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Better Days Ahead Paperback – February 20, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Q. In your debut novel, BETTER DAYS AHEAD, you whisk readers back in time to the nostalgic days of the 1950s. Why did you choose this particular time period for your novel? A. I was fascinated with a time when America appeared to be innocent. The mother was in the kitchen wearing a white ruffled apron and cooking dinner with all the modern-day conveniences. The father, who managed their financial obligations, independently made the decisions for his family. Even the children found ways to entertain themselves with the most basic of toys. It was life at its best, or so the illusion presented itself. Q. What kind of research did you do to ensure that you accurately depicted this time period beloved by many? A. Besides utilizing reference books and Internet sites to verify information, I purchased antique magazines (Redbook and Motion Picture and Television Magazine, for example) from the era and learned what was important to the readers of the time. I found it interesting that it was fashionable to promote cigarettes and hard liquor, and yet pertinent issues were approached in a subtle, less pointed manner. Q. Your novel takes place in diverse locations: Cleveland, Detroit, rural Alabama, and Southern California. What is the significance of these four locations? A. I was born in Southern California and, except for the ages of four through eleven when we lived in Detroit, I was raised there. During the seven years in the Midwest we often traveled to Cleveland. Those were the areas with which I was most familiar. However, on a family vacation, we drove through the state of Alabama. The pride of the Southern people intrigued me and left a lasting impression. In BETTER DAYS AHEAD I wanted to give the reader a flavor of life from various regions across America. Q. Your novel centers on the lives of four distinct families. Tell us a little bit about them. A. All four of these families have a child within two years of one another. Sarah Robbins in Ohio is living as an unwed mother in a time when that was strictly taboo. Neil Dvorak, a kindhearted cabinetmaker from Detroit, wants nothing more than to be a family man. He tries love twice and is ultimately betrayed twice. Dolores Drake from Alabama defies her community and against all odds, takes refuge in the home of a African American cleaning woman. The Strattons in California have all the luxuries of life; but Davids ambition to be a self-made man overpowers his love for his family.

Q. You depict the life of an alcoholic in a very realistic way through your character, Sarah. What do you hope your readers will learn from Sarahs story? A. Even though we all pay the piper at some time in our life, it is never too late for self-redemption. Q. Another social theme that you address is domestic violence. Neils wife, Anne, verbally and physically abuses their daughter, Victoria, and Thomas Drake abuses his wife and daughters. Were these difficult chapters for you to write? Why did you decide to address this important issue in your book? A. These chapters were a challenge to say the least. When I was writing the story, tears kept streaming down my face because I felt so much compassion for them. It was as if the characters and their situations came to life through me. Q. Your character, Dolores Drake, seems to suffer the worst. She is a victim of domestic abuse, of discrimination, and of racism. How does she put a stop to this vicious cycle and stop becoming a victim? A. When times were at their worst, she finds her strength through the kindness of Ruthie Jackson. It is because of their friendship that Dolores makes a life commitment to do what she can to stop racial violence. Q. Your depiction of the Strattons serves as a stark contrast to that of the Drakes. They seem to have it all: wealth, power, and beauty. And yet, underneath the veneer of privilege, they have problems just like anyone else. You write very sensitively about Karens predicament what to do when one suspects her husband is having an affair. Tell us how Karen fights back. A. Instead of spending her life wallowing in self-pity, Karen transfers her feelings of hurt, betrayal, and inadequacies into positive energy. She strives for her own independence and, with the help of her mother, opens a small swimwear shop. Q. You tackle many serious issues in your novel: racism, domestic abuse, alcoholism, and adultery, but your book is not weighed down by these topics. On the contrary, its a spellbinding saga. I couldnt put it down, and Im dying to know what will happen next to the Robbins, Dvoraks, Drakes, and Strattons? Can you give us a hint of what is to come? A. The tables turn for all the families in the sequel, entitled HARBOR NIGHTS. You will meet new characters who create new situations for revenge, dishonor, and unexpected love. Additionally, as the four children grow into adulthood, you will experience their tragedies, intimacies, and unforeseen victories.

About the Author

Charlie Valentine grew up in Southern California during the 1950s. She has always had a fondness for this decade, and she enjoyed revisiting those nostalgic times while writing her debut novel, BETTER DAYS AHEAD.

Ms. Valentine began writing as a hobby in her spare time while operating her own travel agency, Prestige Travel by Valentine. After 9/11, she made the life-changing decision to devote herself full-time to writing. BETTER DAYS AHEAD is the wonderful result. Charlie is now writing the sequel, Harbor Nights, which will ultimately be part of a trilogy about the Robbins, Dvorak, Drake, and Stratton families.

Prior to running a travel agency, Charlie Valentine worked for GTE, a national communications company. There, she held diverse positions as a business service manager, technical support manager, and customer service advisor.

Over the years, Charlie Valentine has resided in Pasadena, Detroit, and Thousand Oaks, California. She now lives in Washington State with her husband, Roger, and Kokomo, a 14-year-old Japanese Chin.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: English Mill Press; 1st edition (February 20, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0977218708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0977218707
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,427,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Chris on March 7, 2006
From cover to cover, this book captured my complete and undivided attention. The story line as well as the diversified backgrounds and descriptive details of all the characters made this book impossible to put down! The writing style made the characters "come alive!" and you find yourself sympathizing with the situations or rooting for the underdog. Each and every character plays a unique part in making the complete story. Sarah touches about every emotion possible (my co-worker just got back from lunch and is more than a little annoyed with Sarah right now....), while my favorite part is the friendship that develops between Ruthie and Delores. I laughed, I cried, I am reading it for the 2nd time and can't wait to see where the author takes us next!
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There are very books that make me sad when they end because I am not ready to be finished. I am still wanting more. But "Better Days Ahead" certainly falls into that category. I did not want this to end. I want to read more by this author.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Guillermo Callejon on February 25, 2006
What a good read! Plot, character, event development - it has it all. Can't wait for the sequel....
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