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Review & Giveaway of Marlene: A Novel by C.W. Gortner

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About Marlene

Raised in genteel poverty after the first World War, Maria Magdalena Dietrich dreams of a life on the stage. When a budding career as a violinist is cut short, the willful teenager vows to become a singer, trading her family’s proper, middle class society for the free-spirited, louche world of Weimar Berlin’s cabarets and drag balls. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, seductive silk cocktail dresses, and androgynous tailored suits, Marlene performs to packed houses, and becomes entangled in a series of stormy love affairs that push the boundaries of social convention.

For the beautiful, desirous Lili Marlene, neither fame nor marriage and motherhood can cure her wanderlust. As Hitler and the Nazis rise to power, she sets sail for America. Rivaling the success of another European import, Greta Garbo, Marlene quickly becomes one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, starring with legends such as Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Cary Grant. Desperate for her return, Hitler tries to lure her with dazzling promises. Marlene instead chooses to become an American citizen, and after her new nation is forced into World War II, tours with the USO, performing for thousands of Allied troops in Europe and Africa.

But one day she will return to Germany. Escorted by General George Patton himself, Marlene is heartbroken by the war’s devastation and the evil legacy of the Third Reich that has transformed her homeland and the family she loved.

An enthralling and insightful account of this extraordinary legend, Marlene reveals the inner life of a woman of grit, glamour, and ambition who defied convention, seduced the world, and forged her own path on her own terms.

My Review

Gortner gives readers the undeniable enigmatic Marlene Dietrich in all her glory reading more nonfiction than fiction. With certitude Gortner is a talented writer with a creative eye possessing a knack celebrating iconic women.

Marlene’s story is detailed and alluring. Nothing new brought to light for those familiar with the mysterious lady, although his emphasis on Dietrich’s aiding the allies during wartime by entertaining military personnel on the home front and abroad might be a revelation to readers. Her love affairs with both men and women were plenty. A public figure yet achingly private. Her childhood somewhat of a challenge, her relationship with her mother turbulent.

Marlene was a nonconformist, she lived her life her way without apology, excuses or regret, Marlene did not bend for the world despite societal expectations. A progressive woman in thought, choices and actions clearly ahead of her time.

I wasn’t a fan of the clunky sex scenes, awkwardly descriptive. I did appreciate the vivid atmospheric taste of Germany, its people and concerns of Hitler and pre/post WWII. Kudos for the thorough research, as always Gortner crafts a story of a woman of strength, independence holding on to her individuality. A man who understands women exploiting them in their individual exuberance.

About C.W. Gortner169656

Bestselling author C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in Northern California. His books have been translated in over 20 languages to date.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit his website for more information.

Giveaway

Enter to win my ARC of Marlene. US residents only. Ends 5/11/16
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Expected publication: May 24th 2016 by William Morrow

Review of Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown

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About Modern Girls

In 1935, Dottie Krasinsky is the epitome of the modern girl. A bookkeeper in Midtown Manhattan, Dottie steals kisses from her steady beau, meets her girlfriends for drinks, and eyes the latest fashions. Yet at heart, she is a dutiful daughter, living with her Yiddish-speaking parents on the Lower East Side. So when, after a single careless night, she finds herself in a family way by a charismatic but unsuitable man, she is desperate: unwed, unsure, and running out of options.

After the birth of five children—and twenty years as a housewife—Dottie’s immigrant mother, Rose, is itching to return to the social activism she embraced as a young woman. With strikes and breadlines at home and National Socialism rising in Europe, there is much more important work to do than cooking and cleaning. So when she realizes that she, too, is pregnant, she struggles to reconcile her longings with her faith.

As mother and daughter wrestle with unthinkable choices, they are forced to confront their beliefs, the changing world, and the fact that their lives will never again be the same….

My Review

Fabulous book! I look forward to more from Brown. I do hope there is a sequel, I would love to discover what becomes of Dottie and Rose for that matter. I adored both Rose and Dottie equally.

I like the way Brown explored the intricate relationship of a mother-daughter. Having both struggling with similar issues under different circumstances was fantastic. The strong bond between mother-daughter was brilliantly presented, I felt Rose’s anguish as a mother as well as Dottie’s anguish as a daughter, the joys and sorrows, disappointments and successes fully displayed. Rose and Dottie were so transparent thanks to Brown’s skill with full-blown characterization. 1930’s New York well described along with Jewish tenement life.

As the narrative moved along I knew what was going to transpire because it made sense and suited the characters and the era. Having the narrative alternate between Dottie and Rose allows for both perspectives, brings you closer to protagonists. The obstacles, tough decisions women faced were affecting.

