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About the Book
Love, loss, and dangerous clients… A couple shows up for couples counseling, but as their secrets come to light, Sienna finds her own life in danger. Sienna St. James is more than a sharp-witted social worker. She’s a problem solver who keeps getting pulled into life-and-death mysteries that only complicate her already complex life. With a head-strong teenage son and a missing, estranged husband - who could be anywhere on the globe - Sienna has to figure out what gets her focus first: the questions she has about her own love and loss or the dangerous quirks and dark confusion of her current clients. And then there are the current eligible men around her who are jockeying for position, waiting for her to make up her mind about it all.
Let's Meet Author Leslie J. Sherrod
What was your inspiration behind the novel?
I’m a social worker, and, like Sienna St. James, I’ve held positions working as a therapist. Inevitably, there is always a case that comes up that eats at you – a client who challenges you; a client’s history that bubbles up every emotion in you, empathy, sadness, and, yes, even fear. At least that has been my experience. Trying to capture the unease that can arise when a therapist can’t put a solid finger on what is going on or how best to help a client, gets elevated to a new dimension with Sienna St. James. Her life is at risk because of her clinical – and investigative – efforts, all while she is trying to come to terms with her own personal issues. That’s real life. The professionals who are out working to help the greater good are often struggling with problems of their own. I love a good mystery and having one unfold while addressing the pain-filled issues I see as a social worker feels right to me, especially if I can offer some hope and encouragement – and keep readers guessing until the end.
What is the take-away message you’d like to share with your readers?
Without Faith is just as much a story about the secrets of Sienna’s current clients as it is about her own personal growth and development. Indeed, the parallels between the issues that come up on her caseload and the questions she has about her own life help shape Sienna’s response to it all. In Without Faith, Sienna is forced to wrestle with the question of why bad things happen and how to overcome crippling situations. She also is beginning to realize that she has doubts about her own level of faith, especially in the face of pain, disappointment, and sorrow and she is coming to terms with her (lack of) romantic relationships. Although, of course, there are no easy or simple answers to all these matters, my hope is that readers are left with some food for thought and encouragement in their own lives. Also, I want readers to find the story to be an intriguing, suspenseful read as Sienna grapples with the heavy questions she must answer for both herself and her clients.
Please Share a Chapter Excerpt:
“Ms. St. James.” The voice from behind startled me.
“Oh.” I jumped a little.
Jenellis Walker stood eye to eye with me. “I need you to do me a favor.” The sultry quality of her voice reminded me of one of my great-aunt’s old Billie Holiday records.
“A favor?” I was off balance and wanting to get home, but I had enough sense to know that siding up with one party is dangerous ground in couples therapy. “I’m sorry, Ms. Walker, but before you continue, I think we should wait to discuss whatever your concern is openly in our Friday session.”
“You don’t understand.” She blinked with false lashes. “Brayden can’t know about this.”
Her eyes and tone were expressionless, but my resolve was unmistakable and firm. “I would prefer not to begin our work together with secrets and picking sides. It does not help with anything, especially if you are planning to join in marital union in less than a month.”
“I understand your concerns, Ms. St. James, but I need you to hear mine.”
I resisted the urge to check my watch. “What is it?” It wasn’t the question I needed to ask, but I had to get home.
I saw a smile in Jenellis’s eyes and we both knew that she had won our first battle. “Brayden will tell you more about why the two of us need your services when we come back on Friday, but I have my own personal reasons for seeking your assistance.” She lowered her voice, and moved her head closer to mine. “I need you to fish through Brayden’s past.”
“I need to know more about him, not his childhood or family or any of that psychobabble stuff. I just want to know about his past relationships. Romantic relationships, marriages, and otherwise.”
“Um, for some reason, I got the impression that the two of you had already talked about your former loves and disclosed whatever needed to come out onto the table.” I felt totally off script.
“Yes, yes.” Now she was the one rushing. “I know about his three ex-wives and most of his girlfriends, but I’m not looking for names and dates. I only want to know one thing about him.”
In spite of myself, I raised an eyebrow. “Are you questioning his fidelity?”
Jenellis sighed and rolled her eyes impatiently. “No, no. I mean, let me correct myself. I couldn’t care less about his fidelity. I’m the last person who should be questioning the faithfulness of anyone.” She stared at me so unabashedly, I felt shame for her.
“What I need to find out, Ms. St. James,” she said, her voice lowered again, “is simply this: whether Brayden was abusive to any women in his prior relationships. I have a high tolerance for a lot of things. Some issues that other women fall apart over are but small matters of foolishness to me. But abuse of any nature I do not tolerate.”
“You’ve had experience with this.” I had meant to make my words more of a question than a statement, but Jenellis smiled wickedly at my observation.
“Let’s just say that my first husband was not a kind man, but I am stronger because of it.”
I considered her declaration for a moment as I reached again for my car door. “Ms. Walker, I am a therapist, not a private detective. Now I can help facilitate an open dialogue between the two of you where you can explore some of these concerns. But if you are wanting to get more detailed information about his past behavior with other women, without his knowledge, then I am not the right professional. Indeed, I’m not sure that I even feel comfortable providing services to the two of you with such a lopsided beginning.”
Jenellis stared at me a few moments, her expression unreadable again. “Okay,” she finally breathed out, “you win. We’ll go about things your way. Explore. Talk it out. But I do know that the law states that if you as a therapist find out that someone is dangerous you are required to inform the targeted party.”
“That’s only if there is a stated or implied homicidal threat.”
“Yes, that’s right.” Jenellis nodded her head and turned away.
I guess that meant good-bye. At the moment I did not care. I was supposed to be driving my son to the airport in twenty minutes. As I was about to sit down in the driver’s seat, I realized that I could not shake a question that was nagging me.
“Ms. Walker,” I called after her. She turned around and faced me again. “Whatever happened to your first husband? Did he face consequences for whatever he did to you?”
She paused, looking over to a distant memory to the left of me. Then she looked me right in the eyes. “Ms. St. James, my first husband is dead. Of natural causes,” she quickly added.
“Oh,” was all I could say as I finally found my driver’s seat. Jenellis marched over to her Lexus, got in, shut the door, and sat there with the engine idling.
My engine was on and I was off.
Lord, I could not help but wonder as I turned off the small lot, what have I gotten myself pulled into with this couple?
A familiar feeling, and not a pleasant one, sunk slowly into my stomach.
How can readers connect with you?
I love to hear from readers! The best way to reach me is by email (LeslieJSherrod@gmail.com). You can also join my mailing list to which I send out a monthly inspirational devotional newsletter, as well as occasional updates about my books and events. To join, text ‘LJSHERROD’ to 22828. You can also follow, tweet, and visit me in the virtual world. Here’s how:
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