From Library Journal

Gold’s (The Perfectly True Tales of a Perfect Size 12) endearing protagonist Clara Black has lost her fiancé, Sebastian, in an accident just weeks before their wedding. Her depressed demeanor doesn’t go unnoticed, but neither her brother, her mother, nor her best friend can help. On a trip home to the Chicago suburbs, Clara finds a time capsule from grade school sent by her former teacher. Among other mementos, the capsule contains a list of all the things she hoped to achieve by the time she was 35, which is only a few months away. Setting out to complete one of the items on the list brings Clara to old high school friend Lincoln, who becomes a surprising but welcome comfort. Afraid that she will forget Sebastian, Clara has second thoughts about taking the romantic plunge with Lincoln and wonders if she will ever be able to find happiness again. Verdict: Absolutely charming and punctuated with humor at just the right moments, this book will have readers pulling for the sympathetic Clara as she attempts to triumph in the midst of unbearable loss. This light contemporary will satisfy fans of Robyn Carr and Debbie Macomber.
Kara Kohn

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From The Romance Reviews

More a mainstream novel or woman's fiction with romantic elements, ONCE UPON A LIST is a heartwarming tale of a woman's journey as she adjusts to a life without her fiancé after his death. Clara Black's world was shattered the day her fiancé was involved in a fatal accident. Eight months later, she was still trying to come to terms with her grief. She's tried all sorts of techniques to get her life back on track, but nothing worked. Her grief over Sebastian's death always pulled her down and sunk her in deep depression. Until one day, when she received the time capsule she made when she was ten, which contained a list of things she wanted to accomplish before she reached thirty-five. With nine months to go, Clara determined to cross off each item on the list, and on her journey, she discovered things she never expected to find. Reminiscent of P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern, ONCE UPON A LIST nevertheless holds its own with its engaging heroine, heartfelt emotions and realistic portrayal of the journey a woman goes through as she deals with her grief and learns to come to terms with it. I like the deep friendship and support Clara had with and from her brother Leo, yet it really takes someone who has been there to know what Clara has been through and to give her the understanding and comfort that she needs. And as we journey with Clara's ups and downs, we also learn that life is precious, yet uncertain. Tomorrow is a gift we haven't received. All that we have, all that is in our grasp, is the present. ONCE UPON A LIST is a great and entertaining read, both thought-provoking and life-affirming.

Copyright © The Romance Reviews. All rights reserved.

From Reviews From The Heart

Clara Black felt like her life had come to the end of the road. I guess for most of us, we would look at Clara, her situation and give her some time to grieve but then expect her to move forward. And she tried, really she did. She sought out professional ways to help her find her way out of the blackest, deepest pit of despair and depression but nothing seemed to work. Nothing would ever be the same again and just managing to take a breath alone was more work than it should be.

Just eight days before her life would change in ways she had dreamed of since she was a little girl, that dream turned into a nightmare. It began with a simple phone call telling her that her soon-to-be husband, Sebastian was dead, an accident had claimed his life and he wouldn't be coming home to her again, EVER!

She put up the walls and kept people at a distance, even so much that her boss told her to take some time off. He didn't want her jeopardizing any more clients with his firm as an Account Executive and to come back when she felt ready. Would she ever be ready for life again?

Answering a phone call from her brother Leo, he managed to persuade her to return home with him to their mom's home for Thanksgiving. Libby would be able to find a way to get her daughter out of her depression. She had written a jingle for almost every other product in the world and was hoping that between the two of them, they might find a way to reach Clara. However, Clara's help arrived in a surprising cardboard box awaiting her return home. In it would hold the answers that she would need to begin the rebuilding process. A project a 5th grade, Clara worked on and was being returned to her. A time capsule, that 2o years later, would be the turning point in her life. It contained a simple list of the things she had hoped to accomplish before she turned 35, and now just a few months remained before this list of unfulfilled wants and desires would be considered null and void.

That's when Clara decided to take a leap of faith and put her brother's challenge to the test and see just how many of these items she could complete before her 35th birthday. Will she be able to do it, or will her grief beat her to the finish line? To find out, you'll have to pick up Robin Gold's latest novel, Once Upon A List.

I received this delightful novel compliments of Harper Collins Publishers for my honest review and completely fell in love with Clara's character. I couldn't imagine the amount of grief she felt and could see myself responding in similar ways when people came around to help. Unless you've experienced it first hand, it's hard to know what to do or say to help. Robin Gold did an amazing job of putting you write in the heart of things and feeling all the emotions she had to endure during this book of putting her life back in order. I think it's genuine because it was no short order process and there were so many times that Clara fell back into her old ways and grew frustrated. She didn't want to be that way, but there were those old habits and feelings. I admire her courage to keep getting back up and trying again and think this list worked out perfectly for her along with her brother Leo to encourage her along the way.

This makes for the perfect summer read to experience life through Clara's eyes. It truly does put life back into perspective and shows us all how quickly it can change and there is nothing we can do to prevent that from happening. I rate this one a 4.5 out of 5 stars. It does contain some profanity and adult situations but given the subject matter of the book, I think Robin did an exceptional job at keeping this one real.

Copyright © Reviews From The Heart. All rights reserved.

From Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews

Once Upon a List was the first book I read by Robin Gold, and I have to say I loved it. This book is a very emotional journey!! Clara Black is all set to marry her soul mate, when tragedy strikes. This book is journey back to life and her path to moving on.

Clara comes home to Chicago for Thanksgiving, and waiting for her is the time capsule she prepared at ten years old as a class project. In there is a list of things she wanted to get done before turning 35. Her brother encourages her to take a sabbatical from work and complete the list after she seems to come back to life a bit from completing one task on the list. The list really gives Clara a reason to live again.

I honestly don’t want to give too much of this story away with this review, because so much of what is great about this book is experiencing the story with Clara. I will say the first couple chapters were a little tough for me, because she is in a dark place right after Sebastian’s death. This book was truly a beautifully accurate tale of surviving when you just don’t think you want to wake up again. I highly recommend reading it. (You may need lots of Kleenex.)

Copyright © Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews. All rights reserved.

From Seduced By A Book

Nine days before her wedding, Clara received a phone call that no one would ever wish to receive. Her fiance, the love of her life, the man she'd planned to spend the rest of her life with had died in a tragic accident. The shock, pain, and grief of it all overwhelmed her. While she attempted to overcome it, eventually it took hold, and like Snow White after she'd bit into the poison apple, or Sleeping Beauty after she'd pricked her finger on a spinning wheel, Clara Black succumbed to a perpetual state of sleep. Some likened her to a zombie, one of the walking dead.

Then, one day, just like in the fairy tales, she awoke. She once again had a purpose and all it took was a single kiss. A kiss that she had written down once upon a list...


This was such a heart wrenching, yet cute story. It may have started out rather sad, but I loved watching Clara figuratively come back to life after such a tragic loss. Sometimes grief strikes so hard, it sends us tailspinning into a whirlpool of dark emotions that can suck us down and can be difficult to break free from. While life goes on, as Clara later realizes, "sometimes it's just too damn painful and difficult--if not impossible to recognize it."  

I loved the list that Clara created when she was nine and the significance it held. Clara had lost her father at an early age. At nine, she believed that 35, the age her father was when he died, was when life ended, or perhaps more specifically, when she thought hers would end too. So when asked to create a list of things she'd like to accomplish in her lifetime, she revised it, with the teachers permission, to be a list of things she wished to accomplish before she turned 35. The list along with other significant items from when she was nine, all went into a time capsule. Clara was 34 and had less than eight months to complete her list when she was reunited with it. Ironically, the list of things that were originally meant to be accomplish before she died became a list of things she needed to complete before she could figuratively come back to life. It was her virtual life line. Such a fun idea. I wish one of my teachers had done the same thing with my class. I wonder what I would have included on it?  

