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A sweeping love story set in a lavish seaside mansion in 1901 Rhode Island.
Melinda Hollister is a society lady, intent on finding a rich husband before her peers discover her quickly diminishing wealth. Nick Bryson is all business, focused on making a name for himself in his father's teamship line. Despite the marriage of their siblings, they rarely gave each other a second glanceùuntil a tragic accident results in Melinda and Nick being ...
A sweeping love story set in a lavish seaside mansion in 1901 Rhode Island.
Melinda Hollister is a society lady, intent on finding a rich husband before her peers discover her quickly diminishing wealth. Nick Bryson is all business, focused on making a name for himself in his father's teamship line. Despite the marriage of their siblings, they rarely gave each other a second glanceùuntil a tragic accident results in Melinda and Nick being appointed as co-guardians of their three-year-old niece Nell.
In order to get better acquainted with Nell and one another, Melinda and Nick agree to spend the summer in their own private quarters of the Bryson family vacation home, Summerhill. As their love for Nell grows, so does their attraction to each other. And for the first time in their lives, they sense that God has a bigger plan in motion.
Yet old habits die hard and Melinda and Nick each find it difficult to resist the pull of their former worlds.
When the unthinkable happens, they find themselves faced with seemingly impossible choices and a new understanding of God's true love.
Melinda Hollister burst through the front doorway into the foyer of her New York mansion. "Do be careful with those packages," she cautioned her maid. Cecile stumbled right behind, laden with boxes and parcels precariously balanced and piled almost as high as her head. Before an oval hatbox thudded to the marble floor, Mr. Harders, the butler, grabbed it and placed it carefully at the foot of the wide stone staircase.
"Thank you so much. There's a splendid porcelain figurine in that box, so I'm most grateful you caught it in time." Melinda nodded toward the middle-aged servant. "If you'd bring all these things to my sitting room, Cecile can take over from there."
As Melinda unpinned her straw hat trimmed with silk violets and matching tulle, the double doors to the drawing room opened wide and her mother gracefully stepped across the threshold. Still in black crepe, Mrs. Hollister glided across the waxed floor, her face appropriately solemn. A twinge of conscience unsettled Melinda. Perhaps she should have continued wearing black a few weeks longer, though it wasn't necessary to extend mourning for a deceased sister beyond the sixth month. Melinda liked feeling young and alive and nonfunereal once again.
Her mother's eyebrows knit in a frown when she glanced at the dozen boxes and packages on their way upstairs. "Will you join me for tea, my dear?"
Melinda nodded. "Of course, Mama. I'll tell you all about my shopping trip. Wait until you see the angel figurine I bought and the lovely hats. They're the latest fashion directly from—"
"I'm sure they are," Mama interrupted, gesturing forward.
Melinda frowned and followed the older woman into the drawing room. The day's splendid purchases had lifted her spirits. But she regretted her insensitivity. Perhaps Mama was not yet ready to rise from her grief—Melinda understood that too.
Mama rang for their refreshments before she settled onto the stiff settee covered in jade green brocade. It was several shades lighter than the curtains that flanked the tall, multipaned and partially raised windows. Golden sunlight flooded the spacious room along with a warm, summer breeze. Melinda dropped down beside her mother, happy to sit after hours of scouring her favorite shops. She wished she could kick off her new boots that pinched her feet.
After the tea and small cakes arrived, Mama poured from a silver pot and handed her daughter a delicate china cup. Melinda declined any sweets, afraid her tight corset might split open.
"I'm so anxious to show little Nell the beautiful dress and bonnet I found for her. She'll look adorable." Melinda loved to pick out frilly clothing for her niece. Who cared how impractical ruffles and lace might be for a youngster?
Mama nodded without her usual enthusiasm. She sipped the steaming tea and then placed her cup on the marble-topped table. "We must talk."
Melinda laughed. "Of course. That's why I'm here." She really ought to control her effervescence; Mama seemed even more distressed than usual.
"Mr. Morton, my attorney, paid me a visit this afternoon." Mama took a deep, unsteady breath. "He gave me some disturbing news." She paused and her lower lip quivered. For the first time Melinda noticed the lines around her mother's perfectly shaped lips seemed deep. "He insists we economize immediately."
Melinda let her teacup clatter to the saucer. No one she knew economized, unless ... She swallowed hard. "Are you quite certain that Mr. Morton used that term? Or was he merely expressing some caution?"
"No, Melinda," Mama said, staring over at her. "He was most clear."
Agitated, Melinda rose to her feet and a few drops of tea splashed on her pearl gray walking suit. She quickly set her cup on the table. "But, Mama, that doesn't sound right. Papa left us a fortune when he passed."
"That was five years ago. We've spent most of it."
"Surely not. Mr. Morton must be mistaken. Or perhaps you misunderstood."
But Mama's silent response told her she disagreed.
Melinda paced in front of the mantle, trying hard to think of a solution, in case one was truly necessary. But disjointed thoughts slammed into the corners of her mind and broke apart. "There must be something else we can do instead of, of ... economizing. Did he offer any other suggestions?"
"Yes, a few. He said we must sell this mansion and move into a smaller home. And let most of the servants go. We need to sell all but one of the carriages."
"Oh my. Oh my! We really are poor." Suddenly drained of energy, Melinda dropped onto the settee again.
"Yes, I'm afraid so, but we must not let anyone know." Mama took a bite of cake and then continued. "This is all my fault. Mr. Morton warned me your father left less money than we expected. And he strongly encouraged me to invest what we had in safe stocks and bonds. But I chose to spend it instead."
Melinda felt nausea roil her stomach. "If I'd known, I'd have been more careful with our money."
"If we hadn't bought our costumes from Paris and kept up appearances," Mama said, "society would've dropped us long ago. I couldn't allow that to happen."
Melinda nodded. "There's truth to that." Their fall would've come a few years earlier and ruined her chances for a good marriage. Melinda drew out a sigh. "I suppose I must return most of my purchases, except for Nell's new frock. I can't bear to send it back."
"I don't suppose one child's dress would hurt. But starting now we must be frugal."
Melinda nodded. She'd keep the cunning hat, but return the exquisite figurine. Since she had no other choice, she'd comply. And without complaint. Poor Mama didn't need a whiny daughter to add to her troubles.
"Do you think I should sell my blue diamond necklace for some extra money?" Melinda held her breath, hoping her mother would discourage her from taking such a drastic step.
"No, you're not to sell your jewelry. You'll need to wear all of it this summer."
Melinda smiled with relief. "Thank you, Mama."
They sat silently for several seconds. The answer to their problem hovered in the air between them, sparking like an electric current. "I assume I must marry someone rich," Melinda murmured, "without delay."
Then her mother could buy a modest, less fashionable residence and not lose her social status. She could claim their Fifth Avenue mansion was much too large for just one person and most would accept her reasoning without too many questions. Neither one wanted their friends to gossip. Or pity them. Or even worse, ignore them.
Melinda said, "I don't object to marriage in principle. But I'm not quite ready for such an important step."
"You're twenty-three, my dear." Her mother spoke softly. "You're not a debutante any longer. I've never pressed you to settle down because you so enjoyed all the dances and parties. But you must accept your duty to marry well."
Melinda's wince quickly vanished. "I understand. So if the Lord sees fit, I shall find a husband." She'd hoped for a few more years of fun and frivolity, but perhaps she'd wished for too much now that she was Nell's coguardian. Melinda cocked her head. "I don't expect we can afford to summer in Bar Harbor or the Berkshires. Certainly not Newport. They'd be the best resorts to find a spouse."
Mama sighed. "I'm afraid they're all too expensive."
"Then I must visit a friend."
A hot and humid summer in New York City held no appeal for anyone with even a little money, while a season spent at a resort sounded delightful. She'd hoped for an invitation from one of her friends, but so far none had come. Everyone, no doubt, thought she'd choose to mourn awhile longer. Or perhaps "Out of sight, out of mind" and all that. "I shall write Louisa Davenport and Clarice Carter today and pray they'll send an invitation."
"Perhaps that won't be necessary." Mama drew a letter out of a hidden pocket and handed it to Melinda. "The return address says Summerhill, Newport, Rhode Island. I believe that's where Nicholas Bryson is staying with his sister and brother-in-law."
Melinda sucked in her breath. They'd been awaiting word from Nick for weeks now—half hoping he'd forgotten about Nell, half wishing they could just get it over with. The pain of letting the little girl go would be horrifying; anticipating it coming any day was excruciating. Without waiting for a letter opener, Melinda tore open the envelope with her finger. "It's from Florrie Van Tassel."
