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Whiskey & Ribbons

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Set in contemporary Louisville, Leesa Cross-Smith’s mesmerizing first novel surrounding the death of a police officer is a requiem for marriage, friendship and family.

Evi—a classically-trained ballerina—was nine months pregnant when her husband Eamon was killed in the line of duty on a steamy morning in July. Now, it is winter, and Eamon's adopted brother Dalton has moved in to help her raise six-month-old Noah.

Whiskey & Ribbons is told in three intertwining, melodic voices: Evi in present day, as she’s snowed in with Dalton during a freak blizzard; Eamon before his murder, as he prepares for impending fatherhood and grapples with the danger of his profession; and Dalton, as he struggles to make sense of his life next to Eamon’s, and as he decides to track down the biological father he’s never known.

In the vein of Jojo Moyes’ After You, Whiskey & Ribbons explores the life that continues beyond loss, with a complicated brotherly dynamic reminiscent of Elizabeth Strout’s The Burgess Boys. It’s a meditation on grief, hope, motherhood, brotherhood and surrogate fatherhood. Above all, it’s a novel about what it means—and whether it’s possible—to heal.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published March 6, 2018

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About the author

Leesa Cross-Smith is a homemaker and writer from Kentucky. She is the author of HALF-BLOWN ROSE, THIS CLOSE TO OKAY, SO WE CAN GLOW, WHISKEY & RIBBONS, EVERY KISS A WAR, and the forthcoming GOODBYE EARL. HALF-BLOWN ROSE received Coups De Cœur recognition from the American Library in Paris and was the Amazon Editors’ Spotlight for June 2022, the inaugural pick for Amazon’s Editorial Director Sarah Gelman’s Book Club Sarah Selects, and the Barnes & Noble Book Club Pick for June 2022. THIS CLOSE TO OKAY was a Goodreads Choice 2021 Nominee for Best Fiction, a Book of the Month Book of the Year 2021 Nominee, a Book of the Month Early Release Pick for December 2020, the Good Housekeeping Book Club Pick for February 2021 and the Marie Claire Book Club Pick for March 2021. She was longlisted for the 2022 Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award and 2021 Joyce Carol Oates Literary Prize and SO WE CAN GLOW was listed as one of NPR's Best Books of 2020. WHISKEY & RIBBONS won the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) Gold Medal in Literary Fiction, was longlisted for the 2018 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and was one of O Magazine's 2018 Top Books of Summer. EVERY KISS A WAR was nominated for the PEN Open Book Award (2014) and was a finalist for both the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction (2012) and the Iowa Short Fiction Award (2012). Find more @ LeesaCrossSmith.com

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 429 reviews
Profile Image for Leesa.
Author 11 books1,974 followers
September 9, 2017
I HAVE INDEED READ THIS. AAAND I ALSO WROTE THIS. I feel v confident in my feelings for it. I started writing this book in 2000/2001 and have read it a thousand times and tbh I still love it. There is a blizzard (two ppl who love one another a lot are snowed in together which I LOVE) aaand some kissing (and lots) and hope. It's abt grief and healing and darkness and light...it's abt friendship and brotherhood and families and who we are/can be to one another. It's abt holding on. It's romantic and sweet. I think abt it a lot bc I wrote it. THIS IS MY DEBUT NOVEL Y'ALL. What a dream.
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 121 books157k followers
March 10, 2018
What a gorgeous, warm love story that is also a story about friendship and family and faith. I couldn't put this book down and was rooting so hard for Dalton and Evi and Frances and Cassidy and Eamon. This is a multi-layered, romantic, sexy, sad story. Just one hell of a satisfying read and though, in many ways, this story begins at the end, there are many wonderful, poignant surprises to be found in this novel.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,733 reviews14.1k followers
May 3, 2018
Grief and memory are the key themes explored in this novel. Grief and love side by side. A short review because once again I probably was not the right reader for this. A simple story, boy meets girl, tragedy befalls, girl has child and best friend steps in to take care of them both. What was different are the secrets exposed between the best friend and husband, and the husband that haunts the story, speaking from the beyond.

Not a romance reader so was glad this story was not told in an emotional way. The prose was occasionally clumsy and the books pace was very slow. I felt ambivalent about the characters, but was interested enough to see where it was going, what was going to happen. So okay for me, others might like it better.

