Tag Archives: Social climbing

Lori Benton. The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn. Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press, 2014.

thepursuitoftamsenlittlejohnAll that Tamsen Littlejohn has been brought up for, since her mother married Hezekiah Parrish, comes to this single moment in 1787 Morganton, North Carolina. Ambrose Kincaid, a twenty-nine year old heir to a Virginia fortune, has been enraptured by the portrait Parrish carries around of his stepdaughter. Kincaid has agreed to meet with the family in order to discover whether he and Tamsen will make a good match.

Sure that Kincaid will turn out to be a younger version of Parrish, Tamsen approaches the meeting reluctantly. However, she soon finds herself caught up in conversation with the young man and thinking that this might not be a bad match after all. Then Kincaid backhands his slave just for interrupting them. Tamsen believes this act has shown her Kincaid’s true nature and rushes from the table, right into the arms of Cade, a backwoods trapper and cattle drover.

Cade and his son, Jesse Bird, are caught off guard when the young lady runs into them, and Jesse can’t keep his eyes off her. Later that night, Jesse unknowingly halts Tamsen’s flight from her stepfather’s cruel rule. Realizing that Tamsen will not bend to her stepfather’s will, Tamsen’s mother decides to reveal a family secret, one she promised Parrish she would never reveal. Upset by Tamsen’s defiance and further angered by his wife’s disobedience, Parrish commits an unforgivable act. Knowing there is no way that she will be safe under her stepfather’s control, Tamsen decides that escape is her only option.

Unable to get Tamsen out of his head, Jesse Bird has discovered the cruelty that Tamsen and her mother have had to suffer living with Parrish. He offers to help Tamsen get away. They have no idea the amount of trouble that will follow.

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn is a tale of discovery. Tamsen will discover the kind of woman she is without the strong influence of her stepfather and possibly discover love along the way. On the other hand, Jesse, sure of the man he is, will discover the truth about his birth family and the meaning of selfless love.

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

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Benton, Lori, Burke, Historical, Mountains, Romance/Relationship

Diane Chamberlain. Necessary Lies. New York: St. Martin’s, 2013.

Necessary LiesJane Forrester’s (née Mackie) husband, Robert, can’t understand why his new wife wants to work. Neither can her mother nor any of the stay-at-home wives in her imposed social circle. When Jane and Robert first met, her quirks beguiled him. She wasn’t cut from the same cloth of the prototypical 1960s woman. Now that they’re official newlyweds, Robert wishes that Jane would join the Raleigh Junior League and derive satisfaction in being a physician’s wife, as well as the future mother of his unborn children. But Jane wants a chance at a brief career before children. She is sensitive and idealistic and interested in helping others through work. She gets hired as a social worker in the Department of Public Welfare shortly before their wedding. Robert tolerates Jane’s job, however he makes his desire for children and his short timetable known. With an M.D., Robert has ascended the socio-economic ladder and he is concerned acutely with fitting into his more well-heeled surroundings.

Robert is not thrilled when he learns that Jane will conduct field work alone in the fictional rural Grace County. Field work entails visiting the families of the cases that the social worker manages to monitor their needs and progress. The social worker executes any actions or files any paperwork considered necessary for the greater good. Jane’s two first cases are the Hart and Jordan families who live and work on Davidson Gardiner’s farm. She neglects her boss’s advice and becomes invested emotionally in the Hart family, leading her to a series of choices that could violate the procedures of the Department of Public Welfare and negate the defined purpose of her position. But Jane feels unable to accept the rules as they’ve been handed to her. She is disturbed by how the department enforces its own code of morality and communicates its actions deceptively to the parties involved.

According Charlotte Werkmen, Jane’s boss and former social worker in charge of the case, fifteen year-old Ivy Hart is the last chance for the Hart family. Ivy’s older sister, Mary Ella has already given birth to a baby named William. Mary Ella is beautiful and slow, which Charlotte regards as a dangerous combination. Ivy and Mary Ella’s father is dead and mother is an institutionalized schizophrenic. They live in a farmhouse with their diabetic grandmother, Nonnie. Ivy worries about her family’s security in the farmhouse. Nonnie is increasingly unable to work and she has little regard for her health, indulging frequently in sugar. Because Nonnie is petulant and ornery and Mary Ella is unreliable and often missing, Ivy is the nucleus forced to mother and to hold the family together. By government standards, Ivy qualifies at a functioning level, but barely. She has an IQ of 80 and Petit Mal epilepsy. Charlotte warns Jane to watch Ivy carefully — if Ivy winds up pregnant, all her opportunities will evaporate.

