This was a rough read for me, I’m not going to lie. While I did not hate this book, I did not love it either. This was a middle of the road book for me. I really liked how the book was divided up into parts and I think the overall story was good I just found myself putting off wanting to read this book. It never really pulled me in. And it may very well have been me in a funk.
This was the year I was going to do more…
– More Disney (3 trips we were thinking)
– More Me time (alone)
– More time for the blog
– More reading
Thanks to COVID the only more I have been able to do…
* More eating
* More Sleeping
* More time at home
* More time in my jammies
* More non alone time (and very little me time)
* A little more reading but not as much as I would have liked
* More home cooked meals
* More game show watching
Wow! Is all I can say about this book. Again another book that I would not normally pick up on my own. But this may be the best book I have read so far in 2020. Really left an impression.
Hope (the main character) is in need of a safe place and some love. Peg, Hope’s Aunt, has let the past rule her life and she too is in need of some love. Tink, Hope’s daughter needs extra love and to get her childhood back. Three generations of woman and one cherry season maybe just what is needed to move forward from the past and find love and happiness.
This book was the perfect mix of seriousness and entertainment. For me it was a real eye opener. I may have to try a few more books by the author. Great find if 2020.
THE BITTER AND SWEET OF CHERRY SEASON
Author: Molly Fader
Publication Date: June 6, 2020
Publisher: Graydon House Books
Molly Fader is the author of The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets. She is also the award-winning author of more than forty romance novels under the pennames Molly O’Keefe and M. O’Keefe. She grew up outside of Chicago and now lives in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter, @mollyokwrites.
For fans of Robyn Carr, commercial women’s fiction about three generations of women who come together at the family orchard to face secrets from the past and learn to believe in the power of hope and forgiveness.
In cherry season, anything is possible…
Everything Hope knows about the Orchard House is from her late-mother’s stories. So when she arrives at the Northern Michigan family estate late one night with a terrible secret and her ten-year-old daughter in tow, she’s not sure if she’ll be welcomed or turned away with a shotgun by the aunt she has never met.
Hope’s aunt, Peg, has lived in the Orchard House all her life, though the property has seen better days. She agrees to take Hope in if, in exchange, Hope helps with the cherry harvest—not exactly Hope’s specialty, but she’s out of options. As Hope works the orchard alongside her aunt, daughter, and a kind man she finds increasingly difficult to ignore, a new life begins to blossom. But the mistakes of the past are never far behind, and soon the women will find themselves fighting harder than ever for their family roots and for each other.
Author Website: http://mollyfader.com/
Night up in Northern Michigan was no joke.
Hope had never seen a dark so dark. It had heft and dimension, like she was driving right into an abyss. She thought about waking up Tink in the back to show her, but the girl had finally fallen asleep and she needed the rest.
And Hope needed a break.
Who knew traveling with a completely silent, angry and traumatized ten-year-old could be so exhausting?
Hope’s phone had died when she got off the highway about twenty minutes ago. In those last few minutes of battery she hadtried to memorize the directions:
Left on Murray Street.
Slight right onto County Road 72.
Your destination is five miles on the right.
But County Road 72 wasn’t well marked and now she feared she was lost. Well, for sure she was lost; in the grand scheme of things she was totally off the map.
But she was clinging to the one ratty thread of hope she had left in her hand.
And then just as that tiny bit of thread started to slip out of her fingers, from the murk emerged a blue sign.
County Road 72.
The road took a long arcing right into the dark, and she unrolled her window, trying to keep herself awake. Adrenaline and gas station coffee could only do so much against two sleepless nights.
Her yawn was so wide it split her lip. Again. Copper-tasting blood pooled in her mouth.
“Shit,” she breathed and pressed the last of the napkins against her mouth. She was even out of napkins.
In the back, Tink woke up. Hope heard the change in her breathing. The sudden gasp like she was waking up from a nightmare.
Or into one. Hard to say.
“Hey,” Hope said, looking over her shoulder into the shadows of the back seat. Her daughter’s pale face like a moon slid into the space between the driver and passenger seats. “We’re almost there.” Hope sounded like they were about to drive up to the gates of Disney World.
Tink rubbed her eyes.
