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.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (Book Review)




The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Publisher: Celadon Books
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Format: Hardcover - 323 pages
               Paperback - 297 pages
               Audio Book - 8 Hours 43 Minutes
               Kindle - 5122 KB
               Nook - 5 MB
ISBN (Hardcover): 978-1250301697
ISBN (Paperback): 978-1409181620
ASIN (AudioBook): B07JX7ZDJ3
ASIN (Kindle):  B07D2C6J4K
BNID: 978-1250301710
Genre: Psychological Thriller


Buy The Book:



Disclaimer: I purchased the book via Book Of The Month Club - January 2019 Book Box Selection.



Book Description:

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him....



Book Excerpt:



CHAPTER 1

ALICIA BERENSON WAS THIRTY-THREE YEARS OLD when she killed her husband.

They had been married for seven years. They were both artists — Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer. He had a distinctive style, shooting semi-starved, semi-naked women in strange, unflattering angles. Since his death, the price of his photographs has increased astronomically. I find his stuff rather slick and shallow, to be honest. It has none of the visceral quality of Alicia's best work. I don't know enough about art to say whether Alicia Berenson will stand the test of time as a painter. Her talent will always be overshadowed by her notoriety, so it's hard to be objective. And you might well accuse me of being biased. All I can offer is my opinion, for what it's worth. And to me, Alicia was a kind of genius. Apart from her technical skill, her paintings have an uncanny ability to grab your attention — by the throat, almost — and hold it in a viselike grip.

Gabriel Berenson was murdered six years ago. He was forty-four years old. He was killed on the twenty-fifth of August — it was an unusually hot summer, you may remember, with some of the highest temperatures ever recorded. The day he died was the hottest of the year.

On the last day of his life, Gabriel rose early. A car collected him at 5:15 a.m. from the house he shared with Alicia in northwest London, on the edge of Hampstead Heath, and he was driven to a shoot in Shoreditch. He spent the day photographing models on a rooftop for Vogue.

Not much is known about Alicia's movements. She had an upcoming exhibition and was behind with her work. It's likely she spent the day painting in the summerhouse at the end of the garden, which she had recently converted into a studio. In the end, Gabriel's shoot ran late, and he wasn't driven home until eleven p.m.

Half an hour later, their neighbor, Barbie Hellmann, heard several gunshots. Barbie phoned the police, and a car was dispatched from the station on Haverstock Hill at 11:35 p.m. It arrived at the Berensons' house in just under three minutes.

The front door was open. The house was in pitch-black darkness; none of the light switches worked. The officers made their way along the hallway and into the living room. They shone torches around the room, illuminating it in intermittent beams of light. Alicia was discovered standing by the fireplace. Her white dress glowed ghostlike in the torchlight. Alicia seemed oblivious to the presence of the police. She was immobilized, frozen — a statue carved from ice — with a strange, frightened look on her face, as if confronting some unseen terror.

A gun was on the floor. Next to it, in the shadows, Gabriel was seated, motionless, bound to a chair with wire wrapped around his ankles and wrists. At first the officers thought he was alive. His head lolled slightly to one side, as if he were unconscious. Then a beam of light revealed Gabriel had been shot several times in the face. His handsome features were gone forever, leaving a charred, blackened, bloody mess. The wall behind him was sprayed with fragments of skull, brains, hair — and blood.

Blood was everywhere — splashed on the walls, running in dark rivulets along the floor, along the grain of the wooden floorboards. The officers assumed it was Gabriel's blood. But there was too much of it. And then something glinted in the torchlight — a knife was on the floor by Alicia's feet. Another beam of light revealed the blood spattered on Alicia's white dress. An officer grabbed her arms and held them up to the light. There were deep cuts across the veins in her wrists — fresh cuts, bleeding hard.

Alicia fought off the attempts to save her life; it took three officers to restrain her. She was taken to the Royal Free Hospital, only a few minutes away. She collapsed and lost consciousness on the way there. She had lost a lot of blood, but she survived.

The following day, she lay in bed in a private room at the hospital. The police questioned her in the presence of her lawyer. Alicia remained silent throughout the interview. Her lips were pale, bloodless; they fluttered occasionally but formed no words, made no sounds. She answered no questions. She could not, would not, speak. Nor did she speak when charged with Gabriel's murder. She remained silent when she was placed under arrest, refusing to deny her guilt or confess it.

Alicia never spoke again.

Her enduring silence turned this story from a commonplace domestic tragedy into something far grander: a mystery, an enigma that gripped the headlines and captured the public imagination for months to come.

Alicia remained silent — but she made one statement. A painting. It was begun when she was discharged from the hospital and placed under house arrest before the trial. According to the court-appointed psychiatric nurse, Alicia barely ate or slept — all she did was paint.

Normally Alicia labored weeks, even months, before embarking on a new picture, making endless sketches, arranging and rearranging the composition, experimenting with color and form — a long gestation followed by a protracted birth as each brushstroke was painstakingly applied. Now, however, she drastically altered her creative process, completing this painting within a few days of her husband's murder.

And for most people, this was enough to condemn her — returning to the studio so soon after Gabriel's death betrayed an extraordinary insensitivity. The monstrous lack of remorse of a cold-blooded killer.

Perhaps. But let us not forget that while Alicia Berenson may be a murderer, she was also an artist. It makes perfect sense — to me at least — that she should pick up her brushes and paints and express her complicated emotions on canvas. No wonder that, for once, painting came to her with such ease; if grief can be called easy.

The painting was a self-portrait. She titled it in the bottom left-hand corner of the canvas, in light blue Greek lettering.

One word:

Alcestis.

CHAPTER 2
ALCESTIS IS THE HEROINE OF A GREEK MYTH. A love story of the saddest kind. Alcestis willingly sacrifices her life for that of her husband, Admetus, dying in his place when no one else will. An unsettling myth of self-sacrifice, it was unclear how it related to Alicia's situation. The true meaning of the allusion remained unknown to me for some time. Until one day, the truth came to light —

But I'm going too fast. I'm getting ahead of myself. I must start at the beginning and let events speak for themselves. I mustn't color them, twist them, or tell any lies. I'll proceed step by step, slowly and cautiously. But where to begin? I should introduce myself, but perhaps not quite yet; after all, I am not the hero of this tale. It is Alicia Berenson's story, so I must begin with her — and the Alcestis.

The painting is a self-portrait, depicting Alicia in her studio at home in the days after the murder, standing before an easel and a canvas, holding a paintbrush. She is naked. Her body is rendered in unsparing detail: strands of long red hair falling across bony shoulders, blue veins visible beneath translucent skin, fresh scars on both her wrists. She's holding the paintbrush between her fingers. It's dripping red paint — or is it blood? She is captured in the act of painting — yet the canvas is blank, as is her expression. Her head is turned over her shoulder and she stares straight out at us. Mouth open, lips parted. Mute.

