Amidst the American Dreams

Amidst the American Dreams


Stephan James Gathings



A perfect diamond that shines so brightly has no flaws. The cut is impeccable, the clarity so white, the carats fit the setting and the cut grade, diamond’s polish, symmetry of the stone, fluorescence color and shape and shape of the stone itself all add to the value of the diamond determining its value and degree of perfection. But, not everything in life is perfect but some people hope to find that one person in their life that they feel is their first and only true love. How do you measure a person in value? How do you place a grade of perfection on them? Take a long stem red rose that just came out of the florist’s case and look at the fullness of the petals, redness of the color and the perfect shape. Each petal perfect with no flaws until it begins to wilt.


Steve and Sue had what you might call a storybook romance that started in a rocky way. Sue was dating Mike and as we meet the characters in this book we find ourselves amidst what we would call today dating wars. Mike thought he had a strong hold on Sue but learned the hard way that he did not. Steve had a hidden burning torch inside of him for her but few if anyone knew it. Yet, when push came to shove he defended her honor and allows her to go off with his best friend Ken. Why? Friendships came first and he would not hurt or hinder his friend’s feelings for Sue even if it meant suppressing his own. Sue was special not only because most thought her beautiful her personality and manner matched her beauty. But, when Ken’s personality interfered with Sue’s perspective and he did something to prove what his inner most thoughts for her were, Steve finally stopped playing Cyrano and stepped up to the plate. But, rocky romances often take on slippery slopes before they finally smooth out. Steve knew that Sue was as we stated above his first and only true love. This is where our story begins. Taking place during a volatile time period the 60’s the author reminds us of the music, the political strives and the many conflicts happening throughout the world. He even includes some poems from famous poets as he courts this amazing girl and shares his vast knowledge with the reader. Beginning in 1966 when the groundbreaking took place for our precious World Trade Center the author leads us through the time period, the turbulence and the lives of these colorful characters. As we get to know the characters known as the Three Musketeers you meet Joe, Steve, Ken and added as number four Sue. Now, how and why? She joins the fencing team and definitely holds her own when they win. Added in you meet Cindy and a teacher who will spearhead a whole new program in their school when Steve finds a young boy in the bathroom who was the victim of bullies. Inviting him and others to join their club and also focusing and discussing bullying brings to light that this issue is not something in the present but back then too. More than this it brings to light the romance of Steve and Sue and three special words that would not only describe their relationship but others too as Sue earns the first word: Respect by winning the fencing match. Honor when she learns how Steve respects her and Pride is instilled in all of them and in everything they do. Getting to know these teens and how their lives intertwine you begin to understand Sue more closely as she realizes from that everything in life will not go smoothly after reading the tea leaves at lunch and calling her grandmother to interpret what she saw. An underlying undercurrent follows as the reader senses that not everything will remain positive.


Through High School, working for a security firm Sue could not stand being away from Steve and each time he was in danger she wanted him to do something else but he would not. Things did not go the way she planned and although they were engaged between his job and then the army they would be separated for a long while. When Sue finds out that Steve is hurt and she cannot see him she fears that he won’t be home any time soon. With the support of her friends and family will she pull through? But, he is captured and tortured and what happens next you won’t believe. Losing Steve was devastating but a new friendship begins. William Walker would become her life as her friends and family watch her move on. Nine months later her daughter was born and when Steve comes home he finds out the harsh realities of life and that Sue is no longer his. Dog tags that identified him and everyone thought that he was gone. Two young people pulled apart by a senseless war. But, Steve was devastated and felt all-alone and his life as he knew it he felt was over. Will love find its way back to the beginning or will Steve and Sue remain apart? What happens when her husband misses his daughter’s first birthday and claims he was working? Where will her life go next?  Will and Sue did not seem to be a perfect match. An argument that no one could take back and a difference in opinion that would set the stage for what would happen next as Steve starts his own Guard Services business. Reminders of the war flood through as friends remember a special date.


