Book Talk: Historical Fiction

BOOK TIP: Historical fiction fans, there’s a wonderful list of book suggestions in this article. I checked four of them out from my public library–I’ve already started reading Ahab’s Wife and am riveted!

The article features the bookseller of Parnassus Books and author Geraldine Brooks. I enjoy Geraldine Brooks‘ work–if you haven’t read her, DO. The Secret Chord is lush and riveting–so a list of book suggestions from her caught my attention. If you’re so inclined, I think you’ll enjoy the article as well as the book suggestions.

 

 

I’d love to hear if/when you read any of the books on this list–email me or pop over to the conversation on Facebook!

 

Island Christmas Snapshot : Paradise Indeed

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“Talk about short notice.” Gabe shoved a hand through his windblown hair, making it stand up on end even more than it already was.

“I told her that we’re booked solid and she reminded me that you promised to always have a cottage for her.” Charlie bit her lip against a smile. After a rocky start, Cassidy now loved her stepfather and the feeling was clearly mutual.

Gabe blew out a breath. “It appears we’ve afflicted both daughters with princess syndrome.” He slid his eyes to where ten year old Rory sprawled asleep on the floor in an explosion of pink and purple princess blankets, pillows, and stuffed toys.

Charlie laughed. “Sugar and spice.”

Gabe collapsed into the recliner, the hour late, the long day catching up with him. He held up a finger. “Let’s think a minute.”

Charlie, already curled into her couch corner, only smiled. She liked watching him “think a minute”, his eyes narrowed, he usually ran a hand through his hair a couple of times, cupped his chin in hand and muttered to himself.

In the current dilemma, her freshly engaged 22 year old daughter Cassidy had decided her wedding simply must happen on the island exactly one month from now-during the Christmas celebration. Knowing the Painted Parrot cottages were booked solid, Charlie had tried to talk her into either waiting a bit longer or booking rooms at the resort on the other end of the island with the wedding part of things here on their beach.

Cassidy acknowledged the short notice and agreed that she might have to concede somewhere, but asked that her mother talk to Gabe anyway.

“The only solution I see is to build another cottage.”

Charlie froze, a hand over her mouth mid-yawn. “Wait. What? Did you just say build another cottage?”

“I did.”

“In less than a month?”

Gabe gestured with one hand. “Well, we have the plans for more cottages in place, right?” Then the other hand in the other direction. “The supplies have been coming in, they’re waiting in Keno’s warehouse.”

“Right, I just did the inventory last week. We were waiting for the Christmas season to settle down.” Charlie nodded.

“If I swear on the JohnBToo that I’ll be his lackey and throw in Nash-and even Ford-when possible, I bet Timo will squeeze it into his schedule.” An Australian expat contractor who’d relocated to the island the year before Gabe and Nash had bought the property, Timo was dedicated and time-efficient when working on a project.

When they’d first bought the hurricane ravaged property,  Gabe and Nash had largely built the first two of the new cottages themselves. After that, they’d secured better financing and had been able to hire Timo and relegate themselves to helper status to finish the property-eight cottages for guests, Nash and Jill’s home, an office, Gabe’s woodshop, the Painted Parrot bar and restaurant-opening fully functional in less than predicted time.

Muttering again, Gabe worked through the time line in his head then pulled out his phone and texted Timo a brief outline of his plan-and why. Moments later he held up the phone to Charlie. “Timo’s in. We can do it.”

Winking at Charlie, he pushed another button. When the call was answered on the other end, he said, “Book your flights, kiddo, we’re having a wedding.”

Charlie could hear her daughter’s shrieks when Gabe pulled the phone from his ear, laughing.

What a Christmas season this was shaping up to be.

*********************

The Wedding Party

“That was the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever seen.” Katie sighed, dropping into a chair. Toeing off her strappy sandals, she kicked them under the chair. Wouldn’t need those anymore tonight.

“Just perfect.” Reggie copied both Katie’s sigh and disposal of shoes. “And the dessert table was most excellent, Master.”

