Pining Picnic

After Noelle loses her husband to war, Gran takes her on a picnic.

Noelle held the flag to her chest, pleading with herself to not cry. Not again. Months had passed since Dave had returned home in a box draped by the flag in her arms. His dream of serving the nation through military service had been realized. So had her greatest fear. Now she spent her days wishing his arms still wrapped around her.

A knock on her bedroom door brought her glassy-eyed gaze into focus. “Come in.”

As the door swung toward the wall, Gran peeked from behind it. “I thought I’d find you in here.”

Noelle pulled her knees to her chest and folded her arms around them—the flag ensconced by her body.

“Why don’t we go visit our men?”

Eyeing her grandmother, Noelle shook her head.

“Come on, I’ve got a special day planned.”

Gran held out her hand, and Noelle eased hers into it. “Can we pick up some flowers?”

“They’re waiting for us in the car.”

Shuffling outside, Noelle slipped into the passenger’s seat and stared out the window. She’d knelt at Dave’s grave several times, but words always refused to come. Why would they? It wasn’t like Dave listened. What purpose was there in visiting a grave and whispering to someone who couldn’t hear? Still, she kept trying. Hoping.

“What a beautiful day to remember our husbands,” Gran said as they drove to the cemetery. “I married your grandfather before Vietnam started. A private first class in the army. He was so proud of his enlistment, wanted to serve the country he loved.” Gran smiled wanly. “We had two children by the time the conflict bubbled over. Vietnam brought nothing but ugliness. And the day they told me he’d died, I did too.”

Noelle turned toward Gran without making a sound.

“Dave joined for the same reason, didn’t he?” Gran asked.

“Yeah.”

“Except the business in the Middle East was already full-blown.” Gran raised a brow. “Not much of a question he’d end up there.”

Noelle looked at Gran. “None.”

Gran nodded. “They both protected us and this nation. Same as all the others.

“My father spent his time in France after being drafted during World War II.” Gran tightened her grip on the steering wheel.

“Why do people do this?” Noelle asked as she glared Gran. “Join the military to die?”

“They never join to die. They join to serve and protect.”

“I’m not sure that’s what’s going on now.”

“Maybe not, but that doesn’t change their sacrifice.”

Noelle took a deep breath as they pulled up to the cemetery. Clasping her hands together, she begged her heart to quiet and the pins to stop pricking her lungs. Neither did.

As she stepped out of the car, she turned to help Gran, who shoved a blanket into her arms.

“What’s this for?”

“Our picnic.”

Noelle’s eyes widened.

“It’s an old tradition my mother taught me, used to be a fairly common practice. Some cemeteries don’t allow it anymore.”

“Wonder why?” Noelle’s voice dripped with sarcasm, and she tried again. “So, we go sit on the graves and eat?”

“Something like that,” Gran said with a smile as she smelled the flowers.

The walk from the car to the gravesites invited the sun to burn Noelle’s shoulders. A picnic on a grave in the heat—fun. At least Grandpa had a tree next to him that shaded both headstones.

As Gran set the flowers on top of Grandpa’s tall marker, Noelle dropped the blanket to the ground.

“Spread it out, would you?” the older woman asked.

Gran started dividing the flowers between the two graves. Red, white, and blue carnations. The blanket flicked to the ground with a flourish, just in time for Noelle to see her grandmother post a small flag next to each of their loved ones’ graves. The older woman whispered soft words Noelle couldn’t hear as she traced the edge of Grandpa’s headstone with her fingers. Tears gathered at the edges of her creased eyes, worn from years as a single woman. Noelle startled as Gran broke out into a peal of laughter.

How could she laugh? Pain like this never subsides, it couldn’t, could it?

A moment later, Gran lowered herself to the blanket, her knees popping on the way down. “I can get down, but you might have to help me up later.”

Gran studied her husband’s headstone, then patted her knees and faced Noelle. “Your grandpa wasn’t one of those poster-child soldiers. ”

She paused and smiled at what must have been a memory.

I remember one day he showed up at home with his uniform ripped in several places, buttons missing, mud covering him from the top of his head to the end of his boots, and the biggest dumb grin on his face I’d ever seen. After I pushed him into the backyard and told him to strip down before coming in my house again, he took the hose and sprayed it right at my backside.

