Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Alexa's Gold - Great Suspenseful Family Drama by Donan Berg

Lost a lot of sleep on this book as, after a busy day, I would read far into the early morning hours twice, to keep following the suspense until the book ended. Whew, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It starts with a simple inheritance from a grandmother to a granddaughter. But as soon as the word is out--Trouble! Especially from Alexa's mother, sad to say... who felt the property should have gone to her.

Aside from the fact that her grandmother had wanted to make sure her inheritance did not get into the hands of the latest husband or her daughter, Alexa had always been close to her and had kept in touch even when she had begun to work. Now she had received the entire inheritance, with her grandmother leaving $1 to several others so that it would show that she was making the choices she wanted made...of sound mind...

“Rich men don’t date exhausted women.” Grandma’s oft-repeated admonition ebbed into the minutiae of Alexa Hovey’s grief. She squeezed the steering wheel of her battered F-150 pickup. The tension that distended the light-blue veins on the backs of her slim hands reverberated to grip her fragile heart. A squeal from Alexa’s two-year-old son, Samuel, shredded her veil of invisible melancholy. 
After the rural Iowa county gravel road ruts jiggled Samuel’s Popsicle, orange melted-ice drips stained his Chicago Cubs bib. Alexa welcomed her son’s distraction. He reigned as her life’s never-ending joy. His throne a child seat belted onto a faded-gray fabric bench seat. When Alexa’s rust-pocked red pickup crested a pointed hill, he laughed. She swallowed a sharp inhale when her vehicle’s front suspension hung in midair, momentarily weightlessness, until the spongy, in-need-of-repair-shocks bounced her and Samuel. Alexa’s strained seatbelt stretched without a tear. 
“Whee, Samuel,” Alexa shouted as her butt thumped her seat a second time. Buoyed by the exuberance of Samuel’s giggling, she vowed to protect him without the need for a father figure. Alexa’s peppermint Lifesaver stuck like a barnacle to the roof of her mouth. She lowered the driver’s window and, without guilt, spit the half-dissolved disk into the dust-filled afternoon air. She doubted the suspicious neighbors Grandma decried in their long distance conversations would see the disk, or the airborne saliva, fly. And, if one or two did, so what? Samuel’s glee a full pivot from his whining and chair-kicking in the office of Grandma’s estate attorney, their last stop. 
The black-haired, angular faced Attorney Brad Haberkorn had tried to calm Samuel without success. Samuel’s tantrum disturbed Alexa less than her mother’s telephone shrieks last week that culminated in Mother’s threat: “If you don’t share, you’ll get nothing, not one red inheritance cent.” 
Alexa bit her tongue when her mother’s rage rambled on to Mother’s speculation about Grandpa’s hidden treasure. Alexa honored her sworn promise to Grandma not to verify Mother’s theory one of Grandma’s recipes held the clue to buried gold coins. 
After two coughs she raised the driver’s window to within a half inch of full closure to shut out the road’s dust. Alexa harbored no doubt her hoarseness would heal and the sale of Grandma’s farm would guarantee Samuel a safe home, fund his college nest egg, and buy her a SUV. She never spoke of her SUV desire, which would be her first new car of her twenty-eight years. Similar to Samuel’s bedtime teddy bear, Alexa was adamant in her belief that material possessions brought comfort without reciprocal love. 
The glass-encased church bulletin she passed announced the 2010 Easter week services. Alexa’s anticipation rose since Mr. Haberkorn said Grandma’s farm was two-to-three miles west of the church. Alexa’s purse carried Grandma Anderson’s last mailed postcard, which she had cherished since its receipt the week before Christmas. With words few and letters scribbled large and wavy, Grandma’s mailed expression of her love for Alexa and Samuel infinite. Also in Alexa’s purse, a copy of Grandma’s will that gave Alexa the farm and all associated assets except for $1.00 individual bequests given to each of twelve relatives. The first named relative was Alexa’s mother.
...Sagged wood-slatted snow fences a sad reminder of December’s snowy blizzard that had prevented Alexa’s four-hour journey from her Chicago apartment to attend Grandma’s funeral. Alexa longed to show Samuel his great-grandmother’s farm and drive herself into the farmyard of her childhood’s greatest memories. Alexa remembered her yellow-flowered sundress and dashes across Grandma’s lawn to chase the buoyant dandelion seed parachute. The tug-of-war between wind and gravity upon the dandelion fluff ball scrolled in slow motion beneath Alexa’s raised eyelids. Her fantasy staved off the nebulous fear tremors that her mother would be at the farm with tools to install new locks. 
Her glances to Samuel and her desire not to drive past the entrance to Grandma’s farm distracted Alexa from the Iowa landscape undulation peppered with bright red barns and picturesque square white houses. Grandma hadn’t divulged why she blessed Alexa with the farm and not Alexa’s divorced and remarried mother who lived in Ohio. Alexa doubted her opinionated Grandma’s dislike of divorce severed a mother/daughter biological bond. 
“That’s your unpredictable grandmother,” Mother had said in a conciliatory tone that evaporated evaporated after Alexa refused to sign a legal paper that renounced her will beneficiary status...
Alexa swiveled her head left. Joyful moisture welled behind her eyes, a throat lump formed, and then she gasped. The large oak that shaded Alexa’s dandelion chases now sawed to a three-foot wide stump. The two-level front porch roof of Grandma’s log-cabin-styled house sagged in multiple places. One broken windowpane allowed a tattered inside lace curtain to flutter. Plywood nailed over a far window. Wood stain blistered. Caulk between logs cracked or missing. And then . . . and then . . . her gaze bumped across three rows of evenly spaced stewed mounds of black dirt, clay clogs, and white clover blossoms next to holes dug in the front lawn. Alexa tallied twelve piles before she quit her count in disgust. Who else sought Grandpa’s buried treasure? His stashed gold. She had to find Grandma’s apple cake recipe. Alexa’s right hand re-crossed her heart as she mumbled last summer’s pledge to Grandma not to reveal the recipe clue Grandma hadn’t fully explained.

Arriving at the farm was demoralizing--obviously the legend of her grandfather's gold had lived on as she saw that many holes had been dug on the property. Most of all, though, she was shocked as to how much the home had fallen into decay. Her memories, via one picture when she was about 7, had shown a white beautiful farmhouse, where her grandmother had stood beside her one lovely day. Now her adored grandmother was gone, with the farm showing the same evidence of age as her grandmother had...

Most shocking, however, was that there was a big full-size trailer sitting in front of the farmhouse!

First, she found the backdoor open, and it appeared that somebody had searched the house, perhaps for the cake recipe. Soon she was realizing that everybody in town wanted a copy of that apple cake recipe... Was it that good or did others know that there was something special about the recipe itself? Almost instinctively, Alexa immediately started looking for it, starting in the pantry... Which turned out to be not a good idea, since she and Samuel were soon stuck inside the room!

And that's how she met her new neighbor, Joe, the son of the farmer who was renting land from her Grandmother... This character later added a love interest. But Brad, her lawyer, had also shown immediate interest as well. We watch Alexa as she weighs options, always thinking first of how a possible individual would fit in as a possible father to Samuel, her son.

Who had set the fire?! Yes, the mobile home was found blazing and was proven to have been arson. Also, constant activity began almost immediately as two competing realtors courted Alexa to handle the sale of her new property. While her lawyer seemed to be taking his time in getting the will settled and the deed transferred. Of course, part of the reason was that her mother had formally had her lawyer file suit on her behalf! While the next-door neighbor seemed to be in and out of the property, which concerned her until she realized that he had access to the out buildings because he was renting farm land. And women in town kept asking about her grandmother's award-winning recipes.

Alexa is a wonderful character who works as a probation officer. She and her best friend Belinda, with whom Alexa shared everything, including how and where Samuel was born, was soon going over all that had occurred since Alexa had gone to the farm...Belinda, although engaged, immediately snatched on to the fact that there were two hunks involved in all that was happening... Matchmaking!

Belinda was soon visiting. But instead of happy times with hunks, they both worked hard to clean her grandmother's house and start searching for either the gold or her recipes... But soon other people were also searching and danger started. And news of curses started being spread.

Emotions fly high and often and Alexa has a hard time keeping her cool and trying to deal with all that her new inheritance has brought into her life. She never would have come if she'd known that Belinda, Samuel's and her own lives would soon be in jeopardy, including kidnapping, fire, and more!

The treasure hunt is fun, if somewhat confusing since Grandma did everything she could to keep her secrets safe before Alexa came. And with all that is happening, the possible villains are too difficult to determine! Cool, right?! But don't worry, though complex, all is finally solved and there's somebody living in that once-empty farmhouse at the end... Great family drama! Check it out!


Met Donan through his Book, A body to Bones! Check my Review!

Donan Berg's romance novel "One Paper Heart" won the Feathered Quill First Place Gold Award. "Alexa's Gold," a mystery, romance thriller adds greater intrigue to his award-winning writing. Both are in e-book and trade paperback formats.
His entertaining mystery, heartwarming romance accolades include seven times in the winner's circle at the Dixie Kane Memorial Writing Contest.
A native of Ireland, he grew up in the United States Heartland where his life's journey has been as a print journalist, corporate executive, and lawyer. His U.S. Army service includes first-hand reports on the Korean Panmunjom truce talks while stationed with the United Nations Command.
While he'll never volunteer that he owns five pairs of well-used ballroom dancing shoes, he will happily trade apple tree stories. He provides book clubs and his mysteries intrigue readers with memorable characters and storyline twists sprung with gusto.
He believes imagination accents positive desires and, if nurtured, can fulfill the secret dreams living inside all of us.

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