~ About the Book ~
With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.
A century earlier, another woman wrote at the same desk with hopes and fears of her own. Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams she doesn’t know how to realize. She wants to tell stories, write novels, make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has taken extreme measures to manipulate her future, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.
Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds, but fate has bound them together in a way time cannot erase.
Release date: 11 July 2017
~ Excerpt ~
She sailed down A1A, her robe flapping behind her, away from the pedals and chain.
Motorists swerved past, swearing with their car horns. Watch out! But Tenley pedaled on with no notion of a destination. Sweat beaded on her skin though the wind pressed against her with a sharp coolness.
Holt. Pedal, pedal. Blanche. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Cancer. Pedal, pedal, pedal PEDAL! Book deadline. Pedal.
The wheel slipped off into the berm, bogging down in the sandy soil, jerking the bike to one side. Tenley wrestled with the handlebars to keep upright.
“Hey!” A truck pulled alongside her. “What are you doing?”
Eyes fixed ahead, she bore down, pedaling through the sand and grass, sweating. Ignore him. Just keep moving.
“Tenley, it’s me, Jonas. The desk thief. Pull over.”
She pedaled faster. “You said I could keep the desk until my book is done.”
“Get to the Publix parking lot before you kill yourself.” He crept along the lane next to her, protective, the traffic behind him protesting with horn blasts. “You look like the Wicked Witch of the West with that robe flapping behind you.”
“Careful or I’ll send out the monkeys.” The bike wavered, the wheel skimming against the asphalt and a tuft of grass.
But when the bike slipped one last time and she nearly toppled into a light pole, Tenley banked into the parking lot.
“Where are you going in such a hurry?” Jonas parked, then walked around the truck toward her, motioning to her robe. “If this got tangled up in the chain or spokes . . . Is something wrong? Is your mom okay?”
“Is something wrong? Ha! Yes, everything is wrong. Blanche is fine. A little sick. Sleeping.”
“Everything can’t be wrong. It’s physically, spiritually, and cosmologically impossible.”
“Great, a literalist.” She whirled away from him, pacing in a small circle, her slippers skipping against the pavement. “Well, I’m a novelist and we live in hyperbole.”
“Good to know.” He leaned against his truck, arms folded, watching her through narrow eye slits, the strength of his arms pumped against his blue-green T-shirt.
“It’s just . . . I’m here and he’s there, you know?” She flipped her hand toward the east. “Probably writing an Oscar-winning screenplay with Nicolette Carson. What am I doing? Opening canned soup and staring at a blank page. I mean, I’m so pitiful I begged you to leave an old desk, citing its creative powers—”
“You never said it had creative powers.”
“Hyperbole, friend. Stay with me.” She paced, exercising the anxiety from her bones. “I made a fool of myself in front of strangers.”
“A fool? More hyperbole?”
“No, literal now.”
“I can see why writing might be hard for you. Some times you’re literal. Some times you’re hyperbole.”
She stopped, her gaze toward him. “Do you think that’s it? Really? Am I too . . . conflicted?”
“Tenley, I have no idea.” He raised his hands in surrender, shaking his head. “I was kidding . . . thought we were bantering.”
“But you make a good point. What if I’m a one-hit wonder?”
“At least you had a hit. And it was a wonder.”
~ Review ~
It took me a couple of chapters to settle into this novel, but once I did, I was well and truly hooked. Both the historical and the contemporary stories held my attention equally (I would go so far as to say demanded my attention at times), and the way they eventually dovetailed together was immensely satisfying. Not only that, but the path was often delightfully—or heart-stoppingly—unexpected. Even when I knew what I hoped would happen, I wasn’t able to anticipate (or even imagine) how or when it would come about. And there were so many layers and threads to the story. What a glorious tapestry it ended up weaving!
In many ways, Tenley and Birdie were each other’s antitheses, which made for some great contrasts within the story. Tenley was both vulnerable and quirky—traits which endeared her to me and entertained at the same time—whereas Birdie was poised and forthright, knowing what she did and didn’t want from life. Tenley’s mother abandoned her and her father when she was much younger, and so part of her journey in this story is reconnecting with her mother while she looks after her during her chemo treatment. By contrast, Birdie’s mother holds a tight grip on her daughter’s life, determined to see her wed to a man who will help make her a leader in society, and so Birdie actually struggles to separate herself from her mother’s iron will.
Perhaps the most important contrast, however, is in their writing. Birdie wants nothing more than to tell stories and be published, but her manuscripts are rejected. Tenley feels as though her one novel, written as a way to process her feelings after her father’s death, has propelled her into the publishing world simply because her father and great-grandfather were both successful and much lauded authors. Now she has a looming deadline, reams of blank pages, and zero inspiration. Is writing really what she’s supposed to do with her life?
The one thing Tenley and Birdie do have in common is the writing desk, and I was totally unprepared for the way it would bring the two stories together. Masterful plotting! What’s more, these two women eventually saw their hearts’ desires fulfilled in ways that were unimaginable—even unlooked-for—at the beginning of the book, which somehow made it all the sweeter.
I haven’t even mentioned Jonas or Elijah yet, the two men who play important roles in Tenley’s and Birdie’s lives respectively. This is a definite two-for-the-price-of-one in the romance department, and both men were heart-stoppers in their own unassuming ways. Romance-loving hearts will be well sated.
The one slight criticism I have is that I think the cover, beautiful though it is, led me to expect a different kind of story—or at least, a different kind of heroine than either Tenley or Birdie turned out to be—and after much reflection, I think that may have been part of the reason why it took me a little while to settle in to the story. The woman on the cover is serene, and has an air of innocence or naïvety or simplicity—or something. That’s not this story. And that isn’t a bad thing!—but it’s not this story.
But it is a story well worth reading.
I received a copy of this book as a part of TLC Book Tours. This has not influenced the content of my review which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
~ About the Author ~
Rachel Hauck is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA TODAY bestselling author of The Wedding Dress, which was also named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times and was a RITA finalist. Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and two pets and writes from her ivory tower.