Review of Eternal Flame: A Rose of Anzio Story by Alexa Kang

Eternal Flame: A Rose of Anzio StoryEternal Flame: A Rose of Anzio Story by Alexa Kang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story is a YA, romance, time-travel, historical fiction. And I love the premise: a soldier from 1944 and a teenage-girl from 1989 in love!

I don’t read many time-travel stories, but time travel is something that intrigues me, so I went into this novel expecting to enjoy it, and I did.

The protagonist is 16-year-old Julia Olsen, who lives in a suburb of Chicago, and is pretty much just skimming by in life, like most teenagers. Coming off a bad breakup, she’s spending her time reading teen magazines, obsessing over why Trey (her ex) dumped her, and watching her grades slip. Her family recently moved into a new old house, and among the furniture left in the residence is a New Hampshire clock in Julia’s room. She can’t wait to be rid of the clock (and the other old furniture in her room) and get some new Ikea models.

She winds the clock in her boredom, goes to sleep, and wakes to a young man in her bed–a soldier from World War II! Alarmed, she runs from her room to alert her parents, but when she returns, he’s no where in sight. When the young man returns, things get interesting. It doesn’t take long for them to realize that time travel is at play, and it involves the New Hampshire clock. The soldier tells Julia his name–Edmond Ferris, although he goes by Ed.

Before long, Julia and Ed strike up a friendship, and as the holidays approach, they fall in love. Julia not only falls in love with this handsome, brave soldier who’s putting his life on the line (Ed returns to his time and comes back to 1989 several times), but she starts feeling a confidence in herself she hadn’t in a long time.

As they grew closer, however, the stakes get higher. Julia discovers some alarming truths about the past, about time travel, and about Ed. Ed promises her that they will be together in her time after he’s done fighting in the war. He’s committed to the cause, after all, and can’t just leave the other men. But Julia worries for Ed every time he goes back to 1944.

The story is an easy read and is well-researched for both time periods. The romance is believable, and you want nothing more than for Julia and Ed to have their happily-ever-after; however, is that possible?

The end really captures the reality of what would or could happen when two people from two time periods fall in love. I cried. I won’t tell you why, but this story will stay with me for a long time.

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Review of Final Mission: Zion – A World War 2 Thriller by Chuck Driskell

Final Mission: Zion - A World War 2 ThrillerFinal Mission: Zion – A World War 2 Thriller by Chuck Driskell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a powerful story of the resilience of the human spirit during times of atrocity and how ultimately our choices define us. Neil Reuter is an American who fought during the Great War and has since been employed by the War Department to carry out assassinations of enemies of the state. He has recently lost his wife, Emilee, and his unborn child to murder. Grieving and wondering what the point is of his wayward life, he receives a letter from his best friend and war buddy, Jakey. To make matters worse, Jakey has been killed overseas. Jakey entrusts Neil with an important mission: of transporting dozens of Jewish childish and their caretakers to Palestine and safety from Europe.

It’s 1938, and the Nazis are gaining power by the day, and war looms on the horizon. Neil accepts the mission, believing it will give him a purpose and something worthwhile to do, but getting to the children will prove a huge challenge. What plays out is a masterfully crafted story of survival, espionage, battle of wills, and a race against the powers that wish to stop Neil, including crazed and corrupt War Department leader Preston Lord and SS leader Anton Aying, two men who are guilty of horrific crimes.

In the midst of Neil’s journey, he encounters more death, more hatred, but also romance and hope. The further I got into the story, to more the thrill of the tale swept me into its pages. I couldn’t stop reading. But it wasn’t only needing to know what happens next that got to me. Many of the characters came alive. I wept with them. I cheered with them. Also for them. This story may be fiction, but its basis is on fact. Not so long ago in our history, events like this occurred, and those who endured those days are to be remembered, honored, and admired…and never forgotten.

It’s clear that the author has a clear grasp of history and military knowledge. What’s clearer is that often during the most harrowing of circumstances, such of World War II, some of the best stories of courage and dignity shine. Chuck Driskell knows how to weave such a tale.

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Excerpt from Mile Marker 139 (Unpublished) – Chapter 11

December 31, 2017 – Sunday

“You know I ain’t gonna be surprised,” Russ grumbles as Brandy drives.

“Can you at least pretend?” his sister asks.

Russ glances in her direction. Her wavy brown hair is pulled up in a high ponytail, and she’s dressed up, which means her nice jeans and a new sports jersey. Brandy was a jock in high school and is the soccer mom who coaches her kids’ games. She’s happiest in a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt. While Russ has a hard time finding enough leg room in Brandy’s Focus and his head grazes the ceiling, Brandy has the driver’s seat moved as close to the steering wheel as it can go. They share only their light brown eyes.

