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Book Review: Desert Phoenix

Desert Phoenix was written by Suzette Bruggeman and published by Bowker in 2023. You can purchase it on Amazon/Kindle and you can visit the author on Amazon and on social media.

*Contains mature themes, including non-graphic suicide and sexual assault

Before the turn of the century Lou is a young girl living in gold country. She loses her family to yellow fever, and she soon finds herself forced into prostitution. The other girls take her under their wing, and they give her the name Tempa. The business is frightening to her, but she finds comforts and luxuries within the crib that she only dreamed of as a poor child growing up. She meets an older girl named Belle and they become best friends and their relationship would last a lifetime. Tempa grows into learning her profession, and becomes very good at it, but she is also able to keep a piece of herself and she strives to help others in healing their wounds with herbs.

She meets Henry, a young German immigrant, along a riverbank but he is badly injured and near death. She nurses him back to health and learns that he was attacked and the man who beat him is still on the hunt for him. Soon, Tempa and Henry become close, and he puts his trust into her. She reads books to him and talks to him, and she too finds that she is becoming attracted to this boy who is not yet a man.

A love story begins, highlighting the many hardships and realities of life back in the old west. What will become of Tempa and Henry? Will they find happiness or will their situations in life prove to be too difficult for them to be together?

It's exceptionally rare to be completely captivated by a story from the first page to the last but this one did it. Suzette Bruggeman strings together words that are enchanting and vibrating with an energy that takes this novel to the highest level. She touches on subjects and themes that are not for the weak of heart but in telling this tale, which is inspired by a true story, she allows us into a very real and difficult time when life brought out the best and worst in people. I fell in love with Tempa and Henry, but I was also shocked by some of their behaviors and some of the decisions they made.

This is high on my list of best reads for this year. It's a story that will certainly stay with me for years. This is a must read.

I give Desert Phoenix 5 out of 5 stars.

Suzette Bruggeman is a scheduled guest on The Writers Lounge Blog Talk Radio Show #138 on May 15, 2023.

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