Author Archives: Eileen McGrath

Joan Opyr. Shaken and Stirred. Ann Arbor, MI: Bywater Books, 2011.

shakenTar Heels know that you can’t go home again–but sometimes you have to.  Poppy Koslowski has been living clear across the country from her loving, but dysfunctional, family.  Growing up, Poppy and her mother lived with her maternal grandparents in Wake County, North Carolina.  Or, that’s how it was until her grandfather, Hunter, ran off with the boozy mother of Poppy’s friends.  Before too long, Poppy herself left–to college, then graduate school, to jobs, moving ever further north and west, until she settled in Portland, Oregon.

As Shaken and Stirred opens, Poppy is recovering from a hysterectomy and is feeling sore and sad.  Poppy’s long-time BFF, Abby, who is a nurse, is keeping a watchful eye on her, and she’s present when Poppy gets the phone call telling her that her grandfather is dying.  Poppy can’t refuse her mother’s request that she come home to help her and Nana through this difficult time.  Abby volunteers to come too–Poppy is not back to full strength and Wake County is home turf for Abby too.  Abby can visit with her mother and help Poppy’s family make sense of Hunter’s medical condition.

But being back in North Carolina brings back so many memories for Poppy–her parents’ separation, her grandmother’s strict sense of propriety, her attempts to fit in at school and at home, her grandfather’s drinking.  Even as a child, she knew that her grandfather’s behavior was irresponsible, but he took an interest in her and took her on some of the most memorable adventures of her youth.  But all that came to an end when Hunter took off with Jean–the mother of Poppy’s first love, Susan.  Now Hunter’s whole life will be reviewed, and that old can of worms–and many others–will be opened.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Opyr, Joan, Piedmont, Wake

Courtney Giardina. Tear Stained Beaches. Florham Park, NJ: Take Two Publishing, 2013.

Haylie met Chase when she was a senior in college.  Chase, then a law student, had been captain of the college soccer team and was known around campus for his good looks and good character. When Haylie and Chase become a couple and eventually marry, Haylie feels that her life is truly blessed.

But trouble enters their life after Chase takes a job in Charlotte. Haylie has difficulty finding a job, and she finds little support from the women in her upscale neighborhood, who think that her career aspirations are a bit odd. Meanwhile, Chase becomes ever more absorbed in his work–staying late, bringing home paperwork, and being inattentive and short with Haylie.  Just when Haylie thinks she can come to terms with this, it gets worse.  Chase texts at all hours of the day and night, and he starts taking many more trips–without Haylie. Haylie fears that Chase is having an affair. When her suspicions are confirmed, she flees to a small island on the Carolina coast. There she finds a woman she can confide in–someone who offers sisterhood in a way that Haylie’s Charlotte neighbors did not. But this friendship brings with it unexpected pain.

Written in the first person, Tear Stained Beaches, takes us inside Haylie’s mind. Happy memories are interspersed with an linear plot that takes Haylie from the first moments of attraction through betrayal and to a life that she builds on her own. This realistic, generous novel comes with book club discussion questions and a Q and A with the author at the end.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Giardina, Courtney, Mecklenburg, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Robert G. Edwards. An Image of Us. United States: 1st Ride Publishing, 2013.

image ofSam Fenton and Kathryn Ackart were high school sweethearts in the small coastal town of Meylor, North Carolina.  Sam’s dad ran a scrap metal business in town and battled a drinking problem, but that didn’t stop Kathryn and her family from welcoming Sam into their hearts.  After high school, Sam got on as a reporter with the local paper, while Kathryn left for UNC to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.  The distance between the coast and Chapel Hill did not dampen the young couple’s love.  When Kathryn began to apply to medical schools, she and Sam discussed where they wanted to live–their life together was assumed.

All that changed when Sam received a phone call from family in Arizona.  Decades earlier, his mother’s family founded a store in the small town of Sterling.  That business was now failing–could Sam come and help save it?  Sam’s decision to go to Arizona led to a break with Kathryn.  For Kathryn, it wasn’t so much the decision itself, but how quickly Sam made it.  The life that Kathryn thought they were building was put aside in an instant.  Even as Kathryn moved on with her life–becoming a doctor, then a surgeon, marrying–she harbored bitterness and sadness about the breakup.

