Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Review: Incense and Peppermint by Cathrina Constantine

by Cathrina Constantine
YA Historical
226 pages

Peace demonstrations, sit-ins, and burning the U.S. flag following the escalation of the Vietnam War are leading to a catalyst known to the world as the Sixties. A musical revolution, hippies, marijuana, and drugs are carrying the generations—young and old—into a new decade. All the while sixteen-year-old Mary Monroe is caught between being an innocent good girl and an autumn of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.

When her brother offers a solution to her dilemma in the form of a little pill, Mary ignores the rumba in her brain and takes a walk on the wild side. Plunged into popularity and a life she’s only imagined, she meets Michael Covington, the hot newcomer, and she’s instantly drawn in by his less than flawless exterior and bad boy sex appeal. Caught up in the danger and excitement as they drift from party to party, into underground fight clubs, and through a series of drug and alcohol fueled adventures. Mary follows her new crush into a world where young girls are never truly safe from predators lurking in the shadows and where young men are hiding from the harsh reality of war.

Feeling buzzed and as if her life is spinning out of control, Mary is assaulted by an unknown man at a party, and she’s left questioning if the enigmatic Michael is truly her hero or if he is the face behind the terrible attack. With every piece of information Mary learns about Michael, her doubts grow deeper, but with every minute she spends in his presence, so does her love.

With the war and her fear threatening to separate Mary and Michael forever, only the death of a friend, a crushing confession, and her own sensibilities can carry her over the threshold between adolescence and adulthood.


This tale lures into the free-spirit  during the late 1960's, glancing over the war and protests, while hitting much closer to home as it sinks in.

Mary, the good-girl and nerd of her family, is about to sixteen but is drawn into her brother's world thanks to his constant persistence and a little pill. Pulled into the circle of popularity, parties, beer and drugs, the freedom spirals out of her control. Finding herself in a bad situation, she's rescued by the hottest guy at school, but that introduces a whole new level of chaos.

This is the first piece of fiction I've read about this era, and although I wasn't sure what to expect, I was immediately drawn in and enjoyed the ride. Mary Monroe is in an awkward place like many girls of that age are. Her desire to have fun and get away from family troubles (and her family has their share) is understandable. That she doesn't make the best decisions is believable and totally understandable. She has a lot to learn and tries her best to balance her conscious with her desire to have fun—not an easy task.

The book hits hard on the partying end, letting Mary sink into the free life of that time with all of its joy and pain. While telling of Mary's experience through this period, this book also shows glimpses into the other characters' lives and lets them grab hold with their own tales. In some ways, it's a coming of age and the story of how Mary finds herself.

There is romance, and while it does carry a bit of instant love, there's enough build up and uncertainties to make it sit. The hero is all a hero should be but not without his own demons, and fits the setting nicely.

Summed up, it's a nice dive into this time period and opens up some questions not only from that time, but ones that also relate to today. It's an intriguing read, and the characters stay long after that last page is read.

I received a complimentary copy and was so engaged in these pages that I wanted to leave my honest thoughts.

You can find her at her website here


Cathrina Constantine said...

Tonja, thank you for an awesome review! I'm happy my book entertained you, and that you liked it is the cherry on top!!!!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

This sounds like an interesting book. For some reason, that era seldom gets approached by YA authors. I definitely want to read it. The story sounds compelling.