Tuesday, October 6, 2015

🏰 Book Feature: The White Knight, the Lost Kingdom and the Sea Princess by Judy Carlson

TitleThe White Knight, the Lost Kingdom, and the Sea Princess
Author: Judy Carlson
Publisher: Nordskog Publishing, Inc.
Publication Date: July 1, 2015
Format: eBook / PDF / Paperback
Pages: 476
ISBN: 978-0983195757
Genre: Mythical Fantasy

Buy The Book:

Book Description:

Just as the creator of the Chronicles of Narnia decided to try his writer’s hand and imagination, I decided to try something too.  And so, I have written a story of my own having been prompted by that same idea of creating a God presence in another place.  No, it is not Narnia but it is a new world similar yet different from our own.  Surely, as I write this, I was inspired by the man who has invited tens of thousands of readers and not a few writers to write, think and look beyond this ‘shadow land’ called earth.  I have named it The White Knight, the Lost Kingdom, and the Sea Princess’

It is a story of intrigue and ever present danger in a world populated by creatures and mortals, whose destiny hangs by the threads of an Emperor’s vision,  a prince’s lost love,  mysterious foes, enchanting  forest maidens, unlikely heroes, and a mermaid-heroine. All of this is wrapped up in a champion so invincible, yet mysterious, that he challenges the Dark Sorcerer with supernatural forces of a fascinating nature, using even the humblest of defenders.  This profound love story will leave you with a taste for a country and a universe beyond your dreams and even imaginings.  A world that is A fairy tale come true, and one “you will never want to end”.


Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1:

The Vanquished Kingdom

Under the Laws of Providence We have duties which are perilous. –Austin Phelps

Affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. –John Donne
A deathly pall hung over the palace and the city of Ajar as the threatening presence of the insidious Black Guard escalated. 

“Hurry!” called the Queen to her maidservant, “Come quickly, Dianna!”

“Yes, Your Majesty!” 

“The trunk is in my wardrobe closet. Count Amas has ordered two of his trusted men to secure it for me. They will take it to the cottage of the nursemaid Elnora and secret it there. We only hope they can avoid discovery.” 

“Yes, madam,” the girl answered in a trembling voice. 

“Disguise it with this linen cloth, Dianna, and lay flowers upon it. If noticed at all, a covered table will arouse less suspicion than a royal trunk.” The Queen of the Eastern Islands paused and lowered her head for a moment. Then glancing up at the servant girl, she said, “If evil befalls both Lady Elnora and me, reveal the trunk’s whereabouts only to a trusted friend. Perhaps my son Loren still has breath somewhere in this dim world and will come thither to claim it one day.”

“But, Your Majesty, surely the Lord Regent would not dare to hurt you!” The girl began weeping. Queen Maybella took her by the shoulders, fighting back her own tears. 

“Forgive us, maiden, for we allowed evil to enter our beloved kingdom. Weep not for us. If we perish, we shall go to the White City. Weep for those who remain here in this place.” The lady’s voice became intense. “You must flee the palace if we are . . .removed. This wicked Usurper will come to his undoing some day. Yet as for you, without my protection, you will be. . . . Please, you must flee. Trust no strangers, Dianna. Aryel the White Knight will return. Be strong until then.” 

(The increased power and control of the Lord Regent and his Black Guard had rendered the king and his advisors only figureheads. The royal family were little more than prisoners in their own palace. Fear of the attacks of a horrible dragon had spread like an epidemic over the citizens of the Eastern Island Kingdom of Ajar. In as much as it seemed only the Lord Regent had power over the fearsome beast, they had capitulated. Kneel or perish was his mantra. They were a free people no more. The few citizens who rebelled were killed, and so the underground resistance was born.) 

The handmaiden of the queen did as her mistress bid her. When the soldiers came to take the trunk, it appeared to be a bench or table adorned for a summer tea. Several hours later, there came shouts and then screams from the royal family’s quarters. King Elmern’s voice was commanding, but to no avail. “Do not harm my sons! Take me only!” 

