Barefoot Season (Blackberry Island Series #1)

Barefoot Season (Blackberry Island Series #1)

by Susan Mallery

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780778313380
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 03/27/2012
Series: Blackberry Island Series , #1
Edition description: Original
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 158,953
Product dimensions: 5.44(w) x 8.06(h) x 1.01(d)

About the Author


Susan Mallery is the New York Times bestselling author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction novels with heart and humor. Her funny and sexy family stories have been named to Booklist's Top 10 Romance Novels lists of 2007, 2008, and 2009.

Mallery's gift for writing humor and tenderness make all her books true gems. -Romantic Times

Romance novels don’t get much better than Mallery's expert blend of emotional nuance, humor and superb storytelling. -Booklist

Read an Excerpt

"I'm going off to war tomorrow. I might not make it back."

Michelle Sanderson slowly pulled her attention from the five-year-old truck she was thinking of buying and focused it on the guy standing next to her.

He was a kid—maybe eighteen or nineteen, with red hair and freckles. Cute enough but way too young. Still stuck with too-long arms and legs and a chest that had yet to fill out. More man than boy, she supposed, but not yet done with the transition.

"I'm sorry," she said, sure she must have misunderstood. "What did you say?"

He gave her a wide grin and a wink. "I may not have long in this life. After you buy the truck, we could go get a drink or something. Celebrate me going into the army."

"It's two in the afternoon."

"Then we could head back to my place."

Michelle didn't know whether she should start laughing or tell him he was an idiot in terms that would make him cry like a little girl. The latter would be easy enough. She'd served ten years in the army, nearly half of them in either Iraq or Afghanistan. She'd had to deal with more than her share of horny young guys who assumed they were irresistible. She'd gotten really good at showing them they were wrong.

Laughing would be a bit tougher. Mostly because every part of her hurt. Not just her hip, which had the excuse of a recent run-in with a couple of bullets from armed insurgents, followed by a partial joint replacement, but the rest of her. She'd spent more time than she even wanted to think about in the hospital. Healing happened in its own time, her physical therapist had told her. She'd tried to beat the odds, which had netted her nothing more than an extra three nights in the hospital before she'd finally been released.

"Aren't I a little old for you?" she asked.

He gave her a wink. "Experienced."

Despite the pain, she managed a chuckle. "Yeah, right. Looking to have your fantasies fulfilled?"

"You know it."

He was so eager, she thought, feeling more weary by the second. And obviously he hadn't passed the vision test yet. She knew she wasn't at her best. Her pale, too-thin body gave away the length of time she'd been in a hospital bed. Her eyes were hollow, her color too gray to be considered normal. She had a cane to help her walk. Which just went to show how powerful a young man's hormones could be.

Before she could figure out how to pass on his invitation, a yellow Lab came bounding around the side of the house. The animal raced up to her and jumped. Michelle took a quick step back to avoid being knocked over. The movement put pressure on her hip and fiery pain shot through her.

For a second, the world spun. She felt herself starting to black out. Nausea threatened. One or the other, she thought desperately, fighting to stay present. Not both. A surprisingly strong arm wrapped around her body, holding her in place. "Buster, get down."

She blinked and the cool, damp afternoon returned to focus. The fire in her hip banked enough to allow her to breathe. The kid stood so close she could see the freckles across his nose and a small scar on his right cheek.

"You okay?" he asked.

She nodded.

He stepped back and studied her. The dog stayed back, his eyes dark with worry, a low whine indicating his concern.

She held out her hand to the dog. "It's okay, Buster. I'm fine."

The dog stepped forward and sniffed her fingers before giving them a quick lick.

"Hey, I wanted to do that," the kid said, managing a shaky laugh.

Michelle smiled. "Sorry. He's more my type."

"You're hurt."

She raised the cane slightly. "Did you think this was a fashion accessory?"

"I didn't notice it, really."

Which proved her theory about his poor vision. "Just a flesh wound." Actually flesh, bone and a few tendons, but why get into the details?

He looked from her to the army-issue duffels on the sidewalk, to the cane and then back into her eyes. "Were you there?" he asked.

"There" could have been a hundred places, but she knew what he meant. She nodded.