ARC from Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Kate Olson.
2,190 reviews724 followers
April 23, 2018
(AUDIOBOOK) OH MY LORD THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I HAVE READ/LISTENED TO ALL YEAR!!! Okay, enough with the shouting, but for real. I listened to this one and it was FABULOUS. Absolutely fabulous. Heartbreaking and hopeful and sweet and spiritual and musical. I'm sure it's just as good on the page, but the narration was fabulous and definitely added to the story for me.
Profile Image for Read In Colour.
284 reviews443 followers
November 14, 2017
I don't drink whiskey, I drink rum and I savored the words and characters of Whiskey & Ribbons like a good bottle of my favorite. Can't wait for everyone to read it.
Profile Image for Read By RodKelly.
205 reviews754 followers
May 11, 2018
This was a pretty lackluster read for me, and I only finished because I buddy-read it with bae.

The problem is that it's an incredibly cliche romance that wants to be literary and it just doesn't work. The characters lack depth and seem to all have the same voice. The drama is not impactful and doesn't really make sense in the overall structure of the novel. The interior monologues are repetitive to the point where I felt the need to skim all over the place.
Profile Image for Gabriella.
271 reviews247 followers
March 15, 2018
I don’t think I can adequately express how much I loved this book, but I have to try! In her first novel, Leesa Cross-Smith proves just how much we needed her work. Whiskey & Ribbons is a devastating, intimate, lover’s knot of a book, and so far it’s my favorite of the year.

Without spoiling too much, this is the story of the Royce Family, namely Evangeline, Eamon, and Dalton Berkeley-Royce. When Eamon, a Louisville police sergeant, is killed during a house call, he leaves his wife Evangeline, their unborn son Noah, and his adopted brother, Dalton, to figure out how they will live without Eamon as their glue. The story is told from the perspectives of Evangeline, Eamon, and Dalton, all at slightly different times in their lives. I REALLY enjoyed the overlapping time periods, because you gain a sense of how these characters experience the same situations on entirely different plains. It’s perhaps most interesting that Leesa Cross-Smith chooses to place Evangeline’s perspective in a present snowstorm, while the men mostly narrate (read: are stuck in) the past.

Throughout the book, I was most drawn to the brothers’ perspectives, which is usually never the case for me. Cross-Smith knows just how to capture the emotional incompetence and emotional attempts of men, so that their failures are presented alongside their earnest intentions to do right by their wives and children, and their glowing instances of brotherhood. It’s a refreshingly well-rounded way to tell a love triangle (though honestly, this is like a love pentagram), and makes it so that no character comes across as “better” than the others. When reading this book, I felt like all its guilt and grief were in 3-D, making it super painstaking to determine the "right choices" before and after Eamon’s death. Never in this book do you not empathize deeply with a character being described, because you never feel any narrative distance from any of them. Cross-Smith takes us way past the edge of their emotions, and I’m so thankful for that.

I would fly through these chapters, and then not read it for a couple of hours because I didn't want to finish the book, and have the story be over. I felt ALL OF THE WAYS about every situation, and I know that it’ll be super hard to leave this one behind. I don’t want to say too much more because I want everyone to read it, immediately!

