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Sharing our love for authors, and the stories they are inspired to tell.

The Parting Gift
by Rachel Van Dyken and Leah Sanders

Tea, flowers and an open book on a table in the garden - Used to feature my book reviews


Cover image of the book 'The Parting Gift' by authors Rachel Van Dyken and Leah SandersBlaine Graham lost his mother at the tender age of eleven. Grief over the loss drove a wedge between him and his father, and soon proved too difficult for him to deal with.

At the age of sixteen, he falsified his papers and made the trip across the border into Canada with his best friend to join the Royal Canadian Air Force and enter the war in Europe as a pilot.

Ten years later Captain Graham finds himself flying commercial jets in Boston – his estranged father and his past life all but forgotten, until the day he receives a telegram from his dying father asking him to come home.

The persistent Mara Crawford, a live-in nurse, has experienced her fair share of loss as well. Her attachment to Blaine’s father drives her desire to bring reconciliation between the two men before time runs out for her patient. But her best laid plans didn’t include falling in love again.

Cover image of the book 'The Parting Gift' by authors Rachel Van Dyken and Leah Sanders


Rachel Van Dyken hails originally from Washington State USA, grew up in a small town and now lives with her husband in Idaho.

She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences and a Master’s degree in Business, before working for several years as a school counselor. Finding herself becoming increasingly emotionally involved and stressed amidst all the drama around her, she turned to writing romance, a passion and dream she had indulged in since childhood.

Since having her first book published, she has turned to writing full-time and her career and success has gone from strength to strength.

Rachel maintains that although all of her novels have a definite message, they should also be a delightful escape and never stressful for the reader.

There is a fantastic interview with Rachel, by Fiona over at Inspiration Forum, which makes for an entertaining, informative and enjoyable read.

Oh! and best of all, she is a fellow Disney addict, so all’s well!!!

Visit Rachel at her website

Follow Rachel on Twitter

Like Rachel’s Facebook page


Leah Sanders is the middle child of seven, attended high school in Alaska, moved to Florida to attend college and now also lives in Idaho with her husband and three children.

She earned a Bachelor’s degree  in Secondary Education and a Master’s degree in Educational Technology, before becoming a full-time English teacher in a local high school, a career which she still tries to juggle with her love of romance writing.

Like Leah’s Facebook page


Cover image of the book 'The Parting Gift' by authors Rachel Van Dyken and Leah Sanders



“David Graham stood over his wife’s grave while the minister prayed. Her favorite spring lilies adorned her casket, and she would be laid to rest under the shade of a beautiful maple, just like the tree he had proposed under at that picnic over twenty years ago.”



“Logan Tower, flight one-seven-November-two-Bravo requesting permission to land.”

“This is Logan Tower, Captain. You are clear to land.”

Captain Blaine Graham banked to the left and brought the plane around into position to bring her safely onto the landing strip. The sun filtered over the eastern horizon, reflecting off the water surrounding  most of the Logan International Airport.”

Cover image of the book 'The Parting Gift' by authors Rachel Van Dyken and Leah Sanders


The synergy and collaborative thinking between two independent authors, coming together to co-write something as difficult as the short novella, must be something very special.

Rachel and Leah have pulled this off spectacularly with ‘The Parting Gift’, to produce:- A compact novella which manages to incorporate a well-defined beginning, middle and end; an escapist and not too overly emotional read, which still manages to incorporate a serious message within its pages; a great story to curl up with of an evening and one which is comfortably readable in one or two sittings.

There are some great articles out there about the authors as individuals, however none of them discuss the complexities of writing as a couple, so if either Leah or Rachel happen to come across this post, I would invite them to leave a comment about this aspect of  ‘The Parting Gift’, as an extra discussion point to the article, although I have discovered that Leah is responsible for the evocative and emotional prologue, which sets the scene so beautifully.

Once the correlation between the prologue and the main storyline was established (although I was left to speculate on what had occurred in the intervening 15 year interval), the plot became obvious and transparent quite quickly, so that I knew exactly what the end-game was going to be. However the build-up and plot construction was well managed and orchestrated, and hung together well as a sequence of events that wasn’t too rushed or hurried, despite the book having such a modest number of pages.

