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Mall Hair Maladies

Mall Hair Maladies by [Volchko, Kristy Jo]

Mall Hair Maladies by Kristy Jo Volchko is a delightful throwback story that will take 80’s kids down memory lane. The book follows Tanya, the new kid in school, Randi, and their single parents. The two meet and quickly become inseparable best friends. Volchko describes a year in the life of two 13 year old girls in 1980’s America. Volchko delves into “a day in the life” right down to big, crimped, hair-sprayed hair, fingerless gloves, and arms lined with multi-colored jelly bracelets. The biggest obstacle in the girls’ lives is finding a way to go to the local Madonna concert. She’s their idol, and they will do just about anything to hear her belting her songs in person.

Volchko writing feels like a genuine first-hand account of crazy events told across a dinner table. Grammar and spelling are impeccable. Everything flows perfectly. Characters were well developed, with each one having enough background story for readers to get a good grip on who they are. The setting and different scenarios were described well. Volchko has a way of making you feel like you are right there with the characters mixing up things in the kitchen, having an awkward dinner with an uptight relative, or smoking in the girls room. I felt invested in her characters and their lives.

I loved the throwbacks to the 1980’s. I lived them, and the essence of that era was captured perfectly. Readers from that time will relate to the characters. They will see themselves and reminisce over their own 80’s stories. I love the real references to the music and fashion of the time. It was a simpler time in many ways, but pop culture, music, and fashion were anything but simple.

The story is a nice throwback to a safer time for kids. They could hop on a bus unattended and go all over town and return relatively unscathed. They had little fear of anything bad happening to them at all. Bad things happened, of course, but they didn’t seem so frequent. Volchko conveys that time of simplicity and relative safety very well. I’m not so sure the story would have played out the same if it was set in today’s world. It was nice to escape back to that time for a little while.

I love how easily the girls become best friends. I think we sometimes forget how simple that was as children. Two strangers implicitly trusted and loved each other without the bat of a fake eyelash, just because they did. They met. They liked each other. Simple.

Without getting too heavy, Volchko exposes some problems that commonly arise in families. These aren’t 80’s problems, but timeless problems. Tanya has an absent father, and Randi has an absent mother. Tanya’s grandmother is judgmental, hateful, and a huge source of stress for the family. Volchko shows how the characters deal with those issues. She gives examples of difficult family dynamics and how the characters navigate those storms. She also gives some hope with the introduction of a less dysfunctional family toward the end.

I’d recommend this book to anyone in middle school and up, though 80’s kids may appreciate it the most. I couldn’t have asked for more out of this book. Volchko has made me a fan. I loved the story. I loved the characters. I loved the writing. I would love to read more of her work.

Pages: 265 | ASIN: B079SQYLRZ

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Inspired by my Love of Art and Music

Mallory O'Connor Author Interview

Mallory O’Connor Author Interview

American River: Tributaries follows three immigrant families struggling to pursue their dreams during the turbulent 1960’s. What served as your inspiration while writing this book?

My love of Northern California, the place where I grew up, and the wonderful history of the area. I was also inspired by my love of art and music and my passion for social justice issues.  Immigration and ethnic diversity are the cornerstones of the story.

This book has so many fascinating characters that are well developed. What were some themes you wanted to capture in your characters?

Basically, the story focuses on the creative search for meaning, knowledge, compassion and understanding in a tumultuous world filled with prejudice, obstacles, jealousy, and betrayal. As my characters encounter these obstacles, they discover their own strengths and weaknesses and grow beyond their self-centered ambitions.

I thoroughly enjoyed the historical backdrop to the story and how well researched it was. What historical milestones were important for you to highlight in this book?

The Gold Rush had a tremendous impact on the population and culture of California. Before the Gold Rush, the population consisted mainly of Native Californians and Californios (settlers and landowners of mixed Spanish, Native Californian, and African descent). But gold fever brought people to California from all over the country and the world. The Anglo Americans (of English, Irish, or Scots descent), other Europeans (including Italians, Russians, Greeks and East Europeans), Chinese, Japanese, African Americans, and many more who came and stayed. This changed the makeup of the state’s population making it one of the most ethnically diverse in the country. So, this cultural diversity sets the scene for later entanglements.