P.S. In addition to her insular depictions of love and loss, Cross-Smith is also making a larger point about fictive kinship and surrogate parenthood, both of which have sustained many black communities. Like I said in my review
of An American Marriage, we don’t see enough of these situations celebrated in literature, though it’s so, so common and important for many people's upbringings. I’ll leave y’all with Dalton’s heartbreaking conversation on page 90, of which I’ll just quote a bit: “I grew up with a man who wasn’t my biological dad, but he’d do anything for me. So there are also these guys out here doubling up. Pulling twice their load without complaining…”
Profile Image for Jessie.
259 reviews167 followers
June 7, 2018
I found myself a bit stifled reading whiskey & ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith on a couple of fronts. Firstly, despite the third narrator already being dead (this is NOT a spoiler - his death is central to the whole narrative) the majority of the book takes place over a weekend storm in which two people are stuck together in a house and it is dramatic as hell up in there. Secondly, despite the book being an adult novel, and sex being a central topic, the intensity of it felt a bit young adult fiction to me (this book had claustrophobic elements of the sun is also a star that I wasn’t fond of). The constant focus on who had sex with who/when they had sex/if they were having sex/if they were going to have sex read as very juvenile to me. Finally, and I don’t know if the author is aware of this, the social conservatism around women and sexuality was abundantly clear. The men were all able to be complex sexual beings, but the women who had premarital sex were at best captured as somehow more dark, but honestly, were mostly characterized in a “virgin/whore” dichotomy and either disposable, vixens, likeable but desperate or lacking in some way; all of this compared to a central character who was a virgin until marriage and was definitely written as the pure angel of the book. I found it moralizing in a way I wasn’t fond of, I am not okay with religion being used to diminish women who don’t fit a certain profile, and whether Cross-Smith did this intentionally or not (it felt like something she uncritically and unthinkingly contributed to but idk 🤷🏿‍♀️) it was a huge thorn in my side. So, those were the downsides for me. I did find the content around a major reveal to be very accurate in terms of the pain that parents can create, and the rejection that can happen for children when adults practice self preservation at all costs. I also felt the loss of the third narrator at times, as a wife and mother, and that was very touching. But really, the whole book had a Tyler Perry Woman Thou Art Loosed feel about it with one character in particular, and that is not a compliment. Bad women getting what they deserve, with a thin veil of complexity over an age old way to shame women irked me.
Profile Image for Alisa (worldswithinpages).
134 reviews47 followers
May 12, 2018
Are you someone who enjoys getting your heart ripped from your chest, stomped on, and then sobbing uncontrollably so you can’t read through the tears?


Okay, pick this book up then. 😂

Thank you to Hub City Press for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review and for ruining my mascara. 💕
Profile Image for Andre.
519 reviews141 followers
February 3, 2018
At the risk of sounding cliché, the prose is poetic. Now that we have established that, let’s take a look at this story of family and grief. This is a difficult review to write because I don’t want to give away too much, but the central conflict of this novel is a deep moral quandary. I knew right away where I stood and so the reading for me was a search for how and why?

Grieving is a most difficult process and we often are driven to act in ways we normally would not absent the grieving process. Eamon and Dalton are brothers, six days apart. If you’re wondering how is that possible(not spoiling), read the book. Eamon has found a wonderful woman in Evangeline and proposes marriage. Being a police officer, Eamon is always cognizant that something could interfere with his coming home to his beloved Evangeline any given night. And even though she didn’t request he retire, “Evi didn’t ask me to give this up. But maybe she just didn’t tell me she worried about getting that hollow, lonesome knock on the door, uniformed officers on our porch, neither one of them me.“

So Eamon and Dalton make a pact to take care of each other’s families if ever there were something fatally to befall either of them. Evangeline and Eamon are pregnant and awaiting the arrival of their first child, when Eamon (Not a spoiler. It’s in the book description) is killed in the line of duty. This throws the world of Dalton and Evangeline into absolute turmoil as one could imagine.

Dalton is serious about his duty to Eamon’s family. But there is taking care and looking after someone and then there is taking CARE of another’s family. The story is told through these three perspectives. Evangeline in present day with her gaze frequently in the past to give us the back story. The same with Dalton.

Eamon’s voice is obviously before his unfortunate death and Leesa Cross-Smith does such an enthralling job of melding these voices together to form a lyrical chef-d'oeuvre. “‘Women, you are sleek and gorgeous. You hold us together, you’re the ribbons. We’re men. Dangerous only if you take us too seriously. We’re the whiskey. To whiskey and ribbons,‘ Eamon said, lifting his glass.“ I’ll drink to that. Thanks to Hub City Press and Edelweiss for an advanced ebook. The book is available March 6, 2018
Profile Image for Keyona.
286 reviews153 followers
March 29, 2018
I just....I just really loved this book. The way this author writes makes you want to savor every word. Not just read it, but read it, make sure you catch what she's saying, then think about how that sentence made you feel. Those type of authors are hard to come by. I have about 19 highlights in this book! This story follows Eamon, Dalton, and Evangeline. Eamon is killed in the line of duty leaving behind his wife Evangeline and their unborn child Noah. Dalton is his adopted brother. Evangeline and Dalton are left with this hole in between them. This is a story of love and grief. It goes back and forth between the past and the present between all three of their pov's. My favorite character was Eamon because he was so smooth and witty and reading his point of view was hard because I knew obviously he would die. I actually love whiskey and that's part of what made me pick it up lol. For this to be her debut novel I am thoroughly impressed. It was just very well done and I can't wait to read more from her.
Profile Image for Wilhelmina Jenkins.
242 reviews203 followers
July 18, 2018
Oh, my. I just finished this book and I am stunned. Talking about the plot of this book would not give a clue about how beautiful it is or how much I loved it. It is about brokenness and healing. It is about loss and grief. It is about families, secrets and flawed human beings. And it is about love, so many kinds of love, transcendent love. Just beautiful.
Profile Image for Monica **can't read fast enough**.
1,033 reviews334 followers
December 27, 2018
This is a sweetly painful story that revolves around the loss of a family's son/husband/brother. Cross-Smith does an excellent job putting her reader in the minds of the her three main characters and their complicated but deeply bonded relationships. I particularly enjoyed the way that Eamon's perspective is given voice as a central part of the story.

