Monday, December 21, 2015

Mid-Winter's Eve Giveaway Hop!

Welcome to my blog! I'm so happy to be part of this Mid-winter's Eve Giveaway Blog Hop! Thanks to Bookhounds and I Am a Reader Not a Writer blogs for hosting.


The book I'm giving away is Soda Springs by Carolyn Steele. It's a newly-released historical fiction/romance book set in the 1860s. 

Historical Fiction is my favorite genre, and this book has a little romance thrown in for good measure.

Soda Springs was published by Cedar Fort Publishing & Media. The book has 284 pages. This is Carolyn Steele's second novel. Her first is Willow Springs, also published by Cedar Fort. The romance is "sweet," there are some jump/gasp scenes, there are religious overtones, but this is not a religious book.

Here's a teaser about the book:
     When Tessa Darrow discovers her father burning his Confederate uniform, she has no idea how his secret will devastate their family and drive them from their home in North Carolina. The family journeys along the Oregon Trail, but tragedy strikes, leaving Tessa and her father to build a new life in Soda Springs, Idaho. 

Carolyn Steele writes real life. You will gasp in many places. Heartwarming and heart wrenching, each chapter has a hook, meaning, you're hooked, so don't even try to put down the book. Get comfortable. 

     I was hooked from the very first chapter due to Carolyn Steele's beautiful word tapestry, charm, descriptions, colloquy, and images. The book transported me to another time and place. 

     Carolyn Steele weaves in real life people from Soda Springs to interact with her fictional characters which makes me want to do more research about the era and the location--1860s Idaho. It also captures the turmoil of the effects war can have on those who fight and live through it.

     As mentioned, the book begins with an angst-ridden bonfire which precipitates the Henry Darrow family's flight from North Carolina. 

Here's an excerpt from the book:
     Following the wagon master's bellow, Tessa climbed into the back of the wagon to sit beside Bethany. Bawls from the oxen and mules mingled with the shouts of anxious men and cracks from whips to start the procession of wagons and herds that would eventually lead to Oregon.
     "I'm not scairt," Bethany whispered.
     Tessa felt a lurch as the wagon fell into line. "No reason you should be," Tessa said, but she pulled her sister closer. Watching the town grow smaller against the pinking dawn on the horizon, she felt the embrace of anxiety tightening around her heart.
     "Are you scairt?" Bethany asked, clutching Tessa's arm between her tiny hands.
     "Naw," Tessa lied.

      Once ensconced in the town of Soda Springs, I was introduced, along with the Darrows, to a faction of Latter-day Saints I'd never heard of--the Morrisites. True story. There was a war between the followers of Brigham Young and the followers of Joseph Morris, a wannabe prophet. After a few deaths and injuries on both sides, the Morrisites escaped to the Idaho Territory and beyond. This book is about those who settled near Soda Springs. This true story, and some of its historic characters, are beautifully woven into the fictional plot lines. The book is not a religious one, though mention is made of the LDS religion and the Morrisite dissenters. You'll have to read about it. I had no idea!

     The tale takes us from North Carolina to Idaho, beginning when Tessa Darrow is nearly fourteen. We watch her grow into a lovely, young lady, and eventually a young woman, fit to be married--but to whom? She has three marriage proposals in all; one she would sooner forget. Which suitor does she choose? No spoilers here. You'll have to read through the twists and turns and, truth be told, the nail biting (mine), to find out. And while you're reading, enjoy the descriptions of the area surrounding Soda Springs, such as Grays Lake and Sulphur Springs. There's even an eventful trip in the story to Great Salt Lake City.


About the author:
      Born and raised in Utah, Carolyn Steele imagined herself with her name on a book for twenty years before her first novel, Willow Springs, was published in 2014 by Cedar Fort Publishing & Media. She was introduced to western novels at a very young age by her grandfather, the son of a gold miner. Her father was raised in the Grays Lake valley of southeastern Idaho, near Soda Springs. She visited there every summer as a child, so it's no wonder her descriptions of the valley are so vivid.
     Carolyn's day job is writing marketing communications for a non-profit health insurance company. She earned her undergraduate degree in Communications from the University of Utah. Her non-fiction articles have appeared in numerous national magazines. She is also a professional photographer, and hopes to travel the world one day with her camera--and her husband, of course. 

Please enter for a chance to win a free copy of Soda Springs!

 And don't forget to visit the other fabulous blogs in this Blog Hop so you can win other wonderful prizes.
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list...



Sunday, December 13, 2015

BLOG TOUR: SODA SPRINGS


Soda_Springs_Blog-Tour


Welcome to my very first blog tour--and it's for one of my very favorite people and her new book, Soda Springs.

CarolynSteele_Author
Author Carolyn Steele
I couldn't be happier for my cute friend, Carolyn Steele. She has outdone herself this time. I was privileged to be in her critique group as she was creating this book. I know it's solid--it's authentic, she did her research, and came up with the magical plot, with all the twists and intrigue.

And thank you for visiting my blog. Please feel free to leave friendly comments below, and check out the . . .
GIVEAWAY 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
. . . Enter above to win a free eBook of Soda Springs. You must! You really want to read this book.




