The One Who Got Away – Jessica Strassner

Is your first love an always love? Can your high school sweet heart ever be more than just that?  Can you take your young love on into adulthood some ten years later, picking up where you left off?  These, along with other questions, such as, would you and should you, are just the sort of problems faced by Lucy Wheeler.

We meet Lucy when she is approaching thirty, living with her long term boyfriend and settled in a teaching job.  All is running along just as it should until she returns home for her best friend Kate’s birthday which turns into something of a high school reunion.  Unbeknown to Lucy her childhood sweet heart Jackson is there too.  They haven’t spoken for over ten years since they broke up under a bit of a cloud.  However, they soon discover the chemistry between them hasn’t diminished over time.  Should they pick up where they left off?

The One Who Got Away makes you question whether it is ever right to cheat on someone else, despite what sort of relationship you are in.  It’s a wrestle with your conscience all the way.  A lot depends on whether you believe that the love of your life is about to get away and if the actions of betrayal can be justified.

Lucy and Jackson are both faced with this dilemma.  Lucy is in a rut with her boyfriend and feels they are just going through the motions, whereas Jackson is really an accessory for his wife and pretty much a means to an end.

The story is gently paced which reflects the internal conflicts the characters have and the timescale involved.   It allows you time to get to know Lucy and Jackson.  I felt Lucy’s frustrations and anger with Jackson towards the end and couldn’t understand why he had behaved the way he did.  I loved the scenes and interaction between Jackson and Lucy but wanted to give him a kick up the backside when he was with his wife.

The One Who Got Away was very nicely written and obviously American with it’s terminology and phrasing.  After a while, I found myself reading it with an American accent, probably the wrong one (I can only do one) but I really felt I was there with them.

As the plot unfolded I wasn’t ever sure what was going to happen next or how the relationship between Lucy and Jackson was going to turn out.  I very much enjoyed the story and all the thought provoking questions it posed.

Jess is also on Twitter & Facebook and an Associate Author with http://www.loveahappyending.comand I am very pleased to be one of her Associate Readers

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                                                                                                             An Audience with An Author

I am delighted to welcome Jessica Strassner author of  The One Who Got Away to my new spot An Audience with an Author.  I have recently read and reviewed Jessica’s latest book and as one of her Associate Readers through Love A Happy Ending I took the opportunity to chat to her.

Where did the idea come from for The One Who Got Away?

I’ve always been fascinated by the “What if…?” scenarios in life.  My other book Here We Go was kind of based on that, too.  And everybody has that one person who got away…  But some people look at it differently.  A girlfriend of mine thinks that once you breakup with someone, you should be done with it and move on…  Me, on the other hand, I’ve always been one of those girls who remained friends (for a time) with guys after we dated.  People naturally fade out of your life after awhile anyway, but I figure, if they’re still around and you get along, why not just be friends if it works for you?  Just because you’re not meant to be in a romantic relationship doesn’t mean that you weren’t or couldn’t be good friends.  And of course, sometimes it’s not so easy to just be friends.

Did you know how your novel was going to end or did it evolve as you wrote?

I think deep down I knew how I really wanted it to end, but as I was writing, there were times when I found myself wavering and wondering how it would go in real life.  Then I figured, with real life, you never know – things can go either way.  So when I got down to the final stretch, I was writing like mad to get finished because I was excited about the ending… and the possibility of there being more to the story in the future.

