More by Keren Hughes
Author: Keren Hughes
Cover Designer: Ashley Byland from Redbird Designs
Release Date: July 19th
Cover Model: Amanda Renee
Drake Anderson is all the man Annalise Duncan ever wantedâ¦
Annalise has it all. The perfect husband. The perfect son. The perfect life. After the father of her son Ayden abandoned her to be a single parent, she finally felt like she hit the romance jackpot. Her boss, Drake Anderson, turned out to be more than just a friend. Heâs the love of her life, and an amazing stepfather to her son.
But the picture perfect marriage is merely an illusionâ¦
After seven wonderful years, Drake leaves. He doesnât give her a reason, or even the courtesy of a return phone call. Six months go by without even a single acknowledgement. Annalise is devastated. Her heart and soul belonged to Drake, and he was the only father Ayden ever knew. Sheâd dedicated her life to him and the family they built together, and she isnât willing to let that dream go easily.
When Annalise spots Drake out at a cafÃ© with a woman, her heart shatters all over again. But itâs not what Annalise thinks. He isnât cheating on her. There are things about leaving that Drake just canât or wonât explain. Some things should remain a secret.
He wants his old life back, but Annalise wonât accept anything but the truthâ¦
Drake has to find a way to convince his wife, his Cariad, to take him back, but it may mean facing a truth he wanted to keep hidden. He must prove to Annalise that despite his past, he wants herâ¦
Real women aren’t perfect, not even close.
Real women struggle with everything from nail polish to career choices to figuring out who they really are. Real women teeter on the balance beam between nice and sassy, between saying “yes” and saying “no.” Real women change their minds, question their decisions, search for the meaning of life, and rarely find all of the answers written in the sky. Real women don’t face choices that are black and white, choices with a clearly correct answer. Real women learn quickly life is messy, complicated, beautiful, and disastrous, sometimes at the same exact moment.
Real women know love is a gorgeous catastrophe. It’s full of heart “wowing” moments, of moments to live and breathe for. It’s full of explosion worthy pain, of difficult goodbyes, of trying to forget. Real women fall in and out of love, then back in again. Real women change their minds.
As a fan of contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and chick lit, I want to see myself in the stories. I want to see a woman and say, “That could be me,” or “I get her.” I want my characters to be complex and challenging and quirky.
Most of all, I want them to be real.
Thus, as a writer in these genres, I strive to write women I would want to read about… real women. I write about women who don’t have it all figured out. I write about women who struggle with choices, who sometimes swear, who have female rivals they think catty things about. I write about women who seem to have it all but who are unhappy. I write about women who have to decide between their career and love, between friendship and love, between freedom and love. I write about women who are accountants and teachers and business owners and hair stylists and dog walkers and everything else a woman might want to be. I write about women who love the color pink. I write about women who hate the color pink. I write about all types of women, twentysomethings to eightysomethings.
Most of all, I write about women who are real.
Real women aren’t perfect, not even close. Thus, my characters aren’t perfect, not even close. They make bad decisions. They struggle. They change their minds. They change them again.
Literature worth reading should show the reader a glimpse of herself, should allow her to be, even if just for a page, in the story.
My biggest dream, my biggest goal I hope to achieve, is to write like this.
Real characters for real women.
That’s my writing goal.
Weekend Read: Then Comes Love
Three generations of women, Three second loves, All with a dose of chaos mixed in.
Sometimes in life, changes can be good…
After losing her husband, her five cats, and her home, Charlotte Noel hates feeling dependent. As Charlotte tries to find her identity in this new stage of life, she comes to realize that drama never ends, dance aerobics can be a war zone, and love is always a possibility.
You never know when a midlife crisis is going to strike…
Charlotte’s daughter, Annie, is going through struggles of her own. Recently divorced, she is feeling frumpy and worn-out. Run ragged, Annie mourns her youth and wonders where her life is headed, all while hoping she can help her daughter Amelia get it together.
Settling down can be overrated, especially when you’re falling for a rock star look-alike…
Amelia is the wild child of the family. Working three jobs, because she just hasn’t figured out what she wants in life, she realizes happiness isn’t always settling down with a steady, dependable man; sometimes it’s about following your true passion and living on the edge.
No matter what age you are, life and love can be crazy…
Pick Then Comes Love as your weekend read and find yourself in the story.
Martin Pistorius: Ghost Boy
My coffee is cold. My coffee spilled. I can’t find my favorite shoes. I’m tired. I don’t want to get out of bed. The cat barfed on my shoe. The water in the shower was too cold. I’m tired of eating this cereal.
How many times do you complain before you’re even out the door in the morning?
For me, if I’m being honest… it’s a heck of a lot.
Our lives become constant races toward unforeseeable finish lines. We get swamped by day to day life, by the push and pull of our desires with social expectations. We become walking balls of stress, trying to figure out how to manage life… and usually failing at finding all the answers.
