Romance

“Thought I Knew You” by Kate Moretti

 

Book Cover - Thought I Knew You

Kate Moretti’s “Thought I Knew You,” relates the poignant story of a wife whose husband leaves on a business trip and never comes home. Imagine waiting for a loved one to walk through the door at the appointed time…and he doesn’t. Not an hour late or even a day late just because of flight delays. The key never turns in the lock.

 

Was he murdered? Is he lost? Has he walked out on Claire Barnes? What happened to him? This page-turner will keep you guessing all the way through as the life that Claire thinks she and Greg experienced together is revealed bit by bit.

 

Claire reports him missing right away, but everyone discounts her concern as unnecessary. She begins to make phone calls backtracking his movements, and the more she uncovers, the less she knows about the man she called her husband for so many years. While Claire knows something has been ‘off’ between the two of them, she is sure that his commitment to their daughters is sincere and he would not have left them behind.

 

Claire’s support system is strong: the helpful Police Detective who keeps searching, a life-long devoted friend, Drew, who picks up the pieces while the search is on, the mom that keeps the girls when Claire can’t handle any more.

 

But, as the months roll by and the search for Greg widens, Claire has time to reflect, alternately blaming herself for whatever happened and angry at the discoveries she makes. We see the layers of the marriage exposed as well as the truth of the relationship with Drew revealed, and the book intensifies in its hold on us. The ripple effect of the loss of one person changes everyone that comes in contact with the family left behind. Claire questions her own actions within the marriage a bit more, and we begin to recognize her flaws, even as she dismisses them.

 

Marriage vows are called into question and we, in turn, reflect upon what makes our own relationships tick. We feel the longing, the questioning, the justifications, the sadness of lives not fully realized. Do we compromise everything for something we think we want out of life? Does the safety in the picture of the white-picket-fence-and-two-children dictate our path? Must it take losing everything familiar in order to discover our own capabilities and the essence of who we are?

 

“Thought I Knew You,” stuns the reader with twists and turns and comes to an astonishing end with conclusions that may be shocking to some, if not heart-breaking.

 

This is a book perfect for book clubs, chock full of discussion points. I asked my adult son about some of the choices made by the men in the story and his surprising responses would spur on debates within those book clubs.

 

Moretti’s “Thought I Knew You” is exceptionally told, deeply felt. Haunting. Memorable.

 

While “Thought I Knew You” is a work of fiction, the tragic reality is that thousands of people go missing every year. Some of those missing people are homeless and nobody ever looks for them when they inexplicably disappear from the streets. All kinds of people go missing from intact homes, and though the families may search for years, no trace is ever found.

 

As sometimes happens, the true crime area of my other website (www.kerriansnotebook.com) overlaps with the case here. For more information about groups that handle a wide variety of missing persons cases, take a look at http://www.justice.gov/actioncenter/missing-person.html#persons

 

Please visit www.katemoretti.com for more information about Moretti and her moving, insightful work.

 

 

 

“The Dog Year” by Ann Garvin

 

Book Cover - The Dog Year

Surgeon Lucy Peterman loses her husband, unborn child, and her perfect life in a car accident. Six months later and back at work, she tells everyone she is fine. But, in Ann Garvin’s “The Dog Year,” Peterman is stealing anything in the hospital that can be slipped into her pockets. That’s no big deal, right? She more or less knows why she’s doing it and it’s not like she’s selling Band-Aids on the black market to make a profit. Who could it hurt?

 

Peterman is one of those doctors that is loved by her patients. She goes the extra mile to protect their dignity before they undergo the knife, a rarity in most hospitals where impersonal interactions are the norm. Because of this, the hospital staff ignores her thefts until they impact inventory. When records, witnesses, and cameras confirm that much more is missing than the odd bandage or two, Peterman is told to get help or lose her job. Returning the stolen supplies would be a good start, but she can’t bring herself to admit that she needs help, not even when it turns out that an entire room in her house is filled to the walls with the evidence.

 

The hospital administrator orders her to see a therapist who in turn, sends her to a local Twelve Step program. AA is not the answer for everyone and when Peterman is sent there, she knows it’s not going to work. She avoids the meetings, at first because she’s in denial, but later because it’s not a good fit.

 

“The Dog Year” is a moving portrayal of grief and its aftermath, exploring the raw emotions that can paralyze our hearts and bring us to our knees. While many of us might turn to coping mechanisms that can be hidden from the outside world – screaming behind closed doors or drinking to excess – we all do something to help ourselves get through the reality of being left behind. Faith helps some, social connections help others, but I have never met anyone that could go it entirely alone. And yet, that’s what Peterman tries to do.