Here's some information about the book:
     Soda Springs is an historical fiction/romance. It was published by Cedar Fort Publishing & Media. The book has 284 pages. This is Carolyn Steele's second novel. Her first is Willow Springs, also published by Cedar Fort.

Here's a teaser about the book:
     When Tessa Darrow discovers her father burning his Civil War uniform, she has no idea how his secret will devastate their family and drive them from their home in North Carolina. The family journeys along the Oregon Trail, but tragedy strikes, leaving Tessa and her father to build a new life in Soda Springs, Idaho. 

     If you're familiar with Carolyn's writing, especially her first book, Willow Springs, you know she can't help but create interesting characters. Soda Springs is no different. She writes real life. You will gasp in many places. Heartwarming and heart wrenching, each chapter has a hook, meaning, you're hooked, so don't even try to put down the book. Get comfortable. 

     Soda Springs does not disappoint. I was hooked from the very first chapter due to Carolyn Steele's beautiful word tapestry. That's what gets me--the charm, descriptions, colloquy, and images conjured while reading beautiful words.The book transported me to another time and place. That's what I love about historical fiction, my favorite genre to read. And this one also has some romance as well. 

     Carolyn Steele weaves in real life people from Soda Springs to interact with her fictional characters which makes me want to do more research about the era and the location--1860s Idaho. It also hails back to the South during the end of the Civil War, recapturing the turmoil of that time period, and the effects war can have on those who fought and lived through it.

     As mentioned, the book begins with an angst-ridden bonfire which precipitates the Henry Darrow family's flight from North Carolina. 

Here's an excerpt from the book:
     Following the wagon master's bellow, Tessa climbed into the back of the wagon to sit beside Bethany. Bawls from the oxen and mules mingled with the shouts of anxious men and cracks from whips to start the procession of wagons and herds that would eventually lead to Oregon.
     "I'm not scairt," Bethany whispered.
     Tessa felt a lurch as the wagon fell into line. "No reason you should be," Tessa said, but she pulled her sister closer. Watching the town grow smaller against the pinking dawn on the horizon, she felt the embrace of anxiety tightening around her heart.
     "Are you scairt?" Bethany asked, clutching Tessa's arm between her tiny hands.
     "Naw," Tessa lied.

     The heroine of the story, Tessa Darrow, leaves a life of luxury for the dusty Oregon Trail. Later, after sickness and many other trials, she takes on surmounting responsibilities in the burgeoning Idaho territory in post-Civil War days.  

Here's another book excerpt:
     Sitting on the side of the wagon, she watched the shadows from its hickory bows flickering in the firelight. Like ribs of a giant whale, Tessa thought. And there, in the belly of the decrepit beast lay her father--eating only what Tessa could guide into his mouth. With each swallow, Tessa would pray the food would stay down long enough to nourish him.

     Once ensconced in the town of Soda Springs, I was introduced, along with the Darrows, to a faction of Latter-day Saints I'd never heard of--the Morrisites. True story. There was a war between the followers of Brigham Young and the followers of Joseph Morris, a wannabe prophet. After a few deaths and injuries on both sides, the Morrisites escaped to the Idaho Territory and beyond. This book is about those who settled near Soda Springs. This true story, and some of its historic characters, are beautifully woven into the fictional plot lines. The book is not a religious one, though mention is made of the LDS religion and the Morrisite dissenters. You'll have to read about it. I had no idea!

     The tale takes us from North Carolina to Idaho, beginning when Tessa Darrow is nearly fourteen. We watch her grow into a lovely, young lady, and eventually a young woman, fit to be married--but to whom? She has three marriage proposals in all; one she would sooner forget. Which suitor does she choose? No spoilers here. You'll have to read through the twists and turns and, truth be told, the nail biting (mine), to find out. And while you're reading, enjoy the descriptions of the area surrounding Soda Springs, such as Grays Lake and Sulphur Springs. There's even an eventful trip in the story to Great Salt Lake City.


Original Soda Springs Settlement Site, now covered by the Alexander Reservoir
Here's another Excerpt:
     Tessa's breath caught in her chest, and she fairly tingled with excitement. "Oh, my. Have you ever--?" The valley spread before them in a haze of green, gold, and purple, set against a majestic blue mountain rising in the distance. A crystalline lake stretching northward glittered in the afternoon sun. Great flocks of cranes, geese, swans, and smaller birds rose in swells--circling, dipping, and darting in an avian ballet. A dozen deer grazed fifty yards downhill to their right; two, with their ears keen, kept watch on the intruders while the rest munched on chokecherries and wheatgrass.
     "This must be the valley that the Pierssons told me about," William whispered.
     "Grays Hole," Mrs. Holt said, her voice filled with reverence. "Jens spoke of it often. He used to trap beaver, muskrat, fox--you name it--up here." As if on cue, a red fox popped its head up from behind a boulder, cocked it quizzically at the group, and then scampered off into the brush.
     "Grays Hole? Well, that's a perfectly hideous name. That's a lake in the distance, not a hole." Straightening her back, Tessa folded her arms and assumed her most officious demeanor. "We shall rename it Grays Lake."
     William folded his arms as well and, smiling, gave a curt nod. "Thus it shall be."