 Most of the story takes place in the 1960s, that decade that Time Magazine recently termed “The decade that changed a generation.” So, I take the reader down memory lane as my characters encounter the major issues of the time: immigration, racial prejudice, migrant workers, gay rights, women’s rights and the Vietnam War.

This is book one in the American River Trilogy. What can readers expect in book two, American River: Currents?

In Book Two, American River: Currents, a cavalcade of disasters—both personal and public—threatens to overwhelm the scattered members of the McPhalan, Ashida, and Morales clans. Alliances fray, relationships dissolve, divisive secrets are revealed, and promises are broken as the members of three California families struggle to salvage their shattered dreams.  The story follows the character’s journeys to places as distant as Cleveland, Ohio, Venice, Italy, and Kyoto, Japan. From the concert halls of Europe to the artist’s lofts of Manhattan, American River: Currents is filled with passionate and resolute characters who refuse to let go of their unique visions of success—even as life’s tumultuous currents threaten to sweep them all away.

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American River: Tributaries: Book One of the American River Trilogy by [O’Connor, Mallory M.]In the mid-1800s, three immigrant familiesIrish, Japanese, and Mexicansettle along the American River in Northern California. A century later, only one family remains.

Owen McPhalans Mockingbird Valley Ranch is still a thriving family business in 1959. But when his wife, Marian, leaves Mockingbird to follow her dream of becoming a successful artist, she ignites a firestorm that impacts the descendants of all three families. As artists, musicians, writers, and politicians inherit their immigrant parents hopes, they are torn apart by ambition, prejudice, and deception while struggling through the turbulent 1960s. From the concert halls of Europe to Kyotos ancient avenues, and Manhattans artists lofts to San Franciscos North Beach, they each learn the price they must pay in order to realize their dreams. But just as the river is drawn to the sea, they eventually find themselves pulled back to the place that forged the original link between their destiniesa place called Mockingbird.

American River: Tributaries follows three California families as the descendants of Irish, Japanese, and Mexican immigrants embark on unique journeys to pursue their dreams amid an unsettled 1960s world.

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American River: Currents

American River: Currents: Book Two of the American River Trilogy by [O'Connor, Mallory M.]

Kate’s family has just survived the devastating loss of her brother, Julian, and she is learning that her father’s coldness toward her beloved brother could have taken a much different turn had fate not intervened. As a new mother, Kate faces many challenges. One of those challenges is finding an effective and appropriate way to handle the affection she receives from Stefan, her husband’s friend and her sister’s true love. While Kate is facing one obstacle after another as a young mother, Tommy is reeling from the loss of his mother and coping with his fiance’s mysterious illness. Not to be left out of the cast of characters meeting life head-on, Marian is learning to love herself again with the help of a much younger and virile man named Nick.

Mallory M. O’Connor’s characters are a force with which to be reckoned in American River: Currents. O’Connor has created one of the most unique blends of historical fiction and the soap operas of the 80s. This lengthy novel features three families, ethnically diverse and intertwined in each other’s lives–in some cases, too much so. The bounce back and forth between chapters gives the entire book the comfortable feel of watching episodes of a well-established soap opera.

O’Connor has, without a doubt, done the research and created amazingly accurate and detailed accounts of historical events. Each of these events is not just described but somehow affects the characters day-to-day lives. From Cesar Chavez to John F. Kennedy, she has succeeded in further bringing life to her characters by having them live through gripping and history-making events.

As O’Connor’s chapters tend to vary from one family to the next, I found that I looked most forward to those focusing on Marian and Nick. To say the two are interesting would be putting it mildly. In an otherwise heavy book, Marian and Nick’s dynamic provides much-appreciated lighthearted moments and a breather from the drama of the other family members. Marian, not without her own faults, is my favorite character. Being one of the older characters in O’Connor’s work, she is struggling to make her way as an artist and is learning to love herself again and finding that trust is something she just might be able to feel once more. Nick is just the remedy for what ails her.

