Monday, 30 June 2014

Book Spotlight - Tuesday's Child

Monday’s child is fair of face
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

—old fortune-telling nursery rhyme, 1838
Roud Folksong Index, #19526

The answer to the mystery of Grace McAllister’s paternity lies in this nursery rhyme but she has yet to decipher it.

Tuesday’s Child is a romance but it’s also a bit of a thriller and a mystery. It’s a return to a town which was the setting for Jericho Road, a story set in the South in the Vietnam era. It’s now forty years later, and Temple, GA, is still filled with scandals…some of them completely unknown to the populace of a town where “everybody knows your name.”

Jericho Road went on to win an Honorable Mention in the 1988 National Writers Association Novel-writing contest. It was published later by The Wild Rose Press and later re-issued by Class Act Books. When I wrote Tuesday’s Child, it seemed only appropriate to return to that little Southern town to tell Grace’s story.

Grace McAllister has neither seen nor heard from her father since her mother left him twenty years before.  Now, Benjamin Troup McAllister is dead and Grace is invited to return to Temple, Georgia, for the reading of his will.  She’s in for more than the culture shock of a small Southern town, however, for not only does she inherit nothing, but her father’s will also denies his paternity.

The lawyer cleared his throat once again, more out of nervousness this time. “…the matter of Grace Stephanie McAllister…” He hesitated an instant, then continued, “If you are present at this reading, as I imagine you will be, out of curiosity, if nothing else… I leave you… Nothing.”
What? I visibly jerked. Nothing? I came all this way for nothing? Abigail’s head came up. She looked shocked. Sammi was staring from the lawyer to me.
“Though my name is on your birth certificate, you are not my daughter,” Mr. Simmons plowed on, not looking anywhere except at the will now.

Enlisting childhood friend Mayfield Donovan, Grace attempts to find her real father. 

“What are you going to do?”
“Finish my breakfast.”
“About your father?”
“You mean the real one?” He nodded. I thought about it.
“What can I do?”
“Find him.” He made it sound so simple.

As a child, May was the bully who made Grace’s life a living Hell. He knocked her down, skinned her knees, took her for a bike ride and left her to walk home alone.  As a man, May’s done an about-face. Tall, handsome, and apparently eager to help ease Grace’s pain—in any way possible—he’s there for her and ready to do whatever it takes to help her discover who her father really is. It isn’t long before the two make another very important discovery having nothing to do with their investigations…

“I don’t know what the Hell’s happening. I just know from the moment I heard you were coming back I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t in front of the Manor by accident that day. I love you, Gracie.”

As they sift through the facts of her mother’s life and the men who loved her,  they uncover a tale of revenge, deception, and murder, and discover a truth neither wants to believe or accept…

Tuesday’s Child is a more closely-knit story because it involves only two people as opposed to Jericho Road which encompassed an entire family.  Both May and Grace’s thoughts and inner processes are important to the plot as are their relationship to each other and to everyone else in Temple, a place where everyone knows almost everything about everyone else…except in this case, the name of the man who is Grace’s father.

As a tie-in to Jericho Road, one of the characters from that novel also makes a brief but important appearance…

(In the following excerpt, Grace returns to her hotel, drowning her sorrows in Tom Colinses, and, four drinks later, that’s where May finds her…)


