Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom



By now I've learned that whenever I read a novel by Mr. Albom to keep the Kleenex close by. I cried a river over this little book.

It’s the story of Father Time, his punishment and redemption. The first man to attempt to measure God’s greatest gift—Time—is punished for it. He’s banished to live alone in a cave, to listen to every desperate human plea for more time. After 6,000 years have passed, he’s given a chance to redeem himself. Equipped with a magical hourglass, he is sent down to earth to teach two people the true meaning of time and that it’s a precious gift that should never be taken for granted.

Sarah Lemon is a humiliated love-struck teenager poised to commit suicide on the loneliest night of the year—New Year’s.

Victor Delamonte is 89, one of the richest men in the world, dying of terminal cancer and unable to do anything about it. Since he can’t be cured, he turns to cryonics in the hope of cheating death.

Can Father Time save them both from making fatal mistakes? Will he be forgiven at last? I’m not going to spoil it for you.


Mr. Albom has a real gift for writing short novels that go straight for the heartstrings, they grab on and wring tears out of you. At least that’s how they always affect me. Though my own circumstances are rather different, and I’m a long way from seventeen, I could really relate to Sarah’s feelings of hopelessness. I’ve had too many dark nights of the soul not to be affected, especially since New Year’s, the night she chose for her suicide attempt,  is one of the hardest, and loneliest, nights, and days, of the year for me.  I’ll keep this on my bookshelf, alongside Mr. Albom’s The Five People You Meet In Heaven and For One More Day, but I don’t honestly know if I will ever read this one again. It’s beautiful, and many may be moved and find hope within its pages, and I wish I could have, but, for me at least, it bites too deep.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas! Tabby's Christmas Pictures


Here's Tabby, snug in her bed the night before Christmas. Do visions of sugarplums dance in her head?


If so, she'll have to settle for Russell Stover instead.








Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Salome by Beatrice Gormley






History condemns this Biblical era princess for demanding the head of John the Baptist after her seductive Dance of the Seven Veils. But what would Salome herself say if she were given the chance to tell her side of the story?

In this novel, written for a young adult audience, we see, in Salome’s own words, how an innocent teen, who danced in the Temple of Diana, was caught up in a web of intrigue, desire, and greed. Her mother, Herodias, was more like a big sister than a mother to her, and her marital scandals provoked the prophet, John the Baptist, to speak out against her. This angered Herodias so much she was willing to use her pretty, nubile daughter as the instrument to achieve her desires if she had to, even if it ruined her daughter’s reputation forevermore and caused her great emotional pain.

After her infamous dance, and the beheading of John the Baptist, Salome, tormented by bad dreams and visions of his head on a platter, seeks to atone by doing good deeds. And when she hears about a young preacher, Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth, who some even claim is John the Baptist resurrected, Salome decides to seek him out and ask for forgiveness.

Salome emerges from the pages of this novel as a well-intentioned, good-hearted teenage girl, who is more victim than sinner. I’ve noticed in the novels I’ve read about Salome there’s always an excuse not to blame her, something that allows the reader to feel sorry for her and go on liking her, she was drugged or only wanted to please her mother etc. and this novel conforms to that pattern.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New Review & Interview About The Boleyn Bride


The Historical Fiction Obsession blog has published an early review of The Boleyn Bride as well as a new interview with me. 
You can read the interview at http://historicalfictionobsession.blogspot.com/2013/12/interview-with-brandy-purdy-author-of.html and the review at http://historicalfictionobsession.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-boleyn-bride-by-brandy-purdy.html

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots by Carolly Erickson



This is yet another entertaining volume in Ms. Erickson’s outlandish series of historical entertainments. This one is about a woman who throughout history down to the present day has been seen as a martyr, murderess, whore, or a fool, or some combination of all. She’s Elizabeth I’s cousin and rival, and to this day historians and readers of historical fiction side with one against the other; few seem capable of impartiality when faced with these two larger than life characters.

The Mary of this novel is married at fifteen to the Dauphin of France, but he dies soon afterwards of “a worm in the ear” as diagnosed by her mother-in-law, Catherine de Medici’s astrologer, Nostradamus. He reads Mary’s palm and proffers some rather grim news—she was meant to die as a baby, and her survival has upset the natural order of things. The eighteen year old Catholic widow returns to Scotland, but receives a rather dismal welcome from her Protestant subjects, including the Reverend Knox, who protests petticoat. Mary has to fight her own people just to hold her throne. She soon finds herself smitten with her kinsman from England, Lord Darnley, a man so handsome Mary is blind to all his faults. She ignores all warnings that Lord Darnley is just a beautiful piece of sexual bait sent to her by her cousin Elizabeth, and that he fancies boys in the boudoir. They marry, but the union is obviously doomed, and when Darnley dies under mysterious circumstances, Mary’s life becomes a lot more complicated, she is denounced form the pulpits, and becomes a prisoner of her own people, and is forced to flee Scotland with her lover, the Earl of Bothwell, and throw herself on the mercy of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. Then Ms. Erickson, who has been playing fast and loose with the facts throughout, throws them all out the window and sends Mary to Rome, to enjoy the Pope’s hospitality and plot a religious revolution, but when she returns to England to find letters hidden with the corpse of the Queen’s lover’s murdered wife, Amy Robsart Dudley, she is captured and lays her head on the block soon after.

Ms. Erickson’s novels definitely break the tradition of firmly fact based historical fiction, and those who relish picking through the novels they read in the quest for inaccuracies are going to be very busy indeed if they pick up this novel, but those capable of just reading it in the spirit of fun in which it is intended might have some fun with this one, as well as the rest of the series, many of which you can find reviewed on this blog.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Exciting Announcement--Stay Tuned!



First of all I want to thank all of you, my readers, who have come along on the journey through Tudor England with me. Your support has meant so much to me.

But, I have a surprise.

I've decided to leave my Tudor world and sail out into uncharted waters. The Boleyn Bride, out February 25th 2014, will be the last book in my Tudor saga.

By this time next year, I’ll be sharing something entirely new with you, a breath of fresh air, and I couldn't be more thrilled. My publisher, Kensington, has a tentative timeline of November 2014 for release for this new novel and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it.

Now that I've piqued your interest…What is this book about you ask? I’m afraid I can’t say now but I can assure you it has everything you've loved about my previous books…plus more.


Stay Tuned for developments!



