Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Straight Reading from the Library: Beautiful Evil Winter by Kelly K. Lavender

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kelly K. Lavender will be awarding $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.


After the USSR collapses, a time reminiscent of the unforgiving gun-slinging days of the frontier west, mild-mannered Ethan and fiery Sophia board a plane bound for Russia. They hope to prevail with their homespun plan to secure their son's safe passage to America. What can go wrong? Maybe, an innocent ill fated encounter with the Mafia or maybe, being marked as a target for mob revenge. Perhaps, having to rely on a first-time adoption coordinator to complete the process and shelter them from harm. Honestly, what won't go wrong?

Inspired by a true story, Beautiful Evil Winter triumphs as epic historical fiction about the human capacity for hope, the traumas that shape our lives and the hardships we'll endure for love.


“I’m too tired to talk.” Turning away from him, I grab a blanket and reposition my entire body as close as possible to Ethan’s seat.

“Okay, well, I’ll get comfortable. Must finish my movie,” he announces as he shifts around in his seat and loosens his tie.

From the corner of my semi-closed eye, I see him push off his shoes and remove his socks. Wiggling his now naked toes, he grabs his iPad and powers it on.

Gathering the blanket closer, I relax and try to drift away.

“Aw, Melissa, moan for me, “ a breathless male pleas as he grunts.

“Yes, yes, that’s it!” A female pants in reply.

A glance reveals more than I want to see, a totally naked couple pleasuring each other.

I feel my cheeks redden with anger. There are children on this flight!

As I glance across the aisle, I see a Mom hugging a toddler acutely aware. Her sour expression says it all as she positions her child’s head in the direction of the seat window. Re-adjusting my body, I turn to face him, carefully choosing my words.

“Look, you may enjoy that movie, but a lot of people wouldn’t—especially the parents of children on this plane. If you’ll angle your screen toward the window and turn the volume down or use your ear plugs, I think several passengers will be grateful.”

“Mind your own business, bitch! I’ll watch whatever I want in the seat I paid for!” His eyes gleam. He enjoys this too much.

In my peripheral vision, I can see slack-jawed Mom across the aisle, her toddler now in the arms of his Dad. Her gripping hand like a talon, flexing as waves of rage engulf her. I see fury fill her eyes and heart—morphing her into a predator and a protector of her young.

Gripping the hand rest, I reach up for the call button. Immediately, his hand covers mine.

“You didn’t say that you don’t like porn,” he says with a smile as his hand squeezes mine.

My eyes glitter with cold, hard hate—hate as tangible as a slab of black marble. Hate that maims and kills, without regret.

“Let me be clear,” I hiss.

“Your movie disgusts me as much as you do! Leave me alone, and don’t talk to me!”

Turning my upper body away from him, I grab a pillow and blanket—positioning myself toward Ethan and away from him.

“And I let my fingers do the walking walking walking—all the way up your back.”

With unbridled fury, I turn and slap him with the force of my pent-up anger—anger at his moronic behavior, anger at having to sit on the tarmac for two hours and anger at having to deal with idiocy all along this journey.

Chuckling, he touches his now red-striped cheek.

I glance over at Ethan for help, but he’s still comatose, only a gunshot wound would wake him up.

Where’s that flight attendant? I did manage to push the button.

Some little kid is crying in the background. The 5-year-old girl adjacent to us is wearing white socks splattered with dirt. She’s picking her nose and staring at us in wide-eyed wonder.

Finally, a tall, heavyset flight attendant hurries down the aisle looking irate.

“What’s going on here?” he demands. 
In a well rehearsed move, he kicks Ethan’s boot to wake him.

“What? Why did you kick me?” Ethan whines as he rubs his eyes, finally looking back and forth between me and Brightly. “Good God, what’s going on here?”

“I was just asking myself the same thing,” says the flight attendant, shooting daggers at me.

Clearly, he thinks this is all my fault.

Rising to his feet and stepping into the aisle, Ethan blinks in disbelief, then grabs my arm and yanks me out of my seat to stand beside him.

“Are you ok?”

I nod, my lips trembling.