Katie grinned. “It was, wasn’t it?” She held up a hand to high-five her devoted apprentice, silently reminding herself to talk to Reggie about becoming a full partner in the bakery soon.

“Look at those two.” Jane joined her friends, surreptitiously adding her shoes to the growing pile under Katie’s chair and lifting her chin towards where Charlie danced with Gabe, her hand cupping his face, his forehead touching hers. His eyes were closed as he said something in her ear that made her laugh and drop her head to his shoulder.

“Cassidy’s surprise request for Gabe to dance the first dance with her–was that not the sweetest?” Jane sighed.

“I figured she’d have Charlie do it or dance with Ty, since her dad is gone and Troy walked down the aisle with her.” Reggie said, twisting a springing curl of her red hair with a wistful sigh. “That’s family, finding a way to make it work.”

“Milady.” Matteo, dressed in loose khakis and an untucked white shirt that set off his coffee-toned skin, winked at all three, but held his hand out to Reggie. She laughed and let him swing her out into a hip-swaying, fast-paced dance that sent her tropical flower patterned skirt swirling around her knees.

Jane tilted her head close to Katie’s. “I felt her heart flutter from here.”

“Me, too. Wonder how long it’ll take them to accept it?” Katie watched the couple laugh and pull her five year old daughter Scarlett into the dance with them.

“Reggie swears to the moon and back that they’ll never be more than friends-with benefits.” Jane rolled her eyes.

“We’ll see, won’t we?” Katie laughed.

“Dance with me, Beautiful.” Ford leaned over his wife’s shoulder. Katie smiled, closing her eyes as he kissed her cheek, a hand sliding along her back-bare in the soft peach halter top sundress she wore. She breathed deep of his scent, warm, male, and spicy yet subtle aftershave. “Dance with me, Ace.”

“There’s my date.” Luke, in his informal uniform of cargo shorts and a tee emblazoned with the sheriff logo, sat in the chair Reggie had just vacated. He flashed Jane a smile, the dimple in his left cheek melting her a little as always. The two of them were dancing around the idea of dating, both having been through a lot when it came to relationships in the past. “Hey, Handsome.” She laid a hand on his shoulder. “Feel like dancing?”

Luke grimaced then grinned. “Well, not so much dancing, but the holding you part of it sounds good to me.” As he’d hoped, Jane tilted back her head and laughed, the sound like music to his ears. They joined the dancers, making room for Rory as she went from couple to couple, dancing a little with everyone, enjoying her role as sister of the bride.

Nash was in his element, laughing with his entire family in his arms. He danced with his wife, one arm around her, holding Zane in the other arm, Zeke snuggly in his wrap on his mother’s chest. They moved slowly, Zane content to rest against his dad after the last, fast dance when Nash had swung the boy and Scarlett around and around the dance floor. The baby made soft whimpering sounds, his little head nuzzling his mother. With Nash’s body shielding them, Jill slipped a hand inside the sling and opened her shirt. The baby settled with a sigh and no one was the wiser. She looked up to see Nash’s gaze on her. “You are incredible.” She smiled. “We are incredible.” They finished the song and left the dance floor. When they passed Reggie, she reached out and took Zane, spinning him around into Matteo’s arms.

“Sunset.” Nash said simply, leading Jill out of the tent. He really just wanted his wife alone where he could hold her close, kiss her thoroughly, and maybe peek inside the wrap. He never tired of looking at her anytime, but the miracle of nursing his son was something beyond special that he loved to watch. He sat on the sand just out of the water’s reach, Jill nestled between his bent knees. The sun set, the last rays sending up shades of orange and indigo, every one as amazing as the last. Their twin sighs echoed by the baby brought them both a smile.

The lights of the wedding tent spilled out onto the sand where many had drifted out to dance along the shore, the music and the jingling of the tiny bells tied among the gauzy sides of the tent easily carried along on the breeze. It was party worthy of the island, complete with bare feet and sunset dancing. As the hour grew late, the lights were dimmed, partiers drifted off, the newlyweds having been showered with hibiscus blossoms and sent on their way just a little awhile ago.

