Published by St. Martin's Griffin, St. Martin's Paperbacks Pages: 320
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A novel about three generations of midwives (a woman, her mother, and her grandmother) and the secrets they keep that push them apart and ultimately bind them together
THE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES tells the story of three generations of women devoted to delivering new life into the world—and the secrets they keep that threaten to change their own lives forever. Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is determined to keep the details surrounding her own pregnancy—including the identity of the baby’s father— hidden from her family and co-workers for as long as possible. Her mother, Grace, finds it impossible to let this secret rest. For Floss, Neva’s grandmother and a retired midwife, Neva’s situation thrusts her back 60 years in time to a secret that eerily mirrors her granddaughter’s—a secret which, if revealed, will have life-changing consequences for them all. Will these women reveal their secrets and deal with the inevitable consequences? Or are some secrets best kept hidden?
Check out another fantastic book I reviewed that centers around midwifery HERE.
Here’s a vague, three run-on sentence long history of delivering babies:
Skilled women helped other women deliver their babies and would pass the torch of ”mystical delivery” down to other women because, after all, a woman knows how women things work better than a man. Fast forward to the nineteenth century and the medical field becomes ”professionalized” and the field of gynecology was invented in which ONLY MEN were allowed to seek professionalization in. After this, midwives began to be demonized and were called ”witch doctors” and were looked upon by the male dominated medical profession as incompetent, ignorant busy bodies that had no right delivering babies even though they had been successfully doing it for centuries.
A few years ago (heck, maybe even a few months ago), I would never have imagined myself being remotely interested in a story with midwifery as its vehicle. But it seems like midwifery and midwives in general have been making a comeback over the past decade, not only in real-life, but also in the entertainment industry. A good question to explore would be why this is happening. Why are more and more women turning to birthing centers that employ nurses and skilled midwives and turning to at home births instead of state-of-the-art hospitals with M.D.s?
To answer and explore this question with the attention it deserves, I would have to write a dissertation for this blog post. So, instead, I will leave you some questions to ponder on your own (for those of you who are interested): How has the medical industry (in America) changed over the past two decades? How does access to healthcare impact the way women choose to deliver their babies? And what new information, documentaries, etc. have been released over the past decade that may have heavily influenced the way mothers-to-be have approached child birth?
Okay, moving on to my review of Sally Hepworth’s The Secrets of Midwives now, lol.
In short, I loved it. I ended up reading it in a couple of sittings because it was fascinatingly informative and had a mystery at the heart of it. The social set-up and dynamic between the characters reminded me of the film How To Make An American Quilt, only this novel was way more entertaining.
This widely popular documentary appeared on Netflix in 2008 and created a movement of women who turned away from hospital births and reinvigorated the Midwife movement.
The story revolves around three generations of women and switches off between their perspectives. I thought this would be confusing at first, but it is clearly queued and so well done. I had no problem following their individual story lines in addition to the main story line.
The three women characters were fun, entertaining, and well crafted. I finished this book wishing I had these ladies as friends of my own, or the kind of friendship that they had with each other. The peripheral male characters were the perfect addition to the story to give it just the right amount of intrigue and… male-ness (?) LOL.
The Secrets of Midwives is a humorous, heart-warming, emotionally complex story full of laugh-out-loud, intimate, and watery-eyed moments. A satisfying and quick read that left me wanting to Amazon Prime all of Sally Hepworth’s other novels. Young Adult, mother, grandmother, daughter, husband- I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an entertaining yet meaningful novel.
Do you have an interesting birthing story? Would you ever deliver your baby at home with a midwife? I’d love to know what you think in the comments below!
Just for fun:
This is an attention-grabbing film about hippie women in the 1970s teaching themselves to be Midwives. Click on the photo of the film to watch a preview of Birth Story on YOUTUBE.
The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett
Published by St. Martin's Griffin, St. Martin's Paperbacks, St. Martin's Press, Thomas Dunne Books on May 13, 2014
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The underground mine fires ravaging Pennsylvania coal country have forced Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents, the formidable Gram and the Black Lung stricken Gramp. Tragedy is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the "curse" laid upon them generations earlier by a priest who ran afoul of the Molly Maguires. The weight of this legacy rests heavily on a new generation, when Brigid, already struggling to keep her family together, makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft. In the aftermath, decades' old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet. Inspired by real-life events in now-infamous Centralia and the equally devastated town of Carbondale, The Hollow Ground is an extraordinary debut with an atmospheric, voice-driven narrative and an indelible sense of place.
“We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say. Basement floors too hot to touch. Steaming green lawns in the dead of winter. Sinkholes, quick and sudden, plunging open at your feet.”
The synopsis of this book is the kind that plants little hooks inside my historically minded brain and pulls on it. Especially the part of my brain that loves hauntingly atmospheric settings set among neglected snapshots of American history.
The below picture is what first came to mind when I read that the story setting was in a coal mining town in Pennsylvania. I immediately imagined the coal mining children of the early 1900s then realized that Harnett’s novel is set in the 1960s.
