Beyond the Mundane: Unravelings Reviews
This is an anthology of mystery and horror stories in the tradition of those wonderful old Alfred Hitchcock books where dark crime and supernatural stories sit comfortably side by side. Most of the contributing authors, with a few notable exceptions, won't be familiar to horror fans, and are better known for their work in other genres. This does not mean they don't know how to tell chilling tales, however. [Among] the twenty-eight stories collected, Carolyn Russell provides a pair of tales featuring horrible husbands and fathers getting their due. ~Cemetery Dance Review
Hole in Her Heart Reviews:
Sensual Rating: Sparks, smolders
Rating: 4 1/2 Flames
Like many young women of her time (1955) Julie Mitchell still lives with her parents and is only working while she waits for the current version of Prince Charming to appear. She is convinced love will find her in the person of a wonderful man. When she meets Rick Danbury at a USO Dance at Fort Harrison near her Indiana home, she is instantly smitten. That fateful meeting sets the tone for the rest of her life.
Rick, scion of wealth and privilege, is not a happy young man. He is burdened by guilt for the Oedipus complex that has him pursuing older women and drinks too much. However, he almost worships Julie and puts her on a pedestal, separate from his normal womanizing habits. They never do consummate their relationship. When he gets transferred to New Mexico, distance taxes their bond until it eventually unravels when Rick feels he has to marry one of his conquests who turns up pregnant. Julie is heart broken and quickly weds the youngest executive in the insurance company where she works. Although the marriage is not based on love, it is sound and endures, giving her two children.
Many years later, after her husband is killed by a drunken driver, Julie’s dying mother admits Rick came back once and wanted to see her. Julie decides then to try to find out whatever happened to him. This quest leads her to New Mexico and a circle of friends, who were with him to the end, to revelations that both trouble and elate her, and to the possibility of a new relationship, perhaps built on sounder factors than fairy tale romance mixed with lust.
Hole in Her Heart is a powerful portrayal of human faults and frailty and the amazing power of love to change people’s lives, both for good and for ill. The characters are not always admirable but they are human, believable and sympathetic. Julie grows from a somewhat shallow and frivolous girl to a woman with deep emotions and unexpected strengths. I found myself hoping for the best for her since she had surely paid her dues. This one is well worth the time to read and will stick in your mind for much longer. I expect it will end up on many a reader’s keeper shelf.
Alegria, Reviewer for Word Museum
Julie Mitchell was both a product of her generation, and yet she wasn’t. Both beautifully feminine, and determinedly independent, she took pride in the fact that she didn’t need a man to make her complete. Yet she never could quite stop looking for Mr. Right. So when her best friend talked -- ok, whiningly cajoled -- her into dancing in the current USO show, Julie reluctantly agreed. When the most handsome man she’d ever laid eyes on brought her a Coke, Julie had enough common sense, and romantic nonsense, in her head to flirt outrageously with him. When he responded in kind, she was elated. Maybe, just maybe, she’d found The One. The one to spend her life with.
Rick Danbury was the consummate ladies' man. Translate that to mean he had more sexual experience than Julie could ever dream about! Yet when Rick was with Julie, even though he was attracted to her -- he wasn’t dead! -- he wanted more than just sex. And so they waited. Well, they waited to have sex with each other. Rick, however, kept practicing his bedroom skills on other women. He figured that it was keeping him from pushing Julie for more than she wanted to give. Besides, he liked the idea of a virgin bride! What he didn’t count on was an unplanned pregnancy with one of his current bed partners. His somewhat skewed moral code -- the same one that allowed him to sleep with any number of willing women -- forced Rick to marry her.
Julie’s heart was broken when Rick got married. She decided then that any other man she might ever be with had to adore her more than she cared about him. And when she finally did marry, that’s exactly how it was. Although fond of her husband, she never came to love him. Only Rick would ever have that from her.
After her husband died many years later, with her children grown with families of their own, Julie once again found her thoughts consumed by Rick. Although she had thought of him frequently throughout the years, she had never allowed herself to dwell on “what might have been." When she found out from her mother that Rick had attempted see her again, right before the birth of her first child, Julie knew that she had to find him again. She set out on a quest that took her to New Mexico, where he had last lived. What she found there broke her heart all over again. But it also allowed her to heal the hurt from decades past. Rick would always have her heart.
Hole in Her Heart was wonderful and tragic at the same time. Not your typical romance, this tale did not end in a “happily ever after” for our hero and heroine. Carolyn Russell took a great chance with devoted romance readers in writing this beautiful story. And in my opinion, it paid off handsomely! The feeling of “rightness” in bringing Julie and Rick together, against all odds, stays with you right until the end. Without giving away the ending, which I feel needs to be experienced by the readers themselves, that “rightness” is there despite the plot twist.