I think it is my penchant for complaining that has drawn me to Martin Pistorius’s story, in an odd way. Because when I hear this man’s story, when I see what he endured and the fact he is still able to smile, I remember that my complaints are literally nothing.
Nothing at all.
Martin Pistorius fell into what the doctors called a vegetative state after a fluke illness at the age of twelve. He could no longer talk, walk, or even move. His parents believed he was completely gone.
But he wasn’t. For twelve years, he was literally trapped in his body, mentally functioning but physically unable to communicate this.
In his own words, he was left to the mercy of everyone to make every single choice for him.
Thanks to a nurse, those around him eventually realized the unthinkable—Martin had been trapped in his body for over a decade. Today, he is married and has a web design company. Today, he shares his story—and he does it without anger or pity for himself.
This is what truly amazes me about this man.
Martin Pistorius reminds us that we take so much for granted. My coffee might be cold… but at least I can make the decision to drink it or not. I can walk to the microwave and heat it up or make a new cup. I might be tired, but at least I can get out of bed and go to my job. In the first five minutes of my day, I have more freedom and blessings than some have in years.
Martin Pistorius has reminded me to be thankful for what I have and to be grateful for every breath, for every word, for every step I take.
Having a bad day? Feel like life is too tough? Check out Martin’s TED talk. Trust me, it will motivate you, inspire you, and make you feel unstoppable.
To My Mom, My Best Friend
No mom is perfect. We all know that.
From what I've heard, mothering is a tough job. There are moments of frustration, of doubt, of worry, of confusion, and just sheer stress. No mom is the mom from 1950s sitcoms or movies. No mom is the carefree mom from the commercials we see on television. Every mom has her moments.
I know for a fact there were moments my mom wanted to rip her hair out... or mine. I know for a fact there were moments when I drove my mom crazy or made her sad or made her want to get in the car and drive away.
But the thing about my mom is she never let it show. My mom took advantage of every moment of every day we had together growing up. She put me above everything else in her life--above a career, above housework, above herself. Growing up with a stay at home mom, I lived a life of adventure, even if we were just in the backyard. There were hours of tea parties and playing store and reading at the picnic table. There were picnics on the living room floor on rainy days and trips to the park. There were walks with our dog and movies and games galore. There were art projects and exercise routines and dancing.
I was an only child, but I was never, ever lonely. Growing up, my mom was my best friend. Even though I know she got mad at me sometimes and lost her patience, I don't remember many of those times. When I think back to childhood, I think of her laughter, of her funny jokes, of all of our moments playing together.
When I think back to my childhood, I picture one thing above all--her huge smile. She saw life as something to enjoy, something to be optimistic about. There was never boredom or worrying. My mom taught me to always be thankful for the day and to make the most of it. That's what I remember the most from those days.
Every mom is the best in her child's eyes. I am no exception. My mom was the greatest influence in my life. Today, my mom continues to be my best friend. She continues to spend as much time with me as she can. We've traded in the tea parties for coffee on Saturdays. We've traded the cartoons and games for shopping. We've traded the dancing around the house for Zumba at the gym.
One thing hasn't changed, though. My mom's smile. She still sees life as something worth enjoying, every single day. When I fall into a rut of complaints and stress, she reminds me to lighten up, to stop whining, and to find something to laugh over.
No mom is perfect, but my mom comes as close as she can get. She is loving and kind. She is funny and compassionate. She is energetic and giving and unstoppable. She is strong.
Today, on a day when so many are thanking their mothers for all they've taught, I want to take a moment to thank you mom, for being a role model, an inspiration, and my best friend.
Thank you for all of the lessons you've taught that, perhaps someday, I'll pass on to the next generation.
Things I learned from my mom
1. It's okay to eat ice cream for lunch sometimes.
2. Soap operas are completely valid forms of entertainment.
3. It is okay to skimp on housework in order to enjoy #2 on the list. and #1.
4. Animals deserve love.
5. Laugh every moment of every day.
6. Good hair is important.
7. Lime green is a gross color.
8. It's okay to fall in love. But it's also okay to be independent and able to support yourself.
9. School and work are important, but fun is important, too.
10. Be kind to everyone. You aren't better than anyone.
11. Money doesn't equate to happiness. Seriously.
12. You don't have to go to pre-school to love learning and to be ready for school.
13. My numbers, letters, how to read, state capitals, etc.
14. Always tell the truth.
15. Retail therapy is valid therapy.
Women Like Her
She looks at herself like she has so many times before. She sees the face the world sees. The perfectly plucked eyebrows. The confidence. The “I’m going somewhere” look in her brazen but soft honey-colored eyes. She sees the face of the twenty-nine-year-old who’s accomplished her to-do list, who’s achieved her carefully planned goal list.
