Ruby’s Song by Sawyer Belle

My thanks to the lovely ladies at KH Book Reviews!

Kaleidoscope Heart Book Reviews

Title: Ruby’s Song
Author:
Sawyer Belle
Series:
Love in the Sierras – #3
Genre:
Historical Romance 
Release date: November 2, 2015
Pages:
271
Synopsis:

27389093Marlena Beauregard abandoned her life in the west to pursue her dream of studying beneath the great Opera Queen. Only that dream becomes a nightmare she can’t escape, and she is forced to take matters into her own hands. When she comes face-to-face with the man who stole her heart as a youth in Virginia City, she is torn between the world she left behind and the future she had planned, knowing that whichever one she chooses, a loved one will be sacrificed.

Dalton Cunningham is known as a ruthless hired gun on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He is fierce, deadly and protective of those he loves. The son of a Madam and raised among brothels, he has no illusions about his…

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Want to Know More?

I’m passionate about my stories, and if you follow this space regularly, chances are you’re pretty keen on them, too. Well….if you’d like to know more about the inspiration behind the stories, characters, etc., you can check out some recent interviews I’ve done.

The lovely, talented PNR author, Heather Blair, is featuring me today here:

https://heatherrblair.wordpress.com/2015/11/09/indie-author-spotlight-3-sawyer-belle/

And then there is Marysol James, author of steaming hot contemporaries. She’s featuring my books here:

https://marysoljames.wordpress.com/2015/11/09/interview-with-sawyer-belle/

Thanks to two incredible authors for taking the time to chat with me! Check them out, friends, and leave comments!

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Here She Is!

Now available for your reading pleasure!! Print version will follow shortly, but for now, Ruby’s Song is available on Amazon Kindle!

http://www.amazon.com/Rubys-Song-Love-Sierras-Book-ebook/dp/B017HIHTTC/ref=sr_1_4/185-9271654-7948551?ie=UTF8&qid=1446483292&sr=8-4&keywords=Ruby%27s+Song

 

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Ruby’s Song – a Preview!

This story has been written for a month now, and I’ve spent many long, sleepless nights revising, working through the text with a very thorough, honest critique partner. Sometimes, I hated this story. Actually, I hated this story for about two weeks straight as I continually pushed to make it better. Tonight, I made the last changes, read through areas I’d worked over repeatedly, and then added a bit more meat to the ending, and I literally teared up when I hit “Save and Close.”

I’ve never done that before. I mean, I’ve felt the excitement and giddiness, the relief and even fear to let it fly, but to actually cry when I was done? Never happened before. I’m trying to figure out exactly why that is. This story is so entrenched in my heart. I absolutely love it, and I love the characters. And I’m beyond excited to release it to the world on November 2nd. So, for those fans anxiously awaiting, I offer you this excerpt as a teaser. Enjoy!

Ruby’s Song…

After two days of a dark heart, this man had brought in light. She knew his effects should not be ignored. Like any warm creature lunges for the light, she scribbled out a quote for him in return.

Let’s go hand in hand. Not one before another. – I invite you.

She gave the note to Monkey and returned to the vanity, resting her elbows on the wooden top, hands folded beneath her chin. And that’s the position she was in when her eyes met his in the mirror. The heavy beats of her heart drummed in her ears before slowing to a quiet crawl. Her body went still, paralyzed and cold. If her hands hadn’t been holding her chin up, it would have fallen with her jaw in pure shock. Her eyes grew wide enough to hurt.

“Dalton?”

His face bore the same incredulity. “What in the hell…”

“What are you doing in here?” She spun in her chair. The part of her robe fell open, revealing her knees clad in white stockings. His eyes dropped to the sight and she quickly stood and held the scant covering closed over her body. His face had gone pale, his mouth agape and his eyes roved in a slow, stunned circuit of the room.

“Well?” she demanded.

He blinked in rapid succession and licked his lips before shaking his head clear of the confusion controlling him.

