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Book Review: ‘April Snow’ by Lynn Steward

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Title: April Snow
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Author: Lynn Steward
Publisher: Lynn Steward Publishing

I thoroughly enjoyed reading April Snow, book two in Steward’s Dana McGarry Series. In this instalment, we follow beautiful, sensitive, and independent Dana as she, now newly single, travels from her home-base New York to London to relax for a couple of days following her recent filing for divorce.

Hurt and vulnerable, Dana can’t help question her decision to end her eight year marriage, while at the same time wonder about her career as buyer for B. Altman, her true calling in life, and who she really is deep down. She must also learn to take care of herself and not make everyone else a priority.

In London, a helpful priest, Father Macaulay, guides her and helps her ponder these questions. Doors begin to open and she goes back to New York with the possibility of two new career paths. She also starts taking riding lessons and becomes involved with a handsome and wealthy man who seems to care for her deeply, becomes her mentor, and suggests a daring move that might launch her career. All appears to be moving well. But then, fate shows her face in the most unexpected and tragic of circumstances, and once again destiny puts Dana to a test.

Lynn Steward has a special talent when it comes to writing about women who are strong yet sensitive and vulnerable. Her knowledge of the fashion business speaks for itself; the story sparkles with authenticity. I found the dynamics and cut throat aspect of the fashion industry especially fascinating. Readers will love Dana and following her ups and downs as she tries to fulfil her journey in life. The story moves at a quick, comfortable pace, making this a great leisurely read. The secondary characters are interesting and Steward will make you love them or hate them. April Snow is an entertaining, compelling sequel to A Very Good Life and I can’t wait for book three. Recommended.

My review was originally published on Blogcritics

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First Chapter Reveal: In the Mirror by Kaira Rouda

In the Mirror 2Title: In the Mirror
Author: Kaira Rouda
Publisher: Real You Publishing Group
Pages: 214
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

What choices would you make if you knew you might die soon?

From the multi award-winning, best-selling author of four books, including Here, Home, Hope, In the Mirror best sellera gripping and heart wrenching novel about a young mother who has it all. The only problem is she may be dying.

In her previous works including All the Difference, Rouda’s characters “sparkle with humor and heart,” and the stories are “told with honest insight and humor” (Booklist). “Inspirational and engaging” (ForeWord), these are the novels you’ll turn to for strong female characters and an “engaging read” (Kirkus).

In the Mirror is the story of Jennifer Benson, a woman who seems to have it all. Diagnosed with cancer, she enters an experimental treatment facility to tackle her disease the same way she tackled her life – head on. But while she’s busy fighting for a cure, running her business, planning a party, staying connected with her kids, and trying to keep her sanity, she ignores her own intuition and warnings from others and reignites an old relationship best left behind.

If you knew you might die, what choices would you make? How would it affect your marriage? How would you live each day? And how would you say no to the one who got away?

First Chapter:

Rolling over to get out of bed, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and cringed. My reflection said it all. Everything had changed.

I looked like death.

I blinked, moving my gaze from the mirror, and noticed the calendar. It was Monday again. That meant everything in the real world. It meant groaning about the morning and getting the kids off to school. It meant struggling to get to the office on time and then forcing yourself to move through the day. It meant the start of something new and fresh and undetermined. But Mondays meant nothing at Shady Valley. We lived in the “pause” world, between “play” and “stop.” Suspension was the toughest part for me. And loneliness. Sure, I had visitors, but it wasn’t the same as being surrounded by people in motion. I’d been on fast-forward in the real world, juggling two kids and my business, struggling to stay connected to my husband, my friends. At Shady Valley, with beige-colored day after cottage-cheese-tasting day, my pace was, well –

I had to get moving.

I supposed my longing for activity was behind my rather childish wish to throw a party for myself. At least it gave me a mission of sorts. A delineation of time beyond what the latest in a long line of cancer treatments dictated. It had been more than 18 months of treatments, doctor’s appointments, hospitalizations and the like. I embraced the solidity of a deadline. The finality of putting a date on the calendar and knowing that at least this, my party, was something I could control.

I noticed the veins standing tall and blue and bubbly atop my pale, bony hands. I felt a swell of gratitude for the snakelike signs of life, the entry points for experimental treatments; without them, I’d be worse than on pause by now.

I pulled my favorite blue sweatshirt over my head and tugged on my matching blue sweatpants.

Moving at last, I brushed my teeth and then headed next door to Ralph’s. He was my best friend at Shady Valley—a special all-suite, last-ditch-effort experimental facility for the sick and dying—or at least he had been until I began planning my party. I was on his last nerve with this, but he’d welcome the company, if not the topic. He was paused too.

My thick cotton socks helped me shuffle across my fake wood floor, but it was slow going once I reached the grassy knoll—the leaf-green carpet that had overgrown the hallway. An institutional attempt at Eden, I supposed. On our good days, Ralph and I sometimes sneaked my son’s plastic bowling set out there to partake in vicious matches. We had both been highly competitive, type-A people in the “real” world and the suspended reality of hushed voices and tiptoeing relatives was unbearable at times.

“I’ve narrowed it down to three choices,” I said, reaching Ralph’s open door. “’Please come celebrate my life on the eve of my death. RSVP immediately. I’m running out of time.’”

“Oh, honestly,” Ralph said, rolling his head back onto the pillows propping him up. I knew my time in Shady Valley was only bearable because of this man, his humanizing presence. Even though we both looked like shadows of our outside, real-world selves, we carried on a relationship as if we were healthy, alive. I ignored the surgery scars on his bald, now misshapen head. He constantly told me I was beautiful. It worked for us.

“Too morbid? How about: ‘Only two months left. Come see the incredible, shrinking woman. Learn diet secrets of the doomed,’” I said, smiling then, hoping he’d join in.

“Jennifer, give it a rest would you?” Ralph said.

“You don’t have to be so testy. Do you want me to leave?” I asked, ready to retreat back to my room.

“No, come in. Let’s just talk about something else, OK, beautiful?”

