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review 2017-10-02 22:22
The Stolen Marriage
The Stolen Marriage - Diane Chamberlain

By: Diane Chamberlain 

ISBN: 9781250087270

Publisher: St. Martin's Press 

Publication Date: 10/3/2017 

Format:  Other 

My Rating: 5 Stars +++

Top  Books of  2017 

International Bestselling author and one of my all-time favorites, master storyteller, Diane Chamberlain returns following Pretending to Dance, landing on my Top books of 2015 with her latest multi-layered compelling drama: THE STOLEN MARRIAGE — Profound and moving, a complex novel of deeply buried secrets. Well-researched, a perfect blending of fact and fiction. 

Rich in history, mystery, suspense, intrigue and the finest of southern fiction. Emotionally driven, infused with richly layered characters—with highly-charged and compelling “true to life topics” of the era. 

Movie-worthy: From racial tensions to the stresses and emotions of World War II — tragedy, loss, love, trust, betrayal, compassion, forgiveness, and the toll of secrets from a rural small Southern town. 

A poignant and engrossing tale. 

From dark secrets, infidelity, sex outside of marriage, same-sex, abortion, prejudice, interracial marriages and relations, war rationing, family obligations, gripping moral dilemmas, religion, polio epidemic, and a little magical sprinkle of the supernatural. 

Set in 1943, Theresa “Tess” DeMello, a 23-year-old nurse-in-training resides in Little Italy, Baltimore, Maryland. A happy Italian Catholic family, they have lived next door to the Russos forever. They are celebrating her twenty-third birthday and the completion of Vincent’s hospital residency at John Hopkins.

She has been in love with Vincent Russo since she was a child. They have planned their lives and even their children. In a few months, Tess would be graduating from nursing school and taking her licensing exam and finally be able to call herself a registered nurse. A career she had longed for since she was ten years old. They even fantasized that someday Vincent would have his own pediatric practice and she would be his nurse.

The two families are planning their upcoming wedding. They had been dating for seven years. She is still a virgin and since Vincent had grown up expecting to be a priest, he had never pressured her. They would wait until their wedding night.

Her best friend Gina, on the other hand, was a different story. She did not think it was a sin, and really— she did not find too much of anything a sin.

Tess was worried that he would be called off to war but he did have a minor heart problem. However, she was not prepared for a change in their well-laid plans. Vincent was called to Chicago. There was an infantile paralysis epidemic there and they needed doctors to volunteer. A subject true to his heart due to members of his family with polio.

This is just one of the reasons Tess loved him so. He was devoted and selfless. He had hoped to be away for only a few weeks. However, the few weeks turned into longer. He was so busy, he seldom had time to write or phone in a shared boardinghouse with eight men. She worried he would fall in love with Chicago and forget about her —their plans and their life. She fears what is there is someone else? She is feeling insecure. Self-doubt sets in. 

As time moved on Vincent was still away and her friend Gina was feeling a little down since her man was away fighting for his country. Gina begs her to accompany her to Washington, DC. A weekend getaway. They deserved it. Only an hour train ride from Baltimore and they could stay at her aunt’s house near Capitol Hill. She runs a tourist home. Tess does not want to go, but Gina finally persuades her. 

However, when they arrive, their aunt had to leave unexpectedly and leaves them a note and key. There are also two businessmen who will be staying overnight in the house. They meet the men and they take them out for dinner and martinis. 

The two men seemed nice enough, Robert Talbot and Henry Kraft. Henry was from the South, and appeared to be well dressed, in his late twenties and rather quiet. Gina was flirting with Robert and left her to talk with Henry. 

Henry’s family owns a fine furniture factory (Kraft Furniture) in Hickory, NC and now they are producing material for the war effort. She did notice Henry had only seven fingers. Their maid Adora saved his life. He looked sad. 

Back at the house, with too much to drink, things get out of hand. Intoxicated. They had sex. Tess was horrified. How could she have done such a thing when she loves Vincent? She is determined never to see or speak to him again. Was it rape? One night changes the course of her life. 

Upon return, she is guilt-ridden and goes to the priest for confession. A mortal sin to have sexual relations outside of marriage and betraying her fiancé he says. She must tell Vincent. However, he needs to remain eight more weeks but assures he will be back months before the wedding.

Then her worst fears. She is pregnant. What was she going to do? A smart girl with a brilliant career and future will dishonor her entire family. Could she pass the baby off as Vincent’s? She could not marry him. She must leave. She cannot face him. She does not trust in their love. Gina says she must have an abortion. None of these options are looking good. Gina knows someone who will take care of it. 

Scared and alone, she arrives and cannot go through with it. She must move away. A place where she would not be the object of scorn or shame or worry about bumping into Vincent or his family. She decides she will travel to Hickory, NC and tell Henry. She would do whatever she could to protect her baby.

