Marty Lopez is living with HIV. He is also a recovering cocaine addict and has done time because of his addiction, before developing a second career as a substance abuse counselor. Over his family's opposition, he moves to Texas from California, looking for a new life in a small town.
Angie Davis is divorced. She lives with her grandparents and goes to school part time, and she really likes the new counselor at Second Horizon, the treatment center where she works.
When Angie learns that her current boyfriend has been unfaithful, Marty offers a listening ear. But friendship is all he offers, because the consequences of his past don't leave room for love in his future.
Angie, however, has other ideas. As the months go by, friendship becomes love and love becomes committment, until family, fear, and the ghosts of Marty's past combine to test Angie's faith and thrust Marty into the public eye. Suddenly their love must survive not only their own doubts, but scrutiny from an entire town.
An Awe-Struck Release
As a novelist, when asked to provide a bio, Rachel Smith has a tendency to ramble on at distressing length and edit to a fair-thee-well. To be brief, however, for those who are interested in such things, she has an educational background in psychology, a diverse employment history, an exceedingly tolerant husband, four children, innumerable grandchildren and a beloved dog.
"This is an excellent first novel for newcomer Rachel Smith. I applaud her moxie in tackling the often misunderstood subject matter of dealing with AIDS—and she managed to wrap a wonderful romance around it. I wanted things to work out for Angelina and Martin, even though his life could be cut short, bringing Angelina future heartache.
Extraordinary and profound, Bittersweet Victories will leave you feeling as if nothing is impossible, not if you really want it and are willing to sacrifice and work hard to gain it. Even if you’re a little bit squeamish about the HIV/AIDS subject matter, I urge you to pick up a copy of Bittersweet Victories. I believe you’ll be glad you did."
"What a surprisingly wonderful book. This is not just your average romance. This one has flaws and consequences. Ms. Smith writes Angie and Marty’s story with such emotion and realism. She opens the touchy subject of HIV and walks you through it carefully. You come away educated in a subject many know little about. This is definitely a book to add to your collection. You will not regret it."Matilda -- Coffee Time Romance
He fussed over what to wear until he worked himself into a state of screaming aggravation, staring at every article of clothing he owned, piled on the bed and rejected. Finally he simply grabbed a clean pair of slacks and a short sleeve button down shirt, tossed a jacket over his shoulder and combed his hair on the way out the door.
He pulled up at the curb in front of her grandparent's house, walked up to the porch and rang the bell. He smiled at Grandma when she opened the door, chatted amiably in the living room for ten full minutes, answering Grandpa's grunted questions about work, and breathed a huge sigh of relief when Angie emerged from the bedroom at last.
“Sorry.” She beamed. “Last minute hosiery change.”
She looked better than good, in sheer black stockings and above the knee black velvet dress. The dress wasn't overly sexy, in and of itself. What made it sexy was the woman in it: the smooth arms emerging from the sleeveless bodice, the soft swell of breasts beneath the modest V-neck. The curving little waist and gentle hips, draped in snug fabric, above elegantly stockinged legs. She wore strappy heels, which brought her almost exactly to his height, and she'd done something sleek and sophisticated with her hair. But he frowned when he placed what was different about her, aside from dress and shoes and makeup and upswept do--everything distinguishing her from cheerful Angie-behind-the-counter at Second Horizon.
“Where are your glasses?” he asked.
She smiled serenely. “I got contacts. Yesterday, during lunch. Remember, I told you I had an appointment. What do you think?”
“I think you'll stop traffic.” he said honestly, as they stepped out the front door. “And if they could see you now, you'd break every male client's heart, at Second Horizon.”
He heard Grandpa's grunting guffaw, as the door closed behind them.
Without the frames to hide behind, her brown eyes were wider and softer than ever. The makeup just enhanced them, the little slick of lip gloss made him want to kiss it from her mouth before they ever reached the car.
He settled for once they were safely in the car.
“Marty,” she murmured after a year or two.
“Hmm?” He enjoyed simply holding her in his arms, hauled up close against him, letting his lips drift lazily across her face, down her cheeks, along her chin and to her throat. Up beneath her ear, across her brows, at the corners of her lips. Then another slow, sweet foray into her mouth itself, sweeping, stroking, torturing himself with a pale imitation of what he'd really like to do with other body parts.
“Seven forty five,” Angie whispered in his ear. “Curtain's at eight. Campus theater's clear across town.”
“Okay.” He didn't release her, and he didn't stop tasting her, either. Here, right here, in the delicate little hollow of her throat, he hovered above her breasts. The small golden cross was just as warm as her skin, under his lips. The neckline of her dress gapped below his chin; if he slid a little lower he could taste velvet dragging at the corner of his mouth. He was a few short inches from heaven.
“Should we just skip the show?” she asked, amusement laced with desire in her voice. Her fingers swept through his hair and he reveled in her touch. Over two years, since any woman besides an elder sister touched him with tenderness. “And if we do, should we find some better place than your car, on the street in front of my grandparent's house?”
“No,” he sighed against her skin. “No. You already bought the tickets.”
“It's a school production and I'm a student,” she laughed. “I got a discount; they were only five dollars for the pair.”
“No.” He pulled away, righting himself and her. He turned the key in the ignition, but kept her hand in his and drove one-handed, easing into traffic from the curb. “We'll do this right. You want theater; we'll go to the theater.”
“I want the other, too,” she softly said.
His heart pounded in his chest. “Theater first,” he decreed.