Book Showcase: THE TASTE OF GINGER by Mansi Shah

The Taste of Ginger by Mansi Shah
ISBN: 9781542031905 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781713620600 (audiobook on CD)
ISBN: 9781713620617 (MP3 audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B095SXYSGB (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08YYYVVTC (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: January 1, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Women’s Fiction | Friendship Fiction

 
In Mansi Shah’s stunning debut novel, a family tragedy beckons a first-generation immigrant to the city of her birth, where she grapples with her family’s past in search of where she truly belongs.

After her parents moved her and her brother to America, Preeti Desai never meant to tear her family apart. All she did was fall in love with a white Christian carnivore instead of a conventional Indian boy. Years later, with her parents not speaking to her and her controversial relationship in tatters, all Preeti has left is her career at a prestigious Los Angeles law firm.

But when Preeti receives word of a terrible accident in the city where she was born, she returns to India, where she’ll have to face her estranged parents…and the complicated past they left behind. Surrounded by the sights and sounds of her heritage, Preeti catches a startling glimpse of her family’s battles with class, tradition, and sacrifice. Torn between two beautifully flawed cultures, Preeti must now untangle what home truly means to her.

 

Read an Excerpt:

Chapter 1

 

A gaggle of women, all speaking over each other in loud, animated voices, filled my parents’ small living room. It was like watching a National Geographic special about social dominance, where pitch and decibel level determined the leader. They wandered around the room, grazing on homemade samosas and pakoras, careful not to get oily crumbs on the delicate fabric of their brightly colored saris.

I was sitting at the dining table near the front door so I could fulfill my assigned duty of greeting the guests as they arrived for my sister-in-law’s baby shower. From across the room, I heard snippets of conversation from my mother’s friends.

“Did you hear her son dropped out of medical school to be with that American girl?”

“I’m not surprised. I heard she walks like an elephant.”

Without knowing whom they were talking about, I sympathized with the girl. My mother had often accused me of this great atrocity­ walking like an elephant. I was around nine years old when I realized she wasn’t calling me fat. She meant I wasn’t demure and obedient­ qualities every good Indian daughter should have.

Near me, a pile of presents had amassed over the last hour. Boxes wrapped in pastel paper with cute cartoon monkeys, turtles, or bunnies. They made most thirty-year-old women feel one of two things: a maternal pang and the gentle tick of her biological clock, or the desire to run screaming from the room. I glanced at the front door, leaning toward the latter response, but wasn’t sure if it was because of the baby paraphernalia around me or the suffocating feeling I got whenever I went back to my parents’ house near Devon Avenue-Chicago’s very own Little India.

Across the room, my mother, dressed in an orange-and-gold sari that clung to her ample hips and chest, offered to bring my sister-in-law, Dipti, a plate of food. She’d been fawning over Dipti all day, telling her she needed to rest to keep the baby healthy.

“You are a mother now, beta,” she’d say, shooting me a look of disappointment every time she referred to Dipti being a mother. I winced inwardly at hearing the term of affection she used to call me as a child. It had been a long time since I had been beta.

My mother’s long hair, streaked with white, was pinned into a neat bun with dozens of bobby pins and adorned with small fragrant jasmine flowers. It opened her face and softened her sharp features. Until yesterday, we hadn’t spoken in months. Not since she found out that my boyfriend-now ex-boyfriend-and I had been living together in Los Angeles. Cohabitating with a dhoriya was, in her opinion, the most shameful thing her daughter could have done. Living with a white boy was right up there with marrying someone from a lower caste or talking back to your elders.

It’s not like I had made it my mission to disappoint her. Until then, I’d tried to convince myself that I’d end up with a caste-appropriate Indian even though I’d never met one that I’d been attracted to. But when Alex tilted my chin to meet his blue eyes before our lips touched for that first kiss, I knew I was in trouble. It wasn’t long before he became my first love, and I was convinced we were destined to be together. Until one day we weren’t. I’d just never imagined that I’d be the one letting him go. And so soon after I’d told my parents that if they couldn’t accept Alex into their lives, it was the same as not accepting me. Timing could be a real bitch sometimes.

A group of aunties who were crowded around Dipti burst into laughter. She was only five and a half months pregnant, so I’d thought I’d have a few more weeks to mentally gear up for this trip back home, but my mother had insisted on having the shower before our family­ well, everyone except me-went to India for my cousin’s wedding later that week. She’d consulted a priest, who’d consulted the stars, and today, Sunday, November 25, was the only auspicious date that aligned with both the cosmic universe and her social calendar.

So there I was, back in the house I’d been desperate to leave after high school, standing guard over the ever-growing mountain of onesies, rattling plastic toys, and other tiny treasures.

A chilly breeze wafted in when the door opened again. Small bumps formed along my arms. I’d lived in Southern California for nearly a decade now and couldn’t handle even a hint of the approaching Illinois winter.

“Miss Preeti!” Monali Auntie, my mom’s best friend, called as she kicked off her champals outside the front door near the other jeweled and beaded sandals before scurrying into the house. She had always been like a second, cooler, more approachable mother to me and was one of the few people I had been looking forward to seeing at this party.

“Where is your sari?” Monali Auntie asked, eyeing the sapphire panjabi I wore instead of an intricate, elaborate sari like the rest of the women in the room were wearing. She clucked her tongue before spreading her arms wide and swaddling me in a warm, caring hug. I made sure my hands steered clear of her hair, which was pulled back into a tight chignon that she had probably spent hours perfecting, and I knew better than to be responsible for a hair falling out of place. The spicy smell of cinnamon and doves lingered on her skin as if she had spent all day in the kitchen.

“The same place as your coat,” I said, raising an eyebrow. She was the first person to arrive without a jacket.

“Oy, you! Do you know how much time I spent draping this sari around my body?” She put a hand on her slender hip and posed for effect. “You think I’m going to get wrinkles on it after all that work?” She flicked her hand, dismissing the thought.

I laughed, expecting nothing less. Monali Auntie had three sons and had always insisted that because she didn’t have a daughter to pass her looks on to, she had a duty to maintain her style. Sacrificing comfort in the name of fashion was just one of those burdens.

Leaning closer to her, I whispered, “Well, I didn’t want to say it too loudly, but your sari does look much neater than everyone else’s.” How any woman managed to wrap six meters of fabric around her body without a team of NASA engineers had always been a mystery to me, but Monali Auntie managed to pull it off solo. Anytime I’d been in a sari, it had taken my mother and at least one other person to wrangle me into it.