Ralph was lonely, too. Friends from his days as the city’s most promising young investment banker had turned their backs—they didn’t or couldn’t make time for his death. His wife, Barbara, and their three teenage kids were his only regular visitors. Some days, I felt closer to Ralph than to my own family, who seemed increasingly more absorbed in their own lives despite weekly flowers from Daddy and dutiful visits from Henry, my husband of six years. Poor Henry. It was hard to have meaningful visits at Shady Valley, with nurses and treatments and all manner of interruptions. We still held hands and kissed, but intimacy—even when I was feeling up to it—was impossible.

So, there we were, Ralph and I, two near-death invalids fighting for our lives and planning a party to celebrate that fact. It seemed perfectly reasonable, at least to me, because while I knew I should be living in the moment, the future seemed a little hazy without a party to focus on.

“Seriously, I need input on my party invitations. It’s got to be right before I hand it over to Mother. I value your judgment, Ralph; is that too much to ask?”

“For God’s sake, let me see them.” Ralph snatched the paper out of my hand. After a moment, he handed it back to me. “The last one’s the best. The others are too, well, self-pitying and stupid. Are you sure you can’t just have a funeral like the rest of us?”

I glared at him, but agreed, “That’s my favorite, too.”

Mr. & Mrs. E. David Wells

request your presence at a

celebration in honor of their daughter

Jennifer Wells Benson

Please see insert for your party time

Shady Valley Center

2700 Hocking Ridge Road

RSVP to Mrs. Juliana Duncan Wells

No gifts please—donations to breast cancer research appreciated.

#

At first, I had been incredibly angry about the cancer. Hannah’s birth, so joyous, had marked the end of my life as a “normal” person. Apparently, it happened a lot. While a baby’s cells multiplied, the mom’s got into the act, mutating, turning on each other. Hannah was barely two weeks old when I became violently ill. My fever was 105 degrees when we arrived in the ER. I think the ER doctors suspected a retained placenta or even some sort of infectious disease, although I was so feverish I can’t remember much from that time. All I remember was the feeling of being cut off from my family—Henry, two-year-old Hank, and newborn Hannah—and marooned on the maternity ward, a place for mothers-to-be on bed rest until their due dates. That was hell.

At 33, I was a pathetic sight. My headache was so intense the curtains were drawn at all times. I didn’t look pregnant anymore, so all the nurses thought my baby had died. That first shift tip-toed around me, murmuring. By the second night, one of them posted a sign: “The baby is fine. Mother is sick.” It answered their questions since I couldn’t. It hurt my head too much to try.

By the third day, my headache had receded to a dull roar. Surgery revealed that there was no retained placenta after all. I was ready to go home to my newborn and my life. So with a slight fever and no answers, I escaped from the hospital and went home to a grateful Henry and a chaotic household. I was weak and tired, but everyone agreed that was to be expected. I thanked God for the millionth time for two healthy kids and my blessed, if busy, life.

And then, not two weeks later, I found the lump.

Not a dramatic occurrence, really, at least not at first. I was shaving under my arm, and I happened to bump into my left breast with my hand. I could feel an odd mass that hadn’t been there before. When I pushed on the top part of my breast, closest to my underarm, it hurt. I freaked out and called for Henry.

“I’m sure it’s fine,” he reassured me while his eyes revealed his own fears. “We’ll make an appointment to have it checked out first thing tomorrow, OK?”

Our eyes locked then, and in that moment, I think we both knew.

It wasn’t, of course, fine. When the radiologist at the Women’s Imaging Center read the mammogram, she called my doctor right away. The solid, spider-webby mass had tentacles spreading through my left breast. Deadly, dangerous tentacles full of cancerous cells. Surgery confirmed that what I had felt was a malignant mass that had already begun to metastasize to my lymph nodes. They moved me to the cancer floor and began treatments immediately, and that’s where I’d been, in body or spirit, for more than a year.

Ralph was the one to describe them as “circle mouths”: the initial reactions of family and friends expressing sympathy for our rotten luck. When the doctors finally figured out what was wrong with me, my family was the first to respond with their blank stares and circle mouths. “OOOOOO, Jennifer, we’re sOOOOOO sorry.” But, really, what else could we expect? Before I had cancer, I know I probably reacted the same way.

Initially, I was caught up in the angry stage of grief, enveloped by it. It ate away at my soul and left me spent with useless emotion. Why me? What had I done differently than anyone else I knew? Did I drink too many Diet Cokes? Eat too much McDonald’s? Did I live downstream from a pesticide runoff? Was I a bad person? Why didn’t my children deserve to grow up with a mother? Why? Exhausted by remorse, I eventually found myself safely encased in quasi-acceptance that wrapped around me like a blanket, smoldering the dreams of middle– and old age, and draping the vision of my children as teenagers and adults, tamping out hope.

Hope. I knew my family thought the party was a sign that I had given up, that I was welcoming death, maybe even hastening it a bit by my bold invitation. And yet, hope to me was just another four-letter word without substance. I needed a reason to hang on, to continue what had become a painful and tedious daily struggle. For me, the best thing about life was the people in it. Friends, lovers, teachers, role models—they all made me the person I had become. I needed to reconnect with the living if only for a single night, to be assured my life had meant something and I was not as forgotten as I felt in my institutional isolation. No, the party was not a sign of lost hope, but the opposite—a desperate gathering of the people from my past, as if each held a piece of some cosmic puzzle that could be reconfigured into something whole—and healthy. Hope.

“It looks nice, Jennifer, really,” Ralph said, jarring me from my reverie. “Why are your parents hosting it, though? Why not you and Henry?”

“Ah, because Juliana Duncan Wells would never forgive me if I denied her the chance to host a party. She’s a professional hostess, you know.”

Ralph chuckled weakly. His brown eyes were lifeless, tired. I inspected his pale, thin, worn face more closely. His head, which had been shaved and cut open for multiple surgeries, was now more lumpy and grooved with scars than round. He was an attractive man, but he had a prominent dent over his left eye, swooping to his ear. My scars were tucked away inside my cozy sweatshirt. My head was newly covered in short curly blonde hair. It had been straight before chemo.

I looked away and asked, “What’s wrong today, Ralph? You look really sad. New meds?” Ralph’s room sported the same fake leather chairs arranged around an imitation wood table that mine did. His naugahyde was burgundy; mine was brown. Other than that, our rooms were identical, with green-striped walls and white wicker stands on either side of white bedside tables; a fake cheeriness that tried to mask the anguish of the patients who resided here. I made my slow trek to one of the chairs and sank into it.

