Saturday, July 12, 2014

Book Review: Three Rules by Marie Drake

Three Rules
By Marie Drake
Publisher: RedBird Digital
Published: Apr. 1, 2014

Goodreads Synopsis:

Hope Wellman has a childhood full of horrific memories, a bone chilling recurring nightmare, and a persistent paranoid sense of being followed that she would rather keep repressed. Is evil reaching from beyond the grave to capture the tattered remnants of her soul once and for all, is it only a machination of her disturbed mind, or is there something happening more sinister than even she can imagine? 

Attending the funeral of her abuser is the first step in putting her life back together as she is about to turn twenty-one. She struggles with the fact she never told anyone what happened to her, and 

that the grave they are mourning over is empty. She'd find it a lot easier to move on and believe in the future if he were in the box, ready to be covered with dirt. She fears the last thread of her sanity has snapped when she sees Lucas everywhere she turns, and can't escape a recurring nightmare. Is her tormentor alive, or is she imagining it? Is her dream triggered by past fears or is it a prediction of the future?

Book Links

Excerpt: Chapter One

    I want to spit on his grave, but I won't. That would cause the surrounding people to be offended and confused, all these people who didn't truly know him but honor him at this service. I hold my frame as stiff as a board beneath the dark, rumbling sky of churning clouds – the perfect weather to send him off. Twisting my buttons, I try to make them all point in the same direction. It's a trivial thing to be focused on at a grave site, but my obsessiveness won't allow me to stop until I fix them all.
    I guess most people would be sad attending two family members' funerals so close together. I'm not. We buried Grandfather Leonard not long ago. I didn't cry. I didn't know him. I didn't know what I was missing by not knowing him. I don't have any grandparents on my mother's side either. I wasn't his real grandchild anyway – and he never fussed over his own children – so why would he fuss over their children? I'm wearing the same black dress. My black hat covers my long blonde hair, fashioned into a bun. A veil conceals my face. I'm not crying for the loss of this man either, but no one can tell. Another rumble of thunder sounds before lightning crackles and splits the clouds. It seems appropriate that the sky swells up and spits on him for me. The pearly gates will not open to welcome him. No, he will not spend a single moment of eternity in a peaceful state.
    There is no open casket, no public viewing. The authorities recovered his boat with evidence of some blood, a few strands of hair, and empty alcohol bottles. It was a logical conclusion that he bumped his head and went into the water. They didn't recover his body. Too bad, I may find some morbid sense of satisfaction seeing him laying there in a coffin dead.
    This ceremony over an empty grave seems strange. Among all these tearful people mourning and sharing embraces, I separate myself and look at them. I can see the fear in some of their faces. He died very young and they're afraid of death.
    I scan the cemetery. So many headstones, so many graves, they all contain secrets – even the empty ones. I stand alone, twisting these buttons, counting the reasons I'm glad he's dead. How far can a person's memory reach? I search back, willing myself to find an earlier memory, but always come up with the same. I must have others, but when I replay my past it freezes there and repeats like a stuttering compact disk at around the age of three.
    It was an early fall day in this memory. Warm sunshine heated the top of my head which made the breeze feel cooler on my cheeks. Brilliantly clear skies stretched above me as far as I could see. Puffy white clouds that I viewed as different animals works of art arranged across the blue canvas marched away into the distance.
Vibrant colored leaves swirled through the air, sailed in circles, landed at my feet, and were picked up again to float like orange, red, and yellow butterflies to a new perch. One could mistake this for a good memory, a happy memory. Behind the pretty facade lays the ugliness of the true event the beginning of the end.
    Colors and sunshine are vivid, but the rest of the memory is dim and vague – very fuzzy – maybe because I want it that way. Taking my hand, he led me to a small, dark, quiet room. I felt anticipation, excitement, perhaps, a surprise? I heard a strange noise. My stomach felt sick. It feels the same now as I recall the moment.
    I didn't understand what was happening. I turned to run. I wanted my mom, but I was pulled back. I'd gagged, coughed, and choked. I was yanked out into the light and pulled to the bathroom. My mom came then, and I felt a sense of relief. I wanted to tell her what happened, but, what did happen? I didn't know the words. I didn't know how to describe it. Besides, I was gagging so hard that no words would form.
    I heard his voice. He told my mother he found me that way – acting as if I'd vomit. My mom held me over the toilet and smoothed my hair back. She told me it was okay. 'Let it out,' she said – I did. She washed me off and wiped my face with a cool cloth.
    She dressed me in my pajamas and tucked me into bed. Sitting up with me to read me stories, she rubbed my belly and held my hand – such a good mommy. She would have fought the entire world to keep me safe, but, there wasn't anything out in the world that was more dangerous than being under that roof. She felt me start to relax and doze off. I sensed that she was removing my hand from hers. I cried again, not wanting her to leave me alone.
    For a long time after that, I followed my mom everywhere. I didn't want to be left alone. No, it wasn't safe to be alone. I know it probably got on her nerves that she couldn't take a step without me being underfoot. I remember her complaining sometimes, and adults trying to explain it using separation anxiety and such terms.

    The bereaved move forward and startle me from my painful thoughts, laying flowers on the site, whispering last prayers and farewells. I stand still. A hand at my back drags me further away from my memories. My mother, Carol, is beside me. She has her hair, as blonde as mine, pulled back and pinned at the nape of her neck. She also wears a hat, but it has no veil. Similar in size and stature, we could easily be mistaken for one another from the back or at a distance. Looking into her arctic blue eyes, a shade paler than my own, I see no tears falling, but the residue of earlier emotions isn't quite dry on her cheeks.
    My stepfather tall with broad shoulders, graying brown hair, grief flooding his usually sparkling aquamarine eyes stands front and center with flowers in his strong hands, waiting to set them on the grave of his only brother. I admire this man who married my mother and brought us out of poverty. Yes, we were poor before Luther Wellman came along. Living in a trailer park in a very tiny mobile home, we didn't have much, but we had each other. That's the story – the way my mom tells it, anyway. I don't remember my real father, or a time before I was Hope Wellman. My step father loves me. He gave me his last name, a home, and a family because he's thoroughly devoted to my mother.
    If my mother never met Luther, it could have been different. Our lives would be awful if she'd married my real father – an abusive womanizer. He left colorful evidence of his violent, tyrannical binges upon Mom's pretty alabaster face and body on many occasions. He didn't stop the abuse when he knew she was pregnant.
    Mom decided to run – for her sake and her unborn child. Of course, that is also as told by my mom. I couldn't personally verify it, but, the remnants of terror and regret haunting my mother's gaze as she imparted this piece of her past convinced me of its veracity. The history and circumstance in which I received my name; I was my mother's hope for the future.
Mom was working two jobs to pay our way in the world. She earned enough to afford that little slice of trailer park heaven we called home, and give our elderly neighbor a small amount to care for me when she was working nights as a waitress at a tiny little diner. She could bring me with her to her day job as a cleaning lady for the Bishops.
    The Bishop family was very good for my mother while they employed her. The pay wasn't spectacular, and the work was doing menial tasks, but they let her bring me with her, allowing me to play in the nursery with their little boy and girl under the supervision of their nanny as part of my mother's compensation. She could be close at hand and didn't have to pay a sitter for both days and nights. This was the beginning, how Mom became part of a fairytale – a Cinderella of sorts.
    Frederick Bishop and Luther Wellman were – and are – best friends and business partners. Luther Wellman's father had more money than he could spend – he has told me as much. Luther didn't want a handout. His own mother had come from humble beginnings. His maternal grandfather had built his own business from the ground up. Their money wasn't inherited; it was earned. That was the way Luther wanted to build his own wealth. He didn't want to rely on his family's fortune.
    When his college friend, Frederick Bishop, offered him an opportunity to rebuild a business – with an investment of much hard work and a bit of cash – Luther eagerly grabbed it with both hands. He loved the idea of rebuilding an old hotel and dreamed of a chain of hotels across the state, maybe even across the country one day.
    It wouldn't be one of the posh hotels his father would prefer. It would be a nice enough hotel, where people could get a good night's rest and pleasant service – a comfortable place that was affordable. Luther envisioned a lodge where you could stay for a night or a week, close to conveniences and attractions but off the beaten path so you could still have privacy. He wanted his guests to have a feeling of getting away from it all – a luxury vacation at a fair price. He set off on this journey with Frederick and made all their plans a reality. They own a chain of hotels called The HideAways.
    Luther often talks about the day Frederick married Miriam. He tells me it was the day that sparked his dream of my mother, or at least the idea of her. He stood up as best man and gave a tear inducing toast at the reception. He envied his best friend's discovery of a soul mate and the happiness they found together. Frederick's life became complete; he achieved his financial goals and his personal ones. Luther first tried to fill the void by having Lucas come to work with him, but Lucas was still bent on capturing the attention – or maybe affection – of their father. Lucas went to work for Leonard Wellman at the bank instead, hoping to feel his father's pride beam warm upon him.
    Luther and Frederick regularly met to handle business matters at the Bishop residence. As Luther tells it, he walked into the Bishop home expecting to find Frederick and Miriam in the kitchen, but he bumped into Mom, who was all business in her housekeeper's dress and apron, wielding a sponge in her rubber gloved hands and speaking to a small blonde child, a perfect little angel – me.
    Mom apologized without need; it was he who almost bowled her over. He couldn't manage to get any words past the lump in his throat. Whenever Luther tells the story, he imparts how thoroughly unimpressed Mom seemed to be as she excused herself with a polite smile and went back to her work.
    Mom never gave him a second glance while he stood rooted to the same spot on the kitchen floor trying to come up with a reason to be there. His magical rendition of their fateful meeting always relayed the same sentiment: He'd get to know her no matter how long it took, but, Mom didn't come around easily if you ask him. No, she found it difficult to trust his intentions. Luther says he flirted and wooed her until she couldn't resist his charming advances any longer. She was hesitant to take him seriously because she didn't want to lose her job. She couldn't lose her job.
    The Bishops didn't approve of Luther's interest in their housekeeper. They also didn't want anything to happen that would cause a rift between them and their employee. Luther paid no attention to their castigation. Eventually, the Bishops relented with their disparaging remarks to Luther believing his interest would wither and the affair would end.
    To everyone's surprise, Mom and Luther's romance blossomed. Luther fully accepted me. So we had a new life and a happy family. I can never repay Luther for his kindness to me and my mother. If Mom didn't meet Luther, we would still be in that tiny little mobile home struggling to make ends meet, but then I also wouldn't know the personal terror inflicted on me by his half brother – terror I never shared with another single sole. Luther's father, Leonard, had remarried several much younger women. One of these women, Helena, bore him a son and they named him Lucas.
    Filtering through my veil, a drop of rain lands on my upturned nose. Staring off at the sky; my body is still and the bottom of my black dress is rustling around my legs. I remain on that piece of grass next to the grave, but my mind is up there twisting and turning with the clouds. Their hypnotic, slow rolling motions makes me wish my memories would get wrapped up and blow away in them.
    Movement on the ground alerts me that Luther and the immediate family members are filing out of the cemetery. Prayers are over and everyone is heading toward his or her vehicle in a somber procession. We're all expected to ride in a macabre parade to my parents' home for the repast.
The sky opens up, and it begins to pour. The heavens have been patient and polite enough to wait for us to finish up before unleashing their fury on the symbolic resting place of Lucas Wellman.
    I climb in the back seat of the car with my mother and stepfather. No one speaks. I curl and uncurl an errant strand of my hair around my finger, stopping with it curled again and rest the back of my hand against my cheek as I stare out the window at the clouds. Maybe, after all the distressful chaos of the day is over, I'll be able to put the past out of my mind. Maybe I'll finally forget. I try to focus on the sound of the rain tapping against the glass, but it can't drown out my memories.

My Thoughts:

Hope Wellman narrates her present day story with flashbacks to her past that help to explain her feelings of anxiety and fear today. Hope was sexually abused as a child and this has caused her a myriad a problems as an adult. She has not told anyone of the abuse and therefore has not dealt with the problem and the resulting consequences. The perpetrator has not been brought to justice.

This book deals with a difficult subject. A few scenes deal with the actual sexual encounters but the events have been described in such a way that the encounters are not graphic in detail. The book has been thoughtfully and sensitively written so that those who have encountered abuse themselves might be able to read the book without causing flashbacks. The book can be rated as clean in the area of graphic sexual content.

I found Three Rules to be very captivating for its mystery and suspense. Hope attended the funeral of her stepfather's brother Lucas at the beginning of the book. He is the man she holds responsible for the abuse she suffered. But there is no body in the coffin because his body was not found after the boating accident. And now she feels as though she is being watched. Could he be alive?

There are many twists and turns in the plot in this book. Each one will keep you wondering what will happen next. I wondered why Hope didn't report the abuse years ago, but perhaps that's part of the cycle of the abuse - the fear of not being believed.

I thought that Three Rules was very sensitively written when it came to the issue of sexual abuse. The topic was well handled and a lot of good information was given in story format. The Three Rules at the end of the novel were an excellent summation of rules to live by when it comes to any kind of abuse.

A couple of times I found the dialogue to be a bit awkward and stilted, but overall it tended to flow fairly smoothly and naturally. I enjoyed the romance that blossomed between Hope and Joey. I liked that it was based on friendship from childhood.

I found Three Rules to be worthy of a rating of 4 stars, but because of the author's superb handling of such a difficult subject (sexual abuse) I have given this novel 5 stars out of 5. I would recommend this book to all readers of mystery and suspense as well as those with an interest in book dealing with sexual abuse. I think Three Rules might be helpful in helping those who have experienced abuse (in any form) to learn how to deal with that abuse.

Thank you to the author for providing this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. A positive opinion was not required. All thoughts are my own.

CONGRATULATIONS to Marie Drake as her book "Three Rules" is currently a "Kindle Book Review 2014 Best Kindle Book Awards Semifinalist" in the top 20 contenders in its genre, and in the running to become a Top-5 Finalist in its genre (winner to be announced Sept 1, 2014).

About the Author:

Marie Drake lives with her husband and their four wonderful sons in a small town near Lake Ontario. They take advantage of what others deem a vacation spot all year long. Camping and hiking are some of their favorite family activities. They also enjoy volunteering at the local animal shelter together, and recently rescued a Jack Russell/Corgi mix who made their family complete.

Marie is a crochet fanatic. She designs her own patterns and enjoys crocheting for friends, family, and charity. She loves to cook and bake, especially when making up a new recipe. Marie is an avid reader of romance, mystery, and suspense thrillers.

She is a woman of many interests - and maybe talents - but will be quick to tell you that her most important and proudest accomplishment is the part she played in the lives of children. She provided daycare for over ten years, and she and her husband fostered more than fifteen children over a five year period.

While juggling all her boys' sporting events, academic, musical, and other extra curricular activities, and running a small home based business designing crochet afghan patterns, Marie tries to squeeze in some time for writing each day.

Author Links
Website  *  Goodreads  *  Twitter 
Blog  *  Amazon

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