Close your eyes and imagine you live in a half-deserted town that has abandoned coal mines scattered about and end-of-the-world sized cracks in the ground with what looks like the steamy breath of hell seeping through them. That’s the story setting. Part of me was really wishing that this had been a full-fledged horror novel. There are, indeed, some horrific moments and they are presented in that strange and spellbinding way that leaves you questioning what exactly ‘just happened’.
Pictures of the town of Centralia from brave tourists.
Brutal and raw in its telling, the book deals with a murder mystery, a family curse and the adolescence of the book’s narrator, Brigid Howley. I enjoyed how these plot lines were woven through the story of Brigid’s personal experiences. While I sympathized with Brigid, I cannot say I enjoyed seeing the world through her eyes. It was utterly depressing and the supporting characters are so dramatically flawed that I found myself feeling rage on more than one occasion. I found it particularly meaningful in how the book presented the Irish-American family’s ”curse”. This thread of the story highlighted the importance behind words and beliefs and how a child can interpret the careless words of adults in damaging ways.
The Hollow Ground has been compared to To Kill A Mocking Bird and a Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I’ve read both of those books (it’s been a LONG while) and I understand the comparison, but those were not the associations this book conjured for me. There are adult themes of abuse, alcoholism and violence that are presented in a much more raw way than what I remember from TKAM and ATGIB. I think those comparisons are aimed at a specific audience and as someone who reads all over the charts, I found myself comparing The Hollow Ground to Victorian era classic literature and a Young Adult novel (strange, I know). If I had to compare this book to others, I would say it’s a mix between a Thomas Hardy novel and a Cat Winter’s novel.
The author has done an amazing job of capturing the coming-of-age voice of Brigid Howely and has painted the story world in a way that the reader knows it’s the 1960s but feels like the little town of Centralia, PA is stuck in an ominous time-warp, still holding on to the early 20th century. I would recommend this book for the author’s lovely writing alone, but also recommend it for those who like to read about tucked away tragedies in small, creepy towns.
Here’s an interesting documentary on the town of Centralia if you are intrigued by its history after reading The Hollow Ground like I was:
And just for fun:
Here’s a creepy little video comparing Centralia to Silent Hill, the creepy-ass video game that has given me nightmares since teen-hood, lol. (If you don’t care about the full backstory, you can skip in to 2:30 to see the drive through town footage.)
Renegade by Lora Leigh
Series: Elite Ops #5
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on August 31, 2012
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As a bridal shop owner, Mikayla Martin helps make women’s wedding dreams come true. Her own life, however, has become a nightmare since she witnessed a murder—and got an up-close-and-personal look at the killer. What’s worse: She knows she knows him. But the police, after doing an alibi check, don’t believe her. It’s up to Mikayla to prove them wrong…and do whatever it takes to solve the murder by herself.
Elite Ops agent Nikolai Steele, code name Renegade, is asked to pay an old comrade a favor. This friend swears he’s no killer—and Nik believes him—even though he’s been mistaken as one by Mikayla. So Nik goes to set her straight…but the moment he lays eyes on the fiery and determined beauty, he knows he’s in too deep. A woman this irresistible can only mean trouble and, sure enough, after sticking her nose in one too many places, someone wants Mikayla dead. Now Nik must find a way to keep her safe, clear his friend’s name, and find the real killer, who remains on the loose…
Let me just start out by saying this book is smoking hot. Lora Leigh is my favorite author in the erotic/romance world. Her books are amazing. I’m not sure if I have ever read one that I didn’t like. Renegade is part of the Elite Ops series. The Elite Ops agents are strong, sexy and overall good guys. They all come with baggage from their pre-Elite Ops days.
Mikayla Martin is a sweet independent daughter, sister and great friend. She owns her own dress shop where she designs and makes custom bridal gowns and formal dresses. She witnesses a murder while visiting a construction site to pick up her younger brother. She gets an up-close look at the killer and it’s someone she knows. She knows what she saw but the police don’t believe her. I really liked her character. She’s strong, secure in her own skin and an overall nice girl. She’s also a virgin who’s saving herself for a white knight. She believes in true love and wants to give her innocence to the man of her dreams.
Elite Ops agent Nikolai Steele aka Nik whose code name is Renegade is asked by a friend to find out why Mikayla is lying about seeing him committing the murder. Nik lost his wife and daughter to a horrible tragedy before he became a member of the Elite Ops. He’s battling strong emotions where they are concerned. He’s a strong, dominate male and doesn’t take kindly to being lied to.
Nik gets close to Mikayla by moving in next door to her. He’s determined to find out why she is lying about who she saw. As the attraction between the two ignites things heat up quite nicely. There is a lot of sexual tension from the beginning. As things progress they find it harder and harder to stay away from each other. The sexual scenes are some of the best I have read. I experienced butterflies in my stomach each time Mikayla and Nik got close to each other. Things were that good.
There are many twists and turns throughout the story that kept me turning pages to find out what happened next. The characters are believable as is the setting. Throughout the book, I was drawn to the emotions the characters were having and could relate to some of the aspects.
I would definitely recommend Renegade to those of you who love romantic suspense, bad boys, and strong sexual heat. You’ll be drawn into Mikayla and Nik’s world from page one. Be sure to check out the other books in the Elite Ops series.