Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas In Dogtown by Suzanne Johnson (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Bewitching Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Christmas In Dogtown by Author Suzanne Johnson!

Author Guest Post

Small-Town Girls and Going Home
By: Suzanne Johnson

I grew up in a really small town. On a good day, the population was about 2,500, and my roots ran deep. My parents had been born there. My grandparents had been born there. My great-grandparents had been born there too, and my great-great-grandparents within fifty miles. I had to go back to the late 1700s to find ancestors in other states, and a good century earlier than that to find their treks from Scotland and Ireland.

My high school graduating class, with seventy-four members, was the largest in the history of the town—the year behind us, the class had thirty-nine people. Of the seventy-four of us who graduated, seventy had been together since first grade.

One of my current coworkers comes from a small town (although not quite that small) and her one-year experiment in moving away only left her homesick and anxious to move back at the first chance.

There are, I’ve learned, two kinds of small-town girls (and guys too, I guess). There are those who, like my coworker, can’t imagine living anywhere else, especially not in a big, crowded city. And there are those who, like me, counted the days until my high school sentence was done so I could wipe the dust off my feet and never look back. I left home at eighteen and never returned except for short visits. In the years since, I’ve lived in some of the largest cities in the U.S. (Houston, San Diego, Chicago). New Orleans, where I’ve spent most of the past two decades, isn’t a large city by most standards, but the metro area is sprawling and has more than a million residents.

But six years ago, my roots called to me, and I realized I was tired of city life. I was tired of traffic, of taking an hour to drive to and from the grocery store or the mall, of crime and being afraid of going out alone at night, of kvetching local politicians. I was tired of people, people everywhere.

So I returned to a small town. Oh, not as small as the one in which I grew up. A nice little 50,000-people town (half of whom are transient college students) with a lot of bookstores, a nice museum, and virtually no crime. Where the sky is so blue and pollution-free, I had to stare at it the first few years I was here. I still go out to see stars, which I hadn’t seen for years, and they continue to amaze me. Since I couldn’t see them in the cities, I’d forgotten they were up there.

So the idea of home, and how home shapes us, was an idea I wanted to explore in CHRISTMAS IN DOGTOWN, my novelette about a young woman named Resa from a tiny Louisiana community who thought she wanted nothing more than to leave the dust of St. James Parish behind and move to New Orleans. When circumstances force her back to rural Dogtown for the month of December, she’s determined to get away as soon as she can.

And then she learns that she’d grown up not knowing much about home, and what home means. It’s really not about a place, but a mindset, a spirit, a deep and unabiding love, the sight of a bonfire on a river levee or a night sky full of stars. Home is, maybe, the place we all return to in time. For some, like Resa, it can mean literally going back. For others, like me, it’s a gradual understanding that home is more deeply ingrained than we thought, and that we can find our own ways to redefine it so that it makes sense for the people we’ve become.

DOGTOWN is a sweet paranormal romance, an interpretation of an old Louisiana folk legend, and a celebration of the modern practice of lighting bonfires along the Mississippi River so that Papa Noel can find the Cajun children when he arrives on the river in his pirogue. But mostly, it’s a story about home.

Are you living in the town where you grew up, or have you found a new place to call home? One commenter will receive a $5 Amazon gift card or equivalent purchase from Book Depository if outside the U.S.

About The Author

Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance (under the name Susannah Sandlin) from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis' birthplace, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick. She’s the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series and, as Susannah Sandlin, the Penton Legacy paranormal romance series.


Book Review

Christmas In Dogtown by Suzanne Johnson
Publisher: The Story Vault
Publication Date: October 17, 2012
Format: e-Book - 35 pages / Kindle - 168 KB / Nook - 110 KB
Genre: Paranormal Romance

BUY THE BOOK: Christmas In Dogtown

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Bewitching Book Tours.

Book Description:

A woman who spent years escaping her rural past learns that Dogtown, Louisiana, hides more family secrets than just the recipe for boudin blanc…

Resa Madere’s on the verge of losing it all. The boyfriend’s gone. The job’s history. Her beloved house is on the brink of foreclosure. She’ll do anything to save it—even spend a long Christmas holiday working in St. James Parish, Louisiana, helping her uncle run the family meat business. But the community of Dogtown, which has been home for seven generations of the Madere and Caillou families, has deep roots and deeper secrets. For Resa, going home is one thing.

Getting out might not be so easy.

