“I absolutely loved this novel.” Amazon Reviewer

Best Int 5 stars

~~~

Severely injured in an accident that forever changed her life, 10-year-old Olivia becomes another faceless, under-served child in foster care. With no time to mourn or grieve, the young girl is easy prey for uncaring social workers and ambivalent foster families.

Olivia quickly learns to hold her tongue and mask her emotions. Even when exposed to neglect, bullying, and assault, no one seems to care. Holding fast to the teachings of her late father, Olivia ages out of the system broken, but no longer a victim.

Now a successful child advocate attorney, Olivia is a passionate voice for children. However, a routine case assignment by the court plunges Olivia back into the trauma of her childhood. If she doesn’t face her demons, a child will be sent into foster care, and Olivia will lose the only chance at love she’s ever had…or wanted.

Foster care for her young client is not an option. But Olivia’s emotional scars run even deeper than she realized. Reconciling with her past means Olivia must confront the one woman she blames for her battered soul.

A woman who has no idea who Olivia is.

~~~

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~~~

#FlashbackFriday: Meet Margot Schultz

Office manager Margot Schultz is the closest thing  closed-off attorney, Olivia Chandler, has to a friend. Margot doesn’t know all the details of her boss’ painful childhood, but she knows enough to understand Olivia’s quirky behavior and stunted emotions.

Margot returns in Family Matters.  Her loyalty to Olivia will be tested when another devastating loss leads Olivia to refuse help and push everyone away.

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Dynamic and vivacious Margot Schultz never met an obstacle she couldn’t overcome… or knock down. Executive assistant and office manager to child-advocate attorney, Olivia Chandler, Margot always seems to know the right amount of charm, wit, and panache to use when dealing with anyone from grumpy judges to cagey Department of Children’s Service employees to Olivia’s peers – some of whom are less-than-ethical.

Early in her career, Margot worked for some of the less than-ethical-crowd. While they could be gods and magicians in the courtroom, pulling out wins from seemingly unwinnable cases, outside the courtroom was another matter. Margot could remember each and every personal errand she’d had to do, each gift she’d had to buy for multiple girlfriends and mistresses, and every lie she’d told to one of her bosses’ wives.

When Margot heard through the courthouse grapevine that the executive secretary of a successful young, female child advocate attorney was retiring for health reasons and had no replacement, she grabbed her resume, took an extended lunch and went in search of Olivia Chandler. Despite her unusual approach, Margot and Olivia clicked immediately.

The two women have worked side by side for over ten years. Olivia admired Margot’s work ethic. She encouraged Margot to continue her education when time allowed, and even paid for it, calling it a ‘sound investment.’ Margot would eventually advance from executive legal secretary to executive assistant and office manager.

Margot knows Olivia has no family and was a foster care kid. She doesn’t know the intimate details, but she does know Olivia’s adolescence was bad enough for Olivia to keep herself closed off to most people. Her boss seems to ‘live’ when focused and working on a case for their minor clients. The rest of the time, Olivia just seems to exist.

The divorced office manager is not one of those people who believe a woman needs a man in her life to be complete, but Bruce Bellamy has suddenly appeared in Olivia’s life, and Margot will do her part to keep him there.

Things are going to get interesting.

~~~

Margot Rose (Parker) Schultz

Age: She’s not telling – but probably mid to late 40s

Born: New York, New York

Marital Status: Divorced – has adult twin sons who are both Marines

Is two classes away from a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management

Loves to dance and can be found on a dance floor most Saturday nights

Collects souvenirs from the Roaring 20s – always says she would have made a great Flapper

Plays acoustic guitar, but rarely does as it reminds her of her musician ex-husband

Is somewhat estranged from her parents and siblings since she dropped out of college nearly 20 years ago to elope with her now ex-husband

~~~

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Broken promises…

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Olivia falls back into old habits and defenses—a hard-line advocate for children during the day and a recluse by night, sequestered behind the large double oak doors of 4646 Beckwithe.

But it’s not as easy as she thought it would be… returning to the safety of the shadows. She’s seen as reckless and selfish, betraying those who have come to care about and trust her.