I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming amount of sadness at the relationship between Alex and Stefan. I see Alex as a strong woman who is, when it comes to personal relationships, weak and needy. The manner in which she pursues Stefan is almost pitiful. She is an interesting character indeed.

It seems like such an obvious thing to note, but I love the way O’Connor ends each chapter. Not every author currently producing books brings chapters to a nice, succinct close. O’Connor provides closure and never leaves reader hanging or feeling as if they have hit a brick wall when the new chapter quickly takes a new direction.

American River: Currents is beautifully written and consists primarily of long strings of dialogue between well-developed and easy to visualize characters. A long book but one that is an almost effortless read, American River: Currents is sure to engage readers and lead them to follow the cast of characters into the rest of O’Connor’s books in the series.

Pages: 453 | ASIN: B07BJ3XT2M

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Made of Stone Trailer

Made of Stone introduces readers to Desiree Palmer’s first fictional creation, Satori Stone. She is a carefree and witty single mother living in the Midwest. She embarks, unwillingly, on mystical journey being torn between good and evil. Her world begins to spin out of control when she goes home to visit her mother for Christmas. Her quirky neighbor Naoma and a stranger she meets along the way quickly turn into her new life support system. She will face a decision to accept her new fate and learn to use her natural powers or lose her family forever. Will she decide in time?

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Mortgaged Goods

Mortgaged Goods by [Cobcroft, Lorraine]

What is the meaning of success; titles, money, family, happiness? These are the questions Nata and Karl must face as their life makes dramatic changes from their carefully planned out future. Nata is fostered by working class parents Joe & Hetty, Karl comes from the upper-class elite. Nata’s biological father was abusive to both her and her mother, leading her to fear men, and especially any and all sexual contact. Despite her reservations Karl works his way into her heart and they marry with the intent of living full professional lives that does not include a family. Nata however finds out she is pregnant and together they must figure out how to adjust their life goals and ambitions to this new situation. While battling with his ideals about his personal life, Karl must make some choices about his professional career as a lawyer. Knowing what is right and knowing what you can make a difference with are gray areas when you’re a lawyer dealing with the upper-class elite.

On the surface this book starts off with the story of two people from different worlds coming together to make their relationship work through unplanned events, pregnancy. As the story deepens you see beyond the surface struggles or plans changing, you see the deep wounds that childhood sexual abuse brings; you see the residual effects of emotional abuse and withholding of love and support to a child. It changes the world view, it changes what is important in life. Nata and Karl could be anyone you encounter in the professional world. They are focused on their goals but when life turns things upside down, their struggles to connect and find a path forward are relatable. Unplanned pregnancy, changing life goals of prestige or happy home life, can they all be merged? Karl’s professional life is also dealt a staggering blow. He knows the difference between right and wrong but knows fighting against what is wrong in this case is career suicide. He takes the safe way out to save his career, but it nags at him. He continues to try and find balance between right and wrong.

While Karl is trying to find his way, Nata is trying to make peace with her past and the demons that follow her. It is a realistic view into how sexual abuse continues to hurt people well into adult lives and impact their life decisions. When her baby is born early due to a car accident she is thrust into even more challenging emotions, a premature birth, a child that will have lifelong medical needs, a husband that can’t come to terms with a non-perfect child. Lorraine Cobcroft’s ability to tap into those emotions and the mindset of a new mother experiencing them is profound. So often these things are glossed over for other more comfortable plot lines, however Mortgaged Goods puts these deep emotions and controversial topics right into the forefront of the novel, making them key points.

While the novel starts out looking like it will be a ‘lawyer takes on the corrupt upper tiers of society’ type novel, this book is so much more. Mortgaged Goods by Lorraine Cobcroft tackles deep emotional issues, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, corruption of society, to include law enforcement, judges, and politicians. Through it all though, it is a novel about making a relationship work though the hard times, finding out what is truly important in life, and making the best of what life hands you, even when that is not what you have carefully laid out in your life plans.

