Flashbacks in fiction—do you love them or loathe them?

Bookish Question #114 | Flashbacks in fiction—do you love them or loathe them?

Yes. Both.

Sometimes I love flashbacks in fiction. And sometimes I loathe them.

I love flashbacks when they are done well—when there is a scene from the character’s history that explains why they’re making the (often stupid) decisions they’re making today. Or a scene that explains the predicament they’re in today, and how they got there.

One novel that does a great job of using flashbacks is Out of the Cages by Penny Jaye. The present story is that of a Nepalese teenager who has just been rescued from sex slavery, and her battle to find a new normal life. The past story is how she got tricked into prostitution in the first place. It’s a tough read, and flashbacks reinforce the current story (click here to read my review).

More often, I loathe flashbacks. Why?

Because the flashback isn’t sharing vital information. Instead, it brings the story to a halt while it takes us back into the past to pass on information that’s only vaguely relevant to the plot at hand.

The worst example was a book I read years ago, where the author kept interrupting the hero and heroine’s story to take us back to how the heroine’s parents met and married … and to how her grandparents met and married. It wasn’t that the writing was bad. It was that I didn’t care—I cared about the hero and heroine, and they were the characters I wanted to read about.

What about you? Do you love flashbacks in fiction, or loathe them?

First Line Friday

First Line Friday | Week 98 | Entanglements by Rachel McMillan

It’s First Line Friday! That means it’s time to pick up the nearest book and quote the first line. Today I’m sharing from Entanglements by Rachel McMillan, one of the stories in the Finding Ever After collection:

First Line from Entanglements by Rachel McMillan: Once upon a time, Father Francisco told Nic Ricci that to find math in music he merely had to look to Mozart.

What’s the book nearest you, and what’s the first line?

About Finding Ever After

Experience a touch of magic with these four fairytale-ish novellas that span over one hundred years. Linked by an illustrated book of fairytales, each novella is an enchanting combination of a beloved classic sprinkled with the author’s own brand of fairy dust.

Between Stairs and Stardust is set in 1913 Asheville, NC at the beautiful Biltmore Estate and includes a budding children’s book illustrator, an out-of-the box heir, and a teensy bit of Cinderella romance.

Entanglements has a Rapunzel twist and is set in 1920’s Boston between a reluctant heiress, a charming piano tuner, and a game of chess.

Twice Upon A Time is a Beauty-And-The-Beast inspired tale that brings a romance novelist back home to her family’s pecan farm… and the ex-fiance she left behind.

Once Bitten is a nod to Snow White that includes a fake date with a handsome woodsman, seven geeks, and the world’s best apple tarts.

You can find Finding Ever After online at:

Amazon |Goodreads

Click the button to check out what my fabulous fellow FirstLineFriday bloggers are sharing today:

You can then click the link which will take you to the master page of all this week’s #FirstLineFriday posts.

And you can click here to check out my previous FirstLineFriday posts.

Share your first line in the comments, and happy reading!

And don’t forget to click here to check out my Amazon shop for my top picks in Christian fiction!

Quote from The Line Between: What did it mean that the divine could not only notice but seem delighted in me?

#ThrowbackThursday | The Line Between by Tosca Lee

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of dystopian thriller The Line Between by Tosca Lee, because the sequel releases this month. A Line Between is a great story, and the sequel promises to be just as nail-biting.

It’s near-future North America. Wynter Roth has just escaped the pseudo-Christian cult she’s lived in for the last sixteen years. Disease is sweeping the land. And Wynter is afraid the cult leader might have been right … maybe the outsde world was all heading for hell.

Wynter is a character who is both brave and naive. She knows little of the ways of the modern world, because she was only five when she entered the cult’s compound and has rarely been permitted to leave. Her views of God and the world have been twisted by the cult leader, Marcus. Yet she has a strong sense of right and wrong. And she’s prepared to risk everything she knows for right … which means leaving the cult.

The story is fast-paced and disturbingly believable. That’s the key with dystopian fiction: twist something in our reality (in this case, infectious rapid onset dementia). Use that twist to destroy everything the characters know and rely on. Then see how they react.

