I bring you a book by an author I’ve read and loved before. I’m slightly ahead of its publication date (it is due on the 7th of January 2021), but I thought you might appreciate the chance of getting ahead and having some suitable reading ready for the beginning of the year (and let’s hope it helps start the year on a better note). And without further ado…
Blind Turn by Cara Sue Achterberg
In the aftermath of a fatal texting and driving accident, a mother and daughter must come to terms with the real meaning of forgiveness.
Liz Johnson single-handedly raised an exemplary daughter. Jessica is an honor-student, track star, and all-around good kid. So how could that same teenager be responsible for the death of the high school’s beloved football coach? This is Texas, where high school football ranks right up there with God, so while the legal battle wages, the public deals its own verdict.
Desperate for help, Liz turns to a lawyer whose affection she once rejected and attempts to play nice with her ex-husband. Jessica faces her angry peers and her own demons as she awaits a possible prison sentence for an accident she doesn’t remember.
A tragic, emotional, ultimately uplifting story, Blind Turn is a natural book club pick.
Cara Sue Achterberg is a writer, blogger, and shelter dog advocate who lives in New Freedom, Pennsylvania and Bentonville, Virginia.
She is the author of four novels, two memoirs (‘dog-oirs’), and a handbook/memoir of the organic life.
Cara has fostered over 180 dogs for the nonprofit all-breed rescue organization, Operation Paws for Homes and writes a blog about her experiences (AnotherGoodDog.org), and she is the co-founder of Who Will Let the Dogs Out (WhoWillLettheDogsOut.org), a non-profit initiative whose mission is to raise awareness and resources for shelter dogs.
Her small hillside farm in PA is home to a shuffling cast of foster dogs and foster kittens, her two dogs Gracie and Fanny, two horses, a barn cat named Tonks, and plenty of chickens. Cara travels to the mountains of Virginia every chance she gets. Links to all of her blogs, pictures of her foster dogs and more information can be found at CaraWrites.com.
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.
I read and reviewed a novel by the same author, Practicing Normal, over three years ago, but I enjoyed it so much, and it made such an impact that I requested this one straight away. (You can check my review here). The author has been busy with other projects and has published several non-fiction titles in the meantime, but I can say that her new novel was worth the wait.
The book description gives an idea of the bare bones of the story, which is not very complicated, at least on the face of it. The novel follows the aftermath of a terrible accident, although perhaps not a totally ‘accidental’ accident, as the girl driving, Jess, was ‘allegedly’ texting while driving. The girl, who suffers a concussion, can’t remember anything about the accident, but her friend Sheila, who was with her in the car, has plenty to say. The victim is a well-known town coach and a friend and mentor of the girl’s father. Let’s say there’s not much love lost for the girl and her family in the town (Jefferson, Texas) after that happens. The novel falls into the categories of family drama (or women’s stories, as the story is told by the two women, Liz, the mother, and Jess, her daughter, in the first-person) as well as a coming of age story. Jess is only sixteen when the accident happens, and she grows up considerably during the next few months, while she discovers who her real friends are, reorders her priorities, gains a new appreciation for both her parents, learns about guilt, and more than anything, about forgiveness. She is not the only one who grows up in the process, and her mother also learns a lot about herself and about those around her.
I’ve mentioned some of the themes discussed in the book, and there are others: disappointed expectations, second chances, the risks of texting and driving (of course), parenting, split-up families, the nature of guilt and forgiveness, the way all lives are interconnected and all actions have consequences, unplanned parenthood, looking after the elderly (especially our parents)… This is not a novel full of secrets and twists, devious characters, and bizarre motives, but rather one that we could imagine happening to our own relatives and/or friends (or ourselves). That is one of its strengths. The plot does not require any suspension of disbelief (or not much. At times, I wondered if in real life things wouldn’t have got even more difficult for those involved, and especially some of the male characters seem very understanding and forgiving, although that is refreshing), and as the book is not heavy on details or descriptions, it is even easier to imagine its scenario taking place around us.
