17 February 2011

Excerpt Thursday: Kristina McMorris

This week on Excerpt Thursday I'm thrilled to welcome debut author Kristia McMorris as she celebrates the release of LETTERS FROM HOME, available February 22nd from Kensington. In the midst of WWII, a Midwestern infantryman falls deeply in love through a yearlong letter exchange, unaware that the girl he's writing to isn't the one replying. Please join us Sunday when Kristina will be here to answer questions, talk about writing WWII-era romance, and give away a copy!

Chicago, 1944.

Liz Stephens has little interest in attending a USO club dance with her friends Betty and Julia. She doesn't need a flirtation with a lonely serviceman when she's set to marry her childhood sweetheart. Yet something happens the moment Liz glimpses Morgan McClain. They share only a brief conversation--cut short by the soldier's evident interest in Betty--but Liz can't forget him. Thus, when Betty asks her to ghostwrite a letter to Morgan, stationed overseas, Liz reluctantly agrees.

Thousands of miles away, Morgan struggles to adjust to the brutality of war. His letters from "Betty" are a comfort, their soul-baring correspondence a revelation to them both. While Liz is torn by her feelings for a man who doesn't know her true identity, Betty and Julia each become immersed in their own romantic entanglements. And as the war draws to a close, all three will face heart-wrenching choices, painful losses, and the bittersweet joy of new beginnings.

A weekly TV host since age nine, Kristina McMorris is the author of the award-winning debut novel LETTERS FROM HOME, set to release on February 22nd. Called "ambitious and compelling...[a] sweeping debut" by Publishers Weekly, the book is garnering high acclaim by reviewers and national media, including a spotlight in the current issue of Woman's Day. Kristina lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two young sons who enjoy turning any cylindrical household object into a superhero weapon.


July 4, 1944
Chicago, Illinois

Silence in the idling Cadillac grew as suffocating as the city's humidity. Hands clenched on her lap, Liz Stephens averted her narrowed eyes toward the open passenger window. Chattering ladies and servicemen flocked by in the shadows; up and down they traveled over the concrete accordion of entrance steps. The sting of laughter and music drifted through the swinging glass doors, bounced off the colorless sky. Another holiday without gunpowder for celebration. No boom of metallic streamers, no sunbursts awakening the night. Only the fading memory of a simpler time.

A time when Liz knew whom she could trust.

"You know the Rotary doesn't invite just anyone to speak," Dalton Harris said finally. The same argument, same lack of apology in his voice. "What was I supposed to do? Tell my father I couldn't be there because of some dance?"

At his condescension, her gaze snapped to his slate gray eyes. "That," she said, "is exactly what you should've done."

"Honey. You're being unreasonable."

"So it's unreasonable, wanting us to spend time together?"

"That's not what I meant." A scratch to the back of his neck punctuated his frustration, a habit that had lost the amusing charm it held when they were kids. Long before the expensive suits, the perfect ties, the Vitalis-slickening of his dark brown hair.

"Listen." His square jaw slackened as he angled toward her, a debater shifting his approach. "When I was asked to run my dad's campaign, we talked about this. I warned you my schedule would be crazy until the election. And you were the one who said I should do it, that between classes and work, you'd be--"

"As busy as ever," she finished sharply. "Yes. I know what I said." With Dalton in law school and her a sophomore at Northwestern, leading independent but complementary lives was nothing new; in fact, that had always been among the strengths of their relationship. Which was why he should know their separate activities weren't the issue tonight.

"Then what's the problem?"

"The problem is, anything else pops up, campaign or otherwise, and you don't think twice about canceling on me."

"I am not canceling. I'm asking you to come with me."

Liz had attended enough political fund-raisers with him to know that whispers behind plastered smiles and greedy glad-handing would be highlights of the night. A night she could do without, even if not for her prior commitment.

"I already told you," she said, "I promised the girls weeks ago I'd be here." The main reason she'd agreed, given her condensed workload from summer school, was to repay Betty for accompanying her to that droning version of Henry V last week--just so Dalton's ticket hadn't gone to waste. "Why can't you make an exception? Just this once?"

He dropped back in his seat, drew out a sigh. "Lizzy, it's just a dance."

No, it's not. It's more than that. I have to know I can depend on you! Her throat fastened around her retort. Explosions of words, she knew all too well, could bring irreversible consequences.

She grabbed the door handle. "I have to go." Before he could exit and circle around to open her side, she let herself out.

"Wait," he called as she shut the door. "Sweetheart, hold on."

The sudden plea in his voice tugged at her like strings, halting her. Could it be that he had changed his mind? That he was still the same guy she could count on?

She slid her hand into the pocket of her ivory wraparound dress, a shred of hope cupped in her palm, before pivoting to face him.

Dalton leaned across the seat toward her. "We'll talk about this later, all right?"

Disappointment throbbed inside, a recurrent bruise. Bridling her reaction, she replied with a nod, fully aware her agreement would translate into a truce.

"Have a good time," he said, then gripped the steering wheel and drove away.

As she turned for the stairs, she pulled her hand from her pocket, and discovered she'd been holding but a stray thread. The first sign of a seam unraveling.


azteclady said...

Oh man.

Between the premise and the excerpt... Me WANT!

Best of luck with the release, Ms McMorris!

Kristina said...

Yay, thank so much! I hope you enjoy the rest. :)