Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ten Questions From Tara: Interview with Claire Avery, Authors of Hidden Wives

I have been given the pleasure of posting an interview with these two talented sisters, Mari Hilburn and Michelle Poche, aka Claire Avery. Their first novel, Hidden Wives was just released June of 2010. And what an amazing novel it is! I have posted a review and a giveaway. Those interested in reading the review or entering the giveaway may enter here:

But for those who want to get a little deeper into this touchy subject and learn about the masterminds behind this brilliant debut novel, here are Ten Questions From Tara...

Tara: The "about the author" says that you grew up in a Catholic Fundamentalist group. How similar were your own circumstances to what Rachel and Sara go thru in HW?

M&M: As children, we were raised in an extreme form of Catholicism. Our father was a founding member of this group in Chicago. The whole theme of religious extremism was derived from personal experience. One of the first things we thought of when we heard about polygamy going on in this country was that if our father had been Mormon instead of Catholic, we almost certainly would have been raised in polygamy as fundamentalist Mormons. Our father was drawn to extremism within his faith. Now, we didn’t have to worry about being forced into a plural marriage with someone old enough to be our father or grandfather. But we had other fears. For example, growing up in Chicago, we were always vigilant about the possibility of demonic possession. Over the years, our parents knew many people whom they considered to be possessed by the devil. As children, we frequently heard stories of demonic possession, and our father had assisted in exorcisms with some regularity. We were given books as children warning us that we could become possessed by the devil if we grew too attached to a favorite toy, for example.

Thankfully, we were not physically or sexually abused by our father. In that way, our own father was nothing like Abraham. However, in some ways, he resembled the cult leader, Prophet Silver. Our father was extremely charismatic, a natural leader, and he was a brilliant public speaker. With his charisma, he manage to convince many families from the Chicago community that the apocalypse was near, and that we all needed to pack up and move to rural Arkansas and build a bomb shelter.

Like Rachel and Sara, we were constantly afraid of going to hell if we weren’t devout enough. And like the two sisters in the book, we were taught that women must be submissive to their husbands. But at least our father’s religious dogma didn’t force us to marry men five times our age. We didn’t have to give up our education, freedom or dreams. And if one of us met the love of her life, she was free to marry him. Most importantly, she wouldn’t have to share her husband with sister-wives.

Tara: I loved the way your book brought up racial issues and prejudice. Did something in particular inspire you to take this path?

M&M: During the course of our research, we discovered that certain groups of polygamists are extremely racist, and that racism is integrated into their religious beliefs. We were so sickened by their racist attitudes and beliefs, that we felt compelled to expose them and then try to dismantle them through our characters and their experiences.
Tara: Have you faced any discrimination of your own due to your strict religious upbringing?

M&M: Unlike Sara and Rachel, who were only allowed to attend a fundamentalist Mormon school, we attended a mainstream Catholic school during the week, but on weekends we had to attend services and events with the fundamentalist Catholic group our father co-founded. We kept that part of our lives a secret from our regular school friends. We recognized very early on that the fundamentalist group was very different, even bizarre, and we didn’t want other kids to know about it. During early adolescence, it was harder to keep the strict upbringing a secret. We lived in a commune and some of our friends had parents who didn’t want their children associated with us because of our parents’ extreme beliefs and lifestyle.
Tara: Who is the screenplay writer and what kind of screenplays?

M&M: Michelle has written several screenplays in the past, and they were primarily urban fantasies. We’re currently collaborating on an urban fantasy based on mythology.
Tara: Did you make a visit to Utah while researching this book? If so, where to? What kinds of people did you talk to?

M&M: We’ve been to Salt Lake City and the surrounding areas several times, but while we were researching the book, we corresponded long distance with three women who had escaped polygamy; one of those women, Vicky Prunty, started Tapestry Against Polygamy, a non-profit group in Utah dedicated to supporting women and children who need help as they transition out of polygamy. We also spoke extensively to Andrea Moore-Emmett, also affiliated with Tapestry Against Polygamy, who wrote the book “God’s Brothel.” That book tells the personal stories of many victims who have escaped polygamy.
A website related to the above for those interested:
Tara: Are the two of you planning to collaborate on another novel together? If so, what subject inspires the both of you?

