Monday, February 17, 2020

Beverly Jenkins writes independent women in African American Historical & Seasoned Romance. #Giveaway

Posted by Susan B James on 6:04:00 PM with 1 comment
"Love is love. We all love. And the industry should reflect everyone." 
Beverly Jenkins
The romance genre has come a long way since bestselling author Beverly Jenkins published her first novel, "Night Song," in 1994 — and it's fair to say that she is, at least in part, to thank for its advances

Beverly Jenkins is one of my seven favorite romance authors. If you haven't yet read her, you are missing so much great romance. Beverly's historicals always enlighten me about little known historical personages and events. The knowledge serves as a wonderful background for her strong feisty heroines. Independent women for whom romance is the icing on the cake. They are already complete.
And then there's her seasoned romance series, The Blessings.
It's listed on Amazon under Contemporary Women's Fiction, Women's Domestic Life Fiction and Women's Romance Fiction. They haven't caught up to the term Seasoned Romance. Which is a shame since both my time travel romances are seasoned.

The Blessings series is Pure wonderful wish fulfilment as far as I'm concerned. I just finished book ten  - On the Corner of Hope and Main. (No spoilers. It isn't out yet. I won a copy on Goodreads.)
Because I love this series so much I am giving away a Kindle copy of book one of the series, Bring on the Blessings.
If you don't know her work, you are missing so much good stuff. Right now I am reading Vivid - about the first female African American doctor in Michigan. I started it last night and I can't wait to get back to it.
Beverly Jenkins’ first romance, Night Song was published in 1994, Since then, she has been leading the charge for inclusive romance. She was featured in the documentary about the romance industry, Love Between the Covers (My sister Kelly and I rewatched this Saturday on Amazon Prime. Wonderful.) 
Her forty-plus books have made her a constant darling of reviewers, fans, and her peers alike, garnering accolades for her work from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, and NPR. And now she has a romance movie, Deadly Sexy which you can rent on Amazon. 
From Wikipedia Jenkins calls herself a "kitchen table historian." She likens American history to a quilt with some pieces ripped out—the pieces belonging to minority history. Jenkins uses her books to weave the quilt back together by revealing patches of black history that are rarely taught in school.[6] Slavery and the Civil Rights Movement are important pieces of African American history, but they aren't the only pieces. For example, her first three novels, Night Song, Vivid and Indigo, feature characters such as a schoolteacher, a cavalry officer, a female doctor and Underground Railroad heroes. They were all inspired by true history.

I messaged Beverly to see if she would be willing to be on my blog. She replied that she was on deadline but would be happy to allow me to post. After she posted that she'd sent off her book, I asked her my favorite question. The other answer came from an interview I read online.
ME: I love firsts. Can you share what it felt like to get "the Call" from your agent? From what I have been able to find online you got an agent before you got your publisher. 
BJ: My first agent was Vivian Stephens founder of RWA. Having her call me at my job to say she wanted to rep my book was an incredible experience. I will always be grateful to her.
What do you hope readers take away from your work?
Romance is such a broad genre that you can do so much with it.

BJ: I call it “edutainment”: entertainment and education. Romance is such a broad genre that you can do so much with it. I mean, basically we’re writing about people and their feelings and people having second chances and people taking chances. I think it’s one of the best genres out there. So, if you can put that history along with these great women that we write about, and show that female empowerment, and show women making decisions that changed not only their lives, but maybe their families’ lives — the history becomes a lot more palatable. There’s no test on Friday, so [the readers just] drink up the history. They just inhale it.

When you educate a woman, you educate a race. So these African American women and white women and women of Chinese extraction and Asian extraction, who are reading these books, are able to share [these stories] with their children and with their grandchildren. And it changes their lives, because kids can’t be what they can’t see. To see that history, it gives them a pride that maybe they didn’t have before, because they were more than just the people that laid the railroads, or they were more than just slaves, or they were more than whatever back room that history has relegated people of color. I call it inclusion. Give me a seat at the table and let me show you what I can do.
One of my other seven favorite authors, Alyssa Cole says Beverly Jenkins was her inspiration. She's mine too. Thank you for your books and for answering my question.

