Book Review: Once There Were Sad Songs by Velda Brotherton
I have to be honest. I’m not usually a romance reader, unless there’s suspense, mystery, or the romance is just part of life and not the focal point. Thee are certain conventions in the romance genre that drive me crazy.
I read Once There Were Sad Songs because of the skill of the author, Velda Brotherton. She has now successfully written and published 25 books, I believe, and is a superb writer, a helpful mentor, and a terrific person.
Her writing is so strong and compelling. I’m glad I read this book.
When a writer is so gifted you’ll gladly read a genre you don’t normally enjoy, that’s quality wordcraft.
SEXY, DARK AND GRITTY TALES Tough gutsy heroines, strong and gentle heroes, villains to die for.
Here is the description from Amazon.com:
Camped in Ouachita State Park she falls in with three scruffy motorcycle bums after one of them rescues her from some young hoodlums. That one, despite all his nightmare memories, teaches her the true meaning of love and changes her life forever. Steven, a Vietnam vet and war hero set on the path to destruction with his buddies, never expected to find a woman whose love could help him see how to atone for his misspent life and find happiness again.
But once he’s cofound her and realized the way he must go, it’s impossible to keep her in his life. Or is it?
Details that Reveal Character
I love how Brotherton reveals character and physical description at the same time. Here is an example from when Mary Elizabeth first get a look at the man who had pulled her out of the river yesterday:
Dimples carved humor into the features as if the artist who had sketched him had returned to add one more detail.It was an amazing restoration She couldn’t help but smile back.
That is so much more elegant and effective than merely describing an expression or physique. Brilliant. That’s the sort of thing that makes me read a romance that Velda authored.
Power of the Past
I have come to feel that the character’s past is a character in its own right. In Sad Songs, Steven is a beleaguered veteran suffering from PTSD. Mary Elizabeth was fleeing her life in a cult with a control freak husband.
People–real people, not just characters in books–react based upon the past That’s why I say it becomes a character all its own in stories such as this.
Neither of our heroes, particularly Steven, is always living in current time. Here is an example of how the past intrudes into a character’s now:
With a sigh he turned toward the back wall, sucked in the musty smell of old, damp canvas, closed his eyes, and found himself gazing down with nine-year-old eyes into Papa’s coffin. Saw the familiar old man change into a young soldier dressed in jungle gear. Steven Michael Llewellyn, killed in ‘Nam, like he should have ben.
A terrifying darkness swallowed him up.
This is how memory works. I’m not talking about the kind of memory where you try to recall where you left your keys. The brain spits up other times,barging into our present with images, smells, recollections. It’s messy and mostly unconscious.
The above passage is also an excellent example of deep POV, coming up next.
Deep POV (point of view)
I’ve brought up deep point of view more than once. It’s currently the “in fashion” way to write, letting the reader deep inside the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of the character. Brotherton is a master of deep POV.
Here is an excellent example from a passage in which we’re inside the head of Steven, an embattled Vietnam vet living the life of a wanderer with two of his buddies:
No tears. too late to cry. Much too late. His ruined life twisted behind him in long, ugly spirals. Like he’d snatched at it, squeezed it dry, then tossed it away. Never once looking back.
This pulls the reader into Steven’s perception of his life and his sense of unworthiness.
Deep POV is something that you don’t get as an author until you do. It may feel as if you’re deep when you’re not. Practice and read great examples.
Twisting the Romance Mold
Every genre has its conventions. Romance has a certain formula, dictating that the two who will pair off meet, have a ight (or several), make up, come closer together, fight again, and so forth. And just when things seem blackest and bleakest, they come together.
Once There Were Sad Songs is not your grandma’s formulaic romance. While ere are the expected fights and make-ups (and some sex scenes), the plot is not predictable.
I love how the resolution happens. Naturally, I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice it to say it’s not typical.
A Reading Tip for Authors
Writers must read. Reading good books helps you improve writing skills.
Get a highlighter. If you’re an author wishing to improve your skills, read books with a highlighter in hand.
I highlight passages on my Kindle all the time when I come across something juicy. Yes, it helps me write these reviews, but most importantly, doing this makes it easy to go back and review passages from which I as an author can learn.
Maybe it is a bit of character development, the cadence of dialogue, or a loaded description. Later I can easily see those highlighted bits.
Order your copy of Once There Were Sad Songs
Connect with Velda Brotherton
Similar Books by Velda Brotherton
Brotherton has published several books in which one of the main characters is a wounded warrior (veteran) with PTSD.
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Ronda Del Boccio
#1 best selling author, speaker, and Amazon Top Reviewer