9 Letters by Blake Austin
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on February 24th 2016
Buy on Amazon
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.
Nine Letters is the debut book by Blake Austin and it definitely does not disappoint. When I first started reading the book, I was definitely not expecting what I read, yet I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I would have to start by saying that this is not your typical love story/romance book. It is very different. This is Luke story, and Luke’s alone, through the process of meeting and falling in love with his wife, losing her and then putting his life back together. This is not Luke and Rae’s story, not one bit. I would venture to say that Rae is more like a secondary character. His wife Emily, is actually a bigger part of the story. In that regard, the blurb is a little misleading. But don’t let that deter you from this beautiful book, once you understand that this is about Luke first and foremost, you can fully enjoy the book.
“Losing your wife is like losing your whole future, present, and half your past.”
When we meet Luke Cawley, he is a mess. He was very young when he fell in love with his wife and very young when he lost her. He thought this was forever and then he tragically lost her. He is barely existing, not even living. On the first year anniversary of his wife’s death, he receives a box of letters that his late wife Emily left for him. Each letter has a purpose and a task that he must complete before he can open the next. Nothing major, just simple things that take him one step further to getting his life back on track.
“Leave it to Emily to come up with such an incredibly perfect way to give me something to look forward to, such an incredibly perfect way to get me out of bed in the morning. I wasn’t better, not by a long shot, but getting out of bed is a good first step to getting anything done.”
There are so many things I loved about this book. Although I can’t say that this book was absolutely perfect, I can say that this book was able to move me in so many ways, and bring all sorts of feels. The grief period that Luke is going through is so palpable, everything is described in such ways, that you can’t help but feel what he is feeling at every moment.
“There were only six letters left. It wasn’t enough. I wanted letters from now until I died. I wanted to open up all six of them, I wanted to devour her words. I wanted to stare at her handwriting, at the little loops she put on her letters even when she wasn’t writing cursive. I wanted to see her little turns of phrase. I wanted to never open them. I wanted to always have them, in case I needed them, unopened and waiting. I wanted to read them at ninety on my death bed, so I could drink in Emily’s thoughts, one last time, before pneumonia took me to meet her in heaven.”
The book makes a point of showing you, through flashbacks, the contrasts between Luke now, and the Luke that was a kid in love with Emily. You can definitely tell how much he is changed because of her death. Similarly, once he starts reading the letters and eventually when he meets Rae and starts falling for her, you can again be a witness of yet more transformation when it comes to Luke and I thoroughly enjoyed that. The book moves between sad and joy with amazing fluidity, there’s also some funny moments here and there.
When it came to Rae, even when she did not share the story with Luke in equal parts. I totally could feel his strong connection to her, even if it was just implied. Since this is Luke’s POV and his story, you can sense how conflicted he is about the possibility of even remotely building a new life with someone else since his connection with his wife was so strong. Yet, there were hints here and there that his future with Rae might be brighter.
“She put her arm around my waist, pulled me in tight. It was the first time we’d touched…really touched. She was warm against me, and that warmth spread through the whole of my body like something magic.”
“I’d assumed I’d feel guilty, but I just didn’t. I was getting my life back together.”
Speaking of Luke’s POV. When I first signed up for this tour, I was captivated by the blurb, and then the cover. I had no idea who Blake Austin was or knew anything about the author. A bit into the story, I was extremely fascinated by this male POV and how Luke sounded like a guy’s guy. You know how in some books you can tell a female author is writing this male POV? This male POV is the total opposite, it’s so on point. For some reason the more I kept reading, the more I became convinced that Blake Austin was a guy. He is, btw. It’s not a secret, we just assume he was a woman because our initial packet had no bio, lol. I just thought it’s funny to mention it because the sister wives and I joked about it for a bit when we found out.
Overall, I loved this book so much, it definitely brought the feels. However, I would say that I needed/need more. Although the story wraps up well, I felt like it was a little incomplete and I want more Luke and Rae. A better look into their future together. The book would’ve definitely benefitted from an epilogue or maybe another book? Please! Regardless, this is an amazing debut novel by Mr. Blake Austin and I absolutely recommend it!
*An ARC was generously provided in exchange for an honest review*
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.”
$20 Winner’s Choice Book Retailer Gift Card & Signed Paperback (1 Winner)