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Debra Tash

REVIEW: Autumn Falling by Debra Tash

REVIEW: Autumn Falling by Debra Tash

Autumn Falling Debra TashDear Ms. Tash,

After reading and enjoying “Challenge the Wind,” I was excited when you offered your latest book, “Autumn Falling” for review. I wanted to see how you’d handle a contemporary setting and a first person POV from a slightly older heroine. And to find a contemporary using a small town in Vermont as the backdrop, rather than the usual large urban environment, is a plus. However, I’m afraid that as much as I enjoyed a lot of the book, the heroine did make me want to shake her at times.

“Novelist Cassandra Latham is determined to cling to her forties, that final hurrah before a woman slips over the abyss into fifty. But holding on isn't going to be easy, not with mourning her mother's recent death and trying to kick-start her literary career after a two-year spell of writer's block.

As Cassie edges toward the bottomless pit of mid-life angst, a journal written by her Revolutionary War ancestor may just help her connect the past to the present and make peace with her future. With a touch of humor, Cassie copes with monumental change-’from her daughter and only child rushing into marriage to being uprooted from her ancestral Vermont home-’to finally acknowledging that the invention of polyester stretch pants was a darn good idea after all.

Cassandra Latham strives to survive this pivotal passage, a time when autumn falls in every woman's life…”

The countryside of Vermont comes to life as the story progresses. It must be beautiful there with the autumn leaves changing color behind the old Latham house that’s stood for centuries. I could see why Cassie would be reluctant to leave for good everything she’s grown up with as well as the people who’ve populated her life – annoying as some of them can be. They’re home to her and become familiar to me as the story moves along. But they also seem like real people instead of caricatures which doesn’t seem like an easy thing to accomplish with a first person POV book.

The journal of Achilles Latham, Cassie’s ancestor, starts off with a bang. Here’s a man who truly is despicable – a falling down drunk only interesting in his next drink and a warm woman to bed. His journey to redeeming himself makes for interesting reading since he’s honest about himself and all his faults. A man further from hero material would be hard to find. But with their different histories with the men in their lives, I can see why Cassie and her mother would end up viewing him, and his actions, in such radically different ways. I do wish that I’d actually gotten to read the final bits of his journal as simply having Cassie give a round up fell flat after the early rollicking reading.

Cassie tells her story, and that of her changing family, with gentle humor that I found refreshing. She’s a woman I’d like to sit down and have coffee with and listen to her tell the story of her Revolutionary War ancestor. She sounds like she’d be a riot after her staple party menu of Rice Crispie Treats and a bottle of white wine. But she’s also not an easy woman to live with, especially at this time of monumental change in her life. Her mother’s death, her daughter’s impending marriage and her husband’s new job in Texas as well as her stuttering writing career and middle age are all taking a toll on her.

At times I got impatient with her procrastinating but I also understand where she’s coming from since I sometimes choose the “wait and see” method of dealing with change in my own life. But in the end, I kept coming back to the fact that Ivanovich has given up so much so that Cassie could live where she wants but now she’s basically telling him that she not sure whether or not she values autumn leaves over him. At the end of the book, I kind of get the impression that maybe now she’s ready to leave for Texas full time but the amount of time it took her to make up her mind about the man she says she’ll always love left a sour impression of her.

This is a book which literally seemed to fly by despite its length. It’s also one which I enjoyed spending time with and is filled with flawed characters, which I appreciated, whom I wanted to read more about. Though more women’s fiction than romance, I think readers will still appreciate Cassie and her Russian husband, Ivanvich, and how they work out the issues of a middle aged marriage. Thanks again for bringing the book to my attention.

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  Challenge the Wind by Debra Tash

REVIEW: Challenge the Wind by Debra Tash

Dear Ms Tash,

big_tash-cwind.jpgIt was the plot of this book which led me to buy it knowing nothing about you or your writing style. I love me some American Revolutionary books and was interested to see that this one would feature some regular British troops in addition to the upper class officers I’m used to seeing in romance novels. After reading it, I can assure you I’ll be seeking out books you’ve written and hoping for ones as good as this one.

Matthew Smith seizes Sarah Lloyd and her family as prisoners on a clear autumn day. Leading a party of British deserters, he now holds the family hostage north of Saratoga, New York. The Americans have just won a decisive battle, the turning point in their revolution, but Matthew’s turning point is yet to come. On another battlefield in Pennsylvania, the Lloyd’s oldest son struggles to find meaning in this war, while his twin sister remains trapped inside the British-occupied, rebel-capital of Philadelphia. The fate of each one of these people will be forged together that brutal winter of 1777.

I’ve read books about soldiers in the field, about people in enemy occupied cities but rarely have I read ones that include every day average Joes out in the countryside. With your book, you managed to cover all these bases. I really liked how you didn’t heap villainy on the heads of the British (even though the story is mainly sympathetic to the American side) and how Matthew and Quinn each have distinct reasons for joining the American cause. You take your time setting up their stories, their beliefs, their introspections about the War and what personal reasons each found for his change of heart. Nothing was rushed and I thank you for that. I also found their interactions and growing friendship with the Lloyd family to be realistic.

I found the sections set in Valley Forge to be less gripping. Not that you didn’t do a fine job portraying the horrors of that desperately cold winter but these parts seemed, I dunno, somehow forced and more wooden. Adam and his father came across more as stereotypes or manequins spouting historical facts and political rhetoric. When I started reading the section about Molly in Philly, I mentally groaned and thought, now how many times have I read this scenario? Feisty American heroine reluctantly falls for hunky British officer, managing to get in some good sex while she converts him to the cause of Liberty. And then I actually read what you’d written and realized to my delight that you’d taken that tired plot and turned it into something new and different.

But I think the thing I like the most about the book is its realism. You’re not afraid to let reality touch each character. It’s a story set during a war and by its nature, war causes deaths. I did mourn the loss of some characters but found the story better for your willingness to let some things happen. The historical information is cleverly spun through the story so it doesn’t whack us over the head with a massive info dump nor have to be explained in too simplistic terms.

When I started the book, I thought even with unusual characters I would still end up with several standard romance plot threads ending in standard ways but you turned a few of them on their heads. Brava.

~Jayne

available at Fictionwise or Amber Quill (currently 25% off)