   See what I mean about beautiful writing? And this place, Grays Lake, still exists (see photo below).


Grays Lake in modern times

About the author:
     Born and raised in Utah, Carolyn Steele imagined herself with her name on a book for twenty years before her first novel, Willow Springs, was published in 2014 by Cedar Fort Publishing & Media. She was introduced to western novels at a very young age by her grandfather, the son of a gold miner. Her father was raised in the Grays Lake valley of southeastern Idaho, near Soda Springs. She visited there every summer as a child, so it's no wonder her descriptions of the valley are so vivid.
     Carolyn's day job is writing marketing communications for a non-profit health insurance company. She earned her undergraduate degree in Communications from the University of Utah. Her non-fiction articles have appeared in numerous national magazines. She is also a professional photographer, and hopes to travel the world one day with her camera--and her husband, of course. 
Author Carolyn Steele and her husband, Ron,
in front of the Anderson home, the only original structure from Soda Springs still standing.
     Visit Carolyn's website and see more of her photographs of the area, and pictures of real life characters who are featured in her book. 


__________Watch the Soda Springs__________
featuring images graciously contributed by some of the residents of Grays Lake

Here are more places to visit: 
Carolyn's Facebook
Twitter: @CarolynSteeleUT 

Book purchase links: 
Books and Things 

     I know you'll enjoy Soda Springs as much as I did!  
 And now, if you haven't already, sign up for the GIVEAWAY of a free Soda Springs eBook.

The GIVEAWAY runs from December 11 through the end of the Blog Tour on December 21. You must be 18 or older to enter, and have a valid email address. You may enter every day. Winner will be posted on this blog between Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, and will be notified via the email provided. Winner has 48 hours to respond, if no response winner forfeits and another winner will be chosen.


Kindly comment. That would be awesome! Thanks again for visiting.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


I hope to see you all on Sunday, December 13, right here at my blog, Connected in Love.

There might, will, maybe WILL be a GIVEAWAY involved!

If you like historical fiction, plenty of plot twists, and a little romance thrown in for good measure, you will want to read this book.

Trust me on this!

And while you're here, please JOIN THIS SITE and FOLLOW ME by email, Facebook and Twitter. Thank you so much!


Monday, December 7, 2015

Carolyn Steele's "Soda Springs" Blog Tour on December 13!! Here!!

I'm happy to say I'm hosting my very first blog tour--and it's for my good friend and fellow author, Carolyn Steele--on Sunday, December 13 from 2:00-5:00 p.m.
Her new book, "Soda Springs," an historical romance set in Soda Springs, Idaho, comes out tomorrow, December 8. Go HERE for more information.
And her physical book launch will be held at the Sugarhouse Barnes & Noble on Saturday,
December 12 from 1:00-4:00 p.m., 1104 E 2100 S, SLC, UT 84106.


Please come visit my blog on December 13 as I host my very first blog tour, starring "Soda Springs."

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Welcome to my blog! "Connected in Love"

Hello, and welcome to my blog about my novel "Connected in Love."
The setting is picturesque Southeastern Pennsylvania in autumn. 


The fictitious LDS Knecht Branch in the novel
is named for the Knecht Covered Bridge
situated on Knecht Bridge Road.
The real bridge is the Knechts Covered Bridge.
Do you know why the early settlers built covered bridges?
And it wasn't so they could steal a kiss in private. Well, okay, some did.

The author standing inside the Knechts Covered Bridge in Bucks County, PA,
the setting for "Connected in Love"

One of the narrow roads found in Mary Donohue's rural Southeastern Pennsylvania realm.
I know you want to go there. Who wouldn't?

A grass-covered lane near the Knecht Covered Bridge.
The Knecht Branch Primary children all want to know where it leads,
but it's private property, so the leaders won't let them explore it.
Don't you just want to know what's down that path?
This is  Joyce Fretz's leaf-strewn lane.
That's her mailbox on the right there.
Mary visits her in Chapter 8.
Poor Joyce broke her ankle.
This is Mary and Dave Donohue's wooden bridge, over the little creek at the end of their property.
Notice Mary's nice touch hanging from the bridge, just before the first frost--and the flu hits the branch.
Another view of the Donohue's wooden bridge,
built by the Donohue Brothers Construction Company.
Their house is on the other side of the stand of poplar trees.
Mary and Dave have lived here almost twenty years.
The mailbox, mentioned in Chapter 27, is just out of camera shot on the left.

The Donohue's live down the lane from the local high school.
Their seminary students walk this way to school weekday mornings,
unless one of the teenagers drives to school and gives everyone a ride.

A well-manicured Pennsylvania farm, not far from Mary's house.
The home of Eleanor Black, an elderly widow in the branch.

A brownstone barn, just up the street from the Knecht Covered Bridge.
Keep going up this road and you'll come to the Knecht Branch.
This is the road the township uses for the Autumn Hayride, mentioned in the last few chapters.