"Sweet. What was it like? Were you scared? Do you think…?" He swallowed, then flushed. "Can I make it, you think?"

She wanted to tell him no. That staying home, being with his friends, going to college, would be so much easier. Safer. More comfortable. But the easy way often wasn't the best way, and for some, being a part of something meaningful was worth any price.

Her reasons for joining had been far less altruistic, but over time she'd been molded into a soldier. The trick was going to be figuring out how to find her way back.

"You'll be fine," she said, hoping she was telling the truth.

"A hero?" he asked with a grin, then slapped his hand against the truck. "Okay, you've done your best to confuse me by being sexy and a war vet. But I'm not going to be distracted. I want ten thousand. Not a penny less."

Sexy? That did make her laugh. At this stage in her life she would have trouble qualifying as a trophy girlfriend for a man pushing ninety. But hey, a compliment was always nice to hear.

She turned her attention to the truck. It was in decent shape, with relatively new tires and only a few dents. The mileage was low enough to allow her to get a few years out of the thing before she would have to start replacing parts.

"Ten's crazy high," she said. "I'm paying cash. I'm thinking closer to eight."

"Eight?" He clutched his hands to his chest. "You're killin' me. You really going to do that to a future hero?"

She chuckled. "Come on, kid. We'll take her for a drive and swing by a mechanic friend of mine. If he says the truck is good, I'll give you nine-five and you can call it a win."

"You've got a deal."

Two hours later, Michelle let the guy—Brandon—off at his place. A mechanic she knew on the base had given her the thumbs-up on the truck and she'd handed over an ordered stack of crisp bills. In return she'd collected paperwork and keys.

Now, as she pulled away from Brandon's house, she eyed the gray sky. She was back in western Washington state, where rain was so prevalent that a day of sunshine was the lead story on the local news. Leaving luggage in the open was taking a risk and she'd dropped her two duffels in the back. She decided the clouds looked more lazy than ominous. Her duffels should be safe enough on the drive home.

Home. It was a long way from where she'd spent the past ten years. Blackberry Island, an actual island in Puget Sound, connected to the mainland by a long bridge, might technically be within commuting distance of Seattle, but it was a world away. The single town on the island billed itself as the "New England of the West Coast." A selling point she'd never understood.

Quiet, touristy, with quaint stores and a slower pace of life, the island celebrated all things blackberry. There were silly traditions and a rhythm to the seasons that had always seemed annoyingly out of step. At least before. But what she once hadn't appreciated now seemed appealing to her.

She shifted on her seat, the pain in her hip as constant as ever. The physical therapists had sworn it would get better, that she was healing quicker than they'd expected. She was already bored with the recovery process—it took too damn long. But there was no rushing her body along.

She found her way to the main road, then onto the freeway. She headed north, merging with the traffic. The number of cars surprised her. Their orderly progress. She was used to Hummers and assault vehicles, not SUVs and sports cars. The damp, cool air was also something she'd forgotten. She switched on the heater and wished she'd thought to pull out a jacket. It didn't matter that it was May. Seasons were for sissies.

Summer came late to this part of the country. Fortunately, the tourists came early.

She knew what to expect over the next four months. Starting with Memorial Day and going through Labor Day, the island would be crawling with visitors. They came for the boating, the famous Puget Sound cranes and for the blackberries. Blackberry Island was the you-know-what capital of, well, the West Coast. Vacationers would crowd the restaurants, buying all sorts of knickknacks and handmade items. And they would eat blackberries.

They would put fresh blackberries on their pancakes, in salads, on or in nearly every type of food known to man. They would purchase blackberry ice cream from vendors and blackberry cookies from kiosks. They would buy tea towels and mugs with blackberry motifs and taste the dubious results of the annual blackberry-chili cook-off. Best of all, they would fill every room in a fifty-mile radius. Including the rooms at the Blackberry Island Inn.

Michelle could practically hear the happy hum of the inn's bank balance filling. Like most businesses on the island, the inn made most of its annual income during those precious four months. The days would be long, the hours endless, the work backbreaking, but after being gone for so long, she was eager to dive back in. To return to the one place she could count on never to change.

"Is she here yet?"

Damaris asked the question from the doorway to Carly Williams's office.

