Preacher always said New Orleans was a den of sin, so of course Clarabelle had to see for herself…
Momma says a body reaps what they sow, and Clarabelle’s planted the seeds of trouble. The year is 1933, and not much else is growing in the Oklahoma dirt. Clarabelle’s gone and fallen in love with her best friend, so she figures it’s time to go out and see the world.
If she’s lucky, she’ll find the kind of girl who’ll kiss her back.
Clarabelle heads for New Orleans, and that’s where she meets Vaughn. Now, Vaughn’s as pretty as can be, but she’s hiding something. When she gets jumped by a pair of hoodlums, Clarabelle comes to her rescue and accidentally discovers her secret. She has to decide whether Vaughn is really the kind of girl for her, and though Clarabelle started out a dirt-farming Okie, Vaughn teaches her just what it means to be a lady.
Change of Heart is a distant prequel to the other Hours of the Night novels, and can be read as a stand-alone.
I’m so excited to have Liv Rancourt back on the blog today. She brings Clarabelle with her to talk about romance. Clara’s outlook on love is beautiful, though heartbreaking because of the time she and Vaughn live. Read and enjoy!
First off, I want to thank you, Molly, for having me back on your blog. I very much appreciate the chance to chat with your readers. Unlike my first couple of visits – where I talked about the Hours of the Night books I’d co-written with Irene Preston – this time I’m here on my own.
I’m still talking about an Hours of the Night story, though.
Change of Heart is set in the same world as Vespers and Bonfire, though it’s a distant prequel to those books. It’s a historical romance that takes place in 1933, and while there are no obvious paranormal elements, a certain vampire (Thaddeus Dupont…shhh) does play a role.
Now, the last time I visited this blog, Thaddeus shared some ideas on what romance meant to him. (Jump HERE for my post on how a 115 year old vampire/monk sees romance.) Today I thought it would be fun to give Clarabelle, the heroine from Change of Heart, the same task. She’s a down-to-earth Okie, sort of an older, worldlier sister of Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz, and I had fun discovering how someone so practical finds the romance in life.
Well hey, isn’t it a glorious day? I’m writing from a little house on Marigny Street, right outside the French Quarter in New Orleans. It’s sunny but not hot and sticky yet, and I’ve got a lovely glass of iced tea, which is just the thing to help me think about romance.
See, where I come from, a girl wasn’t supposed to have amorous thoughts about another girl. My mother would never admit it could happen, but Preacher sure had something to say. In between telling us we were going to hell for gossiping and begging for donations for his church, he’d spin stories about the awful fate awaiting those who gave in to their perverse nature.
Since I was a little girl, I pretty much knew my nature was as perverse as they come, so I guess to me romance has always meant something I had to keep a secret. I moved to New Orleans when I was twenty-two years old, and that was the first time I ever ran across anyone who shared my same nature.
Here in our little corner of the French Quarter, people could love who they wanted to love. Even so, no one really talked about it. We had to be careful not to be seen together, and something as simple as a love letter had to be burned, otherwise we could end up in an asylum or jail or worse.
Instead, we relied on the little things, maybe letting our glances linger, or bringing someone a glass of their favorite sweet tea. My Vaughn painted a picture of me, cut it up like a puzzle, then teased me with one piece at a time so I’d know how much she cared. Vaughn’s got some secrets of her own, secrets I’ll take with me to my grave. I tell her every day how much I love her, without ever saying the words where someone else can hear.
Just because our love is something we must hide, doesn’t make us any less romantic. I don’t care what Preacher says, or my mother either. Vaughn and I keep our secrets close, and love each other very well indeed.
Certainly, two women faced a struggle if they wanted to have a relationship in 1933, and I hope you enjoy learning more about how Clara and Vaughn work things out. Check out the excerpt from Change of Heart in this post, and be sure you enter the rafflecopter for a $10 gift card. Change of Heart is available at a reduced price of $0.99 through 3/7/17, so check it out!
“Clara!” Lorraine’s squeal greeted me on my way through the door. Her face was round and her hips were rounder, and she was the most excitable person I’d ever met. Most everything came out as a squeal or a giggle or a hoot.
“I got here early so you wouldn’t be late for your date.” I fluffed my skirt so the rayon wouldn’t stick to my legs. To hear Lorraine talk, each date was more important than the last.
White ruffles edged the shoulders of her polka-dotted dress, and her bright red curls were spunkier than they had any right to be. “Aw, thanks doll.” She aimed a cherry-colored kiss in the direction of my cheek. “This has your name on it, by the way.”
She slid an envelope across the counter, plain and white, with my name in a loose scrawl. Curious.
We worked in a small room with a wide window looking into the lobby. The window had a waist-high counter, and beside it we had one of those Dutch doors that opened in halves. A crowd came in, so I didn’t open the envelope right away. I’d have plenty of time to read it between selling packs of Camels and Marlboros and turning dollars into dimes. In the lounge, the house band did a pretty good Cab Calloway imitation, which set my toe to tapping. These Negroes sure knew how to play.
“Abyssinia, kitten!” With a flutter of ruffles and a squeal or two, Lorraine made tracks. Leaving me alone with a mysterious envelope and sticky skin and the St James Infirmary Blues.
Vaughn, one of the cocktail girls, popped off the main floor. She was tall, with auburn hair and the prettiest collarbones I’d ever seen. When I thought about doing bad things, her lovely face often came to mind.
She’d dolled up her black uniform dress with a jade scarf pinned at her throat by a marcasite brooch, and she carried her drink tray lightly no matter how many high balls were crowded on it. “What’s that?” she asked, tipping her head in the direction of the note.
Teasing myself, and maybe teasing her too, I rubbed the edge of the still-unopened envelope against my lips, marking it with a peony pink stripe. “Don’t know.”
“Open it, you nut.” Vaughn barely had to breathe to make my pulse flutter.
Maybe I should have learned a lesson from falling in love with my best friend, but I wanted to kiss her—especially when she smiled from under her bangs, her lips painted ruby red and her brows arched in perfect curves. Sometimes the way Vaughn’s gaze melted into me gave me the notion she shared my interest. I just didn’t know how to ask her.
I flicked the flap with my fingernail. Who would be sending me something? I pinched my lips to swallow the flutter of nerves. “Someone stuck this one down good.”
“Quick. I gotta get out on the floor.” A smile flickered at the corners of her mouth, and her hazel eyes glowed.
I peeled the flap open and slid out a notecard. On the inside of the card, someone had drawn a lovely, very detailed picture.
A picture of me. “Well, I’ll be.”
“Let me see it.” Vaughn snatched up the card.
I tried to grab it, but she held the card over my head. “No fair.” I was tall for a woman, but she had me by two or three inches. “You’re cheating.”
With the kind of laugh that turned my insides to warm honey, she let the card flutter onto the counter. “Now don’t blow your wig.” She pivoted on her heel, shooting a sly glance over her shoulder. “But I think somebody likes you.”
My eyes were drawn to the sketch. The artist’s affection came through as clear as the unmistakable chin-length waves I set in pincurls every night, the big blue eyes, and even the little gap between my two front teeth. “Me too,” I whispered to nobody in particular.
The knowing giggle floating behind her made me think Vaughn might be acquainted with my secret admirer.
I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire … or sometimes demon … I lean more towards funny than angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at home or at work. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog’s cuteness is legendary, and we share the homestead with three ferrets. Who steal things. Because they’re brats.
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