“It’s nothing, Jennifer, really,” Ralph answered unconvincingly, clasping his thin hands together on his stomach. I noticed he had moved his platinum wedding band to his middle left finger.

I knew he was lying, but I also knew enough not to pry. Ralph Waldo Erickson—his real name, and his parents knew better—had discovered cancer when he felt a pain in his right cheek while shaving. He had a headache, too, both of which his doctor dismissed as a sinus infection when he first called. A few days later, he woke screaming in the middle of the night, and was rushed to the ER, where an MRI revealed a malignant growth the size of a lemon. On the operating table, the skin of his face was pulled to the side while the doctors cut out the tumor. Success—until they found more tumors. And more still, after radiation, after chemo. He was forty-five years old.

Six months earlier, he’d had a headache. Now, he had four months, tops.

After a few minutes of silence, he suddenly asked, “Did you know it’s the fall harvest?” with his eyes sparkling and his hands gesturing in front of him. “I mean, all those years I drank wine—loved wine—and I didn’t even take the time to learn about it. You know, learn how they make it, when they pick the grapes. God, that’s sad. They’re out there right now, in California, France, even Ohio for God’s sake, just outside our windows, and I never bothered to learn a thing about it. Sure, I did the touristy winery hop in Napa and Sonoma a time or two. But, this is harvest season! The most beautiful time of the year, and I never bothered to be a part of it—you know?” Ralph finished and looked up at the ceiling, clasping his hands again. I’d never noticed how long his fingers were before.

“So, add it to our list, Buddy, OK?” I said, gently, knowing it wouldn’t really help, knowing the impossibility of Ralph ever leaving Shady Valley, much less visiting Napa Valley for the harvest. “Hey, it’s treatment time. I need to go back. Buzz me when you feel like it.”

Ralph didn’t answer, and I didn’t really expect him to. We all went through depressions at Shady Valley, triggered by almost anything: harvest time, or an especially beautiful orange-purple sunset. It was hard to keep your spirits up all the time. He’d be fine in a little while.

I made my way slowly back across the slick floor and padded down the thick green carpet back into my room. Promptly at four, Nurse Hadley arrived with her arsenal of vials and needles, all part of a new therapy I was determined to try.

“Well, aren’t we pretty in blue,” she said, as if speaking to a child.

“My veins do look stunning today,” I agreed. Her eyes darted to mine and then away. Heck, they are nice veins, I thought, as I prepared to receive the latest experimental drug with a mixture of dread and barely detectable hope. The side effects might be hell—but still, this could be the one.

#

The shrill ring of my industrial-sized speakerphone woke me up. Caller ID revealed it was my business partner, Jacob DuPry. I had faxed him the invitation choices, knowing he’d have an opinion.

“I’m positive you should have no more than two reception times. Period. And you know I love the idea of the party,” Jacob said, exhaling loudly into the phone. I imagined him pushing his blonde bangs to the right with the palm of his left hand. A signature move. “I wish Randolph or Patrick had thought about it before they succumbed. Too late. You have more friends than they did, though. Their death receptions would’ve appealed simply to the curious, beyond me. But you—well with the Loop’s customers alone, you’ll fill the place.”

Jacob was heir apparent to our successful clothing boutique that could’ve been much more. Maybe Clothes the Loop would grow, still, without me. If Jacob stayed focused he could do it.

“Life celebration, not death reception,” I answered, still groggy from sleep. “And, just a reminder, you hated Patrick. Anyway, I just want enough time with each person —kind of like a one-on-one receiving line.”

I talked at the speakerphone, still lying down in bed. The new miracle drug hadn’t made my hair fall out, but my equilibrium was gone. I couldn’t stand, or shuffle to Ralph’s. I had to buzz the nurses for help to the bathroom.

Thank goodness for a voice beyond Shady Valley.

“Schedule appointments, silly. It’s like we do with the trunk shows, if you want a really banal comparison,” Jacob said.

“I don’t,” I snipped. He deserved it; he sounded distracted. “Are you paying attention?”

“Of course, I am walking to the back office, right now, OK? Does that make you happy? I hope so because we are slammed and I AM WALKING TO THE BACK. For you,” Jacob yelled. I imagined him in his shiny black shoes, with risers in the heel to make him taller. I wondered if he was a platinum or a dirty blonde this week. “What I meant was, on the invite, tell them you’d like to spend quality time with each of them, and that you’ll be up to receiving visitors during that same week. Let them decide when to visit.”

“You’re right,” I sighed, sounding old, dead tired. Dying tired. “But where’s the party in that? I wanted a party, Jacob.”

“Have a final party at the end of the week. Make it special. You might not like everyone anymore. Or worse.”

“Good point, but Suzanne’ll be here any minute and now I have nothing for her to typeset,” I moaned, immobilized. “I’m too dizzy to get to my computer.”

“I’ll do it and fax it over. Just tell Suzanne to wait. She owes you a little time after all the printing business you’ve given her,” Jacob said. “Don’t worry, 15 minutes. Oh no, it’s Mrs. Drezner. You knew she’d walk in now. I’ve already dealt with Rachel White today.”

“Aren’t you in the back?” I asked, picturing him, the store, the activity. Missing it all, and him. Even the nosey neighbors who never bought and just snooped for gossip, like Rachel White. I’d love to hear what’s going on from her about now. I didn’t want to see Mrs. Drezner, though, he was right about that.

“Jennifer, I am in the back but you’ve been away too long. Remember, I can hear her when she’s at the antique store, a block down the street that loud, pinched, up-tight—”

“Jacob, stop.”

“I’ll hide from her. Not mature, but doable. If the girls try to find me to help Mrs. Drezner, I’ll sneak out the back door. Don’t worry, I’ll get the invite done.”

#

And he did. He changed more than I thought he should, but I liked it.

Suzanne, the busybody owner of the local print shop who for some reason spoke with a hint of a southern accent, didn’t. She came bustling into my room and headed straight for the fax machine. When she found nothing there yet, she sat and tried to talk to me for a while, clearly uncomfortable all the while.

