Ask any writer where their titles come from for their work and you’ll get a thousand different answers from “It just came to me!” to “My publisher made me use this one.” As an author, I’ve had both happen to me, with several other scenarios for my titles scattered in between.
In my first book, FIRE EYES, the heroine’s name is Jessica—my own daughter’s name. She needed a name that she was referred to by the Indians, and my daughter had told me years earlier she wanted her Indian name to be FIRE EYES. So that was a given. And it worked out great! That story was the one that the title came easiest for, of all my books.
Fast forward to my first contemporary romance novel, Sweet Danger. The story takes place in a deli that has been taken over by a very dangerous escaped convict, Tabor Hardin, and his men. His hostages just happen to include an undercover police officer, Jesse Nightwalker, who put him away in prison—supposedly for life. One of the other hostages is Jesse’s neighbor, Lindy Oliver, who is the retired police commissioner’s daughter. They’ve just met and are minding their own business over a sugar ring when a hail of gunfire erupts and—well, y’all know how I love my wounded heroes, and Jesse is no exception. I had titled the story THE SUGAR RING. But I was told by my publisher that that title would have to be changed. Period. SWEET DANGER was born, and in retrospect, is a much better title.
The list goes on—but you get the idea. I know right now you’re thinking of titles you’ve read that have stuck in your mind—and the questions they’ve made you ask about those particular stories or books.
And I bet you’ve seen a phrase and thought, “That would be a great book title!” I know I’ve done that plenty of times. I’ve even written them down. Now, if I could only remember where I wrote them!
Another fun way to come up with titles is through a title generator. There are several of these online. They even have them for different genres: Sci-fi, westerns, fantasy…you name it. But they come up with some real doozies! Take a look at some of the ones a western title generator came up with for me:
THE GUITAR OF THE AZURE
THE PLAINS OF THE SAGE
THE DEATH’S RING
WOLVES IN THE MESA
THE WILLOW AND THE HOLSTER
THE REIN OF THE DWINDLING SECRET
THE BIBLE OF THE WHITE HEART
RUBY IN THE CHURCHYARD
LIGHTS IN THE SOMBRERO
ANGEL OF THE FINAL LIGHT
These are mainly odd, funny titles, but the beauty of them is that they get your mind working in ways you might never have thought before—and adding and changing some of the words in some of these titles can make for a beautifully creative experience!
What are some of YOUR favorite titles, and why? Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to WIN A FREE COPY OF A KISS TO REMEMBER! Five wonderful western historical romances by Kathleen Rice-Adams, Tracy Garrett, Tanya Hanson, Cheryl Pierson and Livia J. Washburn!
(If you can’t wait to see if you won, here’s the link to buy A KISS TO REMEMBER!)
A huge Texas thanks to everyone who stopped by the corral to sit a spell and chat about “bobwahr” and living in town vs. in the country. Petticoats and Pistols readers always share such delightful tales.
I promised to give away a copy of the boxed set A Kiss to Remember, which contains five delicious western historical romances from five of your favorite authors. (We are your favorite authors, right?)
And the winner is…
Congratulations, Vonn! Sit tight, and I’ll be in touch in just a sec.
A huge Texas thanks to everyone who stopped by the corral to sit a spell and chat about surprising things they’ve discovered about history. I learned some things I didn’t know, and I love that. Petticoats and Pistols readers are some of the best folks in the world.
I promised to give away a copy of the brand-new boxed set A Kiss to Remember, which contains five delicious western historical romances from five of your favorite authors. (We are your favorite authors, right?)
And the winner is…
Congratulations, Melody! Hold your horses, and I’ll be in touch in just a sec.
Research is one of the most important tools of the fiction author’s trade. Regardless what an author writes—historical, contemporary, fantasy, science fiction—he or she must have some knowledge of the real world in order to create a world in which characters live and breathe.
Good authors don’t beat readers over the head with their research, but what they dig up informs every aspect of their stories. Much of what we discover doesn’t make it into our books. Instead, the information clutters up our heads and trickles out at odd times.
This is one of those times.
Each of the five authors who contributed to Prairie Rose Publications’s new release, the boxed set A Kiss to Remember, uncovered historical tidbits that surprised, charmed, or saddened her. Since all of us are good authors and would never dream of beating readers over the head with our research in our books, we’re taking the opportunity to beat readers over the head with our research in a blog post. We can be sneaky that way.