Carly looked up from the welcome card she'd been making. Part of what the Blackberry Island Inn offered guests was personalized service. She found out about her guests before they arrived, then put a handmade welcome card in their room.

The Banners, an older couple who had come to bird-watch and do some wine tasting, had mentioned how much they loved the water. Carly had made sure they were in a west-facing room and was creating a card that featured a photo of Blackberry Bay at sunset.

Bits of ribbon and lace were spread across her blotter. A glue stick sat upright, next to her battered tweezers. She absently rubbed at a tiny square of glitter on the back of her hand.

"She's not here," she told Damaris, then gave her a smile. "I said I'd let you know when she arrived."

Damaris sighed. Her glasses had drifted down her nose, giving her an absent air. More than one newly hired server had assumed her slightly scattered appearance meant that she wouldn't notice if an employee was late or didn't offer more coffee the second a sip was taken. All mistakes that were later regretted.

"I thought she'd be here by now," Damaris admitted. "I've missed her so much. It's been too long."

"It has," Carly murmured, not wanting to think about how her life would be altered when Michelle returned. Reminding herself that she'd been the injured party didn't stop her stomach from churning.

Everything was different now, she told herself. She was capable, and for the past three months she'd been the one running the inn. She was a valued asset to the inn. If only Michelle would see it that way.

Damaris moved into her office and took the chair on the other side of the desk.

"I still remember when she hired me," the fiftysomething cook said with a sigh. "She was what? Sixteen? I had children older than her. She sat right where you are. So scared. I could see she was shaking." Her lined mouth turned up in a smile.

"She'd checked a book on interviewing out of the library. She'd tried to hide it under some papers, but I saw it."

The smile faded as the dark eyes narrowed. "Her mother should have been the one taking care of things, but it was never like that. Michelle loved this place."

Carly drew in a breath. She and Damaris had argued plenty of times about mother and daughter. Carly was willing to admit Brenda had her flaws, but she'd been the one who had rescued Carly. Given her a job and purpose. Carly owed her. As for Michelle…

"I hope she's happy with the changes," Carly said, by way of distraction. The band of tension around her chest was already tight enough that she had to consciously relax in order to draw in a full breath. She didn't need more stress in her life right now. "You've told her what we've done, haven't you?"

"I write her every month," Damaris said with a sniff. "Not that her mother ever did."

So much for diverting anyone, Carly thought. But she wasn't going to give up. "Your blackberry scones are so popular with the guests. I've been wondering about offering packages of them for sale on Sunday morning. So our guests could take some home with them. What do you think? Would it be too much work?"

Damaris relaxed in her chair. "I could bake more. It wouldn't be difficult."

"We could sell them in packages of four and eight. Use some of that decorative plastic wrap we bought."

Damaris already knew the cost of each scone, so calculating a price was easy enough. Carly wanted to include a recipe card with the scones, but knew better than to ask. Damaris protected her recipes the way tiger moms protected their cubs—with teeth, claws and intimidation.

"I'm going to check to see if she's here," Damaris said as she rose.

Carly nodded, then reluctantly followed her out of the office. Little about the inn would stay the same now—there was no way to deny it, although she'd give it her best effort. Brenda was gone and Michelle was back. That was enough to shift the dynamics, but there were also complications. Ten years away would change anyone, so Carly knew Michelle would be different. The question was, how different? People didn't always evolve in a positive way.

