Spotlight & Giveaway: Between You and Us by Kendra Broekhuis

Posted March 14th, 2024 by in Blog, Spotlight / 17 comments

Today it is my pleasure to Welcome author Kendra Broekhuis to HJ!

Hi Kendra and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Between You and Us!

Hello Beloved Readers! I’m so excited to share with you today.

Please summarize the book for the readers here:

BETWEEN YOU AND US is about a grieving woman named Leona who meets her husband David at a restaurant for a rare dinner out. Their hope is to share a moment of relief and connection after their year of loss. However, Leona quickly realizes she didn’t only step into an upscale ristorante, she stepped into a different version of her life. One where her marriage is in shambles under the pressure of her powerful in-laws, but her precious baby girl is still alive. Now, Leona must weigh the bitter and sweet of both trajectories and make an impossible choice: Stay in a world where tragedy hasn’t struck but where the meaningful life she built with David is gone? Or return to a reality that’s filled with struggle and sorrow but also deep and enduring love?

Please share your favorite line(s) or quote from this book:

*Quote 1:
“I’m really sorry, David. I wanted to avoid conflict between us so badly that I shut my mouth and went along with everything asked of me the past two years. Even though it was killing me inside,” [Leona] admitted. “I know now that isn’t the kind of connection that can last in the long run. I can’t pretend what exists between us is peace when it isn’t honest.”

*Quote 2:
That startling thought reminded her of the choice she couldn’t ignore forever. Her body was begging for something carnal, but her mind needed answers to impossible questions. She didn’t know how she could choose between two drastically different versions of her life. Between her husband and her child. The one who made her heart skip a beat and the one her heart beat for.


Please share a few Fun facts about this book…

  • I was a nonfiction writer for twelve years but was getting burned out and wanted to try writing something new–a novel! BETWEEN YOU AND US was the story that came out of that plot twist in my writing career.
  • This book is set in the city of Milwaukee where I live and includes a lot of real restaurants and points of interest readers can visit! Including, but not limited to: Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro, Izzy Hop’s Swig & Nosh, Sherman Phoenix, Blu Lounge, Coffee Makes You Black, The Art Museum, Atwater Beach, and Bradford Beach.
  • Leona’s in-laws’ mansion is based on the Herman Uihlein estate nestled into the bluffs that overlook Lake Michigan. I toured it many times via Zillow before it was sold in late 2023.
  • I love picking out character names! One interesting tidbit about the characters’ names in BYAU is that Leona, Eden, and Vera are all names on my list that I wanted to give my own babies. However, my husband wasn’t a fan so those names got rejected. I’m so glad I still got to use them in my book!
  • BETWEEN YOU AND US was my first choice for a title, but a few others that I listed as back-ups include: THE BITTER OF BOTH WORLDS and BACK(STORY) TO YOU.


What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?

Leona and David are set up on a blind date by their mutual friend Eden. Leona is first attracted to David when he picks her up for their first date and brings her a rose, but she blurts out loud that she doesn’t actually like roses all that much. (Major character flaw?! Or does she just love stuff that’s not too mainstream?) While David teased her about her lack of manners at first sight, he also makes a joke of the situation, which her feel safe–like she can open up her shy self around him. This gives her confidence she isn’t used to. She *loves* David’s sense of humor and the way he can keep things light.

David is attracted to Leona because she’s a breath of fresh air from the stuffy, polite first-impressions he’s used to in the social circles he grew up in. Though he’s not shy and introverted as Leona, he likes that he doesn’t have to try to impress her with his wealth and powerful background.


Did any scene have you blushing, crying or laughing while writing it? And Why?

One scene that had me laughing is when Leona and David are giving their one-year-old daughter Vera a bath, and, well…she has an accident in the tub. The reason it made me laugh is because I would argue along with Leona and David that wet bathtub poop somehow smells even worse than diaper poop. But I also love the scene because years of raising little kids can be tiring on a relationship, but these bizarre and hilarious moments can also be a beautiful point of connection between spouses when you’re able to keep your sense of humor.