In the shadows just out of the light’s reach, Gabe rested against the big rock, Charlie nestled in his arms. They watched the last of the evening’s deep purple color fade from the sky.

“Thank you.” He said softly, his breath tickling her ear.

“Hmm?”

“Thank you for coming to my island, for bringing the light that is you to my world.”

“Weddings must make you sappy, Captain.” She teased, but turned in his arms to kiss him, his lips warm and soft.

“You make me sappy.”

*************************

In case you missed it, click here for the first Island Snapshot : The Trees Are Here!

If you’re new to my stories, HERE’S my catalog where you can check out my books and read more about the folks in these snapshots.

Thank you so much for reading, for supporting me and my work! I enjoy you all and can’t wait to see what the New Year brings 🙂 As always, if you’d like to chat, catch glimpses of this writerly life, pop on over to Facebook and find me!

Merriest and Brightest of Holiday Wishes to You and Yours! xoxo

 

Island Christmas Snapshot : A Little Bit of Perfect

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Nash stood in the doorway of the cottage, surveying the scene before him.

His wife lay sleeping on the floor, the tiny baby nestled against her, his little mouth slack in sleep. Her legs and an arm were curled around the other child, the rarely-still toddler, his tow-head resting on her stomach, his legs tangled with hers. Another arm curled around a bright orange pillow where her head lay, several more colorful pillows strewn about the floor.

He grinned, recognizing a pillow fight right into a nap. Worked every time.

With a hand out behind him ensuring the screen door closed soundlessly, he toed off his shoes and dropped to crawl along the floor, grabbing a pillow on his way. He scooted in close to his sleeping family, Jill’s knees and Zane’s little bare feet resting against his thighs, baby Zeke’s warm body against his arm where it folded around the pillow under his head.

With his light touch, Jill’s eyes opened. “Hi.” She whispered.

“Hi.” He whispered back, drawing a finger across her cheek. “Marry me?”

She stifled a giggle, nipping the finger that brushed her lips. Holding her gaze, Nash slid his hand down her open shirt, touching the breast that lay against their youngest son’s cheek, stroking the three week old baby’s shock of white blond hair, a carbon copy of his brother’s. He slipped his arm around her waist and stilled, content to hold her, hold them.

Jill sighed, her eyes sliding closed, his following suit.

The late-afternoon sun drifted closer to the sea, lengthening the shadows in the room, the fading light dappling the floor where they lay. The salt-laced ocean air floated through the cottage, bringing with it the scents of grill smoke and sweet coconut.

For Nash and Jill, tonight’s sunset event would be enjoyed right here wrapped in their family, sleepy sighs drifting up to mingle on the breeze with the sounds of the waves, the wind chimes, and faint music. A little bit of perfect, right here.

~

Click Here for the next Island Snapshot : Maybe Baby!

If you’re new to my stories, HERE’S my catalog where you can check out my books and read more about the folks in these snapshots.

Thank you so much for reading, for supporting me and my work! I enjoy you all and can’t wait to see what the New Year brings 🙂 As always, if you’d like to chat, catch glimpses of this writerly life, pop on over to Facebook and find me!

Merriest and Brightest of Holiday Wishes to You and Yours! xoxo

 

Island Christmas Snapshot : Maybe, Baby…

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She honestly hadn’t given a single thought to having another baby, not even when she’d cuddled the island’s latest addition just two days ago.

Counting the days on the calendar again, looking over her birth control pill packet at the same time, Katie couldn’t ignore the facts.

Her period was two weeks late. And she was never late.

She didn’t feel pregnant-and after four times, she knew what pregnancy felt like-but she also knew not one thing about having babies was predictable beyond the fact of unpredictability.

Admittedly, her heart gave a little lurch at the possibility of a new baby. It would be bittersweet following their loss of Orion last year. Alongside the familiar stab of pain thinking about him brought her, Katie recalled how she’d loved being pregnant, every time. Experiencing it again with Ford home for all of it would be wonderful-he’d been deployed for most of her pregnancies, only witnessing one of his children’s births in person.

