When the world fears you, being Gifted is a curse.
In the cornerstone of the rural south, Brooklyn, Mississippi, no one dares make eye contact with the strange Caibre family. Until the rewards are worth the cost. The townsfolk come, cash in hand, always at night, to pay for services only a Gifted can provide.
No matter the Gifts prevalent in her family, at twenty-one, Tallulah is expected to follow the path laid out for her: marriage, babies, and helping her mama teach the family home school program. She’s resigned to live the quiet life and stay out of trouble…until she meets Logan.
An outsider and all around rebel, Logan doesn’t care about her family’s reputation. Yet after a tragic loss wreaks havoc on the crumbling relationship between the Caibres and the townsfolk, Tallulah must decide if love and freedom are worth risking everything.
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By Em Shotwell
City Owl PressCopyright © 2016 Em Shotwell
All rights reserved.
The old green truck lurched forward as I down shifted.
Please don't die! I silently begged the ornery vehicle.
Three cars in front of us, a tractor crept along slowly, stopping every so often. The snail's pace made driving a stick a real pain in the ass.
The afternoon sun glinted and winked off tin roofs as we lumbered past, while across the street, the magnolia trees that lined the sidewalk stretched their branches skyward in full bloom, showing off like pageant contestants vying for a crown. The sweet, lemony scent of their flowers mingled with the ammonia-like odor from a chicken house that was located out near the highway. The putrid union of the two smells forced me to breathe through my mouth, and then burned my throat, making me cough.
At least it's pretty out. I sighed. We'd gotten stuck behind the tractor shortly after turning onto the main road in town. It had been twenty-five minutes. Twenty-five minutes that normally took about eight minutes.
I tried to peel my sweating thighs from the ripped vinyl seat without popping the clutch. On the bench seat next to me, my younger sister Delia yanked a brushed through her tangled tresses.
"Pawpaw really should get the AC fixed. I can't go anywhere without ending up looking like a wild woman. It's either roll down the windows or sweat to death," she grumbled. "Or in today's case — both." Her words were weighed down by the same slow accent carried by everyone in south Mississippi.
I shook my head, used to Delia complaining about the truck.
Truth was, while most twenty-one year old women would have been embarrassed to drive such a machine, I loved my Pawpaw's old Ford. For years, it had been his work truck. Now, instead of being used to haul crops or gardening equipment, he kept it as an extra vehicle for his grandkids to borrow. One that was bumpy, and needed a little coaxing to start, but hadn't let me down yet. In fact, the truck gave me the only bit of real freedom that I owned.
Whenever I was behind its wheel, I was free to daydream of driving across country, and escaping to a place where I wasn't confined by the expectations of my family and their lists of rules. A place where I could blend in and get a job, or get married. Or even go to a decent college, instead of our puny satellite campus that only offered courses in things like dental assisting and pet grooming. Not that that had stopped me from applying.
The old Ford was my sanctuary, where I could pretend that Brooklyn, Mississippi didn't exist, or at least that I hadn't been raised in a family that was treated as modern day lepers, living outside of a town that prided itself on being the shiny, self-righteous buckle of the Bible belt.
Only, unlike lepers, we weren't hated because we were diseased. Because we weren't. Neither was my family guilty of being Yankee, gay, or Muslim: the three cardinal sins of the Deep South. The folks in our town viewed us as worse.
But on days when I drove fast down the Mississippi back roads with the windows down and my long hair flying crazy, none of that mattered. In those moments, I wasn't Tallulah Caibre, the girl from the "evil" family your Mama told you stories about. In those moments, I was free.
I sighed again and snapped back to reality, as a gray haired lady decked out in pearls and a crimson pant suit, dinged her bell as she zipped by on her bicycle. The yorkie nestled in the bike's basket yipped at me as they sped past.
"Oh this is ridiculous!" Delia said, throwing her hands up. "Can't you just go around them?"
I turned my head and looked at my sister, eyebrows raised. "Yeah. Okay. Why didn't I think of that?"
Delia smirked, and then dunked her hand into the plastic cup of melted ice in the cup holder. Without saying another word, she flicked droplets of water at me from her fingertips. I'm surprised they didn't sizzle as they landed against my skin.
"Jokes on you," I said, "that feels great." I stuck my tongue out at Delia, the same way I'd been doing since we were six and three. She giggled.
Outside, antebellum homes, a hundred years past their prime, with peeling paint and sagging, wrap-around porches, inched by. They mixed with the few small businesses that dotted the main road. The result was an odd mash of old and new. An ancient bank (long closed down) sat next door to the strip mall that was erected in the nineties. There was a Burger Boys Drive In across the street from a boarded-up historic home, whose neglected yard boasted a majestic live oak, dripping with Spanish moss.
