Book Showcase: THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR by Pam Jenoff

Blog Tour Banner: THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR, book cover features wet cobblestone street, a pair of red t-strap ladies shoes, and a white armband with a blue Star of David embroidery; Quote: "Filled with twists, turns, and displays of bravery and love that you will never forget!" Lisa Scottoline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of ETERNAL

THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR - PJenoff

The Woman With the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff
ISBN: 9780778389385 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780778311546 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781488073915 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488211706 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08PDTQ5TB (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08DL12NM8 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Park Row Books
Release Date: May 4, 2021

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris comes a riveting tale of courage and unlikely friendship during World War II.

1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents in the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous tunnels beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.

Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.

Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by incredible true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an unforgettable testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.

 

 

Read An Excerpt:

Sadie

Kraków, Poland

March 1942

Everything changed the day they came for the children.

I was supposed to have been in the attic crawl space of the three-story building we shared with a dozen other families in the ghetto. Mama helped me hide there each morning before she set out to join the factory work detail, leaving me with a fresh bucket as a toilet and a stern admonishment not to leave. But I grew cold and restless alone in the tiny, frigid space where I couldn’t run or move or even stand straight. The minutes stretched silently, broken only by a scratching—unseen children, years younger than me, stowed on the other side of the wall. They were kept separate from one another without space to run and play. They sent each other messages by tapping and scratching, though, like a kind of improvised Morse code. Sometimes, in my boredom, I joined in, too.

“Freedom is where you find it,” my father often said when I complained. Papa had a way of seeing the world exactly as he wanted. “The greatest prison is in our mind.” It was easy for him to say. Though he manual ghetto labor was a far cry from his professional work as an accountant before the war, at least he was out and about each day, seeing other people. Not cooped up like me. I had scarcely left our apartment building since we were forced to move six months earlier from our apartment in the Jewish Quarter near the city center to the Podgórze neighborhood where the ghetto had been established on the southern bank of the river. I wanted a normal life, my life, free to run beyond the walls of the ghetto to all of the places I had once known and taken for granted. I imagined taking the tram to the shops on the Rynek or to the kino to see a film, exploring the ancient grassy mounds on the outskirts of the city. I wished that at least my best friend, Stefania, was one of the others hidden nearby. Instead, she lived in a separate apartment on the other side of the ghetto designated for the families of the Jewish police.

It wasn’t boredom or loneliness that had driven me from my hiding place this time, though, but hunger. I had always had a big appetite and this morning’s breakfast ration had been a half slice of bread, even less than usual. Mama had offered me her portion, but I knew she needed her strength for the long day ahead on the labor detail.

As the morning wore on in my hiding place, my empty belly had begun to ache. Visions pushed into my mind uninvited of the foods we ate before the war: rich mushroom soup and savory borscht, and pierogi, the plump, rich dumplings my grandmother used to make. By midmorning, I felt so weak from hunger that I had ventured out of my hiding place and down to the shared kitchen on the ground floor, which was really nothing more than a lone working stove burner and a sink that dripped tepid brown water. I didn’t go to take food—even if there had been any, I would never steal. Rather, I wanted to see if there were any crumbs left in the cupboard and to fill my stomach with a glass of water.

I stayed in the kitchen longer than I should, reading the dog-eared copy of the book I’d brought with me. The thing I detested most about my hiding place in the attic was the fact that it was too dark for reading. I had always loved to read and Papa had carried as many books as he could from our apartment to the ghetto, over the protests of my mother, who said we needed the space in our bags for clothes and food. It was my father who had nurtured my love of learning and encouraged my dream of studying medicine at Jagiellonian University before the German laws made that impossible, first by banning Jews and later by closing the university altogether. Even in the ghetto at the end of his long, hard days of labor, Papa loved to teach and discuss ideas with me. He had somehow found me a new book a few days earlier, too, The Count of Monte Cristo. But the hiding place in the attic was too dark for me to read and there was scarcely any time in the evening before curfew and lights-out. Just a bit longer, I told myself, turning the page in the kitchen. A few minutes wouldn’t matter at all.

I had just finished licking the dirty bread knife when I heard heavy tires screeching, followed by barking voices. I froze, nearly dropping my book. The SS and Gestapo were outside, flanked by the vile Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst, Jewish Ghetto Police, who did their bidding. It was an aktion, the sudden unannounced arrest of large groups of Jews to be taken from the ghetto to camps. The very reason I was meant to be hiding in the first place. I raced from the kitchen, across the hall and up the stairs. From below came a great crash as the front door to the apartment building splintered and the police burst through. There was no way I could make it back to the attic in time.

Instead, I raced to our third-floor apartment. My heart pounded as I looked around desperately, wishing for an armoire or other cabinet suitable for hiding in the tiny room, which was nearly bare except for a dresser and bed. There were other places, I knew, like the fake plaster wall one of the other families had constructed in the adjacent building not a week earlier. That was too far away now, impossible to reach. My eyes focused on the large steamer trunk stowed at the foot of my parents’ bed. Mama had shown me how to hide there once shortly after we first moved to the ghetto. We practiced it like a game, Mama opening the trunk so that I could climb in before she closed the lid.

The trunk was a terrible hiding place, exposed and in the middle of the room. But there was simply nowhere else. I had to try. I raced over to the bed and climbed into the trunk, then closed the lid with effort. I thanked heavens that I was tiny like Mama. I had always hated being so petite, which made me look a solid two years younger than I actually was. Now it seemed a blessing, as did the sad fact that the months of meager ghetto rations had made me thinner. I still fit in the trunk.

When we had rehearsed, we had envisioned Mama putting a blanket or some clothes over the top of the trunk. Of course, I couldn’t do that myself. So the trunk sat unmasked for anyone who walked into the room to see and open. I curled into a tiny ball and wrapped my arms around myself, feeling the white armband with the blue star on my sleeve that all Jews were required to wear.

There came a great crashing from the next building, the sound of plaster being hewn by a hammer or ax. The police had found the hiding place behind the wall, given away by the too-fresh paint. An unfamiliar cry rang out as a child was found and dragged from his hiding place. If I had gone there, I would have been caught as well.

Someone neared the door to the apartment and flung it open. My heart seized. I could hear breathing, feel eyes searching the room. I’m sorry, Mama, I thought, feeling her reproach for having left the attic. I braced myself for discovery. Would they go easier on me if I came out and gave myself up? The footsteps grew fainter as the German continued down the hall, stopping before each door, searching.

The war had come to Kraków one warm fall day two and a half years earlier when the air-raid sirens rang out for the first time and sent the playing children scurrying from the street. Life got hard before it got bad. Food disappeared and we waited in long lines for the most basic supplies. Once there was no bread for a whole week.

Then about a year ago, upon orders from the General Government, Jews teemed into Kraków by the thousands from the small towns and villages, dazed and carrying their belongings on their backs. At first I wondered how they would all find places to stay in Kazimierz, the already cramped Jewish Quarter of the city. But the new arrivals were forced to live by decree in a crowded section of the industrial Podgórze district on the far side of the river that had been cordoned off with a high wall. Mama worked with the Gmina, the local Jewish community organization, to help them resettle, and we often had friends of friends over for a meal when they first arrived, before they went to the ghetto for good. They told stories from their hometowns too awful to believe and Mama shooed me from the room so I would not hear.

Several months after the ghetto was created, we were ordered to move there as well. When Papa told me, I couldn’t believe it. We were not refugees, but residents of Kraków; we had lived in our apartment on Meiselsa Street my entire life. It was the perfect location: on the edge of the Jewish Quarter but easy walking distance to the sights and sounds of the city center and close enough to Papa’s office on Stradomska Street that he could come home for lunch. Our apartment was above an adjacent café where a pianist played every evening. Sometimes the music spilled over and Papa would whirl Mama around the kitchen to the faint strains. But according to the orders, Jews were Jews. One day. One suitcase each. And the world I had known my entire life disappeared forever.

I peered out of the thin slit opening of the trunk, trying to see across the tiny room I shared with my parents. We were lucky, I knew, to have a whole room to ourselves, a privilege we had been given because my father was a labor foreman. Others were forced to share an apartment, often two or three families together. Still, the space felt cramped compared to our real home. We were ever on top of one another, the sights and sounds and smells of daily living magnified.

“Kinder, raus!” the police called over and over again now as they patrolled the halls. Children, out. It was not the first time the Germans had come for children during the day, knowing that their parents would be at work.

But I was no longer a child. I was eighteen and might have joined the work details like others my age and some several years younger. I could see them lining up for roll call each morning before trudging to one of the factories. And I wanted to work, even though I could tell from the slow, painful way my father now walked, stooped like an old man, and how Mama’s hands were split and bleeding that it was hard and awful. Work meant a chance to get out and see and talk to people. My hiding was a subject of much debate between my parents. Papa thought I should work. Labor cards were highly prized in the ghetto. Workers were valued and less likely to be deported to one of the camps. But Mama, who seldom fought my father on anything, had forbidden it. “She doesn’t look her age. The work is too hard. She is safest out of sight.” I wondered as I hid now, about to be discovered at any second, if she would still think she was right.

The building finally went silent, the last of the awful footsteps receding. Still I didn’t move. That was one of the ways they trapped people who were hiding, by pretending to go away and lying in wait when they came out. I remained motionless, not daring to leave my hiding place. My limbs ached, then went numb. I had no idea how much time had passed. Through the slit, I could see that the room had grown dimmer, as if the sun had lowered a bit.

Sometime later, there were footsteps again, this time a shuffling sound as the laborers trudged back silent and exhausted from their day. I tried to uncurl myself from the trunk. But my muscles were stiff and sore and my movements slow. Before I could get out, the door to our apartment flung open and someone ran into the room with steps light and fluttering. “Sadie!” It was Mama, sounding hysterical.

“Jestem tutaj,” I called. I am here. Now that she was home, she could help me untangle myself and get out. But my voice was muffled by the trunk. When I tried to undo the latch, it stuck.

Mama raced from the room back into the corridor. I could hear her open the door to the attic, then run up the stairs, still searching for me. “Sadie!” she called. Then, “My child, my child,” over and over again as she searched but did not find me, her voice rising to a shriek. She thought I was gone.

“Mama!” I yelled. She was too far away to hear me, though, and her own cries were too loud. Desperately, I struggled once more to free myself from the trunk without success. Mama raced back into the room, still wailing. I heard the scraping sound of a window opening and felt a whoosh of cold air. At last I threw myself against the lid of the trunk, slamming my shoulder so hard it throbbed. The latch sprang open.

I broke free and stood up quickly. “Mama?” She was standing in the oddest position, with one foot on the window ledge, her willowy frame silhouetted against the frigid twilight sky. “What are you doing?” For a second, I thought she was looking for me outside. But her face was twisted with grief and pain. I knew then why Mama was on the window ledge. She assumed I had been taken along with the other children. And she didn’t want to live. If I hadn’t freed myself from the trunk in time, Mama would have jumped. I was her only child, her whole world. She was prepared to kill herself before she would go on without me.

A chill ran through me as I sprinted toward her. “I’m here, I’m here.” She wobbled unsteadily on the window ledge and I grabbed her arm to stop her from falling. Remorse ripped through me. I always wanted to please her, to bring that hard-won smile to her beautiful face. Now I had caused her so much pain she’d almost done the unthinkable.

“I was so worried,” she said after I’d helped her down and closed the window. As if that explained everything. “You weren’t in the attic.”

“But, Mama, I hid where you told me to.” I gestured to the trunk. “The other place, remember? Why didn’t you look for me there?”

Mama looked puzzled. “I didn’t think you would fit anymore.” There was a pause and then we both began laughing, the sound scratchy and out of place in the pitiful room. For a few seconds, it was like we were back in our old apartment on Meiselsa Street and none of this had happened at all. If we could still laugh, surely things would be all right. I clung to this last improbable thought like a life preserver at sea.