Here’s an excerpt from the scene!
“What’s wrong?” He leaned next to the tub.
“I don’t know! She’s not breathing, and her face is turning red!”
Both David and Leona hovered in close. Each put a hand on her back. This couldn’t be happening. Not again, she prayed. Suddenly, Vera breathed, smiling wide at the two panicked adults staring down at her.
A large turd popped out from behind Vera. It bobbed to the surface and then sank to the bottom of the tub again. That was when Leona finally understood.
David sprang into action. “Code Brown! I repeat, we have a Code Brown!”
He grabbed Vera and ran her slippery body over to the toilet in case she had more that needed to come out. Then, he laid Vera on a towel and cleaned her bottom. Overwhelmed by the odor, he dry heaved. “It smells so bad! Why does wet poop smell so bad?”
Vera giggled.
Leona started giggling too, first in disbelief and then at the entire scene. At herself for blowing everything out of proportion. At how gross parenthood could be. At David’s gagging. She laughed until she was leaning over the tub, and then she laughed even more.
He was right. Wet poop smelled so bad.
She laughed until all the fear that had just paralyzed her was gone, and she sat back on the sopping wet floor.


Readers should read this book….

Readers should read BETWEEN YOU AND US if they enjoy contemporary fiction novels that also include elements of romance and magical realism. While the book has themes of grief and social class, that heavy content is well-cushioned with a lovable, Ryan Reynolds-esque character in Leona’s husband David, a lot of banter between the two, and other moments of humor throughout. This book runs the gamut of emotions, giving readers a safe space to grieve their “what if” questions about their own lives, while also offering glimmering reminders of hope throughout the story.


What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have in the works?

I’m currently working on my sophomore novel called Nearly Beloved, which will release with WaterBrook in September 2025! It’s about a woman who finds out on the day of her dad’s funeral that they aren’t biologically related. It’s all about what it means to be family and to be compassionate toward each other’s experiences. And yes, there’s going to be a love story too!

Thanks for blogging at HJ!


Giveaway: A print copy of BETWEEN YOU AND US by Kendra Broekhuis


To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Leona visits an outcome of her life that answers some big what-if questions about how things might have turned out differently if she’d made different choices. Do you agree with her final decision between the two trajectories of her life? In what ways would visiting this different outcome affect the reality she came from?

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Excerpt from Between You and Us:

