Review of The Backwards House


            Main Character: Ellen Holcombe, A widow who lives with her little dog Nikki

            MC’s Goal: To find out the secrets of the inhabitants of the white house across the street from her own.

            Obstacles: The more curious Ellen becomes the more people disappear from her life.

            Setting: Stillwell County a small Southwest Virginia community

            Points of Interest: Fast paced dialogue-based storytelling. A strong widow navigating the world with wit and wisdom. The main character has excellent common sense and problem solving, without being an unbelievable character.

            Author Website: (Books are available in her website store)

REVIEW: The story revolves around a widowed writer, Ellen Holcombe. When not at her day job Ellen likes to be a self-proclaimed curious person. The curiosity pulls her in when across the street she notices movers placing furniture into the home across the street.

Within hours of watching them work she receives an ominous phone call, verifying her number. Without thought she concedes the number is indeed hers and the phone disconnects. The hindsight puts Ellen on edge with only her small Chihuahua, Nikki, to protect her. 

People close to Ellen begin to disappear, stoking the flames of curiosity.  Local Police Officer Barry Johnson responds when Ellen calls emergency services and quickly earns her romantic interest.  With the FBI more involved in finding out what Ellen knows than finding her friends and family, Barry is the only truly Law Enforcement ally she has.  The entire ordeal is true test for her to find out who are her true friends and who are associates.

When Nikki’s life is endangered, that is a final straw for Ellen. She will find her friends and family, and crack open the case of the backwards house if it’s the last thing she does.

I thoroughly enjoyed the pacing through the dialogue. The characters have the right mix of flaws and strengths to make them both believable and interesting. Barry Johnson was extremely likable and even though there are times where you may question his true intentions, he is a stabilizing factor in Ellen’s life. Nikki is both a good character detail for Ellen and a great tool for the writer to get important information to the reader without telling instead of showing, definitely a smart device. All mysteries I try to race the reveal and Mrs. Hoagland keeps enough secrets close but hinted to that I doubted that I had it solved several times before the mystery had been revealed.  Overall good read.


What inspired you to write this story?

The house across the street from my house. It stood empty for way too long.

Who was your target audience while writing it?

Senior citizens mainly because that is what I am.

Did you develop any unique relationship to your characters while writing the book?

Nikki was real so there definitely was a strong relationship. Many people tell me that they seem me in the Ellen character. Just to let you know, my middle name is Ellen.

What is your favorite part of the story and why?

When Ellen tries to encourage Nikki to snoop around the house so she has a real reason to investigate.

What is the one thing that you want your readers to take away?

That this was a fun read and to remember that it is fiction and piece of my imagination.

Out of all your books, what book should readers start with first?

An Awfully Lonely Place was the first book with Ellen as the man character and, it too, is a mystery.

How many drafts until you felt it was ready for the world?

One and done, make corrections and send it off.

In addition to writing many Appalachian centric books, Mrs. Hoagland also is a mentor and Secretary of the Appalachian Authors Guild.

She offers the following advice for new writers.

Just write, get past the first page or it will be forgotten.

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