Nell Castle makes a return trip to Journeys with Jana to celebrate the release of TURNING THE TIDES, her second novel with The Wild Rose Press. Happy to have you visit again Nell!
Turning the Tides, my second novel with The Wild Rose Press, pivots around the story of a child removed from his parents on suspicion of neglect and abuse. Lee Cooper, the newly-licensed social worker assigned to the family, has been trying to teach the young mother appropriate expectations for a toddler. Despite Amber’s cold demeanor and severe discipline habits, Lee senses Amber contains a deep reservoir of love for her son. Against a chorus of voices who condemn the inexperienced mother, Lee fights to prove that Amber can resist the influence of her own abusive upbringing and learn how raise her son with love and affection.
I turned to my own experiences working with “at-risk” children and their mothers while creating the character of Amber. I worked for several years at a non-profit agency tasked with arming the most vulnerable mothers and children with scientifically-based, compassionate parent education. Every day I walked into apartments infested with cockroaches; homes with sagging porches, and holes punched into the walls; tenements so dangerous that we had to schedule visits before noon, when the possibility of violence became a real threat.
In each home I visited, no matter how dire the circumstances, I found young mothers who desperately loved their babies. Not much more than babies themselves, some of these teenagers had lived through rape by a family member. Many had moved from house to house, from one couch to another until they were kicked out. Some had spent time on the street, with all the horrors that implies. Getting pregnant meant each of these teens was bumped to the top of the list for free/subsidized housing. They could start over, offering their own babies all the love they’d never received themselves. But without any remotely healthy role models for parenting, most of these girls ended up making the same mistakes with their own children that their parents had with them.
In the character of Amber, I hoped to present the complexity of the many beautiful but damaged girls who grapple with the challenges of motherhood, poverty, and a lack of emotional support.
Ever the black sheep of her adoptive family, Lee Cooper has finally buckled down to a responsible job as a social worker in Southwest Florida. Defending her client against charges of child abuse awakens buried memories of her own abandonment in a Korean orphanage. Can she remain objective for the sake of a child?
Bricker Kilbourn, the court-appointed guardian, doubts Lee’s judgments--and his opinion might determine the little boy’s fate. He's got his own family issues and haunting secrets to keep. Falling for a woman is not part of his plan.
He’s running from his past. She’s searching for answers. Will their resolution to protect a child bind them together or wrench them apart?
He padded across the deck in his bare feet and reached over the seat for a white towel. Turning his back, he ran the towel over his head and neck, rubbing it against his face and down his chest. The muscles of his shoulder blades rolled beneath golden skin. He wore a pair of cut-off jean shorts, sodden with water and sagging just enough to reveal a velvety V above his waistband. In the nick of time, she raised her gaze from the curve of his back when he swung around to face her.
With an effort, she dragged her attention back to her purpose. “I wanted to let you know what Amber and I have been working on these past six months. The parenting education, I mean.”
Seagulls called in the air high overhead as the boat rocked among gently splashing waves. Bricker ran the towel over his biceps before draping it over the bucket seat. As he sat, his gaze locked with hers.
“I think we’ve seen the effects of her parenting education.”
His tone was dry. Lee’s mouth snapped open to retort, but she forced a smile instead. “She had a lot to learn when I first met her. But she kept every appointment and asked lots of questions about child development. Amber isn’t comfortable showing her emotions, but she loves her son.”
“I’m willing to believe she does.” Bricker shrugged, the tips of his hair curling in the warm air. “Doesn’t mean he’s safe with her.”
“She’s fighting against the cycle of abuse.” Lee’s voice sounded thin and desperate to her own ears.
“Breaking the cycle is hard,” Bricker said. “Not without a lot of therapy and more support than she seems to have. And we can’t allow Kaleb to be a guinea pig while she works out her own childhood traumas. Because the next time she shakes him could be his last.”
“There’s no proof she shook him.” Lee clasped her hands on her lap to keep them from trembling. She was getting nowhere with the guardian. Again. “He didn’t vomit, or have tremors, or have trouble staying awake. The doctor didn’t even bother to order a CT scan.”
“The ER doc wasn’t a neurologist,” Bricker reminded her. “On the other hand, Gloria Marshall is a court-mandated reporter of abuse. Are you implying she lied?”
“Maybe. Gloria thinks of Amber’s husband like a son, and she doesn’t like the girl he married,” Lee snapped.
Bricker’s eyebrows rose. “You really think Amber’s the victim of a conspiracy?”
“I don’t know.” She threw up her hands. “I just don’t think we should take away a young mother’s child when no one ever taught her how to be a good parent. I think she should be given a chance, for God’s sake!”
Bricker raised a calming palm. “Take it easy. I’m looking at all sides of the issue.”
Lee snorted. “You’re siding with the foster mom just because she works for the county. You’re not objective!”
“Well, I’m not the one who’s shouting.”
Bricker’s low voice held a warning. And damn it all, he was right. Every muscle in her body was clenched.
Amazon Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/Turning-Tides-Nell-Castle-ebook/dp/B06ZZ19WTC
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/nellcastle
The Wild Rose Press: http://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/1309_nell-castle
Nell Castle grew up in western Pennsylvania and graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia. Since then, she’s lived in Key West, Anchorage, Sarasota, and Virginia Beach. She moved back to northeastern Ohio to raise her kids closer to the family homestead but looks forward to moving back to a gentler climate. Until then, she revisits white powder beaches and craggy mountain tops only in her writing. Turning the Tides is her second release with The Wild Rose Press.