You can find me at:
•(♥).•*Monlatable Book Reviews*•.(♥)•
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Goodreads Group: The Black Bookcase

Profile Image for Monet.
Author 2 books30 followers
March 11, 2018
I was lucky to get my hands on this early. What a delight. Evi loses her cop husband when he responds to a domestic dispute, just days before their son is due to be born. Everyone deals differently with grief, but is the relationship between Evi and her deceased husband's best friend a response to tragedy or the real deal? Look for my interview with Leesa Cross-Smith in The Rumpus in March.
Profile Image for Never Without a Book.
468 reviews99 followers
August 29, 2018
Whiskey & Ribbons was written like a piece of classical music; smooth, rhythmic & beautiful. I completed this read a day ago & I can't get Evi, Eamon, and Dalton out of my head. I didn't want this read to end. This book provided just the right amount enough of grief, love, and family drama. I am still just gushing over this book. A must read
Profile Image for Basic B's Guide.
992 reviews317 followers
April 16, 2018
“I can hear it coming. Healing. The train tracks leading to my heart are warmed by it. I can put my hand there and feel it hot. It is rattling towards me. Rumbling. The buzzing sound of a flickering light at the end of the tunnel. A grief train rumbling away from us. A healing train coming our way.”

The hardest part for me after losing my Mom almost five short years ago was that the world didn’t stop. I needed time to heal without life “getting in the way”. How was I going to be a mother if I no longer had a mother? Who would I call in the middle of the day for no reason at all, other than to hear their voice?

“My brother Eamon was dead and the world kept going. But not mine. Not my world. F the rest of the world. Mine stopped. Not paused. Stopped.” Leesa you are speaking to my heart and soul here. This couldn’t be a truer statement. This book explores the raw and real emotions one feels after losing someone they love. Life goes on, it must go on, for our children and for us.

Intimate, beautiful and thoughtful, this novel is something I will hold close to my heart for a long time.
Profile Image for Megan C..
723 reviews199 followers
April 4, 2018
I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and I am still thinking about it. I loved it so much, and for so many different reasons-some personal, some literary-that I’m so afraid I’ll just ramble on and on incoherently and never be able to succinctly express my thoughts. I’m going to try to break it down below...without the incoherent rambling. :)

Plot & Pacing: At the most basic level, this is a story about a woman (and new mother) trying to figure out how to live and love after the death of her husband – a police officer who was killed in the line of duty. The story uses multiple POV and pivots around a central moment in time – a snow storm – while weaving in flashbacks to flesh out the characters and backstory. And honestly, at the risk of sounding completely corny and cliché – ya’ll, I mean it, this is going to sound completely corny and cliché — this book is paced like a snow storm. NO SERIOUSLY. It really is! Follow me here: much of the book is in slow motion – there’s a feeling of being suspended in time, curled up and watching the story slowly come together and build, bit by bit. There are also segments of swirling chaos, raw and raging, and then moments of absolute crystalline beauty. It comes together wonderfully.

“I think of our breaking hearts sounding like the snow—so quiet we can barely hear them, but after the right amount of time we can look around and see how everything is changed.“

Characters: These characters. I adored them all! I felt like they were real people. Flawed, funny, imperfect, relatable, completely authentic. I loved them all, but especially Dalton, Eamon, and Evi. I adored those three equally – I can’t pick a favorite.

