Black Rose Writing Feature Book: Waltz in Swingtime by Jill Caughtery

I'm excited to begin reviewing books published by Black Rose Writing. My reason for this is that I am now one of their authors. My next book, The Heron, will be published by them next year. Meanwhile, I'd like to feature some of their other fabulous writers!

Waltz in Swingtime by Jill Caughtery
Published: April 2020
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Women's Fiction, Coming of Age, Historical Fiction
Pages: 299
Available: ebook, paperback

Reviewers Note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Author Bio: Jill Caugherty is the author of Waltz in Swing Time,  set in Depression-era Utah. Jill’s short stories have been published in 805Lit, Oyster River Pages, and The Magazine of History and Fiction. Her debut short story, “Real People,” was nominated for the 2019 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers.

An award-winning marketing manager with over twenty-five years of experience in the high tech industry, Jill lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband and daughter.  You can learn more at, or by following her on twitter @JillCaugherty.

Author Blurb: Growing up in a strict Utah farm family during the Great Depression, Irene Larsen copes with her family’s hardship by playing piano. Even after an unthinkable tragedy strikes, Irene clings to her dream of becoming a musician. When a neighbor's farm is foreclosed, Irene's brother marries the neighbor's daughter, who moves in with the Larsens and coaches Irene into winning leading roles in musicals. Clashing with her mother, who dismisses her ambition as a waste of time and urges her to become a farmer's wife, Irene leaves home.

During a summer gig at Zion National Park, where Irene sings in a variety show for Depression-weary tourists, she meets professional dancer Spike, a maverick who might be her ticket to a musical career. But ultimately she must decide whether pursuing her dream justifies its steep price: losing her home and family.

Alternating between Irene’s ninetieth year in 2006 at an assisted living home and her coming-of-age in the thirties, Waltz in Swing Time is a poignant tale of mother-daughter relationships, finding hope amidst loss, and forging an independent path, against all odds.

Plot in Brief: Soon to be nonagenarian, Irene has been forced into a assisted living facility by her failing health and her forceful but loving daughter. Irene decides to record her memoirs and sneaks away whenever she can to record the details of her early life. Raised in a Mormon family in Utah, she and her family struggle through the Great Depression. As Irene, a talented girl with aspirations beyond the farm, battles with her feelings for her family and her dreams she is forced to make life changing choices. 

The Characters: Wow, I loved Irene. Spunky, gutsy, a good laugh, she was such a great character. I loved the interaction with her friends and caregivers at the Golden Manor. I appreciated her struggle to remain independent and the anger she felt when her daughter, with the best of intentions, railroads her to make decisions about her medical care and daily life. With the wisdom of age and life experiences, she is able to look objectively at the plight of her granddaughter, Amy, and offer solid advice. By the end of the book, I felt as If I knew her, she seemed so real so authentic. 

Young Irene is also a delight. A dutiful daughter who loves her siblings. She battles to accept loss, death and to understand the complicated relationship she shares with her mother and father. The author paints a portrait of a young woman who struggles to balance her desire to please her mother and pursing a career. When she finally gets a taste of success and the freedom it brings she's torn between staying in the small farming community with her family or chasing the dream with the man she loves.

The History: The book toggles back and froth between 2006 and the 1930s. The years of the Great Depression were, well pretty damn depressing. Caughtery captures the daily grind of life on a small farm, the desperation and fear of losing everything you've worked hard for. She does a fantastic job of exploring the strict family dynamics of the era and attitudes and expectations towards gender and their assigned roles. I enjoyed the language, especially when Spike showed up with his hip slang and fast talking ways. 

The Writing: Told in first person the narrative is fast paced and zips along. The prose is excellent and well edited. Overall a fantastic job.

Overall: In case you couldn't tell, I really loved this book. I can't find a single thing to complain about. From start to finish I enjoyed every page. The characters are so well drawn and so believable. Just a delight to read. 

Recommendation: Any reader who enjoys historical fiction, coming of age and just general good fiction should appreciate this touching story. 

I give this book 5 stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

My Ratings: 

1 ⭐  Star: Not good at all, do not read!

2 ⭐⭐ Stars: Read only as a last resort, no other books available

3 ⭐⭐⭐Stars: Good, enjoyed it, will recommend with reservations

4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐Stars: Really good, read this book!

5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Stars: So good, I might read it again sometime! Highly recommend


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