Through the Waters and the Wild follows a discontented man who finds renewed purpose through his grandfathers letters. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
Conor Finnegan was introduced in my first novel, Arc of the Comet, which followed his evolution from a confident young man with great promise through personal and professional frustrations that left him timid and unsure. By the novel’s close, Conor had just begun to recognize the failings of character that led to a deep-seated depression. He had also realized that the questions of purpose, time and place that we all must ultimately address had no easy answers. I felt his story needed to go forward as he wrestled with these realizations.
At the same time, I recalled stories of my own grandfather’s separation from his native land for reasons that, in the end, were not terribly different from Conor’s own angst. I saw a parallel between the two, and thought it might be appropriate to tie them together around themes of exile and redemption, themes that are universal enough to span the generations.
Conor and Liam are intriguing and well developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
From the beginning, Conor Finnegan embodied noble characteristics – intelligence, passion, a well defined social conscience, and a readiness to engage with those around him. But at the same time he also possessed the serious flaws of hubris and inflexibility which compromised the application of his strengths. As such, I believe he represents the challenges we all face as individuals, regardless of our strengths and weaknesses. All of us must find a balance that allows us to develop our own passions, and our own purposes, while answering the timeless questions, Where shall I go now? What shall I do?
Liam Finnegan is a simpler character, and so an effective contrast, especially as his story unfolds through the swirl of the Irish Civil War. He responds instinctively and intuitively, discontent with the circumstances of what he sees as a pointless existence, but listening to his inner voices which constitute a highly refined sense of integrity. In so doing, he establishes a strength of character that Conor draws upon in his own struggle to identify his purpose and place.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
As noted, the book revolves around the themes of exile and redemption, framed through the central questions – Where shall I go now? What shall I do? Each of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, must ask ourselves these questions, the answers to which define purpose, identity and self.
Because we’re constantly in motion, constantly evolving, any resolution is temporary. In my mind, what matters is not the answers to these questions, but the asking of them. When we fail to ask them of ourselves, we stagnate, fester and ultimate lose a bit of our soul. We ask these questions to stay alive.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I believe Conor Finnegan’s story reached closure at the end of Through the Waters and the Wild. I’m currently developing a completely new character to continue the investigation and reflection of place and purpose. This new character will be more negative than positive, more failure than success, bitter and alienated. I’m hoping this provides a new perspective on these questions, one that may in fact underscore the need to ask them regardless of where we stand as we pose them. I’m hopeful that this work will be done within the next year.
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Backup Offer follows a restaurant owner who’s abandoned by her contractor in the middle of a renovation and seeks help from an old love. What was the inspiration for the setup to your stirring romance novel?
In an earlier novel, Blair attended culinary school in Paris for a few years, as did her father, and she always was his helper in the kitchen growing up. So when she had to leave her home behind in order to force herself to stay away from Brandis, her dad helped her find a kitchen to work in and get more experience which she used to write her own business plan to open her place. It’s so successful, she’s in the middle of an expansion to the place when the novel opens but the contractor bolts and leaves behind a big mess, she automatically reaches out to the man who can help her, since he owns and runs a construction company back in her home town. The catch is, he is also the reason she left town in the first place.
I’ve worked in restaurants, owned and ran a bar for a few years, and sold beer and wine to restaurants so I’ve seen and worked in all sorts of kitchens and behind many kinds of bars. They are places chock full of drama, but also places where friendships and other relationships are formed based on common passions for food, drinks, and creativity. Owning a restaurant in particular is, in my opinion, always a passion since it is brutally hard work, with long hours and many times small rewards.
This is the 9th book in your Stewart Realty series. Did you know you would take the series this far? What has surprised you the most about the series up to this point?
I started this series in 2008 and the first editions of the first 3 books (Floor Time, Sweat Equity, and Closing Costs) were published in 2010-2011. They’ve since been revised and re-published. I wrote the first 8 books between 2008 and 2014, and thought I was done but something about the way I left Brandis and Blair–the second generation of the saga–bothered me so I wanted to provide them with a happier ending to their love story.