However, things go differently than she planned. She was not quite expecting Henry to propose. She did not love him or know anything about him nor his family. She was stunned. Could this be a sign from God? She decides to marry him. She has no clue what she is getting into. A loveless marriage with a stranger? This is not the life she planned. 

Henry was a take charge man with money, power, and prestige. Plus, a sophisticated family. She knew she was not part of his life. She could not forget her nursing and immediately wanted to look into the requirements for licensing in NC. He does not think she needs a career. 


He wants to build them a house; however, while the house is being built, they have to move in with his overbearing mother and sister Lucy. His sister was about the same age as Tess and she thought this could be her new best friend. Wrong, on all accounts.

Tess soon learns there is no lovemaking (which is a good thing), and Henry goes back to his busy life, leaving her stuck with mother and sister. Also, Violet Dare, Hank’s fiancée most of her life. Everyone knew they would marry. They came from the right families. No one can understand why he married this girl no one had met and from Baltimore. 

Something secretive is going on with Henry (Hank). Lucy tells Tess there are things she does not know about Henry. (it is definitely not what you expect). 

Now everyone blames her. Plus, her mom and others cannot comprehend why she would give up her life for some man in NC? Her mother and father (in heaven) will disown her. How could she do this to Mimi, Pop, and Vincent? A man who left to do volunteer work and she cheated on him.

She decides to write Vincent a letter. She cannot be honest and she cannot tell him about the baby or her marriage. She tells him not to find her and find someone worthy. A letter full of lies and omissions. Heartbroken, she is the talk of the town. Alienated from everyone. Then her mother passes away. She blames herself once again.

Violet is the district attorney’s daughter. She will not be Henry’s wife. Tess feels her only friend is the maid, Hattie. Bryon Dare (her dad) is prosecuting Henry’s friend Gaston. His friend who married a Loretta (black), and wants to return to NC to reside.

Tess knows she must take the RN exam and it would be held only a few hours away in Winston-Salem via train. She has to figure out a way to get there. Of course, the mother-in-law and Henry think all this is nonsense since she will be too busy with the women’s organizations, now that she is Henry’s wife. Of course, being in the South, this is Baptist Bible belt territory and she is Catholic.

What else would she have to give up? 

With heartfelt letters from Tess to Gina back home she talks about the town, her husband, a nanny, and child on the way. She knows she is fortunate to have his support but she misses her life and Vincent. So many things she wishes she could undo.

However, if you have read any of Diane Chamberlain’s books, you know there is a complex story coming. Paths will intersect, lives will be tested, love and hope will be restored. 

Fun part: Hattie tells her about Reverend Sam (love him). He talks to the spirits. She is sad and wants clarity. However, he lives in Ridgeview (colored town), and how will she get there? She needs to make peace with her mom, Maria. A book. She loves visiting him and feels freer. 

She soon suspects she is being followed. Henry does not come home sometimes. Zeke the colored janitor is always at the factory. A cop following her. What was she missing? A mystery. Then she stumbles upon an armoire filled two-thirds with bills. Banded and in stacks. More than two thousand dollars. 

Another tragedy. Another loss. She was trapped and miserable. How foolish she had been about Vincent going away for a few months to Chicago for work, and then allowing Gina to talk her into the stupid Washington trip and sleeping with Henry. Then the baby. She must find a way out of this trap.

Then polio strikes. Infantile paralysis. Ruth (Henry’s mom) says it only happens to poor people, which was not true since she points out FDR was not poor. Maybe she could help out since she is a nurse.

Enter more problems. Between Gina and Lucy, these two get Tess in all sorts of trouble. A car accident on the wrong side of town. Lucy is gone. Everyone blames her. She needs her mom and Lucy’s forgiveness. War and polio. People dying. She could not sit still. She could do some good. 

“We need to remember that polio knows no socioeconomic or racial lines. It affects all our community and it will take all of us to fight it.”

With the weight on her shoulders, Tess must dig her way out of the muck and get her life back. Disliked by a town, her own household, and her secretive money-hiding husband, and unable to do the work she loved, and still longed for a man she could not have. A husband and mother in law telling her what she could and couldn’t do. 

Is she being played for a fool? Will she find a way to get the power back?

She needs her spiritual guide named Walter. She must help at the polio hospital. She has to save herself and get her life back. In the process she may even save others, seeking redemption. Someone’s tragedy could be someone else’s salvation. 

What will happen when she meets face to face with Vincent? Has she lost her chance at real happiness?

Could tragedy bring out the best of people and possibly the judgemental friends may turn out to be more generous and compassionate than she thought possible? Could she win back her dignity with the town and those she loves? She arrived broken and hopefully. Will Tess possess the strength to help make it whole? 