The characters were complex yet strong, very well defined and all ‘grew’ into their individual roles nicely, as the story progressed. The changes that the characters brought to bear on one another, were wrought through determination, persistence and the underlying knowledge that through their individual grief and conflict, they were all starved of the ability to give and receive love. It would only be when they could all open their hearts and minds to the inner emotional conflicts of one another, that the healing process could begin and from there forgiveness and love would automatically follow.

Mara has suffered her share of loss and grief, although she deals with it in a much more controlled way than the two men seem able to, with her quiet faith and belief that love can bring about a change to the most broken heart and stubborn mind.

David acted with the best of intentions by trying to shield his son from the terrors of loss and bereavement at such a young age, but was so unable to come to terms with his own grief and devastation at being left alone, that he couldn’t see that Blaine was the lasting link to his deceased wife. Instead of nurturing and protecting this precious and lasting legacy, he only succeeds in pushing him away, to shield himself from both his own pain and the pleading he sees in his son’s eyes.

Blaine has never been able to forgive his father for what he sees as this complete and utter rejection, when all he ultimately sought was his father’s love and understanding. As a defence mechanism he then completely rejected his father, hardened his heart and built a tough and unbreakable shell around himself, which he allowed no-one to penetrate.

Three stubborn people, leading broken and damaged lives, who will ultimately only be reconciled by a life-changing set of circumstances, which they need to confront and deal with as individuals, before they are able to come together one last time. Fate will once again deal a blow that will re-shape their destiny, but their new found strength will be the bond that keeps them strong.

A character driven story, with a complex and difficult storyline, dealt with in a mature and sensitive narrative, that was touching and emotional, yet in no way left me feeling as though I had been preached to.


One of a series of books which was made available free of charge by its publisher, Astraea Press, as part of their first birthday celebrations.

This will in no way influence any comments I may express about the book, in any blog article I may post. Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a 4 out of 5.


Written by

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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    • Hi Nikki,

      I can’t think of anything more difficult to do.

      Do you both write the same chapter, then compare notes and try to merge the two together into one? Or do you work out a framework for the story first, then just each write your own individual parts and hope it all hangs together at the end?

      I wonder how many arguments there are between pairs of authors, before a books gets finished.

      There was one pairing I was reading about just the other day (age thing means I can’t remember who it was!) and they didn’t even live in the same state, but compared notes and draughts by telephone!

      As always, thanks for the comment, it is appreciated.

  • An interesting review Yvonne, dual authorship novels do not generally appeal to me as they tend to be disjointed. (Although for the life of me I now cannot think of any examples.)

    It does sound from your review that in this instance the partnership succeeded.

    • Hi Linda,

      This book was completely seamless I have to say and I would never have guessed that there had been dual authorship, unless I had known otherwise.

      Most of the experiences I have had with dual authorship have actually and amazingly worked quite well and have stood up to some rigorous scrutiny.

      ‘Nicci French’ is one partnership between two London journalists, who are husband and wife.

      P.J. Parrish is a collaboration between two sisters, who live in separate US states and compare ideas and notes via email and over the telephone.

      Working together as husband and wife must take a certain kind of relationship to be successful. I think that Dave and I would be at each others throats in no time, especially when it came to deciding whose ideas to use for a storyline. It would be a definite case for mediation and would have any editor or publisher running for the hills!!

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving comment, I always appreciate it.

  • Yvonne, Thank you so much for such an amazing review! The book was such a tear jerker for both myself and Leah to write. We are lucky enough to live in the same town, so getting together to write this book wasn’t as difficult as I know it can be for authors who live all over the US.
    Usually, we take turns on points of view and chapters. We just finished another novel where we each did a certain characters point of view. It seems to be more seamless when we go about it that way. Thanks again for the review, I really appreciate it and hope you have a fantastic week!

    • Hi Rachel,

      The collaborative writing style which yourself and Leah seem to prefer, works great from my perspective, totally seamless.

      You have my unreserved admiration, as working with someone that closely on storylines which are really so personal, would be an impossibility for me, I think.

      The concept that you could have such a close working relationship long distance is one which I couldn’t even begin to contemplate.

      I wonder if the two of you are personal friends, or is this a strictly working relationship?

      ‘Waltzing With The Wallflower’ looks great, so I shall be looking forward to reading that one at some point in the not too distant future.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my post. I am open to honest feedback about what I write, however your positive comments are very encouraging for me and much appreciated.