“Did you see the stars?” Hope’s voice climbed into that range she’d recently developed. Dementedly cheerful. Stepford Mom on helium. She winced at the sound of it. That wasn’t her. It wasn’t how she talked to Tink. And yet she couldn’t tune her voice back to normal. “There are so many of them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stars.”
Tink ducked her head to look out the windshield and then turned to cock her head at an angle so she could look out the passenger windows.
They’d gone to an exhibit about the constellations at the Science Center a year ago and Tink still talked about it. Pointing up at Sirius like she’d discovered it herself.
“Aren’t those the pieties?” Hope got the name wrong on purpose, hoping for a snotty-toned correction from her miniature astronomer. Or at least a throat-clearing scoff.
“Sooner or later you’re going to talk to me,” she said. “You’re going to open that mouth and all the words you haven’t said all day are gonna come pouring out.”
“Do you want to ask me questions about where we’re going?” They were, after all, heading deep into Northern Michigan to a place she and Tink had never been, and Hope had never told her about until today.
Tink rubbed her eyes again.
“Or maybe what happened…tonight?” Her gaze bounced between Tink and the road.
When you’re older, you’ll understand. When you’re a mom, you’ll understand. She wanted to say that to her daughter, but she herself barely understood any of what had happened the last two days.
Hope tried a different angle. “I’m telling you, Tink. I know you and you can’t keep this up much longer. I’ll bet you ten bucks you say something to me in five…four…three…two…” She pulled in a breath that tasted like tears and blood.
Please, honey. Please.
“One.” She sighed. “Fine. You win.”
Her beat-up hatchback bounced over the uneven asphaltand Tink crawled from the backseat into the front, her elbow digging into Hope’s shoulder, her flip-flopped foot kicking her in the thigh.
The degree of parenting it would take to stop Tink from doing that, or to discuss the potential dangers and legality of it,was completely beyond her. She was beyond pick your battles, into some new kind of wild west motherhood. Pretend there were no battles.
They drove another five minutes until finally, ahead, there was a golden halo of light over the trees along the side of the road, and Hope slowed down. A gravel driveway snaked through the darkness and she took it on faith that it had been five miles.
“This is it.”
Please let this be it.
The driveway opened up and there was a yellow-brick, two-story house.
The Orchard House. That was what Mom called it in the few stories she’d told about growing up here. Actually, the words she used were The Goddamn Orchard House.
It was a grand old-fashioned place with second-story windows like empty eyes staring down at them. White gingerbread nestled up in the corners of the roof, and there was a big wide porch with requisite rocking chairs.
Seriously, it was so charming, it could have been fake.
The car rolled to a stop and Hope put it in park. Her maniacal new voice failed her, and she just sat there. Silent.
Suddenly the front door opened and a dog – a big one, with big teeth – came bounding out. Cujo stopped at the top of the steps and started barking. Behind the dog came a woman in a blue robe carrying a shotgun.
Tink made a high panicked sound in her voice, climbing up in her seat.
Hope’s impulse was to turn the car around and get out of there. The problem was there was nowhere to turn around to. They had no place left to go.
“It’s okay, honey,” Hope lied. She went as far as to put her hand over Tink’s bony knee, the knob of it fitting her palm like a baseball. “Everything’s going to be all right.”
More desperate than brave, Hope popped open the door. The dog’s bark, unmuffled by steel and glass, was honest-to-god blood curdling. “Hi!” she yelled, trying to be both cheerful and loud enough to be heard over the barking.
“Get your hands up,” the woman on the porch shouted.
Hope shoved her hands up through the crack between the door and the car and did a kind of jazz hands with her fingers.
“What do you want?” the woman asked.
“Are you Peg—”
“I can’t hear you.”
She stood up, her head reaching up over the door. “Are you Peg?”
“Never mind, me. Who the hell are you?” She pointed the business end of the gun toward them.
Hope quickly side-stepped away from the car door, and Tink reached across the driver’s seat and slammed it shut.
The heavy thud of the engaged lock was unmistakeable.
“You don’t know me—”
“My name is Hope,” she said.
The gun lowered and the woman’s face changed. From anger to something more careful. “Hope?”