————————-

Snippet

Deciding a glass of Merlot would relax her, Olivia padded down the hallway from her office to the bar in the den.
Before she reached the den, the chimes of her front door bell stopped Olivia in her tracks.
Her thick eyebrows knitted together as she cast a frown toward the foyer.
I never get visitor’s so who’s at my front door?  She thought of  Bruce and for a brief moment her heart raced as the corners of her mouth tried to morph into a smile. But her brain stepped in, reminding Olivia she sent Bruce away.
With a reluctant change in direction Olivia headed for the front door.
The chimes sounded two more making Olivia believe the person on the other side had an urgent matter to discuss. However, she was still caught off guard when she opened the door.
“You are such a liar!”
The attorney recoiled at the bitter insult flung at her by Casey Bellamy.
“C-Casey -”
“I trusted you! I believed you! Your words and promise meant nothing… you’re just a liar.”
The young woman’s voice grew louder. Despite the wild look in her eyes, Olivia pulled her inside and closed the door.
“Don’t touch me.”
“Casey, please. I need you to -”
“I don’t care what you need, Olivia.”
“Please.” Olivia held her hands out to Casey Bellamy. “I’m not a liar. At least tell me what you think I’ve done.”
“Oh, my God! Save the clueless act, Olivia. It’s condescending.”
“Look, -”
She shoved an angry finger in Olivia’s face. “You said you would never hurt my dad. You promised me you wouldn’t, Olivia, you promised!”

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved.

———————–

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Coming Soon! (Really!)

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~~~

We all have “baggage”…

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Sometimes we can get so caught up in the drama of our own lives we fail to see… or understand what’s going on around us—even with those we care most about.

Such is the case with Family Matters‘ Olivia Chandler.

After losing her parents and spending her formative years in the foster care system, Olivia’s mental and emotional trauma was very real. However, it’s twenty years later, and while Olivia is a successful child advocate attorney, the pain of her childhood is never far away. Even though she enters into professional counseling, Olivia is obsessed with the totality of her own suffering and it leads her to push everyone away… even the man who wants to share her life.

Bruce Bellamy wasn’t a child when life knocked him down but that doesn’t mean it hurt any less.

He understands Olivia and will do what it takes to be with her, if only she’d let him. For the first time in fifteen years, Bruce is ready to risk his heart even though it didn’t end well the last time.

————————-

EXCERPT

When Bruce became a top name and moneymaker at the state level of racing, Joanna Hill was his steady girlfriend. And when Bruce gained national sponsorship and a spot on a professional team, Joanna became Mrs. Bruce Bellamy.
They led a charmed life for the next eight years. Their family grew by three and Joanna had everything she wanted—a big, expensive home, expensive cars, jewelry, an elaborate, designer wardrobe, and money in the bank.
What she didn’t have was an interest in Bruce’s career… just the money he made.
Had Joanna been paying attention, she would have known her husband was not happy. Bruce enjoyed racing and was a dedicated team member, but his heart wasn’t in it.
He didn’t want to race cars, he wanted to fix them, enhance them and make them high-performing machines. Like his father and grandfather, being an auto mechanic was in his blood and something he couldn’t shake.
When Bruce’s contract was up for renewal, he thanked his manager and team members, but declined. He felt good about his decision until he told his wife.
Joanna was livid.
Racing gave her the lifestyle she craved. How would Bruce take care of her?
Taking note Joanna said her and not her and the kids or their family, Bruce explained his plans to go into business with his dad and expand his current shop.
She scoffed at his pipe dream.
Bruce now realized Joanna would have left him right then had she not been four months pregnant with Breck.
At the time, however, he’d been hopeful. They had a great financial cushion and he had five months to show his wife everything would work out.
But things never go as planned.
Joanna sulked for the rest of her pregnancy, She paid little attention to Bruce or their children and never attended another Bellamy family event. Even on the afternoon Breck was born, Joanna gave him a cursory glance and requested he be fed in the hospital nursery.
Their home life turned into a nightmare.
Beds went unmade, Patrick and Casey were always late for school and Bruce’s family saved them from living on take-out.
Each day brought a new temper tantrum from Joanna. She wanted to take her mom to Vegas. She wanted to take her best friend to Hawaii. She wanted a nanny. The requests were endless, as were Bruce’s refusals.
Her disregard for him was annoying, but Joanna’s neglect of their children was inexcusable. His mother and aunt were at his home caring for the children so much his father and uncle complained.
Grateful for the assistance from his family and not wanting to cause anymore upset, Bruce re-thought the idea of a nanny. He hated the thought of giving in to Joanna’s selfishness, but he’d do anything for his family.
Life… and Joanna had other plans.
Arriving home late one evening, Bruce found his mother sitting in the family room and his children asleep.
The pained expression on her face bothered him but before he could ask why she was there, Bettie Bellamy blurted out, “She’s gone.”
He didn’t flinch.
“Do the kids know?”
She shook her head. “Joanna waited until they were asleep.”
Not up for any discussion, Bruce sent his mother home. When the tail-lights of her car disappeared from sight, he raced upstairs to his children.
Six-year-old Casey slept soundly in her Care Bear-inspired room. She clutched a natty Winnie-the-Pooh bear she’d been dragging around since her toddler days. Bruce kissed her forehead and went to the boys’ room next door.
Three-year-old Shaun and seven-year-old Patrick were asleep in Patrick’s bed after what Bruce was certain was an attempt to look at picture books by flashlight.
In the adjacent room, baby Breck lay in his crib cooing, preoccupied with his hand.
Bruce gathered him up in his arms and sat in the rocking chair next to the window.
He rocked his son long into the night. Even after Breck fell asleep, Bruce rocked, unsure of what to do next.