So, my loves, about my giveaway, Bring on the Blessings:
On Bernadine Brown's fifty-second birthday she received an unexpected gift—she caught her husband, Leo, cheating with his secretary. She was hurt—angry, too—but she didn't cry woe is me. Nope, she hired herself a top-notch lawyer and ended up with a cool $275 million. Having been raised in the church, she knew that when much is given much is expected, so she asked God to send her a purpose.
The purpose turned out to be a town: Henry Adams, Kansas, one of the last surviving townships founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. The failing town had put itself up for sale on the Internet, so Bernadine bought it.
Trent July is the mayor, and watching the town of his birth slide into debt and foreclosure is about the hardest thing he's ever done. When the buyer comes to town, he's impressed by her vision, strength, and the hope she wants to offer not only to the town and its few remaining residents, but to a handful of kids in desperate need of a second chance.
Not everyone in town wants to get on board though; they don't want change. But Bernadine and Trent, along with his first love, Lily Fontaine, are determined to preserve the town's legacy while ushering in a new era with ties to its unique past and its promising future.
Enter below to win a Kindle copy.
Beverly's books are available at your local library in eBook, Audiobook, and paperback on Amazon, B&N, and Indie bookstores everywhere. Happy Reading.
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Monday, February 10, 2020

Remember Spencer Tracy? # Giveaway

Posted by Susan B James on 9:00:00 PM with 1 comment
In Irish Magic, I make reference to two film stars I thought would last forever.
Spencer Tracy and John Wayne.
Last week I was sitting at the Macbeth rehearsal table at Warner Brothers listening to Denzel Washington talk with some of the younger actors in the cast. He was talking about how Spencer Tracy used to listen better than anyone in motion pictures. He stopped talking and looked at them. "You don't know who that is, do you?"
They shook their heads.
Denzel looked at me. "They don't know who Spencer Tracy is."
The sadness in his eyes was reflected in mine. "I know," I said."They probably don't know who John Wayne is either."

Cultural references fade from generation to generation. I knew this, but I thought some had built-in lastingness. Spencer Tracy and John Wayne for two. If you are under forty you, too, may be saying, "Who?
It never occurred to be those names would become lost. Despite my reference gaffes, I believe Irish Magic is a fun read. Do you need a little escapism?

I wrote it after I visited Ireland's famous matchmaking festival. It was charming, but I wanted a wee bit more magic. 
What if there was a matchmaker who inherited the power to know your true love? 
What if there was such a thing as leprechauns or half leprechauns - a bit more human-sized - who were under geas to fulfil wishes. 

Irish Magic has 58 customer ratings on Amazon with a 4.5 average and 35 ratings and 27 reviews with a 4.23 average on Goodreads.

Quotes from reviews.
“A quirky tale of love where and when you least expect it, but exactly when you need it most.”
TomeTender Book Blog

“A lovely cross of contemporary with a touch of fantasy. I’d definitely pick up more books like this one from Ms. James.” Trish on Goodreads

Reviewed in the United States on August 14, 2019
Format: Kindle Edition
Light and funny, Irish Magic is a feel good romance sprinkled with a bit of magic. The story follows Kate, a romance novelist whose muse (and boyfriend) turned out to be a dud. She’s feeling a little jaded about love and now finds herself struggling to finish her latest book. Michael is a sexy and newly single doctor whose girlfriend cheated. Neither one is in a good place emotionally, but as they travel to Ireland separately and continue bumping into each other, they have to question whether there is more than luck on their side. Throw in a part-leprechaun and some good old Irish magic, and this couple finds themselves fated to be together.
What do you get when to take a doctor, an author, a leprechaun/human and put them in Ireland? What first caught my attention was simply the title. I am part Irish. I believe that the idea of magic (to some degree) appeals to a lot of people.