  • Hi Yvonne – Very nice review! The book sounds really interesting. And, I find the fact that two authors worked on it really fascinating. I mean, it is one thing to collaborate on a technical report – I do that all the time – but I think it is different to collaborate on fiction, which is an art form. I would feel less flexible about it than I do about how something is worded in a technical report…

    • Hi Libby,

      What a great and really valid point you make there, although personally I would find it difficult to collaborate on any kind of presentation. I’m the kind of person who, if I start a job, likes to see it through to the end, as I hate the thought of maybe getting the blame for something which is wrong, which I know I didn’t do. I guess that probably doesn’t make me too much of a team player and makes me sound like a bit of a control freak, which my husband is always telling me I am!!

      • I’m the same way! On the tech reports, I pick my battles. If it is something that is cosmetic and really does not matter I always give in so I score a lot of points with which to stand firm on the stuff that DOES matter. That stuff I am not flexible about, because as you said, I am not putting my name on something that is wrong (!)

        • Hi Libby,

          I am quite an outspoken person as well and I find it very hard to hold my tongue if I know that something is wrong, or has been done wrong.

          I just never seem to learn that this strategy doesn’t really get me anywhere and just causes myself and everyone around me a lot of stress.

          I am quite a perfectionist as well and will always go the extra mile to ensure that things are done to the best of my ability and on time. This doesn’t always sit well with those who would just cut corners to get a job finished more quickly, or will just walk away from a task if their working hours are up, whereas I will generally work on to get something important finished.

  • Wow! Thank you, Yvonne, for the amazing analysis of The Parting Gift! This was Rachel’s and my first joint endeavor.

    I love writing with Rachel. I think the best part about it is how well we brainstorm together–which we tend to do even when working on our solo pieces. With this book, I would write for awhile and then pass it off to her if I got stuck. I wrote mainly Blaine’s point of view, and Rachel wrote mainly Mara’s point of view, and we would discuss what should happen a bit just for a guide. We did have some crossover in the points of view. Rachel is far better than I am at writing the romantic scenes, so I let her do it. 🙂

    We just finished writing another joint venture which will be releasing next week. For that one Rachel wrote the hero’s point of view, and I wrote the heroine’s. It is a much lighter story line with lots of humorous dialogue.

    I know it’s surprising, but we don’t seem to fight while we’re writing together. Though I was more resistant to writing regency at first (with this current book). I ended up having a lot of fun with it. However, if we were to fight, I would probably win. Just saying. 😉

    • Hi Leah,

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read my post and for your lovely comments, they are always appreciated.

      I have tried without luck to find out anything about your latest joint venture with Rachel, but would be more than interested to find out more details.

      Working together is obviously suiting the pair of you and when you say about bouncing ideas off of one another if you get stuck with a particular characters next move, then I can see why there is such great potential in collaboration …. so long as you get the last word of course!! LOL

      It is also good to see you pursuing your individual writing careers, although I don’t know how you manage it with your teaching career to juggle as well.

      So long as it is continues to be fun and not too onerous, then long may it last.

      I wish you every continued success with the book sales and any time you would like a review, then just drop me a line.

      • Hi Leah,

        Just found ‘Waltzing With The Wallflower’ on Rachel’s site, it looks great, a real must-read!

    • Hi Jeff,

      It is always difficult to know when to draw the line between providing a thorough review and giving away too many ‘spoilers’ about a book.

      I do like to be as honest as possible, however a review that just tells you how much I enjoyed a book means very little in reality. Personal taste is a very subjective thing and if you were to buy the book off of the back of such comments, you might be very disappointed if you didn’t enjoy the reading experience. I try to base my comments more upon the writing style of the author, the construction and content of the plot and the way in which the characters interact with the story.

      Thank you for taking the time to visit Fiction Books and for leaving such pertinent comments, I love to read and respond to them all.

  • The Parting Gift sounds like a worthwhile read. I’m always very much impressed when authors co-write a book. It must take plenty of give and take on both sides.
    Fantastic review Yvonne.

    • Hi Naida,

      Although I like the occasional romance, it is not a genre that I read exclusively, so I like the books I do read, to have some substance to them.

      ‘The Parting Gift’ worked well for me, with its clear messaging, delivered in a non-preachy way, by two authors who clearly have a great rapport and synergy.

      If you enjoy the genre, then yes, this book is well worth a few hours of your time, you will not be disappointed, I’m sure.

      Thanks for your kind thoughts about my review, your lovely comments are always appreciated.

Written by Yvonne