Her lips stretched into a satisfied smile as she smoothed the thick bundle of pleats cascading from her waist to the floor. Then she tugged the delicate dupatta draped around my neck like a scarf. “I suspect your mother was not very happy with this decision.”

“Is she ever?” My clothes were still traditional Indian wear, but certainly less formal than the sari that was “expected of a respectable woman” my age, as my mother would say.

“Just because you’re a lawyer doesn’t mean you must always argue,” Monali Auntie joked before turning to scan the room. “Now, where is the guest of honor?”

I gestured toward a group of women near the sofa. Dipti’s fuchsia­ and-parrot-green sari flattered her figure despite the mound protruding from her belly. The silk patterned border covered her stomach and left more of her back exposed, as was the customary style of Gujarat­ the state in India where my family and the other women in the room were from. Despite living in America for over twenty years, my parents didn’t have any friends who weren’t Gujarati. Much to my chagrin as a teenager trying to fit into this new country, Devon Avenue gave my parents the option of living in the West without giving up the East, and expecting their children to do the same.

Monali Auntie said, “Come. I need to give her my wishes. And you need to mingle with the guests rather than sitting alone like a lazy peacock.”

I dreaded having to listen to everyone ask me why I wasn’t more like Dipti, why I was thirty and not married, a spinster by Indian standards. They’d whisper behind my back about the poor fate my mother had been dealt. An unwed daughter over the age of twenty-five reflected a failure of the parents. If only they had taught me to cook or clean properly, perhaps then I would have found a nice Gujarati boy by now. And if the fates were kind, might even have popped out a kid or two.

Monali Auntie stood poised to shoot down any excuse. Before I could utter a word, my cell phone vibrated, and my law firm’s number popped up on the screen.

“Sorry, Auntie, it’s work. I need to take this.”

She shook her head and wagged her finger at me while I backed out of the noisy room and into the kitchen.

After closing the door, I whispered into the phone, “So glad it’s you.”

Carrie Bennett, my best friend and partner in crime at work, laughed. “Is your trip down memory lane that bad?”

I slumped against the counter. “It’s as expected. Why are you at the office now?”

“Because being a lawyer sucks. The Warden forgot you were out of town this weekend, so I’m stuck working on some bullshit brief that needs to get filed tomorrow. I’m in your office-where’s our file on the senator case?”

The Warden was the moniker Carrie and I had given our boss, Jared Greenberg. “Thanks for covering,” I said before explaining where she should look to find the documents.

After we finished chatting, I lingered in the kitchen for a few moments, staring out the window at the little wooden swing hanging from the oak tree in our small fence-lined backyard. Burnt-orange and deep-red leaves littered the ground around it. The swing’s chains were rusty from many years of harsh, wet winters. A year after we’d moved into this row house, my father had put it up to remind my mother of the hichko that sat in the garden outside her family’s bungalow in India.

Whenever she received a pale-blue onion skin-thin letter from her family in India, she went straight to that swing and read it over and over until the paper nearly ripped apart at the delicate creases. The swing had been his attempt to make America feel more like home and was one of the only thoughtful gestures I remembered him showing her. Not surprisingly, an arranged marriage coupled with a culture that didn’t accept divorce did not result in many romantic gestures between my parents.

The basement door opened, and my brother, Neel, came through dressed in jeans and a hoodie. He looked so much more comfortable than I felt. I’d have traded places with him in a second. He and my father had been relegated, willingly so, to the basement, where they could watch football while the party was underway.

“Just grabbing more snacks,” he said. “How’s the babyfest going?”

“Awesome,” I said dryly. “I get to sit in a room and watch everyone fawn all over your perfect wife in her perfect sari with her perfect baby on the way.”

Neel picked up a samosa and sank his teeth into the crunchy pastry shell. He had the metabolism of a hummingbird and could probably eat his weight in fried food without it affecting him in the slightest. “If it’s any consolation, she’s less perfect when she’s puking up water and bile in the middle of the night.”

I scrunched my face. “Are you seriously eating while talking about puking bile?”

He shrugged and took another large bite. “Bile is nothing. I see way worse at the hospital. This kid came in on Friday with-“

I held up my palm. “Unless this story ends with the kid having a paper cut, you can stop.”

Our mother walked into the kitchen with a full bag of trash. “What are you doing hiding in here?” she said to me. “People are asking about you.”

After an hour of eavesdropping while I’d sat at the dining table greeting guests, I knew they weren’t, but it wasn’t worth arguing about. “I had to take a call from work.”

It was technically true. But my mother’s sour expression made clear she didn’t approve. She thought I should be more focused on starting a family than on my career. When I had been born, my parents had followed the tradition of having an Indian priest write out my Janmakshar–a horoscope that mapped out my entire life. According to that, like my cousins, I should have married by twenty-five and had two kids by now. Shunning dirty diapers in favor of clean paychecks was only one of many deviations from my Janmakshar.

“Why doesn’t Neel come out and say hi to everyone?” I said, casting him a mischievous grin. ‘Tm sure the aunties want to congratulate him too.”

Neel dashed toward the basement. “Sorry, women only,” he called over his shoulder. ”I’ll talk to them some other time!”

I had taken a step toward the living room when inspiration struck. “I’ll be right there.” I turned and ran up the stairs to my bedroom to get the one thing that would make this party more bearable while having the side effect of pleasing my mother.

With my Canon T90 SLR camera covering most of my face, people hardly noticed me. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of bringing it down sooner. My parents had given it to me for my thirteenth birthday. Presents until that point had been academic workbooks so I could pull ahead of my peers in school. As an immigrant child of immigrant parents, I grew up knowing my future had to be their future. That meant getting the best grades, going to the best college, and getting the best job to ensure the sacrifices they had made for us were validated. Spending even a dollar on something that didn’t further that agenda was unthinkable. When I got the camera, for the first time I understood how my American friends felt on their birthdays, focused more on having fun than being practical. But then the next year I’d started high school, and my birthday present had been the application packets for all the Ivy League colleges. “Never too early to start planning,” my dad had said. It made me cherish the camera even more.

After high school, I’d wanted to become a photographer, but my parents had balked at the idea. “The only wedding photos a decent girl should be taking are the ones she is in!” my mother had said. My father had summed it up more succinctly: “It’s a lower-caste job. Medicine is better.” I could not live in Neel’s shadow any longer than I already had, so medicine was not an option.

