Thursday, November 21, 2013

Book Blitz and Giveaway: East of Eden by Lee Strauss

Coming soon to itunes and Barnes & Noble
Available in print.

She was a despicable woman! Eden had tolerated her mildly before, but now she despised her That smug expression of superiority, that flashy wool suit: you’d think she was a high and mighty lawyer instead of an ordinary secretary. Eden filled her glass, emptying the bottle of cheap red wine and clumsily set it back onto the coffee table.

She’d snatched Sophie away, en route to the airport, without even the slightest display of remorse or apology. Cade would be meeting them in Prince George. Eden pouted. That miserable hag would probably be with him.

“Oh, my sweet, little girl,” Eden moaned aloud. “I can’t believe I have to share you with her! This is going to be the most wretched Christmas of my entire life!” She lifted her glass to her mouth, slightly off target, and a dribble of red ran down her chin. She wiped it with the back of her hand.

“It’s just you and me, Mom,” she slurred, patting Lorraine on the arm. “Yup, just you and me. Me, the sorriest sample of humanity on the face of the earth, and you… forgive me, Mom, but I have to say it. You live on another planet entirely.” Hiccup.

Lorraine was dressed in her nightclothes with the bra strapped on over top. She grinned blissfully, her face dusted with the orange powder from the Cheezies she ate as they watched It’s a Wonderful Life. Eden, on the other hand, found nothing wonderful about it. Like a zombie, she sat on the couch with her glass of wine, a half-empty box of Kleenex, and a pile of dirty tissues. She’d shed no tears for Jimmy Stewart; at least things work out for him in the end. No, the tears were solely for her.

“Oh, Mom,” she moaned, and rested her head on her mother’s spindly shoulder. “What are we going to do? What’s to become of us?”

Her mother’s shoulder was too thin and bony to provide comfort. What she needed was a man’s shoulder: a firm, strong, muscular shoulder. Like Cade’s. She needed Cade’s shoulder! Her breath shuddered as she swallowed a sob and blew her nose again.

Oh, what had she done?

Someone had stuffed her mouth with cotton balls and stitched her eyes shut overnight. Her tongue, thick and parched, moved like a dehydrated slug. With much effort, Eden swallowed. Her throat felt gritty and swollen, saliva forming in low quantities. She thought she was dying, but the drumming pulse in her head proved she was very much alive.

Eden rolled onto the floor and crawled to her housecoat. She went to her pity-party solo last night and presently decided that the party was now over. She wouldn’t give Cade the satisfaction of watching her become unglued over this.

The walls of the hallway wobbled as she made her way to the bathroom. She fumbled with the jar of Tylenol, retrieving two pills that she downed with a full glass of water.

She used the facilities, and washed her hands and face. Now she had to face the whole day ahead of her, probably with a booming headache. Just her and her crazy mother.

Which reminded her. Where was her mom?

Eden put on her robe, which hang on the back of the bathroom door and searched the upper level before heading downstairs. She found Lorraine in the kitchen just as she was stuffing all the tea-towels into the oven and was about to turn it on.

“Mom!” Ouch. Loud volume, especially from her own mouth, hurt. “You can’t do that,” she said in a near whisper. “You want to start the house on fire?”

Eden shoved her out of the way and removed the tea-towels from danger. She’d have to disconnect the oven now. Looked like it would be turkey dinner à la microwave this year.

Eden settled Lorraine at the table but not until after she absconded with the jug of juice and drank the whole thing. What Eden really needed was a shower. Then a coffee.

“Mom, your show’s on.” TV as a babysitter would have to do for the next twenty minutes.

After her shower; Eden found that her stomach had calmed down enough to request her morning coffee. Lorraine was in the  kitchen again, feeding the cats. There were three tins already emptied on the counter. No wonder those cats were fat.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” Eden said after her first long sip of Sophie, “for how I behaved last night.” She didn’t expect an answer and never got one. Talking out loud, even if no one responded; helped to keep her sane.

“I mean, it was awful what happened to Jimmy and all, but…. Anyway, it’s a new day, right? We’re not going to spend the whole of the holidays feeling sorry for ourselves. No. we’re not. I know! Why don’t we put up the Christmas tree? You could hang up the rest of those ugly decorations you have collected over the last few decades.”

Fatso, who happened to be the skinniest kitty of the bunch, rubbed against her leg. She bent over and gave him a rub behind the ears.

“Hey, you spoiled cat. Does that feel good?” She condescended to the pet-the-cat voice. “You guys aren’t supposed to be in the house.” She opened the back door. “Out with you.”

