Tag Archives: book recommendations

Broken Pieces of God by David Seaburn Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A family reeling from setbacks and tragedies must find a way of banding together to face the darkness in author David Seaburn’s domestic drama, “Broken Pieces of God”.


The Synopsis

In Broken Pieces of God David B. Seaburn returns to the domestic arena to explore the complex and extraordinary lives of an ordinary American couple, Eddy and Gayle Kimes. Eddy, a supervisor for a cable company, loses his job. Gayle, a tax accountant, is recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Unemployment, failed chemotherapy, and no insurance bring them to life’s precipice. Desperate, Eddy turns to a statue of Jesus, seeking a miracle, while Gayle dives deeper into a scheme she has been concocting for twenty-five years.

In the meantime, their adult offspring, Rich and Sandy, grapple with the aftershock of a tragic incident that has shadowed their lives since high school. What will happen when their secret is revealed?

At the eleventh hour, Gayle re-enters treatment and the family pulls together. Will it be too late?

This is a story of resilience in the face of uncertainty, hope in the midst of darkness, and family ties strengthened by life’s vicissitudes. 

The Review

The author does a fantastic job of relaying the paths we take in the face of overwhelming hardship, struggle, and pain, and how families each struggling with their own issues can come together to face the future with hope in the face of darkness. The author writes in a way that feels relatable and personal all at once, crafting a gripping tale that embodies life’s greatest trials and tribulations, and how people search for help or solutions from various sources, whether that be faith, family, or a little of both.

The character development was what really sealed the emotional pull this reader had with the story. The author perfectly captures the emotional depth of each character, highlighting the real-world struggles that many readers will be able to identify with while crafting a story that is engaging and pulls the reader in full-throttle. The blend of family dynamics and personal turmoil, and the family’s push to come to terms with the events of their lives was a whirlwind of emotional ups and downs as the reader became invested in this narrative. 

The Verdict

A heartfelt, gripping, and emotionally driven narrative, author David Seaburn’s “Broken Pieces of God” is a must-read drama this fall. The relatability of the characters and their plights will become super relatable to readers, while the narrative and the balance of faith and family in the midst of crisis will touch a lot of reader’s hearts. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

David B. Seaburn is the author of seven novels with his eighth, Broken Pieces of God, being released in September 2021.

David’s first publication was a series of poems when he was in seminary at Boston University (1972-75). He continued writing while serving a church for six years, mostly short stories, plays, songs, essays and two manuscripts of inspirational prose.   

He entered the field of marriage and family therapy in 1986 and was Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center where he did extensive academic writing.  During this period, he co-authored two professional books and wrote over 60 papers and book chapters.

He started writing fiction in 2000, completing his first novel, Darkness is as Light, in 2001. It was published in 2005. 

Since then, David has been busy: Pumpkin Hill (2005), Charlie No Face(2007), Chimney Bluffs (2012), More More Time (2015), Parrot Talk (2017), and Gavin Goode (2019).

He has also written and co-written numerous non-fiction pieces some ofwhich are listed on the Other Publications Page.



Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story by Lilliam Rivera (Illustrated by Steph C.) Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

One of DC Comics best and most beloved characters of the past decade takes center stage in an original story that puts her in the midst of the immigration debate as she struggles with whether or not to stay in the United States and strange visions of Aztec gods in author Lilliam Rivera’s “Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story”.


The Synopsis

Acclaimed author Lilliam Rivera and artist Steph C. reimagine one of DC’s greatest Green Lanterns, Jessica Cruz, to tell a story about immigration, family, and overcoming fear to inspire hope.

Jessica Cruz has done everything right. She’s a dedicated student, popular among her classmates, and has a loving family that has done everything they can to give her a better life in the United States. While Jessica is a part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, allowing her to go to school and live in the U.S., her parents are undocumented. Jessica usually worries for her parents, but her fears and anxiety escalate as a mayoral candidate with a strong anti-immigration stance runs for office.

As the xenophobia in Coast City increases, Jessica begins to debate whether it’s worth renewing her status to stay in the U.S., or if her family would be safer and better off moving back to Mexico. And despite her attempts to lean on her friends and family, she finds herself constantly visited by visions of Aztec gods, one pulling her towards hope and the other towards anger.

But when her father is detained by I.C.E., Jessica finds herself being pulled into an abyss of fear. With her father gone and feeling helpless, Jessica must find her way out of her fears and ultimately become a voice for her community. 

The Review

What a powerful and engaging new take on the iconic Green Lantern character. This was a fantastic story that really captured the struggle and strength of the Latino community, especially when the debate over immigration has never been higher in recent years. Jessica Cruz is the perfect character to bring this fight for justice and equality to light, as her DC Comics history played into the battle between fear and hope that her character has embodied since her introduction. As a half-Latino man whose late grandfather came to this country as a young child and built a family of his own through dedication and hard work, the cultural element and the familial bonds that Jessica had not only with her parents but her community as a whole really spoke to me, as these core values are something I was taught at an early age.