Without further ado…
Her Sanctuary by Tracy Garrett
Beautiful Maggie Flanaghan’s heart is broken when her father dies suddenly and the westward-bound wagon train moves on without her, leaving her stranded in River’s Bend. But Reverend Kristoph Oltmann discovers the tender beginnings of love as he comforts Maggie, only to find she harbors a secret that could make their relationship impossible.
Tracy: I’m a “cradle Lutheran,” meaning I was born into a Lutheran family, baptized in the Lutheran church… You get the idea. Imagine my surprise when I began researching the history of the church in Missouri and found they’d been in the state a lot longer than I thought. It was fun, though.
Gabriel’s Law by Cheryl Pierson
Brandon Gabriel is hired by the citizens of Spring Branch to hunt down the notorious Clayton Gang, never suspecting a double-cross. When Allison Taylor rides into town for supplies, she doesn’t expect to be sickened by the sight of a man being beaten to death by a mob—a man she recognizes from her past. Spring Branch’s upstanding citizens gather round to see a murder, but everything changes with the click of a gun—and Gabriel’s Law.
Cheryl: Orphanages of the 1800s and early 1900s were mainly what I needed to research. And what sad research it was! The Indian orphanages and “schools” were the worst. The Indian children were forced to “assimilate”: cut their hair, wear white man’s clothing, and speak only English. Punishment was swift and sure if they were caught speaking their native tongues. In essence, they were taught they had to forget everything they knew—even their families—and adopt the ways of the whites completely. This only ensured they would never be wholly at ease in either world, white or Indian.
Outlaw Heart, by Tanya Hanson
Making a new start has never been harder! Bronx Sanderson is determined to leave his old outlaw ways behind and become a decent man. Lila Brewster is certain that her destiny lies in keeping her late husband’s dream alive: a mission house for the down-and-out of Leadville, Colorado. But dreams change when love flares between an angel and a man with an Outlaw Heart.
Tanya: The research that fascinated me the most was meeting and getting to know Dr. John Henry Holliday. What a guy. I’ve quite fallen in love with him. This handsome, soft-spoken, peaches-n-cream Southern gentleman can bring me to tears. He died slowly from tuberculosis for fifteen years after losing his beloved mother to the disease when he was 15. Talented pianist, multilingual, skilled surgeon who won awards for denture design… Most of his “deadly dentist” stuff was contrived. He needed a bad reputation to keep himself safe from angry gamblers. I was thrilled and honored both when he asked to be a character in Outlaw Heart.
The Dumont Way by Kathleen Rice Adams
The biggest ranch in Texas will give her all to save her children…but only the right woman’s love can save a man’s tortured soul. This trilogy of stories about the Dumont family contains The Trouble with Honey, a new, never-before-published novella. Nothing will stop this powerful family from doing things The Dumont Way.
Kathleen: Did you realize George Armstrong Custer was part of the Union occupation force in Texas after the Civil War? Neither did I. While I was double-checking my facts about Reconstruction-era Texas, I ran across that little tidbit. Texans may not have liked him any better than any other Yankee, but they were grateful for his kindness. During his five months in Texas, Custer was disliked by his own men because he strictly enforced Army regulations about “foraging” (read “stealing”) and poor treatment of civilians. I must admit I’m one of those who tended to view Custer as one of history’s real-life bad guys, but that one tidbit softened my impression. Funny how little things can make a big difference, isn’t it?
Yesterday’s Flame by Livia J. Washburn
When smoke jumper Annabel Lowell’s duties propel her from San Francisco in 2000 back to 1906, she faces one of the worst earthquakes in history. But she also finds the passion of a lifetime in fellow fireman Cole Brady. Now she must choose between a future of certain danger and a present of certain love—no matter how short-lived it may be. “A timeless and haunting tale of love.” ~ The Literary Times
Livia: I really enjoyed learning about the firefighting companies in San Francisco. The massive earthquake in 1906 was followed by an equally devastating fire, and there were a lot of heroes among those early firefighters.