Best Wishes,

Brandy Purdy

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas Q&A + Giveaway: The Queen's Pleasure and The Queen's Rivals at The Tudor Enthusiast




The Tudor Enthusiast blog is hosting a special Q&A and giveaway for The Queen's Pleasure and The Queen's Rivals, to read the interview and enter please visit
 http://thetudorenthusiast.weebly.com/1/post/2013/12/christmas-qa-w-brandy-purdy-and-book-giveaways.html

The Apple Crimson Petal Stories by Michel Faber



Mr. Faber’s novel The Crimson Petal and the White is one of my favorites, I hope someday to be able to read it again and review it here on this blog; in my opinion it’s one of the best novels I have ever read, peopled with characters who stay in your mind long after you've read the last page, the kind that keep you wondering what happened after the author chose to end his story.

For those who have not had the pleasure of reading it, The Crimson Petal and the White takes place in the 1870s and tells the story of a remarkable young woman, a prostitute named Sugar, who ends up working in her wealthy lover’s household as governess to his daughter, Sophie. Despite some very vocal reader dissatisfaction with a tantalizingly open ending, Mr. Faber has so far resisted writing a sequel, but he has given readers this slim volume of seven stories that revisit several characters from the original novel. One even proffers some clues about what happened afterwards.

Though I highly recommend reading the novel first, it is not, in my opinion, necessary to do so in order to enjoy these stories. For someone who has read the novel, reading this collection of stories is like being reunited with old friends, and learning a little more about them, and for a newcomer, it’s like meeting someone for the first time and being told a story from their life that makes you want to know even more.

In “Christmas in Silver Street” seventeen-year-old Sugar goes out and buys some Christmas treats for Christopher, the little boy who is employed in her mother’s brothel to collect and deliver the girls’ laundry.

“Clara and the Rat Man” tells about a former lady’s maid, fallen to prostitution, who receives a rather unusual request from one of her clients.

In “Chocolate Hearts From The New World” Dr. Curlew despairs that his plain daughter Emmeline will ever catch a husband. When he learns that she is corresponding with gentlemen in America he finds new reason to hope.

When a fly lands on a whore’s buttocks, it provokes a libertine to contemplate his own mortality and the futility of human existence in “The Fly, and Its Effects Upon Mr. Bodley.”


A female evangelist singing hymns outside the brothel awakens Sugar early one morning in “The Apple.”


“Medicine” finds an apathetic William Rackham sitting at his desk, taking patent medicines, pondering his business problems, and feeling sorry for the turn his life has taken since the coming and going of Sugar.

And in the final, and longest, story, “A Mighty Horde of Women In Very Big Hats Advancing,” Sophie’s son, now an elderly man, looks back upon his life and reminisces about the clash of middle class English respectability, Bohemian artists, and suffragettes that made his childhood so exciting.

Mr. Faber is a very talented author who has written in various genres. Besides this short story collection, and his historical masterpiece, The Crimson Petal and the White, I have also read one of his forays into science fiction, the fascinating and disturbing Under The Skin, and I recommend them all and look forward to reading more of his work in the future.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Another Early Review of The Boleyn Bride by Brandy Purdy



Heather Domin has just posted a review of The Boleyn Bride on her blog at http://heatherdomin.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/book-review-the-boleyn-bride-by-brandy-purdy/
she has reviewed all my novels, from the first, The Confession of Piers Gaveston, to the latest, you can find them all on her blog.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers



This novel certainly was a tangled web, so many lives, so many complications, all tangled up together, but the author did a marvelous job, creating difficult but realistic, thought-provoking situations and characters I could understand and feel for.

Tia made the mistake of falling in love with Nathan, a married man with two sons. To him, she was just an affair. He had no intention of changing his life for her. After she got pregnant, he disappeared after first advising her to have an abortion. Instead of following his advise, Tia gave her daughter up for adoption, and a part of her has regretted it ever since. She’s been drinking and her life has been slowly falling apart ever since and the ghost of Nathan and their relationship has never stopped haunting her; she just hasn't been able to recover and move on.

Five years later, she impulsively sends Nathan copies of the pictures she receives each year from the couple who adopted her daughter. Nathan’s wife, Juliette, has the outwardly perfect life. She’s the part owner of a successful line of organic cosmetics and a happy wife and mother. After Nathan confessed his affair with Tia he promised he would never cheat on her again. Juliette believed him. So when she opens Tia’s letter she is devastated. She never knew there was a child inside, a little girl who looks so much like her own children. How could Nathan reject and deny his daughter? And what others secrets is he hiding? What other lies has he told?

Juliette goes in search of Nathan’s daughter. Savannah, she discovers was adopted by Caroline, a work-driven pathologist dedicated to curing pediatric cancer, and her wealthy businessman husband Peter. But Caroline, has secrets of her own. In her heart, she knows motherhood is the wrong role for her. She just does not enjoy doing mommy things like playing with her daughter, she’d rather be in her lab working.

As the novel progresses, everyone comes together with Savannah at the heart of it all, as the knot tying them all together. Will it all unravel or become an even more tangled mess? It’s definitely worth reading to find out. I enjoyed this one so much that I immediately ordered the author’s previous novel, The Murderer’s Daughters, which I hope to read and review here eventually.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver



In rural Tennessee, Dellarobia Turnbow, a discontented wife and mother, climbs a hill, to keep a rendezvous with a young telephone line repairman. Although she’s only twenty-eight, she feels like she’s given up on all her dreams. At seventeen she planned to go to college but got pregnant and married instead. Now she’s the mother of two children and living on a failing sheep farm.

As she climbs higher up the mountain she beholds an incredible sight, like a wall of shimmering orange flame without heat or smoke, a forest fire that doesn't burn. She takes it as a sign from God and turns back. But whether it’s a God-sent miracle or not, it is a unique natural phenomena that will soon attract the attention of the entire world. Without her glasses on, Dellarobia didn't realize that what she was looking at was masses of monarch butterflies clinging to the trees. They usually go to Mexico, but due to a devastating mud slide and climate changes they have come to Tennessee instead.

As scientists and sightseers gather, Dellarobia begins working part-time in a temporary lab studying the butterflies, and realizes that maybe it’s not too late and the life she once longed for is not beyond her. But it will mean change and sacrifice if she is prepared to make it.

This was an interesting book, both as an unhappily married woman’s personal dilemma and the plight of the Monarch butterflies. At times it seemed a little slow-paced and long to me, but overall it was an enjoyable read.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Stones From The River by Ursula Hegi





At last, I finally get to revisit this old favorite. I've been wanting to reread it for years, but the “To Read” stacks just keep growing, and overflowing.

Spanning the years 1915 to 1952, this novel tells the story of Trudi Montag, a Zwerg (dwarf) woman, and collector of secrets, in the little German town of Burgdorf, who, with her father, runs the library, and hides Jews in the cellar during World War II.