Pages: 278 | ASIN: B018ZVWE5O

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Pad Pennywell

Pad Pennywell by [Horn, Patrick]

The Pennywells had sold their Alabama plantation and decided to move to Texas, bringing with them Pad Pennywell and his family. However, on the way to Texas, the group are confronted by bandits and Pad is recruited to their ‘clan’. Many years later, a young journalism graduate by the name of Louis Bankston, visits Pad Pennywell and inquires after these bandits. Thus, the story is relayed as a retelling of Pad’s life before and after the run in with bandits. Pad Pennywell is a story of the conflicting morals and struggles of working as a ‘clean-up’ man for bandits to keep oneself and one’s family alive.

As an elderly Pad Pennywell recounts his story to Louis Bankston; it immerses the reader in a similar way as if it were a relative talking about their past. As such the story has all of the natural tangents that someone telling a story face to face would take. Such as when Pad talks about falling in love with his wife, Ruby, or talking with the townspeople, or saying a prayer for the people he ‘cleans up’ after working with the bandits. The narrative course Patrick Horn, the author, has chosen gives the story a sincere quality as if it were being told to them on Pad’s quiet porch in Alabama, in person.

Using this technique of having the main character relay their story, means that all the details are incredibly graphic in their descriptions, especially when Pad talks about death or bodies. As the ‘clean up’ man, Pad has clearly suffered trauma, and this is illustrated in how he speaks of bodies and death. He describes the sound of the air escaping a lung after a bullet to the chest, and the stench of putrid, bloating bodies at the bottom of a well. This gives so much depth to Pad as a character as it is easy to see the stain that these events have left on his mind through how vividly he describes every aspect.

Unlike many novels, there is no omnipotent narrator. We only know what the protagonist knows at that time. However, as it is a retelling, the protagonist sometimes chooses to reflect more on certain aspects of the past or give the reader a snippet of what is to come, for instance describing John West, a bandit leader, as someone he would come to know very well. This leaves the reader wanting to know what happens next and how the protagonist came to know what he knows in the present. Simultaneously, this leaves the reader with as little knowledge of the events as he the protagonist himself had as the events themselves were unfolding. Consequently, this achieves a great level of empathy from the reader for the protagonist.

This book gives an intense representation of a character and their experience with conflicting morals. The author, Patrick Horn, gives a great amount of depth to the character of Pad Pennywell as we follow the story he tells us of his struggles from Alabama to Texas.

Pages: 226 | ASIN: B07G5JRDB7

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The Greatest Gift

Diane Hull Author Interview

Diane Hull Author Interview

Be Happy to Be You is a cute children’s story about being happy with who you are. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this book?

Children are the inspiration for my stories; the children I have taught and my three grandchildren. Joe (6 years), Harry (4 years) and George (10 months). Children are individuals and they are all different with their own characteristics and strengths. I strongly believe that they should be happy to be themselves.

The art in this book is well done and very cute. What was the art direction and collaboration like between you and Jan Dolby?

Having submitted my book to MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing, I was introduced to Jan Dolby as a possible illustrator for my work. I was delighted with her drawings; her pictures were a perfect match for my story and her designs for my Baby bird were exactly as I imagined them. I hope that she and I will continue to work together on future Baby bird books.

This story did an exceptional job of driving home the idea of being happy with yourself. Why was this an important book for you to write?

As an Early Years teacher, I understand how important it is that young children are instilled with a sense of their own worth. A positive sense of self is, in my opinion, the greatest gift we can give any child. They need to be proud of their own unique achievements and embrace their strengths. This message is at the heart of my book. Using picture books, we can provide children with strategies to cope with possible problems they may face and offer them opportunities to discuss their feelings with a trusted adult.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My second book, “On Our Way to School,” is due to be published later this year by MacLaren-Cochrane. This is the story of Joe’s journey to school with his mother. Unfortunately for Joe, he forgets things that he will need for the day; his bag, his book, his coat etc. Each time he realises that he has forgotten something, he has to return to his house and set off for school again.

I have recently completed a second book featuring Baby bird, “The Lonely Bird”. In this story, Baby bird is lonely and he sets out to find a friend. Baby bird is unsuccessful it seems…. or is he? I have written quite a few stories but these have not yet been submitted for publication.

