Category Archives: Fiction

Review: Karolina’s Twins by Ronald H. Balson

Title: Karolina’s Twins by Ronald H. Balson
Liam and Catherine Series Book Three
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (WWII), Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

She made a promise in desperation
Now it’s time to keep it

Lena Woodward, elegant and poised, has lived a comfortable life among Chicago Society since she immigrated to the US and began a new life at the end of World War II. But now something has resurfaced that Lena cannot ignore: an unfulfilled promise she made long ago that can no longer stay buried.

Driven to renew the quest that still keeps her awake at night, Lena enlists the help of lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart. Behind Lena’s stoic facade are memories that will no longer be contained. She begins to recount a tale, harkening back to her harrowing past in Nazi-occupied Poland, of the bond she shared with her childhood friend Karolina. Karolina was vivacious and beautiful, athletic and charismatic, and Lena has cherished the memory of their friendship her whole life. But there is something about the story that is unfinished, questions that must be answered about what is true and what is not, and what Lena is willing to risk to uncover the past. Has the real story been hidden these many years? And if so, why?

Two girls, coming of age in a dangerous time, bearers of secrets that only they could share.

Just when you think there could not be anything new to ferret out from World War II comes Karolina’s Twins, a spellbinding new novel by the bestselling author of Once We Were Brothers and Saving Sophie. In this richly woven tale of love, survival and resilience during some of the darkest hours, the unbreakable bond between girlhood friends will have consequences into the future and beyond.

Review:

Based on real life events, Karolina’s Twins by Ronald H. Balson is a riveting novel about a Holocaust survivor’s search for her best friend’s twin daughters more than 70 years later.  Although this is the third book featuring lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart, it can be read as a standalone.

At 89 years of age, Lena Woodward might be feeling the physical effects of her advanced years but her mind is still sharp as a tack.  Realizing she is running out of time to fulfill a long ago promise, she contacts Liam and Catherine to help her locate her childhood friend Karolina Neuman’s twin daughters whom she has not seen since they were just a few months old.  Lena and Karolina are childhood friends whose lives were torn apart when the Nazis invaded their hometown in Poland.

Forced to work as seamstresses in a coat factory, the young women manage, with the help of Karolina’s German lover, to survive extreme conditions.  Not long after Karolina gives birth to twin daughters, the coat factory shuts down and the women are sent to Gross-Rosen concentration camp where they are forced to work as slave labor. Knowing the babies’ fate if they arrive at the camp, Lena and Karolina take drastic measures that will hopefully save the girls from a horrific fate.  After surviving Auschwitz, Lena marries and moves to the United State but the fate of Karolina’s twins weighs heavily on her mind.

Needing to know whether or not the girls survived, Lena hopes Liam and Catherine can trace the girls’ whereabouts. However, her son Arthur is convinced she is suffering from dementia and his efforts to have her declared incompetent could interfere with their efforts.  After so many years have passed and hampered by the impending court case, will Liam and Catherine uncover the truth about what happened to Karolina’s twins?

Lena’s life in Poland was rather idyllic in the years before the Nazi occupation.  Her parents are well-respected shop owners in the Jewish community where they live a rather comfortable life.  Her friendship with Karolina begins while they are attending public school together and although Lena eventually transfers to a private school, they remain close friends.

As the Nazis begin rising to power, Lena’s father starts making arrangements for the family to immigrate from Poland, but the Germans invade Poland before they are able to leave.  Stripped of their business and forced to adhere to the strict rules all Jews must follow, Lena’s father is a member of the Polish resistance.  After he and the rest of the family are selected for “relocation”, Lena, now a teenager, remains in hiding until their home is taken over by Germans and she begins searching for her missing family.

Finding shelter in the ghetto, she works in the coat factory where she is reunited with Karolina.  Conditions are almost unbearable as the young women live without running water, electricity and heat as they work long hours in the factory.  Food is strictly rationed and as winter descends, the harsh weather and  poor nutrition take a horrific toll on the people living in the ghetto.

