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Red Stag is a tantalizing coming of age love story set against the backdrop of a lush estate in Normandy, France. Nineteen-year-old Vincent, the son of the Countess's maid (and whose childhood was one of ambiguous privilege) has just returned from his last year at boarding school to spend the summer on the Count's estate, where his uncle is gamekeeper and where Vincent himself was raised. Shortly after his return, his uncle is discovered brutally murdered and Vincent vows revenge. Meanwhile, the village is in a state of agitation, anticipating the opening day of the ritualized hunt, with hounds and horses, for the royal red stag. In the midst of it all, Nicole, the count's daughter, returns to the estate from America. As the search for the murderer's identity intensifies and the stag hunt approaches, Nicole and Vincent find themselves inexorably drawn together. The secrets revealed leave no one innocent, exposing the potential of extremes—from devout loyalty to bitter cruelty—within the human heart. Atmospheric and exotic, Red Stag is textured by the wildlife and the rivers and woods of Normandy. It is beautifully written, near-cinematic in its clarity, suspenseful, and utterly unforgettable.
Excerpt from pg. 109:
He looked at her and remembered that once she had been recognized as the fastest chicken-plucker in the valley. As a boy he had watched her hang fowl, four at a time, by their feet from a rafter in the stable and, one by one, cut out their tongues with a pair of scissors, bleeding them into a trough, the blood to be mixed later with gruel for the pigs. With fingers flying as fast as knitting needles, Mèmè had started at the legs and worked downward, turning the room into a whirlwind of feathers.
She used the same method to bleed and pluck ducks and geese. But rabbits were handled differently. Before skinning them she bled them by carving one eye from its socket with a sharpened spoon, saving the blood to thicken her soups and sauces.
Mèmè picked up an eclair off the plate, her fingers almost as wide as the pastry, and pushed it, end first, into her mouth. The expression of pleasure on her face momentarily softened the lines of pain etched there by time, the loss of a daugther, and now the loss of her only son. She looked at Vincent and smiled, her mouth a toothless hole. As she sat staring absentmindedly out the window she asked Vincent to help her dress Serge for church. She wanted her boy to look his best. The tears that fell from her eyes ran down a dozen wrinkled paths to the corners of her mouth and slipped over her chin.
Excerpted from Red Stag by Guy de la Valdene Copyright © 2011 by Guy de la Valdene. Excerpted by permission.
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