Category Archives: Mecklenburg


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

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

Tyora Moody. When Rain Falls. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2012.

whenWhen she was a young girl, Candace Johnson was present when her mother was killed by a drunken, abusive lover.  Aunt Maggie took Candace in but her home was one of harsh, religious judgments, and Candace fled as soon as she could.  In the years since Candace made a good life for herself, marrying a police detective, raising two children, and opening her own beauty salon in Charlotte, North Carolina.

But good friends and a loving spouse are no protection from the violence of the world.  Candace’s husband is killed, and two years later the murder remains unsolved. Candace has kept herself together for the sake of her children, but as When Rain Falls opens, she is hit with another hard blow: her best friend, Pamela Coleman, is murdered in her own garage.  Her husband’s former partner is one of the detectives investigating Pamela’s murder.  The other investigator, Darnell Jackson, is new to the Charlotte police force, but not new to Charlotte.  The failure of the police department to solve her husband’s murder prompts Candace to investigate Pamela’s death; she just can’t loose her two soul mates without getting some answers–and some justice.

The two investigations–Candace’s and the official one–turn up unpleasant facts about Pamela, her law firm, and some respected people in her social circle.  Candace and Detective Jackson butt heads over Candace’s activities even as they find themselves thrown together (and attracted to each other) in various social situations.  The author does a good job of balancing several threads of the story–Candace’s backstory, her struggle as a mother and as a Christian, the possibility of a new romance, and the murder investigations–and concluding them in a satisfying way.  The community of family, friends, and clients who support Candace is well drawn, adding another layer to the novel.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Mecklenburg, Moody, Tyora, Mystery, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

H. Leigh Aubrey. Never Say Never United States: H. Leigh Aubrey, 2011.


The most important man in Brian Marano’s life has always been his father.  Brian’s parents divorced when he was young and since then his father’s visits have been precious and few.  In high school Brian hopes that his athletic achievements will get his father’s attention.  They do get the attention of faculty, administrators, and other students at his Charlotte, North Carolina high school. Because he is a good athlete and a good kid, a teacher finds Brian a peer tutor to help him with the subjects that he struggles with.

That tutor is Jason Ratcliffe, a student from a well-to-do, socially prominent family.  Jason is a bit of a nerd, but well dressed and not unattractive.  Brian is uncomfortable being tutored in the opulent home in which Jason lives.  Jason is uncomfortable too, but for a different reason–he’s attracted to Brian and before long Brian is the most important man in his life.

Never Say Never follows Brian and Jason from high school, to college at UNC, to the early years of their careers.  Their friendship grows as they share the challenges of young adult life and as they come to terms, at different times and in different ways, with their love for each other.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Aubrey, H. Leigh, Mecklenburg, Orange, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Erin McCarthy. Slow Ride. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2011.

Tuesday “Talladega” Jones has a reputation as a spirited, fun-loving party girl. As a sports reporter, she writes serious pieces, but is best known for her relationship gossip blog. It isn’t a celebration without Tuesday, but the free-spirited woman everyone loves is struck with some hard times in this fifth book in the Fast Track series.

Grieving over the loss of her father, in whose journalist footsteps she followed, Tuesday doesn’t know where to turn. She has many friends, most notably the recently married Kendall Monroe, but instead Tuesday turns to the bottle. What begins as a way to ease the pain quickly becomes a serious problem before anyone realizes it…except handsome, reclusive Daniel “Diesel” Lange. Tuesday meets Diesel at Kendall’s wedding, and the pair immediately send sparks flying. Diesel was a legend on the track before a crash nearly killed him, leaving him with a busted knee and a sense of hopelessness. However, the crash couldn’t dampened his passion for stock cars. When Tuesday holds a cancer benefit in memory of her father, Diesel decides to donate a vintage car he restored. The two quickly become an item, but will their love be enough to help each overcome their individual fears, addictions, and grief?

A touching addition to the Fast Track series, readers will sympathize with Tuesday and Diesel as much as they will be swept up by their romance.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, McCarthy, Erin, Mecklenburg, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Erin McCarthy. Fast Track.