A thunderous voice roared back, “Silence, you fool! If I would destroy you, why then would I leave an heir!” Following a tortuous silence, the Black Guards’ boots stomped through the halls. Then they paused behind the chapel door. The door shook from their pounding blows. The maidservant yet stayed by her mistress.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

🏰 Book Feature: Vows to the Fallen by Larry Laswell

Title: Vows to the Fallen
Author: Larry Laswell
Publisher: Marshell Publishing
Publication Date: August 14, 2015
Format: Paperback – 277 pages / eBook  / PDF
ISBN: 978-0986385322
Genre: Historical Fiction / Military / Sea Story

Buy The Book: 
Book Description:

Vows to the Fallen
An Officer’s Journey Through Guilt and Grief
Another techno-thriller from the author of The Marathon Watch
August 9, 1942, 01:42 hours
USS Green on patrol off Red Beach, Guadalcanal
Bridge Officer: Lieutenant Patrick O’Toole
Lieutenant O’Toole’s goal is simple: someday he wants to become an admiral. But in a few moments, his life will change . . . forever. Yesterday, the marines stormed the beaches of Guadalcanal. Today, the Japanese Navy will strike back. The sudden and horrific carnage scars O’Toole for life and throws him into the abyss of survivor’s guilt and posttraumatic stress.
The Pacific War does not wait for O’Toole to heal. Duty calls, each new assignment brings more responsibility, and the roll call of the fallen grows. At the Battle of Mujatto Gulf, O’Toole faces a superior battle-hardened Japanese fleet and discovers the strength within him to climb from the abyss and find his true life’s mission. To the fallen, he vows never to abandon that mission no matter how high the cost.