“You’d think from reading this Henry wasn’t in the picture or somethin’, honey,” she said, anxiously scanning the fax the moment it did spit out of the machine. I had to give her credit: she had tried to sit still until it came. I’d watched as she uncomfortably folded her rounded body into one of my brown square chairs. The sun streaked in over her shoulder, so I couldn’t see her face, but I guessed it registered impatience. I was too dizzy to care.

“Why? Because Mom’s the RSVP? She wants to do it,” I said.

“How about, ‘Please Join Henry Benson in celebrating the life of . . .” Suzanne suggested. I could tell she was pacing, her voice kept coming from different places in the room, but I didn’t open my eyes.

“Fine,” I said.

“I’ll typeset both versions. Fax it to you. Show it to your mom, Henry, whoever. Then call and we’ll go with whatever you want, honey. OK? I’ve gotta go, you know, gotta get back to the city.”

“Sure, I know how it is,” I said. I did. Suzanne’s hatred of Shady Valley exuded from her every word and movement. It was an unimaginable place, yet here I was.

“OK, glad to see you, Jennifer. Really. You look great. Whatever they’re doing must be really working. You’ll be outta here in no time. I’ll fax you, OK? Great. See ya soon,” Suzanne said. The tap tap of her high heels on my fake wood floor picked up speed and then ended before the word “great.” The last words were from the hall. She was gone.

I pushed my nurse call button. “Yes, Jennifer?” I hated to call them unless it was an emergency. I knew they kept track of who pushed their button and when. Too many times and they got revenge: No response, or at the very least a really slow response. In the middle of the night, it better be death knocking on your door if you buzzed them.

“Sorry to bother you, but this latest treatment is, well, I’m still dizzy and I think I’m getting worse.” I sounded so helpless. I hated that, but I hated the way the room was pitching and swaying more.

“We’ll call your doctor, Jennifer, and see what he recommends.” Probably what he’d recommend would be to stop looking for a miracle, stop looking for a future. We’d exhausted his supply of hope. Henry pushing, then my mother, and then Henry again. “Please, doctor, money’s no object.”

“We’re doing all we can. All I know to do,” Dr. Chris, my exhausted oncologist, would tell them.

“Do more, doctor,” my mother said, like she could simply charge it up on her platinum American Express card. “Whatever you can find, you should try.” Though she’d never smoked, she had a breathy, B-movie actress voice—she had kissed Elvis on screen once—she used it while looking straight into his eyes. Most people, like Dr. Chris, were forced to look away.

And behind it all, I guess, I pushed the hardest. After all, I had the most to lose.

My son Hank believed lightning was God taking pictures, and when I went to heaven, he’d know I was taking lots of pictures of him when the storms came. Death was pretty clear cut for him, really. Poof, I’d be gone, up to heaven. Taking flash photos. At first, I hadn’t wanted to tell him that Mommy might not get better. I wanted to hold him and promise him everything would be all right and that I would be the strong, happy mommy I hoped he could still remember from his toddlerhood. But after six months of hospital visits and guilty silence whenever he entered the room, he knew “Mommy’s sick” didn’t quite cover it. He was one smart cookie, my Hank. Henry and I decided to level with him when I moved to Shady Valley and he absorbed the possibility of my demise with the heartbreaking practicality of a three year old. I would still be his mommy, just in the clouds, taking photos.

Tears threatened to overtake me whenever I thought too much about the kids. Fifteen months without a mother at home. Baby Hannah had only known what it was like to have me rock her to sleep or tuck her in at night in her crib a few blessed times, in between hospital stays and when I wasn’t too ill at home. Paige was a wonderful nanny, a godsend really, but she wasn’t me.

Anger mixed with sadness choked me. I wanted to brush my teeth, but I couldn’t get up. I felt helplessness overwhelm me. This living in the moment thing was hell. Where was Henry? He was supposed to be coming for our “date night,” as we lamely called them. What time was it anyway?

#

There was a time when he couldn’t keep his hands off of me, my Henry. Our first year of marriage was something of a dream, now. Making love in the morning before work, some days, meeting at home at our condo at noon for more. Evenings were filled with workouts at the gym, dinners out and then more sweet, slow lovemaking. Beyond work, no outside distractions, no kiddos yet, no responsibilities except to discover each other.

“I’ve never been this happy,” he whispered to me as we cuddled in bed, the evening of our first anniversary. It was a beautiful, starry night and we had shared a candlelit dinner on our patio.

“Because I’ve finally learned how to cook?” I teased, looking up into his sparkling blue eyes. To say I hadn’t really mastered any meal would be an understatement. That evening, for our anniversary, I’d created gazpacho from scratch. I didn’t realize, though, that garlic cloves are pieces of garlic bulbs. I’d added eight bulbs. Fortunately, we both took our first bites—and spit them out at the same time.

“Yes, your cooking is the reason, clearly,” Henry answered, chuckling as he rolled over on top of me. “What you lack in the kitchen you more than make up for in the bedroom. Happy anniversary, love of my life,” he added before we made love again.

#

“Hi, honey. Weather channel again?” Henry said when he walked in my door. I had wanted to look good, a little attractive or at least not be smelly, when he arrived, but the dizziness had kept me from getting ready. I pulled the sheet up over my face and struggled to throw off my dark mood. I didn’t want to waste what little time we shared these days with pointless self-pity.

“Did you know storms turn to the right after dark? I just heard that,” I said through the sheet. I could see Henry through the thin fabric—the handsome man who used to want to touch me all over. Now we discussed the weather.

Henry’s cleft chin nodded in my direction. “The nurses said you had a tough day. They’re still waiting for Dr. Chris to figure out something to counteract the dizziness. They’ll figure it out. Now pull the covers down. You know I think you look fine just how you are. I brought your favorite pasta, and a work problem for you to help me with, so get that sheet off your face and give me a kiss.”

I pulled the sheet down slowly as Henry smiled, then bent over and kissed my forehead. More brotherly than affectionate, but at least he still cared enough to kiss me. It wasn’t the passionate, intense kiss of our life before kids, nor was it the amazed, team-spirited kiss we used to share when we were both exhausted new parents and Hank was finally asleep. No, these kisses were those of a friend, a caring companion, a long-lost uncle. I don’t know where the old kisses went, or how, if ever, to get them back.

