Lessons From My Mother’s Life

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It was the 1950s. The war was over and women could go back to being happy housewives. But did they really want to?

Women in the 1950s should have been contented to live a Leave it to Beaver life. They had it all: generous husbands with great jobs, comfortable suburban homes with nice yards, two cars, and communities with like-minded families. Their days were filled with raising well-behaved children, cleaning the house, baking cookies, and attending PTA meetings and church events.

They should have been fulfilled. Women’s magazines told them so. Advertisers told them so. Doctors and psychologists told them so. Some were. But some weren’t.

In the 1950s, women were sold a bill of goods about who they were and who they should be as women. Some bought it. But some didn’t.

These stories are about the women who didn’t. They didn’t buy that there wasn’t more to life than making a happy home. Except they didn’t know they weren’t buying until something forced them see the cracks in their seemingly perfect lives.

A teenage bride sees her future mirrored in Circe’s twisted face. A woman’s tragic life serves as a warning about the dangers of too much maternal devotion. And the lives of two women intersect during two birthday parties, changing both of them. These and other moving tales of strength, discovery, and hope are about our mothers and grandmothers and the lessons their lives have to teach us.

This book is the second edition of my 2017 short story collection, Gnarled Bones and Other Stories. This edition has been extensively revised, the stories changed and expanded, and the context moved from the present day to the 1950s and 1960s. This edition also includes a Preface and a bonus chapter from The Specter, the first book of my Gilded Age family drama, the Waxwood Series.

The Cavelli Angel Saga

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Provenance: The family saga begins…
An exclusive prequel to the Cavelli Legacy

An Angel’s Redemption
Michael Vincente Cavelli would have been happy as a farmer. Instead, he has a lot on his plate. For starters, he’s the only rational Cavelli male, the one who inherited the mantle of patriarch at a young age, not only running the family’s successful dairy, but overseeing the lives of his large and unruly family. If that isn’t enough, someone is out to cripple his business. So when a redheaded siren appears at his door the morning of his sister’s wedding, he wonders about the deity’s sense of humor.

As one of the few female doctors in Chicago in 1925, Faith Truitt has something to prove, and she can’t afford to make a mistake that would destroy her career, like getting married. Everything was looking jake until Michael Cavelli opens his door that fateful morning and pulls her into the crosshairs of lies and treachery reaching back a generation—and into the whirlwind of a desire she cannot deny.

An Angel Healed
Archaeologist Raphael Cavelli wonders why he isn’t in some watering hole in Peru drinking a lukewarm cerveza next to a bosomy blonde. Instead, he’s one step ahead of the law for stealing the archaeological find of the century, where he bumps, literally, into the reason he left seven years ago—the girl he traveled halfway around the globe to forget. Hope Macklin, sob sister for The Spectator, is on the lam so she can’t afford to draw attention to herself, even for a carelessly handsome man. Fate throws Rafe and Hope together again just in time to square off with the faceless opponent doggedly threatening them. Will they risk everything for what matters most?

Angel Lost, Angel Found
Gabriel Cavelli makes a deathbed promise to his friend, Big Mike O’Malley, to look out for his young, educated-out-east daughter. Little Charity O’Malley turns out to be a beautiful and feisty twenty-three-year-old about to support herself by becoming a “whisper sister” for her father’s speakeasy. Gabe must decide whether to honor his promise or strangle her. Charity has secrets, and Gabe doesn’t like surprises. He’s not the marrying kind and should be running for cover, but her mean streak intrigues him. His brothers tell him it must be like looking in the mirror. When a crooked Prohibition Man comes into the picture, Charity needs help. Unfortunately, Gabe never could resist a damsel in distress, especially a pretty one. But this one could end up getting him killed. Still, a promise is a promise…

Angel Boy
Private Investigator, Meg Cavelli, wonders why her traitorous family has trotted out the fatted calf for Seth Truitt, the boy who left her flat eight years ago. Now he’s back, sexier than she remembers, and needs her help. How can Meg accept Seth’s no-strings-attached-deal in return for bringing a deranged predator to justice when their steamy attraction to each other might very well get in the way?

Army Air Corps pilot, Seth Truitt needs help to erase his dark-stained past, but soon realizes helping Meg Cavelli solve a dogged criminal case in return for salvaging his military career might be more dangerous than flying P-26 fighters for USAAC. But since Seth has no intention of letting Meg go again, he’ll stop at nothing to keep her safe from the twisted, unnatural threat they dubbed “the monster” as kids.

As the mystery unfolds, joining their minds and hearts might be the only way to stay alive.