“I’m no actor,” Russ says, smirking.

Brandy huffs. “If I weren’t driving, I’d pop you one in the arm, bro. You know me, Ed, and the guys went through a lot to put this thing together. And on New Year’s Eve of all nights! You know places are booked months, years, in advance. The reservation fee alone’s probably more than your monthly salary.”

Russ chuckles. “You don’t know how much I make a month.”

“No, but you ain’t exactly living in high society if that hole you rent in Inwood’s anything to go by. I still don’t know why you gotta live in Manhattan. It’s a betrayal, Russ. What’s wrong with your home back in Queens?”

Russ grins. “What’s it to you? I hardly stay there. Maybe it’s time to move, but getting back to this stupid party, I never asked any of you loons to do anything.”

Brandy pulls the car into a private lot and parks. After turning off the ignition, she turns toward her brother. “Ah, Rusty, we do it ‘cause we love ya.”

Russ cringes at his childhood name. “Don’t call me Rusty. I’ll go in, act all surprised, and grab a beer. Seeing my pals is reason enough to have a good time.”

“That’s the spirit!”

They step out of the car to frigid wind whipping their faces. Russ puts an arm around his sister as they hustle toward the bar, a hopping new place called Jazzy Sue’s not far from Penn Station. Once inside, they’re packed shoulder-to-shoulder with the patrons. Brandy calls over the noise of the crowd and the music to the bartender that they’re there for a private party.

“Back room!” the bartender mouths and waves them on.

Russ and Brandy shuffle through the crowd. Arriving outside the door to the party room, Russ grins at his sister and shakes his head.

“What’s so funny?” she asks.

“You all kept teasing me about throwing an ‘Over the Hill’ party for months. No one really thinks I’m gonna be shocked.”

Brandy smiles, amused. “Point taken. Let’s just get in there and outta this body heat. Ugh, I can feel the sweat between my–”

“Don’t say it.”

Brandy laughs. “C’mon.”

She opens the door, and the crowd beyond the threshold shouts, “Surprise!”

Russ smiles in spite of himself as he enters. Hands clap him on the back, and someone passes him a beer. He knocks it back.

“How’s it feel to be an old man, buddy?”

“Amazed you’re still walking without a cane!”

“Happy birthday, man!”

Russ can’t help but chuckle. So many faces, so many voices, it’s dizzying but great. It doesn’t take long before he’s swept up in the chaos. People he hasn’t seen in years are there. After a few beers, Russ’s guard drops. He’s caught up in conversations he won’t remember in the morning, but he’s sure he’ll remember the feeling of being thought of by all these people.

After rounds of junk food and a large slice of cake, Russ leans back in a chair, full. Some of the crowd has thinned. His best buddy, Ed, pulls up a seat.

“You sure you won’t have another beer?” Ed asks, smirking.

Russ shakes his head, chuckling. “And get a beer gut like you, man? No thanks. Looks like I’ll be working out extra hard at the gym this week whenever I can.”

“You have a long way to go to beat me.” Ed pats his belly. “It’s been too long since we talked about real shit. There a special girl in your life? Time’s tickin’ away if you ever wanna settle down.”

Russ frowns. “What d’you know about settling down?”

Ed straightens in the chair and regards his friend. “Hey, be nice. That was years ago, man.”

Russ knows it’s s sore point to bring up Ed’s ex-wife. “Nah, there’s no one.” Despite what he says, and maybe it’s the alcohol talking, he half-smiles. “Well, there’s this one girl, but she doesn’t count.”

“Do tell.”

“It’s nothing. I shouldn’t even be thinkin’ about her.”

“Well, shit, buddy, now you gotta tell me.”

“Her name’s Shelley. Beyond that, I don’t know much.”

“How’d you meet? Online dating?”

Russ laughs. “Nope, not even gonna go there. You know it’s next to impossible to meet someone with my schedule.”

“Well, how’d you meet?”

“You ain’t gonna believe this, but she was at one of the rest stops along my route. Somewhere in Ohio, past Cleveland.”

“Sounds romantic.” Ed chuckles and finishes his beer. “Sure you don’t want another? You only turn the big 4-0 once.”

“What the hell? Why not?”

Ed leaves and returns with two bottles of some brand of Christmas ale. The liquid gold slides down Russ’s throat with ease.

“Doubt I’ll see her again,” Russ says. “She might be homeless.”

“Dude, that’s messed up. You’ve got a thing for a homeless chick? What’s her best feature? The lice in her hair or the trash bag she wears?”