“Grief made me want to give up. Other people had prayed for me to be strong but that wasn’t the prayer I prayed. The prayer I prayed was Jesus Christ, take it take it take it.”

Writing: This author has a completely singular style. It’s lyrical and descriptive without being a barrier to the movement of the storyline. Cross-Smith has a way of describing things in such a way that I found myself mentally saying, “Yes! Oh my gosh, I never thought of it that way but that’s EXACTLY RIGHT!” She lays grief bare and makes it a tangible thing you can pick up and examine. Reading it during a time of the year when I feel loss very deeply, I used up a whole pack of post-its to record the quotes I related to and wanted to keep close.

“I was glad to be next to him. I was glad to be in his presence. I hoped that by simply being close to him, I could take some of whatever burden he was carrying, hoped he could feel the lifting.”

On top of all of the above, this novel is set in Louisville, Kentucky during a snowstorm. I have to tell you that I read the majority of this book in Kentucky. During a freak spring snow storm. We even had thunder snow….which happened in the book too. I have to confess, I had a little Bastian in The Neverending Story moment – it felt so REAL, as if the story was unfolding at that very moment, just an hour down the road. It was uncanny. And undeniably magical.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
Profile Image for Maggie (mugandnook).
91 reviews18 followers
July 6, 2018
If you’re wondering what I thought of Whiskey & Ribbons, I loved it. It was reeeaallllyyyy depressing though. I finished it with a heavy heart. It never brought me to tears, but it still weighed on me pretty much from the beginning to end. I came away from it in a really bad headspace, and I just needed some cheesy Dawson’s Creek and Thai food to snap out of it. (All good now.) Leesa Cross-Smith writes very artistically. She has a unique way with words that sometimes felt cozy, delicious, poetic. These characters became fully-formed, authentic, believable people. It was a great escape read that I swallowed whole by the pool in one day. I was transported to Louisville in a blizzard - wearing thick socks, eating steaming ramen and whiskey with my friends Evi and Dalton.
Nearly all of my friends on Goodreads gave this a 5-star review and for good reason! Five stars didn’t feel quite right to me for some reason, so I landed on 4. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,602 reviews2,041 followers
August 12, 2020
It's an unusual combination to have a book with equal parts romance and grief, but it turns out it's not a bad combination. I loved Cross-Smith's voice and the way she was able to get me so deep in those feelings, and instead of being in conflict with each other, those emotions drew each other out more deeply.

This was 4-stars for me until about halfway through when the momentum slowed down. There had been direction and then it became more stagnant. I don't think this will impact a lot of readers the way it impacted me. I am a momentum person. I suspect many readers will enjoy the way the novel lets you sit with these people and these emotions so deeply.
Profile Image for Amy (TheSouthernGirlReads).
547 reviews135 followers
April 7, 2018

I found myself wanting to read this book with a whiskey sour in my right hand, a cigarette in my left while listening to Alannah Myles sing Black Velvet.

🎼 Black velvet and that little boy smile
Black velvet and that slow southern style
A new religion that'll bring you to your knees
Black velvet if you please. 🎼
{David Tyson & Christopher Ward}

The verse flowed slow & smokey and tart & sweet. I don't think I could have loved it more. Leesa Cross-Smith takes the reader through one of the most complex dramas you can imagine. She does it so completely well, that I am still reeling.
Eamon dies in the line of duty. Evi & Dalton are in place to pick up the pieces. Loss is scattered throughout this novel. It feels deeply. The grief portrayed in this story is overwhelming. It is in everything. But so is color. And hope. And love. At the end we are reminded
"Endings were as important as beginnings." Yes they were Leesa, yes they were.

Y'all I'm going to put it out there. This will be one of my favorites of 2018. I am giving it so many stars ✨ and I am on my knees begging. Read. This. Book. My review can never do it justice. The fact that this is a debut novel is baffling to me. Cross-Smith writes like a seasoned veteran. I am in awe. I will be for a while.
🥃 & 🎀 you have my heart.