Leona was terrified of the concept of a blind date, but the way Eden described David Warlon piqued her interest.
“On the very first day of the semester, Professor Draxler asked me if I was sure I was in the right classroom,” her friend scoffed, curling her legs up onto their ratty dorm couch and opening a heavy textbook with Genetics printed on the spine. “But then David asked him if, quote, ‘he was sure he could handle teaching our generation’s prodigy because I outscored the other gentlemen in the classroom by a mile freshman year.’ End quote.”
“First of all, Professor Draxler is the worst,” Leona replied from her spot across the couch. “Second, you’ve been bugging me about this David guy for months now, so he must be special. It’s just that . . . I don’t know. I have my doubts about going out with the son of Milwaukee royalty.”
“He has some trust-fund-baby tendencies, but he’s all right,” Eden said, nodding. “I think the two of you would be amazing together. And I know what I’m talking about.”
“Setting up one cousin with his future wife does not make you an expert matchmaker,” Leona said. At her feet, she restacked all the required readings for Survey of English Literature, Beginnings to 1500. “And what about you? There’s a long line of guys begging for a date with the smashing Eden Williams.”
“You know I swore off men before the beginning of sopho more year so I can date my goals.” Her friend clicked her tongue. “Besides, we aren’t talking about me.”
“Fine,” she conceded as she stretched her back, which was tight after a long span of studying.
“Fine?” Eden asked as she perked up and leaned in.
“Fine, I said. I’ll go on a date with him.” She couldn’t believe she was agreeing to this. “When is this date taking place, exactly?”
Eden looked down at her textbook. “Tonight. He’ll be here in twenty minutes.”
She gawked. “Twenty minutes? Are you kidding me?”
Eden waved a hand at her. “Twenty minutes is plenty of time to get ready. And I see you’re done studying for the night, so why not? Now you don’t have to waste an entire week of your life being all up in your head about it.”
“But I will be extremely worried about it for the next ten minutes,” she argued.
“Twenty. You have twenty minutes.” Eden looked at the clock on the wall. “And now you have nineteen, so go get ready. You can thank me later.”
Leona obeyed, not believing this was happening but also smiling about it. She pulled on her nicest pair of jeans and her only pair of boots, hoping her peacoat would wrap another layer of sophistication around her secondhand cowl-necked sweater.
Exactly eighteen minutes later there was a knock on their dorm room door. With sweaty palms, she opened it.
There was David Warlon, standing tall and confident in his dark jeans and black trench coat. He was holding a single long-stemmed rose in his hands. He looked like he belonged in a tabloid photo with the caption “Celebrity’s kid spotted on university campus.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Leona,” he said with a smile, presenting her with the flower, which was full of velvety red petals.
She met his deep brown eyes for the first time. She wanted to say, “My goodness where did you get your gorgeous face?”
He had dark curly hair; it was styled but long enough to hint he enjoyed pushing boundaries. His glasses made him look smart, and the dimple on his right cheek— endearing.
Her stomach fluttered so much that what actually came out of her mouth was “I don’t love roses.”
She regretted it immediately, of course, and wondered if she’d just ended the date before it even began. She never made a good first impression, she knew this, but she thought she would do bet-
ter than greeting a complete stranger with an honest opinion.
David tilted his head, pulling back the flower and letting it hang at his side.
Leona’s eyes widened. “It’s not because roses aren’t beautiful,” she said, trying to recover. “They’re gorgeous, including the one you brought. And there’s no reason you would have known this random fact about me. I even have a sister named Rose—another random fact.” Heat rushed through her cheeks. She needed to rein in her rambling and nervous hand gestures. “I just think they’re a little . . . cliché. Predictable.”
He blinked twice.
“But I’m really sorry.” She covered her face. “That was rude, and what I should have said was thank you because the gesture itself was thoughtful.”
David grinned. “Honestly, I’m tired of polite first impressions.”
He held up the rose again, but this time he looked past her into her dorm and yelled, “Eden? I brought you something.”
Eden rushed to the door, her long box braids already tied up in a pink silk bonnet and her skin glowing under a layer of Jergens, ready to settle in for another long night of studying. Upon seeing
the scorned flower, she took it out of David’s hand and smelled it.
“You should probably know Leona is weird about anything she thinks is too mainstream. And everything too pretentious. She isn’t like other girls.”
David’s eyes locked with Leona’s.
“Noted,” he said.
Her insides tingled.
Eden shrugged. “Impressive that you got her to share her own
opinion that quickly, though. It took me years.”
With that, Eden patted Leona on the head and nudged her out of their dorm, closing the door and locking it for good measure.
Leona reached behind her back and jiggled the handle to see if there was still a chance she could escape. Maybe it would be a better use of her time to stay home and practice some self-loathing.
She looked up at David, sheepish.
“I’d like to take you out for dinner,” he said. “I hear you don’t like roses, but do you like food?”
She blushed again. She wasn’t even done being embarrassed by the first words she’d ever spoken to him, and he was already joking about it. But there was something about him that emboldened her and made her feel safe. He not only brushed off her blunt remark, he was still willing to continue their date, and that made her want to get to know David Warlon a little more.
A smirk tugged at the corner of her mouth. “Do you have better taste in food than you do in flowers?”
David stared at her for a moment. Then he laughed.
They went to Izzy Hops Swig & Nosh, a bar and grill that offered great meals at prices even college students could afford. Their unique menu kept the city’s hipsters happy too. It was dark inside, but not in a seedy way that made you want to avoid touching the toilet handles in the bathroom. Everything was made of brick or reclaimed wood or wrought iron, and amber lightbulbs hung from the ceiling.
David and Leona sat themselves at a high table along the wall and placed their orders with their waiter shortly after.
“So, why did you choose Lake Michigan State University?” David asked, unfolding his napkin and laying it across his lap.
“And to study English?”
“Location and in-state tuition costs,” she said, not wanting to dwell on that answer any longer. “And, as far as choosing a major, my application just so happened to be due on one of the rare days
my mother came around after the divorce. She hovered over my shoulder until I moved the computer mouse and clicked one; said I wasn’t going to university to get a degree in indecision.”
David grimaced. “Hmm. That’s one way of deciding.”
“I haven’t always been great at choosing things. Sometimes I think it’s because I have my dad’s laidback nature. Most of the awards I got in grade school said something to the effect of, ‘You
were there.’ ”
David laughed.
“But sometimes,” she continued, “I think it was because during my mother’s few visits, she would criticize me no matter what I chose.”
She thought back to tenth grade English when she honored this particular trait of Evelyn’s during a unit on haiku:

Every step, disgust.
Is it not safer that I
take no steps at all?