Next thing I knew, we were wrestling for control of the hose. In the end, he wrapped his arms around me, his shirt off and his pants dripping with water, and told me he’d fought the grizzly and won.

“What do you mean, you fought the grizzly?” I asked.

His deep voice thundered next to my ear. “You don’t know about the grizzly?”

I’d heard about a lot a different antics with the boys, but nothing about fighting a grizzly, so I shook my head.

“Well, let me tell you, it’s the scariest bear you’ve never seen. The boys took me up the mountain, blindfolded me, and set me in the middle of a field. Next thing I knew, a claw swiped across my back. Tore my shirt, right there.”

He held up his shirt, his fingers wiggling through four sharp-cut slits in the back. I whipped him around fast, but he just threw his head back and hooted, “It doesn’t hurt.”

Four shallow scratches lined his back. I searched the rest of his torso and arms. Little pricks appeared on his forearms, and he had a decent scratch along one of his hands.

“No bear did this.” I eyed him until he slowly shook his head.

“Not a bear. Three men with razors attached to broom handles.”

“What?” The scream left my mouth before I could reign it in. I smacked his arm. “How do you get involved with this stupidity?”

“There was no harm. Only I was blindfolded, and they were careful.”

“Careful?” I huffed. “Those scratches and your sliced uniform say different.”

“Nah, it’s just an initiation of sorts.”

“Into what?”

“The squad. I’m the new guy, remember?”

“Hazing.”

“Hazing or not,” he said as he sidled back up to me, “I took that grizzly down faster than anyone else. Beat the record.”

Gran shook her head, laughing as she stared at the headstone. “Crazy coot!”

Noelle leaned her head back. The sunlight spread over her face as her body filled with laughter too.

“Dave’s squad dropped him two miles from base with a gallon of water and a pink camo T-shirt they’d picked up from who knows where.” Noelle rubbed her hand across her husband’s headstone. “Luckily, he ran into a 24-hour-fast-food joint and talked some soldier-smitten girl into letting him call me. When I picked him up, he turned my angry glare into a fit of giggles.”

She turned and patted the grass below her. “You always knew how to make me smile.”

Tears ran down her face, and she rolled to her belly, facing his headstone, but away from Gran. “I miss you. You whisked me off my feet and then left me alone. I love you for who you were and hate you for dying.” She brushed the dirt away from his name. “I’ll get over that last part.”

She sniffed and let out a little giggle. “I found all those notes you left me. The one behind the toilet—it’s a good thing I love you.”

Her words continued, and as they did, the tension that had roiled through her muscles and stiffened her joints eased.

She picked up the sandwich Gran had set next to her and ate it as she talked about her life. The way people at work looked at her and stopped talking when she walked by. The old women at church who took her hand and held it while studying her with sad eyes before shuffling away in silence. She mentioned crying herself to sleep. Then she told him how his squad members stopped by one at a time.

“They loved you.”

Stories of their past together slipped from her lips as she ate the apple pie Gran had packed. These she shared with Gran, and Gran shared others with her.

Decades that had once divided the two widows collided. Styles changed, technology advanced, but grief and loss seemed to transcend time.

The day slipped by, as they walked, cried, hugged, and shared. Soon, the sun dipped in the western sky, and Noelle exhaled peacefully, a smile reflecting nothing but tranquility on her face. “Thanks, Gran.”

Gran clutched her hand. “It won’t go away—the pain. Tears return. But holding it inside yourself only hurts more.” She nodded toward Dave’s grave. “He’s stronger now than he ever was. Let him carry it with Christ. You can do that, right?”

Noelle wrapped her arms around Gran. “Next time I’ll pack the lunch.”

Please follow and like us:

Book Review: The Rift Between Us

When Dad died. Maria, Lauren, and Avery figured they’d never see each other again. Why would they? They hadn’t spoken to each other in two years. But even from the grave, Dad plans to see them become a family again, in The Rift Between Us.

Rebecca L. Marsh, author of When the Storm Ends, now gives fans a second novel: The Rift Between Us. Another wonderful women’s fiction piece, none of my followers will want to miss this great story, filled with life-like characters and real-life problems.

