14 July 2011

Excerpt Thursday: Eileen Clymer Schwab

This week on Excerpt Thursday, we're welcoming historical novelist, Eileen Clymer Schwab, as she celebrates the release of her latest novel, SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON, available now. Join us Sunday, when Eileen will be here to talk about the novel and give away a copy! Here's the blurb:

Shadow of a Quarter Moon is the suspenseful and moving story of Jacy Lane, the daughter of a wealthy North Carolina horse breeder in 1839. After Jacy's father is killed in a suspicious accident, Claudia (the woman Jacy knows as Mother) reveals a secret that shatters her world. Jacy is not the well-bred woman she believes herself to be, but rather she is the light-skinned offspring of a dalliance between her father and a slave.

The shocking revelation destroys Jacy's sense of who she is and where she belongs in the world. If her secret is revealed, she will be cast out of "white" society. But as she tentatively gets to know her true mother and brother, as well as a protective slave named Rafe, Jacy begins to see life in the South with fresh eyes. To secure their wealth, Claudia tries to manipulate Jacy into marriage with a well-positioned but lecherous suitor. Claudia threatens to sell Jacy's newfound family, forcing her to make a decision that will take her on a treacherous and life-altering journey.


North Carolina, 1839, following the accidental death of Jacy Lane’s father.

The next two days blended into one long vigil of sitting in witness of the lifeless body dressed in his finest suit.  Candles were lit around the room and flowers brought in, their fragrance slowly waning to the odor of rotting flesh.  A stream of neighbors and business associates came and went as we awaited Papa’s interment.  Two distant cousins arrived by carriage and were of great comfort to Mayme, though Mother watched them suspiciously.

     They are probably here to poach my land,” she said when I brought her a glass of lemonade. “Greedy vultures, no different than when my brother in-law made our wealth his own after my own father died.”

     “I am sure you are mistaken, Mother.  They spoke to me with great affection for Papa.”

     “Well, I am one step ahead of them,” she muttered under her breath.

     As was custom, Mother, Mayme, and I shared in the task of staying up through the nights to sit with Papa.  However, by the third evening, Mayme was exhausted in mind and body.

     “I will sit with him tonight, Mayme,” I said as I led her to her room.  It was still early in the evening, but her eyes were heavy with sleep.

     “Do not carry the burden for both of us,” she said weakly.

     “Honestly, Mayme, my heart needs this final night to say good-bye.  Papa will be buried tomorrow and I have yet to give up on my hope that he will climb from his box to embrace me.  Perhaps I will accept his fate in the coming hours, when at last he will prove to be at rest.”

     Mayme reluctantly agreed.  The house was eerily silent as I descended the stairs.  Mother had retired earlier and was not expected to reappear until morning.  However, as I entered the parlor, I heard light footsteps scampering down the hallway beyond the door across the room.  They moved too quickly to be Mother’s, so I followed them through the shadows of the house.  The outer door creaked shut as I entered from the dining room.  Spooked by the intruder, I peered through the window and caught a glimpse of a slight figure slipping into the woods.

     My skin prickled at the bizarre occurrence.  I remained at the window until I was certain the prowler was gone and harbored no threat.  When my rush of fear subsided, I returned to the parlor and settled in the rocker that faced the coffin.  The room was gloomy and stifled by the aroma of death.  The comfort of having my father at home dissipated with his departed spirit.  I felt guilty for feeling so, but burying what remained of him would be a relief.  My eyes clouded with despair until the flickering candlelight revealed three rose petals scattered across the floorboards.  I followed their path to the coffin and looked inside.  I could not bear to gaze upon my father’s sunken cheeks, but there, tucked in his lapel was a vibrant crimson rose, and for one brief moment he was my papa again.  I pondered the unknown footsteps.  Who would leave such a loving tribute in secrecy?  The sweetness of the gesture resonated in me as I stroked my father’s dark hair one last time.