Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season by Molly Fader: Review, Author Q & A, and Excerpt

About the Book

For fans of Robyn Carr, commercial women's fiction about three generations of women who come together at the family orchard to face secrets from the past and learn to believe in the power of hope and forgiveness.

In cherry season, anything is possible...

Everything Hope knows about the Orchard House is from her late-mother's stories. So when she arrives at the Northern Michigan family estate late one night with a terrible secret and her ten-year-old daughter in tow, she's not sure if she'll be welcomed or turned away with a shotgun by the aunt she has never met.

Hope's aunt, Peg, has lived in the Orchard House all her life, though the property has seen better days. She agrees to take Hope in if, in exchange, Hope helps with the cherry harvest—not exactly Hope's specialty, but she's out of options. As Hope works the orchard alongside her aunt, daughter, and a kind man she finds increasingly difficult to ignore, a new life begins to blossom. But the mistakes of the past are never far behind, and soon the women will find themselves fighting harder than ever for their family roots and for each other.

Molly O'Keefe

About the Author

Molly Fader is the author of The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets. She is also the award-winning author of more than forty romance novels under the pennames Molly O'Keefe and M. O'Keefe. She grew up outside of Chicago and now lives in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter, @mollyokwrites.
Woman typing on laptop at workplace working in home office
Author Links

Author Website:

Twitter: @MollyOKwrites

Facebook: @MollyFader

Instagram: @mokeefeauthor

All About Cherries
Q & A with Molly

What message do you hope readers take away from The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season?

>Oh wow! So many!  
I hope they think about about the power of memory in their own lives. That memories are what make us - good and bad.  Mothers are fallible in a million ways and most are just trying their best. Grace and forgiveness feel better than resentment. "> ">When times are tough - get yourself some chocolate cherry brioche? :)
Chocolate-Cherry Brioche | King Arthur Flour
What's the story behind the story/how you came to write this novel?
Well, the opening scene literally just arrived in my head. Mom with a dead cell phone driving through the dark dark Michigan night. She’s absolutely out of options. Her daughter isn’t speaking to her. And she’s been beaten up.
As far as opening scenes go it’s one of my absolute favorites. Women out of options, out of pride, trying SO HARD to do the next thing… I love it.  
man taking photo of road while driving car
Do you have any specific writing rituals (outfit, snacks, pen,music, etc)?
I wake up early, make the coffee and go. Sometimes the internet is a little too distracting so I need to turn it off. But most days, that’s how it works. Some days - when I go on retreats or I’m really behind - I work in the morning, go for a long walk, come back and have a beer before writing some more.  When I was a newbie writer I had a few more tricks I needed - there were books I wrote listening to the same album on repeat, but now I can’t have any music. I’ve written some books in different rooms in the house -because for whatever reason that’s where the writing magic happened. The McAvoy Sister’s was written almost entirely in my daughter’s bed room… I have no explanation for it.
1910s Woman Typing - Love this old pic... the year my grandmother was born.
Which character do you most relate to and why?
Honestly, all of them in different ways and in different parts of the story.  I have never been in the situation that Hope has been in but there have been parts of motherhood when I find myself in situations outside of my control and I have to treat my kids like adults. Or expect them to act like adults. And I know it’s not fair, but it’s what happens sometimes. I can also really relate to how she can find a million reasons to beat herself up as a mother - but struggles to see what an amazing job she’s doing. I think most mothers understand that reality.
 I also understand Peg’s reluctance to open herself up to more pain. And how what she thinks is keeping her safe is actually a prison.  And I can also appreciate her - If I don’t talk about it, it didn’t happen - stance. I think that’s a very real part of human nature.
And frankly even Tink - I LOVED how she used what power she had to make her point clear.  The story about Tink and the broken leg - that came from real life. My kid’s friend spent most of a year wrapping his leg up in an ace bandage and telling everyone it was broken - it was like he was conducting a very specific social experiment on us. And then one day… done. 
Child's Lavender Play Crutches Girls Fun for Kids
Why did you decide to use a cherry orchard?
I wanted to set the book in Michigan. I knew I wanted it to be rural and agricultural and lots of hard work.  And after all the summers in Michigan - picking up bags of fresh washed cherries from road stands all over the state - a cherry orchard seemed perfect! 
Raccolta delle ciliegie
Have you been to the cherry festivals in MI?
I have! I’ve been to the cherry festival in Traverse City. I competed in a cherry pit spitting contest and ended up spitting the pit on my shoe. I was an embarrassment to my kids and husband. Luckily  there was plenty of cherry ice cream  (thank you Kilwin’s!) around with which to console myself after that poor showing.
Actually I spent part of almost every summer of my life in Michigan. First along Southern Lake  Michigan - St. Joseph’s and South Haven.  And then in Northern Lower Michigan - Traverse City, Boyne City and Petosky.  A few summers on Beaver Island.  I have enjoyed The Cherry Festivals, The Tulip Festivals, a million Beer Festivals and the odd Elvis Festival.
Traverse City National Cherry Festival
What can you tell us about your next project?
Oh, I’m so excited about it.   The title is always changing… so we’ll skip that part and get right to the good stuff...
Sarah Beecher has died and everyone in Greensboro, Iowa has shown up for her funeral. She was a beloved Administrator and Nurse at the Nursing School who has lived almost the entirety of her life in this small town. Her daughter’s are there - each battling some real life demons but supporting each other, despite old resentments and feuds.  They are absolutely firm in the knowledge that Sarah Beecher had no secrets.
Into this funeral walks Kitty Deveraux - legendary star of stage and screen. And she’s there to tell Sarah’s daughters  their mother was not who they thought she was.
And neither are they.
It’s got two timelines! Family secrets! Twists!  Seriously, I enjoy it so much. AND it’s based in part on my mother’s experience at St. Luke’s Nursing School in Iowa.
Hilarious Memoir tells Tale of Old-School Nursing & Medical Care
My Thoughts