During the trial, Jean-Felix Martin, who managed the small Soho gallery that represented Alicia, made the controversial decision, decried by many as sensationalist and macabre, to exhibit the Alcestis. The fact that the artist was currently in the dock for killing her husband meant, for the first time in the gallery's long history, queues formed outside the entrance.

I stood in line with the other prurient art-lovers, waiting my turn by the neon-red lights of a sex shop next door. One by one, we shuffled inside. Once in the gallery, we were herded toward the painting, like an excitable crowd at a fairground making its way through a haunted house. Eventually, I found myself at the front of the line — and was confronted with the Alcestis.

I stared at the painting, staring into Alicia's face, trying to interpret the look in her eyes, trying to understand — but the portrait defied me. Alicia stared back at me — a blank mask — unreadable, impenetrable. I could divine neither innocence nor guilt in her expression.

Other people found her easier to read.

"Pure evil," whispered the woman behind me.

"Isn't she?" her companion agreed. "Cold-blooded bitch."

A little unfair, I thought — considering Alicia's guilt had yet to be proven. But in truth it was a foregone conclusion. The tabloids had cast her as a villain from the start: a femme fatale, a black widow. A monster.

The facts, such as they were, were simple: Alicia was found alone with Gabriel's body; only her fingerprints were on the gun. There was never any doubt she killed Gabriel. Why she killed him, on the other hand, remained a mystery.

The murder was debated in the media, and different theories were espoused in print and on the radio and on morning chat shows. Experts were brought in to explain, condemn, justify Alicia's actions. She must have been a victim of domestic abuse, surely, pushed too far, before finally exploding? Another theory proposed a sex game gone wrong — the husband was found tied up, wasn't he? Some suspected it was old-fashioned jealousy that drove Alicia to murder — another woman, probably? But at the trial Gabriel was described by his brother as a devoted husband, deeply in love with his wife. Well, what about money? Alicia didn't stand to gain much by his death; she was the one who had money, inherited from her father.

And so it went on, endless speculation — no answers, only more questions — about Alicia's motives and her subsequent silence. Why did she refuse to speak? What did it mean? Was she hiding something? Protecting someone? If so, who? And why?

At the time, I remember thinking that while everyone was talking, writing, arguing, about Alicia, at the heart of this frantic, noisy activity there was a void — a silence. A sphinx.

During the trial, the judge took a dim view of Alicia's persistent refusal to speak. Innocent people, Mr. Justice Alverstone pointed out, tended to proclaim their innocence loudly — and often. Alicia not only remained silent, but she showed no visible signs of remorse. She didn't cry once throughout the trial — a fact made much of in the press — her face remaining unmoved, cold. Frozen.

The defense had little choice but to enter a plea of diminished responsibility: Alicia had a long history of mental health problems, it was claimed, dating back to her childhood. The judge dismissed a lot of this as hearsay — but in the end he allowed himself to be swayed by Lazarus Diomedes, professor of forensic psychiatry at Imperial College, and clinical director of the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London. Professor Diomedes argued that Alicia's refusal to speak was in itself evidence of profound psychological distress — and she should be sentenced accordingly.

This was a rather roundabout way of saying something that psychiatrists don't like putting bluntly:

Diomedes was saying Alicia was mad.

It was the only explanation that made any sense: Why else tie up the man you loved to a chair and shoot him in the face at close range? And then express no remorse, give no explanation, not even speak? She must be mad.

She had to be.

In the end, Mr. Justice Alverstone accepted the plea of diminished responsibility and advised the jury to follow suit. Alicia was subsequently admitted to the Grove — under the supervision of the same Professor Diomedes whose testimony had been so influential with the judge.

If Alicia wasn't mad — that is, if her silence was merely an act, a performance for the benefit of the jury — then it had worked. She was spared a lengthy prison sentence — and if she made a full recovery, she might well be discharged in a few years. Surely now was the time to begin faking that recovery? To utter a few words here and there, then a few more; to slowly communicate some kind of remorse? But no. Week followed week, month followed month, then the years passed — and still Alicia didn't speak.

There was simply silence.

And so, with no further revelation forthcoming, the disappointed media eventually lost interest in Alicia Berenson. She joined the ranks of other briefly famous murderers; faces we remember, but whose names we forget.

Not all of us. Some people — myself included — continued to be fascinated by the mystery of Alicia Berenson and her enduring silence. As a psychotherapist, I thought it obvious that she had suffered a severe trauma surrounding Gabriel's death; and this silence was a manifestation of that trauma. Unable to come to terms with what she had done, Alicia stuttered and came to a halt, like a broken car. I wanted to help start her up again — help Alicia tell her story, to heal and get well. I wanted to fix her.

Without wishing to sound boastful, I felt uniquely qualified to help Alicia Berenson. I'm a forensic psychotherapist and used to working with some of the most damaged, vulnerable members of society. And something about Alicia's story resonated with me personally — I felt a profound empathy with her right from the start.

Unfortunately, I was still working at Broadmoor in those days, and so treating Alicia would have — should have — remained an idle fantasy, had not fate unexpectedly intervened.

Nearly six years after Alicia was admitted, the position of forensic psychotherapist became available at the Grove. As soon as I saw the advert, I knew I had no choice. I followed my gut — and applied for the job.

CHAPTER 3
MY NAME IS THEO FABER. I'm forty-two years old. And I became a psychotherapist because I was fucked-up. That's the truth — though it's not what I said during the job interview, when the question was put to me.

"What drew you to psychotherapy, do you think?" asked Indira Sharma, peering at me over the rims of her owlish glasses.

Indira was consultant psychotherapist at the Grove. She was in her late fifties with an attractive round face and long jet-black hair streaked with gray. She gave me a small smile — as if to reassure me this was an easy question, a warm-up volley, a precursor to trickier shots to follow.

I hesitated. I could feel the other members of the panel looking at me. I remained conscious of maintaining eye contact as I trotted out a rehearsed response, a sympathetic tale about working part-time in a care home as a teenager; and how this inspired an interest in psychology, which led to a postgraduate study of psychotherapy, and so on.

"I wanted to help people, I suppose." I shrugged. "That's it, really."

Which was bullshit.

I mean, of course I wanted to help people. But that was a secondary aim — particularly at the time I started training. The real motivation was purely selfish. I was on a quest to help myself. I believe the same is true for most people who go into mental health. We are drawn to this profession because we are damaged — we study psychology to heal ourselves. Whether we are prepared to admit this or not is another question.

As human beings, in our earliest years we reside in a land before memory. We like to think of ourselves as emerging from this primordial fog with our characters fully formed, like Aphrodite rising perfect from the sea foam. But thanks to increasing research into the development of the brain, we know this is not the case. We are born with a brain half-formed — more like a muddy lump of clay than a divine Olympian. As the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott put it, "There is no such thing as a baby." The development of our personalities doesn't take place in isolation, but in relationship with others — we are shaped and completed by unseen, unremembered forces; namely, our parents.