Maybe Marti would like to help with the tree? Nah. Why would a newly engaged, unencumbered girl want to hang out with the likes of Eden and her senile mother?

Eden dug out the box that contained the artificial tree from the storage area under the steps. It was hard to keep her spirits up. She and Cade had always cut down a fresh tree. When Eden lifted the lid, she was greeted with a blast of unfriendly odours.

“Whew! Why have the fresh smell of pine when you can enjoy the cozy smells of dust and mothballs.”

She cranked up the radio station now obliging its listeners with the top twenty Christmas hits. Sinatra crooned, “White Christmas,” while all the lower mainland listeners wistfully thought of snow. The local forecast was for more rain. No word of the fluffy stuff.

Eden screwed the three post pieces together, tightened the tree stand and set it in front of the window.
“Okay, Mom, here comes the hard part.” She tried to explain the colour-coded system. The branches with the red paint on the tips went in around the bottom first, then the blue tip and finally the green tips.
“See, here’s a red one.” Eden inserted the wiry branch into a hole on the bottom level of the green pole, then handed one to Lorraine. She placed it randomly into a middle hole.

“No, Mom. It’s supposed to go like this.” Eden demonstrated what she meant by removing the offending branch and placing it into an appropriate hole. She gingerly peeked through the worn cardboard box, looking for another fake branch with red markings. When she turned back towards the tree, she saw that Lorraine had returned the branch in question back into a hole in the middle section.

“I see,” Eden said. “Okay, fine. Who needs instructions?” She let the paper fall to the ground and watched Lorraine as she cheerily popped in branch pieces where she pleased. Eden cranked up the radio and then followed Lorraine’s lead. In the end it was lopsided and far from perfect, but at least it was balanced enough to stay standing.

“Now comes the fun part.” Eden pulled a chair in from the kitchen, placed the first bulb from the string of lights onto the top branch of the tree and began winding it around and around until the cord of lights ended somewhere not quite at the bottom of the tree but close enough to an outlet that it could be plugged in. Then precariously, she attached a worn out angel, who was also balding, on the top branch. She chuckled. A glowing, bald-headed angel.

“Good. We’re almost done. Now for the decorations.”

Eden hummed along with the radio, choosing decorations with pretended importance, feeling strangely contented. Lorraine seemed to focus on one spot on the tree, all of her decorations hanging in a clump. Eden scattered hers about to fill in the tree. When they were finished, Eden pulled the curtains to darken the room.

“Are you ready?” She plugged in the tree lights.

Lorraine clapped her hands together with pure childlike delight. Eden couldn’t keep herself from smiling. She re-arranged the couch so they could sit down and look at their masterpiece. Lorraine sat close beside Eden, who put her arm around her mother.

“It’s a beauty, eh, Mom?” she said. The truth was, it was horrible, but in a lovely sort of way.
“I think we should celebrate.” Eden reached over to the end table and picked up an unopened box of chocolates. She ripped off the cellophane, opened the lid and offered her mother the first piece. Lorraine took her time choosing, then Eden quickly picked one and plopped it whole into her mouth.

The radio station they had been listening to switched its selection from Christmas favourites to golden oldies. Eden was admiring the tree and sucking chocolate when she heard it, the song, the one her mother had been singing at Aunt Lillian’s apartment. Eden snapped up her head to watch her mother’s face, wondering how it would affect her. She was smiling. She started to sing softly.

“East of the sun, west of the moon...”

It was the first time Eden had heard the song, it not being one of Frank’s more popular hits, but the chorus was easy enough, so she sang along.

They would have amused the angelic realm, the both of them singing out of tune, in a darkened room with only the light of a very homely Christmas tree to illuminate their chocolate-smudged faces.

Cade clammed up after their trek down memory lane, and Eden didn’t know how to bring up the subject again. Cade found it easier to ignore her with the news channel blaring. Eden remained in the kitchen watching Sophie finish her bedtime snack. “Hurry up, Sophie. It’s time for bed.”

“Ask Daddy to read to me again.”

“You ask him.”

“Okay.” Sophie slipped off her chair onto the floor and skipped into the living room. Eden remained carefully out of sight until she heard them go up the steps. Then she took up her domain in the living room and switched the channel to a sitcom, wondering how Cade would react to that.
He had his jacket with him when he descended the steps.