The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season by Molly Fader has Hope and her daughter, Tink arriving at The Orchard House in the middle of the night. They have nowhere else to go and danger could follow them to the farm.  Peg is surprised to see Hope after so many years and especially in her condition.  Hope and Tink need a place to stay which Peg is willing to provide.  She can use their assistance with the cherry harvest.  Peg has lived on the farm her whole life and she cannot imagine living anywhere else.  She is alone, though, through choices she made.  As Hope helps with the harvest, she spends time with Abel who co-owns the cherry orchard with Peg.  As time passes, Hope begins to dream of a happy future for herself and Tink.  Unfortunately, trouble is not far away and soon the women will find themselves in a difficult situation.  The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season is a novel of secrets, drama, and romance.  It has strong female characters who have made mistakes and have secrets.  Hope’s face tells Peg all she needs to know as to why Hope and Tink arrived in the middle of the night looking frightened. Tink refuses to talk and does not want to be touched.  Peg has a room that is off limits to Hope and Tink.  I liked getting to know the three women.  I thought the characters were realistic and I enjoyed the descriptions of the farm.  It was interesting learning how cherries are harvested.  There is drama and excitement later in the story that will have readers on the edge of their seats.  I do want to warn you that there is violence that can be upsetting.  I did feel that the romance with Hope was too soon considering her recent trauma.   I did not appreciate the foul language in the book (not everyone uses that type of language). The point-of-view alternates between Hope, Peg and Tink.  It does allow a reader to see what each female is thinking and feeling.  However, I did find it confusing and it messed with the flow of the book.   I was happy with the epilogue and how this sweet story ended.  My favorite line was, “It was surprising how sharp happiness was.  Bitter and sweet all at once.”  The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season is a story about finding forgiveness, surprising secrets, missing memories, female relationships, succulent cherries, and family. 
Surefire Pie Cherry - Dwarf _ Pie Cherries _ Cherries _ Fruit Trees


            Night up in Northern Michigan was no joke.  Hope had never seen a dark so dark. It had heft and dimension, like she was driving right into an abyss. She thought about waking up Tink in the back to show her, but the girl had finally fallen asleep and she needed the rest.  
Rainy Road, California
And Hope needed a break.  Who knew traveling with a completely silent, angry and traumatized ten-year-old could be so exhausting? Hope’s phone had died when she got off the highway about twenty minutes ago. In those last few minutes of battery she had tried to memorize the directions:
Left on Murray Street.
Slight right onto County Road 72.
Your destination is five miles on the right.
I have absolutely no sense of direction
But County Road 72 wasn’t well marked and now she feared she was lost. Well, for sure she was lost; in the grand scheme of things she was totally off the map.  But she was clinging to the one ratty thread of hope she had left in her hand.  And then just as that tiny bit of thread started to slip out of her fingers, from the murk emerged a blue sign.  County Road 72.
How did this road get named that?
The road took a long arcing right into the dark, and she unrolled her window, trying to keep herself awake. Adrenaline and gas station coffee could only do so much against two sleepless nights.

Her yawn was so wide it split her lip. Again. Copper-tasting blood pooled in her mouth.  “Shit,” she breathed and pressed the last of the napkins against her mouth. She was even out of napkins.  In the back, Tink woke up. Hope heard the change in her breathing. The sudden gasp like she was waking up from a nightmare.  Or into one. Hard to say.
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“Hey,” Hope said, looking over her shoulder into the shadows of the back seat. Her daughter’s pale face like a moon slid into the space between the driver and passenger seats.  “We’re almost there.” Hope sounded like they were about to drive up to the gates of Disney World.  Tink rubbed her eyes.

            “Did you see the stars?” Hope’s voice climbed into that range she’d recently developed. Dementedly cheerful. Stepford Mom on helium. She winced at the sound of it. That wasn’t her. It wasn’t how she talked to Tink. And yet she couldn’t tune her voice back to normal. “There are so many of them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stars.”
Celestial Space, Starry Night Sky by Carrie Stephens Art on @creativemarket
            Tink ducked her head to look out the windshield and then turned to cock her head at an angle so she could look out the passenger windows.  They’d gone to an exhibit about the constellations at the Science Center a year ago and Tink still talked about it. Pointing up at Sirius like she’d discovered it herself.

