No one ever accused me of not trying to look at the bright side when it comes to the rollercoaster world of publishing. Looking at the bright side has seen me through plenty of ups and downs…like selling a book to a publisher and then that publisher announcing that your book will be the last of their romance line.
How can such news have a bright side?
Because WHERE SHE BELONGS could be said to have some value as a collector’s edition. Who wouldn’t want to own one of the last two romance novels ever to be published by Five Star Expressions? In hardy hardcover and with a beautiful dust jacket? I mean, even if you hate the book and throw it against the wall, it’s not likely to get hurt. Thereby ensuring its “collector’s edition” status.
Yes, folks, I believe in serving lemonade.
My third and final excerpt from the novel follows. My laser eye surgery recovery is coming along, but I still need to restrict my computer time as the bright screen is very drying on my eyes. However, next week, please return for some exciting subsidiary rights news! (What are subsidiary rights, you ask? You’ll find out next week!)
WHERE SHE BELONGS isn’t only Jess and Adam’s story. It’s also about Jess and her mother re-establishing their relationship. The book features three points of view—scenes told from Jess’s viewpoint, scenes from Adam’s, and scenes from Jess’s mom’s viewpoint. The following scene is from Jess’s point of view but is between her and her mom, rather than her and Adam. Jess woke up early to find the door to the back porch open. Her mother is sitting in one of the porch chairs, watching the horses in the pasture and stroking her deceased husband’s sheepskin coat on her lap. While Jess and Pete did not have anything approaching a healthy relationship, Jess is about to learn that her mother has also had her own heartaches to bear.
Sitting in the second chair, she tucked her bare feet beneath her robe and clasped her mom’s hand on the armrest. “Is that Pete’s coat?” she asked quietly.
Her mom nodded. “I only came out to pick the flowers. After I put them in water, something urged me to go outside again, almost like Peter was calling me. I went around the corner, and that’s when I found this coat . . . hanging on the outside hook.”
“It looks like an outdoorsman’s coat.” Like her dad might have worn. Not Peter Olson, bespectacled supermarket manager.
“Peter wore it on our walks. We walked several times a week, even in winter. He must have left it out here before he died.” Her mom’s gaze shifted to the pasture. The breeze ruffled her short, graying curls. “Peter and I had our routines. Every morning before he went to work we’d have coffee, watch the horses. It was his idea to lease out the fields and barn, you know.”
Jess squeezed her mom’s hand. “It was a good idea.”
“Peter was a good man. I know you haven’t always believed that, Jessie, but it’s true. Yet, he could be difficult at times. I realize he was often rude to you.”
Her chest pinched. “Because I reminded him of Dad,” she whispered.
“Yes. That didn’t excuse his behavior—or mine. I should have stood up for you, honey. I knew you were hurting.”
“Mom, please don’t do this to yourself. None of us were blameless.”
Her mom shook her head. “Peter and I were to blame. You were so young.”
“I was old enough to decide I wanted to marry Danny. Old enough to realize that suddenly leaving home would hurt you. I didn’t have to act out around Pete, but I—” She swallowed. “He took you away from me.”
A tear trickled down her mother’s cheek. “Because I allowed him to.”
“That’s water under the bridge now, isn’t it? I want it to be. Because, despite how upset I was with you back then, despite all my old hurt and anger, I do know that Pete was a good man. I know that you loved him and he loved you.”
Torment drenched her mother’s sigh. “And I know my love for Peter has always bothered you, Jessie. There are many different kinds of love, though. My love for your father was strong, so strong sometimes that it wore me out. Frank gave a lot, but he demanded a lot, too.”
“I think I can see that now. I remember Dad as larger than life, full of exuberance and vitality. I imagine it was difficult keeping up with him.”
“Yes. Peter was much more my equal. My love for Peter is . . . was . . . softer than the love I felt for your father. Peter was my husband, but he was also my friend . . . what I needed most.”
“It wasn’t that way with Dad?” Jess asked through a tight throat.
“Don’t misunderstand me, Jessie.” Her mother glanced at her, hazel eyes imploring. “Frank was a powerhouse, and I loved him deeply. Even when it was to my detriment—and yours—I put him first. Just like I did with Peter. You know your father and I wanted more children. But not because we didn’t love you. I hope you realize that.”
Jess blinked back tears. “Dad wanted a big family. I heard him say so countless times.” In the pasture, the horses nickered, and the morning sun polished the dry grass gold. Soon, new spring growth would replace winter’s remnants.
“Yes.” One tiny, quiet word. “But I couldn’t give him more children. We were married ten years before I became pregnant with you.”
Jess shook her head. “How do you know it was you? Was your fertility tested?”
“No. Neither of us were tested, which makes my crime worse. Frank would have considered testing an insult, so I didn’t push it. With my erratic cycle, it was easy to assume—”
“That it was your problem? Mom, it doesn’t matter whose body was responsible. It was yours and Dad’s inability to have more children, not yours alone.”
“In hindsight, I understand that. But when you were little, I let my guilt come between us, between me and my sweet daughter.”
“You did?” Jess asked hoarsely.
“I’m ashamed to admit it, but yes. Your father loved you so much . . . ” Her mom’s hand slipped out from hers, and the cedar armrest grazed Jess’s palm. Then her mom’s hand settled on hers. Smooth, gentle, the touch of love. “Frank didn’t ask me to fade into the background. Because of my guilt, I pulled away from you. I thought he would be happier that way, so then you’d be happier, too.” A sob broke free from her. “But I messed up everything. I sacrificed your love. Can you forgive me?”
“Mom, there’s nothing to forgive. I love you.”
Her mother smiled, but it quivered. “Your father burst into my life and stole my breath away. I wanted to give him everything, and I did, including you. When he died, and then Danny . . . Jessie, you were so lost and alone, and I was such a failure.”
“Mom, you were never a failure.”
“Yes, I was, and I need to accept that. I wasn’t there for you. My sweet daughter, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay.” She couldn’t deny the absolution her mother obviously needed. She lifted their joined hands and kissed her mom’s. “I mean it, Mom. I love you.”
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