But a cry echoed through the building, then another, silencing our laughter. It was the mothers of the other children who had been taken by the police. There came a thud outside. I started for the window, but my mother blocked me. “Look away,” she ordered. It was too late. I glimpsed Helga Kolberg, who lived down the hall, lying motionless in the coal-tinged snow on the pavement below, her limbs cast at odd angles and skirt splayed around her like a fan. She had realized her children were gone and, like Mama, she didn’t want to live without them. I wondered whether jumping was a shared instinct, or if they had discussed it, a kind of suicide pact in case their worst nightmares came true.

My father raced into the room then. Neither Mama nor I said a word, but I could tell from his unusually grim expression that he already knew about the aktion and what had happened to the other families. He simply walked over and wrapped his enormous arms around both of us, hugging us tighter than usual.

As we sat, silent and still, I looked up at my parents. Mama was a striking beauty—thin and graceful, with white-blond hair the color of a Nordic princess’. She looked nothing like the other Jewish women and I had heard whispers more than once that she didn’t come from here. She might have walked away from the ghetto and lived as a non-Jew if it wasn’t for us. But I was built like Papa, with the dark, curly hair and olive skin that made the fact that we were Jews undeniable. My father looked like the laborer the Germans had made him in the ghetto, broad-shouldered and ready to lift great pipes or slabs of concrete. In fact, he was an accountant—or had been until it became illegal for his firm to employ him anymore. I always wanted to please Mama, but it was Papa who was my ally, keeper of secrets and weaver of dreams, who stayed up too late whispering secrets in the dark and had roamed the city with me, hunting for treasure. I moved closer now, trying to lose myself in the safety of his embrace.

Still, Papa’s arms could offer little shelter from the fact that everything was changing. The ghetto, despite its awful conditions, had once seemed relatively safe. We were living among Jews and the Germans had even appointed a Jewish council, the Judenrat, to run our daily affairs. Perhaps if we laid low and did as we were told, Papa said more than once, the Germans would leave us alone inside these walls until the war was over. That had been the hope. But after today, I wasn’t so sure. I looked around the apartment, seized with equal parts disgust and fear. In the beginning, I had not wanted to be here; now I was terrified we would be forced to leave.

“We have to do something,” Mama burst out, her voice a pitch higher than usual as it echoed my unspoken thoughts.

“I’ll take her tomorrow and register her for a work permit,” Papa said. This time Mama did not argue. Before the war, being a child had been a good thing. But now being useful and able to work was the only thing that might save us.

Mama was talking about more than a work visa, though. “They are going to come again and next time we won’t be so lucky.” She did not bother to hold back her words for my benefit now. I nodded in silent agreement. Things were changing, a voice inside me said. We could not stay here forever.

“It will be okay, kochana,” Papa soothed. How could he possibly say that? But Mama laid her head on his shoulder, seeming to trust him as she always had. I wanted to believe it, too. “I will think of something. At least,” Papa added as we huddled close, “we are all still together.” The words echoed through the room, equal parts promise and prayer.

Excerpt from The Woman With the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff.

Copyright © 2021 by Pam Jenoff. Published by MIRA Books. All Rights Reserved.

 

Meet The Author

Author - Pam Jenoff photo credit Mindy Schwartz Sorasky

Pam Jenoff is the author of several books of historical fiction, including the NYT bestseller The Orphan’s Tale. She holds a degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her JD from UPenn. Her novels are inspired by her experiences working at the Pentagon and as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and 3 children near Philadelphia, where she teaches law.

Connect with the Author:

Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website | Park Row Books

This excerpt brought to you courtesy of Park Row Books

Guest Post: Melissa Colasanti – CALL ME ELIZABETH LARK

Good day, book people. I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. For those of you that celebrated Mother’s Day, I hope you had a wonderful celebration with family and friends. I spent the day with my 86-y.o. mother, my 82-y.o. paternal aunt, my niece, a cousin, and my soon-to-be sister-in-love. We dined at an historic inn here in West Virginia and enjoyed the afternoon in a scenic setting with wonderful food and great company. Needless to say, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time reading yesterday, although I did spend some time discussing some great recent reads. If you’re like me, you’re always on the lookout for a good book to read and it doesn’t really matter how many books are already on your TBR list. As I sat in the historic Glen Ferris Inn yesterday (one of the oldest inns in West Virginia), I thought about how it would be the perfect setting for a book, perhaps a historical mystery or even a Southern Gothic novel. Setting plays such a large part of a story, that we don’t notice it much if it’s done right. Today, I’m pleased to welcome Melissa Colasanti, author of Call Me Elizabeth Lark, a domestic suspense tale set in the Pacific Northwest and featuring a bed and breakfast. Please help me welcome Ms. Colasanti to the blog. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to say about setting, add Call Me Elizabeth Lark to your TBR list, and follow the blog tour to learn more about this book and author. Thank you, Ms. Colasanti for taking the time to join us today. The blog is now yours.

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The Importance of Setting

by Melisa Colasanti

 

Thank you so much for having me! When I began Call Me Elizabeth Lark, I knew that setting would be an integral part of the story. I didn’t realize just how emotionally connected the brooding Pacific Northwest would be to my characters. I’ve never been an urban, gritty suspense writer. Domestic suspense affords an author to take a close, psychological look at family, while hopefully providing a twisty plot. It’s an interesting genre—part family drama, part thriller—in which the environment where the author places their characters reveals so much about them.

In the novel, Myra and Herb Barkley own a bed and breakfast on the Oregon coast. Twenty years prior, they lost their youngest daughter, who disappeared from the beach, never to be seen again. Since that day, she’s waited at the gray, drizzly inn for her daughter to return. The inn itself is suffocating, claustrophobic, and the characters within it are similarly stuck within their emotions, trapped in a different time. All of this changes when Elizabeth Lark, who has been trapped in an isolated, dilapidated cabin in the woods, walks in the door, where Myra determines that she is Charlotte, her missing child. And of course, Elizabeth has brought all her troubles with her. Gwen, who was supposed to be babysitting the night her sister went missing, has been wracked with guilt all along. If Charlotte has returned, all of her guilt will be assuaged.

As I wrote (and rewrote, and revised, and edited!) I realized that Myra would never leave the small town, Rocky Shores, because it’s her home, and it is her daughter Charlotte’s home. Even if Charlotte didn’t return, this inn is where she married and raised her family. And Elizabeth is similarly drawn to the warm inn because she’s just come from the deeply isolated forest. Sometimes, authors use a sense of place as a character of its own, which is definitely true of my novels. I believe that we build our identities around family, and around that place on the lithosphere where we originate from. Each part of a human blossoms from where the first seed was planted. And when danger strikes, there’s no place like home, no matter how dysfunctional or complicated it is.

 

Call Me Elizabeth Lark

by Melissa Colasanti

May 1-31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

CALL ME ELIZABETH LARK - EColasanti

Your daughter went missing twenty years ago. Now, she’s finally back. You thought she had returned a few times in the past, and your husband tells you she’s not the one, but you feel it in your bones.

Now, what will you do to keep her home?

Twenty years ago, Myra Barkley’s daughter disappeared from the rocky beach across from the family inn, off the Oregon coast. Ever since, Myra has waited at the front desk for her child to come home. One rainy afternoon, the miracle happens–her missing daughter, now twenty-eight years old with a child of her own, walks in the door.

Elizabeth Lark is on the run with her son. She’s just killed her abusive husband and needs a place to hide. Against her better judgment, she heads to her hometown and stops at the Barkley Inn. When the innkeeper insists that Elizabeth is her long lost daughter, the opportunity for a new life, and more importantly, the safety of her child, is too much for Elizabeth to pass up. But she knows that she isn’t the Barkley’s daughter, and the more deeply intertwined she becomes with the family, the harder it becomes to confess the truth.

Except the Barkley girl didn’t just disappear on her own. As the news spreads across the small town that the Barkley girl has returned, Elizabeth suddenly comes into the limelight in a dangerous way, and the culprit behind the disappearance those twenty years ago is back to finish the job.

Book Details:

Genre: Domestic Suspense
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: March 9th 2021
Number of Pages:
ISBN: 1643856820 (ISBN13: 9781643856827)
Series: Call Me Elizabeth Lark is not a part of a series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Author - Melissa Colasanti

Melissa Colasanti is a mother and an author. She has a BFA in fiction from Boise State University. Her writing has appeared in Lithub, Memoir Magazine, The Coffin Bell Journal and others. She is the Stephen R. Kustra scholar in creative writing for 2019, and was awarded the Glenn Balch Award for fiction in 2020.

Catch Up With Melissa Colasanti:
MelissamColasanti.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @melissamcolasanti
Instagram – @melissacolasanti
Twitter – @mmcolasanti
Facebook – @melissacolasantiauthor

Tour Participants:

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Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Melissa Colasanti. There will be one (1) winner of one (1) signed Copy of Call Me Elizabeth Lark + Swag (US Addresses ONLY). The giveaway begins on May 1, 2021 and runs through June 1, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Book Showcase: UNTIL I FIND YOU by Rea Frey

Until I Find You

by Rea Frey

April 26 – May 21, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

UNTIL I FIND YOU - RFrey

The Set-Up

Soon, Rebecca Gray won’t be able to see. Diagnosed in her twenties with a degenerative eye disease, each day her world grows a little darker. She’s moved to the suburbs to raise her son, Jackson. In the wake of her husband\’s death, it should be a quieter, easier way of life. It won’t be.

The Moment That Changes Everything

When Bec awakes after fainting in the park, she makes promises to start taking better care of herself. When her son begins to cry, she approaches the crib. Reaches in. Picks him up. But he’s not her son.

The Search

There’s nothing Bec won’t do to find Jackson. But she’s a blind woman in a world where seeing is believing. The police think she’s confused. Her friends don’t see any differences. Relying on the conviction of her instinct and the power of a mother’s love, Bec must push the limits of her world to uncover what happened to her baby boy…and bring him home for good.

Book Details:

Genre: Domestic Suspense
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: August 11th 2020
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 1250241588 (ISBN13: 9781250241580)
Series: Until I Find You is not a part of a series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

 

1

BEC

Someone’s coming.

I push the stroller. My feet expertly navigate the familiar path toward the park without my cane. Footsteps advance behind me. The swish of fabric between hurried thighs. The clop of a shoe on pavement. Measured, but gaining with every step. Blood whooshes through my ears, a distraction.

One more block until the park’s entrance. My world blots behind my sunglasses, smeared and dreamy. A few errant hairs whip across my face. My toe catches a crack, and my ankle painfully twists.

No time to stop.

My thighs burn. A few more steps. Finally, I make a sharp left into the park’s entrance. Jackson’s anklet jingles from the blistering pace.

“Hang on, sweet boy. Almost there. Almost.” The relentless August sun sizzles in the sky, and I adjust my ball cap with a trembling hand. Uncertain, I stop and wait for either the rush of footsteps to pass, or to approach and attack. Instead, nothing.

I lick my dry lips and half turn, one hand still securely fastened on my son’s stroller. “Hello?” The wind stalls. The hairs bristle on the back of my neck. My world goes unnaturally still, until I choke on my own warped breath.

I waver on the sidewalk and then lunge toward the entrance toWilder. The stroller is my guide as I half walk, half jog, knowing precisely how many steps I must take to reach the other side of the gate.

Twenty.

My heart thumps, a manic metronome. Jackson squeals and kicks his foot. The bells again.

Ten.

The footsteps echo in my ears. The stroller rams an obstacle in the way and flattens it. I swerve and cry out in surprise.

Five.

I reach the gate, hurtle through to a din of voices. Somewhere in the distance, a lawn mower stutters then chugs to life.

