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Testing the bond of friendship 

An age-old debate is whether heredity or environment determines one’s behavior. What makes a person the way they are? Are traits like strength and perseverance passed down through generations of good DNA, or are they taught by the cards life has dealt? 

Nicholasville author and Blue Grass Energy Cooperative consumer-member Hallie Lee’s coming of age novel, Paint Me Fearless, the first in the Shady Gully series, wittingly explores these questions. As readers follow heroines and best friends Robin and Desi from the first days of high school through middle age, and from a small Louisiana town to Lexington, both influences become evident. 

Desi’s story begins as she and her newly divorced mother, Sunny, relocate to Shady Gully. In a town where social status can be predetermined by housing or family name, Desi is warmly welcomed by all the right kids, perhaps due in part to Sunny’s hard-learned nuggets of wisdom and reminders of her worth. 

Robin, chosen by Desi to be her new best friend, struggles daily with feelings of inadequacy and a poor body image. The scale is her biggest enemy, and the number it shows can never be low enough. Though her family is near picture perfect, she sees none of their good in herself. 

As the years pass, both Robin and Desi must confront their own demons, at times shouldering each other’s burdens, and at other times, breaking apart in jealousy and anger. Marriage and money issues, insecurities leading to distrust, and family scars left long ago all serve to shape the future of these two friends as they learn the true source of strength in their adult lives. 

Lee’s novel is a heart-wrenching reminder of the influence people and place can inflict. At the same time, it is a celebration of having a lifelong friend and a beautiful picture of grace, redemption and restoration even in the toughest of circumstances. 

Lee, born and raised in Louisiana, also lived in New Mexico before making a home in Kentucky, and uses all three locations in her novel. As a former screenplay writer, her work received recognition and awards, but writing novels is her true passion. She says the Shady Gully series is “women’s literature. It’s book club fiction. It’s faith based. It’s me.” 

Paint Me Fearless, (WordCrafts Press, $30.99), is available through local book retailers or on Amazon. 

To read more about Lee and the inspiration behind her work, visit, where she also shares photos of all three of the book’s locales. 

Fans of the Shady Gully series are invited to join a discussion on the books’ heroes and villains in Lee’s book chat found on Facebook: Shady Gully’s Cozy Corner Chat. 

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