Rumors flow about Wil as Sue hears the gossip first hand and has to decide what to do about it. Seeing Steve’s car brings it all back to her. As Wil and Steve are about to meet and you won’t believe why or how. Paths cross when you least expect them too and worlds will know collide and change. When her daughter learns the truth about Steve and her mother’s feelings for him she understands as she shares her time on the fencing team and explain how she became a Musketeer. But what happens when Wil realizes who Steve is and the end result with Sue will rock her world and change her life forever.


Imagine learning that the person whose life you wanted to spend yours with is really alive. A chance meeting at the theatre and Sue and Steve’s worlds would collide but others would suffer as a result. One man who was determined to keep her at all costs even if it would destroy her forever. One man whose love knew no boundaries and would fight till the end until they were together. When the truth comes to pass and Wil learns who Steve really is what he does to both Sue and Dawn will send chills down you spine and the end result will surprise the reader. Each character is special, unique and all of them blend together as one as they share their lives with the reader as presented by our talented and creative author.


Steve and Sue are like two star-crossed lovers. The final outcome will cost many lives as truths are revealed, lies are uncovered and more injuries are inflicted. A perfect love is what they had or thought they did. A perfectly cut diamond with no flaws with a perfect color, cut and clarity is not a precious as the love these two had for each other. Sacrifices made in the name of love would cost them more than just a lifetime together. Author Stephan James Gathings brings to light so many value issues within this outstanding novel. Abuse of any kind is wrong and those who inflict it should not be allowed to walk away. A person is not your possession and you do not control them in order to keep them as a trophy on a mantle.


An ending that will definitely bring tears to your eyes and a family that learns and understands that family is first and the time you spend together is more precious than anything in the world. A perfect love even for one day is so valuable, special and rare. “A True Love will never break your heart,” ever. Lives are so fragile and the ones lost you won’t forget as Dawn and her new love learn the true meaning of their own True Love! This is one novel that will remind the reader of old fashioned family values, respect honor and pride.


Fran Lewis: Let’s give this one: FIVE GOLDEN EXCALIBERS





Shattered Tomorrows: C.L. Kraemer

Shattered Tomorrows

Author: C.L. Kraemer


Secrets and lies have a way of working themselves to the forefront even though you would prefer they stay hidden. Lucy Daniels has a deep secret she would like to stay dormant and never erupt like an active volcano. But, walking into the law office on of her best friend’s attorney on the top floor of the Equitable Building would bring the past front in center like the footlights on a Broadway stage. As Lucy joins her friend Cassie in dealing with Cassie’s ex-husband memories of the past flashback in her mind as the lawyer tries to temper Cassie’s tension and anger. An office with plush carpeting, a man in a black Baroni suit, a Rolex watch hidden beneath the sleeve of his silk shirt and an office that exudes wealth and quite austere. Even his desk and its position exude power. Lucy did not did not want to be there and made to feel like an extra appendage on Cassie’s hand made it worse. As Cassie’s demeanor changes to a quivering and helpless woman the lawyer decides to use her feminine wiles to get what she wants from him. Pretending to be a shattered and shriveling flower was not Cassie. But to calm her down the lawyer creates a tranquil scene with the stroke of a key on his remote control. Clouds fill the window, raindrops pelting away calming Cassie down. As Cassie refocuses and explains her complaints against her ex-husband and her demands something overpowers Lucy. Triggered by the lawyer revealing the floor to ceiling windows, something within her snapped. A darkness, a memory a scene so different from where she was flashed back in her mind as the sweet smells of the office were replaced with the stale odor of beer, cigarettes and a full course prime rib mean. Lucy was in another world and when she finally comes back to the present she would never be the same. As she leaves the office with her friend to get lunch she shares her secrete with the reader. Four people died. Lucy blames herself for their deaths. Let’s find out whose tomorrows are about to be shattered and if she will share the hard and fast truth with her best friend.


