Category Archives: Guilford


Mary Flinn. The Nest. New York: Aviva Publishing, 2013.

nestA nest, yes, but whose nest?

With retirement on the horizon, her daughters out of the house, and her husband traveling for business, Cherie Johnson was looking forward to enjoying the freedom and peace of being an empty-nester.  But all that changes in a single week when her older daughter, Hope, moves home after her boyfriend announces that he is moving to Italy without her.  Hope has studied to be an art teacher, but in the down economy, she can’t get a teaching job.  She gets by–barely–by working in a high-end dress shop and bartending.  Cherie has adjusted to Hope’s situation, but she is unprepared when her husband, Dave, becomes another casualty of the economy.  After twelve years as a sales representative, a corporate restructuring leaves Dave without a job.  Dave could go to his mother, who heads a furniture manufacturing company, but neither he nor Cherie want to do that.  Instead, Dave sends out resumes, checks employment websites, and handles the household chores–including training the little Papillon puppy that Hope brought home with her.  Dave juggles this all pretty well for the first month or two, until his fruitless job search takes its toll on his spirits.

At least Cherie and Dave’s daughter Wesley is doing well.  She is about to finish her nursing degree at UNC-Chapel Hill, and she has just become engaged to a nice fellow who has a good job with Apple.  But with the cost of a wedding now on the horizon, Cherie realizes that she must put off retirement.  At least she has coworkers who lift her spirits and gently offer advice–and so does Hope.  In chapters that alternate between Cherie and Hope’s perspective, readers learn how each woman thinks and grows, and how the family rights itself.  As in Mary Flinn’s other books, The Nest includes a network of family and friends populated by well drawn characters.  Readers will be both exasperated and charmed by Dave’s mother, Toots, and it’s a testament to Flinn’s generosity that even Hope’s self-absorbed boyfriend Liam is not wholly dislikable.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Flinn, Mary, Guilford, Piedmont

Reynolds Price. Kate Vaiden. New York: Atheneum, 1986.

Considering how I was soon to behave, I have to wonder if I ever really loved him. I’d shown most other human instincts till then. Why did mothering fail me?

At age 11, Kate Vaiden makes a vow to her mother Frances never to become a mother. In a sense, she never does. Although Kate gives birth at 17 to a son named Lee, she leaves him behind with her extended family. Forty years later, Kate begins to wonder what happened to Lee. If he is still alive and well, Lee is forty, and at Kate’s best estimation, he has made his way in the world without her. She believes it is unlikely that Lee would need or want her in his life at this point. For all intents and purposes, Kate kept good on her promise. By abandoning her son, it’s as if she never bore him at all. Yet there are questions hanging over her her, the first: Who is Lee Vaiden?

The second question traces back to Kate’s roots and a major turning point in her life: Who was Frances Bullock Vaiden? Kate’s parents, Frances Bullock and Dan Vaiden  met in 1925 and married soon after. Their union was tumultuous. Dan’s father was against the marriage. Although Dan was convinced that his father would grow to love Frances, he overestimated his father’s affections. The couple decided to escape to Greensboro for a fresh start. But the fresh start withered under their passions. As a child, Kate observed her father “burn” her mother with a “hot flow of words.”

Frances’ closeness with her family created a source of tension between her and Dan. When Frances’ nephew Traswell dies, she takes Kate home to Macon to attend the funeral, but Dan stays behind. After the funeral, Dan unexpectedly shows up in Macon. He arrives while Frances and another nephew have gone to Traswell’s grave. Dan drives to the cemetery, and without warning, shoots Frances and himself. Up to that point, Kate had believed that she had a happy childhood, irrespective of any strain between Frances and Dan.  Following her parent’s murder-suicide, she is left under the care of Frances’ sister Caroline and her husband in Macon. From there, the novel follows Kate from adolescence to middle-age. Kate struggles to form any sort of lasting commitment or attachment to another person. During her formative years, what Kate loved left her. As a young woman and adult, she becomes a quitter. Whenever things get serious, Kate bolts. Single and fifty-seven years old, she’s an eternal orphan.

