Review of Indian Paintbrush (Carson Chronicles #3) by John A. Heldt

My reviews for the first two book in the series:
Review of River Rising (Carson Chronicles Book 1) by John A. Heldt
Review of The Memory Tree (Carson Chronicles Book 2) by John A. Heldt

indianpaintbrushDescription: Arizona, December 1943. After surviving perilous six-month journeys to 1889 and 1918, the Carsons, five siblings from the present day, seek a respite in their home state. While Adam and Greg settle down with their Progressive Era brides, Natalie and Caitlin start romances with wartime aviators and Cody befriends a Japanese family in an internment camp. The time travelers regroup, bury old ghosts, and continue their search for their missing parents. Then old problems return, new ones emerge, and a peaceful hiatus becomes a race for survival. In INDIAN PAINTBRUSH, the sequel to RIVER RISING and THE MEMORY TREE, seven young adults find love and adventure as they navigate the home front during the height of World War II.

 

Having read and reviewed John Heldt’s previous two books in the Carson Chronicles series, I was looking forward to reading this one for a couple of reasons. One, I very much enjoyed the first two books, and two, I love reading stories that take place during World War II.

The Carson siblings embark on their third time-travel journey in Indian Paintbrush while they continue their search for their time-traveling parents, Tim and Caroline. In the first two books, they traveled to 1889 and 1918, following an itinerary left behind by their father, which was to be used to find the parents in case something happened to them. While the Carson siblings have almost crossed paths with their parents, they haven’t yet been successful in finding them.

The search for the elder Carsons is just the setup, however. Much of the meat of the story revolves around the time period. Heldt doesn’t disappoint with rich historic detail about what life was like during World War II. Cody Carson, the youngest brother, is a medical supply driver, and one of his stops is a Japanese-American internment camp (Gila River Relocation Center). Another example of the time period is the aircraft-training facility, Thunderbird Field, where three of the Carson siblings find employment, and the sisters, Natalie and Caitlin, date airmen. These were real locations in Arizona. I particularly enjoyed the meeting of celebrities Bob Hope, Rita Hayworth, and Orson Welles at a nightclub table and the dancing to Big Band music and the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Not only does Heldt have a firm handle on writing historical fiction, but his characters are deep, invigorating, and realistic. The interactions between the siblings and their in-laws (Adam and Greg, the two oldest brothers, are married to women they met in 1889 and 1918) are portrayed with believable dialogue, some humor, and just the right amount of emotion.

The Carsons don’t go looking for trouble, but it seems that trouble is determined to follow them no matter what era they’re visiting. They endured a flood in 1889 and forest fires in 1918, and now, with the war going on, national security is high. The draft is in full force, and there are three Carson brothers who are the right age to serve their country. Also, in a time where knowledge of future events could be especially dangerous if spilled, the Carsons must be careful who they trust.

One of my favorite parts of the story involved the romances between Natalie Carson and airman Nick Mays and the romance between Caitlin Carson and Casey McCoy. Natalie, the older sister who has had a bad or tragic past with boyfriends, falls in love with a 30-year-old airman who is training pilots in the States. Nick is a man who is troubled by the loss of his wife at Pearl Harbor to the Japanese and wishes to enlist to get his revenge. Casey is a cadet who is in training to fly for the Army Air Force and hopes to serve, which would mean leaving Caitlin stateside. He’s got Southern charm and is Caitlin’s first true boyfriend. Both sisters fall deeply in love with these men, and the men return the affections. The task of telling their men about the future and asking them to come with them and give up everything they’ve ever known mounts as the story unfolds.

While Cody is helping at the internment camp, he befriends young, beautiful Naoko Watanabe. When he finds out her mother is dying from ovarian cancer and knows that she could be treated in 2017, the conflict of bringing a whole family to the future surfaces.

As the story unfolds, the stakes get higher. We meet some old friends from the first two books, which is a real delight, but more than anything, the way Heldt handles the reader’s investment in the characters is a balancing act of precision. I stand in awe at his ability to grip my emotions. I cried my eyes out at times. I was wooed and swayed in the sweet and steamy romance scenes. I was on the edge of my seat during a chase down. I didn’t want the story to end because I was a part of it and loved being there with the Carsons, yet I needed to know what happens next.