I was hooked by the end of the first chapter. First of all, any book that mentions a possibility of a character going to Ireland already earns a star. When Kate makes a wish it’s just a question of how literal that wish will be taken. I was able to complete the book in two days.
Irish Magic is available now on Kindle for 3.99  and in March in paperback 14.99. 
The audiobook is currently available on Kobo  Google Play Apple Books Scribed and a few other places for 8.95. I lowered the price hoping to give a break to readers. It should be available soon on Audible.
I Hope you will check it out. 
I wish you all a Happy Valentine's Day.
I have a free audio codes for anyone who can name their favorite Spencer Tracy or John Wayne Movie.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Janis Lane's Adam and Abby adventures - Sandpiper Affair and Snapshot Suspicions

Posted by Susan B James on 3:00:00 AM with 1 comment
Guest post by Janis Lane

Who knew trespassing in the restrictive area of a Florida State Park to get the perfect shot of the sand hill crane family would wind up with Abby Naycomb, wildlife photographer extraordinaire, meeting the most handsome park ranger in the world?

Mating/nesting birds were the subject of her quest but finding those intense blue eyes in the lens of her camera was distracting and hormone inciting. Adam Rawlings, millionaire park ranger, was as shocked as Abby when she accidentally discovered a murdered man buried in a shallow grave in the sand.

Janis:I make a big pretense of writing for the amusement of my readers. It’s only part true.
Here in this story, I delight in following Abby and Adam around as they interact (romance) with the exotic environment of Middle Florida, one of my favorite places to be. I’m not much of a beach lover. I’m usually found prowling the paths of the parks in search of the latest perching bird or gazing at the sky to spot an eagle or two. Abby, wildlife photographer is not me, but she and I share a love for many of the same things.
 Also we are annoyed similarly. Adam is nothing like my hubby, but I did pose him for my sister, who has a thing for blond giants. I made him an amiable millionaire for all the rest of us. My niece loves to work with dogs and surely would have had our unruly Buster up to snuff in short time and ready for the AKC trials.
I once saw a sad Florida panther (exquisite animal) caged in a small town zoo. A visitor was throwing paper at him to annoy and make him roar; I wondered then what would happen, if for some reason, the door of the cage were to spring open. And so my story was born.
SANDPIPER AFFAIR is the first of the Adam and Abby Adventures;

Snapshot Suspicions the second. There might be a third in the works. Nature is a never-ending fascination for me although I rarely stop long enough for snapshots.  Get out your insect spray and join Abby, Adam, and me as we traverse the lovely flora and fauna of Middle Florida and enjoy a dip or two in the Artemesian Springs along the way. I’ll pick a sprig of honeysuckle to ride in my blouse’s buttonhole for the exotic fragrance.  You may pick one too.  


Snapshot Suspicions is another adventure with Abby, beautiful, vagabond wildlife photographer, and Adam, ruggedly handsome, millionaire protector of the environment. A dangerous wildlife mystery requires the close attention of Adam and the local sheriff as Abby deals with two hired goons stalking her with a grudge. Basking in the rosy contentment of their love, Abby and Adam must trust each other as they encounter the first rift in their relationship. An engaging puppy presents a conundrum and a terrifying incident.

Abby discovers she can enjoy photographing subjects (AKC) other than wildlife and delights in setting up her own office, while Adam breathes a sign of relief when Abby makes a permanent commitment. Could she finally be thinking of a lifetime pledge to him?

Excerpt: As she entered the room, a long arm snaked out and pulled her swiftly toward a broad chest. Her face was again covered with kisses that trailed down her face, sidetracked to explore a curled ear with a sip on a tiny lobe, and continued a path of kisses until it landed against her lips, which were blossoming into a reluctant smile.
The sandy-haired giant lifted his head from the places he had been attending and settled his piercing blue eyes on her green ones with a satisfied sigh.
He sat down in a kitchen chair and pulled her onto his lap, wrapping her in a warm embrace and tucking her head on his shoulder. She snuggled contentedly against him. What a wonderful way to greet the day, she thought. Everyone should have a handsome blond giant to cuddle with . . . She could feel herself drifting off.
“Good morning, Abby, my tree sprite. Did you sleep well? I thought you might stay snuggled in bed this morning after such a late night.”
“Adam.” She took a deep breath inhaling the familiar fragrance that she loved. It was all Adam who was so dear to her. She rubbed her face into his shoulder and allowed him to cuddle her for a minute more. Her body relaxed against him, her hand half encircled his rock hard forearm, but her mind struggled with her problem. She knew she had to nip this in the bud if she were ever to have peace. This was exactly what she had feared when she resisted moving in with him, even though she knew she loved him.
“Adam.” She turned her head to stare into his intensely blue eyes, and then shut hers. There was always the danger of falling into those loving pools of blue if a girl were not careful. She knew from experience how mesmerizing they could be.
“You’ve got to control that dog. I know he’s young and means no harm, but you promised to train him. I can’t keep buying new sneakers every single day.” She felt Adam’s deep chuckle before she heard it. His chest erupted in those sounds that brought a smile to her face in spite of her annoyance with the situation.