In the midst of this unimaginable horror, the birth of Karolina’s twins is an unexpected bright spot but as the war continues, the Nazis put their plans in motion to exterminate the Jews.  More and more Jews are sent to concentration camps where children, the elderly and the infirm are separated and sent to their deaths.  Those who are healthy are selected to work as slave labor but their lives are often cut short as malnutrition, harsh living conditions and illness take their toll.  Knowing full well what will happen to the babies, the women make a split second decision to try to save them from certain death but this choice haunts Lena for the most of her life.

Interspersed with Lena’s account of her wartime experiences is Arthur’s effort to have her declared incompetent.  He is quite odious and it is difficult to ascertain his motives for  the case.  Is Arthur genuinely concerned for his mother’s health?  Or are his reasons financially motivated due to his mother’s wealth?  His heavy-handed tactics and sneering conversations certainly cloud the issue and leave everyone wondering what he hopes to accomplish with his actions.

Although some of the dialogue is a little awkward and the court case is a little overly dramatic (and unnecessary), Karolina’s Twins is an absolutely compelling novel about Lena’s experiences as a Jewish woman living in Nazi occupied Poland.  Ronald H. Balson deftly blends fact with fiction and brings this fictionalized account of actual events vibrantly to life.  This  poignant story is a gripping and educational read that I highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Historical, Karolina's Twins, Rated A, Review, Ronald H Balson, St Martin's Griffin

Review: We Are Unprepared by Meg Little Reilly

Title: We Are Unprepared by Meg Little Reilly
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Meg Little Reilly places a young couple in harm’s way—both literally and emotionally—as they face a cataclysmic storm that threatens to decimate their Vermont town, and the Eastern Seaboard in her penetrating debut novel, WE ARE UNPREPARED.

Ash and Pia move from hipster Brooklyn to rustic Vermont in search of a more authentic life. But just months after settling in, the forecast of a superstorm disrupts their dream. Fear of an impending disaster splits their tight-knit community and exposes the cracks in their marriage. Where Isole was once a place of old farm families, rednecks and transplants, it now divides into paranoid preppers, religious fanatics and government tools, each at odds about what course to take.

WE ARE UNPREPARED is an emotional journey, a terrifying glimpse into the human costs of our changing earth and, ultimately, a cautionary tale of survival and the human spirit.

Review:

We Are Unprepared by Meg Little Reilly is a thought-provoking novel that delves into the effects of climate change and the various reactions of people living in a small Vermont town who are preparing for a catastrophic weather event.  Written in first person from relative newcomer Ash’s perspective, the story also focuses on his rapidly disintegrating marriage to Pia as they deal with the impending disaster in completely different ways.

On the cusp of hearing the alarming news about the upcoming weather season, the only issue Ash and Pia are facing is distressing news from their recent appointment with a fertility specialist.  Before they can fully absorb the unexpected diagnosis, Pia shifts immediately into disaster planning mode while Ash takes a more relaxed wait and see approach to the alarming weather forecast.  As the months pass, Pia’s erratic behavior is just as unpredictable as the weather as she becomes more entrenched with the local “preppers” who distrust the government and fall into the gloom and doom category.  Ash, on the other hand, is slow to react and relies on local government problem solving to hopefully minimize the damage to the community from the impending cataclysmic storm.  With each of them on such opposite ends of the spectrum, the cracks in their marriage begin widening and by time The Storm hits, their once happy union is on the verge of collapse.

Ash has happy memories of his idyllic childhood in a Vermont town similar to the one where he and Pia now reside.  On some level, he always knew he would return to a less hectic life in a rural town and they have barely settled into their farmhouse when the weather becomes the focus of their lives.  Ash has always embraced Pia’s quirks and her somewhat neurotic behavior but since she has not yet found a job to give her days more structure, she is soon obsessed with prepping for The Storm. The traits Ash once found endearing and essential to Pia’s creativity, he now recognizes as most likely symptoms of an undiagnosed mental disorder and he grows impatient with her erratic behavior and somewhat illogical ideas.

Not only do the couple disagree over preparations for the storm, but they also clash over Ash’s unexpected desire to become a foster family for their neighbor’s neglected seven year old son, August.  He is completely charmed by the imaginative young boy  whose love of nature reminds Ash of himself as a child.  Hoping to save August from becoming lost in the foster care system, his suggestion to foster the boy is met with resistance from Pia and she stubbornly remains opposed to the idea.  This is just one more major difference that widens the gap between them but it is not until The Storm and its aftermath that he figures out what he wants in life.  Whether or not Pia is on the same track as Ash remains to be seen so their future remains uncertain for much of the story.

