Book Connections

5 Books – Bookclubs, Libraries, Bookshops

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I am a sucker for a book that has a bookish word in the title. Generally I am not disappointed either.  These five were 2019 reads, although a couple of them have been around quite awhile.

book coverThe Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick. Martha the main character works at the library, used to write stories with her Grandma and there is a bookshop owner and bookshop as well. I enjoyed this story, liked Martha as a character, her quirkiness and the way she changed.  My review.

 

 

book coverA Month of Sundays by Liz Byrski is set in  Australia. It is about four women who belong to an online book club. They are invited by one member to join her for a few weeks in the Blue Mountains. They have never met in person before, each one is either retired or about to retire.  They each have to bring a book that is going to reveal to the others something about themselves. They take a week to read and then discuss each one. The books mentioned are real books, and bring out information about each character. They have very thoughtful discussions. My first read of this author and I will certainly look for more by her.

book coverFive women meet each month to discuss a book. Their friendship is important to them, even if some are tinged with tension. Each women faces a challenge as the story unfolds and each responds in a way unique to her. And through all the trials friendship carries the day. Each chapter begins with a quote from a book that is rather relevant to what happens in the chapter. I cheered them on, recognised and understood the crises  and rather admired their steps forward in their lives.

 

book cover I thought this might be another happy book about a bookshop, however I was warned in the forward by someone other than the author that this was a sad book, and so it is. It was an excellent listen on audio, I don’t think I’d enjoy just reading it. Set in a small village in England it is a tale of taking a risk, being a little naive about what might be a success and how to run a small business. Florence Green has a kind heart, but that cannot be said for another woman in the village who ruthlessly sets about being Florence’s and the bookshop’s downfall.

Book coverOMG I loved this book, I just was so annoyed when it ended, the best kind of annoyed though. I have read this every spare minute I had, I love this kind of book magic that draws me into a story. It often surprised a laugh out of me. It often had me worrying over the outcome for characters. There are some serious issues that are explored.

Zoe brings her own brand of book beliefs to the blue van while Nina is busy holed up in a hospital bed. (Remember Nina from The Bookshop on the Corner). Zoe brings her own brand of being a nanny to three “lost” children and she is a wonderful mother to her own.

Set in Scotland – in a big house like a castle. At some point I hope I’ll hear this on audio because I am sure it would be wonderful with the right narrator.

LOVED IT.

#IMWAYR

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a place to meet up and share what you have been, and are about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment and er… add to your groaning TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started on J Kaye’s blog and then was hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn here at The Book Date.
Jen Vincent, Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee of Unleashing Readers decided to give It’s Monday! a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels or anything in those genres – join them.

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What I read last week:

Enjoyed them all.  The Book Club was written almost 20 years ago but I had to read it with a title like that and written by Mary Alice Monroe.

What I am reading now:

I am reading this one because a reading challenge I am doing needed an animal in the title. I had already bought this so it fitted. I loved her books Girl in Times Square and The Bronze Horseman so I decided I’d try out this, first in a series. I see Paullina grew up in Russia and now lives in the USA.

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Listening to…

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Up next:

Review book and new to me author.

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Last Week’s Posts

Sunset Beach   Mary Kay Andrews

The Little Teashop on Main   Jodi Thomas

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Review

Beach House For Rent. Mary Alice Monroe

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Published:Gallery Books
Date: June 20th 2017
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Southern Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating:
4 stars                     Add to Goodreads

Mary Alice Monroe,bestselling author of the Lowcountry Summer series, returns to her beloved Beach House series with the highly anticipated follow-up to Beach House Memories and The Beach House.

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Beach House for Rent is #4 in Mary Alice Monroe’s Beach House series. I hadn’t read the previous books so I can say this is a very good stand alone, and I am sure lovers of the series would also relish this beautiful addition to it.
The characters:
Cara is just turning fifty and she is having a life crisis. While happily married to Brett for the last ten years, she feels she is missing out on something, a passion and purpose in life over and beyond what she has now. Once a very successful advertising agent she is now questioning where her life is going. As the story unfolds and as it turns out her whole life is turned upside down in this book and it is a slow crawl out of the deep hole she finds herself in.
Heather is a young woman who lost her mother in a car accident that Heather too was in. Always a shy person she now suffers from panic attacks and social anxiety. However what she does have is a passion for painting and she has just won a commission to paint some southern seabirds for some stamps. When her father arranges for her to spend the summer in the beach house she is really anxious about it – however it turns out to be a very healing and growing time for her.
The setting:
If you love the beach and the sea and the sand and the romance of a beach house then you can indulge in this book – it is alive with the sights and sounds and beauty painted in words for you to envision by Mary Alice Monroe. The beach house – Primrose Cottage is delightful, who wouldn’t want to spend a summer in it, no one in their right mind would sell it.
Nature:
As in all the novels I have read by Mary Alice Monroe the flora and fauna of the southern coast of Carolina is wonderfully brought to life. Through Heather’s eyes we see the wonders of the birds and the turtles. We also get a peek into the life of canaries as Heather as three gorgeous birds that bring her so much joy.  And of course there is a strong theme of environmental care running through the story.
The Extras
I liked the small cast of secondary characters, the men in Heather’s and Cara’s life, the friends they both make or already have. I especially enjoyed having a little mention of a couple of characters from the lowcountry series.   All in all a very enjoyable read.

