Author Archives: Eileen McGrath

Lucia Peel Powe. Roanoke Rock Muddle. Raleigh, NC: Ivy House, 2003.

roanokeMany novelists have tried to capture the essence of a small town that they know well.  Lucia Peel Powe has set out to do this for Williamston, North Carolina, a small, but old, town at a strategic bend in the Roanoke River. In a story set in the 1920s and 1930s, Mrs. Powe gives readers a good sense of the life of the town through the stories of Ben-Olive Bazemore, the chef at the Tar Heel Hotel, Charlie Mac Griffin, who is the mayor (a decidedly part-time job) and whose father owns the Chevrolet dealership, and Big Dan Hardison and his wife Mary.

The men’s lives are particularly well portrayed in scenes of card games on a houseboat, barbecues, and political rallies, but the plot revolves around Mary.  Mary, the daughter of the town’s only doctor, is a reader and a bit of a dreamer.  Her husband, Big Dan, is a former college football star with political ambitions.  The other men like Dan even as they entertain fantasies about his wife.  But if Mary is dissatisfied with Dan, why would any of his friends be better?  A man from outside would hold more interest, with fewer complications.  Mary’s actions ripple through the community, but quietly, and just as quietly Dan and his circle of friends adjust.

Roanoke Rock Muddle will give readers a good sense of the Williamston community and the importance of the river in its life and culture.  As a bonus, the author includes fifteen recipes credited to Ben-Olive.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2003, Coastal Plain, Martin, Powe, Lucia Peel

Ann B. Ross. Etta Mae’s Worst Bad-Luck Day. New York: Viking, 2014.

“What I wanted more than anything else was to be somebody. Somebody who was respected and listened to and treated in a nice way all the time. What I wanted was to be in a situation where nobody would ever again look at me and, without blinking an eye, think the worst.”

That’s Etta Mae Wiggins talking, and this is her story.  Readers of Ann Ross’s Miss Julia Series know Etta Mae as the cheerful, voluptuous manager of Miss Julia’s trailer-park and an occasional sidekick in Miss Julia’s adventures.  It was Etta Mae who Miss Julia recruited to rescue J. D. Pickens when he was in danger in West Virginia, and Etta Mae found a housekeeper–her granny–to manage J. D. and Hazel Marie’s household after their twins were born.  Miss Julia knows that she can count on Etta’s Mae’s energy and good heart to help her solve the problems of family and friends in little Abbotsville.

In this book, Ann Ross takes a half-step away from the Miss Julia series to give us Etta Mae’s back-story.  Etta Mae is from the poorer part of Abbot County, and her people–the Wiggins clan–have been considered lazy and shiftless.  Etta Mae grew up already judged because of her family name.  Etta Mae hasn’t help herself by her way of dressing and her complicated romantic history; some of her own missteps only reinforced people’s negative opinion of her.  And Miss Julia was one of those doing the judging.  We learn that Etta Mae and Miss Julia did not immediately get off on the right foot, and that it took Hazel Marie’s intervention and some spiked punch to break the chill between them.  This is only one of a number of funny scenes in this gentle, enjoyable novel.  Etta Mae gets her man, and some of the respectability she seeks, but that’s not to say that everything works out as she planned.

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Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Henderson, Humor, Mountains, Novels in Series, Ross, Ann B.

LaToya Hankins. SBF Seeking … Glen Allen, VA: JMS Books, 2012.

sbfAt twenty-five, Yvette Thurman seems to have her life mapped out.  She’s a journalist for a statewide magazine based in Raleigh, she has a nice circle of friends, and she’s engaged to marry a good-looking, stable man she’s known since college.  But Yvette is restless.  Not really knowing what it is that’s bothering her, she decides she’d like a little sexual fling–with a white man.  An ad on a dating site leads her to a willing partner.  It’s a nothing-special experience, but from it Yvette learns that she is just not ready to get married.

Yvette’s mother and her twin sister support her decision, as do her friends who go out of their way to include Yvette in the fun–and drama–of their lives.  But it’s not until a co-worker’s sister and her partner move into Yvette’s apartment complex that Yvette begins to reconsider how she’s always thought her life would be.  Yvette soon spends a good bit of her free time with Erica and Linda–especially Linda–and finds herself opening up to romantic relationship with another woman.  SBF Seeking follows Yvette during three years in which her heart leads her down a unexpected new path.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Hankins, LaToya, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship, Wake

Tommy Hays. What I Came to Tell You. New York: Egmont USA, 2013.

whatWhen tragedy strikes, it can bring a family closer together–or tear it apart.  Jean Johnston was a school counselor and a great mother to her children, Grover and Sudie.  She made her husband Walt laugh and kept him from becoming a complete workaholic.  After Jean dies rescuing the family dog from traffic, Walt retreats into his work.  He is the director of the Old Kentucky Home, the Thomas Wolfe historic site in Asheville, North Carolina.  The site has reopened after a fire, but attendance is down from what it once was, and the county commissioners, especially Delbert Lunsford, are reluctant to give the site much more support.  Asheville is booming and the Old Kentucky Home sits on some valuable land that could be developed for something more commercial.

There is also a lot prime for development right next to the Johnston family home in the Montford neighborhood.  The lot is overrun with bamboo and “the Bamboo Forest” has become Grover’s retreat.  Grover has found an outlet for his artistic talent and his grief by creating weavings from bamboo, leaves, and other bits of nature.  He carries these weavings to his mother’s grave, a place that he and Sudie go to several times a week.  Although Grover is grieving, he is not so lost in his grief that he doesn’t watch out for Sudie.  And while their dad is inattentive, other adults–at school and in the neighborhood–watch out for the children.  Those concerned adults–especially Jessie, a neighbor who does a lot of landscape work at the cemetery and Leila, a nurse who rents a house in the neighborhood–aid the Johnstons when Delbert Lunsford tries to destroy the bamboo forest, and they help each family member move beyond anger and grief.

Readers will enjoy this gentle book for its portrayal of how a warm community helps people to heal.  Readers who know Asheville will like the many mentions of local business and locations and with how their town is portrayed.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Buncombe, Children & Young Adults, Hays, Tommy, Mountains

Joseph L. S. Terrell. Undertow of Vengeance. Rock Hill, SC: Bella Rosa Books, 2014.

undertowHarrison Weaver isn’t even over jet lag from his recent trip to Paris with his girlfriend Elly when a friend alerts him to a body in Nags Head Woods.  His friend, Linda Shackleford, had been in the woods photographing its natural beauty; only later, when she was reviewing her photos, did she notice what appears to be a human arm.  Linda fears returning to the woods by herself, so she asks Harrison to accompany her.  Harrison knows he shouldn’t–the local district attorney resents his involvement in some previous high-profile investigations–but after he alerts Odell Wright, his friend in the sheriff’s department, he agrees to go.

Weaver, Shackleford, and Wright find not one body, but two–a man and a woman.  Each was shot just once, in a manner that suggests a cool, methodical killer.  When a third person is killed in a similar manner, and Harrison receives taunting phone calls from the killer, Harrison knows that this killer won’t stop on his own.  Because all the victims have a connection to a new church in town, Harrison and his friend SBI Agent Ballsford Twiddy focus in on the pastor and his deacons. But what would make one of these God-fearing people become a killer? Only when one victim escapes alive, does Harrison have the clue he needs.

This is the fourth title in the Harrison Weaver Mysteries series.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Coast, Dare, Mystery, Novels in Series, Terrell, Joseph L. S.

Katherine Faw Morris. Young God. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.

youngNikki has been living in a group home, under the care of the Department of Social Services, because both her parents are drug users and minor criminals.  As Young God opens, Nikki is spending time at a falls with her mother and her mother’s younger companion, Wesley.  When her mom slips off the cliff and falls to her death, Nikki is alone.  Alone but resourceful.  After a brief interlude with Wesley, Nikki steals his truck and heads out to find her father who has recently been released from prison.

Coy Hawkins, Nikki’s dad, was a drug dealer before he went to prison.  Nikki is disappointed to see that her father has chosen pimping as his post-prison occupation.  Nikki’s determination to get her father back into dealing–and dealing on a larger scale–will have dramatic consequences for both of them in this dark tale of ambition, violence, and betrayal.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Morris, Katherine Faw, Mountains

Auburn Seal. Roanoke Vanishing. United States: CreateSpace, 2013.

vanishing The fate of the English colonists on Roanoke Island has puzzled North Carolinians and scholars for centuries.  Did the colonist die of disease?  Did they starve during a harsh winter?  Were they killed?  Did they migrate inland and become absorbed into a Native American community?

With no conclusive evidence, theories have dominated discussions of the Lost Colony.  Avery Lane, the heroine of Roanoke Vanishing, has long been bothered by the theory that Native Americans killed the colonists.  To Avery, this unproven speculation has been used as a justification for unfair treatment of Native Americans in this state.  Avery, a grad student in history at UNC-Chapel Hill, wants to take a new approach to the topic by focusing on who the colonists were and what their lives were like before they made the long sea voyage from England to the New World.  Could it be that their lives in England hold the key to their eventual fate?

