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Review: Blood and Remembrance by Chris Manno

Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Publication Date: March 3, 2018
Number of Pages: 321 pages

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Blood and Remembrance is the prequel to the award-winning Texas novel, East JesusThis new, stand-alone story rampages from the west Texas plains to Huntsville’s Death Row and back. Cowboys, ranchers, driven oilmen, desperate convicts and headstrong women grapple with truths of the heart, of life, and the coming of age in a dramatic struggle you’ll live yourself and never forget.
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It is hard to believe that it has been two years since I reviewed East Jesus. But when I started reading this prequel to East Jesus, I was immediately transported back to that foreign feeling version of Texas that Manno describes so vividly. Everything feels real, a little too real at times, but it’s such a different version of my great state than I am used to. I won’t go into detail about that all over again, but I can’t help but marvel at how vast and different Texas can be.
The writing reminds me of some of these great short stories we read in my Southwestern Literature days at UT. I can’t remember the titles or authors unfortunately, but I remember the way they made me feel. Those stories made me feel like this one did, the desire to lean in and recoil simultaneously. I suppose it was the fascinating characters that drew me in, but their actions or the situations that they found themselves in would have me back peddling pretty quick too.
I wonder if Manno writes from some imaginary movie that plays in his head. Because this book, much like the sequel, is cinematic. And a very stylistic cinematic work at that. While Tarantino would be the obvious comparison, I see Manno’s style as more of a Wes Anderson. His work is very much character driven and there’s really not a whole lot going on when you attempt to analyze the plot. There are multiple storylines running parallel to each other as you follow one main character for a bit and then another, and they do converge at multiple points. With most novels that use that technique, you nervously anticipate the final collision. But with Manno’s laidback, cowboy pace, you just sort of lope along with the story and know that it will happen whenever it will happen.
For me, the real gem in this book is the dialogue. In East Jesus, Manno did a masterful job of writing teen speak, so I’m not at all surprised that I am a huge fan of the dialogue in this book as well. It makes me wonder how many convicts and cowboys he’s run into over his lifetime. He does a great job writing lines for the sassy women in the book as well. My favorite line is this bit of inner dialogue, “I’m still on hiatus, blessedly suspended between the sins I’ve committed and those yet ahead.”
There were some spots that could have used more editing, but thankfully they didn’t pull me out of the story.
Blood and Remembrance will transport you with its powerful simplicity. There’s a grotesque beauty to the setting and the characters. Immerse yourself fully and pick up East Jesus if you crave more.

Chris Manno of Fort Worth, Texas, earned a doctorate in English from Texas Christian University and teaches writing at Texas Wesleyan University. 

East Jesus, his first novel, was named “finalist” (second place) for Best Fiction of 2017 by the North Texas Book Festival. The novel takes a close-up, visceral look at West Texas life in 1969 and the good folks who lived it, grappling with notions of family, patriotism and violence, both domestic and in a far-off, unpopular war. 

Blood and Remembrance is the prequel to East Jesus, tracing the roots of the main characters in both books, examining the harsh but classically All-American story of life in the Texas panhandle. 

Manno is also the author of a third novel, Voodoo Rush, winner for Best Fiction of 2018 by the North Texas Book Festival, and a collection of short stories titled Short Fiction for the Impatient Reader. Both books are available from White Bird Publications of Austin Texas. 

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Wyoming Rugged by Diana Palmer