Russ stops smiling. “Don’t be a jerk, Ed.”

“Sorry, sorry.” Ed sets down his beer and holds up both hands in mock-surrender. “Just a bad joke, but c’mon, pal. You don’t really think you’re gonna score with a chick like that.”

“No.” Russ smirks, but a prickle of sadness creeps into his heart. He hasn’t had any feelings for a woman in years. The long hours on the road, the time away from home–it keeps him busy and thinking about anything other than falling in love again. Or that’s the lie he feeds himself.

Ed slaps Russ on the back, snapping him out of his thoughts. “Look at the time! It’s almost the New Year. I gotta find Susan. Find a girl somewhere in here to kiss. At least give yourself that.”

“Go get your latest fling, you crazy son-of-a-bitch.”

The TV above the bar shows the ball getting ready to drop in Times Square. For how close 42nd Street is, he’s never been there on New Year’s Eve, but as the seconds count down to 2018, everyone in the room chants. Arms snake around Russ, pulling him into the fray, and he finds himself counting down with them.

“Happy New Year!”

Someone grabs Russ and lays a wet smacker on his lips. When he pulls back, he’s stunned to see a girl who’s barely legal.

“Who are you?” he asks.

She laughs and darts out of the room, leaving Russ bemused.

“Happy birthday, old man,” he mutters.

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is available for $4.99 here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

 

Excerpt from Rocks and Flowers in a Box (Unpublished Book)

The first snow made its greeting just in time for Christmas. I stood on a stool, trying to place the star on top of the tree. Tristan sat in my dad’s old armchair, his nose buried in a book. Nearly toppling, I regained my balance and huffed, then pushed my hair out of my face.

“Some help wouldn’t be amiss,” I said. “You know, maybe a helping hand from a tall, strong man. Know anyone who meets that description?”

“Hmm?” Tristan raised his eyes. Seeing the look on my face, he said, “Oh, right.” Standing, the book dropped from his lap to the floor. He came to my aid, placing his hands on either side of my waist. “What seems to be the problem here?” He tried not to smile.

“Oh, wipe that silly grin off your face, Mr. Smarty Pants.”

“But I’m not smiling.” His tone failed to hide the smile in his voice.

I raised my eyebrows. “Oh, really? And what do you call that?” I pointed to the upturned edges of his mouth.

“That’s hardly a smile. Now, I can think of a better thing to do with my mouth than smile.” He lifted me off the stool, hoisting me over his shoulder, then flopped into the armchair.

“Oh!” I exclaimed, taken by surprise. I crashed into him, but Tristan caught my face and brought my lips to his.

After the kiss ended, I said, “You know you shouldn’t be doing any heavy lifting.”

“Are you saying something about your weight, my darling?”

I gently smacked his arm. “Hey, now.”

He chuckled. “You’re as light as a feather. Don’t worry about that. Your curves are…mmm, the perfect caress for my hands.”

“Hmm, well, perhaps those hands can be put to a different task.”

Tristan looked affronted. “What better use could there be than writing, perhaps?”

“Very funny. I meant putting the star on the tree.” I pointed to the top of our real tree. Yesterday, the Macy, John, and their kids had joined us in buying a tree. It was the first time in several years I had a Christmas tree, and I was more than ready to create some new memories.

“Oh, I see how it is. Priorities, huh?” Tristan eased me off him as he stood. He pecked me on the lips right before picking up the star.

He poised the star on the top of the tree and stepped back. “Well, what do you think?”

“Looks perfect.” I beamed. “Are you ready to turn the lights on and see how it looks all put together?”

Tristan flicked the light switch next to the front door. At the same time, a bundle of mail spilled in through the slit.

“Can you imagine walking around with a heavy sack on your back in this weather?” Tristan asked, picking up the pile. He rifled through it, then stopped, his eyes like saucers.

“What? What is it?”

He handed one of the envelopes to me. “It’s an early Christmas gift.”

My eyes fell on the envelope. When I saw who it was from, tears blurred my vision. “Oh, Tristan!” I tore open the envelope and held the letter, taking in every word like it was my last breath.

Dear Lorna,

I hope you get this. God above, I hope you get this. God alone knows how many times I have written to you and trusted that somehow you’ll receive word from me that I’m not dead.

I’m guessing you never received any of my letters because when I got yours, my heart nearly stopped. You made no indication you knew the truth, that yes, I’m alive.

To hear from you is a miracle. There, I’ll just say it. It’s a miracle! Words cannot say how sorry I am that you didn’t know sooner. So much is beyond our control, but I want you to know that I am as well as I can be. Don’t worry over me, please, but I know you, and I know you will worry. Please don’t. I know I’ll see you again one day.