What were some ideas you wanted to explore in Blair and Brandis’s relationship?
The biggest thing they have to cope with is a doozy for any relationship–addiction. Brandis Gordon spent his teenaged years playing football, being the golden boy to all around him, and developing addictions to alcohol, pain pills, and sex. These aren’t always topics you’ll find in romance novels but I set it up this way in the book prior to Backup Offer. Good Faith (book 8) is not a romance but a deep dive into relationships between the first generation and second. The first gen is well-established from books one through seven and by that time, they have kids. These kids then grow up and develop their own personalities and relationships, not all of them good. Blair is an enabler, as many of us are without realizing it. She’s so passionately in love with Brandis from a young age, she believes he can do no wrong, even as he is doing a lot of wrong to her, and the rest of his family.
Backup Offer is his redemption arc, in a way, as he and Blair have spent 10 years apart when the novel opens, working on themselves and their careers, and in Brandis’ case, rebuilding his relationships with this sisters and father. Neither of them have had a romantic relationship during that time so when fate brings Blair back to her hometown when her best friend needs her help and she lays eyes on Brandis for the first time in a decade, she tried to avoid her feelings and hold him at arms length. But he rushes to her side to help after the contractor disaster, bringing his rescue dog–something that I really enjoyed portraying–and ends up staying at her house.
Most real relationships require work and effort, and these two are wary about hurting each other (and themselves) by reconnecting. But they do, and honestly, it has to be one of the most satisfying happily ever afters I’ve written. They put in the work and reap the rewards, but I make it clear that living with alcoholism and other addictions is a daily, hourly battle. But Brandis will fight it, if it means he and Blair can be together.
Do you have more books planned in the Stewart Realty series, or do you have another series idea?
This series is finished. I have several other series published and will be returning to one of my other successful ones soon: The Love Brothers series, which is about a large, boisterous family with 4 brothers and a sister. I have some ideas about expanding it and plan to do so in 2022.
I’m also developing a series about a fictional soccer team set in Detroit that will release in late 2021.
An ex-boyfriend, his massive dog, her house, and no hotel room in sight. What could go wrong?
After Blair ended things with Brandis, she was determined to get away–and stay away from him for good. She put family, friends, and the life she knew in Michigan in her rear view mirror and started over. As owner and head chef of her own place in Louisville, she stays plenty busy, especially since “Blair’s Kitchen” is the darling of the restaurant scene. She’s managed to avoid Michigan for almost a decade, but when her best friend needs her help, she drops everything and heads home.
Brandis has spent the last ten years coming to terms with addiction, personal tragedy, and the loss of the woman he loved. He’s now the third generation to run his family’s construction business, and he’s managed to reconstruct tattered relationships with his family. He’s even adopted a dog, thanks to some donated renovation time spent at an animal shelter. He’s got everything he needs—except a for one thing.
When the contractor she paid to build her restaurant’s expansion vanishes, leaving her with a giant mess, Blair only hesitates a moment before calling Brandis for help. But when he rushes to her side to evaluate the crisis, there isn’t an available room in a twenty mile radius. So they settle in to a routine—her, her one-time boyfriend, and his giant, slobbering dog in her small house. It doesn’t take long for the temptation of close proximity to give way, and while Blair tries to keep it all physical, Brandis has other ideas.
The end of the Stewart Realty saga brings the second generation full-circle in ways many never expected, and no one regrets.