Not only is this book a heart wrenching portrait of what it is like to be different, to be disdained and discounted because of one’s physical appearance, to want love but always be denied it, it also has a cast of the most vivid, memorable characters. There’s Trudi’s friend, Georg, whose mother will never forgive him for not being born a girl, and the mysterious Unknown Benefactor who leaves gifts for the townspeople, Frau Simon, the red-haired milliner who will never sell anyone a hat unless it looks good on them, and Frau Doktor Rosen, a female doctor whose husband, no one can ever decide, is either too lazy or sick to work, and her daughter, Eva, who is Trudi’s friend, but only in secret, and Emil Hesping, the manager of the gymnast club who has the wonderful gift of being able to make anyone smile, laugh, and feel better. Tragic, beautiful Ingrid. And many more. They’re wonderful, unique and special characters, it’s a treat to learn about and get to know.

When she is thirteen, Trudi goes to the circus and meets Pia, a dwarf woman like herself, but a beautiful, stylish one. She teaches Trudi not to feel so alone, and to embrace being special. It’s a life changing encounter. Trudi begins making changes, first with her clothes, she stops wearing the children’s clothes her father buys off the rack of local stores for her and instead learns to sew, making dresses that show her off to best advantage, she chops off her blonde braids, and affects a stylish bob, and begins to wear chic hats and high heels.  She begins to exude a new confidence. And we see her first disillusioning brush with love and feel every bit of her pain at knowing she will never be a wife and mother, or belong to someone, like most women. Her loneliness touched me so deeply that many times I cried, both for her, and for myself, because I know what that’s like.

As Hitler becomes increasingly dominant, more and more the people seek solace in the library, finding comfort in books about handsome doctors and pretty nurses, cowboys and Indians, stories where love conquers all and good always triumphs over evil. It’s a terrifying time of suspicion, paranoia, book burning, Nazi youth groups, anti-Semitism, and Nazi propaganda. People Trudi has known all her life begin to disappear because they disagreed or dared to criticize the new regime.

As a person who knows what it is like to be different, Trudi understands better than most the plight of the Jews and helps those she can.

After the war, when so many people she knows, or knew, have been lost or changed, all anyone wants to do is go on, forget, and rebuild. But amidst the hope, as life goes on, there fresh tragedies, some of which will break your heart if, like me, you've come to care about these characters.

I love this book so much. It’s one of those stories where, reading it, I wanted with all my heart for it to have a happy ending, for everything to turn out all right, even though I knew it probably wouldn't ring true, life just isn't like that. I've read a lot of books over the years, some I’ve forgotten, some I've remembered, but this is one that has always stayed with me. I recommend it to everyone who loves historical fiction or any kind of novel with characters so real they reach right off the page and touch your heart.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith




This is one of my favorite books, which inspired one of my favorite movies, and I was delighted to finally have the chance to read it again. It’s a wonderful coming of age story spanning the years 1912 to 1918 in the life of Francie Nolan, a girl of the Brooklyn tenements who loves to read and dreams of being a writer when she grows up.

When the story begins in the summer of 1912, Francie is ten years old and her brother Neely is nine. Their mother, Katie Nolan, is a pretty, practical, hard as nails woman of twenty-nine, who works as a scrubwoman to support her family, while her lovable husband, Johnny, a drunkard and pipe dreamer whose dreams never come true, can’t hold down a regular job, and takes work as a singing waiter whenever he can get it, using his tips to buy his liquor. Life has eroded any natural tendency to tenderness Katie ever had, and hardened her heart like the soda in the water she uses to scrub the floors has hardened her hands and left them raw and cracked, she has to make hard and often unpopular decisions while everybody loves and likes Johnny. Then there is her sister, Aunt Sissy (wonderfully portrayed by Joan Blondell in the movie) a big-hearted woman with a lackadaisical approach to marriage, divorce, and birth control, who can’t give birth to a living child.

This book paints a vivid picture of this family and what their life was like, and how a poor and lonely child with a love of books struggles to fit in and to hold on to her dreams, like school, which Francie loves, but almost loses after her father dies.

For those familiar with the movie, it follows the book very closely, only offering a broader scope, like introducing a few characters not featured in the movie and taking a look back at the happy days when Katie and Johnny first fell in love and married. But the movie stops with Francie at fifteen, the book goes further.

After Johnny’s death, of alcoholism and pneumonia, the reader gets to witness Francie’s grief, the birth of her baby sister, named Annie Laurie after a song Johnny used to sing, we get to watch her grow up, become a young woman, going to work in an artificial flower factory at fourteen, then at newspaper clipping service, enduring the first painful pangs of love, being hurt by a man’s lies, and preparing to go to college in 1918 after her mother has married Officer McShane who can make life easier for them all.

It’s a moving, sentimental and nostalgic “Sidewalks of New York” style book filled with characters who stick in your mind you can actually feel something for, whether good or bad or somewhere in between. But it’s not all sugar and spice nostalgia, it doesn't shrink from the ugliness and cruelty of life, it has it all in just the right measure and I think that’s one of the reasons people still love this book. Life is not a fairy tale and this story doesn't try to pretend it is, it doesn't promise a happily ever after, and when you reach the last page you’re left wondering what the rest of their lives were like. Sometimes I wish Betty Smith had written a sequel, even though part of me is glad she didn't since I always seem to regret reading sequels yet always feel compelled to if I liked the original book. Through the author’s words, we feel and see it all, the people and their problems, the dirt, poverty, hope and despair, we feel the hard knocks of life they experience, and it’s sweet, simple pleasures like penny candy and library books, candy canes and tangerines at Christmas, and fourth of July fireworks, Thanksgiving dinner with homemade noodles and pot roast, and Halloween hijinxs. We experience Francie’s first taste of pumpkin pie and the pretty china doll with golden curls and a fancy dress she won at charity Christmas party by telling what turned to be a white lie and her guilt over it. And the gentle encouragement of a teacher that changed her life when she told Francie to write down the lies instead of telling them, that way they become a story, “tell the truth and write the story.” Great advice and a great book that inspired a great movie, I urge everyone to try one or the other or, even better, both.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

There Was An Old Woman by Hallie Ephron



“Don’t let him in until I’m gone,” elderly recluse Sandra Ferrante whispers to a neighbor as the paramedics load her into an ambulance in the aftermath of a drunken fall.


When her estranged daughter, Evie, arrives she is shocked to discover that her mother’s house is at risk of being condemned by the health department. It’s a real mess to put it mildly. Filth, squalor, rot, decay, garbage, and vermin galore. Oddly, right in the center of it all is a brand new flat screen tv her mother’s scant social security income could never afford, the liquor bottles are of an expensive brand of vodka instead of the usual cheap stuff, and, when she examines the financial records, she discovers her mother has paid off her thousands of dollars of credit card debt without any money going in or out of her bank account. The mail is also full of mysterious envelopes containing stacks of $100 bills. Who are they from? What are they for?