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Baby bird wasn’t happy.
He longed to be like other animals.
He wanted to swim and run and jump.
But he had to learn to be happy as he was…
He had to learn just to be himself!

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The Tough Mama’s Guide to Survival: Survive & Thrive

A disaster happens, can you and your family survive? Where will you go? What will you eat? How will you continue to eat when your supplies are exhausted? How will you meet the medical needs of your family? How will you and your family survive when help is on the way? Being prepared is like having a life-saving insurance policy. If the worst case scenario hits, it is too late to prepare. The time to prepare is now. Even the government is now telling the public to store extra food, water, and medical supplies. If the worst happens, are you prepared to deal with a new reality with no help coming your way?

Tough Mama is a guide for the Mama of every family. You will learn:
– How to begin being prepared
– Finding a safe spot for your family
– Where to buy your Safe Spot for pennies on the dollar
– A comprehensive list of where you can continue to learn for free, including topics on building a garden, learn how to limit radiation to your family, how to be safe during a nuclear blast, and many other topics
– The best ways to build your food store
– Emergency first aid
– Building a survival garden
– Be prepared for nuclear war, fallout, and radiation

Tough Mama shows you many more things not found in other survival books or sites. Every tip has been tried and tested.

Tough Mama saw a need in the prepping community – Women! As guardians of the family, the woman needs to be at the forefront of knowledge and not have to rely on anyone. 46% of households are led by women. This is a time that more women are the heads of households, and it is time women are empowered to protect themselves. Tough Mama wants to see a prepared and educated person in every home.

The maze of survival planning and education can seem overwhelming for the beginner – not so with Tough Mama! Tough Mama starts at the very basics and walks the reader through more complex subjects. All topics are broken down into steps that will ensure safety and success to your planning. Survive and thrive!

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The Story Transformed

Karma Kitaj Author Interview

Karma Kitaj Author Interview

Beguiled follows young Miriam as she struggles to follow her dreams through a turbulent time in history. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?

Initially, I had the idea to write a story of the kind of life my mother, born in 1910, might have had, if she’d had the gumption. Which she did not, so the story of Miriam Levine, 1st generation Russian-Jewish girl, is entirely fictional. There are a few biographical markers, e.g., Miriam’s Pop was active in the leftist-unionist organization called the Workmen’s Circle. My maternal grandfather was as well. Similarly, he was a cultured fellow, albeit not formally educated, and introduced my mother to cultural events from a young age. The character Miriam developed her aspirations to go on stage from the experiences her Pop exposed her to from a young age.

The story transformed itself immediately from anything biographical to an exciting adventure of Miriam and her girlfriends as they make their way through a difficult time in history punctuated by WWI, the “Spanish” flu, women’s getting the vote, the Roaring 20s, the relationship between young people and their immigrant parents, and the status of women.

Miriam is a well developed character that I grew attached to. How did you capture the thoughts and emotions of a young woman in the 1900’s?

Research, research, and more research helped me to describe a girl of the early 1900s. I read many books about the times, including novels of women of that period.

Perhaps more importantly, I’ve been a psychotherapist and life coach all my adult life, so am accustomed to hearing people’s stories and helping them to make sense of their lives. So, the emotions of a woman of this period seemed little different to me from my clients’ stories. Yes, women have approached the glass ceiling and many are in marriages that are fundamentally equal or mutually enhancing, but with the outing of many in the MeToo movement, it’s clear that women’s place has not appreciably changed vis a vis powerful men.

I liked how the politics and drama of the time was not front and center, but served as a backdrop to Miriam’s story. Did you do any research for this story to keep things accurate?

As stated above, I pored over many historical books of this period, as well as historical novels about the early 1900s. Having been in graduate school for a PhD back in the 1980s, I learned how to do research and to enjoy it. I was not, however, a big history buff, so my becoming absorbed in this research was a surprise to me. One funny thing: in one of my last drafts, I realized that NO character ever was described as smoking. So, I had to go back and add smoking Lucky Strikes, Camels, pipes, and cigars to many scenes.