Cassie is independently wealthy thanks to great investments and a huge divorce settlement. Lucy works two jobs and goes to school. Lucy works in a landscaping business and on the weekends she bartends besides trying to get her teaching degree. When she finally finishes lunch, her best friend if drunk and she learns that she has managed to get her some time off, the memories that she shares while alone in her home allow the reader to know that ten years in the past someone held a special place in her heart as he opens an old photo album and recalls the one person she truly loved. But, as Lucy continues to tell the story in her own voice, as Cassie needs her help to come and stay with her after getting food poisoning from the celery in her Bloody Mary at lunch. But, there is much more to Cassie wanting Lucy to come to stay with her. Cassie wanted to hear the story from the beginning and now let’s find out what happened 1979. What deep dark secret is buried within her for over 30 years? As the demons from her past came front in center in her present her entire demeanor, world and body turned upside down within the short time she was in this man’s office.


Flashback to a bar called Heaven and the scene changes drastically. As we hear Lucy tell the story of one man named Gregg, his hold on her and the many customers she met each night. Then, she refers to one man who seems to be homeless as the Strange One who collects cans in order to be able to get a beer and who often takes open cans from Lucy. But, Richard as this man’s name really was felt he needed to protect Lucy and when she accepts a date with Gregg she finds Richard standing next to her car when she is leaving the bar. But, once home things would change even more as someone left one rose and an envelope outside of her door. Gregg enters with the envelope and when she opens it the note would definitely give her pause for alarm, the sender too and the end result a thorn that cuts her finger.


As Gregg and Lucy got to know each other the author and Lucy let the reader know that Richard is dangerous, delusional and has feelings for Lucy as her protector. Not only that she shares with Cassie and the reader that he is germ phobic and burns not only his clothing one night but his parents die too. Sometimes people become so fixed on someone they develop fantasies and create their own conclusions. As Richard feels that he needs to protect Lucy what will happen will definitely make you wonder why Lucy did not see what Richard was trying to do, why she did not see the signs of his wanting to control her life and become part of it. Why did he feel that everyone was a demon or dangerous? But, Richard had a plan for Lucy and the author let’s you know that something is going to happen and what remains to be revealed as the author returns to the present.


Haunting memories flood back as Lucy tells the story as if it is happening in the present. A weekend at the coast with Gregg, their feelings revealed but hidden from the public and one man who wanted to capture her freedom and her heart in order to protect her from others. Sensing his presence and the fact that she was being followed she confided in Willow another bartender and admitted she was scared but did nothing about it. Added in is Gregg’s sister Audrey who seems to find trouble on her own and wants to find action in any bar she can. But, as Lucy continues on you can hear the pain in her heart and the sadness telling about the one man she truly loved. Learning why Lucy reacted to Donald’s office the way she did is because that is the exact spot of the bar where she worked. Things from the past will come full circle in the present but how after thirty years and what is this deep secret that she is about to reveal to her best friend. Will it change anything?


Warnings happen for a reason and all too often some people ignore them. The ranting of a man who was thought to be harmless turned out to be one that should not have been ignored. One man thought he was going to protect Lucy from getting hurt and from harm. One would change the dynamics of her life forever. One misunderstanding would separate two people who cared for each other. One mistaken incident brought tears to Lucy’s eyes and the vindication of her sadness by another. Thirty years is a long time to feel guilt and remorse. Thirty years is a long time to harbor the grief and anger that she kept within her for so long. When Lucy finishes telling the story you won’t believe the powerful and explosive ending.  When one lone gunman walks into the Lucky’s what happens will create more than just fear in Lucy’s heart as she arrives to meet Gregg and is met by as scene that will leave scars within her soul and mind forever. One lone gunman enters the bar and the rest you need to read for yourself. Within fifteen minutes the end result was more than just tragic. Some warnings  must be heeded. What is right in front of us we often do not see. Sometimes we wait too long before he tell someone we care. One author who presents a story in a way that is so compelling, heartbreaking and keeps you glued to the printed page until you learn Lucy’s deep dark secret. What that is and what finally happens you need to read for youself.


Although this is a fictional story the events that happened on May 7, 1981 are real and would ring out in this author’s mind and heart forever. A lone gunman walked into the Oregon Town Museum and the end result was many Shattered Tomorrows. Told in the first person in Lucy’s own voice and with the help of her friend Cassie the author shares an event with everyone that the people in this town will never forget. The town of Salem would never be the same. This is one book that everyone should read and let’s dedicate the review to those who lost their lives that day.


Fran Lewis: reviewer