After college, I convinced my parents to let me spend a year pursuing photography. Confident I could earn a decent living at it, I pacified them by agreeing to go to law school if it didn’t work out. I’d been twenty-two, full of passion and energy, and so very naive. After interning at a studio in downtown Chicago for what amounted to less than minimum wage, I wasn’t any closer to being able to move out of my parents’ house and support myself. I hated that my mother had been right. For years I hadn’t been able to pick up the camera again, as if my failure was somehow its fault rather than my own. It wasn’t until Alex had encouraged me to start again a year ago that I had. I began slowly, bringing it out when traveling or at the occasional family event I was guilted into attending. Like Dipti’s baby shower. With the cold war between my mother and me in effect, I would never have come were it not for Neel. It was important to him, so no matter how uncomfortable it made me, I had to suck it up. Besides, even I knew not showing up would be crossing a line with my mother in a way that I couldn’t take back. My family was no different from every other Indian family we knew, and putting on the pretense of being a happy family was more important than actually being one. There would have been no greater insult than the shame of her having to explain to her friends why I wasn’t there.

I meandered through the room trying to find the best lighting. Gita Auntie, one of my mother’s friends, animatedly spoke to some of the guests. She was short and slight, well under five feet and one hundred pounds. She looked up at her friends, her eyebrows scrunched, while she gestured wildly. Peering through my lens, I waited for a moment when she appeared calm and happy, her cheeks full of color and a smile on her face, before I clicked the button and released the shutter.

She turned toward the flash, startled. “Oh, Preeti. You must give me warning so I can check my hair. Now come. We take one with all of us.” She put one arm around my mother’s shoulder and beckoned for me with the other.

“Oh, no, no, Auntie. I’m fine behind the lens. Besides, this camera is old and hard to use.”

“Oy, excuses! Keep your camera then. But at least be social.”

It wasn’t an ideal compromise, but I preferred it to pasting on a fake smile that would be preserved for years to come. As I moved closer, Gita Auntie continued her story about another friend’s daughter. “You know, now she will never find a good Indian boy. She’s damaged. What family will allow her to marry their son after she lived with that American boy, hah?”

They all nodded with that side-to-side bobble that to the untrained eye could have been yes or no, but they all understood what was meant by it.

A lump formed in my throat. My mother shifted her gaze toward the worn carpet, a light-tan color that had survived the last couple of decades remarkably well, but that was probably due to the strict no-shoes policy within our home. Her biggest fear was that her friends would find out I wasn’t so different from the girl they were gossiping about, that once everyone knew the truth, I’d be destined to be alone forever. No good Indian family would let me marry their son.

Gita Auntie reached out and cupped my chin with her thumb and index finger and shook my face from side to side. “Our little Hollywood lawyer. When will it be your turn?”

I leaned back to politely break from her grasp. Gita Auntie didn’t believe in personal space, preferring to communicate with her hands rather than her words.

“I work seventy hours a week,” I offered as my excuse.

“You must think more seriously.” She put her hand on my shoulder and then lowered her voice. “You are thirty, no? After that, you know, women lose their luster.”

I bit back the urge to say I had just bought a fancy new moisturizer that promised to keep my “luster” intact for years to come. Instead, I forced out an empty laugh and found myself using Alex’s old coping mechanism. He’d do it whenever he was agitated. It used to drive me crazy, but right now, counting slowly in my head was a better plan than causing a scene and making the day with my mother more uncomfortable than it already was. One, two, three

Monali Auntie must have noticed the troubled look on my face, because she put down her plate and marched over to our group.

“Come. Let me take a photo of you with your family.” She was the only person in the room I would have trusted with my cherished camera. And she knew it.

My mother and Dipti adjusted the pleats on their saris as we stood in a line with my mother in the center. After making sure her clothes were in order, she reached over and took each of our hands, her quintessential family-photo pose. Nothing to give away that she hadn’t spoken to her only daughter in months. After all, what would people think if they knew?

As we stood waiting for the click of the shutter, I could focus on only one thing. It was small. Stupid. I knew that, especially given how the past year had gone. But I couldn’t shake the feeling. She had reached for Dipti’s hand first. Part of me was angry, but another part of me-the analytical side-didn’t blame her. After a long day at the hospital, Dipti still could roll out a paper-thin rotli that puffed evenly when placed on the heat and could dance a flawless twelve-step garba routine. Even if I’d been given a week to prepare, I couldn’t have done either of those things. And she never talked back to my mother. Ever.

I gritted my teeth. Twelve, thirteen, fourteen

It seemed obvious that even though I was the daughter she had, Dipti was the one she wanted.

Excerpt from The Taste of Ginger by Mansi Shah.
Copyright © 2022 by Mansi Shah.
Published by Lake Union Publishing
Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

 

Meet The Author

Author: Mansi Shah

Mansi Shah is a writer who lives in Los Angeles. She was born in Toronto, Canada, was raised in the midwestern United States, and studied at universities in Australia and England. When she’s not writing, she’s traveling and exploring different cultures near and far, experimenting on a new culinary creation, or trying to improve her tennis game. For more information, visit her online at mansikshah.com.

Connect with the Author:

Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter | Author Website

 

This excerpt brought to you by TLC Book Tours

 

Book Spotlight: THE LONDON HOUSE by Katherine Reay

THE LONDON HOUSE by Katherine ReayThe London House by Katherine Reay
ISBN: 9780785290209 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780785290216 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780785290223 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08ZMC97BZ (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B0914Q3K3C (Audible audiobook)
Release Date: November 2, 2021
Publisher: Harper Muse
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | World War II | Women’s Fiction

Uncovering a dark family secret sends one woman through the history of Britain’s World War II spy network and glamorous 1930s Paris to save her family’s reputation.

Caroline Payne thinks it’s just another day of work until she receives a call from Mat Hammond, an old college friend and historian. But pleasantries are cut short. Mat has uncovered a scandalous secret kept buried for decades: In World War II, Caroline’s British great-aunt betrayed family and country to marry her German lover.

Determined to find answers and save her family’s reputation, Caroline flies to her family’s ancestral home in London. She and Mat discover diaries and letters that reveal her grandmother and great-aunt were known as the “Waite sisters.” Popular and witty, they came of age during the interwar years, a time of peace and luxury filled with dances, jazz clubs, and romance. The buoyant tone of the correspondence soon yields to sadder revelations as the sisters grow apart, and one leaves home for the glittering fashion scene of Paris, despite rumblings of a coming world war.