Surely the drugstore down the street had pregnancy tests-she’d not had cause to look before now.

“Oh, hey. Didn’t know you were in here.” Ford stopped short at the bathroom door, bracing himself with both arms on the door frame. Fresh from a run, his chest was bare, tshirt hanging over his shoulder, sweat dampening his short, dark, tending-to-wave hair. He took her breath away, even after all this time, after all they’d been through together.

His gaze went from the pill package to where Katie’s hand rested on her stomach before his eyes shot to hers. “You think?”

She wasn’t sure what that was in his widened eyes. Fear? Uncertainty? Hope? Whatever it was, Katie was pretty sure her eyes mirrored the same feelings. “No idea, but I am two weeks late.”

“Want me to run to the drugstore?” He reached out to where her fingers clutched her shirt, twining his fingers through hers.

“The whole island will know if you do that.”

Ford scowled. “I’ll threaten that clerk.”

That brought a laugh from her, making him grin in return.

He leaned in, his kiss quick, his press to her fingers firm. “Be right back.” Tossing the wet shirt onto the hamper, he grabbed a fresh one from the dresser drawer on his way by.

“My hero.” She called, taking a minute to wash her face and redo her ponytail. Looking in the mirror, she touched the shooting star pendant hanging around her neck.

Oh, baby.

***

They lay on the beach blanket, Katie curled into Ford’s side, the sky a rolling show of sparkling stars above them.

“Are you disappointed?”

She shrugged, her head resting on his chest, fingers brushing the shooting star tattoo there. “I don’t know.”

“I get that.” His eyes on the sky, she knew he named off constellations and stars in his head, as he’d done since childhood.

Orion was visible here, but barely this time of year. The Southern Cross, one they’d not experienced before moving to the island, had become the family favorite in recent months. Owen had been proud to show his dad the new constellation he and his grandfather had shared in Ford’s absence. They’d added it to the list they sought out every time.

“I think what I mean is, are we trying?” His hand rubbed her shoulder.

Katie toyed with the belt of his cargo shorts. “Well, I’m never against the act of trying.” She danced her fingers lower.

“I’m your man for that.” He chuckled, turning on his side to take her in his arms.

She marveled at how lips so familiar to her could ignite such longing every time. She always wanted more of him. Sometimes it was a slow build, other times it was firecracker hot and fast.

Her hands busy below his belt, his hands slid up under her short sundress, cupping her breasts, thumbs rubbing.

She slid a leg over his and pushed him onto his back, never breaking the kiss or the touching. Lifting her skirt, she straddled him.

Firecracker hot and fast it was, then.

Later, Ford pulled the other side of the huge beach blanket over his wife while she glanced at her phone. The kids were home sleeping with Reggie reading in the porch hammock, keeping an ear out.

Curling back against his side, Katie laid an arm across him, tucking her fingers into the waistband of his now-readjusted cargo shorts.

“Except for missing Orion, I don’t feel like our family is incomplete.” She mused, her eyes drifting over the stars.

Ford stroked his wife’s arm, her skin warm and soft against his hand. “That makes sense to me, but I’m willing if you want to.”

She shook her head, her dark hair spilling over her shoulder onto his bare chest. “I’m also willing if you want to, but left up to me? I’m content.”

Ford wrapped his arms around Katie, contented sighs slipping from them both as a shooting star streaked blue fire across the night sky.

~~

Click here for the next Island Snapshot: Santa’s Here! 

If you’re new to my stories, HERE’S my catalog where you can check out my books and read more about the folks in these snapshots.

Thank you so much for reading, for supporting me and my work! I enjoy you all and can’t wait to see what the New Year brings 🙂 As always, if you’d like to chat, catch glimpses of this writerly life, pop on over to Facebook and find me!

Merriest and Brightest of Holiday Wishes to You and Yours! xoxo

 

 

Island Christmas Snapshot: The Trees Are Here!