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1
August 8, 1942, 2346 Hours
USS Green; 45 nautical miles northwest of Red Beach, Guadalcanal
Lieutenant Patrick O’Toole considered himself a career naval officer, and someday he hoped to be promoted to admiral. At Annapolis, his teachers had taught him the horrors of war, but he had never experienced combat. That was about to change and it would change him forever.
The steel ladder rattled as he clambered to the wheelhouse deck to assume the midwatch. On the wheelhouse deck, the port fifty-caliber gunner slouched with his back to the sea and chatted with the lookout on the flying bridge one level above. The helmsman faced the starboard bridge wing and had but one hand on the wheel. Dim red lights above the chart table and the polished brass compass binnacle added little illumination to the wheelhouse, and the men, gray smudges in the dark, seemed unconcerned. O’Toole’s concern bordered on anger, but he remained silent.
Find out what’s going on then fix it.
A man on the flying bridge lit a cigarette. This was way out of bounds. “Snuff your butt. The enemy can see that for miles,” O’Toole said, hoping his voice had a bark to it.
O’Toole had seen this before. Captain Levitte ran a relaxed ship, but this wasn’t peacetime. They were at war in enemy waters. O’Toole read the message dispatches, the captain’s night orders, and the chart. None of it good news, especially the report of a Japanese battlegroup headed south.
He located Lieutenant Karl, the officer of the deck on the port bridge wing. Karl’s life jacket vest was open, revealing a sweat-soaked khaki shirt, and sweat beaded on his brow.
Karl slouched on the bridge railing as O’Toole approached “What’s your status?” O’Toole asked.
Karl rubbed his day-old stubble. “At Condition III. Fire in all four boilers. Superheat lit, and the plant is cross-connected. Starboard steering motor, port steering engine” Karl droned as he went through the standard litany of the watch change. “On course zero-seven-zero at ten knots. Straight line patrol between points Able and Baker on the chart as per the captain. You have about ten minutes before you turn around and head back to point Baker. Received a report of Japanese ships headed south five hours ago. Told the captain, and he said Intel couldn’t tell the difference between a cruiser and a sampan. Besides, nothing will happen before dawn. Aircraft overhead, told the captain, he says they’re from our carriers. That, and the captain said to cut the crew some slack; they’re tired. I just ordered the cooks to make a fresh batch of coffee; you’re gonna need it. That’s about it.”
“Why aren’t we zigzagging?”
“Captain’s orders. Straight line patrol between points Able and Baker is what he wanted.”
“With an enemy force headed south we should be at Condition II at least.”
“I don’t know about that, but the captain wants to give the crew some rest.”
“Do we have star shells loaded or at the ready?”
“Which gun mounts are manned?”
“Mounts 51 and 55.”
“Only two?”
“Yes, and before you ask, one-third of the anti-aircraft batteries are manned, and I told those gun crews they could sleep at their stations.”
“Are the crews in Mounts 51 and 55 asleep?”
Out of professional courtesy, O’Toole didn’t challenge Karl, even though he would have been justified in refusing to relieve Karl of the watch until Karl corrected the battle readiness of the ship.
O’Toole saluted Lieutenant Karl and said, “I relieve you, sir.”
Karl nodded. “This is Mister Karl, Mister O’Toole has the deck and the conn,” Karl said to the bridge crew.
“This is Mister O’Toole, I have the deck and the conn,” O’Toole replied.
Karl handed O’Toole his life jacket, helmet, and gun belt and walked to the small chart table in the forward port section of the wheelhouse to complete his log entries. O’Toole brushed back his flaming red hair and put on the helmet, life jacket, and gun making sure all straps were cinched tight.
“Boats, over here,” O’Toole said to the boatswain mate of the watch as he headed to the starboard bridge wing. It was a lazy night: clear sky, high overhead clouds, calm sea, a slight breeze, and the ship plodding forward at ten knots. A night like this could dull the senses of the best of men. He couldn’t let that happen.
“Boats, square your watch away. We are in enemy waters, and there are reports of a column of Jap cruisers headed our way. I want everyone on their toes.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
“Messenger, over here,” O’Toole said, beckoning the watch messenger.
“Go below and wake up the chiefs and tell them there are enemy ships in the area. I want them to make sure their watches are alert and ready. Tell the gunnery chief I want him on the bridge.”
“Yes, sir,” the messenger said and headed for the ladder.
A few minutes later, the gunnery chief appeared barefooted and in a white T-shirt. “Yes, sir, you wanted to see me?”
“Jap ships are headed our way. Check your gun crews; I want them alert with their eyes to the sea. Bring six star shells to the ready with one round in the mount. If we come under fire, I want Mount 51 to fire three star shells in a 180-degree spread without orders from the bridge.”
“What’s up, sir?”
“Not sure, chief, except we are in dangerous waters and the crew is asleep.”
“Will do, sir. Should I stay with the gun crews?”
“Wouldn’t be a bad idea, chief. Do what you think is best, but be aware things might get worse at dawn.”
“Yes, sir.” The chief trotted to the ladder and disappeared.