He was silent for exactly two seconds. “Know what you should do now?”
“Wha’?” I didn’t open my eyes.
“Go to bed. Come on.” I heard him push back his chair and stand up.
Go to bed? Great idea. I knew just who I wanted to do that with. Before I could tell him, however, I felt his hand on my arm. “Up you go, Gracie. You’re almost out. Time for beddy-bye.”
He frogmarched me outside and around the corner to his car.
I fell into the Mustang, managed to fasten my seatbelt, then sat there, eyes closed, leaning against the headrest. As before, May didn’t start the car right away, and I had a feeling he was sitting there studying me. When the engine finally came to life and we were moving, I forced my eyes open.
“I know m’ sense o’ d’rection’s slightly off-center, but isn’t th’ Manor th’ other way?”
“Give the girl two points. You’re not going back to the Manor.”
“Where’m I goin’?” I studied the buildings flying by. May was driving pretty fast for the business district but it was fairly late and maybe there were no cops lurking in one of Temple’s alleys just waiting for a certain Mustang to zoom by. No prob for me if there were. I might be snockered but I wasn’t driving. Thanks goodness.
“Home. With me.” My heart gave a jump but his next words knocked it back into place. “You don’t need to be alone tonight, Gracie.”
“Oh? Just whatcha got in min’, Mr. Donovan?”
“Nothing but your welfare, Miss McAllister.”
“Not McAllister,” I corrected, managing to squeeze out a tear that had survived being a victim of the other inundations. Now it was being sacrificed to self-pity. “I’m… Damn it, May. I dunno who I am now.”
He didn’t answer and I shut my eyes and stayed quiet. I didn’t open them until the car stopped some twenty minutes later. What I saw was the now-familiar front porch of Chez Donovan.
He had to help me out of the car. Sitting still for so long had a bad effect on my muscles. They wanted to stay relaxed. After I’d twice taken two steps and had my knees buckle, he sighed and swung me into his arms.
“Don’, May,” I managed to protest. “I’m too heavy.”
“Got that right,” he answered with an exaggerated grunt. “What do you weigh, anyway?”
“Dunno…” I managed a drunken shrug and nearly flung myself out of his arms. His grip tightened. “Hunnert…ten?”
“Is that all?” He was laughing now. “Could’ve sworn it was at least a hundred and eleven.” He carried me up the steps.
“Can you stand up while I get some sheets?”
“Gonna lemme see th’ upstairs now?”
“There are three guestrooms, Gracie.” It was said so patiently. “You can have your choice.”
“Then I wan’ th’ one you’re sleepin’ in.” There. I said it. No mistaking my meaning.
“Th’…whatchacallit?” I went on, determinedly. “Th’ Master bedroom. I wanna sleep with you, Master May.” I reached out, intending to pat his cheek. Instead, I swatted his chin.
“You’re drunk, Gracie.” Still holding onto my arm, he dodged easily. Why was I surprised he was fighting it? Could it be he didn’t want me as much as I was convincing myself I wanted him? At this point I didn’t have to do much convincing. “You don’t mean that.”
“Yep, I do, an’ no, I’m not. See?” I pushed away from him, holding up one hand, thumb and little finger pressed against my palm. “Three fingers.” I closed my eyes and tapped the end of my nose. “Co’rdination fine.” I opened my eyes again, looking up into those brilliant copper ones. “Take me upstairs, May.”
I’m so damned eloquent. Guess I convinced him. He stared at me for just one breathless moment that was so quiet we could’ve heard the beams shifting and the clock ticking on the mantel…if we’d been listening. All I could hear was May’s breathing and a louder sound coming from inside me, the pounding of my heart. It drowned out the world.
His hands slid to my waist.
Once again, as I had been when we stood in front of the fireplace after dinner, I was overwhelmed by the man that was Mayfield Donovan. In that moment, everything about him seemed overpowering, though he wasn’t moving or saying a word. I could smell the faintest scent of aftershave, something familiar but elusive I knew I should recognize but couldn’t, a fragrance giving his skin a fresh tang. There was smoke clinging to his shirt from the many cigarettes in the bar, and the barest hint of sweat, but the clean kind. In the unlighted hallway before the stairs, he was nothing but a tall, dark shape looming over me, a single lamp in the living room making enough light that I could see the glint of that bronze hair. His hands were still at my waist, warm through the thin fabric of my sundress. Vaguely I remembered how worried I’d been that morning, wondering if I looked presentable. Now? All I wanted to do was rip it off and throw my naked body at him. It hit me so hard I nearly cried out. I want this man. He might be a stranger, but he was one I’d known forever…and I wanted him.
Standing on tiptoe, I put my arms around his neck and pulled his head down, pressing my mouth to his. Our tongues touched. I tasted the residue of those three swallows of beer, mingling with all my Collins’s. It should’ve been repulsive. Instead, it was arousing. For just a moment, I felt him stiffen as if he’d pull away. Then his arms went around me and I was lifted off the floor as he straightened. I hung there, May’s grasp all that was keeping me from falling. As he gently let me go, I slid down his body until my feet touched the floor again. May’s hand on the back of my head pressed my cheek against his chest. He was breathing just a little heavier now and his heart was pounding, too, and something else. 
“If you’re sure?”
I nodded. There was so much heat flooding through me at that moment, I didn’t dare try to speak.
May picked me up and started up the stairs. I kept one arm around his neck, resting my forehead against his cheek.
His room was at the end of a long, wide hall. The door was open and he left it that way as we went in. Some vestige of parental admonition still lingering? He lay me on the bed as gently as he might a sleeping child. I thought of the many times he’d knocked me down. This was certainly an about-face. Had all that childhood bullying simply been a prelude to this? When did we stop being enemies, May? Are we truly ready to be lovers?
“I don’t feel right about this, Gracie.” He looked away. “I feel as if I’m seducing you.”
“Feel right about it,” I answered, making an effort to enunciate. Fine time for May to become a gentleman. I wanted this and if I had to, I’d seduce him. “I’m not drunk. I know what I’m doing. I’m not asking for comfort for today’s disaster. Frankly, I don’t know what I’m asking for, but let’s not analyze it. Just let it happen.”
“It’s not like it isn’t something I haven’t wanted to do.” He got up and began to undress. May’s movements were matter-of-fact, not well-rehearsed, no coy strip tease, titillating peeling, or hasty just-can’t-wait tearing off of garments. He just…undressed…as if it were something he did all the time when alone with me in his bedroom. Like we’d done it often. Comfortable. Familiar.

Icy Snow Blackstone is the pseudonym of Toni V.Sweeney. Icy Snow Blackstone is also Toni’s great-great-great-greatgrandmother and she’s always thought that name should belong to a Romance writer, so she appropriated it as her own. She is also the author of Jericho Road, Bargain with Lucifer, Brother Devil, and Gypsy Charm, romances all set in the South. Her paranormal romance The Irish Lady’s Spanish Lover will also be released by Class Act Books later this year.

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