“Yeah. I’m Denise’s girl. I’m…well, you’re my aunt?”
Excerpted from The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Seasonby Molly Fader, Copyright © 2020 by Molly Fader. Published by Graydon House Books.
It took me a while to get into this book but once I did I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. (Personal Note: I think it was just me and not the book that was the hold up.). This book was a nice breath of fresh air during all things COVID.
The backdrop of this book is College Graduation weekend. And how a blended family copes with everyone coming together for the twin graduates. This book I’m sure is a great example of what a college graduation is like for a blended family (but personally I have no experience with that).
For me it’s almost 15 years since my college graduation so this book took me back a little. With graduations taking a new look this year because of COVID it was nice to have this book as a reminder of what they used to look like. I say this a lot but it is true a lot, this was a book I would not normally have picked up on my own but I am so glad I read it.
Author: Wendy Francis
Publication Date: May 5, 2020
Publisher: Graydon House Books
Wendy Francis is a former book editor and the author of three novels: The Summer Sail, The Summer of Good Intentions, and Three Good Things. Her essays have appeared in Good Housekeeping, The Washington Post, Yahoo Parenting, The Huffington Post, and WBUR’s Cognoscenti. Born and raised in the Midwest, she now lives outside of Boston with her husband and son.
The drama is hot and the drinks are flying in Wendy Francis’s witty, warm, and quirky family drama, BEST BEHAVIOR (Graydon House; May 5, 2020; $17.99 USD). Heartfelt and relatable, Francis cleverly portrays the nuances of a less-than-perfect but more-than-loving blended family in all its messy glory.
Meredith Parker and her husband Joel have been dreading the weekend of their twins’ college graduation. Not only does it mean that Dawn and Cody are flying out of Meredith’s nest to live in Chicago and North Dakota, but it also means Meredith will have to deal with her insufferable ex-husband, Roger, his pompous parents and his new wife Lily, so young she could be the twins’ sister! But Meredith is willing to be the Jackie O. of college graduations. She can handle that for three days, can’t she?
Meanwhile, Dawn, who has spent a lifetime cleaning up after her ‘golden boy’ brother, discovers a mess even she may not be able to get Cody out of. He’s been acting weird last the few weeks of school; picking up smoking, breaking up with his girlfriend, but this… this is definitely a problem. She needs to figure out what’s going on with her twin before he really ruins his life.
On Thursday morning, the temperature outside is seventy-one degrees and climbing while Meredith Parker considers which of a thousand recommended places she would like to visit before she dies. Not that she’s anticipating dying anytime soon, but she needs a distraction. She figures she has already seen at least a handful—Yosemite (breathtaking, as advertised), Niagara Falls (overrated in her opinion ‒ and cold), and San Francisco (lovely, with a charming hippie vibe). It’s the exotic locales that have eluded her over the past forty-six years, places like Tahiti or Rome or the Swiss Alps. Although, come to think of it, Meredith doesn’t really care for skiing, so she can probably cross the Alps right off her list. But Rome would be nice—all that history and pasta—and wine! A cheap fare must be available on one of those best-deal websites, if she searches long enough. Yes, she’s fairly certain she can persuade her husband, Joel, that Rome should be their first-ever international destination, the new green pin on their Where Have You Been? map that hangs on the wall in the den. That is, of course, once the kids have settled into their new homes.
And with the thought of her children’s imminent departure, Meredith’s throat tightens. What’s the use? she thinks. No number of mental hijinks will make her forget the real purpose of today’s trip. She, Joel, and her mother, Carol, are tracing the familiar route up from New Haven to Boston, as they have dozens of times before, the trees beyond the window zipping by in a curtain of emerald green.
But this weekend will be different.
Because this weekend marks the twins’ college graduation, an event that seemed impossibly far away only a few years ago, even a few months ago. Tomorrow her babies, the ones she used to cradle in each arm, will accept their hard-earned diplomas and officially step out into the great wide beyond, otherwise known as Adult Life.
Last night, when she’d gone to her neighborhood book club, the room had been abuzz with excitement over the upcoming weekend. “You must be bursting with pride!” her friend Lauren exclaimed. “I can’t believe that Cody and Dawn are already graduating. It’s so exciting.” And Meredith had nodded, as if she, too, were in a state of shock over this improbable fact.