M&M: We are currently in final revisions of another novel dealing with a woman who raises a child for 12 years assuming the girl is her biological daughter. When the child gets sick, she finds out the girl could not possibly be her biological child. We like subjects that deal with difficult, serious issues, especially those dealing with emotional trauma. And we like to do it in a way that hopefully educates the reader about something he or she may not have been familiar with because it’s such an unusual topic, but we also hope that the story has emotional resonance for the reader, as well. We try to have our characters deal with, and maybe even triumph over, almost impossible odds.

***Tara takes a brief moment to squeal with excitement upon receiving word that another book is in the works.***

Tara: Rachel and Sara at times feel jealousy towards each other, namely when Luke first enters the picture. Did you, as sisters, have similar problems growing up?

M&M: Yes! It seems like most sisters have some kind of jealousy towards each other growing up, especially if they’re very close in age, as we are. During adolescence, when boys became involved, it was a problem for awhile. But ultimately, we stopped that, knowing all along that we always had each other to rely on, no matter what.

Tara: Did one of you write Rachel's parts and the other write Sara's?

M&M: We initially intended to each take a character and write primarily on her. But we found that we were getting too attached to our own character and becoming territorial and losing objectivity. In other words, it wasn’t working. So we started over. We divided up the chapters, with both of us writing on each character, and as each first draft of a chapter was written, it was then handed off to the other person for rewrite or a complete overhaul, depending on what was needed.

Tara: I'm a dog mom so anytime I meet someone I ask them, "Do you have pets?"

M&M: We both love dogs and have three big ones between us: a Golden Retriever and two Siberian Huskies-who happened to be sisters, as well.

And that concludes Ten Questions From Tara. I want to thank Claire Avery (M&M) for taking the time to answer these. If any of you readers have any questions yourself, please feel free to post them on here. If you haven't yet read the book, enter my contest ending July 15th or go buy a copy ASAP cause you are SO missing out!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Historical Fiction Hit: The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson

I wasn't expecting much from this to be perfectly honest. My mother found an arc and passed it on to me and upon first glance, I thought it too childish for me. I needed a quick, uncomplicated read just until I could pick up my library books but ended up reading it all day and the library books just sat there.

It is written just like a girl's diary. The diary writer is Piper and she resides in Seattle and it is 1941. Her brother has joined the Navy and is stationed in Pearl Harbor, her father is a minister to a congregation of Japanese people, and life is about to get complicated. When her brother's boat is hit in Pearl Harbor, Piper worries sick about her brother, Hank. It takes forever to find out the details and who survived and who didn't. Meanwhile, in Seattle, caucasians have turned against the Japanese, even the American born. Even tho Piper is worried about her brother and is upset over the Japanese having possibly harmed him, she questions the sudden prejudicy around her. She goes to school and church with these people. They aren't spies..

The American government doesn't see it the same way as Piper does tho. And soon the Japanese are ordered to report for removal. They have one week before they must leave their homes with only what they can carry.
A picture of the Civilian Exclusion Order No. 1 on Brainbridge Island

Most of Piper's Japanese friends end up at Minidoka, a relocation camp near Twin Falls Idaho. Piper's dad decides to follow his congregation with a reluctant Piper in tow. Rather than give away too much information, I will just say that this novel sums up very well a pretty much unknown (untalked about may be a better word) but very important part of American history. Thru Piper's diary, we see the prejudice, the hate, the appalling conditions that the American Japanese faced during this time.


Not all the diary is serious tho. Piper has a school crush, wants to wear lipstick, has a best friend, makes new best friends, and deals with moving to a new place as well as fancies becoming a professional photographer. I also want to mention the historical information and photos in the back of the book. Terrific stuff!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Historical Fiction Hit: How To Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

I have always frowned upon American G.I.s marrying foreign women and bringing them back. Too many of those women seduce or coerce or manipulate their way over here. There are some cases tho, in which the G.I. has his eyes wide open.. so even tho, I don't think these people are marrying for the right reasons (love), whatever floats their boat.. However, my bias did not get in the way of my enjoying this story. I was able to see and understand the other side of the bargain, in this case, Shoko's.

Shoko grew up in a war torn Japan. After Americans exact their revenge on Japan for Pearl Harbor, Shoko is enouraged to work on the American military base and find herself a husband because "America is the way of the future." She turns her back on true love and begins dating a series of American men and obediently takes their photos home to her father so that he may choose her husband. And that is how Charlie, a Navy guy, ended up wed to Shoko.