“That would be pretty paralyzing,” David affirmed. “Did that make it hard to choose your roommate? How did you and Eden meet anyway?”
“First day of grade school,” she explained. “Eden walked up to my table and said she was going to sit with me.”
“And the rest is history?”
“Pretty much. But the rest of the history is that it was ‘my’ table only because I was sitting there by myself, eating alone.” She twirled a piece of her hair that she hadn’t had time to curl earlier.
“I wasn’t popular or a misfit—I was flying under the radar as neither. But for some reason, Eden chose me.”
“You two make an unlikely pair,” David stated, a twinkle in his eye.
“It’s true,” she agreed. “She’s confident, driven, and was offered rides to Friday night football games by upperclassmen when we were in high school. I, on the other hand, was not.”
“And yet here you are, rooming together at LMSU.”
“One of the nation’s top research universities,” she recited. “I’m just thankful Eden’s path to becoming the next superhero of medical research was so close to home. I wouldn’t hold her back,
but I could also beg her to be my roommate. She’s been there for me through a lot.”
“Eden’s pretty amazing. Girl Genius over in the science department too,” David said.
“Yes, she is.” She pushed her thick-rimmed glasses back up the bridge of her nose.
“I like your face furniture.” He pointed at them. “How old were you when you got glasses?”
“Face furniture?” She wrinkled her nose as she pondered the phrase. “Hmm. I like that.”
“Not too cliché of a term?” he joked.
She laughed. “Sixth grade. I couldn’t see the whiteboard from the back of the room. I was so excited when I got my first pair.”
“Excited over getting glasses?” David raised an eyebrow.
She crossed her arms and leaned into the small table. “I know I’ll probably sound like a total dork for saying this. But, if eyes are truly windows to the soul, I like having a physical barrier between
mine and other people. That way, my soul can keep a few secrets I’d rather not share.”
“What you’re saying is, your face furniture is actually a set of shutters.” He folded his hands on the table inches from hers and narrowed his eyes. “Which philosophy courses are you enrolled in,
exactly? Because I want to make sure I don’t sign up for them and whatever flawed theories they’re teaching.”
She swatted his shoulder, surprised both by her physical outburst and by how much she enjoyed her body touching his. “Surely your science courses will back me up on this.”
He laughed. “And when exactly did you start studying all the things people say with their eyes?”
Leona softened. “When my little sister, Rose, was a baby. Her first smile was at me. When she was two and I was seven, she would ask to play hide-and-seek, and I’d find her standing in the middle of the living room, her hands covering her eyes like she was saying— ”
“ ‘If I can’t see you, you can’t see me,’ ” David finished for her.
“Exactly.” She nodded, stirring her glass of ice water with her straw. “And when I was older, I’d catch her staring at people at the grocery store. Our mother scolded Rose for being rude instead of
taking the time to explain that people are made all different shapes and sizes and colors, and that’s a good thing. But Rose was little; she was just processing stuff outside her own ‘normal.’ ”
“That’s actually quite fascinating,” David agreed.
“Don’t act so surprised. I already have science figured out. That’s why I’m an English major.”
“Aww,” he drawled. “Saving the world one Oxford comma at a time?”
She wanted to swat him again, if for nothing else but to remove some of the space between them. Instead, she restrained herself by taking a sip of her cold water. “Yes. My Grandma Vera was theone who always encouraged me to write. She bought me notebooks, listened to every story and poem. She’d ask thoughtful questions, down to why I chose a particular word.”
Suddenly aware of how much she’d talked, she took a deep breath. “But what about you? Saving the world one beaker or petri dish or whatever at a time?”
“Yes. And do you know what else? The other day I was doing some lab work, and when I put on my safety goggles, I thought, ‘Wow, it’s so nice that when I’m wearing these, people can’t read
what my eyes are sayi—’ ”
Leona swatted him for that. “It’s science.”
“It doesn’t require X-ray vision to see through clear lenses, Leona.” He rubbed his shoulder in mock injury. “Sheesh, what are you packing in that fist of yours anyway? A pair of brass knuckles?”
“They’re an heirloom from my grandmother,” she played along, holding up her bare hand.
“That’s one classy matriarch you have there,” he quipped.
“But seriously, what is it you hope to do with all that science-y, medical stuff you’re learning?” She rested her chin in her palm.
“Seriously? I’m not sure I’m good at sharing my ‘seriously.’ ” He took a sip from his glass, and she saw his blush before he could hide it.
David leaned in, so close she caught a hint of cologne. Then he opened his eyes wide and tapped on his glasses. “Maybe instead you can read what I’m thinking through these.”
She laughed, wondering what it would be like to kiss him.
“Try me,” she invited. “I promise I won’t ridicule your childhood dreams too much.”
David thought for a moment. Then he let it all tumble out in one long infomercial. “Right now, there’s a lot of overlap between psychology and medical research. Kind of like studying the psychology of eye contact.”
He glanced at her and then continued. “Let’s say there’s a kidwho’s had a traumatic childhood. Maybe he suffered abuse at the hands of a caregiver, and as researchers keep finding out, repeated
trauma literally rewires his brain. His mind is always in overdrive; he’s not able to suppress emotional impulses. He tends to strongly react to everyday situations. This affects his ability to have healthy relationships, or sadly, leads him to pass on that same abuse to others. But maybe, with therapy and new pharmaceuticals yet to be discovered by yours truly,” David put a hand on his chest, “that kid could break a vicious cycle in one family tree.”
David blushed again. “I know it sounds cliché, but I want to use my research to change lives.”
Leona, however, soaked up the sacredness of him letting her in even though they’d only known each other for an hour.
To ease the intensity of the moment, she said, “I hate clichés too. You should really think about doing something less noble with your career.”
David laughed, and she decided she liked the sound of it.
Their waiter arrived carrying two heaping plates of food.
“Chicken, mushroom, and spinach pizza?” he asked.
She raised her hand. “Me.”
He set down her plate and turned to David. “Which means you, big guy, must have ordered the Wisconsin banh mi.”
He glanced at Leona and then answered, “Yes, big . . . sir.”
After the waiter turned away, the two of them dove in, making it clear how good their first bites were.
“I don’t care if every student at LMSU likes Izzy Hops,” David said from behind his napkin. “Some things are popular simply because they’re that good.”
“I can’t argue with that,” Leona agreed, trying to restrain herself from shoveling it all into her mouth at once.
When they had both emptied their plates, David pulled out his wallet to pay the bill.
“May I take you for a drive?” he asked.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Book Info:

