Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘romance’

Running Into the Past

Life Happens On The Stairs by Amy J. Markstahler.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

61yvbeR9oJL._SY346_Seventeen-year-old Elsie’s dad is dying, she’s falling for an amazing guy (Tyler), and the divide between rich and poor in Hardin County Tennessee has never been wider. Elsie’s mother (Claire) cleans the house of stuck up and wealthy Mrs. Vaughn, and Tyler is her smart-as-a-whip grandson. Life Happens On The Stairs has hints of the classic The Prince and the Pauper, with an intense love story in the contemporary south. Ms. Markstahler takes us into the mind, heart, and body, of this young teen whose father brought her and her family back from Illinois to his families land.

Here’s a little of what happens when Elsie fills in for her mother at Mrs. Vaughns and meets her in the hallway. “For the next few hours, I vacuumed, dusted, scoured the bathroom and polished the glass on the upper level. Mom always cleaned when she was mad or frustrated. Now I understood why. As the day moved on, I started feeling better. At one-thirty, I walked down the hallway towards Mrs. Vaughn’s bedroom. The passage seemed to narrow as apprehension overwhelmed me. I slowed my steps. Why did I feel like sprinting out of the house? A doorknob clicked. The hair stood up on my arms. That’s why.”

The tension and conflict between Elsie and her mother, and Elsie and her brother (Mark), are spot on and completely relatable. The growing bond between Tyler and Elsie is well developed, with each of them pushing the other to experiences, and memories, they may never have explored, or remembered, left to their own devices, family backgrounds and expectations. Ms. Markstahler also knows how to describe what it’s like when carrying for someone you love who is dying. Life Happens On The Stairs is an excellent story about love and family, for both young and older adults.

Odds Not In Her Favor

512tC1jRudLTo The One I Never Forgot by Christi Williams.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This is a sweet tale about second chances and beating the odds. Gianna and Zack were high school sweethearts, but haven’t seen heads or tails of one another for six years. They each believe the other chose not to reach out after Zack joined the service and went to the middle east. Gianna takes a chance and writes a letter on a site called To The One I Never ForgotThe odds are not in her favor, but she’s not going to give up.

As Gianna decides what to do next, she pauses. “She wanted to write more, but she made herself stop. She told herself she only wanted an explanation and then she would be content. She would see if Zack answered again. Before she said too much, before she tried to explain too much, too soon. If Zack had wanted to contact her, he could have done so at any time over the years. But he hadn’t.

For those who are familiar with the book (and movie) called The Notebook, you will find familiar territory reading To The One I Never Forgot. Ms. Williams tells the story from both Gianna and Zack’s perspective. In the process, the trauma’s and life changes they both experienced are revealed. There is also a surprise at the ending which caught me off guard but added a nice twist, and additional resonance, to the tale.

Like Night and Day

41sUKwJHjgLA Secret Love by Brigitta Moon.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A Secret Love is told from Christina’s and Derek’s perspectives about their marriage, and events before Christmas, with one another and their family. They have two children, and Derek is a successful stockbroker. Christina’s feelings and behavior towards Derek change dramatically, without any rhyme or reason (to Derek). There’s also another persons perspective, which is shared much later in the story.

Ms. Moon has written a clever tale that doesn’t make much sense, until it does. It’s a hard act to bring off, and she does so with depth and precision. Reviewers often say that there are “a lot of twists and turns” in this or that book. This tale goes beyond twists and turns to inside out and upside down. Nothing is as obvious as it seems. Secret, threatening calls to Christina, and Derek’s jealous secretary (Frannie) add to the mix.

When everything comes out in the wash, it is quite a load to try to separate, fold, and put back together. A Secret Love is not quite like anything I’ve read, or thought of before, and that’s good. If you’re ready for something completely different, and unexpected, this is a book for you. Just when you think you know who your partner really is, you discover they aren’t quite the same person you married.

 

 

Something Dangerous

51YshZA25gLA Risky Christmas Affair by Nina Romano.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Serena is married to Walter. They have a jewelry store in Rome. They’ve traveled the world. Their marriage is complicated. A previous loss effects them deeply. Walter wants Serena to take one more trip (a flight alone, to London, to make a deal), before they spend more time together, or she goes back to school. She doesn’t want to go.

One of the treats about A Risky Christmas Affair is its solid sense of place. “For centuries, the castle had been a place of refuge for Popes, and the sight of the fortress gave her the strength she needed to rid herself os something dangerous. When she had the miscarriage, she had stayed at Our Lady of Angels Hospital, which overlooked this same castle.”

