Recent Newberry Award winning author Elizabeth Walker is finding her life turned upside down for the second time. As a five-year old child she, her two sisters, and widowed father were involved in a house fire. Her father was killed, and her sisters were adopted, while Elizabeth became a part of the Texas Child Welfare System. The things she experienced as a ward of the state have played a very major part in shaping Elizabeth into the adult she has become.
While a ward she bonded with Gina D'Angelo, who she grew to love as a sister. As an adult Gina made the unfortunate decision of becoming involved with lawyer, Austin Leggett. After an eight year relationship Gina and Austin find themselves in court trying to determine child support and custody of their five-year old daughter Jesse.
Judge Hetherington has granted shared custody of Jesse, while also providing double the amount of financial support that Gina requested. This award sets off a series of events with dire consequences for not only Gina and Jesse, but Elizabeth as well.
Author Karen Young has taken the emotional instability of Austin, the need of love and acceptance of Gina and the wall built around Elizabeth's emotions, and written a compelling story. As I read I knew that Gina wasn't strong enough on her own to overcome Austin, but Elizabeth could and would prevail in the end. Ms. Young has written characters that I came to have real emotions for, and am glad that even though they had to go through things that no one should, they have emerged at the other end of the tunnel stronger better people.
I would recommend PRIVATE LIVES if you enjoy women's fiction. PRIVATE LIVES is not necessarily a romance, though Elizabeth does find her hero in the most unlikely place. Ryan Paxton, who starts the story as Austin's lawyer, but quickly becomes enlightened about his client's true nature, and starts helping Elizabeth, and her family. In PRIVATE LIVES author, Karen Young did a wonderful job in taking all the side stories, and tying them together without shortchanging any of them.
Sandi Shilhanek, March 2003