“Um…” he stepped forward, coughed a laugh, and held up her note. “You invited me.”

She gasped and covered her mouth with her palm. “You?

He scratched his brow and laughed again. “My thoughts exactly.”

Nausea spiraled in her stomach and crawled up her throat. She spun away from him and buried her face in her hands. “Oh, my God. I can’t believe this.”

He took a deep breath behind her. “Again, my thoughts exactly.”

Her head shook back and forth at the enormity of it all. Dalton! Sending her quotes from Shakespeare, making her feel like the most important and talented human in Boston, yet also responsible for the sadness gripping her the past two days. Dalton. There at The Museum, backstage, with her in nothing but a robe and undergarments. She ducked behind the mirror and peaked around it so only her eyes could be seen. He chuckled and anger boiled inside of her.

“What are you doing back here?” she asked, her voice tight. He held out a palm and peered sideways at her, as if he didn’t understand why she was asking such a question and she huffed. “I didn’t mean for you to come back here.

“You didn’t?”

“Of course not! You don’t think I invite strangers to see me half-dressed, do you?”

“I hope not.”

“Well, obviously I should have been more specific in my note.”

He placed a hand on his hip and used the other to rub his forehead. “Yes, you might have been. What, exactly, did you mean when you wrote ‘I invite you’?”

Heat flooded her cheeks and she was glad the mirror hid her crimson-colored skin. “I was inviting you to…to…well, what were you suggesting in your note to me?”

Dalton stopped pacing and laughed, his blue eyes boring into hers with a new level of intensity. “Honey, I doubt you and I had the same thing in mind. If you tell me I’m wrong, I’ll wear the dress in your next play.”

His meaning seeped into her, creating an inferno deep in her belly that turned to anger as it reddened her cheeks. Her spine stiffened. “I am insulted you would think to earn that from me with only a handful of Shakespearean quotes.”

“I wouldn’t have if I had known it was you,” he said, gesturing toward her. “I expected a more…worldly woman.”

“So sorry to disappoint you,” she drawled.

“I’m not disappointed,” he said, and his lips began to curl slightly at the corners as his eyes roved slowly around her face, igniting shivering tingles over her skin.

She tightened her fist around the fabric of her robe. “You’re…you’re not disappointed it’s me?”

He chuckled. “The young girl I met at the restaurant? That was disappointing. But the woman I’ve watched on the stage these past weeks…definitely not disappointing.” He shook his head with an incredulous huff. “Damn sure shocking, though. I’ll tell you that.”

She found herself relaxing and giggling along with him. “I imagine so.”

His Adam’s apple twitched over his swallow before he asked with trepidation in his voice, “Are you disappointed it’s me?”

Her eyes met his and she shook her head twice.

He smiled and took a deep breath. “So, this is where you perform three nights a week, then? Not at the Boston Opera House?”

She grimaced at the revelation of her deceit. “Not at the Boston Opera House. Although I wasn’t lying about the show three weeks hence. I am set to debut then.”

“And I take it your darling Winthrop family has no idea you’re here?”

Her head shook slowly back and forth and he burst into laughter. She sighed and raised an eyebrow. “Don’t sound so amused.”

“But I am amused. I am thoroughly pleased to know this side of you still exists.”

“What do you mean still exists? What side of me are you talking about?”

“The bold side,” he answered. “I always admired that part of you, the fearlessness, the lack of intimidation, the part of you that ran away out into a desert thunderstorm at thirteen.” She chuckled and scrunched her face skeptically. He shrugged with a smirk. “I said it was brave, not smart. After our lunch, I thought it’d been conditioned away by the strictures of high society.”

Marlena’s gaze fell to the floor. He had no idea how close he was to the truth, for that part of her had almost been stripped away. If she hadn’t found her way into performing at The Museum, that part of her would have melted into oblivion under the Winthrop household.

“I’m sure it bolsters confidence in the movement knowing Elijah Winthrop’s very own ward is here campaigning against him,” he continued.