This is frightening, for obvious reasons. Who knows what indignities we suffered, what torments and abuses, in this land before memory? Our character was formed without our even knowing it. In my case, I grew up feeling edgy, afraid; anxious. This anxiety seemed to predate my existence and exist independently of me. But I suspect it originated in my relationship with my father, around whom I was never safe.


Excerpted from "The Silent Patient"

Copyright © 2019 Astramare Limited.
Excerpted by permission of Celadon Books. 




My Book Review:


In his debut novel, The Silent Patient, author Alex Michaelides weaves a riveting psychological thriller that easily draws the reader into the dark storyline that follows criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber as he tries to unravel the mystery behind the murder of fashion photographer Gabriel Berenson by his artistic painter wife Alicia Berenson, and the reason behind her silence.

Set in London and told in the first person narrative by Theo Faber, the reader follows along as he unravels the layers of Alicia's troubled life and complicated relationships, hoping to shed light on why she murdered her husband, and why she has chosen to live in silence. Theo also provides the reader with snippets from his own troubled childhood past and current life issues. And to add to the intrigue, there are entries from Alicia's diary interspersed throughout the book that adds even more clues as to what was going on in Alicia's troubled life leading up to the night of the murder.

The Silent Patient is a captivating and complex multi-layered tale rich in detail and vivid descriptions. It has intriguing and suspenseful twists and turns, and the author plays a clever cat-n-mouse game with the reader as he provides enough characters and clues to keep the reader guessing if Alicia actually committed the murder, or could it have been someone else. He leaves the reader no other option than to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.

As a diehard fan of psychological thrillers, I must admit that this story exceeded my expectations. The dark intensity of the storyline and the complexity of the intertwining connection between Alicia  and Theo's troubled pasts, kept me thoroughly riveted, engrossed, and guessing as the pieces to the puzzle come together.

With a complex and realistic cast of characters, the author does a phenomenal job of delving into the tangled web of secrets, lies, betrayals, and history of emotional trauma and mental instability. The author transports the reader into this fast-paced white-knuckle storyline with his creative interweaving of a psychological cat-n-mouse game between the characters that leaves the reader's heart palpitating until the surprise ending ultimately leaves them completely shocked. It just doesn't get any better than this!

The Silent Patient is one heck of an adrenaline rush that is a must-read for the true diehard psychological thriller junkie!


RATING: 5 STARS 





About The Author




Alex Michaelides was born in Cyprus in 1977 to a Greek father and English mother. He studied English literature at Cambridge University and got his MA in screenwriting at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. He wrote the film The Devil You Know (2013) starring Rosamund Pike and co-wrote The Brits are Coming (2018), starring Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Parker Posey and Sofia Vergara. THE SILENT PATIENT is his first novel.


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Monday, March 4, 2019

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald (Book Review)




The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Format: Paperback - 368 pages
               Kindle - 2823 KB
               Nook - 4 MB
               AudioBook - 10 Hours 45 Minutes
ISBN: 978-1501184000
ASIN (Kindle): B075RQKYQH
ASIN (AudioBook): B07HKMD612
BNID: 978-1501184017
Genre: Mystery Suspense Thriller 



Buy The Book:



Disclaimer: I purchased this book from Once Upon A Book Club - February 2019 Adult Box and Fresh Fiction - February 2019 Book Box. 



Book Description:

In the vein of Big Little Lies and Reconstructing Amelia comes an emotionally charged domestic suspense novel about a mother unraveling the truth behind how her daughter became brain dead. And pregnant.

A search for the truth. A lifetime of lies.

In the small hours of the morning, Abi Knight is startled awake by the phone call no mother ever wants to get: her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the angry bruises circling Olivia’s wrists.

When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened that night. Heartbroken and grieving, she unravels the threads of her daughter’s life. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?

Christina McDonald weaves a suspenseful and heart wrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love. With flashbacks of Olivia’s own resolve to uncover family secrets, this taut and emotional novel asks: how well do you know your children? And how well do they know you? 



Book Excerpt:


The Night Olivia Fell


“You want the truth? I’m—” My admission was cut off by a streak of blazing hot pain as something exploded against the side of my head. My brain barely registered the blow, my vision a dusky blur of red, pain searing into my skull and down my jaw. I felt my body spin with the force of it.

I reeled backward until my legs whacked against the low cement wall and I tumbled over, my body hurtling sideways across the ledge. A dark fog pressed against my outer vision, and before I knew it I was falling, plunging into empty space.

I hit the river on my back, my eyes fastened on the bridge’s soaring spires illuminated by a flickering streetlamp.

Then the shadowy water tipped me under.



My Book Review:


In The Night Olivia Fell, author Christina McDonald weaves a riveting suspense thriller that easily draws the reader in with its dark storyline that follows single mother Abi Knight as she deals with a mother's worst fear: how her seventeen year old daughter Olivia's life ended so unexpectedly.

Set in Portage Point, Washington, and told in the alternating first person narrative by Olivia and Abi, the reader follows their story from past to present (Olivia's timeline: April - October // Abi's timeline: October - February). Abi searches for the answers to how Olivia fell from the Zig Zag Bridge into the river and suffered permanent and irreversible brain damage, and even more shocking is that Olivia has to be kept on life support because she is three months pregnant!

This captivating tale is rich in detail and vivid descriptions, has intriguing and suspenseful twists and turns, and will have the reader experiencing the full gamut of emotions, with no other option than to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.

As a diehard fan of suspense thrillers, I must admit that this story exceeded my expectations. The dark intensity of the storyline and the complexity of the intertwining connection between Abi and Olivia's pasts, and the heartbreaking present journey that Abi endures as she searches for answers and closure, kept me thoroughly riveted, engrossed, and guessing as the pieces to the puzzle come together.

With a complex and realistic cast of characters, the author does a phenomenal job of delving into the tangled web of secrets, lies, and betrayals; and Abi's undying mother's love and emotional quest for the truth about what happened to her daughter. The author transports the reader into this fast-paced white-knuckle storyline with her creative interweaving of a psychological cat-n-mouse game between the characters that leaves the reader's heart palpitating until the surprise ending leaves them emotionally spent. It just doesn't get any better than this!

The Night Olivia Fell is one heck of an adrenaline rush that is a must-read for the true diehard suspense thriller junkie!


RATING: 5 STARS 




About The Author




An author, journalist and copywriter, Christina has worked for companies such as The Sunday Times, Dublin, The Connacht Tribune, Galway, Expedia, USAToday.com, Travelex, and Pearson Publishing. Originally from Seattle, WA, she holds an MA in Journalism from the National University of Ireland Galway, and now lives in London, England. She is currently working on her second novel.


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Thursday, February 28, 2019

How To Find Love In A Bookshop by Veronica Henry (Book Review)




How To Find Love In A Bookshop by Veronica Henry
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
Format: Hardcover & Paperback - 352 pages
               AudioBook - 9 Hours 48 Minutes
               Kindle - 1726 KB / 348 pages
               Nook - 1 MB / 352 pages
ISBN (Hardcover): 978-0735223493
ISBN (Paperback): 978-0735223509
ASIN (Audiobook): B074HJPVMN
ASIN (Kindle): B01N1IFW3G
BNID: 978-0735223516
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Chick Lit / Women's Fiction



Buy The Book:



Book Description:

The enchanting story of a bookshop, its grieving owner, a supportive literary community, and the extraordinary power of books to heal the heart

Nightingale Books, nestled on the main street in an idyllic little village, is a dream come true for book lovers--a cozy haven and welcoming getaway for the literary-minded locals. But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open after her beloved father's death, and the temptation to sell is getting stronger. The property developers are circling, yet Emilia's loyal customers have become like family, and she can't imagine breaking the promise she made to her father to keep the store alive.

There's Sarah, owner of the stately Peasebrook Manor, who has used the bookshop as an escape in the past few years, but it now seems there's a very specific reason for all those frequent visits. Next is roguish Jackson, who, after making a complete mess of his marriage, now looks to Emilia for advice on books for the son he misses so much. And the forever shy Thomasina, who runs a pop-up restaurant for two in her tiny cottage--she has a crush on a man she met in the cookbook section, but can hardly dream of working up the courage to admit her true feelings.

Enter the world of Nightingale Books for a serving of romance, long-held secrets, and unexpected hopes for the future--and not just within the pages on the shelves. 

How to Find Love in a Bookshop is the delightful story of Emilia, the unforgettable cast of customers whose lives she has touched, and the books they all cherish.



Book Excerpt:


Copyright © 2017 Veronica Henry


Prologue



February 1983

He would never have believed it if you’d told him a year ago. That he’d be standing in an empty shop with a baby in a pram, seriously considering putting in an offer.

The pram had been a stroke of luck. He’d seen an advert for a garden sale in a posh part of North Oxford, and the bargain hunter in him couldn’t stay away. The couple had two very young children but were moving to Paris. The pram was pristine, of the kind the queen might have pushed—or, rather, her nanny. The woman had wanted only five pounds for it. Julius was sure it was worth far more, and that she was only being kind. But if recent events had taught him one thing, it was to accept kindness. With alacrity, before people changed their minds. So he bought it and scrubbed it out carefully even though it had seemed very clean already, and bought a fresh mattress and blankets, and there he had it: the perfect nest for his precious cargo, until she could walk.

When did babies start to walk? There was no point in asking Debra—his vague, away-with-the-fairies mother, ensconced in her patchouli-soaked basement flat in Westbourne Grove, whose memory of his own childhood was blurry.

According to Debra, Julius was reading by the age of two, a legend he didn’t quite believe. Although maybe it was true, because he couldn’t remember a time he couldn’t read. It was like breathing to him. Nevertheless, he couldn’t and didn’t rely on his mother for child-rearing advice. He often thought it was a miracle he had made it through childhood unscathed. She used to leave him alone, in his cot, while she went to the wine bar on the corner in the evenings. “What could go wrong?” she asked him. “I only left you for an hour.” Perhaps that explained his protectiveness toward his own daughter. He found it hard to turn his back on her for even a moment.

He looked around the bare walls again. The smell of damp was inescapable, and damp would be a disaster. The staircase rising to the mezzanine was rotten, so rotten he wasn’t allowed up it. The two bay windows on either side of the front door flooded the shop with a pearlescent light, highlighting the golden oak of the floorboards and the ornate plasterwork on the ceiling. The dust made it feel otherworldly: a ghost shop, waiting, waiting for something to happen, a transformation, a renovation, a renaissance.

“It was a pharmacy, originally,” said the agent. “And then an antiques shop. Well, I say antique—you’ve never seen so much rubbish in your life.”

He should get some professional advice, really. A structural survey, a quote from someone for any work needed—yet Julius felt light-headed and his heart was pounding. It was right. He knew it was. The two floors above were ideal for him and the baby to live in. Over the shop.

The bookshop.

His search had begun three weeks earlier, when he had decided that he needed to take positive action if he and his daughter were going to have any semblance of a normal life together. He had looked at his experience, his potential, his assets, and the practicalities of being a single father, and decided there was really only one option open to him.

He’d gone to the library, put a copy of the Yellow Pages on the table, and next to it a detailed map of the county. He drew a circle around Oxford with a fifteen-mile radius, wondering what it would be like to live in Christmas Common, or Ducklington, or Goosey: they sounded straight out of Beatrix Potter. Then he worked through all the bookshops listed and put a cross through the towns they were in.

He looked at the remaining towns, the ones without a bookshop at all. There were half a dozen. He made a list, and then over the next few days visited each one, traveling by a complicated timetable of buses. The first three had been soulless and dreary, and he was so discouraged he’d almost given up on his idea, but something about the name Peasebrook pleased him, so he decided to try one more town before relinquishing his fantasy.

Peasebrook was in the middle of the Cotswolds, on the outer perimeter of the circle he had drawn, as far out as he wanted to go. He got off the bus and looked up the high street. It was wide and tree lined, its pavements flanked with higgledy-piggledy golden buildings. There were antiques shops, a traditional butcher with rabbit and pheasant hanging outside and fat sausages in the window, a sprawling inn and a couple of nice cafés and a cheese shop. The Women’s Institute was having a sale outside the town hall: there were trestle tables bearing big cakes oozing jam, and baskets of mud-covered vegetables and pots of herbaceous flowers drooping dark purple and yellow blooms.

Peasebrook was buzzing, in a quiet way but with purpose, like bees on a summer afternoon. People stopped in the street and talked to each other. The cafés looked pleasingly full. The tills seemed to jangle: people were shopping with gusto and enthusiasm. There was a very smart restaurant with a bay tree outside the door and an impressive menu in a glass case boasting nouvelle cuisine. There was even a tiny theater showing The Importance of Being Earnest. Somehow that boded well. Julius loved Oscar Wilde. He’d done one of his dissertations on him: “The Influence of Oscar Wilde on W. B. Yeats.”

He took the play as a good omen, but he carried on scouring the streets, in case his research hadn’t been thorough. He feared turning a corner and finding what he hoped wasn’t there. Now that he was here, in Peasebrook, he wanted it to be his home—their home. It was a mystery, though, why there was no bookshop in such an appealing place.

After all, a town without a bookshop was a town without a heart.

Julius imagined each person he passed as a potential customer. He could picture them all, crowding in, asking his advice, him sliding their purchases into a bag, getting to know their likes and dislikes, putting a book aside for a particular customer, knowing it would be just up their alley. Watching them browse, watching the joy of them discovering a new author, a new world.