How did this mess-up happen, you wonder? Because I’m a fool, that’s how. I had a friend, a good old boy named Fred. For good luck, some of the guys switched dog tags before going into battle. Fred and I did just that one fateful day back in May of ‘43. If I’d known he wouldn’t make it out alive, I’d never have be so stupid. Anyway, I was captured and taken prisoner, and they thought I was Fred. As I said, the truth didn’t come to light until much later. The Red Cross discovered I was alive at the camp, and then you must have gotten the news.

For now, just knowing that you’re happy and married makes me happier than I could imagine. And for the record, yes, you took me quite by surprise when you said you were married. Who’s this lucky stiff, this Tristan fellow? I’d love to shake his hand one day and tell him he picked the cream of the crop.

I must end this, but know that not a day passes where I don’t think of you, of home. One day soon, dear sister, I promise, one day soon.

Love,

Chucky (I signed it this way just for you.)

I reread the letter three times, my heart hammering out of my chest.

“Oh, Tristan! This is truly the best Christmas gift I could ask for besides Chucky coming home!” My tears fell over my smile as I went to him.

He pulled me close. “Nothing makes me happier than to see your smile.”

“Do you think Chucky will come home soon?”

“The tide has been turning in the Allies’ favor for several months now. I believe you will see your brother next year.”

I stepped back enough to gaze into Tristan’s face. “It’s too bad Chucky can’t be home for Christmas.”

Something shifted in Tristan’s eyes. He released me abruptly and stepped away. “That reminds me.”

I furrowed my brow. “What are you up to?”

“Trust me.” He cast a smile back at me as he went to the record cabinet and retrieved a record. “I thought this would be the perfect touch for your sentiment.”

I approached him and looked at the album in his hands. The 78-RPM single of Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas (If Only in My Dreams)” rested in his grip. Tears formed and fell freely. “Yes, put it on.”

Tristan removed the record from the sleeve and placed it on the turntable. He set the needle on the record and turned the player on. Crosby’s gentle, crooning voice filled the room a moment later, accompanied by the John Trotter Scott Orchestra. My husband and I wore twin smiles, the sadness and the happiness mixed, the hope and the grief of the lyrics tugging on our emotions. He took me in his arms, and we danced to the music. I leaned into his sturdy chest and allowed the words to take me somewhere else and nowhere at all.

When the song ended, my ends slid open. Snow continued falling beyond the windows, but in our little living room with its old-lady furniture and my messy paintings, hope and love blossomed that one day soon, Chucky would be home for good. I meant to tell him as much when I wrote him a letter later that day.

* * *

When Christmas Eve arrived, Tristan drove our car to church that evening. The light from the passing streetlamps illuminated his face as he watched the road. He wore a smart suit and bowler hat. A trim beard lined his jaw against the chill of winter. Under the hat, his freshly cut hair was shorter than it had been in months.

“This holiday season is just full of miracles,” I said, clutching my purse in my lap.

“What do you mean?” Tristan’s eyes glanced at me for a second, then returned to the road. No snow pelted the windshield, but the forecast called for the white stuff before midnight.

“Well, first the letter from Chucky. Then you visited the barber’s, and now you’re going to church with me. Will wonders never cease?”

He chuckled. “Stranger things have happened. It’s Christmas. I figured I could go this once.”

“Besides our wedding, when’s the last time your were in a church?”

He shrugged. “I couldn’t say. Probably for your brother’s now-fake funeral or Angela’s wedding. My family wasn’t exactly the church-going type.”

Tristan pulled into the parking lot of the Methodist church I’d attended while growing up and now frequented again. When I first returned last year after a six-year absence, I thought poor old Pastor Wilson would have a heart attack. I pushed such thoughts from my mind now, wondering how much longer the dear pastor would work. And heart attacks were nothing to joke about.

“Well, you’re here. That’s what matters.”

Tristan killed the engine, the car’s rumbling dying. “Let’s go in, shall we?”

He exited and came around, opening the door for me. I took his arm and leaned into him, resting my opposite hand over our entwined arms.

* * *

We stepped into a winter wonderland after the service concluded. White dusted our shoulders as we made our way to the Speedster. When we reached the car, we stopped and looked at the heavens.

“This was always my favorite part of Christmas as a kid,” I said. “I hoped for snow to be falling when church let out at midnight.”

“That means it’s Christmas Day.” Tristan kissed me. “Merry Christmas, my darling.”

“Merry Christmas, my everything.”

Tristan opened the door for me. I got in. He joined me a moment later. He didn’t turn the car on, and when the silence drew long, I cast a puzzled look at him.