Safe.

I slide toward the ground and drop my head between my knees. My ears prick for the stranger behind me, but all is lost. A plane roars overhead, probably heading for Chicago. Birds aggressively chirp as the sun continues to crisp my already pink shoulders. A car horn honks on the parallel street. Someone blows a whistle. My body shudders from the surge of adrenaline. I sit until I regain my composure and then push to shaky legs.

I check Jackson, dragging my hands over the length of his body— his strong little fingers, his plump thighs, and perpetually kicking feet—and blot my face with his spit-up blanket. Just when I think I’m safe, a hand encircles my wrist.

“Miss?”

I jerk back and suck a surprised breath.

The hand drops. “I’m sorry,” a woman’s voice says. “I didn’t mean to scare you. You dropped this.” Something jingles and lands in my upturned palm: Jackson’s anklet.

I smooth my fingers over the bells. “Thanks.” I bend over the stroller, grip his ankle, and reattach them. I tickle the bottom of his foot, and he murmurs.

“Are the bells so you can hear him?” the woman asks. “Are you . . . ?”

“Blind? Yes.” I straighten. “I am.”

“That’s cool. I’ve never seen that before.”

I assume she means the bells. I almost make a joke—neither have I!—but instead, I smile. “It’s a little early for him to wear them,” I explain.

“They’re more for when he becomes mobile, but I want him to get used to them.”

“That’s smart.”

I’m not sure if she’s waiting for me to say something else. “Thanks again,” I offer.

“No problem. Have a good day.”

She leaves. My hands clamp around the stroller’s handle. Was she the one behind me? I stall at the gate and wonder if I should just go back home. I remind myself where I am—in one of the safest suburbs outside of Chicago—not in some sketchy place. I’m not being followed.

It’s fine.

To prove it, I remove my cane, unfold it, and brace it on the path. I maneuver Jackson’s stroller behind and sweep my cane in front, searching for more obstacles or unsuspecting feet.

I weave toward Cottage Hill and pass the wedding garden, the Wilder Mansion, and the art museum. Finally, I wind around the arboretum. I leave the conservatory for last, pulling Jackson through colorful flower breeds, active butterflies, and rows of green. My heart still betrays my calm exterior, but whoever was there is gone.

I whisk my T-shirt from my body. Jackson babbles and then lets out a sharp cry. I adjust the brim of his stroller so his eyes aren’t directly hit by the sun. I lower my baseball cap and head toward the play-ground. The rubber flooring shifts beneath my cane.

Wilder Park is packed with last-minute late-summer activity. I do a lap around the playground and then angle my cane toward a bench to check for occupants. Once I confirm it’s empty, I settle and park the stroller beside me. I keep my ears alert for Jess or Beth. I think about calling Crystal to join us, but then remember she has an interior design job today.

I place my hand on Jackson’s leg, the small jingle of his anklet a comfort. Suddenly, I am overcome with hunger. I rummage in the diaper bag for a banana, peel it, and reach again for Jackson, who is playing with his pacifier. He furiously sucks then knocks it out of his mouth. He giggles every time I hand it back to him.

I replay what just happened. If someone had attacked me, I wouldn’t have been able to defend myself or identify the perpetrator. A shiver courses the length of my spine. Though Jackson is technically easy—healthy, no colic, a decent sleeper—this stage of life is not. Chris died a year ago, and though it’s been twelve months since the accident, sometimes it feels like it’s been twelve days.

Jackson’s life flashes before me. Not the happy baby playing in his stroller, but the other parts. The first time he gets really sick. The first time he has to go to the emergency room, and I’m all alone. The first time I don’t know what to do when something is wrong. The first time he runs away from me in public and isn’t wearing bells to alert me to his location.

Will I be able to keep him safe, to protect him?

I will the dark cloud away, but uneasiness pierces my skin like a warning. I fan my shirt, swallow, close my eyes behind my sunglasses, and adjust my ball cap.

The world shrinks. I try to swallow, but my throat constricts. I claw air.

I can’t breathe. I’m drowning. My heart is going to explode. I’m going to die.

I lurch off the bench and walk a few paces, churning my arms toward my chest to produce air. I gasp, tell myself to breathe, tell myself to do something.

When I think I’m going to faint, I exhale completely, then sip in a shallow breath. I veer toward a tree, fingers grasping, and reach its chalky bark. In, out. In, out. Breathe, Rebecca. Breathe.

Concerned whispers crescendo around me while I remember how to breathe. I mentally force my limbs to relax, soften my jaw, and count to ten. After a few toxic moments, I retrace my steps back to the bench.

I just left my baby alone.

Jackson’s right foot twitches and jingles from the stroller; he’s bliss- fully unaware that his mother just had a panic attack. I calm myself, but my heart continues to knock around my chest like a pinball. I open a bottle of water and lift it to my lips with trembling hands. I exhale and massage my chest. The footsteps. The panic attack. These recurring fears . . .

“Hey, lady. Fancy meeting you here.” Jess leans down and delivers a kiss to my cheek. Her scent—sweet, like honey crisp apples—does little to dissuade my terrified mood.

“Hi. Sit, sit.” I rearrange my voice to neutral and move the diaper bag to make room.

Jess positions her stroller beside mine. Beth sits next to her, her three-month-old baby, Trevor, always in a ring sling or strapped to her chest.

“How’s the morning?” Beth asks.

I tell them both about the footsteps and the woman who returned the bells, but conveniently leave out the part about the panic attack.

Beth leans closer. “Scary. Who do you think was following you?”

“I’m not sure,” I say.

“You should have called,” Jess says. “I’m always happy to walk with you.”

“That’s not exactly on your way.”

“Oh, please. I could use the extra exercise.”

I roll my eyes at her disparaging comment, because Beth and I both know she loves her curves.

“Anyway, it’s sleep deprivation,” Jess continues. “Makes you hallucinate. I remember when Baxter was Jackson’s age and waking up every two hours, I literally thought I was going to lose my mind. I would put things in odd places. I was even convinced Rob was cheating.”

I laugh. “Rob would never cheat on you.”

“Exactly my point.” She turns to me. “Have you thought about hiring a nanny?”

“Yeah,” Beth adds. “Especially with everything you’ve been through.”

My stomach clenches at those words: everything you’ve been through.

After Chris died, I moved in with my mother so she could essentially become Jackson’s nanny. And then, just two months ago, she died too. Though her death wasn’t a surprise due to her lifelong heart condition, no one is ever prepared to lose a parent. “I can’t afford it.”

“Like I’ve said before, Rob and I are happy to pitch in—”

I lift my hand to stop her. “And I appreciate it. I really do. But I’m not ready to have someone in my space when I’m just getting used to it being empty. I need to get comfortable taking care of Jackson on my own.”

“That makes sense,” Beth assures me.

“It does.” Jess pats my thigh. “But you’re not a martyr, okay? Everyone needs help.”

“I know.” I adjust my sunglasses and rearrange my face in hopes of hiding the real emotions I feel. “What’s new with both of you?”

“Can I vent for a second?” Beth asks. She situates closer to us on the bench. Thanks to the visual Jess supplied, I know Beth is blond, petite, and impossibly fit—and is perpetually in a state of crisis. She’s practicing attachment parenting, which, in her mind, keeps her glued to her son twenty-four hours a day. I’ve never even held him.

“Vent away,” I say.

“Okay.” She drops her voice. “Like, I love this little guy, truly. But sometimes, when it’s just the two of us in the house all day, I fantasize about just running away somewhere. Or going out to take a walk. I’d never do it, of course,” she rushes to add. “But I just have this feeling like . . . I’m never going to be alone again.”

“Nanny,” Jess trills. “I’m telling you. Quit this attachment parenting crap and get yourself a nanny. And if she’s hot, she can even occupy your husband so you don’t have to.”

I slap Jess’s arm. “Don’t say that. You’d be totally devastated if Rob ever did cheat.”

***

Excerpt from Until I Find You by Rea Frey. Copyright © 2020 by Rea Frey. Reproduced with permission from Rea Frey. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

 

Author - Rea FreyREA FREY is the multi-published, award-winning bestselling author of three suspense novels and four nonfiction books. She’s been featured in US Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, PopSugar, Hello Sunshine, Marie Claire, Parade, Shape, Hello Giggles, CrimeReads, Writer’s Digest, WGN, Fox News, Today in Nashville, Talk of the Town, and more. She is also the CEO and Founder of Writeway, where aspiring writers become published authors.

 

To learn more, visit reafrey.com or writewayco.com.

Catch Up With Rea Frey:
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BookBub – @ReaFreyAuthor
Instagram – @reafrey
Twitter – #ReaFrey
Facebook – @reafrey

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Book Showcase: THE FUNNY THING ABOUT NORMAN FOREMAN by Julietta Henderson

Blog tour banner featuring book cover for THE FUNNY THING ABOUT NORMAN FOREMAN, young boy standing in spotlight, quote "Norman Foreman will capture your heart...An utter delight!" by Sarah Haywood, New York Times bestselling author of THE CACTUS, Blog Tour April 12 - May 7

THE FUNNY THING ABOUT NORMAN FOREMAN - JHendersonThe Funny Thing About Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson
ISBN: 9780778331957 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780369701145 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488210693 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B089ZN5RXJ (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B087JW37VZ (Kindle edition)
Publisher: MIRA Books
Release Date: April 13, 2021

Little Miss Sunshine meets Wonder in this delightfully charming, uplifting book club debut about a twelve-year-old would-be comedian who travels across the country to honor his dead best friend’s dream of performing in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe—the only problem being that his friend was the funny one of their duo.

Twelve-year-old would-be comedian Norman has got a lot going on, including a chronic case of psoriasis, a distinct lack of comic timing and a dead best friend. All his life it’s just been him, his single mum Sadie, and Jax, the ‘funny one’ of their comedy duo. So when Jax dies not only is Norman devastated, it’s also the end of the boys’ Five Year Plan to take their comedy act to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe when they turned fifteen.

But Norman decides to honor Jax by performing at the Fringe, on his own. And not when he’s fifteen—but rather in four weeks’ time. But there’s another, far more colossal objective on Norman’s plan that Sadie wasn’t quite ready for: Norman wants to find his father. Eager to do anything that might put a smile on her boy’s face, Sadie resolves to face up to her own messy past and track down the father who doesn’t even know Norman exists, and whose identity Sadie herself isn’t quite sure of.

Thus begins a road trip from Cornwall to Scotland, featuring a mother and son who will live in the reader’s heart for a long time to come.

 

 

Read An Excerpt:

1

SADIE

When I was born my insides lay outside my body for twenty-one days. Which is unexpected but not nearly as unusual as you might think. For every 3,999 other babies that come out with everything tucked in neatly and sealed away exactly where it should be, there’s one like me. Nobody really knows why. Luck of the draw, my father used to say.

For those three weeks while I lay spread-eagled in an incubator like a Nando’s special, a crowd of doctors gathered every morning to discuss their cleverness and, as my organs shrank to their correct size, bit by bit they gently posted a little more of the me-parts that had made a break for it back inside.

Well that’s the way my mother told it anyway. The way my father told it, the doctors gathered around the incubator every morning to discuss whether they’d be having my large intestine or my liver for their lunch, and whether it’d be with chips or salad. And that right there might tell you almost everything you need to know about my parents.

On my insides’ final day of freedom the head surgeon pushed the last bit through the slit in my stomach and stitched it closed, presumably with everything in its rightful place. I was declared whole and sent home to begin life like almost nothing had ever happened.

Except that even when the regular hospital check-ups stopped, and the scar on my stomach that I’d never lived without faded to a thin silver seam, I can always remember still feeling the tugging behind it. Something I could never quite name, nudging at the fleshy edges whenever things were going badly, or too well. Or just for fun. To remind me how easily those parts of me that never really fit could come sliding out. Any time we like Sadie. Any time we like.

