Review of Brad Carl’s Debut Novel: Grey Areas

I first had the pleasure of talking with Brad Carl on twitter, when I was just getting my account started and finding my first followers. Through this entire ‘me trying to review his book’ process he has been the most supportive, understanding guy to talk with. I was supposed to have this review up weeks ago, and then last Friday, and then yesterday… we all see how that has worked out for me.

In the interest of full disclosure, he did offer this book to me for free. HOWEVER, he offers everyone the first book in his Grey Areas Saga for free. And you just can’t beat free. It’s the lowest you can go.

So, I undertook reading it.  And I knew right away that I wanted it to be the first book I reviewed on Amanda Heiser Writes.

The novel opens with Henry Fields moving to the very small town of Gable, Iowa. Please envision corn field after glorious green cornfield. He quickly gets hired at the local gas station and asks to be paid in cash. Across the way is a diner where he meets Claire Mathison, and though Henry is mysterious and certainly shies away from personal details, Claire is very much attracted to him.

The story moves slowly at the beginning. And the action-filled payoff happens quickly. But Brad does well with the characterization of Henry and Claire in the meantime, I’m very excited to read their adventures in the future books (especially seeing as how the first ends in a cliffhanger).

Henry is very clearly running from his past, but the subtle build up and the suspense of waiting to find out what he’s running from was written well. You could also tell that Henry was very practiced at noticing details and categorizing people in the way that each character he meets is described. I’d normally fault an author for showing, not telling, but I really think that it works well in how Henry is developed. It also leads me to question just how long he’s been running, and what kind of background he has. That kind of attention to detail doesn’t come out of nowhere, and I wonder if he’s been trained. I hope to see this explained further as I keep reading this saga.

Claire is straightforward and strong willed. At least in the beginning. Some of her first conversations with Henry really had me rooting for the small-town girl. I was a little disappointed with how she approaches Henry when she’s ready to move the relationship forward. It was a stereotypical weak girl moment, and after being painted in such a strong light, it was a jarring and seemed out of character. I’m hoping to see her strength played to in the next three books. It’s rare to read about strong secondary women, and I don’t want to see her be the classic damsel in distress.

I believe that the next books are set up well. Most of the background information seems to be out front now. This was also Brad Carl’s debut novel; I would expect the pacing to be a bit faster through the rest of the saga as well. I’ll let you know as I read them.

Now, I’m not one for blowing smoke up anyone’s bum; I liked this book. I have every intention of paying for and reading the next three books in the saga. And when there’s a wealth of free reading material on the internet (shameless plug of self-promotion), wanting to pay money for a book by a relatively unknown author matters. You may not walk away thinking you’ve read (INSERT CLASSIC MYSTERY BY WELL KNOWN, FAVORED AUTHOR OF YOUR CHOICE HERE); but I really think, if you give Grey Areas a chance, you’re going to want to read the next three books too.


You Bottled The Wind

You tried to bottle the wind.

For a moment,

You succeeded.

You tied an anchor to the vessel.

You threw her to the sea.

But as the pressure built around her,

and the chains rusted,

She saw freedom in the depths.

When the glass finally burst

She rushed back to the surface

To rejoin the sky.

You Held Me

at my lowest

most vulnerable

ugliest moment

you picked me up


when I was naked

shaking with terror

wrapped with shame

you held me close


when all others would have abandoned me in that pit of jagged rocks

you carried me out

you kept my burdens as your own


my soul can dance

with incandescent freedom


at my lowest

most vulnerable

ugliest moment

you picked me up


Lost Girl

I am just a lost girl

I circle the same forest path

I carry the same tattered knapsack

filled to the brim with rocks

each looking like loaves of bread

but turning to bibles in the hand

to remind me why I’m starving

each fiending for a sinless grasp

aiming for the bullseyes

that mark my leper’s soul

The Empath

My heart is broken.

But I hardly know if it’s mine, or is this my soul simply weeping for the fears and lost hopes of so many beloved friends?

My mind is racing.

But I hardly know if it’s mine, or are these the racing trains of thought of so many desperate souls fighting to be heard?

Oh compassionate soul, are we feeling this? Is this our own anxiety coursing through our own cold veins?

I hardly know.

Are these the birthing pangs of greatness or the maddening cry of our death?

Is this our own mouth screaming?

I hardly know.

Broken and Damned

Be we, the broken and damned, divided?                                                                                                             To be tossed upon unforgiving shores with no hand to hold?

Once, our arrogant allegiance to this dream and each other                                                                   brought us hope in the despondent darkness of our humanity.

Are we now to be abandoned by our brothers? Our sisters? Our fathers? Our mothers?

Where is that harsh light of our unity to illuminate our infant nakedness and the narrow bridge forward?

Why now have we replaced the blade of compassionate honesty and understanding love with the fires of polarizing hatred and intolerable cruelty? There can be no truth here.

Is there no way forward?

Is there no way forward?


Is there no way forward?


I never meant

to not be there

when you needed me.


I’ve wanted to,


or write?

for some time,

but I know you’re gone.


And I am so very sorry

that when you reached out for me,

my back was turned.


I carry you in my heart always.

I regret not reaching back.

You’re never far from my mind,

and sometimes I can almost feel you next to me.


My soul longs to see you smile,

or to hear you laugh.


I want you to know,

for so long my world was whole,

just knowing that

somewhere, you were in it breathing.


I love you.

But I know you’re gone.



I know you’re gone.

Dark Love

I had never been so captivated as I was that night, just by the look of her. I can’t explain it, but even hidden in the dark her skin held an iridescent glow. It was like the universe needed to be inside her as desperately as I did, and it illuminated every inch of her from within. There are other women to fill the void she leaves in me when she’s gone, but none have entranced me as she has. Blessed Sorceress, I was at her bidding, if only she’d stay a couple of hours later.

When we were spent; when she’d had her fill; we laid motionless, bathed only in the light of her. Her silken charcoal hair caressed the skin of my cheek.

She stirred and my heart broke to feel her rise. Harsh light from the hotel bathroom cut through the darkness as the last of her starlight faded away. I sat up to watch her dress, drinking in the last moments I had with her for the night. It was never enough.

She left without a word and I sank back onto the firm mattress that only moments before had been my forgiving heaven. I worshipped her, but her husband could never know.

Poem For Franklin

If happiness were golden,
and you were gray;
I would choose you.

If there were blue skies,
and you were the rainy day;
I would choose you.

When you’re grown,
and your footsteps fade,
from the length of my hall;
And your hand prints are larger,
than the ones on my wall,

When your hair no longer
falls in your eyes,
and doesn’t stick up silly
on that one side,

Though you will walk away,
a man,
I will still choose you.

For your gray
is that quiet moment
right before dawn,

And your rainy day
washed me clean
and made me new.

No matter what you do,
I will always,
Choose You.

Will You Love Me Still?

I feel inadequate;

not quite up to the task at hand,

like I will fail, and fall,

without a safe place to land.


Is my heart so visible?

I never meant to give my vulnerability to you.

My every insecurity is laid bare,

and I am not sure what to do.


Will you love me still?


Naked, I am yours,

my soul before you and on offer,

limbs shaking with fear,

my every nerve on end and raw for,



Will you love me still?