In the book Lucy is a school teacher, as you are  yourself, are there any other similarities between you two?
We both teach 4th grade, love to eat cereal, and are pretty much addicted to our cell phones!
Lucy and Jackson have to make some difficult decisions, did you find it easy to make these choices for them?
I think as I was planning, I didn’t want them to make any big decisions right away… I wanted them to kind of rebuild their friendship and have it change and grow into something else while the rest of their lives were carrying on like normal, so that eventually, there was no denying it – they’d just have to deal with it.  And I didn’t want it to be easy for them – nothing’s ever easy!
There is a moral dilemma in your book, did you intend this or is the focus more about finding happiness and true love?
I wanted Lucy and Jackson to be caught in the middle of this confusing situation, and deal with it in a way where you still kind of rooted for them.  Sure, people would disagree with their actions, but I didn’t want them to come off as dirty or sleazy, or these terrible, awful people… I wanted them to seem like normal people who get caught up in something and have to make some difficult decisions.  I had a friend tell me she was kind of disappointed to see what had happened in the book, that she didn’t expect me to write about anything like that… but why not?  It happens, and people deal with it in different ways.  My story is just one way of looking at what might happen.
Which part did you find most difficult to write and which part came easy?
All of it!  Ha ha, does that answer your question?  I felt like I had the story pretty much all planned out, to the point where I could almost kind of hear the words in my head as if I was reading them aloud (oh my gosh, that makes me sound crazy!) while I was planning…  So in that respect, it was easy.  Then sometimes I’d sit down in front of the computer and have a hard time typing out the words, even though the ideas were all there, mapped out, and ready to go!
The One Who Got Away has several settings, Miami, New York and Las Vegas – have you been to these places?
I’ve been to all of them, although I’m not some glam world traveler or anything by any means!  I’ve been to Miami, vacationed in Vegas, and I just visited NYC this summer.  I would love to go back to New York… I saw as much as I could when I was there, but there’s so much that I missed!
Do you have a favourite part in the book?
Hmm. I would have to say Vegas. Although, so I don’t give anything away, I’ll just say “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” And if anybody wants to know more, they’ll have to read the book! 😉
Lucy has very supportive family and friends – have you received a lot of support for your writing?
Yes, I have!  When I finished my first novel Here We Go, some of my family and friends were my first readers and fans.  My mom and brother have researched self-publishing pointers and tips for me and have let me bend their ears when it comes to discussingpublishing, promoting my books, and future sales.  My mom also helps with proofreading.  I’ve had a few friends read a couple chapters at a time to get their reactions to the story as I’m writing it.  It’s great motivation to hear somebody say, “Oh my gosh!  You have to write more so I know what happens next!”
What age group do you teach?  Do they know you write? What do your students and their parents think to you writing?
I teach 4th grade, ages 9-10.  I’ve always let my students know that I love writing, because it’s a big part of our curriculum.  A few years back, I was participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and explained it to my students.  Every day, they’d ask me how many words I’d written the night before, and we’d add up my total word count and see how many words I had left to write before the end of the month, so I turned it into a mini math lesson!   Last year, I mentioned to my students hat I was writing a book (for grownups!!!) as a way to maybe motivate them and get them thinking beyond just writing for their daily assignments and essays.  Then I actually had a parent come up to me to tell me her daughter (a student in another class, not even one of my own students!) was reading my book on her Nook.  The mom didn’t know what kind of book it was.  Whoops!  So I’m not making it very well known anymore.
You are an Associate Author with Love A Happy Ending how did you become involved with them?
I decided to use Twitter as a way to connect with other writers, agents, and readers.  Awhile back, I was contacted by LAHE and asked to take a look at the plan for an interactive reader-author group to see if it was something I would be interested in being a part of.  I had never heard of anything like LAHE before and thought it was a great idea, so I felt really excited (honored, even!) to have been asked to join the group.  It’s a great foot in the door for self-published authors like me who don’t have an agent to point them in the right direction, or a promotional budget for all of their marketing.  Now I have a team of readers, fellow authors, and friends who can give me advice and support when it comes to reviewing and promoting my books.  It’s been wonderful.  I would say it has definitely increased my readership, because the authors and associates at LAHE went from being complete strangers to readers and reviewers of my work.  Even a few people in the UK have read my books, which astounds me.  I’m not sure they would have ever found me in the sea of e-books out there if it weren’t for LAHE!
Are we likely to see Lucy and Jackson again?
Yes!!!  I’m writing my third book (untitled at the moment) and it’s going really well!  I’m very excited about this book and am having a lot of fun with it.  Lucy and Jackson are friends of the main character, Kate, so you’ll see them a lot.  Kate is a wedding planner who is convinced that the only weddings she will ever plan will be for her clients.  She’s tired of watching friends and customers get married and move on to the next phase of their lives while she’s still single, so she starts scoping out the men in her life to see who might be a good catch.  Let’s just say, it’s not working out so well for her… but she’s having a good time!    And while this book tells the story of Kate’s hunt for a great man, it’s also a continuation of Lucy and Jackson’s story, as well.
Author Book Shelf Questions
What is your favourite book?
Such a difficult question!!!  I like to read as much as I like to write.  I’m going to go with Love the One You’re With by Emily Giffin.  It’s about a girl who bumps into an old flame and has to deal with having him in her life again, a lot like my two books.  When I first read it, I was writing my first novel and all I could think was “I hope someday, somebody likes reading my books the way I enjoyed this one!”
What book are you reading at the moment?
I just started Hollywood Scandals by Gemma Halliday.  I think it’s a freebie on Kindle and Sony ereader!
What book is waiting to be read?
I have a lot of books waiting to be read… the ones by my fellow authors!  (I’m hoping I get a Kindle for Christmas!)
What book should you have read but never have?
I started Anna Karenina awhile back… and I just couldn’t get into it.  I’ve read Austen, Bronte, Chopin, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Hemingway… but one of these days, I am going to have to give Mr. Tolstoy another chance!
Check out the trailer for The One Who Got Away
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Love and Freedom – Sue Moorcroft

I was very much looking forward to reading Love & Freedom and enjoyed every word of it.  As always with Sue Moorcroft, the characters seem so real, complete with faults which only serve to bring them to life.  The story temps and teases you to read on and although you can be pretty certain of a satisfying ending, how you get there is the whole fun of it.

The heroine Honor arrives in Brighton to escape difficulties back home in the USA, with a vague idea of finding her birth mother.   Here she meets the utterly gorgeous and totally ‘wantable’ Martyn Mayfair and although they are attracted to each other, both have their own problems, hang ups and family members, well meaning or otherwise, set to hinder the progression of their relationship.

And this is what this book is about in many ways – relationships. Other characters in the book have their own problems relationship wise in one form or another and this theme is superbly woven through the story line in many layers.

I have always liked Sue Moorcroft’s novels, especially those set in the fens, having lived there myself so when Love & Freedom came along, set in Brighton I was delighted as I know the city well, living just along the coast from it for many years now.  Sue really brings to life the small communities within and around the large city, capturing the spirit of The Lanes with their lovely little shops and special atmosphere.  When the story briefly visited Arundel I was even more pleased, another beautiful town where I have worked and still visit often.

The title of the book is great, but you will have to read the book to understand why and Martyn Mayfair, whose surname couldn’t be more perfect, is simply to die for. &

His Other Lover – Lucy Dawson

Okay, you live with your long term boyfriend.  You have a great relationship. Everything is ticking over just fine with marriage, children and happy ever after practically a done deal.  Or is it?

His Other Lover puts a whole new spin on the bunny boiler story and I was hooked from the very first page.  I read it in one day whilst travelling back from holiday and really enjoyed it.

Mia lives with Pete and as far as she is aware their relationship is rock steady but her world is turned upside down when she accidently discovers a suspicious text from a Liz.  Thrown into turmoil Mia doesn’t automatically deal with this in the most obvious way.

I totally ‘got’ Mia and how she reacted and although I wouldn’t have as much nerve as her I really rallied behind her.  Her emotions are shown brilliantly throughout the story – you can really feel her angst, her desperation and heartbreak. I felt a lot of  empathy for Mia from the start and as I read on, I noticed and understood the gentle and gradual shift in her emotions, almost causing me to switch allegiance by the end of the book.

The ending – I think I got it, although not immediately.  It wasn’t what I expected or necessarily wanted, leaving me feeling dissatisfied initially but the more I mulled it over, the more I accepted it.  Maybe I felt the same frustrations of the situation as the characters in this entanglement did – if this was intentional, then Lucy Dawson has done an even better job than I first thought.

As for Pete, well, did he or didn’t he?  That is the burning question.

Breaking The Ice – Mandy Baggot

An agoraphobic, virginal box office attendant who is prone to panic attacks and insecurities meets a recovering alcoholic, celebrity ice-skating sensation, with their only common ground being the dying Civic Hall, doesn’t immediately strike you as a recipe for an entertaining and romantic read but Mandy Baggot pulls it off well with a light touch . The problems are dealt with in an easy way, keeping the story light hearted and fun without digging so deep that they become overbearing.

Breaking the Ice follows Samantha Smith, a shy 24 year old who has more issues than the back catalogue of ‘Hello’ magazine and whose entire life revolves around the running of the Civic Hall. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to cope with Samantha and her nerves for an entire novel, but as I read on I got to understand her anxieties and quirky reactions to stressful situations, making me warm to her.

Jimmy Lloyd, heart throb ice-skater was cool, down to earth, sexy and utterly ‘wantable’ despite his public image, previous track record and rehab visit. He is patient and understanding of Samantha and her issues. Through their joint efforts to keep the Civic Hall open, the story moves on and it becomes apparent that they have more in common than they think. Aware of this, Jimmy just needs to convince Samantha to believe in herself and to trust him.

Samantha’s older sister, Cleo is outgoing and flirty, her rather full sex life the polar opposite to Samantha’s. However, ultimately both women are looking for the same thing, although they may not necessarily know it.

The relationship between Samantha and Jimmy is set against the backdrop of the Civic Hall being closed and the skating tour performing there. Samantha’s safe and secure world is threatened while Jimmy’s comeback is not a bed of roses with behind the scenes tension and a plot against him.

Can the Civic Hall be saved?

Can Samantha overcome her panic attacks and allow herself to love?

Can Jimmy fight his demons and win?

Can Cleo find love amongst her lovers?

Read Breaking the Ice to find the answers in an entertaining, feel good and easy to read novel.

Mandy is also on Twitter & Facebook