A lot happens in this story in a short time. There is mistrust, resignation, attempted robbery, an unwanted gun, expectations, a car wreck, meeting a member of parliament,  remorse, and jealousy. Ms. Romano is an excellent storyteller, and it shines through with this tale. Though it is fiction, it felt like A Risky Christmas Affair could be true.

Emily Meets Emma

51TBGBOEH2LThe Gift by Casi McLean. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Savannah (Savy) and Ryan are very much in love, and planning on taking the next step, when Savy panics and takes off in her car during a snowstorm near Atlanta on Christmas Eve. When her car gets stuck in a ditch, she makes her way to a cabin off the road and meets an older woman (Emma) who lets her stay the night.

The Gift, by Ms. McLean, is a novelette that takes a sweet romance, with expected outcomes, to a different realm, and makes readers’ think twice about the choices we make. What would happen if we chose differently, or took a right turn, instead of going left? If our life is a matter of many moments, and decisions, how do we decide?

The author writes, “Collapsing on her bed, she stared at the ceiling. Had her entire Christmas Eve been a dream or some psychotic hallucination? Maybe the exhaust fumes had seeped to her brain. Oddly though, whatever happened to Savy in the last twelve hours had changed her perspective. Flashing on Emma, Savannah bolted up with a jolt.”

Casi McLean has written a contained, and thought-provoking, long short story that makes one ponder. The Gift reflects on relationships, family, career, living alone, and discovering what one believes are the most important things in life. There are no set answers, but every choice has consequences. Choose wisely.

Porn, Romance & Pain

513yoXIyYDLBroken Dreams: Broken Pieces by Martha Perez.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Let’s see… How do I describe Broken Dreams? You could say it’s a blended cocktail of pornography, romance, and inspiration, or… a memoir-like story about a woman’s search for safety, sexual pleasure, and love. Either description would be accurate, as this narrative follows the loves and lives of Josh, Emily, Kyle, Trevor, Betty, Rick, Paige, and Tommy. The primary tellers of the tale are Emily, Trevor, and Josh.

The sex in this book is nonstop and detailed. The main characters change partners, and sleep with who they choose, as often as a bee goes from one flower to another. Through it all, Trevor is always in love with Emily, and Emily is in love with Josh. After marriages, children, and abuse and assault (acted out upon Emily by Josh), there is a slow awakening and understanding that begins to take place.

Broken Dreams is like reading several people’s journals simultaneously. The language used by the men, especially when they are just finishing high school, sounds like machismo jocks, and rings true (though somewhat extreme). Anger, frustration, pleasure, drugs, parties, bars, and sex take center stage. I kept thinking throughout, that they’d all be happier in an open (or polyamorous) relationship, and who knows, perhaps they are.

Upsetting the Status Quo

51AAuLof0GLNot Just A Girl: A Lesbian Romance
by Judy Folger.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

What happens in Royal’s life, in Not Just A Girl, has been experienced by many men and women. Living up to society’s expectations, not wanting to “overturn the cart”, let alone acknowledge there own feelings, they do what they’re “supposed to do”. In this case, it is Royal marrying a man not long after high school, while still being in love with her best friend, Mackenzie. Such circumstances were especially prevalent up to the beginning of this century, and still continues for some.

When Royal talks to her gay sister-in-law, Avery, she becomes acutely aware of herself, and how she’s been living to please others.

The words shot out of Royal’s mouth before she could stop them. ‘When a woman decides to make her own happiness, she upsets the status quo!’

‘Yes!’ Avery shot back, smiling, ‘Everyone else’s status quo…’

She reflected for a moment. ‘Oh. Oh, I see.'”

The youngest of four siblings, with three older brothers, Royal is told by them, and her parents, that she is “just a girl”. Which, in their eyes, means she should get married, have children, and take care of everyone else. Once her children are teenagers, and her husband (Jim) takes extended time away from the family, Royal begins to tentatively look at what she wants, and who she is. With the help of her friend at work (Claudia), a professor from her college days (Professor Belkin), and Avery, she slowly begins to acknowledge who she is and what she wants.

There are a number of family scenes with parents, and in-laws, which were all too familiar. For example, the Thanksgiving dinners found the men and women playing all the stereotyped roles of men watching football, and the women cooking and providing. It takes Royal half her life to start believing in herself, and break out of these roles. Ms. Folger has created an insightful, heart-felt story of one woman deciding to set herself free and find happiness. Not Just A Girl is not just a book, it’s an inner journey of discovery brought to the page for all to see.

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