The author grabs you from the intriguing and suspenseful prologue to the satisfying conclusion. Loved the Epilogue and the author’s notes about Hickory and the actual polio hospital which was staffed in fifty-four hours! 

A gripping, powerful and compelling page-turner! 

No one can tell a story like Diane Chamberlain. The author has never been afraid to tackle the hot highly-charged topics and a pro at family drama and riveting suspense. She is at the top of her game. Of course, everything she writes is solid gold (have read all her books and anxiously await the next).

Loved Tess’ character and her enduring power. What a journey; from self-doubt and fear — with one crisis after another, to a stronger woman through her adversity. An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions. Reading Guide 

Highly Recommend! THE STOLEN MARRIAGE is a Top Books for 2017 and read in one sitting. Suspenseful as well as informative, insightful and compelling. 

For fans of Jodi Picoult, Heather Gudenkauf, Karen White, Lisa Wingate, and Amy Hatvany, 

Once again, her meticulous researched topics and well-developed characters remind me strongly of one of my other favorites: Necessary Lies and the novella The First Lie. If you enjoyed THE STOLEN MARRIAGE, you will devour these two. PS Another oldie but goodie favorite: The Bay at Midnight. 

The Stolen Marriage and Necessary Lies are my top favorites out of all her books. Possibly being an NC native, I enjoy revising my roots and its rich Southern history. I always learn a new bit of history after reading one of her books. 

If you have not already, please visit Diane’s website and her blog. You will appreciate the story even more and further enhance your overall reading experience when you read her personal account. 

Thank you, for having the courage and determination to express. An inspiration to many. Rape, Race and Writing Historical Fiction 

She includes more extensive research on her website and books about polio in 1944 in this town. Another article. 

A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an early reading copy. Also pre-ordered the audiobook narrated by Susan Bennett. Look forward to listening. 

Adore both covers. The rain and the train (strong) since Tess was traveling on a train so many times. Each time required courage in order to attain her final goal. 




On a personal note: 
Was delighted to see the author chose the southern setting of Hickory, NC and could not wait to read. Exceeded all expectations.


A native of Statesville, only 20 minutes east of Hickory, spent a great deal of time there growing up. In addition, have the Lenior Rhyne College connection for many years, as well as was in the fine furniture interior design business in NC —spending a great deal of time at the Furniture Mart in Hickory as well as High Point. Also, always enjoy the Winston-Salem references where my sons now reside. 

The rich history of Hickory, NC has shaped it into the up and rising city that has earned it the title of an All-American city three times. . . As outlined in the book, "Historically, Hickory is most known for its huge polio epidemic, also known as the Miracle of Hickory. Following World War II, polio epidemics severely hit the US’ population. Hickory had the largest polio outbreak in all of NC. 

My mom’s twin died of polio in the mid-1930s and my best friend from school had polio. She was disfigured and was made fun of by many. 

I enjoy how the author takes multiple historic topics and weaves a compelling story which is both heartwarming and tragic. My mom was a huge Diane Chamberlain fan and she would have loved this story.




About the Author


Diane Chamberlain is the New York Times, USA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author of 25 novels published in more than twenty languages. Some of her most popular books include Necessary Lies, The Silent Sister, The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, and The Keeper of the Light Trilogy. Diane likes to write complex stories about relationships between men and women, parents and children, brothers and sisters, and friends. Although the thematic focus of her books often revolves around family, love, compassion and forgiveness, her stories usually feature a combination of drama, mystery, secrets and intrigue. Diane's background in psychology has given her a keen interest in understanding the way people tick, as well as the background necessary to create her realistic characters.

Diane was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey and spent her summers at the Jersey Shore. She also lived for many years in San Diego and northern Virginia before making North Carolina her home.

Diane received her bachelor's and master's degrees in clinical social work from San Diego State University. Prior to her writing career, Diane worked in hospitals in San Diego and Washington, D.C. before opening a private psychotherapy practice in Alexandria Virginia specializing in adolescents. All the while Diane was writing on the side. Her first book, Private Relations was published in 1989 and it earned the RITA award for Best Single Title Contemporary Novel. 
Diane lives with her partner, photographer John Pagliuca, and her sheltie, Cole. She has three stepdaughters, two sons-in-law, and four grandchildren. She's currently at work on her next novel.

Please visit Diane's website at www.dianechamberlain.com for more information on her newest novel, The Stolen Marriage, and a complete list of her books.

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/03/03/The-Stolen-Marriage
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review 2016-09-05 07:58
The Things We Wish Were True
The Things We Wish Were True - Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

By:  Marybeth Mayhew Whalen


Publisher: Lake Union 

Publication Date: 9/1/2016 

Format: Paperback

My Rating:  5 Stars  


A special thank you to Lake Union and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Marybeth Mayhew Whalen pulls you into an all American contemporary neighborhood, with dark secrets and lies, seems everyone is hiding something in her latest: THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE –a Southern charmer looks beneath the pristine exteriors of this friendly North Carolina neighborhood.