As An Image of Us opens, it is dozen years later.  The Meylor high school has undergone a major renovation and alums have been invited back for a tour and celebration.  Sam’s family business has failed due to the competition from big-box stores, and he is at loose ends.  Kathryn has just started her first vacation in two years, and what better way to spend it than with her family and old friends?  Sam hopes that he will see Kathryn at the celebration; Kathryn is not sure what she wants.  An Image of Us follows these two as they consider what they once had and what might still be possible for them.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Edwards, Robert G, Romance/Relationship

Joseph L. S. Terrell. Not Our Kind of Killing. Rock Hill, SC: Bella Rosa Books, 2013.

not our kindCrime writer Harrison Weaver made a frustrating trip to the North Carolina mountains in April.  A young woman had been murdered and left hogtied in her own car.  Harrison’s editor asked him to head up to the mountains to get the story but when Harrison found out that the crime was poorly investigated and the woman’s body cremated without an autopsy, there was not much he could do.  This was one crime that would remain unsolved.  Now it’s May and Harrison is thinking about other things, like his relationship with Elly Pederson. Elly is a widow who works for the county and through her Harrison has gotten to know many locals. After two years on the Outer Banks, he is starting to feel like he might fit in.

But Harrison does not fit in with everyone–not all the county deputies appreciate his style or the way he pokes his nose into police business, and District Attorney Rick Schweikert is especially antagonistic toward him.  So when Harrison finds a young woman’s body near a local kayaking spot, he has some explaining to do.  Not everyone wants to hear about how much this murder resembles the earlier murder in the mountains. But Harrison’s friend SBI agent Thomas Twiddy is open to the connection. As they investigate the local crime, Harrison remembers what the mountain people said about that murder being “not our kind of killing.”  Following this thought leads him to a pair of serial killers.

This is the third Harrison Weaver mystery. The series begins with Tide of Darkness.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Dare, Mountains, Mystery, Terrell, Joseph L. S.

Emma Carlson Berne. Under Pressure. Minneapolis: Darby Creek, 2013.

under pressureThe title, Under Pressure, nicely sums up Elise Heisel’s life–or maybe just how she sees it. Elise comes from a family of UNC Tar Heels. Four generations of her family have gone to UNC and made good.  Her dad was president of the student body in his senior year, and her mother was a star player on the women’s rugby team.

Elise dreams of going to UNC and playing for the university’s women’s soccer team.  She is an excellent ball handler on the soccer field, but when Elise compares herself to her teammates, she thinks that she lacks stamina and power.  When her high school coach announces that a UNC scout is coming in two weeks to check out the team, Elise goes into a panic.  What can she do to make herself stand out? Elise succumbs to the lure of performance enhancing drugs. When they seem to loose their edge, she decides that it must be because she is carrying too much weight.  In just two weeks, Elise jeopardizes her health, her friendships, and her dream of playing for Carolina.

Under Pressure is a realistic portrayal of how quickly a teen can get in trouble, and the ways family and friends–consciously and unconsciously–affirm or denigrate a girl’s sense of self-worth.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Berne, Emma Carlson, Children & Young Adults

Joyce and Jim Lavene. A Haunting Dream. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2012.

hauntingDae O’Donnell has been enjoying her life.  She’s in her first term as the mayor of Duck, North Carolina and her popularity is high, in part because of her role in keeping the local bookshop and coffee house open.  Dae’s also in a relationship with a very nice man, Kevin Brickman, who’s been running the Blue Whale Inn for the past year.  Kevin is from away, but he fits in with the locals the way few outsiders do.  His background as an FBI agent never comes up, and although Dae knows that Kevin was once engaged to an FBI colleague, she doesn’t dwell on it.

