Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hawthorne by Sarah Ballance

Rating: 5 Stars

Title: Hawthorne

Author: Sarah Ballance

Publisher: Astraea Press
      Cover Art: Elaina Lee

Genre: Contemporary Paranormal Romance

Length: 40 Pages


After a terrifying encounter with the unexplained, it took ten years and the news of her grandmother’s passing for Emma Grace Hawthorne to return to her childhood home.   She sought peace in saying a proper goodbye, but what she found was an old love, a sordid family history, and a wrong only she could right.

Living in the shadow of Hawthorne Manor, Noah Garrett never forgot about Emma Grace.  In a house full of secrets, his search for missing documents revealed a truth that could cost him everything.  What he found gave Emma the freedom to walk away from the mansion, her heart free and clear, but at what price to Noah?


Considering this is a charity title, I should have gotten to this one so much sooner and for that I apologize both to the author and to those that the charity benefits. Charity information will be at the end of the review. 

All that said, I'm kind of glad that this one ended up getting left until now because with Halloween right around the corner this is the perfect time of year to read this one. Hawthorne is full of ghosts, a haunted manor, long buried family secrets and, of course, romance. 

Emma Grace is haunted by her past at Hawthorne Manor and the last thing she wants to do is return but when news reaches her of her grandmother's death she is drawn back. Emma needs closure but returning also means seeing her childhood love, Noah, again. 

Noah stayed at Hawthorne Manor as an employee, helping Emma Grace's grandmother. He hopes to one day see Emma Grace again, but he's not really very optimistic about that really happening. When she finally returns, all the old feelings come to life between the two of them again. 

The beginning is sufficiently creepy and suspenseful enough to immediately grab your attention. The descriptions of the old manor and the landscaping surrounding it are vivid. You can see yourself in the deep south, with the moss hanging from the trees and the air humid enough to almost see. The emotions of the characters are so real that it makes you remember your first love and your first heartbreak. The author does such a good job with the atmosphere that you almost feel like you are in another time, or in a bubble hidden from the rest of the world.  

Short length stories like this sometimes leave me feeling like they are incomplete. It's hard to write something that can paint a complete picture, develop characters that people fall in love with and have a satisfying conclusion within such a short amount of pages. I've read many novellas that I really liked but was left feeling like it would have been better as a full length novel with more time to really develop the story/characters. That was so not the case with this one. While I would have loved this one to be longer, just simply to spend more time immersed in this world with these people, I didn't feel cheated at all by the end. 

I read this book within an hour or so. Once I started it, I couldn't put it down. I loved these characters and by the end I wasn't sure how to feel. I wanted to cry and smile at the same time. When I finished it, honestly, all I could do was sit there - a little awestruck. These characters and this story will stay with you long after you have turned the last page. Ms. Ballance has earned a new fan. I can't wait to check out more of her work. 

Charity information: 
HAWTHORNE is available exclusively from Astraea Press for only $3, with all proceeds sent directly from the publisher to charity in support of Japan disaster relief.  Your contribution through the purchase of this and other AP charity titles is greatly appreciated!
The link to the book at the Astraea Press website is here

You can read the first chapter at the author's website here.


  1. Thank you SO much! Hawthorne was my first novella and only the third piece of fiction I'd ever written. My biggest obstacle by far was creating characters readers would care about AND doing so making a complete, fulfilled plot -- all in such a short space. Needless to say, your review just rocked my world. I am SO glad to hear you enjoyed it. And you used the word "awestruck." Wow. Just ... wow.

  2. I write my own stuff and shorts/novellas would be a real challenge for me for exactly that reason. You did an excellent job! This one definitely stayed with me when I was done. "" was pretty much how I felt when I finished it. LOL I loved it!

  3. PS: I'm writing a sequel! *grin*

  4. Oh, awesome! You'll have to let me know when it's done!

  5. What a great review! Hawthorne is an amazing short and I can't wait for the sequel!

  6. Thanks Melissa! And thanks again, Laura. It means all the more now that I know you know the challenges personally. I thought I'd put my head through a wall before it was over with, LOL. THANK YOU!!

  7. Fantastic review. Hawthorne is an amazing read. I wrote a little blog it myself. (I cried like a baby.)

  8. Melissa and Krystal - wasn't Hawthorne fantastic? So hard to make something stick with you like that in such a small amount of pages. Sarah did an amazing job! Thanks for stopping by!