The fantastic blend of DC Comics character mythology, history, and Aztec mythology was amazing to see come to life here. The visions that Jessica had really did a great job of highlighting the inner-struggle of her character between fear and hope, and seeing things like side character John Stewart come into play and her father’s lessons really made this story shine brightly. The artwork itself was so engaging, striking amazing contrasts between the light and darkness that Jessica struggled with and which settled over Coast City as immigration and politics took more and more of a prominent role in the community. The warmth that the artwork seemed to invoke really spoke to me and helped convey the message clearly.

The Verdict

A brilliant, heartfelt, and refreshing new take on a personal favorite and iconic DC Comics hero, author Lilliam Rivera and artist Steph C.’s “Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story”, is a must-read graphic novel and a contender or graphic novel of the year. DC Comics showcases a brilliant eye for talent as both the artist and the author did an incredible job of relaying a new take on some fan favorite characters and their history while also bringing an important topic and theme to life in a way that can highlight the issues without sacrificing entertainment and relatability. If you haven’t yet, grab your own copy of this amazing story today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Lilliam Rivera is an award-winning author of children’s books including her latest Never Look Back, a retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice set in New York by Bloomsbury Publishing. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Elle, to name a few. Lilliam lives in Los Angeles.



About the Illustrator

Steph C. is a Mexican artist and illustrator mainly know for  her stylish characters that evoque a vibrant sensation within story and design whit a sense of geometry and sharp compositions. My goal is to inspire others through the power of creation!




Dear Arlo: Adventures in Dadding by Tom Kreffer Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Author Tom Kreffer returns with his unique brand of humorous and relatable anecdotes as he explores the first year of fatherhood in his latest book, “Dear Arlo”, the second book in his Adventures in Dadding series.


The Synopsis

It begins immediately.

There’s no transition period, no trial run, no supervised training, no e-learning module and no simulation that you can f**k up as many times as you need to until you get it right.

As soon as the midwife hands you your newborn baby, you are responsible for keeping it alive.

Picking up moments after Dear Dory ends, Dear Arlo: Adventures in Dadding continues the story of one dad and his journal as he strives to survive the first year of parenthood, blundering his way through bottle-sterilising, night feeds and some cataclysmic nappy changes – all while a pandemic sweeps across the planet.


The Review

This was a brilliant follow-up to the author’s first novel, Dear Dory. Where the first book followed the journey of pregnancy and expecting to become a father, Dear Arlo expertly navigates the real-life feelings and experiences that one encounters in their first year of fatherhood. The humor and wit in which the author infuses his personality into the real-life experiences of being a parent for the first time.

From the first moments of bliss you feel upon holding your child for the first time, to the anxiety of getting your child home for the first time, forgetful trips at the market, and even those moments away from home at work, missing your family dearly, the author finds a balance between his humorous writing style with realism that touches upon the emotional experience parenthood has. 

The challenges and anxiety-ridden feelings that come up during that first year, in particular, are captured exceptionally, and yet the magic and excitement and love that comes from seeing your child grow is infused naturally into the narrative, making this story shine so brightly.

The Verdict

A remarkable, engaging, and thoughtful nonfiction read on parenthood, author Tom Kreffer’s “Dear Arlo” is a must-read of 2021. The unique thing about this book is that the author doesn’t write it like a “how-to” guide on parenthood or give instruction on how you should be a father. Instead, the book comes to life as a memoir-style narrative that gives a more personal and emotional touch to the subject. Heartfelt in its delivery, be sure you grab your own copy of this fantastic book today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

Tom Kreffer is the author of Dear Dory: Journal of a Soon-to-be First-time DadDear Arlo: Adventures in Dadding and the creator of the Adventures in Dadding Newsletter. He love Star Wars and Marvel movies and he has a degree in film and television that he strongly believes is worth less than a second-hand toothbrush.

He lives in Northampton, England with his family, whom he intends to exploit for many more story opportunities in the years to come.

Visit www.tomkreffer.com for updates on Tom, his books and his events



Gaslight Paradise by Walrus Review

Three people discover how far they would go to live forever as they discover the sinister motivations behind an innocent seeming party in author Walrus’s “Gaslight Paradise”.


The Synopsis

What would you do to live forever? Three very different people contemplate this question after it is posed to them at a lavish party where everything is more sinister than it seems.

The Review

This was the perfect fusion of otherworldly fantasy, historically-driven sci-fi, and old-time mystery thriller horror stories all in one delicious literary bite. The authors known as Walrus have perfectly captured both a humorous tone amongst the cast of characters and their interactions with one another and a haunting note of terror in the spine-chilling behavior of the “party hosts”. 