This is the lawn just beyond the Knecht Branch building.
Keep walking through the woods and you'll come to the Knecht Covered Bridge.
The Branch members have picnics, games, and Cub Scouts out on the lawn during nice weather.
You'll read about this in Chapter 5.

I invite you to read the first two chapters of "Connected in Love." 
Please join as a follower.
Sign up with your email to receive updates to this blog.

Thanks for visiting rural Pennsylvania in autumn.
Now back to your regularly scheduled season, time, and place.



Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Dread Mother's Curse

Get to know Mary and Dave Donohue and their families by reading their Back Story, or what authors like to call "Info Dump." 
When they were younger, the Donohue children complained one day that they didn't like sitting in the front of the chapel during church. Echoing what her own mother used to say about sitting up front, Mary said,  "I can hear better in the front."  Mary knew the children could pay attention better there, too.
Then, as the old saying goes, "history repeats itself," her daughter, Becky, when she was thirteen, complained she hated sitting up front because all the people would stare at the back of her head during sacrament meeting.
"Yeah...that's what they're doing. They're staring at your head," Mary retorted. Becky rolled her eyes at Mary. Mary smiled to herself. The Mother's Curse. She's my mother's curse.
Mary woke up on her thirteenth birthday and had mysteriously turned into her parallel universe self overnight. She came down for breakfast with a churlish smirk on her face and grumpy retort for everything said at the breakfast table.
Then, she did the unthinkable: she talked back to her mother.
There was a pall over the kitchen.  It became silent at once as all eight children looked at Mary with mouths dropped open. They slowly looked at their mother, wondering what would happen next.  Mary’s mouth would not stop until her mother interrupted—
"Mary, I'm going to do something I promised myself I would never do," she began, lifting her chin in the air, and pointing her wooden spoon at her that was, until that moment, mixing the batter for Mary’s own birthday cake.
They all knew where this was going.
"No, ma, no!" they all begged her in a chaotic wave. 
They had all been threatened from earliest memory with “The Mother's Curse.” Their mother would yell, "Don't make me call down T'he Mother's Curse' on you!" The children didn't know what it was, but, knowing the wrath of their mother on a daily basis, they didn't want to find out.
As her mother began prounouncing "the curse," Mary stared back at her defiantly, her own chin lifted, as if goading her mother to dare to do it.
"I hope. . ." her mother started slowly, articulating every word, waving the spoon up and down at Mary like a magic wand in fairy tales. . .
"No! Ma! Think about what you're doing!" eleven-year-old Patrick pleaded.
". . .that when you grow up. . ." Ma continued, arms folded now, still wielding the wooden spoon . . .
“Don’t do it, Ma!” Mary Beth, nine at the time, shouted, her voice cracking.
Mary's chin jutted out and the other children could plainly hear her mutter, "Hrmph," through her nose.
"Ma! You said you would never do this!" Denny, seven, wailed in disbelief as he held his head in his hands and shook his head.
"...you will have a daughter . . ." Mrs. O'Brien continued, squinting her eyes at Mary.
"Ahh! No-o-o-o!" they all wailed and contorted their faces in various twisted poses.
Mary furrowed her brown and squinted back, cocking her head.
Five-year-old Mary Anne put down her spoon and abruptly sobbed, big tears spitting out of her eyes. Little Michael, just three, ran to his mother and pulled on her leg to make her stop, not really knowing what was happening, but channeling the others’ angst in the situation. His mouth contorted into a wail, followed by tears.
Baby Rory, in the high chair, started to cry along with Michael, though, like the three-year-old, he didn’t know why, except everyone seemed to be agitated and scared. He looked back and forth from one sibling to another, mouth open, tears mingling with oatmeal-dotted saliva all over his face.
"Ma! There's still time to stop!" Martin, the oldest at fifteen, finally chimed in, adding to the drama, though he said it with a smirk, more amused than upset.
". . .just . . .like. . .you!" She completed the curse.
Everyone, at the same time, stopped crying and yelling, leaving the room in complete and utter silence, except for Mary Anne's sniffing and hiccupping breaths.
They watched their mother stare at Mary, then watched Mary stare back at their mother.
Mary sarcastically broke the silence. “Happy.Birthday.To.Me.” 
The clan held their collective breath, looking from Mary to their mother and back again.
The staring match took painfully long.
Mary, with one eyebrow raised, and still not taking her eyes from her mother’s glaring eyes, picked up her spoon and shoveled some oatmeal into her mouth. She chewed. She swallowed. She took another bite. 
Her mother did not move one muscle. She did not blink.
Keeping her eyes on her mother, Mary took a drink of milk, then slowly looked away and finished her breakfast in silence—along with everyone else—except for some whimpering from Michael, who ended up lying on the floor beside his mother’s feet, exhausted but grateful the noise had abated.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Back Story: O'Brien and Donohue Naming Traditions

Get to know Mary and Dave Donohue and their families by reading their Back Story. 
Or what authors like to call: Info Dump.