I was swept away with this story from the start, frantically turning the pages to find out the ending. I was saddened when I reached the end. I want more of these two fierce women, I want to know what happens!!

Kudos to Brown for such a stellar story!!

About Jennifer S. Brown

Jenny Brown, June 9, 2015.

Jenny Brown, June 9, 2015.

Jennifer S. Brown lives and writes in the suburbs of Boston. When she’s not writing, she’s running, reading, baking, and spending time with her husband and two kids.

Her fiction, articles, and essays have appeared in numerous publications, and she was the winner of the 2005 World’s Best Short-Short Story Contest (judged by Robert Olen Butler) in the Southeast Review. Her creative nonfiction piece, “The Codeine of Jordan,” published in the Bellevue Literary Review, was selected as a notable essay in 2012’s The Best American Travel Writing and included in volume 9 of The Best Women’s Travel Writing. MODERN GIRLS (NAL/Penguin) is her debut novel.

Published April 5th 2016 by NAL

Review: Mireille by Molly Cochran

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About Mireille

Near the end of World War II, seventeen-year-old Mireille de Jouarre flees the home of her stepfather, a Nazi collaborator and abusive drunk. She finds shelter with her childhood friend Stefan, and the two fall deeply in love. But as the fighting escalates, Mireille must escape alone to Paris, where she discovers she’s pregnant and lacking a way to provide for her child.

So begins her new life as l’Ange—the Angel. After an unlikely meeting with a wealthy aristocrat in a Parisian hotel—and her acceptance of his solicitation—Mireille becomes the most celebrated poule in all of France, eliciting huge fees and invitations to exclusive parties. At one of these events, Mireille meets Oliver Jordan, an American womanizer and film producer, and is soon launching a promising film career. As her star rises, Mireille is determined to bury her past. But her success isn’t as carefree and glittery as it seems, and when her daughter’s future is threatened, Mireille must make a deadly decision in a desperate attempt to finally choose her own path.

My Review

I found Mireille more dramatic than I anticipated. After I completed the book I thought to myself how horrible for anyone to be in a desperate situation forced to make unsavory choices to survive knowing at some point ramifications would surface. Even worse, having another know your ‘secret’ and hold it over you, virtually claiming you hostage with so much at risk. You can never escape your past, at least this was Mireille’s case.

Mireille is fascinating although she was tragic and aloof. Keeping her distance from the reader matched with her troublesome past and unhealthy present made sense, well done on Cochran’s part. Her undying love for Stefan was touching, no matter the amount of time passing, her heart belonged to her first love. I admired her determination to protect her daughter from her sordid past, sacrificing much of herself along the way. Admittedly I found Mireille’s choices questionable, despite the era she could have selected other routes, but her nativity and vulnerability caused me to overlook her decisions. She wasn’t easy to warm up to, I wanted her to use her beauty in a more powerful and controlling manner as opposed to allowing herself to be used and easily manipulated.

The book was far too predictable for my taste, also the sexual content was way too graphic, coarse and plentiful, I prefer the ‘less is more’ rule in this area, alluding to sex I find more satisfying. What was included in the narrative detracted and spoiled the story. The story has a fast pace, thankfully at 600+ pages. A nostalgic theatrical read yet entertaining, predictability its downfall.

About Molly Cochran

Molly Cochran, author of the teen paranormal romances LEGACY, POISON, and SEDUCTION, has written 27 published novels and four nonfiction books under her own name and various pseudonyms. Her books include New York Times bestselling novels GRANDMASTER and THE FOREVER KING, coauthored with Warren Murphy, and the nonfiction DRESSING THIN, also a NY Times bestseller. She has won awards from the Mystery Writers of America (Best Novel of the Year), the Romance Writers of America (Best Thriller), and the New York Public Library (Outstanding Books for the Teen Age).

Her eBooks, GRANDMASTER, THE TEMPLE DOGS, and THE FOREVER KING Trilogy, including THE FOREVER KING, THE BROKEN SWORD, and THE THIRD MAGIC, are currently available through online retailers, as are two novellas, WISHES and REVELS.

Molly has lectured extensively and has taught writing at the college level as well as at a women’s prison (where she was NOT an inmate). She also writes a blog on writing technique which appears on her website, MollyCochran.com. She is also on Facebook at facebook.com/molly.cochranbooks and Twitter at Twitter.com/mollycochranYA.

She lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Published June 9th 2015 by Lake Union Publishing

Review: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

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About Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie…

Los Angeles, 1938. Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide. What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future.