The story flips back and forth between Wynter’s present and the events that led her to leaving the cult. This weaving provides added layers of complexity, and propel the present plot forward. It’s masterful writing. I challenge any fan of dystopian fiction to put this one down.

Recommended for fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Maze Runner.

Thanks to Howard Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Tosca Lee

Author Photo: Tosca Lee

Tosca Lee is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of the House of Bathory duology (THE PROGENY and FIRSTBORN), ISCARIOT, THE LEGEND OF SHEBA, DEMON: A MEMOIR, HAVAH: THE STORY OF EVE, and the Books of Mortals series with New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker (FORBIDDEN, MORTAL, SOVEREIGN). A notorious night-owl, she loves watching TV, eating bacon, playing video games and football with her kids, and sending cheesy texts to her husband.

 

Find Tosca Lee online at:

Website | BookBub | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

About The Line Between

In this frighteningly believable thriller from New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee, an extinct disease re-emerges from the melting Alaskan permafrost to cause madness in its victims. For recent apocalyptic cult escapee Wynter Roth, it’s the end she’d always been told was coming.

When Wynter Roth is turned out of New Earth, a self-contained doomsday cult on the American prairie, she emerges into a world poised on the brink of madness as a mysterious outbreak of rapid early onset dementia spreads across the nation.

As Wynter struggles to start over in a world she’s been taught to regard as evil, she finds herself face-to-face with the apocalypse she’s feared all her life—until the night her sister shows up at her doorstep with a set of medical samples. That night, Wynter learns there’s something far more sinister at play and that these samples are key to understanding the disease.

Now, as the power grid fails and the nation descends into chaos, Wynter must find a way to get the samples to a lab in Colorado. Uncertain who to trust, she takes up with former military man Chase Miller, who has his own reasons for wanting to get close to the samples in her possession, and to Wynter herself.

Filled with action, conspiracy, romance, and questions of whom—and what—to believe, The Line Between is a high-octane story of survival and love in a world on the brink of madness.

You can find The Line Between online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads

You can read the introduction to The Line Between below:

And don’t forget to watch out for A Single Light, which releases this month! Here’s the book description from Amazon:

Six months after vanishing into an underground silo with sixty others, Wynter and Chase emerge to find the area abandoned. There is no sign of Noah and the rest of the group that was supposed to greet them when they emerged—the same people Wynter was counting on to help her locate the IV antibiotics her gravely ill friend, Julie, needs in order to live.

As the clock ticks down on Julie’s life, Wynter and Chase embark on a desperate search for medicine and answers. But what they find is not a nation on the cusp of recovery thanks to the promising new vaccine Wynter herself had a hand in creating, but one decimated by disease. What happened while they were underground?

With food and water in limited supply and their own survival in question, Chase and Wynter must venture further and further from the silo. Aided by an enigmatic mute named Otto, they come face-to-face with a society radically changed by global pandemic, where communities scrabble to survive under rogue leaders and cities are war zones. As hope fades by the hour and Wynter learns the terrible truth of the last six months, she is called upon once again to help save the nation she no longer recognizes—a place so dark she’s no longer sure it can even survive.

Click here to find The Line Between, A Single Light, and other great Christian fiction at my Amazon shop.

Cover Reveal - Healing Hannah's Heart by Preslaysa Williams

Cover Reveal | Healing Hannah’s Heart by Preslaysa Williams

Healing Hannah’s Heart by Preslaysa Williams

Time will heal her scars, but what will heal her heart?

Healing Hannah's Heart by Preslaysa Williams

Hannah Hart may have been burned by the breakup of her rocky marriage, but the ambitious Afro-Filipina model has big plans for her future. Her stunning looks and flawless skin provide the opening she craves to become a celebrity in the fashion world. Then an arsonist’s match brings Hannah’s world crashing down around her.

Recovering from the burns that destroyed her skin, Hannah is forced to accept help from the last person on earth she wants, her estranged husband, Jake Hart. Jake isn’t ready to give up on their marriage. The return of Jake’s teenage son from a one-night stand had been the catalyst for their breakup. How can he help both the son who resents his abandonment and the woman he still loves? He can do nothing about the scars on her skin, but can he heal Hannah’s heart?