Kate Vaiden is the story of Kate’s life, as told by Kate in hindsight. Parents, family, and home are contentious topics for Kate. Her residual questions about her mother and lingering questions about her son influence her life. In regard to Lee, Kate regrets that her “baby-making machinery works” but “when they made me, they left out the mothering part.” Price creates a flawed protagonist in Kate who is good at hurting others and has been hurt in turn. Despite all her imperfections, Kate’s engaging and entertaining voice smooths over her less attractive qualities and makes her situation more sympathetic. The novel earned Price, who was a novelist, poet, and English professor at Duke University, the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1986, Guilford, Piedmont, Price, Reynolds, Wake, Warren

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.

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

Nancy Gotter Gates. Life Studies. Detroit: Five Star, 2011.

Liz Raynor, widowed at 55, is struggling to find any joy in her life in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her husband, Peter, lost his battle to cancer only two months previously, and nothing catches her interest until someone comes to her door who feels Peter’s loss as deeply as she does. Samantha, a homeless young woman of twenty, is looking for Peter Raynor, although she won’t say why. She is visibly distraught when Liz tells her the news of his death, and disappears from town shortly after. But Liz can’t stop thinking about her.

Soon, retired Liz decides to take a fine arts course –  it was her favorite subject while in school, and painting is an activity she still enjoys occasionally. She doesn’t expect Jay, a local artist and the course instructor, to be so attractive … or to share her feelings. Liz is surprised to find that she wants another intimate relationship so soon after losing Peter, but Jay is good for her and the two become very close. When Samantha reappears, Liz decides to take her in and help her while she attends the local community college. But the young woman has an unexpected secret linking her to Liz, one that will change the older woman’s life forever if she chooses to accept its consequences.

Life is difficult, and Jay, Samantha, and Liz will all experience more trials, but the loving relationships they build with each other them help them to survive.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Gates, Nancy Gotter, Guilford, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Eugene E. Pfaff, Jr. Guns at Guilford Court House. Greensboro, NC: Tudor Publishers, 2009.

The Revolutionary War has been going on for six years, and James Todd is beginning to feel even more conflicted about it. As a member of the New Garden Meeting House in Guilford County, North Carolina, he knows that he cannot participate in any violence, much less battle. To do so would put his Quaker standing into jeopardy. However, when James’s father is fatally injured by a British captain who steals the family’s horse, the teenager feels as if he has no choice. James must fight, in part to protect his family but also to avenge his father’s death. He befriends a free Black soldier named Glenn, and the two serve under General Nathanael Greene. General Greene, a disowned Quaker, understands James’ struggle in reconciling his religious convictions with his sense of patriotic duty. James provides geographic intelligence to the American army while addressing what to do when he comes face-to-face with his father’s murderer, accepting the Friends’ decision of his fate, and realizing the significance of friendship and family loyalty.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Children & Young Adults, Guilford, Historical, Pfaff, Eugene E., Piedmont

David Shaffer. The Double Lie. Kernersville, NC: Alabaster Book Publishing, 2011.

Miami private eye Harry Caine is back in North Carolina in this latest installment in the Harry Caine Mysteries series.  His client is Elaine Sanford, a wealthy widow who wants Caine to dig up evidence that will save her son, Frank, from a murder conviction.  Frank is no boy scout.  He is already in a federal prison for lying about witnessing the kidnapping of a young girl in Virginia.  Shortly after Caine visits him, Frank escapes.  Caine is certain that Frank will try to harm the woman who will testify against him in the murder trial, but Frank may have another agenda that Caine can’t quite make out.  As Caine pieces the puzzle together, readers are  plunged into a world of stolen goods, shifting loyalties, and multiple murders.  As in earlier books, Caine is aided by Mona Morgan, who is developing into a confident–and attractive–investigator.   A new character, Florida private investigator, Alice Anderson is introduced; it will be interesting to see if she appears in future books.


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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Forsyth, Guilford, Mystery, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Randolph, Shaffer, David

Dixie Land. Deadly Beauty. Kernersville, NC: Alabaster Books, 2010.

Diana thought her troubles were over when Ashley Marsh was sent to a mental hospital at the end of Deadly Company.  Free from Ashley’s threats, Diana is able to build a happy life in Greensboro, North Carolina with her new husband, Lance Cassidy, and his two daughters. The girls, Kelli and Kasey, are lively youngsters.  Kelli, a kindergarten student, becomes instant pals with the teaching assistant in her classroom, Miss Marisa.

Marisa is a warm-hearted but insecure young woman.  She is under the spell of her friend Sara, but Sara has become Marisa’s friend so that she can get close to the girls and take Lance away from Diana.  Yes, Sara is Ashley, and she will not stop until she eliminates her rival and claims Lance as her own.  Ashley manipulates Marisa, Lance, the girls, and even Diana.  Diana and Nora, Lance’s boss, sense that something is off about “Sara”, but it takes evidence from Marisa to bring their fears into focus.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Guilford, Land, Dixie, Piedmont, Suspense/Thriller

Dixie Land. Deadly Company. Kernersville, NC: Alabaster Books, 2009.

There’s a saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.”  That’s certainly the case for Diana Delaney.  After the company accountant shows Diana evidence that the company’s president has been cooking the books, the two women take their evidence to the police.  Before he can be tried for fraud, Frank Weston disappears; it is unclear if he has been murdered or if he has fled.  Diana suspects the later because shortly after Weston disappears, she and the accountant receive threatening phone calls.

The threats prove too much for Diana, so she flies to Greensboro, North Carolina with the idea of staying with her cousin Nora for a few weeks.  Nora has problems too–a close friend has been killed in a car accident, leaving two young daughter and a grieving husband.  Diana is drawn into helping the stricken family, and she puts down roots in Greensboro, working for Nora’s company and living with the dead woman’s sister.  But suddenly Diana begins to receive threats again, and she fears that the person who drove her from Wisconsin will threaten her life in North Carolina.  Diana fears for herself and for the new people in her life whom she has come to love.  Only after Diana is kidnapped does she learn who her true enemy is.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Guilford, Land, Dixie, Mystery, Piedmont

Steve Cushman. Heart with Joy. Vilas, NC: Canterbury House Publishing, 2010.

Julian’s mother has just left to help run her family’s motel in Florida and to focus on her writing. Although she and her husband say that it is just temporary, Julian – wise beyond his years at fifteen – knows that his parents’ marriage has been strained for some time.

The plan was for him to finish his sophomore year of high school in Greensboro, North Carolina, and to then move to Florida to live with his mother. However, in the four months since his mother left, Julian has changed in many ways. For one thing, his relationship with his father has improved greatly. Whereas before he was a “mamma’s boy,” Julian begins to see his dad in a new light and to realize the sacrifices he made for his family. Because his father works full-time as a nurse, Julian becomes responsible for the cooking and cleaning around the house. He also establishes meaningful friendships with “Old Lady Peters,” their elderly neighbor who shares her love of birds with Julian, and with Tia, a grocery store cashier who picks up on his passion for cooking on his weekly shopping trips. With Tia, he hones his culinary skills and finds a true partner.

When Julian visits his mother in Florida, he begins having serious doubts about staying there indefinitely. Although he and his father have made pleas for her to return, she will not make any commitments. She admits an infidelity, and Julian recognizes her selfishness. As he considers his options, Julian remembers a question that “Old Lady Peters” asked him when they first met: What fills your heart with joy? With that in mind, he makes a difficult decision.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Cushman, Steve, Guilford, Piedmont

Charles D. Rodenbough. If the Lord is Willing and the Creek Stays Low. United States:, 2010.

This historical novel is based on the lives of David and Rachel Caldwell. David Caldwell is a towering figure in North Carolina history–an influential patriot from the colonial period through the early republic.  He was also a minister, an educator, a planter, and a physician.  This novel fleshes out the story. David and Rachel, their neighbors, their children, and many historical figures are brought to life as people with a full range of emotions–love, fear, anger, family loyalty, religious convictions. The first person narrative is believable and the novel conveys a great deal of history.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Guilford, Historical, Piedmont, Rodenbough, Charles D.