The Struggle Within: A Novel

Where to Buy

      1. Order from Amazon –

      2. Order from the Publisher –

      3. Visit your local bookstore!



The Struggle Within: A Novel is book club fiction, which appeals to a mainstream audience and features diverse characters, page-turning action, and ethical ambiguities that will leave your book club talking for hours.

As a counselor at the maximum-security Arnone State Correctional Facility, Beth Sharpe sees potential in intelligent prisoners like José Ayala. She teaches them about historical figures who confronted their oppressors, and she encourages them to overcome obstacles, both those of their own making and those imposed on them by society. When their only chance for redemption is taken away from them, José and other prisoners follow Beth’s advice and take a stand against the injustice.

But a deadly prison riot is not what she had in mind.

Imagine a friendship between Fern from Charlotte’s Web and Jax from Sons of Anarchy, and you will understand the dynamics between the protagonist Beth Sharpe and the leader of the prison riot, José Ayala.

Indiscretions become public, and mistakes have dire consequences. Beth is determined to end the violence, and she is willing to risk her own life to save others. Can she stop the carnage and help the prisoners achieve justice another way? Can she balance her conflicting loyalties and find a peaceful resolution to the riot? Can she live with herself when she understands the true impact of her decisions?


Excerpt from Chapter Two

“Here, Beth, take it,” the protective custody inmate waiting on the other side of the fence yelled to her. He stepped closer and pushed the folded paper through the metal links.

Beth looked to the warden for instructions, but his hands covered his face and he shook his head gently from side to side. This was her chance to act, and she rushed to the fence. Her eyes met those of the prisoner, and she felt sympathy for him. Before that day, Beth had believed that this

prison inside

was her best attribute as a prison counselor––that she could disregard a person’s violent criminal history and, instead, focus only on his humanity. Now, she wasn’t sure of anything. She took the paper and, without another word, he turned to start a slow trek back to the prison.

Beth unfolded the paper and read its message. “Oh no,” she whispered to herself. She felt the blood drain from her face as she refolded the paper, held it tightly against her chest, and walked away.

“Ms. Sharpe, come back here! Ms. Sharpe, what does it say?”

She heard the warden calling, but every cell in her body told her that retreat was the only option.

“Ms. Sharpe, for Christ’s sake, stop!” the warden shouted.

The urgency in the warden’s voice compelled her to obey, and Beth willed her legs to reverse course. She realized that her mouth was agape, and she snapped it shut, causing her teeth to whack together and her lower lip to jut out in a temporary under bite. She took a deep breath and held it as she shuffled back toward him.

The warden’s arms twitched. “Give it to me,” he ordered, snatching the paper from her hand.

Beth squeezed her eyes shut and made a solemn wish that somehow the words written on the paper had changed, or better yet, disappeared entirely. She opened them again to witness the warden’s bewildered expression when he read them.

She did not wait for his confusion to turn to accusation. With her courage fully consumed, she turned and ran away from the prison fence, from the gawking crowd, and from him. She pushed through the obstacles in the field as quickly as she could, and she thought for a moment that she might escape before anyone stopped her.

“Ms. Sharpe, where are you going?” The warden yelled after her. “Come back! That’s an order!”

There was nothing, short of being tackled by one of the scowling police officers, that could have forced Beth’s legs to stop this time. Her harried walk became a full sprint, and she was breathless when she reached her car. She managed to start the engine and turn the wheel by the time the warden caught up with her. He planted both hands on the hood of her car and glared up at her through narrowed eyes. Clinging to the car with one hand, partly to steady himself and partly to prevent her from driving away, he slid along to the driver’s side window and motioned for her to open it.

“What are you doing?” he said between heaving breaths. “You can’t leave. You need to explain this.”

“I need to go home,” Beth said. “I’ll be back in a few hours, and I’ll explain everything. I’ll make this right. I promise.”

“You’ll explain it now.” The warden’s voice was low and dangerous. He waved the paper in her face through the open car window. “‘It must be a struggle.’ That’s all it says here. What the hell is this supposed to mean?”

Beth looked past the waving paper and up into the warden’s eyes. She acknowledged that they shared the same emotions at that moment, despite their conflicting roles. They were overwhelmed with the weight of what had already happened and with dread for the tragedies they had yet to suffer. Despite her actions and because of them, lives could be lost, careers ruined, relationships tainted, and futures destroyed.

She’d never meant to change the world like this.

Beth lifted her chin and made her confession. “It means, Warden, that this is all happening because of me. It’s my fault.”