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Barefoot Season 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 108 reviews.
RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Reviewed By~Stacey Review Copy Provided By~Arc By Author Best friends; you love each other, you hate each other. It’s all part of life. In Susan Mallery’s soon-to-be released “Barefoot Season” we meet two former best friends who have so much hostility toward one another that it was hard to like them or imagine why anyone would want to be friends with them in the first place! I have to admit, I am a die-hard Susan Mallery romance fan. I’ve read them all – twice! As with last year’s Best of Friends, Susan takes us through the story that does have romantic elements but the main plot deals with the difficult relationships between family and friends. In previous books, she presents realistic struggles between friends, family and lovers and Barefoot Season is no exception. The animosity between Michelle and Carly is palpable on every page and at times I wished that they would just scream it out and move on. Everything in its own time. Not only is Michelle recovery from the horrors of war and an injury, she returns home after her mother’s death to find her beloved inn in financial ruins. Add to that the fact that Carly is running the inn and the two are forced to work together. Carly’s a single mom struggling with a lifetime of lies and just wanting a chance at a normal life but with Michelle back in town, she finds it difficult to look at the future when the past is still hanging over her head. Along the way other relationships form and, as she does so well, we get that taste of romance that Susan Mallery writes so well. If I had one complaint it was that I would have liked to see a little bit more of the development of these relationships; I think it could have been interesting to watch the romantic relationships evolve and how those relationships come to help Carly and Michelle with their own friendship. All in all, Barefoot Season is a wonderful read. Once I started, I could not put it down. While not your typical romance, there’s still enough for even the most devout fan. For those of you looking for a good book to use with your book club, Susan has even included questions for discussion at the end. Being that we all have had best friends, this story has a lot to offer to a group discussion setting. I love an author who is in tune with her readers!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Easy reading, kept my interest throughout the book-finished it in one evening.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellant start to a new series ! Can't wait for the next one. I found all the characters interesting, even the dog and cat. This book is more intense than any of the other Susan Mallery books I've read. I loved it.
Ozzy12 More than 1 year ago
Loved it. Great book, great story. I was very entertained.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I truly loved this book..... It's a great story line, about forgiveness and starting over .... I loved it ... tears and laughter....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Michelle is a strong, independent woman, but on the inside, she is still the wounded girl who fled home years ago. A young army vet, Michelle returns to the quaint Blackberry Island Inn to claim her inheritance and recover from the perils of war. Instead, she finds the owner's suite occupied by the last person she wants to see - her rival enemy, Carly. Once inseparable, until a shocking betrayal destroyed their friendship. And now Carly is implicated in the financial disaster lurking behind the inn's cheerful veneer. A great read! Enjoyed the setting centered around the inn as in the hotel business. Great characters and hope to see a series and would love to see more of Carly and Sam, and Michelle and Jared.
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
Review: Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery 4 STARS Barefoot Season is the first Blackberry Island novel. It is a complex storyline with a little romance in it. A couple of love scenes. I like the questions about the book in the back. Michelle has been away from her home on Blackberry Island at the hotel thats been in her family for a couple of years. She has been in the army and deployed over thier 3 times and come back wounded. Her mother has died three months ago and really blamed her for everything. She finds her former bestfriend Carly running the inn and living in her apartment with her daughter at the inn. Michelle and Carly were close until thier senior year when Michelle's father left her mother to runaway with Carly's mother. Carly and Michelle's mother both blamed her for thier running away. Both Michelle and Carly loved the same guy who two days before the wedding slep with Michelle and Carly walked in on them. Carly pregant still married him and Michelle ran away and enlisted. Michelle is suffering physcally and emotionly from the war. She also finds that the hotel has grown and now as two morgages on it. The day she got back she fired Carly when she found her living in her former room. Carly is scared for the future. She found out that Michelle's mother had lied to her for years telling her that she will be earning up to half of the hotel. It was never hers to promise that. She had been working for peanuts because of that promise of a better future for her and her daughter. Her husband Alan had left before the baby came and took all her money with her. she would lose her job and her daughters only home. So she did not leave as Michelle told her too. The bank officer is making Michelle keep Carly on for two years to run the hotel and if Michelle can't bring the morgages current will have to forfit the hotel. Thier has already been an offer for the hotel. The characters were complex at least Michelle and Carly are. They have real problems to work through. The romance of the book seems rushed and could have had a bigger part of the story than it did. I was surprised at some of the developments in the story. Like Gabby and Chance a lot. Wonder if I missed exactly why Michelle really hates daisies. I was given this ebook to read in exchange of honest review from Netgalley. 03/17/2012 PUB Harlequin Mira