Mom’s condition has deteriorated, so she’s not able to enlighten Evie, and her nearest neighbor, Mrs. Yetner has problems of her own. She’s becoming increasingly forgetful and accident prone. She’s worried she’s developing dementia like her late sister. Her nephew Brian is inclined to agree and is very eager to get her into a nursing home. And what about those papers he wants her to sign?

Is something sinister going on in the neighborhood? Or is it just a case of old age and the inevitable decline? Sorry, no spoilers today.

This was an interesting novel that kept me up and turning pages until the very end, but not quite what I was expecting. When it was suggested to me it was being presented more as a horror novel, or a thriller, that first tantalizing line “Don’t let him in until I’m gone,” had me very curious. But there’s nothing supernatural stalking through these pages, what mysteries and evil deeds there are in this novel are entirely human.

The Missionary Position Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice by Christopher Hitchens




At only 98 pages, this little book reads more like a research paper than a book, but it will make you think and after reading it you may never see the saintly Mother Teresa in the same light again. At first glance, it seems a trifle mean spirited, like a schoolyard bully picking on the saintly, wizened nun who devoted her life to the poor, but Mr. Hitchens makes some interesting and disturbing observations.

Where did all the money go? It was collected to help the poor, yet supposedly sat unused in bank accounts; one account alone supposedly had a balance of $50 million, because the nuns had taken a vow of poverty. It doesn’t make much sense to me; the money was donated to help the poor and suffering, not the nuns themselves, so why could the nuns not spend it for the purpose it was intended, the purpose for which they collected it? What was the point of collecting it at all if it was just going to sit there in the bank? For decades Mother Teresa was given millions of dollars in charitable donations, and cash prizes that accompanied the many humanitarian awards she was given, enough to outfit several first class clinics, yet she chose to maintain bare bones establishments where the sick and dying were crowded into dormitories lying on stretcher type cots, denied proper medical care, expert diagnosis that might have actually saved some of their lives, and adequate pain medication, such as the morphine that is common in hospice care for those in the final agonizing stages of terminal cancer.  If they were lucky, the dying were given an occasional aspirin. Hypodermic needles were also reused, the nuns of her Missionaries of Charity order just rinsed them under a coldwater tap, they didn’t even bother to boil the water first in order to sterilize them. And in the morgue a “cheerful” sign hung, announcing “I am going to Heaven today.” Mother Teresa herself was known to tell the dying, “You are suffering like Christ on the cross, so Jesus must be kissing you.” She thought “it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being very much helped by the suffering of poor people.” Though, curiously, when the so-called “Saint of Calcutta” was ailing, with heart problems are other age related infirmities, she always had topnotch treatment at the world’s finest hospitals.


If the allegations in this book are true, I find it very sad. I’m just a reader who casually picked up this book, I’m not religious, and I don’t know much about the late Mother Teresa or her mission, so I can’t say whether this book is just another attempt to pull one of the world’s idols off their pedestal or if it is an honest and accurate expose, all I can say is what I’ve already said, that it’s sad and thought provoking.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin



This is one of my favorite horror novels and movies. It’s one of those stories that takes a seemingly ordinary situation and turns it topsy-turvy and perfectly captures the real life hell of being caught up in an unbelievable, seemingly impossible, situation that would make any normal person, as well as the world at large, question their sanity.

The story begins in New York in 1965. Rosemary Woodhouse is a happy young housewife, married to a handsome actor. They've just moved into their dream apartment, in the elite, Victorian apartment house known as The Bramford, and are looking forward to starting a family.

Rosemary and Guy choose to ignore the warnings of a friend that The Bramford has a rather unsavory reputation with a higher incidence of suicides that other apartment buildings. Stories about the Trench Sisters, a pair of proper Victorian spinster cannibals who ate several young children, and Satanist Adrian Marcato, who was attacked by an angry mob after he claimed to have conjured up the living devil, fail to scare them off.

They move in and Rosemary blissfully begins redecorating while Guy pursues his acting career. An elderly couple, the Castevets, who live next door, are quick to befriend the young couple. Guy is enthralled by Roman’s tales of great actors and actresses of bygone days, and Minnie is a loud-mouthed, nosy, but seemingly harmless old lady.

But happiness soon turns to horror. It turns out their neighbors are part of a satanic coven, many of whom reside in The Bramford. Guy, in exchange for a little otherworldly assistance in furthering his career, joins them. Curses are put on all who oppose or stand in the coven’s way—a well-meaning friend of Rosemary’s who grows suspicious falls into an inexplicable coma, and an actor who lands the role Guy covet’s suddenly goes blind. And, to pay for his success, Guy gives something in return—his wife. The chocolate mousse Rosemary is given for dessert is drugged and she is given to Satan, to become the mother of his living son. The drugs, at first, make it all seem like a really weird dream, but as the novel progresses, at it’s brisk, highly readable pace, Rosemary gradually wakes up to the bizarre and horrific reality.


Although it all sounds rather far fetched  the novel, and the movie it inspired are so well done, that you can suspend disbelief and sympathize with poor Rosemary as her dream of happy married life and motherhood becomes a living, and all too real, nightmare.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Where’s Evelyn? The 1953 Babysitter’s Kidnapping That Shook The Nation by Susan T. Hessel




In 1953 La Crosse, Wisconsin was like the setting on one of the era’s popular sitcoms, like “Father Knows Best” or “Ozzie and Harriet.” It was a world of freshly painted houses, neat lawns, stay at home moms, and church on Sundays, people didn’t lock their doors, and kids rode their bikes to the malt shop or movie dates, and football and basketball games. The rock and roll craze hadn’t hit La Crosse yet and the bogey man was anyone who had ever been a member of the Communist Party. Girls earned their spending money by babysitting and guys by pumping gas at the local station. It was a Norman Rockwell world of innocence, and it was about to be shattered.

On October 24, 1953 Viggo Rasmusen, a college professor, and his wife were eager to attend the Homecoming game. They needed a babysitter. But the girl they usually called was unavailable. But Evelyn Hartley, the mature and responsible daughter of their neighbor, biology professor, Richard Hartley, was free. The fifteen-year-old straight A student, a fresh-faced, blue-eyed, brunette in a white blouse and red denim pants, arrived promptly with her spectacles on and her schoolbooks in hand, ready to study while the Rasmusens’ baby daughter, Janice, slept. Everyone knew “you could always rely on Evelyn.” She was a quiet, studious girl, with no boyfriend who went on very few dates. She loved music and the outdoors.