She folded her bottom lip between her teeth and peered sideways at him. “Uh…actually…”

His eyes scrunched as he squinted at her in study. “The people here don’t know who you are either?”

Her insides twisted. These were the people she felt guilty deceiving. They’d become good friends, but they still believed her to be the daughter of an innkeeper. While she agreed with Dalton that her identity would strengthen the morale of the cause, it would also risk her future as an opera singer, and she wouldn’t jeopardize the objective she’d worked so hard to attain. She looked at Dalton and shook her head yet again.

“And on that note, please keep your voice down,” she said. “I don’t want to cause any upset around here, especially when I only have two weeks of performances left.”

His brow fell into worried grooves. “What do you mean?”

“My debut is set for the first of the month. I won’t do anything to risk it, so the performance in six days will be my last.”

He crossed his arms over his chest. “Well, that’s a shame.”

Guilt and defensiveness warred within her. “Dalton, my life here is much more complicated than you realize.”

“I can see that,” he said with a laugh. “But there is something I don’t understand, Marlena,” he said as he took a step forward. “You’re amazing out there. Why on Earth haven’t you been performing at the Boston Opera House?”

She smiled at his compliments, at the sound of her name rolling off his lips, but when the reply to his question was admitted out loud, it brought reminders of her frustrations.

“Sarah wouldn’t allow it before. Even now, she claims I am not ready to grace the stage, though she’ll let me do it.”

His face scrunched in disgust. “She’s jealous, simple as that. And she has every reason to be. She’s a canary to your nightingale.”

Marlena laughed softly as heat rushed to her cheeks. “Thank you, but you’re wrong. Sarah Jeanne has the most beautiful voice in the country.”

“No. No, she doesn’t,” he returned with a shake of his head. “When you sing…Marlena, there’s nothing more beautiful in the wide world than your voice.”

They locked eyes and Marlena forgot to breathe. The room was hot and humid, and so were her insides. Neither spoke and she could only hope his thoughts and body were as frantic and frenzied as her own.

Finally, he grinned. “But I can hardly hear your voice when you speak. It’s hard to believe you can belt notes when you sing.” She laughed quietly. “And still so shy. You can come on out, you know. You don’t have to hide back there.”

“I’m not decent, Dalton. Would you mind waiting for me in the alley?” She had to gain control of herself. Thoughts were whirling and racing as quickly as the blood in her veins and her heartbeat pumping it along.

“Of course,” he said before striding halfway across the space. He stopped and turned a smirk onto her. She studied his eyes, the slight crinkle of skin at their corners and the translucent blue that seemed to see right through her, as if he knew she stood trembling behind the mirror. “I’ll be damned, Marlena,” he said. “Of all the things I expected walking through that door…” He shook his head, chuckled, and left her alone, trembling at the wonderful sound of her name upon his lips.

 

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What You Won’t Hear on the News…

My 2015 has sucked…like seriously sucked. Yes, it could have been worse, but it has been one of the worst years of my life. That is one reason why I haven’t posted much on here. I don’t want to always come across as unhappy or ungrateful…or as a complainer. But something happened last night that I just have to post, because it’s something you’ll never see on the news – at least not in Las Vegas.

Let me preface this by saying that Las Vegas is a dangerous place. People who believe in the inerrant nature of statistics (cough, cough, I’m not one of them), like to tell me Vegas is the safest  its ever been. Most of these people are transplants, not natives like me who have been around for 34 years and have seen the decline. I would never let my kids roam the city the way I did. I was never home until the street lights came on, and there were no parameters as to how far and wide I could go. As a thirteen-year-old, I rode the bus eight miles away to the mall and back several times a month, even more around Christmas time, and all by myself during the day and night. At fifteen, I walked four miles a day to and from the restaurant where I worked and sometimes got off late at night. I never had a cell phone during any of these years for my parents to reach me. But I made it home every night, and we were all secure that I would.