I’m happy to know there are at least two more books to look forward to in the series, so I don’t have to say goodbye to this family yet.

A big 5 out of 5 stars!

Purchase Indian Paintbrush on Amazon

Excerpt from Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

Standing around the perimeter of the ballroom rented for the occasion, Hannah shifted uncomfortably in a deep red taffeta evening gown and in heels that were too high for her taste.  She lifted her right hand to her hair and smoothed it down. She wasn’t accustomed to such luxury, and without Maria’s help, she wouldn’t have been able to afford it.

Maria stepped into the room behind her, all smiles and glowing complexion.  

“Isn’t this just perfect?” Maria shouted over the live band music.  

“‘Perfect’ isn’t the first word I’d use,” Hannah murmured, her eyes raking the room for a familiar face.

“You need a drink.  You look about as at home as a pig in a slaughterhouse, ” Maria said as she grabbed Hannah’s clammy hand and took her to the refreshment table.

“Gee, thanks.”

Hannah didn’t enjoy feeling so uptight, but this outfit, this party, this whole charade wasn’t her.  Briefly, her mind drifted back to the days when she’d been swept up in attending parties with Kat, Will, and Harry… and how that had all ended in devastation.  Forcing down those memories, Hannah refocused on the moment. If she couldn’t be her natural self, she didn’t think her chances boded well that she would come away tonight with a fellow.

Before Hannah could protest, Maria pressed a glass of the ruby alcoholic punch into her hands.  

“Take the edge off,” Maria teased, taking a swig of her own punch.  “If I’m not careful, I’ll be knocking a few of these back before the night’s through.”  She laughed uproariously.

A weak smile played at Hannah’s red-lipsticked mouth.  “I count myself lucky to be employed by a company that can afford to throw such extravagant parties,” she said.  “Most people don’t even have the extra money to buy Christmas presents these days.”

“Aren’t you just the life of the party?” Maria said, an edge to her voice.  “Come on, Hannah! You’ve worked nearly your whole life doing jobs. Can’t you relax enough to enjoy yourself for one night?”

“Okay, okay,” Hannah said.  

Hannah sipped at the punch.  Well into the second glass, Hannah told herself that she would stop once she emptied it, but the heady feeling was pleasant.  Her eyes swept over the dance floor, the moving forms blending together. The band played a romantic number, the jazz clarinetist leading with his smooth, golden tones.

“Don’t look now, but someone’s got his peepers on you, babe,” Maria said, nudging Hannah’s side.

Hannah looked in the direction Maria indicated.  An attractive man of average height stood opposite the dance floor.  The man’s gaze locked with Hannah’s for several seconds, and he smiled slightly.

“Well, what are you waiting for?  He’s noticed you. You can’t very well back out now,” Maria said.

A confidence she didn’t usually possess took hold of Hannah and propelled her across the room.  She effortlessly dodged dancers and approached her admirer. Now that she was standing in front of him, she saw he was only a couple of inches taller than she was.  His dark brown hair was slicked back, and behind round spectacles blue eyes gazed into Hannah’s face.

“Hello,” Hannah said.

“Hello,” the man replied.  “I’m Edward… Edward Grunner.”

“Hannah Rechthart.  Do you work for Dependable Electric?”  

As soon as she asked the question, Hannah wished she could take the words back.  This was the company’s Christmas party. Of course he worked at the same establishment!

“In accounting,” Edward said, smiling in amusement.

A blush rose across Hannah’s face as a nervous laugh escaped.

“It’s a big company,” Hannah reasoned.  “I’ve worked here for a few years and never seen you.”

“I’m fairly new.  I was behind the grind for several years.”

“You went to college?” Hannah asked.

“Yes, Case University.  My step-father would have preferred I start working and not finish high school, but I suppose you could say I wanted something more.  He’s gone now, anyway.”

Hannah was surprised to hear Edward speak so openly about his family.

“My parents divorced before I can remember.  I never knew my father, but he was a drunk. My mother remarried when I was eight, but my step-father died ten years ago.”

Hannah blinked.  The mention of an alcoholic in the family sat too close to heart.  Recovering quickly, Hannah said, “In the past minute you’ve told me more about your history than most people who work around me have told me in years.”

“I’m sorry; does that offend?”

“No, actually.  I appreciate your honesty.”