  • Flat-Out Sexy. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2008.
  • Hard and Fast. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2010.
  • Hot Finish. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2010.
  • The Chase. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2011.
  • Slow Ride. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2011.
  • Jacked Up. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2012.
  • Full Throttle. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2013.
  • Final Lap. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2014.

The motorsports industry is reported to pump $4 billion into the economy of the Charlotte metro area–that means lots of jobs beyond just racers and their pit crews.  That wider circle of racing is present in Erin McCarthy’s Fast Track series.  The drivers—all hot, hot, hot—share their high-pressure world with journalists, PR consultants, team owners, sponsors, hangers-on, and even a few academics.  Each book features two people who are clearly attracted to each other but whose path to happily-ever-after is complicated things such as professional jealousies, previous relationships, pride, and Mars/Venus misunderstandings.  Snappy repartee and sexy scenes are standard elements of this series, but some of the novels include as plot elements serious subjects such as adult illiteracy and alcoholism.  The novels are loosely connected in that some characters–especially the Monroe brothers–appear in several books, but each book can stand on its own–and each one is a wild, fun ride.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2010-2019, Cabarrus, McCarthy, Erin, Mecklenburg, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship, Series

Erin McCarthy. The Chase: A Fast Track Novel. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2011.

Ten years ago, Evan Monroe broke Kendall Holbrook’s heart when he mocked her dream of becoming a professional driver with the North Carolina racing circuit. A fresh-faced eighteen-year-old, she had thought what they had was true love, and when he laughed at her goals it hurt her so deeply that she wasted no time in cutting him out of her life. Unfortunately, ten years later, both she and Evan meet again as a part of the same driving team. Kendall is an unstoppable force as the first female to successfully break the glass ceiling of the racing industry, while Evan is struggling to keep his head above water.

But Kendall isn’t as happy with her life as she should be. She’s thrilled with how her career is going, but misses having a dating life. If she’s being honest with herself, Evan really was the only man for her, until he turned out to be a sexist pig. But when her best girlfriend discovers that what divided Evan and Kendall may have been only a terrible misunderstanding, it looks like they might have a happy ending after all…the only thing that could get in the way would be their competitive racing careers. Will they be able to rekindle their romance? And more importantly, will they be able to keep that flame alive?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, McCarthy, Erin, Mecklenburg, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

J. Leon Pridgen, II. Hidden Secrets, Hidden Lives. New York: Strebor Books, 2011.

Travis Moore has been able to move beyond his troubled past.  As a high school student named Perry he became a drug runner, in part to keep his mother off the streets. His partner in crime was his good friend Kwame “Bone” Brown.  But while Perry kept his grades up and his street profile low, Bone wanted respect on the streets, dressing flashy and pushing the limits. Bone’s behavior eventually landed him in a juvenile detention facility.  As agreed, Bone did not give up Perry and in return Perry left Bone their remaining drug stash and all their cash.

As the years go by, Bone comes to believe that he got the raw end of the deal, and he plots revenge against Perry, now a college graduate, married man, and a financial professional for a large home improvement chain.  The crafty Bone uses his drugs and cash to lure old friends and a young boy that Travis has been mentoring into the plot against Perry/Travis.  Author Pridgen gives us a chilling look at how the desire for revenge can warp a person and how in tense moments each of us acts in our own self-interest.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Mecklenburg, Piedmont, Pridgen, J. Leon

J. Leon Pridgen, II. Color of Justice. New York: Strebor Books, 2011.

James Pruitt grew up with the security that every child deserves.  He knew that he was adopted, but his adoptive parents, William and Mamie Pruitt, always made him feel like he was their own.  Their love, and the careful guidance that he received from them, has helped him to succeed in school.  As this novel opens, James believes that he has the inner strength that will allow him to be successful in his career, begin his own family, and handle whatever life throws at him.