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved.

———————–

Will Bruce be able to make Olivia understand everyone has baggage?

~~~

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~~~

Writer Wednesday | “Family Matters”

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Even though loss shaped Olivia Chandler’s life, she never learned how to deal with it. Thrust into the foster care system as a child, little Livvie Chandler was told to ‘just forget’ and ‘be good.’ And for twenty-eight years, that’s what she did.

In this short snippet, Olivia finds out Willis Benson is terminally ill. The executor of her father’s will has been protector, mentor and surrogate father to the closed-off attorney.

Olivia moved on after her father’s death and her mother was sent away, but this could be the loss that sends her spiraling out of control.

***

“How long has he known?”
“Since July.”
“July?” Thoughts and images raced through Olivia’s mind. She spent time with Willis five or six times in the last four months. And never suspected a thing.
“How-”
“No one knows. Two weeks… two hours. Any answer would be a guess.”
“That’s unacceptable, Ian. His condition must tell them something. Who is this doctor? Maybe we should get a-”
“Olivia, stop.”
She frowned.
“Dad signed a DNR.”
Dizziness and nausea gripped her. Heat enveloped her body as sudden fatigue caught hold and dragged her toward the floor.
Ian was the only reason Olivia didn’t fall. He held on and propped her against the wall.
Ian spoke to her but Olivia heard no words. Her jumbled thoughts were of Willis Benson, the man in the brown suit she met as a ten-year-old. The only constant in her life since that fateful day when everything changed.
Ben Chandler planned well for his daughter’s future. But it was Willis Benson who fought for Olivia… and her mother. He risked his own job future and status in the firm to carry out Ben’s wishes.
When Olivia turned eighteen and took partial control of her inheritance, Willis was at her side. He answered Olivia’s questions and gave mild guidance, but Willis insisted she make her own decisions.
Years later when Olivia refused to visit her mother ever again, Willis accepted it and continued to stand by her.
Now Olivia needed to accept the fact if… no, when Willis suffered another cardiac episode or seizure, no life-saving measures would be taken.
He would die… and leave her.

****

After winning her young client’s custody battle, Olivia Chandler knows she can no longer hide from her own childhood trauma. With support from Bruce Bellamy and his family, she enters counseling. Her therapy will not be easy, and may not be successful unless Olivia can forgive her mother for the years Olivia spent in foster care. But is Sarina Chandler the only one in need of forgiveness?

Bruce introduces Olivia to his adult children. But her continued refusal to visit her mother pulls at the seams of Olivia’s new-found love with Bruce. The unexpected death of her mentor blind-sides Olivia causing her to withdraw back into the darkness of her mind. She pushes everyone away… including Bruce Bellamy.

Defeated, Olivia Chandler believes it her fate to concede to the same trauma-born mental illness that took her mother. But two voices, one from the present and one from the past, will challenge her to fight for the future her father intended for her to have… or succumb to madness.

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Sunday Snippet | “Family Matters”

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Near the end of In the Best Interest of the Child, heroine Olivia Chandler admitted she needed help to overcome her emotional demons and made the giant step forward to enter counseling. But the savvy child advocate attorney is too smart for her own good sometimes and nothing is ever easy with her.

This small snippet is from one of Olivia’s counseling sessions. Psychologist Diane Payton is as tough as her client and doesn’t give Olivia any slack.

***

Without a word, Diane went to her desk and retrieved the lone file from her In basket and returned to her seat.

“You have the right to review your file at anytime, Olivia, so just pretend you made a request and read the highlighted section for me please.” She passed a document to Olivia. “Aloud, please.”

Confused, Olivia found the section and began to read.

“Client is agitated and fidgets. Doesn’t maintain eye contact. Hands/palms appear to be sweaty. Voice tone is raised and speech is rapid. Almost childlike. Client is reliving the experience.”

Olivia read the passage again in silence. She frowned and looked to Diane for explanation.

“That was you as spoke of some of your former foster homes, the physical abuse you suffered, and life without your parents.”

Olivia Chandler couldn’t help but think of how horrible a childhood she had.

“Now read this one.”

Taking the document from her therapist, Olivia did as she was told.

