Shadow of a Smile by Valerie Joan Connors (plus giveaway!)

Shadow of a smile

Photo Credit: Deeds Publishing, June 2014

Traveling With T received this book from the author for review consideration.

Shadow of a Smile

It’s a regular night for Meredith. Seeing her boyfriend, Derek, just a regular ole night. Then, Meredith gets a phone call from her grandparents. The phone call that no one wants to get. Meredith’s regular night just turned into a night that she wishes had not happened.

Meredith’s mother, Anastasia, has passed away. Meredith is distraught- she didn’t even know her mother had been having health issues. But, soon, Meredith finds out that is just 1 secret in a million that Anastasia was keeping from her.

Meredith and Derek leave Chicago and head to Milwaukee to help her grandparents sort of the details of Anastasia’s death- the house, the insurance- all the things that need to be taken care of. While there, Derek, who lives and breathes taxes takes a look over Anastasia’s records and finds that for many years, she has been receiving a monthly $1,000 deposit. When asking Meredith about that, Meredith explains it all away- her father had died shortly after she was born and just had this wonderful insurance policy. But, Derek points out the flaw in this- that most would have paid a lump sum or monthly payments that would have ended years ago. So, that gets Meredith thinking- where did the money come from?

When questioning her grandparents- she finds that they know more- but are unwilling to reveal things they know. Then a key is handed to Meredith and her grandmother urges her to check out a box in her mother’s room- answers are there- but she just can’t talk about it.

Slowly, Meredith begins to put pieces together- how she came into this world, what happened to her mother while she lived in California before she returned home to Milwaukee- broke, scared, heartbroken and pregnant. As part of her mother’s final wishes- Meredith and Derek embark on a road-trip to take the ashes to the Hollywood sign- the place that Anastasia desires to have her ashes scattered. This road-trip provides Meredith with many answers- and helps clarify her relationship with Derek.

Why did Anastasia keep so many secrets? What happened in California? And what will Meredith find on her way to scatter Anastasia’s ashes?


Traveling With T’s Thoughts:

When Valerie Joan Connors contacted me about potentially reviewing her book, I was tempted to pass. My reviewing schedule ranges from “Ok, I can handle it” to “Oh my stars, I am going to drown in a pile of books.” But the plot of the story drew me in- I dig stories where the secrets come out after death- where the mother has left her daughter a road-map of secrets and stories behinds- and was hoping for something in the same vein as THE LIFE LIST.

While I wouldn’t call SHADOW OF A SMILE as being similar to THE LIFE LIST, SHADOW did have some good parts to it. The story, once I got to the meat and potatoes, moved fairly quickly- and the secrets were mainly revealed in Anastasia’s writings- although, Valerie did leave a couple for later reveal.

The Good:

  • The Characters: I thought each character was there for a reason- fairly fleshed out. There was really no extra characters in the book. I appreciated that.
  • The idea of Anastasia leaving journals behind for Meredith. Been done before? Sure- but, I still liked it.
  • The cover: Eye-catching.
  • The connection to the characters- you could feel the pain that Meredith felt at losing her mother and her outrage at finding out her mother was treated.

The bad-ish:

  • While part of Derek’s story was necessary for the characters to move forward- finding out what happened to his daughter was drawn out. We knew pretty early that she was not alive- but the details were kept pretty under wrap till another incident made it necessary to reveal those details. I would have liked to known more about that earlier.
  • Some of the conversations felt stilted. The flow of dialogue would sometimes come to a screeching halt- almost like the characters had never talked before.
  • There was some tension between Derek and Meredith at times- but honestly, it seems that more of it was in her head. Like she worried too much about some things before it was even an issue.

Final thoughts: Like women’s fiction? Like stories with secrets? Characters that are on self-discovery journeys? Then give SHADOW OF A SMILE a try- it has all that and more. A book that I found enjoyable- and while perhaps a bit slow at first- once the secrets started coming out, very fast moving!


*SHADOW OF A SMILE was sent to Traveling With T for review consideration. All thoughts and opinions are mine alone.



Thanks to Valerie Joan Connors, 1 person will be lucky enough to get their own copy of SHADOW OF A SMILE. Check the Rafflecopter link and, sorry, giveaway is US only!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Happy Reading and Bookishly Yours,

T @ Traveling With T

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