WWI was certainly in the background only in Beguiled. Miriam and her friends barely seemed to register that there was a world war going on in Europe, until Miriam arrives home and discovers that her father’s Workmen’s Circle is having an important emergency meeting to discuss US entry into the War. Then a young German boy barges in to say that his family was beaten bloody right in their neighborhood, an unthinkable thing in their multi-ethnic close community.

Many people have suggested I write a sequel to Beguiled, but that would take me into the Depression of the 1930s and I don’t know if I want to go there, particularly since our country seems liable to get there itself.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Beguiled was just released on May 1st 2018, so I’m devoting some time to publicizing it before embarking on my next story. But, I’ve had the idea of locating an appealing news story of a woman who lived in another era. I enjoy researching historical fiction and being an archaeologist in searching out details of a bygone period. In order to find this appealing person, I’ll need to immerse myself in the Boston Public Library’s newspapers from the last century or even before. There are also archives of women’s letters housed at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard, where I’ve done research before. I look forward to being able to do this, once my initial marketing campaign is over.

Auhtor Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Beguiled is about every person who ever had dreams that were interrupted by cultural mores, by discrimination, or by their own shortcomings. Miriam Levine, born in 1900, dreamed of going on stage, until an almost fatal mis-step forced her to postpone her “real life.” A serendipitous offer compelled her to confront her inner demons and society’s expectations. As Glinda, the Good Witch of the South in the Wizard of Oz, she recites at age 16: “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

The story is inspirational for young people and their parents who dearly wish to access the American dream. The historical context of the decades before the Great Depression, the role of immigrants and women’s suffrage parallels tough political dilemmas that the US faces today.

Will Miriam have the gumption to follow her dreams? Will those dreams yield her the happiness she seeks? Or will she find that her childhood fantasies “beguile” her to seek ‘fool’s gold?’

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Love and Human Desire

Thomas Duffy Author Interview

Thomas Duffy Author Interview

One Love is an emotional novel that explores the different lives of people struggling with their own challenges in life. Why was this an important book for you to write?

This is the book I identify with most of all the books I have written. It is a book that enables me to share my life experiences with others and, hopefully, shows people the pain and passion in life as well as the complexity of love and human desire. I needed to tell this story for my own personal reasons as well. I believe the family element of the story is also very strong and easy to relate to.

I enjoyed the truth behind many of your characters and how I could relate to them. Is there anything you took from your own life and put into this story?

Yes. The book is semi-autobiographical. There are real people behind all the central characters. I, of course, am Timothy. I met someone many years back, almost 20 years ago, who I fell instantly in love with. All the prior people I had met just didn’t matter after I met this girl. She’s called Melody in the book. I imagined the consequences of meeting her later in life and starting anew despite the fact that we’ve both moved on. Of course, I moved on not by choice but because of rejection. All the main characters in the book have identical counterparts in real life.

This book is filled with a cast of interesting characters. If Hollywood came knocking, who would you cast as the leads in the movie?

Good question. I was thinking Oscar Isaac and Reese Witherspoon initially. Reese Witherspoon, definitely. She has the charm and charisma that Melody would need to have as an on-screen character. Maybe Giovanni Ribisi instead of Oscar Isaac, though, because Reese and Giovanni are closer in age. For Cindy, Carey Mulligan for sure. Cindy is the love of Timothy’s life and Mulligan would capture the essence of Cindy to a tee. I would want Vince Vaughn to play Louie if possible.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I put my sci-fi series, “The Separation” books on hold temporarily to work on a new book for my Truly Moving Book series which “One Love” is a part of. The new book is going to be my best yet! It’s due later this year.

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One Love by [Duffy, Thomas]One Love begins as a young man named Timothy meets a girl named Melody. She seems to be the girl of his dreams but when things don’t go as planned, he moves forward and settles down with another girl named Cindy. As years pass, Timothy reconnects with Melody who is now married with children. He begins an affair with her that will change both of their lives and force him to evaluate the decisions he has made in his life. One Love is a story of family, romance and heartbreak. It will make you search your soul to discover what the right thing is for the characters to believe in.

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