“Client is the most relaxed I’ve seen her to date. Sitting in upright chair, legs crossed, hands clasped around knee. Her speech is animated and eyes are bright. Client appears content. (Happy?)”

“Diane, when was-”

“When you talked about Bruce.”

Olivia shook her head.

“This doesn’t prove anything.”

Her therapist smirked.

“You’re right, it doesn’t.” She leaned toward Olivia. “Or… it does.”

“She scoffed. “Now, you’re being facetious.”

“And you’re in denial.”

****

After winning her young client’s custody battle, Olivia Chandler knows she can no longer hide from her own childhood trauma. With support from Bruce Bellamy and his family, she enters counseling. Her therapy will not be easy, and may not be successful unless Olivia can forgive her mother for the years Olivia spent in foster care. But is Sarina Chandler the only one in need of forgiveness?

Bruce introduces Olivia to his adult children. But her continued refusal to visit her mother pulls at the seams of Olivia’s new-found love with Bruce. The unexpected death of her mentor blind-sides Olivia causing her to withdraw back into the darkness of her mind. She pushes everyone away… including Bruce Bellamy.

Defeated, Olivia Chandler believes it her fate to concede to the same trauma-born mental illness that took her mother. But two voices, one from the present and one from the past, will challenge her to fight for the future her father intended for her to have… or succumb to madness.

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Inside “In The Best Interest of the Child”

In The Best Interest of the Child spans nearly thirty years in the life of Olivia ‘Livvie’ Chandler.

As a ten-year-old, Olivia has the perfect little girl’s life: a school she loves, good friends, a nice home, a talented mom, and a successful father she adores. Tragedy rips all of this away from her, and plunges Olivia into the foster care system, where for eight years she is neglected, humiliated, abused, and nearly raped.

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Fate smiles on Olivia shortly before she ages out of the system, allowing her the means to attend college and law school. Determined to put her past behind her, Olivia Chandler forges ahead, burying her trauma in the deep recesses of her mind.

It will not stay there.

Years later, Olivia is a successful child advocate attorney, giving a voice to children who are so easily ignored by those claiming to act in their best interest. She has little time for personal relationships, and her lifelong fear of abandonment reminds her never to get too close to anyone.

The successful attorney stumbles though, when she’s assigned a case by the court that too closely mirrors her own haunted childhood. Olivia never gives her minor clients less than her all, and the only way she can help her eleven-year-old client is to face down and acknowledge her demons. This same case also brings a man into her life who sees her for who she truly is, and will not allow Olivia to push him away.


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Rena Averest – In The Best Interest of the Child – Character Profile


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Olivia Chandler’s latest client is eleven-year-old Rena Averest.

Rena and her parents were involved in a weather-related, multi-car accident. Her mother was killed and her father was severely injured and comatose for several weeks and remains hospitalized indefinitely.

Rena suffered extensive injuries and was also hospitalized for several weeks. When she was well enough to be discharged, the hospital ran into major obstacles. Her mother’s only living relative was an older brother who lived two thousand miles away. Suffering from chronic cystic fibrosis, he was unable to care for Rena and had in fact, even missed his sister’s funeral. Rena has grandparents, and two aunts on her father’s side of the family…and they want absolutely nothing to do with her.

A benevolent judge, taking into account all that Rena is currently dealing with, allows her to be placed temporarily with Courtney and Marissa Bellamy, friends of her parents since college, and Rena’s godparents. Not knowing how her father’s medical situation will resolve itself, the judge feels Rena needs the stability and familiarity of the Bellamy home. The Department of Children’s Services disagrees and take legal action to remove Rena from the Bellamy home and place her in foster care. The presiding judge spurred on by the irony of DCS wanting to remove Rena Averest from a non-relative home only to place her in a non-relative home, stays the case and appoints a child advocate attorney to research the case and protect Rena’s interest.

And that’s exactly what Olivia intends to do.

Rena Irene Averest

Age: 11

DOB: May 6, 2003

Parents: Duncan and Irene (Deceased) Averest

Siblings: None

Favorite color: Yellow

Favorite music: Todrick Hall and all songs Disney-related

Favorite Book: The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Pets: A turtle named Brutus

BFF: Margie Macy

Wants to be a surgical nurse when she grows up