The mystery of the doors that take the trio of protagonists to this “party” is inviting and entertaining, to say the least. The author’s ability to translate fantasy, horror, and sci-fi in a mature and adult way was great to see, as so many stories delve into the YA world for these genres that getting a more adult turn in this genre was a breath of fresh air. 

The Verdict

A heart-pounding, chilling, and engaging sci-fi and fantasy read, authors Walrus and their book, “Gaslight Paradise” is a must-read novel. The story is invigorating and does a great job of adding a new twist on the class thriller-mystery genre. The shocking revelation of this party’s origin will stay with readers long after the book’s end, and the cliffhanger of an ending is open-ended enough for fans to want more but mysterious enough to be a brilliant conclusion as well. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

Walrus was once believed to be an urban legend. Very little is known other than Walrus is said to sleep very little, eat very much, and write far more than is healthy for the normal mind.

To bestow a great story on the world is Walrus’ only wish.


Double Crosser by Emme Gordon Review 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young man hoping to bring progress to his village finds himself forced to choose between fulfilling a long-cherished dream and the girl he loves in author Emme Gordon’s “Double Crosser”.


The Synopsis

What if a young man sets out to bring progress and development to his village… at any cost?

Maverick businessman Krish Thomas decides to build a highway that passes through his village. To finance it, he launches a business, becomes a wheeler dealer, and makes a fortune.

And then, in alliance with a dubious political fixer, he plans to steal a billion dollars – from his own company… so he can keep his promise to a childhood friend!

What happens when a nosey detective pokes around into his shady deal making? And a double-crosser begins exposing the shenanigans?

Find out in this fast-paced action thriller ‘Double Crosser’!

With his entire business empire at stake and his very survival threatened, Krish is finally forced to choose between two options… a long-cherished dream, or the girl he loves.

In the end it looks as if Krish’s compromises will almost wreck his fortune – but will they let him pursue his dreams?

‘Double Crosser’ is a thrilling drama full of tension and action. A roller-coaster ride that will plunge you into an exhilarating world of high finance and deadly intrigue, rampant corruption as well as shining idealism.

“It’s about how far one will go, how much one is willing to give… to make a dream come true” – Sid Sinclair

“Fast paced. Never a dull moment. And what a stunning climax. Great story.” – Raj Ramanathan

“A page-turner that grips and will keep you awake late into the night.” – Charlene Cartier

Enter the fascinating universe of Krish, his friends and lover, his rivals and enemies.

A roller-coaster adventure in big finance, rampant corruption, and shining idealism. A stark choice between friendship and love. This action packed thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat!

Enjoy ‘Double Crosser’ today.

The Review

What an engaging and unique thriller! The author has done a marvelous job of drawing readers into this powerful narrative of a young man with dreams of bettering his village and those who live within it, and along the way gets caught up in a game of high-stakes finances, corporate and political corruption, and a delicate balance between love and childhood promises. The atmosphere and tone the author creates early on strike a stark contrast between the hopeful dreams of the protagonist and the dark underbelly of financially driven crime. 

Yet this author’s command over character development was amazing to see unfold. The intricacies of protagonist Krish were so insightful and added so much depth to the narrative. The haunting loss of a childhood friend early on in the book really highlights the overall struggle of the protagonist and influences his actions so much in this story. The balance the author found between this development of the characters and the intrigue of the conflict amongst the protagonist and the corrupt figures he faced really made this financial thriller so engaging to read.

The Verdict

A remarkable, entertaining, and investing financial thriller, author Emme Gordon’s “Double Crosser” is a must-read book. The lengthy yet fast-paced and heart-pounding twists and turns the author takes readers on will guarantee that no reader ever feels bored, as the action is heart-pounding while unique to this particular genre. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

Emme Gordon lives in Madras with his French wife and two young boys.

During the day, he clocks time in a cubicle, pretending to code software. In the gloam of twilight, while the world readies to sleep, Emme transforms into a dreamer who indulges joyously in a universe of make believe.

Larger than life characters. Impossibly crazy situations. Desperately dangerous risks. King size dreams. All are grist to Emme’s creative mill.

His novels are about unconventional characters who set out to change the world – a reflection of his own refusal to conform and fit in.

Emme would love to hear from you, especially if you enjoy reading his stories and want to share your thoughts.


Money Plain and Simple: What the Institutions and the Elite Don’t Want You to Know by Steven J. Spence Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Author Steven J. Spence takes readers on a journey into the history of the United States Monetary System and how the U.S. Dollar’s position has changed in recent years in the book, “Money Plain and Simple: What the Institutions and the Elite Don’t Want You To Know”. 