If you liked the excerpt you can buy the book for 3.99 at Amazon.
Happy Reading, friends. See you next week.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Meet Anne Armistead, Storyologist. #Giveaway

Posted by Susan B James on 9:52:00 PM with 1 comment

Anne Armistead describes herself as a storyologist, a term I love. 
She currently has two books out - Dangerous Conjurings (Soul Mate Publishing) and With Kisses from  Cécile   (Storyology Design & Publishing, co-author Jan Agnello). Anne and Jan are working on the next book in their Second Chance historical romance series, tentatively titled A Message for Mirabelle. 
Anne is giving away one Kindle copy each of WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE. and  DANGEROUS CONJURINGSThere's a Rafflecopter at the end of the post.
Anne, please tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in Georgia and received my English literature degree from the University of Georgia and my MFA in creative writing from Spalding University. My background includes project management with AT&T and teaching English at the middle, high, and college levels. I met my “Jersey-boy” husband at a training class we both attended at AT&T.
We are a house divided, with me a UGA grad and John a Tech grad, but we suffer through it. We have two grown daughters, and we completely spoil our sweet rescue mutt Jackpot, so named because we hit the jackpot when we adopted him. I am a member of the Atlanta Writers Club, the Southeastern Writers Association, and the Historical Novel Society.
. Aha! A fellow UGA grad. I graduated in 1964,

I love firsts, so tell me about the moment when you decided to self-publish WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE?
Jan Agnello and I met ten years ago at an Atlanta Writers Club meeting, where we are both members. She was working on a draft of WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE. I fell in love with Cécile, a young French woman who was a pen pal with Jan’s grandmother from 1919-1921. Jan has all the original letters Cécile wrote to Ruth and was working on developing a story around the events of both of their lives which intersected through their exchange of their letters. Jan, an antique dealer and jewelry designer whose company is called Storyology Design, asked if I might be interested in working on writing the story with her, and our collaboration began.

Life intervened during the past decade, resulting in us delaying and delaying the completion of this writing project. When we resuscitated our efforts in 2018, our lives were at a point where we could focus on its completion, finally!

During the past decade, Jan had become well-known for her antique coin purse necklaces and jewelry designing, as well as for her antique dealership. I had met with success in publishing DANGEROUS CONJURINGS, an historical romance, as well as writing historical fiction for Highlights Magazine (published under my legal name Sandra Havriluk).

We brainstormed extending her company Storyology Design into Storyology Design & Publication, and we defined who a “Storyologist” is: A seeker of hidden stories, past and present. We decided to self-publish a series of historical novels with each featuring a collection of jewelry and gifts to accompany the experience of reading the novels. We, of course, picked back up with CÉCILE to be our first self-publishing venture, which we released in September 2019, with the CÉCILE JEWELRY & GIFT COLLECTION accompanying it.

Jan’s presence at the two largest antique markets in the Southeast monthly (Scotts and Lakewood) provides us with these unique venues to sell our books directly to the public, and we have met with good book sales results via this marketing outlet, as well as online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble and our website.

You can learn more about our “story” and the books, jewelry, and gifts by visiting our website

Did you hire an editor?

Once we had a completed version of WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE, we hired a wonderful editor, Mary Beth Bishop, who thoroughly edited for story continuity as well as grammar, etc. What we thought was a completed version became what truly is our completed version that we published. Paying for a professional editor added to the overall bottom line of cost considerably, but that money was very well-spent. I recommend any author who is going to self-publish to work this cost into the budget.

How did you choose the cover? 