As Mary worked on making her oatmeal bread that fateful Friday during flu season, she remembered, when she was a kid, her mother gave her milk toast when she was sick. What an awful thing to give someone who’s sick! You should never have milk when you’re sick. And all the butter ma put on the toast
Still, she had to admit, it tasted really good, at least in her childhood memory. I have never given my children milk toast. They don’t even know what it is. Ma sure did some quirky things. She rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Don’t even get me started on the names, Fluffy," she said to the dog. Too late. Her thoughts drifted.

Mary was the oldest girl of eight children: three sisters—all named Mary:  Mary Margaret, Mary Elizabeth, and Mary Anne—and five brothers. Her sisters were called by their first and middle names, Mary Beth and Mary Anne, but Mary used just plain Mary. Confusing to most, but not to her mother.
Her mother had affected a small Irish lilt in her voice while telling her daughters one day, "First and foremost, you were named after the Blessed Virgin," which, in her upbringing, was the greatest of women who ever lived. 
"Mary Elizabeth, after the cousin of Mary who had an idea in her own heart and womb that Mary, our Blessed Mother, was carrying Our Lord." She touched her middle as if  remembering carrying her own children. She continued, "Mary Anne was named for Mary and Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin. Saintly names, all," she said and sighed as she ironed the boys' Sunday shirts all those years ago.
She, Mary Margaret, was named Mary (after the Blessed Virgin) and Margaret, after her mother’s mother, Margaret Mary. Elizabeth was her father’s mother's name, and Anne was her own mother's name, Anne Marie, to be exact, consistent with traditional Irish naming patterns. 
My mother's family has been in America for four generations, but old habits die hard, I guess. She swiped her forehead with her left forearm. Why is it your nose always itches or your hair gets in your eyes when your hands are full of dough?
Her older brother, Martin, then Patrick and Dennis, were named consistent with her grandfathers' names and her father, Denny O'Brien. The other two boys were named after her father's cousins, Michael and Rory. Martin, and Mary, two years younger, set the precedent for gender and age span, their parents bringing eight wee ones into the world every two years: boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, boy--until they got to Rory at the end who broke the pattern by being born male, to the girls' chagrin.
The girls rebelled when they got to high school. Mary Beth creatively changed her name to M'Eliz and Mary Anne introduced herself strictly as Anne. The family still followed tradition during get-togethers, calling them by both names. Old habits die hard.
Now that she was researching her family's genealogy, Mary could see the wisdom in naming children after family members, but at the time she named her Donohue children, she just wanted them to have their own names. 
She and Dave had been totally original, that is, totally not Irish.  There were no Seans or Brians, Erins or Bridgets in her family. Hannah, Rebecca, Joshua and Zachary; good Old Testament names, hardly heard of in a Catholic household of earlier times. 

Her mother had been distraught at the names Mary and Dave chose.
"Ma, Hannah is the Hebrew name for Anna," she tried to explain to Anne Marie O'Brien one day.
"Ach! Hebrew? That's not Catholic!" 
Mary sighed. No use telling her Joshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus. She would just deny it.
Having married a Donohue, from an equally large Irish Catholic family, Mary and Dave decided they would break from all those saints' names and traditions and give their children names they liked. And certainly not names that began with 'D', as his parents had done. 
In addition to David, his siblings were Daniel, Dylan, Diane, Douglas, Debbie and Delia Gallagher.  Dave, smack dab in the middle--number four out of seven--behaved just like a middle child. He was the go-to guy, even tempered, mediator of the family, even now. It was one of the reasons why Mary fell in love with him.  
As the oldest girl, Mary had the oldest child place in the family. Bossy, she gave advice freely, even, and maybe especially, when unwanted. Take charge and Type A, she sometimes stressed herself out by striving to be the best, do the best and expect the best. She needed Dave's evenness to keep her—and their family—calm and on target. 
My north star. Mary sighed as she thought of her leprechaun of a husband, with his now graying orange hair. "Just like an orange creamsicle," she was known to say to him in a tease. 

Look for more back story coming soon.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Connected in Love: Chapter Two