Upon arriving in the United States, Shoko tries hard to be a perfect wife, dutifully following the instructions in her "How To Be An American Housewife" cookbook with Japanese translations. The United States in the 1950s and 60s was not an easy place for immigrants tho, nor was it peaches and cream for her half Japanese children. Shoko doesn't exactly get the dream life she thought she would but does the best she can. However, in the back of her head, she misses her family and wishes to make amends with her brother who disowned her for marrying an American.

As a result of a toxic bomb that was dropped a mere 50 miles from her home during world war 2, Shoko has a heart issue. She is dying and not able to go to Japan one last time. She begs her daughter Sue to go in her place. Sue has issues of her own. She is struggling as a single working mom. Is a trip to Japan what Sue needs to do her own healing? Can she succeed in finding her uncle and mending the rift between her mother and her Japanese family? Shoko is running out of time. Surgery may or may not extend her life. Dying or living in peace all rests on her daughter;s shoulders.

A great and thoroughly engrossing novel about immigration. Thru Shoko we see life for immigrant women in America and the daily struggles they deal with. Thru Sue we experience dealing with a family from two very different cultures and the conflicting emotions that raises.

The author based this book on her real mother, now deceased. In the author's note, the author states that when she was going thru her mother's belongings, she found a cookbook, "The American Way of Housekeeping," written in Japanese and English. Thus, the idea for "How To Be An American Housewife" was born. The original cookbook was published in 1948.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hidden Wives Giveaway and Interview

I picked up a book Sunday evening planning to just read a chapter or two as my current read was very long and growing very dull. Before I knew it, one chapter or two became 155 pages and at 3 am I had to tell myself it was time to go to bed. Monday morning came around, I let the dogs out to pee, I fed them, I sat down and read... and read some more... and fed the dogs again and let them out to pee again and sat down and read some more.. I finished the book, all 350 pages of it (NO SKIPPING OR SKIMMING) late Monday afternoon and I LOVED it. I loved it so much, that I have been in contact with the authors and I am featuring it on here with a giveaway of a signed copy courtesy of the authors. The book is Hidden Wives and the author is Claire Avery. For those that are not familiar with this author, Claire Avery is a pseudonym for two sisters, Mari and Michelle.

Not only have Mari and Michelle honored me with a signed copy to give away to a lucky person who posts a comment and their email address beneath this post, (Winner's name will be drawn and notified July 15th) but they have also agreed to answer some questions. So Sunday, June 27th, Claire Avery will answer Ten Questions from Tara. If any of you readers wish to direct a question their way yourself, post it below. I'll be sure it gets noticed.

Readers can also increase their chances of winning a signed copy of this book by checking out Claire Avery's website: where they may enter another giveaway ending July 1st.

Now, if any of you missed my review over on, then here it is:

Approximately a mile and a half from a town in Utah called Centennial, lies a commuity called Blood of the Lamb in which men are the gods of their households and women are disposable. The "prophet" of this community claims he receives instructions directly from his god and therefore his words are infallible. He has 50 wives. His "apostles" are the richest in the community and they also have many young wives. The more common men in the community have about three or four wives a piece.

Sara and Rachel come from such a household. They have four mothers and one very abusive father. But he is "god" of his house and his word is law.. At 16 years of age, Sara and Rachel are waiting their betrothals. Sara is dismayed to discover she must marry her own uncle. Rachel is beautiful and of course, seventeen different men receive "testments from god" that they are designated to be her husband. Thus, her fate remains in the balance. May the richest "man of god" win.

Sara find herself "buried in truth" (I'm not going to explain that terminology cause it would ruin the story) and begins to think for herself. Does she want to marry her uncle and have deformed babies? No. She wants an education. She wants to read books. She is a headstrong girl and finds herself meeting a young boy from outside the community, a black boy. Here's the deal: Blood of the Lamb community claims that black people are animals.. they are spawn of Satan. (Have you ever heard a more smelly pile of bull crap?) Irvin is his name and he begins to open Sara's eyes even more. There may be a future outside Blood of the Lamb community for her .. Will it involve Irvin?

Rachel is not quite as strong as Sara and she is completely brainwashed by this cult. She will do anything she is told despite her strong her love for a new young man, Luke. With seventeen men claiming "god" wants her to be their wife and 4 of them high ranking apostles, Luke doesn't stand a chance. When Luke speaks his mind and attempts to fight for Rachel, things go sour. Will Rachel ever see the light or is she destined to become wife number 51 to some dirty old brainwashed man?

