Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Welcome Guest Blogger Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy - In Love's Own Time
Welcome my guest blogger, Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy. She's here to talk about her book In Love's Own Time.
Somewhere buried deep in our consciousness everyone has a concept of home, an idea of a place where, as Robert Frost wrote, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Maybe it’s our current home, the place we retreat at the end of a long day or a specific room or even a favorite chair or corner of the couch. Home might represent a dream we hope to realize in the future or it could mean a former home, a place in our heart and memory. Like Dorothy Gale who visited the Land of Oz, we may wish we could tap our heels together to return home. Life should be so simple.
Most of the time, however, it’s not and home can be elusive but it seems to be part of the human condition to seek it. In my latest novel, In Love’s Own Time, the story’s about love, about crossing impossible barriers in the name of love, and about coming home. It’s about twisting fate to a stubborn woman’s will for love and a second chance.
My heroine, Lillian, is introduced as the heir to an Edwardian house, left to her by the grandfather she never knew, a man who threw out her pregnant mother decades earlier. She comes to see her inheritance, planning to sell it but instead the house catches her fancy. Some sense of home reaches out to her and she stays, trying to decide what to do.
When the original owner manifests, after her initial disbelief and shock, Lillian falls for him, his old fashioned charm and his manner. She’s appalled to learn the manner of his death and mourns his brief life. As she spends more time with the ghost, Lillian delves into paranormal research in an effort to understand. As they pretend one afternoon, Lillian dressed in period clothing, it’s 1904, the impossible is possible as they realize they are in the past. The experience doesn’t last but Lillian’s certain if they made it once, they can do it again – on a permanent basis. She also decides she can prevent Howard’s untimely death.
So they return to 1904, to a world Lillian, although a history teacher by occupation, doesn’t know and to a future which may be short.
Here’s an excerpt from the moment she realizes she’s made it back to 1904:
Something about the light in the room was different when she awakened and after a few groggy moments, Lillian realized what it was – the window coverings were different. The drapes she remembered were gone and thin lace panels hung instead from each window. Her heart skipped beats as she sat up, looking around the room now changed from last night. The bed was the same but the other furnishings weren’t and the wallpaper darkened from soft beige to a rich Turkish red with flocking. From downstairs, she heard a woman’s voice rose in song and recognized Shugie’s husky velvet tones.
She was here and with surprise, her hands flew to cover her mouth, an old gesture from her childhood. Outside this room, she realized the house reverted to its original glory and beyond the windows the view was now different. If this was – and she’d no doubt it was – 1904, the remaining question was where Howard might be. He’d promised to meet her with a cup of Shugie’s coffee but what if he wasn’t here. Although the breeze lifting the sheer lace curtains blew soft and warm, Lillian felt cold. Doubt traveled down her back as a chill shuddered through her body. Until this moment, she’d expected nothing save success but now, in the 1904 present, uncertainty crept past her guard. Was she here or did her imagination go askew?
“Howard?” He didn’t answer but her voice sounded faint even to herself and mewling, like a weak kitten. If Howard was downstairs, he couldn’t hear her through the thick walls anyway. He said he would be waiting, she thought. Lillian just needed to find him.
Her thought offered enough inspiration to propel her out of bed and across the floor. Even preoccupied with finding Howard, Lillian noticed the heavy furniture filling the room including matching pieces to complimented the massive bed. Her trunk lay where she’d left it last night and for a moment, she wondered if she should stop long enough to dress. The nightgown, however, came to her ankles and shapeless with sleeves to her wrists. Dressing in one of the vintage outfits would take time and Lillian lacked patience. She must know now if this crazy stunt was a success or not.
Barefoot, she dashed through the wide hall and slowed as she reached the front staircase. If things were according to plan, Howard’s parents would be away at the World’s Fair but maybe she shouldn’t descend into the entry hall in her nightgown. Shugie’s clear voice echoed and she remembered the back staircase. Maybe Howard was in the kitchen with Shugie so to find out, Lillian crept with slow tread down the stairs so she could peek around the corner when she reached the first floor.
Shugie’s song continued and so did the sounds of a busy kitchen, the comforting clatter of silverware and pans. The sound of something sizzling in the pan joined the cacophony and the delicious smell of frying bacon made her stomach ache with hunger. As she reached the bottom, she could also smell coffee and biscuits. Distracted by the aromas, she failed to realize Shugie’s song stopped until the woman appeared at the foot of the stairs with a broom raised high like a baseball bat.
The broom began to swing at her with force and Lillian screamed, eyes shut, as she waited to be whacked hard but instead, the broom smacked against the wall as Shugie screeched even louder. The broom dropped to the bottom step and Shugie stared up at her, eyes wide.
“You ain’t no cat,” the woman said eyes narrowed as she studied Lillian’s attire. “I thought a darn old cat got in here again and I was fixin’ to run it out with the broom. You’re just the pussy cat.”
Shock silenced Lillian. She’d no idea the use of ‘pussy’ dated back so far and she realized, too late, what Shugie thought. Back home, as she’d begun to think of her former life and proper time, getting caught in pajamas at your boyfriend’s house wasn’t a major shocker. Here and now, however, it apparently was one and if she was here to stay, she should say something to defuse the tension.
“It isn’t what you think,” Lillian found her voice but it sounded funny, strained, and too low. “Please don’t think I’m wicked.”
Hands on her hips above the apron, Shugie glared.
“I don’t know what to think and that’s the truth. I sure thought Mister Howard was straight as an arrow but now I just don’t know, not at all. But, I know you’re fly and you got no business at all in this house. I think you just better get out quick, before Mister Howard comes downstairs and I’ll him you’re gone.”
This wasn’t the happy arrival in 1904 she’d anticipated and Lillian pressed one hand against her rolling tummy, hoping she wouldn’t be sick. A mess on the backstairs was unlikely to make Shugie any happier and if things ever went well, she would be living here. She opened her mouth but before she could speak, Howard’s voice barked and the back screen door slammed hard.
“Shugie - enough.”
Lillian never heard such a harsh tone in his voice before and from the shock paling Shugie’s face, neither had she. The broom clattered to the floor and Howard stepped around it with one hand extended.
“Lillian, dearest, is everything well?”
She reached for his hand like a lifeline and nodded. His large hand folded over hers with such solid security, the first familiar thing in a world suddenly foreign, so comforting she burst into tears. Sobbing like a little lost child, Lillian walked into his open arms, seeking security and support. In his embrace, she felt both and although there was an underlying hints of the passion she felt before, for the moment she was content to feel his very real arms about her. His solid flesh beneath her reassured her this would work and the shift from one time to another was worth the sacrifice.
He smelled of wind and fresh turned soil and fragrant wood smoke. A dark smear of earth grimed his otherwise immaculate chambray shirt and when she peeped downward at his hand, she saw dirt crusted his fingernails. His presence and his reality eased her fears. Howard was alive now and so was she. Nothing else mattered, not for the moment.
When one of his hands stroked her hair, Lillian sighed with contentment. “Everything is fine now.”