by Kat Jackson
Lina Ragelis prides herself on her bravery and strength, two traits that have served her well in her career in the US Army. Having been disconnected from her family since she turned eighteen, Lina has learned to rely solely on herself—and her slightly overbearing best friend—and she swears she prefers it that way.
It’s an easy lie for someone who has spent her entire life dodging love. Lina’s pretty certain that she’s damaged goods. But the truth is, she’s the kind of person everyone wants in their corner, and the kind of woman many women want to love.
Having had more than her fair share of challenges and hardships, there isn’t much that scares Lina. Life would be so much easier if she were afraid of something basic—like spiders—instead of something significant. Something like real, true, healthy love.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"Several summers ago, I was riding my bike down Beach Road, and somewhere between Nags Head and Kitty Hawk I pulled closer to the dunes to send a quick text.
“I can’t get Lina out of my head.”
After writing Across the Hall, a book that features her as a somewhat mysterious side character, I wasn't exactly surprised that Lina never left me. I knew she had a story to tell, but it took some time for me to figure out exactly what that story would be.
Golden Hour is the roller coaster journey of Lina’s healing, growth, and acceptance of love. It’s a small departure from what some may expect a romance novel to be, but trust me: This book was written with every fiber of my heart, and where there is loss, there is always love. Sometimes it just takes us a little longer to find it."
Alice G. - The mind is as beautiful as it is fragile, and this book does a marvelous job showcasing its duality. The main characters take a bit to find their footing, but once they do the synergetic relationship is soul-renewing.
It is a soul heavy read, but worth every heart clench. I was swept away by the effortless dialogue, the funny repartee, and the scenery depicted throughout each chapter. I was beyond grateful that this was not love at first sight. Instead, it's love through trial and tribulation. It's a friendship and a courting that allows growth and comfort and trust to develop organically. It's being real- going into a relationship that says this will be hard, but I see you, you matter to me, and I am here for it all.
Dominique V. - I am coming to find that I really love books by Kat Jackson, she manages to pull me in on an emotional level and I enjoyed the pairing between Lina and Regan very much. The way Lina's PTSD was handled and described gave the book more depth than the average romance novel and when it's done in the way Jackson does it, it's very much lifting the book to a next level. Golden Hour can be read as a standalone, yet Lina was first introduced in an earlier book (Across the Hall) and that couple has a role in this one as Lina's best friends. Highly recommended!
Henrietta B. - Golden Hour surprised and impressed me by its depth and gritty narration. Lina is a veteran and not all is glory. Even as a lab technician she paid a steep price. With great skill Jackson immerses the reader into Lina‘s mental struggles. This is not always an easy read but so rewarding. I loved how Jackson lets us experience Lina’s struggles firsthand. The character development is excellent. The darker aspects were balanced by the setting and sun-setting of the story in the Outer Banks, the caring of Lina‘s friends (cameo-appearances from Across the Hall) and the slow emergence of a new life and love. An excellent and compelling read.
Michele R. - Kat Jackson is quickly becoming a favorite author who excels at character development and developing a solid backstory for her characters. She also writes interesting secondary characters, like Caitlin, Mallory, and Keeley, who help move the story forward. Regan, as Lina’s eventual girlfriend, was also a great addition to this story. She really demonstrated her caring nature for Lina and what Lina was experiencing with PTSD. 4.25 stars
Orlando J. - This is a beautiful book full of joy and heartbreak. Lina, who we met (and I fell love with) in Across the Hall is our protagonist, and Jackson really puts her through the wringer. Reading this genuinely made me cry, but also laugh my ass off at times. Kat Jackson genuinely is one of the most talented authors out there right now.
Karen C. - I absolutely lucked into reading Kat Jackson's debut novel, Begin Again, a couple of years ago, and since then she has become one of my favorite authors. Among her now four books, there is not one cookie-cutter or standard trope used, and I have to say it's really refreshing. I can't imagine many other authors out there brave enough to tackle an army PTSD story, especially today, when the definitive series on the subject has already been written and knocked out of the park (I'm looking at you, E. J. Noyes). Kat Jackson does it masterfully.
There are so many aspects to Golden Hour that make this a completely different story. Obviously, when a character is dealing with PTSD we have to know what caused the trauma in their earlier life. Jackson intersperses the flashbacks so perfectly well-timed that it's almost impossible to stop reading because we MUST know what happened. The flashbacks are told in past tense, but the present day is told in third person present tense from Lina's POV, and it really works.
The peripheral characters, who are friends and co-workers of the MCs, are extremely well developed. But what I really loved about this book is that Lina and Regan aren't each other’s type, so the friends-to-reluctant-lovers is perfection. I never wanted this book to end.
Bonnie K. - This was a well written beautiful heart felt story. I loved how Kat’s writing addressed Lina’s PTSD, it really gave the story depth. Well done!! I recommend 4.5 stars
Laura G. - I applaud Kat Jackson for writing this book. This is a subject that isn’t easy but in ignoring its existence, we do a disservice to all those who risked their lives for our freedom, who suffer from PTSD. Golden Hour is more than a story of a character trying to cope with her past, it is a book that is laced with laugh out loud moments, beautiful coastal views and characters who will stay with you long after you have read the last page.
