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Julia's Chocolates    by Cathy Lamb Amazon.com order for
Julia's Chocolates
by Cathy Lamb
Order:  USA  Can
Kensington, 2007 (2007)
Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Lori Waddington

The first sixteen years of Julia Bennett's life were not happy ones. Her father left when she was a toddler, and her mother was a drug addict who beat and neglected her. Then Julia left home and never looked back. Fast-forward eighteen years, and Julia is about to marry Robert Stanfield III, the handsome son of a prominent New England family. By all rights, she should be on top of the world. Unfortunately, her fiancÚ is just as abusive as her mother was, and Julia has finally had enough. So she throws her wedding dress up into a tree just days before the ceremony and heads towards Golden, Oregon, the home of her wacky and wonderful Aunt Lydia.

As Julia settles into her aunt's old farmhouse, she begins to create a new life for herself. She delivers papers at the crack of dawn and leads a story hour at the local library, where she befriends two young children who are dealing with their own abusive mother. She attends weekly Psychic Night meetings with her Aunt Lydia, where she becomes fast friends with other women who have their own dark secrets. Julia also keeps busy creating chocolates, something she learned from her aunt when she was a teenager and has loved doing ever since. In the midst of all this, Julia is dealing with her attraction to Dean Garrett, a local farmer and big-city attorney. It isn't long before the attraction becomes mutual. But Julia knows it is just a matter of time before Robert finds her, and she must face him before she can truly be free.

Julia's Chocolates is an interesting novel. On the one hand, it is filled with disturbing stories of abuse, some so horrific they caused me to have nightmares. On the other, Cathy Lamb has created a hodgepodge of warm and wonderful characters, especially Aunt Lydia. Julia's sixty-three-year-old aunt has a front yard filled with five-foot tall concrete pigs and a bridge painted black, white and every color of the rainbow. Aunt Lydia is also a firm believer that a little pot is just enough 'to take the edge off of life.' Very strong male characters are featured in the story and it's heartwarming to read about the way they protect the women and children of Golden. I also enjoyed getting to know Julia as she became stronger every day.

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