“I’ve been told my honesty is both my best and my worst attribute.”  Edward chuckled. “Before I waste another moment of your time, I will simply tell you that I noticed you shining among the crowd.”

“You weren’t joking when you said you were honest,” Hannah said.

Edward took Hannah by the hand and ambled her toward the crowd on the ballroom floor.  If she was at all awkward, Edward’s confidence made up for it as he swept her across the dance floor to the big band music.

Several songs later, Hannah said, “I could use a break.  My feet are killing me in these shoes.”

Edward shrugged.  “Why not take them off?”

Hannah had the gall to look offended.  

Edward laughed outright.  “Are you too much of a lady?”

“I’ve worked in the freezing rain, in the mud, in chicken waste.  Do you think I’m a lady?”

“I’m impressed,” Edward said with genuine affection.  “You, Hannah Rechthart, are just the woman I need.”

“What kind of woman is that?”

“One who will keep me in line.”  Edward’s smile widened.

“Hmm…” Hannah pretended to mull over the events so far.  “Well, then I just might be your woman after all, Eddy.”

They continued dancing well into the night, and out of the corner of her eye, Hannah noticed Maria, in a man’s arms, giving her the thumbs up.  Soon the party was winding down, the music slowing.

A distinguished, well-dressed woman took the microphone and began softly chanting “Silent Night.”  Hannah relaxed into Edward’s arms, her head resting on his right shoulder as if they had known each other for years.  The comfort Hannah found with him was an unexpected gift, and as the song progressed, the two melted into one.

When the song ended, the president of the company stepped up and announced the conclusion of the party, wishing everyone a merry Christmas.

With some reluctance, Hannah pulled away from Edward, but they continued to hold hands, arms stretched out in front of them as they faced each other.

“Thank you for tonight,” Hannah said.  “I didn’t come here with any expectations, but if I had, I would have to say they were far exceeded.”

Hand-in-hand, they walked toward the exit after gathering their coats.  Stepping outside into the brisk air, Hannah’s face lit up as she looked at the heavens.

“It’s snowing,” she whispered.

“One surprise after another tonight,” Edward said, squeezing her hand gently.

“Mmm.”  Searching the crowd leaving around them, Hannah said, “I’ll need to find my friend.  I haven’t spoken with her since we arrived.”

“Before you go,” Edward said, pulling Hannah toward him again, “answer one question.”

“All right.”

“Would you be willing to see me again?”

“I think I just might.”  Hannah smiled teasingly.

“‘Might?’”

“Yes!” Hannah exclaimed, giggling like a child.

“Perfect.”  Edward kissed her sweetly on the lips.

With more resolve than she had experienced in ages, Hannah returned the kiss, her mind remembering Maria’s remark upon entering the ballroom that evening.

Yes, this… this was just perfect.

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My novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is available for $4.99 here.
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My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Blogmas 2018 – Day 1 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

bingIncorporating history into historical fiction is fun. With Christmas on the verge, I am loving writing Christmas scenes right now. In my current work in progress novel, Rocks and Flowers in a Box, there is a scene in 1944 at Christmas where the two main characters put on Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and dance, while hoping the protagonist’s brother will return from the war by next Christmas.

The song was originally recorded in October 1943 for soldiers to hear, as I can imagine many of them longed to be with their loved ones at Christmas. Every time I hear Crosby’s voice crooning this song, I think about that time period.

Here is an excerpt from my story featuring the scene I’m referring to:

“Do you think Chucky will come home soon?”


“The tide has been turning in the Allies’ favor for several months now. I believe you will see your brother next year.”

I stepped back enough to gaze into Tristan’s face. “It’s too bad Chucky can’t be home for Christmas.”

Something shifted in Tristan’s eyes. He released me abruptly and stepped away. “That reminds me.”

I furrowed my brow. “What are you up to?”

“Trust me.” He cast a smile back at me as he went to the record cabinet and retrieved a record. “I thought this would be the perfect touch for your sentiment.”

I approached him and looked at the album in his hands. The 78-RPM single of Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas (If Only in My Dreams)” rested in his grip. Tears formed and fell freely. “Yes, put it on.”

Tristan removed the record from the sleeve and placed it on the turntable. He set the needle on the record and turned the player on. Crosby’s gentle, crooning voice filled the room a moment later, accompanied by the John Trotter Scott Orchestra. My husband and I wore twin smiles, the sadness and the happiness mixed, the hope and the grief of the lyrics tugging on our emotions. He took me in his arms, and we danced to the music. I leaned into his sturdy chest and allowed the words to take me somewhere else and nowhere at all. 

When the song ended, my eyes slid open. Snow continued falling beyond the windows, but in our little living room with its old-lady furniture and my messy paintings, hope and love blossomed that one day soon, Chucky would be home for good. I meant to tell him as much when I wrote him a letter later that day.

 

Excerpt from Rocks and Flowers in a Box (WIP)

When I rested a hand on his warm back, and a snore elicited from his mouth, my lips eased into a smile. Tristan shifted, then stirred. He blinked open his brilliant blue eyes and found me.

“Lorna.” He licked his lips, thirsty, unsure. He sat up.

My hand flopped to my side. “Are you okay?”

“Is something burning?”

“What?” Then I smelled it. “The spaghetti!” I darted from the room and down the stairs to the kitchen. An over-boiling pot greeted me. I turned off the burner.

I groaned when I heard Tristan’s soft chuckle. “Was that dinner?” he asked.

“It was supposed to be. Maybe it still is.” I put on oven mitts and drained the water. “I think we can eat these. They’re not too ruined.”

Tristan peeked over my shoulder. “Just add the sauce. It’ll cover any burnt flavor.”

I pursed my lips, half-amused, half-annoyed, and retrieved the spaghetti sauce. After mixing it well, I grabbed a couple of dishes and heaped them with my attempt at dinner. When I set the plates on the table, Tristan already had the salad there, along with the utensils and cups of water.

“Thank you.”

We sat. I murmured a prayer and listened as Tristan gave his usual grunt of “Amen.”

The clang of forks on the edge of the plates and the setting of the cups on the table filled the silence that followed for the next few minutes. I was still picking away at my plate when Tristan finished and shoved his aside.

“As usual, delicious.”

My cheeks warmed pleasantly. “I know it’s your favorite.”

“It’s too bad meat is so expensive. That would be the perfect complement to the rest of the dish. One day, I imagine large meatballs covered with your famous sauce.”

I quirked my lips. “Famous sauce? My sauce is hardly that good.”

He chuckled. “Let me be the judge of that.”

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is available for $4.99 here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Excerpt from Rocks and Flowers in a Box (WIP)

I sighed, hating the stinging of tears in my eyes. I debated on whether to follow Tristan, but a moment later, the sound of his heavy footsteps up the stairs told me he was secluding himself and would likely bury himself in his writing for several hours, if not for the rest of the day and into the night. There were nights recently when he didn’t come to bed until I was asleep. Once I’d woken to find him upstairs, his shaggy head lying on the desktop, drool on a piece of paper. The moment I’d entered the room, the creaking of the floor woke him, and I was as much in the dark about his new novel as ever.

I stood and puttered around the kitchen for a while, cleaning some stray dishes and wiping down the counter and table, even though they didn’t need it. When Tristan didn’t return, I went for the ironing board cupboard. I retrieved the address book and took it outside, sitting under the shade of a tree in the back yard, where Tristan wouldn’t see me.

I knew I was being childish. I was playing the game of “If You’re Going to Hide Stuff from Me, I’m Going to Hide Stuff from You.” I tried to tell myself I was considering getting in touch with Tristan’s family because Tristan, for all his qualities, didn’t know what was best for him. That was an ugly thought, but I justified it with what he’d told me about his previous marriage. Hadn’t he locked himself in his typing room when he and Julie argued? Hadn’t she felt pushed away by his moods?

Just as soon as my eyes roamed over the names of his brothers, I snapped the book shut. I stood and paced.

“What are you doing?” I scolded myself. “Talk to him! He’s your husband.” Or did your vows of “for better or worse” mean nothing?

My face heated in shame, yet I couldn’t throw away the address book.

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is available for $4.99 here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Excerpt from Rocks and Flowers in a Box (WIP)

When Macy showed up at my side door with a large pot and an equally big smile, a subdued John standing behind her, I let them in graciously.

“What did you bring?” I asked. “It smells wonderful.”

Macy set the pot on my stove and turned on the burner. “Just some of my infamous vegetable soup, ingredients courtesy of my little garden. It needs a few minutes to reheat, but then I think we’ll be good to go.”

We hugged.

“Thank you. I’m sure Tristan will appreciate it. Your cooking was always better than mine.”

John, who stood just inside the door, smiled and patted his slight paunch. “She’s not too shabby.”

Macy and I exchanged amused looks, laughing.

“Thanks for coming over, John,” I said, giving him a quick hug.

“Not a problem.” He glanced toward the doorway to the dining and living rooms, where Tristan’s snores entered the kitchen. “If Macy keeps bringing your husband food, you might need to put him on a diet.”

Macy rolled her eyes. “You need to get back to playing on the men’s baseball league and not just coaching Johnny’s little league, dear. As for poor Tristan, I think he just needs to take it easy.”

I took some bowls out of the cupboards and set the table. “Sorry the kitchen’s such a mess.” I gestured at the stacks of boxes on the floor along the walls.

Macy waved me off. “Well, that’s why we’re here, darling–to help get your house set up. Just think, once all of Tristan’s stuff is moved in, you can start decorating and making it your own.”

“One thing at a time, Mace.” I grinned and went into the living room, where Tristan slumbered. I watched the steady rise and fall of his chest for several seconds, contemplating whether to wake him.

I returned to the kitchen. “I think we should eat and let Tristan grab a bowl when he’s ready. I’d hate to disturb him.”

“Fine by me,” John said, taking a bowl off the table and going to the stove to fill it.

Macy and I gave each other knowing looks that said the same thing: Men.

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is available for $4.99 here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Excerpt from Rocks and Flowers in a Box (WIP)

I filled two glasses and placed them on the table. We drew up mismatched chairs and drank. Tristan finished first and sighed with pleasure.

I eyed him over the top of my glass. He gazed out the back window toward his house, the line between his eyebrows deepening. I put my glass down and asked, “So?”

“So, what?”

“Really, Tristan? Do you enjoy playing these guessing games?” My mouth hitched up on one side.

“Maybe.” There was a teasing undertone in his voice, but the crease between his eyebrows was still present.

“We’re married now. I think you can tell me anything.”

He whisked his eyes away from the window and met mine. “There’s nothing I could tell you that you don’t know already.”

“I find that hard to believe,” I joked, then grew serious. “But something’s off about you today.” As happy as I was, doubt poked at me.

“To be honest, I never thought I’d be married again.”

I took his hands in mine. For a moment, I stared at his large, rough hands–hands that could fix anything, from a house to a car, but also had typed and penned thousands of poetic prose, weaving those threads into the fabric of three novels. I met his eyes. “I think this will taking adjusting on both of our parts. We weren’t exactly social butterflies before we met.” I laughed.

The line between Tristan’s eyebrows lessened, and crinkles formed around his eyes as he smiled. “That’s the understatement of the century.”

After the moment of levity passed, I said, “So, enlighten me, O Talkative One.”

“Going through all my things, it’s like digging through the past.” His eyes shifted to the box on the table. “Maybe it would be better if I got rid of most of these things and be more like you. You know, completely start over.”

The tea kettle whistled. I stood and went to the stove, turned off the burner, and added a teabag. I gave a little snort. “My house is filling up quickly, but throwing away everything from your past isn’t the answer, Tristan. You can see how well that served me.” I joined him at the table.

“My stuff is taking over in here. I’m letting go of the house. It’s time I let go of other reminders, too.”

“Of Julie?” I asked quietly.

“Yes, of Julie.” He stared out the window toward his house again, as if his wife’s ghost were looking back at him out one of the windows.

“Hey.” I placed my hand on his arm.

He slowly turned his head, but his eyes were on the table.

I moved my hand to his cheek. “You wouldn’t be forgetting her.”

Eyes so empty and so full lifted from staring at the tabletop. “I know that here.” He pointed to his head. “But here, well, that’s another matter.” He gestured toward his chest.  “Pain and pleasure mixed.”

My lips quirked. “We make quite the pair, don’t we? I can hear Macy asking now, ‘Why can’t you two just be happy? Why do you always have to complicate things?’”

Tristan half-smiled. “Your best friend doesn’t know the half of it. Messy people are like that…complicated.”

Note: Rocks and Flowers in a Box is the sequel to my second novel, Lorna versus Laura.

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is for $4.99 available here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.