Now, however, deadly or violent home invasions are an every day occurrence; pedestrians are being mowed over on an almost daily basis; shootings; stabbings; homicides; car fatalities – every day I hear and see this shit. And all of this is off the STRIP, where there is an unwritten gag order on all violent activity that isn’t witnessed by more than a hundred eyes. Imagine how the statistics would be skewed if the “action” down on the STRIP was reported. I have family and friends who work in those lavish casinos who have told me about suicides, rapes, murders, shootouts in the STRIP that employees are not allowed to mention upon threat of losing their jobs. Those acts of violence simply don’t exist, for what would it do to the Las Vegas image? My own sister was held down by a police officer during a shootout. She cowered in fear while bullets whizzed overhead, only to be told by upper management an hour later, “It was just fireworks. Someone set off some firecrackers. There was NO shootout, comprende?”

Anyway, I digress.

On Facebook, there is a yard sale page for my particular area of town. I’ve bought and sold things on this page over the past year, and met probably four people in personal exchanges. Last night, one of the members of the group posted a picture of her son along with a desperate plea for help. He’d gone missing, last seen riding his scooter around the neighborhood an hour previously. He was ten. She described what he was wearing and asked if anybody in the neighborhood saw him to contact her because she couldn’t find him. Police had been called.

Well, within minutes, the streets were swarmed with hundreds of nameless neighbors, all from this group, looking for this boy. People went on foot, on bike and in their cars, combing the parks, the stores, a construction site nearby. Even the construction workers stopped their building and began looking for this boy. He’d been traced to a gas station and nobody knew where he went beyond that. The trail simply vanished. I watched my newsfeed explode as I sat on my bed, playing board games with my nine-year-old son. People were all over the area, telling where they were and if they’d found anything. A massive online coordinating effort was underway. I could hear police helicopters whirring over my house and see their spotlights moving in and out of my backyard, all the while praying they’d find this little boy.

Well, they did. It took two hours of flooding the area with good Samaritans, good neighbors, but the boy was found sleeping under a bush, and he was found by one of the members of my FB group. When the boy was finally roused, he couldn’t remember where he was or how he’d gotten there. I haven’t received any more information other than he made it home safe and sound, and that is perhaps why this story never made the news.

But I have to wonder: did this massive show of community thwart a deadly crime? Was this boy in the clutches of some evildoer who panicked at the sheer volume of people out and about searching, and so ditched a drugged little boy beneath a bush and took off? Or did the boy just fall asleep beneath a bush for no reason and lie about it after he was found to avoid trouble? One can only imagine. What I don’t have to imagine, however, is what that boy’s family would have been going through had he not come home last night.

I’ll admit my faith in humanity has dwindled hugely as of late. Even people I’m close to have disappointed me greatly. But last night, seeing everyone come together like that, man it really filled my heart with hope. I just wanted to share that story, because you’ll never see a story like that on the news.

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The Good Cry

Today, at my step-grandmother’s funeral, the pastor spoke about western culture, and how we insist on repressing emotions, holding in our tears because we somehow equate that stalwart stoicism with strength. By contrast, that would mean that tears and emotion are a sign of weakness and vulnerability. Well, I’m here to tell you that they both suck.

I, too, fall into that mentality (western or not) that crying is a weakness – not because emotions make a person weak. The weakness has nothing to do with the existence of the actual emotion. The weakness exists in the failure to control those emotions, to keep them restrained until you have privacy and all ceremonial tasks, like receiving lines and receptions have come and gone. The strength lies in maintaining one’s composure in the public eye.

Perhaps this mentality comes from being a woman, a gender that is debased, and yet represented, by emotional compasses and downpours. If we women want to play in the field of men, we must act like men, and therefore appear less affected by our feelings.

Perhaps this mentality comes from being a female manager in a male-dominated industry. Being in a position of hiring, firing, disciplining and any other task belonging to management requires a person to put their feelings beneath the cloak of professionalism. You must be able to look an employee in the eye who you’ve known for ten years, whose family you’ve seen at bbqs and Christmas parties, and fire them because they aren’t producing enough to justify their pay. You must be able to hide your stress and always present a calm, solid visage to the people looking to you to set the tone of the day.