It’s true that she couldn’t be prouder of the twins, but the moment is bittersweet. Soon, Cody will be off to Bismarck, North Dakota, to teach high school history, and Dawn is headed to Chicago to work at an advertising firm. Her kids will be so far away, they might as well be moving to Bangkok. Even though she knows it’s irrational, Meredith is racked by the feeling that after this summer she might never see her children again.
Admittedly, she is at a corner, or more specifically, at a crossroads in her life. Images of a two-year-old, chubby Cody racing into her arms or of a young Dawn asking for “one more good-night tuck-in” swim through her mind. She can still feel those small arms wrapped tightly around her, the love so palpable she used to think her heart would leap from her chest to theirs. How is it possible that her babies are graduating from college this weekend?
With Lauren’s comment, Meredith had cast her gaze around the book group (who, truth be told, rarely ever discussed the book at hand) and realized with a start that the difference between her own life and that of her friends’ suddenly stretched before her like a giant yawning chasm: Meredith was about to say goodbye to her kids once and for all, while her neighbors still had years of child-raising ahead of them.
Lauren had offered her an affectionate pat on the shoulder, as if she could read Meredith’s thoughts, and handed over a generous pour of chardonnay, which Meredith accepted gratefully. Maybe, she allowed herself to consider, Lauren was right. Maybe the graduation weekend would be exciting, as pleasing as a perfectly folded fitted sheet. Tuck this person into that corner, that person over there, smooth it, smooth it, and everyone would get along swimmingly.
Given her patched-together, hybrid family, though, Meredith sincerely doubts it. Her ex-husband, Roger, will be bringing Lily, his new wife of six months. And as fine as Meredith is with the idea of Roger’s remarrying after all these years, his new marriage somehow feels forced, as if he has just purchased a new set of golf clubs that he’s eager to show off to the rest of the family.
“I know. It’s crazy, right?” Meredith had managed to get out after swallowing her wine. “The twins are officially all grown up.”
Lauren, a corporate attorney, has two young girls, six and eight, whom Meredith adores and dreams of kidnapping one day (she tells herself it wouldn’t really be kidnapping, though, since they’re all neighbors, and obviously she would do Lauren the courtesy of asking before moving the girls into her own home.). As it is, she helps out with the girls whenever she can, usually after school when Lauren works late and Meredith is already back from her shift in the NICU. The girls have her pegged for a softy and know full well that she will buy them ice cream, bake chocolate chip cookies on a whim, and watch every terrible mermaid movie that’s available for streaming. They call her “Auntie,” which makes her heart swell and break simultaneously.
Some days she wishes she and Joel had tried for their own children way back when, even though the timing was off—they didn’t meet till Meredith was in her late thirties—and there would have been a considerable age gap, more than a decade, between a new baby and the twins. But at least she would still hear young voices in the house, would have someone to ferry to ballet practice or help with a book report. As exhausting as it could be some days (that Taj Mahal built out of marshmallows for fifth grade nearly killed her), she misses the maternal responsibilities she was once counted on for, feels the lack like an unfamiliar brittleness settling into her bones.
Theoretically, she understands that the twins flew the coop four years ago when they left for college. But that was different. The kids continued to call every Sunday night, and she and Joel could drop by on the odd weekend. Luckily, both children had decided on the same college in Boston, making spur-of-the-moment visits ridiculously convenient. But traveling so far away for jobs where she might see them only once or twice a year for Thanksgiving and Christmas? She honestly doesn’t know how—or if—she can handle it.
Thankfully, no matter what faults she and her ex-husband, Roger, might have had as a couple, their kids have turned out all right—better than all right—and Meredith lets herself relax slightly with this thought now. Dawn, hands down her most difficult child during the teenage years, has blossomed into a bright young woman. Gone are the days when Meredith’s every comment would prompt an eye roll from her daughter. And despite an unfortunate hiccup with the Administrative Board last year, Dawn has managed to pull off graduating with honors. Meanwhile, Cody (Meredith’s lips part into a smile when she imagines him striding across the stage in his gown) is graduating Phi Beta Kappa. Not only that, but he set the school record for all-time rushing yards this fall, leading his football team to their best season in fifteen years. Cody has become a rock star on his small New England campus, and as his mother, Meredith can’t help but feel a bit smug. After all, she was the one who whipped up protein shake after protein shake and lugged him to hundreds of high school practices. She was the one who allowed her lovely den to be transformed into a weight room filled with smelly sneakers and barbells for four years.