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“The trees are here! The Christmas trees are here!”

Katie stepped out of her bakery into the circle of prancing, shouting kids-two of which were her own. Laughing, she let them pull her across the road and down to the beach.

The morning rain had given way to brilliant sunshine that glinted on the waves like diamonds, the tropical climate unlike any Christmas season Katie had ever known. It had surprised her to learn the island out in the South Pacific seas did indeed celebrate the holiday and ex-pats could easily get Christmas decorations, for the most part. Today’s arrival of the trees was the official holiday kickoff the resident ex-pat kids had all been counting down to for weeks now.

“Hey, Katie, did you hear the trees are here?” The man in a baseball cap and aviator sunglasses called out to her, crossing the sand from the Painted Parrot Bar & Grill, two of the kids running to pull him along just like Katie was being tugged along.

Tongue in cheek, Katie made a face. “The trees are here, Nash? Really?”

“Somebody better tell the Captain!” Nash bellowed, sending the kids into shrieks and giggles, as said captain strolled up behind him.

“Oh, I think he knows.” Gabe said wryly, knocking his friend and business partner’s ball cap off with a flick of his hand.

“Rude.” Nash caught the cap and replaced it in one swift move, Gabe neatly sidestepping the elbow thrown out in return.

“Mommy, you think Daddy knows yet?” Five year old Scarlett tugged on Katie’s hand, her brown eyes wide and excited.

Gabe reached down and swung the little girl high, settling her onto his shoulders. “I suspect if he doesn’t, he will before you can say supercalifragilisticxpialidocious.”

As if he’d pushed a button, Scarlett sang out “Supercalifragilisticxpialidocious!” repeatedly, echoed by the other kids before she’d hardly finished the first shout.

“It worked!” The little girl laughed delightedly, wriggling to tumble off Gabe’s shoulders, seeing her father pop over the dune from town. With familiar ease, Gabe caught her, dropping her down lightly so she could dash across the sand. He waved a hand to Ford as the other man swept the girl up onto his own shoulders.

By the time Nash and Gabe had helped unload the trees from the boat, most of the island’s regulars and a good many tourists had gathered.

“Before Gabe bought this place, I could count on one hand the number of Christmas trees that were shipped in. Now, every other person on this island wants one. It takes me at least two shipments to get ’em all in!” Keno complained good-naturedly, throwing his hands in the air. As the island’s General Store shopkeeper, Keno was tagging the trees for those claiming them and hauling the remaining few to his storefront.

“Before Gabe bought this place, your shop was a hole in the wall. So, y’know.” Gabe grinned, each hand wrapped around the trunk of an evergreen tree.

Keno’s resounding guffaw rang out as he gave an exaggerated bow, turning to swing another tree into waiting hands.

“Okay, Owen, all set.” Ford loaded the last of Katie’s trees into the wagon attached to a four wheeler with his ten year old son at the wheel.

With a thumbs-up reply, the boy pulled away and drove up the dunes towards town.

“You’re late to the party, Charlie!” Gabe called out from half way back to the Painted Parrot-a tree slung on each shoulder.

Just joining the group  gathered by Keno’s pile of trees, his wife waved. “It’s no party until I arrive, Gabe Montgomery.”

“Yeah, well, somebody has to work around here.” Gabe’s laughing reply floated down the beach as he continued to the bar.

“Can you save me two of the smaller ones, Keno?” Charlie asked the shopkeeper, laying a hand on his arm.

Keno gave her a one-armed hug as he loaded the last of the trees into the wagon attached to his dune buggy. “Of course, milady.” He climbed into the driver’s seat. “You two wanna ride?”

“No, thanks.” Charlie and Katie waved him on, both breathing deeply of the evergreen smell that should seem more out of place on the beach in the middle of the South Pacific sea than it did.

“How’s Jill this morning, Nash?” Katie looped her arm through Charlie’s, watching Nash juggle two trees.

