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.

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


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.


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.


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.


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.

Author Website
Amazon Author Page

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
BNID: 978-1250145543
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

“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,

“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!


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.

Author Website
Amazon Author Page