Everything seemed fine. Until 8:30 p.m. when Evelyn failed to call. She always called her parents promptly at 8:30 p.m. whenever she was babysitting. When her parents dialed the Rasumsens’ number the phone rang and rang, no one ever answered. Finally Mr. Hartley decided to go find out why. He found the lights on, the doors locked, and music playing on the radio inside. He rang the doorbell but Evelyn never came. He found the basement window was unlocked, the metal frame was warped, and the screen had been removed and propped against the wall. In the basement he found one of Evelyn’s shoes lying at the foot of the basement stairs, and upstairs he found its mate lying on the living room floor with Evelyn’s glasses amidst scattered schoolbooks and other signs suggesting a struggle.

Baby Janice was safe, asleep in her crib; she had slept through whatever had happened to Evelyn, that may have saved her life. As for Evelyn, she was never seen again. “She was an ordinary girl in an ordinary home and someone someone had come in and taken her,” as the news would soon report.

The police would later find blood, Type A, the same as Evelyn’s, which was all that could be determined in this era long before DNA, a few feet from the basement window on the dark side of the house and some tennis shoe prints in the window box, and matching clumps of dirt on the living room carpet. A trail of blood on the side of a neighboring house, presumably left as the kidnapper or kidnappers were taking Evelyn away, indicated significant blood loss and led the Hartleys to believe their daughter was dead.

The police did everything that was humanly possible to find Evelyn Hartley. Police in neighboring states offered their full cooperation. The case was well publicized. They canvassed the neighborhood and stopped cars and even searched parked ones, looking for a girl without shoes on who fit Evelyn’s description. They rounded up known sex offenders and suspicious charactes. Bloodhounds followed the trail of blood and Evelyn’s scent through adjacent years to the street where Evelyn must have been put into a car and driven away.  Thousands of volunteers, including forty troops of Boy Scouts, helped conduct widespread searches of the woodlands, highways, sewers, and gullys, and any other likely locations for concealing a body. There were also aerial searches, lakes were dragged, and divers explored the Mississippi River. Fresh graves were even opened to make sure Evelyn’s body had not been deposited on top of the deceased.

Despite some later criticisms, all evidence suggests they worked very hard and gave the investigation their best in this era of limited technology, in spite of the interference of the press, some of whom even went so far as to impersonate police, replete with fake badges, in their quest for scoops to fill their newspapers. Even as late as the 1990s police were still following up any tips they received about the case.

One eyewitness came forward to say that around 7:15 p.m. he had seen a girl, staggering, semi-conscious (he thought perhaps she was drunk) in the company of two men, walking between the Rasmusens’ house and the neighbor’s, where blood was later found on the wall. He saw them again later the same evening in a two-tone green Buick with the girl slumped in the backseat. But he didn’t know anyone was missing at the time and merely assumed they were just people getting a head start on celebrating the Homecoming game.

On October 28, 1953 a bra and panties of the same size and type worn by Evelyn were found near an underpass on Highway 14, two miles south of the city limits. Type A blood, the same as Evelyn’s, was found on the panties (Evelyn had her period at the time she disappeared.)  A few days later, on October 31, another search party found a pair of men’s size eleven tennis shoes along the same highway. Tests would later confirm that these had probably been worn by the kidnapper. A bloodstained denim jacket was also found nearby. The shoes and jacket were displayed in nearby communities in the hope that someone would recognize them. A reward was offered but no one ever came forward to claim it.

To this day questions abound, but answers are lacking. Was it a burglary gone wrong or an intended sex crime all along? Was Evelyn the intended victim or randomly chosen? Did she know her abductor(s)? If it was planned, was the Rasmusens’ regular babysitter the target? Was Evelyn merely in the wrong place at the wrong time?

This book gives a thorough account of the investigation, all the leads and clues are explored, including the theory that the notorious killer Ed Gein, one of the inspirations for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” may have kidnapped and killed Evelyn, as well as the inevitable cruel hoaxes and confessions that form a part of any missing person’s case. It also covers what may be an intriguing clue or just another dead end, an old reel-to-reel tape recorded in a bar in 1969 came to light in 2004 that claims to reveal what really happened to Evelyn. But no one knows if it is real or just bar talk and drunken boasting.

In missing person and murder cases, time is the enemy. A case that is well publicized at the time may fade from human memory. People die and people forget. It’s been a long time since October 24, 1953. Let’s pause to remember Evelyn Hartley wherever she may be.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Breed by Chase Novak




Alex and Leslie Twisden seem to lead the picture perfect life together. They have a passionate marriage, both have great jobs, and they live in a luxurious Manhattan townhouse furnished with antiques. The only thing that is missing is a child.

They've tried every fertility treatment they can find, but nothing has worked. In one last desperate attempt to start a family, they travel to Solevenia, to see the mysterious Dr. Kis and submit a painful new procedure involving injections and drinking vials of mysterious bright pink liquid.

Leslie soon discovers that she is pregnant, but the side-effects are not what she expected. And they are not just affecting Leslie, Alex is suffering from them too. Both experience the accelerated grown of thick dark hair on their bodies and faces, and mood swings that seem to exceed the typical hormonal changes associated with pregnancy. For example, when Leslie, unable to go to work or out in public because of the hair growth, seeks the help of a dermatologist, she bites the doctor. Alex’s toenails grow so fast, he can’t keep himself in socks. And they both experience a disturbing verbal confusion, where they forget or leave out words or say the wrong ones.

But they get the baby they longed for—two of them in fact. Leslie gives birth to twins they name Adam and Alice.

Fast forward ten years. Things still aren't back to normal, in fact they've gotten worse. Why are the twins locked in their rooms every night? What are the strange and terrifying sounds they hear coming from their parents’ bedroom? Why do family pets disappear? No one in the family has any friends or a social life; invitations are something to be dreaded. Their parents have forsaken their jobs. Alex and Leslie eat meat so rare it practically swims in blood and their beautiful townhouse that has been in Alex’s family for generations has fallen into ruin and many of the beautiful antiques have been sold.

In desperation, the twins embark on a quest to discover the truth about their strange lives and their parents’ bizarre behavior. But will it be worse than what they already know? I recommend you read this gripping all-nighter to find out.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Halloween Treat From Tabby - Winner's Choice Book Giveaway



For Halloween Tabby and I would like to give our readers a special treat. Two lucky winners can choose their choice of books: The Queen's Pleasure by Brandy Purdy, the British Edition A Court Affair by Emily Purdy, The Queen's Rivals by Brandy Purdy, or the British Edition The Fallen Queen by Emily Purdy. So be sure to leave a comment for Tabby, and let her know which book you want if you win, and don't forget to include your contact info. Get an extra bonus entry for every place you share this giveaway. US residents only please, I'm sorry but I cannot ship outside the USA. Tabby will pick a winner on October 31st. Good Luck and Happy Halloween!


