#BlogTour – The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz

82098BEB-CD11-493F-A87F-5A31F92B9155The Grace Kelly Dress : A Novel

Brenda Janowitz

On Sale Date: March 3, 2020

9781525804595, 1525804596

Trade Paperback

$16.99 USD, $22.99 CAD

Fiction / Contemporary Women

336 pages

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Two years after Grace Kelly’s royal wedding, her iconic dress is still all the rage in Paris—and one replica, and the secrets it carries, will inspire three generations of women to forge their own paths in life and in love.

Paris, 1958: Rose, a seamstress at a fashionable atelier, has been entrusted with sewing a Grace Kelly—look-alike gown for a wealthy bride-to-be. But when, against better judgment, she finds herself falling in love with the bride’s handsome brother, Rose must make an impossible choice, one that could put all she’s worked for at risk: love, security and of course, the dress.

Sixty years later, tech CEO Rachel, who goes by the childhood nickname “Rocky,” has inherited the dress for her upcoming wedding in New York City. But there’s just one problem: Rocky doesn’t want to wear it. A family heirloom dating back to the 1950s, the dress just isn’t her. Rocky knows this admission will break her mother Joan’s heart. But what she doesn’t know is why Joan insists on the dress—or the heartbreaking secret that changed her mother’s life decades before, as she herself prepared to wear it.

As the lives of these three women come together in surprising ways, the revelation of the dress’s history collides with long-buried family heartaches. And in the lead-up to Rocky’s wedding, they’ll have to confront the past before they can embrace the beautiful possibilities of the future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Brenda Janowitz is the author of five novels, including The Dinner Party and Recipe for a Happy Life. She is the Books Correspondent for PopSugar. Brenda’s work has also appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, Salon, Redbook, and the New York Post. She lives in New York.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Author website: http://www.brendajanowitz.com/

Facebook: @BrendaJanowitz

Twitter: @BrendaJanowitz

Instagram: @brendajanowitzwriter

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/241404.Brenda_Janowitz

BUY LINKS:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Apple Books

Indie Bound

Harlequin Trade Publishing

Books-A-Million

Kobo

Review:

Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Brenda Janowitz took us on a deeply sincere and contemplative journey in her generational sweeping novel “The Grace Kelly Dress”.

It was truly sentimental, touching, and inspirational! I love books that wrap stories of friendship, love and family around a cherished item. This was magnificent! We forget how important our wedding dresses are to us, and what they symbolize. Thank you for this sincere and beautiful reminder.

As I was reading I was so full of nostalgia for my wedding dress…sitting in a box, carefully preserved, as Joan’s was so that it stays in pristine condition; to pass it down to a loved one.

Now I must decide my wedding dresses adventure!! It’s time.

5 Stars.


Excerpt:

The mother of the bride, as a bride herself
Long Island, 1982

She loved the dress. She loved the veil that went with it, too, though she wasn’t sure if it could be salvaged. It was showing signs of age, its edges curling and tinged with brown. But that wouldn’t dull her excitement.

Today was the day she would be trying on her mother’s wedding dress. Even though Joanie had tried it on countless times as a child—it was a favorite rainy-day activity with her mother—today felt different. She was engaged, just like she’d dreamed about ever since she could remember. When she tried the dress on this time, it was for keeps. She was completely in love with the dress.

“Let me help you get it on,” Joanie’s mother said, her French accent coming through. It was always more pronounced when she was feeling emotional. With her American friends, Joanie noticed, her mother always tried to sound “American,” softening her accent and using American expressions. But when they were alone, she could be herself. Let her guard down. Joanie knew exactly who her mother was, and she loved her for it.

Her mother handed Joanie a pair of white cotton gloves and then put on her own set. The first step in trying the dress on, always, so that the oils in their hands wouldn’t defile the fabric. She laid the large box on her bed and nodded her head at her husband, her signal to give them privacy. The door closed to Joanie’s childhood bedroom, and she and her mother were alone.

The white cotton gloves were cool and smooth on her skin. Joanie opened the box slowly. So slowly. It was sealed with a special plastic that was supposed to keep it airtight so that the dress would not oxidize and turn yellow. She and her mother laughed as they struggled to set the dress free. The last time she tried the dress on was the summer before her sister died. It was after Michele’s death that her mother brought the dress into the city so that it might be cleaned properly and preserved for just this day. At the time, Joanie hadn’t understood the connection between her sister’s sudden death and her mother’s tight grip on family heirlooms, but now, a year into her psychology degree at NYC University, she understood. It was so hard to hold on to things that were important to you, things that mattered, and preserving her wedding dress, this memory, was her mother’s way of taking control of something. It was something she could save.

The dress was just as beautiful as she’d remembered. Crafted from rose point lace, the same lace used on Grace Kelly’s iconic wedding dress, it was delicate and classic and chic and a million other things Joanie couldn’t even articulate.

“Go on,” her mother said, holding the first part of the dress—the bodice with the attached underbodice, skirt support, and slip—out for her to take. As a child, it had thrilled Joanie to no end that the wedding dress her mother wore was actually made up of four separate pieces. It was like a secret that a bride could have on her special day, something that no one else knew.

“I couldn’t,” Joanie said, hands at her side. Knowing how carefully preserved the dress had been, what the dress had meant to her mother, it was hard for Joanie to touch it. She didn’t want to get it dirty, sully its memory. “It’s just so beautiful.”

“It’s yours now,” her mother said, smiling warmly. “The dress belongs to you. Put it on.”

Joanie kicked off her ballerina flats, and her mother helped her ease the bodice on. Joanie stood at attention as her mother snapped the skirt into place, and wrapped the cummerbund around her waist. Joanie held her hands high above her head, not wanting to get in the way of her mother’s expert hands, hands that knew exactly where to go, fingers that knew exactly what to do.

“You ready in there, Birdie?” her father yelled from the hallway, impatient, his French accent just as strong as the day he left France. Joanie always loved how her father had a special nickname for her mother. When they first married, he would call her mother GracieBird, a nickname of Grace Kelly’s, because of the Grace Kelly–inspired wedding gown she wore on their wedding day. Eventually, it was shortened to Bird, and then over time, it became Birdie. What would Joanie’s fiancé call her?

Joanie inspected her reflection in the mirror. Her shoulder-length blond hair, recently permed, looked messy. Her pink eye shadow, which had always seemed so grown-up on her sister, made her appear tired and puffy-eyed. But the dress? The dress was perfect.

Her mother opened the door slowly, and her father’s face came into view. His expression softened as he saw his daughter in the wedding dress. She walked out into the hallway, towards him, and she could see a tear forming in the corner of his eye.

She turned to her mother, about to tell her that Daddy was crying, when she saw that her mother, too, had teared up. Joanie couldn’t help it—seeing her mother and father cry, she began to cry as well. She could never keep a dry eye when someone else was crying, least of all her parents, ex-pats from Europe who hardly ever cried.

Michele’s presence floated in the air like a haze, but no one would say it. No one dared mention that she would have worn the dress first. Should have worn the dress first.

“And look at us,” her mother said, her hands reaching out and grabbing for her husband and daughter. “All of us crying like little babies.”

All three embraced—carefully, of course, so as not to ruin the dress.

Her father kissed the top of her head. “Give us a twirl.”

Joanie obliged. The dress moved gracefully as she spun. Joanie curtsied, and her father gently took her hand and kissed it.

“I know what you’re thinking,” her mother said, her voice a song.

“What?” Joanie asked absentmindedly, while staring at her reflection in the mirror. She knew the first thing she’d change—the sleeves. The dress needed big, voluminous sleeves, just like Princess Diana had worn on her wedding day.

“Or I should say who you’re thinking about,” her mother said, a gentle tease.

“Who?” Joanie asked, under her breath, twirling from side to side in front of the mirror, watching the dress move.

“Your fiancé,” her mother said, furrowing her brow. “Remember him?”

“For sure,” Joanie said, spinning around to face her mother. “My fiancé. Yes. I knew that. And, yes. I was.” But the truth was, she had completely forgotten.

 

Excerpted from The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz. Copyright © 2020 by Brenda Janowitz. Published by Graydon House Books.

 

A82A9CA6-5165-4421-9CB0-022F9EAF3156Q&A with Brenda Janowitz:


Q: You write that you’ve always loved wedding dresses. What fascinated you about Grace Kelly’s dress in particular, and how did you come up with the idea for this novel?

A: Ever since I first laid eyes on this iconic garment, I’ve been in love. To me, Grace Kelly’s wedding gown is the ultimate dress. Beautiful, elegant, and refined– what more could any bride want?

 My agent sent me an article from The Today Show about a wedding dress that had been passed down through eleven generations. The moment I heard the story, I knew that I had the idea for my next novel.

 Once I decided to write about a wedding gown, there was only one thing I envisioned: Grace Kelly on her wedding day. So, when it came time to describe what this heirloom dress looked like, I found myself describing Grace Kelly’s gown– the lace sleeves, the cummerbund, the full skirt. I quickly realized that the characters in the book should be as enamored of this design as me, and The Grace Kelly Dress was born!

Q: You alternate between three characters’ stories. Did you focus more on one before turning to the others, or did you write the novel in the order in which it appears?

A: I like to write in a very straightforward manner, and that usually means writing each chapter in order, from beginning to end. So, I approached this book in this same way, at first.

But then, I realized that in order to make each story have the meaningful arc I was looking for, I’d need to focus on one story at a time. So, I broke the book apart into three different documents, and worked on one timeline at a time. This enabled me to fully immerse myself in each protagonist’s life, as well as the time period I was exploring.

Once I’d completed all three timelines, the real work began. I wove the book back together, and that was when the book took its true form, as I made sure that the different timelines all spoke to each other in a meaningful way. It certainly made the book take longer to write, but I think that by working on each timeline separately, I was able to do the individual stories justice.

Q: Tell us a little about your story and the story world you’ve created.

A: The Grace Kelly Dress is the story of three generations of women, and the wedding dress that binds them together. It’s a story about love, friendship, and family, and it’s entirely different from anything I’ve ever written before. I hope that readers will join me on this journey, and come to love these women as I do.

Q: Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?

A: When my agent sent me a clip from The Today Show about a wedding dress that had been passed down through eleven generations of a family, I knew that I had the idea for my next book. It had everything I love to write about in one place– multiple generations, a wedding dress, and lots of room for friction. The image of a wedding gown is one that is so incredibly powerful to me. The way one chooses to dress for her wedding day says so much about that person, and how she wants to present herself to the world.

Q: The book is set in the New York area and in Paris. How important is setting to you in your writing?

 A: Setting is so incredibly important! Where a character lives and how she interacts with her environment says so much about who she is. Rocky, our protagonist in 2020, lives and works in Brooklyn, and it says as much about who she is as the tattoos she proudly wears all over her body. Joanie, in 1982, lives a sheltered life on Long Island, but when she goes into New York City, she finds a world much larger than the one she was living. And Rose, in 1958, is in Paris, but as a poor orphan, lives a different type of sheltered life, working in a highly regarded atelier during the day, and doing not much else.

Q: What kind of research did you do for this book, and did you learn anything especially surprising?

 A: I’ve never written in a timeline other than the present, so there was a ton of research to be done! I had to research the two different time periods, 1982 and 1958. Even an innocuous detail like the brand of watch that a character is wearing can throw a reader out of the narrative if the author hasn’t gotten it just right.

 The most enjoyable research I did was about Grace Kelly herself, and, of course, her iconic gown. I read Kristina Haugland’s incredible book, Grace Kelly: Icon of Style to Royal Bride, and then had the opportunity to speak with her as well. I loved learning every detail I could about this beloved dress, but by far the most interesting thing I learned was this: Grace Kelly’s gown consisted of four separate parts, each of which needed to be put on separately. What a wonderful secret for a bride to have on her wedding day!

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’ve loved writing about an heirloom item and the family that owns it, so I’m doing it again! I’ll be focusing on another family and another heirloom that has been passed down. Heirlooms are so incredibly important to me– I wear one of my Grandma Dorothy’s rings every day, and I love having a piece of her with me as I go through my day to day.

Q: How did you get the idea for this novel?

