Blue By You
by Larry B. Gildersleeve

"Daniel had loved two women. One was taken from him; the other left him. One wasn’t his fault; he wasn’t certain about the other."

Daniel Collins lives in the small Colorado town of Three Oaks with his dog, Blue. He has withdrawn from society after the tragically young death of his wife and childhood sweetheart, Mallory. One day a female stranger named Paula gets lost on her way to a writers’ seminar and winds up at his doorstep. A mixture of witty repartee, country hospitality, and bubbling chemistry leads the two of them to end up spending an entire week together. For Daniel, Paula represents someone that moves his heart in an honest way that he has shut out since the loss of his wife. For Paula, Daniel is an opportunity to feel a passion that has been missing in her marriage since her current husband decided to join the seminary. Though the two immediately hit it off, Paula and Daniel go their separate ways when the time comes.

Inspired by Paula, Daniel changes his name and becomes a successful figure in country music. Meanwhile, Paula soon learns that she is pregnant with Daniel’s daughter. Twenty years later, their two paths cross again against the odds, but a history of silent strokes means that Paula does not remember her time with Daniel directly. Discovering that his love for her still has not diminished, Daniel is given a second chance that he never believed in before, an opportunity to make things right with Paula and find his place in a family that has been waiting for him all this time, even if none of them were fully aware of it.

From the backstories to the meet-cute, what makes this romantic story unique is that it isn’t afraid to reveal its baggage to the readers or the characters. Though Daniel is a closed book at first, between flashbacks and Paula’s insistence, he is willing to share his pain and open up about it. The bittersweet moments of love and loss that punctuate Daniel’s journey lead readers to a fresh understanding of how precious and fleeting time and circumstance can be. They will undoubtedly take that perspective with them away from the book as well as use it to will the protagonists together despite the odds. Ultimately, this is a story about seizing an opportunity when it comes, as happy endings are much harder to find in the world. It offers a different look at romance that might be jarring to the “happily ever after” crowd, but it also teaches the value of living in the present.

It seems that the world is poised to always take anything from Daniel that he can hold onto, and readers might catch themselves waiting for the other shoe to drop. But the protagonist learns the hard way that love comes to those who are comfortable with vulnerability, and getting hurt comes easily when you allow yourself to be okay with such openness. Colored by plenty of references to classic authors, films, country western artists, and even cuisine, the culture infused into these characters and their distinct dialogue styles make them feel dynamic and lifelike with every detail. That dialogue, in particular, is honed to perfection and offers both a great contrast between characters and fuel for the engine that brings them together. Readers who love a classic scenario of what-if romance with a door left open to redemption will be hooked on this emotional roller coaster.

A 2023 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

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