by Wes Verde
Publication Date: May 9, 2021
Paperback & eBook; 499 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
New Jersey, 1928.
All her life, Etta Wozniak has toiled on her family’s small farm, located on the outskirts of a lake resort town. After losing her mother and siblings to one misfortune or another, life has fallen into a rut of drudgery and predictability. That is, until the day she discovers something in an unlikely place; an old car. Energized by the prospects of a world beyond the one she knows, she decides to make this her last summer on the farm. However, disaster is not through with Etta yet, and there will be consequences for her upcoming departure.
Art Adams, a recent college man, arrives in town for a family reunion. After years of moving from one city to another and avoiding conflict whenever it tries to find him, he becomes enamored with the lake. However, there is another reason for Art’s visit. He is to marry a woman he has never met before; an arrangement that was made on his behalf and without his knowledge. More comfortable around numbers and machines than people, Art is reluctant to confront his parents on the matter. But if he decides to do nothing, he risks losing who and what he has come to love.
In a small town of farmers and firemen, musicians and moonshiners, bossy parents and barn parties, two people will come to understand what they must give up in order to have the chance to build something new.
About the Author
Wes Verde is an engineer by trade, a busybody by habit, and a lifelong Jersey boy.
Writing has been a hobby in one form or another since 2006 when he started drawing 3-panel comics. When he is not putting words down, he is picking them up; the “to-read” pile only seems to grow larger.
A fan of nature, he spends as much time outside as possible.
A Secret Place
Casting a furtive, but unnecessary glance over her shoulder, Etta stepped onto a footpath where the road ended and the forest began. The entrance of which was almost completely hidden from casual view. Her steps were confident and without hesitation. Etta hitched up her skirts with one hand as the trail quickly inclined to a steep grade and thorny bushes pulled at her clothing.
At last, she approached what appeared to be a wall of boulders. Traversing a nearly hidden path, Etta soon emerged into a clearing. Before her, the valley spread out in a nearly unobstructed view. On one side could be seen several farms including her own. On the other was the railway and the two main roads that connected Bott’s Lake to the rest of the world.
Her town featured a number of scenic vantage points, which were popular with the out-of-towners. A few of the better ones, unfortunately, were downright lousy with them. Thankfully, many remained known only to locals. In the case of this particular one, it was a secret that only Etta was aware of. That was well, because, in her opinion, it was the best.
Etta smiled broadly as soon as she saw it. The one feature that made it entirely unique.
Right where I left you, she thought. Not that there was a chance it would suddenly move. Since she had stumbled upon it the previous summer, she feared that others would discover it as well. And then, there was a good chance she would lose it. Having lived here all her life, it amazed her that the town still had secrets to be discovered. Eyes fixed on the wondrous thing, Etta smiled dreamily as she approached.
It was a car.
An older, touring model, it was designed on the premise that it was a carriage without a horse rather than an automobile. It had no windows. The roof was more of a canopy than a proper enclosure. Driving in inclement weather would not be pleasant.
Sitting outdoors, it fell victim to rain, snow, and general exposure. All of which took their toll, especially on the upholstery. The leather of the seats was cracked and faded. Etta had once draped an old blanket across the front in an attempt to preserve it. This helped to an extent, but the winter had been a rough one, and one blanket could do only so much.
Walking in a large circle, Etta ran her hand along the exterior of the old jalopy with affection. While the seats were weathering poorly, the outside was better off. Even so, it suffered from a few errant scratches, rusty dents, and the canvas roof had torn along part of a seam. At a glance, one might be hard pressed to understand why it had been abandoned here on this lonely hilltop. A closer look would reveal that the automobile was resting at an odd angle.
One of the wheels and the connecting linkages were bent and broken, apparently smashed on the rock where it ultimately came to rest. How the former owner had managed to get to this location in the first place was another question altogether. Had Etta not found it, there was a good chance it would have simply rusted away, alone, never to be appreciated again.
Appreciate it, she certainly did. It had quickly become her favorite place, and a jealously guarded secret; not even Helen knew. Etta counted her blessings that no one else had discovered it. Then, it would just become another spot for the local kids to go and drink, or do other things. Etta could not allow that.
This was her car.
She opened the door, and sat down behind the steering wheel, pushing the damp blanket aside. The seat had, of course, seen better days, but still did its job. Gripping the steering wheel, she considered where she should go today. Maybe Boston? No. Too far. Besides, she wanted music, and New York City was the only place for that. The steering wheel was locked in place, so instead, she played with the mirrors and the knobs on the dashboard.
The pantomime only lasted for a few minutes. Perhaps it was just a bit childish, but no one was around to see. Her thoughts soon transitioned to more practical matters. She opened a box attached to the underside of the console and withdrew a folded-up piece of paper. A map. With great care, she opened it. It had survived so long, protected where it was, that it would be a shame to ruin it now through carelessness.
Discovered on one of her first visits, the map was large enough to fill the entire front seat of the jalopy, and showed the entire northern half of New Jersey. If the car was her heart’s desire, this was its soul. Her eyes immediately found a small dot, indicating the location of Bott’s Lake, and her eyes traced a path leading to a much larger dot, marked by the words “New York City.”
That’s where we’re going.
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, September 20
Guest Post at Novels Alive
Tuesday, September 21
Review at Reading is My Remedy
Wednesday, September 22
Excerpt at Hoover Book Reviews
Thursday, September 23
Interview at Bonnie Reads and Writes
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Review at Girl Who Reads
Monday, September 27
Review Rajiv’s Reviews
Tuesday, September 28
Review at Novels Alive
Wednesday, September 29
Feature at I’m All About Books
Friday, October 1
Excerpt at Coffee and Ink
Saturday, October 2
Review at Bookoholiccafe
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