The book’s cover is a photograph from Jan’s design of materials. She used a beautiful antique jewelry box whose interior fabric evokes the French blue feel we wanted for the cover. She arranged a collage of CÉCILE’s letters, as well as photos of Ruth and Cécile, and draped the signature Eiffel Tower pendant on the Victorian book chain necklace over it. The necklace is Jan’s design for the CÉCILE COLLECTION. The pendant reflects French icons from the 1919 era, and each engraved link of the book chain necklace is unique. Lovely.

Other than your own, who are your current favorite authors in your genre of historical fiction?
Oh, so many incredible authors and books, and so little time!....

Nina George’s Little Paris Bookshop is a masterpiece. I am totally in love with this book. Drop everything and read it NOW if you can! I enjoy the collaborative novels by Karen White, Lauren Willig, and Beatrix Williams, and can’t wait to read their latest, All The Ways We Said Goodbye, a Novel of the Ritz Paris. I love Jennifer Robson, Somewhere in France being my favorite, and I enjoyed The Gown. Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours is un-put-downable. I am reading Therese Anne Fowler’s A Well-Behaved Woman. I absolutely love Charles Todd’s Inspector Ian Rutledge series, starting with A Test of Wills. I also enjoy Anthony Horowitz’s books (drawn to him because of I loved his Foyle’s War series.)

What is the most exciting moment, so far, in your writing career?

I would have to say that opening up the box of WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE with Jan is a high point in my writing career. This story was such a labor of absolute love, and to bring it to reality in such a beautifully published book brought tears of joy. Here we are, opening that box!
Another never-to-be-forgotten thrill was seeing my first short story beautifully illustrated and published in Highlights made my heart pound because I grew up reading this magazine as a child and dreamed of one day seeing my byline in it.

I also have a binder of many certificates from being a finalist and winner in multiple writing contests, which I look through when I feel writer’s doubt creeping in and the blank page staring at me! You are not alone. I used to think it was just me, but most of my favorite writers experience that all the time.

What is your favorite pastime, other than writing?

Obviously, I love reading. I am a fan of British series, and enjoy police procedurals such as Midsomer Murders, Murdoch Mysteries, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and more (thank heaven for Acorn and Britbox!)
I enjoy my twice-weekly Pilates class, which I refer to as my torture hours, and I also enjoy traveling with friends and family. I just recently visited with my brother, who lives in Grand Cayman.

NOW: Maggie Ruth Mitchell’s failed reconciliation with her unfaithful husband leaves her heartbroken—and pregnant. She accepts her family’s invitation to Paris to pay homage to Cécile, whose pen pal letters from 1919 to Maggie’s great-grandmother Ruth are cherished family mementoes. Through reading Cécile’s letters and learning about Ruth’s tragic past, will Maggie find the strength to forgive and love again?

THEN: In the year 1919 following World War One, Ruth and Cécile begin corresponding through an American-French pen pal program. Cécile is fighting against consumption, a life-threatening illness. Ruth is hiding the truth about a tragic death that has torn her family apart. She draws strength to face what fate brings from her pen pal’s inspiring letters, each signed With Kisses from Cécile.


With the mysterious and handsome Civil War veteran Marcus Quinn at her side, Leah Sullivan chases after the evil conjurer who has kidnapped her brother. The couple’s passion heats up while sleeping under the stars only inches apart and surrounded by peril. However, through a cruel twist of fate, Leah discovers the devastating secret about Marcus’s past that breaks her heart and jeopardizes her brother’s rescue. Will Leah’s love for Marcus be powerful enough to overcome his betrayal? Or will dangerous conjurings doom their future together?

You have three more books planned for your Storyology Design & Publication “Second Chances” Series. What are they?
In addition to WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE, our two other books in our Second Chance Series are tentatively titled A MESSAGE FOR MIRABELLE (time travel to the Paris Exhibition of 1900) and FAN FAIRE (a romance set against a young woman’s visit to Paris during her Grand Tour of Europe in 1890). In addition to the theme of second chances, you will note that Paris is the setting for these books! Also, the stories owe their genesis to antiques that Jan is an expert about (antique coin purse in MIRABELLE and antique fans in FAN FAIRE).

And finally, where can we find you?

