s toxic family dynamics. There are some harrowing scenes of anger and violence. Nikki’s inner turmoil is believable and her social naivete is both natural and touching. I did find that Nikki’s nearly constant inward focus slowed the pace of the story in places. There were times when her doubts and fears about Ryan got so huge and tangled, I wanted to shake her and tell her to stop over-analyzing every single detail about the pair’s latest encounter.

For his part, Ryan is an enticing hero. He’s a little too self-aware, perhaps. He and Nikki get into these long, deep conversations that aren’t standard guy-girl interactions. There are also instances of straight-out authorial intrusion–comments aimed directly at the reader about the reality of life in an alcoholic household or the tricks alcoholics play on the people who love them. These are useful bits of information and advice, but they had the effect of yanking me right out of the story.

SHADOW HEART is the first of a three-book series. Still, I wasn’t quite prepared for how abruptly this installment ends. It’s a true cliffhanger.

Personally, I think it’s easier to appreciate this book if it’s categorized as a literary novel rather than a contemporary romance, because the big story is how Nikki changes over the course of the story. Either way, SHADOW HEART is a thoughtful, character-driven novel that explores the deep and lingering scars left by growing up in a home shattered by substance abuse. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

Why a Book Blog? Celebrating 100 Posts.

Well, friends, when I started the blog in late December of 2013, I was cautiously optimistic. I’d tried blogging a few years before. This Literary Life was meant to be a journal of the life and times of a working writer. Problem was the life of a writer, at least this writer, isn’t much different from everyone else’s. My posts on the struggle to finish a project or find an agent seemed so beside the point. “Who cares?” I asked myself. “Who needs to know that I wasted an afternoon playing sixty rounds of Free Cell rather than edit my new story? Is there anything insightful or even entertaining about it?”

No. Not really. And that’s probably why I abandoned my blog after a dozen or so posts.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t really “get” blogging. The advice from writer’s magazines and writer’s conference panels was that having a blog is critical if you want to land an agent and publisher, or, if you’re already published, to expand your audience. Yet, at the time, most of the successful writers I knew of didn’t blog. Some didn’t even have websites.

After This Literary Life faded away, any time someone mentioned blogging my brain automatically checked out of the conversation. Blah. Blah. Blah. Tell me another one.

Then came the Independent Publishing Revolution. Thanks to print-on-demand technology and the emergence of e-books, a writer no longer has to toil for years over a novel only to stack in her closet with all the others she couldn’t get the traditional publishing industry to take notice of. Now a writer’s career is in her own hands–from composition, to production, to promotion.  Author websites are no longer a cool way for the as-yet-unpublished to feel like a “real” writer. They are home base for a genuine professional business and a way for a writer to connect with readers.


That’s a group I know something about. Not only because I want them, an audience of my own, but because I am one myself. A reader. Passionate. Obsessive. Voracious.

Writer. Reader. This book blog became a way for me to merge my twin identities. A place to compile my reactions to the books I read. E-books. Print books. Much loved classics by long-dead masters. Popular bestsellers.  The debut offerings of indie adventurers. It doesn’t matter. Whatever the source, each book I feature gets a close reading and in-depth, careful critique.

Even better, this time around it’s no struggle finding material for my blog. I’m always reading. There is always a fascinating new author to interview. Sometimes I’m very very lucky and a writer I’ve reviewed or otherwise featured will grow into a friend. Someone to trade book recommendations with and moan to about how grueling and tedious it’s been editing my latest project.

Somehow, without really noticing, I’ve racked up 100 posts. I’ve enjoyed it, too. This book blog isn’t a chore. It’s FUN! Partially because I’m reading even more that I did before I started it. My television is getting dusty. And my Free Cell stats are in the toilet. I don’t have the time to play computer card games.

Too much to read.

Author Kathleen Kilgallon

Today, I have author Kathleen Kilgallon here to talk about her debut novel In Bloom, the story of a woman stuck in her unhappy past until an unexpected dinner invitation changes everything. Remember: read past the interview for my review of this touching and hilarious novel!

Kathleen Kigallon, author of IN BLOOM

Author Kathleen Kilgallon

How did you come up with the idea for In Bloom? Is the story a complete invention or based on true experience?

For a long time I had this character in my head of a lonely, depressed forty-something lady. I started writing the story back in 2004, but my computer crashed and my beloved story was lost. I was completely heart broken and abandoned the whole idea. A few years back, the characters started speaking to me again, and I knew it was time to tell their story. As I wrote, idea after idea came into my head, and the story took on a life of its own. Writing it was a joy and it was great fun to create some over the top characters.