Lieutenant Karl finished his log entries and left the bridge. O’Toole stood next to the quartermaster at the chart table in the forward port section of the wheelhouse. He retrieved the sighting report. Five Japanese cruisers and four destroyers headed south at thirty knots. O’Toole plotted the ten-hour-old sighting location on the chart and walked the dividers across the chart to estimate the current location of Japanese forces. They would have passed the Green an hour ago and would now be on top of the northern defense line around Red Beach.
The receding drone of an aircraft off the port bow caught his ear. They were too far from the Japanese airbase at Rabaul for them to have planes this far south at night. It didn’t make sense: he didn’t think the carrier aircraft could operate at night, but spotter planes from a cruiser could.
Nothing had happened. Maybe the Japanese column had slowed or diverted. Naval doctrine taught officers to avoid night attacks since it complicated the battle, and everyone knew you couldn’t shoot at an enemy hiding in the darkness. Still, everything added up to a night counterattack against the Guadalcanal invasion force.
“Get the captain up here on the double. I’ll be on the flying bridge,” O’Toole said the watch messenger.
He felt better on the flying bridge where he had an unobstructed view of the sea and sky. He swept the horizon with his binoculars: nothing but a black night.
The crew was exhausted from the invasion of Guadalcanal the prior morning. The shirtless bodies of a hundred sleeping men escaping the oppressive heat and humidity of their berthing spaces lay on the dark main deck. Not regular navy, O’Toole thought, but he couldn’t object because the crew needed the sleep.
“What’s up, Pat?” Captain Levitte asked as soon as his head popped above the flying bridge deck level.
“I think we have trouble, Captain. The Japanese column sighted in the intelligence report should be on top of the northern defense line right about now. We should be at general quarters or at least Condition II and be zigzagging. There could be subs in the area.”
Levitte rubbed the back of his neck, then put his hands in his pockets, and walked in a tight circle with his eyes on the deck. “Look, the Japs aren’t that smart, and you should know not even the Japs are dumb enough to attack at night. Nothing will happen until the sun comes up. In the meantime, cut the crew some slack; they’re tired and need their sleep.”
“I’m sorry, Captain, but that doesn’t make sense. The sighting said the Japs were at thirty knots. They wouldn’t do that and then slow down to wait for the sun to come up.”
“No matter what happens we’ll kick their ass,” Levitte began. “We kicked their ass in the Coral Sea and Midway. Now we’re kicking their ass off Guadalcanal. The marines ran the Jap garrison into the jungle before lunch. They can’t stand up to us no matter what, so there’s no reason to get worked up about it.”
“To be safe, let me take the ship to Condition II and zigzag. It won’t hurt anything.”
“No, lieutenant. My night orders said to cut the crew some slack, and there is no need to waste fuel zigzagging. You read my night orders, didn’t you?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Good. Follow them, and let me get some sleep.”
The shirtless lookout stiffened. “Sir, light flashes, port beam.”
Both men turned. Staccato bursts of light above the southern horizon illuminated the sky.
Another voice called out, “Flares off the port beam.”
The night erupted. White-golden flashes close to port blinded O’Toole. Captain Levitte’s chest exploded into a mist of blood. Shells exploded against the mast, and men dove to the deck.
On his stomach, O’Toole fought his life jacket as he rolled to the starboard edge of the deck. Crawling under the railing, he let himself over the side. He was about to let himself drop the last three feet when a jolt catapulted him to the deck below. His head hit the deck, and despite his cinched helmet, the blow stunned him to the precipice of unconsciousness. O’Toole fought to bring himself back to the present as he wobbled to a crouched position.
Concussions from explosions aft the wheelhouse punched at his chest and abdomen. He had to go through the wheelhouse to the port side to see the enemy ship. In the wheelhouse, only the quartermaster was up, crouching in the corner by the chart table. Sparks and flashes of incoming fire covered the aft bulkhead and enveloped the wheelhouse in smoke, shrapnel, and debris. Broken, screaming bodies littered the deck.
He fought his way through the wheelhouse across shattered glass that slid like ice across the blood-drenched deck. The Green’s guns hadn’t returned fire.
He turned to find the phone talker. A flash memory of the phone talker’s body falling next to the captain made him stop. The phone talker was dead along with most of the bridge crew. He was alone; he had no bridge crew, and there was no one left to command. To anyone who could hear, he yelled, “Tell the gun crews to return fire.”
On the port bridge wing, he peered over the railing. A thousand yards away, two searchlights blinded him, and a torrent of tracer fire arched toward the Green. Muzzle flashes from the enemy ship’s heavy guns ripped at the darkness, and spasmodic explosions on the Green followed each flash.
On his stomach looking aft, he tried to understand the hell erupting around him. Black smoke spewed from golden fires, and smoke boiled across the fantail near the depth charge racks. Antiaircraft rounds raked the Green’s main deck, tearing men apart; the lucky ones leapt overboard.