With a realistic and unique storyline, We Are Unprepared is an engrossing novel about the effects wrought by impending disaster.  Diverse reactions along with philosophical differences between preppers and local government provide readers with an insightful and informative viewpoint of the various ways to handle such a calamitous storm that could, theoretically, happen at some point.  Meg Little Reilly presents an intriguing scenario about the all too real effects of climate change and the disastrous impact this can have on weather systems.  An unsettling but riveting debut that I highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Harlequin, Meg Little Reilly, Mira, Rated B, Review, We Are Unprepared

Review: The Winemakers by Jan Moran

Title: The Winemakers by Jan Moran
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Summary:

A young woman
A family secret
A devastating truth that could destroy the man she loves

Many years ago, the Rosetta family’s hard-won dreams of staking their claim in the vineyards of California came to fruition. Now high-spirited, passionate Caterina Rosetta, who has inherited both her mother’s talent for crafting the finest wines and also her indomitable will, wants nothing more than to win her mother’s approval and wo rk at her side. But that can never happen, because Caterina is keeping a secret that could ruin her: a daughter of her own, fathered by the love of her life, who left her without explanation. Just as she feels she has nowhere to turn, Caterina discovers that she has inherited a vineyard in the Tuscan countryside in Italy, from a grandmother she’s never heard of, and she seizes the chance to start a new life for herself and her child.

But the past is not so easily outrun. In the country of her ancestors, Caterina meets the family of the father she never knew, and discovers that her mother is also hiding her own secret―a secret so devastating it threatens the future of everything her family has worked for. As an old murder comes to light, and Caterina uncovers a tragedy that may destroy the man she loves, she realizes her happiness will depend on revealing the truth of her mother’s buried past―if she has the strength to face it.

From author Jan Moran comes The Winemakers, a sweeping, romantic novel that will hold you in its grasp until the last delicious sip.

Review:

With an interesting cast of characters, a fascinating plot, a forbidden romance and a slight mystery element, The Winemakers by Jan Moran is an engrossing historical novel about a Napa Valley vintner whose secrets from the late 1920s come to light during the mid 1950s.

Caterina Rosetta dreads telling her beautiful and accomplished mother, Ava, about her now one year old daughter, Marisa.  Now having to face the harsh reality of keeping her illegitimate baby, Caterina can no longer keep the news from Ava and just as she feared, her revelation is met with anger and demands she give Marisa up for adoption.  Immediately following their heated argument, Caterina is stunned to learn she has inherited a cottage and vineyard in Tuscany from her paternal grandmother.  This discovery is just the first of many secrets that she learns her mother has been keeping from her and Caterina travels to Italy searching for answers to the questions about her family’s past.

Caterina never planned to be an unwed mother but her attempts to tell Marisa’s father about the pregnancy were unsuccessful.  Brokenhearted, she managed to find a wonderful home where she found a very supportive and understanding couple to help her through this difficult time.  From discussions she and her mother had over the years, Caterina knows exactly how her mom will react, so she feels like she has no choice but to keep the news of the pregnancy and subsequent birth to herself.  Unfortunately Ava’s reaction is exactly what she expected and with very few options available, she feels that moving to Italy with Marisa is the perfect opportunity for a fresh start. However, she is almost immediately confronted by unexpected revelations about her family and she is bewildered by her mother’s lies. Learning the truth about her father is difficult but her hopes for the future are shattered once Caterina hears the rumors everyone believes are true about her father and another woman.

Ava’s past is tragic but she worked hard make the Napa Valley vineyard a success.  She truly believed she made the right decision to conceal the truth about her husband and she never expected her lies to be uncovered.  Now regretting those long ago decisions, Ava is overcome with guilt for her angry outbursts during Caterina’s childhood. She also realizes that while she had good intentions, she did not always treat her daughter fairly.  Ava is deeply remorseful for her somewhat irrational reaction to Caterina’s announcement about Marisa and she fears her relationship with Caterina will never recover.  As she is trying to figure out a way to smooth over their relationship, a calamitous event threatens to destroy the vineyard.  When a person from her past returns, Ava lives in fear of what will happen to her beloved home.

