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By the Light of Embers by Shaylin Gandhi - Book Tour & Review

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by Shaylin Gandhi

* Fiction *


Author: Shaylin Gandhi

Publisher: Briar Rose Publishing

Pages: 382

Genre: Historical Women’s Fiction

 It’s 1954, and twenty-two-year-old Lucia Lafleur has always dreamed
of following in her father’s footsteps. While sock hops and poodle
skirts occupy her classmates, she dreams of bacteria and broken
bones—and the day she’ll finally fix them.

After graduation, a letter arrives, and Lucia reads the words she’s
labored a lifetime to earn—”we are pleased to offer you a position at
the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.” But in the midst of
her triumph, her fiancé delivers a crushing ultimatum: forego medical
school, or forego marriage.

With fractured hopes, she returns home to Louisiana, expecting
nothing of the summer of ’54 but sweet tea and gumbo while she agonizes
over her impending choice. There, she unexpectedly befriends Nicholas, a
dark-skinned poet whose dignity and intellect are a salve to her aching
heart. Their bond, initially forged from a shared love of literature,
soon blossoms into something as bewitching as it is forbidden.

Yet her predicament deepens when a trivial misunderstanding between a
local white woman and a black man results in a brutal lynching, and the
peril of love across the color lines becomes chillingly real. Now,
fulfilling her lifelong dream means relinquishing her heart—and escaping
Louisiana alive.

Praise for By the Light of Embers!

“Gandhi’s passion and creativity spill forth onto every page of this book, creating a truly magnificent and brave narrative.” — Entrada Publishing

“I genuinely don’t know any other way to describe this book than to say it’s beautiful.” – Lacie, Amazon Reviewer

“There are also books that you want to keep reading no matter how
painful or heartbreaking or just downright unfair the endings
are…because life’s got those moments and Shaylin Gandhi brings them out
so well in her characters that you cannot help but grab that box of
tissues and still smile in between scenes.” – Dora, Amazon Reviewer

“Beautifully atmospheric, you’ll cry your heart out…” – Kay Smillie, Amazon Reviewer


Louisiana, 1945

It was the
first dead body I’d ever seen. 
Thick July
heat pressed in, sticking my dress to my skin, while steam rose from waters as
dark as motor oil.  Cypresses held the sky aloft, and there—in my little
haven in the bayou, where the marshy ground turned firm and the old fallen
blackgum slowly fell to pieces—lay a man with skin like molasses.  Black
eyes stared upward, fixed on eternity. 
shouldn’t be here
.  That was my first thought.  Nobody else knew
the way into the secret heart of the swamp, through the sucking mud and tangled
underbrush.  Yet here he was. 
squirmed in the shadows of his mouth, and I pressed my hands to my
stomach.  If I threw up, Mother would be angry.  I already had mud on
my dress, which was bad enough.
Lured by
horrified fascination, I stepped closer.  What happened?  Was he
  I couldn’t tell.  The dead man lay so still that he
gave the impression of something missing, rather than something there, as if he
were nothing but a yawning void or a cicada’s left-behind skin.  Empty.
I knelt.
Up close, his flesh was ruined, his body swollen, his right hand chewed to
shreds.  Faint rustling drifted from his mouth—worms definitely
wriggled inside.  I leaned in and studied the wreckage of his face.
Something familiar...
I jerked
backward, sprawling to the ground.  More mud on my dress.  But it
didn’t matter—no, because this dead man was no stranger.  This was
Tom Fletcher.
And I hated
Tom Fletcher. 
True fear
fluttered in my belly.  I couldn’t be alone with him, not even if he was
dead.  I had to get away, across town to the big house, and tell Etta.
back like a spider, I made it halfway to the edge of the clearing before my
panic subsided enough for me to think.  Tom was bad, yes.  But Etta
was good, with her warm cookies and warmer words.  I didn’t want her to
see his vacant face, those eyes full of nothing.
straightened up, brushed myself off, and tried hard to be brave.  Even so,
I stood there a long time.  Closing Tom’s eyes seemed impossible, but for
Etta’s sake, I had to.  She shouldn’t remember her husband like this.
I forced my
feet to move.
When I got
close, Tom's cold obsidian skin stole the warmth from my fingers.  One eye
had retreated into his skull and his lids didn’t fit together right, but when I
finished, the blank stare was gone.  He looked more peaceful, somehow.
Then I wiped
my hands on my dress, went to the water’s edge, and threw up in the bushes.
*          *
child, what’ve you gotten into?  The pigpen?”  Etta Fletcher put big hands on
big hips and laughed, her teeth flashing white in her round, dark face.
“I’ll hear your mama cryin’ from here when she sees that dress.”  She
clucked her tongue and turned away.
plantation’s kitchen was the same as ever, with its crackling hearth and billows
of sweet steam.  Etta stood at the stove, frying something in a dark iron
pan.  Oil popped and sizzled.
rolls,” she said.
My stomach
soured.  For once, I didn’t want sweets.  I just wanted Etta to turn
around and listen, and I wanted to be brave enough to tell her.  While I gathered my
courage, the kitchen door opened, and Etta’s son strode in, setting a dirty,
tool-filled bucket on the spotless floor. 
I shrank
back.  Nicholas terrified me, just like his father.  He straightened,
fixing me with creepy yellow eyes.  At nineteen, he was six years my
senior, but might’ve been a hundred for his size.  He was as black as his
papa and larger than any grown-up I’d ever seen. 
“Ma,” he
said.  “What’s she doing here?”
Etta glanced
over her shoulder.  “She’s come for a treat.  An’ since she’s mudded
her dress, I might take pity and give her two.”
With a wink,
she offered a fragrant roll.  It coiled in her hand like a snake, oozing
vanilla cream.  From the doorway, Nicholas gave me a look like he’d
found a cockroach in his gumbo.
Vomit still
coated the back of my throat.  I stared at the pastry as a sticky glob of
icing plopped to the floor.  “Tom’s dead,” I said.
Etta’s grin
slowly died and her brows drew together.  “What?  My Tom?”
I nodded,
wishing Nicholas would disappear instead of staring at me like that.  He
made me want to crawl in a hole somewhere.  “I found him in the
swamp.  He’s dead.”
Nicholas’s expression didn’t change, he quit looking, at least.  His
terrible yellow eyes shifted toward his mother.  Etta’s cinnamon roll fell
in slow motion, landing topside down and squirting cream across the weathered
Nicholas caught at his mother’s elbow, but she shook him off. 
I wondered
why she didn’t cry.  My mother cried over nothing—stained dresses, rain
flattening her hair.  But Etta stood straight and wiped her hands on her
“You show us,
child,” she said.  “You gone show us.”