Avery’s thesis adviser, Jonas Allen, is a specialist on the English settlement of America, so Avery expects him to endorse her thesis proposal.  She is stunned when he angrily refuses to do so.  Professor Allen’s outburst is just the first of several unsettling, even dangerous, encounters that Avery has as she pursues her research.  Avery is followed, her house is broken into, and  her best friend is put in peril.  Avery comes to see that she must heed the words of the ghost Elinor (yes, that Elinor) and trust no one as she pursues the truth about the Lost Colony.

Roanoke Vanishing is the first novel in the author’s Vanishing Series.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Dare, Historical, Mystery, Novels in Series, Orange, Piedmont, Seal, Auburn

Margaret Maron. Designated Daughters. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2014.

daughtersReaders of Margaret Maron’s Deborah Knott series are used to Deborah’s large family, and Maron kindly helps readers to keep them straight by providing a family tree in recent books.  In Designated Daughters, Deborah’s Aunt Rachel briefly takes center stage.

Aunt Rachel has always been an easy going, neighborly person who made friends with many of the people who came to her vegetable stand.  Although never a gossip, Aunt Rachel has been privy to a lot of secrets.  Nearing death, she begins to unburden herself of some of those stories–not in a way her family understands but clearly enough to unnerve at least one listener.  When the family steps away from her room, someone smothers this sweet woman.

The family is both horrified and puzzled.  Even though Deborah has promised Dwight that she will not interfere in the homicide investigation, this is her family.  Deborah begins to match up some of her aunt’s ramblings with the stories of neighbors and kin.  A church man who hit his wife, a house fire that killed a mother and her young daughters, a cowbird egg, a revealing bathing suit–which one of these references would incite someone to murder a woman already in hospice care?  Through Deborah’s investigations, readers learn more about the Knotts family history while Deborah identifies the killer.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Coastal Plain, Maron, Margaret, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

L. D. McIntyre. Outer Banks Recovery. United States: CreateSpace, 2014.

outer banksRae Romano loves the Outer Banks. When her partner Jan was alive, they spent many happy summers in a cottage near Corolla.  Jan was an artist whose paintings are popular items in the local art galleries.  Jan would paint and Rae would wander along the beaches, stopping to photograph the area’s natural beauty, especially the wild horses that roam the beaches and sand dunes.

But as much as she loves this place, Rea wasn’t sure she could ever return to it after Jan’s death.  As Outer Banks Recovery opens, Rea has taken the plunge and is on her way to their cottage when her car veers off the road after a close encounter with a truck.  Luckily for Rae, Sheriff Michaela Knight sees the accident and stops to help.

Rea and Michaela feels an immediate attraction, something that is unexpected and unsettling to Rae.  Jan was the great love of her life and she can feel Jan’s presence in the cottage and on the beach.  It seems like a betrayal of what they had to begin again with someone new.  But Michaela is persistent.  She and her dog Thor show up regularly, and they work their way into Rae’s heart.  But Rea fears being hurt again.  Having lost Jan, she couldn’t survive loosing another love.  And Michaela’s job is not just about traffic accidents, underage drinking, and careless swimmers.  There is real danger in policing, even in a remote location like the Outer Banks.  When Michaela puts her life in danger confronting thieves who have killed and stolen some of the island’s wild horses,  Rea fleas. Can Michaela woo her back?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Coast, Currituck, McIntyre, L.D., Romance/Relationship

Jon Sealy. The Whiskey Baron. Spartanburg, SC: Hub City Press, 2014.

 “I got greedy and thought I could get away with something.”

Mary Jane Hopewell (born Wesley Hopewell, Jr.) has been a ne’er-do-well since he came back from the Great War.  Unlike his brother who married and became a church-goer and steady worker at the mill, Mary Jane didn’t work much, preferring to spend his time drinking and scheming.  Not long after Mary Jane moves in with a widow, Abigail Coleman, he thinks he has hit pay dirt.  The widow has some of the most productive land in the county, land that she uses to grow corn.  She sells a good bit of that corn to the local whiskey baron, Larthan Tull, but she also keep some to make her own moonshine.  The widow’s moonshine is very good.  Knowing that, Mary Jane starts selling it around the county.  Tull has been looking the other way, ignoring this small scale incursion on his turf, but when Mary Jane reaches out to Aunt Lou, Tull’s distributor in Charlotte, Tull has to act.  The murder of two young men outside Tull’s inn is just the opening move in a bloody chess game between two cold, focused men.

The fictitious Castle County, South Carolina is home territory for Tull and Hopewell, but business takes them both to Charlotte to make deals with Aunt Lou.  This novel reminds readers that state borders are historical lines on paper, but culture and business flow across them–for good and ill.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Mecklenburg, Piedmont, Sealy, Jon