Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Bookshop of the Broken HeartedThe Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great story to be reading around Father’s Day, since the main character is a loving father who lacks paternity. I love books about bookshops; in this one, the bookshop, while pivotal, relinquishes center stage to life outside the pages. The titular bookshop is like our own Singing Winds, an intellectual treasure in the Australian outback. The woman who starts it in 1968 is an immigrant: Hannah, a widow, a survivor of Auschwitz. Every book that Hannah has curated into her bookstore—a foolishly vast collection of 7,500 titles—represents hope and defiance in the face of loneliness and pain, untranslated poetry and all. Hannah hires Tom Hope to build her bookshelves.
It’s an impactful illustration of life in rural anywhere. People are both close and far apart; intimate and private; accepting and judgemental; desirous and distrustful of the novel and peculiar. Hillman is tender with his rural characters, reminiscent of Kent Haruf. So many writers highlight either tragedy or pain; this is a novel that's an attempt to portray real life with its balance of both, featuring people we feel we know, friends or family.
Even though we learn Hannah’s story in detail, the book revolves around Tom, a farmer. He’s lost his wife to a cult for the second time, along with Peter, her child who he’s raised as his own from birth. Tom Hope is the stoic and quietly heroic everyman, who may not be articulate or artistic, but who doesn't know how to take his heart back once he's given it. Each person in the book has experienced tragedy and has come to their own individual way of dealing with it, "healthy" or not; just like life. Hannah and the child, Peter, have both experienced horrific events. Both are scarred and scared and face hard choices. Both want and need Tom as an anchor, and Tom wants that, too. Hillman does a superb job of illustrating the ripple effect of the everyday hero, the redemptive power of love for those who reach to grasp it. Highly recommended! ~Em Maxwell

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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Jackson Blog Tour

Emily March has been writing a modern romance series about people recovering from life hardship and tragedies and finding love. They've been set in imaginary Eternity Springs, Colorado, but here the series takes a spinoff into Texas.
  AND WE HAVE A GIVEAWAY! Yes, some lucky reader will get a copy direct from the publisher! Leave your name and email addy in the comments; we'll put them in the magic party hat and draw the winner's name. We'll send you an email-sometime after the blog tour ends on July 9, 2019-requesting your address if you're the lucky winner! 
****(Leave comment by July 9, 2019; U. S. address only, sorry international romance fans)****
Emily is one of my guilty pleasures; as you know I don't often read and review romance. Everyone needs some favorite feel-good reading, however, and I've read the series since the beginning. I got to read an advance copy of Jackson and for now, I'll just tell you it's worth the read. I'll let Emily March herself have the floor to answer some questions about the book, about writing, about life...and we've got an excerpt from the first chapter of the book so you can get a feel for it! (Scroll past the Q & A if you want to get to reading first.)

Q: What inspired Jackson and the rest of the books in the Eternity Springs world?

Emily March: The saying “Write what you know” says it all in my case. I’m a small-town girl and my family and friendships are center to my world. I write about love and family and friendships. I have roots in both the Colorado Rockies and the Texas Hill Country, so it was natural for me to set Eternity Springs and Redemption there. The idea for JACKSON grew out of my interest in the music currently being written and performed in Texas. I’ve always thought singer/songwriters are romantic figures so I was excited to create a hero with this background. Unfortunately, I’m not a musician and I’m definitely not a singer, but I am creative so it was fun for me to explore that aspect of a character.

Q: Introduce us to your main character!

Emily: Okay. Well, Americana singer/songwriter Jackson McBride is a bit damaged when the book begins. His famous, talented and wealthy ex has won a custody battle that severely limits his access to his six-year-old daughter, so Jackson goes home to the Texas Hill Country to nurse his broken heart. He finds solace in Enchanted Canyon hiking the trails with the dog he rescues and working to bring a historic dance hall back to life. The last thing he expects is to find love again with a woman whose heart is as battered as his own.

Q: How is the Jackson trilogy different than your other series?

Emily: I don’t think it’s necessarily different from the rest of the Eternity Springs series. I write about love and family and friendship—that doesn’t change. Readers will still see old friends from Eternity Springs and a few scenes in JACKSON are set in Colorado. What’s new is we get to spend some time in the Texas Hill Country and meet a few new characters—Celeste’s cousin, Angelica, for example.
(Readers, I can tell you it's a hoot to meet Angelica! It inspires a lot more questions about mystery woman Celeste!)

Q. What inspired you to become a writer?

Emily: I’ve always loved to read, so that is part of it, but my father was my primary inspiration. He was a fabulous storyteller. I grew up sitting at his feet and listening to him tell stories about his youth and his experiences in Europe during World War II. Listening to him tell his stories was my favorite thing to do. I didn’t inherit his talent for verbal storytelling, but I think I learned from him how to tell a good story on the page. My goals as a writer are to touch a reader’s heart, to entertain her and make her laugh, to maybe cry a little and sigh with satisfaction upon reaching the end. 

Q: Lots of aspiring authors out there. Any advice for them?

Emily: I’ve always thought that one of the most important things you can do for your writing is to read. And read. And read some more. Read across genres. You absorb so much about pacing and plotting and character development when you read. Plus, you get to READ! :)

Q: I know asking someone’s all-time favorite book is a loaded question so what’s your current favorite read?

Emily: I’m a big fan of Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series and I’m reading her latest right now, STORM CURSED. (Readers, Miss Em highly recommends this kick-ass urban fantasy series, too.)

