Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘romance’

Always the Season

264_400_csupload_67034708Seasons of love and War by Brenda Ashworth Barry
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

This is a book to read in any season. Intimate, insightful, and identifiable. Seasons of love and War took me on an unexpected ride through American history, small town pride, and personal reflection.

In 1972, I was 18 years old, a conscientious objector, and adamant protestor against he war in Vietnam. At the time, I could not differentiate between the failed policies of the U.S. government, and those who were drafted to go fight in this disastrous conflict. Since then, I have come to know the difference.

I had friends at the time who went into the service, and I wrote a biography about a colleague who was there (Walking Into the Fire). I know how it effected thousands of lives, and the suffering that ensued. The impact it had on relationships however, never really hit me until reading this story.

The author conveys a deep understanding of two young people deeply in love (Beth Ann Rose and Kaylob Shawn O’Brien), the integral belief they have in honor and commitment, and the consequences there decisions have on one another and there friends and family. The time and place feel real and authentic.

It’s always a good sign when I find myself crying while reading about someone’s life, whether imaginary or real. This book touched me in unexpected ways. The support Beth Ann has from her friends (Frankie, Carol, Danny, Lisa) and the understanding she receives from her family, are precious. Many individuals do not have the kind of care and comfort she receives, or the faith that there loved ones will always come through.

Whether it is a time of peace or war in your family, nation or relationship, it is always a good time to pick up Seasons of love and War, and treat yourself to a moving, well told family saga that leaves you no choice but to read the entire series.

 

 

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Agatha Christie Meets Nora Roberts

Killing at the White Swan Inn by Carole Hall.
Melange Books, 2017
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

whiteswannIf Nora Roberts, Agatha Christie, and Salman Rushdie wrote as a ménage à trois, Killing at the Swan Inn could be the story they birthed. Ms. Hall has written a tale that combines a cozy murder-mystery, with contemporary romance, and cultural differences, which converge in the Berkshires at Margot’s newly acquired inn (The White Swan). 

The characters who inhabit the inn, and who visit, are introduced in quick succession, with readers understanding, and cheerleading, for each to find release from an abusive relationship (Veronica Hewitt), forgiveness and redemption (Charles Allan Whittaker), safety from a vengeful family (Soraya and Omar Sulaman-Mamoud), and love (Isobel, Manager John, Charles, and Detective Adrian Reynolds).

Those who work at the inn, and mourn the loss of long-time owner, Isobel’s mother Claire, run the inn like a family, and try to make the well-known, and famous men and women that visit, a sense of it being their home as well. This sense of caring for one another is evident and visceral throughout, and one of the strongest characteristics of the story. Humanity at its best.

Killing at the White Swan is an enjoyable, and brief visit, with people you’d want to meet in person, let alone spend a weekend at the inn.

Fictional Realities

41jh2yi72qlThere is a friend of mine, who worked with me as a nurse at hospice a few years back. One day, after work, I met her husband. When I asked her the next day how they’d met, she told me she’d been married to his brother. Well, I thought, that’s interesting. Tell me more. What arose from her telling was a story that sounded like a movie. She isn’t the kind of person who jokes around, so I knew she was telling the truth, though it could have been the best of fiction. That’s when I decided to make it just that – a fictional story based on real life. Loving Annalise was the result.

After years of poverty, heartbreak, loss and betrayal, Tomas enters Annalise’s world and shatters the iron casing she’s erected around her heart. Tomas is kind, intelligent, romantic and handsome, but he’s also her husband’s brother! Once Tomas and Annalise meet, they are forever intertwined and repeatedly ripped apart by fate, self-doubt and blackmail. Her husband, Jens, is a brilliant, jealous and manipulative scoundrel who keeps her psychologically under lock and key, until her passion for Tomas sets her free.

Writing Loving Annalise is the second time I’ve written a novel based on historical realities. Buddha’s Wife was the first. Though most of the people in the story existed, and some of the places, times, and words are reported to have been accurate, the majority of the conversations, interactions, and story-line were imagined. Like Loving Annalise, Buddha’s Wife is based on history, and people that were living breathing beings.

Loving Annalise, and Buddha’s Wife, are the only time I have written stories in this fashion. Normally (whatever that is), I either write straight fiction, or non-fiction, about a specific person, place, or issue, and do not attempt to combine these disparate genres. That doesn’t mean that parts of my life, and personal experiences, do not influence or become part of my writing, but not intentionally (that I am aware of).

It Only Gets Better

51M50efHnMLCrowded by Eleanor Green
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Bree is a sex addict. Jane is a killer. Anna is a hard-working florist. Each is distinct and completely different from one another. Bree has no problem meeting, and using men. Jane hates men and protects other women from them. Anna loves the man she meets, Pratt, and is always questioning herself. We follow each woman, and their experiences in New York, with alternating chapters focusing on one or the other.

Ms. Green has written believable and contrasting characters, who appear to have little in common. The characteristics of each person are so well defined, that even without chapter headings it would be easy to know who is speaking, what they are thinking, and what is taking place. As Bree continues trying to avoid love, and Anna searches for it, Jane is destroying possibilities of love, and those who abuse others.

As the story continues, and more details are conveyed, readers’ may be able to ascertain a few overlapping connections, but each could be a book unto itself. Bree would be about a woman living in the moment, and not wanting attachment, similar to Diane Keaton in Finding Mr. Goodbar. Jane would be a serial killer murder mystery. And Anna, would be a contemporary romance.