So to answer your question, yes, the story was a complete invention, but I took elements of my own life and incorporated it in to the story. I know what it’s like to experience deep pain and was able to transfer the pain onto the pages. I know what it’s like to experience overwhelming sorrow, to have a heart already burdened with pain, like Kindra, who asks, “Where to put that pain in a heart that’s already overwhelmed with sorrow?”

Your characters are all complicated people dealing with serious personal issues. Kindra suffers profound grief over the loss of her sister. Tommy lives with a permanent disability. And Tiana deals with the challenges faced by all GLBT Americans. These characters are all thrown together in a novel and end up changing each other’s lives. But who came first? And how did their differing situations evolve for you as you wrote?

Kindra came first as I stated in the previous question, and then came Tommy. When I first wrote the story, Tommy was much more mild mannered and so was his mother, but when I started it again, I just let loose with them. I figured if he was going to be a pissed-off-at- the-world wheelchair-bound man, he better act like it. As far as their differing situations, they just evolved naturally as the story progressed. I needed a strong character like Tiana to pull Kindra out of herself.  Why I chose a masculine lesbian, I have no idea. She just came to me. And I loved her. Everybody needs a best friend like Tiana. She and Tommy’s mother have no filters; they say whatever comes into their heads, and it was a blast to write their dialogue.

For all the serious situations it deals with, In Bloom is a funny, funny book. Was the humor planned? A way to balance all of the drama? Or are you just a funny person?

Thank you for saying In Bloom is a funny book. I was hoping people would find it humorous. I laughed as I wrote it, even when I had to reread it as part of the editing process. But you never know if other people will get your humor.

Yes, I did use the humor as a way to balance the intensity of the story. It would be heavy reading without it. And, yeah, I think I’m a pretty funny person but I tend to be reserved when I first meet people. It’s not until I feel comfortable with them, do I let my zany side out, but it came out very naturally and easily as I wrote In Bloom.

Tommy Shannon’s mother in particular is just hysterical…Her bad brogue and worse language…is she based on anyone you know? She reminds me of Mrs. Doyle, a character in a fabulous British Comedy Father Ted. In fact, that’s how I pictured her as I read. How did you come up with Mrs. Shannon?

I really don’t know. As I wrote, the character just developed. I had no real plan to make her like that. But as I continued writing, she just evolved into this wacky character. I had the best time writing the dialogue between Tommy and his mother. It was so liberating to create these characters that were so out-of-the-box, shall we say.

Kindra had a rough childhood. She dealt with her pain and anxiety by cutting herself. Why did you choose this coping mechanism for her?

I chose it because, as a teenager, I used to cut and, like Kindra, I still have the faint scars on my wrist. I know what it feels like to be so overwhelmed with pain and anxiety, and the relief that comes with cutting. Like I say in the book during that scene, all that pain is given an avenue of escape from the body. I also know the guilt that comes with it, the shame and also feeling like a freak.

What are your future writing plans? Are you working on anything at the moment?

I plan on writing a sequel to In Bloom, tentatively calling it Planted, because this time the characters are more grounded in their lives. Tommy and Kindra are married now, and so is Rosemary, Tommy’s mother. So they are at a different stage in their lives. They’ve grown. They’ve wrestled their demons, and now it’s time for something new. They’ll still be the same wacky characters, though. Mrs. Shannon and Tiana will still be my no-filter queens. Tommy and his mother will still have their peculiar and humorous relationship, but there will be new surprises as my characters grow and develop.

I haven’t physically started writing the book yet but I certainly have in my head. I have all kinds of ideas flowing, and I can’t wait to actually sit down and let the story tell itself to me. That’s what it’s like when I write. The story tells itself to me, and I just simply put it on paper.

Keep reading for my review of In Bloom:

Kathleen Kilgallon's IN BLOOM

My copy of IN BLOOM

In Bloom

A woman who has spent her life emotionally cut off from those around her makes an unexpected friend and begins to venture out of her shell.

Kindra is in charge of a library in a small Massachusetts town. She lives a small, self-contained life with few friends and no real interests outside of her work. Even her apartment is small and shoddy. Kindra has no illusions about her situation, but she’s unable to rouse herself enough to do anything about it. Raised by her angry, widowed father, she’s trapped by memories of her childhood and the early death of her younger sister. Kindra feels responsible for Muriel’s drug overdose, which happened a few years after Kindra convinced her to have an abortion.