In this idyllic Matthews, NC suburban neighborhood Sycamore Glen, everyone meets at the neighborhood pool. There is much depth here – a character driven emotional tale, the author references her inspiration behind the book, which I enjoyed reading.

A perfect Labor Day Weekend Southern read. An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions (questions included).

Written from multiple contrasting perspectives, starting Memorial Day Weekend 2014, we hear from a variety of characters: Cailey, Zell, Lance, Bryte, and Jencey. At the neighborhood pool.

The opening day for the summer. We continue hearing from each character from May-August. Slowly the characters’ lives are unraveled, and their pasts exposed. Things that threaten lives and relationships.

Cailey, lived in a house which the neighbors hated. People thought they were white trash. Cutter’s dad was in prison. She herself did not have a father, or one she had ever met. Even though the neighborhood sign said: “We’re All Family Here.”, was not true for them.

Driving past all the pretty houses filled her with hope and possibly they would have a better life one day. She lived with her son Cutter and her mom. She did not like people saying bad things about her mom. Even though Cutter could not swim very well and the people ignored them, she liked the pool.

Bryte grew up in Sycamore Glen, always longing for the boy taken by her best friend. Later she has it all, but behind her happiness is a big secret. She is desperate to keep her secret; however, before the book ends, it will come to the surface and stare her in the face, threatening to destroy her relationship and everything she tried desperately to protect.

Jencey grew up in Sycamore Glen and seemed to have it all. She left without an explanation. Years later she returns and causes many questions. Zell always helps out and lends support to others. She also has secrets. She has a sense of emptiness and would give anything to go back to the chaos of a young family.

Lane, a single dad needs to find a babysitter or he is going to lose his job. He had to stop depending on the neighbor lady, Zell. She was always like a fairy godmother. He loved watching sports and drinking beer. Debra was gone and he was holding things together. He was doing the best he could.

Heartfelt, each person has a lesson to be learned, a loss; and most of all a book about redemption; having the courage to start over, and dive back into the things which scare us the most. A fitting title and a perfect cover with the window panes.

Do you really know your neighbors? What lurks behind closed doors.

A tragedy occurs at the beginning of summer, and slowly more secrets rise to the surface. A boy and a girl are the ones to teach the others some important lessons. So, while what doesn’t kill you, can make you stronger, you can ease the suffering of going through it by learning to accept what is.

As a native of Charlotte, NC (Lake Norman/Davidson area), am very familiar with the Matthews, NC area, and the author does a stunning job of portraying the Southern lifestyle, especially in North Carolina.

From domestic suspense, relatable characters, a compelling read which draws you into a their world of pain, loss, fear, hope, and dreams. Exposing the facades, from a range of ages – from young- old, readers will be drawn into the personal lives of each character, glued to the pages.

My first book by the author, and was quite impressed with the author’s winning style. From the vivid settings to the characters most intimate thoughts. In addition to the digital advanced reading copy, happened to be traveling and also purchased the audiobook (ironically flying from Greensboro, NC back to Florida).

The narrator, Taylor Ann Krahn was a perfect Southern match for Whalen! I was so engrossed in this book, was hanging on her every word. A narrator can make or break a book, and Krahn’s voice was spellbinding. Hoping more Southern authors will feature her for an engaging performance.

Triumph over tragedy with many takeaways. For fans ofCatherine Ryan Hyde, Paula Treick DeBoard, Diane Chamberlain, and Barbara Claypole White.

Looking forward to more by this talented author!

“There were the things she wished were true, and there was what was actually true. She was learning that there was usually a great distance between the two.”


Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!The-Things-We-Wish-Were-True/cmoa/5723800a0cf269c350f39756
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review 2016-06-15 23:47
The Regrets of Cyrus Dodd
The Regrets of Cyrus Dodd (The Wyattsville Series Book 4) - Bette Lee Crosby

By: Bette Lee Crosby 

Wyattsville Series #4


Publisher: Bent Pine

Publication Date: 6/15/2016

Format: e-book

My Rating: 5 Stars  


A special thank you to the publisher and author for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. What a great read for a rainy Friday (read in one sitting) Love this series!

Southern, much loved storyteller, Bette Lee Crosby returns following Passing Through Perfect (2015), landing on myTop 50 Books of 2015 - Best Southern Fiction” and “Best Southern Storyteller of 2015”, continuing with heart-warming #4 Wyattsville Series, with THE REGRETS OF CYRUS DODD.

A complex life of one man. A story worthy of telling. But to appreciate the end you have to go back to the beginning. A long dark road of misery.

“Love and sorrow come into your life hand in hand. I’m an old man now and over these many years I have seen more than my share of sorrows, some so great they brought me to my knees. But I have also loved with such passion that it set my soul afire. Were you to ask me would I give up one to avoid the other, I would turn away.”

Elk Bend, West Virginia 1930, Cyrus Dodd’s life in the rural country on a farm. He and his wife Ruth own land, a home, and a farm. Everything a man wants in this era. He takes pride in protecting his family. They may not have riches; however, live comfortable.

However, Virgil Jackson, a neighbor (not friends), has them over a barrel. Virgil of course took every opportunity to remind Cyrus of this, daily. An evil man with greed and hate in his heart and soul.

The Dodd’s source of water was from the pond on Virgil’s land. It had an underground spring that offered an endless stream of fresh water, and fed the brooks running across three different farms. One being Dodd’s cornfield. It enabled Cyrus to irrigate the bottomland and water the livestock as well as their crops. Unfortunately, Cyrus had no alternative other than to remain neighborly with Virgil.

Until . . . .

The spring they each had piglets. Virgil seven and one stillborn, and Cyrus nine (all alive and well). A week later a tornado, and his pig wound up at Virgil’s farm. Cyrus knew where his missing pig was and tried to attain it from him. It was branded, so he knew. Virgil said it was his. Refused to return it. Cyrus goes back later and takes his pig.

This started the feud of a lifetime.

Virgil goes to the sheriff, they go to court, and ultimately case dismissed. However, worried about the water, his wife wants him to make peace. Virgil would not accept pigs, animals or apologies. Soon he built a dam, and Cyrus' water supply was cut off.

Virgil was not a forgiving man. Virgil desired nothing more than to see Cyrus fail.

Pretty soon, tragedy hits the Dodd’s household. From his crops, animals, and his livelihood. Cyrus is stubborn and will not leave his land. Ruth knows he cannot make a living on a farm without water. What kind of life would they have if they stayed? When they think matters cannot get any worse, they lose their baby. Almost as bad as "Job from the Bible", everything is taken away. They buried their baby boy and planted a small elderberry bush.

Who is to blame? The anger Cyrus feels toward Virgil is hatred. Ruth saw it coming; however, he did not listen. He will make it up to her. He cannot change the past, but he will not let Ruth pay for his mistakes.

A feud is not forgotten, regardless of how well-intentioned a man is, once hatred settles in his heart, it remains there forever. With every hardship he suffered the hatred grew stronger, until eventually it became so powerful, not even his prayers could overcome it.

More tragedy and sorrow. Even rain flooded his cornfield. Day after day, Cyrus' anger swelled. Ruth wants them to sell the farm. Cyrus is proud and says it is his home and he will never leave. Ruth reminded him it was "their" home. A man's pride. Another cold winter, and no money, and once again another sorrow. This time, a loss so painful, Ruth may never recover.

Cyrus, is at his lowest when he sees the light go out in Ruth’s eyes. She is bedridden and has lost her will, to even get out of bed with her sadness. She has lost her will to live. It is his fault.

In the meantime, Cyrus does not know, Virgil has problems, of his own. His wife cannot handle his anger. Their oldest son is holly terror. He is bullying his younger brother and baby sister. Things get so bad his wife takes their daughter to live with her sister in fear of their lives. She has to guard her younger son and carries a gun to protect for their own son. The oldest son is out of control. Virgil cannot see he is following in his path. Bad things start happening to Virgil.Karma is a bitch…

“A man’s pride will cause him to do things you never dreamed possible. When being right was most important, and all other things were blocked out.”

Cyrus was a strong man who could deal with many things—from flooded land, failed crops, hard winters, even humbling himself to a man like Virgil. But the one thing he couldn’t deal with was seeing Ruth so weary. He thinks of killing Virgil, he is so angry. Will his hatred get the better of him?

However, he thinks about what Ruth said.

He learns of a job in Virginia outside a small town of Wyattsville, working for a railroad. A man loves his land, but he loves his wife more. She gets a flicker of light back in her eyes. They make plans to leave; however, they have not been able to sell the land, due to Virgil, cutting off the water supply. No one could afford to get on the bad side of Virgil.

They are afraid of staying, and equally frightened of going. They begin selling off everything they con to get enough money to make the trip. Cyrus will never stop trying. Ruth deserved better. With little money they leave and take a train.

From here to the end of the book, things start changing for them. When all seemed gloom and stuck on the side of the road, with nowhere to go, they meet a stranger. Fate steps in.A right decision.

A woman, (angel) Prudence Greenly all alone and her husband, Arnold is deceased. She offers them a room for a few days, and they wind up staying. They love the town, and Ruth soon gets her strength back, and she and Prudence become best friends. Life is good.

