Writer’s Digest Annual Self-Published e-Book Awards
Entry Title: A Struggle of the Heart
Author: Marie Fostino
Judge Number: 13
Entry Category: Fiction
Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. “0” indicates not applicable. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.
Structure and Organization: 5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 4
Plot (if applicable): 4
Character Development (if applicable): 5
This story is both a coming of age journey and love and the choices and sometimes sacrifices we need to make to find true happiness. The story follows Annette a girl growing up in the small military base town of Lawton, Oklahoma. Her mother is a beautician, and Annette has always spent time there, learning the trade from her mother and planning to go to cosmetology school and follow in her footsteps so she moves to Norman, but then two things happen which will change her lifeâ€”she meets Aaron, a young Native American man with whom she falls in love, and the domestic terrorist bombing in nearby Oklahoma City ignites a passion within her to help people in emergency situations and become an EMT. She and Aaron fall deeply in love, but then he lets her know he has signed up for the army and will be leaving for his training. Devastated, but with promises to write and call and keep their love strong, Aaron leaves and Annette starts her schooling. All goes well for a while during bootcamp and Aaron training and deployment, but then Aaron stops writing with no explanation. Annette continues to write for months without reply. Heartbroken, Annette throws herself into her schooling with a vengeance. One of her classmates, Tim, befriends her and petitions to be her study buddy, knowing that her heart belongs to Aaron. But as the months pass with no word from Aaron, Tim admits that his feelings for her are more than friendly, and she has started having feelings for him too, causing her to search her heart to determine what to do about her conflicting feelings and her future happiness. But then a chance encounter during one of her EMT calls forces her see that she needs to find out what happened to Aaron and to see if their feelings are still there or if she should give Tim a chance. But will seeking out Aaron cause her to lose Tim? Who is her true love? She must choose.
Overall this is a very sweet story, with feelings and emotions that anyone who has had a first love or any experience of love will connect with. The story started a little slow and in a few spots got a bit bogged down in detail (some of the beauty shop procedurals and details of the studies) but the detail was definitely relevant and believable and it was clear that the author had first-hand knowledge and experience with her subject matter.
The characters were likeable and developed well and the storyline had a comfortable flow. I particularly appreciated how she captured Annette's innocence and how tastefully she dealt with their physical relationship and interaction so refreshing from so many in-your-face, far-too-much-information romance stories today, which makes it appropriate for younger readers as well. Both her career confusion and her working through her feelings with both guys was highly relatable and real.
What I thought truly shined was her treatment of the Oklahoma City bombing she captured the loss, violation and visceral response of the community and the nation and this book really honors those who lost their lives or were injured during that tragic event.
I was hoping that her final decision would go the other way, but it was a difficult decision and I could make a good argument for choosing either one of them.
There are some issues with the writing itself that would polish the story. She used some words that were either not the correct word (scrapped/scraped, maniken/mannequin) or the word was incorrectly used, particularly the use of sound alike words, such as staff/staph, toe/tow, principal/principle. Remember that running Spellcheck, in and of itself, only finds words incorrectly spelled, but if the misspelling is a real word, Spellcheck will not flag it. There were several punctuation issues including comma usage, punctuation in and around quotation marks and parallelism and the definition of negligence could have been a bit more clear. Being an e-book, there were some consistency issues as to having consistent spacing throughout. I recognize that some or all of the inconsistency could be due to uploading and format conversion through the contest judging process, but it is particularly important in the e-book format that there is consistency as to font and spacing. The one suggestion I would make and this is strictly a personal opinion and only because of this unique storyline-- is to change the name of the Tim character the reason I say this is that the Oklahoma City bombing will forever be associated with Timothy McVeigh, and to have a Tim as one of the good guys or love interests just didn't feel quite right.
Overall this is a very sweet story of first love and the choices we make. Good job would definitely recommend.
I am the Author
a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and still believe in the power of love &