Pittsburgh: the place of wild and kinky one-night-stands? Pittsburgh men: hot, sexy, worldwide adventurers and novelists? Football: midget, high school or otherwise? Lucky for us, we have new residents, including popular romance writer Chloe T. Barlow, who relocate here and find the sexy in our bridges, parks, neighborhoods and even the Cathedral of Learning.
Ms. Barlow’s debut novel, “Three Rivers (A Gateway to Love Novel, Vol. 1)” (CreateSpace, $13.99), is exactly that — not only was I able to see our city through new eyes, but also I was able to enjoy a geographically accurate and exciting story that made me content to be here rather than in LA, NYC or even the Seattle home of Christian Grey.
Althea is the young widow of a CMU Robotics Institute researcher who tragically drowned in the Allegheny River after a pre-Christmas skidding accident. Althea finds out that she is pregnant with a son, but she manages to complete law school with the support of her mother-in-law, a local Mt. Washington restaurateur.
Moving forward five years, Althea has also gained the support of her two best friends from college but still mourns the death of her husband. Finally, her friends encourage her to let loose on a night out.
At the Fairmont Hotel, Althea meets Griffen, a visiting novelist subbing short-term for a professor at Pitt. Of course, they fall in lust at the bar — one night, no strings — until Saturday, when Griffen arrives at the fifth birthday party celebration for her son. Griffen, it turns out, was her husband’s most trusted friend in high school, a teammate on the football team and the who knew all his secrets.
Unfortunately, Griffen regrets not returning to Pittsburgh for Jack’s funeral and has no idea that the sexy Althea is his best friend’s widow. Griffen and Althea decide to move their relationship beyond the one night if for no other reason than to help Althea move her life forward, but the complications of Althea and her overbearing and grief- stricken mother-in-law and the attentions of her husband’s work mentor, David, encourage empathy and concern for Althea. When will her mother-in-law back off? And what exactly is David really interested in?
Ms. Barlow’s story is not lightweight. Griffen’s past, Althea’s grief (and her mother-in-law’s interference), the mystery that surrounds the trustworthy and supportive David, all develop into a satisfying novel.
Tempered by Althea’s best friends and the wonder of a 5-year-old boy who adores the punk rock style of his mother’s friend, Aubrey, and the football past of both his dad and Griffen, the book maintains a humor that balances the dark subject matter of an unanticipated death or a difficult adolescence.
Ms. Barlow was influenced by a difficult health scare in her own life and the love and concern of her own husband. Fortunately for us, she is living an active life and loving Pittsburgh at the same time. For local readers, it can’t get much better than that. For national readers, the story is well worth the time, as her national fans attest.
“Three Rivers” is the winner of a Smut Book Club (over 16,000 Facebook followers and featured in September’s Elle magazine) award for Best Debut Novel for January-June 2014.
Chloe T. Barlow, a practicing full-time attorney, wrote a contemporary novel that is insightful and sexy, and one that pushes the emotional buttons that romance readers expect.
The story is not just about the new love of a grieving young widow, but it’s also a mystery that draws readers in for an exciting conclusion. Chloe’s fans, both local and nationally, are anticipating “City of Champions,” the second in this delightful Gateway to Love series. Pittsburgh, huh, who knew?
Lorinda Hayes: Klmnrhayes@yahoo.com
Despite falling short of a Super Bowl spot, Pittsburgh Steelers fans love their starting quarterback these days. In years past, we haven’t always been kind to the QB, especially in the losing years. And I’m just not talking about Ben — think of all of the quarterbacks that have been skewered on radio and talk shows, at dinner, and over the water cooler in the office. There have been a ton.And some of them have been better looking than others — I won’t pass judgment. One woman’s Ben is another woman’s Charlie. Hot is in the eye of the beholder. Then there is Wyatt Alejandro McCoy, the starting quarterback of the fictional Pittsburgh Roughnecks and the main character in Chloe T. Barlow’s second novel, “City of Champions: A Gateway to Love Novel, Vol. 2” (Amazon Digital Services, Inc., $14.99 and $3.99).
Now, hot is in the imagination of the beholder, and this son of a star quarterback and his model ex-wife is as hot as we all want him to be. Like any good Pittsburgh football star, this guy has his problems — mainly his shoulder and his lack of enthusiasm for the game he plays which may cost him at the end of the season.
But he depends on football to support his mother and sister who were financial victims of his father’s gambling problem. For him, football is not about the love of the game.
Fortunately, ambitious Dr. Jenna Sutherland, a sports orthopedic resident from UPMC is watching him. Blonde, beautiful and smart, Jenna comes from a football family herself. She learned the intricacies of the game while under the watchful eye of her coach father who led many a high school football camp.
Jenna’s goal is to earn a fellowship, but something from her past holds her back. Wyatt has a goal—to avoid shoulder surgery and to maintain his starting position in Pittsburgh. Jenna becomes his way to reach that goal — surely he can woo her into agreeing that he does not need surgery that will cost him a season and reduce his market-value in the NFL. He requests Jenna to consult on his case and so it begins.
“City of Champions” is the second book in the romance series, “Gateway to Love.” The first book introduced Jenna as a college friend of the widowed main character who relocates to Pittsburgh to support her friend and to study at one of the finest medical schools in the country.
The joy of this series is that the author, Pittsburgh transplants Chloe T. Barlow, loves our city. A Pitt law grad, she embraces our universities. A South Hills resident, she knows the Hot Metal Bridge, the South Side, Mount Washington, and each of our three rivers as well as the park at the point and the stadiums across the way.
Ms. Barlow takes us skating at PPG Place, into the stadium locker rooms, into those condos on Herr’s Island that we all wish we could afford, but can’t. And we don’t all speak Pittsburghese, but we do embrace what there is of it in the dialogue with respect.
As a romance reader who loves a series of novels, part of the fun in reading this series is the growth of the author as she writes. Ms. Barlow’s first novel, “Three Rivers,” combined a suspenseful plot with the romance. The hero is a poor Pittsburgh boy who becomes a well known adventure writer.
The heroine is a law student whose husband mysteriously drowns in a car accident by the Allegheny River. This time around, the story’s prologue from Jenna’s childhood brought me to tears.
Having heard Ms. Barlow’s personal story of her own health struggles, I sensed her connection to Jenna through the prologue and really wanted to give the author a hug. Her sensitivity to people’s pain is what makes her books click with readers.
We may all share our city as Pittsburghers, but we also share feelings of pain, grief, loss and love as humans. As a result, these award-winning books draw fans worldwide. Because of her books, shines ever so brightly.