My Thoughts on The Rift Between Us

We look across the auditoriums, restaurants, and church pews at all the people who have life figured out and wonder what’s wrong with us. We’ve gained so much weight our shoes don’t fit, our kids fight nonstop, and the dog has yet to find the patch of grass in the backyard. When is it our turn? When do we get to live a perfect life? And with each question we ask, we refuse to let anyone in on our secrets. After all, what would they think if they knew the truth?

The preface isn’t new. If anything it’s timeless. We listen and enjoy stories with such themes because no matter how much we try to remind ourselves that no one has a perfect life, we forget.

Marsh takes this simple theme and builds her story around it. A widowed father of three daughters raised them into adulthood. Unfortunately, as adults, the secrets they keep from each other are too heavy for any one of them to carry alone. They need sisters, but only Dad knows it.

When trying to bring his girls back together in life fails, this dad gives it one more shot after death. If they want their lofty inheritances, they have to fulfill a difficult task.

The climax of The Rift Between Us comes earlier than in most books, and Marsh spends a good amount of time wrapping up the resolution. In most stories, I find a long resolution boring. However, this wasn’t the case this time around. It’s during the resolution that the characters grow, similar to how we grow in real life. And considering the genre, I find this acceptable and even necessary for this story.

Readers of The Rift Between Us follows the points of view of sisters Maria, Lauren, and Avery. Marsh’s exceptional writing brings depth to each woman, as we experience their anger, fears, and passions. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself with tears in your eyes searching for a box of tissues. These characters are sure to touch your heart. They sure touched mine.

Official Blurb

After a family dinner turns into a bitter fight, sisters Maria, Lauren, and Avery decide to go their separate ways. Their father warns them that someday they will need one another. When he dies suddenly, they learn that he intends to make sure that they do. He’s left them a substantial inheritance, far more than any of them ever imagined.

There’s just one catch. If they want the money, they will have to spend two weeks together at a secluded lake house and follow all of their father’s instructions—no matter how strange.

Their task seems simple enough, but each one is holding onto painful secrets and old grudges the others know nothing about. But if they can learn to trust each other again, they might be able to mend the rift between them and give their father his dying wish.

More Info:

Watch Amazon for The Rift Between Us. Coming July 2019

Visit Rebecca L. Marsh online:
Website
Facebook
Goodreads

Please follow and like us:

Book Review: The Stationmaster’s Cottage

When Christie Ryan attends her Gran’s funeral against her fiance’s wishes, she’s suddenly faced with an unexpected inheritance in The Stationmaster’s Cottage by Phillipa Nefri Clark.

Phillipa Nefri Clark, an Australian author of women’s fiction, released a new edition of The Stationmaster’s Cottage in April. Newly edited, this novel from the River’s End series stands alone with ease and brings to life characters from two generations with overlapping love stories.

My Thoughts on The Stationmaster’s Cottage

We look at our families and their histories and wonder at our ancestors’ lives. How did they live? Were they happy? Are there aunts or uncles we know nothing about? What about cousins? As we dive into boxes left behind and find pictures, documents, and keepsakes we know nothing about, mysteries unfold before our eyes. Can we put aside those mysteries? When I discovered my own family history mystery, I couldn’t, and neither can Christie.

Christie Ryan finds her own family history mystery, and it’s a doozy! Moreover, it seems to include the moody artist that lives on the beach. Add to that a fiance that asks her to spend more time with him, and then seems interested in everything but her, and the story of the stationmaster’s cottage lines up.

It sounds like a romance, but there is plenty more to this novel. Christie struggles to find herself and determine what she really wants in life. She also finds herself yearning for more information about the great-aunt no one told her about. In the meantime, she deals with contradicting emotions over Gran’s death.

This book is written exceptionally well. The characters come to life and draw you in. Where one-dimensional characters are often used by authors, Clark adds just the right amount of dimension.

The Stationmaster’s Cottage is easy to recommend and is a book you’re sure to love.

Official Blurb

“There are secrets in that cottage. Questions needing answers.”

Those words gave Christie Ryan a reason to stay in River’s End, when she should have gone home after Gran’s funeral. Inheriting a rundown cottage, far from her jet-setting life, she is drawn into a fifty-year-old mystery.
Who wrote the letters hidden in the attic, an outpouring of love to a woman Christie suspects she is related to? What is the significance of a damaged painting kept by Gran but clearly painted in this seaside town?

Local artist Martin Blake may have the answers she seeks, but refuses to help. His dog adores Christie, but Martin keeps his feelings locked away.