A: The idea came to me when my agent sent me a clip from The Today Show about a wedding dress that had been passed down through eleven generations. I couldn’t get over how incredibly special that was, and I immediately started to think about what it would mean for a family to have an item like that. How would each woman change the dress to fit her personality? How would the time she was living in have an effect on those choices? And what if one woman didn’t want the dress?

 Q: Is Grace Kelly one of your favorite actresses? What is your favorite Grace Kelly role?

 A: YES! Grace Kelly, to me, is the ultimate Hollywood story: beautiful, talented, and then she married a prince. I love all of Grace Kelly’s films, but I particularly adore To Catch a Thief. It’s so romantic and flirty, and it’s got Cary Grant.

Q: What is one of the biggest challenges you have in a story like this that spans different times in history?

A: One of the biggest challenges for me, was the massive amount of research. When writing in another time period, I underestimated how carefully every sentence would have to be researched. The characters needed to sound like they lived in the time period I was presenting, and every reference needed to be spot on– from what the characters were wearing, to the types of music they listened to, to the way they styled their hair. Is it any wonder that my current work in progress will take place in the present?

Q: What is the significance of the title: The Grace Kelly Dress?

A:  The Grace Kelly Dress refers to the wedding dress that is handed down through three generations of women. The gown in my book was initially created in 1958, and at that time, the bride wanted the dress that everyone wanted at that time: something that looked just like what Grace Kelly wore when she married Prince Rainier in 1956.

Q: Are any of your characters based on real people you know?

A: They say that your first novel is all about you, that each and every character is you, and I think that was true of my first novel. (First two novels, perhaps!) But this is my sixth novel, so at this point, all of the characters are products of my imagination. That said, everything inspires me, so parts of real life always have their way of making their way into my work. So, I suppose a better way to answer this question would be to say: no, not on purpose.

Q: Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

A: I found Joanie, in 1982, to be the most challenging to write. I first created her character while working on the 2020 timeline, at which point we only know her as Rocky’s mother. It took a lot of thought to figure out who she would be at age 20, and how she would grow into the woman we see in 2020. Additionally, since we meet her mother in the 1958 timeline, it was important that the reader see a connection there, too.

On the first round of edits, I completely trashed the original 1982 storyline and re-wrote it from the ground up. I think that I needed the first draft to truly learn who she was, and how to create her story.

Q: What did you learn when writing the book?

A: I’ve learned so much this time around, but the lesson that most resonated for me was that writing is re-writing. From the first draft of this novel to the second, the book changed dramatically, and I think that the story is ultimately better for it. But when you’re a newer writer, it’s so hard to cut things, and it’s even harder to completely trash a part of the book and start from scratch. But really, editing the book is the thing that makes it better, and ultimately, makes you a better writer.

Q: Were you a young writer, a late bloomer, or something in between?

A: I’ve always loved to write. In fact, it’s the reason I became a lawyer. But I was one of those unhappy lawyers, so for my 30th birthday, my best friend, Shawn, organized a group gift– she got all of our friends together and sent me to my first writing class. It’s the thing that helped me to take my writing more seriously, and the place where I began writing what would become my first novel.

 Q: Do you have a dedicated writing space?

 A: I do have an office in my house, but I’m one of those writers who just gets the work done whenever and wherever she can. In fact, I’m on my laptop right now while my kids are at the kitchen table doing homework!

 Q: Any type of writing ritual you have?

 A: I wish I could say that I have certain rituals and that I have a process for letting the muse in, but the truth is, I’m just a busy working mom, so I write when I can. Sometimes, I’m dictating full chapters on the voice memo app on my phone. Sometimes, I’m jotting notes on the backs of receipts. I say: do whatever works!

Q: What is your favorite genre to read, and why?

A: I love to read, and I love reading all different types of genres. I think it makes you a better writer to be more widely read. That said, I have a soft spot for upmarket commercial fiction. If Reese Witherspoon can make a limited series HBO drama out of it, I’m in!

 Q: What message do you hope readers take away from your story?

 A: The main thing is that I want readers to really enjoy the story and have a great reading experience. As for a takeaway, it’s been really moving to have readers reach out to me to discuss the role that heirloom items have had in their own life. I always tell my kids: it’s people who are important, not things. But I do believe that certain things, like these heirlooms that are passed down, have meaning. They show us where our family has been, and each one has a story connected to it. Stories are powerful, and the stories about where we come from are so incredibly meaningful.

 

 

 

 

#BookReview: In Alexa’s Shoes by Rochelle Alexandra

4CADE890-E9BF-4F2E-A1F8-8047486867F0
Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Date of Release: June 11, 2019

Summary:

In Alexa’s Shoes – a dramatic, uplifting true story of a young girls struggle to overcome great odds to survive through WWII.
In the autumn of 1940, thirteen-year-old Alexa’s happy life is ripped from her as she, her mother, and many of the locals are rounded up by the Nazis in Poland. Loaded onto cattle trucks, they are transported to an unknown destination. Terror and uncertainty become the new normal. Life is a continuous nightmare as she is selected by a Gestapo officer’s wife, destined to become little more than their slave.
Separated from everyone she loves Alexa relies on her Christian faith, inner strength and courage, to endure through her long nightmare. Her story takes her on a treacherous journey across war-ravaged Europe in search of her family and the life she once knew. Despite living through unimaginable hardships and life-threatening danger, Alexa feels that someone, or something, seems to be looking out for her. Years later, she finds out that not all was as it seemed, as hidden secrets from this dark period in history are revealed to her.
In Alexa’s Shoes is a historical novel that beckons the reader to follow in the footsteps of a real-life individual who walks by faith to triumph over tragedy, one step at a time. It is based on the true story of the author’s grandmother.

Review:

“In Alexa’s Shoes” is an utterly sanguine story that is also empathetic and absolutely unforgettable!

I admire Alexa for sharing her story with her granddaughter. It was truly an honor to witness her experience.

I admire Alexa’s strength, faith, hope and perseverance.

An astonishing story of the human heart!

Read this book and take this compassionate journey!!

Rochelle Alexandra wrote a first-class novel!

I was given this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

#BookReview: The Moonshiner’s Daughter by Donna Everhart

8120C117-B598-41F8-A4E5-A8627DA1B92D
Reviewer: Serena Soape

Date of Release: December 31, 2019

Summary:

Set in North Carolina in 1960 and brimming with authenticity and grit, The Moonshiner’s Daughter evokes the singular life of sixteen-year-old Jessie Sasser, a young woman determined to escape her family’s past . . .

Generations of Sassers have made moonshine in the Brushy Mountains of Wilkes County, North Carolina. Their history is recorded in a leather-bound journal that belongs to Jessie Sasser’s daddy, but Jessie wants no part of it. As far as she’s concerned, moonshine caused her mother’s death a dozen years ago.

Her father refuses to speak about her mama, or about the day she died. But Jessie has a gnawing hunger for the truth–one that compels her to seek comfort in food. Yet all her self-destructive behavior seems to do is feed what her school’s gruff but compassionate nurse describes as the “monster” inside Jessie.

Resenting her father’s insistence that moonshining runs in her veins, Jessie makes a plan to destroy the stills, using their neighbors as scapegoats. Instead, her scheme escalates an old rivalry and reveals long-held grudges. As she endeavors to right wrongs old and new, Jessie’s loyalties will bring her to unexpected revelations about her family, her strengths–and a legacy that may provide her with the answers she has been longing for.

 

Review:

“The Moonshiner’s Daughter” grabbed me from the very beginning and did not let go.

The characters were interesting and well written.

There were a few surprises in the story that caught me off guard. The end had me gaping open-mouthed….. literally !!!!!

Historical Fiction is not my typical genre, but I have to say I’m glad I took this book for a whirl!

I definitely recommend this book by Donna Everhart! Hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I did.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for fair and honest review.

4 Stars.

#BookReview: Wrapped in the Stars by Elena Mikalsen

E607C3F5-958D-4B63-8FFC-73FCB49961E0
Reviewer: Serena Soape

Date of Release: February 19, 2018

Summary:

Struggling with guilt over her sister’s death and the stress of her medical residency, Maya Radelis runs away to Scotland. A robin seems to lead her to an antique shop, where she finds a century-old engagement ring. But what is the ring’s history? She follows the slim paper trail, wondering if it is only coincidence that her dreams reveal the story of a Swiss woman physician who wore the ring during World War I.

In Paris she meets fellow New Yorker David Fischer, a lawyer with family in Switzerland as well as America. He helps Maya follow the memories stored in the ring as they lead her around Europe. The attraction between David and Maya grows, and when they discover a connection between the ring and David’s family, they learn, bit by bit, more about the ring’s earlier owner. Will Maya’s own life have the same tragedy of lost love?

Review:

Elena Mikalsen took me away to so many different places in “Wrapped in The Stars”. I listened to it on Audible and I feel that made the visits feel like really getaways!

Maya’s story before and after she found the ring was like a vacation through Edinburgh, Paris and other European countries to find the origin of the ring.

I loved the characters and how they were woven into the ring’s story.

romances were yet complex. These love stories were nostalgic and magnificent.

Throughout the book, I found myself trying to figure out the ring’s story myself and when I thought I had it figured out, it was only to find out that I was wrong.

The different chapters going from present to the past was not confusing and kept me wanting to listen.

I was totally enthralled listening to this Audible book read by Ginger Wiseman. The narration was great. I highly recommend this version!

I received a copy of this Audible book from the author in exchange for fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

#BookReview: The Clergyman’s Wife: A Pride and Prejudice Novel by Molly Greeley

A4553CE1-039F-4B6A-B81F-8539CEF7235D
Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Date of Release: December 3, 2019

Summary:

For everyone who loved Pride and Prejudice—and legions of historical fiction lovers—an inspired debut novel set in Austen’s world.

Charlotte Collins, nee Lucas, is the respectable wife of Hunsford’s vicar, and sees to her duties by rote: keeping house, caring for their adorable daughter, visiting parishioners, and patiently tolerating the lectures of her awkward husband and his condescending patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Intelligent, pragmatic, and anxious to escape the shame of spinsterhood, Charlotte chose this life, an inevitable one so socially acceptable that its quietness threatens to overwhelm her. Then she makes the acquaintance of Mr. Travis, a local farmer and tenant of Lady Catherine..
In Mr. Travis’ company, Charlotte feels appreciated, heard, and seen. For the first time in her life, Charlotte begins to understand emotional intimacy and its effect on the heart—and how breakable that heart can be. With her sensible nature confronted, and her own future about to take a turn, Charlotte must now question the role of love and passion in a woman’s life, and whether they truly matter for a clergyman’s wife.

Review:

“The Clergyman’s Wife” by Molly Greeley really walks in the path alongside Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice”. I felt the same tempo, magic and slow passage of time as when I read Jane Austen. There is nothing better than a book that makes you want to stop time!

I loved Charlotte Lucas, so it was wonderful to revisit with her.

Often these Austen retellings feel forced, and definitely not taken in stride; but that does not happen here. I truly felt taken away….Taken away in the beautiful use of language, and and a truly magnificent storyline.

You’ll need some time to spend frolicking with Charlotte and her family and friends through her days, because you won’t want to put the book down.

I hope that Molly Greeley has more stories in the making that are of this classical fraction, because she sure hits the nail on the head. This is certainly her wheelhouse.

I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

#BookReview: The Fourteenth of September by Rita Dragonette

4E635F81-22E1-4EDE-85FA-B8A7EF5E7402

Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Date of Release: September 18, 2018

Summary:

On September 14, 1969, Private First Class Judy Talton celebrates her nineteenth birthday by secretly joining the campus anti-Vietnam War movement. In doing so, she jeopardizes both the army scholarship that will secure her future and her relationship with her military family. But Judy’s doubts have escalated with the travesties of the war. Who is she if she stays in the army? What is she if she leaves?

When the first date pulled in the Draft Lottery turns up as her birthday, she realizes that if she were a man, she’d have been Number One—off to Vietnam with an under-fire life expectancy of six seconds. The stakes become clear, propelling her toward a life-altering choice as fateful as that of any draftee.

The Fourteenth of September portrays a pivotal time at the peak of the Vietnam War through the rare perspective of a young woman, tracing her path of self-discovery and a “Coming of Conscience.” Judy’s story speaks to the poignant clash of young adulthood, early feminism, and war, offering an ageless inquiry into the domestic politics of protest when the world stops making sense.