Veteran novelist Diane Chamberlain deals with the sexism and racism prevalent during the 1960s and provides a historical basis to Necessary Lies. She alternates the story between Ivy and Jane’s points-of-view primarily. The novel explores the issue of people’s authority over their bodies. Chamberlain illustrates this point from both perspectives: a doctor refusing to prescribe Jane birth control without her husband’s permission to a eugenics program masked to its recipients as benevolent healthcare. The themes of control and consent reappear over the course of the novel, where institutions and people are given the power to make personal judgements for others. Additionally, the book questions the idea of people who are classified as “incapable” or “unfit” by official sanctioning. Who, if anyone, should have the agency to make decisions for those deemed “incapable” or “unfit”? Chamberlain offers an absorbing read on a fictionalized portrayal of a regrettable segment of North Carolina’s history.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Chamberlain, Diane, Historical, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Wake

Wilton Barnhardt. Lookaway, Lookaway. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013

**Guest review by Arleen Fields**

 At the beginning of our new century, shrewd Charlotte socialite Jerene Johnston is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her family’s reputation and to secure her children’s future. Her radical daughter Annie, her gay son Josh, her preacher son Bo, and her insecure daughter Jerilyn don’t make this easy. The Johnston family proudly traces its lineage to Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, and Jerene’s husband Duke has abandoned all professional and political aspirations, preferring to reside in a world of nostalgia and Civil War reenactments.

Each chapter, focusing on one character’s story, is like a portrait hung in a gallery. In some of the paintings the character is front and center; in others the subject blends into the background as action takes over the foreground. The chapter about Bo provides insight into his character, but the scene of a melodramatic Christmas dinner is far more memorable.

Jerene’s children and husband are not her only worries. Her alcoholic brother Gaston makes his living writing popular Civil War novels, her sister Dillard has never recovered from a personal tragedy, and their mother Jeannette lives with the knowledge that she failed to protect her children. Add to the mix Josh’s best friend Dorrie, who’s African American and a lesbian, and Bo’s wife Kate who longs to return to the Peace Corps, and you have the perfect southern tragicomedy.

The title obviously refers to the song “Dixie” and there are other allusions as well. Characters are forced to look the other way when reality is inconvenient. Watching the events unfold is like driving by a gruesome car wreck or watching a reality TV show—we should mind our own business, but morbid curiosity prevents us from averting our gaze.

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

For an interview with Wilton Barnhardt, see http://www.alumniblog.ncsu.edu/2013/07/23/wilton-barnhardt-im-nervous-about-being-in-any-camp/

A previous version of this review appears in North Carolina Libraries, vol. 71, no. 1 (2013)

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Barnhardt, Wilton, Mecklenburg, Orange, Piedmont

Mary Kay Andrews. Spring Fever. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2012

The town of Passcoe, North Carolina is a rather unremarkable hamlet in the Piedmont, but it does have one claim to fame: it’s the birthplace of a unique, cherry-flavored beverage known as Quixie. Since 1922, Quixie, run by the wealthy Bayless family, has been the center of Passcoe’s economy. Everyone works for Quixie, but Annajane Hudgens thinks it’s time to move on. Annajane is closer to Quixie than most– in addition to drinking it for her entire life and working at the company for years, she used to be married to Mason Bayless, the Quixie family’s favorite son and current CEO. But now Mason is getting remarried, and Annajane is taking it harder than she thought she would. Strangely so, since she’s also engaged to someone else. But Mason’s fiancée is the bubbly, petite Celia Wakefield, and something about that woman leaves an queasy feeling in Annajane’s stomach.