Two unrelated events change everything for Kindra. A woman approaches her at the library and convinces her to come to dinner. Rosemary Shannon has a wheelchair-bound son about Kindra’s age. He needs a social life. Tommy Shannon is a bitter, foul-mouthed ex-skier. He’s not interested in socializing with anyone other that the women on his porn websites. Needless to say, the dinner doesn’t go exactly as planned. Around the same time, a new neighbor moves into the apartment below Kindra. Tiana is a self-described dyke who pretty much forces her friendship on Kindra. Through these new relationships, Kindra is dragged out into the world and begins to deal with her traumatic past.

IN BLOOM is a funny, funny book. Rosemary Shannon’s fake Irish brogue and foul mouth had me rolling. All of the characters are engaging and full of life. Even Kindra, when she lets herself go, has a wry, amusing way of looking at the world. Of course, the humor balances the book’s darker themes. Each of the three main characters is hobbled in some way. Kindra by her past. Tommy by his accident. Tiana by her sexuality. Thrown together, they test and needle one another, forcing each other into…bloom.

The only issue I had with IN BLOOM was the pacing of the romance between Kindra and Tommy. There’s so much chemistry at their initial meeting…crazy, unusual chemistry, sure…but it’s there. But then the author suspends contact between the two characters for almost the entire book, as each deals with the personal changes ignited by their meeting. I get what the author was trying to do–Kindra and Tommy are dealing with big transformations–but the long separation makes their manner of coming back together seem a little abrupt and forced.

Even with the narrative bumps, though, IN BLOOM is a warm, funny book about sad people who decide to take a chance on life and love.

When Faith and Fiction Conflict.

I love Tracey Jane Jackson’s Caulde Ane books. They’re full of passion and suspense. In BOUND BY TEARS, Jesska suffers a tragic loss just as she’s about to graduate high school and embark on what she thought would be a wonderful life with her childhood sweetheart. In her grief, she begins to self-harm to a degree that frightens her family and forces them to act on her behalf in a way that only alienates her further. Jesska’s life stalls.

Bound by Tears

Bound by Tears

For ten years not much changes. Jesska works at a job she hates. Relations with her family have thawed a bit, but she associates mostly with her older half-siblings, Cameron and Megan, and Megan’s daughter Sofia. This all changes when Sofia’s paternity is revealed and her uncle comes to Portland to meet her. Kaspar is King of his people and used to getting what he wants. After identifying Jesska as his fated mate, he won’t take no for an answer. Jesska is wary of this bigger-than-life man, but also drawn to him as he and her brother work to discover who is responsible for the plot that separated Megan from her first two children.

There’s so much to praise about this novel. The Cauld Ane (and their Icelandic counterparts) are as fascinating as ever. The chemistry between Kaspar and Jesska is through the roof. The suspense ratchets higher and higher, especially when the man behind the tragedy Jesska suffered tries to force himself back into her life. I do wish the author had dragged that bit out a little. In my opinion resolving it so easily was a missed opportunity for additional drama and character development.

On the subject of characters, Jesska isn’t quite as likable as Jackson’s previous heroines. When Kaspar mentions his financial support for animal welfare organizations, she asks if he’s “one of those people who thinks animals are more important than children.” Huh? What sort of logical leap is this? One by a character who thinks cats are “little devils,” I guess. Also, for someone who was so attached to a “purity” ring, she’s ready to jump Kaspar quickly enough. Most irritating, she (in her despair) has renounced God, yet she’s pretty intolerant of other faiths. Poor Kaspar has to point out that being Catholic doesn’t mean he’s without a “moral compass.” But don’t feel too sorry for him. He thinks Wiccans are going to burn in hell. This, from a 1000-yr-old immortal-type with supernatural powers. Apparently, a pagan minding her own business as she dances naked under the full moon (and one must assume also any similarly peaceful Hindu, Buddist, Jew or Unitarian) is less entitled to an afterlife than the maniac who killed Jesska’s first love. As long as he repents and accepts Jesus before death, he’s golden. Oh, well, for every reader this religious arrogance irritates, I’m sure there’s a fundamentalist who’s clapping and cheering, which is why it didn’t keep me from giving the book a high rating. But, as this is MY review, I get to say what bugged ME.

To be fair, in the first five books the religious convictions of Jackson’s heroines adds to their charm. They manage to maintain strong beliefs, morals and standards during stressful, scary times and without condemning others. It’s one of the things I’ve loved about them. For me, Jesska just doesn’t measure up to Sam, Pepper, Grace and Charlotte.

