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From the Publisher"ECSTASY is a profound literary statement about true love's depth and courage, written with elegant sophistication, which is Ms. Forster's inimitable trademark."
-- RT Book Reviews on ECSTASY
She has to choose between her secret and a chance at love
Teacher Jeannetta Rollins is about to lose something infinitely precious her eyesight. Only surgeon Mason Fenwick has the skills to perform the delicate operation to remove the tumor that threatens her with permanent blindness. But the brilliant doctor left medicine after a tragedy he could not prevent, and now he is...
She has to choose between her secret and a chance at love
Teacher Jeannetta Rollins is about to lose something infinitely precious her eyesight. Only surgeon Mason Fenwick has the skills to perform the delicate operation to remove the tumor that threatens her with permanent blindness. But the brilliant doctor left medicine after a tragedy he could not prevent, and now he is refusing to take her case. But Jeannetta is nothing if not persistent .
They meet on an unusual journey—a trip around the world. Mason admires Jeannetta, a woman who would risk everything to save her ability to see. But now Mason's emotions are on the line. The closer he gets to the proud, breathtaking beauty, the more he wants her and he wants her to be whole again. Now her happiness—and their future—are in his hands. All he has to do is trust himself and trust his heart.
Alone in her little white-frame house, located in a picturesque valley in Pilgrim, New York, Jeannetta Rollins sat at her desk holding the telephone. With her lips agape and her eyes rounded with disbelief, she stared at the grains of sand that filtered slowly downward through her late father's hourglass, signaling the passage of time. It couldn't be. The great oak that she loved to watch from her window, no matter the season, the snow-covered garden and the brilliant blue sky blurred into nothing as she savored the incredible words. Her tests revealed the need for delicate brain surgery that most neurosurgeons hesitated to undertake. Without it, the prognosis for her sight was poor, and the longer she waited for treatment, the slimmer the likelihood that she'd be as good as new.
"I've checked with the surgeons to whom I normally refer patients, and none of them wants this job," Dr. Farmer said. "A Dr. Fenwick has had spectacular results with the surgery you need but, for personal reasons, he's terminated his practice and operates a travel business."
She hung up and looked around; within ten minutes, the world had become a different place. But she wouldn't give up. Surely that doctor would take her case if he knew about her. How could he not help her? She called her doctor back.
"Dr. Farmer, couldn't you talk with this Dr. Fenwick and ask him to take my case? Maybe if he knows that I'm young, that I'm a writer and that my livelihood depends on my eyes, he'll relent and perform the operation."
"Alright, Jeannetta, I'll try my best, but it's been a couple of years since he operated, and I'm sure a lot of people have wanted him to treat them. So don't hold out too much hope." Within the hour, she answered her doctor's call.
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, my dear, but he flatly refused, saying that he's no longer a doctor. I begged him, but to no avail. I'm sorry, indeed."
Jeannetta looked at the pages of her novel and thought of the deadline for its submission five months hence. She'd have to slave over it night and day to complete it on time. She'd have to She sent the hourglass crashing against the door. She'd done nothing to deserve what she knew awaited her. But she was more subdued after reflecting on the uselessness of anger and vowed to find that doctor and convince him to help her. Calmer now, she got up and went to the kitchen for a glass of cranberry juice and sipped a little. Maybe the radiologist had read the test improperly. She ought to get another specialist.
She went out in the back garden and gazed at the snow-covered mountains rising in the distance and the maze of green pines that stood in proud contrast to the glistening white snow, a scene of which she never tired. She put food in the birdhouses, talked to the blue jay that ate from her hand, threw peanuts to the lone squirrel who came to greet her and breathed deeply of the crisp, late-winter air. Smoke curled high several blocks down the street, and she knew that Laura prepared to roast a turkey or a fresh ham on the outdoor rotis-serie for her dinner guest. She'd have to tell Laura.
Her sister operated Rollins Hideaway, a ski lodge that had twelve guest rooms and two apartments and which they had inherited from their deceased parents. Jessie and Matthew Rollins had left the South shortly after their marriage, unwilling to raise a family in a climate of segregation, and had invested their savings in the ski lodge. The profitable venture had enabled them to raise their children comfortably and to send Jeannetta to college. Laura hadn't wanted to study beyond high school, so they had given her three-quarters interest in the lodge.