 

Garvin provides a strong group of supporting characters that show sympathy for Lucy Peterman, grieve with her, and best of all, point out truths in the face of her re-creating the facts. The brother realistically enables her bad behavior until he can’t take it anymore, a high school acquaintance cuts her slack and stands by her when Peterman’s thefts become more public, and a convincingly written anorexic has no sympathy for this woman that leads a privileged life. There are assorted quirky souls that add depth and texture to this beautifully written story. Even the dog in “The Dog Year,” tugs at our hearts, plays a pivotal role, and brings people together in unexpected ways. There are astonishing discoveries and changes as Peterman begins to deal with her new reality – quite satisfying in a hopeful way.

 

There are so many things to love about “The Dog Year.” I cried, I laughed – it made me remember my own times of grief in softer ways. After a while, life does go on, even if we’re not ready for it. We just need to “Choose to find a way.”

 

Despite the serious nature of the topics, the book has many laugh-out-loud moments. Peterman has a wild, sometimes crude, sense of humor and much of that humor is directed at herself. She can be snarky, and sometimes mean, and oh, so very spot-on with some of the jokes. There are also many moments of tenderness toward the people in her life, something she finds hard to feel for herself.

 

Through Lucy Peterman’s character, Garvin makes several important points. Addiction takes over lives at weak moments in different ways. And while there are commonalities in addictions, if we want our loved ones to heal, there has to be a more conscious effort to match the treatment to the person and the addiction. “The Dog Year” bravely shouts that from the rooftops. 

 

Having spent her life in medicine, Ann Garvin brings a great deal of insight to “The Dog Year” about how hospitals and the health care world works. She is also crazy about dogs and it shows.

 

Please visit www.anngarvin.net for more information.

 

 

Reader Favorites – New Reviews 2014

 

Book Cover - Upstairs at the White House

It’s always fun to discover which new reviews get the most attention during the year. The most popular reviews were ReTweeted dozens of times, shared on Facebook, and Google+, and got some attention on Pinterest. There were old titles, new titles, fiction and non-fiction, seasoned authors and debut authors in the mix. Several were best sellers.

 

In case you missed the reviews, here are the 2014 favorites on NightstandBookReviews in alphabetical order by author. Click on the titles and take a look:

 

Lucy Burdette, “Appetite for Murder

 

Robert Dugoni, “My Sister’s Grave

 

Robert Dugoni, “The Conviction

 

Sarah Graves, “Triple Witch

 

Edith Maxwell, “A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die

 

Leigh Perry, “A Skeleton in the Family

 

MJ Rose, “The Book of Lost Fragrances

 

Barbara Ross, “Clammed Up

 

Daniel Silva, “The English Girl

 

JB West & ML Katz, “Upstairs at the White House

 

Lynn Chandler Willis, “The Rising


Happy reading!

 

“The Rising” by Lynn Chandler Willis

 

Book Cover -The Rising

“The Rising,” by Lynn Chandler Willis, is the story of a baffling event that nobody – detectives, medical personnel, bystanders – can explain. A young child is found in an alley, apparently beaten to death. The crime scene is checked by a detective, and the lifeless, bloodied body is delivered to the hospital by ambulance.

 

After thirty minutes of testing for respiration, pulse, and brain wave activity, the ER physician pronounces the boy dead and has him moved to the morgue on a gurney. And yet, the next day, that same little boy walks into the morgue office with no bruises and no blood, wearing the toe tag on his foot, and asks to go to the bathroom.

 

Say what?

 

The Homicide Detective covering the case, Ellie Saunders, saw that the boy was dead. Everybody at the hospital saw that the boy was dead. And, now thirty hours later, he’s not.

 

Saunders and her partner are called in to investigate the (now) assault. The child does not know who he is or what happened to him and the hospital is labeling this a Lazarus Syndrome case – very rare and usually only linked to people who have ‘come-back-to-life’ after an hour or two. Unheard of after this long.

 

Saunders becomes obsessed with finding the boy’s family as well as the person that hurt him so badly. She is horrified at the fact that anyone could have done this to the child, and (without giving away the plot) wants to protect him from further insult or injury. Roadblocks are placed in Saunders way at many turns and as this unusual story unfolds, we are drawn into not only the investigation, but an exploration of faith vs science.

 

The supporting characters are fully fleshed out; a likably wacky morgue attendant, an assortment of interesting colleagues, quirky locals, caring as well as flirtatious doctors, reluctant witnesses, a supposedly lost love, an outspoken aunt, and an estranged preacher father. Saunders herself is complex, mostly in control of her actions and emotions until the case triggers memories of her troubled past. Those memories drive her to bend a few rules in her tenacious pursuit of the truth.

