Springtime, a new project, my 25th birthday. It felt like a milestone kind of month.
What I Read
GRAND TOTAL: 4
Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown ★★☆☆☆
Though the modern cover may confuse you, Brown’s novel tells the story of Samantha Donaldson, a seventeen-year-old girl blackmailed into spying for the British government during World War I in order to get information on her missing father. A great premise and one that was executed poorly, apart from the breakneck pacing. I wanted more character development from Samantha – who quite frankly was a TERRIBLE spy – and more motivation from the villain. Plus, a few modern colloquialisms drew me out of the setting and had me scratching my head. Pretty sure they didn’t say “bathroom” in 1916 Great Britain. But overall a fun and twisty plot – fine for the beach or a lazy Sunday afternoon.
At Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen ★★★★☆
The result of this book deals largely with how you approach it. If you are expecting another Water for Elephants, a serious historical fiction, or a high stakes plot, turn around. If you are looking for a character-driven story with romantic elements, strong Highland setting, and pathos practically dripping off the page… This is the book for you! (Mom, don’t bother reading this one… You will hate it.) Three Americans searching for the Loch Ness monster at the height of World War II is really a backdrop for the protagonist’s personal growth from vapid socialite to a strong confident woman. The one star I did take away was for the underdeveloped romance that seemingly popped out of nowhere. But overall, Maddie’s journey – combined with an intriguing prologue, Scottish folklore, and a truly hateable antagonist – made for a great read that teaches you what is truly important in life.
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline ★★★☆☆
Historical fiction is a true love of mine. I love learning about little pieces of history I’d never learn about otherwise. Niamh – an orphaned Irish immigrant – finds herself on the orphan train, sent across the country by The Children’s Aid to be “adopted” or practically sold to families in need of cheap labor. What could she possibly have to do with a goth and bratty teenage foster girl? Quite a lot. The chapters alternate between present day Molly and 1920s Niamh/Dorothy/Vivian, and I have to say, I had harshly conflicting feelings about the two stories. Kline created such a captivating character in Vivian, and her section of the story was powerful and kept me reading late into the night. But the cliche, predictable and flat development in Molly’s chapters ruined it. If you’d asked me around the halfway point, I would have given this novel four or maybe even five stars. But then it began to fall apart, and the growing number of stereotypical characters and the rushed ending did a huge discredit to Kline’s storytelling skills. The emotional journey and history lesson made it a worthwhile read, but it could have been so much more powerful.
Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living by Manjula Martin
This one needed its own blog post – coming soon!
What I Wrote
If you happened to see my recent blog post, you’ll know that I’m forging full steam ahead with fast drafting my new novel, 700 Main.
And it’s going extremely well so far…
Total Monthly Word Count: 21,332
Which means, I am about 25% of the way there!
I was able to draft the first seven chapters as well as a huge chunk of Part 2 where the chapters begin to alternate between my protagonist Brie and a mysterious figure from the past. It’s in these chapters that I’ve really been able to dig into Texas history, and it’s honestly been a blast.
So fun that I thought I’d share a little excerpt with you from one of my favorite new chapters… the Dedication Ball of the Texas State Capitol in 1888:
The dance came to an all-too-soon end, and Captain Perry bowed before he escorted me over to the refreshment table for lemonade and one of the delicate sugary treats I’d been eyeing earlier.
“Excuse me if I seem too forward,” Captain Perry said once he handed me a glass. “But would you like to dance again? And perhaps I could call on you tomorrow?”
My hand flew to my chest where Rhett’s ring rested underneath my dress. Two dances in a row was noteworthy, an open flirtation, and I felt instantly guilty.
“I’m sorry,” I blurted, my hand jolting to spill lemonade over the edges of the glass. “I’m betrothed to another. Well… Almost.”
Captain Perry nodded, but I could see disappointment on his face. “Well, it was a pleasure then, Miss Rebecca.”
He walked away like a dog with his tail between his legs, and the previous sense of elation had deflated. I picked another treat off the table and ate it, feeling miserable.
“I think you broke that poor boy’s heart,” said a woman next to me that I hadn’t noticed before. “You could have at least danced with him again.”
“Oh, but I’m – ”
“Betrothed,” she interjected. “Almost. Yes, I heard.”
I would have been more outraged over her eavesdropping and unwelcome intrusion had she not been so old. She was at least seventy, holding a cane in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. Her navy dress glittered with rhinestones and feathers, and jeweled rings were stacked on each of her fingers.
“So I should have let him call on me anyway? That’s hardly proper,” I challenged, wondering if she would take offense or bite back.
Her laugh sounded like a bark. “Look around you, honey. ‘Proper’ is soon to be a thing of the past.”
I scanned the room but turned back to her in confusion, missing her meaning. The entire ball seemed more than proper to me.
She set her wine down on the table so she could wave her hands as she spoke. “We’re standing in an enormous and gaudy rock building, built purposefully to be higher than the country’s capitol in D.C.,” she explained. “We’re in mixed company with politicians, brothel owners, and Rangers who scalp Indians for money. See that woman over there? With the horrible pink dress? She’s a doctor up in Dallas. Grace Danforth. Standing next to her is Lizzie Johnson, the Cattle Queen of Texas. She just registered her own brand and drove that longhorn herd of hers up the Chisholm Trail. Why? Don’t ask me. Cows have never been my cup of tea.”
My gaze followed her finger as she spoke, soaking up the sights and her words. She pointed out person after person – men and women alike – who were making their mark on the world.
“And that there is Miss Henry Hayes of Galveston and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union,” she continued, gesturing toward a woman in yellow who was speaking animatedly with Governor Ross. “She’s big on women’s suffrage.”
Her condescending tone made me raise my eyebrows. “You don’t think women should be allowed to vote?”
She barked again and shook her head, her sapphire earrings swaying from wrinkled earlobes. “I’m a wife, mother, and millionaire. I don’t need to be involved with silly men and their politics.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Who exactly are you?”
“Sarah Horton Cockrell,” she said, gripping my hand in one of hers. “I own Dallas.”
My jaw dropped, recognizing the name at once. Hardly a day went by without seeing her name – and some new and noteworthy undertaking – in the paper. She built the first iron bridge over the Trinity River, and when other businessmen disagreed with her idea to collect tolls, she rode on horseback to appear before the legislators and have their petition struck down.
“My point is,” she began again, ignoring my floundering. “Proper is no way to live life. If you want to dance, dance.”
I glanced over to where Captain Perry stood with a group of other uniformed men and took a deep breath. I loved Rhett, but he wasn’t here. And there was no point in not enjoying the evening just to please a man fifty miles away.
“Miss Horton Cockrell, it was nice meeting – ”
She waved her hand again. “Just go.”
Emboldened, I marched over to the men and tapped Captain Perry on the shoulder.
He turned in shock and stood waiting for me to speak.
“I’ve changed my mind. I’d like another dance.”
Coming up April…
Despite a slow start – it was my birthday, I have an excuse – I am going to continue with my plan of writing 1,250 words per day between now and May 24th when I will be attending Bookish Retreats’ Novel Workshop in New Orleans!
I’ll also be reading a great list of new and old books:
- Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
- Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner
- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
- A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
The second quarter of the year is off with a bang, and I’m excited to hear what you guys have planned in your lives! Let me know in the comments below.