Book Showcase: LUCKY BOY by Shanthi Sekaran

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran 
ISBN: 9781101982266 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9781101982259 (ebook)
ASIN: B01BS7N82A (Kindle edition)
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons 
Release Date: September 5, 2017 (trade paperback)

A gripping tale of adventure and searing reality, Lucky Boy gives voice to two mothers bound together by their love for one lucky boy.

Solimar Castro Valdez is eighteen and drunk on optimism when she embarks on a perilous journey across the US/Mexican border. Weeks later she arrives on her cousin’s doorstep in Berkeley, CA, dazed by first love found then lost, and pregnant. This was not the plan. But amid the uncertainty of new motherhood and her American identity, Soli learns that when you have just one precious possession, you guard it with your life. For Soli, motherhood becomes her dwelling and the boy at her breast her hearth. 

Kavya Reddy has always followed her heart, much to her parents’ chagrin. A mostly contented chef at a UC Berkeley sorority house, the unexpected desire to have a child descends like a cyclone in Kavya’s mid-thirties. When she can’t get pregnant, this desire will test her marriage, it will test her sanity, and it will set Kavya and her husband, Rishi, on a collision course with Soli, when she is detained and her infant son comes under Kavya’s care. As Kavya learns to be a mother – the singing, story-telling, inventor-of-the-universe kind of mother she fantasized about being – she builds her love on a fault line, her heart wrapped around someone else’s child. 

Lucky Boy is an emotional journey that will leave you certain of the redemptive beauty of this world. There are no bad guys in this story, no obvious hero. From rural Oaxaca to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto to the dreamscapes of Silicon Valley, author Shanthi Sekaran has taken real life and applied it to fiction; the results are moving and revelatory.

Read an excerpt:

Clara, patron saint of television and eye disease, stood three feet tall in the church at the end of the road. The road was known generally as la calle, for it was the only one in the village. Scattered along it were one church, one store, and a one-room schoolhouse, recently closed.

The road sprouted caminos and footpaths as it went, and ended in a small square, where the town hall stood, and a cantina with the town’s only television, which sat atop a folding table. When the men weren’t hunched around it watching fútbol, it spun lazy afternoon offerings of love and betrayal, murder and long-lost sons.

Clara, beauty of Assisi, nobleman’s daughter, ran away one night to a friar at the roadside, was brought to Saint Francis, and shorn. Her hair fell like corn silk to the ground and she traded her dress for a rough brown habit. She walked barefoot and lived in silence and begged for her daily bread. But she didn’t mind. She’d fallen in love with something larger than her world.

Clara was ill one day, Papi said, and couldn’t go to Mass. She lay faded in her bed, and what flickered on her wall but a vision of the daily service, from processional to homily to Eucharist? And so they made her the patron of eye disease, because what could have visited her but a dance of glaucomic flashes? And then television came along and needed a patron, and the pope said Clara. And how about the time, Papi once said, when she faced down an invading army, alone at the convent window with nothing but the sacrament in hand? Now Clara spent her days tucked into a dim chapel. Day in, day out, alone in the shadows, and if anyone did visit, it was only because they wanted something.

But that night was La Noche del Maíz. The village priest brought her down from her perch and wiped tenderly her web of whisper-fine cracks. He wrapped her in finery, silk robes and nylon flowers, and loaded her on her platform. Four strong men raised her high and she wobbled down the road but didn’t fall—not once had she fallen—and so it began: a line of altar boys, a trumpet’s cry, the swing of a cloud-belching censer.

Fine for a saint, thought Solimar, to wait all year for a single tromp through the village. Fine for a saint to spend all of eternity with her mouth shut, her feet still. Solimar Castro Valdez was no saint. She was breaking out. She’d come out that evening to meet a man, not a friar. His name was Manuel. He owned a car and a passport—the right kind—and he’d be taking her away from this place. And he was there. Right there in Santa Clara Popocalco.

For months, the idea of leaving had lain dormant. But it was stirring now, snuffling to life. Every cell in her body strained against its casing. It was time to leave. It was time.

Manuel would meet her at the entrance to the town hall. Slowly, slowly, the procession moved on. She walked hand in hand in hand with her mother and father. She squeezed their papery old fingers and pulled harder with each step. When they turned a corner, she spotted the clock tower by the church. Seven minutes late already. She flung off her parents’ hands. “See you there!” she cried, and ran.