As she struggles to rebuild her life from the ashes of her shattered dreams, does Hannah have the courage to give Jake a second chance? And is the world ready for a differently-abled model who will redefine what it means to be beautiful?

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About Preslaysa Williams

Preslaysa WilliamsPreslaysa Williams is an award-winning author who writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction with an Afro-Filipina twist. Proud of her heritage, she loves sharing her culture with her readers. She is currently earning her second graduate degree, a MFA in Writing Popular Fiction, at Seton Hill University. She holds an undergraduate degree in Spanish Language & Literature from Columbia University.

Preslaysa is also a professional actress, a planner nerd, an avid bookworm, and a homeschool mom who often wears mismatched socks. To follow along with her busy life, visit her at www.preslaysa.com where you can sign up for her newsletter community.

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What makes you click the buy button?

Bookish Question 113 | What makes you click the buy button?

What gets me clicking the buy button?

Lots of things!

  • A new book by a favourite author.
  • A great cover.
  • An intriguing book description.
  • A great first line, as featured in a #FirstLineFriday post.
  • A great review from a blogger I know and trust.
  • A good price, especially a pre-order or new release sale.

There’s not much that gets me clicking faster than a 99 cent sale from a favourite author or an author I’ve heard other bloggers and reviewers rave about (I don’t always enjoy the book, but at least it didn’t cost me much to find out).

But what stops me buying?

A Confusing Cover

One that makes it hard to tell the book’s genre. True story: I went out to dinner with two writer friends last week and showed them the cover of a book I’ve been asked to review. Neither of them could tell whether the book was fiction or non-fiction, let alone what genre. That’s a cover fail.

A Lacklustre Book Description

The book description’s job is to get me to either buy the book, or to check out the first page. It needs to be short and snappy, and introduce readers to the main characters and the central conflict. If there’s nothing interesting in the description, I’m going to assume there’s nothing interesting in the book.

Here’s an example of the opposite: Richard Mabry’s latest Christian medical thriller novella. He’s sold me by the end of the first sentence of the description:

Things were going along just fine. Until the miracle fouled them up.

“Brother” Bob Bannister is content with his life and his itinerant healing ministry, until one night he finds that the woman who walks off the stage under her own power isn’t one of his shills. At that point, doubts begin to intrude on his previously untroubled existence.

Dr. Abby Davis is tired of her family practice and at odds with God. Dealing with critically ill and dying patients has crushed her spirit to the point she’s ready to quit. But she soon realizes that there’s more to healing than ministering to the physical body.

Scott Anderson was the oldest graduate of his seminary class. Then again, most of them hadn’t turned away from a medical practice, hoping to atone for past mistakes (including his wife’s death) by ministering to men’s souls. Now he hopes he hasn’t made a colossal mistake in switching careers.

Each of these individuals becomes linked to the other, and each finds that God has a purpose for them—but, as it often does, the lesson comes with discomfort.

Bad Editing in the Sample

I always check out the Kindle sample of a book from a new-to-me author. I keep reading until I find one too many errors, or until I reach the end of the sample. If I get to the end and am engaged in the plot and haven’t found any basic writing or editing errors, there’s a good chance I’ll buy the book.

What makes you click the buy button? Here's my list of what gets me clicking Buy Now on @Amazon ... and what gets me clicking to the next page #AmReading #BookishQuestion Click To Tweet

An Expensive Book

I rarely pay more than $3.99 for an ebook, but that’s partly because I already have so many books on the to-read pile. If you don’t believe me, I sorted out my bookshelf a couple of weeks ago, and here’s most of my paper to-read pile. My Kindle pile is even bigger …

What about you? What makes you click the buy button … or not?

Cover image - No Ocean Too Wide by Carrie Turansky

Book Review | No Ocean Too Wide by Carrie Turansky

No Ocean Too Wide is about the British Home Children, and the issues surrounding sending British children to Canada. It is similar to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal depicted in Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate and The Pink Bonnet by Liz Tolsma.

The underlying idea behind the stories is the assumption that the children are better off being adopted out to more affluent families. However, the issue with the British Home Children is that many of them weren’t adopted into loving homes, affluent or otherwise. Many of them were little more than slaves, bought for a few dollars.

