When I was 13, my mom was diagnosed with advanced stage Ovarian Cancer. Statistically, she had very little time left. Shortly after, she began writing a novel, Bird of Paradise. I would discover much later that from the beginning she intended this to be a life gift for me. Ever the stubborn fighter, she refused to accept that cancer would win. As she always said, "I'm not going anywhere until I'm damn good and ready to and I better be here to watch you walk down the aisle."
For years she lost herself in a world of her creation, never letting anyone read what she'd written. In 2011, she achieved her goal of watching me walk down that aisle. Sadly in December of 2012, after years of recurrences, setbacks, surgeries, and rounds of chemotherapy, she passed away. She was 63 - a lifetime lived long past the prognosis she had been given. Bird of Paradise was left unfinished.
Shortly after her passing, I found a letter from her, with a copy of the unfinished manuscript and one request - that I finish the story for her.
"...I know now that this is where my story ends, so I hope you will begin where I left off. I will watch over you through the good times and the bad. I will be there with you to share the joys of becoming a mom, and I will be there watching as you and Matt grow old together. And each night I will be there to whisper sweet dreams. I love you."
- Forever and Beyond, Mom
It took me nearly 8 years to complete and on March 29th, 2021 Bird of Paradise was published on what would have been her 71st birthday.
Collaborating with her and melding our stories together has been the gift of a lifetime and I'm beyond honored that she entrusted me with Arianna's story. And now, dear reader, I am even more honored to share her story with you.
Bird of Paradise
Lush emerald-green jungles, gentle breezes perfumed by jasmine and gardenia, crystalline cascading waters, and a sparkling turquoise lagoon. Gently bobbing boats and the rich Island cultures of the past meet the present. Regardless of where she was, she was never truly home until she felt the sun-toasted sands of the Island under her feet.
Seventeen-year-old Arianna Heywood is a hopeless romantic who dreams of one day sipping Bellini’s with her love in Italy and when a trip home to the Island reveals that her innocent childhood crush no longer looks at her as his kid sister, Ari is eager to step into the world of womanhood. But as is so often the case, you cannot always choose what happens in life.
Facing immeasurable pain, Ari embarks on a decade long journey of self-discovery, but an unexpected encounter in the city of her dreams may change it all again. Torn between the pull of her Island and the possibility of what lies beyond, Ari must bridge the gap between her past and the story of her future. They say some love stories are meant to last forever. Will theirs be one of them? Only Ari has the power to decide.
L. Sutton - Amazon 5-Star Review
Kindle Reader - Amazon 5-Star Review