If she knows one thing deep in her bones, it’s that she is a good mom, one who has raised hardworking, resilient children. She imagines holding her breath as they parade across Bolton’s commencement stage, much as she did when they took their first ungainly steps across the kitchen floor, Cody wheeling ahead in wide, determined strides and Dawn following a few paces behind, her tongue twisted into a tight coil of determination. Meredith is enormously proud of them, and, quite honestly, of herself. She didn’t abandon her kids like Roger did, when he’d seen fit to put his penis where it didn’t belong. But that was nearly ten years ago, water under the bridge—more of a tepid stream wandering through her mind these days than a charging river.
For the last month we have been busy working around the house so we can do some major maintenance. But working everyday and coming home to work around the house and spending the weekends working around the house not only has me exhausted by bed time but also way behind on my reading. “30 years of stuff” takes a while to go through. I can’t wait to be done and get some reading time back. I’ve really missed it.
My review of…
It has taken me longer than I would like to really get into this book but I am on a roll now. I think I hit a reading brick wall for a short time. I hate when that happens. Hope everyone had a happy and safe Memorial Day Weekend.
I know these last few months have been rough for all of us and we have all been turning to certain comforts to get us through. I thought I would share some of mine.
📚 Reading: I’ve been trying to read more but I can only handle so much before I need a little break.
🍫🍿🍲 Food: (I think that is the same for pretty much everyone) a few of my comforts have been: chicken noodle soup, pepperoni, bbq chicken or pork chops, Hershey Kisses with Almonds, Apple PopTars or Strudels, Sausage Biscuits, and strawberry mango fruit stripes.
📺 TV/Movies: GSN: America Says and Master Minds; Disney +: Be Our Chef & Secrets of the Zoo; Netflix: Virgin River & Sweet Magnolias; Other: Insane Pools, old Super Market Sweep episodes, & trying to catch up on Gray’s Anatomy. I haven’t had the heart to catch up on Criminal Minds because I don’t want to admit it is over.
😷 Mask Shopping: I have formed an obsession with purchasing mask. But I’m trying to break that.
I guess that’s about it.
Another series to enjoy. While this is book four in the Colorado Grooms series, it is the first one I have read. I am looking forward to reading the first three and hopefully anymore that come.
Single mom Addie has a rocky past and is just trying to make a fresh start for her and her son. Little does she know that her fresh start is going to have her crossing paths with the past she is trying to get away from. And having to come to terms with the past in order to truly start over fresh.
This story was such an easy read and I’m finding stories/series like these to be just what I need to help deal with the new normal we are finding ourselves in. This was my first Jill Lynn book and I can’t wait to read more. My series just keep adding up.
Book Description, Purchase Links & Author Bio
HER HIDDEN HOPE (on-sale April 21, 2020): Asking for forgiveness is the hardest part. She once trusted him with her heart…but will she ever trust him with the truth?
With only two weeks to renovate her family’s Colorado B and B, struggling single mom Addie Ricci can’t turn away help. Especially not when it’s her handsome high school sweetheart, Evan Hawke, who’s offering to pitch in. As they repair the B and B, Addie and Evan also begin rebuilding their relationship…until a secret from their past threatens to bring it all crashing down.
About Jill Lynn: Jill Lynn pens stories filled with humor, faith and happily-ever-after. She’s an ACFW Carol Award-winning author and has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Bethel University. An avid fan of thrift stores, summer and coffee, she lives in Colorado with her husband and two children, who make her laugh on a daily basis. Connect with her at Jill-Lynn.com.