“Would the vendor take a cheeky offer?” he asked the estate agent, who shrugged.

“You can ask.”

“It needs a lot of work.”

“That has been taken into consideration.” Julius named his price.

“It’s my best and only offer. I can’t afford any more.”

When Julius signed the contract four weeks later, he couldn’t help but be amazed. Here he was, alone in the world (well, there was his mother, but she was as much use as a chocolate teapot) but for a baby and a bookshop. And as that very baby reached out her starfish hand, he gave her his finger to hold and thought: what an extraordinary position to be in. Fate was peculiar indeed.

What if he hadn’t looked up at that very moment, nearly two years ago now? What if he had kept his back to the door and carried on rearranging the travel section, leaving his colleague to serve the girl with the Rossetti hair . . .

And six months later, after weeks of dust and grime and sawing and sweeping and painting, and several eye-watering bills, and a few moments of sheer panic, and any number of deliveries, the sign outside the shop was rehung, painted in navy and gold, proclaiming Nightingale Books. There had been no room to write purveyors of reading matter to the discerning, but that was what he was. A bookseller.

A bookseller of the very best kind.


1



Thirty-two years later . . .

What do you do, while you’re waiting for someone to die? Literally, sitting next to them in a plastic armchair that isn’t the right shape for anyone’s bottom, waiting for them to draw their last breath because there is no more hope.

Nothing seemed appropriate. There was a room down the corridor for watching TV, but that seemed callous, and anyway, Emilia wasn’t really a TV person.

She didn’t knit, or do needlepoint. Or sudoku.

She didn’t want to listen to music, for fear of disturbing him. Even the best earphones leak a certain timpani. Irritating on a train, probably even more so on your deathbed. She didn’t want to surf the Internet on her phone. That seemed the ultimate in twenty-first-century rudeness.

And there wasn’t a single book on the planet that could hold her attention right now.

So she sat next to his bed and dozed. And every now and then she started awake with a bolt of fear, in case she might have missed the moment. Then she would hold his hand for a few minutes. It was dry and cool and lay motionless in her clasp. Eventually it grew heavy and made her sad, so she laid it back on the top of the sheet.

Then she would doze off again.

From time to time the nurses brought her hot chocolate, although that was a misnomer. It was not hot, but tepid, and Emilia was fairly certain that no cocoa beans had been harmed in the making of it. It was pale beige, faintly sweet water.

The nighttime lights in the cottage hospital were dim, with a sickly yellowish tinge. The heating was on too high and the little room felt airless. She looked at the thin bedcover, with its pattern of orange and yellow flowers, and the outline of her father underneath, so still and small. She could see the few strands of hair curling over his scalp, leached of color. His thick hair had been one of his distinguishing features. He would rake his fingers through it while he was considering a recommendation, or when he was standing in front of one of the display tables trying to decide what to put on it, or when he was on the phone to a customer. It was as much a part of him as the pale blue cashmere scarf he insisted on wearing, wrapped twice round his neck, even though it bore evidence of moths. Emilia had dealt with them swiftly at the first sign. She suspected they had been brought in via the thick brown velvet coat she had bought at the charity shop last winter—she could never resist a vintage bargain— and she felt guilty they’d set upon the one sartorial item her father seemed attached to.

He’d been complaining then, of discomfort. Well, not complaining, because he wasn’t one to moan. Emilia had expressed concern, and he had dismissed her concern with his trademark stoicism, and she had thought nothing more of it, just got on the plane to Hong Kong. Until the phone call, last week, calling her back.

“I think you ought to come home,” the nurse had said. “Your father will be furious with me for calling you. He doesn’t want to alarm you.  But . . .” The but said it all. Emilia was on the first flight out. And when she arrived Julius pretended to be cross, but the way he held her hand, tighter than tight, told her everything she needed to know.

“He’s in denial,” said the nurse. “He’s a fighter, all right. I’m so sorry. We’re doing everything we can to keep him comfortable.” Emilia nodded, finally understanding. Comfortable. Not alive.

Comfortable.

He didn’t seem to be in any pain or discomfort now. He had eaten some lime Jell-O the day before, eager for the quivering spoons of green. Emilia imagined it soothed his parched lips and dry tongue. She felt as if she was feeding a little bird as he stretched his neck to reach the spoon and opened his mouth. Afterward he lay back, exhausted by the effort. It was all he had eaten for days. All he was living on was a complicated cocktail of painkillers and sedatives that were rotated to provide the best palliative care. Emilia had come to hate the word palliative. It was ominous, and at times, she suspected, ineffectual. From time to time her father had shown distress, whether from pain or the knowledge of what was to come she couldn’t be sure but she knew at those points the medication wasn’t doing its job. Adjustment, although swiftly administered, never worked quickly enough. Which in turn caused her distress.

It was a never-ending cycle.

Yet not never-ending because it would end. The corner had been turned and there was no point in hoping for a recovery. Even the most optimistic believer in miracles would know that now. So there was nothing to do but pray for a swift and merciful release.

The nurse lifted the bedcover and looked at his feet, caressing them with gentle fingers. The look the nurse gave Emilia told her it wouldn’t be long now.

His skin was pale gray, the pale gray of a marble statue.

The nurse dropped the sheet back down and rubbed Emilia’s shoulder.

Then she left, for there was nothing she could say. It was a waiting game. They had done all they could. No pain, as far as anyone could surmise. A calm, quiet environment, for incipient death was treated with hushed reverence. But who was to say what the dying really wanted? Maybe he would prefer his beloved Elgar at full blast, or the shipping forecast on repeat? Or to hear the nurses gossiping and bantering, about whom they’d been out with the night before and what they were cooking for tea? Maybe a distraction from your imminent demise by utter trivia would be a welcome one? Emilia sat and wondered how she could make him feel her love, as he slipped away. If she could take out her heart and give it to him, she would. This wonderful man who had given her life, and been her life, and was leaving her alone.

She’d whispered to him, memories and reminiscences. She told him stories. Recited his favorite poems.

Talked to him about the shop.

“I’m going to look after it for you,” she told him. “I’ll make sure it never closes its doors. Not in my lifetime. And I’m never going to sell out to Ian Mendip, no matter what he offers, because the shop is all that matters. All the diamonds in the world are nothing in comparison. Books are more precious than jewels.” She truly believed this. What did a diamond bring you? A momentary flash of brilliance. A diamond scintillated for a second; a book could scintillate forever.

She doubted Ian Mendip had ever read a book in his life. It made her so angry, thinking about the stress he’d put her father under at a vulnerable time.

Julius had tried to underplay it, but she could see he was agitated, fearful for the shop and his staff and his customers. The staff had told her how unsettled he had been by it, and yet again she had cursed herself for being so far away. Now she was determined to reassure him, so he could slip away, safe in the knowledge that Nightingale Books was in good hands.

