Author Archives: Eileen McGrath

Wiley Cash. This Dark Road to Mercy. New York: William Morrow, 2014.

dark roadEaster Quillby is twelve, but she has already made up her mind about her dad, Wade: he is the loser that her mom always said he was. Wade was a professional baseball player, a pitcher, but he never made it to the major leagues and he has drifted ever since. Robert Pruitt is an ex-ballplayer too. He’s a hard man–brought up by a sadistic dad, he’s been a drug dealer and now he’s an ex-con who works as a bouncer at the Tomcat bar just outside Gastonia. And he knows what he thinks about Wade: Wade beaned him a ballgame, disfiguring him and ending his baseball career. Wade ruined his life, and Pruitt would do anything to ruin Wade’s. Brady Weller doesn’t know what to think about Wade. Brady is the guardian ad litem for Easter and her little sister Ruby–someone assigned by the courts to watch out for their best interests after their mother died from a drug overdose.

As This Dark Road to Mercy opens, Wade reappears in Easter and Ruby’s lives. He has heard that their mother died, and he thinks that he and the girls can be a family again. But it’s not just his ex-wife’s death that has spurred Wade into action. He has a stash of money–money that he stole from the original thief. With this stake, he thinks he can start anew–with the girls, and in a new place. Wade easily spirits his daughters away from the group home where they’ve been living, but before long both Pruitt and Weller are on his trail.  The action moves from Gastonia to the coast, down to Myrtle Beach, and then on to St. Louis, where a pivotal scene takes place. At times the book reads like a road-trip novel and Easter’s occasional narration adds humor, but this is a novel about serious issues: the ties of family, the darkness of the human heart, and the hope that many people have that they can outrun their past. Cash mixes in references to North Carolina minor league baseball teams, the Sammy Sosa-Mark McGwire home run race of 1998, and echoes of the 1997 armored car robbery that occurred in Gaston County, all of which clearly center his story in time and place. This Dark Road to Mercy is hard to categorize but easy to enjoy.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Cash, Wiley, Gaston, Piedmont

Annis Ward Jackson. Blind Malice. North Carolina: Annis Ward Jackson, 2009.

blindIt’s every adult child’s nightmare: an elderly parent, isolated and confused, mishandles his financial affairs and winds up deeply in debt.  Rachel Myers never expected that to happen to her father Paul.  Yes, Paul was blind, but with the help of a housekeeper and a longtime farm hand and friend, Isaac Starling, he managed his mountain farm.  Rachel, who lives in Arizona, felt some pull to come home, but she knew she would never find a job in the mountains as good as the managerial job that she has in Flagstaff.

Only when Paul dies and Rachel comes back to North Carolina to bury him does she find out how bad Paul’s situation had become.  Rachel learns from Isaac that her father fired his longtime housekeeper soon after a local banker, Ed McKinney, became a frequent visitor to the farm.  And the farm itself has changed–the cattle have been sold and the house and surrounding yard have had expensive improvements that surprise Rachel.  But the biggest surprise is that Paul Myers died in debt to the tune of $230,000.  How did this happen–and does it have anything to do with the surveyor’s stakes that dot the nearby hill?  As Rachel looks into her father’s financial affairs, time and again she is led back to Ed McKinney and his puzzling influence on her father.

This is the first book in a  series of ten novels by Ms. Jackson, all set along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Watch this site for summaries of later books in the series.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Jackson, Annis Ward, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Ernest Beasley. Cape Fear Murders. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2011.

capefearThe body count gets high in this novel of adultery, revenge, and abuse of power set in Lee County, North Carolina.  First one high school girl is raped and murdered, then another, and another, and another. When the father of the fourth victim becomes impatient with the pace of the investigation, he contacts retired United States Marshall, Kenneth Sadler.  Sadler, a widower, is happy for the work and grateful for an excuse to temporarily relocate away from the many widows in nearby Moore County who view him as a desirable catch.