My Review

I have mixed feelings on this book. I was under the impression it would be more Hollywood during its Golden Age as the summary described, and it was but minimally, I would have preferred more. The narrative focused primarily on two women, their friendship and challenges which was to be expected but not to the length Meissner provided.

The narrative was predictable, nothing was a surprise. I felt the whole Scarlet #13 could have been omitted, it was more of a nuisance than necessity including its present day companion narrative. I realize the hat triggered the parallel narrative, once again omission would not have impacted the bulk of the plot. The plot dragged on as well, became repetitive and drawn out.

Audrey and Violet didn’t appeal to me. If I had to favor one over the other I would have selected Audrey and that’s not a decision I want to make. Audrey was a complete idiot, I couldn’t believe she kept making the same mistakes over and over, frustrating. Violet was manipulative, sneaky and self-serving, nothing appealing about her at all. I had to remind myself the era was different and women had few choices, which fueled my anger towards Audrey for her trio of poor judgement, downright infuriating. Bert was the pawn, the man bait. The protagonists felt wooden, everything manufactured. I prefer female protagonists to ooze strength and confidence, these two lacked both.

The story examines friendship, choices, decisions, really nothing that hasn’t been produced before. The only interesting aspect was GWTW details, if the plot continued with the movie details, filming, stardom aspiration angle it would have been much more interesting. As is it’s a wearying generic story of two friends dealing with their friendship and secrets. Beach read, nothing more.

About Susan Meissner60390

Susan Meissner was born in San Diego, California, the second of three. She spent her childhood in just two houses.
Her first writings are a laughable collection of oddly worded poems and predictable stories she wrote when she was eight.

She attended Point Loma College in San Diego, and married her husband, Bob, who is now an associate pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, in 1980. When she is not working on a new novel, she is directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. She also enjoy teaching workshops on writing and dream-following, spending time with my family, music, reading great books, and traveling.

Published January 5th 2016 by NAL

Review: I’ll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable

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About I’ll See You in Paris

After losing her fiancé in the Vietnam War, nineteen-year-old Laurel Haley takes a job in England, hoping the distance will mend her shattered heart. Laurel expects the pain might lessen but does not foresee the beguiling man she meets or that they’ll go to Paris, where the city’s magic will take over and alter everything Laurel believes about love.

Thirty years later, Laurel’s daughter Annie is newly engaged and an old question resurfaces: who is Annie’s father and what happened to him? Laurel has always been vague about the details and Annie’s told herself it doesn’t matter. But with her impending marriage, Annie has to know everything. Why won’t Laurel tell her the truth?

The key to unlocking Laurel’s secrets starts with a mysterious book about an infamous woman known as the Duchess of Marlborough. Annie’s quest to understand the Duchess, and therefore her own history, takes her from a charming hamlet in the English countryside, to a decaying estate kept behind barbed wire, and ultimately to Paris where answers will be found at last.

My Review

I found Gladys Deacon utterly fascinating. In fact I remember reading an article on her in 2011. Needless to say I was interested in reading this book, curious to read Gable’s version with fiction and non-fiction aspects of Gladys Deacon.

Deacon’s story was fascinating. I was impressed with Gable’s weaving of Vietnam, 9/11 and Gladys Deacon, I was skeptical at first, however, ultimately pleasantly surprised.

The narrative was fascinating but dragged a bit, also the level of predictability was high, no surprises throughout for this reader, I knew what was coming including the ending, therefore lacking a mystery factor.

On the fence with the ending, I wish an epilogue was included compensating for the ambiguous and abrupt finish.

An entertaining read, I found Deacon alluring, in fact I would extremely curious to learn more about this creature from Gable’s interpretation if I didn’t already know of her tragic story.

About Michelle Gable558089

Michelle Gable is the international bestselling author of A PARIS APARTMENT. When not dreaming up fiction on the sly, she works in finance, specializing in investor relations. A College of William & Mary graduate, Gable currently resides in Cardiff by the Sea, California with her husband, two daughters, and one lazy cat.

Expected publication: February 9th 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books

Review & Giveaway: Outback Promise by Maggie Bolitho

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About Outback Promise

Sometimes before you can find yourself, you must lose yourself in the desert.

Can Ros and Grady move on from the past, or will their pain drive them apart? Six years ago, the Balfours lost their son Cadel to a hit-and-run driver.

A few months ago, Ros discovered Grady’s affair. With their marriage fast disintegrating, they decide to take a three-month camping trip into the heart of Australia to try and mend deep wounds and rekindle the fire that once fused them close.

This trip will decide the fate of their relationship: do they have enough strength and enough love left to accept what life has put them both through?