It wasn’t until I held my own son for the first time that the constant, dull pressure of keeping the scar together receded. When a nurse placed that slippery, crumpled up bundle of boy on my chest, I tightened my grip on a handful of hospital sheet as my world creaked on its axis, bumped into a comfy spot and was finally facing the right way.

I didn’t feel the tug on the scar again until a different boy died, and to say I wasn’t ready for it isn’t even the most important thing. Because by then there was a lot more at stake than just my own stupid insides spilling out into the world. I was as scared as hell and I had no idea how to fix any of it. And that right there might tell you almost everything you need to know about me.

2

NORMAN

First rule of comedy: Timing is everything

Timing is everything. First rule of comedy, Jax says. Because when push comes to shove, if you can get the timing right you can get a laugh. He says. Well I don’t really know how to tell when push is coming to shove but I’ll tell you something I do know. That rule works the other way too. Because when the you-know-what starts to hit the fan, if your timing’s wrong there’s pretty much zilcho you can do to stop it from splattering all over the place.

Stare straight ahead and think about nothing. That’s a world famous Jax Fenton tactic for what to do when you get yourself into a bit of a mess. Works every time he reckons and he should know. Only maybe it doesn’t. Because when I stare straight ahead all I can see is that big shiny wooden box and instead of nothing I’m thinking about everything. And loads of it. Like does any light get in through the joins and did they let Jax wear his Frankie Boyle Tramadol Nights tour t-shirt. And does whoever put him in there know he only likes to sleep on his side.

The massive scab on my chest feels so tight that I’m scared to breathe too deep in case it splits down the middle and bleeds all over my new shirt. Stare straight ahead. I move just a bit so I almost can’t see the box behind a couple of heads and my arm touches Mum’s. When I feel her, straight away the mess on my chest relaxes and lets me take half an almost good in-breath. Nearly a whole one. Right before it stabs me all the way through to my back and kazams like a rocket down to my toes. I’m pretty sure I can hear it laughing. Timing is everything, sucker.

And by the way, that’s another thing I know. That you can’t trust your timing no matter how good it’s been in the past. Not even for people as excellently funny as Ronnie Barker or Dave Allen or Bob Mortimer. Or Jax.

Because even if you nick a little bit of money for sweets every week-day morning from your mum’s purse, even if you accidentally-on-purpose leave your stepfather’s car door open so the cats get in and wee on the seats, and even if you’re the naughtiest kid in the whole school by a long shot, when you’re eleven years, 297 days and from what the paramedics can tell anything between twelve and sixteen hours old, it’s definitely not a good time to die.

Stare straight ahead and think about nothing.

3

SADIE

Squashed into the end of the pew with my body leaning into the shape of the space that Norman’s made, I could feel the tense and release of his arms as his small boy hands curled in and out of fists. The buttoned down cuffs of his sleeves rode up ever so slightly with every movement to reveal the trail of psoriasis that spread triumphantly down to the second knuckles. His face was blank as a brick. Dry eyes staring straight ahead.

‘Just hold on. Hold on son. You’ll get through this.’ I murmured reassuringly. Telepathically. But Norman’s hands kept on curling and flexing and then I noticed his chest was keeping time, rising and collapsing with the movement of his hands. I knew what was lying in wait underneath the thin fabric of his shirt, so then I had another thing to worry about.

I had to admit it looked like he wasn’t getting my message, possibly because my best telepathic motherly voice was being all but drowned out by the other, very much louder one that lived in luxury inside my head. Fuck you Sadie. You can’t even get this right. As usual it wasn’t pulling any punches.

The priest who had never met him declared the end to Jax’s life and people began shuffling out of the pews as fast as they could, as if death might still be hanging around looking for company. They knocked our knees, murmured apologies and spilled their overflow of sadness all over us. Like we needed it. The moving huddle in the aisle parted from the back as Jax’s parents set off on their million mile walk, and without turning my head I felt more than saw Josie Fenton hesitate ever so slightly as they passed us. But then they were gone. And my son’s eyes remained fixed on some invisible point that I could only hope lay somewhere far, far beyond the awfulness of the moment.

A good forty minutes after the last person had left, I reached for Norman’s nearest hand and closed it gently between mine. The chill of the empty church had sidled deep into my bones and I was shocked at the heat of his raw knuckles on my palms. The voice in my head began stage whispering nonsense louder and louder and Norman’s hand stayed rigid in its fist. But I didn’t need that voice to tell me what I’d already figured out about thirty-eight minutes before. I wasn’t going to be nearly enough for this.

4

There’s a good chance Norman’s father is one of four people. Now I know how that makes me sound, but it’s a fairly reasonable alternative to the other scenario, which is that he would quite possibly have been one of several more if circumstances had allowed.

But anyhow, who provided the champion Y chromosome that coasted up a lager and lemonade river to victory in my ovaries never really came up in Norman’s first twelve years of life. Mainly because I’d pretty much convinced myself that I was all the parent he needed. I was enough. And, to be fair, Norman had never given me any reason to question my conviction, no matter how many mistakes I made on the job. And there’s been a lot, believe me. Which you probably do based on first impressions.

I never knew a thing about boys until I became the mother of one, even though in theory a boy is just a smaller version of a man and clearly I thought I knew quite a lot about them at one point. As a general rule I’ve found men don’t really require any complicated directions, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to get exactly what’s on the tin when you bring one home. And serves you right most of the time. But it turns out a boy is nothing like a man at all, because they could definitely do with coming with some directions. And when you bring one of them home, before you even get him through the front door he’s already got your heart scrunched up in his fat baby fist like a bad betting slip. And he’s starting to squeeze.

I named my son Norman because there was nobody to tell me not to. And because I liked it. That could have been my first mistake and who knows, maybe I would have listened if someone had told me that Charlie or Harry or Freddie might be a lighter load for a kid to swing onto his back and carry around for an entire lifetime. That other children, and even adults who should bloody well know better, might find a thousand cruel ways to use a name chosen with love to try to bring your boy down. That maybe, just maybe, naming a post-millennial baby after a 1950s comedian was not the best idea I’d ever had. Although you should know that it also wasn’t the worst.

The fact that his name had to attach itself to the caboose of our surname was probably my second mistake. And although I’ve always thought that Norman Foreman has a certain resonance to it, I’ve yet to find someone that wholeheartedly agrees. Except Jax of course.

‘Coolest name ever Normie boy!’ Coolest kid ever.

Norman never had a best friend before Jax. In fact, if I’m honest, he never really had a proper friend at all. But when Jax showed up at Alverton Community Primary wielding a truncheon of six-year-old East London bravado over his shell-shocked Cornish classmates, for Norman it was love at first sight. Just like he always does though, even when he wants something really, really badly, he sat back politely and waited his turn.

It took Jax less than a week to alienate every kid in his class, and most of the teachers as well, before noticing Norman and deciding that he could well be his last chance in the best friend saloon. That was six years ago, and from the moment the deal was sealed over a shared two-week detention for switching around the contents of the entire Year 3’s school bags (verdict: Jax guilty as hell, Norman guilty of being an inexperienced and therefore ultimately unsuccessful lookout), you couldn’t separate those two with a scalpel. I’d lay money that there weren’t two more different boys on the planet and yet somehow they just clicked. They were, ‘The bloody Rolls bloody Royce of bloody best friends,’ as Jax so eloquently put it.

But Jax died. And so it came to be that on the kind of day sons should be out in a park kicking a football, or chasing dogs down on the beach with their mates, I sat next to my good boy in a church full of damp cheeks. Trying hard not to think about that other rude, grubby, magnificent bad boy lying just a few metres away. And even though there was no chance in hell of it coming true, I’d still half expected to hear a kicking at the lid of that coffin at any moment, and a wild-haired laughing kid to splinter through and shout, ‘Gotcha suckers!’

Because that was Jax’s approach to life, the universe and everything really. Feet first, break the door down and damn the consequences. He’d arrive at our house nearly every day like that, body lengths ahead of Norman, bullying our front door handle nearly off its thread and following up with a totally unnecessary karate kick to make sure the job was done. Then he’d charge straight down the hallway on a direct route to the biscuit tin, leaving Norman to catch hold of the twanging door and close it softly as he brought up the rear.

It used to drive me crazy every time I’d catch sight of the mortally injured wall where the front door handle bounced, day after day. But in the weeks after Jax died I saw the way Norman glanced over at that crumbling hole in the plaster as he passed, and it made me give silent thanks for lying, no good, unreliable tradesmen that don’t know their four o’clocks from their fourth of Junes.

That hole is all that’s left of Jax in our house now, and it’s eating away at the wall like it’s got teeth.

5

NORMAN

First rule of comedy: Always know where the joke is going

Jax says that if you don’t know where you’re going you’re never going to know when you get there and you can’t argue with that, Normie boy. Not that I’d want to because it makes pretty good sense when you think about it. I mean imagine if you just walked out the door every morning without having any idea of where you’re on your way to. How would you know to stop walking when you got to the bus stop and not just keep going to the beach? Or even further? Or if you didn’t know you were supposed to get off at school how would you know not to just sit on the bus all day doing loops around Penzance and Newlyn?

Jax reckons it’s the same with a joke. Because you’ve got to know where the punchline is before you set off otherwise you’re just going to end up going around and around in circles looking for a way out. And there’s nothing too funny about someone wandering around and around in circles, although there are probably some exceptions to that and I think maybe Dave Allen is one of them.

Mum says there isn’t anyone else on the planet whose brain works the way that Jaxy’s does and I’m pretty sure she’s right. I reckon it’s because he’s the coolest guy on this or any other planet, but he says it’s because the inside of his head is just like a big old ideas factory and he wouldn’t be able to stop them coming out even if he tried. Which luckily he never has or else we wouldn’t have had some of the most excellent fun ever.

Like when I suggested we should have a comedy DVD marathon so we could work out once and for all who our favourites were. Jax said that if we were going to do it then we had to make a plan and do it right and that’s how he invented DVD Dynamite Saturday Night. We made a proper folded up paper programme with a list of the DVDs we were going to watch and in what exact order we’d play them, and even the times for when it was intermission so we could go for a wee and make cheese on toast and hot chocolates and stuff. Then we got dressed up in our comedy outfits because Jax said that was called getting into character and we even made a ticket with ‘Admit One: DVD Dynamite Saturday Night’ on it so we could invite Mum to come as well. And she did and it was the best Saturday night ever, even though we had so much fun we totally forgot to decide who we liked the best and now I’m never going to know who would have got Jaxy’s vote.

Another time we were just sitting in my room talking about what cheese we reckoned was the best for melting and kapow! Jax came up with the Ultimate Cheese-Off Experiment plan. We made a banner out of an old pillow case with U.C.O.E 2017 on it because the whole name didn’t fit, and Mum took us to Tesco’s and we bought loads of different kinds of cheese. Even the expensive ones. Then Jax made a list with the names of them and five columns labelled gooey, gooier, gooiest, rubbish and totally rubbish to put our ticks and crosses in. It turned out he needn’t have bothered with the last two because they stayed totally empty, but then we ended up writing a really cool joke about never meeting a cheese we didn’t like. So that was like two ideas out of the factory for the price of one.

A lot Jax’s best ideas pop into his head when he’s supposed to be doing other things like homework or sleeping or taking out the bins for his mum. Or watching the One Show Children in Need special, which is when out of nowhere he goes, Norman I reckon we need to make a mega genius super supreme comedy plan so we know where we’re going. And all I knew was that if Jax was going somewhere I wanted to be with him when he got there.

When we finished Jax and Norman’s Five Year Plan Jax goes Norman Foreman you are the bees knees and I am the dog’s bollocks and there’s nothing in the world that can stop us now. And I knew straight away that he was right, because not only did we know for absolute sure where we were going, we also knew exactly when we were going to get there. Which was 7:15 pm on the first Friday in August after two changes on National Rail.