Author Website

Storyology Design & Publication Website




Thank you for being here, Anne, I wish you many sales and many more books. Readers, here are excerpts from the books.  Enter to win a copy below. 
Happy Reading.



Copyright © 2019 by Jan Agnello and Anne Armistead

All rights reserved
With Kisses from Cécile



The mad rush to the airport distracted Maggie from Cole’s multiple texts, each pleading for them to meet. She reached the limit of her patience while waiting in the security line and blocked his number. She would not let him continue to intrude on this trip.

Once settled into their first-class seats, Maggie half-seriously wondered if having an estranged father intent on buying her affection was too awful. Obviously, he had spared no expense to make sure she and Grams would enjoy themselves.

Once in the air, Maggie’s tension melted a bit. They were on their way. She leaned back her window seat, grateful Grams preferred the aisle. The couple across from them, young and obviously in love, reminded Maggie of how she thought her first trip to Paris would be with Cole. She looked out the window to hide her welling tears from her grandmother. No matter how emphatically she told herself she was done crying about the end of her marriage, she obviously wasn’t. Damn.

“Maggie, dear. You’re deep in thought.”

Maggie forced control of her emotions before facing Grams. “Deep in thought about Paris. I can’t believe we’ll soon be there.”

Grams reached into the canvas travel bag stored under the seat in front of her. She’d insisted on carrying it on. She pulled out a decorative wooden box with words in French engraved on its lid.

“Now that we’re on our way, it’s time I introduce you to Cécile.” She patted the top of the box. “The first letter Cécile posted to Ruth was on June 28, 1919, the date of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, ending the war.”

She handed the box to Maggie, adding softly, “The Great War, they called it. They believed it to be the war to end all wars. Unfortunately, many wars have followed, claiming too many lives.”

Maggie realized Grams must be thinking of her own husband’s death. She’d never remarried, raising her daughter alone on a secretary’s salary and military death benefits. Maggie’s throat burned. Everything prompted her to cry now, even the death of the grandfather she’d never met.

She pulled down her seat tray and placed the box onto it. Tracing the engraved words with her fingers, she read them out loud in her halting high school French. “Il n’ya que les montagnes qui ne se rencontrent pas.” Maggie looked questioningly at Grams.

“Cécile wrote that in one of her letters to my mother. Can you translate it?”

Maggie studied the words once more, translating slowly. “Something about mountains. It is only mountains that never meet?” She furrowed her brow in confusion.

“You translated it literally, but what it means is ‘There are none so distant that fate cannot bring them together.’ It’s an old French proverb.”

The saying opened for Maggie the wound of her failed marriage. Nothing could bridge the distance between her and Cole.

Grams added, “Our trip is in tribute to Ruth and Cécile. All the miles between them, along with what fate had in store for each, kept them from meeting. We are thwarting that fate by our trip, though. Their friendship lives on through me, through you. Through your children, Maggie.”

That sixth sense of yours, Grams, Maggie thought. She brushed her fingertips across the engraving again. She opened the box. “I can’t wait to begin reading the letters.”

The scent from the box’s interior reminded her of old books, combined with something tangier. Maggie held one of the envelopes to her nose. “It smells faintly of tobacco.”

“My mother kept the letters in an old cigar box of her father’s until she received this box, a wedding gift from my father — your great-grandfather Clinton. He knew she would enjoy its touch of secrecy.” She put her finger on an unnoticeable button on the inside of the box, and a bottom drawer came ajar.

“Oh, look at that!” Maggie pointed. “A secret compartment.”

“Yes. That’s where my mother kept this lovely necklace my father gave her.” Grams dangled the chain with a coin-like medallion hanging from it. Pressed into the medallion were the initials CC.

“It’s charming,” Maggie said.

“Yes. How coincidental that the two most special people in my mother’s life shared the same initials: Clinton Carlock and Cécile Cosquéric.” Grams returned the necklace to the drawer. “The story behind this gift will keep for now. It’s all part of a larger one I will share with you.”

“It’s one I can’t wait to hear, Grams.” Maggie studied the envelope she still held. The teacher in her admired the perfect cursive swirls. If only her students could write that legibly! Her mother had been right. Ideas whirled in Maggie’s mind about how to integrate Cécile’s letters into her World War One lesson plans. She couldn’t believe Grams had kept these treasures from her this long!