Review

My Top Books of 2016

Top Ten Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday was created and is  hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  
It is rather difficult to chose the top books of 2016 for me. So many good reads, although not necessarily outstanding reads. Some haven’t made the list but could easily have. I haven’t included audiobooks although some were fabulous. Thank you to all the authors who entertained me in 2016. I apologise that your book is not here, mainly because the post would just be far too long!
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This was my first book of the year and it turns out to be one of my top reads for 2016. It was fantasy and a real saga.  I was reluctant to leave these people. I held my breath, I wondered, I wept, I smiled. I’ll be reading Foxmask in 2017, the follow up of this book. First time reading author Judith Marillier – New Zealand born and educated now living in Australia.

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I was impressed by this one and it was my first book by USA author Kristina McMorris. Historical fiction. The climax was tense and I wanted to close my eyes and jump a few pages! Perhaps it ended a little too tidily some might say, however I  found it very satisfying, and loved how the story circled around itself and even with one element having a bittersweet mirror image.

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Rachael Johns – Australian author produced two books in 2016 I loved, this was one of them.  Outback Sisters –  all that I love in a good romance novel. Add to that a good dose of rural Australia. There were plenty of little twists and turns, much drama and heartache, and of course love. If that wasn’t enough, I was also reminded of good times, when Rachael Johns mentioned The Magic Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton) which took me off in a little indulgent reminiscence. And she also has two characters who love reading and love to discuss the books they read.

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Another Australian author I enjoyed. Historical fiction and debut novel. Set in the USA in the 1920’s. I loved the whole historical background and what it was like for women in those days. It was rather horrifying to read of some of the childbirth practices and attitudes prevalent in that time. A woman’s touch was certainly needed. penned an absorbing, clever book, with characters that came alive off the page. I enjoyed the drama, the humour, the sadness, the romance and the time period. Fantastic read. And totally adore the cover.

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I have come to love the romance books of UK author Sarah Morgan. Loved the #3 in the Puffin Island series. To my mind Sarah Morgan is tops at writing today’s romance stories. This one was charming and enchanting. Set in the winter wonderland of snow and Christmas – a wonderful backdrop. At first I was disappointed it wasn’t all on Puffin Island, but the English countryside was magical too. Loved the tension between the two main characters, the humour and the growing love. There was plenty of wisdom in the story and loved that too. Love her writing and the similes were often spot on. Perfection.

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Allegiance of Honour is #15 in this wonderful urban fantasy/paranormal series. I have loved every book in the series and this was another winner for me. As Nalini Singh (NZ author)  says it has an ensemble cast. Many of the characters from previous books are given updates on how life is going for them. As I love each and every one of these characters that was a delight for me. I took my time reading it. No skipping lines, I just wanted to savour it. Delicious!

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USA author J. R. Ward does it again. This soap drama series has intrigued me and the second one – this one – just left me wanting more of this dysfunctional family. I couldn’t wait to find out all the scandal that has gone on since last year’s book The Bourbon Kings. Of course I had to wait! A whole year, but it has passed and I eagerly began this book. I might even have peeked at the end – although it didn’t tell me that much. This is a book that you have to read every line because you just might miss something of one of the characters evolving story.

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I always love a new book from USA author Cathy Lamb. Toni is the narrator, one of three sisters who have a very special bond. They began their lives in Russia in the 80’s where it was dangerous for them. They were under the eye of the KGB and their large extended family were quietly escaping to the USA. While the story begins in America, every so often we go back to that time in Russia until every little horrific detail of that time is revealed. One of the mysteries that Toni holds a little part – how did their brother arrive to them one bloody night?

