Nothing is more helpful to an author than receiving a review. It sheds a light on things we might not see ourselves. Be forewarned, there are a few spoilers in this one but hopefully they will want to make you read it more. Thank You, Lauren!
A tale of childhood crushes, friendship, romance, greed and murder. In the Shadow of the Hawthorn takes us on a journey of discovery, and the realization that love can be one of the most powerful things of all.
When I first started reading this novel, it almost felt like I was coming in at the end of a story. A young woman left alone and pregnant, Julia is a talented baker of delicious confections in an upscale London eatery. She’s about to be forced out because of her delicate condition when she’s discovered and brought into the home of a loving older woman and her devoted husband. They treat her like the daughter they never had, and dote upon her and her newborn child as though finally realizing the happily ever after this woman has been waiting for her entire life. However, we soon discover that this isn’t Julia’s story. Instead it will revolve around her daughter, Emma, who follows in her mother’s culinary talents. But what will society permit when this lowly kitchen servant and a wealthy gentleman fall in love? And more importantly, how will one man’s greed come to shatter the perfect world this happy family has created for themselves?
Wait For It…
Not only does this novel seemingly commence with a happily ever after montage, but it takes some time for us to work our way through Emma’s youth into adulthood before we ultimately get to the crux of the story. I constantly felt as though I was waiting around for the other shoe to drop! Although we have to wait a bit before we come across the real turning point of the novel with a tragic crime, something I really appreciated as we proceeded along this journey was that the author manages to avoid some of the more common trappings and tropes you might initially expect to encounter with this kind of read.
For example, Emma and Theo are initially hesitant to give into their obvious feelings for each other. Especially Emma! While they engage in one steamy moment of indulgence, she tries to shut it down almost immediately following their afternoon tryst. After this seemingly final declaration, there was still quite a bit of novel remaining, so I assumed we’d encounter some kind of continual back and forth of we should…no wait we shouldn’t. Rinse and repeat. Or perhaps a misunderstanding where one of them might be tempted to give up on the other as they wait for the perfect timing of when they can finally be together. Instead we are granted with some interesting twists and turns to the plot that result in tragedy, surprise decisions and unexpected discoveries, but thankfully we never really encounter sheer frustration at the choices or actions of our protagonists. It was utterly refreshing!
Beyond the Romance
While this might be a tale of romance, there are two additional complementary themes which play major roles in how the events of this tale evolve: greed and class status. Our primary villain, as well as a few other minor supporting characters, carry out some shockingly dastardly deeds as a result of these motivations. Initially I found it hard to believe what depths some people would go to simply because of money. From denying a son true happiness, to a case of murder and abuse, all due to greed. At one point I thought, well this seems a tad outlandish and over-the-top in terms of a response. As the conclusion of the novel approached however, I had this moment of epiphany where I simply had to remind myself, “well of course this is plausible!!” Countless moments throughout history have been impacted because of these exact trivial impulses, and we still see cases of it to this very day. Honestly, it was a rather sobering realization. And yet, when you see the love and devotion this family and this couple feels for each other it seemingly allows for a ray of sunshine to break through the shadows.
*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*
Final Impressions: This was sort of a deceptive read at the beginning in that it presents itself as a seemingly happy familial tale that manages to hide away from the rules and cruelties of the outside world. However, eventually we see the shadows of tragedy encroach upon these selfless and caring people. While initially hesitant to pursue a relationship, it was refreshing and inspiring to see Emma and Theo stand by each other through it all, never giving up hope that one day they’d be able to come together in a loving embrace. There are a slew of entertaining characters presented in this read, and honestly I’d love if we had the chance to explore their individual stories further in subsequent novels. At times this fabulous supporting cast did detract too much attention away from our lead couple, but overall we have a unique historical romance which proves family is what you make it.
Smut Level: This was surprisingly steamy for a historical read!! Not only do we get a romantic hotel getaway, but we also have a mouth-watering scene in a rustic shed on Theo’s property.
So I did it!
I cast the net out further into the ocean (so to speak).
A few years ago, after finishing my first novel, I considered publishing it traditionally and was quickly disenchanted. As a fledgling author still learning the craft, the odds of getting noticed by an agent or publisher were against me. I’d spend months, if not years trying to get a foot in the door, only to have my toes crushed. After 40 years in the business world, I had become a staunch realist and knew this would be the case.
Not one to stand still when faced with a challenge, I decided to explore self-publishing. I read the debates and reviewed the pros and cons, and for where I was as an author, it made sense. Would I ever consider going the traditional route if the stars aligned? Of course, I would. But this way, I could test the waters and get my stories out there, knowing it would be entirely up to me. I would get what I put into it.