“Twilight zone, you know how it goes.” Nash grinned, shouldering a tree and giving them all a wave as he headed up the dunes. “She’ll be thrilled with these, though.”

Katie made a mental note to take a box of bakery goodness by Jill’s cottage today.

Eyeballing the group of kids Reggie was gathering, she ensured her own were accounted for as she and Charlie walked back up the dunes. “It’s Reggie’s shift with Amos. They’re going to take a tree and decorate it with him.” She smiled at the thought of her grandfather’s delight in the kids.

In the late middle stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, Amos was content to sit and watch the world around him most of the time and kids milling about always kept him smiling. The close-knit permanent resident community had come together and organized round the clock care for the old islander, allowing him to stay in his out of the way mountain home for as long as possible.

“This place is hopping.” Katie watched Tag leading a group of parasailing hopefuls to edge of the water.

“Destination wedding group that does not want to be unscheduled for five minutes all week.” Charlie inclined her head in the group’s direction. “Add another destination wedding group-albeit a calmer one-to the already in full swing holiday celebrations, and the fact that it’s simply paradise out here, we’re beyond full capacity.” Charlie squeezed Katie’s hand as they parted ways-Katie to her bakery, Charlie to fetch her golf cart so she could get the trees from Keno.

“It’s good to be us, huh? See you at sunset.”

Sunset was an event on the island. No matter how busy life got, come every evening, most residents gathered at the sea’s edge. What was the point of living in paradise if one didn’t appreciate the magic?

***

As the sunset drew near, Gabe left The Painted Parrot and strolled down the beach to join those gathering near the water’s edge.

He watched the last of the parasailing tourists glide in, their guide, Tag, whooping and high fiving the teenager on his smooth landing. He smiled at a man chasing two toddlers hell-bent on getting in that water, both nearly falling over with giggles as he chased them ankle-deep then scooped both up to raspberry his lips on little bellies.

His smile grew wider as a girl ran down the beach, her dark hair in long braids flying, black dog running in circles around her.

“Hey,Daddy!” She threw herself into his open arms, shrieking when he spun her about and waded into the waves. “Don’t drop me! Don’t you dare drop me!”

“Dare? Did you just dare me to drop you?” Gabe swung the girl out once, twice, and chuckling at her shrieks, he let go and she flew into the water. She came up sputtering and threw herself at him, soaking his clothes and sending him down.

Laughing, they both flopped back onto the sand, Rory curling into her dad’s shoulder. Gabe wrapped his arm around her, a chuckle still rumbling in his chest.

Realizing she’d gone quiet and still, Gabe looked down to see tears in her eyes. “What is it, Poppet?”

“I think I wished my Mommy away.” Her voice was barely audible over the waves.

Gabe’s brows jerked together, he sat up. His response was swift. “No way.”

“Maybe-maybe like Ariel gave away her voice, I gave away my Mommy because I-I wanted a daddy so bad. I wished and wished.” She crawled into the circle made by Gabe’s arms resting on his bent knees.

“Rory, it doesn’t work like that. You couldn’t have wished your Mommy away, I promise you that. Just like you can’t wish me away. Remember what Charlie said? How you just keep breathing until it gets better?” Having come to the island a grieving widow, his wife knew grief and had soothed this child over and over with her simple, consistent reassurances.

He rocked his girl, her sobs fading into hiccups.

They watched the twilight fade, the brilliant purple and orange slipping into indigo blue as the sun sank into the sea, a mystical green flash lighting the horizon as the day slid away.

“I love you, Daddy.”

“Love you more, Poppet.”

Paradise indeed.

~

Click here for the next Island Snapshot : A Little Bit of Perfect!

If you’re new to my stories, HERE’S my catalog where you can check out my books and read more about the folks in these snapshots.

Thank you so much for reading, for supporting me and my work! I enjoy you all and can’t wait to see what the New Year brings 🙂 As always, if you’d like to chat, catch glimpses of this writerly life, pop on over to Facebook and find me!

Merriest and Brightest of Holiday Wishes to You and Yours! xoxo