NavyVeteran More than 1 year ago
Being a veteran of VietNam, I can relate to this story, as I'm sure most veterans could. This is the story of a woman who was injured in Irag and returns home to run a family bed and breakfast. She knew the woman who was running the inn in her absence, but did not like her at all, after being best friends through their high school years. The reasons for their now no longer even speaking relationship is well described and how it takes shape is very well told. The whole story is a well written story about relationships, deceit and love and is well worth reading. I know you will enjoy it. As a female veteran, is how I relate to this novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anothet wonderful stiry
BooksnKisses More than 1 year ago
For those of you that are fans of Susan Mallery’s and have become obsessed with her Fool’s Gold series (like myself) the first thing you realize is this is not the “Land of Happy Endings”. But Blackberry Island will have you wanting to visit all the same. Michelle left her home 10 years ago after her life fell apart and she lost everyone she cared about including and probably most importantly her best friend Carly. Now Michelle returns from serving her country batter and bruised in more ways then one. She was shot in the hip and what she wants is a little bit of R&R (rest and recovery) at home on Blackberry Island. She needs a place to heal both physically and emotionally. However as the saying goes “you can never go home again”. When she returns to the Inn that was given to her by her father and was in trust until her mother died a few months ago she finds that everything has been changed and none of it for the good. And the worst part is that Carly has had a hand in all of it. Carly has been running the inn under the assumption that she would grow into becoming a partner but when Michelle’s mother passes she learns the 10 years she has spent working her tail off was for nothing. Her biggest fear is losing her job and being homeless with her 9 year old daughter. She would do anything for her daughter. Even work beside Michelle, the woman who betrayed her so many years ago. This book is not about romance but about relationships. The relationship between friends, parents and men and how having them and losing them define who we are. Usually when reading a romance you read both the man and woman point of view but this is about Michelle and Carly. This is their story and while romance is on the horizon it is not the focus of this novel. It is about lifelong friendships and how the decisions we make effect us for the rest of our lives. The book is also a look into the healing of a returning soldier but this time that soldier is a female which is different then so many novels out now. This is an incredible book told about women by a woman and meant to be read by every woman. We have all had that friendship we thought would last a lifetime. But for Carly and Michelle it didn’t.. or did it? Do not miss this book and while you are picking up this book pick up Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series... You will not be disappointed!
thehistorychic on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Read in March, 2012Received for ReviewOverall Rating: 4.50Story Rating: 4.50Character Rating: 4.50First thought when finished: This is definitely at the top of my favorite Women's Fiction stories.What I Loved: Barefoot Season managed to do so many things to me while reading: I laughed, cried, rooted for reconciliation, and got fighting mad during the middle. I am not usually a fan of women's fiction but if there were more like this I would gobble them up by the handfuls. I identified with both lead characters: Michelle in the beginning and Carly at the end. There was so much to love about their characters and the development around both of them. I dare you to read this and not want to simultaneously hug and sock both of them (at different times). The secondary characters were just as strong and important to the story. Susan did a great job of not letting them overwhelm Michelle and Carly's story but they did support it in a fantastic way.What I Liked: I really liked the B&B. It was the perfect setting for this wonderful story of friendships, heartaches, and growth. You could feel the B&B working with the story and almost feeling like a character itself.Final Thought: This a fantastic story and one that will stick with you long after your finished reading.Felicia Extra Note: I am not usually a fan of women's fiction---I stop/start (DNF) more books in this genre more than any other. However, this is one that I would read again. In fact, I read the last 3 chapters 3 times because it was just a moving and fulfilling ending. I highly recommend this story to anyone who has had friendships that have been lost, gone through hard times, or is embarking on reconciliation with a friend. It truly left me thinking about miscommunication and things that happen in friendships to drive them apart!
Glenajo on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Mallery¿s Best Yet, by FarMichelle Sanderson returns to her post army service life of running her family owned inn. The Inn is now hers only, but there are a massive number of problems. The problems include a bullet wound that caused a partial hip replacement, the recent death of her mother, and the current manager of the inn, Carly Williams. Carly and her daughter now live in the owner's suite at the Inn where Michelle grew up, and where Carly discovered Michelle in bed with her fiancé two days before Carly¿s wedding. Michelle has to recover from her wound and PTSD, while Carly has to learn to deal with Michelle, her daughter, and a mother that ran off and left her alone with an alcoholic father. I loved this book. The characters are so alive, and the situations believable since the fallout of the actions of selfish people affect those around them in a myriad of ways. The story pulls at the reader as Michelle and Carly struggle to work out the repercussions of the actions of their parents, along with Michelle's difficulty in transitioning back to civilian life. I would definitely rate this a top read for the year in contemporary women's novels and recommend it for anyone looking for more depth in a novel without a huge side of depression.Received Galley from NetGalley.com
