Book Review: Hold on my Heart

Book Details

Hold on my Heart, Tracy Brogan (Montlake Romance, June 25, 2013)

A woman hugs a man

Book Cover, Montlake Romance

213 pp. At the time of this review (6/12/17), it holds a 4-star review on Barnes & Noble, with only four reviews, and a 4.3-star review on Amazon with 720 reviews.

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Obtained By: Author give-away at COFW meeting, November, 2016.

My Chocolate Rating on Scale of 5: 4.5 Ghirardelli Salty Caramels (just shy of perfection)

From the Jacket

To build a future, sometimes you have to tear down the past….

“Chicago event planner Libby Hamilton can turn any bland setting into a dramatic venue—but when she abruptly loses her job, and her fair-weather boyfriend moves to another state, Libby suddenly finds herself back in the tiny town she grew up in. Worse than that, her father wants help transforming an old schoolhouse into a vintage ice cream parlor and Libby must trade in her power suits for power tools.

“Widowed restoration specialist Tom Murphy can rebuild just about anything—except the shattered relationship he shares with his teenaged daughter. Hired by Libby’s father, Tom isn’t interested in sharing the details of his personal life with beautiful, spunky Libby. He just wants to get the job done. But she is tenacious—and sexy—and it doesn’t take long before she breaks down his walls, builds up his hope, and gets a hold on his heart that won’t let go.”

Review

Hold on my Heart, Tracy Brogan (Montlake Romance, 2013)

Tracy Brogan presented a fall 2016 program to Central Ohio Fiction Writers, my local chapter of Romance Writers of America. She’d brought a number of extra copies of her books, including ones in foreign translations. She donated them to the club! New to romance writing, and not yet having decided if I was joining COFW back then (I joined at the end of December, 2016), I hung back until the other members made their selections.

This was one of the books Brogan talked about. She said she imagined what the worst possible way for characters to meet was. She described how Libby had been bicycling; squatting behind a dumpster is involved; and then Tom appears. If you’re going to meet like that, I knew this character needed both a sense of humor and a backbone. She has both, always feeling realistic.

This short, delicious read hits all the right areas for me, regardless of genre:

  • Characters build depth as the story progress.
  • Cast of characters supports the novel and adds subplots to keep me ever hooked as to what’s happening next. The Hamilton family members lead an interesting life.
  • Brogan didn’t head hop: Libby and Tom are the only points of view, and I never wondered when she made a switch: either she did it at chapter breaks or as section breaks, and within one sentence I knew whose point of view I was in.
  • Distinct voices for the characters.
  • Puts me through the range of emotions—one page I’m laughing at the dynamics of the Hamilton family, the next I’m teary-eyed, later I’m crying outright, and later I’m blushing at the romance.
  • I don’t always need an “alpha” hero. I like the wholesome guy next door, and that’s emotionally wounded Tom.
  • While I KNOW a romance typically ends happily, Brogan never gave me that certainty.

Set in a small town that seems to be recovering from harder times, the setup felt authentic as I pictured smaller towns I’ve bicycled through. Hope or despair, the buildings and the people I meet show me where they stand, and Brogan did the same as she painted Monroe.

Even if some of the events in the book seemed totally outlandish, because I’d bought into the Hamilton family as people (think your most dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinner, then see how yours stacks up to one of their dinners, then ultimately their Thanksgiving dinner), I believed the happenings. From cantankerous “Nana” (the grandmother) to Libby’s opinionated two sisters (both with their subplots, and all 3 have delightfully historical names), her father’s life-changing decision to buy the historic building to turn it into an ice cream parlor, and to her mother, long-suffering from her husband’s spontaneous decisions, I believed in this family.

Tom serves as a great contrast for Libby. She’s talkative, into bigger gatherings and organizing things, while he’s reserved, focused on the specific tasks of restoration, and determined to keep their relationship professional. Give it time, though, and watch the magic happen between them.