When Leona Warlon heads across the city to meet her husband, David, for a rare dinner out, she hopes they can share a moment of relief after their year of loss. But Leona quickly realizes this is no ordinary date night. She hasn’t just stepped into an upscale ristorante; she’s stepped into a different version of her life. One in which her marriage is no longer tender, in which her days are pressured by her powerful in-laws, and in which her precious baby girl lived.

Now Leona must weigh the bitter and sweet of both trajectories, facing an unimaginable choice: Stay in a world where tragedy hasn’t struck but where the meaningful life she built with David is gone? Or return to a reality that’s filled with struggle and sorrow but also deep and enduring love?
Book Links: Book Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes | kobo | Google |

Meet the Author:

Kendra Broekhuis lives in the city of Milwaukee. For her day job, she stays home with four of her children and drives them from one place to another in her minivan. She’s written, spoken, and created non-fiction content for over a decade, and now, she’s excited to be publishing two novels with WaterBrook. You can find most of her sarcastic ramblings and serious encouragement–including the grief of losing a baby at 33 weeks pregnant–in her newsletter and on social media.
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | GoodReads |

17 Responses to “Spotlight & Giveaway: Between You and Us by Kendra Broekhuis”

  1. erahime

    I hadn’t read the book yet, but whatever decision the heroine made should be done after great thought from her experiences. The experiences she went through both realities should lead to great internal journey and give the heroine a perspective that will give her future a brighter one, no matter which reality she had chosen.

  2. psu1493

    It’s difficult to answer the question since I haven’t read the book yet. I would think anyone would have moments of wondering what would their life would be like if they made different choices. I think we have to learn from decisions and move forward. I hope she chooses love.

  3. Debra Guyette

    Decisions made cannot be changed. I am not sure what she should have done.

  4. Amy R

    Do you agree with her final decision between the two trajectories of her life? I haven’t read the book
    In what ways would visiting this different outcome affect the reality she came from? I haven’t read the book

  5. Patricia Barraclough

    I haven’t read the book, but any time you get to see how life could have progressed differently, you get a different perspective of your life. We don’t get to live that different life, but we can imagine it and speculate. That should give us/her a better idea of what we really want in life. It gives us a chance to change what we don’t like and hopefully make the right choice to give us a happier life and/or appreciate more what we have. I would think she did that.