December 2005

This has been a busy time for me, traveling, getting settled in a new place, and working on the new book. Which is going rather well, thank you for wondering.

Two books that positively saved my life while we were tromping through airports from one side of the country to the other were Kirsten Hannah’s compelling WHAT WE DO FOR LOVE and Susan Wiggs’s excellent AN OCEAN BETWEEN US. But then, I imagine if you are reading my work, you are also reading these two excellent authors.

WHAT WE DO FOR LOVE is the story of Angela Malone whose futile attempts to have a child have destroyed her marriage and left her physically and psychologically depleted. To recoup, Angela goes back to her hometown, a picturesque place on the Olympic Peninsula where her family owns what was once a popular and successful restaurant. The family business has gradually dwindled since her father died, and it is up to Angela to use her marketing skills to try to revive the family’s livelihood. In doing that, Angela encounters teenaged Lauren Ribido, a deserving kid who needs a mother as much as Angela needs a child. But before either of them can find their happy ending, Kristin Hannah sends her characters on an emotional journey that caught me up and never let me go.

I love books that make me cry and this is a five hankie read. But it is pretty embarrassing to be blubbering in front of your seat mate at 27,000 feet!

I also loved Susan Wiggs’s fine book AN OCEAN BETWEEN US. It charts the stresses and strains of a Navy career on Grace and Steve Bennett’s marriage at a time when Steve is approaching the culmination of his career and Grace, for the first time since she married him, looks beyond the duties of a Navy wife to the things she wants for herself. It is a story of a woman and family in flux set against the backdrop of a dramatic and fascinating lifestyle.

Because the cast is larger — the whole Bennett family and a young flier with unexpected ties — this is not as intimate a book as Hannah’s. What Wiggs gives us instead is a broader story, one where I could hardly wait (and I didn’t in a place or two) to get to the next section where we found out what happened to one or the other of the characters. It made the book a fast-paced read, and I found Emma’s story particularly compelling.

I was glad my life was little more settled when I picked up Alexa Hunt’s CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY — because I couldn’t put it down.

I have to admit I’m not a big reader of political thrillers, but I picked this up because Alexa Hunt is the pseudonym of my good friend Shirl Henke. You might wonder how a writer who has been known for years for her big, lush historical romances makes the transition to such a very different genre. But then, you don’t know Shirl and her love of intrigue and current events.

For CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY Shirl/Alexa extrapolated from today’s headlines to a time in the near future when drug cartels selling the new designer drug “elevator” (a mix between cocaine and viagra — can you imagine?) have all but destroyed the US government. In response, the government has passed strict drug enforcement laws. One of the measures they’ve taken is to set up BISC — the Bureau of Illegal Substance Control — which in turn has empowered assassins to take out drug dealers and kingpins on the orders of a secret three-man tribunal.

One of their most skilled assassin is Leah Berglund. Her next target for elimination is ex-FBI agent turned investigative reporter Elliot Delgado, who is just begun to investigate rumors that there is something rotten in BISC. As Leah closes in for the kill, she begins to suspect that, too. Gradually coming to rely on each other in a world where old friends become deadly enemies and the law has merged with injustice, Leah and Del race to unravel international intrigues and track betrayals that lead into the highest echelons of the government.

This was a terrific book that moves along at a lightning pace! I loved the characters, people who showed themselves to be tender, and ruthless when the situation warranted it. I was knocked out by how the multi-stranded plot wound together. I kept reading in awe and asking, “Did Shirl really write this?” I have long been a fan of her historical romances, but in CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY and in becoming Alexa Hunt, Shirl has taken her writing to a whole new level.

| Right now I have two books going. One is a signed copy I picked up at a Judy Collins concert we recently attended, SINGING LESSONS: A MEMOIR. Begun when her adult son committed suicide, it isn’t always an easy read, but one with heart. The writing is as warm and wonderful as the songs she sings, and I am finding the insights into how she got to be who she is are fascinating.

| The other book is my carry-on for an upcoming plane flight. It is Barbara Freethy’s GOLDEN LIES. Since I have barely cracked the cover, I will have to report to you on it the next time.

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