The Synopsis

A straightforward guide to understanding the global monetary system and why the shine is off the U.S. dollar’s position as the Gold Standard of world currencies. Steven J. Spence, a military veteran and corporate employee-turned-entrepreneur, lays out a concise history of the U.S. monetary system. He’s candid about his own life lessons and then shares how he came to discover the hard realities revealed in this informative read. The author explains in layperson’s terms how the institutions behind money work and how it affects you. He also offers timely insight into what’s going on right now from crypto currency to inflation and hyper-inflation and steps you should consider to secure your own financial future.

The Review

The author does a great job of really laying out the concept of banking systems, credit, and how our finances are impacted through education and detailed lessons throughout this book. The way the author interweaves their own experiences throughout their life and the way so many of us are introduced to debt through credit cards and difficulty finding reasonably paid work after education was such a great way to open up this road, and the deep dive the author took into the history and modern impact of finances on the U.S. financial system was thought-provoking.

The way the author writes is what really sold this book to me. Unlike so many financial books that try to show tricks or methods for accruing money or become self-help in nature, this book is written in a way that feels more hands-on educational instead. The layout and honest way the author speaks and integrates his personal experiences really helped someone like me, who is not financially education-forward, to understand and grasp the lessons the author was imparting. 

The Verdict

A thoughtful, insightful, and memorable read, author Steven J. Spence’s “Money Plain and Simple” is a must-read non-fiction book of 2021, and a contender for best book on finances for the year on my site. The engaging way the author relays the narrative and sets out to show readers how big banking and wealthy elites have secured their financials through manipulation of the market was something we all should take into account in our future finances. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

Steven J. Spence is a retired US Air Force veteran, airline mechanic, aircraft builder, and an owner of a real estate rental investment company. Throughout his military and airline careers, he taught airline safety to groups around the world. Spence grew up in poverty with a single mom, who immigrated from Germany with her American military husband only find herself alone with two young sons in the wake of a divorce. With no role models, he had no understanding about how to build his financial future. Now a successful entrepreneur, Spence focuses on financial literacy as it relates to the ordinary person. He and his wife Adriana have two daughters, Shannon and Rachel, a son, Lucas, and one grandson, Julian.

Chasing the Captain (The Jessica Ramierez  Thrillers Book 2) By Terry Shepherd Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Action hero and investigator Jessica Ramierez returns and must travel across the pond when a tiny thread leads to an international conspiracy and possibly the answers to the questions she’s been seeking in author Terry Shepherd’s “Chasing the Captain”, the second book in the Jessica Ramierez Thriller series. 


The Synopsis

In Jessica Ramirez’s second outing, she’s once again a fish out of water, chasing the bad guy who got away. When forced to witness a questionable execution, Jess follows a tiny thread across the Atlantic, linking up with DI Liyanna Evans, a cop with London’s Metropolitan Police. The two quickly discover that their antagonist’s reach is both worldwide and deadly.

Another delectable tale that blends technothriller with suspense and police procedural adventure, Chasing the Captain picks up where Chasing Vega left off, giving Jess the chance to find the answers she seeks, even if it endangers her life and career in the process.

Many of your favorites from Chasing Vega are back, including the indomitable Alexandra Clark, technology guru Andy Milluzzi and Jessica’s FBI boyfriend Michael Wright. Add Terry Shepherd’s diverse ensemble cast and enough twists and turns to make your head spin and you have another wholly satisfying, screen-worthy popcorn thriller that best selling author Tori Eldridge calls, “a fast-paced international adventure.”

“Indomitable female cops hot on the trail of justice (and maybe a little revenge), bad guys I loved to hate, an international conspiracy, a little romance, and one blazing action sequence after another kept the pages turning and me happily reading until the end.Indomitable female cops hot on the trail of justice (and maybe a little revenge), bad guys I loved to hate, an international conspiracy, a little romance, and one blazing action sequence after another kept the pages turning and me happily reading until the end,” writes best novelest Kerry Schafer, author of the Shadow Valley Mystery Series.

D.P. Lyle, author of the Jake Longly and Cain/Harper Thriller series calls Chasing the Captain, “A break-neck ride crammed with tension, action and kick-ass characters.”

McKenna Mystery author Kate Anslinger says, “Terry Shepherd is one of those rare authors who can bookend a masterful action scene with poetic prose, descriptive settings, and human emotion, leading readers to fall effortlessly into the diverse worlds he creates.”

As you dive into Chasing the Captain, you’ll become immersed in the adventure, too.

The Review

This was a fantastic follow-up to the acclaimed hit action-thriller author Terry Shepherd brought us in his first book. The incredible world-building and action-packed writing the author employed throughout this narrative was incredible, written in such as way that felt very visceral and vivid to picture in the reader’s mind. The imagery throughout the writing kept the novel’s settings and atmosphere alive, becoming characters all their own. 