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Tags: author, Backup Offer, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, ebook, family saga, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, Liz Crowe, love story, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, romance, story, womens fiction, writer, writing
Blair Freitag is the owner and head chef of a farm to table restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky. She has plans to expand the restaurant and buy a farm of her own, but everything is put on hold when she returns to Michigan to visit her friend after a medical scare. Blair has not been home in ten years, after a painful breakup. Her ex-boyfriend, Brandis Gordon, a former addict, now runs his family’s construction company. Once Blair is back in Kentucky again, she finds that the contractor she hired to complete the renovation on her restaurant has vanished with the money she paid him and the job only half done. Not knowing where else to turn, she calls Brandis for help. They realize that they still love each other. But can they get past the wounds of their past?
Backup Offer is an emotionally-charged family saga that’s the 9th book in a series, but this book can be read as a standalone story. But for anyone who has read the other books in the series, you’ll see many of the previous characters reappear in Blair and Brandis’s story and have plenty more depth added. I liked that the book had a happy ending, which is great for anyone looking for a feelgood story. After everything Blair and Brandis suffered through while he struggled with the demons of addiction, it was good to see how he was able to turn his life around, and that she was able to forgive him for the mistakes he made in the past. Blair had an interesting occupation as the owner of a farm to table restaurant, and I liked reading the part where Brandis came to Louisville to help her when her former contractor disappeared in the middle of the job.
I felt that Blair and Brandis spent too much time apart throughout the book. Living in two different states, I felt they didn’t have much interaction until almost halfway through the story. And after Brandis helps Blair with her restaurant in Louisville, they are apart again when he returns to Michigan.
There are a few loose ends by the end of the story but, as with any good saga, you are left wanting more and desperate to read the follow up book for answers. Backup Offer is an impassioned contemporary romance novel that feels authentic and keeps things grounded, which makes the drama so much more engrossing.
Pages: 212 | ASIN: B096G5DBGL
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Through the Waters and the Wild by Greg Fields tells us the story of the human spirit. The book starts with Conor Finnegan, a young American completely disillusioned with the way his life had come to be. Trying to get out of the depressive state that he was in, caused by a failed marriage and a meaningless job, he starts to read the letters left for him by his grandad, Liam Finnegan, and begins to gain a new sense of purpose through his words and memories. Liam Finnegan was an Irish farmer who spent his youth in Ireland during the Irish Civil War. Liam felt stuck in his home country, without a real purpose. Not wanting to involve himself in the Irish war, he fled to America, leaving everything that he ever knew and loved behind, in the pursuit of a dream and a meaningful life.
It is through Liam’s memories and experiences, that he left for his grandson in his letters, that Conor is able to find new motivation in his life as he tries to turn it around for the better. The most enjoyable and enriching part of the book is Liam Finnegan’s story. Most of the book narrates the hardships that Liam had to go through in life, the losses that he experienced, the physical and mental pain that he had to endure, and all that he had to do to build himself a life worth living. Through Liam’s story we not only get to see the effort that it takes to find one’s purpose in life, we also see and are able to learn a little bit of the Irish history alongside it. This all makes for a very interesting and gripping storyline, full of history and humanity.
The pacing of the story felt at times a little slow, especially when it related Conor’s thoughts and storyline, however, it was still very enjoyable and easy to follow through. The writing is excellent, the way that the author presents the character’s thoughts and experiences is simply beautiful, very poetic, I simply couldn’t put the book down. There’s a lot of reflection that one goes into while reading this book, the stories told can be very relatable, we all experience doubt, loss and loneliness, sometimes we get stuck and we don’t know who we are or what’s the life that we want for ourselves. This book revolves around all of these topics, around human nature and the hardships that one may face throughout life, which allows for some introspection and deep thoughts about our past, present and future. The story also beautifully describes the value and importance that love and family has in human life, something that I enjoyed reading a lot about.
I wouldn’t mind reading more about Liam Finnegan’s story, he’s definitely a very interesting man that had to go through some unfortunate circumstances, a man “born in the blood of oppressed generations”. The human soul is contained within the pages of this book. Liam Finnegan not only helps his grandson but also us, the readers, to navigate the hard realities of adult life. Through the Waters and the Wild is a story about finding one’s place in this harsh world and also about finding love, full of the hopes and dreams of the human mind.
Pages: 250 | ASIN: B08LHMCC5R
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Becoming Olive W follows a strong young woman set on defining her own path in early 1900’s Pennsylvania against the wishes of her father. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
As an active member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, I often ponder the life of the brave women who came before me. The inspiration for Becoming Olive W. was, the life of all four of my Grandparents, all of whom were born between 1890 and 1902, the profound changes they witnessed during their lifetimes, such as the industrial revolution, electricity, telephone, phonograph, automobiles, and how they responded to ‘progress’.
I decided to explore their world, invest time studying their lifestyle more deeply.
In doing so, I was inspired to remind today’s women, young and old, that it wasn’t too far in the past that women were refused most things taken for granted today, like the right to vote, own property, choose your own mate, pursue a career, or obtain an education. I am a history buff, and I strongly believe that history teaches valuable lessons. This novel was my way of teaching.
Olive is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her characters development?
So many of today’s ‘coming of age’ stories portray positive character development. Olive, a prominent character in this saga, has few redeeming attributes. Becoming Olive W. demonstrates that not every ending is ‘happily ever after’. The lack of love and nurturing may sometimes present obstacles too great to overcome, even for the strongest, brightest personalities.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
My stories portray ‘real life.’ I cannot create a fantasized escape; a life how we wish life to be. It is important that my characters are realistic, with human flaws and that their relationships are equally flawed and equally intense. Even love is not perfect, rather love shows it face in many forms.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Under the Grapevine, book 2 in the Women of Campbell Country Family Saga, is currently on pre-order (the eBook) with Amazon. The paperback and launch are scheduled for August 22, 2021; however, it may be a week earlier. This book follows Olive, husband, and offspring through the great depression, WWII, ending in 1950 with the beginning of the Korean war.
I am currently working on The House on the Hill, book 3 in the Women of Campbell County Family Saga. I’m hoping for a November 2021, release, although probably Jan 2022 is more realistic.
Book 4, the conclusion to this saga is still untitled. It will be released late spring 2022.
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Everyone faces hardships in life. Even animals aren’t exempt from that, feral or domestic. Russell H. Plante brilliantly illustrates this aspect of life in his book A Sense of Purpose. In it, he introduces us to Chester, a cat that gets to experience many things, some good, some not so great, and helps us see the purpose that we all have in our lives, one way or another. We get to experience Chester’s adventure since he was just a little kitten. Without a mother, and having to figure things out by himself, he finds early on a girl that’s willing enough to give him a home and some companionship. From this very moment, he starts learning new things, things that will help him live through many difficult situations, lessons that he ultimately shares with others around him and with ourselves, the readers.
The story is told from Chester’s perspective. Despite being a cat, there’s so much that people can relate to with his life. What Chester goes through are things that we all go through and experience in our lives. Fear, uncertainty, loneliness, but also hope, friendship and love. Both the beauty and the harsh reality of life is presented in detail throughout the book. Chester meets multiple people, makes new friends and adapts to different environments repeatedly. Each situation gives Chester a new perspective through which to see life. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but it’s not all unavoidable darkness either. The storms that he lives through, both metaphorically and literally, help him gather new knowledge and become more resilient.
Author Russell Plante’s story gives visibility to a prominent issue in both human and animal life: the one of homelessness. Chester experiences this terrible reality early in his life. He loses his mom, gets lost and at one point decides to leave the safe home he already had in an heroic attempt to find and help a friend. The loneliness and helplessness that he gets exposed to because of this is heartbreaking. He makes friends with humans that are also homeless, and realizes that sometimes those who have less are precisely the ones that are ready to give more. The meaning of love, friendship and companionship gains a lot of importance in this story, and is the main thing that allows everything to move forward. Readers will immediately feel compassion for the characters introduced throughout the plot, and will be able to relate and empathize with their struggles.