Chapter 2
Curt and Cammie Bentley

The two-hour drive to the shore always proved stressful for Cammie Bentley because she sat in the confined space of the front seat with her husband, Curt. I won’t let him bully me this time.
The Knecht Branch Primary CD filled the car with music. “Mommy, I wanna’ listen to ‘Follow the Prophet,’” eight-year-old Julie called from the back seat.
Cammie forwarded the CD to the song. “This is a fun one, isn't it?” she asked her kids. As Primary First Counselor in the branch, Cammie helped the music director make the CDs so the children could learn the songs for the upcoming sacrament meeting presentation.  Five-year-old Will and three-year-old Ellie got a little rambunctious and sang at the top of their lungs during the chorus.
“Hey, can you keep it down back there?” Curt called to his children. He turned to Cammie. “This song is really annoying,” he said and gave her a stern look. “Find something else.”
“Curt, they have to practice this for the presentation,” Cammie said. “And they’re having so much fun. They’re only singing three verses. It’ll be over in a minute.” She turned around and smiled at the kids, but turned back to see Curt’s profile, his furrowed brow, his tightened lips. This is going to be a long ride. Cammie thought of her own father.  He was the first one to start singing on family tripsand sang the loudest of us all.
Curt's irritation manifested in his driving as he tailgated a white Dodge pickup truck.
“I think you need to slow down a little,” Cammie said, white knuckling the seat with one hand and the arm rest on the front door with the other. Is he punishing me for not turning the music off?
“I told you before I’m a safe driver. I haven’t had an accident in almost fifteen years—and I drive for a living, so settle down,” he said, then tried to pry her hand from the seat. He looked over and laughed at her. “You’re such a baby.”
Not even able to see the truck’s license plate, Cammie begged her husband, “Curt, please, you can drive however you want when you’re by yourself, but please, the kids are in the car.”
“Don’t start!” he yelled and glared at her. “You can’t even last one hour without criticizing me, can you?”
The green signs on the expressway blurred by. Cammie couldn’t take her eyes off the truck in front of them. What if that truck stops abruptly? There’s not enough room between us to react! She glanced at the speedometer. We’re going eighty-miles-an-hour! Her stomach lurched, but she closed her eyes and subdued the sick feeling, as usual, and prayed hard. Only my prayers are going to get us there safely. She prayed mightily. I have faith. We’ll get there safely
Glad the music drowned out her pleas so the children didn’t hear, she stared ahead, terrified, thinking about all the other times she’d driven long distances with her husband. She thought of their honeymoon drive back to BYU-Idaho from the east. She didn’t realize until then she had married an aggressive driver. He had been loving, solicitous. She told her roommates he was her knight in shining armor.
Her mind skittered back and forth from all the past instances of road rage, one after the other, seemingly in an instant. That honeymoon drive, ten years ago, became Cammie’s introduction to Curt’s erratic behavior. Not wanting to believe he was anything but the caring, charismatic man he portrayed while courting, she made excuses for him, and kept everything down deep within her psyche. 

          Ten years ago, after changing a flat tire in Wyoming, and on the road again to Idaho, Curt portrayed another side Cammie had never seen while dating. She'd written off Curt's beastly behavior as being tired from steering the car through the mountain passes, but still, he had only harsh words for her—words and accusations she had never heard him utter to her.
A few minutes passed by after hurtful language was exchanged. Curt took her hand. “I’m sorry,” he said. He looked at Cammie and smiled. “I will never talk to you like that again.” He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. “I don’t know what got into me.”
Cammie smiled, smitten. "He loves me," she had said to herself, giddy. She sighed, relieved, and settled back to try to take a nap, forcing her shoulders to relax. Something inside of her wanted to stay awake. He was speeding, and very close to cars they happened upon—like he was strong-arming them over to the right lane. Though cars were few and far between, he would speed up in the left lane until he met the next car, rode on its rear until it, too, pulled over.
Cammie had gripped the arm rest. “Uh, Curt, would you slow down a little?” she asked her new husband. “This is a dangerous road.”
He just patted her arm, pried her hand from the seat, and said, “Don’t worry about it” and dismissed the conversation.
Cammie sat like a statue, speechless, her eyes bugged open. “Curt. Please?”
Curt softened. “Okay. There. I’m slowing down.” He patted her hand and laughed at her.

Cammie pulled herself back from the past, broke her stare and blinked her eyes. Curt had just forced the white truck to the right lane of the expressway, and he now sped up in the left, as if stalking his next prey. Her shoulders didn’t relax. She knew there would be other vehicles to pursue before they hit the shore.
Ellie cried from the back seat, “Will bit my hand!” Big tears fell down her fat cheeks as she howled.
“Did not,” Will yelled.
“Did, too,” Julie said, not looking up from her book.
“Did not!”
Ellie’s cries pierced the banter and all three sounded like a symphony tuning up their instruments in chaotic cacophony.
Curt yelled, “Look, young man, there will be no beach for you if you don’t settle down back there. ”
Cammie grabbed Curt’s arm gently. She whispered, “Please don’t make any threats you don’t intend to keep.”
“And yet another thing you harp at me about. You can’t back me up on anything,” Curt said, ripping his arm from her grip. 
I will never back you up when you’re mean to our children.
“You’re too easy on him. He’s got to learn,” Curt continued.
But not by depriving him of something we’re driving all this way to enjoy
“You’re always babying him.”
Cammie turned her upper body around and reached for Ellie’s hand to examine it for bite marks, but saw none. Curt’s yelling only exacerbated her bawling, and Ellie’s cries intensified Curt’s moodiness. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Julie, nose in her book, but with a worried, wrinkled brow.
“Will, honey, tell Ellie you’re sorry and give her hand a kiss,” Cammie persuaded him, touching his knee.
“Okay, Mommy,” Will too eagerly agreed, and smiled a devilish grin. He grabbed Ellie’s hand and pretended he was going to bite it again. Ellie let out a little scream. Cammie squeezed his knee. He laughed. Instead, he kissed Ellie’s hand. Sing-songy, he said, “I’m sorry, Ellie. I won’t do it again,” rocking his head from shoulder to shoulder.
A chill crept up Cammie’s spine.
“Am I going to the beach now, Mommy?” Will asked, looking proud of himself.
Cammie, feeling queasy again, turned around in her seat and stole a glance at her husband. “Yes, honey,” she whispered.