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Purchase links:● Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Her-Hidden-Hope-Colorado-Grooms/dp/1335429549● B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/her-hidden-hope-jill-lynn/1133998232?ean=9781335488145● Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Jill_Lynn_Her_Hidden_Hope?id=qEvKDwAAQBAJ● IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335488145● Harlequin.com: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781488060168_her-hidden-hope.htmlo Use coupon code LINSP20 at checkout to save 20% off any Love Inspired or Love Inspired Suspense title.*
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Excerpt, HER HIDDEN HOPE by Jill Lynn
Addie was straddling a fence between the
fields of gratefulness and guilt, and she planned to hop down.
Yesterday afternoon, she and Evan had knocked out painting the cabinet bases and doors. It had gone so much faster and better with his help. Then this morning the coun-tertops had been delivered, and Evan had recruited his brother to help with the heavy lifting.
They’d needed him.
After Jace took off, they’d spent the day attaching the countertop to the cabinets, cut- ing it, filing, gluing. Through it all, Addie had been looking for the perfect opening to talk to Evan, to bring up the past.
She felt guilty as all get-out accepting his help without him knowing the truth. And if finding out made Evan take off and decide not to lend any more assistance, she could live with that.
She just couldn’t live with the lie anymore. Even if telling Evan about Eli was the hardest thing she’d ever had to do, she had to do it.
“I all done, Mommy. I all done.” Sawyer dropped to the kitchen floor, proficient in dramatics. He’d spent the day playing with Belay and cycling through various activi-ties Addie had suggested for him—dunk-ing in a toddler basketball hoop out on the porch, Play-Doh, stickers, coloring. He had also succumbed to a nap at one point though he’d fought that option valiantly.
Addie had used a baby gate to block off the porch steps, confining Sawyer to either that space or the house throughout the day, and amazingly, that’s where he’d stayed. Likely the props for that should go to Belay, Best Dog Ever and Toddler Whisperer Ex-traordinaire.
“Can you at least move yourself over to the booth by the breakfast nook?” Addie asked Sawyer. Not that that option was much better. It needed work too. But the kitchen floor was a mess. A definite con-struction zone.
He kicked his legs. “I don’t wanna. Don’t wanna, wanna, wanna.” Belay nosed around the lump of crabby boy, licking Sawyer’s knees that poked out of his shorts. Sawyer giggled but still didn’t perk back up. Was he sick? Tired?
Addie knelt and checked his forehead. It was clammy, but in a running-around-all-day-need-a-bath kind of way. Not in a sick way.
Her phone dinged from its perch on the breakfast-nook table, and Addie stepped over Sawyer to check it.
“I got another reservation for Old West- bend weekend!” She yelped, and Evan popped out from under the kitchen sink, which he was reinstalling.
“And they’re staying all week.” She did a happy dance, and Belay joined her, tail wagging, mouth grinning.
Evan laughed that low chuckle that did too many things to her insides before returning to his dark cave.
The reservation was a huge relief. A stress, too, because of what still needed to be done to the B & B, but like Evan had said, it would all work out. Somehow.
It had to.
We have probably all heard about the “love locks” in Paris and maybe even seen the Hallmark movie. While not based in France but England instead, “love locks” are at the heart of this story. The “love locks” and the bridge(s) they have been placed on, sets the tone for this story of dealing with losses of different kinds.
This is a book I probably would not have chosen on my own but I am so glad I read it. The characters had their quarks but overall I found them quite entertaining. And the story kept me wanting to see what would happened next.
This was a nice book to escape some of the realities of what is going on in the world around us. I know many, including myself, are turning to books to help us get through the day to day.
THE SECRETS OF LOVE STORY BRIDGE
Author: Phaedra Patrick
Publication Date: April 28, 2020
Publisher: Park Row Books
Phaedra Patrick is the author of The Library of Lost and Found, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, which has been published in over twenty countries around the world. She studied art and marketing, and has worked as a stained-glass artist, film festival organizer and communications manager. An award-winning short story writer, she now writes full-time. She lives in Saddleworth, UK, with her husband and son.
Fredrik Backman meets The Cactus in THE SECRETS OF LOVE STORY BRIDGE (Park Row Books; April 28, 2020; $25.99 US/$32.50 CAN), in which a cynical single father has a surprise encounter on the famous love lock bridge, sparking a journey of self-discovery that may lead him to a second chance at love.