In chapter twenty, if you’re not crying happy tears, you’ve got a better grip on your emotions than I do. Yup, I invested in most of the characters.

At the end of the novel, when Brogan tied off those sub-plots, she sucker punched me, but I had to forgive her. That raised the stakes, leaving me wondering still more, was she really letting Libby secure a happy ending?

I’ll definitely grab another Tracy Brogan book down the line. So many books, so little time!

Take this book along with you to the beach, read it while waiting in line at a store, or curl up in a comfy chair and settle in. At 213 pages, it’s a fast, fun read. I can’t speak to the audiobook version, but one reviewer wasn’t a fan of the artist chosen for that reading.

What do you like best about romances? If you’ve read Hold on my Heart, what did you think?

Accolades

Tracy Brogan’s earning accolades right and left:

  • Amazon and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author
  • Three-time Romance Writers of America® RITA award nominee for Best First Book in 2013, and Best Contemporary Romance in 2015 and in 2016
  • Booksellers Best award winner
  • Three-time Golden Quill award winner in both contemporary and historical romance
  • Amazon Publishing Diamond Award

Learn more about Tracy Brogan:

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On Memorial Day, Remember Those Who Served and Died

John Starrett, Veteran of the Revolution

Memorial Day, or Remembrance Day, is the time to remember those who lost their lives while serving our country. Too often, we see this weekend as the beginning of “summer,” when what it represents for military families is the end for someone they loved.

Big cities, small towns, and everything in between, they honor today with parades, members of the VFWs traveling in their cars, on motor cycles, on foot, waving to us. Or maybe it’s like in Gahanna today, where veterans fired their twenty-one gun salute from the bridge overlooking the river. A Gahanna High School band member played taps, while another echoed that taps from a distance.

Missing in Action; Prisoner of War

We shoot our pictures, capturing the moments like the presentation of colors (our flag). I stood too far away to hear what was said, but that twenty-one-gun salute cracked through the air, the muzzles flashing. When the band prepared to march to the cemetery, the service members who gave the salute walked past me, and I thanked them for their service. I wondered which friends they’d give anything to see again.

Presentation of Colors has concluded

I owe who I am, this lover of words, of nature, of the beauty of our country, to my parents who raised me, the school system, my friends. But I am also who I am because of those who fought, foreign and domestic. They paid this price for me without my asking, sacrificing time with their loved ones, the career they intended; they came back whole or scarred, whether visible injuries or not. Too many have come home in a coffin draped with the American flag. I owe every one of them.

On this Memorial Day, please think of those who served and are no longer here. Send a prayer out to them, their families, their descendants.

Those Who Might Not Have Served

Gahanna’s Veterans Memorial

stories we don’t learn in school can be the most telling of the history of war. Was it fought for freedom? To keep power? To wrest power away from a megalomaniac like Hitler? Ironic how in the very fight for freedom, some are denied the chance to serve, as if this country did not belong to them, too. Those denials hint at the way power too often sits on the backs of inequality.

Think about when African Americans and others who were not of Caucasian European origin were finally allowed to defend this country that is their home—World War II. Think about the women who were finally allowed to fly in defense of this country that is their home.

Have you heard of the Tuskegee Airmen? They were an experiment during World War II to determine if African Americans “had the mental and physical capabilities to lead, fly military aircraft, and the courage to fight in war.” (Source, the URL above).

Private First Class Robert Strait

I had heard of the Tuskegee Airmen, but I hadn’t realized a host of military personnel formed it—from the folks who cooked and cleaned to the navigators, parachute riggers, mechanics, all the way up to the pilots; nor had I known it was an experiment. I owe them my freedom as much as I own any other service member.

Then there were the women pilots, not seeing airtime until WWII as well. The attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, caught the United States by surprise. Without enough male pilots to both be in the war and serve in domestic capacities, twenty-eight women aviators took to the sky to deliver aircraft to the flight schools, forming the first female squadron, even as “Rosie the Riviter” encouraged women to work in the factories,

Bricks in the Gahanna Veterans Memorial, Gahanna, Ohio

Pilots Nancy Love and Jacqueline Cochran formed the two programs that eventually became known as the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Their duties expanded, and by war’s end they transported personnel, flight-tested aircraft after they’d been repaired, towed targets, and more. From those 28 women, they grew to a corps that served at more than 120 bases in the states.

But wait, did I mention—they did this all as volunteers? That’s right, they were not recognized as members of the military. In June of 1944, Army Air Forces Commanding General “Hap” Arnold asked Congress to recognize the WASP as members of the US military.

The 1,102 women who served in WASP did not receive that recognition until President Carter in 1977.

On this Memorial Day, I hope you’ll take a moment to bow your head in silence, and thank those who have lost their lives in the pursuit of our freedom.

Leo Starrett, Veteran of WWI

Learn More:

  • To learn nine excellent snippets about the Tuskegee Airmen, visit this link.
  • Visit the Tuskegee National Historic Site in Alabama. It’s part of the National Park Service.
  • Visit the WASP Museum. Read about the WASP in the words of Sarah Byrn Rickman, WASP author and historian.
  • Follow WASP on facebook.
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Saveet: The Mother of the Shooriistas

Best intentions aside, another month’s flown by without a Saveet Saturday. Since I’d spent pieces of the past four evenings weeding, and Friday evening settled quietly around me, I channeled Saveet for freewriting. That means I sit my butt down and write without editing. It doesn’t mean the cats don’t sit on my hands, kick the keyboard from my lap, or skewer my toes after I haven’t realized Xanth has dropped the mouse there, begging me to play. Yeah, writing at home means distractions galore.

Last month, I’d left Saveet on the heels of a vision of the birth of the world as she knows it, the river in which her mother would have drowned her had an acolyte of the goddess Neeshnaet not drawn water. The beast who has asked for Saveet’s help has more of a story to tell, methinks. With Mother’s Day approaching, and me having named the great shooriista approaching her as the mother of the race, an idea took hold.

Enjoy.

As I reach for more—more understanding, more of the vision, more tears to understand why she chose me, the mother of all shooriistas steps away.  My “lub” and “dub” drum on, still in her rhythm as steady as the river.

Understanding floods through me. “You cried alongside the Goddess, didn’t you.”

Purple eyes swirl. Norneepashaforena blinks, except she tries to hide that pain from me by keeping them closed. Her chin lowers to the ground, making it rumble with her heartbeat. But she nods, a thud eclipsing the lubs and dubs until that echo fades.

How could I not have seen her clearly before? Her wings shimmer under the stars. Black, those powerful wings sing with strands of the same silver scrawled along the top and bottom of the First Scroll that hangs above the alter. When she flaps them, another round of peace tickles at me, or maybe it’s the pelting sands and swarm of ganoraads flitting back and forth, disturbed at being raised from slumber.

I sneeze on the dozen that seek cover in my nose.

 Norneepashaforena opens her eyes. A film of tears turns the purple into a lavender as enchanting as her wings. Although she could crush me with one of her toes, her power feels gentle and loving.

“I’m sorry for the children you’ve lost,” I say.

The eyes blink again. A tear splatters me from knees to toes, but this time, no pain follows. Not from the water, that is. The loss in her eyes cuts me harder than any whip I’ve bourn.

“I will help you,” I say. “Whatever you need, I will do it.”

“Save my children from the harbingers,” she says. “In Neeshnaet’s dreams, you are the one who might find the way to work between the harbingers and my children’s spirits, those who have not lost them to time, breaking their ghosting hold.”

Even if Avaareet whips me dawn and dusk, I’ll steal provisions and follow the mother of all shooriista’s. As she saved our world with the Goddess, I owe her my life. Perhaps then I can atone to my failure in the last one.

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