“Sophie is waiting for you to say her prayers,” he said. Then he left, leaving Eden feeling like a pile of dog crap he just stepped over. She waited up for him until well after midnight, pretending to be lost in a late movie. When he finally arrived, he didn’t say a word about where he had been, and swiftly retreated to his room. Eden was furious.

What was his problem? Besides her?

She wanted to stomp up the steps and rattle around in the bathroom, slamming the door and the like, but she was forced to stay quiet, otherwise, she would wake up Sophie.

The next morning at breakfast, Eden resolved to stay civil.

“Good morning,” she said when Cade came down.

“Good morning,” he acknowledged, then to Sophie, “Good morning, Pumpkin.”

“Daddy!” Sophie jumped into his arms. Eden watched her wistfully, biting her lip as she thought about how much she would love to do the same thing. She turned away and poured herself a coffee.

“Coffee?” she offered.

He shook his head. “I can get it myself.”

Okay. She changed gears.“I’m going to the hospital soon. What are your plans for today?”

Cade turned to Sophie. “What would you like to do?”

“Go to the park, and then buy ice cream.”

Cade smiled at her and nodded. “Sounds good.”

“So? That’s your plan then?” Eden said, hinting. She was jealous. She wanted to be part of their day.

“She’s the boss,” he said. He knew his way around the kitchen well enough to help himself to breakfast.

Sophie was the only one who didn’t seem to have a problem conversing. Her incessant chatter filled what would otherwise have been awkward dead space. “I saw a dog out the window, Daddy, a black one with a long tail.”


“Yeah, and it was on a leash, with a girl taking it for a walk.”


“Can I get a puppy, Daddy?”

Eden jumped in. “We’ve got enough cats around here, Sophie. We don’t need a dog.”

“We’ll talk about it later, Sophie,” Cade said.

“You know, Cade,” Eden said between clenched teeth. “It wouldn’t hurt you to talk to me about it, to perhaps say more than a few words?”

“Just what would you like me to say, Eden?”

It was suddenly very cold, then really hot in the room. Eden watched Sophie, blissfully oblivious to the tension she was sitting amidst.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Anything would do.”

He stood up, carrying his dirty dishes to the sink, his arm brushing against her as he did so. “I think,” he said stiffly, “we’ll talk when you have something to say.”

“So how did they—” he cleared his throat stiffly, “—get back together?”

A beat. It had happened for her parents. Could it happen for them?

“I don’t know, but they did. They never did stop loving each other.” It was little more than a whisper. Despite two pieces of gum, her throat was dry and constricting. She sipped her tea, conscious of her shaky hand. The kitchen clock ticked obtrusively, a time bomb about to explode.

Why couldn’t she tell him the truth about how she felt? The invisible fist grabbed her throat again, threatening to cut off her supply of oxygen if she were to admit to any weakness. Because maybe he didn’t feel the same way. Could she deal with his rejection right now?

Cade sat back in his chair. His eyes narrowed to that deep gaze again. Eden’s mind swirled with desire and regret. Was he waiting for her to say she was wrong? She was wrong, but the demon that held her throat wouldn’t let her say it aloud. Even if she did manage to get the words out, what if he blew her off? Told her what was done, was done?

“I guess we should call it a night, eh?” she said with a thin quivering voice.

“I guess.” His tone was challenging. Somehow she knew the ball was in her court. Where would he sleep tonight? She wanted him to reach for her to ask her one last time to come back to him. She would. She would a thousand times over.

But he said nothing, just pinned her down with his eyes. Eden’s heart pounded so hard she was sure Cade could see it beat through her shirt. She stood abruptly, moving away from him to the counter. She grabbed a dishcloth and wiped an already clean countertop.

Cade got up from the table and walked steadily towards her. His eyes were like tractor beams and she couldn’t break his gaze. She gripped the counter behind her to keep from crumbling to the ground. She wanted him to grab her and shake her like a fabled caveman out to claim his woman. Her pulse roared and heat exploded through her body. His mouth was inches away, his breath hot on her cheek. She willed him to kiss her.

The moment passed and Cade stepped back. She should’ve kissed him. She should’ve grabbed him by the back of the neck and lay one on him. She wanted to, but he’d turned away to pluck his jacket from the chair, and the spell was broken. She stared at the floor feeling weak and brainless.



  1. I hear there is a story behind the story of East of Eden? Can you tell us about that? East of Eden is a back list book meaning it was once published traditionally and went out of print. It was published in 2000 by a German Publishing company in the German language. I made major revisions to the original version including a title change, character name changes. I also deleted scenes, wrote new scenes and moved scenes around. This is the first time it has been available in English and I’m happy to have it out there.