“Is something wrong?” I asked.

A soft laugh escaped from his lips. “Nothing is wrong. Nothing at all.”

“Then why so quiet?”

“I was just thinking how much I enjoyed this evening.” His hand took mine over the shifter.

A smile eased onto my face, my worries evaporating. “I’m so happy to hear it.”

With a gentle smile on his face, Tristan started the car and drove home. The snow was still falling with the grace of angels singing. I imagined that first Christmas night when the baby Jesus lay wrapped in his mother’s arms in a manger as I stepped out of the car and gazed at the sky. The stars were obscured, but it was the same sky as nearly 2000 years ago. What amazement, what fear the shepherds must have experienced when the Heavenly Host appeared among the stars and proclaimed the birth of the Savior!

“Thank You,” I whispered to God, then withdrew my gaze and took my husband’s hand.

We entered through the side door, throwing on the light. After peeling off our coats, gloves, and hats and hanging them, Tristan said, “There’s something I want to share with you before we head to bed.”

“Oh?” I sent a puzzled look his way, but he was already leaving the kitchen.

I followed Tristan into the living room.

“Please, sit,” he said, gesturing toward my father’s armchair. He flipped on the switch, and the tree bloomed with light.

I eased into the comfort of the cushions. Tristan got down on one knee and reached under the tree among the few gifts. He withdrew one and set it on my lap.

“Go ahead. Open it.”

“Shouldn’t I wait until morning?”

“I want you to see it now.” His eyes danced in the low light.

Smiling, I ripped the edge of the paper, careful to keep it in good condition for the following year. A box about three inches thick stared up at me. I removed the lid and stared at a bound stack of paper, only it wasn’t just any stack of paper. On the first page were the words “A Flower Among Rocks.” Then “By B.R. Stevenson.”

My mouth hung open in awe as my eyes shifted from the manuscript to Tristan. “Is this—?”

Tristan covered my hands with his and squeezed. “It is. It needs to go to my agent and be edited, but this is the first draft of my next novel. I contacted Riggs two weeks ago—the day after you received your brother’s letter, in fact. He’s anxious to receive it. I mailed it to him the next day.”

“That’s wonderful, Tristan!” I took his face in my hands and kissed him. “You did it! You really wrote another book, and to think I’ll be the first to read it… Thank you so much!” I flung my arms around him.

He returned the hug, awkwardly leaning forward as he knelt in front of the chair. He laughed. “Let’s just say a certain someone was the inspiration.” He tapped my nose.

“You are the sweetest, most thoughtful man on the planet. I can’t wait to read it. And this copy…it’s mine?”

He nodded, chuckling more. “You may have wondered what took me so long. I had to type out another copy.”

“You could’ve used carbon paper.” I laughed.

“That would’ve been the sensible thing to do, and we know me and sensible don’t match.”

“Truer words were never said.” I lost myself in laughter and hugs.

When our chuckles subsided, Tristan said, “But seriously, Lorna, I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d be living a life like this. You have done more than you’ll ever know. When I told you I wrote when I was down and out in the past, that was true. Being married to you, though, sparked something new and alive in me. I found you were my inspiration to write now.”

He pulled me to standing and tucked me into the crook of his arms. “I’ll never, ever stop loving you.”

I cried happy tears into his shirt. “There you go, being all poetic with words again, reducing me to a blubbering, incoherent mess. How could I not love you?”

He chuckled, scooped me into his arms, and carried me into the bedroom.

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is available for $4.99 here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

 

Blogmas 2018 – Day 15 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

Today’s post is an excerpt from Christmas Day of 1944 in my unpublished novel, Rocks and Flowers in a Box:

We stepped into a winter wonderland after the service concluded. White dusted our shoulders as we made our way to the Speedster. When we reached the car, we stopped and looked at the heavens.

“This was always my favorite part of Christmas as a kid,” I said. “I hoped for snow to be falling when church let out at midnight.”

“That means it’s Christmas Day.” Tristan kissed me. “Merry Christmas, my darling.”

“Merry Christmas, my everything.”

Tristan opened the door for me. I got in. He joined me a moment later. He didn’t turn the car on, and when the silence drew long, I cast a puzzled look at him.

“Is something wrong?” I asked.

A soft laugh escaped from his lips. “Nothing is wrong. Nothing at all.”

“Then why so quiet?”

“I was just thinking how much I enjoyed this evening.” HIs hand took mine over the shifter.

A smile eased onto my face, my worries evaporating. “I’m so happy to hear it.”