In the forward boiler room, the port bulkhead ruptured three feet below the waterline in a flash of light, wrenching the keel. Shrapnel pierced the two Babcock & Wilcox boilers, which exploded upward, shredding the main deck overhead. A half-second later, a second explosion severed the keel, and a third tore the shattered hull of the Green in two.
Sheets of water vaulted into the air, and the explosions pushed the Green hard to starboard and lifted it upward in a death spasm.
Torpedoes. The word lingered in O’Toole’s mind until he understood, then it vanished. He pulled himself to his feet. Ruptured boilers roared beneath clouds of steam.
The Green hinged aft the deckhouse. The stern rose and began its slide beneath the surface. When the cool seawater reached the aft boilers they blew a ten-foot mound of white water to the surface. The mound collapsed into a steam haze low above the water. As the first wisps of steam dissipated, they dragged O’Toole from his stupor.
The gunfire stopped. The searchlights were gone. Screams, moans, and the sound of rushing water welled up to fill the silence. He strained his eyes for an enemy invisible in the night. They had vanished. The battle was over.
There was no time for thinking or words; the conclusions flashed through his mind fully formed.
When the armed depth charges on the sinking fantail detonated, anyone in the water would suffer intestinal hemorrhaging and a slow, excruciating death.
To the men below he yelled, “Stay with the ship! Don’t go in the water; depth charges! Get everyone in the water back aboard!”
O’Toole took inventory. The forward part of the ship, though sinking, seemed stable. The wheelhouse was a confusing mass of shadows cut against golden fires, and the smell of blood and noxious nitrate gasses filled his head.
He entered the wheelhouse and stumbled. His knee landed on something soft. He looked down at the chest of a headless body. O’Toole’s stomach wrenched.
A figure appeared. “Sir, we took three torpedoes. No water pressure to fight the fires, no power, and we are flooding forward.”
One by one the sinking depth charges designed to sink submarines began to detonate, sending tremors from each concussive blow through the ship. When the explosions stopped, O’Toole took a deep breath, and the acid-laced air burned his lungs. “Get below. Pass the word to abandon ship.”
O’Toole turned his attention to the main deck, and released the one remaining life raft stored just below the bridge railing. Not waiting for orders, shirtless survivors leapt overboard. It seemed to take hours, but soon the decks were empty and the survivors were off the ship. With nothing left to do, he wondered if radio managed to send a message. He doubted it. He turned to the quartermaster and said, “Let’s go.”
The quartermaster collected the ship’s logs and joined O’Toole.
As he prepared to jump the last ten feet into the ocean, the quartermaster yelled, “Stop! Your helmet, sir.”
O’Toole had forgotten he was wearing it. Going overboard with a cinched helmet would break your neck. He tore it off, and they jumped together.
There was no past and no future, only the immediate need to survive. O’Toole swam from the sinking bow section, demanding his muscles move faster before her sinking hulk sucked him under. His muscles grew tired from the frenzied effort until a voice yelled, “She’s going down.”
He stopped and turned to what remained of the Green. Out of breath, he bobbed in the one-foot swells and coughed to clear the salt water from his lungs. The Green’s prow swung skyward while the hulk of the remaining bow section backed into the depths. The sea extinguished the fires as she slid under.
She died a silent death. After the tip of the bow disappeared, his eyes lost focus and he stared at the empty sea for several seconds, unable to grasp the meaning of this moment.
He linked up with a small group of survivors, and they linked up with other groups. They located two floater nets, lashed them together, and placed the injured in them. They found several of the watertight powder canisters used to protect the five-inch brass powder casings while in the magazines. The crew used empty canisters to stow stable dry food and water with the floater nets. He ordered several men to attract scattered survivors by yelling into the night.
At first, groups of four would swim toward them. Now an occasional lone survivor would show up. O’Toole gathered the surviving officers and chief petty officers. The group of seven rolled with the lazy sea, clutching the floater net to stay together. Three wore life jackets; the other four relied on the floater net.
“Someone said there is another group with a floater net south of us.” Pointing to Ensigns Carter and Fitch, O’Toole said, “Swim to the south floater net, if there is one, take a count, and tell them to swim their way to us and lash-in. While you’re at it, round up volunteers to scavenge for debris we can use. The men should also collect all the powder canisters and bring them here.”
Turning to Chief Brandon, he said, “Make sure the injured are wearing life jackets, and get those with serious wounds in the floater nets.” Brandon swam off.
To Ensigns Parker and Adbury, he said, “You two make the rounds and get a head count of the healthy, injured, and critically wounded. After you report back, take charge of the injured. Collect the morphine ampules from the crew.” O’Toole reached into his trouser pocket and handed over two morphine ampules. “Bring the wounded together, especially those with bleeding wounds. Get them in the floater nets and get the bleeding stopped; the sharks will show up soon enough.”