My Review

By the Light of Embers is a novel that will suck you in, play with your emotions, and then tear your heart and soul to pieces, leaving you a crying mess on the floor. 
Set in 1954, in small town Louisiana (and also Pennsylvania), the story tells of Lucia Lafleur, a sassy young woman who doesn't seem to fit the mold of what a proper young woman should be for that time period. I immediately liked her. 
Lucia is determined to go to med school and be a doctor just like her father. Her fiance finds it scandalous and expects her to forgo her dreams and stay at home raising babies while he does...whatever it is he has plans for. Unsure of what to do, Lucia travels home to Louisiana from Pennsylvania with her best friend Gretchen in tow. And what happens with Lucia and Gretchen over the summer changes them both.
I absolutely loved this book. I even told my husband, when I was about 50 pages from the end, that I was afraid to finish it. One, I didn't want it to end. And two, I had a feeling the ending would rip my heart out and crush my soul. Needless to say, I did finish it, and it did, in fact, destroy me.
Like I mentioned above, I loved Lucia. She was fierce and independent. She knew what she wanted, and she didn't bend to "social propriety." Her dreams of med school, and her ability to show kindness to the "domestics" in Louisiana marked her as improper and shameful, if you will. 
Gretchen, on the other hand, dreamed of Chanel dresses and taking photos for Vogue magazine. She was the epitome of what a proper young woman should be. 
Nicholas was another of my favorites. He was a beautiful person inside and out, and I hated how awful he was treated throughout the story. It made sense of the time period, but it still hurt my heart to read the insults and blatant disrespect he received.
The Moore family (well, the males) were absolute garbage. I hated them both with a passion. Breckin, the mother, was at least decent and kind, and I was thrilled with how her story played out. Lucia's parents were also good people, even though her mother was a bit...flighty.
The plot is engaging and paced nicely. I enjoyed the letters from Sebastian to Lucia, and her letters to him. Knowing his backstory made him more human. He starts off not so nice, but by the end, I came around to him.
If you enjoy historical fiction with well-written characters and beautiful storytelling, and if you like books that tug at your heartstrings, you'll want to pick up a copy of By the Light of Embers today. 
It's a powerful, compelling read.
5 very well-deserved stars from me. 

SHAYLIN GANDHI secretly stole her mother’s copy of Clan of the Cave Bear at
age ten, and fell madly in love with love stories. Now, as an author,
she still can’t get enough, and the tales she spins all center around
affairs of the heart. To her, that’s what makes a story truly worth

Besides writing, she tries to stamp her passport at every
opportunity. Traveling has been a lifelong passion, and she’s lucky to
have done it a lot. Shaylin and her husband once spent an entire summer
living in their van while touring the Pacific Northwest, British
Columbia, and Alaska. Her most memorable trips often tie in with
writing: her books are usually inspired by majestic places that
stole her breath.

In addition, Shaylin practices medicine, scuba dives, plays the
piano, and once rode her bicycle from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic.
She now lives in Denver with her incredible husband, their identical
twin daughters, and two adorable rescue dogs. They can usually be found
in the mountains, either hiking up or skiing down.

You can find Shaylin online at or on Twitter @shaylingandhi. Please get in touch—she would love to hear from you!






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