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Monday, September 26, 2016

Red Wine Spritzers | Finding Libbie

Red Wine Spritzers
Today I'm hosting a book tour stop for Finding Libbie, the latest novel by Deanna Lynn Sletten. Emily Prentice is helping her grandmother clean out the farmhouse that has been in their family for generations. She comes across a box of old photographs and learns for the first time that her father, Jack, was married to his high school sweetheart before he was married to her mother.

Emily is enamored of Jack's first wife Libbie after her grandmother tells her the heartbreaking story of their marriage, and sets her sights on finding her. At first she says she just wants to make sure that she is okay, but really she wants to find a way to bring some of that old joy back to her father that he's been missing since her mother passed away.

This story is split between modern day and the past, with the majority of it set in the latter, starting in spring of 1968. We're transported back to the end of Jack and Libbie's junior year of high school, and the beginning of their tumultuous love affair, which may have been young love, but was true love if you ever saw it. Libbie was a beautiful and kind girl from a wealthy family, and Jack was a handsome and hardworking boy from a working class family.  In that time, in their small Minnesota town, it was frowned upon (mostly by the rich) to bring those two "classes" together socially.

But Jack and Libbie's young love was fierce and true, and they defied her mother's wishes and were married a year out of high school. Around this time, we see Libbie's mental state decline. She's acting erratic, with high-highs and low-lows, which she self-medicated with Valium prescribed by her family doctor and alcohol. She begins to recognize her mother's patterns in herself, which only serves to drive her even more out of control.
Red Wine Spritzers
I immediately recognized it as bipolar disorder, as I'm sure most reading it will, but back in those days, the stigma attached to mental disorders, especially in women, meant that they were swept under the rug and explained away as "sensitivity". And Libbie's powerful family preferred she be thought of as an alcoholic than as somebody with a mental disorder.

There's so much more to it than that, but that's a quick overview. The struggle that Jack goes through trying the best he knows how to help Libbie, the horrible actions of Libbie's family (which constantly made me spitting angry), and the eventual blow-up that would be the final time Jack and Libbie would see each other for 30-ish years.

The final 60 or so pages of the book are all that are left for us to find out if Emily finds Libbie, who has been hidden away by parents and family who are now all deceased or moved far away. Although it's a fairly short conclusion, it was also pretty powerful...and I sobbed my way through it. I'm a sucker for a story about the power of true love.

I'll leave it at that and not give away the ending, so that you can read this unsuspectingly powerful story for yourself—just be prepared for moments of raw emotion.
Red Wine Spritzers
So let's wrap Finding Finding Libbie up by talking about the food. It's not a "foodie read", but there are some great moments where Bev (Emily's grandma, Jack's mom) not only cooks and bakes up farm grown food and things like cinnamon rolls, cookies, brownies, chocolate cake, but also teaches Libbie how to do the same. Libbie loves learning her way around the kitchen and not only bakes cookies, brownies, and pies, but also prepares dinner most nights (things like chicken, gravy, rice, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots) and throws get togethers with meals like roasted duck with orange-ginger glaze, wild rice, and asparagus tips.

There was also plenty of mention of alcohol—beer, gin, vodka, whiskey, and wine. And while I almost feel a little wrong making these red wine spritzers since they were sort of associated with Libbie's downward spiral, in a twisted way, they were a minor character in that portion of the story.

"Let's celebrate!" Candy said, heading over to her fridge. She pulled out a cheap bottle of red wine and a bottle of 7Up.
Libbie watched as she filled three glasses half full of wine and them filled them the rest of the way with 7Up. "I've never seen anyone do that before," Libbie said as Candy handed her a glass.
Jackie giggled. "It's a cheap version of a spritzer."

While the ones Libbie drank were just 7Up and red wine, the ones I made are slightly more sophisticated, but still just as easy to sip.

Finding Libbie by Deanna Lynn Sletten

Finding Libbie

author: Deanna Lynn Sletten
publisher: Lake Union Publishing (September 6, 2016)
genre: Literature & Fiction | Action & Adventure | Women's Adventure | Romance
soft cover:352 pages

"foodie" read: No

opening sentence: You never know what the day will bring, Emily Prentice thought as she stepped outside her town house into the May sunshine.

teaser: Poring over a dusty hatbox of photographs in her grandmother’s closet, Emily Prentice is shocked to discover her father was married to his high school sweetheart before meeting her mother.

In the summer of 1968, Jack and Libbie fall in love under the spell of their small town, untouched by the chaos of the late sixties. Though Libbie’s well-to-do parents disapprove of Jack’s humble family and his aspiration to become a mechanic, she marries Jack a year after they graduate high school. But soon their happiness crumbles as Libbie’s mental state unravels and she is drawn to alcohol and drugs. Despite his efforts to help her, Jack loses the woman he loves and is forced to move on with his life.

Now that Emily’s mother has passed away, Jack is alone again, and Emily grows obsessed with the beautiful woman who had given her father such joy. Determined to find Libbie, Emily pieces together the couple’s fragmented past. But is it too late for happy endings?

about the author: Deanna Lynn Sletten grew up on the sunny coast of Southern California before moving to northern Minnesota as a teenager. Her interest in writing novels was sparked in a college English class, and she has been writing in some form or another ever since. In 2011, Deanna self-published her first novel and has since published several more, both on her own and with Lake Union Publishing.

Deanna enjoys writing heartwarming women’s fiction and romance novels with unforgettable characters. She has also written one middle-grade novel that takes readers on the adventure of a lifetime. She believes in fate, destiny, love at first sight, soul mates, second chances, magic, and happily ever after—all of which are reflected in her novels.
Deanna Lynn Sletten, author

Deanna is married and has two grown children. When not writing, she enjoys walking the wooded trails around her home with her beautiful Australian shepherd or relaxing on her boat in the summer.

connect with the author: website | facebook | twitter

recipe inspired by the book: Red Wine Spritzers


yield: 2print recipe
Red Wine Spritzers

Red Wine Spritzers

This simple, fizzy cocktail is the perfect way to enjoy red wine in the summertime (or whenever the mood strikes).
prep time: 5 MINScook time: 5 MINStotal time: 10 mins


  • ice cubes
  • 1/2 of a lime
  • 1/2 of a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons simple syrup, or to taste
  • club soda
  • red wine


  1. Fill two Collins glasses with ice cubes. Squeeze 1/4 of each lime and lemon and 1 tablespoon of simple syrup into each glass. Add enough club soda to fill half of each glass. Slowly pour red wine to fill each glass to the top.
  2. Serve with straws and extra simple syrup, if needed.
-slightly adapted from Good Food Stories 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.