To Chief Zies, O’Toole said, “Chief, make the rounds, talk to everyone, and make sure their heads are on straight. Find anyone who might lose it and buddy them up with someone. We don’t want panic or men going nuts.”
Chief Zies swam off, and O’Toole reached underwater to remove his shoes. He tied the laces together and draped them over his neck.
Chief Zies made his rounds and returned to O’Toole’s position.
“You get a head count yet?” O’Toole asked.
“My count is fifty-seven, including you.”
“Just fifty-seven?”
“Lieutenant, the aft two-thirds of the ship sank like a rock. From the time the Japs attacked to the time the stern sank wasn’t more than a minute. I’m surprised we have this many left.”
O’Toole’s chest went hollow, and his mind went blank. Visions of shattered bodies and blood-soaked decks, the sound of dying men flashed through his mind. His gut radiated the hollowness of failure.
The dark corners of his mind whispered, “You’ll never be the same.”
“Three-fourths of the crew is missing,” O’Toole said.
“There has to be more out there,” Zies said.
“Yeah, there has to more out there,” O’Toole said.
As the deck officer, he was responsible for the safety of the ship and crew.
He had scanned the horizon, and he had jacked up the lookouts and the bridge crew. It hadn’t been enough. Either way it was his responsibility. It takes three minutes to get a torpedo firing solution, and one zigzag might have destroyed their firing solution and saved the ship. He hadn’t seen his options; the wall had blocked him again. His grandfather’s words stabbed at him.
You’re not adequate.
It was the story of his life; he always fell short of adequacy. There was always one more thing he might have done, but he could never see it until it was too late. The wall was always there to stop him and hide the solution. His wall had damned him to failure again. The wall was always there blocking his way a single step short of success.
Ensign Parker swam over to him. “Got the head count. Fifty-seven men. Twenty-one wounded. Six critical. That includes the south floater net we got lashed-in.”
“We’ll wait till dawn to find the others,” Zies said. “What the heck happened, sir?”
“Wish I knew,” O’Toole began. “A column of Jap ships were headed to Guadalcanal to counterattack. I suspect they left a destroyer behind to ambush us once the fight off Guadalcanal started.”
“That means they spotted us, but how did that happen without us seeing them?” Zies asked.
“That part is easy. We weren’t looking, but I still can’t figure out how we missed them once we did start looking. I should have zigzagged despite the captain’s orders.”
Zies looked at O’Toole for a long minute. “You’re not blaming yourself for this, are you?”
O’Toole didn’t answer.
“Are you?”
The question tore at O’Toole, but he had to look forward, and swore the wall would not stop him. “For now, we’re not losing any more men, Chief. Keep the men together. They’ll start looking for survivors tomorrow; they’ll find us.” O’Toole said.
Voices shouted. Zies turned. A searchlight from an approaching ship probed the surrounding sea. When it reached the far end of the floater nets, gunfire erupted. Spikes of water shot up around the Green’s survivors.
Both O’Toole and Zies screamed, “Everyone down!”
O’Toole shed his life jacket, took a deep breath, and dove. He figured five feet would be enough. He pivoted his feet beneath him and tried to maintain his depth. When the burning in his lungs became unbearable, he kicked hard to reach the surface. When his head cleared the water, he sucked in a chest of air, preparing to dive again, but the gunfire stopped.
The searchlight now centered itself on his small group, and a Japanese heavy cruiser loomed over them. With his hand, he blocked the searchlight so he could see the bridge. He studied the bridge and a man with a patch over his left eye. By his position on the bridge wing, his carriage, and the separation between him and the other officers, O’Toole guessed he was the captain.
They locked eyes. Neither man flinched. After several seconds, the Japanese captain walked away. The cruiser picked up speed and disappeared into the night.
Zies asked O’Toole, “What was going on between you and the guy with the eye patch?”
“I wanted the bastard to know we weren’t defeated,” O’Toole began. “The Japs won this battle not with equipment but with smarter officers and sharper training. How they pulled it off was brilliant: at night, torpedoes first, guns second, no star shells. They mauled us with their guns, but knew that wouldn’t sink us. Once the Jap ship saw the torpedoes hit, there was no need to continue a gun battle and endanger their ship; they knew they had sunk us, so they vanished into the night.”
O’Toole shook his head; he would have to figure out what happened later; he put it out of his mind.
“Okay, Chief, have the men with life jackets chain up. Make sure they lash in each chain to a floater net. As you make the rounds, make sure everyone is secure for the night. By God, we’re not losing any more men.”
“Aye, sir.” Zies swam away, yelling, “Everyone chain up and lash in!”
Men formed spiral chains. One man would loop his arm through the hole below the high collar of the next man’s life jacket, burying the arm to the shoulder. The chains provided security, extra buoyancy, and a way to sleep without drifting away.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

🏰 Book Feature: The Summer of France by Paulita Kincer

TitleThe Summer of France
Author: Paulita Kincer
Publisher: Oblique Presse
Publication Date: July 1, 2013
Format: Paperback / eBook / PDF
Pages: 255
ISBN: 978-1300257332
Genre: Women’s Fiction / Travel / Adventure
Buy The Book:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Summer-France-Paulita-Kincer/dp/1300257334/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1437011077

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-summer-of-france-paulita-kincer/1113110596?ean=9781300257332
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16089591-the-summer-of-france?ac=1

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

Book Description:
When Fia Jennings loses her job at the local newspaper, she thinks she’ll have the chance to bond with her teenage twins. As she realizes she may be too late to create the perfect family, she’s saved by a phone call from her great Uncle Martin who operates a bed and breakfast in Provence. Uncle Martin wants Fia to venture to France to run the B&B so he and his wife Lucie can travel. He doesn’t tell Fia about the secret he hid in the house when he married Lucie after fighting in World War II, and he doesn’t mention the people who are tapping his phone and following him, hoping to find the secret.
Book Excerpt:
The quiet of
the house mocked me as I rummaged
through the Sunday paper looking for the travel pages. I ignored the
meticulously folded “Help Wanted” section of the newspaper and the yellow
highlighter that my husband had placed on the counter to remind me that I’d
been unemployed for two months and needed to find a job – soon. The ring of the
kitchen phone saved me from isolation and from a job search as the thick accent
of my aunt came across the crackly line inviting me to move to France.
After a few sentences in the language that Aunt Lucie
considered English, she handed the phone to my great uncle Martin, and I heard
his booming voice.
“Fia?” he called as if using a bullhorn rather than a
telephone.  Uncle Martin, the baby of my
grandfather’s family, ventured overseas as a teenager to fight in World War II,
found a French wife, and stayed.
I’d never traveled to France to visit him, but Uncle
Martin always came home for the family reunion at the beginning of summer.
Hearing his voice on the phone, I glanced at the wall
calendar, assuring myself it was late June and Uncle Martin’s visit had ended
nearly two weeks before.
“Uncle Martin! What a surprise. How’s life in France?”
I asked in a quiet voice meant to encourage him to lower his volume.
Uncle Martin continued to bellow. “Look, Fia, let me
get right to the point.” He hadn’t lost his American directness.  “Lucie and I are tired.
need a break, maybe a permanent break.”
“What?” I gasped my voice growing louder to match his.
“You and Aunt Lucie are…but you can’t be…you can’t break up?”
“No,” I heard his old man grunt across the phone
lines. It sounded as if he said something like “Zut!”
“Listen. Don’t jump to conclusions,” he chastised me.
“We’re tired of working so hard. We’re old and it doesn’t look like any of
Lucie’s relatives are gonna step forward and take over. That’s why I’m calling.
Will you and Grayson come over and run this place?”
“This place” is what Uncle Martin always called the
eight-room bed and breakfast that he and Aunt Lucie ran in a small village in
Provence. Lucie’s family had owned the home for generations, wringing olive oil
from the trees and wine from the grape vines. But as big cities and ample
education called, the younger branches of the family moved away. When Uncle Martin
and Aunt Lucie found themselves the only ones living in the big, old house
during the 1970s, they decided to capitalize on a tourism boom and turned the
house into a bed and breakfast. They encouraged American and English tourists
to stay, and, after A Year in Provence came
out in 1990, their business exploded with people who wanted to see the land
that Peter Mayle described.
“We thought you could take over,” Uncle Martin blared,
“obviously, since you’re not working.”
Thanks, Uncle Martin, for reminding me again of my
current jobless status.  When a huge
conglomerate bought our local newspaper and combined resources with the paper
in the next town, I became superfluous. So, after years of writing about home
design, I sat staring at my own shoddy decorating. I tried to look on the
bright side. Now I actually had time to try some of those design tips. To add
depth to the alcove next to the fireplace, I painted it a darker color. Next I
added crown molding around the opening from the living room to the dining room.
So far, mostly, I spent my time trying to stay
positive so an amazing job would find me,