The odor of roasting pork perfumed the air as Jeannetta neared the lodge. She loved the smell of food cooking on a chilly day; it was as though you'd been invited to feel at home. She walked around the back, where her older sister poked at the hot coals.
"I hadn't expected you so early," Laura told her, reaching up to dust a kiss on Jeannetta's cheek. At thirty-five, Laura was older than Jeannetta by six years, a difference that had cast her in a protective relationship with her younger sister. "Come on inside. I saved you some apple cobbler."
Jeannetta had to force a smile; if she didn't show enthusiasm for apple cobbler, Laura would immediately become suspicious. She sat in her usual place at the kitchen table and picked at the cobbler.
"What's the matter?" Laura asked her. There was no use trying to postpone the inevitable, so she summarized the doctor's report. Laura groped for the back of a chair, nearly falling to the floor as she did so. She sat down, stared blankly, as would a catatonic and began to shake her head in mute denial. Jeannetta rounded the table and knelt to comfort her sister. She knew that, although their relationship had at times been troubled, they loved each other and could depend upon each other no matter what happened.
"What will you do?" Laura asked when she was able to control her near-hysteria.
"I'm going to find that doctor, get on my knees if necessary and convince him to help me. Dr. Farmer wouldn't tell me where he is, because he doesn't want my hopes raised. He considers Fenwick's 'no' as final, but I don't."
"Suppose he won't help you?"
Jeannetta whirled around, unwilling to entertain that possibility.
"He will. I won't take no for an answer. I'll remind him that he took that Hippocratic oath and that he'll have to answer to God if he has the skill to cure me and refuses to do it. He'll do it, or I'll be on his conscience for the rest of his life. I'll make certain that he doesn't forget me." She rose and had to grope for a chair, exhausted. "If he won't help me, I won't stop living—I'll learn how to live without that surgery. I won't be anybody's or anything's victim."
Laura looked at her as though seeing her for the first time. "I always thought you were fragile, but you aren't, are you?"
"No, I'm not, but you wanted to take care of me, so I let you."
"You'll find him. Something tells me that nothing will stop you. How are you going to convince him?"
"I don't know, but I will. Could you give me a pen and some paper?" She ignored Laura's obvious confusion—opening first one drawer and then another, as if she were lost in her own kitchen.
"You're going to write him?" Laura asked, a look of incredulity masking her face.
"I don't know where he is, but I know what he's supposed to be doing. I just hope he isn't headed for skid row and that his hands are steady." The apple cobbler suddenly had appeal, and she bit into a forkful of it, savored the cinnamon-flavored tart and ate some more. "I'm going down to New York City tomorrow," she went on, dismissing her sister's expression of amazement, "and while I'm there I'm going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I'm writing down a list of the paintings I want to see."
"Jeanny, for the Lord's sake, don't be morbid."
Jeannetta shrugged her left shoulder. "Morbid? Don't be dramatic, Laura, life's full of battles. You change what you can. The rest, you learn to live with. And I'm going to teach myself to come to terms with this, with or without Fenwick."
"I felt better when you swore you'd get him to help you. Now, you're."
Jeannetta interrupted to put Laura's mind at ease. "Don't worry. I'll find him."
She promised herself that she wouldn't be disappointed if the first clues led nowhere. From the hospital at which he'd practiced, she learned that he'd given a post-office box as his forwarding address. After several days, she located a Fenwick Travel Agency in New York City and wrote for brochures.
"What are you planning to do with those?" Laura, a skeptic, queried.
"Learn all I can about him."
"Are you sure it's him?"
Jeannetta had had years in which to accustom herself to her sister's tendency to mistrust everything and everybody. "That's what I'm trying to find out." A smile moved over her smooth, ebony skin. The man guided a special round-the-world tour, a two-month venture with twenty personally selected individuals.
"You can't do that," Laura objected, when Jeannetta mentioned it. "That must cost a fortune."
Jeannetta pooh-poohed Laura's concern. "If I succeed, it will be more than worth the cost." She telephoned the agency.
"Is this the Mason Fenwick personally guided tour?"
"It is, indeed," a friendly voice replied. "Would you like to speak with Mr. Fenwick?" Mr. Fenwick, indeed!