As such, parts of the first quarter felt a little contrived.

Would Laura really do this? Would Katie do that? I wasn’t sure. But I knew those things had to happen for the story to get going, so I was prepared to look past a few things that didn’t necessarily make sense.

Katie, Grace, and Garth McAlister are placed into an orphanage after their mother falls ill and is admitted to hospital. Their older sister, Laura, is a lady’s maid for the Frasier family, so doesn’t hear about her family’s troubles in time. Andrew Frasier offers to help Laura, but experience has taught her not to trust rich men.

Andrew is asked to look into possible issues with the British Home Children scheme.

He is surprised to find his mother’s maid involved. He’s even more surprised by her claim that her siblings have been sent to Canada, and vows to help reunite her family. But the law is not on their side …

No Ocean Too Wide is the first novel in a trilogy about the McAlistair family and their fictional experiences as British Home Children. Yes, it’s fictional, but the scheme itself—and many of the events portrayed in the novel—are based on fact. As such, it’s an excellent piece of historical fiction, as well as being a strong Christian historical romance. Recommended.

Thanks to Multnomah and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Carrie Turansky

Carrie TuranskyBestselling Inspirational Romance Author Carrie Turansky writes historical and contemporary novels and novellas set in England and the US. She has won the ACFW Carol Award, the Holt Medallion, and the International Digital Award. Readers say her stories are: “Heartwarming and inspiring! I couldn’t put it down!” . . . “Touching love story. It captured me from the first page! Rich characters, beautifully written” . . . “My new favorite author!”

Find Carrie Turansky online at:

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About No Ocean Too Wide

Between the years of 1869 to 1939 more than 100,000 poor British children were sent across the ocean to Canada with the promise of a better life. Those who took them in to work as farm laborers or household servants were told they were orphans–but was that the truth?

After the tragic loss of their father, the McAlister family is living at the edge of the poorhouse in London in 1908, leaving their mother to scrape by for her three younger children, while oldest daughter, Laura, works on a large estate more than an hour away. When Edna McAlister falls gravely ill and is hospitalized, twins Katie and Garth and eight-year-old Grace are forced into an orphans’ home before Laura is notified about her family’s unfortunate turn of events in London. With hundreds of British children sent on ships to Canada, whether truly orphans or not, Laura knows she must act quickly. But finding her siblings and taking care of her family may cost her everything.

Andrew Fraser, a wealthy young British lawyer and heir to the estate where Laura is in service, discovers that this common practice of finding new homes for penniless children might not be all that it seems. Together Laura and Andrew form an unlikely partnership. Will they arrive in time? Will their friendship blossom into something more?

Inspired by true events, this moving novel follows Laura as she seeks to reunite her family and her siblings who, in their darkest hours, must cling to the words from Isaiah: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God”.

Find No Ocean Too Wide online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Goodreads

First Line Friday

First Line Friday | Week 97 | Purple Moon by Tessa Emily Hall

It’s First Line Friday! That means it’s time to pick up the nearest book and quote the first line. Today I’m sharing from Purple Moon by Tessa Emily Hall:

Why couldn't you just leave me alone in our apartment for the summer, Mom? I'm sixteen. I'm responsible.

I’m the mother of a sixteen-year-old, and I’m fully on Mom’s side in this conversation!

What’s the book nearest you, and what’s the first line?

About Purple Moon

Selena’s life isn’t turning out to be the fairy tale she imagined as a kid.

That hope seemed to vanish long ago when her dad kicked her and her mom out of the house. This summer might finally hold the chance of a new beginning for Selena … but having to live with her snobby cousin in Lake Lure, NC while waiting for her mom to get out of rehab wasn’t how Selena was planning on spending her summer. She soon begins to wonder why she committed to give up her “bad habits” for this.

Things don’t seem too bad, though. Especially when Selena gains the attention of the cute neighbor next door. But when her best friend back home in Brooklyn desperately needs her, a secret that’s been hidden from Selena for years is revealed, and when she becomes a target for one of her cousin’s nasty pranks, she finds herself having to face the scars from her past and the memories that come along with them. Will she follow her mom’s example in running away, or trust that God still has a fairy tale life written just for her?

