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.
Kindle eARC Reviewed by Stephanie
Luke and Emily met in love in high school and not soon after got married. They were two people who were madly in love and thankful that they were able to find their happily ever after. But sometimes life has other plans.
“I married my high school sweetheart. We were married five years and it was everything I wanted. I thought my search was over, and I was ready to get on with everything else in my life. We were so sure.”
This story is told mostly in the present but does have chapters that flash back to the past. We meet Luke when he is a very broken man still reeling from the loss of his beloved Emily only a year ago. After her death the life they had planned crumbled around him and he is basically living half a life. Beer goggles and meaningless sex get him through his nights, but just barely. He carries the heavy burden on his shoulders of blaming himself for her death.
“I should have been buried with her. Would have been kinder that way.”
One day a package arrives on his porch with nine letters, all from Emily. Each letter had
instructions of some sort, some thought or idea to help Luke get his life back to where it should be. A gift from Emily to help him see life is still worth living.
“So you could see that with your eyes, that life is made out of little steps. Clean your house. Get a dog. Little things that you do together make up a life.”
Luke tries to follow the instructions in the letters that Emily left him and one of those leads his to Rae, a women he meets while visiting a local animal shelter. Right away he knows something is different about her, but feels so guilty even wanting to get to know her more. But could she possibly be the one to help him heal, to fix what seems beyond broken?
There were parts of this book that were really good and then there were parts, lots of parts that just didn’t work for me. It started out pretty strong and then sort of dragged in the middle and I found myself skimming parts here and there. I really did love the whole idea behind the story. The whole nine letters and helping someone heal. I liked Luke well enough and although I had a hard time connecting with him at first, eventually I did. He was a good man and loved Emily. Though she wasn’t really in a lot of the book I did connect to Emily’s character, she seemed genuine. Unfortunately I couldn’t stand Rae, she annoyed me and I just couldn’t feel any chemistry between her and Luke. So that made the book a little harder for me during the second half. Though I was thankful it did pick up a bit after we hit the halfway point. It was a decent, and fairly quick read. I am interested in seeing what other books this debut author had
come out in the future and would read her again.
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 couldn’t 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 wasn’t 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.”
About the Author
Blake Austin is a guitar playing father of one, who lives in Los Angeles. He’s written music for as long as he can remember and was inspired to add book writing to his repertoire. 9 Letters is his debut novel.
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