When they reached Curt’s parents house, Cammie and Curt unloaded the car of suitcases and other necessities. They already had their swim suits on so they could go directly to the beach, about five miles away. The kids were happy to see their doting grandparents, and impatient about going to the beach and boardwalk
Cammie was excited to be there, too. If only I could bypass the ride.
Curt’s parents accompanied them to the beach and they spent the day in the waves, and the evening on the boardwalk, riding the rides, and eating childhood comfort food—pizza, Italian water ice, funnel cake. September was a perfect month to visit the Jersey shore. The beaches weren’t crowded and the water wasn’t too cold, thanks to the current Indian Summer, and discounts at the stores on the boardwalk were hard to beat.
Saturday, on the beach, Cammie watched the kids interact with the other adults. Ellie squealed as Curt lifted her up to jump the waves. Will and his grandpa built sand castles. Julie sat under the umbrella reading her book, wrapped in a towel, next to her grandmother, also reading.
Cammie wrapped a beach towel around her waist and picked up Julie’s small bucket. “I’ll be back,” she called and waved to the group and stole away for a long walk along the water’s edge. She walked blocks and blocks past numerous life guard stands, scantily clad sunbathers, and families with ice chests filled with cold beer and sandwiches.
The foamy water inched up around her toes, then receded, her feet leaving impressions in the wet sand.  She stepped over breathing holes for the sand crabs, globs of stranded, transparent jellyfish, and multitudes of blue, pink and white sea shells, picked over by the sea gulls. She leaned down to sift through them.  I can hardly find any shells in one piece to put in this bucket.
The afternoon sun cast a long shadow of her body over the shoreline. I better start back. Curt will be mad if I’m gone too long. She turned around and, squinting, lifted her sunglasses to the top of her head, enjoying the warmth of the healing sun. The repetition of the waves, the soothing sounds of the surf, and the eerie, shrieking cries of the gulls lulled her body into harmony with the peaceful world of nature. 
I don’t want to go back. She dropped her towel, sunglasses, and bucket in the sand, kicked at the surf, then entered in up to her knees, shivering. The waves crashed a few yards before her, taunting her to approach.
As she grew used to the chilly water temperature, she inched a little farther, turned around and fought the breakers with her back but they shoved her forward toward the sand. She turned again and dove into the rumbling waves and surfaced waist-deep on the other side of the shifting tide. Wrestling with the current, she tiptoed out until the water came up to her chest, her body lifted by the ocean undulating around her, the sun gleaming off of its external, circulating wake.
Lying back, she floated, closing her eyes, breathing the clean, ocean breeze, inflating her lungs with salt air. She exhaled slowly and fully, hoping the exhalation washed away the toxins in her body. The depression that found her after excessive arguments with her husband always left her emotionally exhausted.
She lay, on top of the water, bobbing to its whim, drifting, and wanting to cry and scream at the top of her lungs. Instead, the lifeguard’s whistle, beckoning her back to safety, broke her reverie. She turned and swam  riding the waves to shore. Getting up slowly from the water, she strolled back to her towel and plastic bucket, water dripping from her hair and body. She wrapped her torso in the towel, hoping the strong sun would soon quell the goose bumps.
Walking back, she concentrated on finding some pretty shells for Julie’s collection, as if that deliberate focus would relieve her mind of the gnawing burden it carried perpetually, rushing to remembrance like the waves crashing to shore, over and over and over.