Updated Author Page with Subscribe to New Books Feature at Kensington Books Website

My publisher, Kensington Books, has recently updated my author page and biography on their website, they now have a feature where you can enter your email address and be notified when my latest books are available. Check it out at
 http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/author.aspx/25953 


The Bad Seed by William March







The Bad Seed by William March


This is one of favorite classic movies, so I was very curious to read the novel and see how it compared. Originally published in 1954, this novel became a bestseller, a successful play, and a popular movie.

Devious little devil disguised as an angel, Rhoda Penmark, age eight, is the epitome of “Little Miss Perfect” in her red and white Swiss dotted dress and pigtails on the day of the annual school picnic when all the other children are wearing playsuits and coveralls, but inside she is burning with fury, all because Claude Daigle, a thin, timid boy, has won the gold penmanship medal.

When Claude dies at the picnic, the tragic victim of what was apparently an accidental drowning, despite some curious bruises on his head and hands, and the mysterious absence of the medal he so proudly wore pinned to his shirt, it soon comes to light that Rhoda had been hounding the poor boy all day, following him around trying to badger him into letting her hold the medal.

This is not the first time death has come so close to Rhoda. Her puppy fell out of a window shortly after Rhoda made the unpleasant discovery that it was her responsibility to take care of it. And an old lady who had promised to leave Rhoda the opal pendant she admired so much when she died fell down a flight of stairs and broke her neck.

When Christine Penmark, Rhoda’s mother, discovered the penmanship medal hidden in Rhoda’s room, she is forced to confront the terrifying and uncomfortable truth about her daughter and her own past.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and the movie adheres very closely to it, although the ending was changed for the film, so if you've seen it and enjoyed it you might want to give the book a try too.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Daddy Love by Joyce Carol Oates



Dinah and Perry “Whit” Whitcomb seem to have the perfect life with their five year old son Robbie until the day when he is abducted from the parking lot at the mall and his mother is run over by the kidnapper’s van and left for dead.

Although Dinah miraculously survives, crippled and disfigured, none of their lives will ever be the same again.

“Daddy Love” aka the Reverend Chester Cash, a traveling preacher, is a pedophile who has chosen Robbie to be the latest in a long line of sons, all of whom “disappeared” when they were approaching puberty. He takes Robbie to live in a secluded farmhouse and changes his name to Gideon and tells him his parents gave him away because he cost them too much money, he tells him that euthanasia is not a practice reserved solely for unwanted animals, but for orphans too, and he should be grateful that Daddy Love came along and saved him.  Whenever Robbie/Gideon resists or shows any spark of rebellion Daddy Love is always swift to punish him, with a broken finger for refusing to take his hand, or confining him inside a locked coffin-like box or by killing his beloved pet dog.

As the years pass, Robbie’s parents struggle to keep their marriage alive and with it the hope that somehow, miraculously, Robbie is still alive and may someday come back to them, “Whit” enjoys increasing success as a dj and Dinah devotes herself to volunteer work, while Robbie worries that he will disappear like all Daddy Love’s other sons.

By the time he is eleven, Robbie/Gideon is a shy, socially awkward sixth grader who expresses himself in disturbing drawings that catch the eye of his teacher. His “father” explains away his awkwardness and silence by saying he is mildly autistic and suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome. He believes his real parents didn’t want him and that his real mother died of lung cancer and his time with Daddy Love is running out, he’s getting older and Daddy has been dropping hints that he wants a new son. After his teacher talks to Daddy Love about his drawings, and the punishment that follows, Robbie/Gideon begins expressing his anger with acts of arson.

Will Dinah and Whit ever see their son again? Will Daddy Love ever pay for his crimes? Is there a happy ending to this dark, disturbing story? If you’re a regular reader to this blog, you know I won’t tell and risk spoiling it for anyone.

This was an interesting novel, despite the disturbing subject matter about a sick and depraved predator who steals children’s innocence and lives, it realistically tells the story of a child’s abduction from both the side of the captive child and his grieving parents. It’s a very poignant, sad, and ugly story. The first few chapters are also, in my opinion, somewhat annoying, for some reason the author felt compelled to repeat them, each time in a very obvious way yet each time embellishing them, adding more details. This goes on for about four chapters, if I remember correctly, and then stops and the story moves on. I’ve read other novels by Joyce Carol Oates in the past, and I don’t recall her using this technique, so I’m really not sure what to make of it, except that perhaps it has something to do with the way a mother would relive the day her child was adducted over and over again. But that’s just a guess. I know it was annoying enough to stand out and make me question whether I wanted to continue reading the novel, which I obviously did otherwise I would not be writing this review, so I wanted to make sure I mentioned this in case other readers started it and found themselves feeling the same way.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Midnight In Peking How The Murder Of A Young Englishwoman Haunted The Last Days Of Old China by Paul French





If you've been following this blog for awhile, you probably know by now that I have a fascination for unsolved mysteries. This book introduced me to a new one, a long cold case from 1937 when on a cold January morning in 1937 the viciously mutilated body of an English schoolgirl named Pamela Werner was discovered lying at the base of an ancient watchtower, the Fox Tower in Peking, an area said by the superstitious locals to be haunted at night by fox spirits that feed on the souls of the innocent.

Who would want to kill Pamela? The pretty gray-eyed blonde was the daughter of the acclaimed scholar and retired British Consul, E.T.C. Werner. Was the perpetrator a madman, a sex fiend, a Japanese soldier, or one of the fox spirits the natives feared so? Two detectives, one British, the other Chinese, teamed up, to try to solve the crime and bring Pamela’s killer to justice, racing against time as the Japanese steadily advanced on Peking.

The author of this fascinating true crime book spent seven years investigating the case. Through his research, we learn about the supposedly respectable dentist, who operated a nudist colony in the hills and lured innocent young girls to wild sex parties attended by prominent men; rumors of sexual improprieties committed by the headmaster of a prestigious private school; and the theory that Pamela’s murder was in reality a case of mistaken identity and that the real target was a journalist’s wife; through his words we visit dive bars, seedy cafes, and brothels, at a time where cultures clashed, sometimes dangerously, in Peking, while the rest of the world fixated on headlines about Amelia Earhart, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Hitler, the Hindenburg  and the Golden Gate Bridge, as the Japanese conquerors advanced on Peking, and America suffered through the Great Depression.