She shifted on the seat to find a more comfortable position. She ended up leaning forward and resting her head in her arms at the foot of the bed. She was unbelievably tired.

It was 2:49 in the morning when the nurse touched her on the shoulder. Her touch said everything that needed to be said. Emilia wasn’t sure if she had been asleep or awake. Even now she wasn’t sure if she was asleep or awake, for she felt as if her head was somewhere else, as if everything was a bit treacly and slow.

When all the formalities were over and the undertaker had been called, she walked out into the dawn, the air morgue-chilly, the light gloomy. It was as if all the color had gone from the world, until she saw the traffic lights by the hospital exit change from red to amber to green. Sound, too, felt muffled, as if she still had water in her ears from swimming.

Would the world be a different place without Julius in it? She didn’t know yet. She breathed in the air he was no longer breathing, and thought about his broad shoulders, the ones she had sat on when she was tiny, drumming her heels on his chest to make him run faster, twisting her fingers in the thick hair that fell to his collar, the hair that had been salt and pepper since he was thirty. She picked up the plain silver watch with the alligator strap he had worn every day. She had taken it off toward the end, as she didn’t want anything chafing his paper-thin skin, leaving it on the table next to his bed in case he needed to know the time, because it told a better time than the clock over the nurse’s station, a time that held far more promise. But the magic time on his watch hadn’t been able to stop the inevitable.

She got into her car. There was a packet of buttermints on the passenger seat she had meant to bring him. She unpeeled one and popped it in her mouth. It was the first thing she had eaten since breakfast the day before. She sucked on it until it scraped the roof of her mouth, and the discomfort took her mind off it all for a moment.

She’d eaten half the packet by the time she turned into Peasebrook high street, and her teeth were furry with the sugar. The little town was wrapped in the pearl-gray of dawn. It looked bleak: its golden stone needed sunshine for it to glow. In the half- light it looked like a dreary wallflower, but in a couple of hours it would emerge like a dazzling debutante, charming everyone who set eyes upon it. It was quintessentially quaint and English, with its oak doorways and mullions and latticed windows, cobbled pavements and red letter boxes and the row of pollarded lime trees. There were no flat-roofed monstrosities, nothing to offend the eye, only charm.

Next to the stone bridge straddling the brook was Nightingale Books, three stories high and double fronted, with two bay windows and a dark blue door. Emilia stood outside, the early morning breeze the only sign of movement in the sleeping town, and looked up at the building that was the only home she had ever known. Wherever she was in the world, whatever she was doing, her room above the shop was still here; most of her stuff was still here. Thirty-two years of clutter.

She slipped in through the side entrance and stood for a moment on the tiled floor. In front of her was the door leading up to the flat. She remembered her father holding her hand when she was tiny, and walking her down those stairs. It had taken hours, but she was determined, and he was patient.

When she was at school, she had run down the stairs, taking them two at a time, her school bag on her back, an apple in one hand, always late. Years later, she had sneaked up the stairs in bare feet when she came in from a party. Not that Julius was strict or likely to shout; it was just what you did when you were sixteen and had drunk a little too much cider and it was two o’clock in the morning.

To her left was the door that came out behind the shop counter. She pushed open the door and stepped into the shop. The early morning light ventured in through the window, tentative. Emilia shivered a little as the air inside stirred. She felt a sense of expectation whenever she entered Nightingale Books, the same feeling of stepping back in time or into another place.

She could be whenever and wherever she wanted. Only this time she couldn’t.

She would give anything to go back to when everything was all right.

She felt as if the books were asking for news. He’s gone, she wanted to tell them, but she didn’t, because she didn’t trust her voice. And because it was silly.

Books told you things, everything you needed to know, but you didn’t talk back to them.

As she stood in the middle of the shop, she gradually felt a sense of comfort settle upon her, a calmness that soothed her soul. For Julius was still here, amid the covers and the upright spines. He claimed to know every book in his shop. He may not have read each one from cover to cover, but he understood why they were there, what the author’s intent had been and who might, therefore, like to read them, from the simplest children’s board book to the weightiest, most indecipherable tome.

There was a rich red carpet, faded and worn now. Rows and rows of wooden shelves lined the walls, stretching right up to the ceiling—there was a ladder to reach the more unusual books on the very top shelves. Fiction was at the front of the shop, reference at the back, and tables in the middle displayed cookery and art and travel. Upstairs, on the mezzanine, there was a collection of first editions and secondhand rarities, behind locked glass cases. And Julius had reigned over it all from his place behind the wooden counter. Behind him were stacked the books that people had ordered, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. There was an old-fashioned ornate till that tinged when it opened, which he’d found in a junk shop and, although he didn’t use it anymore, he kept as decoration. And sometimes he kept sugar mice in the drawer to hand out to small children who had been especially patient and good.

There would always be a half-full cup of coffee on the counter that he’d begun and never finished, because he would get into a conversation and forget about it and leave it to get cold. Because people dropped in to chat with Julius all the time. He was full of advice and knowledge and wisdom and, above all, kindness.

As a result, the shop had become a mecca for all sections of society in and around Peasebrook. The townspeople were proud of their bookshop. It was a place of comfort and familiarity. And they had come to respect its owner. Adore him, even. For over thirty years he had fed their minds and their hearts, aided and abetted in recent years by his assistants, warm and bubbly Mel, who kept the place spick-and-span, and lanky Dave the Goth who knew almost as much as Julius about books but rarely spoke—though once you got him going it was impossible to stop him.

Her father was still here, thought Emilia, in the thousands of pages.

 Millions—there must be so many millions—of words. All those words, and the pleasure they had provided for people over the years: escape, entertainment, education . . . He had changed minds. He had changed lives. It was up to her to carry on his work so he would live on, she swore to herself.

Julius Nightingale would live forever.



My Book Review:


Welcome to Nightingale Books, the bookshop gateway to somewhere else!

Widower and single dad Julius Nightingale opens Nightingale Books, a bookshop in the quaint English town of Peasebrook in February 1983. The bookshop became a mecca for the townspeople of Peasebrook, it provided a place of comfort, escape, entertainment, education, and community spirit. Under Julius' guidance, the bookshop even changed minds and lives: "there's a book for everyone, even if they don't think there is. A book that reaches in and grabs your soul."  Thirty-two years later in the Fall of 2015, Julius passes away after a brief illness, and daughter Emilia comes home and is determined to honor her father's deathbed wish to take over the bookshop, and make sure that it never closes its door. Like her father always told her, "books are more precious than jewels. A diamond can scintillate for a second, but a book can scintillate forever." While going through the bookshop, Emilia finds that Nightingale Books is in financial trouble and in desperate need of a renovation. But with the love and support of the bookshop's faithful customers and Julius' friends, can Emilia find a way to keep her promise to her father?