But suddenly, she has to.  Kevin’s former fiancée, Ann, shows up, seemingly wanting to pick up where they left off.  But Kevin is not the same person, and neither is Ann.  As work partners, Kevin and Ann pulled a number of missing child cases.  When they they failed to find a child alive, it was hard on them, so hard that Ann eventually broke down.  The woman who shows up in Duck is a wraith, still showing evidence of her trauma and institutionalization.  Given Ann’s state, Dae decides that she needs to keep some distance from Kevin while he and Ann sort things out.  And Dae has some business to attend to.  Her elderly neighbor, Mac Sweeney, enlists Dae’s help in finding a missing medallion, one that Old Man Sweeney had picked up in a grocery store parking lot.  When Dae calls upon her psychic gift to find the medallion, she sees a vision of its true owner, local realtor Chuck Sparks, being shot.  Soon she finds his body, but not his young daughter.  As she attempts to find the girl, Dae learns about a criminal ring trading in stolen artifacts, people who will do anything to get their hands on certain treasures.  The FBI are called in, but when Dae senses that time is running out for the girl, she and Ann join forces.

This is the second Missing Pieces Mystery.  To start the series at the beginning, read A Spirited Gift.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coast, Dare, Lavene, Jim and Joyce, Mystery, Novels in Series

Holley Trent. My Nora. Blue Ash, OH: Crimson Romance, 2012.

noraWhen Matt Vogel shows up at Nora Frederickson’s barn door, she can’t wait to get rid of him.  Nora is a painter, and she’s bought this old farm in Chowan County from a distant relative so that she can work undisturbed.  Matt has dropped by because he is used to hunting on this land and would like to get the permission of the new owner–Nora.  Hunting is a no-no for Nora.  She has just moved from a bad neighborhood in Baltimore, and she has heard enough gun shots to last a lifetime.

Even as Nora gives Matt a quick brushoff, he likes what he sees and begins to look for excuses to come by.  Matt works at the local fishery where his early morning hours give him free time in the afternoons for hunting–and other things.  Matt is handsome and handy, and Nora’s feelings toward him thaw. Their relationship crosses racial lines, but this is not a major obstacle, and the author handles it in a way that reflects the way we live now.  The more significant barriers to their relationship are the the demands of Nora’s career and the problems that their friends and frenemies make for them.  Matt’s attempt to keep his so-called friend Chad away from Nora backfires as Chad dallies with two women who are close to Matt and Nora, and Chad’s sister tries to torpedo Nora’s career.  Despite the smallness of small town life, Nora finds inspiration in the fields and forest and people of Chowan County.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Chowan, Coast, Romance/Relationship, Trent, Holley

Emily H. Nelson. Thrown. Raleigh, NC: E. H. Nelson, 2011.

Ohio resident Pheobe Price decided to attend Elon College to put some distance between herself and her past.  In high school Phoebe became part of a close circle of friend and was in love with a wonderful guy, Jeff. Only Jeff wasn’t so wonderful.  When Phoebe finds him flagrante delicto with one of the other girls in their group, she looses not only Jeff, but most of her friends.

Getting away by going to a small, friendly college like Elon seems like the right thing to do, but leaving the past behind is easier said than done.  Jeff has had yet another change of heart.  He writes and calls Phoebe pressing for a reconciliation, and he even comes to campus to see her.  Distressing as this is for Phoebe, she is even more troubled by what Jeff’s betrayal has done to her.  She’s less open with other people, less sure of herself, and careful to keep her heart locked up.

Phoebe goes through her first semester at Elon in this cautious, closed-up state, but things change early in Winter Term after she meets William Garrett.  William is a junior who looks like he stepped out of a J. Crew catalog.  Phoebe is attracted to him, and he to her.  As their relationship develops, Phoebe feels her trusting nature and optimism return, but some uneasiness is still there.  William is from England and his father works at something that cannot be discussed.  The mystery that surrounds his family and his life back in England is a cloud over Phoebe’s happiness.  As Thrown moves to a dramatic conclusion, Phoebe will have to decide if she can embrace William and his father’s dangerous business.

Emily Nelson is a graduate of Elon University, and readers who know the university and the surrounding town will enjoy her warm, accurate depiction of the campus and the community.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Alamance, Nelson, Emily H., Piedmont

Jennifer Hudson Taylor. Path of Freedom. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2013.

pathAt eighteen, Flora Saferight has already developed a reputation as a competent midwife in her small community in Guilford County, North Carolina.  Such recognition would seem to indicate that she is mature beyond her years, but in fact, she is still impetuous and quick to take offense.  And no one offends her quite as much as Bruce Milliken.  Bruce teased Flora when they were young, and she is now ever on the ready for his next barb.  Bruce, who has long been attracted to Flora’s tempestuousness, has tried to make amends, but she has rebuffed every offer of a truce in their little war of words. But when Flora and Bruce are tapped by their pastor for a dangerous mission, the two young people must put aside their past.

For Flora and Bruce are part of a tight-knit Quaker community–a community that has been resisting the slaveholding society that they live in by ferrying men and women out of bondage to freedom in the North.  It’s  secret and dangerous work that both Bruce’s parents and Flora’s have done; they now want their children to take over their roles.  As Path of Freedom opens, Bruce has just returned from a trip to Indiana on the Underground Railroad.  Bruce has shown that he can handle the false-bottomwagon that hides his passengers and that he can withstand the hardships of the trip.  Flora has never done this work–and she did not know of her parents’ involvement in the Underground Railroad–but she is keenly needed for the next trip, because the passengers are a young man and his pregnant wife.  There is a chance that the woman will give birth while they are on the trip to Pennsylvania and that she will need the attentions of a skilled midwife to save her and her baby.

Because the young couple will be hidden, and it would appear improper for Flora and Bruce to travel alone, Flora’s sister Irene must make the trip too.  Irene provides some of the lighter moments in the book and acts as a go-between between Bruce and Flora as they work out their feelings for each other.  Although the dangers and hardship of the trip–suspicious landowners, bobcats, storms, bounty hunters–are portrayed, Path of Freedom, is at its core a romance in which the relationship between Flora and Bruce takes center stage.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Guilford, Historical, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship, Taylor, Jennifer Hudson

Jacqueline DeGroot. The Secret of the Kindred Spirit. Bloomington, IN: 1st Books Library, 2002.

kindredDevelopment is always a contentious issue on the barrier islands along the North Carolina coast.  Be it beach nourishment, road improvements, or an ocean-front mansion, locals perceive that there will be winners and losers.  As this novel opens, Cassie Andrews has arrived on Sunset Beach Island to begin a controversial, long overdue replacement for the bridge linking the island with the mainland of Brunswick County.  As she surveys the old bridge close up in her kayak, she is horrified to discover a man’s head bobbing up against a pylon.  Soon the police are on the scene, and when the man is identified as one of the chief opponents of the new bridge, Cassie knows that this assignment will be more challenging than previous ones.

Part of the challenge for Cassie will be to keep her mind on her work.  Michael Troy, one of the police officers on the murder case, is instantly attracted to Cassie, an attraction that grows when he follows her to nude bathing section of Bird Island.  Much of the novel is devoted to verbal–and other–interplay between Cassie and Michael.  Interwoven with that is the story of the victim, Damn Duke Ellington, a seemingly destitute island native who was known chiefly for his opposition to the new bridge and his support of the island’s feral cat population.

The break in the case comes from a message in a notebook left in the Kindred Spirit mailbox on Bird Island.  Micheal’s good detective work with the notebook leads him to the murderer, and not a minute to soon.  The Kindred Spirit mailbox is a real part of the Sunset Beach story, and it figures in at least one other novel on this blog, Marybeth Whalen’s The Mailbox.  Readers who like softer, more meditative romances, should read The Mailbox.  Readers who prefer a fast-paced, more graphic story will enjoy The Secret of the Kindred Spirit.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2000-2009, 2002, Brunswick, Coast, DeGroot, Jacqueline, Mystery, Romance/Relationship