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Archangel’s Heartis #9 in the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh. In this book the focus is back on Elena and Raphael and their ever maturing relationship. This time they are off to Morocco where the Luminata have called all the Cadre (the group of archangels who rule the world), because one of the Cadre – Lijuan ruler of China is missing. Is she dead? Hiding out? Or gone into a deep Sleep that lasts for centuries?
This book made me want to reread and reacquaint myself again with the whole series. It was an absorbing and emotional read. Every detail needs to be read, you can’t afford to skip a line, everything counts. Fabulous writing, satisfying reading, the very best!

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This was my first introduction to USA author Karen Rose and her romantic suspense. Every Dark Corner introduces Kate Coppola – an agent I just loved. Despite stress and a personal history that might have levelled another, Kate dedicates herself to helping others, working to save those caught in the nets of depravity.  I highly recommend you get to know her.  She sits within a 5 star read.
I have since gone on to read the first one in the series and have the next one as well. Then I will be all caught up and waiting for the next one in the Cinncinnati series.

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Ah…USA author Mary Alice Monroe. Another in her Lowcountry series. It was everything I love in a story and it was just so good to go back in Taylor’s life to when he first was discharged from the Marines, after experiencing a terrible explosion that left him shattered and suffering from PTSD. He can’t cope with returning to his family for Christmas, finds crowds threatening, and his family are bewildered and find it difficult to understand.
This is a beautifully written story, it sucked me in right from the beginning and I loved every word and minute of it. It is a perfect Christmas story and is linked with little quotes and references to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Review

A Lowcountry Christmas. Mary Alice Monroe

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Published: Gallery Books
Date: 25th October 2016
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating:
               Add to Goodreads

As far as ten-year-old Miller McClellan is concerned, it’s the worst Christmas ever. His father’s shrimp boat is docked, his mother is working two jobs, and with finances strained, Miller is told they can’t afford the dog he desperately wants. “Your brother’s return from war is our family’s gift,” his parents tell him. But when Taylor returns with PTSD, family strains darken the holidays.

Then Taylor’s service dog arrives—a large black Labrador/Great Dane named Thor. His brother even got the dog! When Miller goes out on Christmas Eve with his father’s axe, determined to get his family the tree they can’t afford, he takes the dog for company—but accidentally winds up lost in the wild forest. The splintered family must come together to rediscover their strengths, family bond, and the true meaning of Christmas.

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I’ve loved the Lowcountry Summer series by Mary Alice Monroe, and what a wonderful early Christmas surprise to be presented with a #5 in the series – A Lowcountry Christmas.

It was everything I love in a story and it was just so good to go back in Taylor’s life to when he first was discharged from the Marines, after experiencing a terrible explosion that left him shattered and suffering from PTSD. He can’t cope with returning to his family for Christmas, finds crowds threatening, and his family are bewildered and find it difficult to understand.
The McClellan’s are finding it difficult economically, Jenny and Alistair work really hard, but the shrimping business is in decline and they just can’t afford the dog that Miller has his heart set on. So when Taylor receives his lifeline – the service dog Thor, Miller is really upset. And then there is more than one grumpy Scrooge in the family. In fact poor Jenny is the only one keeping the Christmas spirit alive among her men.
This is a beautifully written story, it sucked me in right from the beginning and I loved every word and minute of it. It is a perfect Christmas story and is linked with little quotes and references to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  
Yes, this could be read as a stand alone, but readers of the series will I think just find that extra piece of satisfaction with it. And if you haven’t reached this series yet, starting with this one would work I do believe.
Now that's a Hero< Page turnerPenPile of books
Review

A Lowcountry Wedding. Mary Alice Monroe

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Published:Gallery Books
Date: May 3rd 2016
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 448
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating:
4.5 stars             Add to Goodreads

Nothing could be more enchanting than a summer wedding—or two!—in Charleston’s fabled lowcountry. A centuries-old plantation, an avenue of ancient oaks dripping moss, a storied ballroom, a sand dune at sunset…

Yet when a stranger arrives, a long held family secret could silence the bells ringing for the Muir sisters. Scandals surface, family bonds are questioned, and promises are broken and renewed.

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It was with much excitement that some of we readers learned there was a fourth book set in the lowcountry, with the three Muir sisters and Mamaw. Harper and Carson are in the final count down to their weddings. Dora had seemed all settled and all was well. Or so we thought. However life does go on, and we were taken further along on the journey.
I had listened to the first three in this series on audiobook and loved the narration by the author. However I couldn’t wait when I saw this one, I wanted to get down and read it. I love the description of the setting, all the sights and sounds of that part of the world. 
Mary Alice Monroe certainly takes a surprising step in this book, I really don’t want to say any more because to do so would be to spoil the surprise for other readers. I can only say I loved the surprise, and while the sisters found it hard to come to grips with it, what a gift for them.
The book covers the two months lead up to the wedding and all that goes on before a wedding. Finding the right dress and making the final decisions about the venue. Harper and Carson seem to have got mixed up and oddly are planning a wedding that the other would be more comfortable in. 
All three sisters are still dealing with issues and growing through them. Harper has money and how does that leave Taylor feeling? Carson wants to know she has work and will never be without it. Dora is on the verge of a new job and a newly minted divorce. She wants to prove her independence and ability to prove herself much to the chagrin of Devlin. So you see, plenty of ways all this could go. I wondered if there would be a wedding by the end and would Mamaw survive without a hear attack!
Lastly but not the least, Delphine makes some appearances – significant ones and she also has the honor of the epilogue. Perfect.
Review