Perhaps this mentality comes from knowing about history and figures I admire and respect who buried their emotions and did what it took to…well…make history.

Hell, perhaps it’s just my genetic makeup. But whatever the reason, I am a person who has always buried or internalized my emotions. I carry it all inside. I have not been known to sob openly, nor jump up and down in excitement. Though I have felt bone deep grief and life altering bliss, on the outside no one would know it.

People have told me how unhealthy this is, and physically, I completely agree. I often get back spasms in my left rhomboid that can be so painful and debilitating that I cannot turn my neck. My entire back will go out to the point where I live on heat-ice-heat regiments for a week. My stomach burns, full of acid; I get panic attacks; nausea consumes me and I become an insomniac.

That’s what “keeping it all inside” does to me.

But what does “letting it all out” do to me?

The last ten days have been very tiring for me. Leaving my family and spending 40+ hours in the car, two full days and nights in the kitchen to set my Papa up for winter food, watching people I love dearly ache with sorrow and grief, and still keep it together has taken a toll on me, physically. I’ve gone to three memorial services in a week. The first was up at the island, and I kept it together pretty well. The second was the burial and I did fine there, too. The third was the Las Vegas service, and I actually expected it to be the easiest of the three – because I’d managed the other two so well.

And as the family was ushered out to our designated rows, the music played, and a lovely singer on stage began to sing “It Is Well.” My husband reached over and rubbed my leg, then grabbed my hand, and the dam broke. I did everything I could. I avoided Betty’s picture staring at me from the stage. I dared not look at my Papa, whose quivering lip and galloping Adam’s Apple I’d come to memorize during the other two services. I bit my lip, the inside of my cheek, took deep breaths, pinched my eyelids shut, stared at the lily arrangement directly in front of me, deep red centers fading out into light pink, like a southwestern sunset. It didn’t matter what I did, the words of It is Well pulled those tears from me like petals kissing nourishment from a dewdrop. I couldn’t help but cry, because to me – it wasn’t well. Nothing was well.

Despite the personal loss I felt for Betty, there was the deep empathy and sympathy I felt for Papa and also for Betty’s biological family. There was some pretty heavy news I was carrying from work and also a major decision looming on the homefront. Despite the beautiful flowers, the beautiful singers, the promise of hope of the resurrection for Betty and healing and comforting for the mourners, all was most certainly not well in the world, or within my own heart.

I cried. And cried, and cried, and cried. And it was subdued enough that it wasn’t a scene (we are still talking about me, here). A sniffle every 30 seconds and half a box of kleenex for an hour long service is all we’re talking about, but I wept without ceasing the entire time. And you know how I feel tonight?

I feel no great relief. I don’t feel unburdened. I don’t feel lighter. I don’t feel anything positive. I feel fatigued beyond measure, weary and weak. I feel like the damnedest little thing would set me off into a fit of tears again. I took my son to soccer practice tonight and my mom called to see how I was doing. “It seemed like you had a hard time during the service,” she said. And just her calling to see how I was doing brought tears to my eyes. I hate it because I can’t say any one thing that it is making me so emotional. I grieve, yes. I have suffered a personal loss, yes. I worry for my Papa’s future, yes. I have stress in my life, yes.

But I’m strong, right?

Surely, I can feel all of these things without cracking, without crumbling, right? Life goes on. No matter how terrifying or great, how sunny or fog-worn. The earth still spins. People are born and people die. Nothing changes, yet nothing is the same.

I cried the good cry. I let it all out. And I don’t feel better at all. My head actually hurts; my ears thrum with swollen sinuses; my stomach still burns. Nothing good has come from my “release.”

So, I couldn’t advise a person whether to hold it all in or let it all out. Because in my experience, neither one helps.  