Profile Image for Buffy.
61 reviews5 followers
November 12, 2018
If it were possible, I would rate 3.5 stars. Not too bad for a first novel. I think the author has a lot of talent and can definitely tell a story. However, something was holding me back..it could be the story line..or I couldn’t connect with the characters..at least not Evi...not sure..can’t put my finger on it. I was not overwhelmed with joy on this one, but I would read another book by this author, she is super cool!
Profile Image for Kourtney.
119 reviews35 followers
August 22, 2018
Thank you to Hub City Press for providing me this free copy in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

'I can hear it coming.  Healing.' -Evangeline, Whiskey & Ribbons

I know, I know, I am late to the party on this one.  Leesa Cross-Smith's debut novel, Whiskey & Ribbons blew my mind.  I think my heart actually grew larger while reading this book.  Cross-Smith has a way with words that is a like a melody your soul cannot get enough of.  This is a poignant tale of love and loss, of hope and healing.  The characters in this novel might be some of my favorites ever.  I loved Eamon, Evangeline and Dalton, they were the absolute best kind of humans.  They are the kind you would be fortunate to know in real life.  This story and these characters were rich in depth and your heart will physically ache as you watch their lives unfold.  I am a better person for having read this book.  I want to be a better person.  One that forgives freely, listens quietly and supports steadfastly.  This is a book that I don't think I will ever forget.  It weighs on my heart, but not in a heavy way, in a profound way, a meaningful way.  Thank you to Leesa Cross-Smith for writing this story.  Thank you to Jamise for picking as your Spine of the Month and giving me a reason to get this off of my Unread Shelf and onto my Hall of Fame shelf.  

I don't want to delve to much in into the plot details, because this is one story you will want to be surprised by.  Whiskey & Ribbons is told in multiple POV's and alternates between the past and the present.  This one is sure to give you all the feelings.  I could gush about this book for days.  This is a top contender to make my 2018 best of the best book list.  I. Loved. It. 

I give Whiskey & Ribbons All. The. Stars.
Profile Image for Lynecia.
249 reviews86 followers
August 27, 2018
I have no idea how to rate this.
Profile Image for just.one.more.paige.
977 reviews22 followers
December 21, 2018
This review originally appeared on the book review blog: Just One More Pa(i)ge.

I had really never heard of this book before seeing one of the main characters mentioned in a post on bookstagram. As always, I need to be better about writing these things down, because I totally don’t remember who made the original post, but the question was something about book boyfriends. And more than one person mentioned someone named Dalton. It wasn’t a name I recognized, so thankfully someone also listed the book it was from: Whiskey and Ribbons. Well, I’m nothing if not a sucker for a good book boyfriend, so the next time I was at the library I checked for this book and, since it was available, grabbed it!

I think perhaps the premise of this book doesn’t do its contents justice. I think, if I had just read the description, I would not have been as inclined to read it. Evangeline is nine months pregnant when her husband, Eamon, a police officer, is killed in the line of duty. Honestly, that’s such a heartbreaking start and I am not always in the mood for sobbing while reading (I’m ridiculously emotional). Told from three perspectives, we get the full story of a family through the unfolding of this book. Evangeline speaks to us from after Eamon’s death, primarily during a current day weekend snowed in with Eamon’s brother, Dalton. Eamon speaks to us from before his death, how it felt finding Evangeline, marrying her and towards the end, his internal struggle as he prepares to be a father while working in a dangerous profession. And then there’s Dalton, Eamon’s adopted brother. His story spans years, back to his childhood becoming part of Eamon’s family up through the present day as he finds out about his biological parents and deals with Eamon’s passing and his promises to take care of Evangeline and the baby is anything were ever to happen to Eamon.

I can’t say exactly what I was expecting from this book. Between the mentions of Dalton as a perfect book boyfriend and the tragic circumstances that create the basis of the novel, I didn’t real have a tangible feel for how I thought things would play out. And really, I hadn’t done too much research into it, other than seeing those few comments on bookstagram and seeing if the library had it. So, needless to say, what I got was unexpectedly amazing – much more than I had been planning or hoping for, that’s for sure. First of all, the writing was just brilliant. It’s vividly insightful and emotional without taking the language too far and obscuring the messages with words. Does that make sense? I am not into novels where the individual words/language is more important than the story they’re telling – a balance of the two elements is really important to me. It’s meditative and reflecting without getting lost in itself, or losing me as a reader. All in all, the narrative style is a perfect match for the story it’s telling. I wrote the following note as I was reading and it’s so accurate that I’m just going to quote myself here: “The feelings that come through on every page are so strong, so heavily rendered, the good and the bad, that you can feel them rising off the page and enveloping you.” Yup – I wrote the truth. Also, I just loved the artistic aspects woven all the way through. I’m not a dancer or a musician (so I had to look up some of the terms), but with Evangeline as a ballerina and Dalton as a pianist, the music and dance vocabulary sprinkled throughout and used as a framework for the story itself is a lovely device.