I liked all (or most) of the characters. Although I have little in common with Liz or Jess, I found them both easy to empathise with. They are not perfect but are fundamentally good people trying to get on, and they love each other deeply, though at times it might not be that evident even to themselves. The rest of the characters are also pretty decent despite their flaws, and this is not a book where good and evil are clearly separated. Sometimes a mistake can have terrible consequences, and sometimes good people can do terrible things. If I had to choose some of my favourites, I quite liked Katie, Liz’s sister; her friend Avery; their neighbour, Dylan; Ellen, the counsellor; and Fish, a boy Jess’s father knows. Both of their love interests are endearing, although at times they appear a touch too perfect (but things happen that qualify that impression), and even the characters whose behaviour is not exemplary are not despicable. Through the main characters’ narrations, we get to share in their doubts, hesitations, fears, defense-mechanisms, disappointments, expectations, hopes, guilt feelings; and it’s impossible not to wonder what we’d do in their place. I have no children, but I could easily imagine what Liz might feel like, and as somebody who’s driven for years and has been lucky enough not to be involved in any serious accidents (none involving injuries), Jess’s plight was instantly recognisable. Their thoughts and their emotions felt true, and the way they behave and eventually grow suits perfectly the kind of human beings they are.
The use of the first-person narration by the two main female characters works well, as we get both sides of the story, with access to more background into the changes and the actions of each character than the other has, and it also provides us with some distance from each woman and an outsider perspective on them, and we come to realise that they are more alike than they think. The author is both skilled and thoughtful enough to avoid common-places, and she does not give her characters an easy way out. They have to work through their issues and earn the hard lessons they learn. Saying that, I loved the ending that manages to be both, open and hopeful.
The writing flows easily, and although the novel is not full of action or a page-turner in the standard sense, there are very emotional moments. We become so involved in the lives of the characters that it’s difficult to put the book down, as we care too much for them to rest until we know what happens. I read a review written by somebody from Jefferson, Texas, who felt somewhat disappointed because she had expected to recognise some of the landmarks, so beware if you have similar expectations. On the other hand, I got a good sense of what it felt like to live there (or at least in the Jefferson of the novel) and to know the characters personally, and that worked perfectly well for me.
I thought I’d share a few of the passages I highlighted (although, remember mine was an ARC copy, so there might be some slight changes in the final version):
Why does forgiveness require a sacrifice? That piece of Christianity never made sense to me. That sounds more like making a deal than offering forgiveness.
I am the roadrunner, running in thin air, moments from smacking into reality.
Sometimes it feels like I’m in a dystopian novel being controlled by a cosmic author who makes the characters do things no one would ever dream they would do —especially themselves.
I am different too. I am finished withholding forgiveness and clinging to my anger and fear like some kind of sick armor to shield my heart.
I recommend this novel to readers who love realistic/plausible coming-of-age stories and family dramas that don’t fall into the trap of trying to make everything right or easy for the characters while at the same time avoiding unnecessary twists used simply for effect. If you’re looking for an inspiring story you can connect with and characters you’d love to have as neighbours or friends, this is your book. There is heartache, tears, and also a process of growth and lessons to be learned, and you’ll feel better for having read it. And what more can we ask for! (Oh, I almost forgot! There are dogs as well!)
Hi all. I am participating in a blog tour for an author I read last year for the first time, and I was keen to read her new one.
JACKSON: ETERNITY SPRINGS: THE MCBRIDES OF TEXAS by Emily March.
From New York Times bestselling author Emily March comes Jackson, the newest novel in the critically acclaimed Eternity Springs series.
