Review + Giveaway: The Secret Sister


Welcome to my stop for The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak. This is the first book in her Fairham Island series. It is a women’s fiction novel that releases July 28th. The tour runs July 27- Aug. 7 with mostly reviews and a few interviews and guest posts. I’m just one of the many stops for the tour, so be sure to check out the tour page.

The-Secret-Secret-Cover-202x300Title: The Secret Sister
Author: Brenda Novak
Publisher: Mira
Release Date: July 2015
Length: 400 pages
Series?: Fairham Island #1
Genre: Women’s Fiction

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Did she once have a sister? Has her mother lied all these years? Why?

After a painful divorce, Maisey Lazarow returns to Fairham, the small island off the North Carolina coast where she grew up. She goes there to heal—and to help her brother, Keith, a deeply troubled man who’s asked her to come home. But she refuses to stay in the family house. The last person she wants to see is the wealthy, controlling mother she escaped years ago.

Instead, she finds herself living next door to someone else she’d prefer to avoid—Rafe Romero, the wild, reckless boy to whom she lost her virginity at sixteen. He’s back on the island, and to her surprise, he’s raising a young daughter alone. Maisey’s still attracted to him, but her heart’s too broken to risk…

Then something even more disturbing happens. She discovers a box of photographs that evoke distant memories of a little girl, a child Keith remembers, too. Maisey believes the girl must’ve been their sister, but their mother claims there was no sister.

Maisey’s convinced that child existed. So where is she now?


***** Review *****

The Skinny

Maisey returns home to Fairham Island to lick her wounds after her divorce. She also comes to help her troubled brother, Keith, keep it together. But she makes a grievous mistake by not staying with her elitist mother at Coldiron House and suffers through the wrath of her mother and added strain with her brother. Instead, she stays in the one place on the island where she feels a connection to her father, Smuggler’s Cove. The nine bungalows will be her inheritance, and they are in serious need of repair after a recent hurricane. Only problem is Rafe Romero now owns one and is constantly around. As Rafe repairs the bungalows, he finds a metal box filled with photos that rock Maisey’s world. Has there been a lie hidden in Coldiron House all these years? Who could help her uncover the truth that her mother and brother don’t want her to find?

The Players

Maisey Lazarow – daughter of Josephine Coldiron and Malcolm Lazarow, younger sister of Keith, famous children’s book author and illustrator, retreating to start over after the failure of her marriage, she is strong and a very private person

Keith took advantage of people and then moved on. It wasn’t intention as much as it was a matter of convenience. He’d never had to try very hard to get what he wanted, so it never meant a lot to him. He took the generosity of others for granted – and expected anyone he tossed aside to still be there if he decided to return.

Keith Lazarow -Maisey’s older brother, has always had problems, uses and abuses people for his own gain, has always been protective of Maisey

Josephine had always been a harsh disciplinarian, extremely self-centered and absolutely convinced that her opinion was the only one that mattered. She demanded absolute control of everyone and everything around her.

Josephine Lazarow – mother of Keith and Maisey, she is haughty and cold, used to getting her way, has had multiple husbands, owns nearly all of Fairham Island

Other than his five-o’clock shadow, his skin was smooth and clear and almost as golden as his eyes. He’d also added quite a bit of muscle, mainly in the arms and shoulders, which made him look powerful. His dark hair, although shorter, retained a bit of curl at the ends, and thick black lashes framed his eyes.

Rafe Romero – single father, moved back to the island to run his contracting business and care for his mother, reformed local bad boy, he is helpful and caring, wants a woman who wants him and his daughter,

Laney Romero – a delightful and inquisitive girl of five and three-quarters, Rafe’s only child, she requires special care and stays with her grandmother during the day

I can definitely see the realism in Josephine’s relationships with her children, and how it can manifest into Keith’s less-than-stellar choices and Maisey’s need to be away and alone. Rafe was an interesting character, like bad-boy turned modest husband. Laney, though, was my favorite character. She is incredibly cute and knows how to work her dad in the sweetest and most unspoiled of ways.

First Impressions

What Maisey needed most was her father, she realized as she stood at the railing, peering through the passengers crowding the gangway. Breathing in the island air, smelling the salty ocean and wet wood of the wharf, it all reminded her of him.