The Winemakers is a multi-layered story that takes place in both California and Italy. Both settings are picturesque and the beautiful descriptions bring them vibrantly to life.  Through a series of flashbacks, the heartbreaking events from Ava’s past are slowly revealed throughout the course of the novel. Caterina’s storyline is equally compelling as she uncovers the truth about her family while attempting to make a difficult decision about her future.  Jan Moran’s extensive research adds a layer of authenticity to the plot and provides readers with an eye-opening glimpse of societal issues of the time period.  Although a little melodramatic and a little rushed, the novel’s conclusion is quite heartwarming. 

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Filed under Fiction, Historical, Historical (20s), Historical (50s), Jan Moran, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Griffin, The Winemakers

Review: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Title: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: Historical (70s, 80s), Fiction
Length: 353 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A beautiful and provocative love story between two unlikely people and the hard-won relationship that elevates them above the Midwestern meth lab backdrop of their lives.

As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It’s safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.

By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy’s family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. A powerful novel you won’t soon forget, Bryn Greenwood’s All the Ugly and Wonderful Things challenges all we know and believe about love.

Review:

Set against a bleak and desolate landscape of dysfunction, abuse and neglect, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is nevertheless a captivating, albeit occasionally uncomfortable, novel that culminates in forbidden love.  Although this story may not appeal to all readers, it is a testament to Bryn Greenwood’s incredible skill as an author that she manages to turn  a relationship  that is considered unpalatable and unacceptable into a powerful and riveting love story.

Wavonna “Wavy” Quinn is the daughter of a meth cooker and a drug addicted mom suffering from mental illness who have both spent time in jail.  During her mother Val’s incarceration when Wavy is five years old, she experiences a “normal” life for the first time, but unfortunately, as soon as Val is paroled, she regains custody of her daughter and her baby son, Donal.  While life with Val is much improved as she adheres to her treatment plan, when Wavy’s father Liam re-enters the picture, the family moves to the isolated farm where Liam runs his drug lab. Life continues to go downhill for Wavy as she cares for baby Donal while her mom gives into her addiction and continues to experience the highs, lows and delusional thoughts from her untreated mental illness(es). Liam uses his good looks to charm the women who work for him and although he is spends little time with his family, when he is around, he is both physically and emotionally abusive to both Val and Wavy. Life becomes more bearable for Wavy when she is eight years old and she meets much older Jesse Joe Kellen. The bond between them is unshakable and by the time she enters her early teen years, their feelings for one another have begun to cross into romantic territory.

Forced to grow up entirely way too fast, Wavy is heartbreakingly sympathetic character who takes her mother’s wild rants to heart.  With a host of inexplicable habits that horrify and confound the people around her, she says little and puts up with abuse and neglect that no one, let alone a child, should ever have to endure.  Therefore, it is not at all surprising when she becomes completely enamored by Kellen.  Although Kellen is an ex-con and a low-level criminal, he is the only person in Wavy’s life to show  any kindness, care or concern for her well-being.  In the midst of chaos, Kellen is a stabilizing force who ensures Wavy continues her education and provides many of the basics she needs in order to care for herself and her brother.  Entirely enrapt with the one person who provides her unconditional love and comfort , Wavy’s innocent affection  for Kellen gradually blossoms into love as she enters her early teen years.

Kellen’s past is almost as tragic as Wavy’s yet he remains kind-hearted and caring despite his abusive childhood and his criminal background.  He is immediately drawn to Wavy and his interest in her is completely innocent and above reproach for the first several years of their relationship.  Although he is a high school dropout, he is a skilled mechanic who easily recognizes Wavy’s above average intelligence. Taking her under his wing, Kellen takes his role as her protector seriously as he makes sure she attends school and steps in to assist her wherever she needs his help.

Spanning fifteen years, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is written from multiple points of view, including Wavy’s and Kellen’s.  While it seems impossible to believe, the evolution of Wavy and Kellen’s relationship into a taboo romance is natural and believable, albeit somewhat disturbing to outsiders looking in (and readers).  Although somewhat uncomfortable once the story moves into sexual territory, the scenes between Wavy and Kellen are non-gratuitous and tastefully written.  Wavy is rather precocious and since her world is full of inappropriate relationships, she sees absolutely no reason she should not love or desire Kellen.  Older yet damaged and emotionally stunted, Kellen is taken off guard by his shifting emotions for Wavy and in his defense, he does try hard to keep their relationship platonic.  Just as his plan for their future begins to come together, Wavy’s parents careen toward a disastrous end that threatens to tear Kellen and Wavy apart permanently.