How To Find Love In A Bookshop is a delightful story that follows Emilia's decision to takeover her deceased father's bookshop, and how it continues to bring the townspeople of Peasebrook together. Author Veronica Henry does a wonderful job of intertwining Emilia's story along with the individual stories of some of the bookshop's devoted customers. You can't help but get caught up in the characters' lives, and how Nightingale Books was a central meeting place in the community, and how it provided it's special magic of helping them find love, hope, peace, and second chances.

I loved the richly detailed setting of the quaint English countryside town of Peasebrook. What I loved even more was the ability to close my eyes and transport myself into the magical Nightingale Books. Any fan of books will yearn to lose themselves in the shelves of books and community spirit that lives within the walls of the bookshop. In the current time of online bookstores, Nightingale Books is a treasure that takes you back to when bookshops were a cherished community place that held a special magic within the pages of the books it sold.

How To Find Love In A Bookshop is a wonderful feel-good story that connects the intertwining lives and loves of a cherished bookshop's customers in a quaint English town.


RATING: 5 STARS 






About The Author





Veronica Henry went to eleven different schools and so books were her friends as they were most easily kept. She studied Latin at University and then went on to write scripts for some of Britain's best loved drama series before turning her hand to fiction - her first love. She writes multi-protagonist stories set in places she thinks her readers might like to escape to, if only for a short while. A Night on the Orient Express won the Romantic Novel of the Year in 2014 for its depiction of six passengers travelling on the world's most famous train. How to Find Love in a Bookshop is her love letter to bookshops everywhere - the story of one girl's battle to keep her father's beloved bookshop open.


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Monday, February 11, 2019

The Military Wife by Laura Trentham (VBT: Book Review)

In association with St. Martin's Press, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for The Military Wife by author Laura Trentham!








Book Review




The Military Wife by Laura Trentham
Book 1: A Heart Of A Hero Series
Publisher: St. Martin's Press Griffin
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Format: Paperback - 352 pages
               Kindle - 2296 KB 
               Nook - 2 MB 
               Audio Book - 9 Hours 11 Minutes
ISBN: 978-1250145536
ASIN: B07DZZ69N5
BNID: 978-1250145543
AUDIOBOOK: B07N8CMDMR
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Military Fiction / Women's Fiction



Buy The Book:



Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by the St. Martin's Press. 



Book Description:


An emotionally layered novel about family, loss and what it means to be a military wife.

A young widow embraces a second chance at life when she reconnects with those who understand the sacrifices made by American soldiers and their families in award-winning author Laura Trentham’s The Military Wife.

Harper Lee Wilcox has been marking time in her hometown of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina since her husband, Noah Wilcox’s death, nearly five years earlier. With her son Ben turning five and living at home with her mother, Harper fights a growing restlessness, worried that moving on means leaving the memory of her husband behind.

Her best friend, Allison Teague, is dealing with struggles of her own. Her husband, a former SEAL that served with Noah, was injured while deployed and has come home physically healed but fighting PTSD. With three children underfoot and unable to help her husband, Allison is at her wit’s end.

In an effort to re-energize her own life, Harper sees an opportunity to help not only Allison but a network of other military wives eager to support her idea of starting a string of coffee houses close to military bases around the country.

In her pursuit of her dream, Harper crosses paths with Bennett Caldwell, Noah’s best friend and SEAL brother. A man who has a promise to keep, entangling their lives in ways neither of them can foresee. As her business grows so does an unexpected relationship with Bennett. Can Harper let go of her grief and build a future with Bennett even as the man they both loved haunts their pasts?



Book Excerpt:


Chapter 1

Present Day

Winters in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, were temperamental. The
sunshine and a temperate southerly breeze that started a day could turn into biting, salt-tinged snow flurries by afternoon. But one thing Harper Lee Wilcox could count on was that winter along the Outer Banks was quiet.

The bustle and hum and weekly rotation of tourists that marked the
summer months settled into a winter melancholy that Harper enjoyed. Well,perhaps not enjoyed in the traditional sense . . . more like she enjoyed surrendering to the melancholy. In fact, her mother may have accused her of wallowing in it once or twice or a hundred times.

In the winter, she didn’t have to smile and pretend her life was great. Not
that it was bad. Lots of people had it worse. Much worse. In fact, parts of her life were fabulous. Almost five, her son was happy and healthy and smart. Her mother’s strength and support were unwavering and had bolstered her through the worst time of her life. Her friends were amazing.

That was the real issue. In the craziness of the summer season, she forgot
to be sad. Her husband, Noah, had been gone five years; the same amount of time they’d been married. Soon the years separating them would outnumber the years they’d been together. The thought was sobering and only intensified the need to keep a sacred place in her heart waiting and empty. Her secret memorial.

She parked the sensible sedan Noah had bought her soon after they
married under her childhood home. Even though they were inland, the stilts were a common architectural feature up and down the Outer Banks.

Juggling her laptop and purse, Harper pushed open the front door and
stacked her things to the side. “I’m home!”

A little body careened down the steps and crashed into her legs. She
returned the ferocious hug. Her pregnancy was the only thing that had kept her going those first weeks after she’d opened her front door to the Navy chaplain.

“How was preschool? Did you like the pasta salad I packed for your
lunch?”

“It made me toot and everyone laughed, even the girls. Can you pack it for me again tomorrow?”

“Ben! You shouldn’t want to toot.” Laughter ruined the admonishing tone
she was going for.

As Harper’s mom said time and again, the kid was a hoot and a half. He
might have Harper’s brown wavy hair, but he had Noah’s spirit and mannerisms and humor. Ben approached everything with an optimism Harper had lost or perhaps had never been gifted with from the start. He was a blessing Harper sometimes wondered if she deserved.

“Where’s Yaya?” She ruffled his unruly hair.

Of course, her mom had picked an unconventional name. “Grandmother”
was too old-fashioned and pedestrian. Since she’d retired from the library, she had cast off any semblance of normalcy and embraced an inner spirit that was a throwback to 1960s bra burners and Woodstock.

“Upstairs painting.” Ben slipped his hand into Harper’s and tugged her
toward the kitchen. Bright red and orange and blue paint smeared the back of his hand and arm like a rainbow. At least, her mom had put him in old clothes. “Yaya gave me my own canvas and let me paint whatever I wanted.”

“And what did you paint?” Harper prayed it wasn’t a nude study, which
was the homework assignment from her mom’s community college class.

“I drew Daddy in heaven. I used all the colors.” The matter-of-factness of
his tone clawed at her heart.

No child should have to grow up only knowing their father through
pictures and stories. Her own father had been absent because of divorce and disinterest. He’d sent his court-ordered child support payments regularly until she turned eighteen but rarely visited or shown any curiosity about her. It had hurt until teenaged resentment scarred over the wound.

Noah would have made a great dad. The best. That he never got the
chance piled more regrets and what-ifs onto her winter inspired melancholy.

