A love story of re-discovering self told beautifully (Book Review - Terri Lee's Paper Castles)

Title: Paper Castles
Author: Terri Lee
Genre: Romance/Women's Fiction

"Sometimes life has a way of just slapping the sass right out of a person."

These are the words of Neenie to the protagonist of Paper Castles, Savannah. 
Neenie reminded me of Mammy of Gone with the wind. The ever-present, at times taken-for-granted warmth, security, and sane advice.

Savannah got everything she wanted in life, only to realize with time that she had desired all the wrong things.

Now trapped in the life of a socialite, with a husband of seventeen years, who couldn't care less about her, she is trying to re-discover herself.

"Savannah's fingers rested on the fork beside her plate, tracing the delicate pattern of her wedding silverware. She picked it up, cold and heavy in her hand, and stabbed at her dessert as if it were a voodoo doll. Looking at Neenie, she sighed from somewhere deep in her soul where dreams went to die."

With a murder in the family that Savannah is suspected of, everything takes on a different hue.

This is life's way re-arranging Savannah's life.

As the book starts, Savannah is searching for her old, confident self through painting, having lost it over the years in a marriage that has lost not just love, but even a semblance of care.

"She'd come to this classroom looking for a way to paint herself out of the picture she'd spent the last seventeen years creating. Hoping she could draw a new life and find the courage to step inside it."

Terri Lee's play with words fascinated me from the very first page. She has an interesting way of describing things.

"She'd stuffed the brochure in the bottom of her purse, another what if to be left untried. Every month she'd dig out a handful of bright ideas from the bottom of her handbag and chuck them. Her purse was a graveyard of optimistic plans."

After seventeen years of marriage, with teenage kids, it may seem a little too late for a coming of age story. But Terri Lee proves this belief wrong, as she weaves this story of building a new life, albeit with dreams that begin on paper :)

Terri Lee's words are poetry when she describes Savannah's innermost feelings.

"The soundtrack of her life tumbled down the back steps to greet her..."

"...you can't drown sorrows. They're good swimmers. They're gonna float back up to the top and be bobbing right when you left them last night."

Paper Castles makes a statement for social equality through the course of this story. 
Initially I felt that it was a little forced as it takes the reader away from the main storyline. Having read the book now, I think it makes a point about the characters too.

I have to say that much as I like the story,  it is the author's style of writing that is a delicious icing on the cake which I enjoyed.

"These tiny, seemingly inconsequential moments. She wanted to bottle them, label them LOVE, and line them up neatly on the pantry shelf where she could take them down and hold them up to the light whenever she pleased. But moments couldn't be caught..."

"She popped the lid with one finger and poured the promise of a sleep without dreams into the palm of her hand."

Paintbrushes make for the watermark of the pages of Paper Castles, just as a confident woman's face with beautiful brush strokes make for the cover of this coming-of-age story.

Terri Lee's Paper Castles is a love story, but not an obvious one. No 'Girl meets Boy, fall in love and live happily ever after' here. 
The author keeps you, the reader guessing. You are just not sure how this tale of love and pain, murder and mystery will end.

"Happy was a wayward balloon with a string she couldn't quite grasp no matter how high she jumped. Happy belonged to the bare-foot summer girl of her youth."

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The italicized text in quotation marks are quotes from the book.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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"I want to know what goes on in your head," Adam said. "What do you think about? What are your dreams?"
"My dreams," Savannah said, picking up her spoon and stirring her coffee again. She stared into the swirling depths as if she could conjure up the specter of the girl who once had dreams to spare. "Funny thing is—I got everything I wanted." 

Where do you go when you find out everything you wanted isn't what you need?

Savannah Palmerton picks up a brush and heads to an art class, desperate to find a piece of the girl she used to be, before the country club dances and the boring dinner party conversations. In 1963 the country is still playing in her innocence, but there are rumblings beneath the surface. The fabric of America is just beginning to fray around the edges. So it is in Savannah Palmerton's life. 

Love, betrayal and family secrets create a lethal cocktail that has Savannah's world unraveling at her feet. Set against a southern backdrop of garden parties and civil rights marches, Paper Castles is a sultry mix of sweet-tea and murder. Sex and secrets.

Paper Castles is the best kind of love story. Where a woman must first learn to love herself.

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About the Author


Down every road is a story. The telling of my story has a distinct before and after quality to it. My life before, was a love story. A Hallmark movie. With a couple of I Love Lucy episodes thrown in for good measure. Boy meets girl in High School. Sweeps her off her feet and marries her. But after 41 years of love and laughter the bottom fell out with the uttering of one little word. Cancer. A love I thought I'd grow old in, slipped away in the middle of the night. Leaving me to ask, what now?

Thankfully the writing that sustained me through my entire life was there to catch me when I fell. At first I poured it all out onto the pages of my journal. A mix of words, ink, and tears tucked safely between the leather covers. 

Here I am in the after part of my story. But the after is also the NOW. Eventually the purging of emotion led me back to another story that had been pushed to the back burner during trying times. Characters who had been waiting patiently began to nudge and push. It was time to sit down at the computer and let the story be told. Let the healing begin. 
When I ask the question, who am I now?...I realize though the road may have changed, I'm still a storyteller.

If it's one thing I know about, it's love. But I'm not interested in simply writing about; boy meets girl. My tag line is: Romance may be pretty but love stories are real. And that's where I want to be when I'm writing...down deep where the real story lives. Because love is messy. And glorious. I want to roll around in a story and fall in love. Want to come with me?

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  1. Thank Nimi for the gorgeous and thoughtful review. When a reader gets it...I'm reminded why I do what I do. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with your readers.


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