Leo, Clara's brother, was a fun character. With Ms. Gold emphasizing the fact he's one of Chicago's most eligible bachelors, I have a sneaking suspicion he'll be popping up in one of her later novels. I loved the strong bond the two siblings share, and how over the years he kind of took on the role of father figure for her. Always being the protective older brother. It made him quite endearing. 

Link, well, I wish we'd gotten to know him a little better. I didn't really connect with him, but I sort of figured he'd be the one Clara ended up with. I think my problem was that I wasn't 100 percent sure he and Clara would end up together because for the majority of the book he was in a relationship with someone else. I just wish we'd have had more time seeing the two as a couple. I definitely felt the two got along well, but I would have liked to have seen a little more of the dynamics of their romantic relationship. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one gets a BLUSH rating--at the beginning stages of romance where something is just starting to be stirred.

Overall, I gave this one 3 1/2 out of 5 roses. A very sweet story that I felt did an excellent job depicting Clara's journey through the grieving process. Thankfully, we didn't see the full seven stages because an eight month period was skipped. I think Ms. Gold did an excellent job of showing us just the right amount so we could understand how tragic a loss it was for Clara, thereby, allowing us to empathize with her. The book contained a lot of cute and fun elements and a nice blend of drama and humor. 

Copyright © Seduced By A Book. All rights reserved.

From Likes Books

While not a perfect book, Once Upon a List is a charming one, and it pulled me out my recent reading affliction of preferring to play computer Hearts rather than read my review books. And for this, the author has my heartfelt thanks.

Over a decade ago Sebastian and Clara fell in love, and now they are making it legal with a wedding. However, less than two weeks before their wedding day, Sebastian is killed in an accident. Eight months later Clara is still free falling in her downward spiral, even though she has done her best to fight it - using legal and illegal drugs, individual and group counseling, acupuncture, kick-boxing and dolphin therapy, just to name a few.

Reluctantly, and only bowing to pressure from her mother, Clara travels to River Pointe, a Chicago suburb for the Thanksgiving holidays. Waiting for her there is a surprised package. Upon opening it she discovered her fifth-grade time capsule from Ms. Jordain. One of Ms. Jordain’s explicit requirements was a list – a variation of a bucket list of things each student wanted to accomplish by the end of their lifetime. Having lost her father when he was thirty-five, Clara got it in her head that this was the age of passing and received special concession to modify her list. She is amused by her ten-year-old perspective of important items to accomplish by thirty-five. Along with "find a cure for heart attacks", "learn Morse code", and "become the President of the United States", her list includes "kiss Billy Warrington." So it seems almost kismet when she runs into Billy (called William now) while on an errand for her mother. Impulsively she seizes the moment and plants a big fat one on him. And thus begins Clara's quest to complete her list.

The beginning of the book was a little uneven for me. The author almost scared me off with the lovey-dovey dialog between Sebastian and Clara, followed by the abrupt out-of-context funeral scene. However, by chapter three my interest was firmly hooked.

Not everyone has experienced a death of a loved one, but most of us have had situations like the loss of a job or a break-up that have caused us to falter, even though we knew we needed to snap out of it. Ms. Gold's portrayal of Clara’s emotional instability is very effectively done – it doesn’t overwhelm the book, but still depicts her sense of helplessness and powerlessness. While the book does have some overt humor, most of it is subtle, creating a nice balance between Clara’s despondency and her determination not to be a quitter.

The list is fun and inventive. I was very much impressed with the plotting that circumvents the impossible-to-achieve items.

Some of the relationships seem almost too good to be true, verging closely on saccharine territory, like the heroine's relationship with Sebastian and her brother. And then the final conflict, while realistic, is nearly too obvious. However, ultimately I realized that the overall emotions epitomized in these situations rang true.

The romance isn’t front and center for the first part of the book. The hero is more of an appendage to Clara’s journey but it works. The author successfully combines women’s fiction elements and romance for a satisfying read.

I am glad to say that I can that I can definitely recommend this book. I closed the book with a smile on my face.

Leigh Davis

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