Excerpted from The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson.

Copyright © 2021 by Julietta Henderson. Published by MIRA Books.

 

Meet The Author

Author - Julietta Henderson credit Lizzy C Photography

Julietta Henderson is a full-time writer and comedy fan who splits her time between her home country of Australia and the UK. The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman is Julietta’s first novel.

Connect with the Author:

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This excerpt brought to you courtesy of MIRA Books

Book Showcase: ISABELLE AND ALEXANDER by Rebecca Anderson

Blog Tour Banner: ISABELLE AND ALEXANDER by Rebecca Anderson, Proper Romance Series, May 3-16, 2021 Blog Tour, features book cover with Regency Era dressed couple walking through a gate; quote: "Isabelle's loving and persevering fervor and devotion will resonate with any caregiver's heart." Booklist

ISABELLE AND ALEXANDER - RAndersonIsabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson
ISBN: 9781629728476 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781629739953 (ebook)
ASIN: B08WJT83XR (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B093K2MQ7X (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Release Date: May 4, 2021

Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time to combine the upper-middle-class wealth of her father’s coal mines with Alexander Osgood’s prospering Northern country textile mills. Though not a man prone to romantic gestures, Alexander is well-known as an eligible bachelor. His good looks have turned more than one head, so Isabelle is content to think of herself as Alexander’s wife.

However, her marriage is not what she expected. Northern England is nothing like her home farther west in the lake country. Cold, dreary, and dark, the soot from the textile mills creates a gray hue that seems to cling to everything in the city of Manchester. Alexander is distant and aloof, preferring to spend his time at the mill rather than with her at home. Their few conversations are brief, polite, and lacking any emotion, leaving Isabelle lonely and desperately homesick.

Sensing his wife’s unhappiness, Alexander suggests a trip to his country estate. Isabelle hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know her new husband without the distractions of his business. But the change of scenery doesn’t bring them any closer. While riding together on horses, Alexander is thrown from his and becomes paralyzed. Tragedy or destiny? The help and care that Alexander now needs is Isabelle’s opportunity to forge a connection and create a deep and romantic love where nothing else could.

 

Advance Praise

“Anderson’s first foray into historical romance is an atypical, yet satisfying story set in Victorian Manchester’s upper middle class. Hand this to readers looking for a book that navigates the peaks and valleys of two strangers attempting to make a life together despite the hardships life throws at them.”— Library Journal

 

“Isabelle transitions from an unaware, leisure-class woman to a more enlightened spouse and supporter of the working class. Intimacy and romance develop between Isabelle and Alexander because of simple gestures, like a long look or a thoughtful gift, and their conversations. Their slow, stately courting is reader appropriate for any age or audience. Manchester also gets its due as a place of grit and incredible production. Descriptions of bustling mills reveal their impact on the couple’s family and its fortunes. Isabelle and Alexander is an intimate and touching romance novel that focuses on women’s lives in the business class of industrial England.”— Foreword Reviews

 

“Isabelle must use her quiet spunk, busy mind, and compassionate spirit to woo her husband in a wholly new way. Anderson’s debut is a lovely northern England Victorian romance about confronting the seemingly impossible and the power of empathy. Anderson also addresses the time period’s treatment of physical and intellectual disabilities. Most of all, she beautifully depicts love in its many forms beyond romance, such as compassion, patience, and vulnerability; and her characters illustrate the ways that these expressions of love carry us through even the darkest hours. Isabelle’s loving and persevering fervor and devotion will resonate with any caregiver’s heart.”— Booklist

 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 2

Pages 11-15

Two weeks into their marriage, Isabelle believed she understood exactly what was expected of her, and what she could expect in return. It was not what her mother had led her to suppose.

Alexander was polite, if cold, and exceedingly busy. It appeared to Isabelle that their marriage had changed his daily routine very little. In the city, he woke early and breakfasted alone before walking the four blocks to his mill, where he spent his days overseeing the workings that remained a mystery to Isabelle. When he arrived home for supper, he spoke little of his work, and Isabelle cast about for any topic of conversation they’d not scratched the days before.

Trouble was, there was very little for her to offer.

Welcome home, Mr. Osgood, she could imagine herself saying. Dinner is served as you requested. I spent the day managing your small staff of servants who are fully capable of managing themselves, waiting for visitors to appear, nodding and smiling at people who passed the parlor window, and staring at the supremely masculine decorations on the walls.

As a result, dinner was a quiet affair. Every evening.

After dinner, the couple retired upstairs. Separately. This part was far from what Isabelle’s mother had led her to anticipate. Not that she’d spoken of specifics. But Isabelle had arrived at certain ideas, and her current reality did not reflect them in the least. Isabelle knew she had nothing of which to complain, except that every day, she felt the burden of loneliness and yearned for a friend with whom to commiserate. She understood that what was missing was someone who wanted to talk with her.

Edwin, home at the Lakes, would have replaced her within a month. It was so easy for him to take anyone into his confidence. He would certainly have found a friend with whom to talk and listen and laugh.

Isabelle spent an hour each morning writing letters. She wrote to her mother, informing her of the duties she performed, the sights she saw in the city, and the food she ate. These letters spoke of dirt and fish and household management. She took care to add enough detail to create a picture of fulfillment. She wrote to Ed, reminding him of childhood escapades and telling him how she missed his laugh. She wrote to her old governess, thanking her for teaching her all she needed to know in order to fill her days with meaning. After two weeks of writing such letters, she had not yet posted one.

A gentle knock on the door prompted Isabelle to look up from yet another letter she would not send. Mrs. Burns, the housekeeper, stepped inside the drawing room and said, “Pardon, ma’am, but have you a moment?”

“Is there a problem?” Isabelle could not keep the excitement from her voice. Perhaps there had been trouble at the market and the menu would need to be remade. Or an issue with the ordering of candles. Her hands came together in anticipation of being permitted to fix something.

Mrs. Burns shook her head. “Not any problem, ma’am. You have a caller.” She handed a card to Isabelle, who felt the air rush out of her lungs.

Company. A visitor. Precisely what she had been waiting for. Why did she now dread that for which she had so long hoped?

Without even reading the name on the card, Isabelle rushed to the writing table and straightened her papers, then ran her hands down her dress to make herself unwrinkled and presentable.

When Mrs. Burns next opened the door, she ushered in a short, round, bald man dressed impeccably in a blue tailcoat. “Mr. Lester Kenworthy, ma’am.”

Isabelle rose from the chair she had taken only seconds before.

Mr. Kenworthy shook his head and blustered toward her. “Oh, please, sit. No ceremony is needed between us. I only wanted to come and meet the new Mrs. Osgood. Your Alec would have you kept a tight secret from us all, and we can’t have that, can we?” He said all this in a cheerful waterfall rush of words as he pumped her hand with both of his. “Lovely, if I may say so. Lovely.”

His words were masked in an accent so sharp that she found herself startled that she’d understood him. The proximity of Cumbria to Lancashire had given her no reason to believe there would be such a disparity in inflection. But this man’s vowels seemed utterly shuffled and remade. Delight danced through his articulation.

“I am the business manager at Osgood Mills and pleased as can be to see you. I thought if I came and made myself known to you, we could get you into a room with my wife and daughter. Fast friends, I’m sure you’ll be.”

Isabelle nodded and gestured to a chair. Mr. Kenworthy sat, laughing and bumbling about the loveliness she added to the room. Certainly he’d been there before and could tell that nothing had changed since it was the drawing room of a bachelor.

When he stopped for a breath, Isabelle realized she’d not said a word since Mr. Kenworthy entered the room. “It is a pleasure to meet you, sir, and I’d be honored to make the acquaintance of Mrs. Kenworthy and your daughter.” Isabelle blushed to realize that she’d taken on some of the tilting vowels of his accent.

He must have heard it as well because he reached for her hand again and laughed. “We’ll make a local of you in no time, sure enough. Would your schedule permit you to take tea at our home tomorrow?”

Isabelle had only seconds to determine if accepting this unexpected invitation would be wise. What would Alexander say? In fact, she was fairly sure Alexander would say nothing, as he said nothing on practically every matter.

“Mr. Kenworthy, I am delighted to say that I have no standing appointments for tomorrow. I’d be very glad to come.”

“Lovely, lovely.” He’d repeated the same word so many times that Isabelle was certain it would forevermore sound correct only when spoken in his Lancashire accent. He stood and pumped her hand again. She wasn’t sure that hand-shaking was the proper greeting of the moment, but it felt so wonderful to have someone reaching for her that she returned the squeeze to his fingers. Her smile was genuine as she thanked him for his visit.

Excerpt from Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson.

Copyright © 2021 by Rebecca Anderson. Published by Shadow Mountain Publishing.

 

Meet The Author

Author - Rebecca Anderson aka Becca Wilhite headshotRebecca Anderson is the nom de plume of contemporary romance novelist Becca Wilhite, author of Wedding Belles: A Novel in Four Parts, Check Me Out, and My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions. Isabelle and Alexander is her debut historical romance novel.

High school English teacher by day, writer by night (or very early morning), she loves hiking, Broadway shows, food, books, and movies. She is happily married and a mom to four above-average kids.

 
Author Links:    Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Website | Goodreads
 
 
This excerpt and tour brought to you courtesy of AustenProse.com

Guest Post: W. Craig Reed – STATUS-6

Good day, my bookish peeps. I hope you’re all enjoying the warmer weather and getting plenty of reading done. Since the pandemic began, I’ve been reading quite a bit of romance, not to mention re-re-reading some favorites. This Spring has been the first time in almost year that I’ve been reading other genres, namely more historical fiction, mystery, thrillers, suspense, etc. Yes, I know that I have thousands of titles already on my TBR list, but I’m always looking for new books and new-to-me authors. This is just one of many reasons I love virtual book tours. Today, I get to introduce you to a new-to-me author and I hope that you’ll be adding his books to your TBR list. Please help me welcome, W. Craig Reed, author of Status-6, a military thriller. Mr. Reed is retired submariner and a writer of nonfiction as well as fiction oft focusing on the military. I’m incredibly honored to welcome him to the blog today as he discusses the Kursk submarine disaster. Thank you, Mr. Reed, for taking the time to join us today, the blog is now yours.

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The Untold Truth About the Kursk Submarine Disaster

August 12, 2020 marked the twentieth anniversary of the most terrifying tragedy in submarine naval history. The Russian submarine Kursk was lost with all hands—118 souls—during a naval exercise in the Barents Sea. The Russians claimed that an antiquated torpedo had exploded and caused the incident, that the twenty-three survivors in the aft section died on the first day, and that a U.S. spy submarine had collided with the Kursk. The first two claims were lies. The last may have been true. Moreover, the Kursk submarine propelled Putin to power and its demise allowed him to rebuild Russia and ignite a new cold war with the West.

In August 1999, the Kursk undertook a secret mission to sneak in close to the USS Theodore Roosevelt—an aircraft carrier featured in the news in 2020 due to a COVID-19 outbreak. At that time, U.S. antisubmarine warfare (ASW) forces could not detect the Kursk, which could have obliterated the Roosevelt with one push of a button.

The Kursk returned to fanfare, and Vladimir Putin, struggling in the polls with only 2 percent of the presidential vote, met with the Kursk’s captain and praised the crew. Putin, whose father had been a Russian submariner, later visited a Russian naval base and completed a ceremony to become an honorary submariner. He then pointed to the Kursk’s mission success and promised to rebuild the Russian navy, which would provide jobs and prosperity to an impoverished nation. This platform propelled Putin to 53% of the vote in March 2000.