 

Willis’ depiction of the child is perfect. She draws on her considerable research with her own delightful family, but there’s another layer here that many writers miss when creating the children in their books. The child’s relationships and personality develop in a natural way through “The Rising,” revealing a combination of shyness, intelligence, appropriate language and reactions. Johnny Doe puts up with the adults’ questions for a bit and then his attention turns to trucks and coloring. Spot-on writing that will tug at your heart and remind you of a child you know. Willis also taps into an understanding of the unspoken messages that children reveal in their play, and makes that a part of the mystery that Saunders must solve.

 

Along the way, Saunders must come to terms with her own loss of faith and how it has impacted her decisions. Discussions with friends and family are not always welcome. Then, two parallel storylines merge nicely with the Johnny Doe case and Willis brings us home with an action packed, satisfying ending.

 

It’s easy to see whyThe Rising won the 2013 Grace Award for Excellence in Faith-based Fiction in the mystery/romantic suspense/thriller category.

 

By the way, Johnny Doe’s fictional situation is an actual medical condition – Google ‘Lazarus Syndrome’ and read the real-life case studies.

 

Please visit www.lynnchandlerwillis.com for more information about Willis’ other books and upcoming events.

 

 

“Submerged” by Dani Pettrey

 

Book Cover - Submerged

Dani Pettrey’s debut Christian novel, “Submerged,” is set in the world of Alaskan dive rescue, a frequently dangerous profession. The book opens with what may be an engineered plane crash into the sea, off the coast of Tariuk Island. Cole McKenna’s team attempts a harrowing rescue, with a tragic outcome.

 

When one of the deaths turns out to be the aunt of a former girlfriend, Bailey Craig, life gets complicated. Aunt Agnes owned a popular Russian-American store in Yancey, where McKenna and his family have a dive shop. Bailey reluctantly returns to Yancey to sell her beloved aunt’s business, knowing that her own dicey past will be painful to relive once she sets foot there. She vows to take care of the estate and leave as soon as possible. But, her position as a Professor of Russian Studies uniquely qualifies her to help with a murder investigation that may be tied to sunken treasure and so much more.

 

As romantic suspense dictates, Cole and Bailey are drawn to each other again, afraid to trust, but now ten years older and wiser. Their interaction is aching and intense; yet as they are forced to work together to solve the mystery of the ‘why’ of the plane crash, we hope that Bailey comes to understand what true forgiveness means.

 

There is a noisy, active family support system for Cole that Bailey envies and never had – dumped on her aunt’s doorstep, unwanted by her mother. The dialogue flies back and forth as people drift through rooms at gatherings, interrupting each other, teasing each other – as it would be for any large family and their close friends who depend on each other and know each other so well. Pettrey captures that verbal chaos beautifully.

 

The book is a tight read with plenty of dialogue to advance the story and the action scenes. My ebook version seemed to be missing a few scattered transitional sentences that would have clarified when some scenes were ending, but those small omissions did not keep me from enjoying this multi-layered story of a Christian family caught up in some challenging circumstances. Cole’s faith is more developed than Bailey’s and Pettrey manages to convey that without getting preachy.

 

“Submerged” won the 2013 Holt Medallion for Best First Book and the Colorado Romance Writers 2013 Award of Excellence in the Inspirational Category.

 

Readers who enjoy Dee Henderson’s books involving the O’Malley family might also enjoy Dani Pettrey’s ‘Alaskan Courage’ series. “Submerged” was followed by “Shattered,”  “Stranded,” and “Silenced.”  “Sabotaged” will be released in 2015. The personable McKennas are featured in each of the books.

 

For more information about Dani Pettrey and her work, please visit www.danipettrey.com.

 

 

“Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

 

Book Cover - Outlander

 

The “Outlander” series, by Diana Gabaldon, has been a sensation in the historical fiction arena, blending time-travel, romance, and adventure into one terrific story. Why do we love “Outlander?” It’s well-written, crosses genres beautifully, and the broad sweep of the storyline is just plain fun.

 

Claire Randall is a former combat nurse, home from WW2 in 1945. She has been reunited with her husband, Frank, and they are enjoying a second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands after a long, war-caused separation. On the lookout for interesting flowers and herbs, she wanders into a circle of ancient stones said to be the legendary Merlin stones, touches one of the stones and disappears. That is, disappears from 1945 and pops up in 1743 – right into the middle of the Jacobite rebellion, with Bonnie Prince Charlie attempting to take over the throne of England.

 

With her English and slightly alien accent, she is soon called Sassenach (an outlander) by the MacKenzie clan that rescues her from an assault by a British soldier (her husband’s ancestor) and is suspected by everyone of being a spy. But, for whom? Her rescuers, in part to use her as a bargaining chip, keep her hostage.