Eventually Pamela was forgotten. The police gave up and moved on to other cases, and Peking was more preoccupied with the invading Japanese than finding out who had killed a British schoolgirl. But Pamela’s father refused to give up, with the same relentless determination with which he had once studied ancient Chinese scrolls, he studied the case files and pestered the police to keep the investigation active. His persistence paid off and he found clues the police either missed or ignored; clues the author reveals along with what probably happened to Pamela and how and why she died.

This was a fascinating book from start to finish; it vividly recreates a vanished world, and resurrects a long cold case and a victim long forgotten. For both true crime and history buffs, as well as fans of mystery and detective stories, I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan




In the summer of 1914, Grace, an impoverished young woman from a formerly affluent family, elopes with her wealthy catch, banker Henry Winter, and boards an ocean liner called the Empress Alexandra. When an explosion engulfs the ship in flames, Grace is one of the fortunate few to secure a seat in a lifeboat. Due to the panic and chaos aboard and the rapid spreading of the fire, in which all the lifeboats on the starboard side are burned, Grace’s boat is badly overloaded.

As they drift away from the scene of the disaster, hoping help is on the way, the lifeboat rides so slow that water slops in. To make matters worse, the weather is worsening, and as the days pass, without rescue, their meager supplies of hardtack biscuits and water dwindle.

A power struggle soon erupts in the little boat between Mrs. Ursula Grant, a society matron, and John Hardie, an experienced, and sometimes necessarily ruthless, sailor, with all the passengers being forced to take sides. The hard choices begin almost at once, when they have to leave a small child to drown and beat away desperate swimmers and continue throughout the twenty one days they are adrift upon the Atlantic. As the lifeboat drifts on, the survivors endure panic, hysteria, and paranoia, sunburn, pouring rain, the difficulties of discreetly dealing with urination and menstruation, and having to catch and eat raw fish and dead birds fallen from the sky in order to survive. Their hands blister from rowing and dipping them in the salty water brings only more pain not relief. When some die, their bodies are put overboard to lighten the load, but a time inevitably comes when someone must die if the others are to have a chance at life. And when rescue finally comes, Grace is among those who must justify their actions in a courtroom.

If I wasn't already up all night, this book would have definitely kept me awake. Being a Titanic fanatic, I love reading about ocean liners, and mysteries and disasters at sea. The characters in this book faced a very difficult dilemma no one should ever have to face. In many ways, I was reminded of one of my favorite movies, Abandon Ship!, a rarely seen classic starring Tyrone Power (if you can catch in on Turner Classic Movies it’s worth watching), the characters in that book face the same situation when during World War II the ocean liner they are traveling upon hits a mine and Tyrone Power, as the lone ship’s officer in an overcrowded lifeboat has to decide who will live and who will die and later have to account for it. This book was like Titanic, after the sinking, meets Abandon Ship! and Mrs. Grant and her battle of wills with Mr. Hardie was like a harsher, less likable version of Molly Brown. I highly recommend this one for a tense, historical page-turner that will really make you stop and think and ponder who is right and who is wrong and what, if you were in the same situation, would you do.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Released in the UK Today: The Fallen Queen by Emily Purdy + Giveaway



The Fallen Queen by Emily Purdy (The Queen's Rivals by Brandy Purdy in the USA) was released in the UK today with this beautiful cover. 

From the back cover:

Led by love into the jaws of fate….

Lady Jane Grey is crowned Queen at the behest of Edward VI. Her reign lasts only nine days before she is executed for treason.

Lady Jane’s two sisters, Katherine and Mary, live on into Elizabeth I’s reign but in family misfortune they are bound, inspiring the Queen’s wrath against them.

In secret, Katherine and Mary risk everything and disobey the royal order by marrying the men they love. Will their treachery be discovered? And must they face imprisonment in the Tower of London, just as their sister did before them?

A stunning tale of treachery and treason, The Fallen Queen gives an unforgettable voice to three extraordinary sisters at the heart of a devastating conflict. Perfect for fans of The Tudors and Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen.



Giveaway:
US residents who would like a chance to win a copy of the British Edition pictured here, please leave a comment and your contact information. Spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, your own blog etc. and earn an extra entry for every place you post, so make sure and let me know. Tabby will pick a winner on her birthday, September 17th. Contest is open to US residents only.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Special September Discount on ebook Edition of The Queen's Pleasure



From 9/10 to 9/24 the ebook edition of The Queen's Pleasure will be available at a special discounted price of only $2.99 at major ebook retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, and Sony.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Midnight Dreary The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe by John Evangelist Walsh




In 1849 author Edgar Allan Poe traveled alone from Richmond, Virginia to New York City. He disappeared for nearly a week. He was next seen drunk and unkempt in clothes clearly not his own in Baltimore, Maryland. He was taken to a hospital. In and out of delirium, unable to clarify where he had been or what he had done, he died four days later. The then generic cause of death “congestion of the brain” was given, though most assumed drunkenness and debauchery were at the root of it all, and in the years since many other theories have been advanced including epilepsy, rabies, diabetes, heart disease, hypoglycemia, cerebral hemorrhage, meningitis, and violence at the hands of thugs attempting to rig an election. 

The author of this fascinating little book focuses on Poe’s lost week. He also makes a good case for Poe being a binge drinker rather than a habitual one, meaning something would send him over the edge, he would drink and drink, and then feel like hell as he slowly recovered from his excesses. He tells us how after the loss of his young wife, Virginia, to consumption, Poe hoped to start a new literary magazine and was seeking investors, and had begun to woo his childhood sweetheart, Elmira Shelton, a now very well-to-do widow. He also unearths some tantalizing clues about Poe’s lost week and puts forward a theory of his own about the author’s demise.

Although this is not a cradle to the grave biography of Edgar Allan Poe, the author provides enough information for anyone not familiar with Poe’s life to gain a good understanding of the man, and for those intrigued by the mystery surrounding his death this is the only book I’ve seen that focuses solely upon the mystery and explores the various theories in detail. Whether you’re a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or just mysteries in general, this is a great little book to read “upon a midnight dreary.”

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Happy Birthday Tabby!

Tabby will be six years old on September 17th, but because I will be recovering from surgery then we decided to celebrate early this year. Here are some pics of my little girl with her Oreo Cookie Cake. 





Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Special September Discount on ebook edition of The Queen's Pleasure



From 9/10 to 9/24 the ebook edition of The Queen's Pleasure will be available at a special discounted price of only $2.99 at major ebook retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, and Sony.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares




This book revisits the girls from the popular “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” series ten years after the end of the last book. For those not familiar with the series, four pregnant women met in an aerobics class, became friends, and gave birth to daughters in or around the month of September, and their daughters became firm and lifelong friends. In their teens, the girls bought a pair of most unusual jeans at a thrift store, jeans that fit them all perfectly, although they were all very different body types. They believed these jeans were special and had the power to bind them together even when they were apart. Although I haven’t read the books in years, so I don’t feel I can honestly review them on this blog without a more recent reading, I do remember I liked them and would not hesitate to recommend them to others.