Tonight I was dizzy, but sometimes on our date nights, I had felt OK. Shady Valley wasn’t a place conducive to making love, of course, but still. Lately, he had seemed more and more distracted, and I struggled to find topics to hold his interest. New meds and side effects only took us so far. In the old days, he had shared every detail of his day with me and often asked my advice about work issues. He was passionate about life. About me and our relationship, and he’d swoop in from work and grab me in a tight hug and lingering kiss. He loved his job and was determined to be the best, and I loved that about him. He still made an effort to share bits and pieces of his life with me, but I couldn’t shake the sensation that he was just going through the motions for my sake.

“You would not believe what an idiot Bill Jackson is,” Henry said, sweeping into our condo and grabbing me in a bear hug. I’d been rummaging through our refrigerator, trying to decide if I should attempt a meal. After a big kiss, he explained his boss at the law firm’s latest rainmaker scheme, which involved Henry joining the board of almost every nonprofit in town.

“But honey, it does seem like a good way to get your name out there—and your firm’s name out there,” I answered. I’d poured him a glass of Chianti and carried it to him, where he sat fuming in his favorite chair. Our condo was furnished in the traditional just-starting-out manner: one gray leather couch, one coffee table, one gray leather side chair. We had both told our parents we didn’t want help with furniture, so we were working and acquiring things slowly. His choice of his favorite chair was really his only choice.

“That’s not the point. You shouldn’t join boards of charities unless you believe in them. And I want to specialize in business startups,” he said.

“Well, a lot of nonprofits are run like small businesses,” I offered. “I’ll help you find a couple that would be a good fit. Maybe even a small-business incubator/funding group.”

“I love you, Jenn,” Henry said, and I walked over and climbed on his lap. “Once I’m here with you, nothing else matters.”

I looked away from the window and pulled my sheet back over my head. What matters now? I wondered. In high school, Henry’s prowess on the football field had made him quite the heartthrob with the local girls. At thirty-five, his sandy blonde hair was definitely thinning on top, but he still had the broad shoulders and air of confidence that turned heads in a crowd. I didn’t mind as long as I was standing beside him. But now, he’s out in the real world, turning heads, making deals, and I’m here.

Together, we had made a picture-perfect pair. In the early years of our marriage, we were always in the social pages, smiling, successful, in love. Henry came from a much more demonstrative family than mine, and he was constantly holding my hand, hugging and kissing me in public. When we first started dating, I’d blushed constantly, unaccustomed to the overt attention and the pulsing sexual tension underlying each of our dates. Our relationship started out magnetic and intense—and it was obvious to those around us. During our first date, over lunch, it felt as if the air pulsed around us. When our fingers accidentally touched as he passed me the bread, I had felt the touch everywhere. And wanted more. A few months later, my friend, Maddie Wilson, the city’s gossip columnist, described us as the couple “most in need of a cold shower or a quick exit from every fundraiser” in her annual awards. Of course, I had blushed and Henry had laughed.

I wondered if he ever felt as lonely as I did. He had to. Even though that initial head-over heels attraction had waned somewhat with the arrival of kids and a busy life, we still had had a vibrant sex life, before this. Before now. Did his healthy body crave the warmth and companionship of someone equally strong and vibrant? Every inch of me had been poked and prodded, radiated, and shot with chemicals. The doctors warned us that sexual intercourse would be tough during some treatments, with vaginal dryness, early menopause, and other physical…blessings. But they said we should try to maintain intimacy. Touching. Holding hands. As much as I could tolerate, as much as Henry and I could naturally feel in this unnatural state, this artificial place. Until today, and until these new meds, I’d felt as if we could try to have sex. But with the room swooping, I felt lucky being able to communicate.

I looked up at Henry. How does he see me now? As a wife? As a lover? At six feet, three inches, Henry exuded vitality, while I seemed to be shrinking by the day. Would he notice if I disappeared entirely? Or would he be relieved it was over at last?

“Pull the sheet down honey,” Henry said. “Your mother said Alex Thomas is back in town. Did you know that?”

Alex Thomas…

I kept the sheet over my face so Henry couldn’t see me blush. My ex-boyfriend, here. In town. My past, back in my present.

And something in me wanted to see him.

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Book Review: ‘A Very Good Life’ by Lynn Steward


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A Very Good Life is the first book in an exciting new series by successful business woman now author Lynn Steward.

In this story, which crosses over from the literary to women’s fiction to romance, Steward takes us to 1970s Manhattan, home of the sophisticated and the elite. There, we meet Dana McGarry.

Dana has everything — a successful job at a prestigious department store, a handsome lawyer husband, a beautiful home, and loving family and friends. But things aren’t always as perfect as they appear to be, aren’t they?

When Dana’s husband begins to drift away, and demands at her job require that she behaves unethically, her world begins to crumble. She finds herself at a crossroads. Will she make the right decisions and stay true to herself and her vision of what a ‘good life’ should be?

This was a wonderful read! It reminded me of novels I read years ago by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Female readers will no doubt empathize with Dana as she struggles to keep her career and marriage together. She is strong, but also caring and sensitive. Readers will also be swept away by the setting. With vivid detail, the author brings Christmas in 1970s New York City alive in all its splendor. I really felt transported in time and place, felt the snowflakes and smelled the holiday trees. The characters are sympathetic and interesting and, of course, the antagonist is just one of those persons the reader will love to hate.

Steward has created a wonderful world of drama in this new series. Book two is supposed to come later this year and I’m really looking forward to reading the new installment. If you love women’s fiction and are a fan of strong female protagonists, I recommend you pick this one up. It won’t disappoint.

Find out more on Amazon.

Visit Lynn Steward’s website.

My review was originally published in Blogcritics.

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Interview with Lynn Steward, author of ‘A Very Good Life’


AVGL LS in library
Lynn Steward is a successful business woman who spent many years in New York City’s fashion industry in marketing and merchandising, including the development of the first women’s department at a famous men’s clothing store. Through extensive research, and an intimate knowledge of the period, Steward created the characters and stories for a series of five authentic and heartwarming novels about New York in the seventies. A Very Good Life is the first in the series featuring Dana McGarry.  