You can find Purple Moon online at:

Amazon | Goodreads

Click the button to check out what my fabulous fellow FirstLineFriday bloggers are sharing today:

You can then click the link which will take you to the master page of all this week’s #FirstLineFriday posts.

And you can click here to check out my previous FirstLineFriday posts.

Share your first line in the comments, and happy reading!

And don’t forget to click here to check out my Amazon shop for my top picks in Christian fiction!

#Throwback Thursday | One Last Thing by Nancy Rue

An Exceptional Tale of Contemporary Issues

Tara Faulkner is marrying Seth Grissom: her brother’s best friend, the son of their pastor, and the guy she’s loved for ten years. But they have a strange argument three weeks before the wedding, and when she returns to discuss it with Seth, she finds him doing something awful.

He promises he’ll change and never do it again, and she wants to believe him. After all, the alternative is cancelling the wedding. But when she finds he lied, she does just that—but he makes her promise not to tell anyone why. This leaves her dealing with all the fallout, not least two families blaming her for the cancellation.

One Last Thing is written entirely in first person point of view from Tara’s viewpoint. This normally only works for complex characters, and Tara wasn’t complex, at least not in the beginning. She was the perfect pampered Southern princess, and while she hasn’t lived an entirely sheltered life, her family is financially stable and she’s always been given the best of everything. She attends church with her family, but there was little indication she had any personal faith: something that’s normally a must in Christian fiction, especially Christian romance.

At first I was a little frustrated that Seth, a Christian man who worked for a mission organisation, was planning to marry a woman who had little or no personal faith of her own. But as the novel progressed, Tara began to search for God … and it explained why Seth was prepared to be “unequally yoked”.

The explanation was misogynistic or hypocritical or possibly both, but it worked. And it worked without making me feel as though my emotions were being manipulated.

That’s strong writing.

The more Tara digs into Seth’s issues, the more she finds out, and the more secrets she has to keep from her friends, her family, and from Seth’s family. The only person who has any sympathy for her is Seth’s younger sister—who’s seen as a troublemaker. She is helped in her troubled journey by a disparate group of ladies she meets while working in a local coffee shop—her first-ever job.

Tara slowly discovers Seth’s issues, and strangely, this allows us to move from repugnance to sympathy for his problems while still acknowledging Tara did the right thing. Seth acknowledges that he has to take responsibility for his own actions, especially when they have hurt others. This is as a positive thing.

I wish it didn’t, but it does, and One Last Thing does an excellent job in sensitively fictionalising a growing problem in society.

It’s not easy reading, and it’s not nice. But it is real. Unfortunately.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Rebecca St James and Nancy Rue at their websites.

You can read the opening here:

Do you read book reviews? Where?

Bookish Question #112 | Do you read book reviews? Where?

Yes, but I’d probably read more if I wasn’t a book reviewer myself!

Why is that?

As I’ve mentioned before, I get a lot of my review copies from NetGalley. I can’t read reviews for these books because there aren’t any (yet). If the author, book cover, or book description are good enough to entice me to read the book, then I’ll download it.

If I enjoy the book, then I’ll review it and share my review for others to read. If not … I’ll probably still review it on NetGalley, but won’t share the review.

When I do read reviews, they tend to be reviews on blog sites.

I follow 20+ book blogs through Feedly, and will read reviews for books that catch my eye … but only books that aren’t on my own to-review pile. I don’t like to read reviews of books I know I’m going to read and review, as I don’t like others to influence me. However, I will sometimes read a review, decide I want to read the book, then find it’s still available on NetGalley.

The other main place I read reviews is Goodreads.

It’s kind of like Facebook, in that the latest updates from my friends are front and centre in my updates. I’ll usually skim the updates a few times a week, check out reviews, and add books to my to-read pile (aka Mount TBR).

I’ll also read Amazon reviews if I’m considering buying a book e.g. if I’ve seen the book advertised on BookBub or another online site. But I’ve usually made my buying decision before I get to Amazon—although sometimes I’ll choose not to buy (say, if the ebook is too expensive. I have too many paid-for books in my to-read pile already).

So yes, I do read book reviews, but not as many as I’d read if I wasn’t a reviewer with an overflowing to-read pile!

What about you? Do you read book reviews? If so, what are your favourite review sites?

The past has light and shadows we don't see without looking from a different perspective.

Book Review | The Art of Rivers by Janet W Ferguson

Artist Rivers Sullivan has the almost-perfect life …

Until her fiancé is gunned down by a drug addict just ten days before their wedding. A year later, she’s on St. Simons Island, Georgia, preparing to pack up and sell the Barlow family cottage and art gallery, which she inherited from Jordan.

Here she meets Jordan’s cousin, an ex-addict who tore Jordan’s family apart when Jordan’s younger sister died in Cooper’s care. Jordan’s family still blames Cooper for Susannah’s death, although Jordan had been trying to reconcile with Cooper before his death. Rivers meets Cooper and finds he works in the gallery and runs a ministry for addicts, Re-Claimed.

Rivers doesn’t want to have anything to do with addicts, past or present.

Jordan was murdered by an addict. His sister lost her life due to an addict’s carelessness. Her mother is an alcoholic. Addicts can’t be trusted. Yet she’s attracted to Cooper, to his faith, to his passion for art. Almost against her will, Rivers finds herself getting involved in the gallery, in Re-Claimed, and with Cooper. But someone seems to want Re-Claimed closed, and is prepared to go to great lengths to make that happen …

The Art of Rivers is an excellent example of self-published Christian fiction.

The writing is top quality—as good as any Christian novel I’ve read. The characters feel real, and their conflicts a natural outworking of their personalities. There was no feeling that the conflict was contrived, or that the author had manipulated the characters to build the required tension. Some novels I read have an almost paint-by-numbers approach to the plot and characters, which doesn’t make for an engaging read. The Art of Rivers had none of that, which was excellent.

The real strength is that The Art of Rivers is a novel with Christian characters doing their best to live a Christian life in a world full of sin.

This is something that’s often missing from the novels from the large mainstream Christian publishers (many of which are owned by non-Christian multinational media conglomerates). While I’m happy to read these “Christian-lite” novels that have good stories and none of the content I’d rather not fill my mind with, it’s great to have more serious Christian fiction that deals with real-world issues from a Christian perspective. Recommended.

The Art of Rivers by @JanetwFerguson is an excellent example of self-published Christian fiction, showing Christian characters doing their best to live a Christian life. #BookReview #ChristianRomance Click To Tweet

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

About Janet W Ferguson

Janet W FergusonJanet W. Ferguson grew up in Mississippi and received a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Mississippi. She has served her church as a children’s minister and a youth volunteer. An avid reader, she worked as a librarian at a large public high school. Janet and her husband have two grown children, one really smart dog, and a few cats that allow them to share the space.

Click here to read my interview with Janet W Ferguson.

Find Janet W Ferguson online at:

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About The Art of Rivers

Rivers Sullivan bears both visible and invisible scars—those on her shoulder from a bullet wound and those on her heart from the loss of her fiancé during the same brutal attack. Not even her background as an art therapist can help her regain her faith in humanity. Still, she scrapes together the courage to travel to St. Simons Island to see the beach cottage and art gallery she’s inherited from her fiancé. When she stumbles upon recovering addicts running her gallery, she’s forced to reckon with her own healing.

After the tragic drowning of his cousin, James Cooper Knight spends his days trying to make up for his past mistakes. He not only dedicates his life to addiction counseling, but guilt drives him to the water, searching for others who’ve been caught unaware of the quickly rising tides of St. Simons. When he rescues a peculiar blond woman and her sketch pad from a sandbar, then delivers this same woman to his deceased grandmother’s properties, he knows things are about to get even more complicated.

Tragic circumstances draw Cooper and Rivers closer, but they fight their growing feelings. Though Cooper’s been sober for years, Rivers can’t imagine trusting her heart to someone in recovery, and he knows a relationship with her will only rip his family further apart. Distrust and guilt are only the first roadblocks they must overcome if they take a chance on love.

Find The Art of Rivers online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | Goodreads