An emotional portrait of three women dealing with unexpected change.

THE LOCKHART WOMEN

A family is thrown into chaos in 1990s Southern California in Camarillo’s debut historical novel.

On June 17, 1994—the same day that O.J. Simpson fled police in a white Ford Bronco—Brenda Lockhart attends a party and learns that her husband, Frank, is having an affair. He soon moves out of their house, leaving Brenda to care for their two teenage daughters, Allison and Peggy, a task for which she isn’t very skilled—particularly as the household takes a financial hit. Practical, organized Peggy wants to be an accountant but ends up working with her father at the post office after she turns 18. She has an affair with an older co-worker who’s uninterested in commitment, and the fallout from the relationship further complicates her plans. Flighty Allison is dating a surfer named Kevin Nelsonthat none of her family members like, but that only seems to increase his appeal in her eyes. She lives with his family for a time, but Kevin is abusive, and Allison blames herself for his behavior. She also shoplifts and gets mixed up with Kevin’s family’s drug business—all of which eventually catches up with her. Throughout, Brenda obsesses over every detail of the Simpson case as more details are revealed, neglecting to shower or do household chores. All three women must find ways to navigate themselves out of difficult situations. Brenda comes off as judgmental and unwilling to compromise at first, and as a result, readers may find her cold and unsympathetic. However, as the novel progresses, she matures as a character, moving to a more affordable place to live, finding a job, and becoming a more attentive mother. The author uses the Simpson trial as an indicator for Brenda’s growth; by the time the verdict is rendered, she’s doing better for herself than when the legal proceedings began, and she’s less consumed by them. Peggy and Allison aren’t always likable, either, but they also learn to make better decisions, and the novel’s ending is a satisfying one.

An emotional portrait of three women dealing with unexpected change.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64742-100-7

Page Count: 342

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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