This sensation almost leads to Annajane to interrupt her ex-husband’s nuptials, but incredibly, the wedding falls apart on its own. Suddenly Annajane and Mason both have more time to grapple with their leftover feelings for one another. It doesn’t take much for anyone who knows him to see that as much as Annajane isn’t over Mason, Mason isn’t over Annajane either. But Celia is a force to be reckoned with, and her claws are firmly embedded in Mason, the Bayless family fortune, and the Quixie company. Is Annajane willing to fight for her man? And will she be able to handle the secrets the battle will uncover?

Mary Kay Andrews’ latest novel is perfect to bring to the beach and enjoy with a cold can of Cheerwine.

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

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Andrews, Mary Kay, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Jen Calonita. Belles. New York: Poppy, 2012.

Fifteen-year-old Isabelle “Izzie” Scott loves her life in Harborside, North Carolina: working as a life guard at the beach, hanging with her friend Kylie at the local ice cream shop, and swimming laps at the pool in her beloved community center. Orphaned at ten when her single mother was killed in a car crash, Izzie lives with her aging grandmother, and it’s a daily battle to convince her concerned social worker that Grams is a good enough guardian.

Grams is slowly losing her grip on reality, and one day Izzie arrives home to find that a decision has been made without her: Grams is moving to an assisted living facility, and Izzie is sure she’s destined for foster care. But Grams has been hiding a secret from her. Unbeknownst to Izzie, she has a long-lost uncle: a wealthy state senator who lives with his wife and children in nearby Emerald Cove. Her uncle and aunt have agreed to take Izzie and raise her with their children, offering her all the best love and care and a first-rate education at the prestigious Emerald Prep.

Harborside and Emerald Cove are only a few miles apart on the scenic North Carolina coast, but they might as well be on separate planets. Emerald Cove is home to some of the wealthiest families in the state, sporting boutique shops, sprawling mansions, and a refined country club, while Harborside is barely above a slum with its low-income housing, gang violence, and seedy boardwalk. Izzie’s aunt and uncle Monroe are welcoming, but her cousin Mirabelle, nearly the same age, is one of the most popular girls in school, and Izzie definitely doesn’t fit in her with her crowd. Worst of all, the gorgeous Savannah Ingram (Mirabelle’s best friend and the queen bee of Emerald Prep) takes a particular dislike to Izzie, and stirs up plenty of trouble for the new girl. Soon Izzie isn’t sure if she’s fighting to fit in or fighting to get out, but the true drama and scandal haven’t even begun.

Reminiscent of Gossip Girl with a southern twist, Belles is the beginning of a fantastic new series about family, community, and fashion for young adults.

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

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Calonita, Jen, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Katy Munger. Bad to the Bone. New York: Avon Books, 2000.

Casey Jones is doing well: despite being an (unfairly convicted) ex-con, she has established herself as one of the Triangle’s premiere, if unofficial, private investigators. But when Tawny Bledsoe walks through her door, she gets a bad feeling. At first, Casey attributes this to the fact that the pale, fragile-looking Tawny is black and blue all over, and claims that her ex-husband first beat her, then stole their four-year-old daughter. Ms. Bledsoe begs Casey to get her child back, and with her special interest in wronged women, Raleigh’s toughest cookie is on the case. However, Tawny’s story begins to look suspicious after Casey easily tracks down the ex, and instead of a wife-beating kidnapper, finds a reputable Wake County Commissioner and devoted father who is a respected member of the African-American community. When Tawny’s $1,000 check bounces, Casey is convinced she’s been had in a spiteful divorcée’s spat. But then Tawny’s current beau (a scummy car mechanic named Boomer) turns up murdered, and Casey knows there’s more to the situation than simple fraud. As the P.I. snoops around, she uncovers several unsavory parts of Tawny: the cocaine addict, the blackmailer, and the abusive parent. When Casey’s no-good ex-husband Jeff gets involved, things quickly move from bad to worse, and the gloves come off as Casey goes to all lengths to put Tawny behind bars where she belongs.

Fans of the feisty, self-starting Casey Jones will enjoy this adventure, in which the fallible but lovable heroine faces a type of villain she hasn’t encountered  before, as well as turmoil in her romantic life,  but also puts some old troubles to rest.

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

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Filed under 2000, 2000-2009, Chatham, Durham, Munger, Katy, Mystery, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Wake

Eileen Clymer Schwab. Shadow of a Quarter Moon. New York: New American Library, 2011.