Sometimes it takes a new beginning Caroline Carruthers thinks she buried her dreams along with the love of her life…until a stranger named Celeste dares her to chase a dream all on her own. Moving to Redemption, Texas, is chapter one in Caroline’s new life story. Opening a bookstore is the next. Finding love is the last thing on her mind as she settles into this new place called home. But when she meets a handsome, soulful man who’s also starting over, all bets are off.
to reach a happily-ever-after Jackson McBride came to Redemption looking only to find himself, not someone to love. Ever since his marriage ended, he’s been bitter. Sure, he used to believe in love—he even has the old song lyrics to prove it—but the Jackson of today is all business. That is, until a beautiful young widow who’s moved to town inspires a change of heart. Could it be that the myth of Redemption’s healing magic is true…and Jackson and Caroline can find a second chance at a happy ending after all?
Emily March is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the heartwarming Eternity Springs series. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Emily is an avid fan of Aggie sports and her recipe for jalapeño relish has made her a tailgating legend.
The author has kindly answered some questions about the book for her readers:
You wrote a book! That’s pretty awesome. Why don’t you tell us a bit about what inspired Jackson and the rest of the books in the Eternity Springs world?
The saying “Write what you know” says it all in my case. I’m a small-town girl and my family and friendships are center to my world. I write about love and family and friendships. I have roots in both the Colorado Rockies and the Texas Hill Country, so it was natural for me to set Eternity Springs and Redemption there. The idea for JACKSON grew out of my interest in the music currently being written and performed in Texas. I’ve always thought singer/songwriters are romantic figures so I was excited to create a hero with this background. Unfortunately, I’m not a musician and I’m definitely not a singer, but I am creative so it was fun for me to explore that aspect of a character.
Introduce us to your main character!
Okay. Well, Americana singer/songwriter Jackson McBride is a bit damaged when the book begins. His famous, talented and wealthy ex has won a custody battle that severely limits his access to his six-year-old daughter, so Jackson goes home to the Texas Hill Country to nurse his broken heart. He finds solace in Enchanted Canyon hiking the trails with the dog he rescues and working to bring a historic dance hall back to life. The last thing he expects is to find love again with a woman whose heart is as battered as his own.
Walk us through a day in the life of Emily March.
Ready to be bored? Now that my daughter’s and niece’s weddings are behind me—they consumed me for months—I’m boring and happy about it. I split my time between Fort Worth where we have a condo downtown in a 1930’s passenger train station and our lake house in the Texas Hill Country. I recently gave up my office in town because I’m spending more and more time at the lake. My husband also offices out of our condo, so on days when we are both working in town, I’ve started riding the new TexRail train that runs from our building to DFW airport. It’s quiet and comfortable and I don’t have Internet to distract me. And at $5 a day, it’s much cheaper than office rent. 🙂 When I’m at the lake I’m either working or doing yard work. My new favorite toy is my power washer.
Lots of aspiring authors out there. Any advice for them?
I’ve always thought that one of the most important things you can do for your writing is to read. And read. And read some more. Read across genres. You absorb so much about pacing and plotting and character development when you read. Plus, you get to READ! 🙂 (I so agree with her!)
How is the Jackson trilogy different from your other series?
I don’t think it’s necessarily different from the rest of the Eternity Springs series. I write about love and family and friendship—that doesn’t change. Readers will still see old friends from Eternity Springs and a few scenes in JACKSON are set in Colorado. What’s new is we get to spend some time in the Texas Hill Country and meet a few new characters—Celeste’s cousin, Angelica, for example.
I know asking someone’s all-time favorite book is a loaded question so what’s your current favorite read?
I’m a big fan of Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series and I’m reading her latest right now, STORM CURSED.
Alright, the ultimate question: why should we read your book?
My goals as a writer are to touch a reader’s heart, to entertain her and make her laugh, to maybe cry a little and sigh with satisfaction upon reaching the end. With JACKSON, I believe I’ve achieved those goals.
Describe yourself in 3 words.
Family. Family. Family. 🙂
What is your most embarrassing memory?
Walking out of the junior high school cafeteria in seventh grade, not realizing that my very short dress—it was the 70’s—had gotten hung up in my underwear and I inadvertently flashed my rear end to the entire cafeteria—including the tables where the football players sat. Thinking about it even today gives me the hives.
Favorite quote or scene you wrote in JACKSON?
I love the ending. Jackson is a songwriter who has lost his music and when he finds it again…the song he sings to Caroline…just makes me melt.
What is one piece of advice you would tell everyone?
Call your mother.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always loved to read, so that is part of it, but my father was my primary inspiration. He was a fabulous storyteller. I grew up sitting at his feet and listening to him tell stories about his youth and his experiences in Europe during World War II. Listening to him tell his stories was my favorite thing to do. I didn’t inherit his talent for verbal storytelling, but I think I learned from him how to tell a good story on the page.
Do you have any interesting writing quirks or habits?
Like I mentioned before, I’m pretty boring. My perks and habits are always evolving. The train writing thing is new for me. I usually write on a laptop and edit on a desktop. I listen to movie soundtracks when I write and always finish a book with The Last of the Mohicans.
What has been one of the most surprising things you’ve learned as a published author?
I’m always a little surprised and honored that readers are excited to meet me. Like I said…I’m a boring person.
What is your favorite state to visit? Colorado, of course, because I must keep returning to Eternity Springs. 🙂
What are hobbies or interests do you have?
We are lake people, so I love waterskiing and boating and fishing. As I write this we’ve just finished Memorial Day weekend at the lake, so I sort of feel like chief cook and sheet-and-towel washer, too. I love, love, love hosting big holiday gatherings of family and friends at the lake house, but I will admit I do tire of the mountain of laundry in the aftermath.
Can you tell us about what’s coming up next after this for you writing wise?
I’m writing Tucker’s story. Fun fact for this—as part of my research I attended a survivalist training school for a weekend. I searched long and hard to find one where I could return to town to spend the night in a comfy hotel rather than sleep on the ground—I’m only willing to go so far for my art. I did learn to start a friction fire, though, something I’m VERY proud of. 🙂
How can readers connect with you online?
My website is www.emilymarch.com. I’m active on Facebook. My Facebook page is www.facebook.com/emilymarchbooks. You can also reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I like the sound of her, and writing in a train…
Now, my review:
Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for providing me an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.
I read and reviewed one of Emily Barr’s novels in the Eternity Springs series, The Christmas Wishing Tree (you can read my review here), last summer and enjoyed it, particularly the lovely town of Eternity Springs, and I could not resist checking what her new story was like.
This novel is a crossover (or a spin-off, I guess) of that other series, as it does include quite a few of the characters of Eternity Springs, and, in fact, Celeste Blessing plays quite a part in getting things started, but it focuses on three male cousins, the McBrides, who are very close in age and grew up together, share wonderful memories, but have taken very different paths in life. They are left a pretty interesting legacy from their great-aunt, and it gives them an opportunity to start a project together, in Texas.
Jackson McBride, the protagonist of the story (or one of them. Caroline Carruthers plays a very important part in the story, if not the most important), is a musician, a composer of Americana/country music, who’s been unable to compose since his marriage ended, and he lost the custody battle for his little girl, Haley. But his love for music remains unabated, and the project at Last Hope gives him a different avenue to invest it on, one that will allow him to help other performers and recover a historical venue.
We meet Caroline Carruthers at a difficult time in her life. She married a man fifteen years older than her, a professor, when he was quite young, and she seems to have become his wife, first and foremost. She writes articles about Texas for magazines, but her life is turned upside down when her husband is diagnosed with early dementia. Her sister-in-law does not accept her decision of having her husband looked after in a nursing home, and the situation brings home just how dependent Catherine has become on her husband and how limited her personal support network is. A chance encounter with Celeste makes her discover Redemption, Texas, and she gets a second chance.