As Christie faces difficult decisions about her own future, will the consequences of righting old wrongs be too high a price to pay?

More Info

Purchase your copy of The Stationmaster’s Cottage on Amazon.

Follow her on:
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Her website

Please follow and like us:

Book Review: The Governess

Despite an abusive husband and rumors circulating through top society, Jane finds a position in the home of society’ finest, in The Governess.

Despite being thrown out of her precious home by an abusive husband and the terrible rumors surrounding her name, Jane finds work in one of the finest households in Berkshire in The Governess.

Noorilhuda, a debut author, has written a story filled with personal trials. Characters overcome grief, abuse, and gossip. The storyline carries through The Governess well, but it is one book with several areas that require readers' caution.

My Thoughts on The Governess

I picked up a copy of The Governess after receiving a review request from Noorilhuda through email that included dates the book would be free on Amazon.

Touted as a well-received, and well-reviewed by such organizations as The Historical Novel Society and Midwest Book Review, I expected more than I should have from The Governess.

Instead of a well-edited and researched story, I found the shell of a novel, that with a little work, could have been a wonderful read. Sadly, the editing felt non-existent. Lines of dialogue were clumped together in single paragraphs, one speaker on top of another. And without proper formatting and few dialogue tags, there are still some lines my mind has not assigned to a specific character. Though editing was the biggest problem, it was far from the only one.

Descriptions of orange trees and mangoes growing in the cold England climate immediately caught my attention, as did the use of certain words within characters' thoughts that were non-existent in during the 1830s, such as peeved. They stood out. Other times, words with similar phonetics were found instead of the correct words, reminding me of such phrases as for all intensive purposes.

Suggested as a clean book, The Governess mentions the main aspect of sex several times in one line zingers that sometimes come out of nowhere. The most memorable comes when John Lockwood is lamenting the death of his wife, which occurred more than five years earlier—the deed, which is described in one line quite crudely—is what comes to his mind instead of her true characteristics and his purpose for loving her. It struck me as odd. That said, there is no explicit sex scene or scenes that required skipping pages, just lines that I wanted to black out with a Sharpie.

The shell of the story is decent. A woman, accused of having an affair, who has been thrown out on her ear by her husband and society, becomes the governess to children of one of society's elite. Something much of society finds egregious. Moreover, the children's widowed father has an affair with a married woman who is also well-respected in society, despite everyone's knowledge of their fraternizing.

Through the slow-moving story, the governess affects the household and changes within the home weave their way into the pages. A great deal about Mr. Lockwood's mistress could be left out. But other than that, the pacing is reasonable for the genre.

Though The Governess intended Jane to be the main character, I struggle to say that she is. I find John Lockwood, the widowed father, struggles most with inner turmoils and that he is the character who shows the most growth. Whereas Jane tends to stand her ground through every bit of turmoil. She shows strength despite her nasty plight. Most of her growth takes place in the backstory, enabling her to be the moral beacon in the Lockwood home.

Obviously, this is not a book I recommend. However, if you choose to pick it up, I hope the information found here enables you look past the errors and enjoy the storyline.

The Official Blurb

“You make it seem like the cross was yours to bear, alone, do you really think you are brave? Let me tell you, who the brave one is, it’s each and every member of your family who didn’t slap you silly the first time you went awry, the first time you brushed your children aside for merriment. It’s your children, Mr. Lockwood, they are the courageous ones. Not you, you are nothing but a coward. And all for what? For your own selfish needs and whims, your own desire to be alone and free. Free from pain, was it? Or do you really want to leave a debauched legacy? Well, are you free Mr. Lockwood? I don’t see any shackles on you; Are you free from the pain and happy, truly happy?……No passion is great enough for you to lose sight of what’s your duty, and the right thing to do. For that is not passion, but madness. You’re mad Mr. Lockwood, completely, utterly, mad.”

Thus begins the fiery odd relationship between Jane, the governess, and her employer, the widowed landowner John E. Lockwood. But Jane has her own crucible as well, and it's hers to bear alone. Find out what Jane, The Governess, is made of. After all, True Worth has no regrets and takes no detours. Should you?

A movingly passionate and introspective character analysis of lonely people living through emotional abuse, grief, and guilt.

More info

Find a copy of The Governess on Amazon

Please follow and like us: