Saturday, January 25, 2014

Her Books Presents: Book Club Picks @Kathleen01930

It was fitting that the oldest building on Hephzibah Regrets housed the most beloved of its institutions. Hephzibah Regrets was the actual name of the two hundred acres of rock sticking up out of the Gulf of Maine on which Wyatt Quinn Ravenscroft built Hathor. Over the course of the twentieth century, more people knew the island as Hathor than by its actual name. Fourth and fifth generation islanders still used the name Hephzibah Regrets and had been known to tartly respond, “Never heard of it” to mainlanders who asked about Hathor. The rocky cliff that formed the seaward side of the island harbored a few inlets where the first settlers, who more than likely were not on good terms with the law, gained access away from observation.
Triangular in shape, Hephzibah Regrets had once been the summer home of the Algonquin tribes that fished the waters off of Cape Ann. It was said then that the cod was so plentiful they could be scooped up in baskets along the shore. The forest that covered Hephzibah Regrets was filled with oak and pine trees. The cliffs were covered with rosa ragusa, blueberries, beach plums and raspberries, and the beaches that rimmed the inlets were backed by dunes in which wild birds were plentiful. Located midway between the cities of Salem and Gloucester, the island belonged technically to Salem but it inhabitants, mostly fishing families, did more business in Gloucester, which had been known for its fishing fleet since its beginning in 1623.
When W.Q. Ravenscroft bought the westernmost half of the island there were two settlements, one seasonal, one year-round. The islanders, never given to affectations of any kind, referred to them as The Camps and The Village, respectively. The Camps to the north was a small collection of wooden cottages owned by Boston people who came in the summer to swim, fish, and escape the heat and noise of the city. In more recent years the cottages had been “gussied up”, as Priscilla Nettleton put it, and a seasonal business was added, a combination clam shack/ice cream stand/rental shop for everything from surf boards and kayaks to motorbikes and dune buggies. The villagers tolerated the summer residents as long as their boats didn’t interfere with their lobster trap lines and they minded their manners when they ventured into their territory.
The Village occupied the widest part of the island. Snug inlets provided some shelter for fishing boats. Most of the men fished for lobster, though a few gill netters still eked out a living, and the piles of lobster traps that covered the docks and the beaches below the cliff shrunk or grew according to how good or bad the fishing was in any season. Years back one of the early settlers had introduced goats to the island and some of the island women kept their own herds corralled by low stone walls. They made butter and cheese, which was sold both on the island and in gourmet shops along the North Shore. A few island women had taken up spinning and the income from their yarns helped compensate for the decline in fish catches.
The earliest structure was built as a combination barn and livery where goods, both legal and otherwise, could be unloaded. It was a stout building of native granite, surrounded by a seawall that had been carefully improved over time. For nearly a century it housed a dry-goods store - called simply The Grocery - a fish-packing plant, town hall, and most important, a tavern known by all as the Riptide.
It was in the Riptide that everything of significance on the island either took place or was discussed until it might as well have taken place there. It was in the Riptide that William Silver, local fisherman and scalawag, had created a scandal by romancing Rosalind Ravenscroft, the wild and impetuous daughter of W.Q. and Lisette’s son Wyatt - called the Old Man by the locals. And it was in the Riptide that everyone gathered to watch the televised trial of Syd Jupiter when he was accused of shooting his brother-in-law, Raven Silver, the offspring - along with Syd’s wife, Rachel - of William’s seduction of Rosalind. During that time, when reporters swarmed over the island trying to find fresh information to add to their coverage of the story, Riptide patrons were often asked if Syd frequented the tavern. Not a one of them could ever recall seeing him there, but that was nobody’s business but his, in their opinion.
Gracie Silver, who ran The Grocery, recalled the visits Syd made to the store when he jogged along the island’s cliff-walk. Since the store was roughly half the distance from Hathor, he often stopped for a bottle of water on his daily run. Once Gracie learned the brand of water he preferred she stocked it just for him. Like the other islanders who met him, she recalled Syd as being quiet, soft-spoken, and slightly hard to understand thanks to his gently drawling New Orleanian accent. What she didn’t say was that she also found him devilishly attractive.
Gracie was an islander like most of the patrons of the Riptide. She’d worked as a backman on her father’s lobster boat from the age of ten, then on The Quicksilver, the boat belonging to her husband Harry and his brother Will, the father that Rachel and Raven never knew. The first time she saw Syd in the store - there was no mistaking who he was - she wondered what he would say if she told him she was married to the brother of his father-in-law but she held her tongue. It didn’t do to meddle in other people’s affairs and she didn’t know how much Syd, or for that matter Rachel, knew about the Silver side of the family. Still, the twins had been given their father’s family name. She suspected that was poor Rosalind’s doing.
Poor Rosalind, indeed. She was born on Hathor, the only child of Wyatt and his first wife Natalie. As a boy Wyatt’s life was divided between elite boarding schools and Hathor. He had been both well-known and well-liked among the islanders. He was a strong, sturdy boy who spent summers working alongside his buddies on their fathers’ fishing boats, digging clams, and scouring the beaches for salvage. He didn’t care if he got paid or not and complained when he had to leave to go back to school. The islanders considered him one of their own. He finished college and law school and was gone for some years before he returned home with his bride, a Boston beauty named Natalie, and settled into a career overseeing the legal interests of his father’s investment firm - and into life at Hathor.
