Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell


Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell
Publisher: Prospect Park Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

“My father proposed to my mother at gunpoint when she was nineteen, and knowing that she was already pregnant with a dead man’s child, she accepted.”

Thus begins this riveting story of a woman’s quest to understand her recently deceased mother, a glamorous, cruel narcissist who left her only child, Elsie, an inheritance of debts and mysteries. While coping with threats that she suspects are coming from the cult-like spiritual program her mother belonged to, Elsie works to unravel the message her dying mother left for her, a quest that ultimately takes her to the South African family homestead she never knew existed.

I don’t know where to start on my review for this book. The author’s writing style captured me from the very start of the novel. This is a well written book that includes a wondrously structured plot of suspense. I couldn’t help but feel for Elsie as she opened up revealing various pains that all seem to have generated from the soiled relationship with her mother. Elsie has made the best of her life, but with the recent death of her mother, Rachel, old wounds start to open up and Elsie is challenged to face not only her demons but also her mother’s.

Elsie is a strong young lady who, even though she lacked her mother’s love and approval, still seemed to get through life. No, she wasn’t perfect and she had her faults but I guess that’s what made her so easy to connect with. She was a teen performance dancer, she dealt with being anorexic, she loses her best friend but gains the lead dance role. Any mother would be proud to have a daughter with such a successful early career. That’s one thing, even after finishing the novel I still didn’t understand why Elsie’s mother treated her like she did. She was her mother’s only child and yet in a way Elsie was motherless. Elsie’s self-pity is so strong that she’d rather be alone in the world; pushing away the one man that loves her beyond measure.

Elsie’s ex-husband Ted is her stronghold and voice of reason. I enjoyed reading their story. I was sad to read that Elsie’s willingness to give up and free Ted, but I was glad and found it touching that Ted’s love continued during the bad. I was glad Ted is true and consistent in Elsie’s life and that even though they are divorced he still took time to answer her calls and to help her when he could.

I enjoyed the writing style and the voice of Elsie as she looked for answers in finding herself and along the way making sense to find answers to her life. Her mother’s death didn’t necessarily mean an end, but it seemed to give Elsie strength and purpose. As I mentioned earlier, I still didn’t understand Elsie’s mother’s reasons for her actions and way of mothering. The many years that her mom had ties with the Seekers was strange to me. This part of the story is different and I tried thinking of some other reason that could put a wedge between a mother and a daughter; I guess Rachel’s deep involvement with the Seekers is good enough reason for a wedge. Reading about a cult-like religion is something new to me and it worked for this story.

I highly recommend this story for readers who enjoy going deep into a character’s emotional life where their story remains long after the you’ve turned the last page.

Elizabeth the First Wife by Lian Dolan

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Elizabeth the First Wife by Lian Dolan
Publisher: Prospect Park Books
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (269 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Elizabeth Lancaster, an English professor at Pasadena City College, finds her perfectly dull but perfectly orchestrated life upended one summer by three men: her movie-star ex-husband, a charming political operative, and William Shakespeare. Until now, she’d been content living in the shadow of her high-profile and highly accomplished family. Then her college boyfriend and one-time husband of seventeen months, A-list action star FX Fahey, shows up with a job offer that she can’t resist, and Elizabeth’s life suddenly gets a whole lot more interesting. She’s off to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for the summer to make sure FX doesn’t humiliate himself in an avant-garde production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Want to learn a little Shakespeare the fun way? Elizabeth Lancaster is an English professor who comes from an extraordinary family. Also, she’s the ex-wife of a movie star. One day, her ex surprises her with a proposition. He needs her help, after all these years. She agrees to be a consultant for him while he prepares for an acting job in a popular Shakespearean play.

Should she take the job? The guy had broken her heart. She goes for it and learns a few things herself. Her ex-husband has done a little growing up since she last saw him. Might things resume between them? Then again, Elizabeth meets a handsome, charming guy who is working on her brother-in-law’s campaign to run for governor. They develop a real connection.

The cast is filled with interesting characters, from a Nobel Prize winner to a doctor in search for the cure for cancer. These characters help readers to see Elizabeth at her finest. The plot is interesting in a cozy way, not riveting. It’s wonderfully clever in comparing Shakespeare’s characters to modern-day people and situations. This author has bridged the gap between the sixteenth century and our modern day in a witty way. For example, there is a list of relationship red flags. What should someone watch out for then? “Eavesdrops behind Curtains.” And now? “Installs GPS Tracker.”

The book is filled with remarks that are sure to increase a reader’s understanding of the Bard’s work. Recommended to those who enjoy delightful, light-hearted, modern-day stories.