Although sometimes seeming a bit naïve, Hole in Her Heart brings a poignancy to romance novels that is sometimes missing from today’s world where everything is about sex, and things happen unrealistically fast. The fact that this novel takes place over several decades is refreshingly old-fashioned. Carolyn Russell is a magnificent storyteller! I can’t wait to read more from her!
Reviewed by Tracy Atencio Heart Strings Reviews
Never Ends." 1 Corinthians 13:8
Julie Mitchell is a small town
Indiana girl who falls in love with a soldier in 1955. When she finds out her
soldier, Aaron Fredrick "Rick" Wythe Danbury, married an older woman, Julie is
devastated but determined to pick up the pieces of her heart and move on with
her life. When she marries Harry Stone to escape Rick's memory, she is not in
love, but cares for him. They have a happy marriage, and make their life
together work, but Julie feels love never ends and that Rick still has her
The year is 1955, and twenty-year-old Julie
Mitchell's life is about to change when she meets the man of her dreams while
dancing at the local servicemen's club. Julie has agreed to be a dancing girl in
the Christmas show at the urging of her friend -- an event that will alter the
Michelle Shealy, My Shelf Reviews
Reviewer: Louise Riveiro-Mitchell, The Romance Studio
It has been said that love can last forever even beyond time, but only what they say.
Julie Mitchell believes it, though she didn't always though.
When she was in her early twenty's she met a young man in the service at a USO dance. Rick Danbury was everything a girl could dream of or want and soon Rick and Julie were seen together frequently. Julie was young and impressionable and soon she fell in love with Rick. Rick on the other hand was not the type to settle down and marry, but he still had strong feelings for Julie. Romance was in the cards for these two and when Rick broke Julies's heart by marrying another she never thought she would get over it. She eventually married a local man who worked in the firm she was with. She had a full life and raised two children yet there was always the memory of Rick that haunted her.
It wasn't until her mother lay on her death bed that Julie found out that Rick had come back for her only it was too late, Julie was already married. Two souls that were destined for each other yet the time wasn't right. Is there such a thing as love lasting beyond? Read the book and make your own conclusion.
Beyond The Lies Reviews:
Life was easy growing up, but there were secrets hidden from her, tension of which she was only too aware. Gloria Jean Hamilton grew up as spoiled and as pampered as the times and the family income would allow. What she had or didn’t have did not phase the strong-willed child, nor did it keep her from turning into a delightful young woman. There is only one dark spot growing up that really makes an indelible impression, and it is one that would eventually alter her life entirely. On her thirteenth birthday, her cousin tried to rape her, claiming they weren’t related, and brought the differences that she had felt for so long into focus. She always felt different, out of place in the family. She was taller than her mother already, and closing in on her father as well. Tall was not a family trait, they did the average, and it was clear that when it came to height, Gloria was doing tall. She had her father’s dark hair, her mother’s green eyes, but there were any number of factors that could have explained those traits.
The taunt that she was adopted was a life changing thing for Gloria. The challenge was set, and it was one that she would spend the rest of her life pursuing. It was not that Gloria is ungrateful, but it’s a search for identity, completion, and an end to the feeling of incompleteness that has dogged her every step. In the ensuing years, Gloria takes the pieces of the puzzle, hoarding them like jewels, and trying to ferret out the truth. Her parents, Doris and Ralph are no help, her mother, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the truth. When confronted, Doris uses many delaying tactics, until the fateful day that Gloria decides to pull out the stops. Tired of the lies and half truths, she confronts her mother. This is only the beginning for Gloria realizes that her whole life growing up was based on a lie, and the dishonesty of her parents hurt her deeply. Gloria decided that she didn’t care too much for lies.
Although life has been good overall in that she has not experienced the poverty that many others had, her first love affair proves to be a tragic turn of events that shapes the rest of her life. The man with whom she has fallen so desperately in love, marries another, married for money. This devastates Gloria, and she determines that she's never going to love another man who doesn’t love her more than she loves him. When Frank asks, she says yes, because she is certain that Frank loves her. Gloria doesn’t love him, but she thinks maybe in time, she will grow to love him a little bit. Time passes, the love doesn’t seem to come. Children come, but not love. Gloria goes back to school, completes her degree, and then secures a job teaching at a local college. She is still searching, still involved in the secrets and lies that her mother and father kept from her. The closer she gets to the truth of her beginnings, the farther away she pulls from Frank.
The killing blow happens shortly after she finds out that once again, someone that she has trusted let her down. Frank’s involvement in a building project, in which he has sunk the family’s modest fortunes, goes bad. With the failure of the development, and the loss of business in his hardware stores to the big chain competition, Frank loses the home that Gloria has spent so much time and love to create for her family. The strain in the relationship finally brakes the ties, and Gloria seeks a divorce, a new place to live, and starts a new life. The twists and turns continue as she finds her birth mother, and becomes involved in an affaire.
Carolyn Russell has woven a tale of a woman whose life has been full in more ways than one. She has had love, disappointment, and tragedy in great abundance. The many trials and tribulations have all worked to make her stronger, and she is definitely a strong woman. Gloria’s had to become self-reliant, resourceful and independent. The hurts that she felt as a child, the traumas of her first love, and the disaster of her marriage all take her to new levels, test her newfound strengths, and put her life into a new perspective. That which she thought was going to be static has proven to be a swirl of ups and downs that she could never envision. Life, love, and the world is constantly changing, and she soon realizes that a re-evaluation is needed when it comes to her own values, and her own happiness. The key question is, can she find the true happiness she seeks?
Beyond the Lies tells a poignant story of a woman in terms that we can all understand, and many can identify with today. Tracking Gloria through her life, viewing things through her eyes, and counting the consequences is done with care and skill. The reader is drawn in to the story, experiences the frustration, and learns to care what happens to her. The trick is trying to get Beyond the Lies to the truth, and then be able to live within its parameters. That is Gloria’s challenge, and you are invited along for the ride. Beyond the Lies is available from Wings ePress, and is an enjoyable read to keep you warm on these cold winter nights. Check it out at http://www.wingsepress.com
Reviewed byRosemarie Brungard, Heartstrings & Romance @ Heart
Beyond the lies takes you on a journey through the life of Gloria Jean Hamilton. A woman who felt betrayed by lies and deceit by the people she loved the most and how she gets beyond them.
Gloria Jean Hamilton always felt she was different than the rest of her family. At eleven she was already taller than her mother and at thirteen she was an inch taller than her father, but whenever Gloria asked her parents if she was adopted they would always tell her that she was their little girl and no one else‘s. But Gloria could not get out of her mind, the feeling that things were not as they seemed.
Gloria’s mother Doris had loved high school and she could not understand why Gloria did not like it. Gloria was smart but very shy and had a hard time making friends. During the summer of her sophomore and Junior year Gloria got her first job, working at The Ritz Theater. Her friend and neighbor Bernie Newman ushered there and told her about the job. That is were she met Don Russell, the head usher and a senior in high school. She new Don liked her but he never asked her out on a real date. They would meet at the Sweet Shoppe every day before and after work; holding hands and kissing. One night Don let it slip out that she would be the perfect date, if she were about 4 inches shorter.
A month before Gloria’s graduation she decided she had to know the truth, so she played a hunch and told her mom she had found the adoption papers. Gloria’s mother was shocked but finally admitted the truth; she was adopted. Now that Gloria knew the truth she was determined to find her real parents.
Gloria met the first love of her life right before her twenty-first birthday at a dance. His name was Michael Gardner and he was the most handsome man she had ever met. After a few months, Gloria new she was in love with Michael and ready to spend the rest of her life with him. Then Michael broke her heart and walked out of her life with his secret. Gloria made a vow that she would never be that vulnerable again, the next man would love her more than she loved him. On the rebound Gloria married Frank Miles, who had been pursuing her for years. Frank was thirty-two years old, tall, her family loved him, and he loved Gloria more than she loved him, he was the perfect husband. Frank and Gloria had five children together and were happy most of the time. Gloria never gave up her search for her birth parents and finally did locate her birth mother. After all the kids were grown up and gone Gloria realized she could not live with a man she didn’t love anymore, so she told Frank ! she wanted a divorce and moved into her own house. That is when Gloria met the man that would steal her heart, the only problem was he already belonged to someone else.
BEYOND THE LIES is an emotional journey about learning to forgive and moving on past the lies and deceit. I was drawn into the story and could not put it down until it was finished. Caroline Russell has done an exceptional job in creating a character that any reader would come to care about.
~Dina Smith, reviewer/contest coordinatorhttp://www.romancejunkies.com
This is a story about identity, betrayal, and a search for truth. Gloria has always wondered why she is so different from her parents and brothers. Her mother, Ruth, points out that Gloria and she both have green eyes when Gloria asks. Gloria learns the truth when a cousin attempts to molest her and tells her it’s okay because they aren’t related. She confronts her parents and they deny that she is adopted. After several years she is able to learn the truth and begins a slow search for her biological family. Ruth gives her the name of her biological mother after Gloria coerces her to do so. For a time, just having the name is enough for her.
Gloria meets Michael and falls madly in love. She expects to
marry him, but he betrays her. She decides that she will only marry someone who
loves her more than she loves him. She meets and marries Frank. Frank is several
years older than Gloria, and works with her father. After many years of
marriage, they have five children, and Frank quits his job and purchases a
hardware store in a rural area. He fails to consult Gloria, and this causes
marital problems. She agrees to the move after Frank promises her she will love
the town. His mantra is “Trust Me”. Although Frank adapts well to the town,
Gloria remains an outsider and is unhappy. She determines to do something about
her situation and enrolls in school at the nearby college.
As she begins to get to know Lorraine, her biological mother,
through letters, her marriage falls apart. Frank has not been truthful with
Gloria about their financial problems, and she realizes she has never loved him.
The marriage limps along for several more years, but Frank has fallen into
lethargy after he loses the hardware stores, their home and his factory job.
Finally, they divorce amicably, though Frank continues to
believe she will come back to him. Gloria moves to a cabin and gets a job at the
college, recreating her life in order to learn who she is. This includes going
to Florida to meet Lorraine and her husband George. As she spends time with
Lorraine, she develops an appreciation for her adoptive parents. Her greatest
fear becomes that she is too much like Lorraine.
Reviewed by Denise's Pieces
Gloria becomes involved with a married man, and the pain of
knowing he belongs to someone else grows overwhelming. Once again, she is a part
of something without belonging. Her lover’s situation is such that divorce is
out of the question.
The resolution of the conflicts are unexpected and appropriate.
Ms. Russell has written a complex story and handled it well. Though
self-centered, Gloria is likeable, and the reader roots for her. She is told
lies by every important person in her life, yet still manages not to close
herself off entirely to others. The pace of the story is uneven in places, but
retained my interest.
Imagine finding out that your quarreling father and mother aren't your real
parents, and even more devastating, finding out from your Bill Clinton-wannabe
cousin, who tries to rape you in your grandparents' barn on Mother's Day only
days before you turn thirteen. This highly explosive inciting incident, certain
to send shockwaves in anyone's life, especially a girl growing up in 1948, kicks
the story of Gloria Hamilton Miles into a Lifetime TV Movie-style emotional
roller coaster filled with the uncertainty of living and loving when you don't
know who you are.
"Carolyn Russell has written an engaging read in BEYOND THE LIES. There are too few romances with older heroines, and this one delivers. Realistic and ripe with setting, this story will have you cheering for the stubborn heroine in her quest for truth and unconditional love." ~Cheryl Norman, EPPIE award-winning author of LAST RESORT.
“Carolyn Russell has written an engrossing tale of a woman who has been betrayed and lied to most of her life. You’ll laugh and cry with Gloria, and cheer for her when she wins the man of her dreams. Beyond The Lies will warm your heart and make you believe in happily ever after.”--Barbara Woodward, author of The Heart Remembers and Follow Your Heart, Wings ePress, Inc.--May 11, 2003
BEYOND THE LIES is a tale of a woman in search of herself. From childhood, Gloria has suspected she was adopted. After all, she didn't look or act like anyone in her family. When she finally forces an admission from her mother, Doris, that she was lied to she is launched on a quest to find her natural parents.
There are other lies in Gloria's life. Her first love lied to her, not telling her he was married. Her husband lied to her, leading to the ruin of their marriage. When Gloria again falls in love with a married man, she lives the lie.
Carolyn has created a story about lies that is filled with a lot of truth. There were times when I forgot I was reading fiction, I was so pulled into Gloria's life. I wanted to shake her, I wanted to weep for her, but I loved her and at the end of the book I was happy for her. I would recommend BEYOND THE LIES to anyone who likes watching strong women grow and mature.
All of her life, Gloria had questioned her heritage, but when she asked her parents if she were adopted, they lied until Gloria tricked them into admitting the truth. For most of her adult life, Gloria searched for her biological parents and her own identity. Beyond the Lies is a very well written story, which is well thought out, and will make one question their own heritage.
Reviewed byTamia Dawn Osburn, The Guardian of Paradise, January 2004, Wings-ePress
Gloria Hamilton doesn't resemble her family in looks, or in spirit. When looking in the mirror, the question is always reflected: "Who am I, really?" Carolyn Russell takes us on a 40-year quest to answer Gloria's questions about her family, and the true meaning of love.
_Beyond the Lies_ was an intriguing story, but it left me feeling discontent. The end of the book, despite several dangling possibilities, doesn't answer our heroine's questions. It's very frustrating to say the least, but possibly this was the author's intention. Hopefully there is a sequel in the works.
The elements of the story begin very one-dimensional, and mature along with the main character. It was an ingenious technique, but in third-person, you aren't sure if Russell intends to flesh out the characters until you reach that point.
By the time Gloria reaches high school, scenes in the book get more interesting. Carolyn Russell shows us the strength that will get our heroine through the later years in her life. Other characters are now more developed, and believable.
Later events will try your patience, and your heart. Through relationships, arguments - and still on the search for her true identity - Gloria Hamilton is a very honest character for women. You may not always love her, but you root for her all the same.
Reviewer: Hilary Evans for
The Romance Studio
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