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She Was Betty…

There is nothing, really, that can prepare you for the death of a loved one. Even when you wish it, say, in the sense of ending their suffering. Turning off machines, letting someone go…we can all justify it logically in our minds. But when you are there watching a living, breathing creature suddenly go still, it is always a shock. And it’s in that moment that you realize – you never really believed they would die. A tiny speck of hope lived on in your heart. It took over all of you, and then it betrayed you.

As a relatively young person, I’ve fallen into that trap of thinking, somehow, old people are prepared to die. I mean, surely they must know their time is limited. As my great aunt once said: “None of will escape this world alive.” And I always thought that as a person nears ninety or hundred years that they come to peace with it, accept it, and somehow become unafraid. But I was wrong.

My step-grandmother, Betty, passed away this week. She is, in fact, my step-grandmother, but I always called her Betty. I did so because when she married my Papa, I was still grieving my biological grandmother, Papa’s first wife, my mother’s mother. Dorothy. But, in truth, Betty was my grandmother far longer than Dorothy, by God’s will. I was eight when my grandmother died. And 34 when Betty died. I knew her as my grandma for almost 26 years. She never made me (or asked me to) call her Grandma, but my children called her “Little Grandma,” chiefly because she was a petite little thing and my Papa (whom the kids call “Big Papa”) is a towering six foot five.

The start of this blog might be a bit misleading. I was not there when Betty died, but I have witnessed other loved ones pass into the great beyond, so I know the feeling well, and those memories sprang to my mind when I learned of Betty’s death.

Two years ago, I had a bad dream about my papa, which then led to a “feeling” that time was of the essence to spend time with my grandparents. You see, they live in Washington and I in Las Vegas. Carting a family of four up to Washington is expensive. Papa and Betty used to come to Vegas a couple times a year and I’d see them then. Of course, throughout the year I’d call and write them (emails and letters) often, so we were always in touch. But about three years ago, they announced that they’d no longer be taking the trip south to Vegas because it was too hard on them.

So, after I had this dream and this instinct that we needed to get up to see them, I spoke with my husband about it and we decided we would deplete our entire savings, make some other large sacrifices, and spend a week up in Washington with my grandparents. As fate would have it, the day before we were to fly up to Washington, Betty’s sister who lived in Texas – died. Papa and Betty had to leave and fly out to Texas. Well, all of my travel arrangements were non-refundable (aka – the cheapest options). So, we went on vacation in Washington. It was a great time, but not what we’d hoped for. Then, I started to question my “gut feelings.”

I remember speaking to Betty about her sister’s death, telling her how sorry I was, even though her sister was in her 90s. And Betty said something to me I’ll never forget. She said, “Everyone thinks that just because a person is in their later years that they’re not afraid of death, and that is the farthest thing from the truth. It’s a frightening, horrible, awful thing that must be done. And you’re never, ever ready for it.”

Betty was afraid of death, like almost everyone is, and it’s been really bugging me the past week at the services to hear the pastors say that she met her death with peace, because she didn’t. She was terrified, to the very end.

Over the last two years, I’ve worried about Papa, but never – ever- about Betty. My sense of urgency and anxiety was always about him. So, when Betty went in for her routine heart doc’s appt. last Monday, it never occurred to me that she would be dead on Thursday, and it certainly never occurred to her either.

But the thing that really, truly strikes my heart is that she was aware of all that was happening around her -at least in the beginning, and that she was afraid. How the hell do you live with a thing like that?

Death is a very surreal, sad thing. And I wish I had a better attitude about it. I believe in God. Let me rephrase, I believe in Jesus. I believe, but am also a doubter. And I think that’s okay, because I don’t think we are all meant to be sheep who do not question. Doubting keeps me searching. But never is my doubt stronger than when a loved one dies. But there is one thing that always persists in these dark moments of life.

We grieve with hope. That is the Christian distinction. We grieve with hope of a forever. But I’m not going to pretend that the hope portion is dominant. It is a small, sometimes seemingly infinitesimal fraction of all that we feel.

But it is there. And to it, I cling.

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