Q: Can you tell us about what’s coming up next after this for you writing wise?

Emily: I’m writing Tucker’s story. Fun fact for this—as part of my research I attended a survivalist training school for a weekend. I searched long and hard to find one where I could return to town to spend the night in a comfy hotel rather than sleep on the ground—I’m only willing to go so far for my art. I did learn to start a friction fire, though, something I’me VERY proud of. :)

Q: How can readers connect with you online?

Emily: My website is I’m active on Facebook. My Facebook page is You can also reach me by email at

DRUM ROLL......The beginning of JACKSON

Chapter One Excerpt

Nashville, Tennessee
Bang. The judge’s gavel fell and officially crushed Jackson McBride’s heart. He closed his eyes. Bleak despair washed over him. Up until this very moment, he hadn’t believed she’d take it this far.
He’d thought she’d come to her senses. He’d thought she would recognize that this proposal was not only nonsense, but truly insane. He’d believed that somewhere deep inside of her, she still had a spark of humanity. That she wouldn’t do this to him. To them. He’d been wrong.
Damn her. Damn her and the yes-men she surrounded herself with. Damn them all to hell and back.
The enormity of what had just happened washed over him. Oh, God, how will I survive this?

On the heels of his anguish came the rage. It erupted hot as lava, and it fired his blood and blurred his vision with a red haze of fury. He’d never hit a woman in his life. Never come close, despite plenty of provocation from her direction. In that moment had she been within reach, he might have lived up her accusations.
It scared the crap out of him. That’s what she’s brought me to.

Abruptly, he shoved back his chair so hard that it teetered, almost falling over. He strode toward the courtroom exit. “Jackson? Jackson, wait!” his attorney called, hurrying after him.
Jackson waved her off and didn’t stop. There was nothing left to be said. Nothing left to be done. No place left to go.
No little girl waiting at home to hug and cuddle and kiss good night.

The tap on the toes of Jackson’s boots clacked against the tile floor of the courthouse as his long-legged strides ate up the hallway. He shunned the elevator for the stairs and descended three flights at a rapid pace, then headed for the building’s exit. In a foolish bit of positive thinking, he’d driven his SUV to the courthouse this morning. Now the sight of the safety booster seat in the back seat made him want to kick a rock into next week.
He didn’t want to go home to a quiet, empty house. He shouldn’t go to a bar. Alcohol on top of his current mood could be a dangerous combination. Somebody probably would get hurt.

He got into the car and started the engine. For a long moment he sat unmoving, staring blindly through the windshield, his hands squeezing the steering wheel so hard that it should have cracked. When his phone rang, he ignored it.
A couple of minutes later, it rang a second time. Again, he ignored it. When it happened a third time, he finally glanced at the display to see who was calling. His cousin. Okay, maybe he would answer it.
“Hello, Boone.”
“How did the hearing go?”
Jackson couldn’t speak past the lump in his throat, so he said nothing.
Following a moment’s silence, Boone got the message. He muttered a curse, and then said, “I’m sorry, man. So damn sorry.”
“Well, it is what it is.”
“You can take another run at it.”
“Yeah.” In three years. Three years. Might as well be three decades. He cleared his throat and changed the subject. “So, how are things in Eternity Springs?”
“Good. They’re good. My friend Celeste Blessing visited my office a few minutes ago and spoke of her granite-headed cousin. Naturally, I thought of you.”
“Naturally,” Jackson dryly replied. But he felt a little less alone.
“Do you have plans this weekend? I could use your help with something.”
Pretty convenient timing. Knowing Boone, he had a spy in the courtroom. But Jackson wasn’t in the position to ignore the bone he’d been thrown. “I’m free. Whatcha got?”
“I’d like you to meet me at home.”
Jackson straightened in surprise. “You’re going back to the ranch?”
“No. Not there. I’m never going back there. However, I am talking about Texas. The Hill Country in particular. A little town west of Austin called Redemption.”

“Redemption, Texas?” Jackson repeated. For some weird reason, his heart gave a little skip. “Why there?”
“It’s a long story. Too long for a phone call. I’ll give you the entire skinny when I see you. When can you get there?”
After today’s debacle, Jackson had absolutely no reason to remain in Nashville. “When do you want me there?”
“I’ll be in later today. I’m in Austin now. I’ve been helping a friend with a project. I have a flight back to Colorado Sunday evening. The earlier you can get here the better, but I’ll make anything work.”
Jackson figured the distance and the drive time. “I’ll meet you tomorrow afternoon. Where?”
“Great. I’ll text you the info when we hang up. Bring camping gear.”
When a sound behind him had Jackson glancing up into the rearview mirror and the booster seat caught his notice, he made an instant decision. “Can’t. I’ll be on my bike.”
“You’re gonna ride your motorcycle all the way from Nashville?” 
“Yes, I think I am.”
“Okay. I’ll bring stuff for both of us.” Boone hesitated a moment and added, “Hang in there,
Jackson. It’ll get better.”
No, I don’t think it will. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Jackson ended the call and finally put his SUV in gear and backed out of the parking place. With the distraction of the call behind him, fury returned, and by the time he reached home, he felt like a volcano about to explode.
He threw a handful of things into his tail bag, filled his wallet with cash from his stash, and ten minutes after his arrival, he fired up his bike and took his broken heart and headed out of Nashville. He left behind his home, his work, and his one reason for living, his six-year-old daughter, Haley.
From Jackson. Copyright © 2019 by Emily March and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Paperbacks.