Jo R. - Kat Jackson has written another excellent book! If you've not already, check some of her other books out. Golden Hour is no exception, I love her writing style and her books have ‘drawn’ me in.
Claire E. - Rapidly becoming one of my favourite lesbian authors, she writes intelligent books that explore more than just a romance.
Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, present day
Misty air hangs over the quiet, nearly deserted street. Every so often, a seagull squawks loudly overhead on its way to the shoreline. Sand splays out onto the pavement, creating treacherous spots for the dedicated runners and bikers that share the road with the few cars out this early. The sun may have risen over an hour ago, but there remains a persistent cling of clouds and haze that seem determined not to burn off just yet.
It is a golden hour—not the golden hour, of course, but one that Lina Ragelis claims as her own. Maybe rose gold hour is a better descriptor, since the sun is desperately hanging on to a pink stretch of sky over the water, refusing to submit completely to the dawn of a new day. Relatable, Lina thinks. As she coasts along Beach Road, Lina glances to her right each time the houses give way to dunes and wind-worn fences. She can’t see the ocean from her Jeep, but she can hear it quietly pounding the sand, pulling in and out with its secretive rhythm.
As a soldier who spent time overseas, Lina knows she’s a bit of an anomaly in the fact that her deployments into deserts didn’t destroy her love for the beach. Sure, sand sucks a little more than it did when she was a kid, but the beach still calms her in a way that nothing else can. Especially now, when the streets are practically barren and the houses around her are mostly empty.
She likes it that way: empty.
No, really. She does.
Lina slows as she reaches the house in Kitty Hawk. She can’t bring herself to refer to it as “her house,” or even “home,” though it is for the next eleven months. Her Jeep slides into the tiny driveway and Lina hops out, looking up at the cottage before her. It’s a dream home of the smallest variety and Lina loves it.
Set on stilts and crafted with the touch of someone who clearly understood the historical cottage look of Old Nags Head homes, the house is wooden with a cedar-shingle roof. The prop-shuttered windows were recently painted a bright green that pops against the worn dark wood siding. A thin porch crawls across the back of the house before jutting out into a sizable deck on the right side, then attaching itself to another long porch at the front of the home. It seems weird to call this spot, the part of the house that faces the road, the back, but once Lina walked through the home and stepped onto the other porch for the first time, she understood why the beach side could only be called the front of the house.
Stuffing her keys and phone into the pockets of her shorts, Lina reaches behind the driver’s seat and picks up the lone bag of groceries. She grabs her iced coffee from the center console before heading up to the house.
Inside, the weathered look of the cottage all but disappears. For the most part anyway. Years of rentals have taken a toll on the paint and floors that span the three-bedroom home. That’s part of Lina’s job while she’s here: glorified handywoman and interior decorator. Agreeing to take on the necessary jobs earned her a massive cut in rent…even though she’s not exactly paying that.
As if taunting her, the cans of paint sitting in the hallway gleam in the morning light as Lina walks past them.
“Yeah yeah,” she mutters as she walks into the kitchen. “You’ll get your turn soon enough.”
The pathetic bag of groceries takes just minutes to put away. Lina pauses to shake her head when she realizes she prioritized s’mores fixings over anything truly meal-worthy or healthy. A carryover from spending so much time with her community-minded best friend back in New Jersey, she’s taken massive pride in supporting small and local businesses in the Outer Banks by ordering amounts of takeout that would normally induce some sort of shame in her. The truth is, the emptiness of everything around her serves to remind her how much she misses her best friend and neighbor—especially how often she’d bum a meal off Caitlin or strong-arm her into coming over for dinner. Cooking for a party of one isn’t exactly Lina’s idea of fun.
Satisfied with her organization of the tiny grocery load, Lina takes her coffee and steps through the sliding door onto the deck that faces the ocean. She inhales deeply, eyes shut, as the late April air curls around her. By no means is it summer, but it’s a hell of a lot warmer here than it is back in Jersey, and that alone is an excellent reason to be in North Carolina at the turn of late spring.
She leans against the deck railing, watching the waves and their synchronized dance. The sun is trying its best to warm the air but it’s not enough for Lina to take off her sweatshirt. It might hit seventy today, if she’s lucky. The water is too cold for her taste, though again it’s way warmer than the ocean in New Jersey right now. So while the thought of hopping out on the SUP or even the kayak is appealing, spilling into the sixty degree water is not.
Suddenly antsy, Lina drums her fingers against the splintering railing. Right, another project on her to-do list: refinishing the deck. Either the list keeps growing or she wasn’t fully aware of what she was getting herself into when she asked for the temporary relocation and accepted these amazing living conditions. Amazing and in need of major TLC, that is.
Whatever the case, she’s here now, and there is work to be done, a bargain rental agreement to uphold while balancing her real-world job responsibilities and Army obligations.
And since she’s here, that means the majority of her problems are far, far away and completely unaware (so she assumes) of the fact that Lina is equally far away. For now, there couldn’t be a better solution.