Raw, gritty and dark, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is one of those novels that grabs a reader by the heart and never lets go. Bryn Greenwood is a phenomenally gifted storyteller who does not hesitate to delve into controversial or difficult subject matter.  An amazingly gusty risk that I am so glad she decided to take because Wavy and Kellen’s story is an incredible journey that is heartrending yet unexpectedly uplifting.  An enthralling novel that might be considered taboo, but ultimately speaks to power of love.

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Filed under All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Bryn Greenwood, Fiction, Historical, Historical (70s), Historical (80s), Rated B+, Review, Thomas Dunne Books

Review: Detached by Christina Kilbourne

Title: Detached by Christina Kilbourne
Publisher: Dundurn
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Fiction
Length: 208 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Anna has always been so level-headed, so easy-going, so talented and funny. How could anyone have guessed she wanted to die?

Anna is not like other people. For one thing, she’s been an accomplished artist since she was a preschooler. For another, she’s always felt like she didn’t belong: not with other kids, not with her family, not in her body. It isn’t until her grandparents are killed in a tragic accident, however, that Anna starts to feel untethered. She begins to wonder what it would be like if she didn’t exist, and the thought of escaping the aimless drifting is the only thing that brings her comfort.

When Anna overdoses on prescription painkillers, doctors realize she has been suffering from depression and start looking for a way to help her out of the desperate black hole she never thought she would escape. It’s then that rock bottom comes into sight and the journey back to normal begins.

Review:

Detached by Christina Kilbourne is an informative and insightful portrait of depression and suicidal ideation that I HIGHLY recommend to readers of all ages.

Sixteen year old Anna is an amazingly gifted artist, but she has never quite felt like she fit into her life.  She is intelligent and thriving at her elite art school.  Anna has a loving family and although her circle of friends is small, she is well-liked by everyone.  However, following her grandparents’ deaths, the inner void she has always felt widens while at the same time, she begins to feel even more disconnected  from her emotions, friends, family and life in general.  The first hint of trouble first appears in her unsettling but magnificent painting of a bridge that has been the scene of several suicides over the years. Anna’s obsession with the bridge finally wanes, but unfortunately, her thoughts of ending of her life do not.  Despite several subtle warning signs that everyone finds easy enough to explain away, no one realizes how desperate Anna’s situation is until it is nearly too late.

Initially, it is surprisingly easy for Anna to hide her feelings of hopelessness and despair from everyone around her. She covers up and explains away inconsistencies whenever anyone questions some of her actions, but there are subtle hints that her brother Joe and her closest friend Aliyah pick up on.  However, they believe her explanations and occasionally grow irritated with some of her decisions and excuses.  Anna is increasingly overwhelmed with dark thoughts and she eventually becomes consumed with the overpowering need to take her life.

Aliyah is well aware that something is off with her friend, but she fluctuates between annoyance and concern over Anna’s increasingly out of character behavior.  The deeper Anna sinks into despair, the more worried Aliyah becomes, but she never considers depression as a reason for her friend’s actions.  She does become alarmed enough to bring up her concerns about Anna with their friends, but amidst everyone’s reassurances that their friend is ok, she drops the subject.  Aliyah is the first to realize that something is drastically wrong the final time Anna tries to commit suicide and her reactions in the aftermath are realistically portrayed.

Although Anna’s parents are well aware their daughter is acting out of character, it is easy to assume that this is typical teenage behavior.  Anna’s father is frequently out of town for business but he too notices differences that he briefly questions but then chalks up to changing interests now she is growing up.  Anna’s relationship with her mom is not particularly close and after her grandmother’s death, her mom is reluctant to do or say anything that might upset their precarious bond.  In the aftermath of Anna’s overdose, startling revelations about her grandmother illustrate why it is so essential to de-stigmatize mental illness and openly and honestly discuss these issues.