Eight days after Putin was elected president, he ordered a U.S. spy—former naval officer Edmond Pope—thrown into jail for trying to obtain plans for Russia’s top secret Shkval rocket torpedo. This frightening weapon used secret technology that allowed it to hit 200 knots underwater, making it four times faster than a U.S. MK48 torpedo. Now desperate for intelligence information, the NSA tasked two spy subs, the USS Memphis and USS Toledo, to monitor an upcoming Russian naval exercise in the Barents Sea in August 2000.

The Kursk had been selected to test fire the Shkval torpedo during the exercise, and on August 12, the USS Toledo snuck in close to record the firing. The tragic events that unfolded during this exercise were covered up by Russian and NATO officials for almost twenty years.

The Russians claimed that an unstable propellant in an outdated Type 65 torpedo caused the initial explosion. They suggested that the torpedo was loaded into an unclean tube moments before the scheduled firing, and the irritants ignited the unstable fuel. Any torpedoman, whether NATO or Russian, knows that torpedoes are loaded and ready in clean tubes hours before a test-firing. Also, two civilian experts from the Dagdizel military plant were in the torpedo room monitoring the exercise and would not have allowed an unstable weapon to be mishandled.

Several high-ranking officials aboard the Kursk and the target warship, the Peter the Great, observed the exercise. The two vessels were thirty miles apart. A Type 65 torpedo at top speed would have taken thirty minutes to reach the target and would have run out of fuel before arriving—an event not likely to attract an audience of senior military personnel. Experts and officials have since revealed that the Kursk was not test firing an old Type 65 weapon, but rather the new Shkval rocket torpedo.

Interviews with numerous experts and officials have verified that a Shkval became lodged in the tube during the firing exercise. After the firing mechanism was triggered, the Shkval was programmed to light off the rocket engine. Unable to leave the tube, the torpedo blew off the aft torpedo tube door, and two minutes later, the fire ignited the fuel in other torpedoes and caused the second, catastrophic explosion. Interviews with submariners aboard the USS Memphis and Toledo, the two U.S. spy subs monitoring the exercise, also reveal that a U.S. sub may have inadvertently caused the Shkval to become lodged in the tube due to a scrape or near-collision with the Kursk.

The secondary explosion disintegrated the forward sections of the Kursk, but the aft compartments remained intact. Twenty-three survivors awaited a rescue that never arrived. New and shocking evidence revealed by the dive teams involved in the rescue operation show that the Russians, while using antiquated rescue vehicles, may have accidentally flooded the aft escape trunk on the Kursk, which led to the demise of the survivors.

A month after the incident, Vladimir Putin and Bill Clinton met in New York and inside sources believe they conspired to cover-up facts to prevent a conflict or even a war. Putin then leveraged the Kursk tragedy to wrest control of energy firms from oligarchs and rebuild Russia’s wealth. He invested much of that wealth into building a formidable new navy that now threatens vital sea lanes.

Given that 90 percent of the goods we buy are transported across ocean sea lanes, any compromises or conflicts that disrupt shipping might cause shortages and economic hardships that could be worse than what we have witnessed during the pandemic.

Now that Putin has been granted an extension of power until 2036, what’s next on his agenda and how might that affect all of us? China, Iran, and North Korea have reverse-engineered the Russian Shkval torpedo to create unbelievable weapons of mass destruction that now threaten sea lanes and could one day trigger another world war. Perhaps this is why the infamous Doomsday Clock is now at only two minutes to “world annihilation” midnight.

Source: http://wcraigreed.com/nonfiction/spies-of-the-deep/


STATUS-6

by W. Craig Reed

May 1 – 31, 2021 Tour

 

Synopsis:

 

Deep beneath the Arctic Ocean, a covert team of Chinese operatives uses stolen U.S. technology to capture Russia’s newest attack submarine. Loaded with 100-megaton nuclear torpedoes, the sub is headed west. The Americans want to sink her, the Russians want her back, and the Chinese claim they’re not responsible.

NCIS agent Jon Shay is a former SEAL Team Two operator. Still shattered by the murder of his wife a year earlier, he places the barrel of a revolver against his temple, spins the cylinder, and squeezes the trigger. He hears only a click—and the chime of his phone. Activated for a mission in the Arctic, Jon pairs with British scientist Kate Barrett to battle a ticking clock, trained operatives, and top government officials. Together, they must find and stop the world’s most lethal submarine. The stakes are raised when they learn that the Russian sub is controlled by an infected AI system bent on completing its mission to create a nuclear winter.

 

Praise for Status-6:

“W. Craig Reed’s Status-6 is my vote for Thriller of the Year. The protagonist is Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan meets Lee Child’s Jack Reacher.” — Grant Blackwood, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Tom Clancy’s “Under Fire

“W. Craig Reed’s latest novel, Status-6, is the best book I’ve read this year—a ripped-from-the-headlines military technothriller that literally left me awake at night, fearful of where we’re headed as a nation and a species. What’s next after the nightmare coronavirus pandemic? Don’t miss this first book in the NCIS Special Ops series that promises to shatter the thriller genre.” — James Rollins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of “The Demon Crown (Sigma Force)”

“W. Craig Reed’s Status-6 grabs you from page one and doesn’t let you go. The global security crisis revealed in this book is all-too-real and could well be tomorrow’s headlines. The characters are well-nuanced and provide a powerful urge to root for or against them. Don’t read this thriller before going to bed—you’ll be awake all night!” — George Gladorisi, New York Times bestselling author of the Tom Clancy Op Center series

Status-6 Book Details:

Genre: Military Thriller
Published by: Post Hill Press
Publication Date: April 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 256
ISBN: 1682619354 (ISBN13: 9781682619353)
Series: Status-6 is the first book in the NCIS Special Ops Thriller series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Author - W Craig Reed

William Craig Reed is the New York Times bestselling author of thrillers and non-fiction military and business books including Spies of the Deep: The Untold Story of the Most Terrifying Incident in Submarine Naval History and How Putin Used The Tragedy To Ignite a New Cold War and the critically acclaimed Red November (HarperCollins). Also, The Seven Secrets of Neuron-Leadership (Wiley), an award-winning business book, and Tarzan, My Father (ECW) co-written with the late Johnny Weissmuller, Jr.

Reed served as a U.S. Navy submariner and diver during the Cold War and earned commendations for completing secret missions, some in concert with SEAL Team One. Reed’s military experience and inside contacts help infuse his writing with intrigue and realism, and inspired his next non-fiction book, Also, this novel: STATUS-6 about a former SEAL Team Two operator turned NCIS agent that teams with a British female scientist to stop a Russian submarine controlled by an infected artificial intelligence.

Reed holds an MBA in Marketing and was a former vice president and board director for the Silicon Valley American Marketing Association. Reed is the co-founder of Us4Warriors, an award-winning Veterans Non-Profit and serves on the Board of Aretanium, a wellness firm that leverages the neuroscience he wrote about in his leadership book to provide personalized wellness and professional development programs to accelerate brains, careers, and relationships.

Catch Up With W. Craig Reed:
WCraigReed.com
Goodreads
BookBub: @wc14
Instagram: @wcraigreed
Twitter: @wcraigreed
Facebook: @wcraigreed

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
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This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for William Craig Reed. There will be ONE (1) winner who will receive TWO (2) physical William Craig Reed books (including The 7 Secrets of Neuron Leadership AND Spies of the Deep). The giveaway begins May 1, 2021 and ends on June 1, 2021. This giveaway is available only for shipping addresses located in the US, UK, and Canada. Void where prohibited.

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Book Blast: DEAD IN THE WATER by Jeannette de Beauvoir

Dead In The Water

by Jeannette de Beauvoir

April 27, 2021 Book Blast

DEAD IN THE WATER - JBeauvoir

 

Book Details:

Family Can Be Murder

Sydney Riley’s stretch of planned relaxation between festivals is doomed from the start. Her parents, ensconced at the Race Point Inn, expect her to play tour guide. Wealthy adventurer Guy Husband has reappeared, seeking to regain her friend Mirela’s affections. And the body of a kidnapped businessman has been discovered under MacMillan Wharf!

Sydney is literally at sea (by far not her favorite place!) balancing these expectations with her supersized curiosity. Is the murder the work of a regional gang led by the infamous “Codfather” or the result of a feud within an influential Provincetown family? What’s Guy Husband’s connection, and why is it suddenly so important that her boyfriend Ali come for a visit—especially while her mother is in town?

Master of crime Jeannette de Beauvoir brings her unique blend of irony and intrigue to this humorous—and sometimes horrendous—convergence of family and fatality.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: HomePort Press
Publication Date: May 1st 2021
Number of Pages: 309
ISBN: 9781734053371
Series:Sydney Riley Series, Book #8 | Each is a stand alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt from Dead In The Water:

Chapter One

It was, I told myself, all my worst nightmares come true. All at once.

I may live at Land’s End, out at the tip of Cape Cod where the land curls into itself and for centuries foghorns warned of early death and disaster; I may have, yes, been out on boats on the Atlantic waters, laughably close to shore; but no, I’d never gotten used to any of it. I like floors that don’t move under my feet. I like knowing I could conceivably make it back to land on my own steam should something go wrong. (Well the last bit is a fantasy: without a wetsuit, the cold would get me before the fatigue did. But the point still stands.)

I was having this plethora of cheerful thoughts for two reasons. I had allowed myself to be persuaded to go on a whale watch. And the person standing beside me on the deck was my mother.

Like all stories that involve me and my mother, this one started with guilt. I’d had, safe to say, a rough year. I’d broken my arm (and been nearly killed) at an extremely memorable film festival here in Provincetown in the spring, and then during Women’s Week that October had met up with another murderer—seriously, it’s as if my friend Julie Agassi, the head of the town’s police detective squad, is right, and I go looking for these things.

I don’t, but people are starting to wonder.

Meanwhile, my mother was busily beating her you-never-call-you-never-write drum and I just couldn’t face seeing her for the holidays. My life was already complicated enough, and there’s no one like my mother for complicating things further. She’s in a class by herself. Other contenders have tried valiantly to keep up, before falling, one by one, by the wayside. Not even death or divorce can complicate my life the way my mother manages to. She perseveres.

On the other hand, circumstances had over the past year given her a run for her money. My boyfriend Ali—who after several years my mother continued to refer to as that man—and I had become sudden and accidental godparents to a little girl named Lily when our friend Mirela adopted her sister’s unwanted baby. And the godparents thing—which I’d always assumed to be a sort of ceremonial role one trotted out at Christmas and birthdays—had become very real when Mirela was arrested, incarcerated, and investigated as to her parenting suitability last October, and suddenly we were in loco parentis. I took the baby to Ali’s Boston apartment and we holed up there for over a month. Mirela had joined us for the last week of it and I can honestly say I’ve never been more relieved to see anyone in my life.

I was trying, but motherhood was clearly not my gig. Maybe there’s something to that DNA thing, after all.

What with one thing and another, it was this January before I was thinking straight. I’d gone back to my life in P’town and my work—I’m the wedding and events planner for the Race Point Inn, one of the town’s nicer establishments, though I do say it myself—and really believed I was finally feeling back to what passes for normal again when my mother began her barrage of guilt-laden demands. Had I forgotten I had parents? I could travel to Boston, but not to New Hampshire?

It hadn’t helped that, because there was absolutely nothing on the inn’s events calendar for February, Ali and I decided to be the tourists for once; we’d taken off for Italy. Okay, let’s see, the short dark days of February… and a choice between snowy New Hampshire and the charms of Venice. You tell me.

Which was why I’d run out of excuses by the time my mother started taking about being on her deathbed in March. (She wasn’t.) And that my father had forgotten what I looked like in April. (He hadn’t.)