This novel shares many of the characteristic that made me enjoy the previous one. Redemption is a pretty interesting and welcoming place, Enchanted Canyon Ranch, and Ruin, the ghost town, are great settings, beautiful, magical, and we get to see how Angelica (Celeste’s cousin, another cousin in a book full of them, and my favourite character), Jackson, and Boon transform the place into a haven, the Texan cousin of Celeste’s inn at Eternity Springs. The landscape and descriptions of the natural beauty of the area are vivid and make readers wish they could be there, and the writer captures well the language, customs, and local expressions (even if it some of the situations ring of an adult fairy tale). There are also great secondary characters, some that are likely to play bigger parts in other books in the series, and for those readers who are already familiar with Eternity Springs, there are plenty of familiar faces who make an appearance here (even I, who’ve only read one of the books, recognized quite a few). I also enjoyed the relationships between friends and family members, and the interactions between the cousins had that ease and familiarity that made them ring true. There is plenty of humour, some drama (yes, bad things happen and there’s grief in store for many of the characters), and a fairly gentle story, with bickering and discussions over decorating and sports, music, dogs, food, families and friendships.
The main characters are likeable, have suffered in their personal lives, and deserve a second chance. They are both reluctant to commit to new relationships because they are grieving for their last ones, but… Well, I was going to say this is a romance after all, and it is, but it also has much in common with women’s fiction, despite the male coprotagonist. Caroline grows strong throughout the book, takes control of her own life, and acquires a network of female friends who support her no matter what. Jackson already had his cousins, although they all seem to keep secrets, and his recovery involves helping his ex-wife stand tall and start behaving like an adult. Women are the ones who change and grow the most throughout the novel, and although their roles might appear conventional at first, they prove they are stronger and more determined than they thought. As I said, I found the characters likeable, but I felt about them a bit like I would about a nice couple I’d met and chatted one evening. I have the best wishes for them, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them around every now and then, but I don’t think they’ll leave a lasting impression, and there wasn’t anything particularly distinctive or memorable about them (although I liked the sound of Caroline’s bookshop, The Next Page).
I read some reviews that complained about the references and inclusion of characters not directly related to the stories, and got a bit lost. As I said, I have met some of the characters before, so I was slightly more familiar with them, but I wouldn’t let that scare any possible readers, as it is not a big part of the book, and it does not hinders the understanding of the action. (It involves the chapters around the opening of the new inn, and Boon’s friends from Eternity Springs turn up as guests, and that means a fair amount of new people who suddenly land there). On the other hand, I’m pretty convinced that readers of the series will be delighted to catch up with some of their favourite characters in the new setting.
This is a nice and gentle read, with no violent or sex scenes, in an enchanting Texan setting , likely to appeal to readers of romance, especially that set in the world of the music industry, Americana in particular, women’s fiction, and stories about second chances. The characters don’t break any molds, and it is not a particularly challenging story, but it is a comforting one. Recommended to readers of the Eternity Springs series and to anybody keen on a refreshing and gently inspiring story.
Those of you who know me, know that I tend to suggest that people check a sample of the book to make sure the writing style is a good fit. Here, the publishers have kindly send me an excerpt of the book that I share with you.
Chapter One Excerpt
Bang. The judge’s gavel fell and officially crushed Jackson McBride’s heart. He closed his eyes. Bleak despair washed over him. Up until this very moment, he hadn’t believed she’d take it this far.
He’d thought she’d come to her senses. He’d thought she would recognize that this proposal was not only nonsense, but truly insane. He’d believed that somewhere deep inside of her, she still had a spark of humanity. That she wouldn’t do this to him. To them. He’d been wrong.
Damn her. Damn her and the yes-men she surrounded herself with. Damn them all to hell and back.
The enormity of what had just happened washed over him. Oh, God, how will
I survive this?
On the heels of his anguish came the rage. It erupted hot as lava, and it fired his blood and blurred his vision with a red haze of fury. He’d never hit a woman in his life. Never come close, despite plenty of provocation from her direction. In that moment had she been within reach, he might have lived up her accusations.