Review:

I was honored to have been able to read Rita Dragonette’s Novel “ The Fourteenth of September” during the 50 year Anniversary of the actual date that this story was wrapped around.

You see this is the year 1969, and the first Draft Lottery for the Vietnam War is 19 year old Judy Talton’s Birthday, September 14.  The awareness that if she were to have been born a man was so emboldened within her, that she makes choices that are going to be pivotal for her entire future.

Judy is in college on an Army Scholarship, and with this comes a certain level of responsibility. So does being the daughter of a Mother that served in World War II. Choosing her own path at this time in history was obviously not an easy one. Rita Dragonette wrote an absolutely stunning, beautiful, powerful and heartfelt story; one that finally is being heard!

It will leave your heart bleeding as lottery numbers are called. You will cry out for Veterans. You will truly empathize so often, because you will feel as if you are truly part of each scene. You see, let me try to explain! There will be no separation between you and Rita Dragonette’s Story….because you won’t feel like you are reading it as an outsider looking in; she takes you inside each moment in time. It is more than saying “I felt like I was there”…it’s deeper!! It’s almost Visceral!!

I cannot applaud this novel enough, because I could discuss it forever…

And, I will recommend it for the next 50 years!

I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 Stars.

Side Note:

One of my Favorite Covers!

I have such a better understanding of what my Uncle, and husbands Uncle went through. A better understanding of their families..and their traumas.

It is a book that will make you think..What choices would you have made?

Perfect Book Club Book! High School Requirement!

Thank you Rita, for opening my eyes!

#BookReview: How Fires End by Marco Rafalà

63C7F2C6-E6EE-4D11-8A6E-5B754AFE2418
Reviewer: Annie Horsky McDonnell

Release Date: October 15, 2019

Summary:

A dark secret born out of World War II lies at the heart of a Sicilian American family in this emotional and sweeping saga of guilt, revenge, and, ultimately, redemption.

After soldiers vacate the Sicilian hillside town of Melilli in the summer of 1943, the locals celebrate, giving thanks to their patron saint, Sebastian. Amid the revelry, all it takes is one fateful moment for the destiny of nine-year-old Salvatore Vassallo to change forever. When his twin brothers are killed playing with an unexploded mortar shell, Salvatore’s faith is destroyed. As the family unravels, and fear ignites among their neighbors that the Vassallo name is cursed, one tragedy begets another.

Desperate to escape this haunting legacy, Salvatore accepts the help of an Italian soldier with fascist ties who ushers him and his sister, Nella, into a new beginning in America. In Middletown, Connecticut, in the immigrant neighborhood known as Little Melilli, these three struggle to build new lives for themselves. But a dangerous choice to keep their secrets hidden erupts in violence decades later. When Salvatore loses his inquisitive American-born son, David, they all learn too late the price sons pay for their fathers’ wars.

Written with elegiac prose, How Fires End delves into the secret wars of men; the sins they cannot bury; and a life lived in fear of who will reveal them, who will survive them, and who will forgive them.

Review:

Marco Rafalà’s “How Fires End” is a Triumph! It is a powerful ache that you read until you find relief.

Rafalà puts his emotion on the pages; poignant moments shared between the characters and across seas and continents. He literally leaves your heart to cry or pound! All wrapped up in the hope I trust he wants us to believe in.

“How Fires End” is more than a story, it is an absolute truth being shared after generations of secrets.

Do not miss this debut novel, for I am sure this is the first of many evocative, strong, and must read novels by Rafalà.

 5 Stars.

#BookReview: The Roux in the Gumbo by Kim Robinson

Reviewer: Serena Soape

C427BAA8-28F7-4A79-A9D1-95002C9D41A5Summary:

From the 1800’s in Louisiana to 1997 California

Experience the history of a family as the author makes you laugh and cry through their adventures.

Review:

“Every Person’s life is like a pot of gumbo, you get out what you put in”

This was one of my favorite sayings from Kim Robinson’s book right from the beginning.

I listened to the Audible version of “The Roux in the Gumbo” and I feel like I was able to get a real feel for the book, with all of the different characters and their voices and situations.