Cats57 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Barefoot Season (Blackberry Island) by Susan MalleryNormally Ms Mallery writes romance. I¿ve read many things by her and liked them but was never really blown away by them; at least until today when I finished this novel. While the main characters may end up with their `happily ever after¿ like any other romance, the road to the HEA is not what a romance reader is used to. Actually, I think it is selling this book short to classify it as a `romance¿. It is so much more and so much better than a traditional romance and I will be recommending this book to anyone and everyone! Based on the premise of this novel I think it will appeal to both men and women who appreciate a finely told story.Michelle is finally coming home after 10 years serving in the army. Wounded and shaken, she is coming back to claim her inheritance, an inn that had been left to her by her father. She is also coming back to some very unpleasant surprises; ones that in her fragile condition she may not be able to handle.Carly, once Michelle¿s best friend and now an enemy of sorts, has always thought that part of the inn was going to be hers. After all, she has worked there for ten years and Brenda, Michelle¿s mother, who was running the inn, promised her a percentage of it supposedly in lieu of a larger salary. Now they find out the inn is in horrible financial trouble and must work together if they want to save it. Really, what this story is all about is so many different things. It is complex and filled with irony. Small town gossip that will never die is just the tip of the iceberg. Michelle has PTSD and is not coping with it very well. Mostly she is using alcohol to help. Everyone knows she needs help but of course, Michelle is resistant. This was very powerful stuff. The tumble, however briefly into the abyss made me look at the female part of our service people in a whole new way. This book really grabbed me by the throat and would not let me go until I finished it. Ms Mallery did some very fine research (see the acknowledgments) and it shows.This is a highly recommended book and I think you will enjoy not only what it has to say to us about letting go of the past, but the humor that underlies the horror of what Michelle has gone through and will continue to go through. That bit of humor made this an easy book to get lost in.
SharonR53 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
I really enjoyed this book. It seems as though I have read many books recently where the heroine is supporting her wounded or psychologically damaged man but this time the wounded warrior is the heroine! Michelle is an interesting character as she is physically and emotionally damaged and we should instantly like her. But she is also nasty and vindictive and at first not really likable.Carly, the other main character in the series is also all of the things we normally admire; plucky single mom wronged by her husband and best friend, but she too has sides to her that are not very admirable. Both of these women have pasts that cause them to dislike each other but they also have a long friendship seems to be sorely needed by both of them.When Michelle returns to run the inn her father left her years ago, she has just been discharged from a military hospital, and nothing is what she expected. Her recently deceased mother has run up the bills, added lots of unneeded parts to the inn and left Michelle¿s former best friend in charge. Michelle has every intention of giving Carly the boot, but circumstances force the two women together. There have been betrayals on both sides and neither woman is ready to forgive let alone forget.Ms. Mallery does a wonderful job of portraying two women in an awkward situation who have to just suck it up and get on with their lives. The reader thinks they know all of the reasons why they hate each other but we really only know the surface issue until halfway through the book. Both women need to find a way to coexist and put the past behind them. Michelle is dealing with PTSD and teetering on the edge of alcoholism. Her relationship with her landlord Jared is perfectly done- no Mr. Right jumping in and solving all of her problems right away. She has to work on getting better before the relationship. Carly also has to look at her priorities when a possible romance comes her way and not make the same bad decisions she has before. There are some interesting secondary characters who provide a little villainy to the story but primarily the story revolves around Michelle and Carly which works very well. I am not sure if this is the start to a series but I would definitely enjoy another visit to Blackberry Island (Daisies and all) !
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Reading it for book club. Not really my style as I prefer murder or adventure. Good for a lazy summer afternoon.
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I want to give my thoughts of this book in words, just words. But, first I wanted to say that it wasn't what I expected at all. Here are the words: Intense, Selfishness, betrayal, suffering, forgiveness, healing, joy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this after I read "Three Sisters". Fairly predictable but easy reading.
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