By Josette Keelor
FRONT ROYAL -- The latest novel by Front Royal author Missi Magalis is about relationships tested when lies start to tear them apart.
Teenage daughter Pepper is in love, but she hides her feelings from her mother Michelle, a fictional Front Royal math teacher distracted by her own issues -- namely jealousy that her brother's childhood was more traumatizing than her own was.
Michelle is about to even the score.
"It's like a web," Magalis said. "These characters are caught in this web of their own emotions. They just can't seem to break free from making worse mistakes trying to fix what they feel they've done wrong."
"Beautifully Broken" shares little humor or whimsy with last year's southern fiction "How Do You Do, Mrs. Wiley?"
"You know, it's very real life and I think that people will be able to relate to some of the problems that [the characters] face," Magalis said.
"I'm going to warn you, there's some language in there."
The book at Amazon.com is $6.99 for the Kindle edition and $10.79 in paperback. Magalis also will hold book signings in Front Royal at Page Master Used Books, 904 John Marshall Highway, from 1 to 3 p.m. on June 21; Soul Mountain Restaurant, 300 E. Main St., from 1 to 3 p.m. on July 12; and Gathered, 413 E. Main. St., from noon to 2 p.m. on July 25.
So far reviews at Amazon have been favorable.
Reviewer rlt wrote, "This book has unexpected twists and I couldn't put it down," and BMarchi wrote, "I got so wrapped up in this one that I read it in 3 days."
But Magalis' favorite is a review of "Mrs. Wiley" by Anne D. of Texas -- "I really did not expect I would like this as much as I did."
"I thought that was just the coolest thing ever because it was someone I didn't know," Magalis said. "It's nice when it's somebody you know, and it makes you feel good, but when it's somebody you don't know who doesn't have to say nice things if they don't want to, that makes it even better."
Free promotion days at Amazon.com brought more than 1,000 e-book downloads, inspiring a spike in sales in the following weeks.
In January, Magalis spoke at Samuels Public Library on a panel of 20 area authors in a three-hour event that drew 90 visitors. The authors spoke about writing and traditional, independent and online publishing.
Usually author events don't do well, said Library Director Mary "Nicki" McGuire Lynch.
"We find that not that many people will show up if they don't know the author," she explained. "[The authors] didn't even know each other existed in the community."
Lynch said she invited Magalis to speak because her 2011 young adult fantasy book, "Ashmikisle Out of the Ashes," had been a popular library book.
"We are going to have [the panel] again next year," Lynch said. She's been talking with some new authors, and "Last year's authors said they all want to come back."
The title of Magalis' book also came to her in January, after her niece, Holly Smedley of Front Royal, died in a car crash.
Smedley had a tattoo reading "beautifully broken," and in tribute Magalis used the phrase for her book.
"These characters," she said, "it just defines them."
Contact Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org