It scared the crap out of him. That’s what she’s brought me to.
Abruptly, he shoved back his chair so hard that it teetered, almost falling over. He strode toward the courtroom exit. “Jackson? Jackson, wait!” his attorney called, hurrying after him.
Jackson waved her off and didn’t stop. There was nothing left to be said. Nothing left to be done. No place left to go.
No little girl waiting at home to hug and cuddle and kiss good night.
The tap on the toes of Jackson’s boots clacked against the tile floor of the courthouse as his long-legged strides ate up the hallway. He shunned the elevator for the stairs and descended three flights at a rapid pace, then headed for the building’s exit. In a foolish bit of positive thinking, he’d driven his SUV to the courthouse this morning. Now the sight of the safety booster seat in the back seat made him want to kick a rock into next week.
He didn’t want to go home to a quiet, empty house. He shouldn’t go to a bar. Alcohol on top of his current mood could be a dangerous combination. Somebody probably would get hurt.
He got into the car and started the engine. For a long moment he sat unmoving, staring blindly through the windshield, his hands squeezing the steering wheel so hard that it should have cracked. When his phone rang, he ignored it.
A couple of minutes later, it rang a second time. Again, he ignored it. When it happened a third time, he finally glanced at the display to see who was calling. His cousin. Okay, maybe he would answer it.
“How did the hearing go?”
Jackson couldn’t speak past the lump in his throat, so he said nothing.
Following a moment’s silence, Boone got the message. He muttered a curse, and then said, “I’m sorry, man. So damn sorry.”
“Well, it is what it is.”
“You can take another run at it.”
“Yeah.” In three years. Three years. Might as well be three decades. He cleared his throat and changed the subject. “So, how are things in Eternity Springs?”
“Good. They’re good. My friend Celeste Blessing visited my office a few minutes ago and spoke of her granite-headed cousin. Naturally, I thought of you.”
“Naturally,” Jackson dryly replied. But he felt a little less alone.
“Do you have plans this weekend? I could use your help with something.”
Pretty convenient timing. Knowing Boone, he had a spy in the courtroom. But Jackson wasn’t in the position to ignore the bone he’d been thrown. “I’m free. Whatcha got?”
“I’d like you to meet me at home.”
Jackson straightened in surprise. “You’re going back to the ranch?”
“No. Not there. I’m never going back there. However, I am talking about Texas. The Hill Country in particular. A little town west of Austin called Redemption.”
“Redemption, Texas?” Jackson repeated. For some weird reason, his heart gave a little skip. “Why there?”
“It’s a long story. Too long for a phone call. I’ll give you the entire skinny when I see you. When can you get there?”
After today’s debacle, Jackson had absolutely no reason to remain in Nashville. “When do you want me there?”
“I’ll be in later today. I’m in Austin now. I’ve been helping a friend with a project. I have a flight back to Colorado Sunday evening. The earlier you can get here the better, but I’ll make anything work.”
Jackson figured the distance and the drive time. “I’ll meet you tomorrow afternoon. Where?”
“Great. I’ll text you the info when we hang up. Bring camping gear.”
When a sound behind him had Jackson glancing up into the rearview mirror and the booster seat caught his notice, he made an instant decision. “Can’t. I’ll be on my bike.”
“You’re gonna ride your motorcycle all the way from Nashville?”
“Yes, I think I am.”
“Okay. I’ll bring stuff for both of us.” Boone hesitated a moment and added, “Hang in there,
Jackson. It’ll get better.”
No, I don’t think it will. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Jackson ended the call and finally put his SUV in gear and backed out of the parking place. With the distraction of the call behind him, fury returned, and by the time he reached home, he felt like a volcano about to explode.
He threw a handful of things into his tail bag, filled his wallet with cash from his stash, and ten minutes after his arrival, he fired up his bike and took his broken heart and headed out of Nashville. He left behind his home, his work, and his one reason for living, his six-year-old daughter, Haley.
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