Have you ever been surprised, charmed, alarmed, or vexed by something you’ve read—in either fiction or non-fiction? What was it? We’d love to hear! One brave soul who shares her or his discovery in the comments will win a digital copy of the brand-new boxed set A Kiss to Rememberbefore it’s available to the public! The five books comprise more than 1,000 pages of heart-melting western historical romance…and that’s a fact.
The other day, I came across an article in a little newsletter I get a few times each week called QUORA. This is a newsletter/site where people can write in and ask questions—sometimes really odd or different questions, like “What does it feel like to die?” or “Are only children happier than children from large families?” – just stuff like that, and anyone can answer. Once the questions are answered, you can see all the answers, but the ones with the most “Upvotes” are the ones that move to the top of the answer page.
One of the questions was something like, “What makes a person boring? How can I try NOT to be boring?” I read several of the answers, and as I did, I thought about the characters we create and how this might apply to them, as well.
Growing up in the 60’s/70’s, there was still a prevalent idealogy that, to “catch a man” everything had to be about him. Even articles in magazines for young girls, such as Seventeen and Glamour and Mademoiselle talked about the things we women should do to make sure we snagged our guys and kept them. Number 1 on every list was “TALK ABOUT HIM”. Make him feel that he’s the most interesting thing on earth.
Here’s an example from Tiger Beat: Look at the worried expression on Davy Jones’s face…what teen girl wouldn’t give anything to make him smile again? And David Cassidy? Be still my heart. Let me find out what I need to do to make him MY OWN!
My personal heart throb at the time, Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders…I must know the bad things he does, and of course, the things he can’t live without. How can I hope to please him, otherwise?
Have you noticed this in some of the romance books you’ve read? In the words of the Toby Keith smash hit, “I wanna talk about me, wanna talk about I, wanna talk about number one, oh my me my…”
Well, some of the responses to what makes a boring person (or character) were pretty eye-opening. One of them was that the boring person was “absent” from the conversation—although they’re right there physically, they’re always trying to guide the conversation back to their interests. When everyone else is discussing books, the “boring” person is wanting to talk about something they are an authority on, or at least no more about than others there, rather than contributing to the ongoing conversation. If they DO manage to take part in the conversation that’s flowing around them, they’re only waiting on their chance to say what they have to say—not listening to what other people have to contribute.
I’ve noticed that in many romance books, the hero is not listening to the heroine because he wants to; he listens for information he might be able to use. A classic example of this is Sweet Savage Love. Oh, how I loved that book, and still do—but I do recognize that, in today’s world, there are some problems with it. Let me say, this book would never in a million years fall into the “boring character” category. It still remains one of my favorite books, ever. But Steve really doesn’t see Ginny as a person with wants and needs and desires—his goal is to make sure the intrigue that’s happening around him is manipulated to his plans, and Ginny is there to slake his sexual thirst. He does fall in love with her, but for much of the book, we know she is very much in love with him…and aren’t so sure he has any feelings for her at all above the sexual desire he feels every time they’re in a room together.
So our hero needs to actively listen to what the heroine is saying (which is going to require him to think about what she says) and he is going to need to be “present” mentally and emotionally—not just physically—when they’re having a conversation.
As for the heroine? Voicing an opinion or a conviction about a subject she feels strongly about is imperative. This is usually not a problem for the hero—he’s out fighting for the cause, or going after the bad guys, and so on. But for our heroine, in a time when women were to be silent, well…our heroines can’t be held to that rule. You’ve heard the word “feisty” used to describe heroines of many books. That’s a nice way of saying, “A heroine who has her own opinions and isn’t afraid to stand up and be counted!” If a heroine isn’t interested in any social injustices around her, or doesn’t have a cause of her own of some kind, what does she do to be interesting? Constant parties or working on needlepoint doesn’t make for an interesting person. She must have something to care about—something that might even come between her and the hero.
In my book, Gabriel’s Law, Brandon Gabriel and Allison Taylor were at the same orphanage together for a few years as children. It’s Allie’s dream to open her home to young boys who can help her raise cattle, investing in their futures. Brandon has no dreams…but as adults, when Allie saves his life, her dreams become his without his even realizing it’s happening.
Remember, in dialogue, the most important key to keep your characters from being boring is letting them tell their story in an interesting way. Keeping a secret until the end of the dialogue, a secret the reader may know but the heroine is keeping from the hero, then springing it on him in a bombshell, is an interesting way of making the facts known. But it does something more—it shows personality traits about both the hero and the heroine.