As I got the process going, I could not believe how much the self-publishing ecosystem had grown, especially with the advent of ease-of-use technology. There was a multitude of tools and support mechanisms to get your book in front of potential customers. These readers would be the ones to decide if your book was good enough, and I appreciated that.
After investigating the details of each self-publishing option, I decided on Kindle Direct. And why not? It was the fastest-growing platform out there and part of the Amazon family. How could I go wrong? I signed up with KD and went full speed ahead.
I’ve been nothing but impressed with the ease of their publishing and marketing tools (Kindle Create is fantastic!). And the support from Amazon/Kindle has been phenomenal. I will continue to use Kindle, which I see as a must for any indie author.
I’ve sold my books in 14 countries, which I had not expected as a first-time indie author. (All pretty cool, I must say.) Still, it was a break-even endeavor given the marketing required.
Despite the sales I did get, I had still not created the following that would give me airtime with traditional publishers. The next step would be to expand my reach and to do this, I needed to consider other platforms like Apple Books, Barnes and Noble Press, and Kobo. Would they be as easy as Kindle, and would they be worth it in the end? It was time to find out.
One of the benefits that lured me to Kindle Direct in the first place, was the ability to enroll my novel in KDP Select. This option gives you access to exclusive promotional tools such as Kindle Countdown Deal and Free Book offers. You are also included in the Kindle Unlimited (KU) program. With KU, customers don’t purchase your book. Instead, they buy a monthly subscription, which allows them to read any book they want, so long as it was enrolled with KU. Authors get paid on a page-read basis, which can be very lucrative if your book becomes popular.
But here’s the catch – if you decide to go the KDP Select route, your book must be exclusive to Kindle. You have some smart cookies at Amazon, who know this will control the market. But in all fairness, this is business, and you do get something for this exclusivity. In some cases, my royalties from the pages read were higher than those from my book sales.
So, why would I want to consider other platforms if I’m so happy with Kindle, you ask?
On Kindle, there are millions of books – millions. You are a guppy in a vast ocean. Because of this, you need to work hard and have an impressive social media presence (as well as loyal readers) to make it out of oblivion. Search engines, keywords, algorithms, these can all be daunting at times. I wondered if the competition for readers would be as fierce on other platforms. The end game is to build a following, then they talk to two friends and so on and so on.
This was why I decided to test the waters with my fourth book. Although I did publish with Kindle, I didn’t enroll this book in KDP Select. Without exclusivity limitation, I was able to published it on the three other leading platforms (Apple, B & N, and Kobo) in addition to Kindle. The jury is out, but I will keep you posted on my experiences with each.
As a start, I could not believe how easy it was to self-publish a book on those other platforms. I had not expected this. Formating, uploading, account sign-ups were all quite intuitive, and responses from each company when questions arose were excellent. I was pretty impressed with how, like Kindle, they supported the indie author. And this was all done with zero upfront costs on my part.
There’s no doubt publishing on various platforms takes more time. You need to use multiple sites and an array of programs to prep and submit your books. But in the end, the process wasn’t onerous. In fact, I had fun doing it.
I will need to market and promote my book, but that is a must regardless of the platform you use. I’m not as good as others at this, but I plan to focus on this aspect of the business in 2021.
I would enjoy responding to any questions you might have on this topic. I won’t say I’m an expert at it, but given I’m now published on multiple sites, I do have some (moderate) experience.
If you’ve ever thought of writing and publishing, don’t let the fears of jumping in stop you. The water is nice once you get used to it. 😊
Check out my new book – In the Shadow of the Hawthorn. Available where most other indie books are sold.
In the last year, I’ve been quiet but not idle. My husband and I have settled blissfully into retirement, became grandparents, and faced unprecedented times like everyone else. We made the best of things, as always, looking for the silver lining.
I saw an anonymous quote regarding the pandemic that I loved.
This too shall pass,
It will feel like a kidney stone, but it will pass.
The author of this quote could not have been more right.
During our seclusion, I’ve written two more novels (finalizing both now) and reviewed my previously published ones. It is said that authors never really finish their books, and I certainly saw that as I was correcting and modifying a few things.
As I worked on my second novel, I recalled a blog I had written over a year ago. I read it over and smiled as it was as accurate today as it was back then.
Here it is again, in case you missed it…
While working on my second novel, I was emotionally touched by a very powerful scene I was developing. As I typed, tears streamed down my face. Although still in rough draft, this segment will be crucial in the book, and I am pleased with it even though it will be tough to read.
Indeed, other writers must feel this level of emotion when they write. And I’m convinced that, like me, these words will become their most cherished.
Author Manoj Arora had a brilliant response to the question of how a writer feels when they write, and I had to share:
“It’s chaos. And from that chaos, an idea appears. And you have to see it, you have to feel it. I’m not being abstract. It actually happens; you try to visualize everything, you try to talk and walk and think like your characters do, and you put yourself in the situations where your characters are just to see exactly how it feels…”
She was so right.