At the town hall doors: no Manuel. No one who looked like he owned an American passport. A man like that would have to be handsome—not that handsome mattered, not when all she wanted was the land beyond the border, except that she was eighteen and helpless against the nether-murmur of romance.

At the town hall doors, breathless still, she waited. Papi found her and brought her a plate of tamales, which she was too jumbled inside to eat. Mama would be milling through the village plaza and finding old friends from nearby towns, stretching spools of gossip that had begun a month, a year, a decade before.

As the sky dimmed, drums and horns throbbed through the square. Drink had been drunk and around her the village swarmed with new faces: Where had they come from? A pair of teenagers leaned and kissed against a tree, a flutter of children linked arms in a circle, running themselves off their feet, a perilous carousel of arms and legs and fevered teeth. Still, no Manuel. She felt she should smoke a cigarette, though she’d never tried one before. She believed a cigarette would make her feel like less of a fool.

Never had she seen so many people here in her little village. Most days, it seemed the world had forgotten Santa Clara Popocalco. It was the sort of place that existed only because no larger town had cared to claim it. It lay dry and hollow, anchored to this earth by the Sierra Norte to the east, Oaxaca City to the west. Every morning a cold front rolled in from a distant shore. It collided with the hillside and smothered the valley in fog that smelled faintly, sweetly of corn. Every afternoon, the sun burned through the fog and houses regained their low and addled forms.

Popocalco offered no work, only the growing and eating of a few stalks of corn. When the money left, the people followed, except for the very poor and very old, who still grew crops to feed themselves and sell in local markets, who gurgled through the village square every morning and in the evenings, visiting the church, nodding to the faces, always the same faces, and napping and cooking and eating and washing, sweeping their front steps each day, not exactly waiting to die, Soli believed, but not quite living, either.

For too long, she’d pushed away the thought of leaving. Papi! She was his only one. And Mama. Mama would crawl into bed and never crawl out. But decay had spread like the valley fog, until it found its way to Soli. She’d breathed so much of it in that she couldn’t breathe it out again. She was filling up with silence and heavy bones. She was eighteen. And then, the letter from Silvia. Inside, somewhere between her chest and chin, a seed split open to the sun and she began to wonder: Could she? And how? And eventually: When? And why not? And how soon? Her life lay elsewhere. If she stayed in Popocalco, she’d be staying for them, the gentle old souls, her mother and father and the sullen corn, watching all those lives wind down to their modest end.

The fireworks family entered the square, pushing the castillo de luces, a tower of scaffolding rigged with rockets and sparklers.

In the big picture, Popocalco was nowhere. In the big picture, it was a thin and spiny stretch of the past.

She waited for an hour at the church door, until all her readiness had been sighed away. Papi wandered off. She stood deflated and alone, certain she’d missed Manuel by seven minutes. A brass band began to play, the somber nasal tune Soli had heard every year, for as long as she could remember, at La Noche del Maíz. She closed her eyes. Applause. She didn’t need to open them to know that a teenage boy was climbing the castillo, lifting a fiery pole to the highest joints of the tower. In a moment, the first sparks would pinwheel through the night. And they would begin, one small explosion followed by the next, a rapturous storm.

Punctuality. Seven minutes. Time was religion in America, Papi had warned. If she’d missed her chance by seven minutes, it was her own wretched fault.

But then, a layer beneath the noise, a rustle. “Solimar.” She opened her eyes. At first, all she saw were the bushy jut of his chin and the gleam of hair slicked back. He could have been the Devil in the firelight, for all she could see. He stepped forward. Papi, all at once, beside her. He shook Papi’s hand.

Now this, now here, was a man with a passport. Manuel would visit the next day to go over their plan. He’d get Soli to California, he said, no matter what it took. She was leaving! The promise of it stoked a flame that blazed through her. Already, Popocalco, this house of smoke, was shrinking away. Already, this existence was nothing but a distant prick of light. Electrified by the promise of forward motion, Soli stretched up to kiss the sky, growing and growing, until she too was a flaming tower, a castle of light, sparking from the eyes, spitting streaks of joy.

Excerpt from Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran, trade paperback published on September 5, 2017, by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Shanthi Sekaran.