With a gentle smile on his face, Tristan started the car and drove home. The snow was still falling with the grace of angels singing. I imagined that first Christmas night when the baby Jesus lay wrapped in his mother’s arms in a manger as I stepped out of the car and gazed at the sky. The stars were obscured, but it was the same sky as nearly 2000 years ago. What amazement, what fear the shepherds must have experienced when the Heavenly Host appeared among the stars and proclaimed the birth of the Savior!

“Thank You,” I whispered to God, then withdrew my gaze and took my husband’s hand.

We entered through the side door, throwing on the light. After peeling off our coats, gloves, and hats and hanging them, Tristan said, “There’s something I want to share with you before we head to bed.”

“Oh?” I sent a puzzled look his way, but he was already leaving the kitchen.

I followed Tristan into the living room.

“Please, sit,” he said, gesturing toward my father’s armchair. He flipped on the switch, and the tree bloomed with light.

I eased into the comfort of the cushions. Tristan got down on one knee and reached under the tree among the few gifts. He withdrew one and set it on my lap.

“Go ahead. Open it.”

“Shouldn’t I wait until morning?”

“I want you to see it now.” His eyes danced in the low light.

Smiling, I ripped the edge of the paper, careful to keep it in good condition for the following year. A box about three inches thick stared up at me. I removed the lid and stared at a bound stack of paper, only it wasn’t just any stack of paper. On the first page were the words “A Flower Among Rocks.” Then “By B.R. Stevenson.”

My mouth hung open in awe as my eyes shifted from the manuscript to Tristan. “Is this—?”

Tristan covered my hands with his and squeezed. “It is. It needs to go to my agent and be edited, but this is the first draft of my next novel. I contacted Riggs two weeks ago—the day after you received your brother’s letter, in fact. He’s anxious to receive it. I mailed it to him the next day.”

“That’s wonderful, Tristan!” I took his face in my hands and kissed him. “You did it! You really wrote another book, and to think I’ll be the first to read it… Thank you so much!” I flung my arms around him.

He returned the hug, awkwardly leaning forward as he knelt in front of the chair. He laughed. “Let’s just say a certain someone was the inspiration.” He tapped my nose.

“You are the sweetest, most thoughtful man on the planet. I can’t wait to read it. And this copy…it’s mine?”

He nodded, chuckling more. “You may have wondered what took me so long. I had to type out another copy.”

“You could’ve used carbon paper.” I laughed.

“That would’ve been the sensible thing to do, and we know me and sensible don’t match.”

“Truer words were never said.” I lost myself in laughter and hugs.

When our chuckles subsided, Tristan said, “But seriously, Lorna, I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d be living a life like this. You have done more than you’ll ever know. When I told you I wrote when I was down and out in the past, that was true. Being married to you, though, sparked something new and alive in me. I found you were my inspiration to write now.”

He pulled me to standing and tucked me into the crook of his arms. “I’ll never, ever stop loving you.”

I cried happy tears into his shirt. “There you go, being all poetic with words again, reducing me to a blubbering, incoherent mess. How could I not love you?”

He chuckled, scooped me into his arms, and carried me into the bedroom.

 

Excerpt from Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful (Chapter 29)

On Christmas morning, Brenda was busy playing with her new toys in the living room, remarking that she needed a cradle and a buggy for the baby doll.

Hannah worked in the kitchen at preparing a sweet potato casserole for later that day.  The whole family would be gathering at her parents’ house that afternoon for the main meal, and the kids would be spoiled by all the aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

“We should try to stop by to see your mother afterward,” Hannah suggested to Edward as he sat at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee in one hand and his nose buried in the paper.

“That’s a lot for one day.  Make it tomorrow.”

Hannah frowned.  “But your mother hasn’t been well these past several months.  My family shouldn’t take priority.”

“You have a family, darling,” Edward cut in, lowering the paper, his tone bitter.  “My mother is not in her right mind anymore. I have you and Brenda. That’s all I need.  You, on the other hand, have siblings and both parents.”

“Do you ever wonder what happened to your father?” Hannah asked, knowing it was a touchy topic.

Edward set the paper down and scowled.  “Did I ever tell you the story about the one time I saw him when I was a kid?”

“No, I don’t think so.  I’d have remembered something like that.”

“I was eight or nine.  It was the middle of winter, frigid cold, wind blowing around me like crazy.  All I wanted was to get home. Mother and I were walking back to the house after a school program one evening.  We were living with her parents again at the time. We were always moving around until she remarried. Anyway, as we walked past the park, there on the bench by the sidewalk was a homeless man, a bottle of booze held in one dangling hand.  He was snoring, although probably passed out from the alcohol. ‘That’s your father,’ she told me. All I could do was stare at him. I didn’t feel anything. He was a stranger. It wasn’t until I had time to really think about it that I resented him for leaving my mother, for being a damned coward.  I knew I never wanted to know him.”

Hannah took the seat adjacent to Edward and took his hand.  His eyes met hers. “How come you never told me this?” she asked, her brow creased in concern.

“I didn’t want to burden you.  What good would it do? Does knowing change anything?”

“I think it’s terrible, but it’s also incredibly sad… sad for you, sad for your mother, and sad for him.”

“You pity him?” Edward asked incredulously.

Hannah considered this.  “Yes, I suppose I do. His alcoholism was stronger than his need to be a husband and a father.  It trapped him and ruled him. That’s no life. When I think about how alcohol affected Harry, I know it changed him for the worse.  He went from being the fun-loving brother I’d always known to a bitter man. Of course, he used his jokes to hide a lot. It took him years to sort out his life.”

“Yeah, I remember how angry you were at him.”

“And to think that was the first time you met him.”  Hannah smiled slightly.

“Your family was supportive and welcoming, though, and Harry straightened his life out.  That had to have taken a lot of willpower. That’s more than my father ever did.”

“True.  Harry says the temptation to drink is always with him, but he stays away from it.  Seeing his wife and children reminds him daily of what and who he’d be hurting if he allowed his addiction to take control.  I guess I just hold out hope that your father might have regretted his choices, but he’d been too afraid to come to terms with them.”

“You have a softer heart than I do,” Edward conceded, “but that’s one of the things I love about you.”

Hannah was about to reply when they were interrupted by Brenda running into the kitchen.

“Hurry, Mommy and Daddy!  The baby has a cold! She needs to go to the doctor!”

Hannah and Edward exchanged amused glances and couldn’t help but chuckle.  Brenda placed her hands on her hips and glared at them.

“This is a very serious business,” she said sternly.  

After the baby doll’s health was restored, the family packed up the car and headed over to Ma and Pa’s house.  Upon arriving, they parked on the street in front of the small dwelling. Edward took the gifts while Hannah carried the casserole, still piping hot from the oven.  Brenda proudly clasped her new doll to her chest, remarking the whole time that she couldn’t wait to show it to her grandparents.

“We must be the last ones to get here,” Edward said as they walked up the car-filled driveway.

“So it would seem,” Hannah replied, eager to get inside where it was warm.

Before they even reached the front door, Ma was standing there, holding it open.  She was wearing one of her floral aprons, covered in flour. The pattern clashed with the red dress she had on underneath.  

“Hurry, hurry,” she said, beckoning them in.  “We don’t want all the warm air getting out.”

Hannah kissed her mother on the cheek and went to the kitchen, setting the casserole on the table.  She instantly noticed the plethora of dishes covering every square inch of every surface.

“Ma, don’t tell me you went through all the hassle to make all this,” Hannah gently admonished.

Ma shrugged, her stern face softening, the wrinkles around her mouth and eyes creasing deeper as she smiled.

“Ah, what’s the good of having family over for Christmas dinner if you can’t go all out,” she said.  “I saved up all year for this.”

“And I could’ve helped if you’d let me,” Hannah said, raising an eyebrow.  When her eyes fell on the dessert, her interest was piqued. “What kind of cake is this, Ma?”

“It’s called red velvet cake,” Ma explained.

“I’ve never heard of it.”

“I’m surprised you haven’t.  I’ve done my best to keep everything the way it’s always been for Christmas dinner, but this war, well, it affects everything.  The ladies at church in the quilting club introduced me to this new recipe that calls for red food coloring instead of cocoa. So, there you have it: red velvet cake.  Seems fitting for the holidays. I just have to frost it.”

“I’m sure it will be delicious, like everything you make, Ma.  Do you want me to frost it for you?”

Ma waved her daughter away.  “No, dear. Go visit with the rest of the family.”

Hannah’s younger sister entered the room.  She was still living at home, now a young lady of twenty-one, and engaged to a young man in the service.

Hannah smiled and turned to Irma, hugging her sister and asking, “Have you heard from Ross lately?”  

“Oh, yes,” Irma said with enthusiasm.  “Do you want to see the letter? You know, he promised me we’d marry as soon as the war was over and he mentions it every time.”

Hannah nodded, following Irma up the steps to their old bedroom, passing the living room, where Brenda and her cousins were the entertainment for all gathered.  When they reached the top of the stairs, the women took the first right and entered the girls’ bedroom. Despite Hannah having moved out and Amy having passed, two single beds and a desk were still nestled in the room.  