Sara won't leave without Rachel and women are disposable. Could they even get away if they tried.. without losing their lives? The ending is surprising. Let's just say the you-know-what hits the fan!

An amazing, thought evoking novel. It shocked me to the core. I couldn't decide whether to laugh, cry, scream or gasp half the time. It is well written and really makes one ponder religion and how much people will exploit it. Def one the best reads of 2010.
I purchased this book on /Amazon.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Colony by Jillian Weise

For 5,000 dollars a month, would you go live in a colony and allow scientists to poke, prod, analyze, and attempt to modify or mutate your genes? All in the name of stem cell research, of course. Anne Hatley was born with a genetic mutation. Her bones grow exceedingly fast, but one leg didn't grow. She has a stump and she wears the latest state of the art computerized prosthetic. The year is 2015 and stem cell research knows no bounds. She agrees to go to the Colony for testing. Her genetic makeup for amazing bone growth can help a lot of people.

Upon arrival at the Colony, we meet an interesting and somewhat weird cast of characters. A man suffering alzheimers who keeps mice in his beard, a young woman who carries the "fat gene" even tho she isn't fat, a man capable of committing suicide, and a Harley riding bipolar dude. Away from her somewhat pompous boyfriend for a while, Anne begins an affair with the suicial guy, Nick. So while at the Colony, she not only finds herself poked and prodded and pressured, but also begins having inner issues regarding her relationships. Break it off with Grayson, her longtime boyfriend or take a shot with the spontaneous, possibly suicidal Nick? I used the term "pressured" in a sentence up there. Let me explain. the geneticist in charge of her case wants Anne to not only donate her genes for research, but also attempt to use stem cell research to grow her stump into a leg. Anne agrees to the treament but is it for herself or for everybody else? As Anne clearly states, you can't miss something you have never had and, "I'm use to what I'm used to."

Is it really Anne who has a problem with missing a leg or is it everybody else? Is the pain from the treatment going to be worth it? Anne begins to have some second thoughts when the gal with the fat gene begins to literally rise and hover over the ground. Will she finish what she started? And the Grayson, Nick thing... what to do?

Very interesting look at future possibilities and really makes one think about disabilities and how we perceive them on us and on others. I had only one problem with this book.. Every now and then the heroine would meet and talk with Charles Darwin and this was just too weird for me. Um, the man is dead. Did the Colony dig him up and regenerate him? For me, these parts just didn't fit. Thus, 4/5 stars. I also want to note that the author threw in some great pages of fascinating facts. My personal favorite is about the first record of a fake leg (on a woman!). A Queen Vispali "wore a suit of armor, fought on the front lines, lost her leg to battle, was carried to safety." She then found herself a metalworker and had him fashion her a leg out of iron and returned to battle. Imagine how heavy that was. What balls!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bliss, Remembered by Frank Deford

This is a story about a young Maryland woman in 1936 who gets to be on the American Olympic swim team and go to Berlin for the games.. At the age of 82, she is telling her story for the first time to her son, Teddy. And what a story it is..

Berlin Olympic Stadium, 1936

First of all, I am normally very bothered by stories being told, rather than showed. However, I loved the way this one was done. Sydney tells her son her entire story, but she does it in such a way that the reader can visualize everything. She also injects bits of humor on every page and I found myself smiling or chuckling at the way she worded things. Here's an example: While telling Teddy of her first foray into the girl's locker room at a competition in Chicago, Sydney injects humor into her reminscing of being self conscious about her nakedness, "of course, it was just girls, but girls aren't like boys. I know the way you all are, a bunch of exhibitionists, all runnin' around with your whatzits flyin' in the breeze, thinkin' you're Greek gods, snappin' towels at each other's behinds and so forth, but girls... well, we value a certain amount of privacy..." **Note: I do have an ARC so the above prose may be changed in the final hardcover.**

Anyway, Sydney begins her tale with swimming in the river by her home. What started as a simple hobby and a way to deal with her father's recent death leads to a whole new life when she competes in a nearby local swimming competition. She catches the eye of the right person and soon her life is swim practice and Olympic finals. She even gets to swim and hob nob with Eleanor Holms, a 1932 Olympic champion.

