Family Secretsby Judith Henry Wall
After their father's death, sisters Vanessa, Ellie, and Georgiana are stunned to learn a well-kept family secret. A yellowed letter tucked away in a family Bible reveals that the woman who gave birth to their late father had not died when he was born, as they had always believed. Their paternal grandmother gave up her son shortly after his birth, leaving this note with instructions to never reveal her name or background to him. The letter is signed, simply, Hattie.
The sisters are each at a turning point -- Vanessa is feeling stifled in a stale marriage and career; Ellie is perpetually single but desperately wants marriage and motherhood; and baby sister Georgiana is a successful model but longs to do something more serious with her life. Seizing upon the idea of finding their long-lost grandmother, the women set out on a trip to Montana, where they hope not only to find their father's birth mother but also to rekindle their bonds of sisterhood and possibly even find their true selves.
But they have no idea of the consequences of their quest. If the sisters find Hattie and live to tell their story, everything Hattie has worked and dreamed for will be destroyed. Will she allow the sisters to uncover the family secret and escape alive?
- Simon & Schuster
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Read an Excerpt
Eagles Nest, Colorado
As was her custom, Myrna had deliberately kept her visitor waiting for half an hour a practice that established hierarchy. And the visitor would have had plenty of time to admire and be intimidated by her office with its sleek décor and the view from a spacious deck that jutted out over a veritable abyss and took one's breath away.
The man was on the deck when she entered the room, his hands on the railing, the wind lifting his longish hair as he took in the breathtaking view of Colorado's Elkhead Mountains. She watched him for a time, imagining the firm, youthful body beneath the well-tailored sport coat, and found herself regretting the vast difference in their ages. Not that she would have tried to seduce him, but a little sexual tension was to a business meeting what seasoning was to food; it made the experience more pleasant.
Of course, there had been a time in her life when a pleasant business encounter sometimes led to other things. It had been years, however, since she'd had a man in her arms and life, and probably she never would again. She'd always assumed that a time would arrive when she stopped having sexual thoughts, but they still came unbidden. In the night, they came. Or sometimes in the presence of an appealing man.
She cleared away such thoughts with a shake of her head and crossed the room to the open French doors. "Mr. Farris?"
He turned and smiled. His teeth were white and perfect. "You have the most incredible home I have ever seen," he said.
She accepted his compliment with a nod, then headed toward her desk with Mr. Farris following. She was still tall and erect and carried herself in a manner that belied her age, but she knew that he saw her as a person made all but genderless by advancing years.
Even if he were willing, she had too much pride.
Once they both were seated on their respective sides of her large, highly polished, and absolutely bare desk, he handed her a thick manila folder.
She placed it in front of her and folded her hands on top of it. "Tell me what's inside."
"Basically I discovered nothing about any family member that would cause insurmountable problems in your son's upcoming gubernatorial campaign," he said with his elbows resting on the arms of his chair, his body leaning slightly forward. "Other than Randall's DUIs, your children and their spouses and your grandchildren have been extremely circumspect in conducting their personal lives."
He waited for her to comment. When she remained silent, he said, "Your son has already acknowledged his DUIs in previous campaigns, and they seem to have been written off by voters as youthful indiscretions. His long-standing second marriage to the daughter of a noted architect is certainly in his favor. And Randall has an impressive military record, has been a reasonably effective congressman during his three terms, and is popular with the media."
Again he paused. When she didn't comment, he drew in his breath and slowly let it out.
She suppressed the smile that was playing with her lips. He was either feeling intimidation or frustration. Or both. Poor baby.
"As for your own background," he said with a bit of a stammer, "it is a bit more problematic. While it's not unheard of for birth records to be destroyed in courthouse fires and for an individual to apply for and receive a new birth certificate based on affidavits from relatives, baptismal and school records, and the like, the only documentation provided when you applied for a new birth certificate was an affidavit signed by two 'cousins' who have no paper trail at all, which could make one wonder if these two individuals ever existed."
He squared his shoulders as though expecting her to refute his statement. When she did not, he continued, "And this most likely fraudulent birth certificate is the only sort of documentation I was able to find on you until your second marriage. In fact, the first two decades of your life are devoid of any verifiable information. This absence of a paper trail is unusual at best, and if I were the suspicious sort, I would wonder if you hadn't created a new identity for yourself in young adulthood. According to the brief bio used by your company, you came from a mining family and were raised in Montana, but it would help if I knew something about your parents and your childhood."
"That was a very difficult time in my life," she said, "and I prefer not to make it public."
He regarded her, his head tilted to one side, as though he was trying to decide how insistent he should be. "Ordinarily," he said, "the media might not take much interest in the widowed mother of a potential candidate for high office. Since you are not the usual candidate's mother, however, there will likely be some snooping. Actually I predict there will be a great deal of snooping."
"It's your job to see that such 'snooping' goes no place," she said.
"Yes, of course." He leaned forward and placed his hands on the desk. "As a diversionary tactic, I suggest we clandestinely hire someone to write an 'unauthorized' biography on your life that will put forth a version of your difficult childhood and young adulthood that you can live with. The book will highlight your courage in overcoming adversity, your dedication to your family, your contributions to the mining industry, your generous support of numerous worthy philanthropies, and your incredible success in building one of the nation's largest family-owned companies from the ground up. However, the biography should also include a few salacious and apparently embarrassing details that in reality only serve to make you more interesting and colorful and make the book more believable but will cause no real damage to you or your family's reputation. You will make a public show of trying unsuccessfully, of course to stop publication of the book, which guarantees that it will be widely read and be used as a seemingly valid source of information for journalists."
She wanted to tell him no. Up to this point, she had led an exceedingly private life. But ironically the last decades of her life were a lead-up to one very public moment that would be played out in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. The governor's chair was but a stepping-stone to the presidency.
"The book is an intriguing idea," she said. "I will read your report and get back to you."
Copyright © 2007 by Judith Henry Wall, Inc.
Meet the Author
Judith Henry Wall is the author of several previous novels, including The Girlfriends Club, My Mother's Daughter, If Love Were All, Blood Sisters, and Love and Duty. She lives in Norman, Oklahoma.
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Read the book in one day...I couldn't put it down.
On her sixtieth birthday, Widow Penelope informs her three daughters that she moving to France to be with a man Jean Claude none of them met. Additionally they learn that their paternal grandmother did not die in childbirth as they were told.---------------- After the first earthquake shocks pass, the three siblings react differently to the revelations. Mother of two Vanessa, who has marital troubles and hates her job and suburban lifestyle, cannot cope with her mom running off with some interloper. This leads to a family feud with her sisters, associate editor of Stiletto magazine Ellie and hand and foot supermodel Georgiana. Penelope wants her daughters happy so she offers to pay for a retreat. The trio takes her up on her offer, but decides to go to Montana to learn what they can about their grandmother Hattie, whom they assumed died in childbirth but recently found proof that she gave her son (their father) away. Instead Hattie is alive and so is another offspring, the uncle of the three sisters, who is running for governor Hattie needs the story of the one she gave away to her Aunt Vera remain concealed.------------------ This family drama starts off with a simple premise of the adult daughters battling over their widow mother¿s plans to remarry and relocate, but effortlessly converts into three women in danger. The story line picks up the pace once the siblings choose to ¿vacation¿ in Montana in order to meet their apteral grandmother and never slows down until the final confrontation inside a cave. Although the ending seems simply off kilter, fans will appreciate the three sisters meeting ¿grandmommy¿ dearest.-------------- Harriet Klausner