Irma went to the nightstand and opened the drawer.  Hannah glimpsed a pile of letters, among a couple of books and other papers.  Hannah took her place on the bed and took the proffered letter, reading Ross’s first-hand account of the war in the South Pacific.  She smiled when she reached the end, which contained his promise to marry Irma as soon as they were reunited.

Hannah passed the letter back to Irma, who promptly folded it and stowed it away.

“How are you holding up?” Hannah asked.  

“Oh, I’m fine,” Irma said softly, her eyes also drifting to the spot where Amy’s bed used to be.

“Can you believe how long it’s been since she left us?” Hannah asked, subdued.

Irma fidgeted with her hands, locking and unlocking her fingers as her eyes fell to her lap.  “It’s sad, but I feel like I didn’t really get a chance to know her properly, not as an adult, anyway,” Irma reflected.  “She was always so much older than me. Of course, everyone is so much older than me.” She shrugged, forcing a laugh. “I’m happy for you, Harry, and Erik, but I admit- I’m longing for the day Ross returns, and we can finally start a family of our own.”

Hannah shrugged.  “You’re still so young, Irma.  You have your whole life ahead of you.  This war can’t last forever. Our country’s boys will be home soon.  Maybe 1944 will be the year it finally happens.”

The sisters returned to the rest of the family, Irma with a renewed sense of hope.  That Christmas Day passed with all the merriment and wonder the season inspired. Long into the night, after the children had fallen asleep upstairs, laughter and the clinking of glasses could still be heard through the windows, and a warm glow emanated beyond the walls of the little house into the still, quiet world.

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Blogmas 2018 – Day 14 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

Today I share with you an excerpt from one of my unpublished novels, Rocks and Flowers in a Box. Below is a Christmas scene from 1945:

Tristan and I lounged on the couch. My eyes lingered on the tree, the warm glow of the strands of lights the only source of illumination in the living room. Beyond the window where I watched Tristan pace among his rocks, what seemed another lifetime, snow fell in a whimsical ballet in the silent night.
The snow had been coming down when we stepped out of the church at midnight an hour ago. When we arrived home, we stood, hand in hand, in the driveway and listened to the stillness. A world at peace. A world not at war for the first Christmas in six years.
“How are you not asleep?” I whispered to Tristan, nuzzling his ear with my nose.
He chuckled. “Some nights are worth staying up.”
“Tell me your favorite Christmas memory.”
He kissed the top of my head and placed his hand on my stomach. “This one, right here.”
“But this isn’t a memory yet.”
“It will be, one day. Every moment at passes pushes it into the past.”
“Don’t wish it away so quickly.”
“On the contrary, my darling. I’m cherishing it.” He cupped my chin with his hand and brought his lips to mine in a gentle kiss.
When we broke apart, I gazed into the low light dancing in his eyes. I rested my hand on his cheek. He closed his eyes as he leaned into my touch.
“Do you remember when we saw Meet Me in St. Louis last year?” I asked.
Tristan’s eyes popped open. “I wasn’t expecting that question, but yeah, sure. Why?”
“The song Judy Garland sang…’Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’…do you remember it?”
Tristan chuckled. “I hope you’re not asking me to sing it.”
I giggled. “No, of course not. I was just remembering the lyrics. I can’t recall all of them, but something like all our troubles being out of sight in the following year or something.”
“Yes, I remember. It spoke of hope to you. You cried during that part of the film.”
I nodded. “I was just really hoping, you know…that with it being Christmas and all, that Chucky would come home.”
Tristan sighed. “I know and I’m sorry. I know how much he means to you.”
“Would it be too much to wish for one more miracle? You’re alive. I’m pregnant. Now, if only he were here, why, it would make the perfect Christmas.”
“I’m not great at it, but…do you want to pray?”
I took Tristan’s hand and squeezed it, nodding, my eyes on the verge of spilling over.
He enclosed my hands in his and whispered, “God, I’m not good at this. I don’t know what the right words are, but my beautiful wife tells me that You don’t expect us to come with poetic words. I’m a writer. I’m used to writing eloquently, but when I speak, I mess it up. What I’m trying to say is…thank You. Thank You for everything You’ve already given us. It’s more than I could’ve imagined. Me, especially me. Now, if You could just bring back my darling’s brother safe and sound, that’d be great. I see the sadness in her eyes, even when she smiles. Thanks for listening…and thanks for Christmas and what it means. You know what I’m getting at. Um…amen.”
“Thank you.” I kissed him. “That was the sweetest thing.”
“I sounded like a fool.” Tristan yawned. “Maybe I’m just too tired to think straight anymore.”
“No, you got it all right.”
“I got it right when I met you.”
We share a lingering kiss. Then Tristan took my hand and pulled me to standing and guided me into our bedroom.