I couldn’t afford any more time off—Glenn, the inn’s owner, had already been more than generous as it was—and there was only one thing to do. I had a quick shot of Jameson’s for courage and actually called my mother, risking giving her a heart attack (the last time I’d called was roughly two administrations ago), and invited her and my father to come to Provincetown.

Which was why I now found myself on the deck of the Dolphin IV, looking for whales and listening to my mother read from the guide book. “The largest living mammal is the blue whale,” she reported.

“I know,” I acknowledged.

“The humpback whale doesn’t actually chew its food,” she said. “It filters it through baleens.”

“I know,” I replied.

She glanced at me, suspicious. “How do you know all this?”

“Ma, I live in Provincetown.” It’s just possible one or two of the year-round residents—there aren’t that many of us, the number is under three thousand—don’t know about whales, but the possibility is pretty remote. Tourism is our only real industry. Tourists stop us in the street to ask us questions.

We know about whales.

She sniffed. “You don’t have to take an attitude about it, Sydney Riley,” she said. Oh, good: we were in full complete-name reprimand mode. “You know I don’t like it when you take an attitude with me.”

“I wasn’t taking an attitude. I was stating a fact.” I could feel the slow boil of adolescent-level resentment—and attitude, yes—building. I am in my late thirties, and I can still feel about fifteen when I’m having a conversation with my mother. Breathe, Riley, I counseled myself. Just breathe. Deeply. Don’t let her get to you.

She looked around her. “Are we going to see sharks?”

I sighed. Everyone these days wants to see sharks. For a long time, the dreaded story of Jaws was just that—a story, something to watch at the drive-in movie theatre in Wellfleet (yeah, we still have one of those) and shiver deliciously at the creepy music and scream when the shark tries to eat the boat. But conservation efforts over the past eight or ten years had caused a spectacular swelling of the seal population around the Cape—we’d already seen a herd of them sunning themselves on the beach today when we’d passed Long Point—and a few years later, the Great White sharks realized where their meals had all gone, and followed suit.

That changed things rather a lot. A tourist was attacked at a Truro beach and bled out. Signs were posted everywhere. Half-eaten seal corpses washed up. The famous annual Swim for Life, which once went clear across the harbor, changed its trajectory. And everybody downloaded the Great White Shark Conservancy’s shark-location app, Sharktivity.

The reality is both scary and not-scary. We’d all been surprised to learn sharks are quite comfortable in three or four feet of water, so merely splashing in the shallows was out. But in reality sharks attack humans only when they mistake them for seals, and usually only bite once, as our taste is apparently offensive to them. People who die from a shark attack bleed out; they’re not eaten alive.

“We might,” I said to my mother now. “There are a number of kinds of sharks here—”

The naturalist’s voice came over the loudspeaker, saving me. “Ah, so the captain tells me we’ve got a female and her calf just up ahead, at about two o’clock off the bow of the boat.”

“What does that mean, two o’clock?”

He had already told us. My mother had been asking what they put in the hot dogs in the galley at the time and hadn’t stopped to listen to him. “If the front of the boat is twelve o’clock, then two o’clock is just off—there!” I exclaimed, carried away despite myself. “There! Ma, see?”

“What?”

The whale surfaced gracefully, water running off her back, bright and sparkling in the sunlight, and just as gracefully went back under. A smaller back followed suit. The denizens of the deep, here to feed for the summer, willing to show off for the boatloads of visitors who populated the whale-watch fleet every year to catch a glimpse of another life, a mysterious life echoing with otherworldly calls and harkening back to times when the oceans were filled with giants.

Before we hunted them to the brink of extinction, that is.

“This is an individual we know,” the naturalist was saying. “Her name is Perseid. Unlike some other whales, humpbacks don’t travel in pods. Instead, they exist in loose and temporary groups that shift, with individuals moving from group to group, sometimes swimming on their own. These assemblages have been referred to as fluid fission/fusion groups. The only exception to this fluidity is the cow and calf pair. This calf was born eight months ago, and while right now you’re seeing her next to Perseid, she’s going to start straying farther and farther away as the summer progresses.”

Now that my mother was quieter—even she was silent in the face of something this big, this extraordinary—I recognized the naturalist’s voice. It was Kai Bennett, who worked at the Center for Coastal Studies in town; he was a regular at the Race Point Inn’s bar scene during the winter, when we ran a trivia game and he aced all the biology questions. “And we have another one that just went right under us… haven’t yet seen who this one is,” said Kai.

The newcomer spouted right off the port side of the boat and the light wind swept a spray of fine droplets over the passengers, who exclaimed and laughed.

“I wish they’d jump more out of the water,” my mother complained. “You have to look so fast. and they blend right in.”

My mother is going to bring a list of complaints with her to give to Saint Peter when she assaults the pearly gates of heaven. I swear she is.

Kai’s voice on the loudspeaker overran my mother’s. “Ocean conservation starts with connection. We believe that, as we build personal relationships with the ocean and its wildlife, we become more invested stewards of the marine environment. Whales, as individuals, have compelling stories to tell: where will this humpback migrate this winter to give birth? Did the whale with scars from a propeller incident survive another year? What happened to the entangled whale I saw in the news?”

“Look!” yelled a passenger. “I just saw a blow over there! Look! I know I did! I’m sure of it!”

Kai continued, “For science, unique identifiable markings on a whale’s flukes—that’s the tail, folks—and on the dorsal fin allow us to non-invasively track whale movements and stories over time. By focusing on whales, we bring attention to the marine ecosystem as a whole and the challenges we face as a global community.”

“He sounds like a nice young man,” my mother remarked. “He sounds American.”

Don’t take the bait, I told myself. Don’t take the bait.

I took the bait.

“Ali is American,” I said. “He was born in Boston.”

“But his parents weren’t,” she said, with something like relish. “I just wish you could find a nice—”

I cut her off. “Ali is a nice American man,” I said.

“But why would his parents even come to America?” my mother asked, for possibly the four-thousandth time. “Everyone should just stay home. Where they belong.”

Breathe, Riley. Just breathe. “I think they would have liked to stay home,” I said, trying to keep my voice steady. “There was just the minor inconvenience of a civil war. Makes it difficult to enjoy your morning coffee when there’s a bomb explosion next door. Seriously, Ma, don’t you hate it when that happens?”

“You’re taking a tone with me,” my mother said. “Don’t take a tone with me.”

Kai saved me yet again. “That’s a good question,” his voice said over the loudspeaker. “For those of you who didn’t hear, this gentleman just asked how we know these whales by name. Of course, these are just names we give to them—they have their own communication systems and ways of identifying themselves and each other! So as I said, these are whales that return to the marine sanctuary every summer. Many of them are females, who can be counted on to bring their new calves up to Stellwagen Bank because they can feast on nutritious sand lance—that’s a tiny fish humpbacks just love—and teach their offspring to hunt. Together with Allied Whale in Bar Harbor at the College of the Atlantic, the Center for Coastal Studies Humpback Whale Research Group runs a study of return rates of whales based on decades of sighting data. So, in other words, we get to see the same whales, year after year. The first one ever named was a female we called Salt.” He didn’t say what I knew: that Allied Whale and the Center for Coastal Studies didn’t always play well together. For one thing, they had totally different names for the same whales. I managed to keep that fact to myself.

“Your father will wish he came along,” my mother said.

My father, to the best of my knowledge, was sitting out by the pool at the Race Point Inn, reading a newspaper and drinking a Bloody Mary. My mother was the dogged tourist in the family: when we’d gone on family vacations together, she was the one who found all the museums and statues and sights-of-interest to visit. She practically memorized guide books. My father, bemused, went along with most of it, though his idea of vacation was more centered around doing as little as possible for as much time as possible. Retirement didn’t seem to have changed that in any significant way.

“You’re here until Sunday,” I pointed out. “You can take him out.”

She sniffed. “He doesn’t know anything about whales,” she said.

“Then that’s the point. He’ll learn.” Okay, come on, give me a little credit: I was really trying here.

“Maybe,” she said darkly. “What are those other boats out there?”

I looked. “Some of them are just private boats. And a lot of the fishing charters come out here,” I said. “And when there are whales spotted, they come and look, too. Gives the customers an extra thrill.” I knew from Kai and a couple of the other naturalists that the whale-watch people weren’t thrilled with the extra attention: the private boats in particular didn’t always maintain safe distances from the whales. Once a whale was spotted and one or two of the Dolphin Fleet stopped to look, anyone within sight followed their lead. It could get quite crowded on a summer day.

And dangerous. There had been collisions in the past—boats on boats and, once that I knew of, a boat hitting a whale. Some days it was enough to despair of the human race.

Kai was talking. “Well, folks, this is a real treat! The whale that just blew on our port side is Piano, who’s a Stellwagen regular easy to identify for some unfortunate reasons, because she has both vessel propeller strike and entanglement scars. This whale is a survivor, however, and has been a regular on Stellwagen for years!” Amazing, I thought cynically, she even gave us the time of day after all that.

“I didn’t see the scars,” said my mother.

We waited around for a little while and then felt the engines start up again and the deck vibrate. I didn’t like the feeling. I knew exactly how irrational my fear was, and knowing did nothing to alleviate it. I’d had some bad experiences out on the water in the past, and that vibration brought them all back. I’d tried getting over it by occasionally renting a small sailboat with my friend Thea, but—well, again, I always thought I’d be able to swim to shore from the sailboat if anything went wrong. Not out here.

And then there was the whole not-letting-my-mother-know side to things. If she did, she’d never let me hear the end of it.
At least when we were talking about whales we weren’t talking about her ongoing matrimonial hopes for me, the matrimonial successes of (it seemed) all her friends’ offspring, and the bitter disappointment she was feeling around my approaching middle age without a husband in tow. That seemed to be where all our conversations began… and ended.
And I wasn’t approaching middle age. Forty is the new thirty, and all that sort of thing.

“The captain says we have another pair coming up, folks, off to the port side now… I’m just checking them out… it’s a whale called Milkweed and her new calf! Mom is traveling below the surface right now, but you can see the calf rolling around here…” There was a pause and a murmur and then his voice came back. “No, that’s not abnormal. The baby’s learning everything it needs to know about buoyancy and swimming, and you can be sure Mom’s always close by. We’re going to slowly head back toward Cape Cod now…” And, a moment later, “Looks like Milkweed and the baby are staying with us! Folks, as you’re seeing here, whales can be just as curious about us as we are about them! What Milkweed is doing now—see her, on the starboard side, at three o’clock—we call it spyhopping.”

“Why on earth would they be curious about us?” wondered my mother.

“That,” I said, looking at her and knowing she’d never get the sarcasm, “is a really good question.”

Just breathe, Riley. Just breathe.

***

Excerpt from Dead In The Water by Jeannette de Beauvoir. Copyright 2021 by Jeannette de Beauvoir. Reproduced with permission from Jeannette de Beauvoir. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Author - Jeannette de Beauvoir

Jeannette de Beauvoir didn’t set out to murder anyone—some things are just meant to be!

Her mother introduced her to the Golden Age of mystery fiction when she was far too young to be reading it, and she’s kept following those authors and many like them ever since. She wrote historical and literary fiction and poetry for years before someone asked her what she read—and she realized mystery was where her heart was. Now working on the Sydney Riley Provincetown mystery series, she bumps off a resident or visitor to her hometown on a regular basis.

Catch Up With Our Author:
JeannettedeBeauvoir.com
HomePortPress.com
Goodreads
BookBub: @JeannettedeBeauvoir
Instagram: @jeannettedebeauvoir
Twitter: @JeannetteDeB
Facebook: @JeannettedeBeauvoir

 

 

Tour Participants:

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Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jeannette de Beauvoir. There will be two (2) winners who will each receive one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on April 27, 2021 and ends on May 5, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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2021 Book 133: LEGACY by Nora Roberts

LEGACY by Nora Roberts book cover, water front, possible creek or river, fall foliage with leaves on the ground, and red, wood covered bridge crossing the water in the background

Legacy by Nora Roberts
ISBN: 9781250272935 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250272942 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250802378 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250802354 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08H8V21KC (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08FGVFNP7 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: May 25, 2021

The #1 New York Times bestselling author presents a new novel of a mother and a daughter, of ambition and romance, and of a traumatic past reawakened by a terrifying threat…

Adrian Rizzo was seven when she met her father for the first time. That was the day he nearly killed her—before her mother, Lina, stepped in.