Eleanor Holms on the cover of TIME

Sydney doesn't make the 1936 Olympic team, but when Eleanor Holms has a little too much fun on the nautical voyage to Berlin and angers one very important man, Avery Brundage, Eleanor is kicked off the team (this really happened) and Sydney is on her way to Berlin as her replacement. As luck would have it tho, due to an official technicality and Mr. Brundage acting before doing his research, Sydney is not allowed to swim in the Olympics, but is she allowed to stick with the team. Enter another interesting real life character, Leni Riefenstahl, a German movie producer among other things. Leni is shooting video footage of the swim team and one of Leni's assistants is none other than a very handsome Horst who sweeps Sydney off her feet.

Leni Riefenstahl

After a wonderful, whirlwind romance with Horst and experiencing the 1936 Olympics, Sydney must go home but her love for Horst never ends. However, circumstances have her marrying an American soldier named Jimmy. What happened to Horst? Would it have anything to do with Germany going to war soon after the Olympics? Upon marrying Jimmy, is Horst out of her life? Hearing this tale, Teddy has more questions than answers. He's also a little bit bothered by the fact his mom loved a man other than his father, Jimmy. (And kissed him standing up numerous times! LOL) He takes his mother's written memoirs to read and finish the story. What he reads may shock him and change his opinion of his mother forever...

I was shocked. I was shocked that I was so drawn into this tale about a swimmer, the Olympics, Germany, a summer romance, a love gone bad, the early days of World War 2.. I found myself googling the 1936 Olympics and looking these characters up. I was shocked by ending too. It has nothing to do with swimming or the Olympics. At that point, it's all secrets, intrigue, the war, and one very big surprise. This def gets a 5/5 stars.

And a shout out to the ladies of the 1936 U.S. Olympic swim team.

Katherine Rawls, a member of the 1936 U.S. swim team
I requested and received an arc of this book from Overlook Press. Tho greatful to the publishing company, I am completely unbiased in my review of this book.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Historical Fiction Miss: Ten Cents A Dance

There is a strong moral in this story, important for young girls I imagine: Don't take money from men and not expect to give anything in return. Duh.

The time is 1941, the setting Chicago, and Ruby is 15. She has had to drop out of school to work in a meat packing plant to support her mother and sister. Ruby has an unpleasant attitude. The world owes her something apparently and she is too good to pack pig's feet in jars. A brief in enounter with the local bad boy has her in a dance hall doing taxi dancing. This was interesting to me because I have never heard of it before. It made me think of strip clubs minus the stripping. Apparently, women dressed in swanky gowns, men paid ten cents a dance, copped a feel here and there, tipped the gal, and she put the money in her garter and moved on to the next fellow.

The problem with Ruby is she is too greedy to stop there. Remember the world owes her something and she is gonna get what she feels is her due. She goes out after hours, borrows money from men by making promises she has no intention of keeping. She's a tease. She ends up learning the timeless saying "put out or get out" the hard way.

I couldn't stand Ruby. I get that it's the 1940s but can she really be so dumb? I also didn't like her racist attitude towards Orientals and African Americans. I found myself hoping some fellow would really take his money's worth with her and put her in her place. To top it all off she allows herself to be emotionally abused in a way by the local badboy and keeps running back for more. Her mother is no better, spending her daughter's money to buy dresses and snag herself a man. I guess the apple really doesn't fall far from the tree...

I enjoyed the 1940s dancehall setting, but Ruby... not so much. Thankfully, I got this book from the library.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Stay by Allie Larkin

It's kinda cute how this book arrived at my house.. what with it being related to dogs so I'm starting my review a bit different in order to share the story... One morning this week, as I was catching some badly needed and much appreciated zzzzz's, my pug, Pudgy went ape.

For those that may not already know, I'm deaf and this little pug is my live, four -legged hearing aide. No training whatsoever. Well, she starts barking her head off and jumps on the bed and makes sure I wake up. At first, I think, "Get off me!!! I work ten hours a day, you ungrateful wench! I'll feed you when I get up and am darn good and ready!" Then I realize she is telling me someone is at the door.

Not my front door really but had to throw that in here. Lovely door. Knocking on my door is the Fed Ex guy with a book just for me!! What a great way to start my day!

And the book he had for me was Stay by Allie Larkin and I was so pleased I gave Pudgy a treat. And it is a great book!!!! Now for the review.. (I know, I know, it took forever but I really had to give Pudgy credit where it was due and the book does have a dog as one of the main characters so it works. :) )

This is not a story about a dog really.. but about a young woman struggling with heartbreak, loss, and life in general and the dog helps her thru it.