Have brother …. Help him.  James has no idea what his father’s final words could mean until he finds a box of newspaper clippings and photographs in William’s closet.  Only then does Mamie tell James about his parents and that his birth mother had another son–a man who is now on death row.  Warren Johnson isn’t pleased when James comes to see him in prison.  Warren resents the easy life that James has had and he thinks that the man who raised him, Geoffrey Taylor, is doing all that can be done to save him.  James, a lawyer, has a bad feeling about Taylor, and his prosecutor’s instincts won’t let him accept Warren’s case at face value.  Although it upsets his mother and strains his relationship with his girlfriend and his boss, James and his friend Chuck race to clear Warren’s name, no matter what the cost.

Despite the dirty dealings that James and Chuck uncover, this well plotted novel is at heart a warm story of family and loyalty.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Buncombe, Mecklenburg, Mountains, Piedmont, Pridgen, J. Leon, Wake

Erin McCarthy. Hot Finish. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2010.

Ryder Jefferson and his feisty ex-wife, Suzanne, take center stage in this third book in McCarthy’s Fast Track series.  Suzanne has her hands full planning an over-the-top wedding for a race car driver and his bridezilla fiancée.  After a stint on the board of a medical charity, Suzanne’s heart just isn’t in wedding planning anymore, but she has to keep at it.  Suzanne is close to broke, without a steady income or alimony from Ryder.

Ryder would be happy to pay alimony to Suzanne.  He considers himself an openhanded man, and he is concerned about Suzanne’s financial security.  But there’s more to it than that.  He still has feelings for Suzanne and wishes that he tried harder to keep her.  In the parlance of his profession, he thinks he quit the race a few laps too soon.

But fate may give them another chance.  For the past few months, Suzanne has been enlisting Ryder’s help with the matchmaking she’s done for some friends; Ryder is to be a groomsman in bridezilla’s wedding; and on top of that, it turns out that the paperwork for their divorce is incomplete.  Suzanne and Ryder are still legally married!  As the story unfolds, readers learn the history of Ryder and Suzanne’s marriage and the source of Suzanne’s prickliness.  The character development is particularly good  in Hot Finish, but the book also delivers the snappy repartee and sexy scenes that are standard elements of  this series.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Cabarrus, McCarthy, Erin, Mecklenburg, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Erin McCarthy. Hard and Fast. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2010.

This book gets off to a fast start.  Who can resist a novel in which the heroine quotes Shakespeare and the hero compares himself to an old work boot?  Yet that’s just what Imogene Wilson and Ty McCardle do as they sit in her car debating  whether to go back into the party they’ve been at or take off to his condo for a night of more private adventure.  Ty is a stock car driver, just pushing past thirty and starting to think that he should begin dating women closer to his age with whom he might want to settle down.  Imogene is a graduate student in sociology at a Charlotte area university.   She and Ty meet because Imogene’s academic mentor is Tamara, the heroine in an earlier Erin McCarthy novel who is now married to NASCAR drive Elec Monroe.  Through Tamara Imogene meets drivers, their wives and ex-wives, and women who think it would be great to be a NASCAR wife.   Mixing with these people and coming across the book How to Marry a Race Car Driver in Six Easy Steps gives Imogene the idea for her thesis: she will test if it’s possible to follow a set of guidelines to success in an area as unpredictable as courtship.  Imogene is as straight-forward as they come, so early on she lets Ty know her interest in him is purely academic.  She even enlists his help to prepare her to move around more knowledgeably  in racing circles.  (The book says that drivers like a woman who knows the history of the sport.) Despite the odds, Imogene and Ty fall in love, but when Ty shares a secret that he had kept from Imogene and most everyone else, their romance hits a rough patch.  Readers of McCarthy’s previous race car romance, Flat-Out Sexy, will enjoy the reappearance of Tamara, Elec, Suzanne, and Ryder as characters in this book, and they can look forward to McCarthy’s next novel in which Suzanne and her ex-husband Ryder take center stage.


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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, McCarthy, Erin, Mecklenburg, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship