Secrets of the Porch

In Sellon’s (Carly’s Calling, 2003) second novel, a rebellious teenage girl is sent to live with her grandmother on a Nebraska farm.
Sixteen-year-old Sophie Mae Randolph has been adrift, both physically and spiritually, since her mother, Grace, died from cancer. After Sophie and her abusive boyfriend are caught holding up a gas station, she’s given a choice: head to a juvenile detention facility or go live with her grandmother Lila, whom she’s never met. Reluctantly, she chooses the latter. At first, the worldly Sophie dismisses Lila as an “old bat.” Eventually, however, she opens up to the older woman, especially after Lila shares the tragic story of why Grace, her only daughter, left home with the infant Sophie. Months pass, and Sophie thrives in her new surroundings, even beginning a tentative romance with a boy from her school. But Lila has a secret, and it isn’t until a dark figure from the past shows up at the farm one night that the truth is finally revealed. This is a charming fish-out-of-water story, and it’s hard not to sympathize as the spitfire Sophie adjusts to her new surroundings—after all, she’s traded sleeping under bridges for collecting eggs and forking hay. But farm chores aren’t the only thing that Sophie has to get used to; she also gradually allows faith to reenter her life. By listening to Lila “preach about God and everything he had blessed [her] with,” she eventually comes to terms with her mother’s death. This gentle exploration of how faith and forgiveness allow people to overcome devastating traumas centers the book and makes it more than just a simple tale of small-town secrets and romance. Sellon gracefully weaves past events into the present drama, crafting an engaging, multigenerational story. That said, a bloody denouement on the farm’s front porch strains credulity, and the ending wraps up the lives of these complicated characters too neatly. Overall, however, this is a satisfying tale of love, hope and redemption.
A sweet, smart story about growing up and learning to trust.

Pub Date: March 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1629945453

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Tate Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2014

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable...

THE UNHONEYMOONERS

An unlucky woman finally gets lucky in love on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii.

From getting her hand stuck in a claw machine at age 6 to losing her job, Olive Torres has never felt that luck was on her side. But her fortune changes when she scores a free vacation after her identical twin sister and new brother-in-law get food poisoning at their wedding buffet and are too sick to go on their honeymoon. The only catch is that she’ll have to share the honeymoon suite with her least favorite person—Ethan Thomas, the brother of the groom. To make matters worse, Olive’s new boss and Ethan’s ex-girlfriend show up in Hawaii, forcing them both to pretend to be newlyweds so they don’t blow their cover, as their all-inclusive vacation package is nontransferable and in her sister’s name. Plus, Ethan really wants to save face in front of his ex. The story is told almost exclusively from Olive’s point of view, filtering all communication through her cynical lens until Ethan can win her over (and finally have his say in the epilogue). To get to the happily-ever-after, Ethan doesn’t have to prove to Olive that he can be a better man, only that he was never the jerk she thought he was—for instance, when she thought he was judging her for eating cheese curds, maybe he was actually thinking of asking her out. Blending witty banter with healthy adult communication, the fake newlyweds have real chemistry as they talk it out over snorkeling trips, couples massages, and a few too many tropical drinks to get to the truth—that they’re crazy about each other.

Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable as well as free.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2803-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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