Flora Bryson Van Tassel was Nick's sister, who had to be about thirty-five but appeared ten years older. Melinda scanned the page of heavy cream stationery and squinted at the spidery writing. "It's an invitation. Her father has rented a cottage for the season. They're inviting Nell and me to Summerhill for July and August. Of course you're welcome as well, Mama, but she says she understands if you're still in mourning and unable to accept. She also mentions how much she misses Nell."
"You must go. This is the best news we've had in ages." Mama smiled faintly but with satisfaction. "Not only do you get a few more precious weeks with Nell, but you'll also be in the summer capitol of the nation, a prize to be eagerly accepted. At once."
Melinda nodded as she returned the letter to its envelope. "I suppose it's excellent news, but I'm not anxious to see Nick again. I doubt he'll be thrilled to see me either." She sighed. "Well, Nell and I shall enjoy our summer by the sea regardless of whether Nick Bryson wants me there or not. I've been invited and I shall gladly go." She flicked a smile, but she wasn't anywhere near as optimistic as she sounded.
"Good, then that's settled. Mr. Morton insists we put the house up for sale by September at the latest. Then I'm afraid everyone will know of our reduced circumstances. And your chances of finding a suitable husband will diminish considerably."
Melinda nodded. Her opportunities would trickle away by Thanksgiving and vanish by Christmas.
Mama tipped her head and pursed her lips. "This might sound peculiar, but why not set out to change Nicholas's mind about you? I know you don't particularly like him, but he's a reliable man, hardworking and well set financially. Perhaps you two simply got off on the wrong foot and with a turn—"
Melinda waved her hand in dismissal. "My goodness, Mama. Nick may have all the qualities of a good, Christian husband, but he's dreadfully serious. Life is difficult enough without marrying a man with a gloomy attitude. I want someone who's lighthearted and makes me laugh." Not that a simple "turn" in their relationship would make him like her. She didn't know why, but she suspected he thought her too superficial.
Ever since she'd met him at the tender age of thirteen, she'd found him captivatingly handsome, but too reserved, distant, and sometimes brusque. She'd often tried to charm him, but to no avail. Even when she'd blossomed into young womanhood, he'd never noticed. He was one of the few gentlemen who ignored her.
Mama nodded. "I'll admit he's somber at times, but don't disregard him. He'll wear well and that's important in a marriage."
Melinda shrugged. "I'm certain I'll meet a man who'll suit me far better than Nick." She rose. "If you'll excuse me, I'll go upstairs and show Nell the dress I bought her. And then I shall write to Florrie."
As she climbed the stairs to the second floor, her heart thudded with a fast and uncomfortable beat. Mama's news upset her far more than she wanted to admit. She clearly recalled how dreadful life had become when Papa lost his fortune for a short time right around her fourteenth birthday. Everyone they knew stopped calling and extending invitations. The Hollisters found themselves cut off from society. Hardly anyone at Miss Gibbons Female Academy spoke to her anymore.
The same thing would happen all over again. Only this time, no one but her future husband could rescue Mama and her from the horror of poverty and social obscurity. Rivulets of sweat snaked down her back.
If only she had someone to depend upon. And she wouldn't settle for someone she couldn't charm. She needed a man who loved her with a grand passion and a devoted heart. Two months wasn't very long to find him, but with the Lord's help all would be well. It had to be.
Once upstairs in her bedroom she tossed her reticule, parasol, and hat on her bed. Cecile arrived to unpack the purchases.
"I've changed my mind. Don't open the boxes from Tiffany's or from Schuyler's. Just return them, please." Melinda bit her lip hard to distract herself. How could she be so attached to material possessions? These were trinkets she didn't need, a pretty porcelain piece and an exquisite triple-strand choker of pearls with a purple amethyst in the center. A tear escaped and she brushed it away with the back of her hand.
Oh, Lord, please forgive me for loving beautiful things. I should set my mind upon You, not on my earthly treasures. But I must admit it is hard for me ...
She sighed and then searched for Nell's new dress made of thin, summery lawn. She fingered the delicate lace. From this point on she'd have to give up these extravagances for herself and even for Nell. But she wouldn't slip into the doldrums over her sudden change in circumstances.
Life was too short to waste it wallowing in self-pity. Melinda lifted her chin and then headed for the nursery with the frock and a new bisque doll tucked under her arm. She refused to send back this delightful gift for Nell either.
Melinda found her niece in the nursery—a sunny room overlooking Central Park—rocking back and forth on her wooden horse. Her nanny gathered toys and tossed them in a chest. As soon as Nell spotted Melinda coming through the doorway, she jumped off the rocking horse and ran into her arms.
Melinda bent down and gave her a big hug. "I've just returned from shopping and I have something new and pretty for you to wear."
"What is it?" Nell lifted the cover of the box and peeked inside.
"It's a lovely dress with your favorite color ribbons." Melinda retrieved the garment before Nell dragged it over the carpet. Holding it up, she saw Nell smile.
"Purple! I love purple!"
"That's one reason I bought it. And I have one more gift, so close your eyes."
Nell squeezed her fingers over her eyes, then opened them a little. "What is it?"
Melinda chuckled. "No fair; you're peeking."
As Nell's fingers quickly closed the gap, Melinda lifted the doll from its box. "You may look now."
Nell's eyes widened. "A dolly! Thank you." She threw her arms around Nell's legs. "I love you."
"I love you too, sweetheart. Look, she has blond hair and blue eyes just like you."
Nell patted the doll's hair. "I think I'll name her Melinda."
Excerpted from Love by the Book by Cara Lynn James Copyright © 2011 by Carolyn James Slaughter. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted June 25, 2011
I Also Recommend:
Cara Lynn James in her new book, "Love By The Book" Book Three in her Ladies Of Summerhill series published by Thomas Nelson takes us to 1902 Newport, Rhode Island.
The sister of Melinda Hollister married the brother of Nick Bryson and this union produced a niece for the siblings named Nell. Everything is fine until, in an accident, both parents die leaving the guardianship of Nell to Melinda and Nick. This would not be so bad except Melinda and Nick hardly pay attention to each other now they are going to raise their niece between them. In an effort for all three to get to know one another Nick suggests that they spend the summer at Summerhill.
"Love By The Book" is a delightful read full of atmosphere and history . Get ready for excitement as Melinda and Nick start to learn how to deal with each other, with Nell and with tragedy. This book is all about family and what it means to be a family. It is about trusting God and learning to lean on Him for His guidance and direction. Melinda and Nick are so real Ms James makes us root for their romance to blossom. Ms. James knows how to tell a story that is both interesting and delightful and I recommend it highly.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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Posted August 30, 2014
Posted August 5, 2013
I devoured this book. I would have read it faster if I wasn't reading another book at the same time. Melinda is a very relatable character. She loves material goods. She loves pretty things. Some would consider her selfish and shallow, but deep down, she has a good heart. She is forced to examine her life when her wealth is stripped from her, and she doesn't like what she sees. Following her transformation from shallow to a character with love, kindness, and depth is satisfying and I found it quite realistic. Nick is also a relatable character in that he is trying his hardest to please his earthy father. Relying on himself, however, he finds that he falls quite short. Melinda teaches him to start relying on the Lord for everything, not just when he needs help. Their love story is sweet.
I was surprised, however, at the content of this book. While it is a clean romance book, there was a lot of illusion to marital relations that you don't normally find in these types of books. It did not deter from the story, as the moral of it was to learn to love others (including your spouse) as God loves you. It just surprised me. Cara Lynn James did a wonderful job of creating a plot that was believable and weaving in the theme of relying on the Book (being the Bible) and the Lord for everything in your life. It shows the characters struggling to do just that, and I praise Cara Lynn James for that. It's not always easy to live by the book. Human nature is very hard to ignore.
Overall, this book was a very satisfying conclusion to the series. Cara Lynn James does an excellent job of creating characters that you can relate to and plots that aren't overly exaggerated and unbelievable. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from this author in the future!
Posted October 12, 2011
The Ladies of Summerhill series only gets better. Love By The Book is a moving story that is difficult to put down. Cara Lynn James writes with a lovely lyrical style that brings the turn of the century era alive. Not only does she bring the era alive, but she highlights interesting points of history in all three of the series that have been published so far. I can't wait for the next book by this author.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 22, 2012
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Posted July 15, 2011
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