“Having regrets ain’t good for the soul.” Some are irreversible.

Cyrus is doing well on the job and now they are saving money. However, Cyrus is a proud man and wants a place of their own; however, he helps out Prudence and they wind up staying until Prudence’s death years later. Even a healthy daughter.

“The thing about regrets is that no matter how many you’ve got, you just keep adding more.”

Cyrus still has regrets and thinks of his land and everything in his life. However, they begin to start taking trips and vacations (one to the Greenbrier Hotel, VA). Been there many times. They try to appreciate one another, their time, and good fortune. They try enjoy life without the worries of money-with new neighbors and friends.

Cyrus never forgets Virgil – he stole his life, but decides he has all he can get. He is giving him too much power over his life.

As they get older, their daughter Joy goes off to school and starts her own life; they become empty nesters. Another tragedy. Another storm. This time the neighbors rally around to help them. This is when we get to revisit with Olivia, and some of the folks from previous books at the Wyattsville Apartment. (love it)

“I keep thinking surely to God, I have already done everything there is to regret, but every time I’ve thought that I discover another regret waiting on the horizon.”

In the meantime, little does Cyrus know, Virgil has lost almost everything important in his life. There was a murder, and his family is gone. He was a hateful evil man.

Cyrus has a long list of regrets. The problem is you never know exactly what it is you’re going to regret until it’s too late to change what you’ve already done.

“A man cannot change who he is. He can only hope that with age comes the wisdom to see his folly.”

Flashing back and forth from Ruth and Cyrus, and get the updates happening back at Elk Bend from Virgil Jackson.

From the house on Harrison Street. Young Married to Empty Nesters. Retirement. Wyattsville Arms Apartments. Full circle. The cycles of life. The regrets. The memories.

A former life. They revisit their land they lost, and their home they loved years ago . . and the man who took it away. Landing where they are today. Sometimes we have to reach our lowest in order to receive what awaits around the corner. One flicker of fate can change your whole life. Memories:Some sweet. Some painful.

“As I grow ever closer to the end of my time, I look back at this life and tell you that the only thing I would wish to give up is the regret I’ve carried in my heart for all these years. At long last I have come to realize the things I once counted as regrets were indeed blessings that I was too blind to see.”

What a heart-warming series!


Bette is a master designer with her quirky gritty southern storytelling. She bridges the gap from young to old, so eloquently.  

Reading her stories is like sitting in a cozy kitchen- with some homemade goodies, a fire, and a cup of tea or coffee with a wise grandmother, telling tales to her grandchildren. (Southern Comfort) Glued to the fascinating history with eyes dazzling. It is amazing how stories of our grandparents relate to today’s top headlines.

When we think of regrets, I recently read an article in Forbes: The 25 Biggest Regrets In Life. What Are Yours? 5 Choices You'll Regret Forever.

We are all busy. Life happens. There’s always something to distract us from getting around to certain things we know we should do. We regret our decisions and second guess our past parenting, financial, career, education, friends and family choices we have made. Things we did, or did not do with our time here on earth. Sometimes life passes us by, while dwelling on things we cannot change.

With today’s social media and smartphones, we are neglecting some stuff we should do. But we never get around to it. Then, something happens. We begin to think about what our biggest regrets would be, if we were suddenly sitting on our death bed.

In light of the recent Orlando’s tragic shootings, we see firsthand what hatred does. From terrorists, evil, greed, jealousy, lies, shootings, bullying, and more. The lives it destroys. Not so different in the thirties, when people used their own weapons in different ways to drive others out of their lives. From the early Bible days of Cain and Abel. Man's hatred.

As always, Bette delivers a wise message, metaphors of life storms, and plenty of life’s essential lessons. A cautionary tale.

"Sometimes regrets are not mistakes. The difference is some keep hanging on to the memory of them. Some regrets Cyrus carried around, weren’t really regrets after all. Just life’s heartaches. It is imperative we learn to discover the differences."

Some decisions have repercussions that can last a lifetime. Most of these decisions are made daily, and they require focus and perspective to keep them from haunting you.

Highly Recommend The Wyattsville Series (All 5 Starred)!

Passing Through Perfect (Wyattsville, #3)
Jubilee's Journey (Wyattsville, #2)
Spare Change (Wyattsville, #1)

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” –Stephen Covey

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!The-Regrets-of-Cyrus-Dodd/cmoa/574f9d360cf2c85df84d663c
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review 2016-05-11 03:52
A LowCountry Wedding
A Lowcountry Wedding (Lowcountry Summer) - Mary Alice Monroe
Lowcountry Summer #4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Publication Date: 5/3/2016 
Format: Audio 
My Rating:  5 Stars  


Master Storyteller, Mary Alice Monroe’s highly anticipated fourth installment of Lowcountry Summer series, A LOWCOUNTRY WEDDINGis full of excitement, family, and romance.