She read the envelope’s address out loud. “Colorado Springs? Hasn’t our family always lived in the Oakland area?”

“Not always. My mother’s family actually lived in Colorado Springs on a farm when she was a child. She moved to Oakland right after she and Cécile exchanged their first letters.” Grams rested her head against her seatback and stared past Maggie, into the darkening sky. “The move was difficult and for difficult reasons.”

Maggie’s eyes widened. “My curiosity is brimming after what Mom said last night. I’m guessing you’ve been hiding deep, dark family secrets from me?”

“As a matter of fact, yes.” Grams’s serious reply heightened Maggie’s curiosity.

“Oh, my,” Maggie said. “I had no idea.”

The idea of family secrets and skeletons in the closet was both intriguing and surprising. Yet she withheld her own secret. How much longer could she keep quiet about her news?

She carefully flipped through the bundle of letters, recognizing different handwriting on a couple of the envelopes. The last envelope, addressed in that different handwriting, showed the postmark of January 1921. What had happened to end the two girls’ correspondence?

Maggie angled her body into the corner of the spacious window seat, giving silent thanks once more for traveling first-class. “We have a long flight,” she said. “I’m your captive audience.”


Copyright © 2018 by Anne Armistead

All rights reserved
Dangerous Conjurings

On the first of September, a stranger came to call.

I was cutting and gathering into a basket the sunflowers Mama fussed over. "At least the Yankees didn’t stampede the flower garden," she always said. The jaunty flowers served as a small comfort, as far as I was concerned.

Curiosity over the caller set my pulse singing. A visitor was such an oddity. He must be lost and in need of directions.

The skinny reddish mare from which he dismounted appeared sore in need of tending, and so did he. The tell-tale signs he had been a soldier were apparent from his saddlebags, bed roll, canteen, lead and picket rope, tent half, and poncho, all War-issued. His faded trousers with the yellow stripe down their sides marked him as Cavalry. His sack coat bore the dust of many days’ travel. His haversack was slung from his shoulder and slouch hat was tugged over his brow.

He looped his reins around the hitching post by the front porch steps and was making his way to the door. His gait favored his left leg, a war injury I assumed.

Preparing to greet him, I straightened my work dress and checked the ties of my work apron, thankful I was not attired in William’s work trousers I had taken so often to wearing. I patted my hair which I had gathered into one of Mama’s yarn snoods to keep off my neck.

Walking toward the porch with basket in one hand and scissors in the other, I reminded myself it was not this survivor’s fault that William and Fitz were gone. No matter how hard I tried not to blame those who had survived the War, I couldn’t help it. I lay awake nights wrestling with the unanswerable question of why Fitz and William were taken and others spared.

I forced warmth into my voice. "Welcome, sir."

His quick turn showed I startled him. He tugged his hat’s brim. "Sorry, ma’am. I didn’t see you."

He held his hand out to assist me up the stairs, his touch firm yet gentle. His broad-shouldered body cast a shadow over me, blocking the slant of the late afternoon sun. Withdrawing my hand from his, my introduction tumbled out. "I’m Leah Sullivan. And you are?"

He hesitated to answer. Had I been improper in introducing myself first? Should I have curtsied? Waited for him to have spoken first? I hadn’t a clue. It had been so long since I had been in the company of others. Hotness crept across my cheeks.

He removed his hat, revealing handsome features, set off by cornflower blue eyes flecked with black. They held the same expression as Daddy’s, one of aged tiredness that told of the horrors of battle. He, as had all soldiers, had endured such suffering. Sympathy overtook my initial resentment.

"My name is Marcus Quinn, ma’am." His voice held a quiet fatigue.

I slightly bowed my head to avert my gaze. "Pleased to make your acquaintance." An awkwardness settled between us until my curiosity over his visit overcame it. "What brings you here, Mr. Quinn?"

His posture stiffened, as if my question had been too forward. His reserved mask cracked, exposing the raw sorrow I’d seen so often on Daddy’s face. His one-word answer was an unexpected one. "William."

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