Yet it was the numerous appearances of several strong, powerful female characters that found the perfect balance of vulnerability and kick-ass. The International aspect of this thriller allowed for several looks into how differing police agencies work and introduced new characters like DI Liyanna Evans into the narrative. However, the star of the novel is of course protagonist and hero Jessica Ramierez. The author delved into the hero’s past while helping to close the chapter on the shocking personal losses she accrued in the first novel, giving the opportunity for new readers to the series to jump into the narrative without losing too much ground on what this character represents, which is the new face of thriller-genre heroes. 

The Verdict

A brilliant, adrenaline-pumping and entertaining action-thriller novel, author Terry Shepherd’s “Chasing the Captain” is a must-read novel of 2021! The author has brought pure action and entertainment into the narrative space in a fresh and unique way. The writing is descriptive and emotional as well and creates a unique experience that almost feels like it should be cinematic in its delivery as if waiting to become the next HBO Max series we all need. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today.



About the Author

Terry Shepherd grew up in Michigan and began writing fiction in high school. After a long career in the corporate world, he took up the craft full time in 2018. He writes detective fiction for both adults and kids from his home on the Atlantic Ocean in Jacksonville, Florida.

The Inheritance by JoAnn Ross Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Three women discover they are sisters after their photojournalist father passes away, and they inherit the family vineyard in author JoAnn Ross’s “The Inheritance”. 


The Synopsis

When conflict photographer Jackson Swann dies, he leaves behind a conflict of his own making when his three daughters, each born from a different mother and unknown to each other, discover that they’re now part owners of Maison de Madelaine, the family’s Oregon vineyard—a once famous business struggling to recover from a worldwide economic collapse.

After a successful career as a child TV star, a disastrous time as a teen pop star, and now a successful author, Tess is, for the first time in her life, suffering from a serious case of writer’s block and identity crisis.

Charlotte, brought up to be a proper Southern wife, has given up her own career goals to support her husband while having spent the past year struggling to conceive a child to create a more perfect marriage. On the worst day of her life, she discovers her beloved father has died, she has two sisters she’d never been told about, and her husband has fallen in love with another woman.

Natalie, daughter of Jack’s long-time mistress, has always known about both half-sisters. Still mourning the loss of her mother, the death of her father a year later is a devastating blow. And she can’t help feeling that both her sisters may resent her for being the daughter their father decided to keep.

As the sisters reluctantly gather at the family vineyard, they’re enchanted by the legacy they’ve inherited, and by their grandmother’s rich stories of life in WWII France and the love she found with a wounded American soldier who brought her to Oregon where they started Maison de Madelaine

The Review

A truly inviting and emotional read. The author has captured a captivating blend and balance of history and contemporary women’s fiction. The narrative delves into the history of WWII from the perspective of a WWII French Resistance Fighter, setting the backstory of not only the main character but the complex history of the person who was the catalyst for the protagonists to come together. 

Yet it was the emotional struggle of the three sisters that really sold this narrative. Having watched people close to me lose their parents in recent years and dealing with the fallout afterward amongst their siblings, this narrative did an amazing job of hitting the emotional core of that process while adding an extra element of personal turmoil as each sister not only dealt with their own strained relationship with their father but the discovery of their sisters as well. I always enjoy reading works that push the boundaries on what family truly means, and how the bonds we build with one another mean more than anything else. The added elements of romance and character buildup that each sister experienced made this a brilliant story to engage with.

The Verdict

A remarkable, thought-provoking, and emotional read, author JoAnn Ross’s “The Inheritance” is a must-read novel of 2021. The perfect amount of intrigue and history to balance out the romance and personal relationships each sister had to force themselves to build amongst each other made this such an engaging story to get lost in. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author JoAnn Ross has been published in twenty-seven countries. The author of over 100 novels, JoAnn lives with her husband and many rescue pets — who pretty much rule the house — in the Pacific Northwest.

Buy Links: 



Barnes & Noble




Social Links:

Author Website

Facebook: @JoAnnRossbooks

Instagram: @JoAnnRossBooks



Here is an Excerpt from The Inheritance


Aberdeen, Oregon

Conflict photographer Jackson Swann had traveled to dark and deadly places in the world most people would never see. Nor want to. Along with dodging bullets and mortars, he’d survived a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, gotten shot mere inches from his heart in Niger and been stung by a death-stalker scorpion while embedded with the French Foreign Legion in Mali.

Some of those who’d worked with him over the decades had called him reckless. Rash. Dangerous. Over late-night beers or whatever else passed as liquor in whatever country they’d all swarmed to, other photographers and foreign journalists would argue about whether that bastard Jackson Swann had a death wish or merely considered himself invincible.

He did, after all, rush into high-octane situations no sane person would ever consider, and even when the shit hit the fan, somehow, he’d come out alive and be on the move again. Chasing the next war or crisis like a drug addict chased a high. The truth was that Jack had never believed himself to be im-mortal. Still, as he looked out over the peaceful view of rolling hills, the cherry trees wearing their spring profusion of pink blossoms, and acres of vineyards, he found it ironic that after having evaded the Grim Reaper so many times over so many decades, it was an aggressive and rapidly spreading lung cancer that was going to kill him.

Which was why he was here, sitting on the terraced patio of Chateau de Madeleine, the towering gray stone house that his father, Robert Swann, had built for his beloved war bride, Madeleine, to ease her homesickness. Oregon’s Willamette Valley was a beautiful place. But it was not Madeleine’s child-hood home in France’s Burgundy region where much of her family still lived.

Family. Jack understood that to many, the American dream featured a cookie-cutter suburban house, a green lawn you had to mow every weekend, a white picket fence, happy, well-fed kids and a mutt who’d greet him with unrestrained canine glee whenever he returned home from work. It wasn’t a bad dream. But it wasn’t, and never would be, his dream.

How could it be with the survivor’s guilt that shadowed him like a tribe of moaning ghosts? Although he’d never been all that introspective, Jack realized that the moral dilemma he’d experienced every time he’d had to force himself to re-main emotionally removed from the bloody scenes of chaos and death he was viewing through the lens of his camera had left him too broken to feel, or even behave like a normal human being.

Ten years ago, after his strong, robust father died of a sudden heart attack while fly-fishing, Jack had inherited the winery with his mother, who’d professed no interest in the day-to-day running of the family business. After signing over control of the winery to him, and declaring the rambling house too large for one woman, Madeleine Swann had moved into the guesthouse next to the garden she’d begun her first year in Oregon. A garden that supplied the vegetables and herbs she used for cooking many of the French meals she’d grown up with.

His father’s death had left Jack in charge of two hundred and sixty acres of vineyards and twenty acres of orchards. Not wanting, nor able, to give up his wanderlust ways to settle down and become a farmer of grapes and cherries, Jack had hired Gideon Byrne, a recent widower with a five-year-old daughter, away from a Napa winery to serve as both manager and vintner.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to call them?” Gideon, walking toward him, carrying a bottle of wine and two glasses, asked not for the first time over the past weeks.

“The only reason that Tess would want to see me would be to wave me off to hell.” In the same way he’d never softened the impact of his photos, Jack never minced words nor romanticized his life. There would be no dramatic scenes with his three daughters—all now grown women with lives of their own—hovering over his deathbed.

“Have you considered that she might want to have an opportunity to talk with you? If for no other reason to ask—”

“Why I deserted her before her second birthday and never looked back? I’m sure her mother’s told her own version of the story, and the truth is that the answers are too damn complicated and the time too long past for that discussion.” It was also too late for redemption.

Jack doubted his eldest daughter would give a damn even if he could’ve tried to explain. She’d have no way of knowing that he’d kept track of her all these years, blaming himself when she’d spiraled out of control so publicly during her late teens and early twenties. Perhaps, if she’d had a father who came home every night for dinner, she would have had a more normal, stable life than the Hollywood hurricane her mother had thrown her into before her third birthday.

Bygones, he reminded himself. Anything he might say to his firstborn would be too little, too late. Tess had no reason to travel to Oregon for his sake, but hopefully, once he was gone, curiosity would get the better of her. His girls should know each other. It was long past time.

“Charlotte, then,” Gideon pressed. “You and Blanche are still technically married.”

Technically being the operative word.” The decades-long separation from his Southern socialite wife had always suited them both just fine. According to their prenuptial agreement, Blanche would continue to live her privileged life in Charleston, without being saddled with a full-time live-in husband, who’d seldom be around at any rate. Divorce, she’d informed him, was not an option. And if she had discreet affairs from time to time, who would blame her? Certainly not him.

“That’s no reason not to give Charlotte an opportunity to say goodbye. How many times have you seen her since she went to college? Maybe twice a year?”

“You’re pushing again,” Jack shot back. Hell, you’d think a guy would be allowed to die in peace without Jiminy Cricket sitting on his shoulder. “Though of the three of them, Char-lotte will probably be the most hurt,” he allowed.

His middle daughter had always been a sweet girl, running into his arms, hair flying behind her like a bright gold flag to give her daddy some “sugar”—big wet kisses on those rare occasions he’d wind his way back to Charleston. Or drop by Savannah to take her out to dinner while she’d been attending The Savannah School of Art and Design.

“The girl doesn’t possess Blanche’s steel magnolia strength.”

Having grown up with a mother who could find fault in the smallest of things, Charlotte was a people pleaser, and that part of her personality would kick into high gear whenever he rolled into the city. “And, call me a coward, but I’d just as soon not be around when her pretty, delusional world comes crashing down around her.” He suspected there were those in his daughter’s rarified social circle who knew the secret that the Charleston PI he’d kept on retainer hadn’t had any trouble uncovering.

“How about Natalie?” Gideon continued to press. “She doesn’t have any reason to be pissed at you. But I’ll bet she will be if you die without a word of warning. Especially after losing her mother last year.”

“Which is exactly why I don’t want to put her through this.”

He’d met Josette Seurat, the ebony-haired, dark-eyed French Jamaican mother of his youngest daughter, when she’d been singing in a club in the spirited Oberkampf district of Paris’s eleventh arrondissement. He’d fallen instantly, and by the next morning Jack knew that not only was the woman he’d spent the night having hot sex with his first true love, she was also the only woman he’d ever love. Although they’d never married, they’d become a couple, while still allowing space for each other to maintain their own individual lives, for twenty-six years. And for all those years, despite temptation from beautiful women all over the globe, Jack had remained faithful. He’d never had a single doubt that Josette had, as well.

With Josette having been so full of life, her sudden death from a brain embolism had hit hard. Although Jack had im-mediately flown to Paris from Syria to attend the funeral at a church built during the reign of Napoleon III, he’d been too deep in his own grief, and suffering fatigue—which, rather than jet lag, as he’d assumed, had turned out to be cancer—to provide the emotional support and comfort his third daughter had deserved.

“Josette’s death is the main reason I’m not going to drag Natalie here to watch me die. And you might as well quit playing all the guilt cards because I’m as sure of my decision as I was yesterday. And the day before that. And every other time over the past weeks you’ve brought it up. Bad enough you coerced me into making those damn videos. Like I’m some documentary maker.”

To Jack’s mind, documentary filmmakers were storytellers who hadn’t bothered to learn to edit. How hard was it to spend anywhere from two to ten hours telling a story he could capture in one single, perfectly timed photograph?

“The total length of all three of them is only twenty minutes,” Gideon said equably.

There were times when Jack considered that the man had the patience of a saint. Which was probably necessary when you’d chosen to spend your life watching grapes grow, then waiting years before the wine you’d made from those grapes was ready to drink. Without Gideon Byrne to run this place, Jack probably would have sold it off to one of the neighboring vineyards years ago, with the caveat that his mother would be free to keep the guesthouse, along with the larger, showier one that carried her name. Had he done that he would have ended up regretting not having a thriving legacy to pass on to his daughters.

“The total time works out to less than ten minutes a daughter. Which doesn’t exactly come close to a Ken Burns series,” Gideon pointed out.

“I liked Burns’s baseball one,” Jack admitted reluctantly. “And the one on country music. But hell, it should’ve been good, given that he took eight years to make it.”

Jack’s first Pulitzer had admittedly been a stroke of luck, being in the right place at the right time. More care had gone into achieving the perfect photos for other awards, but while he admired Burns’s work, he’d never have the patience to spend that much time on a project. His French mother had claimed he’d been born a pierre roulante—rolling stone—al-ways needing to be on the move. Which wasn’t conducive to family life, which is why both his first and second marriages had failed. Because he could never be the husband either of his very different wives had expected.

“Do you believe in life after death?” he asked.

Gideon took his time to answer, looking out over the vine-yards. “I like to think so. Having lost Becky too soon, it’d be nice to believe we’ll connect again, somewhere, somehow.” He shrugged. “On the other hand, there are days that I think this might be our only shot.”

“Josette came again last night.”

“You must have enjoyed that.”

“I always do.”

Excerpted from The Inheritance by JoAnn Ross, Copyright © 2021 by JoAnn Ross. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Interview with Author Kerry Hughes

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I am an Ethnobotanist and Clinical Herbalist and I have long been inspired by the healing roles plants play for both humans and also our planet—and so I have built a career around this! I am incredibly lucky to have found my passion early in life and I have always just followed it, even though much of the times the path ahead seemed so unclear!  I got into writing because when I was doing my Master’s Thesis I had to do a lot of writing to prove my research was valid and in the process I had an awesome advisor (the late Dr. Thomas Ruehr from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA) who really helped edit my work and gently lead me into realizing this was something I could do!  Strangely, although I always hating writing classes in my school days, I ended up with one of my first jobs out of college being a Staff Writer for an alternative medicine publishing company!  From there, even though I never thought I would aspire to become a writer (in the least!) the projects kept coming and I have realized that it is SUCH an important medium in order to get my message about plants across!


What inspired you to write your book?

This series of books has been something long-simmering in my mind over the years. I have done a lot of research and writing that is heavy on the scientific side of things, but I really wanted to reach the common person who either had a garden or had some inclination that they were interested in plants. I feel it is so important for people to begin developing this relationship and to realize the potential healing role they can plan in our lives—even common garden plants that are right under our noses!