Readers were sad to see the trilogy end; however, delighted to see this additional installment return following The Summer’s End. #3 . And let me say, it is explosive! What a stunning front cover, MAM's own trademark style, and the nice media touch with the wedding giveaway promotion in Charleston. No place better in the world for a romantic wedding!

Brimming with Lowcountry Charleston charm, elegance, and history--of course, some added Emily Post proper tidbits, and social graces of the South, providing clear answers on a vast range of wedding and entertaining etiquette from one Southern grandmother, PLUS, a little British proper Debrett'srituals, social manners and characteristics from the England wealthy grandmother —making for a nice twist for their take on today’s modern woman. (love the generational mix).

Mixed with emotions, wedding plans, stresses, dresses, locations, homes, identities, independence, love, some juicy secrets, budding romances, a wise voice from the past, a lovable dolphin we fell for, a hidden manuscript, and one extra very special secret (GQ minister) visitor, which will change all their lives—Heartwarming, full of entertainment and lots of laughs!

In THE SUMMER GIRLS (Lowcountry Summer #1) we met three-half sisters (Carson, Harper, and Dora), as they find their way back to one another with the help of their loving and aging grandmother, Mamaw and side kick Lucille, the housekeeper.

The one link the deceased son/father Parker, an alcoholic whose actions still affect the lives of all today. Mamaw was about to sale the home and move into an assisted living, and she informs all the girls if they do not come home for the summer, she will cut them out of her will. She hopes she can talk them in to returning full time to the south and connect to their roots.

THE SUMMER WIND (Lowcountry Summer #2), we dig deeper into the emotional lives and challenges of the three grown step-sisters, from different walks of life, a grandmother, a wise housekeeper, and a charismatic dolphin who touches the lives of a troubled boy with autism, and his aunt.

THE SUMMERS END (Lowcountry Summer #3) brings a mixture of sadness and joy, tying up all loose ends, and reinvention. Lucille, Mamaw’s dear friend has passed on, and now Mamaw is lost without her. She knows Lucille would not like her mourning, having brought the girls to the island to get to know one another, and embrace their roots. She has more work to do.

Coming full circle, A LOWCOUNTRY WEDDING (LowCountry Summer #4) Mamaw is living at Seabreeze on Sullivans' Island, SC and of course did not go to the assisted living facility, thanks to Harper. She has moved into the guest cottage. Now enters Emma Jean (Harper's grandmother) from England and she plans on moving in since their family estate has been sold. Lots of women!

The girls are here, finally and preparing for the upcoming wedding nuptials of Carson/Blake and Harper/Taylor. Dora (son Nate) is still dating (Delvin) with a lot of pressure of marriage and getting into her real estate career; however, needs some time after her horrible divorce from Cal.


One a beach seaside wedding at Wild Dunes, and the other, an old plantation style historic wedding at Legare Waring House. (BTW, both smashing venues). Neither girl is into the planning and leaving most of the details to the grandmothers, who love all the social graces and planning. Comfort of family and friends. Sharing of stories--better or worse. Dora is also hovering like a mother hen, and Atticus is a nice addition to the story.

In the midst of the planning, a deeper story, family ties and bonds- Atticus, the black good looking minister who will performing the ceremonies. A secret between he and Mamaw until after the wedding, unless they are discovered. From dresses, venues, pre-nuptial agreements, careers, drama, pregnancy, conflicts, loves, fears, laughs, and a revisit from the Delphine lovable dolphin.

If you have ever lived or worked in the LowCountry (it is mesmerizing) you know how special the culture, art, cuisine, nature, rich in history and its southern roots. Having worked with hotels in Charleston and the CVB, there is nothing like it. The atmosphere changes the minute you step in the historic downtown- I love Charleston!

With all Mary Alice Monroe’s stories, she is a master at skillfully weaving into her narrative, significant environmental topics, blending them into the lives of her flawed characters---as they mature, learn, and find healing and acceptance from life’s lessons and experiences. The real meaning of family and friends. One of my all- time favorite Southern authors for many years. 

Each book is unique with richly developed characters, connected to nature, ones you will not soon forget, even after the story ends. If you have not read Mary Alice Monroe, you are missing a rare treat. Each can be read as a standalone; however, recommend reading them all, to fully appreciate.

For fans of Southern authors: Patti Callahan Henry, Dorothea Benton Frank, Mary Kay Andrews, Wendy Wax, and Karen White.All my favorites!

Highly recommend the audiobook, narrated by the author,Mary Alice Monroe. Her voice was perfect for her own creation, with a winning performance! Listen Here

A Lowcountry Wedding Contest! Win a FREE dream wedding in Charleston, SC! Winner announced June 2016. LEARN MORE. Love her new website!


Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!A-Low-Country-Wedding/cmoa/5682214f0cf236d4039142f1
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review 2016-02-18 19:54
The Opposite of Everyone
The Opposite of Everyone: A Novel - Joshilyn Jackson

By: Joshilyn Jackson

ISBN: 006210568X

Publisher: William and Morrow

Publication Date: 2/16/2016

Format: Other

My Rating: 4.5 Stars


Whether you are a first timer or an avid fan of sassy, Joshilyn Jackson (I happen to be the latter, having read all her books), you can expect several things:

Southern, witty, dysfunctional, emotional, out-of-the box, strong characterization and an unstoppable female main character. Jackson never fails to tackle and deliver highly-charged topics, infused with enough wit, sarcasm, and humor, to balance the dark heavy themes.

"No one does Southern better."

THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE, Jackson’s seventh novel--delves into the life of Paula Vauss, the gal we met inSomeone Else’s Love Story (highly recommend).

Jackson crosses from Southern Gothic into Hindu mythology-- life of a hippie, going inside foster care, and the prison system—strong emotions, and Jackson’s own unique trademark style. Where one woman finds the "opposite of everyone" may not be the way to live, after all.

As Jackson mentions in an online interview… A Conversation with Joshilyn Jackson Art Atlanta, Paula deserved a story of her own. Readers, here you have it -- and hopefully more to come from Paula!

Paula is now a successful divorce attorney living in a posh midtown condo in Atlanta. She is ruthless, smart, and witty. She has an ex-boyfriend and former lover (now a PI)— alcoholic Zach Birdwine; she likes to stalk and flirt with him as much as possible. He is best at what he does and she needs him to work a case for her. However, with the hundreds of emails she sends him, it is difficult for him to wade through them to realize she needs him for a case—not for something more. When she offers to pay him more for a case, he agrees.

Paula has not had an easy life. Her childhood was rocky. She tries to put it out of her mind, most of the time until she writes her monthly check. She grew up with a woman, her mother, Kai; a free-spirited hippie type, quirky, a non-conformist, liberal counterculture, who went from one man to another, one town to another---telling all sorts of stories. (foreign to Kai’s parents). Kai wound up in prison, and each time she was released, Paula would fit her personality to revolve around her mothers. Re-invention time.

Since many hippies of this time rejected mainstream organized religion in favor of a more personal spiritual experience, often drawing on indigenous and folk beliefs. If they adhered to mainstream faiths, hippies were likely to embrace Buddhism, Unitarian, Hinduism or Christianity - the Jesus Movement. As well as free love, and drugs. Kai followed the path, and Paula along for the ride.

When Paula was eleven, something happened which would change the course of their lives—landing her mother, Kai in prison, and herself in foster care and group homes for years to come. Readers hear about the intense life and challenges inside the foster system, as well as prison.

As the story opens, Paula is finally connecting with Zach. (this part is hilarious). She needs his help with a case (plus wants more). Each year, Paul writes a check to her estranged mother, to ease her guilt. Paula hasn’t seen her mother for fifteen years. Her mom always cashes it and life moves on to the next month.

This time, it is returned with a note. The red flag goes up and Paula knows something is not right. Shortly thereafter, Julian shows up and knows about her mom. What do they have in common? Her past life comes to the surface, and readers learn the secrets, fears, horrors of the past.

What is going on with her mother? Karma. She has to crack the clues of the mystery. From her divorce cases, to her half sibling, and the mysteries of her mom---an intense emotional journey.

The Opposite of Everyone is about family--they are fragile. How they fall apart, memories, stories, and how they connect, shape and define our lives. You are going to love Paula—she is flawed and fascinating with some great one liners!

Even though we hear from Kai, Paula carries the story—it is her story to tell. Paula fights for the underdog and even takes on pro bona cases to help other women. She is loyal. She has baggage. Those flaws provide her with plenty of insight to help others who cannot help themselves.

First time or long time fans, you are going to love this one. If you enjoy the intense yet fragile mother-daughter relationships, topics of prison and foster care; recommend Amy Hatvany’s Somewhere Out There.

Sometimes one mistake can alter our lives in so many ways with consequences. The ghosts of the past can define us---they can pull you down, destroy, or make us stronger. Powerful!

A Southerner myself, living in Atlanta (Midtown & Buckhead) throughout my media career, enjoy revisiting the area through Jackson’s storytelling. As always, I choose to listen via audio, since Jackson narrates her own work, which is quite powerful ---as mentioned in my other reviews.

Who else can deliver a performance better than the own author? Especially Jackson-- she has the "Southern thing" down.




Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!The-Opposite-of-Everyone/cmoa/564cf3db0cf2780ba4455ecc
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