Mary Campisi has penned an engaging, enthralling story in A Family Affair which had me hooked from the first few words.
From the beginning, I enjoyed the character of dedicated, hard-working, Christine Blacksworth and I felt my soul shatter when she heard the news that her father had been killed in an automobile accident.
I was in the car with her when she headed out in search of answers - to find out why her father had been so far away from his getaway cabin when the accident occurred.
I felt shock reverberate through me when Christine learned that the father she had always known and loved had another family, another daughter to call his own, a daughter he went to visit every month under the guise of getting away for a break.
Armed with this newfound knowledge, Christine and I parted company in our responses. While Christine was prepared to hate her father's other family, I was interested in getting to know them - and I'm glad Christine gave me the opportunity.
Over time, she discovered that she couldn't hate them. In fact, the other family represented everything she wished she could have had in her own: loving parents, a close-knit relationship with each of them, even peace and joy with the comfort of making her own decisions.
With the other family, Christine didn't have to walk on eggshells or feel as though her actions were being monitored or governed, as was the case with her mother. Instead, Christine could relax and feel at home with her father's second family. She could feel comforted by the woman her father truly loved.
She fell in love with the other woman's son. She could be herself and spend time with her sister (born with Down Syndrome) whom she would grow to love more than she believed possible, a sister who grew to look forward to Christine's visits each month as she had anticipated her father's before the accident which claimed his life.
Going back and forth between both homes, Christine felt the strain of the secrecy but it would only be a matter of time before Christine learned of the secrets in her own family, secrets which made her question her own identity - secrets which made her father's second family the more honest of the two.
Most times, we are afforded the opportunity to get to know a person during their lifetime; sometimes, however, we get to know a person best only after they have passed on. Such was the case with Charles Blacksworth, the man Christine had always called Dad.
Even now, months after I've read the last page, I wonder how life might have turned out had Charles allowed Christine to know about his second family, as they did her. I cannot help but feel that Christine's life would have felt far more complete and she would not have gone through such a long battle, feeling she was the less desired daughter of the two. In fact, Charles might very well still be alive.
A Family Affair is a heart-wrenching story which makes one pause to think about what is real. Is it the marriage in name only or the marriage of two hearts, united as one, even when no public vows have taken place? This is an emotionally gripping read with an outcome to make the reader proud.
I would encourage you to visit A Family Affair's page on Amazon to read some of the reviews.
As soon as I had the opportunity, I began reading the second book, A Family Affair: Spring, to see what was happening in the characters' lives.
Once again, Campisi did not disappoint - having written another story which grabbed my attention from the beginning.
The second instalment of A Family Affair introduced me to a few new characters, one of whom made me smile as I saw how he was determined not to like the grown daughter of Charles Blacksworth, yet couldn't help falling prey to her charm, hard working spirit and her character, in general.
In fact, this man's words to Christine, especially as they work side by side in the garden, are wrought with pearls of wisdom. The story would not be complete without him, just as something would be amiss if Nate was never mentioned.
Speaking of Nate, he and Christine are married, but her mother is determined that Christine should be living the high society life and devises a plan to separate the couple. Will it work? All I will say is there's a third book coming out later in 2014.
Just as the first instalment made us question what a real marriage entailed, the second begs us to consider the word, character.
What type of character are you? Are you the type who might destroy a person's life because you feel the choices being made are wrong, thereby taking matters into your own hands to protect your loved one?
Are you the sort of person who will go head-to-head with another because stubbornness will not let you back down, because you need to have the final word?
Would you tell someone what they should do in a situation or would you, sensing the reason for a person's troubled soul, share aspects from your own life, hoping the light will dawn in their own hearts?
Could you imagine sitting across from the wife of the man you loved with all of your heart, treating her with compassion despite all the grief she has caused in the past?
A Family Affair: Spring is as much about presenting character as it is about telling a story about each of the characters' lives.
I would strongly suggest you read A Family Affair first so you will know the rich back story behind this book. If you've already read it and would like to follow up with the characters, visit A Family Affair: Spring's page on Amazon.
Once again I spent time in the little fictional town of Magdalena. From the time I first read A Family Affair I knew I would want to learn more about some of the characters - that one book couldn't be the end. Thankfully, author Mary Campisi felt the same way because she has gone on to publish multiple titles in the series, with six books published and a seventh title to be announced, as I write.
At the moment, I want to share with you a little about my thoughts of A Family Affair: Summer, the third book of the series.
A little background: Daniel (aka Cash) had been a cop and Tess had dreamed of going into nursing, but Tess had a brother named JJ who skirted with the law and, sometimes, got himself into trouble. Enter Cash, a man who became a role model for JJ, a man who would fall in love with JJ's sister.
The time came when Tess and Cash planned to get married. Three days before their wedding, the bottom dropped out of their world when Cash was called to the scene of a crime and, in self-defense, shot and killed the perpetrator, who turned out to be JJ. A moment of silence will be given here while you stop to absorb the words of the preceding sentence, to try putting yourself into both Cash's and Tess' position, to determine how you might feel.