Single father Mitchell Fisher hates all things romance. He enjoys his job removing padlocks fastened to the famous “love lock” bridges of Upchester city. Only his young daughter, Poppy, knows that behind his disciplined veneer, Mitchell grieves the loss of her mother, Anita.
One fateful day, working on the bridge, Mitchell courageously rescues a woman who falls into the river. He’s surprised to feel a connection to her, but the woman disappears before he learns her name. To Mitchell’s shock, a video of the rescue goes viral, hailing him as “The Hero on the Bridge.” He’s soon notified by the mysterious woman’s sister, Liza, that she has been missing for over a year. However, the only clue to where the woman could have gone is the engraved padlock she left on the bridge.
Mitchell finds himself swept up in Liza’s quest to find her lost sister. Along the way, with help from a sparkling cast of characters, Mitchell’s heart gradually unlocks, and he discovers new beginnings can be found in the unlikeliest places…
The Lilac Envelope
The night before
As he did often, over the past three years, Mitchell Fisher wrote a letter he would never send.
He sat up in bed at midnight and kicked off his sheets. Even though all the internal doors in his apartment were open, the sticky July heat still felt like a shroud clinging to his body. His nine-year-old daughter Poppy thrashed restlessly in her sleep, in the bedroom opposite.
Mitchell turned on his bedside lamp, squintingagainst the yellow light, and took out a pad of Basildon Bond notepaper from underneath his bed. He always used a fountain pen to write—old-fashioned he supposed, but he was a man who valued things that were well-constructed and long-lasting.
Mitchell tapped the pen against his bottom lip. Heknew what he wanted to say, but by the time his words of sorrow and regret travelled from his brain to his fingertips, they were only fragments of what he longed to express.
As he started to write, the sound of the metal nib scratching against paper helped him block out the city street noise that hummed below his apartment.
Another letter from me. Everything here is fine, ticking along. Poppy is doing well. The school holidays start soon and I thought she’d be more excited. It’s probably because you’re not here to enjoy them with us.
I’ve taken two weeks off work to spend with her, and have a full itinerary planned for us—badminton, tennis, library visits, cooking, walking, the park, swimming, museums, cooking, a tour of the city bridges, and more. It will keep us busy. Keep our minds off you.
You’ll be amazed how much she’s grown, must be almost your height by now. I tell her how proud I am of her, but it always means more coming from you.
Mitchell paused, resting his hand against the pad of paper. He had to tell her how he felt.
Every time I look at our daughter, I think of you. I wish I could hold you again, and tell you I’m truly sorry.
He read his words, always dissatisfied with them, never able to convey the magnitude of grief and guilt he felt. After folding the piece of paper once, he sealed it into a crisp, cream envelope, then squeezed it into the almost-full drawer of his nightstand, amongst all the other letters he’d written. His eyes fell upon the slim lilac envelope he kept on top, the one addressed to him from Anita, that he’d not yet been able to bring himself to open.
Taking that envelope out, he held it under his nose and inhaled. There was still a slight scent of her on the paper, he thought, of violet soap. His finger followed the angle of the gummed flap and then stopped. He closed his eyes and willed himself to open the letter, but his fingernails dented crescents into the paper.
Once more, he placed it back into his drawer.
Mitchell lay down and hugged himself, imaginingAnita’s arms were wrapped around him. But, when he closed his eyes, the words from all the letters weigheddown upon him like a bulldozer. As he turned and tried to sleep, he pulled the pillow over his head to force them away.1. A Locked Heart
The lovers who attached their padlocks to the bridges of Upchester might see it as a fun or romantic gesture but, to Mitchell, it was an act of vandalism.
It was the hottest year on record in the city and the morning sun was already beating down on the back of hisneck. His biceps flexed as he methodically opened and squeezed his bolt cutters shut, cutting the padlocks off the cast-iron filigree panels of the old Victorian bridge, one by one.
Since local boyband Word Up filmed the video for their international smash hit “Lock Me Up with Your Love” on this bridge, thousands of people were flocking to the small city in the North West of England. Theybrought and attached locks marked with initials, names, messages, to demonstrate their love for the band and each other, on the city’s five bridges.
Large red and white signs that read no padlocksstudded the pavement. But as far as Mitchell could see, the locks still hung on the railings like bees swarming across frames of honeycomb. The constant reminder of love surrounding him, other people’s, made him feel like he was fighting for breath.