Meet the Author

Photo by Daniel Grisales

Shanthi Sekaran teaches creative writing and is a member of the Portuguese Artists’ Colony and the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Best New American Voices and Canteen, and online at Zyzzyva and Mutha Magazine. A California native, she lives in Berkeley with her husband and two children.

Connect with the author at her website,  Facebook, and Twitter 


Enter to win 1 of 2 trade paperback copies of Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran (there will be one winner per copy). This giveaway is provided in partnership with Penguin Random House and is limited to US residents only. To enter use the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway ends on September 11, 2017, and the winners will be announced on September 12, 2017.

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Book Showcase: THE SIXTH IDEA by PJ Tracy

The Sixth Idea by P.J. Tracy 
ISBN: 9780399169359 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780698155190 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781480581517 (MP3 audiobook)
ISBN: 9781480581500 (audiobook)
ASIN: B01HQCM8XQ (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B01BD1SU1U (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 2, 2016 
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

The Monkeewrench crew returns in a twisty, heart-stopping new thriller. The peaceful Christmas season in Minneapolis is shattered when two friends, Chuck Spencer and Wally Luntz, scheduled to meet in person for the first time, are murdered on the same night, two hours and several miles apart, dramatically concluding winter vacation for homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth.            An hour north of Minneapolis, Lydia Ascher comes home to find two dead men in her basement. When Leo and Gino discover her connection to their current cases, they suspect that she is a target, too. The same day, an elderly, terminally ill man is kidnapped from his home, an Alzheimer’s patient goes missing from his care facility, and a baffling link among all the crimes emerges.            This series of inexplicable events sends the detectives sixty years into the past to search for answers—and straight to Grace MacBride’s Monkeewrench, a group of eccentric computer geniuses who devote their time and resources to helping the cops solve the unsolvable. What they find is an unimaginable horror—a dormant Armageddon that might be activated at any moment unless Grace and her partners Annie, Roadrunner, and Harley Davidson, along with Leo and Gino, can find a way to stop it.

Read an excerpt from The Sixth Idea here.

Meet the author:

PJ Tracy is the pseudonym of mother-daughter writing duo P.J. and Traci Lambrecht, winners of the Anthony, Barry, Gumshoe, and Minnesota Book Awards. Their six novels, Monkeewrench, Live Bait, Dead Run, Snow Blind, Shoot to Thrill and Off the Grid have become national and international bestsellers. The Sixth Idea, the latest installment in the Monkeewrench series, will be released in the U.S. on August 2, 2016, and August 11, 2016 in the U.K. under the title Cold Kill.

P.J. Lambrecht is a college dropout with one of the largest collections of sweatpants in the world. She was raised in an upper-middle class family of very nice people and turned to writing to escape the hardships of such a life. She had her first short story published in The Saturday Evening Post when Traci was eight, still mercifully oblivious to her mother’s plans to eventually trick her into joining the family business. She has been a moderately successful freelance writer ever since, although she has absolutely no qualifications for such a profession, except a penchant for lying.

Traci Lambrecht spent most of her childhood riding and showing horses. She graduated with a Russian Studies major from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where she also studied voice. Her aspirations of becoming a spy were dashed when the Cold War ended, so she instead attempted briefly and unsuccessfully to import Eastern European folk art. She began writing to finance her annoying habits of travel and singing in rock bands, and much to her mother’s relief, finally realized that the written word was her true calling. They have been writing together ever since.

Connect with the author:            Website      |     Facebook      

Enter to win one hardback copy of The Sixth Idea by P.J. Tracy courtesy of the publisher, G.P. Putnam’s Sons. This giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on 08/07/2016 at 11:59 PM ET. The winner will be chosen and announced on 08/08/2016 by 10:00 AM ET. Prize will be shipped directly to the winner by the publisher. Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter.

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2016 Book 225: THE LIGHT OF PARIS by Eleanor Brown

The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown 
ISBN: 9780399158919 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780399573736 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780735208179 (large print paperback)
ISBN: 9780451484819 (audiobook)
ASIN: B01839Q44A (Kindle version)
Publication Date: July 12, 2016 
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

The miraculous new novel from New York Times–bestselling author Eleanor Brown, whose debut, The Weird Sisters, was a sensation beloved by critics and readers alike.

Madeleine is trapped—by her family’s expectations, by her controlling husband, and by her own fears—in an unhappy marriage and a life she never wanted. From the outside, it looks like she has everything, but on the inside, she fears she has nothing that matters.

In Madeleine’s memories, her grandmother Margie is the kind of woman she should have been—elegant, reserved, perfect. But when Madeleine finds a diary detailing Margie’s bold, romantic trip to Jazz Age Paris, she meets the grandmother she never knew: a dreamer who defied her strict, staid family and spent an exhilarating summer writing in cafés, living on her own, and falling for a charismatic artist.

Despite her unhappiness, when Madeleine’s marriage is threatened, she panics, escaping to her hometown and staying with her critical, disapproving mother. In that unlikely place, shaken by the revelation of a long-hidden family secret and inspired by her grandmother’s bravery, Madeleine creates her own Parisian summer—reconnecting to her love of painting, cultivating a vibrant circle of creative friends, and finding a kindred spirit in a down-to-earth chef who reminds her to feed both her body and her heart.

Margie and Madeleine’s stories intertwine to explore the joys and risks of living life on our own terms, of defying the rules that hold us back from our dreams, and of becoming the people we are meant to be.

Madeleine Bowers Spencer isn’t happy with her life or marriage. She’s unsure of what she wants in life, but she knows it isn’t this. The only thing she can think of is to return to her familial home and reassess life in The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown.

Madeleine has always felt that she was a disappointment to her mother. She didn’t want to be a society lady. She wanted to be an artist. Painting was an acceptable hobby but not a career goal according to her parents. So she put away her paints and tried her best to fit in. She even married an acceptable man just to make her mother happy. It is only after returning home while taking a “break” from her marriage that Madeleine discovers that she may not be anything like her mother, but she has a lot in common with her maternal grandmother, Margie. Reading through her grandmother’s journals, Madeleine finds that her grandmother often felt as if she didn’t fit in with polite society either, but all that changes when she gets to spend a wonderful summer in Paris. Margie gradually breaks out of her shell and lives the life she always wanted, even if it was only for summer. Can Madeleine truly follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and do the same?

The Light of Paris was a delightfully endearing and fast-paced read. The story is told in alternating voices of Madeleine in 1999 and Margie in 1924. I enjoyed the parallel stories of two women that tried their best to be something they weren’t just to please their families. Both Margie and Madeleine had dreams of who they wanted to be and both seemed to let those dreams die, Margie due to societal restrictions and Madeleine due to perceived restrictions. The Light of Paris is a story about self-discovery and awakening as much as it is about family, life, and love. If you enjoy reading stories about life, hope, and second chances, then you’ll definitely want to read The Light of Paris, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. 

Disclaimer: I received an uncorrected proof/review copy of this book from the publisher. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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2016 Book 166: MONSTERS A LOVE STORY by Liz Kay

Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay
ISBN: 9781101982471 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781101982488 (ebook)
ASIN: B0177AGNZQ (Kindle version)
Publication Date: June 7, 2016 
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

A cracklingly funny and poignant debut novel about the ways we love, even when we’re not at our best. Stacey Lane feels like a monster. Tommy DeMarco might be one.

Since her husband died eight months ago, Stacey’s been a certified mess—a poet who can’t write anymore, a good mother who feels like she’s failing her kids. She’s been trying to redefine herself, to find new boundaries.

Tommy has no respect for boundaries. A surprisingly well-read A-list Hollywood star, Tommy’s fallen in love with Stacey’s novel-in-verse, a feminist reimagining of Frankenstein, no less. His passion for the book, and eventually its author, will set their lives on a collision course. They’ll make a movie, make each other crazy, and make love—but only in secret. 

As Stacey travels between her humdrum life in the suburbs of Omaha and the glamorous but fleeting escape Tommy offers, what begins as a distracting affair starts to pick up weight. It’s a weight that unbalances Stacey’s already unsteady life, but offers new depth to Tommy’s. About desire, love, grief, parenthood, sexual politics, and gender, Monsters: A Love Story is a witty portrait of a relationship gone off the rails, and two people who are made for each other—even if they’re not so sure they see it that way.

Stacey Lane’s husband died unexpectedly and she and her kids are still grieving his death and trying to find their balance. Things are going reasonably well until she receives an email stating her book of poetry is being optioned for a film. Life as she knows it will never be the same in Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay.