The Summer’s End. Mary Alice Monroe

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The Summer’s End
Mary Alice Monroe
Published: Blackstone Audio
Date: 2015
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Mary Alice Monroe
Length: 12 hrs and 11min
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Own book
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It is summer’s end, and Sea Breeze, the family’s beloved estate on Sullivan’s Island, must be sold. It is an emotional time of transition as Mamaw and the three sisters each must face loss and find a new place in the world.

Harper, the youngest sister, arrives at Sea Breeze intending to stay only a weekend. But a rift with her wealthy, influential mother leaves her without direction or a home. During this remarkable summer, free from her mother’s tyranny and with the help of her half sisters, Harper discovers her talents and independent spirit. But summer is ending, and the fate of Sea Breeze hinges on her courage to decide the course of her own life. To do so she must release her insecurities and recognize her newfound strengths. Harper must accept love fully into her life – the love of Mamaw, Carson, and Dora, the love of Sea Breeze and the lowcountry, and most of all the love of a wounded warrior who has claimed her heart.

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The third book of a summer with a Grandmother and her three grand-daughters, all half sisters. They have shared the same father (Mamaw’s son) but have different mothers.  They are all quite different, have bonds that draw them together although at times there are tensions between them.
This book is essentially Harper’s one. However each of these books build on one another as the three girls develop and grow as people.  It is definitely a series that needs to be read in order as the struggles and challenges go from one book to the next.
Harper has come from a wealthier background compared to the other two girls, yet she has an ice queen for a mother. One who tries to control her and is unable to let her go.  Just as well Mamaw is such a warm mothering character or where would Harper be.
In this  book the reality of needing to sell Sea Breeze the home that they all love bites in.  Each one as well must take the next step in their journey.  And that’s where The Summer’s End brings this phase of their lives to a close, so that they can open on to a new one.
Again I enjoyed the author’s narration.  While she didn’t always have a distinctive voice for each character, her phrasing and understanding of the characters shone through.
I believe there is at least one more in this series, titled Low Country Wedding due to publish May 2016. I wonder whose wedding it will be!
4 stars
Review

The Summer Wind. Mary Alice Monroe

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The Summer Wind
Mary Alice Monroe
Published: Blackstone Audio
Date: 2014
Format: Audiobook
Length: 11hrs 44min
Narrator: Mary Alice Monroe
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Own book
Add to Goodreads

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The Summer Wind is #2 in the Lowcountry Summer trilogy written and narrated by Mary Alice Monroe.  This book takes up the story of the three half sisters, Dora, Carson and Harper.  Not to forget Nate, Dora’s son.  Of course Mamaw and Lucille are very much part of their lives again too. They are all still at Sea Breeze on Sullivan’s Island for the last summer before the house must be sold.

This book focuses on Dora, her marriage seems to be over and it is time for her to pick up her life and maybe let the reins go too a little where Nate is concerned. Mamaw, Carson and Harper all take it in turn to help and support Dora in the process of healing.  It doesn’t hurt either that she meets an old friend who seems exactly right for her.

We also are updated on Delphine’s progress, the dolphin that was badly injured in Book one.  There is also a delightful scene with turtles.

The winds of change are moving through the house for Mamaw, Lucille and the girls.  Carson is thrown a curve ball that leaves her all at sea, what she will decide remains to be seen.  Dora is realising it is time for her to be independent and make choices that will take her into the second half of life a happy person.  Harper too is beginning to think through her future. And someone says a last goodbye.

This trilogy is definitely one where to pick up just one would be dissatisfying.  It is one story told in three parts. I look forward to the last one to pick up the lives of these mostly southern women.

Again the book is narrated by the author, she has a feel for the story and I enjoyed listening to her tell it.