There are so many things to like about this book. It is an overall sweet and beautiful story that will resonate with everyone that reads it. Love for those around us, humans and animals, are the main things that I leave with after finishing this book. We all have a sense of purpose, and this book will help you understand that more clearly.
Pages: 172 | ASIN: B08KSJWFXN
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Discovering Twins by Stella ter Hart is a memoir, a biography and a short fictional stories all-in-one. It blurs the line between memory and imagination, and that’s what sets it apart. It takes us through the life of ter Hart’s family. With more than 20 short stories exploring different characters and their lives, Discovering Twins is a magnificent debut by Stella ter Hart. It talks about the life of a Jewish family under an oppressive regime; it celebrates life and explores motherhood, childhood, and families in fascinating ways.
The book explores various themes and has something to interest everyone. It talks about the small celebrations of life, taking us through incidents like childbirth, the discomforts and joys of pregnancies, a girl becoming a woman and the fear of the unknown that strikes when you menstruate for the first time. It later talks about Stella’s ageing mother, who suffers from mental illness in the later stages of life. It truly represents life and its various color and shades.
Divided into unconnected short stories about several people in no particular order, one would expect the book to be rather chaotic. However, the author surprises us by making the book feel coherent and rather beautifully connected from one story to another. The stories themselves do not follow the standard format of a story with an introduction, climax or ending. Instead, they narrate instances, some monumental, some mundane, but each brilliantly described. It feels like a window into Stella’s family that we peak into from time to time.
The book also gives us rare insight into the Holocaust and its horrors. How sometimes, parents were even forced to choose between their children. It talks about how her mother and their generation were forced to lie because the truth could get them killed. Stella brings out the horrors of war and genocide without letting the story become a book about the Holocaust, but rather how the scars have a ripple effect.
Discovering Twins is a must-read for anyone looking to get an intriguing and insightful look into the life and struggles of Jews during times of war contrasted with the warm, happy, bright life of ter Hart’s family.
Pages: 256 | ASIN: B094F8WYDT
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Mistre is one of those characters you can’t stop thinking about. She is living a life of the most challenging kind. She is a mother, but she is unable to be present for her children. Despite the choices she has made and the mistakes that have shaped her, Mistre manages to live her life for others. Her sights are set on helping those who cannot help themselves. Now, however, Mistre is on the run, and her life will never be the same–as her life changes, so do those of her children. If it is possible for a woman to triumph over what appears to be the depths of despair, Mistre is the woman to do it.
The Journey of Life, by Teklemariam Birbirsa, details all the turbulence and trauma of Mistre’s life. Beginning with an unplanned pregnancy that could be the beginning of the end for her, Mistre relies on her friends’ kind hearts and guidance. She has a purpose in life, and nothing will stop her–even some of the most devastating roadblocks a person can endure.
Birbirsa does a wonderful job of incorporating truths into this work of historical fiction. The timing and the settings truly bring the characters and their challenges to life. From governmental overreach to the Red Terror of Ethiopia, the author covers some truly heinous subject matter. Readers who look for bits of historical accuracy in their dramas will appreciate the efforts to which Birbirsa has gone to add details to Mistre’s story.
Time seems to pass quickly for the characters. I could feel myself zooming through Mistre’s life and found myself wondering, at some points, who was talking. Mistre’s life is full, offers many more chances for side stories, and could stand to be drawn out into even more detailed chapters. Overall, the book seemed short, and I was begging for more by the end.
The Journey of Life, by Teklemariam Birbirsa is a riveting and emotionally charged novel. Mistre is a truly involved character with many chances for a more well-developed storyline. There is an underlying current of fear surrounding the main characters that deserves even more exploration. I look forward to seeing more from Birbirsa in the future and would love to see an offshoot of Mistre’s life exploring the lives of her children.
Pages: 148 | ASIN: B08ZJRBPXG
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