But trust and forgiveness don’t come easily, and Ros and Grady have to navigate not only the wilderness of the Outback and the challenges of other travellers, but also the chasm of grief and bitterness they have sunk into over the last six years. Their only hope for survival lies in facing the secrets they have both tried to keep buried.

My Review

Incredible heartfelt story. Bolitho’s writing is absolutely lovely. Her words capture Rosalyn’s profound grief of her child, the demise of her marriage along with flashbacks of her abusive mother. Using the forgiving and punishing elements of the brutal Australian Outback serves as the perfect setting. Bolitho delves into Rosalyn’s pain, fear, denial, regrets and the acknowledgment of this and more makes this story painfully beautiful. I rooted for this couple from the start, suffering severe starts and stutters added to the depth and compelling nature of this couple.

Bolitho masterfully penned an emotional read, you are invested from the start, you feel the pain, the depth of sorrow. Have your tissue box handy and prepare yourself for an emotional rollercoaster ride, quite a compelling journey. Outstanding piece of work from Maggie Bolitho, looking forward to more from this gifted authoress.

About Maggie BolithoIMG_2126+sm+&+cropped

A free range child, I grew up on an island in Canada’s Pacific Northwest. I spent my formative years flying under the radar, building alternative universes, and longing to be somewhere far, far away.

Shortly after my 17th birthday I set out to see the world, or at least large parts of Canada. I lived in four of Canada’s major cities before eventually moving to Australia where I married the love of my life.

While living Down Under, I explored the Outback and started writing fiction. Some of my adult short stories have been included in different anthologies in Australia, the US, and Canada. My poetry has been published in Quills Canadian Poetry magazine.

In 2007 my husband and I returned to Canada. We settled in a leafy suburb on the island where I grew up. We divide our time between Victoria and Salt Spring Island where we enjoy forest hikes and walks along rocky beaches. We no longer wish to be anywhere else, except when memories of Australia’s golden shores and beautiful bushland rise in our hearts.

November 2015 my adult novel, Outback Promise, will be released by HarperCollins Australia.

In 2014 my debut novel, Lockdown, was released by Great Plains Teen Fiction.

Connect with Maggie:  Website | FacebookTwitter  | Goodreads

Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win a digital copy (EPUB only) copy of Outback Promise. Open Internationally. Ends 12/15/15
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Published November 1st 2015 by HarperCollins Australia

Review: The Poet’s Wife by Rebecca Stonehill

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About The Poet’s Wife

An unforgettable journey into the heart of one family torn apart by war.

Granada, 1920. Free-spirited Luisa and young poet Eduardo fall in love, cementing a bond that can never be broken.

Behind the jasmine filled courtyard, perched amongst houses like clouds on a hilltop, stands a beautiful villa; Carmen de las Estrellas. Beneath its walls live Eduardo and Luisa with their thriving family, but war is looming, casting its shadow over the household.

When Civil War finally breaks out, Luisa and Eduardo must fiercely protect those dear to them. Yet these are turbulent times, and as each of their children begin to make their way in the world, the solace of home cannot shield them from the horrors of war.

My Review

Stonehill does a fabulous job with educating the reader on the Spanish Civil War as the build up, the actual conflict and the aftermath is painfully depicted. Brilliantly detailed including the history, notable figureheads, political strife, brutalities, unimaginable poverty suffered by those surviving the discord.

The intimacy Stonehill created with the Luisa, Isabel and Paloma is compelling. Their fierceness to keep the family unit intact, strength to survive matched with hardships well sketched. The narrative never loses momentum as war approaches and the family faces imminent separation their fears and concern obvious. The anguish and conflict touches the peruser, you feel as if you’re by this family’s side as the story unfolds. A sweeping story of one family’s progression along with that of their country’s. The three generational perspectives gives the reader insight into the sentiment and times people faced.

I will say I connected with Luisa and Isabel more than Paloma. I felt Paloma’s presence wasn’t as strong, she felt more like an afterthought, a token insertion, not nearly as powerful and affecting as Luisa and Isabel. Paloma’s era was more liberal, less restrictive as that of her predecessors, however, all three women made an impact enduring challenging times.

Stonehill definitely impressed this reader, very well done enterprising success.

About Rebecca Stonehill8418573

Rebecca Stonehill, author of The Poet’s Wife and creative writing teacher.
I’m from London but currently live in Nairobi with my husband and three children where I teach creative writing to school children. Many years ago, I spent eighteen months living in Granada, completely falling in love with it and being inspired to write The Poet’s Wife. I have also had many short stories published, including in Vintage Script, What The Dickens magazine and Ariadne’s Thread.

The Poet’s Wife is my debut novel and I am currently working on my second book, set in Kenya.

 

Spotlight & Giveaway: They All Fall Down by A.K. Mason

02_They All Fall DownPublication Date: September 12, 2015
Paperback; 433 Pages

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For her entire life, Alexandra Kramer has been checking a series of boxes. Trapped by the expectations of everyone else around her, she’s made good grades, married the right guy, and secured a place at the prestigious Harvard Business School.

But in the chaos of the 2008 financial crisis, Alex suddenly finds herself running into the fire, instead of seeking a safe haven from the flames. Ditching her Ivy League plans, she becomes dedicated to showing she has what it takes in the high-stakes, fast-paced boys’ club of Wall Street trading, as she forges her own path for the first time in her life.

As these volatile changes drive her husband Jamie into his own crisis, Alex is forced to examine the choices she’s made—as she’s torn between her traditional role as wife, and the exciting, Wild West appeal of the trading floor.

When her two worlds suddenly collide, it becomes clear the institutions she once believed in so strongly are more flawed than she ever imagined—and when everything comes crumbling down, it’s up to Alex to decide for herself what’s worthy of putting back together.

AMAZON (KINDLE) | AMAZON (PAPERBACK)

*Kindle eBook on Sale for $.99, now through November 9th!

About the Author

03_A.K. MasonA. K. Mason is a graduate of Harvard College, who deferred her acceptance to Harvard Business School on three different occasions in favor of working on Wall Street. As a bond trader from 2007 to 2013, she experienced the financial crisis first-hand, and was on the trading desk as Lehman Brothers underwent bankruptcy.

In 2013, Mason earned her MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and left Wall Street to build a fitness technology and media business. She currently resides in Washington, DC, with her family.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

Giveaway

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Review: Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

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It can break your heart to have a sister like Virginia Woolf.

The journal, diary entries with the postcards, letters et all provide an intimacy and authenticity to the narrative. I felt as if I was perusing a scrapbook, journal of sorts bonding with parties involved.

We are given hints to Virginia’s fragile mental health, as the story progresses we learn of the continued concern of her state of mind. Her meltdowns visited. Vanessa the thread holding the fabric of the family together, her shoulders bear the burden of responsibility, protectress, nurturer. Highs and lows palpable as we ride the wave of evolving family and friendships. I can’t image such a gifted group of people not embracing unconventionality and its agony and ecstasy. Would have loved being part of this esteemed group if only for an evening.

I was exhausted as I read of Vanessa, her ongoing concern of her sister, Virginia’s betrayal along with her marriage slipping it must have been trying. She puts herself last and its toll obvious. I found her frustrating and endearing. Virginia’s possessive attachment toward Vanessa specifically utterly suffocating. Vanessa placed in a precarious position of balancing Clive, Virginia and motherhood, the scales always unbalanced.

The plethora of characters took some getting used to, it was a challenge to familiarize myself with all involved. A few characters were dynamic, others trifling. Vanessa stole the show, with her vulnerability, smart and resilience. She carries herself with grace and poise under the most difficult of circumstances. Finally Vanessa realizes her self-importance and stops sidestepping her desires, I was relieved with this poignant revelation.

Ambitious and successful effort on Parmar’s part. I found the book utterly fascinating, raw and memorable.

About Priya Parmar3184722

I am a former dramaturg and freelance editor, educated at Mount Holyoke College, The University of Oxford and The University of Edinburgh. I am the author of one previous novel, Exit the Actress. My husband and I and our French bulldog Herbert, divide our time between Hawaii and London. Hello.

Review & Giveaway: We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

24041443Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 18th 2015 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2015)
ISBN13: 9780553392319

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Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family.

Diffenbaugh manages to penetrate the core of humankind. Her characters flawed, however they scratch and claw to survive and succeed in life, success measured on their terms. Her masterful writing, emotional insight creates a compelling read.

Immigration is a hot topic these days, Diffenbaugh handled it with heart, grace, empathy and truth. I enjoyed the comparison between Letty and Carmen’s status, dissimilar and similar circumstances yet they share the same hopes and dreams for themselves along with their children.

The information on birds/feathers was fascinating, added to the intensity of Alex.

I would have preferred less romance and more family engagement. Alex and Yesenia’s relationship played a role in the plot and was appreciated but the adult romance wasn’t really necessary, more of a distraction feeling like filler, close to formulaic.

Fulfilling read, looking forward to Diffenbaugh’s next burning provoking novel.

Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win a copy of We Never Asked for Wings, please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 10/21/15
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