As he cut off the locks, he wanted to yell, ‘Why can’t you just keep your feelings to yourselves?’
After several hours of hard work, Mitchell’s trail of broken locks glinted on the pavement like a metal snake. He stopped for a moment and narrowed his eyes as a young couple strolled toward him. The woman glided in a white floaty dress and tan cowboy boots. The man wore shorts and had the physique of an American football player. With his experience of carrying out maintenance across the city’s public areas, Mitchell instinctively knew they were up to something.
After breaking away from his girlfriend, the manwalked to the side of the bridge while nonchalantly pulling out a large silver padlock from his pocket.
Mitchell tightened his grip on his cutters. He was once so easy and in love with Anita, but rules were rules. ‘Excuse me,’ he called out. ‘You can’t hang that lock.’
The man frowned and crossed his bulging arms. ‘Oh yeah? And who’s going to stop me?’
Mitchell had the sinewy physique of a sprinter. He was angular all over with dark hair and eyes, and a handsome dorsal hump on his nose. ‘I am,’ he said and put his cutters down on the pavement. He held out his hand for the lock. ‘It’s my job to clear the bridges. You could get a fine.’
Anger flashed across the blond man’s face and he batted Mitchell’s hand away, swiping off his work glove. Mitchell watched as it tumbled down into the river below. Sometimes the water flowed prettily, but today it gushed and gurgled, a bruise-grey hue. A young man had drowned here in a strong current last summer.
The man’s girlfriend wrapped her arms around her boyfriend’s waist and tugged him away. ‘Come on. Leave him alone.’ She cast Mitchell an apologetic smile. ‘Sorry, but we’re so in love. It took us two hours and three buses to get here. We’ll be working miles away from each other soon. Please let us do this.’
The man looked into her eyes and softened. ‘Yeah, um, sorry, mate,’ he said sheepishly. ‘The heat got the better of me. All we want to do is fasten our lock.’
Mitchell gestured at the sign again. ‘Just think about what you’re doing, guys,’ he said with a weary sigh. ‘Padlocks are just cheap chunks of metal and they’re weighing down the bridges. Can’t you get a nice ring or tattoo instead? Or write letters to each other? There are better ways to say I lov– Well, you know. . .’
The man and the woman shared an incredulous look.
‘Whatever,’ the man glowered, and he shoved his padlock back into the pocket of his shorts. ‘We’ll go to another bridge instead.’
‘I work on those too . . .’
The couple laughed at him and sauntered away.
Mitchell rubbed his nose. He knew his job wasn’t a glamorous one. It wasn’t the one in architecture he’d studied hard and trained for. However, it meant he could pay the rent on his apartment and buy Poppy hot lunch at school each day. Whatever daily hassle he put up with, he needed the work.
His workmate Barry had watched the incident from the other side of the road. Sweat circled under his arms and his forehead shone like a mirror as he crossed over. ‘The padlocks keep multiplying,’ he groaned.
‘We need to keep on going.’
‘But it’s too damn hot.’ Barry undid a button on his polo shirt, showing off unruly chest curls that matched the ones on his head. ‘It’s a violation of our human rights, and no one can tell if we cut off twenty or two hundred.’
Mitchell held his hand up against the glare of the sun. ‘We can tell, and Russ wants the bridges cleared in time for the city centenary celebrations.’
Barry rolled his eyes. ‘There’s only three weeks to go until then. Our boss should come down here and get his hands dirty, too. At least join me for a pint after work.’
Mitchell’s mouth felt parched, and he suddenly longed for an ice-cold beer. A vision of peeling off his polo-shirt and socks and relaxing in a beer garden appeared like a dreamy mirage in his head.
However, he had to pick Poppy up from the after-school club to take her for a guitar lesson, an additional one to her music class in school. Her headteacher, Miss Heathcliff, was a stickler for the school closing promptly at 5.30pm, and it was a rush to get there on time. He lowered his eyes and said, ‘I’d love to, but I have to dash.’
Then he selected his next padlock to attack.
Excerpted from The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick, Copyright © 2020 by Phaedra Patrick.
Published by Park Row Books