"Yes, please," she replied, quickly remembering her goal.
"Mason Fenwick speaking. How may I help you?" She'd made contact. She knew where he was. But her elation was temporary; tiny hot pinions fluttered through her, crowding her throat, churning in her belly. His low, dusty and mellifluous voice disarmed her, robbed her of the aplomb so natural to her and left her speechless. "Fenwick speaking," he repeated patiently. Thinking fast, nervous and bewildered by her reaction to him, she asked for more details about the African portion of his tour.
"Any special reason why you're interested in that part of the tour?"
Though annoyed with herself, she couldn't still the dancing organ in her chest, nor the trembling of her fingers.
"I've never been there," she managed in a small girl's voice.
"Then you'll enjoy the countries we visit," he assured her and added, "I usually have a fascinating group, too. Most parts of the country, and different races and religions, are represented." His chuckle surprised her. "On every tour, at least one couple meets and later gets married." She tried without success to resist his seductive voice, and found herself imagining what he looked like.
"I hope you aren't too far from New York," she heard him say. "I insist on interviewing all prospective tour members in person. Two months is a long time to spend with nineteen incompatible people. Let my secretary know whether you're interested." He told her goodbye, and she heard the secretary's cheerful voice again. They agreed upon a date and time for the interview, and Jeannetta hung up, finally able to release a long sigh.
"How do you know you're doing the right thing?" Laura wanted to know. "That man could be a charlatan and, from the looks of you when you were talking to him, he probably is. Anybody would've thought that was the first man you ever said a word to." She sat down, reached over and patted her sister's hand. "I'm not as smart as you, but I always had mother's wit. It doesn't make sense to take your savings and go chasing around the world with a bunch of strangers when you may need every penny."
"I know you love me, Laura, but I have to do this. I'll take every precaution I can, but I'm going to do it." Laura had never been easily placated when she set her mind on something, so Jeannetta let her have her say. Then she told her, "I'll hire a private investigator for a report on him. If it's negative, I'll ditch the idea. Okay?" Laura nodded.
Jeannetta contacted one the next morning and couldn't shake the feeling of guilt when the investigator assured her that he'd "get everything on him down to how many teeth he's had pulled."
Mason Fenwick dropped the receiver into its cradle, leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He sensed something strange about that telephone call. The woman had barely said a word and the few she'd uttered had been with what appeared to be an infantile, almost frightened voice. After musing over it for a few minutes, he dismissed his concern; as usual, he'd decide after the interview. The ringing phone annoyed him; he needed to get some work done.
"Miss Goins on three."
He wished Betty Goins wouldn't interrupt him during office hours. "Hello, Betty. I'm sorry. I meant it when I said we couldn't continue this this farce. How can you be satisfied with this vacuous relationship? I deserve better, and so do you, and I want to be free to look for what I need and to go after it when I find it. No, I won't change my mind. I can't. In spite of the intimacy, we've never been more than friends; let's remain friends. I won't call you again. Goodbye."
Thank God she'd had too much pride to plead. He wanted more for his life than he could ever have with her. His fingers brushed the keys that lived in his right pants pocket, the keys to his late-father's house. The keys to the only place that had ever been home. When he put medicine behind him, Betty had lost interest in a future with him, told him that she wanted a professional man. Travel agents—black or white—were a dime a dozen, she had said. At the outset, she'd sworn what they had was enough, that she would teach him to care for her. But in his mind, she couldn't do that because she hadn't loved him, hadn't cared, and he had suffered for the lack of it. She had wanted a doctor, a man who'd give her the social status she craved. But he needed a woman's love, a family of his own and a door in which to put a lock that would yield to the key in his pocket. He signed three letters, took them to his secretary, walked back into his office and closed the door. Freedom: how good it felt! He couldn't help jumping high, clicking his feet together in the manner of a dancer and smiling broadly before sitting down to work.
Posted June 26, 2013
I usually enjoy this author's work, but I am sorry to say this book was an exception. It was unnecessarily long and almost half of the book was spent on description worthy of a travel guide. While the "travel" portions of the book were nice it did nothing to improve the purpose of this book as a romance novel. If I hadn't bought this as an ebook I probably would have returned it.
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Posted June 20, 2013
Posted March 27, 2013