What is your most favorite romance novel, and why? Sweet Savage Love was the first romance novel I ever read.
I’m giving away a digital copy of GABRIEL’S LAW today! Just leave a comment (don’t forget your contact info!) to be entered in the drawing. If you just can’t wait to see if you won, here’s the Amazon link:
It’s interesting to me to read the different viewpoints on old Indian boarding schools and orphanages—and even hospitals—that were in operation to accommodate Indians, and assimilate them into white society. Living here in Oklahoma, we have a few of the now-defunct facilities scattered around our state—one, Concho Indian School, not more than about an hour’s drive from my house. Let’s take a look at the beginnings of these schools and how they came into existence.
Richard Henry Pratt was the man who came up with the idea of boarding schools for Indian children. These schools would remove children from the reservations when they were very young, send them to a place run by whites, and immerse them in white culture. This would obliterate their “Indian-ness” and encourage them to cope with and join into the world as it had become—white.
Mr. Pratt founded Carlisle Indian Industrial School in1879 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and compared to genocide—which was a much-discussed option—seemed to be the only “reasonable” alternative in those days to annihilation of the Indians that remained after the Indian wars were over.
The above is a picture of General Pratt with one of his young students.
Some Indian parents willingly sent their children, but many (I would venture to say most) were threatened with imprisonment and loss of their food rations. Eventually, they understood there was no choice, and said tearful goodbyes to their children as they were shipped off. The boarding schools at that time were hundreds of miles away—Carlisle being the flagship school, located in Pennsylvania. One of Oklahoma’s most celebrated Indian athletes, Olympian Jim Thorpe of the Sac and Fox Nation, was sent there.
Once the children arrived, everything was taken from them. Their clothing was burned, in many cases, and they were provided uniforms. Their hair was cut short. Even their names were changed. And, they were forbidden to speak their native tongue—for most of them, the only language they knew.
In many boarding schools, everything was done by bells. No talking was allowed among the children—even among brothers and sisters. Punishment for doing so was beating or confinement.
By 1902, twenty-five federally funded boarding schools in fifteen states and territories had been built, with more being planned. Over 6,000 students were enrolled in these institutions. But only seven years later the system was coming under fire. Though graduates had been trained for factory or farm work, neither could be found on the reservations they returned to. No jobs for these young adults waited once their schooling was finished, and so returning to the reservations meant dependence on the U.S. Indian Agency rather than taking jobs that allowed them to provide for themselves.
Boarding schools were there to stay, though, and remained open for over 100 years, into the 1980’s.
The Concho Indian School I mentioned earlier, opened in Darlington, Indian Territory, in 1887. It was replaced in 1932, and again in 1969, until its doors were closed for good in 1981due to budget cuts and defunding.
According to many, it was a horrible place—and it wasn’t the only one. Stories of abuse of all kinds—physical, sexual, and emotional—run rampant. In fact, there is a psychological condition called CSDT or Constructionist Self Development Theory that has been identified for survivors of these schools, wherein they develop their own theories as to why this kind of upbringing was “good” for them—it made them stronger; it made them a “fighter”, and so on.
Survivors’ descendants tell of some of the horrifying experiences their relatives endured, and the abandoned Concho Indian School building is said to be haunted by the spirits of some of the young victims, hoping for justice after all these years.
One woman writes: “I’m an Indian and my grandmother told me bad stories of this place…many children from my tribe were taken and some were never heard from again. I hate the thought of this place.”
This post barely scratches the surface, and I will continue next month with more about orphanages and hospitals “for Indians only.”
In my novel, GABRIEL’S LAW, Brandon Gabriel and Allison Taylor first meet in an orphanage run by a ruthless headmaster. Though it was not a place strictly for Indians, the unhappy circumstances Brandon and Allie are faced with here forges the beginnings of trust, with love to come in the future.
I will be giving away a signed print copy of GABRIEL’S LAW today to one lucky commenter!
Here’s the blurb!