About the Book

Although Lynn Steward’s debut novel, A Very Good Life, takes place in 1970s New York City. it has a timelessness to it. Dana McGarry is an “it” girl, living a privileged lifestyle of a well-heeled junior executive at B. Altman, a high end department store. With a storybook husband and a fairytale life, change comes swiftly and unexpectedly. Cracks begin to appear in the perfect facade. Challenged at work by unethical demands, and the growing awareness that her relationship with her distant husband is strained, Dana must deal with the unwanted changes in her life. Can she find her place in the new world where women can have a voice, or will she allow herself to be manipulated into doing things that go against her growing self-confidence?

A Very Good Life chronicles the perils and rewards of Dana’s journey, alongside some of the most legendary women of the twentieth century. From parties at Café des Artistes to the annual Rockefeller Center holiday tree lighting ceremony, from meetings with business icons like Estée Lauder to cocktail receptions with celebrity guests like legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. Steward’s intimate knowledge of the period creates the perfect backdrop for this riveting story about a woman’s quest for self-fulfillment.

Purchase on Amazon.

Interview

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00031]Q: Congratulations on the release of your book, A Very Good Life. What was your inspiration for it? 

A: I always enjoyed business-related writing and thought a non-fiction self-help book, with life-lessons I learned along the way, would be a fun project.  But, as often happens when you put yourself out there, I discovered another path and took it: I developed a TV pilot about New York in the seventies because, as they say “Write what you know” and I know New York. I’m a native of Long Island, and between attending school and working, I spent twenty-two years in Manhattan. I was so overwhelmed with ideas, the TV series expanded to five seasons! Appropriately placed in the New York City of 1975, which was International Women’s Year, the plots in the series intermingle fashion legends, business icons, real events, and untold stories, providing a behind-the-scenes look at inspirational women in the worlds of art, fashion, and business.

After meeting with professionals in the entertainment industry, I realized that the main character needed more drama and the plots had to be developed, and I felt the best way to do that was to convert the pilot into a novel.  A Very Good Life is the first in a five-book series inspired by the TV show and featuring Dana McGarry.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Dana initially comes across as an underdog. She is extremely likeable, has a soft demeanor,  and tries hard to please, but she is being treated shabbily by her husband at home and her superiors at work.  Readers start routing for her immediately, hoping she will succeed in her quest for self-fulfillment. Can she find her place in the new world – International Women’s Year – where women can have a voice, or will she allow herself to be manipulated into doing things that go against her growing self-confidence?

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: I started developing the TV show approximately three years ago, spending the first year and a half researching historic facts, places,  and events from the period, and creating the characters.   I did not have writers block or any  bumps along the way. The story just kept writing itself.  Characters I thought would play an important role, never made it to the page, and others that I least expected became my favorites.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A:  I again go back to “Write what you know.”  New York City, especially Murray Hill, is home to me.  As a child I was often in Manhattan visiting my grandparents in their Italian neighborhood on 106th St Street.There is so much to draw on when writing about a place or topic that is familiar, or part of your soul. I lived many years a few blocks from B. Altman, and I was in the store practically every day, as well as Mary Elizabeth’s tea room, the lectures at the Metropolitan Museum with Rosamond Bernier, and, of course, the exciting costume exhibits at the Met staged by Diana Vreeland.  I have great affection and enthusiasm for the real and fictional characters, and the period, and I think that is translated to the page.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: No anxiety at all. I think it helps to be prepared with good research, photos for inspiration, and organized files, readily available when an idea is sparked at the keyboard. I think, no matter your subject, organization is key. Your mind cannot possibly keep everything neatly filed and available when you need it. My iPad has been tremendously helpful for note taking, and I constantly use it in conjunction with my computer.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time? 

A: My favorite time to write is early in the morning, preferably around 5:30 a.m., when my mind is clear, it is peaceful, and there are no interruptions. I won’t allow myself to even peek at e-mails, I don’t want anything to distract me for at least three hours. I am always surprised and disappointed how fast that time goes.

Q: How do you define success? 

A: Being at peace with one’s self, happy to face a new day.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: I believe that may be a problem. I quickly learned that writing becomes an all-consuming passion; you effortlessly and selfishly  block out everything and everyone.  I find author interviews in The Paris Review give good and interesting insight into the minds and lives of writers, and, while all are very different people, they share an intensity that even I, at my inexperienced level, could relate. With that being said, I think if you really long to get that story on paper, you will find a way;  structure a routine, a time of day to be alone. It’s difficult to write many hours straight, so you will welcome the company of family and loved ones.  Just try to curb your enthusiasm and don’t expect others to care what your favorite character did in the last chapter; trust me, they rather wait to read the book!

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: Orwell got the driven part right, but I did not have a horrible experience; surprisingly exhausting, considering I was seated in one spot for hours and not running a marathon. But, yes, the editing is stressful and tedious; you pull one thread, and everything else falls apart. The passion, however, or as Orwell said, the demon, returns you to the same place the next day.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: I have met the most wonderful people on this new journey: kind, helpful, and patient. I have had two high energy careers, and I am enjoying the peaceful world of not only writing, but of writers.

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Book Review: ‘Christmas is in the Air’ by Cary Morgan Frates, Danielle Lee Zwissler, Jennifer Conner, and Karen Hall

Christmas is in the Air Anthology 2

This is the second Christmas romance anthology from Books to Go Now that I have read this month. I loved the first one,Christmas Romance, and this the second one didn’t disappoint. Four talented romance authors, four sweet stories that will warm your heart this holiday season. And just like in the first one, there are dogs in this one, too!

In “Red Soles at Night Christmas Delight,” by Cary Morgan Frates, Audrey Wells is out of her wits when a dog jumps on to the deck of her boat and in the process throws her super expensive Louboutin shoes into the lake. The dog’s handsome owner has no choice but to dive into the freezing cold water to rescue them. Of course, Audrey ends up making sure he doesn’t get pneumonia. In a turn of fate, they end up spending Christmas Day together. A humorous and sexy story.

In “Yuletide Bride,” by Danielle Lee Zwissler, reporter Mary Simms is out on a mission. She wants to prove that the town’s Magic of Christmas Festival, where perfect couples are “matched” for life, is a sham. Will she have the courage to uncover the truth and destroy people’s belief in the tradition, even if it means destroying the happiness of some of the old couples involved? And what about James, the handsome lawyer who asks her not to go ahead with her story, and for whom she’s developing some serious feelings? Will Mary learn to have faith? An original, delightful story with a touch of mystery.

In “Christmas Gift that Keeps Wagging,” by Jennifer Conner, we meet Julian Barrows, a single dad with a kindergarten son who suffers from seizures; and Hannah, the beautiful trainer who specializes in seizure-detecting dogs. Their paths touch when Julian tries to get her dog for his son. The problem is, it’s incredibly expensive. Fate has other plans, and the magic of Christmas works its way into their lives…A heart-warming story with an ending that will pull at your heart strings.

The last story is “One Horse Open Sleigh Race,” by Karen Hall, where we’re transported to 1819 London, and where, after a most unexpected encounter, a wealthy earl and the feisty twin of the new clergyman find true love thanks to a Christmas sleigh race and an adorable “match-making” Scottie. Lovers of historical romance will relish this one.

This anthology has a tantalizing, charming cover. That’s the first thing that pulled me to the book, and it adequately illustrates the inside content. The four stories in this anthology are all about strong yet vulnerable heroines and sensitive, yet forceful heroes; about the spirit of the Christmas season and the magical effect it can sometimes have on people; about the hope and faith for true love and the attainment of that love.

Through the authors’ imaginations, I was transported to different places and times, relishing the characters’ fictional worlds and predicaments. I also love how the authors incorporate humor into their stories, and how the dogs play their important roles. Christmas Is in the Air is an upbeat, thoroughly enjoyable read, and one I’m sure readers of sweet romance stories will enjoy.

Find out more on Books to Go Now and  Amazon.

My review was originally published in Blogcritics Magazine. 

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Interview with Mary Carter, author of ‘Three Months in Florence’

Mary Carter 2Mary Carter is a freelance writer and novelist.  Three Months in Florence is her seventh novel. Her other works include:  The Things I Do For You, The Pub Across the Pond, My Sister’s Voice, Sunnyside Blues, She’ll Take It, and Accidentally Engaged.  In addition to her novels she has written three novellas: A Kiss Before Midnight in the anthology, You’re Still the One, A Very Maui Christmas in the New York Times best selling anthology Holiday Magic, and The Honeymoon House in the New York Times best selling anthology Almost Home.

Mary is working on two more novellas for winter and summer of 2014, as well as her eighth novel.

Visit her website at www.MaryCarterBooks.com.

Connect & socialize with Mary at Twitter: https://twitter.com/marycarterbooks

Like her on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mary-Carter-Books/248226365259

Click here to enter the $25 Amazon Gift Card + Books Giveaway!

About the Book:

Three Months in Florence 2Lena Wallace was supposed to go to Italy on her honeymoon. That was sixteen years ago. Instead, she settles for cooking Spaghetti Bolognese for her two children while her husband, Alex, is on yet another business trip to Florence without her. Lena deals with his absences in the same stoic way she deals with all her responsibilities. And then comes the call that changes everything–the one from Alex’s Italian mistress.

Stunned and heartsick, Lena flies to Florence to confront Alex. The city is every bit as beautiful as she imagined, from its glittering fountains and cafés to the golden sunsets over rolling hills. But the further she goes to salvage her marriage, the less Lena recognizes herself–or the husband she’s trying to win back. Instead, she’s catching glimpses of the person she once hoped to be and the life and family she truly wants. Most of all, she’s wondering if the real journey is only just beginning. . .

In a novel as warm and vibrant as its rich Italian setting, author Mary Carter explores the intricacies of marriage, the ways love can both liberate and confine, and the journey to happiness that begins with one surprising step. . .

Purchase your copy at AMAZON.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Mary. Can you tell us what your latest book, Three Months in Florence, is all about?

It is about Lena Wallace, a stay-at-home Mom who learns her husband is having an affair while teaching abroad in Florence Italy. Lena flies the family to Florence to confront her husband and his mistress.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Lena Wallace is a devoted mother, an artist who let her canvas lapse, and a wife desperate to save her marriage. Alex is a professor of art history, and a man tempted by a beautiful, young woman. Alexandria is a drop-dead gorgeous Italian woman. She’s feisty and in love with a married man. Marco, is her equally handsome boyfriend who is also upset by the affair.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

I think a little of myself can’t help but eke into each character, and for Lena I borrowed the name and her looks from a true-life friend of mine, but the similarities stop there. The characters always end up taking off and becoming their own fully-fleshed-out people.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

Truly, a bit of both. I’m required to write an outline for my publisher but he always knows I’m going to veer from it in the process of writing. Sometimes I take huge detours. Writing as you go tends to feel a lot more natural to me, but there are other times where outlines are extremely helpful.

Q: Your book is set in Florence, Italy. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Simply because I fell absolutely in love with it when I went to visit and I wanted to live there for a year. I didn’t get to, but I did get to experience it again through Lena.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Absolutely. Besides seeing it through Lena’s touristy eyes, it was a challenge to have something so ugly happening to Lena in a city so magical and beautiful. That was part of the challenge of writing the novel. And since Florence is such an artistic city, the element of art played a large role in the plot as well.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Lena and the kids are waiting at The Fountain of Neptune for Alex to arrive. He’s coming now….

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

I would have to sit down and re-read the novel for the best excerpt, but here is a teaser from when Lena is “meeting” the mistress for the first time:

The young woman looks me in the eye, her pretty little chin tilts up, and she keeps her gaze steady. “Yes. I speak English.” She sits back in her chair and waits. Now that her face isn’t taking up the entire screen, I can clearly see that she isn’t in Alex’s dorm. Gone are the plain white walls and the MIchelangelo calendar perpetually open to the statue of David. Here I can make out a kitchen behind her with a squat white refrigerator covered in pictures, and a counter littered with empty bottles of wine, their corks bobbing next to them like murder weapons carelessly dropped next to dead bodies. Besides the wine there is a large basket of fruit and a hunk of yellow cheese sitting on a cutting board. It’s like an Italian still-life painting and it feels as if I can reach out and touch it.

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

Write. One of my favorite writing quotes—paraphrased—My father drove a truck for twenty years. I don’t ever remember him getting “Truck Drivers Block.” Writing is a job. You just have to do it.

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

I’m going to go against the grain here. I actually have a lot of time on my hands. I can only write so many hours a day, I don’t have kids, and my other freelance work has been quiet lately. So I don’t want an extra hour today. I would probably feel guilty that I wasn’t doing something productive. Were you trying to get me to say I’d use it to write?

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?

There are too many of them to mention. A recent one would be Gone Girl. I love psychological suspense and enjoyed the novel along with many others. The Hunger Games—I loved the series. Brilliant premise too. Time and Again by Jack Finney. I wish I had a tenth of the beautiful prose of Colum McCann. Gone With the Wind, of course. City of Thieves, Bel Canto, Racing in the Rain, The Room, Turn of Mind….You’re depressing me now. Can I change my answer to the question above and use my extra hour to drink and think of all the novels I wish I had written?

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?

Promotion is a tricky one. It really is. I haven’t hit on a magic formula yet. The one I try to hold onto is that the best thing to do is concentrate on making your next novel as good as you can get it. Oh—and I also wish I had written As Good As It Gets…. I might need an extra two hours….

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Mary. We wish you much success!

Thank you! I can be found on Facebook, twitter, and marycarterbooks.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Conversation with ‘A List of Offences’ Dilruba Z. Ara

Dilruba Z. AraDilruba Z. Ara was born in Bangladesh. Nurtured on Greek mythology by her father, and hearing Indian fairy  tales as bedtime stories from her mother, Dilruba had her first story published when she was eight years old. While in university at the age of twenty, she met  and married her husband, a Swedish Air Force officer, and moved to Sweden, where she obtained degrees in English, Swedish, Classical Arabic and linguistics. She now teaches Swedish and English in Sweden. An accomplished, exhibited artist, her paintings have been used as the covers for the Bangladeshi, Greek, and U.S. editions of A LIST OF OFFENCES.

Visit her website at www.dilrubazara.com.

A List of OffencesQ: Thank you for this interview, Dilruba. Can you tell us what your latest book, A List of Offences, is all about?

Ans: Essentially, it’s about the consequences of inequality between men and women, and the domestic oppression, and often violence that are practised to uphold that system of inequality within South Asian families. I have tried to show that through the story of one girl, Daria, the heroine of my novel. She is born into a family that operates the age-old system where every daughter’s behavior is controlled; she is taught to be patient and quiet, and to do whatever she is told. Basically, she is being groomed to be a suitable daughter-in-law.

Daria, however, marries the man she chooses, but within that marriage she suffers domestic violence. She is forced to endure constant shame, brutality, and coercion. She can’t return to her parental home, because her mother wouldn’t shelter her ‒ as a divorced woman, Daria would bring shame upon the

family. Daria is advised by her mother to make the marriage work. Like many Indian mothers, Daria’s mother is concerned only about her own status within her community. Daria is made to feel that she is the perpetrator and not the victim. The story is about Daria’s struggle to overcome cultural and social barriers in order to fulfill herself as a person. But at the same time it also tells the stories of numerous girls born in the subcontinent who are forced to endure similar treatment by their own families.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Ans: Daria, the main character, is caught between the norms of her own family, which is traditional, religious, and old-fashioned, and the norms of her husband Ali Baba’s family, which is anglophile, secularist, and modern. There is also Mizan, an orphan boy, Daria’s best friend ‒ and a secret admirer of hers.  There’s Bina ‒ a young Muslim woman, who defies tradition and makes her living by dancing. She becomes Daria’s role model at Firingi Para, where Daria lives with Ali Baba. Daria’s father is a sensible man, but Daria’s England-returned brother Hadi is a dominating young Muslim man, whose status at her natal home finally makes Daria aware of her own insignificance there. Then there are the two women ‒ Daria’s mother and mother-in-law ‒ who adamantly refuse to accept Daria as a person with a mind. And finally, Ali Baba’s sister Rani, who hates Daria from the bottom of her heart.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Ans: I tend to base most of them on real people.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

Ans: I am aware of it before I begin a novel.

Q: Your book is set in Chittagong city.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Ans: In A List of Offences, the village signifies the traditional, while the city signifies the modern mode of life. I wanted to show that you don’t have to go abroad to feel like a foreigner; there are cultural clashes even within same country, depending on your family’s mindset. I chose Chittagong for various reasons. First its history ‒ it is not just any city; it was invaded by a range of people over the centuries and thus offers an interesting setting for a family like Ali Baba’s, which doesn’t follow any particular culture or tradition. And then its location ‒ situated in the valley of the River Karnaphuli, and also on coast of the Bay of Bengal. Daria, who was born in a village whose name means river, was destined from her birth to find a way to the sea.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Ans: Yes. Absolutely.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

Ans: This is where Daria discovers the piece of paper on which Mizan, under the title “A List of Miscellaneous Offences,” had point by point written down the exact nature of offenses he had been subjected to during his stay at Daria’s home. Daria shows it to her parents. Eventually we find out that it was Gulabi, the family’s maid, who had been bullying Mizan behind the curtains. Up until that moment Mizan had been forgotten by the family, but now Daria’s parent start to take an interest in his welfare and adopt him as a family member. From here starts Daria and Mizan’s friendship.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Ans: Jharna Begum’s thumb froze on one bead, her face turned pale. And within her, her triangular heart cringed like a triangular marshmallow being licked by fire. She lifted her eyelids to look into Daria’s face with a curious interest as though it was the first time she was seeing a woman behind the word “daughter”. But, that look lasted only for a fraction of a second. Once again, fear chilled her heart and she shook her head.

“Be quiet! I won’t hear of such ineffable matters. There are many men who take up a second wife, and totally forget the first wife. You’ve mothered his child. You and Jhinuk belong to him. Besides, Hadi is getting married soon. The bio-data (a phrase Ammu had adopted from England-returned Hadi) given to his in-law’s family says that his only sister is married to a well-known lawyer. What shall he tell them if you don’t remain married to Ali Baba? It will hamper his prospects as a suitable groom.”

Daria looked at her Ammu.

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