Wednesday, February 24, 2016

REVIEW + GIVEAWAY: 9 Letters by Blake Austin


Meet Luke Crawley in Blake Austin's debut novel of loss, redemption, and ever-enduring love!


9 letters cover.jpg
Court: For various reasons, Court and I don't always get a chance to read debut works but we had a review slot available this month and 9 Letters looked different so we took a chance and read it. I'm not sure what I was expecting but I don't think I was quite expecting what I got. For some reason I thought this would be a slick, modern, quick, big city tale of grief and love; 9 Letters is pretty much nothing like that. It's the story of a man quietly trying to learn how to live a life that is nowhere near what he thought it would be like. Court: I can relate to this, and I really liked what you said Shelley about this story being quiet...I like that a lot, but I also found the quietness of his journey so powerful. It was so personal through most of it, without a lot of secondary characters and that was powerful too. I liked that Luke loved his wife so much, and I liked that his grief was singular and his, and he knew that he wasn't always making the best choices...but it was still part of what he had to do. I loved it a lot. 

Court: Luke Cawley married his sweetheart, the love of his life, and he had plans--a steady job doing what he loved and providing a comfortable and happy life for his wife. He was well on his to having that life when cancer took his wife away and that's basically where we begin with him. When we meet him he's this sometimes numb, sometimes deeply angry man who seems to be almost aimless in how to deal with it all...or maybe that's just it, he's really not dealing with anything--just trying to live. He's a mess (as many of us would be) until his dead wife intervenes with a series of letters instructing him on how to get back to the land of the living. It's through the tasks that she gives him that we get to know who they were before she died and who he may return to by the time all of the letters are read. Court: I told my husband recently that I wish that I could've had deeper and better conversations with my Dad about stuff, or that something like this would happen to me. A letter in his handwriting, oh how I wish one would pop up, because I can't find a single thing that he wrote just to me (not that it's a bad thing, he drove a truck and wasn't a lot of my childhood so my mom had to sign a lot of stuff for me...and I cherish that) but now that I can't get any more I really realize how special even the smallest thing is. So now I'm balling, and sorry for waxing on and being emotional and making this about me (I didn't mean to!) but that really touched my heart when he got his letters. 

Shel: As I stated above, this wasn't what I expected and I liked the surprise of it. It's a story of grief and a story of love. It's a story of looking back but moving forward. It's romance but it's not strictly a romance. It's hard to pin down, really. I liked the normalcy of it--that I could easily see how many people would understand and react similarly to Luke. I liked that the prose was spare and straightforward and very fitting of Luke. I liked that the drama and angst were never overblown or dramatic (except Natalie...and I am very curious about what eventually happened to her?). So I suppose if I had to boil it down, I might say that this was a story of a man, his loss, his house, his dog, his music, his work, and his ability to still have hope. A good first work by debut author Blake Austin. Court: Yes. I find that sometimes I would wonder why something was said. But then, we'd get to someone else's dialogue...or Emily's letters, and the prose would change. So, I became a bit in awe of the way the writing was so just true to each character's voice and how that became distinguished just got stronger as we went along. (I am too very curious about Natalie...I get her grief...but I do NOT get a lot of the things that she said and did, at all. Sad about that and for her). I am excited that we read  a work by someone we hadn't read before, and immensely enjoyed it. I will be looking for more from Blake Austin and recommend this one to you! 

Interested? See below for more information:


Luke Cawley is a broken man. After his wife's tragic death, he lost everything that mattered in the world. Now, his life is filled with hard days, harder nights, and a steady stream of alcohol and the wrong kind of women. Nothing helps.

Until the letters arrive on Luke's doorstep.

Nine envelopes. Nine messages. Nine chances to find his way back.

Rae Goode is looking for the real thing. After fighting her way out of a string of bad relationships, she's ready for something different--something true.
She meets Luke while piecing her life together, and right away she can tell that he's different. Drawn together by fate and the desire to heal, Rae and Luke discover new ways to mend their broken hearts--one letter at a time.

Discover Blake Austin's debut novel of loss, redemption, and ever-enduring love.