“I’m sure he would have loved your painting.” Luckily, Ben didn’t notice
her choked-up reply.

He went to the cabinet, pulled out white bread and crunchy peanut butter,
and proceeded to make two sandwiches. It was their afternoon routine. Someday he would outgrow it. Outgrow her and become a man like his daddy.

She poured him a glass of milk, and they ate their sandwiches, talking
about how the rest of his day went—outside of his epic toots. His world was small and safe and she wanted to keep it that way for as long as possible.

Her mom breezed into the kitchen, her still-thick but graying brown hair
twisted into a messy bun, a thin paintbrush holding it in place. Slim and attractive, she wore paint-splattered jeans and a long-sleeve T-shirt that read: I make AARP look good. Harper pinched her lips together to stifle a grin.

“How’s your assignment coming along?” Harper asked.

“I’m having a hard time with proportions. It’s been a while, but I’m pretty sure my man’s you-know-what shouldn’t hang down to his kneecaps.”

Harper shot a glance toward Ben, who had moved to the floor of the den to play with LEGOs. As crazy as her mom drove her, she was and would always be Harper’s rock. The irony wasn’t lost on her. As hard as she’d worked to get out of Kitty Hawk and out of her mother’s reach when she was young, she’d never regretted coming home.

“It’s been a while for me, too, but that’s not how I remember them,
either.”

“A pity for us both.” Her mother pulled a jar of olives out of the fridge and proceeded to make martinis—shaken, not stirred. She raised her eyebrows, and Harper answered the unspoken question with a nod. Her mom poured and plopped an extra olive in Harper’s. “How was work?”

Harper handled bookkeeping and taxes for a number of local businesses,
but a good number closed up shop in the winter. “Routine. Quiet.”

“Exactly like your life.”

Harper sputtered on her first sip. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I hate seeing you mope around all winter.” Her mom poked at the olive in her drink with a toothpick and looked toward Ben, dropping her voice. “He’s been gone five years, sweetheart, and you haven’t gone on so much as a date.”

“That’s not true. I went to lunch with Whit a few weeks ago.”

“He was trying to sell you life insurance. Doesn’t count.”

Harper huffed and covered her discomfort by taking another sip. “What
about you? You never date.”

“True, but your father ruined me on relationships. I have trust issues. You
and Noah, on the other hand, seemed to get along fine. Or am I wrong?”

“You’re not.” Another sip of the martini grew the tingly warmth in her
stomach. Their marriage hadn’t been completely without conflict, but what relationship was? As she looked back on their fights, they seemed juvenile and unimportant. It was easier to remember the good times. And there were so many to choose from.

She touched the empty finger on her left hand. The ring occupied her
jewelry box and had for three years. But, occasionally, her finger would ache with phantom pains as if it were missing a vital organ.

“You’re young. Find another good man. Or forget the man, just find
something you’re passionate about.”

“I’m happy right where I am.” Harper hammered up her defenses as if
preparing for a hurricane.

“Don’t mistake comfort for happiness. You’re comfortable here. Too
comfortable. But you’re not happy.”

“God, Mom, why are you Dr. Phil–ing me all of sudden? Are you
wanting me and Ben to move out or something?” Her voice sailed high and Ben looked over at them, his eyes wide, clutching his LEGO robot so tightly its head fell off.

“You and Ben are welcome to stay and take care of me in my old age.”
Her mom shifted toward the den. “You hear that, honey? I want you to stay forever.”

Ben gave them an eye-crinkling smile that reminded her so much of Noah her insides squirmed, and she killed the rest of her drink. She was so careful not to show how lonely she sometimes felt in front of Ben.

“Harper.” Her mom’s chiding tone reminded her so much of her own
childhood, she glanced up instinctively. Her mom took her hand, and her hazel eyes matched the ones that stared back at Harper in the mirror. “You’re marking time in Kitty Hawk. Find something that excites you again. Don’t let Ben—or Noah— be your excuse.”

Harper looked to her son. His chubby fingers fit the small LEGO pieces
together turning the robot into a house. She had built her life brick by brick adding pieces and colors, expanding, taking pride, until one horrible day she’d stopped. Maybe her mom was right. Was it time to build something new?




My Book Review:


If you are looking for a wonderful military romance that will pull at your heartstrings, then look no further, The Military Wife is that book.

Author Laura Trentham weaves an intriguing tale that follows the complex relationship between military widow Harper Lee Wilcox and her late husband's best friend and ex-Navy SEAL veteran Bennett Caldwell.

Set in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, it has been five years since Harper Lee Wilcox's Navy SEAL husband Noah Wilcox was killed in action. Since that time, Harper Lee has been busy taking care of her five year old son Ben, and working as a bookkeeper for local businesses. Harper's mom thinks that Harper's life has been routine and lonely, and that she needs to move on with her life.

Ex-Navy SEAL Bennett Caldwell returned home from a traumatic tour five years ago with a wounded body and painful memories that haunts him everyday. Bennett's emotional baggage and secrets that he carries revolve around the death of his best friend and fellow SEAL Noah Wilcox, and the promise he made to Noah to take care of his family if something happened to him. Bennett retired from the Navy and now owns the Caldwell Survival School in Virginia Beach, VA.

Harper Lee was never given the real story behind Noah's death, so she seeks answers from Noah's SEAL teammate and best friend, Bennett. Harper Lee and Bennett's meeting results in a multi-layered and complex relationship, but below the surface simmers an attraction that may help them heal from the painful emotional baggage that they both carry, and guide them to discover love along the way.

The Military Wife is a wonderful military romance tale that easily draws the reader into Harper Lee and Bennett's story. You can't help but feel empathy for them as they battle with their private demons.

This is a fast paced and multilayered tale that has an intriguing mixture of emotion, drama, angst, and romance that keeps the reader turning the pages. The story is told in the 3rd person narrative that alternates between Harper Lee and Bennett's past and present. I really enjoyed this story line, especially when it is about two people whose connection and attraction is so powerful and palpable that they can't resist each other, especially when their mutual attraction simmers under the surface. I loved how their witty banter and sassy playfulness helped their unexpected romantic relationship blossom, especially since it is their shared personal emotional baggage that has brought them together, and showed them that they really need each other, and that there is so much more to life.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention how realistic and emotionally powerful this story is, especially when it deals with the serious issues of PTSD, loss, grief, suicide prevention, and the variety of issues that arise when living a military lifestyle. You can't help but feel compassion and empathy for our military personnel and their families, they sacrifice so much for our country, we should always lift them up and give them the support they so rightly deserve.

The Military Wife is a compelling, raw, and realistic military romance story that will leave you wanting more!


RATING: 5 STARS 







About The Author





Author Laura Trentham is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance. She is a member of RWA, and has been a finalist multiple times in the Golden Heart competition. A chemical engineer by training and a lover of books by nature, she lives in South Carolina.


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