Wild Rosalind. She was their only child and, like her father before her, she loved island life. Right from the beginning Rosalind had the run of The Village. Everyone knew her and she knew the names of everyone. She came and went from The Village and was known to turn up at any number of kitchen tables at meal time. The story was that Natalie, born and raised on Boston’s Beacon Hill, never really took to island life. She preferred to spend her time in the city. Those villagers who found employment in the house at Hathor told of screaming fights between mother and tiny daughter who refused to accompany her mother to the mainland.
Once she was of school age Rosalind was sent off to a series of boarding schools but she demonstrated a talent for getting herself kicked out of them, usually in short order. At the age of thirteen she was shipped off to a school in Austria but even Austria could not contain her. She was back at Hathor before the beach roses that covered the cliffs to the south of the island were in bloom. Natalie washed her hands of the girl and Wyatt made a deal with his maddening gypsy daughter, he would allow her to stay at Hathor with the housekeeper and a governess as long as she spent four hours a day with the private tutor he brought up from Cambridge for her. If she studied, maintained her grades, and passed her exams, the rest of her time was her own. Rosalind agreed.
Wyatt divided his time between his wife in Boston and his daughter at Hathor. Rosalind grew wilder with each passing year. By the time she was fifteen the women of the island knew two things for sure about Rosalind Ravenscroft. She was going to be a great beauty and she was headed for big trouble.
“I hope those rich folks ain’t got their heads so far up their asses they don’t see what’s going on,” Prudence Wainwright observed watching Rosalind, in tight jeans and a sheer cotton peasant blouse that was doing its best to fall off of her, perched in the bow of Bart Sparrow’s dinghy as Bart energetically rowed toward his boat.
“Hope they have her on birth control,” was all Bart’s sister-in-law, Maddie Sparrow, had to say.
Rosalind tilted her head back and her long auburn curls fluttered in the breeze as she placed her bare feet in Bart’s lap. Maddie could see the sweat on Bart’s upper lip from all the way up on her front porch - and it was a chilly day.
Will Silver was as good-looking a young fellow as the island had ever produced. He was no damn good, or at least no better than he had to be, but the islanders, whose standards for acceptable behavior consisted of little more than being neighborly and not attracting the attention of the law, weren’t too concerned about that. He fished with his brother Harry and lived in his father’s stone cottage on the cove where they had grown up. Their mother had died when Will was still a toddler. Their father, a third generation lobsterman, suffered a stroke when Will was seventeen and spent the final years of his life sitting on the dock, repairing lobster pots, and hurling clam shells at seagulls while screaming unintelligible curses at them.
Will turned twenty-one the same summer that Rosalind Ravenscroft turned eighteen and, when they started showing up at the Riptide together, everyone took notice. Collectively the islanders decided, after a few evenings of watching those two good-looking young folks swarming all over each other, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Rosalind, it was believed, was living on borrowed time when it came to getting in trouble, and Will might just be the fellow to scratch that wild itch of hers. There was even idle speculation about when the wedding would take place, how grand an affair the Old Man would spring for, and, since both Will and Rosalind were true islanders, it was expected the entire island would participate. Not a one of them was prepared for Wyatt’s reaction.
It was a rainy night in September when Will Silver showed up at the Riptide alone and well on his way to bat-shit crazy intoxication. He sat at the end of the wooden bar on a stool and ignored all attempts at conversation as he kept his nose buried in mug after mug of Smuttynose Ale. Finally Darren Finn, himself a good ways along to feeling no pain, clapped Will on the shoulder and asked him what-the-fuck was eating him. Will responded with a right jab that sent Darren backwards over the table where four old-timers were deep in a heated game of Cribbage. Will stomped out.
The next day the story was everywhere on the island and on fishing boats halfway out to Stellwagen Bank. Wyatt Ravenscroft had responded to his daughter’s announcement that she was going to marry lobsterman Will Silver by packing her into his high-speed motor boat and heading straight down the coast to Boston. He said he’d set Hathor on fire and lock her up in the Carmelite Convent on Beacon Hill before he’d see her married to a fisherman. The islanders were flabbergasted.
But, as history had demonstrated, Rosalind was not to be thwarted. Thus began a series of moves and counter-moves that climaxed in the simultaneous disappearance of Rosalind from her mother’s Louisburg Square brownstone, Will from his cottage on Hephzibah Regrets, and The Quicksilver from its mooring in the harbor. All three were discovered within days on Cape Cod. Will and Rosalind were married and, as time would tell, Rosalind was pregnant with twins. Safe, they thought. Even the Old Man would have to admit defeat in the face of wedding rings and pregnancy positive tests. Or so Rosalind thought, but she was about to learn something she should have known by now - she may have inherited her willfulness and her obstinacy from her father but she had not inherited his ruthlessness.
Rosalind had, unfortunately for her, made one fatal mistake. She had fallen madly, wildly in love with Will Silver but, in her willfulness, she had overlooked one regrettable thing - Will Silver was no damn good.
Samples to Savor: Book Club Picks, presented by Her Books:
Discover your book club’s next page-turner and spark fascinating conversations with your friends in this free sampling from eight bestselling authors. You’ll find rich prose, evocative plots, compelling characters and surprising twists from:
Finding Emma by Steena Holmes
Composing Myself by Elena Aitken
Spare Change by Bette Lee Crosby
The Scandalous Ward by Karla Darcy
The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge by Christine Nolfi
The Promise of Provence by Patricia Sands
Broken Pieces by Rachel Thompson
Depraved Heart by Kathleen Valentine
About the Author(s):
Bestselling authors Steena Holmes, Elena Aitken, Rachel Thompson, Patricia Sands, Christine Nolfi, Kathleen Valentine, Bette Lee Crosby and Karla Darcy provide readers worldwide with contemporary fiction and nonfiction releases ranging from historical romance to literary.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre –  Women’s Fiction
Rating – PG
Connect with the authors on Faceboook


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