I was about twenty minutes early for my shift, but I got up to the bar, grabbed a rag, started wiping it down, bussing some dishes.
"Damn, Luke," Jake said, watching me work. "You win the lotto or something? Royals win the pennant last night and I forgot to watch?"
"I'm just in a good mood, that's all," I said.
I thought about it a moment longer, decided I should tell him more. Impart some wisdom learned from my not-particularly-advanced years.
"When everything's dark for so damn long and your eyes get used to it," I said, "just a little glimmer of sunshine lights up the whole world."
He nodded, then grabbed a bus bin and headed back into the kitchen.
Warren though, Warren wasn't impressed. He was sitting by one of the daytime barflies, but he'd stopped talking and was just watching me. I was on thin ice, and I knew it. I couldn’t afford to lose my job. A heartbroken, drunk, angry widower is probably as unemployable as the average ex-con.
I came on at the end of the day shift. Warren liked tending bar during the day, because it meant just shooting the shit with the regulars. That day I had a smile for every customer, sparse words of wisdom like day drunks want to hear. Tending bar wasn't my dream. But to hell with letting that make me lazy. I kept the place clean, I poured drinks like I cared.
I was getting into the swing of it when happy hour kicked in and a few more people filtered through the door. Couple of middle-aged bikers, a retired couple that parked their RV out front.
The door swung open again, letting in a little bit of that early-evening cold, and I glanced up to see a crowd of three women, with two men. One of the women was a reddish blonde, radiant. Sort of stole the light out of the room. It was Rae. Our eyes met and her smile gave the room back its light.
She'd been in jeans at the shelter, but she was in a blue dress now and she looked damn fine in either. Took my mind right off Maggie, faster than I thought it would be possible. I met her eyes, and she gave out a little gasp and giggle. I was probably smiling in surprise myself.
The crowd came over to the bar. I'd thought the other four were two couples, but I realized pretty quick that the black girl with the afro was dating the quiet white guy in a beard and glasses and tattoos, and that the other guy was trying to impress Rae. He had a John Deere hat, but his clothes were way too clean for me to buy it that he worked on a farm. I hated him, right off. I probably would have hated him if he was the best guy in the world, though. The other girl, she was tall, latina, and for some indiscernible reason was interested in the poser farmer.
Most of the time, I'm awful at reading people. But for some reason, at work I can tell you everything about everyone who walks in the door. About who's into who, about who had a bad day at work. Who wants to get drunk and miserable, who wants to get drunk and happy, who wants to get drunk and start trouble. Maybe it's some magic of the job, maybe it's just how people carry themselves at a bar. Helps with tips, that's for certain. You wingman right, and the money flows in.
Warren, he likes to upsell them drinks when he's doing that. Get them excited about the top shelf. Not me.
"Hey, Rae," I said.
"Luke," she said.
John Deere looked at me like I was the scum of the earth. And maybe I was, but if I was the scum then he was... I don't know, something worse than scum. Wannabe scum.
She introduced me to her friends. Nicole had the afro, her boyfriend was Eric. The girl with bad taste was Irina, and John Deere had some name but honestly it went in one ear and out the other. He was John Deere to me. Yeah, maybe I'm an asshole.
"So, how do you know this guy?" Deere asked, tossing me a look that said I clearly wasn’t good enough to be friend with someone like Rae.
"Oh, he came in just the other day. Adopted the sweetest dog, a bloodhound." She turned to me, flashing that dimple high on her cheek. "How is he? You guys call a truce yet?"
"King's great," I said. "I mean, he's probably at home right now, eating everything I've ever owned, but I figure I was due for a purge anyway, right?"
It was a lame attempt at humor, but Rae laughed.
"What can I get you all? Friend of Rae's is a friend of mine."

9 letters teaser 1.jpg

About the Author
blake austin bio.jpg

Blake Austin is a guitar playing father of one, who lives in Los Angeles. He's written music for as long as he can remember and was inspired to add book writing to his repertoire. 9 Letters is his debut novel.
For updates: Follow Blake Austin on Facebook here:

$20 Winner’s Choice Book Retailer Gift Card & Signed Paperback (1 Winner)

Post a Comment

Comments are bloggy food.

Feed our blog...

© Must Read Books or Die. Made with love by The Dutch Lady Designs.