In this book, ten years have passed, the girls are on the brink of thirty and all leading separate lives though they do their best to keep in touch. Tibby, who wanted to be a filmmaker, has moved to Australia with her boyfriend, Brian, and the time difference and distance makes it difficult to stay connected with her friends. Lena, an artist and art teacher in Rhode Island, still thinks of Kostos, the boy she met and fell in love with in Greece when she was sixteen, and wonders about what might have been. Carmen, a successful actress in New York, is engaged and the future looks bright. And Bridget, “Bee” to her friends, is living in San Francisco with her longtime boyfriend Eric, who she met at soccer camp the summer she was sixteen, torn between her old, familiar restlessness and the desire to settle down.

Out of the blue, Tibby sends her friends plane tickets to Santorini. It’s time for a reunion. But Tibby herself never shows. Instead, the police come. Tibby has been found dead. It is ruled an accidental drowning, but letters she left behind suggest it might have been a suicide instead and that instead of a reunion this was intended to be a farewell.

Each of the women copes with Tibby’s death in different ways. They stop communicating with each other as each of them stops and takes stock of their own lives and ponder whether they’re on the right course or if changes need to be made.

Will the letters Tibby left behind, addressed to each of her friends, to be opened on certain dates, bring them back together, and help them make the right decisions in their lives? If you liked the “Traveling Pants” series I highly recommend you read this and find out. If you’re like me and haven’t read the original books in years, this novel contains just enough information to refresh your memory so you can go forward and enjoy the story.

Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss


This is supposed to be the story of two girls who meet in 1958 at the age of fourteen and become lifelong friends. Alex Carrington is a beautiful, mature and sophisticated brunette who dreams of becoming a serious actress and playing roles like Lady MacBeth, Hedda Gabler, and Desdemona, not a sexpot in meaningless Hollywood fluff, while shy bookworm Rebecca Madden harbors secret dreams of becoming a doctor; dreams so secret she never even shares them with her supposed best friend. They inhabit a world where little girls are expected to follow in their mothers’ footsteps and devote themselves to husbands and homes, not careers, to paraphrase Rose’s mother in “Titanic” in their parents’ eyes the sole purpose of going to college is to catch a husband.

Fast forward to 1965, a time of war, race riots, and hippies. Both girls are in college, Alex is pursuing her dream, appearing in plays and has even landed an agent, and Rebecca is secretly taking classes to prepare for medical school. They grow apart as each focuses on her own individual dream until one summer night, at a drunken celebration of a mutual friend’s wedding, Rebecca, under the influence of alcohol, loses her virginity to Alex’s boyfriend and becomes pregnant at a time when being an unwed mother was like standing up and announcing you have leprosy.

Rebecca becomes a social outcast, is sent to a home for unwed mothers run by nuns, though after getting off the bus she changes her mind and arranges to have an illegal abortion instead, and on top of it all loses her chance to go to medical school because her parents object to her “running her life” for “some ridiculous dream” and her professors, despite her good grades, agree.

Immediately after graduation, Rebecca moves to San Francisco, becomes a waitress, and meets a nice lawyer named Paul who she discovers, after having two children by him, turns out to be gay. Over the years she writes letters to Alex that she never bothers to send. When the two meet again, by chance, years later she discovers that Alex never fulfilled her dream either, though why is never revealed, married her college boyfriend, the one Rebecca slept with, and became the mother of twin girls. At this stage in their life, when both are wives and mothers, who, as far as appearances are concerned, dutifully followed in their mothers’ footsteps, and forsook careers and their own personal dreams for hearth and home, they have to stop and think, reevaluate their lives, and decide whether to continue the charade or make a change. And this is where I stop; I’m not going to go any further and spoil the ending for anyone.

I really wanted to like this book. It sounded so promising I made a point of moving it even higher in my Leaning Tower of Pisa “To Read” stack. So I’m sorry to say I had to force my way through to the bitter end. I just wanted it to be over.

First of all, there is the friendship between the two girls…most of the time I could not even understand why these two are even friends. Alex is a pretentious and narcissistic girl who alternately neglects and insults Rebecca. They are such “good” friends that Rebecca is even afraid to tell Alex when she falls under the spell of biology and chooses times when Alex is away to sneak off to the library to read science books, and when they are in college, she conceals what courses she is taking because she is afraid of being ridiculed or losing Alex’s “friendship.” As a person who has never had the good fortune to have a good, loyal, and lasting friendship with someone I could trust and depend on, I have a great respect for the ideal of friendship, and one of my pet peeves is the misuse of the word “friend,” like people who refer to what are really acquaintances as friends just for convenience’s sake, as well as the kind of people who pretend to be someone’s friend in order to use them. Yes, friends go through rough patches, have arguments, and sometimes fall or grow apart, no relationships is all smiles, sunshine, and lollipops, but if you are afraid to be yourself with your best friend, if you’re afraid to talk to that person, tell them how you feel or that they will mock or belittle or even dump you, then I don’t think that person really deserves to be called your friend, certainly not your best friend, even if they are your only so-called friend.

Then there’s the situation that led to the end of this “beautiful” friendship—Alex’s “boyfriend,” one of those rich boys who think the world is their oyster and supposedly attempted to rape Alex one night. She doesn’t seem to love him or to regard the two of them as a couple. She even boasts of having sex with other men to further her career. After Rebecca has been made fun of for being the only virgin left in their set, she gets tipsy at a wedding party and lets herself be seduced by this prize specimen of masculinity and pays a hefty price for it, losing just about everything that matters to her including Alex’s “friendship.” Maybe it’s just me, but if the friendship had been so good and true I would have valued that far more than the guy in this book who led to its end. Given the people involved and the circumstances, after the very natural feelings of betrayal and anger had passed, the friendship, if it were real, should have been the one thing that was saved. But that, and this review, I want to stress, is just my personal opinion. Everything fizzles from that point and goes steadily downhill. No one’s life turns out even remotely like they hoped it would. When Rebecca makes the decision to leave, to make a fresh start in San Francisco, I was on her side, I was hoping she would actually do something with her life, but she just becomes a waitress, let’s one college professor’s lack of encouragement destroy her dreams, just because he says she can’t be a doctor and should consider nursing instead, she gives up on it all and becomes a waitress then does what women of her time are expected to do, gets married and has kids, and then that falls apart too. Same story with Alex. It’s just a very disappointing and disillusioning book in my opinion. Maybe that was the whole point? Or maybe I was completely the wrong person to read it.