Written from three very distinct points of view, Detached offers a thought-provoking and  well-rounded perspective of the effects that depression and suicide have on the patient, family and friends.  Christina Kilbourne’s sensitive approach to this difficult subject is quite candid and enlightening.  The depiction of Anna’s struggles with depression and suicidal ideation is heartbreakingly honest and the novel’s conclusion is surprisingly upbeat and positive.  I highly encourage readers of all ages to pick a copy of this riveting young adult novel that provides a poignant and educational portrayal of depression and suicidal thoughts.

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Filed under Christina Kilbourne, Contemporary, Detached, Dundurn, Fiction, Rated B+, Review, Young Adult

Review: Age of Consent by Marti Leimbach

Title: Age of Consent by Marti Leimbach
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (70s), Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From the author of Daniel Isn’t Talking and Dying Young comes a shattering new novel, a page-turner about a sexual relationship between a grown man and a newly teenaged girl.

June was a young widow with a hopeless crush on Craig Kirtz, a disc jockey at a local rock station. To her surprise, the two struck up a friendship that seemed headed for something more. But it was June’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Bobbie, whom Craig had wanted all along. Bobbie thought her secret life—the sex, the drugs, the illicit relationship itself—could remain safely buried in the past. But thirty years later, when Bobbie discovers Craig’s attentions to her had been repeated with any number of girls, she returns home with one purpose in mind: to bring Craig to trial.

Her decision is greeted with mixed feelings. Some people think that bringing charges against someone for a crime committed so many years ago is unjustified. She’s called a “middle-aged woman with a vendetta.” She’s accused of waging war against her own family. But the past has a way of revealing itself, and some relationships lie dormant through the years, ready to stir to life at the
slightest provocation.

June remembers things differently from the way Bobbie does. Craig insists he has done nothing wrong. As their traumatic history is relived in the courtroom, Bobbie and June must come to terms with the choices they made and face the truth they have long refused to acknowledge. Told with warmth and compassion, this is a moving, deeply absorbing story of a family in crisis.

Review:

Age of Consent by Marti Leimbach is an unflinchingly honest novel about a woman who was sexually abused when she was a teenager who finally tries to get justice thirty years later.  The subject matter is dark and disturbing yet the rambling, disjointed narrative does not do the topic justice.

In the late 70s, Bobbie became the victim of a sexual predator whom her mom later married.  In 2008, Bobbie brings charges against him for the long ago crime.  What should be a compelling court case in the present becomes muddled by extraneous details and a meandering storyline that flashes back and forth between past and present.  The present day narrative is concise yet contains a few troubling coincidences that diminish the impact of the court case.  There is evidence that could corroborate key facts in the case, yet somehow the prosecutor fails to see it.  The courtroom scenes fall flat and the lack of clear resolution is a bit of a disappointment when taking into consideration the fact that a key witness has an epiphany that could turn the entire case around.

The flashbacks contain horrifying details of fifteen year old Bobbie’s abuse at the hands of twenty-eight year old disc jockey Craig Kirtz yet these details are often lost in tedious passages that do little to explain why Bobbie was drawn to a man with absolutely no charm or redeeming qualities.  Bobbie’s scenes with Craig are harrowing and her fear and disgust are palpable.  The fact she kept the relationship a secret from her mother is easy to understand since teenagers often remain silent in these types of situations.  Bobbie’s shame later in life is realistic as is her underlying belief she is somehow responsible for what happened to her as a teenager.  Bobbie’s explanation for the series of event that led up to her involvement with Craig occurs so late in the story that it almost feels like an afterthought.

However, what is most perplexing is why Bobbie’s mother, June, was so thoroughly enthralled with Craig in the first place.  Yes, his job as a disc jockey made him a “celebrity” of sorts, but his behavior is so appalling that is impossible to understand what she found so appealing about him.  And the fact that June was able to overlook and explain away certain details that should have been major red flags is mindboggling.

Age of Consent by Marti Leimbach does manage to end on positive note but overall, the novel is a bit of a disappointing read.  While some parts of the story are unsatisfying, it is a gritty and realistic portrayal of how sexual predators groom their victims and coerce them into keeping silent about the inappropriate relationship.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Historical, Historical (70s), Rated C, Review