Sure, she sees some things the rest of the world probably doesn’t notice as much as she does. She sees the tiny crinkles around her eyes, crinkles that look more like furrows to her. She sees the mole on the side of her cheek that screams to her every time she looks in the mirror. She sees bags under her eyes, imperfections, skin dull enough to be the “before” on a skin care commercial.
Tonight, though, she’s starting to see more than just crow’s feet and fine lines. She’s seeing something she hasn’t seen before, not fully.
She’s seeing the cracks.
They’d been there before, at least in the hairline variety. They’d been splintering carefully, delicately, so sneakily her observant eye missed them.
Or maybe she just wanted to miss them. They’d been cracking and fissuring, slowly cascading down her face, waiting for that moment.
That moment had come.
It wasn’t a big moment, an earth-shattering moment. It wasn’t a moment anyone else would recognize or she would talk about. It wasn’t one of those “Oh my God, did you hear” water cooler moments in the office. It was nothing, really.
Yet, it was certainly something. It was the final hammer, the final incitement. The cracks had finally connected. The fracturing of her had happened.
And she finally noticed.
In hindsight, this wasn’t something new. It’d been building, bubbling for a while. From the outside, she looked fine. Her perfectly glossed lips, in pink of course, and her gleaming white teeth fooled the world… and they fooled herself, in truth. She was the woman who had it made. She wasn’t famous. She was an average American Dream achiever. The house, the modest car, the husband, the family. She had everything she could want. She was collected and rational. She was responsible and energetic.
She was the face of contentment.
But… she wasn’t content. Not completely.
There were symptoms thinks were about to go wrong. The friends who were “friends” until something went wrong or until she needed help. The “friends” who were friends until she achieved something or had something good happen to her, leading to the jealous mockery, angry sneers. There was the constant pull for approval, the need for recognition. The constant need to make him proud, to make him respect her. The push and pull, the escalating pressures of being what she was perceived to be.
Sometimes, she felt tiny thoughts creeping in, thoughts she quickly stomped out, thoughts she put a hammer to. Thoughts she didn’t want to admit.
Thoughts of feeling alone, isolated, of feeling starkly insufficient at relationships. She had thoughts of disappearing, of starting over. She had thoughts of going it alone, of going into the woods all adventurer style and living in solitude.
Okay, so that wasn’t realistic, she knew.
But what really scared her were the thoughts she had on her morning commute, serious thoughts of stomping down on the gas pedal and driving away, never to return.
Women like her, though, didn’t do these sorts of things. Women like her laughed off these feelings, played them up to hormones or a bad burrito or a rough time or a lack of sleep. Women like her, successful and selfless, didn’t throw themselves pity parties or think about doing the unspeakable act of leaving. Women like her smiled through the pain, painted on more lip gloss, covered the cracks with some spackle and kept on moving. Women like her thought of others first. Women like her looked inward to fix the problem, tried to be better, nicer, smarter, wiser, funnier.
But then tonight happened, and suddenly, the cracks were so obvious, she couldn’t believe she didn’t see them before. A part of her felt freer, cleaner, better just for recognizing what she’d been pushing away.
A part of her, though, felt dirty. She actually pulled her gaze away, lowered it to the floor, and headed for her nightly, ritualistic shower. Turning the faucet on, she realized how tired she felt. She climbed into the stream of water, let it cascade down her back, jumping at the shock of the cold before reveling in the steamy warmth.
She stared at the water swirling down the drain, hoping in some ways these thoughts would swirl right down with the water. Like so many other nights, she would wash away these feelings, would emerge from the shower the person she always was. She would face the world as the smiling girl again.
These feelings, though, weren’t going anywhere. Staring at the water swirling down the drain, it was the same color it always was. Suddenly, though, it looked murky. These feelings were as palpable as the condensation on the shower wall her fingers were tracing. They were as real as the stream of water droplets pelting her skin.
No, she couldn’t unsee the cracks. Tomorrow, when her alarm went off, she would probably try to patch them up. She would put on that pink lipgloss.
But it wouldn’t be the same. The world might not see the cracks, but she knew they were there now. She knew, like a ticking time bomb, they were waiting to spread, to radiate outward and upward and every which way.
Tomorrow, she might pull it off. She might be the girl she’d been for almost three decades. She might fool herself again, fool everyone, just for another day.
Then again, she might not. Tomorrow she might stomp on that gas pedal. She might go to the wilderness. She might wallow in her isolation, wallow in the knowledge she wasn’t who she thought she was.
Because when women like her crack, they can never be the same woman again.