As for the characters themselves, it would be hard for them to not seem realistic, based on how well-written their emotions are. So yes, they were fully dimensional. I mean, this is a limited view of them, based on the circumstances they are in and this section of their lives we’re exploring, so (especially for Evangeline) they may not be as developed as a larger context could have made them. But at the same time, the was Cross-Smith represents them, you can tell that there is more there for each of them, it’s just pushed away for now. And I did like that. Also, and mainly, let’s talk about the men. I have never, not that I can remember, read a book with two such wonderful male protagonists. The healthy masculinity in the book is off the charts. Both Eamon and Dalton are emotional, sensitive, thoughtful and completely able to be “manly” without sacrificing these traits. I just…it was beautiful to read. And yes, everyone who said Dalton was the perfect book boyfriend was SO RIGHT. Oh man, he really is close to perfect. But I don’t want to forget about Eamon. I see why Dalton is the focal point, for sure (and I’m down with it), but Eamon displays all these characteristics and would be just as legit as far as book boyfriends go, if he were option. It’s impossible to say that Evangeline is lucky to have them both in her life under the circumstances,
but also, one cannot ignore that there is good fortune there somewhere.

This book was just so much more than I was expecting. The plot had more depth and twists than I was expecting, the relationships developed were exquisite in both joy and pain, and the emphasis on family, what makes a family, is everything. I loved this book and, even though I cried through the last 30-40 pages, it was totally worth it. I just feel so much after reading this and have so much belief in the power behind healing and hope and how worth it, how meaningful, it is to pour your heart into the people that you have chosen.

“Women, you are sleek and gorgeous. You hold us together, you’re the ribbons. We’re men. Dangerous only if you take us too seriously. We’re the whiskey. To whiskey and ribbons.”

“Family was a pact. Friendship was a pact. Love was a pact. Written in blood.”

“Grief is horrifyingly personal. Grief is horrifyingly generic.”

“I think of our breaking hearts sounding like the snow – so quiet we can barely hear them, but after the right amount of times we can look around and see how everything is changed. Covered.”

“…I look happy and hope it’s not an accident. Happiness, an elusive fish I cannot catch whole – only small darting flashes. Feels nasty to consider or wish for happiness. But I also know that without at least a little light, things die.”

“I can see it. Like how if you put your thumb over the end of a spraying garden hose it’ll make a rainbow. A surprise. It’s almost an accident. You have to look for it or you’ll miss it. You have to hold it perfectly still in the right light.”
Profile Image for Milkysilvermoon.
303 reviews5 followers
December 10, 2019
Kentucky im Juli: Das Leben von Evangeline Maeve Royce (30) scheint perfekt. Nach der Hochzeit mit Sergeant Eamon Royce, einem Polizisten, erwartet die Tänzerin die Geburt ihres Sohnes Noah. Sie ist hochschwanger und freut sich sehr auf das erste Kind, aber dann wird ihr Mann bei einem Einsatz tödlich von einer Kugel getroffen. Für Evi bricht eine Welt zusammen. Doch Dalton Berkeley-Royce, Eamons gleichaltriger Halbbruder und der Besitzer eines Fahrradladens, ist für die junge Mutter da. Können sie miteinander glücklich werden? Und wäre das im Sinne von Eamon?

„Für damals, für immer“ ist der Debütroman von Leesa Cross-Smith.