and I watched cable TV shows about happy families. Who knew The Waltons was on five times a day? Mix
that with the Duggars, that family with 19 kids on TLC, and my days just flew
past. I slowly realized that driving my kids to sporting events and
extracurricular lessons did not count as quality time. Inspired by those TV
families, I amplified my efforts to pull my 14-year-old twins closer. When they
ambled home from school, I’d suggest some family activities. “Let’s draw a
hopscotch on the driveway!” I’d say. Their eyes rolled wildly in their heads
like horses about to bolt. “How about making homemade bread together? We can
all take turns kneading? Or maybe an old fashioned whiffle ball game in the
They suggested we go out for pizza or visit a sporting
goods store for new soccer cleats or swim goggles. I declined, picturing the
credit card bills I juggled now that I didn’t have an income.
Bills. Ooh! I couldn’t see Uncle Martin’s invitation
to France winning approval from my husband, Grayson, who had just been
complaining about money.
As a two-income family, we had paid bills on time and
planned our next extravagant purchase. Of course, my pragmatic husband, the
almost accountant, never used credit cards. But with my own income, I wasn’t
that concerned about using credit cards. When I started to run a balance, I
made the minimum payment every month. No need to inform Grayson who would’ve
disapproved of my indulgences. Not that I bought things for myself. Nothing but
the best for our kids with their private swim clubs, technologically engineered
swimsuits, travel soccer teams, and state-of-the-art skateboards. I hadn’t
bothered to save for an emergency but spent and charged as I went along until
the bottom dropped out of journalism.
“Uncle Martin, you know we’ve always dreamed of
visiting you and Aunt Lucie, but without a job now, I just… I can’t see it
working financially.”
“I’m not talking about a visit,” his voice grew
agitated. “I’m talking about you moving in here and running the bed and
breakfast. I’d send the plane fare to get you here. You, Grayson and the
I sat stunned for a moment, so Uncle Martin repeated
“I’ll send you the tickets. I’ll just buy them online
for you, Grayson and the twins. Both of them.”
My kids were always “the twins,” as if sharing a womb
14 years earlier made them one entity for the rest of their lives.
“Whoa. That is heavy stuff,” I slid onto the swiveling
bar stool. “We can’t just move. Leave our house, school, Grayson’s job.”
Even as I said it, I felt hope rising in my chest.
Yes! I waited for a job to come to me and it did. A spectacular opportunity. I
pictured myself in a flowing skirt and low-heeled, leather sandals walking
along a dusty road away from the market that would line the village streets.
I’d carry a canvas bag with French bread jutting from the top as I headed home,
the pungent fragrance of a cheese wafting from the bottom of the bag. Although
I’d never been to France, I watched any sunny movie set in Europe. The women
always wore skirts and had leisure time to linger along the roadside, smelling
the lavender.
I heard the front door slam and my husband’s heavy
footfall in his casual Sunday topsiders as he came in from the office. Even on
a Sunday, the work at Grayson’s accounting firm was plentiful.
I turned my back on my approaching husband and said
into the phone, “When are you thinking, Uncle Martin?”
“I’m thinking… NOW. Last week,” Uncle Martin’s voice
rose again. I cupped my hand over the phone to try to smother the sound of his
bellowing. “I’m tired of dealing with these snippy tourists. I want to roam
around the world and give other innkeepers a hard time.”
“You make the job sound so enticing,” I tried to laugh
lightly so Grayson, who was drawing nearer, wouldn’t realize the importance of
this conversation. The idea began to form in the back of my mind: We could make
this happen — with a little cooperation. I shot a hopeful glance toward
Grayson as he walked in the room. I quickly raised my eyebrows twice, which I
thought should give him an indication that good news was on the phone. He
looked grim and tired – the horizontal line between his own eyebrows resembled
a recently plowed furrow.
“Look, I’ll have to call you back later,” I hissed
into the phone and punched the button to hang up as Grayson threw his aluminum
briefcase on the island. His look turned from grim to suspicious.
“Uncle Martin,” I said with a blasΓ© wave toward the
phone. “He has a business proposal…”
I tried to sound nonchalant, but I guess my eagerness
showed because Grayson dropped his head on top of his briefcase for just a
minute before he stepped toward the cabinet over the refrigerator. He opened
the door and pulled down a bottle of Scotch.
This conversation might prove more difficult than I’d