This story is sometimes heartbreaking and hard to hear. What they went through was often horrific! But, there were also a lot of happy points highlighted in the book, as well. Sometimes the difficult parts of the book concerned me about whether I could keep going, but I am glad I did.

I did find it a little difficult to keep up with all of the characters, as there were so many of them, but I think listening to the made that easier for me (versus reading the book) with the distinct voices.

The fact that she was able to create this novel from all of her elders stories through the years was truly amazing and a work of art.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for fair and honest review.

4 Stars.

#BookReview: The Beautiful Strangers by Camille Di Maio

The Beautiful StrangersSummary:

A legendary hotel on the Pacific becomes a haven where dreams, love, and a beguiling mystery come alive.
1958. Kate Morgan, tethered to her family’s failing San Francisco restaurant, is looking for an escape. She gets her chance by honoring a cryptic plea from her grandfather: find the beautiful stranger. The search takes her to Hotel del Coronado, the beachfront landmark on the Southern California coast where filming is underway on the movie Some Like It Hot.
For a movie lover like Kate, it’s a fantasy come true. So is the offer of a position at the glamorous hotel. And a new romance is making her heart beat just as fast. But as sure as she is that Coronado is her future, Kate discovers it’s also where the ghosts of the past have come to stay. Sixty years ago a guest died tragically, and she still haunts the hotel’s halls.
As the lives of two women—generations apart—intertwine, Kate’s courageous journey could change more than she ever imagined. And with Coronado wending its way through her soul, she must follow her dreams…wherever they may lead.

Review:

Make room on our bookshelf for The Beautiful Strangers! This book is Epic! I was totally blown away!! I didn’t even realize that I have a penchant for ghost stories and old Hollywood, so I was definitely entranced with this story. I don’t want to give anything away.
I walked away wanting to know more about the main character of the book, and I am sure you will too. Or, at least a trip to Coronado!

Camille Di Maio wrote a story that I absolutely fell in love with. It was unlike any other book I’ve read. She took timelines sixty years apart and wrapped them up like a gift!

You already know the summary, so let me say that Camille really left me breathless.

Until the very last line.

5 Stars Plus.

pro_readerI would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via Netgalley.

#BookReview ~ “The King’s Sisters” by Sarah Kennedy

The Kings SistersSummary:

It is now 1542 and another queen, Catherine Howard, has been beheaded for adultery. Although young Prince Edward is thriving, and the line of Tudor succession seems secure, the king falls into a deep melancholy and questions the faith and loyalty of those around him. Catherine has found herself in a unique position as a married former nun. Now she is a wealthy widow. She has two children, a boy who has successfully joined the young prince’s household and a daughter who lives with her at Richmond Palace, home to Henry’s cast-off fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, now designated “The King’s Beloved Sister.” Catherine also enjoys the attentions of widower Benjamin Davies, and in the festive court atmosphere, she has furtively indulged her passion for him. But England has changed again. Anne of Cleves hopes for reinstatement as queen―until questions arise about the finances of the houses she keeps. Catherine, as one of the king’s “reformed sisters,” is singled out, just as she realizes that she is carrying a third child. The King’s Sisters explores the Tudor court under an aging Henry VIII. He now has a son and heir, but his two daughters remain players in the political intrigues. The Cross and the Crown series follows the very private Catherine as she is thrust into the scheming. She is skilled enough to serve a former queen . . . but this may be the very quality that endangers her future.

Review:

Again, another wonderful cover!

This is the third book in Sarah Kennedy’s “The Cross and The Crown Series”. It is now 1542, and Henry VIII’s young queen Catherine Howard has been beheaded for adultery. Catherine Haven Overton is now a widow with her two children living with Sister Ann of Cleve.

This book was not as exciting as book two in the series. This was really a book that described their lives in this time in English history in such detail…I got a bit involved, as Sarah Kennedy writes with the depictions of someone that was truly there, as in all three of the books in this series. The only thing is that there was not a lot going in the beginning of the book….but, it picked up in the second half.

I was really invested in her character, Catherine, and I kept reading to find out her fate.

This was disappointing compared to “City of Ladies”, but if I did not have that to compare this book to, I think I would have given it more stars.

3.5 Stars