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Diana Palmer
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Diana Palmer is back in Wyoming with a tale of love born in Big Sky Country…
Billionaire oilman Blair Coleman has always taken care of his business. After having been used and cast aside by a woman he thought he loved, his personal life is far from his first priority. He knows only one has ever truly cared for him—but the irresistible blonde beauty is the daughter of his best friend.
Niki Ashton has seen her father’s friend wounded and she’s seen him fight. Blair is the strongest—and most stubborn—man she’s ever known. That very heart and passion makes him the man of her dreams, but whenever they’ve been in danger of getting close, Blair has always pushed her away.
It takes a possible tragedy to strip away all of Blair’s misgivings. Now it’s all or nothing: marriage, baby, family, forever. But will the choice be too much for Niki…or too late?
Praise for the author
“Palmer…is the queen of desperado quests for justice and true love.” –Publishers Weekly
“The popular Palmer has penned another winning novel, a perfect blend of romance and suspense.”–Booklist on Lawman
“Diana Palmer is a mesmerizing storyteller who captures the essence of what a romance should be.”–Affaire de Coeur
“…this is a fascinating story…It’s nice to have a hero wise enough to know when he can’t do things alone and willing to accept help when he needs it. There is pleasure to be found in the nice sense of family this tale imparts.” RT Book Reviews on Wyoming Bold
“…lots of passion, thrills, and plenty of suspense… Protector is a top notch read!”-Romance Reviews Today on Protector
“A delightful romance with interesting new characters and many familiar faces. It’s nice to have a hero who is not picture perfect in looks or instincts, and a heroine who accepts her privileged life yet is willing to work for the future she wants.” —RT Book Reviews on Wyoming Tough
She pulled into the garage at the ranch, parked her car and went slowly into the house. She was tired. The trip home had been uncomfortable enough, without going into work so early. And the pollen was already getting to her. It was so thick that the sidewalk leading to the front porch was yellow.
She started into the door and almost walked right into Blair Coleman.
A scarlet flush bloomed on her cheeks. She swallowed, clutching her purse. “Blair,” she began, nodding as she tried to go past him.
It didn’t work. His mouth made a thin line as he caught her arm and led her back outside to his rental car. He put her inside, got in himself and drove off.
Niki didn’t say a word. She couldn’t think of anything that wouldn’t make a bad situation even worse.
He pulled up at a roadside park, cut off the engine, helped her out and walked down to the wide, shallow river with her. A stand of lodgepole pines sheltered the cleared area from the road. He stuck his hands in his pockets and stared out over the river.
“Janet told us what happened to you at the beach,” he said, with his back to her. The eyes she couldn’t see were stormy. “Your father and I sent the authorities after the drug dealer. He’ll be caught and sent back to jail. No matter what it takes,” he added bitterly.
She wasn’t surprised that her father had wanted revenge on the man. But Blair’s attitude was curious. She crossed her arms tightly around her chest and stood quietly beside him, watching the river flow by.
She said, “I bought that new bathing suit because it was so beautiful. It looked sophisticated and I thought…” She ground her teeth together. “It’s a mistake I won’t make twice. I’m…sorry, about wearing it out on the beach…” She couldn’t go on.
He groaned, deep in his throat. His hands, in his pockets, were balled into fists. “No. It was my fault,” he said curtly. “I should never have touched you.”
So he regretted it. What had she expected, that he’d say he had no regrets? That was the stuff of romantic films, romantic books, not of life.
“I threw it away,” she said, hoping to placate him.
He closed his eyes on a wave of pain. She’d looked so beautiful in it. He’d carry the picture of her like that for the rest of his life, and he couldn’t, didn’t, dare tell her. He’d crossed the line with Niki. Now he had to control himself. It wasn’t going to be easy.
He drew in a long breath. “I’m not going to be around for a while,” he said, without looking at her. “I have divisions I need to visit in person, conferences I need to have with my managers. I’ve let things slide in the business since the divorce.”
“Janet is very nice,” she said, averting her eyes. “I liked her a lot. She was kind to me. She gave the drug dealer what-for and ran him off.”
“I know. She told us,” he said absently. “I’ve known her for a long time.”
“She said your mother liked her.”
“Yes. She was fond of Janet.”
She swallowed down bitterness. “She’s a brunette, too,” she said, trying to smile. “You’re fond of brunettes.”
“I always have been.” It wasn’t the complete truth. He had a passion for a beautiful young blonde woman who was an arm’s length away but might as well have been on Mars.
The sound of the river flowing by, watery and soothing, was all they heard for a few minutes. Then Niki spoke.
“Janet said the two of you were very close.”
“Is that why you invited her to dinner with us, then got on the first plane back home?” he asked with faint bitterness.
“I thought it would make you happy,” Niki replied. “After all, you took her to dinner the previous night.”
Yes, he had, trying to avoid Niki and what was going to be inevitable if he spent any time around her. Especially after the taste of her he’d had on that Mexican beach. Just the memory of it almost brought him to his knees.
Niki drew in a breath. “I’m really sorry…about what happened,” she said through her teeth.
“Not your fault,” he returned. “You can’t help it if idiots make stupid comments about your choice of bathing suits. He’ll be found, and dealt with, no matter what it takes!”
She turned, hesitant. Her cheeks colored. Eyes the color of an August fog looked up into his black ones. “I meant, what happened in the ocean…”
He looked down at her. His broad face hardened. His eyes glittered. She was wearing a beige suit with a pale yellow blouse. It wasn’t low-cut or even suggestive, but her breasts under it had hard little peaks. The sight of them hurt him. She was attracted to him, violently attracted. She couldn’t hide it
because she didn’t have the experience. It flattered him, maddened him, because there was no way she could fake her reaction. He was years too old for her. He was going to have to make her believe he felt nothing…
“Oh, God,” he groaned. He drew her against him, swallowing her up in his hard arms, her head in the crook of his elbow, his eyes stabbing down into hers. She was already having trouble breathing. He could feel her heart hammering against him. His eyes fell to her soft mouth. “I tried…” He whispered huskily as he bent his head to hers.
She felt the hunger in him even before his warm, hard mouth slowly covered hers.
I was really excited to read this book because I liked Palmer’s “Wedding in White”, which I read by accident back in high school. This book follows the same formula: younger, virginal woman has known older, experienced man since she was on the cusp of womanhood and is in love with him despite his hangup on the age difference, but he doesn’t come around until she has a near death experience that lands her in the hospital. And even though the pair is pretty mismatched, the people who love them see right through all the pettiness and are just waiting for the two to finally get together. Now there is nothing wrong with formulaic writing (ahem, Nicholas Sparks), but I like to be kept guessing when I read romance. Because that’s what romance is like! You don’t know for sure what the other person is thinking or whether they want to kiss you. So by knowing what was already coming, I found myself focusing on the side characters. While Niki’s father is characterized as caring but not nurturing for some reason, all I saw was that he nurtured his grownup daughter. And I loved his character for it. It’s hard not to love a man who is so devoted to his late wife, no matter how short their marriage was, and is still so in love with her that he doesn’t ever want to remarry. He transfers that devotion to Niki, who sadly is also quite sickly, and is so fulfilled with his life that you forgive him for not having a romantic relationship with the housekeeper who helped raise Niki. Overall, this book will leave you with happy thoughts and dreamy feelings. A little steamy too. Pour the wine.
The author of more than one hundred books, Diana Palmer is a multi–New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author and one of the top ten romance writers in America. She has a gift for telling even the most sensual tales with charm and humor. Diana lives with her family in Cornelia, Georgia.


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