Stacey Lane’s life changed when her husband died. It changes again when she meets Hollywood superstar Tommy DeMarco. Tommy wants to adapt her novel-in-verse into a film. Stacey knows next to nothing about film adaptation, but she’s pulled into the process from the very beginning simply because Tommy is enthralled with her book and becomes enamored with her. Stacey begins to fly back-and-forth from Nebraska to California to work on the script, watch the filming, etc. She and Tommy begin to have a highly dysfunctional relationship that isn’t quite a romance, or at least it isn’t to Stacey. As a result of the film, Stacey’s book is in the spotlight and she’s invited to numerous book festivals. Between her travels to California and other places, her children begin to spend just as much time with her sister as they do at home. In an effort to bring more normalcy to her life, Stacey begins to date again and before she knows it she’s engaged to be married. Unfortunately, her children don’t really like her fiance, Tommy is furious about the engagement, and Stacey’s isn’t quite sure why.

Monsters: A Love Story is a fast and fun read about a dysfunctional romance at its best and worst. Stacey and Tommy come across as two intelligent people, but when it comes to their quasi-relationship they become ignorant of what the other wants or expects. They share late night phone calls, text one another constantly, and Stacey spends all of her time at Tommy’s house (and in Tommy’s bed) when she’s in California. It was interesting to watch their relationship evolve, as well as watch the perceived devolution of Stacey’s role as a mother and evolution of Tommy’s role as a father. Stacey and Tommy aren’t the perfect couple and they don’t come across as idealistic about romance. Tommy is jaded about romance and Stacey just comes across as somewhat clueless when it comes to Tommy. To say that Monsters: A Love Story isn’t the typical romance is a massive understatement, and that is part of its charm. Monsters: A Love Story is an entertaining story about two unlikely people falling in love in unusual circumstances and is, perhaps, the perfect choice for a lazy weekend.

Read an excerpt from Monsters: A Love Story here.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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2016 Book 161: THE ASSISTANTS by Camille Perri

The Assistants by Camille Perri 
ISBN: 9780399172540 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780698180802 (ebook)
ASIN: B013Q7094K (Kindle version)
Publication Date: May 3, 2016 
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

A wry and astute debut about a young Manhattanite whose embezzlement scam turns her into an unlikely advocate for the leagues of overeducated and underpaid assistants across the city.  Tina Fontana is the hapless but brazen thirty-year-old executive assistant to Robert Barlow, the all-powerful and commanding CEO of Titan Corp., a multinational media conglomerate. She’s excellent at her job and beloved by her famous boss—but after six years of making his reservations for restaurants she’d never get into on her own and pouring his drinks from bottles that cost more than her rent, she’s bored, broke, and just a bit over it all. When a technical error with Robert’s travel-and-expenses report presents Tina with the opportunity to pay off the entire balance of her student loan debt with what would essentially be pocket change for her boss, she struggles with the decision: She’s always played by the rules. But it’s such a relatively small amount of money for the Titan Corporation—and for her it would be a life-changer . . . The Assistants speaks directly to a new generation of women who feel stuck and unable to get ahead playing by the rules. It will appeal to all of those who have ever asked themselves, “How is it that after all these years, we are still assistants?”

Tina Fontana is a struggling thirty-year-old living in New York City. She works as the personal assistant to the boss of a multinational media conglomerate and makes barely enough to survive, much less pay off her college debt. Tina has no idea how much her life will change with one computer entry in The Assistants by Camille Perri.

Imagine working for a man that spends more on golf clubs (purchased to play one single round of golf) than you make in a month. Imagine this same man spends more on one monogrammed cotton handkerchief (that he considers to be just as disposable as a tissue) than you make in a week. Tina has worked for just such a man for six years and she’s still barely able to survive. After receiving a reimbursement check for an airline ticket that she paid for out-of-pocket and was then comped, she struggles with whether to return the check or keep it to pay off her student loans. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, she keeps the check and pays off her loans. She’s then blackmailed into helping to pay off the debts of one co-worker and then another. Tina struggles with the morality of what they are doing. As this “pay-it-forward” or “pay-it-down” (all the monies are used to pay down student loan debt) idea gains momentum, the idea garners publicity and becomes legitimized through crowdfunding. All the while, Tina and her coworkers are asking the hard-hitting questions of why were we lied to when told we needed a college education to get ahead and why are we are still struggling with basic survival on our wages, especially since we aren’t lazy but hardworking people? 

