Welcome to my stop on the SLB tour for The Long Shadows of Summer by Robin E. Mason!
Publisher: Bird’s Nest Books
Publication date: August 31, 2017
The southern town of Saisons lies at the crossroads between North and South, progressive and genteel antebellum life. Between East and West, between history and heritage, and new frontiers. Downton Abbey meets Gone With the Wind.
It’s 1912, in a world where slavery is dying and women’s rights are rising, and four young women who once shared a bond—and experienced a tragedy—question their own truths.
Mercedes has always been an avid reader and devours each new Sherlock Holmes mystery as soon as she gets her hands on them. When one of her friends comes to her, Mercedes vows to keep Simone’s secrets and uncover the truth.
But as Mercedes plays detective to her friends’ questions, she discovers something far more shocking—she herself is not who she thought she was.
The picture of southern society and classes in 1912 is well presented and contrasted among the families and immersive setting of this story. Mercedes was a likable character, balancing the duties of her role as faithful housekeeper with that of her anchoring an unlikely class-transcending friend group. The mystery and interweaving childhoods of both society maidens and “downstairs” staff was an interesting plot, but I felt it could have been more suspensefully presented. Sometimes the plot would lose momentum because of the descriptive scenes and daily routine of Mercedes. There was a family mystery, though, that presented itself in the latter half of the story that had me rooting for Mercedes and happy to see her realize how she could use her life as an encouragement and catalyst for change in her own community.
Thank you to the author and SLB Tours for providing the review copy of this book. This is my honest review.
“I need your help, Mercedes.” Her long gloved fingers toyed with the watch.
“Does it still work?” She looked at me. “The watch. Does it work?”
“It does, yes.” A smile curved her lips as a memory crossed her face.
Monsieur Fontaine had visited Saisons House but rarely. He had business dealings with Monsieur Dubois, and they were never pleasant. The household staff, indeed the whole house seemed to hold a collective breath when the man was near.
All except us girls. We all found it quite intriguing. I was an avid reader, and most enamored of detective stories, and Scarlett and Simone liked me to tell what I had read. Our childish imaginations took fanciful flight, and we spun our own stories from the intrigues of the house. Pearl, of course, was bored with our game, preferring the more dainty activities, but she joined in as our damsel in distress.
We had a great many adventures, roaming the house and the property, and imagined secret passages and underground dungeons. That was quite impossible, living at the edge of the swamp as we did, but we neither knew nor cared.
Simone was at her leisure in the house, even in her papá’s study, unless he or her grand-père were in there. We thought ourselves great stealthy spies, hiding behind the dark blue velvet drapes. Many was the discussion we overhead, none of which we understood. But we took grown up words, and made up our own significance to them, weaving fantastic tales of murder and intrigue and high crimes.
On one such occasion, we were sprawled on the leather couches, mimicking what we had observed as the men smoked their cigars and pipes. We were tossing about the language they often spoke, mostly weather and crops and trading.
We heard angry voices in the hallway, and heavy footsteps coming toward the study.
One of the voices was Monsieur Fontaine.
Scarlett panicked, and I feared she would wet herself. Simone and Pearl both made themselves scarce, disappearing in the best spot behind the drapes in the corner. A large potted fern stood in front of them.
I drew Scarlett with me, hiding behind the drapes in the opposite corner behind the settee. Not as discreet, but we had no choice.
“I saw your girl in my house.” Monsieur Fontaine slammed his fist onto the desk. “And now my watch is missing. Mon père gave me that watch, and his pèrebefore him. And now it’s missing.”
“Adrién—” Simone’s père began.
“I demand you fetch your girl this minute.” Monsieur Fontaine cut him off. “I shall interrogate her and she will tell me where my watch is.”
“You will do no such thing.” Monsieur Dubois rarely lost his temper. But Monsieur Fontaine always brought out the worst in even the best man. “I shall ask my daughter if she knows of your watch. And if she does, then she will tell me where it is, and I, sir, shall discipline my daughter as I see fit. You will have nothing to do with her.”
Scarlett was shaking quite violently at this juncture, and I quietly drew my hand over her mouth. What had the man done to her, for her to be so frightened in his presence? I truly did not want to know; I feared what the answer might have been.
I held her close, stroking her hair with my hand. I could not whisper to ease her discomfort, as I feared even my whispers would carry, and our position would surely be discovered.
The men argued for some time, Monsieur Dubois standing his ground, and Monsieur Fontaine growing angrier by the second. I was sure, if I were to peek, his face would have been as red as a beet with steam spewing from his ears.
Presently, the horrid man left, and Monsieur Dubois sank into his chair with a loud sigh. He rummaged through his desk drawer and soon the smell of black cherry tobacco filled the room.
Simone was brilliant sometimes, and now was one of those moments. She took advantage of being in her father’s periphery, and crept her way along the wall behind the drapes. There were windows all along the northern wall, with a set of doors in the center.
She made her way to the doors and—she told us later—peered out to be sure her père was not looking, opened the doors and stood there as if she were just coming in from outside. We all took our cue from her, and chattered nervously, asking Monsieur Dubois of his day.
“Oh, Père.” She rushed to him, and hugged him tight. “I can see you’ve had an awful day. Can I pour you a brandy?”
Monsieur Dubois laughed at this, knowing she was imitating her mother’s gestures. He declined the brandy, but stood and spun her around, Simone’s feet swinging out. She giggled, and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The watch was never recovered.
Ms. Mason has been writing since 1995, and began working in earnest on her debut novel, Tessa, in 2013. Meanwhile, she cranked out a few dozen poems, made countless notes for story ideas, and earned her BFA in Interior Design. Ms. Mason lived with depression for many years, and the inherent feelings of worthlessness and invisibility; she didn’t want to be who she was and struggled with her own identity for many years. Her characters face many of these same demons.Ms. Mason writes stories of identity conflict. Her characters encounter situations that force the question, “Who am I really?” For all who have ever wondered who you are or why you’re here, her stories will touch you in a very real—maybe too real—and a very deep way. “I know, I write from experience.”
Ms. Mason has three novels previously published in the unsavory heritage series. Tessa, Clara Bess, and Cissy are available on Amazon, both for Kindle and in print. She also has several poems included in an anthology, Where Dreams and Visions Live (Anthologies of the Heart Book 1) by Mary Blowers, as well as a short story, Sarafina’s Light, also in an anthology, Blood Moon, compiled by Mary Blowers. She is currently working on The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, Book Two in her new series, Seasons. It releases in November, following The Long Shadows of Summer which releases in August. Books 3 and 4 in the series will be out in 2018.
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September 28-A Baker’s Perspective
September 29-Faithfully Bookish | Paulette’s Papers
September 30-Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen* | Soulfully Romantic