Happy summer! Yes, I know that it’s not quite summer yet, but it certainly feels like it. I’ve already had my beach week. It was a long time coming since Covid decided to steal a year from all of us. Thankfully, we’re back to semi-normal.
It is exactly one month until the launch of my fourth novel, In Search of True North. Let me tell you a little more about it. In Search of True North is a story about a mother’s love, yet it’s so much more. When 16-year-old Mallory discovered she was pregnant, her parents urged her to give the child up to her barren sister. It proved to be the hardest decision of her life. She lost more than just her son. It shattered family relationships. In Search of True North is about peeling back the layers of grief, learning to accept responsibility, and understanding that other people are fallible despite their good intentions. Healing takes a slow journey to reach the heart; twelve years in Mallory’s case.
I love that Mallory Carter is not a perfect, beautiful, too-good-to-be-true protagonist. She comes to us bitter, passive-aggressive, and insecure, always protective of the wall she built around herself. It takes a twelve-year-old boy to break through—not to mention a little help from his handsome uncle. Enjoy the reader’s review and the excerpt below. I’ve included a purchase link at the end.
A READER’S REVIEW:
This is a novel I’ll remember fondly years from now. The author’s distinct and refreshing voice hooked me a year ago when I read her novel, “The Street Singer.” This year, “In Search of True North” surpassed my already high expectations.
The opening page, set in a colorful gift shop on a steamy North Carolina boardwalk, reeled me in and set up suspense. By the end of page three, I’d felt a genuine jolt of emotion when the protagonist, Mallory, got an earful of upsetting news about her family. It’s not easy for an author to elicit that degree of true emotion so early in a book when the characters are first getting introduced, but Ms. Neely accomplished this feat. Additional surprises seized my heart as layer after layer of the story continued to unfold. Families are complicated. One of the characters explained, “Lies require more lies until you’re tangled in them.”
The plotline flows beautifully, tugs at the emotions in all directions, and scatters little nuggets of truth to ponder along the way. Many times while reading, a quotable line nudged my heart to pause and linger on its beauty and insight.
Starry night skies are exquisitely woven from the novel’s start to its stunning ending, through the lens of a telescope Mallory built as a child and shared with others. “In Search of True North” led me through phases of delight, despair, wonder, and ultimately, focused my heart on true hope.
As she came down with a laundry basket perched on her hip, the doorbell sounded. The front door got very little use. She peeked out the window to see a man carrying a portfolio. A salesman? Soliciting was prohibited in this neighborhood. Mallory eased the door open a few inches. “Can I help you?”
“Yes, are you Mallory Rose Carter?”
“Yes, I am.” He looked vaguely familiar but she couldn’t place him.
“Legal guardian of Samuel Donaldson?”
“Yes.” This must be someone from Social Services. She opened the door wider. “How can I help you?”
“Is there somewhere we can talk?”
He seemed perfectly safe, but Mallory hesitated inviting him in. She was ready to ask for ID when he motioned toward the porch chairs.
“This would be fine.”
She stepped out and closed the door behind her. “I didn’t catch your name.”
“Jeremy. Jeremy Edwards. I believe you know my wife, Lauren.”
All defenses went on high alert. Mallory fought the urge to run back inside and lock the door between them. She sat straight up in her chair. “Yes, I know Lauren.”
He slowly unzipped the portfolio and removed a burgundy file folder. Then he pulled out a digital recorder from its Velcro holder. “May I record?”
Mallory stood up. “No, you may not. What’s the purpose of your visit?”
“Please have a seat. I’m working on a story and would like to give you an opportunity to confirm or refute the information that I’ve uncovered.” He turned a copy of Samuel’s birth certificate so she could see it.
A pounding drum beat in her ears. Her knees weakened and she eased herself into the chair.
He shuffled through the other pages. “It seems that the signature on this birth certificate has been forged.” He turned two copies of Jolene’s signature for her to see. A marriage certificate and a high school term paper.
Mallory gave him the same response she had given to Samuel. “She had just given birth. Of course, her signature would be sloppier.”