This is purely a fiction piece… but in many ways, I think there’s a lot of truth behind it. Today’s women are taught perfection is attainable. We are to be confident, selfless, jovial, energetic go-getters at all times. To admit sadness or struggles is viewed as selfishness. So many women are dealing with identity crises and feelings of isolation but are afraid to admit it. I hope this piece gives some of you the strength to realize no life is perfect. We all suffer with cracks and self-doubt and desires for a new life. There is nothing selfish about trying to find what makes you truly happy
I’m no beauty queen or beauty Youtube vixen. I’ve never been mistaken for a supermodel. I don’t think I’ve mastered the smoky eye.
But I’m still trying.
I’m a shameless beauty product addict. I rack up more points at Ulta and Sepohra than potentially healthy in a constant search for the life-changing, game-changing product. I adore watching videos about beauty tips, reading magazines about new trends, and trying to master new makeup looks.
It started in sixth grade when my mom bought me my first makeup kit. Eyeshadows, blushes, lipsticks… there was an array of colors, an array of possibilities. I was hooked on the opportunity to experiment, to play with color, to put on a slightly new face very single day.
Over the years--and probably thousands of dollars I don’t want to calculate--I’ve definitely gained some beauty knowledge. Below, I’ve listed some of my favorite beauty tricks I’ve learned over the years. Feel free to add yours below.
1. Eyeshadow Primer saves...well, eyeshadow.
Urban Decay Eyeshadow Potion is truly MAGIC. There are so many different types now, but I prefer the original or the Eden variety. They really do help your eyeshadow from being feathery or from smudging. Truly worth the money, especially if you're going for a dramatic eye. ($20 at Ulta)
2. Although tricky, contouring works miracles
I bought a L'orac Contour Palette last summer. I cringed when I forked over the $45, thinking I'd end up looking ruddy or like something from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It is, I'll admit a bit of a process to learn the steps. There's definitely a window of time until you gain confidence, too. I had to have a few friends swear to tell me if I looked weird. But once you get it, contouring truly does give you the Kardashian feel with your makeup. No cheekbones, no problem. Fake it! I personally don't like how wide my nose is... the contour palette helps fix this just by drawing a line and blending on the side of my nose and a dot on the tip. If you're willing to do some practice, this is definitely worth it.
3. Toothpaste clears zits
I read this tip in like seventh grade. Jennifer Lopez was quoted saying a dab of toothpaste on a zit before bed will make it go away. It definitely does work. It sort of dries up a zit overnight...as long as you can stand sleeping with some toothpaste on your face.
4. A blending brush is not optional
I used to slather on eyeshadow with one, single swipe using a flat eyeshadow brush. Then I watched videos on how to actually apply eyeshadow, and I realized everyone on Youtube was using blending brushes. I bought the It Cosmetics Blending Brush, ($14) and my eyeshadow was never the same! I never was one to invest in cosmetic brushes (dollar store ones are the same, right?). Now, I know a good brush can mean everything. this brush seriously allows you to master that eyeshadow with depth and perfection. Buy it now, seriously!
5. Black eyeliner doesn't have to be your one and only
I used to be a black eyeliner only girl...and then during junior prom, a makeup artist used turquoise eyeliner on me. I was hooked. Plum, turqoise, and navy blue are great ways to give a pop to your eyes without changing the shadow. I love Smashbox and Bare Minerals, but I've also had good luck with NYX.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"Guilt is a hunter. Fate is a hunter. Shame is a hunter. Fear is a hunter."
From the opening pages of Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, I was hooked. I am a huge fan of Between Shades of Gray, so I couldn't wait to dive into this book. It definitely did NOT disappoint.
Salt to the Sea is set during WWII and follows the story of four very different youths: Emilia, Joana, Alfred, and Florian. All four have very different roles and circumstances in the book. The book is told from all four perspectives as they try to escape the war and survive. All four are tied to the Wilhelm Gustloff and, thus, a difficult fate.
I loved the character development. I honestly felt connected to all characters. All but one character are characters you root for and want to survive. Sepetys poetic, gorgeous writing style really brings the characters to life. I also loved that the "chapters" were extremely short. This made me want to read even faster than I was. I loved the fast pace of the novel. I also loved the constant secrets that were revealed. It really created a realistic feel for a book set in wartime.
Sepetys is an expert at crafting page-turners. I honestly get so wrapped up in her books that I cannot put them down for any reason. I adored the story line overall and felt the book had a solid ending. I do think certain characters' final chapters were a bit rushed. I also would have liked to see more of a divide when time passed. I turned the page and decades had gone by. These are hardly major faults, however, and the quality of the book, story, and writing in general far outweigh these minor issues.
Salt to the Sea also does a great job at illuminating one of history's forgotten tragedies. I had never even heard of this tragedy before this book. I commend Ruta for shining light on history's victims and giving a voice, a meaningful voice at that, to those who lived through it.
View all my reviews
*As an Amazon Affiliate, I get a small fee for any books purchased through the links below.