on February 24th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Luke Cawley is a broken man. After his wife's tragic death, he lost everything that mattered in the world. Now, his life is filled with hard days, harder nights, and a steady stream of alcohol and the wrong kind of women. Nothing helps.
Until the letters arrive on Luke's doorstep.
Nine envelopes. Nine messages. Nine chances to find his way back.
Rae Goode is looking for the real thing. After fighting her way out of a string of bad relationships, she's ready for something different--something true.She meets Luke while piecing her life together, and right away she can tell that he's different. Drawn together by fate and the desire to heal, Rae and Luke discover new ways to mend their broken hearts--one letter at a time.
Discover Blake Austin's debut novel of loss, redemption, and ever-enduring love.
What an absolutely beautiful and heart-wrenching read!
It only took a few chapters for me to realize that this would be a must-read recommendation. Blake Austin’s debut (seriously, his first book??) novel 9 Letters is one of the most real and profound contemporary romance reads about love and loss that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. Usually when a book grabs me I do the binge thing and try to read it in one sitting. With 9 Letters, I controlled that impulse┬áand let myself savor the feelings and the spectacular writing. With a perfectly executed plot, Austin captured grief in a way I haven’t even contemplated.
A year after the loss of his young wife, Luke Cawley has made absolutely no progress in mourning. With the delivery of a packet of letters, to be read in order and only after the message from the open letter is acted on or absorbed, Luke finds himself slowly finding a path forward. New people come into his life, he’s reacquainted with old friends, ┬ámakes some significant adjustments in his lifestyle and finds his way home.
The story is so well done on all fronts. ┬áThe writing is not necessarily lyrical, but the inner thoughts, the words and phrasing make the┬ádialogue spot on.┬á┬áI felt like I simply┬ágot┬áLuke. ┬áI understood why he would question his faith and why he felt angry at the unfairness of losing the women he loves. ┬áI got the surly, angry young man, and I had hope that he could move past his grief.┬á┬á Brought about by the unfortunate circumstance of his new reality,┬áLuke’s┬ácontemplative thoughts are those of a man who has a keen understanding of life.┬áThere are a lot of life lessons in the passages of this story.┬á
I don’t know that I can communicate┬áhow reading this slice of Americana life sunk into my psyche.┬á Sure I cried buckets as this story took me out of my head and showed me life through Luke’s eyes. Austin uses the letters to show us the life that Luke and Emily Cawley met and began their lives together. We learn about how they fell for each other, about their struggles as a young couple just starting out in marriage. We learn a lot about the person that Emily was, and damn, if I didn’t mourn her myself. ┬á But, all the backstory was perfectly balanced with Luke’s life post-Emily. As much as Luke is struggling through the pain of Emily’s death, he struggles to deal with the new definition of who he is.
“I needed to learn to accept who I was. Where I was. Single. Widower. Bartender. Homeowner. Volunteer. Terrified wreck.”
Austin didn’t make┬áthe letters into┬áa magic salve; one isn’t cured from grief. Nor did they deliver a set of instruction for Luke to move on. ┬áAustin progresses the story through the letters, but they aren’t used as a checklist of to-do’s. ┬áGetting to letter #9 didn’t mean┬áthat he had gotten over the worst of it. ┬áEmily simply knew her husband, and she knew Luke’s grief would be deep. Some of the letters seem relatively inconsequential, but Emily knew that Luke is the kind of man to feel guilt (whether or not it was justified). ┬áShe knew she’d have to find a way to release him ┬áof┬áthat burden.┬áSure, part of that burden is leading Luke down a path where he lets go of the old, and god-willing, recognizes he has a lot of years in front of him to make a difference, to find love and happiness again.
With the entrance of Rae, Luke learns to find hope again. But again, ┬áAustin keeps it real. They are two people with their own distinct scars. It’s not really in either of their┬áinterest to jump into a committed relationship. The friendship slowly builds┬áand┬áthey make plenty of mistakes, but they force themselves to take the time to determine if they have anything left in them to give to each other.
About the letters…I actually lost track of what letter # Luke was on┬áas I got so involved┬áinto the story. When Luke finally sat down to read letter number nine, I had yet to cry over letters 1-8. I was moved, but I hadn’t cried. The story itself had caused me to to shed a bucket’s worth of tears. Letter #9 was a different case than the previous letters; the floodgates opened and I’m still wiping away the tears.
I highly recommend 9 Letters┬áand give it 5++ stars!
~Review by Cyndi┬á
I was about twenty minutes early for my shift, but I got up to the bar, grabbed a rag, started wiping it down, bussing some dishes.
“Damn, Luke,” Jake said, watching me work. “You win the lotto or something? Royals win the pennant last night and I forgot to watch?”
“I’m just in a good mood, that’s all,” I said.
I thought about it a moment longer, decided I should tell him more. Impart some wisdom learned from my not-particularly-advanced years.
“When everything’s dark for so damn long and your eyes get used to it,” I said, “just a little glimmer of sunshine lights up the whole world.”
He nodded, then grabbed a bus bin and headed back into the kitchen.
Warren though, Warren wasn’t impressed. He was sitting by one of the daytime barflies, but he’d stopped talking and was just watching me. I was on thin ice, and I knew it. I couldnÔÇÖt afford to lose my job. A heartbroken, drunk, angry widower is probably as unemployable as the average ex-con.
I came on at the end of the day shift. Warren liked tending bar during the day, because it meant just shooting the shit with the regulars. That day I had a smile for every customer, sparse words of wisdom like day drunks want to hear. Tending bar wasn’t my dream. But to hell with letting that make me lazy. I kept the place clean, I poured drinks like I cared.
I was getting into the swing of it when happy hour kicked in and a few more people filtered through the door. Couple of middle-aged bikers, a retired couple that parked their RV out front.
The door swung open again, letting in a little bit of that early-evening cold, and I glanced up to see a crowd of three women, with two men. One of the women was a reddish blonde, radiant. Sort of stole the light out of the room. It was Rae. Our eyes met and her smile gave the room back its light.
She’d been in jeans at the shelter, but she was in a blue dress now and she looked damn fine in either. Took my mind right off Maggie, faster than I thought it would be possible. I met her eyes, and she gave out a little gasp and giggle. I was probably smiling in surprise myself.
The crowd came over to the bar. I’d thought the other four were two couples, but I realized pretty quick that the black girl with the afro was dating the quiet white guy in a beard and glasses and tattoos, and that the other guy was trying to impress Rae. He had a John Deere hat, but his clothes were way too clean for me to buy it that he worked on a farm. I hated him, right off. I probably would have hated him if he was the best guy in the world, though. The other girl, she was tall, latina, and for some indiscernible reason was interested in the poser farmer.
Most of the time, I’m awful at reading people. But for some reason, at work I can tell you everything about everyone who walks in the door. About who’s into who, about who had a bad day at work. Who wants to get drunk and miserable, who wants to get drunk and happy, who wants to get drunk and start trouble. Maybe it’s some magic of the job, maybe it’s just how people carry themselves at a bar. Helps with tips, that’s for certain. You wingman right, and the money flows in.
Warren, he likes to upsell them drinks when he’s doing that. Get them excited about the top shelf. Not me.
“Hey, Rae,” I said.
“Luke,” she said.
John Deere looked at me like I was the scum of the earth. And maybe I was, but if I was the scum then he was… I don’t know, something worse than scum. Wannabe scum.
She introduced me to her friends. Nicole had the afro, her boyfriend was Eric. The girl with bad taste was Irina, and John Deere had some name but honestly it went in one ear and out the other. He was John Deere to me. Yeah, maybe I’m an asshole.
“So, how do you know this guy?” Deere asked, tossing me a look that said I clearly wasnÔÇÖt good enough to be friend with someone like Rae.
“Oh, he came in just the other day. Adopted the sweetest dog, a bloodhound.” She turned to me, flashing that dimple high on her cheek. “How is he? You guys call a truce yet?”
“King’s great,” I said. “I mean, he’s probably at home right now, eating everything I’ve ever owned, but I figure I was due for a purge anyway, right?”
It was a lame attempt at humor, but Rae laughed.
“What can I get you all? Friend of Rae’s is a friend of mine.”
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