Release Date: September 6, 2014
From a clinical perspective, Dr. Kate Hastings found acquiring a disease she had been treating for over twenty years fascinating. Emotionally it was terrifying. Especially when her access to the operating room was curtailed and her colleague has drastically cut her patient load.
The life-altering diagnosis coincides with Kate’s thirty-year high school reunion, a reunion that has Kate reminiscing about her first love and her plans to have Clayton Beech by her side through the rigors of med school, a lengthy surgical residency and the rest of her life.
An idealistic Clayton Beech, an expert in languages, a player of jazz piano and football, dreamed of saving the world. Exploring this calling, he signed on for a stint with the Peace Corp. Clay planned a life of service, always with Kate by his side.
However, futures cannot be planned. Neurosurgeons get sick, lovers leave with no explanation and saving the world might best be done alone.
A no-show at the reunion, Kate discovers Clay is the head of an important healthcare organization in East Africa. With time on her hands and the growing conviction that they should have always been together Kate follows his trail to London. It is in London that she discovers that it was she not Clay who made a serious mistake that destroyed their dreams.
After almost thirty years their lives are continents apart. Can Kate find a way to correct past wrongs? Can she merge into the life they should have had although Clay is adamant that he has no time to take her on safari and does not want her in Africa?
With the sole responsibility for a large NGO weighing on his broad shoulders and wanting to be with Kate weighing on his heart Dr. Clayton Beech knows that until he makes the most difficult decision of his life, neither weight can be lifted. Until he makes that decision, Kate is a distraction he just cannot afford.
Sitting in the airport, waiting to board her flight to London, trying to quell the butterflies in her stomach, Kate pulled out the envelope that Mrs. Lautenberg had handed her. It had been shoved to the bottom of her travel bag and forgotten until she discovered it while packing for Europe and decided to save it for something to do on the long overseas trip. Carefully, Kate ripped the seal open and slid the contents out.
Sorting through odds and ends, Kate discovered a postcard she had sent her father from her first summer camp when she was eleven. Ticket stubs from the last play they had gone to see in New York City, Le Miz. A photo of the two of them at the Deer Park, she remembered Paul, the bartender, snapping it on her twentieth birthday; they looked happy. Other pictures were of Evan Hastings over the years with grad students and colleagues she barely remembered.
A woman with a familiar face surrounded by curly dark hair, holding an infant, smiled up from a black and white Polaroid, gone sepia with age. Kate smiled at the picture, the face mirroring her own.
After a moment, she leafed through the rest of the stack. There was a packet of slit envelopes containing letters from colleagues. Kate recognized names but had never met them and did not bother to read their notes. The last letter in the stack was addressed to Kathryn Hastings c/o Dr. Evan Hastings, the script clear and familiar. The return address had been water damaged and was illegible. The stamp was from the Dominican Republic. She turned the envelope over slowly and looked at the seal.
A chill crept up her spine and her heart started to thump hard in her chest. As far as Kate could tell, the letter had never been opened.
Her hand shook as she tried to use a fingernail to slit the dry, aged paper. She stretched her fingers, willing away the tremor and taking a deep breath. She finally got her fingertip wedged under the corner and ripped the envelope across the top. One page of notebook paper, folded into a neat rectangle, had been tucked inside. Slowly, Kate unfolded the paper, smoothed it carefully, and then read the handwriting she still recognized after so many years.
I know you think that because my plans are more recent, yours should take priority. Believe me I heard you loud and clear, and I understand, but that doesn’t make mine any less important.
I have been pulled in the direction of the Peace Corp and the REAL work I could do there, and pulled toward you, to the most love and admiration I have ever felt for another human being. I have no doubt those two forces can move in the same direction. I can follow my calling and still be with you as you follow yours.
We can do it together. Just as we planned.
Calling. Does that sound corny? I cannot think of a better way to express how I have felt the last few months. I have read that people believe they are called to the ministry, to politics, to teaching. This is my calling.
You set me on this path and I am following it without fear or hesitation. It feels right. Like medicine, your calling, feels right to you. I know you understand.
Working with the foreign students really opened my eyes. Until now, my life has been narrow and safe, and too damn easy. Writing that, I notice that easy is a four-letter word. For many people, life is not easy, or just, or safe, or free. Lots of four letter words. For many, life is barely survivable.
I think everyone should be given the chance to survive. At the very least.
There is so much I need to ask you about the choice you made. Maybe your leaving me was right, but it doesn’t feel right. I only hope it’s not too late. It was just a stupid argument. I don’t understand why you left without telling me.
But I don’t care. I want to make it work for both of us. Whatever I have to do, I am prepared to do it. Just tell me what it is. I know I can make do without most things, but the one thing I can never give up is you. And I desperately need your love to sustain me on my life’s journey.
Please write back. Please. We can work this out. You are the love of my life.
Always and forever,
As she finished the letter, the call came over the intercom for first-class passengers to begin boarding. Tears filled Kate’s eyes as she stumbled through the gate onto the plane. She quickly settled into her seat, whispered water when the flight attendant asked quietly if she needed anything. And then she read the letter all over again.
His words did not make any sense at all.
How could he have written this letter? Nothing he had written made any sense.
Clay was blaming her.
Between stints as a lion tamer and exotic dancer, LA Parker earned a degree in Art History from the University of Delaware.
After a harrowing experience excavating ancient ruins along the Amazon, she earned a second degree in Computer Science from East Carolina University.
Dabbling in the art of lying for fun and profit, she has published three works of fiction: Against the Grain, Stella's Sheets and Society of Benevolent Strangers.
Settling for a quieter life, LA is currently residing in North Carolina with her husband, son and dog, Tony, Zach and Max the Bandit, where she is happily dreaming up more fantastical and phenomenal lies for your entertainment.
Facebook: www.facebook.com/LAParker www.facebook.com/SBSaNovel
Where are you from?
Originally I am from Newark, DE but I now reside in Greenville, NC.
Tell us your latest news?
My big news is having my third book published. This was the first time I used an editor. I need to give a shout out to Rogena of Rogena Mitchell-Jones Manuscript Service and Karri Klewiter of Art by Karri for the wonderful cover. This is my first book tour and really the first time I have felt confident promoting my work though I love all of my books as if they were my children.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Gosh, a lot of little things. My first published book was “Against the Grain”. I guess I always had an expectation that college grads married college grads due to similar economic and educational backgrounds or experiences, but a woman told me that her sister, a pediatrician, preferred dating artisans because two high powered, demanding careers did support a happily-ever-after life. The idea interested me and I explored it with my characters, Delaney and Lee. Delaney is an executive with her family’s grain mill and Lee is more country than country club.
My newest book, “Society of Benevolent Strangers” was supposed to be a study in obsession but once I knew my main characters, obsession was not how they would relate to each other at all. Other ideas came to the forefront and the story I started was not the one I ended up writing.
How did you come up with the title?
As part of the story I needed a charity, one established in East Africa before 1900, and I came up with the name Society of Benevolent Strangers because the woman who started the philanthropy gave masked balls to raise funds for local hospitals… I thought it made a good title.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Other than Clay’s speech in London, I tried not to preach, but the work Clay does is very important. What happens in other parts of the world truly affects us as Americans. We cannot isolate ourselves. The funding that the US sends overseas helps those who have no resources to help themselves. I believe offering our help is necessary for worldwide stability.
What books have most influenced your life most?
I love the magic that Alice Hoffman effortlessly weaves into her tales, the interlinking lives in Harold Robbins’ The Carpetbaggers and the keen sense of time and place in Herman Wouk’s Marjorie Morningstar. I am enthralled by Jacqueline Suzanne’s sharply drawn women in Valley of the Dolls, Judith Krantz’s glamour in Scruples and the quirky, eccentricities of John Irving’s characters in The World According to Garp. I take to heart Lawrence Block’s advice to writers in Telling Lies for Fun & Profit.
I believe every book leaves a mark. Some are deep and last a life time, other are just a fleeting touch of magic.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I have been doing a lot of writing so I have not had time to read many new books. But I’m a sucker for all kinds of love stories. I like romantic suspense and I have recently enjoyed Abigail Roux’s Cut and Run series.
What are your current projects?
Currently I am working on “Saving Rainbow Falls”. I hope to have it out sometime next summer. The first draft is done and my beta readers are giving me feedback. It looks like my winter will be spent polishing it. It is about a small town that finds an unusual remedy for their failing economy. Writing it I got to explore LGBT themes which was a learning experience for me. In all of my books I end up exploring something new, changing my perspective and growing as a person. I think that’s my favorite part about being a storyteller.
What would you like my readers to know?
I love five star feedback and fawning accolades. Who doesn’t? It’s part of why I share what I write. But even if your review is negative, I want to hear from you as long as you give me a reason for your opinion. Constructive criticism is never bad. I am always learning and working to improve my craft. The best way to do that is to hear from my readers.
Writers and Books that Influenced Me
I am a reader and have read everything—well almost. So there are many, many authors and books who have influenced me. It is hard to name just a few.I love the magic that Alice Hoffman effortlessly weaves into her tales, the interlinking lives in Harold Robbins’ The Carpetbaggers and the keen sense of time and place in Herman Wouk’s Marjorie Morningstar. I am enthralled by Jacqueline Suzanne’s sharply drawn women in Valley of the Dolls, Judith Krantz’s glamour in Scruples and the quirky, eccentricities of John Irving’s characters in The World According to Garp. I take to heart Lawrence Block’s advice to writers in Telling Lies for Fun & Profit.
- Rich Man, Poor Man and Beggarman Thief by Irwin Shaw
- The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
- The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye
- Trinity by Leon Uris
Oops! I think I may have just given away my age. The list above has a common thread, these writers do not tell simple stories. They have many characters, each one has a life of their own and the complex relationships between them. The art is intermingling the tales into one novel, seamlessly blending in issues of social awareness and historical conflict.I am still working on the craft—I always will be--but these are definitely my influences.In Society of Benevolent Strangers my characters have lives, long and full, each with their own tale to tell. The main characters, Dr. Kate Hastings and Dr. Clayton Beech are the glue that holds the story together from their first meeting in college to their work in Kenya.The woman Kate meets, Angelique, Alice, Dianne, Marie and Marjani, illustrate the varied and sometimes terrible lives of women in Africa—exemplifying the need for refugee camps and access to healthcare. The current trend is to defund these efforts and I find that very misguided and cruel. I admire the people who do aid work, especially now that it has become more dangerous. I began this book in 2008 and based it in 2006, since then Kenya and east Africa has undergone more turmoil.The book is fiction but the places I describe--except for the SBS Compound –while used fictitiously are very real, and I do hours of research to describe them as accurately as I can. To give the reader a real sense of time and place.Please share your 6 bests, telling us from the topics below. Write as much, as little, and provide as many images as you'd like.
Things people say that shock me and objects-people-places I see on the road during my daily commute. The internet is a great place to find something shocking, but so is work, and a twice daily thirty-six mile commute on a rural highway presents an ever changing landscape.
- Best writing wardrobe.
- My nightgown and robe.
- Best Inspiration for writing.
Best writing place.
Locked in a tower with an endless view of the surrounding city. That way, when I’m stuck on some plot point, I can look out and watch what’s going on all around me. Most times I have to make do with the leather sofa in my living room and the view of squirrels playing outside my window when I’m stumped.
Best Pick-Me-Up book.
You’re going to think I’m crazy but two of my all-time favorite books from childhood which I have on my kindle and have reread multiple times are: Johann David Wyss’ “The Swiss Family Robinson” and Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women”. If I think about it too hard I can see how they both have influenced my writing. The span of time both tales cover and the making of things, the resourcefulness of the family in Wyss’ book, these are ideas that interest and inspire me.
Best secret talent.
I’m pretty wide open. What you see is what you get so I don’t have many secret any-things to share. Probably my best kept secret was that I wrote. I was hesitant to tell people about my stories until I published “Against the Grain” in 2010. After that it has gotten easier to share that part of myself with others.
Best experience or writing idea.
All of my ideas are the best, until the next one. Right now I am caught up in “Saving Rainbow Falls” and loving the fun I am having with developing and researching this story. Hopefully it will be out next summer.
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Book Tour Organized by Virtual Book Tour Cafe'
Book Tour Organized by Virtual Book Tour Cafe'
November 27 - December 20
November 27 - Introduction at VBT Café Blog
November 29 - Guest Blogging at Coffee, Books, & Art
November 29 - Interviewed at The Avid Reader
December 1 - Guest Blogging at Mythical Books
December 3 - Spotlight at Deal Sharing Aunt
December 5 - Spotlight at Book Freebies, Contests, Sweepstakes & Giveaways
December 5 - Spotlight at Indy Book Fairy
December 10 - Spotlight at My Tangled Skeins Book Reviews
December 12 - Spotlight at 3 Partners In Shopping - Nana, Mommy & Sissy Too!
December 16 - Review & Guest Blogging at SimpliRead
December 18 - Reviewed at Debbie Jean's Blog
December 20 - Spotlight at XoXo Book Blog