Sat
Jun 21 2014 9:30am

First Look: Emilie Richards’s No River Too Wide (June 24, 2014)

No River Too Wide by Emilie RichardsEmilie Richards
No River Too Wide (Goddesses Anonymous #3)
Harlequin MIRA / June 24, 2014 / $14.95 print, $10.99 digital

Some betrayals are like rivers, so deep, so wide, they can't be crossed. But—for those with enough courage—forgiveness, redemption and love may be found on the other side.

On the night her home is consumed by fire, Janine Stoddard finally resolves to leave her abusive husband. While she is reluctant to involve her estranged daughter, she can't resist a chance to see Harmony and baby Lottie in Asheville, North Carolina, before she disappears forever.

Harmony's friend Taylor Martin realizes how much the reunited mother and daughter yearn to stay together, and she sees in Jan a chance to continue her own mother's legacy of helping women in need of a fresh start. She opens her home, even as she's opening her heart to another newcomer, Adam Pryor. But enigmatic Adam has a secret that could destroy Taylor's trust…and cost Jan her hard-won freedom.

Smart readers understand you can’t read the same type of book over and over, you have to mix it up once in a while. So like most of you, I vary my reading choices, from reading bits of fluff to books with more sexual content, to books that tug on my heartstrings, and then books that deal with real-life issues.

With Emilie Richards’s books, I get a two-for-one, since her books deal with current relevant topics, and they also tug on my heartstrings. In previous books, Richards has underscored immigration, conservation, homelessness, and even surrogate pregnancies. If it is a topic that is on our mind, then it makes its way into her books. In her newest release, No River Too Wide, she draws attention to the plight of battered women, and the toll on the victims, both the women being assaulted and their children.

While this important topic plays a part in the story, the emphasis is on taking risks and moving forward. And nothing is more rewarding then being a witness to the courage and resolution it takes as characters move forward, breaking free of old habits and negative self-talk.

Harmony Stoddard was introduced in the first book in the Goddess Anonymous series, One Mountain Away. When Harmony accidently got pregnant, and had doubts about marrying the father of her baby, she wasn’t able to turn to her mother Janine for assistance, because Janine had her own issues to deal with, which was dealing with Harmony’s abusive father.

While Janine was always careful in public, a woman at one of her husband’s approved gatherings recognized Janine's plight:

There was a woman who knew my husband. I’d met her a couple of times over the years. She got me off to one side when he was talking business with some men. And she said she worried about the way he treated me. She told me to call her if I needed help, that she was part of a group of women who helped other women who had trouble at home.”

“How did she know that just from seeing you at a party?”

“Later she told me her first husband nearly killed her before she got out of the marriage. She recognized a fellow sufferer from the fear in my eyes.“

Craftily Janine changed her survival strategy, acting like she finally lost the will to challenge anything her husband decreed. And finally one night she is able to make her escape.

She plans to just see her daughter, and new granddaughter, and then move on, because she doesn’t want to put her daughter and granddaughter in danger. But she gets convinced it is safe to stay a while in Asheville.

I loved being a witness to Janine’s transformation as she changes from Janine, an abused wife to Jan. For twenty five years, she lived under the yoke of an abusive, unpredictable man, but now she finally has freedom. But casting off the years of relentless belittling and criticism doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen:

It didn’t matter if she was frightened by everyday things that others took for granted. It didn’t matter if she felt alone in the world, something Rex had repeatedly warned her would happen if she ever tried to leave him. It didn’t matter that she no longer knew what a woman like her could actually achieve. Perhaps it didn’t even matter that she had failed at the things she had most hoped to accomplish and was still seeking forgiveness. . .

And if, for one moment after Taylor had dropped her off, she had yearned for Rex—who had all the answers as well as all the questions—then she could seek forgiveness for that, as well.

Taylor and her mother, Charlotte Hale, were estranged for a long time after Taylor purposefully got pregnant while in high school. Hurtful things were said, and Taylor erased her mother completely out of her and her daughter Maddie’s life. Years later, Charlotte attempted a reconciliation, but Taylor refused, denying Charlotte the privilege of getting to know her granddaughter.

When Charlotte discovers that Harmony was struggling with an unplanned pregnancy, she almost felt that she had a chance for a do over:

“Life is complicated,” Taylor said, and without looking she could imagine Maddie’s eye rolling.

“Here’s what you need to learn from everything that happened with Mom and me. We loved each other but we let our differences get in the way. I held a grudge for years, almost to the end of her life, and I was wrong to do that. Very wrong. You grandmother wanted badly for us to be close again, and when she couldn’t make that happen she kind of adopted Harmony, who needed her.”

Now in a bit of serendipity, Taylor is able to be there for Harmony’s mother, Janine. And while doing this helps ease the pain of not being there for her own mother, Taylor still hasn’t quite vanished her own impossible perfectionistic requirements for the people in her life. She has met someone new, and she is about to be tested again. Will she learn to accept that people make mistakes, or is she going to cut another person out of her life?

Harmony might have escaped physical harm from her father, but watching her mother cower from her father has left hidden wounds. She is quick to judge other people’s relationships, suspicious that the smiling faces they present is only a facade, because isn’t that what her mother did?

“Nate, look around. Look how hard Karen has worked to make this happen, and she’ll probably keep working until the last guest is gone and the last dish washed. I’m tired just thinking about it. Is she allowed to make mistakes? Is she allowed to try anything that has a high risk of failure? Can she be late for a teacher-parent conference, or forget to take one of those carefully groomed little girls to a piano lesson, or even let them wear raggedy jeans and play in mud puddles? She has a reputation at stake. She probably puts sequins on their raggedy jeans and turns them into fancy shopping bags. . .”

“Wow. What brought this on?”

Harmony knew what brought it on. Surrounding her she saw the same struggle for perfection she had witnessed her entire childhood. She didn’t know if Jess abused Karen, and abuse was the reason Karen tried so hard…

And as much as she loves seeing her mother again, she can’t help fill resentful that her mother didn’t have the courage to end the abuse and leave her father:

While Harmony packed, Jan danced around the living room with the baby, then at last she reluctantly handed her to her mother.

“I forget to tell you one thing,” she told Harmony as they made the transfer. "I’m going to take a self-defense class at Taylor’s studio. I start next week.”

Harmony stopped fussing with Lottie’s dress. “Self-defense?” She waited a heartbeat; then she shrugged. “Too bad you didn’t get the nerve to do that years ago, huh?”

You will immediately be drawn into the lives of these three women, as they come to terms with their past, and move forward to a more enriching future.

Learn more or order a copy of No River Too Wide by Emilie Richards, available June 24, 2014:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & NobleBuy at Indiebound

 

 


Leigh Davis, blogger

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