When Brandon Gabriel is hired by the citizens of Spring Branch to hunt down the notorious Clayton Gang, he doesn’t suspect a double-cross. When Allison Taylor rides into town for supplies, she doesn’t expect to be sickened by the sight of a man being beaten to death by a mob. When Spring Branch’s upstanding citizens gather round to see a murder, nobody expects to hear the click of a gun in the hands of an angel bent on justice. Life is full of surprises. Brandon and Allie reconnect instantly, though it’s been ten years since their last encounter. She’s protected him before. As Brandon recovers at Allie’s ranch, the memories flood back, and his heart is lost to her. He also knows staying with her will ruin everything. She’s made a life for herself and her son. She’s respectable. She has plans * plans that don’t include him. But could they? Trouble is never far away, and someone else wants Allison Taylor and her ranch. Danger looms large when a fire is set and a friend is abducted. Allie and Brandon discover they are battling someone they never suspected; someone who will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who stands in his way. As Brandon faces down the man who threatens to steal everything from him, he realizes he is desperately in love with Allie and this new life they are making for themselves. Has Brandon finally found everything he’s ever wanted only to lose it all? Can Brandon and Allie confront the past, face down their demons, and forge their dreams into a future?
If you just can’t wait to see if you won, here’s the Amazon link!
I’ve had some surgery, which has cut down on my time at the computer, and so thought I’d bring back my post this week on one of my favorite stories, Shane. Jack Schaefer’s book, Shane, has been classified in many sub-genres, but to me, it will always remain my favorite western romance.
This story cannot have a truly happy-ever-after ending for all the principal characters, so it normally wouldn’t make it to my “Top Ten” list for that very reason. But the story itself is so compelling, so riveting, that there is no choice once you’ve read page one—you are going to finish it. And it’s not just a story about a very odd love triangle, but also about Shane discovering that he is worthy, and a good person, despite what he’s done in his past.
Shane is the perfect hero—a drifter, a loner, and no one knows why. He plans to keep it that way. If only his pesky conscience didn’t get in the way, he might have stopped briefly at the Starrett’s homestead, then moved on.
But from the beginning of the book, we know there is something different about Shane. The story is told through the eyes of Bob Starrett, the young son of Joe and Marion. Bob is about ten years old, and his account of the people and action that takes place are colored with the wonderment and naivete of a child who will be well on his way to becoming a young man before the story is over.
The book starts with tension, as Bob is watching the stranger, Shane, ride in. Shane comes to a fork in the road. One way leads down toward Luke Fletcher’s, the cattle baron who is trying to force the homesteaders out of the valley. The other branch of the fork leads toward the Starretts, the homesteaders who will ultimately force Fletcher’s hand. Shane chooses that path, toward the Starretts, and the die is cast.
He would have looked frail alongside father’s square, solid bulk. But even I could read the endurance in the lines of that dark figure and the quiet power in his effortless, unthinking adjustment to every movement of the tired horse.
He was clean-shaven and his face was lean and hard and burned from high forehead to firm, tapering chin. His eyes seemed hooded in the shadow of the hat’s brim. He came closer and I could see that this was because the brows were drawn into a frown of fixed and habitual alertness. Beneath them the eyes were endlessly searching from side to side and forward, checking off every item in view, missing nothing. As I noticed this, a sudden chill, and I could not have told why, struck through me there in the warm and open sun.
In a nutshell, Shane drifts into the Wyoming valley, and is befriended by the Starretts. Once there, he is quickly made aware of the brewing trouble between the homesteaders and the powerful local cattle baron, Luke Fletcher, who is set on running them all out of the valley. Shane is firmly committed to helping Joe Starrett and the homesteaders who want to stay. Fletcher’s men get into a fistfight with Shane and Joe in the general store, and Fletcher vows his men will kill the next time Joe or Shane come back into town.
Fletcher hires Stark Wilson, a well-known gunhawk, who kills one of the homesteaders that stands up to him. Joe Starrett feels it is his duty, since he convinced the others to stay, to go kill Fletcher and Wilson.
Shane knocks Joe out, knowing that, though Joe’s heart is in the right place, he’s no match for a hired gun like Wilson. There’s only one man who is—Shane himself, and that’s going to set him back on the path he’s so desperately trying to escape.
Shane rides into town and Bob follows him, witnessing the entire battle. Shane faces Wilson down first, and then Fletcher. Shane turns to leave and Bob warns him of another man, who Shane also kills. But Shane doesn’t escape unscathed—Wilson has wounded him in the earlier gunplay.
