Once to Every Man:
Three very different lives intersect against the backdrop of racial and cultural tension in 1960s Africa.
Reena Pavane, a young missionary, is helping spread Christianity to East African natives. One day, she’s pulled out of her village and evacuated via helicopter by the British journalist Jim Stone. Despite numerous obstacles—age difference, Jim’s marriage and his malaria—the two fall in love. When Jim, on an assignment in the jungle, is taken prisoner by militants, Reena follows closely behind to bring him his malaria medication. Dakimu Reiman, a young African, helps her on the journey but finds himself torn between wanting to help Reena and Jim and wanting to hate them because of what white people have done to his fellow Africans. Eventually, Dakimu falls in love with Reena as well, which tears at his conscience further; should he steal Reena from Jim or make her happy by bringing Jim safely out of the jungle? The trials and tribulations that the trio goes through take them across three continents and multiple decades, as they confront their feelings for each other on personal, spiritual and racial levels. The stakes are high, the material heavy and the characters complex; even the good Christian girl Reena, who occasionally seems too sweet, commits a few remorseful actions. Cain conveys her knowledge and passion for her subject, though the novel would benefit from more historical context and detail to enhance the vivid portrait of Africa at a turbulent time in its history.
High-stakes historical fiction that could use more history. KIRKUS REVIEW
The message is powerful, the characters believable, and the conflicts real / historically and psychologically.
―Nelda Kendall, JD
Ark for the Brokenhearted:
When I finished this multi-faceted and poignant novel, I said “Wow! Wow!
An intricate plot where tense interpersonal relationships in the world of racial injustice and long-held hatreds are reconciled by children, one black, one white.
―Jerry Hover Lt.Col USAF Ret
This is a wonderful story. I appreciate the way its complexity unfolds and its core themes of the many aspects of love, forgiveness, compassion, and non-judgment play out. The characters are well-drawn and credible and the descriptions so rich, I feel like I've watched it as a film. A great read.
MONTANA SENIOR NEWS JUNE/JULY 2015 BOOK REVIEW
Almost Paradise by Elizabeth Cain; iUniverse, Inc.; Bloomington, IN, 2013
Reviewed by Connie Daugherty
A pretty, young wrangler steps into the pen with a problem horse and life at Rancho Cielo Azul, an isolated Nevada guest ranch, is changed forever.
“When they led the horse into the round pen, I thought, Okay, fifteen minutes.” Serena Skye has an almost magical connection to and understanding of horses. But she has almost no connection to or experience with men. The seasoned ranch hands standing around the fence laugh as she gently caresses the horse.
“One of the guys wasn’t laughing… I wasn’t that crazy about men. The greatest love of my life had been a horse trainer a couple counties over – a woman.” Still Serena finds herself oddly attracted to Julian Rose, the one man who is not laughing. And Julian Rose is definitely attracted to the young woman who is so expertly working with his problem horse. He hires her almost without thinking.
Elizabeth Cain’s novel, Almost Paradise, is more than a love story that spans decades. It is a story of self-discovery, patience, and forgiveness with constant unexpected twists and turns that keep the suspense and drama high and the pages turning. It is filled with picturesque landscapes, details about horse training, and about the connections between people and horses. Set in the Nevada wilderness and populated with beautiful but often problem horses and memorable characters, Almost Paradise is a good summer read.
From that very first moment their eyes met over the back of a stubborn grey gelding, Julian is attracted to Serena and Serena is attracted to Julian. They share a love of horses and the ranching life style. However, they both have so much baggage it seems the best they can achieve is a respectful working relationship that borders on friendship.
Although she has left Carla, her girlfriend, Serena can’t seem to get Carla out of her mind. Carla was her first and only love so far. Their separation had been sudden and complex with unanswered questions. Now Serena isn’t sure she’s ready to move on especially with a man even if he would have her. “It felt like a lie, keeping the most intimate discovery about myself from him, that I had loved a woman. But right now he needed my horse savvy.”
Although Julian’s wife, Miranda, has been locked up in mental institution for eight years, he hasn’t divorced her and continues to pay for her treatment. He hasn’t seen her in all that time – has tried to put her out of his mind. But now she might be released and she wants to come home to her husband. Doctors claim Miranda is okay, but Julian isn’t convinced. Could she still be dangerous? Could she still be capable of murder? Does he dare file for a divorce?
Too many things need to change for Julian and Serena if they are going to move forward at all. Too many questions have to be answered, too much of the past resolved. Serena is confused. “I felt like a bronc in the round pen, not knowing who I was, what my job was, when the pressure would be released.”
Meanwhile, the summer season has started and everyone on the ranch is busy with the paying guests. Carla and some friends come over for the Saturday night staff dinner and dancing. The meeting goes better than Serena dared to expect. Her love for Carla hasn’t diminished, just changed. Julian proposes and Serena accepts. “Thirty years old, waiting for the moment that would reveal who I was… if it was almost paradise that would be enough.”
Then, months later, “Miranda pounded on the front door…. Julian slowly walked over to the desk. He picked up a sheaf of papers…handed them to her, his divorce papers.” Miranda, who has stopped taking her medications, is livid and out of control. Although Julian has her arrested, she escapes, steals a gun, and heads back to the mountains surrounding the ranch. She is determined to separate her husband from his beloved horses and from this new woman in his life even if she has to kill them all.
Together Julian and Serena are determined to find a way to keep Miranda from killing anyone or anything. Get her back into a hospital where she belongs, then maybe, just maybe she will be out of their life forever. Maybe.
Elizabeth Cain was a secondary teacher for thirty-one years. She has won numerous poetry awards and had two poems set to music for chorus and orchestra. She lives in Montana’s Blackfoot Valley with her husband and their sixteen dogs, six cats, and four horses. This romantic, psychological thriller is her second novel. Its sequel, Dancing in the Red Snow, was released recently. MSN
Elizabeth Cain’s novel, Almost Paradise, is filled with romance, drama, and suspense. Her characters come to life as their normal lives become anything but that. The story takes place on a guest ranch in Nevada over the span of a few years. Cain pulls the reader into the life-changing events that transpire in the novel. Various twists throughout the book has the reader wondering what will happen next. This is a very good story and will keep you entertained from beginning to end.
What a great story! I loved the combination of ranching, dressage, and Native American themes. The underlying current of mental illness made it all-encompassing. I cried through the last few chapters.
Dancing in the Red Snow:
This book is phenomenal!
The emotions that are evoked in reading this story are powerful, raw, and haunting. Lines such as “I can go home now Mr. Bowen, but I can never start over” portray exactly how anyone from an abusive, dysfunctional childhood would feel. Amazingly real!!
―Kathleen M. Stevens, LAC
It was a good read and I really enjoyed the literary aspect of it as well. You were able to integrate that nicely without it coming off as didactic. It’s always challenging in any art form to bring technique to the forefront and yet not have that take away from the reader’s involvement in the story. The poetry was uniformly excellent as well.
It was intriguing to figure out the multi-plot levels that all come together in the very last line!
After the first chapter, I could not put the book down! The poetry and short fiction within the novel was intense and unforgettable.