“A love story of loss and redemption and the ghosts that haunt our lives and our houses.
Aurora Goldberg Stein is lost in grief. Her beloved husband, Jake Stein, has just died in a tragic car accident and her sorrow is overwhelming. But is this really the end? Perhaps, perhaps not. She hears his voice. She sees his ghostly presence. She travels back in time to another life with Jake. What is going on? What is the message?
Jake Stein, a dashing Texan, sweeps Aurora off her feet and changes her life. A Brooklyn born actress, she moved to NYC and does temporary work to pay her bills. On this particular assignment, she accidentally meets Jake Stein, who is her dance with destiny. Leaving everything she knows, she marries him and moves to Austin, Texas. No longer struggling to make ends meet, Aurora wiles away her time bored and lonely, and trying to recapture the excitement she once had with this man. And then suddenly, it’s all over, her life, her future is gone. Vanished are all her hopes and dreams.
But destiny comes in many forms, and when Aurora moves to a new house, she discovers that the previous owner has never left. The ghostly presence of Viola Parker looms large and becomes Aurora’s guide through time revealing to her the mistakes she’s made with Jake Stein through the centuries. This time, maybe this time, Aurora can get it right.”
Karen S. Bell has created a story that is both intriguing and disturbing with Sunspots. I usually read through books quickly, but I found myself savoring this unusual and well-written story. Initially, I was caught up in the magical romance between Aurora and Jake. Aurora is Brooklyn born and Jewish, the daughter of sixties hippies. Jake is also Jewish, son of a wealthy family in Austin, Texas.
Beginning with the tragic aftermath of Jake’s accidental death and Aurora’s devastation at the loss of her husband, Bell sets the stage for a love story touched by the paranormal. She introduces the reader to Aurora’s parents, her unusual childhood, and her adult aspiration to be an actress. By artfully engaging the reader with Jake’s pursuit of Aurora, their eventual relationship and marriage, and his subsequent death, Bell sets up the shocking revelations that follow.
Told in the first person from Aurora’s point of view, we follow along with her as she makes discoveries about her husband’s life. Occasionally there are glimmers of something hidden beneath the surface but until the full story is revealed, the truth is elusive. Tying the skeins of the relationships together is done neatly, using both the living and a ghostly presence.
Early in the story, Jake’s personality is developed so thoroughly it is easy to see why Aurora is drawn to him. However, it also raises questions about his sense of responsibility and maturity. He’s a daredevil, always ready to try some new and risky entertainment. Even though he knows Aurora is reticent and sometimes fearful to experience some things, he presses her to try. While she may not enjoy the activities he does, she relents, despite her discomfort. Jake’s behavior makes the reader wonder about his feelings for Aurora. Meanwhile, she is overwhelmed by the family’s wealth and stature in the affluent Austin society, a position she is not comfortable with. Jake’s mother and sisters are nouveau riche and are completely absorbed by wealth and their place in the community.
Their wedding is a huge event attended primarily by friends and associates of Jake’s family. Most of Aurora’s friends from New York are financially unable to travel to Texas, so her guest list is limited to her parents and a family friend, Marina. Marina plays a vital role in the story and her relationship to Aurora and her family is unique, to say the least.
After the extravagant wedding, an exciting honeymoon, and setting up their new and expensive home, Aurora is left to her own devices as Jake returns to work. With too much time on her hands, no friends, and an uncertainty about her suitability to the life she is now living as Jake’s wife, she becomes jealous and possessive. This causes an uneasy strain on their marriage. As Jake devotes more time to his business, Aurora becomes clingier. His accidental death throws Aurora over the edge and she experiences what seems to be a breakdown.
It’s at this point, after Jake’s funeral, that the story takes on new dimensions. Layer by layer, secrets are exposed. Aurora struggles to cope with the loss of Jake assisted by her mother, Marina, and Marina’s friend Paul. The mysteries begin to be unraveled and piece by piece Aurora regains her identity.
The landscape is rich with descriptions of Austin, Texas. The atmosphere is so vibrant the reader can easily visualize the settings. Austin provides an exciting location for this well-written story that blends romance, suspense, and the paranormal into a compelling tale. There are enough twists and turns to keep any reader turning pages to solve the mysteries hinted at throughout.
I highly recommend this book to any reader who enjoys a complex tale. It contains all the elements of a story that holds the interest and leaves the reader thinking after the satisfying conclusion.Kudos to Ms. Bell on the best book I’ve read this year, Sunspots.
I get so much satisfaction in the writing process. I take care to choose just the right word, to make sure each sentence has the right cadence. I appreciate other writers who respect the craft in this way, and I hope my readers do so with me. Writing is a need, a desire for expression, and springs from well within my subconscious mind. Thoughts rise up, scenes rise up and blend in with the over-arching story. These thoughts emerge whenever they want to and wherever I am and probably not when I am at the computer. The computer is for the craft, the technique. The thoughts come during walks, or while driving the car, or at the grocery store. I am the willing recipient of these thoughts and so they seek me out. It’s a mystery this business and art of writing and it keeps me enthralled.
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