It’s when we get this absorbed that we create our best work. Writing is not a chore; it’s an extension of life, and the emotions and feelings we feel are what make the novel worth reading.
I know this is a time of confusion, worry, and dismay. We are all feeling it.
With many confined to their homes, I thought to offer my latest novel for free over the next few days. My hope is that some of you may get lost in the story, at least for a while.
Stay safe and wash your hands.
When I woke up this morning, there were only 33 days, 785 hours, and 47,147 minutes to my retirement, but hey, who’s counting. Truthfully, I have been dreaming of this for months now. Although I enjoyed my career, reaching heights not thought possible when I was a fledgling accountant, I’ve eagerly looked forward to this next stage of my life. It would be a time of family, of doing the things on my own schedule, and, of course, a time to write.
I have dreamt of sitting outside, a nice glass of merlot close at hand, in our beautiful gazebo, where I would let the words flow from my fingers. It would be heaven on earth. But I’ve now learned, it could be more than that.
I did a bit of research (seems I do a lot of that lately) and found that writing in retirement is, in fact, therapeutic for the mind. Here I was, thinking I was going to do it for fun.
Science says I have been using the left side of my brain, the logical side, during my 35 years as an accountant. By switching to the right side of my brain, the creative side, I can continue to develop my mind, which can stem such diseases as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and others. With a grandfather who passed away from Alzheimer’s and many friends speaking of dementia in their family, writing could be a tonic for me (if it wasn’t already).
I see these benefits as bonuses given I planned to write anyway. I get lost in my stories and love where the words take me. All I can say is that these 33 days will not go fast enough…
To celebrate the launch of my final chapter in the Taylor Series, Taken From Love, I’m giving away the first in the series, Here and Then After, so that you can start your journey.
Here’s what people are saying:
“I can’t recommend book 1 enough. I have definitely fallen in love with this family, and this manor. Can’t wait to see what comes next in book 2!” – Review from Romance Novels for the Beach
“As I started reading this book I was surprised at how each of the characters were interesting in their own way. I couldn’t put this book down til the end. I hope there’s another one following this one. You will enjoy it.” – Kindle Customer
I hope you enjoy it too!
When I started on this journey a few years ago, the thought that I could publish a book, let alone three, was a dream at best. Despite the challenges, I started to write and the words just flowed. I had a story to tell, and couldn’t wait to share it.
Fast-forward two years and here I am, looking at my three-book series published on Amazon. I am nowhere near done learning, and that excites me.
As I look to retirement in the next few months, I’m giddy like a child, knowing I’ll be able to spend even more time, improving my writing and further developing my style. I can’t wait to see where my next stories will take me.
In celebration of this newest release, I am gearing up for a Free Promotional Event where, starting on Friday, October 25th, you will be able to download my first book in the series, Here and Then After, as a gift.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.
(Trumpets sounding in the background, and confetti everywhere!)
Yes, it’s finally here – the last release of the Taylor Series.
Taken From Love, tells the story of Gabriella Taylor, daughter of Sam and Beth from Here and Then After. A spirited girl, Gabriella needed adventure and got a boatload of it, pirates included. This, along with finding love, was certainly more than she expected.
I will admit; it was bittersweet to finish this novel as it meant the end of the series.
I enjoyed the characters and the world I had created and didn’t want it to end. It had provided me with a release I so needed at times. It was going to be sad to let it go.
I learned a great deal while writing these books, most importantly, that I had so much more to learn (like how to use commas properly – argh!), but I look forward to continuing to improve and grow as an author.
I’m currently working on my next book, which is intended to be a standalone historical romance.
Who knows, perhaps one day I will revisit the Taylors. They have, after all, meant so much to me along this fabulous journey. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this newest release.
My third and final book of the Taylor Series is almost ready!
I think its the most exciting of the three. I can’t wait to share it with everyone.
Release date : Mid-September 2019
Recently, I received a note from a good friend of mine who was taking a well-deserved vacation. As a tax expert and executive, her mind is always reeling. She was much in need of some time away. I gave her my book “When Hearts Break” for her to (hopefully) enjoy during this break.
Her note back to me, reminded me of why I love storytelling.
“Ola my dear friend, I hope you are doing well. I wanted to send you a quick note to tell you how much I adored reading your book. It was truly the highlight of my trip and transported me into a different world. I could live through your beautiful story telling and could envision the story unfolding in front of me as if it was a movie. I finished the book already and have felt lost the past couple of days as I missed the special world it created for me, away from all my surroundings. Your story will forever be associated with my trip and much needed rest.
You have a special gift and please keep writing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing with me your special book.”
Yes, I will keep writing.