Sadler does not get off on the right foot with Lee County Sheriff Joe Dorman.  While it’s natural that the local authorities do not welcome a private investigator from the outside, Sadler learns that Sheriff Dorman may have particular reasons for trying to keep a tight rein on this case.  Other discoveries raise questions about the behaviors and intentions of both high school students and the adults in their lives.  Whose behavior is more foolish? More dangerous?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Beasley, Ernest, Coastal Plain, Lee, Moore, Mystery, New Hanover

J. J. Murray. A Good Man. New York: Kensington Books, 2013.

goodmanSonya Richardson likes a quiet life.  After ten years in the WNBA and some wise investments, Sonya has a nice income stream and a lovely home in Charlotte. But she’s living in that big house by herself and feeling a bit lonely and bored.  Out of the blue, her publicist calls to ask her to star in  “Hunk or Punk,” a reality TV show in which a bachelorette must pick a partner from dozen men vying for her hand.  Sonya knows better than to get involved, but when her publicist signs the contract, Sonya has no choice but to be “the Nubian princess” at the center of the show.

But Sonya is her own person.  Her unscripted behavior–taking off her uncomfortable shoes in the first episode, the odd “challenges” she gives the men, her unwillingness to dump suitors on schedule–make for interesting viewing. And Sonya is not the only surprisingly element in the show.  John Bond, a widower from Burnt Corn, Alabama, is the token white suitor.  John is an assistant deacon at the AME church in Burnt Corn, a deeply religious man who has been mourning his late wife for fifteen years.  He and Sonya connect in ways that the producers could not anticipate.

A Good Man takes readers behind the scene of reality TV with funny situations and crisp dialogue. It’s clear that Sonya and John are strangers in that strange land, but their faith and their self-knowledge guide them, and even some of the people around them, to a true happily-ever-after.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Mecklenburg, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

R. E. Bradshaw. Waking Up Gray. United States: R. E. Bradshaw Books, 2011.

waking At forty, Lizabeth is starting her life over.  Her marriage, to an inveterate philanderer, is finished and her daughter is grown.  Lizabeth has returned to school to study linguistic anthropology.  Her thesis topic is the Caroline Brogue, so she’ll be spending a few months on Ocracoke Island to do her research.

Lizabeth’s cousins have a cottage on the island, a place that Lizabeth used to visit as a child.  Lizabeth knows that she should call on Fanny O’Neal, the elderly woman who lives across the street.  Miss Fanny is an island treasure and almost kin.  But before Lizabeth can pay a call, she sees a brief romantic exchange between Miss Fanny’s granddaughter Gray and another woman.  Lizabeth is shocked by what she feels when she sees the two women, but that doesn’t keep her away from Miss Fanny’s.

Soon her visits across the street are matched by Gray’s visit to Lizabeth’s cottage and excursions around the island.  A same-sex attraction is new territory for Lizabeth, but even as she is exploring her feelings, Gray is struggling too.  Gray’s ex-wife, Dana, cheated on her and even after five years Gray is not ready to give her heart to anyone else.  Lizabeth, Gray, and Fanny survive a hurricane, but will the lovers’ budding relationship survive Dana’s unexpected visit to the island?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Bradshaw, R. E., Coast, Hyde, Romance/Relationship

Kim Williams Justesen. The Deepest Blue. Terre Haute, IN: Tanglewood Publishing, 2013.

deepestAt fifteen, Mike Wilson is a typical teenage boy, with the same concerns as his peers.  His is counting the days until he can drive, and each day he hopes that he will better understand girls and one girl in particular–Rachel, his on-again, off-again girlfriend.  In the meantime he is working this summer, like previous ones, on his father’s charter fishing boat.  Mike doesn’t know if he’ll want to make this boat his future, but he enjoys spending time with his father, Rich.  Rich has been Mike’s sole parent ever since the two of them left Mike’s mom.   Mike was just five when he and his dad moved from Washington State to the North Carolina coast,  but Mike has memories of his mother’s unhappiness and her coldness toward him.  It’s fine with him that he has rarely heard from her these past ten years.