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Margot Schultz – In The Best Interest of the Child – Character Profile

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Dynamic and vivacious Margot Schultz never met an obstacle she couldn’t overcome… or knock down. Executive assistant/office manager to Olivia Chandler, Margot always seems to know the right amount of charm, wit, and panache to use when dealing with anyone from grumpy judges to cagey Department of Children’s Service employees to Olivia’s peers – some of whom are less-than-ethical.

Early in her career, Margot worked for some of the less than-ethical-crowd. While they could be gods and magicians in the courtroom, pulling out wins from seemingly unwinnable cases, outside the courtroom was another matter. Margot could remember each and every personal errand she’d had to do, each gift she’d had to buy for multiple girlfriends and mistresses, and every lie she’d told to one of her bosses’ wives.

When Margot heard through the courthouse grapevine that the executive secretary of a successful young, female child advocate attorney was retiring for health reasons and had no replacement, she grabbed her resume, took an extended lunch and went in search of Olivia Chandler. Despite her unusual approach, Margot and Olivia clicked immediately.

The two women have worked side by side for ten years. Olivia admired Margot’s work ethic. She encouraged Margot to continue her education when time allowed, and even paid for it, calling it a ‘sound investment.’ Margot would eventually advance from executive legal secretary to executive assistant and office manager.

Margot knows Olivia has no family and was a foster care kid. She doesn’t know the intimate details, but she does know Olivia’s adolescence was bad enough for Olivia to keep herself closed off to most people. Her boss seems to ‘live’ when focused and working on a case for their minor clients. The rest of the time, Olivia just seems to exist.

The divorced office manager is not one of those people who believe a woman needs a man in her life to be complete, but Bruce Bellamy has suddenly appeared in Olivia’s life, and Margot will do her part to keep him there.

Things are going to get interesting.

 

Margot Rose (Parker) Schultz

Age: She’s not telling – but probably mid to late 40s

Born: New York, New York

Marital Status: Divorced – has adult twin sons who are both Marines

Is two classes away from a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management

Loves to dance and can be found on a dance floor most Saturday nights

Collects souvenirs from the Roaring 20s – always says she would have made a great Flapper

Plays acoustic guitar, but rarely does as it reminds her of her musician ex-husband

Is somewhat estranged from her parents and siblings since she dropped out of college nearly 30 years ago to elope with her now ex-husband


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“In the Best Interest of the Child”

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Martin ‘Marty’ Knight – In The Best Interest of the Child – Character Profile

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After their initial visit to the hospital where Rena has daily physical therapy, she and Olivia meet hospital volunteer, Martin ‘Marty’ Knight as they leave. Marty is concerned about the sadness in Rena’s eyes and tries to cheer her up as he helps her into the car. He is shocked to find out that Rena’s injuries and the death of her mother were caused by the same weather-related, multi-vehicle accident that claimed the life of his best friend, Victor Roddy.

During Marty and Rena’s conversation, Olivia finds herself staring at the man, convinced they have met before. She just cannot remember where. Marty also cast several glances in Olivia’s direction trying to figure out why she looks so familiar. His memory fails him.

As the story unfolds, Marty Knight will not only become a good friend and ‘grandfather’ to Rena, he will play a pivotal role in Olivia Chandler sorting out her past…and navigating her future.

  • Martin Eugene Knight
  • Age: 71
  • Retiree, Veteran, and Hospital Volunteer
  • DOB: October 31, 1943
  • Born in Kenosha, Wisconsin
  • Marital Status: Widower. Wife, Sarah, passed away three years ago after a difficult battle with liver cancer.
  • Sarah died two weeks after their 50th wedding anniversary.
  • Has five children and eleven grandchildren.
  • A veteran of the Vietnam War. Entered the war near its beginning and served four years.
  • Received a Purple Heart and Medal Honor.
  • Enjoys building miniatures, fly fishing, and watching westerns.
  • Carries a keychain with a picture of his wife on one side, and a picture of his dog on the other. His dog passed away two months after his wife, at the age of 16. Sarah named the dog Dwight because she was convinced he looked like Dwight D Eisenhower.

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©2016 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved