Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuesday Review: Somewhere Between Luck and Trust

Somewhere Between Luck and Trust
By Emilie Richards
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Release Date: June 25, 2013

Twenty-two-year-old Cristy Haviland is about to be released from The North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women, where she has just served eight months on a contrived shoplifting charge. Her future looks anything but promising. She is struggling with making the right decision about the son to whom she gave birth during her imprisonment. Michael, the son whom she has never held, is being loved and cared for by a cousin of Cristy’s.  She is afraid to go back to Berle, her hometown, because her son’s father is there. Cristy is grateful but wary that Samantha Ferguson, the director of a maternal-health clinic in Ashville, has taken an interest in her and is offering her a place to stay at Goddess House, a log cabin located between two small mountain towns, Luck and Trust.

Ironically, luck and trust are two qualities in short supply in Cristy’s life. There’s little in her past to foster a belief in either quality even before the prison sentence. The daughter of a legalistic preacher and his ineffectual wife who set standards their daughter could never meet and withheld their love and approval when she failed, Christy was ripe pickings for Jackson Ford, the spoiled and superficial charmer who won her with his attention and used her for his own twisted purpose.

While Christy is adjusting to her freedom, discovering who she is, and finding answers to the questions she has about her new life, one of the directors of Goddess House is searching for answers about her distant past. Georgia Ferguson, Samantha’s mother, is an innovative educator currently employed as the principal of an alternative school. Georgia is the once famous “Sweatshirt Baby,” so tagged by the media because as a new born she was found wrapped in a University of Georgia sweatshirt and abandoned in a hospital sink, a preemie who almost didn’t survive. Now newspaper clippings about her birth and a charm bracelet have mysteriously appeared on her desk. Their appearance just as she is approaching her fiftieth birthday leave Georgia wondering about the mother who abandoned her even as she deals with the challenges of her troubled students.

As different as the two women are in most ways, a connection develops. Georgia, who has extensive training in the teaching of reading, recognizes that Cristy is illiterate. Given the young woman’s obvious intelligence and social skills, Georgia determines that the problem is a form of dyslexia and offers to teach Cristy to read. Afraid of just one more failure, Cristy is at first reluctant but eventually accepts Georgia’s offer. As they work together, their respect for one another deepens and a friendship develops. When Georgia decides to unlock the mystery of her past, Cristy is one of the friends with her every step of her journey.

Emilie Richards packs this second book in her Goddesses Anonymous series with elements drawn from a variety of genres and a bundle of social issues. Somewhere Between Luck and Trust is most clearly women’s fiction, but both the mystery and romance threads are strong. In addition to the mystery of Georgia’s beginnings, there is the mystery of the setup that sent Cristy to prison. Both mysteries are solved but not without some twists along the way. Romance is provided for both women as well. Jim “Sully” Sullivan, a young cop from Berle who has a strong sense of justice and high courage, becomes Cristy’s champion and earns his place in her heart. Lucas Ramsey, a mystery writer with a soft spot for a troubled teen, sneaks past Georgia’s reservations about romantic relationships with his genuine charm and caring.

The social issues woven into the story include rehabilitation, adoption, child abandonment, literacy, education, acceptance of homosexuality, the evolving definition of family, and I may have missed one or more. The result of so many issues could easily have been a confusing, tangled mess of threads or a sociological treatise, but in the deft hands of Richards, it is neither. She is a gifted storyteller, and she weaves this complicated mix into a compelling, coherent, variegated whole that captures the reader’s interest, touches her heart, and challenges her preconceptions. And she does all this while making the North Carolina setting so real you can feel the sun’s heat and touch the earth of Cristy’s garden.

Readers of One Mountain Away will enjoy learning more about Georgia and seeing Samantha and other characters from the first book make appearances and appreciate seeing Charlotte’s legacy come alive, but Somewhere Between Luck and Trust can also be read as a standalone. If you appreciate novels, regardless of marketing tags, that ate cogent, compassionate, and courageous, I highly recommend this one.

I sometimes think we pay too much attention to putting books into simple categories. While I will always love undiluted romance, I also find that some of my favorite books defy simple labels. How do you feel about books our need to separate books by genre or subgenre?


Terri Osburn said...

You had me at paragraph three. I've never heard of this one, but I'm heading to Amazon right now. I need a good read to help me refill the well.

Janga said...

Terri, Richards is one of those writers whose books I've been reading since the 80s. I love her stories. I'm interested in hearing what you think.

Emilie Richards said...

I just happened across this, Janga, and I wanted to thank you for this really wonderful review. I've shared it with my FB fans https://www.facebook.com/authoremilierichards

Emilie Richards said...

I just happened across this, Janga, and I wanted to thank you for this really wonderful review. I've shared it with my FB fans https://www.facebook.com/authoremilierichards

Janga said...

Thank you for giving this reader such a memorable book and for all the many hours of reading pleasure your other books have given me. Thanks for commenting too--and for sharing the review with your FB fans. I'm just a bundle of gratitude. LOL

irisheyes said...

As a rule, I'm not fond of labels. That being said, I find that when choosing a book to read I tend to depend heavily on them.

First and foremost I like a romance and a HEA. I'm finding that peripheral relationships between friends, siblings and parent/child are also a big draw for me, though. I can see where an author trying to fit their particular story into a certain mold may be hard but for me, the reader, it helps save a lot of time and frustration.

I do have to say, Janga, that the way you describe the genre/type of book you are reviewing is very helpful! I know for a fact that I've picked up countless books you've reviewed when I would not have looked twice at them otherwise. There were women's fiction books (which I also thought were just depressing Oprah Book Club books) or Harlequin SuperRomances (which I thought had no substance) or a book set in a time period that I just assumed wouldn't interest me (World War II). You are good at this and have provided me with endless hours of reading pleasure! Thanks :)

quantum said...

I like books where romance provides a healing balm for the hard knocks that life and luck can deliver.

Janga you have recommended so many fabulous authors that limited time is forcing me to make hard choices. I am really enjoying Deborah Smith's 'Cross Roads Cafe' in audio and want to try more of her books (in audio) but Emilie Richards sounds rather similar and also very tempting, currently offering 3 audio books: Sister's Choice, Touching Stars, Endless Chain.

Should I stick with Smith for now or include one of Richards's audios ... what would you suggest?
I trust your judgement on this more than my own! *smile*

I'm not bothered about classifying into genre's. Life is just too complex. Though a romantic thread is a glue that can nicely pull all the threads together.

Janga said...

Thanks, Irish. That's a lovely compliment, one I cherish, and I'm happy to have introduced you to some of the authors I love.

You said, "First and foremost I like a romance and a HEA. I'm finding that peripheral relationships between friends, siblings and parent/child are also a big draw for me, though."

I call these romances with context, and they are the stories I love most too.

Janga said...

Q, Sister's Choice, Touching Stars, Endless Chain are part of Emilie Richards's Shenandoah Album series--books 5, 4, and 2. I love the series, but they are very much women's fiction. Since you've begun with Smith, my advice is to continue--and keep Richards in mind to try later. :)