“Jacy Lane, you are nothing more than a foolish quarter moon!” While Jacy is the pride and joy of her father, the wealthy plantation owner Mr. Bradford Lane, she is often the subject of her mother Claudia’s anger. Raised to be a fine southern lady in northeastern North Carolina, Jacy has enjoyed a comfortable existence marred only by her mother’s inexplicable bouts of rage. But her mostly happy life comes to an abrupt halt, first when a cruel landowner foists his ungentlemanly attentions on her, and then when Bradford Lane dies suddenly. When Jacy refuses to submit to the fate her mother Claudia has planned, the woman finally reveals the reason for her ill-treatment of Jacy: Jacy is the illegitimate child of Bradford and his true love, a half-white, half-black house slave. When the young Jacy heard her mother call her a “quarter moon”, she was really saying “quadroon”- a term for a person who is only three-quarters white. Naturally fair-skinned and kept paler with wide-brimmed sun hats, no one, not even Jacy, had guessed her true parentage.

Stunned by this revelation, Jacy begins a transformation. Galvanized by the further discovery that her birth mother and full brother are still enslaved on the plantation, she decides to deliver them, and the handsome horse trainer Rafe, to freedom. It is only when the three are safely away that Jacy realizes her true home is with them, no matter where they are or the color of their skin. Abandoning the relative safety of the plantation, Jacy strikes out to follow her family through the Underground Railroad to the north, true love, and acceptance of her own identity. Along the way she encounters great danger, temporary defeat, and the worst kind of human indecency, but ultimately emerges as a triumphant, strong woman with the ability to look her fears in the eye.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Camden, Coastal Plain, Gates, Historical, Pasquotank, Romance/Relationship, Schwab, Eileen Clymer

Laurette MacDuffie. The Stone in the Rain. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1946.

This is a novel about prejudice and opportunism.  The time is immediately prior to World War II.  Luther Perrin is a wealthy man in Somerset (Wilmington).  Perrin’s racist assumptions fit right in with those of his peers, but his active anti-Semitism is a surprise to his family and  friends.  When Perrin decides to develop one of the beaches near Somerset as a private, Christians-only resort, he hires the unscrupulous Cole Rives as an assistant. Rives eggs on Perrin, with disastrous consequences for many people.

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

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Filed under 1940-1949, 1946, Coast, MacDuffie, Laurette, New Hanover, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Frances Hodgson Burnett. Louisiana. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1907.

Louisiana (Louise) Rogers, a pretty mountain girl, is sent by her father to Oakvale Springs to recover her health. The resort has a healthful climate, but most people who come there are well-to-do Southerners looking to socialize with people like themselves. Louisiana is out of place, as is Olivia Ferrol, a New Yorker. The misfits become friends. Olivia makes Louise her project, changing her hairstyle and manner of walking, and dressing her in finer clothes. Complications ensue when Olivia’s brother is taken with Louise. When Louise and the Ferrols take refuge at Louise’s house during a storm, the differences between Louise and her suitor are exposed. Louise’s father is the hero of this tale, which ends happily for the young lovers. Oakvale Springs is thought to be based on Hot Springs in Madison County.

Check this title’s availability and access an online copy through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 1900-1909, 1907, Burnett, Frances Hodgson, Madison, Mountains, Novels to Read Online

Jude Deveraux. Holly. New York: Pocket Star Books, 2005.

Concern with social status and money can keep a person from recognizing true love when it comes around. That’s the case with Holly Latham. Holly is rich and a bit manipulative. She loves old houses. She particularly loves Spring Hill, an historic house outside of Edenton that is adjacent to the similarly fine house of her great childhood love, Lorrie Beaumont. When her parents buy Spring Hill, Holly sees a way back into the Beaumont house and Lorrie’s heart. Even with her eyes on these particular prizes, Holly makes a detour into the arms of sexy Nick Taggert. Holly is quick to discard Nick, but Nick senses that Holly can be made to see the light. While Nick hangs around he uncovers things about Lorrie Beaumont that make him realize that Holly needs not just his love, but also his protection.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2005, Chowan, Deveraux, Jude, Romance/Relationship