As The Deepest Blue opens, Rich tells his son that he is going to ask his long-time girlfriend, Maggie, to marry him.  Before he offers Maggie a ring, Rich needs to know that Mike will be OK with this change in his life.  Mike is thrilled.  Sure, it will be different, but Mike knows that Maggie and Rich love each other and, in truth, she has been like a mother to him for the past few years.  But before Rich can pop the question, tragedy strikes.  Rich is killed by a drunk driver.  Maggie and Mike are devastated–the future that there were to share has been taken from them.

But perhaps they can have a different future together.  Mike would like Maggie to adopt him, but because he is a minor he is not free to do as he pleases in such an important matter.  And because his age, his mother, Julia,  is notified of her ex-husband’s death.  To everyone’s surprise, Julia asserts her parental rights and makes plans to take Mike to live with her new family on the West Coast.  The Deepest Blue follows Mike and Maggie as they, though grief stricken, try to mange their feelings, bury Rich, and do battle with Julia for Mike’s future.  The story is told from Mike’s perspective, and readers come to see a decent, ordinary boy struggle toward the maturity that he will need to become the person his father hoped he’d be.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Carteret, Coast, Justesen, Kim Williams

Monique Miller. Nobody’s Angel. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2013.

nobodyCi Ci Jackson really is no angel.  As soon as she finished high school she jumped into a hasty marriage to a man who had no intention of being a steady husband to her and father to their children.  When that marriage broke up and Ci Ci lost custody of her children, she left rural Duplin County heading for the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, planning to start over.

And start over she did–with a new name, a new husband, and the habit of weighing all relationships based on what she can get out of them.  But she still carries a lot of hurt and anger from her earlier life and this spills out from time-to-time.  As Nobody’s Angel opens, Ci Ci (now calling herself Morgan Tracy) is about to be arrested for attempting to murder her new husband, Will.  While in jail awaiting trial, another prisoner, Desiree, offers Ci Ci/Morgan her friendship and Will visits to say that he has forgiven her, but she rebuffs their kindnesses and the religious sentiments attached to them.  Once she is again a free woman, Morgan resumes her ways, searching with a cold determination for the things that money can buy and a man to provide them.  Only when she meets her match does she come to realize that the path that Desiree, Will, and their church friends follow is the better way.

Nobody’s Angel is the latest book in Miller’s series of novels set in on near the fiction city of Silvermont, North Carolina.  For the earlier novel in the series, see The Marrying Kind and Quiet As It’s Kept.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Miller, Monique, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Rene Gutteridge and John Ward. Heart of the Country. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013.

heartCatherine Barnett’s death in an automobile accident scarred her entire family.  Calvin, her husband, was left with the task of bringing his daughters out of adolescence and into adulthood.  That, and keeping up the farm and his horses, consumed him.  Olivia stayed close to home, marrying and raising her children near the home place in Columbus County, North Carolina.  Faith, who has her mother’s beautiful voice and stage presence, left to attend the Julliard School in New York City.  Faith’s lack of confidence and drive derailed her singing career, but in New York she met Luke Carraday, the younger son of financial wizard Austin Carraday.

When Heart of the Country opens, Faith and Luke have been married four years.  The young couple have tried to find their own way in New York, living in a modest Manhattan apartment rather than on the Upper East Side, and keeping their appearances at big society events to minimum.  None of this pleases Luke’s family, but only when Luke leaves the family firm to buy in with a competitor, the slightly shady Michov Brothers, does the Carraday family unity crack.  Luke’s brother, Jake, is particularly harsh in his judgments–first Luke marries this country girl who must be a gold-digger and then he turn his back on the firm that their father poured his life into.  It’s all Jake can do not to say “I told you so” when the Securities and Exchange Commission comes after Luke and the Michovs, and Faith turns her back on Luke and returns to North Carolina.