 

Her skill as a healer is discovered when she meets injured Jamie Fraser and that ensures her safety until her fate can be decided. “Outlander” reveals Gabaldon’s tremendous amount of research into the uses of botanicals for healing both in 1945 and two hundred years earlier. We are treated to descriptions of herbs, the drugs available in both centuries, the limits of medicine in the 1700s, the choices available, and even the handling of prisoners. The wisdom of the modern medical era is applied to herbal remedies of the 1700s, but often, Claire just has to make do.

 

Gabaldon has written the developing relationship between Claire and Jamie realistically within the constraints of the time travel strand. Claire can’t reveal when she is really from – nobody would understand it – and Jamie does not quite trust her since her circumstances don’t really ring true. Claire has a modern sense of humor and Jamie is puzzled by her references to John Wayne and her cursing. And, yet, they each feel an attraction as they are thrown together repeatedly during the action. The complexity of Scottish clan rivalry is explored, alliances for and against the British are created, and Claire occasionally uses her knowledge of history to protect the people in her immediate circle.

 

“Outlander” succeeds in part because of its intimate portrait of a marriage, with its moments of personal truths, physical intimacy, enduring love, and sometimes hilarious banter. Two strong-willed people are forced into a union of convenience in order to save their lives and the relationship is raw and wonderful. There are sometimes tender and sometimes rough, bedroom scenes between Jamie and Claire. There are graphic descriptions of an attempted rape as well as an actual rape with another character. Gabaldon does not mince words, so be forewarned that this is well-done adult reading.

 

The Jacobite rebellion and the surrounding political turmoil drive the tale, but it’s the characters that keep us spellbound until the last page. There are good guys and bad, some of whom are both in order to survive in a dangerous political climate, and one who is undeniably evil. We don’t always know whom to trust. The supporting characters are colorful, complex, as well as entertaining, and add depth and realism to the multi-layered plot.

 

The time travel is brilliantly handled. Claire tries on multiple occasions to return to the stones in order to get back to her own time, but as she falls more deeply in love with Jamie, she is torn between leaving him and her responsibility to the husband she left behind. Along the way, she discovers that she may not be the only person who has traveled through the stones.

 

I laughed during the engaging dialogue, cringed at the choices that needed to be made and cried during some desperate moments for more than one character. When the book ended, I was very happy that there were more titles in the series to be read.

 

The novel won the Romance Writers of America's RITA Award for Best Romance of 1991. The first seven books in the series sold over twenty million copies and landed on the NYT bestseller lists six times. The eighth book in the series was published in June, 2014. A TV series based on the first book, “Outlander,” debuted in the USA in August, 2014.

 

For more information about Diana Gabaldon and her work, please visit www.dianagabaldon.com

 

 

 

 

“Dear Killer” by Linda Lovely

 

Book Cover - Dear Killer

Marley Clark is a recently widowed, bored, former Army intelligence officer who takes on a job as a security guard for a Dear Island community in order to stay busy.  The gig is mostly routine until one night, she discovers the naked body of a local resident, floating face down in a vegetable-crammed Jacuzzi. Nearby, a message is scratched into a palm tree pot: “STEWED.”

 

The locals are not equipped to handle one murder, let alone the others that follow in rapid succession in "Dear Killer." A deputy arrives from the mainland to help out with the sleuthing. Who would want these people dead? Why stage the crime scenes in such bizarre fashion? And what ties them all together? Clark, the deputy, and friends work together to stop the mayhem, despite repeated threats and close calls.

 

As romantic suspense dictates, the deputy becomes Clark’s boyfriend. A boyfriend who is hot, younger and might not be interested in a one-night stand. And, because this is adult romantic suspense, Clark has some vivid fantasies that eventually lead to actual sexual interludes and some self-doubt about whether she can move on after a year in mourning.

 

In her debut novel, Linda Lovely was on a campaign to let readers know that the over 50 year old crowd is alive and well, sexually active, vital to the community, and lovin’ it. Lovely succeeded in "Dear Killer" and had great fun with her lead character along the way. Clark’s best pal is a snarky, free-spirited gal with a sailor’s vocabulary. This is not your grandmother’s cozy read. The bad guys are sleazy, the murders grisly, the similes and adjectives fly, and the clues are pun-filled.

 

Lovely has penned a novel set in the Low Country of South Carolina. Dear Island itself may be fictional, but descriptions of the area’s history, food, lifestyle and geographical character are authentic. Other readers who live in that section of South Carolina say it’s all spot-on.

 

Go to www.lindalovely.com for more information about Linda Lovely, her dedicated work in the writing community, and her recent books.

 

 

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