Meine Meinung:
Der Roman besteht aus sieben Kapiteln. Die ersten sechs sind in jeweils drei Abschnitte untergliedert: Erzählt wird jeweils aus der Sicht von Evangeline, Eamon und Dalton – und zwar in der Ich-Perspektive. Im letzten Kapitel kommen nur Evangeline und Dalton zu Wort. Das Geschehen spielt sowohl in der Gegenwart, die im Präsens erzählt wird, als auch in den Jahren zuvor. Viele Zeitsprünge und Rückblenden erfordern ein konzentriertes Lesen. Der Aufbau ist jedoch sorgsam durchdacht und funktioniert gut.

Sprachlich ist der Roman besonders. Positiv anzumerken ist, dass sich der anschauliche Schreibstil – je nach Perspektive – an die drei Protagonisten anpasst. Besonders in Evangelines Passagen zeigt sich eine poetische Note. Begeistern konnten mich immer wieder Sprachbilder, die zum Teil sehr kreativ sind. Auch das Aufgreifen und Übertragen von Termini aus der Musik gefällt mir gut. Allerdings zeigen sich in der deutschen Ausgabe auch einige sprachlichen Schwächen, vor allem dann, wenn zu wortwörtlich übersetzt wurde und der Text somit nicht idiomatisch wirkt.

Die drei Protagonisten sind interessante Charaktere mit Ecken und Kanten, die recht authentisch dargestellt werden. Ihre Gedanken- und Gefühlswelt lässt sich gut nachvollziehen. Eamon und Dalton waren mir schon nach wenigen Seiten sympathisch. Evangeline bleibt leider jedoch bis zum Schluss merkwürdig blass.

Thematisch geht es um mehr als die Liebe. Auch Trauer, Verlust, Familie, Identität und Geheimnisse spielen eine wichtige Rolle. Dieser Mix macht die Geschichte emotional bewegend, aber nicht gefühlsduselig.

Ungewöhnlich ist, dass schon im ersten Kapitel einiges vorweggenommen wird. Der Fokus liegt nicht auf der Frage, ob Dalton und Evi zusammenkommen werden, sondern auf deren Vorgeschichte. Viel Raum nimmt daher die Vergangenheit von Eamon und Dalton ein. Vor allem in den Rückblenden hat der Roman einige Wendungen und Überraschungen zu bieten. In der Gegenwart ist die Geschichte recht handlungsarm. Im Großen und Ganzen bleibt der Roman auf mehr als 360 Seiten dennoch kurzweilig und unterhaltsam.

Das Cover ist optisch sehr ansprechend, wobei sich mir der inhaltliche Bezug nicht so ganz erschließt. Das gilt auch für den wohlklingenden deutschen Titel, wobei mir das amerikanische Original („Whiskey and ribbons“) mehr zusagt.

Mein Fazit:
Obwohl mich „Für damals, für immer“ von Leesa Cross-Smith nicht in allen Punkten überzeugen konnte, konnte mich die Geschichte fesseln. Ein in mehrfacher Hinsicht ungewöhnlicher Roman, der mich trotz seiner Schwächen gut unterhalten hat.
Profile Image for Ashley.
314 reviews33 followers
April 17, 2018
“What no one tells you about grief is that you don’t want to figure out a way to live with it - you want the part of you that hurts to die instead.”

This is a story of grief, but it is also a story of healing, and it is written in a lyrical way that defies a lot of “literary rules” (in my opinion). It is told like a very personal conversation, a diary or confession to a lover. It’s raw, edgy, direct, sexy, and authentic to each of the character’s voices as you’re inside their most intimate thoughts.

“Grief radiates. Since Eamon was killed, my bones ache with sadness. There is a gritty black tea stain on my heart, every organ.”
Profile Image for Dkbbookgirl.
363 reviews42 followers
May 27, 2018
I do not give out 5 stars lightly- but this booked earned everyone
Cross-Smith nails the experience of being widowed at a young age (for me I was 34) with all the raw emotion and feeling that make this experience so difficult.
She weaves a story of loss and hope beautifully! Poignant, not morose.
One that will stick with me for a long time!
Profile Image for Robyn.
Author 5 books35 followers
February 21, 2018
Prepare to go slow. Prepare to meander through this novel. Take your time. Settle in like a snow day. Get comfy with tea and whiskey and good food and characters having conversations that sound just like yours. Get ready for delicious little word morsels and a perfect rendering of love, in all its manifestations. Know that when you're done, you'll miss living inside this novel. You'll want to go back.
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