What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I would like them to start wondering and looking at the plants that already exist in their lives, to develop a curiosity for what that plant is about.  It’s kind of like getting to know a person, we often develop some curiosity about them before we become friends…Plants are the same. Once someone learns one thing—maybe it is a plant that is useful in some aspect—they will never look at that plant the same again. They will always remember its name.

I would like people to stop looking at the amorphous “green carpet” that surrounds them and start realizing there are  individuals that make up that green carpet. Once people turn that corner in their minds, the world becomes a much richer place!!  People will also become more effective and interested in saving our precious biodiversity.

What drew you into this particular genre?

It was really my career and work with plants and herbs. I have a few other published books (from mainstream medical or educational publishers), but these books are pretty nerdy scientific type of books that aren’t focused at the general public. I wanted to write a beautiful book with colorful photos that people would enjoy looking at and could use to begin their interest in alternative garden uses.

What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

I suppose Facebook has been the most helpful in getting the word out, but I really could do more work to develop communities of people who are interested in my “Botanicals With Benefits” topic. In fact, I have just created a Facebook Group for Botanicals With Benefits which I hope can do this, and I would love people to come and check it out, become members of the group to swap their experiences with plants and their multiple uses.. if you have a unique or really useful way to use a plant in your garden, please join and share with us…Or just come to learn!

What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

I think it is just to do it –if you have an interest in writing, then create an outline, and start in small steps by tackling the topics in chunks—before you know it, you will be well underway in your writing!

What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

The Botanicals With Benefits volumes will be coming out over time.. there are about 6-7 of them planned, so I have my work cut out for me with those! Also, I am currently writing/Editor of a book in a new field called Decoloniality which will be published by the educational publisher Springer Nature. It will be called: Understanding Socio-Ecological Systems Through Decoloniality: Case Studies on Convergence of Indigenous and Western Knowledge. It is a mouthful ☺ and another nerdy scientific book. However, I feel this field is very important and relevant to plants because much of our plant knowledge comes from indigenous wisdom! That should be published in 2022.

I am also currently joining a friend of mine who is a Doctor in San Luis Obispo, and will have a limited herbal & Flower Essence practice alongside her integrative primary care practice, Dr. Lindsey Faucette at the SLO Health center. We will be planning a lot of activities to merge our experience and bring natural healing to people. Come join us!


About the Author

Ethnobotanist, Herbalist and Author, Kerry Hughes – with a 20-year record-of-
success in natural product development – is driven by a tenacious fascination
with the potential health enhancing role plants and nutrients can play, and her
purpose is Ethno-Botanical Discovery and strategically innovating and expanding
the boundaries of new natural product development. Through this, Kerry has
catalyzed significant phyto-product breakthroughs that have been applied to
bring to market new, efficacious and profitable products that not only heal people
but also protect our threatened global biodiversity.

Kerry’s love of natural products has compelled her to write and speak frequently
on a variety of subjects. Her writing includes the recently published Botanicals
With Benefits: Establish a New Relationship with your garden (2020), as well as
these in-depth text books: Understanding Socio-Ecological Systems through
Decoloniality: Convergence of Indigenous and Western Knowledge (in press);
The Incense Bible, Taylor & Francis (2007), one of the first scientific reviews &
examinations of incense, The Health Professionals Guide to Dietary
Supplements, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins (2006), a peer-reviewed guide to
herbs and nutritional supplements, and Botanical Medicines: The Desk
Reference for Major Herbal Supplements, Haworth Press (2002) an in-depth text-
book on the medical aspects of many of our top supplements. Additionally, she
has authored over a dozen articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals on various
natural product topics.

Kerry is the Founder of EthnoPharm; a consulting business focused on Natural
Product Discovery and Development. She is also on the Scientific & Medical
Advisory Boards for Amare Global, Good Pharma and Hilma, and is on the
Advisory Board for Global Food Forums. Kerry has acted as a consultant to the
United Nations through the International Trade Centre (ITC) for international
development projects involving botanicals and authored essential oil and organic
reports for the Market News Service (MNS). As the Director of the US office of
The Institute for Market Ecology (IMO), an eco-product certifier, she helped to co-
develop and establish the Fair for Life Social & Fair Trade Certification in the US
market, the highest-bar global Fair Trade certification standard. Today, she
continues her work with standard development on the Certified Regenerative
standard by A Greener World, currently in its pilot phase.

Kerry has a background in Ethnobotany and Biochemistry, with a Bachelor of
Science degree in Biochemistry, and a Master of Science degree in Agriculture
with an emphasis in Ethnobotany and Soil Science from California Polytechnic
State University, San Luis Obispo, California. She is also a certified Clinical
Herbalist by the Berkeley Herbal Center, an Advanced Australian Bush Flower
Essence Advanced Practitioner, and teaches at the Berkeley Herbal Center &
The Herbal Academy of New England. Kerry also maintains a Clinical Herbal
practice at the SLO Health Center in San Luis Obispo, CA.