  2. Is that why it’s set in 1990? Yes. I wrote the early drafts in the 1990s (so the setting is authentic!) I didn’t update it because the mystery involved depends on this time frame.

  3. What’s with the funny spelling? The story is set in Vancouver, BC and being a Canadian myself I decided with this book I would stick with Canadian/British spelling.

  4. So is this a love story or a mother/daughter story? Both. East of Eden is a romance with strong themes of regret, forgiveness and second chances. It’s also a family drama where Eden learns how to look beyond her own needs and wants, and what it means to love unconditionally, especially when it comes to her mother.

  5. Do you have any personal experience with loved ones and Alzheimer’s disease? My grandmother passed away from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. I remember the first time she didn’t remember who I was, what that felt like. How I’d lost opportunity to ask her questions about her past. She kept asking me over and over again if my baby was a boy or a girl. It was heartbreaking.

  6. What’s next for Lee Strauss? I’m really excited about my next project, a collection of stand-alone contemporary romance companion books set in the singer-songwriter world called The Minstrel Series. The first book Sun & Moon is set in Dresden, Germany about a risk-taking singer-songwriter whose world collides with a brooding uptown banker. The books will include mp3 links from songs written by talented Indie songwriters whose songs feature prominently in the books. It’s a unique opportunity to collaborate with the Indie Music scene. Sun & Moon will be out Jan 27. Pre-orders are available on itunes, Kobo and Barnes & Noble

  1. It’s not a secret that you write under two names, Lee Strauss and Elle Strauss. Can you explain why you chose to do that? The first books I published were YA – lower YA, suitable for ages 11- 13 and up. I realized Elle Strauss had become a brand for younger YA readers and I didn’t want deviate from that, so I decided to write under Lee Strauss for work that dealt with more mature subject matters.  East of Eden is my first foray out of Young Adult.

  2. What inspired East of Eden? East of Eden is actually a re-write of a back list book that was published back in 2000. It was originally written in the 1990s and I left it set there because the time frame is important to the mystery. The first nugget of inspiration came when I drove past a house in the suburbs of Vancouver, BC and spotted an elderly woman rocking in a chair on a porch. She reminded me of my grandmother who had recently passed away from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. I recalled the first time she didn’t remember who I was, what that felt like. How I’d lost opportunity to ask her questions about her past.

  3. East of Eden tells a parallel story of Eden’s mother’s youth. Tell us why you wrote it like that. I wanted to show how people aren’t born old; that the elderly have lived through a youth full of passion and adventure and heartbreak, much like the youth of today. Lorraine’s story is important, but it’s something that Eden never cared about until it was too late.

  4. There are a couple poignant Christmas scenes – is this a holiday book? Though not specifically a holiday book, as it takes place over the course of a year and a half, it could easily be enjoyed as a holiday read.

  5. What’s next for Lee Strauss? I’m really excited about my next project, a collection of stand-alone contemporary romance companion books set in the singer-songwriter world called The Minstrel Series. The first book Sun & Moon is set in Dresden, Germany about a risk-taking singer-songwriter whose world collides with a brooding uptown banker. The books will include mp3 links from songs written by talented Indie songwriters whose songs feature prominently in the books. It’s a unique opportunity to collaborate with the Indie Music scene. Sun & Moon will be out Jan 27. Pre-orders are available on itunes, Kobo and Barnes & Noble

East of Eden by Lee Strauss
Publication date: November 12th, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance


Regret is a formidable foe.

Eden Kelley is the primary caregiver for her mother who’s in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and she’s only twenty-four. Not what she planned to do when she left her husband for a new start with her four-year-old daughter in tow. She’d hoped for free babysitting, but instead she found a mystery. The discovery of an erroneous marriage document leads to more questions, and unfortunately Eden can’t ask her mother for answers because she doesn’t remember.

Her mother’s antics drive her crazy, but Eden’s determined to make the best of it. That includes finding the exciting romantic adventure she’d dreamed about. But when trouble knocks, it’s her husband Cade who arrives to help. It’s awkward and tense. And Eden comes to one sure conclusion: leaving her handsome, caring husband was a huge mistake.

Her parents had a second chance at love? Would she and Cade get one, too?




Lee Strauss writes historical and science fiction/romance for upper YA and adult readers. She also writes light and fun stuff under the name Elle Strauss. To find out more about Lee and her books check out her facebook page. Follow her on Twitter to find out about new releases sign up for her newsletter at

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