Shane rides out of town, and though Bob wishes so much that Shane could stay, he understands why he can’t. No. Bob does not utter one of the most famous lines in cinema history—“Shane! Come back!” There’s good reason for this. In the book, Bob’s growth is shown because of what he learns from Shane. To call him back would negate that growth process.
He describes Shane throughout the book, and in many ways, with a child’s intuition, understands innately that Shane is a good man and will do the right thing, which is proven out time and again. So, he also realizes that there is no place for Shane there in the valley, now that the trouble has been handled.
Bob witnesses the conversation between his mother and Shane, as well, where so much is said—and not said. It’s one of the major turning points in the book, though Bob, in his telling of it, doesn’t realize it—but the reader is painfully aware of it. If Shane really is a good man, he will have no recourse but to leave.
This happens as the novel is drawing to a close, when Marian, Bob’s mother, asks Shane if he’s going after Wilson just for her. He has knocked her husband out to keep him from going after the gunman.
Shane hesitated for a long, long moment. “No, Marian.” His gaze seemed to widen and encompass us all, mother and the still figure of father huddled on a chair by the window and somehow the room and the house and the whole place. Then he was looking only at mother and she was all he could see.
“No, Marian. Could I separate you in my mind and afterwards be a man?”
Shane was Jack Schaefer’s debut novel, published in 1949. It was honored in 1985 by the Western Writers of America as the best Western novel ever written—beating out other works such as Owen Wister’s The Virginian, Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage, and Louis L’Amour’s Hondo.
In 1963, Schaefer wrote Monte Walsh, a book that chronicles the passing of the Old West and the lifestyle of the American cowboy.
Though Schaefer never deliberately wrote for young adults, many of his works have become increasingly popular among younger readers. Universal themes such as the transformation and changes of growing up, the life lessons learned, and rites of passage from childhood to becoming a young adult in his writing have been responsible for the upswing in popularity with this age group.
Though I consider Shane a romance novel, it’s a very different and memorable love triangle because of the unshakable honor of the three characters. I love the subtlety that Schaefer is such a master of, and the way he has Bob describing the action, seeing everything, but with the eyes of a child. If you haven’t read Shane, I highly recommend it—at less than 200 pages, it’s a quick, easy read, and unforgettable.
A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that. (Shane to Marian)
A man is what he is, Bob, and there’s no breaking the mold. I’ve tried that and I’ve lost. But I reckon it was in the cards from the moment I saw a freckled kid on a rail up the road there and a real man behind him, the kind that could back him for the chance another kid never had. (Shane to Bob)
If you’ve never read Shane, I urge you to run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore or “buy with one click” for your Kindle. It’s a wonderful tale!
I’m offering a DIGITAL COPY of my western historical romance, GABRIEL’S LAW! All you have to do is leave a comment today with your contact information, and check back this evening after 9:00 p.m. to see if you are my lucky winner! For all of my work, click here: https://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
When Brandon Gabriel is hired by the citizens of Spring Branch to hunt down the notorious Clayton Gang, he doesn’t suspect a double-cross. When Allison Taylor rides into town for supplies, she doesn’t expect to be sickened by the sight of a man being beaten to death by a mob. When Spring Branch’s upstanding citizens gather round to see a murder, nobody expects to hear the click of a gun in the hands of an angel bent on justice. Life is full of surprises.
Brandon and Allie reconnect instantly, though it’s been ten years since their last encounter. She’s protected him before. As Brandon recovers at Allie’s ranch, the memories flood back, and his heart is lost to her. He also knows staying with her will ruin everything. She’s made a life for herself and her son. She’s respectable. She has plans – plans that don’t include him. But could they?
Trouble is never far away, and someone else wants Allison Taylor and her ranch. Danger looms large when a fire is set and a friend is abducted. Allie and Brandon discover they are battling someone they never suspected; someone who will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who stands in his way.
As Brandon faces down the man who threatens to steal everything from him, he realizes he is desperately in love with Allie and this new life they are making for themselves. Has Brandon finally found everything he’s ever wanted only to lose it all? Can Brandon and Allie confront the past, face down their demons, and forge their dreams into a future?