Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Joyce Zeller - Maddie's Choice - Review and Giveaway

About the Book

Romance writer Maddie Taylor is fed up with New York City. She is getting nowhere with her latest manuscript and does not believe true love exists outside of her imagination. When a friend, Jonah Spartman, dies and wills her half of his Arkansas cattle ranch, she sees the chance for a new beginning. Jonah has also left behind two orphaned great-grandsons desperate for affection and an accounting book in the red.

The other half of the failing ranch belongs to Gideon Spartman, Jonah’s grandson, who believes all capacity for love was torn from him during his tour of duty in Afghanistan. Rugged and sexy, Gideon is the enthralling physical manifestation of the hero in Maddie’s current manuscript. He is far from happy to be sharing an inheritance that is rightfully his. As she senses the need behind Gideon’s rough and unwelcoming exterior, Maddie acknowledges her own yearning for love and family.

Jonah’s will requires Maddie to stay on the ranch for three months. When that time is up, will she return to her comfortable but emotionally barren existence or embrace the challenges of her new life, which include cattle rustlers and drug dealers? Maddie’s choice proves to be far from simple.

My Review

Sometimes a cover really doesn't do a book justice. When I first saw the one for "Maddie's Choice," I immediately thought of those TV commercials for So boy was I mistaken, when chapter one started things off in a posh Manhattan restaurant. The juxtaposition was a little jarring, but I went with it and I'm so glad I did because the novel was great.

Zeller made a creative move by turning her setting into a personality trait. In New York, Maddie's mind is rushed, cluttered and confused. She puts up with a lot of crap, thinking she has to deal with it, when she really doesn't. The limp fish boyfriend. The endless waiting in line. The incessant city noise. No wonder the girl has writer's block.

Once she escapes to rural Arkansas, her life doesn't necessarily slow down. She's still busy planning barbecues for the whole town, and turning the ranch into a bed and breakfast, but she's happy doing these things and it shows. Plus it doesn't hurt that the rancher/soldier she's sharing a roof with is providing her with plenty of material for her new novel about a special ops hero. Yes, life is good until it's invaded by the violence of the outside world.

Men are shot. Women are beaten. War is revisited. The bucolic nature of this isolated setting is interrupted by drug deals, domestic violence and motorcycle gangs. Maddie thought she was safe in a place far from the reach of urban decay, but instead she finds a whole new level of criminal activity that's intermingled beneath the croaking frogs and dusty cowboy boots. From overdue bank debts to mental disorders, reality infiltrates Maddie's little slice of heaven.

Zeller creates a nice balance between the fiction Maddie formulates in her mind versus the tumultuous events occurring outside of her head. One inspires the other so to speak. She draws on what's happening around her to enhance her storytelling abilities, adding a flourish here and a dash of excitement there. But when her own life is in danger, she suddenly wishes these types of things only existed on the page and not in real life. She'd rather keep them trapped inside of her imagination than experience them for herself.

On the whole, Zeller expertly makes use of all the details her setting provides in order to sell her story. From the small town diner to the indistinguishable dirt roads, the book's sense of place really anchors it allowing the characters room to breathe and grow. The wide open fields, the lofty barn, the studio apartment - all add up in seducing the reader into taking an authentic jaunt through rural America.


Maddie's Choice can be purchased at:
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords

Prices/Formats: $4.95 ebook, $14.95 paperback
Pages: 274
Publisher: Camel Press
Release: September 1, 2013
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

Joyce Zeller has written articles for a magazine and a cooking column for a chain of suburban newspapers north of Chicago. She has written five books and published two, The Hidden History of Eureka Springs, and Accidental Alien, a work of science fiction, both available on Amazon. Her short story, “Love is a Seed,” is featured in Embrace: A Romance Collection, (2012 Goldmine Press). Joyce has served in the United States Army. As a professional perfumer (School of Perfumery, London, England) and an aroma-therapist, she made custom fragrances in her store. Her creation, Mountain Air, was declared the Arkansas Sesquicentennial Fragrance in 1965. Her latest achievement was getting elected as Alderman to the Eureka Springs City Council. Maddie’s Choice is a romance with her favorite theme, that being human is a lonely business, but for everyone there is somebody to love. It’s a matter of finding them. There will always be kids and animals in her books, and always, humor, “because life without humor is unthinkable.”

Links to connect with Joyce:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

About the Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Victoria, thanks for the review. I'm glad you enjoyed how Joyce used the setting in telling her story :)

  2. Wow! You must have been channeling me when you wrote this review. Thank you for your wonderful words. The book is a celebration of small-town living and real people who live it.

  3. This sounds like a great book and not the storyline I was expecting from the cover. I like that the setting plays such a big role in the story. Sounds like an excellent book!

    Thanks for sharing. :)