Where Love Grows by Jay Northcote {review}
Hoosier Daddy by Ann McMan and Salem West {review}

The Year Of Leigh, The Year Of Hattie, and Sarah MacLean's Brazen And The Beast


Birthday cake from my 36th birthday


One month from today, I'll turn 40. Five years after The Year Of Leigh began.

I realized I never wrote much about how that came to be or what it meant, other than a brief reference in this post about my decision to move to San Francisco, but it very much centered that year. I used #TheYearOfLeigh on Instagram. (Someone who's into weightlifting is also using the hashtag. Very much not me!) When I turned 36, friends convinced me to keep going and how can you not when they make you a Year Of Leigh cake? So I added #eternalyearofleigh into the arsenal.

But if I'm honest, it was almost a joke at that point.

For close to t 10 years I had believed the year I turned 35 would be an important one. I don't want to get into the how or the why or even what all I thought would happen because I'm still making sense of it. I don't think I was wrong or that I misunderstood. But let's just say my 35th year of life did not turn out the way I hoped.

When I turned 36 and the big things I hoped for hadn't happened...well, it rocked a few foundations of my life. I became resigned. This was as good as it was going to get. It wasn't a bad life, such as it was, but it hurt too much to keep hoping for what I wanted, only to never receive it. I decided to focus instead on what I needed in order to have a good enough life and try to orient my life in that direction.

I don't think I was wrong to do so. Those guidelines have served me well, even though I'm not there yet. 

At the same time, I'm sad for my 36 year old self. I knew then, even as I was grieving, that The Year Of Leigh was no small thing regardless of what did or didn't happen. But I couldn't honor or celebrate the other accomplishments at the time so I'd like to do that today.

The big thing, of course, is that I moved to San Francisco sight unseen. Never so much as visited California before I uprooted my life and moved from Nashville to the Bay. I still can't believe how it all came together. I still can't believe I did it! 

Whenever I doubt my badassery, I think about all of my big out of state moves this past decade but I especially think of San Francisco.

It started with paying attention to my intuition. Then a conversation with a friend who invited me to housesit for the summer. After I said yes to the adventure, a job interview fell into my lap. I moved with a job offer and got to work with some of the best coworkers I've ever had. I never found my own place but I lived with dear friends and their kiddos and my favorite cat Ezra and the best ocean view. (I miss those sunsets so much.)

I made wonderful new friends. I ate pho and soup dumplings on the regular. I bought breakfast sandwiches from my favorite bakery and ate while sitting on the beach. I reconnected with a few of my cousins who lived in the Bay Area.

The Year Of Leigh was about possibility and adventure and a fair amount of sass. It was an attitude and a promise.

I got to experience another side of myself: I'm someone who can start over in a big city. I was not prepared for how dense SF was but I adjusted and, in so many ways, I flourished. I hadn't used public transportation since my grad school days in Chicago but I figured out the buses and sometimes I'd get off early just to enjoy a walk through a different neighborhood. If you know how indoorsy I am, you know what a miracle that is. 

While I lived there, I decided to brush off the manuscript I'd finished a few years prior. I read it again and believed I still had something so I hired an editor. I lost close to 90 pages of revisions due to a computer fluke. (The words that came out of my mouth.) It took time to get back to it but last year A Storied Life made it's way into the world. And it all started with The Year Of Leigh.

2015 didn't turn out the way I imagined but who would I be if I hadn't taken the risk? I'm glad I'll never know.

And yet. It's nagged me, the year I view as a failure no matter how much good came out of it.

Then this past summer, I read Brazen And The Beast.


I was primed to love this book because of my own, albeit much less goal-oriented, Year Of Leigh. I was 100% here for The Year Of Hattie. Hers didn’t turn out quite the way she originally imagined either.

Hattie is 29 and she’s got things to do before she turns 30. Her plan covers business, fortune, home, future…and losing her virginity so she’ll be off the marriage market and maybe then her dad will start to seriously view her as in line for succeeding him at his business. Her plan does not involve finding an unconscious man tied up in her carriage when she’s supposed to be on her way to said virginity-losing. Best meet cute ever.

Whit grunts more than he speaks and his reputation as Beast precedes him. But Hattie isn’t afraid of him and she’s willing to do what it takes to keep her family safe and get the keys to her dad’s kingdom in the process. Whit was super swoon-worthy and I loved his awe of Hattie and her badassery. They are both forces to be reckoned with, albeit in different ways, making for quite the team.

When this wasn't making me smile with glee, it made me cry. Hattie is my favoritest and Whit must grunt forevermore.

This book was a gift. As I approach 40, I’m ready to bring back the spirit of The Year Of Leigh. Maybe I won’t find a Whit to call my own but I suspect I’ll find something that much better.

CW: sexism, past child abuse, violence, past attempted murder, bombing, fat-shaming (which is countered), panic attack


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