Van (short for Savanah) has lived her entire life in the background. Her best friend, Jane is the daughter of her mother's former employer. Jane has hogged the spotlight for as long as Van can remember and the spotlight hogging doesn't stop with adulthood. Rather than stop at hogging all the attention and sympathy, Jane has stolen Van's "boyfriend" or the man Van hoped would be her boyfriend. Van's mother has died of breast cancer tho and Jane and her mom, Diane are all Van feels she has in the world and thus finds herself still struggling to please her adopted "family" rather than please herself.

So when Jan and Peter, the love of Van's life, get married, Van finds herself in severe depression. A combination of vodka and the internet brings Joe into Van's life. Joe is a german shepard puppy. In a way, Joe rescues Van. Anyone who has ever been in a bad slump in life and adopted their first dog will completely related to Van and Joe and how Joe changes not only Van's life, but Van herself. (My own Lola gets all credit for making me a better person and making my life worth living at times.)

Thanks to Joe, Van meets a sexy, rugged, loggery type vet named Alex and things take off. However, Peter and Jane come back into the picture and start making their demands again and Van has to learn to say NO and live for herself. Can she do it? If she can't do it, she risks losing Alex forever. After all, we all know how shaky new relationships are..

I must admit to being slightly biased. Throughout this novel, I felt as tho I was reading about myself ten years ago. There was a time before I met my husband that I was often lost in my cups of wine and my very own mother had breast cancer so I could def relate to Van. Memories were also brought to my mind of when I first got my little Lola. I had no clue what to do and rushed to the vet just like Van does. (I did not have a sexy vet tho! Bummer that!) She also curses like a sailor much like myself. I was not bothered by this at all but I can see others getting their panties in a wad over some of the language.

The book is filled with heartache, forgiveness, dealing with the death of a loved one, and humor too. There are many incidents with the new puppy Joe that had me laughing so hard I snorted. I also enjoyed Van's spunk when it came to the surface. My personal favorite quote is from when Van is trying to convince the home owner's association president that she should be allowed to keep her "over the weight limit" dog and she says, "Are the Parker's children listed on their mortgage? Because maybe they need to find their kids a new home too."

I requested and received this book from Penguin Group.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House"What the color is, who the daddy be, who the mama is don't mean nothin'. We a family, carin' for each other. Family make us strong in times of trouble. We all stick together, help each other out. That the real meanin' of family..."

This is not just a historical novel.. it's a novel about family. NOT the family we are born and stuck with, but the family we choose. Those we prefer to surround ourselves with, those who stand by us thru thick and thin... friends.

The year is 1791 and Lavinia is only seven years old when she loses her birth family on a ship sailing from Ireland to America and finds herself an indentured servant to a very disturbing household. Despite the misery around her, Lavinia chooses a new family. Her new family, the people that take her in and care for her as tho she is their own reside in the slave quarters. The women are treated as concubines. The men can be bought and sold on a whim and beaten whenever their "masters" desire. Lavinia's new family has been much abused by the white man, but despite Lavinia's pale skin and red hair, they open their arms to her. There is Mama Mae, Papa George, Belle, Ben, Uncle Jacob, and more touching characters. These people literally go to hell and back everyday. There is no end to their misery, but they are always there for Lavinia.

Lavinia as she grows up finds herself often in the middle of household intrigue. The "master" is rarely home and his wife constantly lies in a drug induced stupor. The daughter meets with tragedy and the son is scarred for life by a cruel and evil tutor. The slave quarters have their own intrigue going on. There are affairs, broken hearts, and many many secrets. The secrets being kept end up hurting more by being hushed than if the truth had come out. Had Belle's and Jaimie's parentages been revealed to certain parties early on, so much heartache and pain could have been avoided...

I don't wish to reveal very much of the plot. It's a book that reveals a little bit by little bit. It's a great debut, but I have one major issue with it. In the last quarter, I began to think Lavinia is just unbelievably blind and dumb. She also becomes very weak. I prefer stronger heroines. When they going gets tough, Lavinia cries while her adopted family runs their arses off and risks their necks to help her out. 

Still a great book and really touches on the family and skin color issues. Color is only an issue if you make it one.

I bought this book on Amazon.