Notes from the Other Side of the Mountain: Love Confronts the Wounds of War by J. Allen Whitt

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

The novel, Notes from the Other Side of the Mountain – Love Confronts the Wounds of War, by J. Allen Whitt, spans the central years in the life of Gary Reed. This thoughtful young man spends his younger years in New Mexico and Texas, when he falls in love with the beautiful Kristi Preston. Losing Kristi’s affections, he joins the Navy in time to take part in the Vietnam conflict and experiences the horrors and losses of war. Vietnam comes home with him in the form of PTSD. However, he rekindles his romance with Kristi, only to lose her once more. Finally, decades later, Gary returns to New Mexico to reflect on his life there, the embers of his love for Kristi, and the lessons and perspectives life has granted him.

This novel is part coming of age, part romance, and part call to action in the cause of PTSD treatment, but primarily it’s a memoir in the form of a novel. Whitt’s voice is consistent throughout, and particularly strong in Part 4, when the text switches to present tense. It’s in this final phase of the novel that it gains its strength and emotional impact. His narrative depictions of scenic views in New Mexico are inspired, particularly for a first novel, and are testimony to a writer’s eye, ear, and nose for the surrounding world. Balancing crisp dialogue and narrative is an art in itself, and this one is certainly ripe for growth in that regard. Whitt has a talent for surprise and drama in creating his story arc, but there are issues here. Unresolved or unexplained episodes with his school friends in New Mexico—particularly the crumbling of his teen romance with Kristi—create an early disconnect from the story’s overall impact. There are repetitive scenes, layout problems with the book, typos, misspellings, and punctuation errors.

Review by Bob Mustin (June 2019)

Author's Synopsis

 Through his vivid narration, we follow Gary Reed as he finds love in high school, then is called to Navy service in Vietnam. Traumatized by the carnage of war, he comes home, hoping to reunite with Kristina Preston and find peace within the serene mountains of New Mexico. Yet Kristy has harrowing secrets as well, and they will face daunting obstacles as they struggle to build a future together and survive unexpected twists of fortune.

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN-10: 0692954252, ISBN-13: 978-0692954256
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Fiction—Romance
Number of Pages: 368

In Plain Sight by Sephira Allen

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

The Romance genre novel, In Plain Sight, takes place in Virginia during the Civil War years of 1963 to 1865. Its underlying theme is in the ways families and other loved ones are torn apart and virtually kept separate by this war and, by extension, any war of domestic import.

While the book’s references to the details of the Virginia war during these years are indefinite, they don’t seem inaccurate, and this vagueness is appropriate to the book’s assigned genre. Instead, the book’s details center about Rylee James, a young woman who dons men’s clothing and identity to rescue her Confederate brother Matt, who has been captured by Union forces in Virginia. Rylee’s disguise and role as a doctor prove successful in gaining her access to Matt — until she becomes enthralled with Union Captain Eli Webb, and her guise becomes threadbare. Ry springs her brother Matt from his military prison, is wounded, and falls unconscious. As Eli tends to her wound, he discovers her gender and he realizes why he’s been attracted to this faux-male doctor. The two become lovers and face complications that could very well mean execution for both.

The story has many unexpected twists prior to war’s end that are indicative of the “fog of war” and of the best of human nature, and these traits kept this reader turning pages. The characters, while somewhat skin-deep, are true to human nature and appropriate to this genre. The book was written in an omniscient third person point of view that often set this reader apart from the characters’ emotional dynamics. While a wartime story depicting such emotional conflicts should show the interior thoughts and motivations that both draw similar characters together and keep them apart, it may have been better to write the story in a series of “close” third person points of view that would have increased the intimacy between character and reader. Because of this choice, the author too often chooses to explain the motives of the characters to the reader in narrative. Too, narrative could have used more scenic description, but this doesn’t seem as important in a book genre primarily preoccupied  with character emotions and related activities. The love interest between Ry and Eli doesn’t gain steam until some one hundred pages in, and toward the story’s end Ry’s attention is often on her brother and the family home. For this reason, the book may have been a stronger candidate in a Historical Fiction genre.

Clearly, the writer has put much thought into placing her characters into the book’s wartime background, and there is much storytelling talent here.

 Review by Bob Mustin (April 2019)

Author's Synopsis

 What wouldn’t you do for love? No damsel in distress, 20 year old Rylee James hides in plain sight of the enemy, hoping to rescue her brother - a Confederate soldier captured by Union forces. Disguised as a man, she's counting on her skills as a doctor to see her through while she risks it all to save the only family she has left. But even the best laid plans can go awry when love is at stake, and all too soon she is faced with the reality that life's choices aren't always easy. Love of family, love of country, or love of a good man - agonizing decisions to be made when she finds that setting her brother free has left her a prisoner of the heart. A historical romance set in the midst of the American Civil War, In Plain Sight intrigues right from the start, taking you on a wild and perilous ride through the war-torn Virginia countryside. An emotional journey of courage, daring and love, that keeps you enthralled right to the very end.

ISBN/ASIN: B07F5XVF8K, 1983392502, B07KYWJTS9
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Review Genre: Fiction—Romance
Number of Pages: 332

Ranger's Sacrifice; by Tracey Cramer-Kelly

MWSA Review

Sex, commitment and careers come together in Ranger’s Sacrifice. Two couples, Cory and Maddy and Chase and Ella, work to build their relationships amidst war and separation. Is it possible to find and keep true love alive under these circumstances?

Cory and Chase are members of the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, an airborne unit assigned to special missions. Absent from home much of the time, both have discovered the possibility of lasting relationships. At home, Maddy and Ella must continue their lives while waiting and hoping their men return safely.

Ella, both Chase’s girlfriend and Cory’s little sister, is recovering from a disastrous relationship with Rolando. Maddy is a doctor who met Cory when she treated Ella.

Ranger’s Sacrifice offers plenty of hot sex scenes to tantalize readers. However, can
good sex lead to healthy, lasting relationships? The author digs into the issues of
communication, waiting at home, long-distance relationships and life-changing
events as the story develops. Ranger’s Sacrifice is the second book in the Army
Ranger Series. The author is currently working on book three, Ranger’s Choice.

Review by Pat Avery, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
Tracey Cramer-Kelly is an award-winning author who draws inspiration from her past experience as an Army combat medic and helicopter pilot. She lives in small-town Minnesota with her husband and two children and spends as much time outdoors as sub-zero winters allow, all while managing the family motorcycle business.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1544844589
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Genre(s): Fiction, Romance
Review Genre: Fiction—Romance
Number of Pages: 184