“Aren’t those the pieties?” Hope got the name wrong on purpose, hoping for a snotty-toned correction from her miniature astronomer. Or at least a throat-clearing scoff.  But no.  “Sooner or later you’re going to talk to me,” she said. “You’re going to open that mouth and all the words you haven’t said all day are gonna come pouring out.”   Silence.
Star Formations Photographic Print: Pleiades Star Cluster by Davide De Martin : 24x24in - size: 24x24in Photographic Print: Pleiades Star Cluster by Davide De Martin : Fine Art
            “Do you want to ask me questions about where we’re going?” They were, after all, heading deep into Northern Michigan to a place she and Tink had never been, and Hope had never told her about until today.  Tink rubbed her eyes again.

            “Or maybe what happened…tonight?” Her gaze bounced between Tink and the road.  When you’re older, you’ll understand. When you’re a mom, you’ll understand. She wanted to say that to her daughter, but she herself barely understood any of what had happened the last two days.   Still silence.
            Hope tried a different angle. “I’m telling you, Tink. I know you and you can’t keep this up much longer. I’ll bet you ten bucks you say something to me in five…four…three…two…” She pulled in a breath that tasted like tears and blood.  Please, honey. Please.  “One.” She sighed. “Fine. You win.”
Aggressive Behavior in Toddlers • ZERO TO THREE
Her beat-up hatchback bounced over the uneven asphalt and Tink crawled from the backseat into the front, her elbow digging into Hope’s shoulder, her flip-flopped foot kicking her in the thigh.

The degree of parenting it would take to stop Tink from doing that, or to discuss the potential dangers and legality of it, was completely beyond her. She was beyond pick your battles, into some new kind of wild west motherhood. Pretend there were no battles.
Parenting stress: Why it matters
They drove another five minutes until finally, ahead, there was a golden halo of light over the trees along the side of the road, and Hope slowed down. A gravel driveway snaked through the darkness and she took it on faith that it had been five miles.

“This is it.”  Please let this be it. The driveway opened up and there was a yellow-brick, two-story house. The Orchard House. That was what Mom called it in the few stories she’d told about growing up here. Actually, the words she used were The Goddamn Orchard House.
1885 Farmhouse For Sale In Laurinburg North Carolina
It was a grand old-fashioned place with second-story windows like empty eyes staring down at them. White gingerbread nestled up in the corners of the roof, and there was a big wide porch with requisite rocking chairs.

Seriously, it was so charming, it could have been fake.  The car rolled to a stop and Hope put it in park. Her maniacal new voice failed her, and she just sat there. Silent.

Suddenly the front door opened and a dog – a big one, with big teeth – came bounding out. Cujo stopped at the top of the steps and started barking. Behind the dog came a woman in a blue robe carrying a shotgun.
What Should I Do When My Dog Growls ...
Tink made a high panicked sound in her voice, climbing up in her seat. Hope’s impulse was to turn the car around and get out of there. The problem was there was nowhere to turn around to. They had no place left to go.
…Huddled little girl…
“It’s okay, honey,” Hope lied. She went as far as to put her hand over Tink’s bony knee, the knob of it fitting her palm like a baseball. “Everything’s going to be all right.”

More desperate than brave, Hope popped open the door. The dog’s bark, unmuffled by steel and glass, was honest-to-god blood curdling. “Hi!” she yelled, trying to be both cheerful and loud enough to be heard over the barking.  “Get your hands up,” the woman on the porch shouted. 
SHOOTING-OFF-ROLLER-SKATES                                                                                                                                                                                 More
Hope shoved her hands up through the crack between the door and the car and did a kind of jazz hands with her fingers.  “What do you want?” the woman asked.  “Are you Peg—”.  “I can’t hear you.”
She stood up, her head reaching up over the door. “Are you Peg?”  “Never mind, me. Who the hell are you?” She pointed the business end of the gun toward them.  Hope quickly side-stepped away from the car door, and Tink reached across the driver’s seat and slammed it shut.  The heavy thud of the engaged lock was unmistakeable.  “You don’t know me—”.  “No shit!”  “My name is Hope,” she said.
Surprised Woman, With Omg Text Digital Art by Mcmillan Digital Art
The gun lowered and the woman’s face changed. From anger to something more careful. “Hope?”  “Yeah. I’m Denise’s girl. I’m…well, you’re my aunt?” 
The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season can be obtained from Amazon*, Harlequin, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Target, Books-a-Million, Walmart, Google, Kobo, and Apple Books.  Thank you for joining me today.  I will return tomorrow with my review of Daddy's Girl by Danielle Steel.  I hope that you have a beautiful day.  Take care, stay safe, and Happy Reading!

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