review and cover mani: what's left between us

While pursuing my master’s degree, I learned that researchers must acknowledge their biases up front to alert the reader of personal connections. Well, this is one of the few times I can say that my review is entirely biased, yet still entirely honest, because my long-time critique partner, Gina Heron, is the brilliant author behind WHAT’S LEFT BETWEEN US. (I usually refer to authors by their last names, to stay profesh, but it feels weird to do it here, so Gina it shall be.) I’ll still do my best to share a review and not just gush, but can’t guarantee any measure of success.

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Bay is standing on a stage in Nashville, on the verge of achieving her dream of a record deal, when she learns she may have lost what matters most to her. Scott, her childhood sweetheart, has gone missing in Afghanistan. The news of his capture by the Taliban strips Bay of her voice at the biggest moment of her life, sending her into a tailspin that lands her on her parents’ doorstep for Christmas, for the first time in years. 

Old wounds between Bay and her mother, Violet, break open as soon as Bay walks in the door. The gulf that’s divided them since Bay’s twin sister, Lillie, drowned at twelve years old, has grown wider as Bay put distance between herself and the family. As Bay tries to reconnect with them, she stumbles over clues that could unravel her mama’s long-held secrets—and tear her the LaFleurs apart. Armed with the truth, Bay finds herself in a fight to bring the people she loves most back home to each other. 


Right from the beginning of our crit partner relationship, it was obvious that Gina could spin a tale. No matter the project, her charming voice and Southern vibes never failed to pluck me from reality within minutes. (In fact, it’s often a challenge to critique her work because I forget I’m supposed to be looking for issues and suddenly find myself three chapters ahead.) In WHAT’S LEFT BETWEEN US, Gina accomplished something truly remarkable: she made me care about a quieter, thoughtful story without getting bored and picking up something stabbier. For those who’ve been following my reviews for a while, that doesn’t happen very often.

Cover design by Michael Krajewski

Although I’m not a musician, nor have a twin sister, and live so far north it’s colder for longer than it’s warm, I connected to Bay right away. Anyone who’s had a dream—gone against the grain in pursuit of something far outside their everyday lives—will relate to her ambition. Sassier than sweet, Bay also avoided vulnerability like one avoids crocodiles (is this a good Southern reference? 😉 ) but when Scott went missing in Afghanistan, she had no choice but to open up. Not that she made it easy on herself, of course—yet another reason I connected so strongly. Returning home broke and alone, Bay quickly began to confront everything she’d wanted to leave behind, including the reality that she’d blown her shot, much to the delight of those who never thought she’d make it in the first place. Super fun holiday, right? Bring on the bourbon, and make it a double.

I always strive to write spoiler-free reviews (because spoilers are the worst don't do it I beg of you) but in this case, I think it’s important for readers to know about the second narrator: Scott. I’m not gonna lie, his sporadic chapters hit me hard, like a punch to the throat that left me breathless. There was no sugar coating in Scott's experiences, including struggles with PTSD, and without a doubt they proved the hardest to read. Half of all net proceeds of WHAT’S LEFT BETWEEN US will be donated to Veterans Off-Grid, as a sign of support for those who assisted Gina with research, and because it’s an organization close to her heart. That deep level of compassion blended into her prose, so even when themes took a darker turn, there was always light. It’s also why she can crack open even the stoniest of hearts (mine, specifically). A born storyteller, to say the least.

WHAT’S LEFT BETWEEN US gets five enthusiastic, massively-proud, raving stars, and if you’re in the mood for a heartwarming and heartbreaking story with some bite, this is an excellent choice. Especially this time of year. You’ll cry for sure, both happy and sad, so make sure you have some tissues handy. Also maybe a cookie or two, to eat some feelings. WHAT'S LEFT BETWEEN US is available now on Amazon, so make sure you pick up a copy!!

To celebrate the release of WHAT’S LEFT BETWEEN US, I’m giving away a copy to a lucky reader!! Since it's crazy busy this time of year, I'll make it super easy to enter. Just leave a comment here that says, “This sounds awesome!” That's it! This giveaway will be on Instagram as well, so head over there for more entries. Open until Dec 28 to Canadian and US mailing addresses.


For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mache

China Glaze – Dance Baby, Kill ‘Em With Kidness, Born to Rule

OPI – Tiramisu for Two, I Just Can’t Cope-acabana, Fearlessly Alice, Dating a Royal, matte topcoat

ORLY – Storyteller (colorlab)

So Nailicious – Needle brush

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