Back at the elder Bentley’s house Saturday evening, dinner was eaten with gusto. “This is all so delicious, Mom,” Cammie praised her mother-in-law. “You went to so much trouble.” She marveled that Curt’s mom fixed an enormous ham dinner for them before they hit the road again.
Cammie wanted so much to feel a part of Curt’s family. She especially wanted a closeness with Curt’s mother, but there was always a feeling she got, an impasse, like his mother put the brakes on any real relationship. I always feel like a house guest rather than a daughter.
Cammie wished she could win her over, but was never able to accomplish that feat, even though they lived with Curt’s parents the first year after his graduation from college.
“I made chocolate cake with chocolate icing,” Curt’s mother said, coming from the kitchen holding the crystal plate with the delectable dessert to show everyone.
When did she have time to do that?
“Yum!” Will said and rubbed his tummy. “Gramma, you’re the best!”
She sat down,  cut pieces of cake and passed them around. She looked at Cammie and smiled. “I know it’s your favorite,” she said as she handed Cammie a piece.
She made it for me? Maybe she’s coming around. Cammie flashed her a brilliant smile in gratitude.
Curt hijacked the plate before Cammie could reach for it. “Cammie’s trying to lose weight,” Curt said and put the plate in front of Will. “I’ll share a little of my piece with her.” He smiled at his mom and put his arm around the back of Cammie’s chair.
Cammie could feel her face flush with embarrassment. Curt’s mother frowned. 
“Curt, your mother went to all this trouble,” Cammie said as she wrangled the next plate from her husband’s grasp, squinting her eyes at him in irritation. She made this for me. I’m eating it.
He shot her a quick look as if to say it was another way for her to defy him. He took a big chunk of her cake and put it on his own plate. He laughed, acting like he was only teasing her. The whole family laughed. But Cammie knew he meant it. He had to look good in front of his parents—at her expense. He did that in church, too, though Cammie was glad he could at least be civil in public. It was her only reprieve from his mistreatment.
On the way home Saturday night, driving was more of the same as on the trip down—tailgating, speeding, yelling. The accusations blindsided her. She had hoped for a quiet ride home in the dark, with no interaction.
“Did you see my mother’s house? Why can’t you keep our house neat like that?”
“We have three kids. And don’t you think she might have cleaned up just a little knowing she was having company?” Of course she did. We used to live there.
“No, her house is always neat. Our house is like a rat’s nest.” Curt wouldn’t let up. Luckily the kids slept in the back.
“You’re comparing apples to oranges,” Cammie whispered, trying to keep the voice level down. “There are only two people living in a four-bedroom, two-story house. We have five people in a tiny rancher— ”
“Oh, so now you need a bigger house?”
“That’s not what I mean. No. I love our house. I mean, they live in a huge place. They’ve got plenty of room to spread out. Did you see your mother’s craft room? That’s not so neat.  And I had to clean the guest bathroom when we first got there.”
“Hey, she’s not as young as she used to be.”
“I know. And they never use that bathroom. I get it. And I didn’t mind doing it.” Cammie knew he wouldn’t stop, but she slid in her final comment. “You’re the one who brought it up,” she whispered, then tightened her shoulders, prepared for the flak.
“Don’t start!”
That short sentence usually ended her side of their “conversations.” Cammie could feel Curt fuming. She swallowed and fretted, knowing he wouldn’t stop. Her back seized up and she felt her fibromyalgia symptoms coming on with a vengeanceachiness, fatigue, misery.
I hate being in a car with him. She couldn’t escape and hide in the bathroom as usual. Whenever I defend myself, he tells me I’m starting something. It’s a vicious circle. I’m just so tired of it
She slid down in her seat and closed her eyes, rolling her head from one side to the other, trying to get the kinks out of her neck from the tension.
Curt continued his diatribe, but Cammie stopped listening as she went back in time in her mind on an endless loop of his angry outbursts. It happened every time Curt belittled, accused, or criticized her, turning every argument into her fault. She felt like she was sinking, or drowning, and knew it was hopeless to keep defending herself. He ranted on and she hoped he wouldn’t wake the kids.
She turned her face to the passenger window of the car. Her sad reflection peered back at her in the dark, lighted only by the headlights of oncoming traffic. But her mind went beyond the car window. It was coming on again—that overwhelming, discouraging feeling. He would keep on with his tirade, whether she listened or not. Sometimes he would pull over and get right in her face, pinning her head pinned to the window. She could not please her husband, no matter what she did, and she didn’t want to live like this anymore. 
If I’m as bad as Curt says I am, why bother going on? A  lone tear made its way from the corner of her eye. She kept her face turned away so Curt wouldn’t see her tears.
A few years ago she had made an appointment with the former ward bishop. Cammie had cried as she told her story about Curt’s anger. “Will you please have a talk with him? Maybe his job is too stressful,” she had asked the bishop as tears streamed down her cheeks. “Maybe he just needs someone to talk to.”
The bishop said he would talk to Curt. She didn’t know if he ever did. Curt didn’t change one iota. Cammie had sunk into a deep depression then. It was right before she got pregnant with Will, sealing her fate.
Cammie looked at the clock on the dashboard. She knew there was at least another half-hour of criticism to go and noticed he changed the topic to her weight, admonishing her for eating the cake. The doctor told me not to lose any more weight. Curt won’t listen to reason.

It was almost ten o’clock when they arrived back in Tarrytown. Curt carried the sleeping children into the house one by one and put them in their beds. Cammie had them in their pajamas for the ride home hoping this would be the scenario. He insisted on carrying in all the gear by himself, making it seem as if he always does all the work.
She made herself scarce in the basement play room, pretending there was something that needed to be accomplished down there. She hoped she would not have to talk to or hear from Curt.
She wandered into Curt’s office, just off of the playroom. His laptop sat in the middle of the neat, uncluttered desktop, and a printer was positioned on one of the file cabinets. A sterile environment, just as he likes. No external stimulation from family photographs hanging on the wall, or book shelves. He barely reads anyway. He’s too hyper for that.
Cammie heard him upstairs traipsing back and forth from the car to the house. His loud stomping, enough to wake the dead, thankfully, didn’t wake the children. Please let him be so tired that he goes right to bed.
He was. He did. No more words exchanged.
Cammie stayed up late, slumping down on one of the small bean bag chairs in the kids’ play room, tears following a familiar path down her cheeks until long after midnight.