The novel opens with Maisey returning to Fairham Island to rest, recoup and regroup. It holds the best memories of her life with her father, and the worst with her mother. I foresaw some really ugly scenes between the two Lazarow women.

The idea of walking into Coldiron House – named after Josephine’s father, Henry Coldiron, who’d owned most of the island before Josephine inherited it – brought back a hint of her old defiance.

Second Thoughts

The relationship between Maisey and her brother runs so deep. It is a relationship I understand well, and it has its own complexities that are sometimes unknown to both Maisey and Keith. Maisey has always been Keith’s support when he’s been at his lowest, and even his ugliest. She has faith in him when everyone else has turned their backs on him and given up, but it is hard to continue to provide support and love when it is such a hard and draining relationship.

He seemed to forget his own mistakes almost as soon as he made them, seemed to expect everyone else to disregard the damage he caused. Because of that, and all his other problems, it was impossible to know how to be a good sister to him.

Keith is an interesting character. He has his own set of problems that he has carried with him his entire life, and he is harder to deal with than Josephine sometimes because of his unpredictability. It makes it really hard and puts even more strain on Maisey during her retreat to a safe haven.

She couldn’t even admit how close to despair she really was. She had to stand tall and lead the way, set an example for him. 

At least with Josephine it is easy to predict her motivations and reactions. Maisey has nothing to worry about there until she finds the metal box filled with pictures. Then it’s an entirely different ball game and Maisey isn’t sure of anything anymore. She’s left reeling.

How could she tell anyone the dark suspicions that were creeping to the forefront of her brain? Or that she couldn’t shake various memories of the terrible beatings her brother had received? She could’t say any of that. What she feared was too vile. She’d been shaking on the inside since she’d pried the lid off that metal box.

In all the madness with Josephine and Keith, Maisey is also trying unsuccessfully to avoid Rafe and any of the help he offers her. It comes as a shock to discover he is raising his daughter alone, and he’s doing a pretty good job of it. Rafe is the last person Maisey wants to deal with, besides her mother, but she came to Fairham for a safe haven, and he’s providing it.

Rafe’s relationship with his daughter, Laney, brings all the good things out in him. Laney is a very special little girl, and she requires more care than most, but she is so full of warmth and love that it is impossible not to fall in love with her. She adores her dad and grandma, and takes an immediate liking to Maisey.

Although Josephine and Keith try to put a stop to Maisey’s meddling in the past, afraid of what it might reveal, what she finds is nothing like what they expected.

I loved the relationships of each of the characters with the others, especially at the end of the novel. Laney is the sweetest little girl that captures more than one heart. Rafe is a man who’s made something of his life and is ready to share it with someone special. Keith is at the breaking point in his life and has nothing else to lose. Josephine has a heart under her pristine and collected image. Maisey finds the answers she’s needed to know all along.

I highly recommend this book because of the complexity of the relationships and the story that brings them all together. Since this is the first in a new series, I will definitely be continuing to read about Fairham Island and its goings on.

***** About the Author *****

Novak_Brenda_12_col-300x300New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak has penned over 45 novels. A two-time Rita nominee, she’s won The National Reader’s Choice, The Bookseller’s Best, The Bookbuyer’s Best and many other awards. She runs an annual online auction for diabetes research every May at To date, she’s raised over $2 million. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** Giveaway *****

Five (5) copies of The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak
Ends Aug. 12th

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!


A Nurse: On the Other Side

I’ve tried keeping this blog strictly review & book related, and this post kind of fits into this category.

Last year, I started dating this sweetheart of a guy. The sweetheart I almost dated in high school…but that bitchy ex crawled out of whatever hole she had crawled into, fangs and talons barred. We all know someone like that, right? Yeah. But through D. I have inherited a wonderful group of his friends.

One of these newly inherited friends is the lady who got me into book blogging. She had no qualms about me guest writing for her blog, The Eclectic Bookworm. She has welcomed me with open arms and helped me get started. I would not have had the opportunity, the resources or the gumption without her and her support.

high school sweethearts
high school sweethearts

Mandi is a Texan by birth, but she grew up in Pittsburgh and moved back to Texas a few years ago. Last year was a big year for her: she turned thirty, and a few short months after that she married her high school sweetheart. They met in the old-school chat rooms, came together and then life happened. They both married other people and had a child. They both realized their marriages weren’t the marriages they’d intended. Mandi was a victim of rape and domestic violence.

Mandi and her HS sweetheart both filed for divorce. They decided that they had both met the person they were supposed to be with a long time ago, and moved to Texas together. Since then, they have troubled the murky waters of child custody and unpleasant dealings with their ex’s. None of that is ever easy, even with one parent dealing with it in a new marriage. They had both! Despite that, they have tried very much to bridge their families, and they have two wonderful, adorable children.

But through all of those life events, Mandi has suffered with the pain of fibromyalgia and horrible migraines. She was diagnosed when she was 23, just when she was starting to enjoy “adult life.” Many Americans suffer from this painful condition, and there are more studies and active research into this condition that affects over 10 million in our country alone.

wedding day
wedding day

Mandi has dealt with her fibromyalgia for eight years now. She graduated college with a nursing degree and pursued her calling: helping others who can’t help themselves. She was a nurse and she loved it. Growing up she learned compassion in almost the same way as I did, and she put this to use in her field.

But last year, things took a dramatic turn for the worse. The very week of her wedding, she started getting sick. Her doctors diagnosed her with two things: a systematic auto-immune disease called sarcoidosis, and an auto-immune disease in her eyes called pars planitis. Sarcoidosis is the very disease that caused the death of the humorous Bernie Mac. Since the pars planitis is only in her eyes, the only way to definitively find out anything conclusive is to cut open her eyes. Obviously, that’s not a route she can take.

Due to the rare nature of her case of pars, there is no specific medication for treatment. Her doctors have been trying to find something that works. She went on chemotherapy drugs and steroid injections, some directly in the eyes. Methotrexate (the chemo drug) had to be discontinued because it was causing liver toxicity. After a year of being on steroid injections, they are causing cataracts to form, creating a more dire need for laser eye surgery before the year is out.

getting an eye injection
getting an eye injection

The combination of these drugs and the shockingly high dosages have taken a toll on Mandi. In August/September of last year, she was forced to leave her job as a nurse for Hospice Austin. She is now on the other side of the health equation. Since leaving her job due to these mounting medical reasons, she could no longer afford her skyrocketing healthcare coverage. She cannot qualify for Medicaid to alleviate some of the medical bills. Her husband is diligently working two jobs to hold down the fort, and neither of them offer health insurance.

Thankfully, Mandi had some help from her parents throughout this past year. But the clock keeps ticking, she’s not getting substantially better and the money is running out. Her medications and dosages have changed, she’s put on a lot of weight due to the medications and her relationships and marriage are strained. Just a few weeks ago she was in the emergency room twice within the span of a few days’ time, with over $3,000 in those bills alone.  She is missing out on other aspects of her life due to the steadily mounting medical bills and her declining health.

Mandi's beautiful family
Mandi’s beautiful family

Mandi started doing serious book blogging as a hobby not long after leaving her job. Often she reads late into the night and early morning hours and posts during  that time from her bed, due to her insomnia. Once the new year rang in and she started feeling a little better, she got on board as a writer for Her focus is on gun rights, issues, laws and anything gun-related in Texas. Although this is supplying her with a little income and she can do it from home, it is not even a drop in the bucket. She gets paid based on the traffic to her articles and through the ads that Examiner uses, *if* readers click on the ads. She is currently debating about obtaining a part-time job once she knows how her new medications will affect her. But even then, she won’t be able to drive. It would need to be a flexible job, and we all know it is like finding a needle in the haystack to find a flexible PT position.

post eye injection
post eye injection

After much deliberation and family strife, Mandi has created a GoFundMe page to try to reduce her medical debt. It has not been a well-received idea from her family, but she is running out of options. Due to all of the medical bills, other bills are also mounting. She is also owed over $8,000 in child support and medical bills for her daughter. She is not sure how long she and her family will be able to stay in the apartment her daughter calls home.

post eye injection
post eye injection

I implore all of my subscribers, followers and readers to please share this post on all of your social media sites and blogs. It will take the kindness of strangers to help Mandi. Please, go donate something, even $5, to help Mandi. Go to her GoFundMe page. Anything will help in her desperate time of need.

To find out more about Mandi, her medical battles and her day-to-day struggles and joys, keep up with her on her True Life Is Stranger Than Fiction blog.