Wordlessly, he turned a photocopy of the information that she had given Lauren at lunch, the bed and breakfast, Airlie Gardens, and Bellamy Mansion. Jeremy held them side by side along with a copy of Mallory’s GED application.
“Where did you get these documents?”
“Journalists always have sources. Everything you say is on the record. This report is from a forensic handwriting expert.” He retrieved a document with columns of data. You can read over his findings, but this…” He pointed toward the closing paragraph. “…shows his summation. The confidence level is 99.04% that this was signed by the same person who signed your GED application.”
Rage built up inside of Mallory. With one quick movement, she swiped the folder from his hands.
His lips turned up in a smirk. “You can keep those. They’re your copies.”
“You’re making inferences that you know nothing about. Even if they had any merit, which they don’t, there’s no story here. No one would care enough for a newspaper to print it.”
He reached into his portfolio and retrieved another paper. As he turned it over, the faces of Samuel and Elliott sat side-by-side. “I think they’ll care.”
Mallory felt the blood rush from her head, certain that it left her pallor white. “The Charlotte Post would never print that.”
“Oh, you’re correct on that. I have a source in Washington that will print it.”
Washington? Not the Washington Post. Suddenly it came to her. “A scandal magazine.” She spit the words out through tight lips.
“Well, that’s not a very complimentary term. Let’s say, a magazine that prints what people love to read.”
Mallory stood. “This meeting’s over.”
“Can you confirm that you falsified the birth certificate of a son you had with Elliott Moore?”
She turned toward the door. “No comment.”
Mallory reached for the doorknob, but stopped short at his next words. “Thank you. I’ll see Elliott Moore tomorrow. We’ll see if he has a comment.”
She would plead and beg, if it would help. But a man who could do this would have no compassion. Her shaking hand barely managed to turn the doorknob. She opened it and stepped inside without looking back. Once the door closed, she locked the deadbolt, then leaned against the wall for support. Mallory took deep breaths trying to regain her composure.
Elliott. She had imagined the scene so many times. Imagined looking into his face and telling him they had a son. In her fairytale imagination, he’d pull her into his arms and thank her for not listening to him. He’d profess his love and they’d ride off into some happily-ever-after world.
She never imagined he’d find out from a low-life reporter looking to make a name and a few bucks by spreading gossip. She couldn’t let that happen. She had to tell him.
Mallory paced in circles trying to form a plan. She could call him, but this kind of news needed a face-to-face encounter. She couldn’t take Samuel, but where could she leave him? Certainly not with Savannah. Was it feasible to drive to Washington and back in a day? And how in the world would she arrange a meeting?
Twelve years ago, her dad pressed her to tell him the father’s name. Mallory had remained silent, determined not to tell anyone it was Elliott. Now her parents would find out. They’d never read that type of magazine, but if the story gained momentum, if it hit the news, Dad would know. All that secrecy twelve years ago and now it had the potential to become nationwide news. Would Alzheimer’s protect her mother from understanding?
Brady. Perhaps he would come and stay overnight. She couldn’t tell him why. But then, if it became news, he’d find out. Everyone would. Mallory lowered herself to the sofa in the family room and cried.
When she calmed her panic, Mallory took a moment to look at the documents. A professional letterhead had the company name of the handwriting expert. With great detail, the report analyzed size, spacing, slant, and pressure. Columns of letters were graphed to compare the letters that were connected and disconnected, wide and narrow loops, and pointed tops. It was irrefutable.
She lifted the photocopy of her scribbled information about Wilmington attractions. Lauren. Her best friend for years. Did she harbor that much bitterness over Mallory’s departure? Enough to ruin three lives? The lunch had been a set-up. An intentional ruse to get her handwriting. Mallory and Elliott may deserve that, but Samuel didn’t. He was the victim of Lauren’s revenge. She surely knew the havoc that she’d set in motion.
TO PURCHASE YOUR COPY:
In Search of True North is available for presale in both digital and print. Secure your price by ordering today at:
As always, when you finish reading, please leave a review.
Wishing you a blessed summer.