4.5 stars
Review

The Summer Girls. Mary Alice Monroe

The Summer Girls
Mary Alice Monroe
Published: Blackstone Audio
Date: 2013
Format: Audiobook
Length:  11hrs 42 min
Narrated: Mary Alice Monroe
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Own audiobook
Add to Goodreads

Three sisters reunite on Sullivan’s Island off the coast of South Carolina after years of separation in this heartwarming first novel in a new trilogy from a beloved author. 80-year-old Marietta Muir is a dowager of Charleston society who has retired to her historic summer home on Sullivan’s Island. At the onset of summer, Marietta – “Mamaw” – seeks to gather her three granddaughters – Carson, Eudora, and Harper – with the intent to reunite them after years apart.

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The Summer Girls written and narrated by Mary Alice Monroe was well worth the listen and I will be eagerly listening to the next two in this trilogy.  It is about three girls – half sisters, and their grandmother – Mamaw.  They have all been invited to her house for the summer, and with a somewhat tentative approach they all end up responding to the invitation.
Eudora (Dora) is the oldest and has a young son who is autistic.  She is in the process of seeking a divorce from her husband.  Carson has turned up from California where she has just lost her job. Harper is the youngest, and works as an editor in her mother’s firm.  While the girls did meet up for summers when they were young, they are not particularly close.  Perhaps this summer that will all change.
This story is mostly about Carson, she is a keen surfer and enjoys being out on the sea, until a chance encounter changes things up a bit for her.  She also befriends Nate and helps him to learn to swim. Together they befriend a dolphin, that will have far reaching consequences.   Carson also forms a relationship with Blake, a keen kite surfer and who also works on tracking the local marine life in this area.  A bond forms between Carson and Blake, although it is not really centre stage.  The story is more about how Carson is faced with her past and present and must decide how she is going to move into the future.
I liked all the characters, Mamaw was a wonderful southern character, the girls were all different and each had their flaws and strengths.  I look forward to reading the next two books to find out the developments.
There is an environmental message to this book, it is not tacked on, but rather becomes very integral to the plot.  I liked the way it was done and it is an important message.  I also liked Mary Alice Monroe narrating the book, sometimes I shy away from an author reading their own book, but it works well on the whole.
4.5 stars
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The Long Road Home

Cover of audiobook: The Long Road Home

The Long Road Home
Mary Alice Monroe
Published: Brilliance Audio 2010
Format:Audio
Length: 14 hours 39 min
Narrator: Sandra Burr
Genre: Contemporary
Source: Own book

Her husband’s suicide left Nora MacKenzie alone, and his shady Wall Street dealings left the Manhattan socialite penniless. By a miracle she’s held on to their mountainside farm and she’ll keep holding on, no matter what. The property is Nora’s one chance to wring some dignity out of the sham she’s been living. The Vermont locals think she’s a princess on a back-to-nature kick, but she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. Nora’s serious about learning the farming business if she can figure out where to begin. Against the locals’ skepticism, she has only one ally: Charles “C.W.” Walker. C.W. is hardworking, gentle with the animals and a patient teacher of the hundreds of chores Nora needs to learn. Slowly she starts to believe she’ll survive in her new life, even flourish. She might even be willing to open her heart again. But she won’t return to a life of lies and the truth about C.W. may be more than Nora’s fragile heart can bear.

This was an audiobook that I enjoyed a lot.  It was well narrated by Sandra Burr and I was soon enveloped within the story in her capable narration.
The book begins with a prologue that sets the scene and changes the lives of some of the characters.  CW and  Nora lives are especially  turned around completely.  The value they once put in a busy, rich, powerful life dissipates and turns to the simple, hardworking way of those who eke out a living by the land.
Nora is gutsy and determined, everything seems to be against her, yet she learns what once would have been incomprehensible, and in doing so she finds herself truly at home.  On the farm that she and her husband bought, she meets CW, a man who is willing to help her make something of her life on the farm.  Yet always, we the reader know more, and wait with a dread overhanging our heads.  How will Nora handle all that there is to know?
CW has seen what power and ruthlessness can do, he has turned his back on it, yet he is still called back to it.  He shows that he still has the skill of a plotting chess player, one who is able to line up all his strong pieces and bring about the result that he desires.  He too will walk the long road home.
Some of the minor characters are a very much part of this book.  Seth the farmer, who is in charge of the farm and his delightful family.  Esther who at first resents Nora’s intrusion, yet in the end is freed to follow her way home too.  May, the old aunt who has cared for her brother’s children – Esther, Frank and Junior, is another character who brings the wisdom of family, love and support into their lives.  Nora sees and values them all, she comes to care deeply for them.  

Greed and power play agains faith, trust and love in this book and each character plays their part in strengthening either one or the other.  Who will win out?  Cunning is needed. The best chess player will win!

4 stars