The series of events and ensuing emotions which followed divided the town as one half took Tess' side and the other half took Cash's. In the end, the two parted company - unable to live with the consequences of that night. I knew this before reading A Family Affair: Summer, which shares the story of what happens eight years later.
I caught up with a disheartened Tess who was doing everything she could to distance herself from the thoughts and feelings she experienced in the past. Meanwhile, Cash was shot while on duty and sent home to recuperate from his injuries. After a surprise visit by a resident of Magdalena - not to mention a blackmail attempt -Tess heads back home to try to bring Cash out of the world of misery he can't seem to escape.
Campisi did a wonder job of bringing the emotions to the surface when the two saw each other face-to-face for the first time in eight years. We could feel the love each continued to have for the other, but knew they were both hurting and struggling over past heartaches.
It was a pleasure getting to know these two and, like the various residents of Magdalena, I was hoping the two would reunite and, possibly, find their happily ever after - but, as in life, something often comes along to stand in the way of happiness. The question I will leave you with is this: will Tess and Cash be able to overcome the new obstacles in their path or will the past repeat itself, sending each into a sea of loneliness again?
You could purchase A Family Affair: Summer at Amazon, or even read the reviews to see what others have had to say but, personally, I'd recommend starting at the beginning and reading your way through the series.
Yet another season of my life has been spent in the fictional town of Magdalena, New York, created by author Mary Campisi. I can assure you I am nowhere near ready to let these characters go; in my mind, the first book basically set the foundation for all that could come out of these characters' lives.
After finishing "Summer" I went right into read A Family Affair: Fall and must say that, of the three books I've read so far, after the initial book of the series, I enjoyed "Fall" best.
In her books, Campisi does more than tell a story. She brings various truths to light and makes us ask questions of ourselves - some questions which are easy to answer while others force us to probe the depths of our emotions - indeed, our souls, at times.
I can't remember when I met Gina Servetti, but I knew she grew up in a home which I would call shallow. Importance was placed on all the wrong things - largely centered around a person's weight or looks, not to mention that her parents felt Gina should be content enough to marry and settle down as opposed to going off to college to obtain a career and set a path for future independence.
Meanwhile, the "lady of the town" - to put it politely - is her cousin, Natalie Servetti, who has come close to destroying several marriages. Hopping from one bed to another is no problem for her and, wonder of wonders, Gina's parents wish Gina was more like Natalie. Wow! All I can say is thank God my parents were not like Gina's.
As you may already be aware, living under anyone's shadow is bad enough - but living under the shadow of someone who has no scruples about behavior which would make most people cringe has to come with an added bite. Gina was smart but, as with anyone, it doesn't take long for self-confidence to suffer when always being compared to someone else and found lacking. When you're never good enough, never fast enough, never slim enough, never "fill in your own blanks" enough, it isn't long before you believe there must be something to what everyone is telling you - especially when they're family, the people who are supposed to care about you most.
What about Ben Reed? He was married and loved his wife, but what he failed to consider was the various attributes of love. Marriage is not only about sharing a physical, emotional, sexual connection; it's about enduring, sharing, trusting and believing, among other things. Ben had scars of his own and, because he couldn't open up to his wife about those things, he lost her.
When Gina and Ben first met, I sensed they would become close. Reading their story and the way situations seemed to bring them together, I was pulling for them - hoping they could both set aside the scars from the past and move forward together.
Of course, there is always drama going on in the Family Affair books and you'll find a fair share of it in A Family Affair: Fall. If you've been following the series, you'll get to visit some of your favorite characters and meet a few new ones. If you would like to learn more about the book, feel free to visit A Family Affair: Fall's page on Amazon.
Almost as soon as I turned the last page of "Fall," I began reading A Family Affair: Christmas. It's a shorter story and the back of the book advertises other books the author has written. However, despite not wanting to let the characters go so soon, I enjoyed the story and how the events unfolded.
Who would have imagined a Christmas party hosted by Harry Blacksworth would turn into an all-night affair because of a snow storm and the ensuing loss of power? People were camped out everywhere for a night, among them being Pop Benito's son, Anthony, who insisted on bringing his father to the west coast upon his return. It didn't matter about the protests others made; his mind was made up and that was it.
Of course, I caught up with the various residents of Magdalena again, catching up on what was happening in the lives of some of my favorite characters. I had the privilege of encountering Lily again who always has a way of cutting to the core of any matter, grasping life in the simplest of terms, and speaking about how she feels. When making snow angels, the one-sided conversation she had with her late father brought tears to my eyes, as it did to her uncle, Harry's.
Of course, in the kitchen, some ladies had conversations of their own, one revelation piquing my interest - this coming from a woman who kept her private life a secret from everyone. I am interested in learning how it all pans out because, the point where the story ended, I cannot help but feel the next book will pick up and tell the story from where A Family Affair: Christmas left off.
Mary Campisi has a way of involving her readers in the lives of her characters and I can't wait until the next book when I can immerse myself in the lives of the characters of Magdalena again, those I've gotten to know and new characters who may come into my life.
If you would like to read more about this book, feel free to check out A Family Affair: Christmas on Amazon.