Book Excerpt:

“You are stupid,” Resa told her reflection in the tiny, scratched mirror of the White Castle’s rose-pink bathroom. “Stupid, ridiculous, and absurd.”

She’d been wrestling with her curly black hair for a half hour, and the brown eyes that stared back at her from beneath freshly plucked brows and carefully applied eyeliner looked more jittery than sexy. “And idiotic.”

First, it had been almost a week since Chan had asked her to the Saturday night community dance, popping the question almost shyly as they hacked at the bodies of gigantic dead fish. They’d both been covered in blood and smelled like they’d been rolling in bait, which should have tipped her off that anything in Dogtown reeking of romance, well, reeked.

Second, her potential date had left immediately after asking her out so he could catch an alligator that had eaten somebody’s poodle in one of those backwater houses near the swamp. He burned rubber out of the Madere’s driveway after making sure he had enough duct tape to wrap around the gator’s jaws. Adequate duct tape was not an attribute she’d ever sought in a man.

My Book Review:

Ad executive Resa Madere's life is on a downward slide: she's lost her job, her boyfriend, and her house is on the brink of foreclosure ... all before the Christmas holiday. Can life get any worse? When Resa's Uncle Aim becomes ill and asks her to come home to Dogtown, Louisiana, and help run the family meat market, Resa suddenly finds herself back in the town that she thought she had escaped from years ago. And if that isn't enough, Chandler Caillou, her childhood sweetheart is back in town and her family is acting strange ... is this a coincidence or is there something more going on in Dogtown?

Christmas In Dogtown is an enjoyable short holiday novella that follows a young woman's journey of rediscovering her hometown, family traditions, and finding what she has been searching for has been in front of her the whole time.

This is a touching story that has a nice mixture of light romance, intrigue and paranormal elements. In the backwoods town of Dogtown, Louisiana, old family traditions, obligations, and secrets are revealed, causing Resa to struggle to make a choice of what matter most in her life. The reader can't help but get drawn into the story of the Madere-Caillou families and how their generations of traditions and future now lies upon Resa and Chandler's shoulders. As the old family secrets are revealed, Resa struggles to make a choice between family and what she wants out of life, and while Chandler leaves the decision up to Resa, there's nothing like the magical holiday season to help her decide!

With a cast of quirky characters; humorous dialogue and interactions; a richly detailed description of the small Louisiana town setting; and an engaging storyline that mixes together romance, intrigue and a touch of paranormal elements; Christmas In Dogtown is a perfect short story to read during the holiday season!


Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Follow the tour stops for Spotlights, Author Guest Posts, Author Interviews, and Book Reviews.


  1. I moved away from my hometown but moved back when my mom was having trouble managing on her own.

    1. I know that dilemma, Sandy. I couldn't do the work I do in my hometown, so when my mom couldn't manage on her own any more she moved in with me. It has been an adventure!

    2. Hi Sandy! Thank you for stopping by and visiting with Suzanne.

      Hi Suzanne! Thank you for the opportunity to host your virtual book tour event. I really enjoyed reading this enchanting novella. :)

    3. Thanks for having me here today, Kathleen--I'm glad you enjoyed the story!

  2. We moved around a lot when I was a child, so no home town. Home is still wherever my Mother happens to be.


    1. Hi Mary! Thank you for visiting with Suzanne!

    2. That's true, Mary--I went back to my little town to visit at least once a year while my parents were there...I can't quite imagine living there again, though. But never say never!

  3. Being a military brat we moved around a lot when I was young. We did stay a few years in a little town in San Diego. It was great, could walk to school and just about everywhere else. I miss that small town life now that I live in an urban big city.
    Loved the review, the book was fantastic. One of my favorite reads this year and a perfect story for this time of year.


    1. Thank you, Steph! I think it's easier to see the advantages of small-town life once you move away from it. The town I live in now is the perfect size, I think--about 50k. Small enough to not have much crime or traffic, but big enough to have things like bookstores and a museum :-)

  4. Hi Steph! Thank you for visiting with Suzanne. Thank you for the kind comment on the book review I appreciate it. I agree, this was one of my favorite stories that I have read this year too. :)

  5. I moved away for 5 years, but came back because I wanted to be with my family.

    1. Family was a big part of my pull too, Liz. My brother, nieces, nephews, etc., are mostly within a hundred miles now instead of a thousand miles. Although, strangely, I don't know that I see them any more than I did before--everyone's so busy!