Crowded gets better with each page, as we come to understand how Bree, Jane, and Anna, see themselves, those they are in relationship with, and the world around them. The past has a powerful impact on the present, and the present is a different experience for each character. Am very pleased to have been encouraged to read this book.

 

Raven Song & Shadow Wolf


LongSnowsMoonLong Snows Moon
by Stacey Darlington
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

A line in Long Snows Moon, that could be used to describe the story, says, “Find your mate, heal your mother, and teach wolf magic.” First people, animal totems, forest creatures, and a history of loss, love, and secrets, swirl around Jameson Jordan/Raven Song and Devon Danworth/Shadow Wolf. 

Jameson lives in the woods by herself, and Devon grew up in a life of city luxury. They are brought together as girls, when Devon’s mother adopts a half-breed dog/wolf, named Moon, for Devon, from Jameson and her mother (Doctor Joann Jordan). Jameson sees herself as a “half-breed” as well, having a white father and her Native-American mother.

Talking with, and to, owls, snakes, wolves, bears, and other living beings, comes naturally to Jameson, and later Devon, as they find their way to one another as adults. Speaking with, and hearing messages from, non-humans, has a major impact and influence on the characters and story. There are times when it is not clear whether humans are animals, or vice-a-versa, and some unexpected twists at the end of the story delightfully emphasize those qualities.

Long Snows Moon contains deep life-lessons, and ways of seeing things, without sounding like a philosophy textbook, or native cliches. Jameson and Devon are beautiful, strong, complicated, independent women whose love is strong enough to let each take the path they must follow, whether together or alone.

Nothing But the Best

SecondBestSecond Best by Charmaine Pauls
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

The story is a beautiful work of art that alternates between the first person account of Molly von Aswegen as a teen, and her later life in Johannesburg, South Africa, as told in the third person. The tale takes place between 1981 and 1984 with 17-year-old Molly fighting for her life in an industrial school (similar to reform school), and the foster homes, jobs, and people she encounters once she gets out. The pacing, and timing, between her past, and present, are done seamlessly and to great effect.

Having most every horrible thing possible happen to her before she turns twenty-one, it is not surprising that Molly has little trust in others, and no self regard for herself. There are only two people that stay with her, and whom she trusts. Malcolm (Mal) meets her at school just before he goes off into the army and to fight in Angola. Neill Mckenzie, who owns the Opera Bakery, is the second person who sees something more in Molly than her life circumstances and reputation. Neill sees potential and a passion for baking. The story is reminiscent of the 2015 film Dough (without the comedic elements), which has an old Jewish baker struggling to keep his business alive in London, and the teenage Muslim boy he hires, who is “nothing but trouble”.

All of the character’s in Second Best are played well. Molly and Neill’s families are from different sides of town, and each member comes to life. Molly’s friend and foes at school, Berta, Mr. de Jonge, and Jessica, are like people you may know, or have known. The Opera Bakery’s obnoxious and self-centered patron, Judge William Brooks, who has power, prestige, and a sense of entitlement, can also be found in cities across the world. Realism, with dialogue, character, and action, run rampant throughout the story.

Second Best is a well crafted, insightful, and entertaining story, that takes you into the heart and soul of a young woman finding her way through a hellish childhood, and discovering if anything reminiscent of self-love, respect, and love, is remotely possible.

Romantic Comedy at It’s Best

Tales From A Broad by Jeannine Henvey
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

TFABIf you like Jane Austin you’ll love Tales From A Broad. If you enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love, and Under the Tucson Sun, you’ll want to languish in Tales From A Broad. If you liked Sex In the City, Pretty Woman, An Affair to Remember, and any of a hundred other romantic books and movies, you will find great pleasure in reading Tales From A Broad. If, on the other hand, you don’t like comedy, romance, “chick lit”, “women’s fiction”, or anything remotely similar, you’ll still fall in love with Tales From A Broad.

Lucy Banks is jilted by her fiancé, Cooper, days before there New York City wedding. Wallowing in self-pity, regret, dismay, and righteous anger, 42-year-old Lucy is given a ray of hope and possibility with a surprise visit from her concerned sister, Morgan, and 24-year-old niece, Tess. They have brought plane tickets to Europe for Tess and Lucy to travel together, in hopes they will each find a fresh start, perhaps some personal insight, and if nothing else, a little fun.

At first reading, I mistakingly thought this was a personal journal of the authors, but soon discovered that it was written so well that it just seemed personal. Everyone is flawed, complicated, and unique. Lucy is funny as hell, and delightfully snarky. Each experience, including chance encounters with a young man, Mark, and his older brother, Simon, bring new revelations to Lucy and Tess, pushing their boundaries and how they see themselves and others.

One of my favorite movies I saw last year was a 2014 Indian film called Queen, about a young woman who is dumped days before her marriage, and then decides to go on her honeymoon by herself to Europe. She stays at a youth hostile and meets a wonderfully eclectic and odd collection of new friends. She also comes into her own, and becomes clear about who she is and what she wants. Tales From A Broad follows a similar plot, but with an older woman and more mature perspective.

Tales From A Broad is not contrived, or trite, and will have you laughing, crying and rooting for Lucy’s happiness, whether you are an avid fan of romantic comedies and women’s literature, or not.

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