I found The Assistants to be a fast-paced read that captured my attention from the first page to the very last. Ms. Perri has incorporated humor to take away a bit of the sting from the battle cry of millennials, “why isn’t this system working for us?” This is a generation that has gone to college, graduate school, law school, and/or medical school, racking up tens of thousands of debt. This is a generation that works 50-60 hours work weeks and is still struggling with the basics (rent, utilities, and groceries). Although The Assistants may be a somewhat lighthearted fictional look at this generation and their problems, it nonetheless highlights some serious issues facing these millennials. I enjoyed all of the characters, especially Tina, Emily, and Wendy. These women may have started out as “Robin Hood” type figures, but quickly come into their own with their “pay-it-down” assistance program (if only it were a reality). The Assistants provides a behind-the-scenes look at the world of assistants and their bosses’ unrealistic expectations. If you’re looking for a fun read that has its roots in reality, then look no further, The Assistants may just be the book for you. I’m looking forward to reading more from Ms. Perri in the future.

Disclaimer: I received a print copy of this book for review purposes from BookSparks PR. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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 The Assistants

2015 Book #282: THE GATES OF EVANGELINE by Hester Young

The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young
ISBN: 9780399174001 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780698190771 (ebook)
ASIN: B00UG2MVFY (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 1, 2015 
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent, she soon realizes. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees, if only she can make sense of them.

After a little boy in a boat appears in Charlie’s dreams asking for her help, Charlie finds herself entangled in a thirty-year-old missing-child case that has never ceased to haunt Louisiana’s prestigious Deveau family. Armed with an invitation to Evangeline, the family’s sprawling estate, Charlie heads south, where new friendships and an unlikely romance bring healing. But as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust—and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could’ve imagined. A Southern Gothic mystery debut that combines literary suspense and romance with a mystical twist, The Gates of Evangeline is a story that readers of Gillian Flynn, Kate Atkinson, and Alice Sebold won’t be able to put down. 

Charlotte “Charlie” Cates has been deeply depressed since the tragic death of her son, Keegan. Everyone around her has been patient, but her job is on the line. Upon her return to work, she decides she doesn’t really want to continue at a “fashion” magazine and the opportunity to write a book about the disappearance of a child in the South seems to be the job she needs. Charlie’s search for the truth seems to be aided by the paranormal, psychic visions in The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young.

Charlie initially thinks she’s losing her mind when she begins to have “dreams” about children. She dreams the daughter of her best friend injures her ankle and it happens. She has dreams about a young boy in a boat and assumes it must be related to the missing-child story, so she sets off for Louisiana. Unfortunately, her arrival at Evangeline is filled with a list of do’s and don’ts, such as don’t mention the true reason for her being there to anyone, especially Mrs. Deveau, the mother of the missing child. The last thing Charlie expected to find was romance, but she finds it with Noah Palmer, the gardener hired to restore the gardens at Evangeline. Charlie quickly connects with local police detective Minot after giving him a message from his comatose, dying daughter. Charlie’s visions set her off on a search for the truth, but that search seems to run into dead ends and more twists and turns than she ever imagined. Is it possible to discover the truth about the disappearance of Gabriel Deveau after all these years? 

The Gates of Evangeline is part mystery, part Southern gothic suspense, and part romance with a bit of the paranormal thrown in just to spice things up. Ms. Young has provided a haunting story that is just as tragic as it is hopeful. I found this to be a fast-paced read that kept me turning the pages to see what was going to happen next. There are good guys (Charlie, Noah, Rae, and more) and not-so-nice guys (the Deveau sisters). I enjoyed the mystery and suspense, just as much as I enjoyed the romance and paranormal aspects of this story. The Gates of Evangeline presents tragedy after tragedy and rather than being a dark and dismal story, it is one about hope and second chances.  I enjoyed everything about this story: the characters, the plot, the action, and the settings. I highly recommend you add The Gates of Evangeline to your TBR list. In my not-so-humble-opinion, The Gates of Evangeline is the perfect read for a late summer weekend or a fall weekend . . . okay, it’s a perfect read for anytime! I look forward to reading more from Ms. Young in the future.

Read an excerpt here. 

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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