Each letter brings more questions. Was Caroline’s great-aunt actually a traitor and Nazi collaborator, or is there a more complex truth buried in the past? Together, Caroline and Mat uncover stories of spies and secrets, love and heartbreak, and the events of one fateful evening in 1941 that changed everything.

In this rich historical novel from award-winning author Katherine Reay, a young woman is tasked with writing the next chapter of her family’s story. But Caroline must choose whether to embrace a love of her own and proceed with caution if her family’s decades-old wounds are to heal without tearing them even further apart.

 

Watch the trailer

Advance Praise

“Carefully researched, emotionally hewn, and written with a sure hand, The London House is a tantalizing tale of deeply held secrets, heartbreak, redemption, and the enduring way that family can both hurt and heal us. I enjoyed it thoroughly.”— Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Vanishing Stars and The Book of Lost Names

“An expertly researched and marvelously paced treatise on the many variants of courage and loyalty . . . Arresting historical fiction destined to thrill fans of Erica Roebuck and Pam Jenoff.”— Rachel McMillan, author of The London Restoration and The Mozart Code

“Reay’s fast-paced foray into the past cleverly reveals a family’s secrets and how a pivotal moment shaped future generations. Readers who enjoy engrossing family mystery should take note.”— Publisher’s Weekly

Meet the Author

Author Katherine Reay
Author Katherine Reay

Katherine Reay is the national bestselling and award-winning author of Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy and Jane, The Brontë Plot, A Portrait of Emily Price, The Austen Escape, and The Printed Letter Bookshop. All Katherine’s novels are contemporary stories with a bit of classical flair. Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and is a wife, mother, former marketer, and avid chocolate consumer. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine now happily resides outside Chicago, IL.

Connect with the author at: BookBub | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter | Website

This book spotlight brought to you by AustenProse

Guest Post: D.M. Barr – MURDER WORTH THE WEIGHT

Murder Worth the Weight by D.M. Barr BannerGood day, book people. Can you believe we almost to the end of another month? Time really seems to be flying by lately and, for some reason, I don’t have enough time to read all the books I want to read. I hope you’re not having a similar problem. As we enjoy the cooler weather, it’s the perfect time of year to cuddle up under a blanket, grab your favorite beverage, and catch up on our reading. Today, I’ll hope you’ll cuddle with your blanket and beverage and visit awhile with today’s guest author. I’m delighted to welcome back to the blog today’s guest, D.M. Barr, the incredibly gifted and talented author of Murder Worth the Weight. Ms. Barr will be discussing side plots with us today. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to say, and suggest you add Murder Worth the Weight to your Fall TBR read list. Thank you, Ms. Barr, for returning today, I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

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One of my favorite side plots from Murder Worth the Wait involves Benji’s, the dueling piano bar that’s featured in the story. It’s not only a setting for many of the scenes, but the pianists play a role as well.

My husband first discovered the dueling piano bar concept on a business trip, where he encountered one of the many Howl at the Moon clubs. Being a skilled piano player and songwriter (when he isn’t being a lawyer—check out www.broadjam.com/biggerinperson if you’d like to hear his work), he came home and excitedly described the concept to me: Two pianos, facing each other, played by very adept and personable pianists who could improvise (both musically and comically) on demand, take requests from the audience, and invite audience participation. A third musician, often a drummer, accompanied the pianists. Requests that were accompanied by payment often got played more quickly and a grand time is had by all, although because commentary by the performers could turn ribald, it was definitely an R-rated experience.

My husband Josh doesn’t get enthusiastic all that often (read: never) so I took note and on our next vacation, I booked our family aboard a European cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Epic, which featured both Howl at the Moon and a version of Second City, an improv comedy venue (we met studying improv; he was with the touring company of Chicago City Limits where I was a groupie and a student.) On our first night aboard, we attended our first HATM performance, where I submitted a $20 bill along with request that read, “Please play Johnny Be Good” though I’ve never known anyone to play it better than my husband.” My ploy worked because the next thing we knew, they invited Josh on stage to play, and his talent must have surprised them because from that night on, they called him up every performance to play (usually Elton John songs, because that’s his specialty) and dubbed him “Big Daddy.”

Did I mention I’m a groupie? Seeing my husband on stage brought back memories of how we met, when he played piano for Chicago City Limit’s touring company and improvised music along with their skits. I was even prouder when the Howl at the Moon performers, Orin Sands, James Sakal, and Rhonda Hughes, invited my son on stage to play and sing Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” Even my daughter got in on the act, really letting loose and belting a few numbers. We’d close down the venue at 1:00 a.m. and then go for late night munchies with the performers. Josh started getting recognized by other cruisers. It was truly our best vacation ever.

The HATM performers became friends after the cruise, and we’ve sailed with them and other dueling pianists (Whitney Maxwell and James Byrom, to name a few) on various NCL cruises. And yes, they still call “Big Daddy” up to the stage every night when they’re performing and we’re in the audience, something for which I’m everlastingly grateful since it gives my husband an opportunity to perform. When I had the opportunity to commemorate our friendship by featuring them in Murder Worth the Weight, I jumped at it and am glad to say they were good sports and were okay with how I portrayed them—especially James who in real life, in not the diva in any way. Thank goodness he has a great sense of humor.

Another side plot in the book involves Rachel and her Cockney Rhyming Slang. My first boyfriend was a cadet-officer on the Queen Elizabeth II (QE2…yeah, I love ships) and he introduced me to this form of communication when I was just eighteen. Some readers take a bit of time catching on, but I loved embellishing this character’s quirkiness with this blast from my past. For those who want to learn more about Cockney Rhyming Slang, you can check out some phrases here: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jun/09/guide-to-cockney-rhyming-slang and here: https://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kemmer/Words04/usage/slang_cockney.html. Enjoy!

Murder Worth the Weight

by D.M. Barr

September 13 – October 8, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Murder Worth the Weight by D.M. Barr

Whenever Terry Mangel’s body acceptance revival meeting rolls into town, local diet execs and “fat shamers” turn up dead, often in grotesque, ironic ways. All single murders in small suburbs, no one’s noticed a pattern, until rookie investigative reporter Camarin Torres takes a closer look.

Torres is a crusader against discrimination. She reluctantly accepts a job offered by handsome publisher Lyle Fletcher, a man with a vendetta, who sees the recent college grad as salvation for Trend, his fledgling fashion magazine. Torres, however, detests everything the publication stands for, and joins solely to transform its judgmental, objectifying content.

As an unexpected romance blossoms, the overconfident, justice-hungry reporter defies orders and infiltrates Mangel’s world, only to find herself in the cross hairs of a vigilante group targeting the $60 billion diet industry. To this vindictive mob, murder is definitely worth the weight. But as Torres soon learns, unmasking the killer may save her life but shatter her heart: every clue seems to implicate Fletcher, her mercurial mentor and lover, as the group’s mastermind.

Previously published as Slashing Mona Lisa

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Romantic Suspense, Psychological Suspense, Women’s Fiction
Published by: Punctuated Publishing
Publication Date: 08/09/2021
Number of Pages: 340
ISBN: 9780997711868
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | BookDepository.com | Goodreads | !ndigo ebook | Kobo ebook

Author Bio:

D.M. Barr

By day, a mild-mannered salesperson, wife, mother, rescuer of senior shelter dogs, competitive trivia player and author groupie, happily living just north of New York City. By night, an author of sex, suspense and satire. My background includes stints in travel marketing, travel journalism, meeting planning, public relations and real estate. I was, for a long and happy time, an award-winning magazine writer and editor. Then kids happened. And I needed to actually make money. Now they’re off doing whatever it is they do (of which I have no idea since they won’t friend me on Facebook) and I can spend my spare time weaving tales of debauchery and whatever else tickles my fancy. The main thing to remember about my work is that I am NOT one of my characters. For example, unlike as a real estate broker, I’ve never played Bondage Bingo in one of my empty listings. As a yo-yo dieter, I’ve never offed anyone at my local diet clinic. While I’m a bit paranoid, I’ve never suspected my husband of wanting to murder me for my inheritance. Well, that’s not entirely true, but let’s go with that for now. And while I’ve volunteered at senior centers, I’ve never mastered the hula hoop. But that’s not to say I haven’t wanted to…

Catch Up With D.M. Barr:
DMBarr.com
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BookBub – @DMBarr
Instagram – @authordmbarr
Twitter – @authordmbarr
Facebook – @authordmbarr

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Book Recommendations: April 2021

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My apologies, my bookish peeps, I’ve fallen behind on writing reviews due to these incessant daily migraine headaches and another bout of bronchitis. Having a migraine every day is bad enough, add in hacking up a lung (at least that’s what it feels like at times), and it just adds to the joy. Of course, it could be so much worse and I’m incredibly grateful it isn’t. To make a long-story shorter, in lieu of reviews, I’ll simply be posting the synopsis of a few of the books I’ve read that I’m recommending you add to your TBR list, if these titles aren’t already there.

Okay, I have two recommendations for you romance lovers. First up is the final book in the Brown Sisters trilogy by Talia Hibbert, Act Your Age, Eve Brown. If you haven’t read the previous two books in this series, Get A Life, Chloe Brown and Take A Hint, Dani Brown, then you’ll want to add those to your list as well. These stories feature flawed, but realistic characters that are trying their best to cope in a world that doesn’t often make room for differently-sized, neurodiverse/neurodivergent, or differently-abled people. What more can I say other than these are great diverse romance reads.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown, The Brown Sisters #3, by Talia Hibbert
ISBN: 9780062941275 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780062941282 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062941299 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781799971085 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B089WJ184B (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B089SYX5F5 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Avon Romance
Release Date: March 9, 2021

In USA Today bestselling author Talia Hibbert’s newest rom-com, the flightiest Brown sister crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner and has him falling hard—literally.

Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how.

Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.

Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help . Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | Audiobooks.com | AudiobooksNow.com | BookDepository.com | Downpour Audiobook | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Read an excerpt here.


My next romance recommendation is the first book in a new series by award-winning romance author Sandra Kitt. Winner Takes All kicks off the Millionaires Club series. This is nice, tender, and sometimes emotional diverse romance from an author that has written quite a number of tender, emotional romances.

Winner Takes All, The Millionaires Club #1, by Sandra Kitt
ISBN: 9781728214887 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781728214894 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781662081477 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781662081828 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08SR9CXWF (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08DHGVN2L (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: April 6, 2021

“Great story-telling of the most romantic kind.”—Brenda Jackson, New York Times bestselling author

“A warm-hearted story and a clever plot reflecting current issues with sensitivity, warmth, and wisdom.”—Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jean Travis has the job of announcing the latest lottery winner on TV and is stunned to find that Patrick Bennett, her teenage crush, is the top mega winner. They haven’t seen each other in years, and Patrick is thrilled to renew their acquaintance. Jean, not so much. After all, a lot has changed since they used to study together and Jean worked so hard to hide her feelings. Now that he’s won so much money, Patrick faces a whole new world of demands from family, friends, coworkers, strangers. The only person he knows for sure he can trust, is Jean…

“Romantic, tender, emotional, and compelling.”—RaeAnne Thayne, New York Times bestselling author

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The previous books have already been released and are available for purchase in multiple print and digital formats. The next book won’t be available for some months, but I highly recommend adding it to your TBR list and pre-ordering it especially if you’ve ever read anything by this author in the past. The book is The Passing Storm by Christine Nolfi and this could be categorized as women’s fiction and/or family fiction. I simply classify it as a darn good read. It is a story about secrets, forgiveness (of others and of self), tragedy, survival, second chances, love, and family being more than DNA. Although this book won’t release until November, it will be worth the wait.

The Passing Storm by Christine Nolfi
ISBN: 9781542029124 (paperback)
ASIN: B08SXRK8M1 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08MZPFY3J (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: November 1, 2021

A gripping, openhearted novel about family, reconciliation, and bringing closure to the secrets of the past.

Early into the tempestuous decade of her thirties, Rae Langdon struggles to work through a grief she never anticipated. With her father, Connor, she tends to their Ohio farm, a forty-acre spread that itself has enjoyed better days. As memories sweep through her, some too precious to bear, Rae gives shelter from a brutal winter to a teenager named Quinn Galecki.

Quinn has been thrown out by his parents, a couple too troubled to help steer the misunderstood boy through his own losses. Now Quinn has found a temporary home with the Langdons—and an unexpected kinship, because Rae, Quinn, and Connor share a past and understand one another’s pain. But its depths—and all its revelations and secrets—have yet to come to light. To finally move forward, Rae must confront them and also fight for Quinn, whose parents have other plans in mind for their son.

With forgiveness, love, and the spring thaw, there might be hope for a new season—a second chance Rae believed in her heart was gone forever.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | BookDepository.com | !ndigo


Needless to say, I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading and could recommend many more titles, but felt this would be a good start until I get back to normal-for-me. I hope you’ll enjoy reading these books as much as I did. (Psst, if you enjoy reading nonfiction then you might want to grab a copy of The Black Church by Henry Louis Gates Jr. This book is an excellent companion to the recent PBS special and has some fascinating historical tidbits.) Have you read anything lately that you can recommend?

Happy Reading, y’all!

Book Showcase: THE WRONG KIND OF WOMAN by Sarah McCraw Crow

The Wrong Kind of Woman by Sarah McCraw Crow
ISBN: 9780778310075 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781488062469 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488209987 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B087QSYPND   (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B0813VJ2Q8   (Kindle edition)
Publisher: MIRA Books/HarperCollins
Publication Date: October 6, 2020

A powerful exploration of what a woman can be when what she should be is no longer an option

In late 1970, Oliver Desmarais drops dead in his front yard while hanging Christmas lights. In the year that follows, his widow, Virginia, struggles to find her place on the campus of the elite New Hampshire men’s college where Oliver was a professor. While Virginia had always shared her husband’s prejudices against the four outspoken, never-married women on the faculty—dubbed the Gang of Four by their male counterparts—she now finds herself depending on them, even joining their work to bring the women’s movement to Clarendon College.

Soon, though, reports of violent protests across the country reach this sleepy New England town, stirring tensions between the fraternal establishment of Clarendon and those calling for change. As authorities attempt to tamp down “radical elements,” Virginia must decide whether she’s willing to put herself and her family at risk for a cause that had never felt like her own.

Told through alternating perspectives, The Wrong Kind of Woman is an engrossing story about finding the strength to forge new paths, beautifully woven against the rapid changes of the early ’70s.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned:   IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Audible  |  BookDepository  |  Books-A-Million  |  Downpour Audiobook  |  eBooks  |  Google Play  |  !ndigo  |  Kobo Audiobook  |  Kobo eBook



Read an Excerpt


Chapter One
November 1970 Westfield, New Hampshire

OLIVER DIED THE SUNDAY after Thanksgiving, the air heavy with snow that hadn’t fallen yet. His last words to Virginia were “Tacks, Ginny? Do we have any tacks?”

That morning at breakfast, their daughter, Rebecca, had complained about her eggs—runny and gross, she said. Also, the whole neighborhood already had their Christmas lights up, and why didn’t they ever have outside lights? Virginia tuned her out; at thirteen, Rebecca had reached the age of comparison, noticing where her classmates’ families went on vacation, what kinds of cars they drove. But Oliver agreed about the lights, and after eating his own breakfast and Rebecca’s rejected eggs, he drove off to the hardware store to buy heavy-duty Christmas lights.

Back at home, Oliver called Virginia out onto the front porch, where he and Rebecca had looped strings of colored lights around the handrails on either side of the steps. Virginia waved at their neighbor Gerda across the street— on her own front porch, Gerda knelt next to a pile of balsam branches, arranging them into two planters—as Rebecca and Oliver described their lighting scheme. Rebecca’s cheeks had gone ruddy in the New Hampshire cold, as Oliver’s had; Rebecca had his red-gold hair too.

“Up one side and down the other,” Rebecca said. “Like they do at Molly’s house—”

“Tacks, Ginny? Do we have any tacks?” Oliver interrupted. In no time, he’d lost patience with this project, judging by the familiar set of his jaw, the frown lines corrugating his forehead.

A few minutes later, box of nails and hammer in hand, Virginia saw Oliver’s booted feet splayed out on the walk, those old work boots he’d bought on their honeymoon in Germany a lifetime ago. “Do you have to lie down like that to—” she began, while Rebecca squeezed out from between the porch and the overgrown rhododendron.

“Dad?” Rebecca’s voice pitched upward. “Daddy!”

Virginia slowly took in that Oliver was lying half on the lawn, half on the brick walk, one hand clutching the end of a light string. Had he fallen? It made no sense, him just lying there on the ground like that, and she hurtled down the porch steps. Oliver’s eyes had rolled back so only the whites showed. But he’d just asked for tacks, and she hadn’t had time to ask if nails would work instead. She crouched, put her mouth to his and tried to breathe for him. Something was happening, yes, maybe now he would turn out to be just resting, and in a minute he’d sit up and laugh with disbelief.

Next to her, Rebecca shook Oliver’s shoulder, pounded on it. “Dad! You fainted! Wake up—”

“Go call the operator,” Virginia said. “Tell them we need an ambulance, tell them it’s an emergency, a heart attack, Becca! Run!” Rebecca ran.

Virginia put her ear to Oliver’s chest, listening. A flurry of movement: Gerda was suddenly at her side, kneeling, and Eileen from next door, then Rebecca, gasping or maybe sobbing. Virginia felt herself being pulled out of the way as the ambulance backed into the driveway and the two paramedics bent close. They too breathed for Oliver, pressed on his chest while counting, then lifted him gently onto the backboard and up into the ambulance.

She didn’t notice that she was holding Rebecca’s hand on her one side and Eileen’s hand on the other, and that Gerda had slung a protective arm around Rebecca. She barely noticed when Eileen bundled her and Rebecca into the car without a coat or purse. She didn’t notice the snow that had started to fall, first snow of the season. Later, that absence of snow came back to her, when the image of Oliver lying on the bare ground, uncushioned even by snow, wouldn’t leave her.


Aneurysm. A ruptured aneurysm, a balloon that had burst, sending a wave of blood into Oliver’s brain. A subarachnoid hemorrhage. She said all those new words about a thousand times, along with more familiar words: bleed and blood and brain. Rips and tears. One in a million. Sitting at the kitchen table, Rebecca next to her and the coiled phone cord stretched taut around both of them, Virginia called one disbelieving person after another, repeated all those words to her mother, her sister Marnie, Oliver’s brother, Oliver’s department chair, the people in her address book, the people in his.

At President Weissman’s house five days later, Virginia kept hold of Rebecca. Rebecca had stayed close, sleeping in the middle of Virginia and Oliver’s bed as if she were little and sleepwalking again, her shruggy new adolescent self forgotten. They’d turned into a sudden team of two, each one circling, like moons, around the other.

Oliver’s department chair had talked Virginia into a reception at President Weissman’s house, a campus funeral. In the house’s central hall, Virginia’s mother clutched at her arm, murmuring about the lovely Christmas decorations, those balsam garlands and that enormous twinkling tree, and how they never got the fragrant balsam trees in Norfolk, did they, only the Fraser firs—

“Let’s go look at the Christmas tree, Grandmomma.” Rebecca took her grandmother’s hand as they moved away. What a grown-up thing to do, Virginia thought, glad for the release from Momma and her chatter.

“Wine?” Virginia’s sister Marnie said, folding her hand around a glass. Virginia nodded and took a sip. Marnie stayed next to her as one person and another came close to say something complimentary about Oliver, what a wonderful teacher he’d been and a great young historian, an influential member of the Clarendon community. And his clarinet, what would they do without Oliver’s tremendous clarinet playing? The church service had been lovely, hadn’t it? He sure would have loved that jazz trio.

She heard herself answering normally, as if this one small thing had gone wrong, except now she found herself in a tunnel, everyone else echoing and far away. Out of a clutch of Clarendon boys, identical in their khakis and blue blazers, their too-long hair curling behind their ears, one stepped forward. Sam, a student in her tiny fall seminar, the Italian Baroque.

“I—I just wanted to say…” Sam faltered. “But he was a great teacher, and even more in the band—” The student-faculty jazz band, he meant.

“Thank you, Sam,” she said. “I appreciate that.” She watched him retreat to his group. Someone had arranged for Sam and a couple of other Clarendon boys to play during the reception, and she hadn’t noticed until now.

“How ’bout we sit, hon.” Marnie steered her to a couch. “I’m going to check on Becca and Momma and June—” the oldest of Virginia’s two sisters “—and then I’ll be right back.”

“Right.” Virginia half listened to the conversation around her, people in little clumps with their sherries and whiskeys. Mainframe, new era, she heard. Then well, but Nixon, and a few problems with the vets on campus. She picked up President Weissman’s voice, reminiscing about the vets on campus after the war thirty years ago. “Changed the place for the better, I think,” President Weissman said. “A seriousness of purpose.” And she could hear Louise Walsh arguing with someone about the teach-in that should have happened last spring.

Maybe Oliver would appreciate being treated like a dignitary. Maybe he’d be pleased at the turnout, all the faculty and students who’d shown up at the Congregational Church at lunchtime on a Friday. Probably he wished he could put Louise in her place about the teach-in. Virginia needed to find Rebecca, and she needed to make sure Momma hadn’t collapsed out of holiday party–funeral confusion. But now Louise Walsh loomed over her in a shapeless black suit, and she stood up again to shake Louise’s hand. “I just want to say how sorry I am,” Louise said. “I truly admired his teaching and—everything else. We’re all going to miss him.”

“Thank you, Louise.” Virginia considered returning the compliment, to say that Oliver had admired Louise too. Louise had tenure, the only woman in the history department, the only woman at Clarendon, to be tenured. Louise had been a thorn in Oliver’s side, the person Oliver had complained about the most. Louise was one of the four women on faculty at Clarendon; the Gang of Four, Oliver and the others had called them.

Outside the long windows, a handful of college boys tossed a football on a fraternity lawn across the street, one skidding in the snow as he caught the ball. Someone had spray-painted wobbly blue peace signs on the frat’s white clapboard wall, probably after Kent State. But the Clarendon boys were rarely political; they were athletic: in their baggy wool trousers, they ran, skied, hiked, went gliding off the college’s ski jump, human rockets on long skis. They built a tremendous bonfire on the Clarendon green in the fall, enormous snow sculptures in the winter. They stumbled home drunk, singing. Their limbs seemed loosely attached to their bodies. Oliver had once been one of those boys.

“Come on, pay attention,” Marnie said, and she propelled Virginia toward President Weissman, who took Virginia’s hands.

“I cannot begin to express all my sympathy and sadness.” President Weissman’s eyes were magnified behind his glasses. “Our firmament has lost a star.” He kissed her on the cheek, pulling a handkerchief from his jacket pocket, so she could wipe her eyes and nose again.


At the reception, Aunt June kept asking Rebecca if she was doing okay, and did she need anything, and Aunt Marnie kept telling Aunt June to quit bothering Rebecca. Mom looked nothing like her sisters: Aunt Marnie was bulky with short pale hair, Aunt June was petite, her hair almost black, and Mom was in between. Rebecca used to love her aunts’ Tidewater accents, and the way Mom’s old accent would return around her sisters, her vowels stretching out and her voice going up and down the way Aunt June’s and Aunt Marnie’s voices did. Rebecca and Dad liked to tease Mom about her accent, and Mom would say I don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t sound anything like June. Or Marnie. But especially not June.

Nothing Rebecca thought made any sense. She couldn’t think about something that she and Dad liked, or didn’t like, or laughed about, because there was no more Dad. Aunt Marnie had helped her finish the Christmas lights, sort of, not the design she and Dad had shared, but just wrapped around the porch bannisters. It looked a little crazy, actually. Mom hadn’t noticed.

“Here’s some cider, honey,” Aunt June said. “How about some cheese and crackers? You need to eat.”

“I’m okay,” Rebecca said. “Thanks,” she remembered to add.

“Have you ever tried surfing?” Aunt June asked. “The boys—” Rebecca’s cousins “—love to surf. They’ll teach you.” “Okay.” Rebecca wanted to say that it was December and there was snow on the ground, so there was no reason to talk about surfing. Instead she said that she’d bodysurfed with her cousins at Virginia Beach plenty of times, but she’d never gotten on a surfboard. As far as she could tell, only boys ever went surfing, and the waves at Virginia Beach were never like the waves on Hawaii Five-0. Mostly the boys just sat on their surfboards gazing out at the hazy-white horizon, and at the coal ships and aircraft carriers chugging toward Norfolk.

“You’ll get your chance this summer—I’ll bet you’ll be a natural,” Aunt June said.

Things would keep happening. Winter would happen. There would be more snow, and skiing at the Ski Bowl. The town pond would open for skating and hockey. The snow would melt and it would be spring and summer again. They’d go to Norfolk for a couple of weeks after school let out and Mom would complain about everything down there, and get into a fight with Aunt June, and they’d all go to the beach, and Dad would get the most sunburned, his ears and the tops of his feet burned pink and peely…

“Let’s just step outside into the fresh air for a minute, sweetheart,” Aunt June said, and Rebecca stood up and followed her aunt to the room with all the coats, one hand over her mouth to hold in the latest sob, even after she and Mom had agreed they were all cried out and others would be crying today, but the two of them were all done with crying. She knew that the fresh air wouldn’t help anything.

Excerpt from The Wrong Kind of Woman by Sarah McCraw Crow. 

Copyright © 2020 by Sarah McCraw Crow. 

Published by MIRA Books/HarperCollins. 

All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.




Meet The Author

Sarah McCraw Crow grew up in Virginia but has lived most of her adult life in New Hampshire. Her short fiction has run in Calyx, Crab Orchard Review, Good Housekeeping, So to Speak, Waccamaw, and Stanford Alumni Magazine. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Stanford University and is finishing an MFA degree at Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably gardening or snowshoeing (depending on the weather).




Connect to the author via her website, Goodreads, Instagram, and Twitter

This excerpt brought to you by MIRA Books/HarperCollins

2019 Book 233: A PURE HEART by Rajia Hassib

A Pure Heart by Rajia Hassib  
ISBN: 9780525560050 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780525560067 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781984889621 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07KDYDDY3 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 6, 2019 
Publisher: Viking Books


A powerful novel about two Egyptian sisters–their divergent fates and the secrets of one family

Sisters Rose and Gameela Gubran could not have been more different. Rose, an Egyptologist, married an American journalist and immigrated to New York City, where she works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gameela, a devout Muslim since her teenage years, stayed in Cairo. During the aftermath of Egypt’s revolution, Gameela is killed in a suicide bombing. When Rose returns to Egypt after the bombing, she sifts through the artifacts Gameela left behind, desperate to understand how her sister came to die, and who she truly was. Soon, Rose realizes that Gameela has left many questions unanswered. Why had she quit her job just a few months before her death and not told her family? Who was she romantically involved with? And how did the religious Gameela manage to keep so many secrets?

Rich in depth and feeling, A Pure Heart is a brilliant portrait of two Muslim women in the twenty-first century, and the decisions they make in work and love that determine their destinies. As Rose is struggling to reconcile her identities as an Egyptian and as a new American, she investigates Gameela’s devotion to her religion and her country. The more Rose uncovers about her sister’s life, the more she must reconcile their two fates, their inextricable bond as sisters, and who should and should not be held responsible for Gameela’s death. Rajia Hassib’s A Pure Heart is a stirring and deeply textured novel that asks what it means to forgive, and considers how faith, family, and love can unite and divide us.




Purchase Links:  IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Audible  |  Barnes and Noble  |  B&N Nook  |  BookDepository  |  Books-A-Million  |  Downpour Audiobook  |  eBooks  |  !ndigo Books  |  Kobo eBook  |  Kobo Audiobook


Fayrouz “Rose” Gubran has had what many may perceive as an idyllic life. She and her sister, Gameela, were raised by loving parents, Nora and Ahmad. Both daughters have received advanced educational studies, Rose in Egyptology/Archeology and Gameela in Engineering. And then when Rose was in her mid-twenties, she met an American reporter, Mark Hatfield. Mark was different from the other men she had met, they fell in love, he converted to Islam so they could get married (Muslim women aren’t allowed to marry non-Muslim men in Egypt), and eventually she was accepted in a doctoral program in the US. She and Mark moved to the States where Rose studied, became a naturalized citizen, changed her name from Fayrouz Gubran to Rose Gubran Hatfield, and eventually became a postdoctoral fellow at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Mark became a reporter with assigned articles at the New York Times but longed for the days when he was reporting on social issues from the Middle East. Gameela, several years younger than Rose, lives through Arab Spring, is no longer as idealistic as she once was, and is possibly in a relationship with a man almost 30 years her senior. After a brief return to Egypt to do a series of freelance articles, Mark returns to the States and weeks later the young man he interviewed (Saaber) is jailed for the simple act of being interviewed by a foreign journalist and attacking one of the arresting officers. Several months later, Gameela is killed in a suicide bomber attack and Mark is feeling guilty that he may have inadvertently had a part to play in her death, Rose is angry at Mark because he may have inadvertently had a part to play in her death (Gameela introduced Mark to the man that introduced him to the young interview subject), and their lives are turned upside down. The only thing Rose can think of doing is trying to uncover the secrets, if any, to her sister’s life in Egypt. Will the answers she finds to bring her peace or simply cause more pain? 

I had the pleasure of reading In the Language of Miracles by Rajia Hassib a few years ago and was blown away by the storyline and characters. I knew that I had to get my hands on a copy of her latest book, A Pure Heart after hearing about it and I’m incredibly grateful to the publisher for supplying me with a print review copy. A Pure Heart is an amazing story for so many reasons, not just because it is well written (although it is). This story asks and answers what makes a good Muslimah (Muslim female) as well as a good daughter/sister/wife/friend. Is it possible to be good at any of these roles and have secrets or change our opinions on what it means to be righteous or pious without being sanctimonious? Is it possible to love someone and still be angry with them for a prolonged period of time? Can we ever be assured that we know someone when we don’t know their deepest, darkest secrets? Do we even need to know those secrets in order to be a good friend/spouse/sibling? There are a lot of issues presented in A Pure Heart and there’s no way too many for me to touch on all of them without revealing too much about this wonderful story. This reader enjoyed getting to know all of the characters, especially Rose, Gameela, Mark, Ingrid, Nora, Ahmad, and Fouad, as well as Saaber. I loved reading about the neighborhoods in Egypt and learning about the poverty-stricken neighborhoods that tourists never see or hear about. I’m hard-pressed to find anything that I didn’t like about this story. As an American Muslimah, it is refreshing to read stories written by Muslims about Muslims and although Islam isn’t front and center in this story, it does play a pivotal role in the lives of the main characters. I encourage you all to grab a copy of A Pure Heart to read, and I’m not just saying that as a Muslim or because the author is a fellow West Virginia resident. I’m recommending this book because it is an outstanding read and one that I think every reader will be able to appreciate. Happy Reading y’all! 


Disclaimer: I received a free print review copy from the publisher, Viking Books. 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.”