Lily loves Charlie more than any other human, for he rescued her when other potential adopters frowned at her limp. She’d been abused by her previous owner and her broken leg healed without veterinarian intervention. Now he’s being bullied and Lily must figure out a way to help him amid the chaos of Dad’s drinking, Mom’s sadness, his sister’s possible suspect boyfriend, and his big brother’s anger. The unique perspective of a cat gives readers a view from inside the family, but with a pure, some might say naive, but definitely less than jaded, outlook. Lily can be as surprised as a person by such things as Charlie’s choice of “mate” being another boy. Ward’s representation of a gender-fluid, gay teenager comes across as natural and inclusive, even as she shows the challenges he must face, especially from his own family. His mother and sister’s acceptance counter his father’s confusion and his brother’s resistance. Of course there’s a romantic interest for mom, who’s separated from dad and planning divorce. However, he immediately touches her intimately and insinuates himself into family issues, coming across as a bit creepy rather than romantic—too much too soon. This is the only part of the story that doesn’t flow organically, a small distraction. This story presents multiple serious subjects that are handled with compassion: alcoholism, addiction, chronic pain, divorce, and gender expectations. Ward takes her family down a path of resolution surprising, yet realistic. Readers who love main characters off the beaten path will appreciate this story; animal lovers will be vindicated.
The pa of the Glass children, Jimmy and Flower, dies of smallpox in a pestilent tent hospital in Deadwood, South Dakota. They had pulled him into town from their shack on his gold claim, proving their mettle. Madame Dora DuFran takes charge, and Calamity Jane, who’d followed Wild Bill Hickok to Deadwood, works in the pest tent, caring for their pa, watching him slowly fade. Jimmy and Flower, who goes by Hour, sleep in DuFran’s storage room, which previously housed Jane, who prefers to sleep off her routine drunks outside under the stars, anyway. Hour’s mom, a Lakota, visits Jimmy in his dreams to offer wisdom as he confronts challenges (one of which is first love) in their few weeks at DuFran’s brothel, until their pa passes. Jane holds a fundraiser for her “daughter” Hour’s education, receiving enough to send both children to a convent school, giving them a good start in life. Jimmy channels Jane in a life of constant travel, but Hour marries and raises a family in Kansas City. While working as a storyteller in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, Jane meets up with Jimmy and they catch each other up on their lives. Jimmy sees her only once more, in a small town where she was put off the train, at a hotel on her deathbed. The happily ever after comes to Jimmy when his first love finally leaves prostitution for marriage.
This is an interesting view of Calamity Jane’s life, from the perspective of a child she and Dora DuFran rescued. Rene kept the integrity of a pre-teen boy’s point of view, while filling the cast of characters with real life colleagues of Jane: Wild Bill, Dora DuFran, Charlie Utter, and a passing reference to Buffalo Bill. A fictionalized account of Calamity Jane is likely more appropriate than a biography, as her tall tales live on. Rene gave a noble account of the fundraiser given for Jane’s “daughter,” interspersed her best tall tales throughout the story, and followed the chronology of Jane’s life that is accepted as true, or the truest. It’s a raucous story, such as Jane’s own life.
I was fortunate to receive a digital copy through NetGalley.
Erica excels as a publicist in NYC. Her love Warren is under contract in DC, while pursuing his true love of jazz whenever he can. They vow their weekends to each other in good faith, but family and work overspill their boundaries. Erica’s alcoholic mother is an emotional vampire, constantly requesting her time and money. Warren’s father is an emotionally inaccessible, strict disciplinarian, whose second marriage exposes a family secret that rips Warren out of time and space. As Erica tries to move up the ladder in her company, special projects snatch her away from her special time with Warren, who renews his contract in DC without discussing it with her. He breaks up with her, setting Erica on a downward spiral. She confronts her mother about her childhood, prompting her mother to reveal her own tragic background. She and Warren must come to terms with the families that they have and find their way back to each other.
This is so much more than a long-distance romance novel. Both main characters are well-developed, complex individuals placed in impossible situations with no clear resolutions. They learn more about their families than they wanted to know, but this helps them to evolve and move toward each other.