The ending of the novel is exciting but crowded. At times it’s hard to keep the action straight because of all the characters involved and the number of late plot twists. But in the end, as usual, I was satisfied and eager to find out what might happen next to this ever-expanding Cold Weather clan. There are still a couple of hunky unmarried FBI and Private security guys. I’m hoping Jackson gives them their own Happily Ever Afters.

So, despite some unsettling religiosity, BOUND BY TEARS delivers all the passion and excitement Caulde Ane fans have come to expect.

Why Does She Stay? A Close-up Look at Domestic Violence

Today we have with us Author Judy Shine Logan, whose novel Shelter Me: When Friendship is All that Remains delves into the harsh reality of Domestic Violence including that most heartrending question: Why does a battered woman stay with her abuser?

Author Judy Shine Logan

Judy Shine Logan

Judy, you worked in the Department of Psychiatry at the Boston Regional Medical Center and, later, as a volunteer for an organization that helps abused women. How did these experiences shape and influence your novel Shelter Me?

I began work at BRMC in 1984 as secretary while I worked toward my degrees. This job and subsequent ones at BRMC put me in direct contact with the battered women and their children treated there. As the mother of small children, myself, I could not fathom how someone could hurt their significant other, much less their little ones. The only way to purge this daily trauma from my psyche was to go home at night and write it out.
Years later, after receiving my Master’s degree in education and developing health care curriculum for decades, I retired, moved to Vegas, and volunteered at Safe Nest. Again, the domestic violence experiences were jolting and made me ask the same questions – “Why?”

A pivotal conversation with my grandmother years before made me want to juxtapose the two women–-their ages, their love experiences, their needs in moving on, etc.

Sometimes, books that highlight a social problem can seem a bit artificial or preachy. How did you balance your exploration of the important issue of domestic violence with the need to tell a good story?

I think Domestic Violence (DV) tells its own story just like the one in the news this week: NFL football player, Rick Rice caught on tape beating up his girlfriend (who is now his wife). There is no denying the intensity and reality of that beating and it makes you wonder if that is what happens in public, what is going on at home out of sight?

In this country alone, one in four women is battered and 1 in 6 men; DV knows no social, economic, religious or intellectual boundaries. DV is about bullies, who do not recognize boundaries and who overpower their loved ones to get their own way.

For the most part, the public knows and agrees that DV is wrong and bad – but what they do not know is why people stay in such relationships.

There is no easy answer! It is not as simple as “I’d just leave.” There are economic, social, religious, and intellectual constraints, not to mention the physical danger in leaving.

Also, it is easy to run on two legs, but for each child a woman (or man) has, that is two more legs to run on. There is a story that illustrates this well: A man is lonely so he buys a centipede…

All of the characters in Shelter Me have their flaws. They are truly three-dimensional individuals. How did you build characters that were both sympathetic and realistic?

Thank you for the compliment. I think it is the author’s job to observe people and to note habits, quirks, and snippets of conversation that reveal their personalities. I have seen enough widows (and experienced that up close and personal), and enough battered women and children to be able to mix and match traits that could keep them stuck in their traumas.

Mack, the battering husband was more difficult to make three-dimensional and I worried that I had not accomplished that. Sure, he is dangerous and nasty, but he did not feel “deep enough” for me. Battering men are not more stereotypic than other groups of people. They can be charming, as Mack was with the waitress, and they can be sympathetic as the young mothers felt for him, and they can be insane and cruel as experienced by the man who owed Mack money.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing Shelter Me?

Writing it so no one recognized him/herself from my life….lol. Seriously, though, there are elements of real people in the book, though blown up beyond reality, and I waited for several people to die before putting the book out there.

Without giving too much away, Shelter Me ends on a hopeful but not-quite-resolved note. Why did you choose to end the novel as you did? As the author, do you know what happens to Terry and Anne after the action of the book ends?

I agree that I ended the book as you say, and I think its realistic ending, but one that is not really an ending. Yes, I know what happens to Terry and Anne and you can read it in the sequel…lol.

What are you working on now? Do you plan to revisit the world you created in Shelter Me?

As I just mentioned, I am working on the sequel to Shelter Me, as well as a book of spiritual messages and four short stories that popped into my head recently on vacation. A writer never stops writing…lol.

Thanks for interviewing me, Carrie Ann.

My review of Judy Shine Logan’s Shelter Me:

Two women with very different lives meet at work and develop a friendship that changes both of them.

Shelter Me

Shelter Me

When newly widowed Anne is forced to get a job, she finds few potential employers willing to take on someone with no work experience. Her luck changes when an office manager named Terry, desperate for a receptionist, gets her famously slow-to-action boss to allow her to hire whomever she wants. She hires Anne, which I found pretty amusing because Anne is not particularly pleasant even at her job interview. She’s prickly and quite judgmental. Much of this stems from her own insecurity and fear at being plunged into a reality she hadn’t been prepared for. Over time, the women warm to each other and Anne comes to learn that friendly, eager to please Terry is hiding a secret. Her husband beats her.

Raised by a battered woman who did nothing to foster confidence or self-esteem in her daughter, Terry found herself in an early marriage with a man who belittles and beats her. Her life is a constant battle to keep Mack content and calm, an effort doomed to failure. But Terry is sure their marital problems are her fault and balks at any suggestion that she should leave. Even the clear unhappiness of her two children is not enough to spur her to flee her situation. That is, until Mack’s violence reaches the point that Terry has to fight for her life. Finally, she takes her kids and flees to Anne’s house. Anne then has the unenviable job of guiding Terry to accept professional help and running interference when she weakens and wants to return home.

The author does a good job building complex, realistic characters and a convincing portrait of the psychology of domestic abuse. She shows how the role nurturer is used against women by men determined to exert control whatever the cost in pain or fear. Mack’s a vile individual. Logan tries to humanize him a bit, especially when he thinks he’s really killed Terry, but his repentance never quite convinces.

This was a difficult book to read. I found myself frustrated with Terry, and, sadly, could understand how friends and family of a woman like her can get fed up enough to walk away. There’s no saving someone who refuses all offers of help and sanctuary.

The ending of the book is quite abrupt. I’d say it was a cliffhanger, but cliffhangers cut the action at the point of highest tension. Logan writes past that point, the immediate danger is removed, but then she just stops. I’ve rarely known a novel to end on a piece of dialog. It’s unsettling. A follow-up novel is in the works, but I think she still could have offered a paragraph or two to bring this first installment to a more definite conclusion.

Nevertheless, SHELTER ME is a gripping story and a sensitive exploration of domestic abuse and the healing power of female friendships.

When Good Books Falter

A Chicago cutie’s job promotion takes her to Nashville where, tooling down a country road, she collides with a pickup. Dean, a farmer struggling to find his place in the family business, is at first put off by Phoebe’s snooty attitude. But when she spends a week under his mother’s care, mutual attraction begins to outweigh cultural differences.



Stacey Bentley does a good job with Phoebe, who’s just annoying enough to add spark to the story. Her high-and-mighty antics are clearly a shell, a way to get along in a world that hasn’t been completely kind to her and her widowed mom. Dean’s parents are also great characters. His mother is funny and lovable. His father has a lot of warmth under his gruff exterior. The farm itself is given enough detail to make the reader feel present during the story.

Dean is a problem. He comes off as much younger than he is and something of a jerk. There’s definite chemistry between him and Phoebe, but he’s so whiny and immature, the attraction flickers on and off. Sort of like his sexual arrangement with a female friend. That he’s not bright enough to stay away from this woman once he’s developed feelings (and begun a “kind of” relationship with) Phoebe fatally blemishes the book for me.

I also can’t understand why Bentley, after putting her readers through the “friends with benefits” trauma, doesn’t give them the satisfaction of seeing Dean and Phoebe come together. We don’t see their first time. In fact, the whole final section of the book is both too fast and too dragged out. How can this be? In place of a simple coming together of two people and, maybe, a neat epilogue, we get years of their relationship in several rushed chapters. It’s as if Bentley was in a hurry to get the book done.

In the end I was left unsatisfied and annoyed. Why then the four stars? Because the first two-thirds was THAT good. I only wish Bentley had taken as much time and care with the final section.

Cover Reveal: WRONG PLACE, RIGHT TIME by Brooke Williams

I have the great pleasure of announcing the cover reveal of author Brooke Williams’s upcoming release Wrong Place, Right Time, which will launch on December 9, 2014. Brooke was interviewed here on August 11th when I reviewed her family drama Someone Always Loved You. I’m glad to have her here again…and I can’t wait to review her latest!


Summary of Brooke Williams's WRONG PLACE, RIGHT TIME

Wrong Place, Right Time is a humorous, light romance about TV traffic reporter, Kate Covington. After admitting she is in love with her best friend, Brian, Kate barges into a Las Vegas wedding chapel to stop him from getting married. When the bride storms out, Kate see that she interrupted the wrong wedding. The groom, Chad Leida, who needs to marry before turning 30 in order to inherit his family fortune, has an intriguing offer for Kate. Marry him and spend a year as his wife for a million dollars. Kate, who is greatly in debt and believes her friend has already married considers the offer.

Once Kate makes her spontaneous decision, her life is on the fast track and the real adventure begins. Caught between two men, she begins to realize that though she turned up in the Wrong Place, she might have arrived just at the Right Time.


Author Brooke Williams

Author Brooke Williams

Brooke Williams is an award-winning author and freelance writer. She began her career in radio, both on the air and behind the scenes. She did a brief stint in TV news and then took on her most challenging job as a stay at home mom. During the few quiet hours in her day, Brooke writes articles for a number of clients as well as fiction creations such as Someone Always Loved You. Brooke has also written Beyond the Bars, a thriller, God in the Kitchen, a Christian novel, and Taxi Delivery, a Christian Romance. Brooke looks forward to the December 9th release of Wrong Place, Right Time, a romantic comedy and the February 2015 release of Accept this Dandelion inspired by the Bachelor TV show. Brooke has been married to her husband Sean since 2002 and has two daughters, Kaelyn and Sadie.


Connect with Brooke!



Sensuality that Doesn’t Mellow with Age

Two people scarred by damaging marriages try to cope with their attraction to one another.

Honest Love (London Brothers, #1)

Honest Love

Claire is a physical therapist returning to work after her longtime husband throws her over for her for his college crush, who he’s already gotten pregnant. She’s trying to maintain a degree of calm and civility for the sake of her three children. She’s unprepared for the feelings stirred in her by her latest client. Derek, a fireman, has suffered his own romantic heartache. His wife dumped him when an injury ended his career as a professional football player. This ex maintains a twisted power over him, so he’s shocked when he finds himself contemplating making a play for his physical therapist.

I love that Hutton chose older protagonists with heavy back stories. Her characters’ maturity and life experience add a lot of realism to the plot. Both Claire and Derek are easy to like. Hutton also does a good job keeping their interactions sharp through snappy dialog and a good use of setting. There’s plenty of chemistry and the erotic scenes sizzle without going over the top.

There are sections where the characters’ maturity works against Hutton. When Claire and Derek hit some bumps in their relationship, his sulky snits and her whining angst grates in a way that might not be the case if the characters were in their twenties. This “old enough to know better” factor is probably amplified by the fact that the plot gets a bit saggy in the middle. I got the sense that Hutton, having gotten off to a great start, wasn’t quite sure how to ratchet up the conflict in a natural-seeming way, one that would keep the plot moving without resolving the relationship too soon. She finds her balance again towards the end, though I think she misses an opportunity there as well. Without giving too much away, Derek’s ex makes an appearance that’s meant to be a climactic moment, but, instead of letting Claire deal with her, Hutton has one of Derek’s brothers take the lead. So the big confrontation fizzles out.

In spite of a little sag and sputter, HONEST LOVE has a lot to offer readers. This is largely thanks to Hutton’s clever characterizations and her willingness to stretch the usual contemporary romance formula.

Isn’t “Happily Ever After” Happy Enough?

A young woman flees her abusive boyfriend and begins a new life in NYC. But is a new town and new job enough to make her forget her past and give love another chance?

Discovering Lucy

Discovering Lucy

Lucy is an appealing and sympathetic character, and Dunaway’s portrayal of her as a victim of domestic abuse (both her psychology and the physical details) is realistic. The Lucy-Knox romance develops naturally and with delicious tension. The climax of the novel was full of suspense and last-minute twists.

I did find too many back story re-hashes. First, Lucy tells Megan her history. Then repeats it nearly detail for detail later to Knox. There are other places in the book where someone re-tells events that we’ve seen firsthand. For the record, as long as the READER was there for a scene, there’s never a need to reprise it blow-by-blow for the benefit of another character. No point in clarifying matters for a make-believe person if you’re going to irritate real ones, right?

My other issue with this novel is the epilogue. There’s a plague in recent romance novel, and it’s called the “underwhelming epilogue” where readers are whooshed anywhere from a few months to decades into the future to see just how happy “happily ever after” turned out. Nine times out of ten, it is too fluffy and spare to justify its presence. Nine-and-a-half times out of ten, it undermines the proper ending. Dunaway gives DISCOVERING LUCY a fabulous climax…I wish she’d left it alone.

The overall reading experience, though, was stellar. This is a tension-filled romance that kept me riveted until (almost) the very end.