I chose the above excerpt to illustrate an issue I had with this book.  The book takes place shortly after the breakup of the USSR (1991).  However, the iPad, which is mentioned in the excerpt, was first released in 2010.  While the rest of the story appears to largely accurate, the placement of an iPad being used on the plane to stream porn via the plane's internet in the early 1990s was anachronistic. Since it occurred at the beginning of the story, it did color my enjoyment moving forward and perhaps made me even more sensitive to editing issues than I'm already prone to be.

Most of the errors were minor and could have easily been fixed with editing.  For example, run on sentences ("This is your pilot I apologize for the delay." p.10), punctuation errors (“He’s out cold.” Between the screaming baby and me trying to wedge past him, he hasn’t moved an inch.” p. 11), point of view errors (My eyes glitter with cold, hard hate—hate as tangible as a slab
of black marble. p. 13), issues with unnecessary capitals (Vice President, Presidential p. 30),  sentence fragments (Growing up, a repair tech never called and never needed. p. 30).  There were incidents like these throughout the book.

That said, the story itself was enthralling.  The main couple, Sophia and Ethan, were as different as night and day from each other.  She is very strong and aggressive; he is very non-confrontational. There is a lot of growth with them as they go through this adventure together - Ethan begins to get a backbone, and Sophia gentles a bit. 

 The story is told with several flashbacks that explain how they met, an accident that happened to Sophia that made it impossible for her to have children of her own, things leading up to the adoption itself.

The best scene in the book is the bar scene - it's not only the black moment which puts them on the radar of the Russian mafia, it's also where you can best see the growth in Ethan.

The book is based on the author's own trip to Russia to adopt her son. Thankfully, based on the book club questions at the end of the book, her own trip was less eventful than Sophia and Ethan's.  But, the heart of the story, the love the main characters have for their son, and the difficulties they are willing to go through to get him ring true and that is what makes this book worth reading despite the editing issues. 


Kelly’s fascination with fiction began in middle school when she entered a book-reading contest and won. As an ardent fan of the resonating narrative and the cliffhanger, she decided to dedicate herself to becoming a skilled writer. When college professors spotlighted her writing in the classroom, it anchored her interest in becoming a novelist.

After earning a business degree, she continued to pursue her education at UCLA, via the UCLA Writers' Extension Program, where her work earned praise from an Award-Winning Author. A rickety project trip to Russia, to adopt a baby boy, provided the inspiration for her debut novel, Beautiful Evil Winter.


Beautiful Evil Winter a 2014 Triple Genre Finalist: Fiction-Suspense, Fiction-Thriller-General and Romance Sizzle! Readers’ Favorite receives entries from small presses, celebrities and New York Times Best-Selling Authors. Beautiful Evil Winter earned more accolades with READERS FAVORITE INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS by securing a place in the Winners' Circle for the mega category—Fiction Suspense.

THE ERIC HOFFER AWARDS honored Beautiful Evil Winter by selecting it for the Winners' Circle-Commercial Fiction! The Hoffer Award honors "...writing of significant merit..."

The NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCE AWARDS chose Beautiful Evil Winter as a New Fiction Finalist!

DAN POYNTER'S GLOBAL EBOOK AWARDS placed Beautiful Evil Winter in the Winners' Circle for Fiction-Suspense

Plenty, my second novel, also earned distinction as a DAN POYNTER'S 2016 GLOBAL EBOOK AWARD BRONZE MEDALIST-FICTION SUSPENSE.

Award-Winning Novels:

Beautiful Evil Winter


Writers’ League of Texas
UCLA Writers’ Extension Program
Buy the book at Amazon.


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  1. I enjoyed getting to know your book; congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win :)

  2. Thanks Librarian Judith for hosting! And thanks for reading and reviewing my novel!

  3. Motherhood - overrated and exhausting or blissful and bountiful? Any thoughts?

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. This sounds like a book I'd really enjoy reading, thank you for sharing!

  6. Thanks again for hosting! I appreciate the fact that you're the first reviewer to provide editing specifics. I hired two professionals, one a line editor and one a story development specialist, to help me with my freshman novel. Additionally, I read it backwards and forwards many times. At any rate, editing became an expensive painful lesson for me. To learn more about the backstory, please see my blog at www.kellyklavender@blogspot.com. Thanks for taking the time to illuminate the specific editing issue re: the iPad. As an indie author, I can make changes and re-publish which I've already put into play. Happy you enjoyed the novel anyway!