Faith’s return to North Carolina is no joyous homecoming.  Olivia, who is feeling worn out at thirty, resents the attention that Faith receives and she is possessive about their father.  Plus, she is offended by Faith’s failure to bring Luke to North Carolina to meet the family.  The Barnetts wouldn’t know Luke if they walked right into him.  Calvin is just feeling old, too old to care much about the house, the barn, even his beloved horse, Silver.  Lee, the local ER doctor, offers his friendship to Faith, but his special knowledge of her mother’s death stands between them like a radioactive field.

Faith has come back to re-build her life, but she cannot do that without facing up to some truths about herself.  Is she weak–someone who gives up after the first setback?  The way she bolted when Luke was arrested marks her as someone who runs at the first sign of trouble.  But what about Luke, will he survive his  legal troubles, and if he does, will he find a way to win back Faith’s trust?  Heart of the Country explores the pain that exists in even the closest of families and how religious faith and family love can bring about healing.

The film version of Heart of the Country, starring Jana Kramer, was released in 2012.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coastal Plain, Columbus, Gutteridge, Rene, Religious/Inspirational, Ward, John

Sherryl Woods. Ocean Breeze Novels.

  •  Sand Castle Bay. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Mira, 2013.
  • Wind Chime Point. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Mira, 2013.
  • Sea Glass Island. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Mira, 2013.

The Castle sisters–Emily, Gabriella, and Samantha–are the focus of this short, romantic series.  The sisters love the coastal community of Sand Castle Bay, but each went out into the wider world to make a name for herself.  Emily is an interior designer, Samantha is an actor, and Gabi follower her father into the pharmaceutical industry.  But when they hit a patch of trouble–or when a family member needs them–they return to their little beach town.

Each novel focuses on a particular sister who is at a turning point in her life: Emily in Sand Castle Bay, Gabi in Wind Chime Point, and the eldest sister, Samantha, in Sea Glass Island.  Their grandmother, Cora Jane, is a presence in each novel–not quite needing the sisters’ help, but eliciting the sisters’ concern.  But Cora Jane gives much more than she receives, as she offers advice and engages in matchmaking.  Although the Ocean Breeze novels contain contemporary elements such as age discrimination, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and the war in Afghanistan, at heart these are traditional novels.  Unrequited love, the desire to marry and have children, and the impulse to protect family members–and to meddle in their affairs–drive the action in these nicely linked novels.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Novels in Series, Romance/Relationship, Series, Woods, Sherryl

Jim Booth. The New Southern Gentleman. Los Angeles, CA: Wexford College Presss, 2002.

gentlemanBy the time a man is in his twenties, he’s usually made some progress on figuring out who he is and what his place in the world might be.  Work, friendship, ethics, and love are some of the big issues that he’s grappled with.  Daniel Randolph Deal has an additional issue.  A descendant of two distinguished Virginia families, he has been raised by his traditionalist grandfather, a man obsessed with the glories of his family’s past.  Grandfather Deal is a Southern gentleman of the old school, and he expects his grandson to understand what is expected of him.

But Dan has been finding his way without much help.  Dan’s father died when Dan was two.  A few years later, his mother married a Frenchman and went to live abroad with her new husband.  Dan has done what he is supposed to–doing well in the classroom and on the playing field, going to the right schools, studying to be a lawyer.  But certain things still elude him.  He has been thrown off balance by certain romantic possibilities, especially Evelyn Daiches, a young woman he meets during a party at the house of his boisterous, boorish neighbor.  The New Southern Gentleman follows Dan through his first semester of law school at Wake Forest University and a fateful Christmas vacation when his relationships–with his friend Alex, his cousin Ramona, his grandfather, and Evelyn–collide.

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

 

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2002, Booth, Jim, Forsyth, Piedmont