Soon after, Adrian was dropped off at her grandparents’ house in Maryland, where she spent a long summer drinking lemonade, playing with dogs, making a new best friend—and developing the stirrings of a crush on her friend’s ten-year-old brother. Lina, meanwhile, traveled the country promoting her fitness brand and turning it into a billion-dollar business. There was no point in dwelling on the past.

A decade later, Adrian has created her own line of yoga and workout videos, following in Lina’s footsteps but intent on maintaining creative control. And she’s just as cool-headed and ambitious as her mother. They aren’t close, but they’re cordial—as long as neither crosses the other.

But while Lina dismisses the death threats that Adrian starts getting as a routine part of her daughter’s growing celebrity, Adrian can’t help but find the vicious rhymes unsettling. Year after year, they keep arriving—the postmarks changing, but the menacing tone the same. They continue after she returns to Maryland and becomes reacquainted with Raylan, her childhood crush, all grown up and as gorgeously green-eyed as ever. Sometimes it even seems like the terrifying messages are indeed routine, like nothing will come of them. Until the murders start, and the escalation begins…

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Lina Rizzo was a relatively naïve Georgetown college student when she had an affair with a married professor and wound up pregnant. She was told that he was in the process of getting a divorce. He lied. She left school. Had the baby and began a fitness and health company. She never told her daughter, Adrian, the whole truth about her conception other than she fell in love in college and she was the result. Seven years later, Lina, Adrian, and Lina’s best friend as well as Adrian’s nanny — Mimi, are back in Georgetown when the college professor shows up drunk and begins to beat up Mimi, before turning his attention to Adrian and then Lina. Fortunately, Lina fights back and the professor unfortunately dies in what is classified as self-defense. It is that year that Adrian gains her first childhood friend while staying with her maternal grandparents, Dom and Sophia Rizzo in Traveler’s Creek, Maryland. Maya Wells is the daughter of the new cook at Rizzo’s, Jan Wells. Her older brother, Raylan, is a gifted artist whose main interests are comics and graphic novels. A few years later, Adrian is in high school in New York and makes three new friends, Teesha Kirk – who later becomes her business manager, Hector Sung – who becomes her fitness videographer, and Loren Moorhead – who becomes her business lawyer. Meeting Teesha, Hector, and Loren changes Adrian’s life for the better and sets her on the course for the rest of her life, fitness her style. It also introduces her to an anonymous poet that begins to threaten her life and continues to do so for the better part of ten years. Who is this poet and why does he or she want her dead? Will the police or FBI be able to find the anonymous stalker before it’s too late?

Legacy is the latest romantic suspense thriller from the talented Nora Roberts. I’ve got to say that initially I felt that this book had a bit of a “been there, read that” feel to it, but the more I read the more it began to feel different from previous books by this author. Yes, there are some elements from previous books, namely shades of Hideaway with the child of a talented parent discovering their own talent and building their niche, Black Hills with the child of divorce (although Adrian isn’t the child of divorce, her circumstances with her grandparents are quite similar) spending time with the maternal grandparents, and Tribute with the graphic artist theme. Although there are similarities, there are also major differences. Adrian respects and loves her mother as well as adores her maternal grandparents. She also loves spending time in a small town, something her mother never truly enjoyed. Adrian has made life-long friends in both New York and in Traveler’s Creek. She has purposefully made her own path in the fitness industry without trying to use her mother’s influence. Legacy deals with a lot of themes, including friendship, family – those we’re born into and those we choose to make, love, physical abuse, school shootings, mental illness, murder, and warped ideas of vengeance. Yes, there’s a lot happening in this story, but I loved the diversity of the characters, their friendships, and the way they related to one another, as well as the whole small-town vibe (not that I can fully understand it even though I’m from a small town myself). One of the many things I appreciate when reading a Nora Roberts story is that I’ll be sucked into the story by the writing, complex characters, and involved storylines. Legacy is an outstanding addition to the Roberts collection and one I recommend to romance readers or those that enjoy complicated suspense thrillers. Legacy is yet another book going on my to-be-reread pile for the year. I’ll also be ordering a print copy of this one for my 86-y.o. mother to read.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Happy World Book Day!

UNESCO World Book Day Quote on  open book, "Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home." Anna Quindlen

Happy World Book Day, my bookish peeps. Since none of my giveaways last month during my blogiversary were international, I’ll be offering a special international giveaway in honor of World Book Day. I’ve chosen Kindred by Octavia Butler as the book to be given away. This book is very special to me, for a variety of reasons, but namely it was one of the first books I read about a person of color experiencing slavery written by a contemporary author of color and first published in 1979, the year I graduated from high school. Yes, I know I’m dating myself with that information, but this is just one of those books that I find myself rereading and I want to share my joy with one of you.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
ISBN: 9781472258229 (paperback)
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
Publication Date: May 03, 2018

Octavia E. Butler’s ground-breaking masterpiece, with an original foreword by Ayobami Adebayo.

‘The marker you should judge all other time-travelling narratives by’ GUARDIAN

‘[Her] evocative, often troubling, novels explore far-reaching issues of race, sex, power and, ultimately, what it means to be human’ NEW YORK TIMES

‘No novel I’ve read this year has felt as relevant, as gut-wrenching or as essential . . . If you’ve ever tweeted “All Lives Matter”, someone needs to shove Kindred into your hand, and quickly’ CAROLINE O’DONOGHUE

————

In 1976, Dana dreams of being a writer. In 1815, she is assumed a slave.

When Dana first meets Rufus on a Maryland plantation, he’s drowning. She saves his life – and it will happen again and again.

Neither of them understands his power to summon her whenever his life is threatened, nor the significance of the ties that bind them.

And each time Dana saves him, the more aware she is that her own life might be over before it’s even begun.

This is the extraordinary story of two people bound by blood, separated by so much more than time.

————-

PRAISE FOR OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR

‘Unnervingly prescient and wise’ YAA GYASI

‘Butler’s prose, always pared back to the bone, delineates the painful paradoxes of metamorphosis with compelling precision’ GUARDIAN

‘Octavia Butler was a visionary’ VIOLA DAVIS

‘One of the most significant literary artists of the twentieth century. One cannot exaggerate the impact she has had’ JUNOT DIAZ

‘An icon of the Afrofuturism world, envisioning literary realms that placed black characters front and center’ VANITY FAIR

‘Butler writes with such a familiarity that the alien is welcome and intriguing. She really artfully exposes our human impulse to self-destruct’ LUPITA NYONG’O

This book is being offered via Book Depository, so please check to make sure this company ships to your country before entering. I can not be held accountable or responsible if you win and then we find out that, oops, your country is one that Book Depository does not ship to after all. Please click HERE to see if your country is on the list of countries and regions Book Depository does ship to BEFORE you enter.

To enter, please use the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM ET on 04/30/2021 and the winner will be announced by 10:00 AM ET on 05/01/2021. If the winner doesn’t respond within 48 hours, another winner will be selected. Void where prohibited by law.

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2021 Book 132: MOTHER MAY I by Joshilyn Jackson

MOTHER MAY I by Joshilyn Jackson cover, toy animal carousel laying on the grass

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

ISBN: 9780062855343 (hardcover)

ISBN: 9780062855367 (ebook)

ISBN: 9780063092068 (digital audiobook)

ASIN: B08QDSNDPT (Audible audiobook)

ASIN: B08FT7MQHH (Kindle edition)

Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: April 6, 2021

 
 

Revenge doesn’t wait for permission.

Growing up poor in rural Georgia, Bree Cabbat was warned by her single mother that the world was a dark and scary place. Bree rejected her mother’s fearful outlook, and life has proved her right. Having married into a family with wealth, power, and connections, Bree now has all a woman could ever dream of: a loving lawyer husband, two talented teenage daughters, a new baby boy, a gorgeous home, and every opportunity in the world.

Until the day she awakens and sees a witch peering into her bedroom window—an old gray-haired woman dressed all in black who vanishes as quickly as she appears. It must be a play of the early morning light or the remnant of a waking dream, Bree tells herself, shaking off the bad feeling that overcomes her.

Later that day though, she spies the old woman again, in the parking lot of her daugh­ters’ private school . . . just minutes before Bree’s infant son, asleep in his car seat only a few feet away, vanishes. It happened so quickly—Bree looked away only for a second. There is a note left in his place, warning her that she is being is being watched; if she wants her baby back, she must not call the police or deviate in any way from the instructions that will follow.

The mysterious woman makes contact, and Bree learns she, too, is a mother. Why would another mother do this? What does she want? And why has she targeted Bree? Of course Bree will pay anything, do anything. It’s her child.

To get her baby back, Bree must complete one small—but critical—task. It seems harmless enough, but her action comes with a devastating price, making her complicit in a tangled web of tragedy and shocking secrets that could destroy everything she loves. It is the beginning of an odyssey that will lead Bree to dangerous places, explosive confrontations, and chilling truths.

Bree will do whatever it takes to protect her family—but what if the cost tears their world apart?

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Two women raised by single parents in poverty in rural Georgia had very different life experiences. One went to a state university, married well, and has three beautiful children along with a loving husband. The other lost her scholarship over a scandal, devolved into a spiraling cycle of drugs and crime. Both women are linked from an event that took place over thirty years ago even though they may not know it until the unimaginable happens.

Sabreena “Bree” Kroger Cabbat simply wanted to watch her eldest daughter’s play rehearsal. Her infant son is sleeping, so she leaves him in his car seat and watches. When she turns back around to check on her son, he’s gone and her nightmare begins. A fellow parent and old hometown friend, Marshall Chase, is on hand and takes her daughters to her mother’s for the weekend after claiming a bout with a stomach virus. When he sees her later that evening, he quickly realizes that there is much more going on than a “stomach virus.” A baby is missing. A man is murdered and Bree, her husband, and his deceased law partner – Spencer Shaw seem to be at the center of this problem. Bree, Marshall (a private detective at the law firm where Bree’s husband works), and another lawyer – Gabrielle Baxter, are working as quickly as possible to try and find the perpetrator as well as the possible motives for the kidnapping and murder. When they discover what Robert Cabbat the Third aka Trey — Bree’s husband and his partner Spence did in college it doesn’t justify the actions of the kidnapper/murderer but it does seem to explain it. What would or wouldn’t a mother do to try and protect her child or avenge the damage and injustice done?

Mother May I is more than a story of mothers protecting their children, it’s a story of bad behavior in college and those who ultimately pay for that behavior. When something bad happens, whether it involves star athletes or the wealthy versus a scholarship or student from a poor family, whose version of the story is believed. This is not just a story of “boys will be boys” but of boys doing something that will have repercussions for years. Mother May I deals with many harsh themes including campus sexual assault, drug abuse, workplace sexual assault, kidnapping, murder, and more. Everyone has a story to be revealed but which version is accurate? No, I won’t tell you! This is something you’ll need to discover for yourself by reading this book. I will say that Ms. Jackson has crafted a nuanced story that kept me wondering where it would lead until the final page. I enjoyed all of the characters, even the bad guys, and even felt some empathy for the reasons why the kidnapper/murdered felt compelled to do what was done (trust me, that makes a lot more sense when you read the story). If you enjoy reading taut mystery thrillers with believable characters, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of Mother May I. This is one I’m putting on my to be re-read list.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”