The combination of run-down grandeur and flowering trees, next to pitted parking lots and cheaply crafted buildings, gave the impression of an old lady clinging to her youth. No matter how much she fought it, her beauty was determined to fade. Maybe I was just being cynical because a part of me longed to see other places; maybe it was just the heat.
I stared with child-like longing as under the shade of the biggest magnolia, a pot-bellied man set up a snow cone machine, same as he did most summer and spring afternoons. In the fall, he sold boiled peanuts. In the winter, pralines and hot chocolate.
I raised my hand to wave. The goody-man, as he was known to most people, smiled and waved back.
I guess not everyone in our small town hated my family.
The tractor pulled off the main road, and I hit the gas, accelerating to the 30 mile per hour speed limit.
"Finally," Delia said, shoving her comb back in her bright gold purse. She pulled out a compact and frowned as she assessed the damage done to her by the humidity and summer temperatures.
We turned into the parking lot of Sugar's and I tried not to cringe. The sign was hot pink, and the faceless mannequins in the window were decked out in bright colors in whatever pattern and fit happened to be trending at the moment. Each one was gaudier than the one before it. The purses that dangled from their permanently crooked arms practically shouted, Look at me! Look what I can afford!
I had only gone inside one time, and then only stayed long enough to gasp at a price tag while the snotty girl behind the counter gave me the bitch face.
"Lord that purse is so tacky," Delia said, pointing to a royal blue, rhinestone number that was showcased, front and center.
"Don't you have that bag?" I asked.
Delia looked at me like I didn't have two brain cells to rub together.
"Well duh. But that was before I saw that Maureen Purdue carried the same one. Can you imagine? Me and dried-up old Maureen with the same purse? I walked into the truck stop, and she was just standing there behind the counter, with the bag flung up in front of her like it was some kind of trophy. Of course I had to turn right around and go put mine in the car."
"Good grief, Delia. That's kind of mean, don't you think?"
"Like you wouldn't have done the same thing."
"I wouldn't have spent a month's pay on one purse," I said. "Your money would go a lot further if you shopped somewhere else. I swear you keep Sugar's in business."
"Come on, Tully. You know you're just jealous of my sense of style," Delia said, snapping her finger in the air and grinning at me.
"Yeah. You're right. That's it," I laughed.
For Delia, every payday may meant a new purse or outfit, but I was fine with my cut offs and t-shirts, thank you very much.
My sister took one last look in her mirror before sighing and snapping the compact closed.
I managed the hulking truck into a parking spot near the back of the lot and shifted to neutral. Delia shoved open her door and hopped out, landing on the three inch heels of her strappy sandals as easy as if she were wearing running shoes. Not that she would ever be caught dead in running shoes. Or running, for that matter. At 5'8 and naturally slender, my sister didn't break a sweat if she could absolutely help it. That's saying something in the wet heat that is south Mississippi during the summertime, where water springs from your pores like so many tiny geysers if you so much as step out your front door.
"I'll be back in an hour," I reminded her. "Try to be waiting out front or else ... you know ..." I moved my hand up and down, pretending to honk the truck's horn.
"Yeah. I know. Beep, Beep," Delia said, rolling her eyes. "I swear. You like embarrassing me!"
She wasn't wrong.
"I don't know what you're talking about sister dear." I grinned. "But I can tell you, I'm not setting foot back in that store, and I'm also not going to wait around in the parking lot for an hour. Honking the horn just can't be helped."
"Yeah, well. You don't have to enjoy it so much. If we just had cell phones —"
"Not that again," I interrupted.
She knew there was no point in us having cell phones. Daddy wouldn't pay for the service because the only place to get a signal was in town, and as far as he was concerned, the less time we spent here, the better. And I sure wasn't going to pay for one just so I could call Delia to tell her to hurry up.
My sister rolled her eyes. "I'm just saying." She grabbed the door handle and reared back to slam it shut. I couldn't blame her for that; it was the only way to get the door to stay closed.
"Forgetting something?" I called out, before she had the chance.
"Oops. Sorry," she said. She let go of the door and dug some money from her bright, ugly bag.
"Uh-huh," I said. It wasn't the first time Delia had tried to get away without paying.
She slapped a ten into my palm, a little harder than necessary. The deal was, I would give her a ride, but she had to buy my lunch. Ever since her incident, Daddy didn't turn her loose on her own. And I couldn't blame him, even if it did mean I had to play chauffer.
"Thank you ma'am! And remember, one hour. And don't use your discount!" I said, wiggling my fingers.
Delia smiled back at me, fanning herself in a last ditch attempt to save the make-up that had taken her at least an hour to apply.
"Go to hell, sister dear," she said, her words slow and so saccharine that they made my teeth hurt.
Despite her sometimes foul mouth, with creamy skin and huge green eyes, made bigger by a small, puggish nose and cupids-bow mouth, Delia resembled a Disney princess cartoon. One that wore a little too much eyeliner and whose jet-black hair was blown-out and sprayed into perfect beauty-queen submission. She looked so sweet and innocent, that when she told you to go to hell, for a minute you took it as a compliment, as if she was suggesting some kind of exotic vacation. People, at least the very few that didn't have some kind of preconceived notion about us, just wanted to like Delia.
She smiled, cat-like, and slammed the truck closed. Before she turned to walk away, I caught the telltale flash of green in her eyes.
I knew it was silly to worry. It had been years since Delia had gotten into trouble, and been exiled from the local shops. Everything had been made right by phone calls from Mama and promises from Daddy, but I couldn't help it. That sudden spark in her eyes made me feel uneasy. My sister was fearless. She was daring, and carefree. And when she got an idea in her head, you'd have better luck stopping a train than changing her mind.
I waited in the parking space while Delia strode across the lot, her hips moving from side to side, purposefully drawing the attention of anything with a Y chromosome. Two teenage boys stared as she moseyed by, their shared cigarette held between them, forgotten. Delia looked at them over her shoulder, lapping up the attention like a stray puppy.
She was almost to the shop entrance when the door opened and petite, redheaded Shanon Johnston sashayed out. Shanon's older cousin owned Sugar's, and the spoiled seventeen year old hung out at the Boutique during the summer months, which was just one more reason for me to avoid the store. I clasped the stick shift in a white-knuckle death-grip, watching as Shanon stood with her hands on her hips blocking the shop door. As Delia approached, the smart mouthed girl cocked her head to the side and pointed to the two boys in the parking lot. Delia started to laugh, but then Shanon said something that made Delia pause.
For half a second, my sister went rigid, before relaxing back into her practiced 'I don't give two shits what you think, but hey look at me,' stance. Shoulders back. Hips forward. Careless expression. She could have been working the runway on America's Next Top Model.
Anyone else would have missed the momentary chink in Delia's armor, but not me. Shanon's words — whatever they had been — penetrated my sister's steel façade.
Delia stepped closer to Shanon, and placing her hand on the shorter girl's shoulder, she leaned down and looked the redhead in the eye. I shifted from neutral to park, ready to hop from the truck if need be. I held my breath and waited. Not for a fight, but something worse.
Come on Delia. Don't be stupid.
No words passed between them, only a look, the look. Dammit, so much for not being stupid. A sort of glazed look came over Shanon and I could practically see her will turn to mush, leaving her as pliable as clay, ready and wanting nothing more than to please my sister. The happy current of her particular Gift rolled off Delia so strongly I could feel it from where I sat in the truck. I counted it as a not so small blessing that her Charm only worked on those unGifted.
A second later, Shanon pushed the door open and held it for my sister, giggling like a schoolgirl sharing a secret with her favorite playmate. She reached into the pocket of her skirt, pulled out a few dollars, and offered the money to my sister. Delia looked back to where I sat in the truck before shaking her head. Shanon stuck the bills back into her pocket. The hate that had colored her face only a moment before evaporated, replaced by a look of peaceful complacence.
Delia again turned toward the truck smirking, and as she waved me away, her eyes danced and flashed with the telltale sign of magic.
Oh, Delia. At least she hadn't taken the money. That was all we needed, for Delia to be called a thief, again.
My sister had been forgiven last time, but the people of Brooklyn weren't too keen on second chances, at least where my family was concerned. I glanced across the parking lot, but Delia and Shanon were the only ones around. The smoking boys had disappeared around the corner of the shopping center. No one had seen the exchange and Shanon wouldn't be talking.
As I eased the truck out of the parking lot and onto the road that functioned as Brooklyn's main street, a navy and silver police cruiser rolled past me, turning into the lot next door.
I watched in my mirror as the cruiser pulled into a blue lined parking spot reserved for the handicapped, and Chief Rucker stepped out. His belly strained against the buttons of his uniform while he adjusted his belt.
I swallowed back the vinegary taste of dislike that filled my mouth.
Of course, he'd park in a handicapped space. The rules that he lives to enforce don't apply to him.
Pious bastard. He loved nothing more than giving my family a hard time. I thought of my strong-willed sister shopping, and considered going in to get her. But I knew better. Delia would make a scene or give me hell the whole ride home.
I sighed uneasily as I drove away. Delia, for once, just behave.CHAPTER 2
Myrtle's Diner was the only place to eat in Brooklyn that didn't have a drive thru. It was housed on the edge of town in a squat building with a flat roof. The bricks were painted the color of peanut butter, and there was a white rectangle on the side where the previous tenants, the old men of the Brooklyn Masonic Lodge, had painted over the only window in an attempt to keep prying eyes at bay. The building resembled the world's ugliest Lego block. It was a testament to Myrtle's food that her business thrived, despite such a hideous building and busybody owner.
The bell jingled overhead when I walked in.
"Hey there, Tallulah," Myrtle drawled from behind the counter. Her hot pink lips were stretched painfully across her face.
"It's just me, Myrtle."
Her smile eased with the realization that Delia wasn't going to totter in behind me.
"Good. You know that I don't judge your family like some do, but I am just not comfortable around that sister of yours. It's not right what she did to me," Myrtle said, making sure that her voice carried throughout the empty diner.
Excerpted from Blackbird Summer by Em Shotwell. Copyright © 2016 Em Shotwell. Excerpted by permission of City Owl Press.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of a book tour for a fair and honest review and rated it 5 out of 5 Stars and a Recommended Read. A fan of unique or “different” paranormal books, I was thrilled to get a chance to read and review Blackbird Summer by Em Shotwell. A fun look at life, love and family in the Deep South, Blackbird Summer is both the first book in a new series, and the author’s debut release. A strong, quirky and utterly charming leading character, colorful secondary characters, family drama and the different “gifts” held by the different characters kept me glued to the story from start to finish. If you like paranormal books, books dealing with families or anything set in the South…..then this is the book for you! Ms. Shotwell does a wonderful job developing her primary character, Tallulah “Tully” Caibre right from the start. A young member of a “Gifted” family, Tully has spent her whole life being “different” and knowing her family’s unique talents have made them “outcasts” living on the edge of town. Home schooled by her mother and working at the family market stand have kept Tully out of trouble but frustrated by her perspective future – she wants to be able to leave town, go to college and choose her own husband – something that she’s pretty sure her family will not allow. After all, she’s spent all of her growing up years being told what’s expected from her and for her – an arranged marriage to someone from a “gifted” family, having her own kids and staying within her family’s community. I really connected with Tully’ character and rooted for her to be able to live her own life but at the same time find a way to work within what both she and her family need because of their unique abilities. The secondary characters are all well developed and they all contributed something to the story. I really liked Tully’s younger sister, Delia, who is a bit of a wild child and whose “gift” would make any salesman or stockbroker extremely happy. I also liked her cousin Jack, who is almost as colorful as Delia (they have similar gifts) and absolutely fell in love with Logan, the love interest in the story. I especially liked how Logan supported Tully from the first minute he met her and how he rooted for her family and saw the townspeople for the hypocrites they were. While the townspeople aren’t necessarily evil, they are hypocritical in that they consider Tully’s family possibly “evil” or just different enough to keep them “separate” but are at the same time willing to buy their produce, ask for “help” with the weather, and what other gifts the family has. I found Ms. Shotwell’s voice as a writer refreshing, engaging and easy to read. The story’s pace is a little slow at the start, however, because the story is set in the South, I found it fitting for the location and story development. As the story progresses, the pace does pick up and the story moves at a very good pace as it reaches the finale. There’s plenty of angst, quirky drama and real family emotion, which definitely kept me turning the pages. There’s also the added mystery that some of the characters turn out to have some hidden secrets and depth, which was unexpected but great for the story. Will Tully take a chance on falling in love with Logan, even if her family won’t approve? Will she tell her parents she wants to make her own choices about her future? And will the people of Brooklyn, Mississippi learn to embrace Tully’s family and their
I have to admit that this is normally not my type of read. But, wow! I loved it. Em Shotwell's writing is very unique and it draws you in to the story. It made me laugh and cry. I had a lot of OMG moments. It is a must read for everyone. Thank you for sharing this story. I can't wait for more.
This is the first book I ever read from this author Em Shotwell. I am so glad I read this book it kept my interest from start to finish. It has Magic,love,drama and mystery I love reading about all of these this is why this book got 5 stars only wish I could have given it more. I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review. by, Scarolet Ellis
Blackbird Summer by Em Shotwell is an interesting paranormal mystery romance novel. This is the first book that I have read by this author and the premise of the story intrigued me. For me, the story starts off slow. For a few pages, I started thinking that this book just wouldn't be a good fit for me because it wasn't engaging. I stuck with it though. The author paints a vague backdrop to the main character and her family. They are hated and avoided but why? Apparently, this has been going on for years...decades even, but I wanted to know and understand the root question of...Why? Tallulah is 21 years old and she knows that soon she'll start dating various men that her relatives have picked out for her. So that she can follow in the footsteps that they believe are best for her. Before the author can really get into this a major situation arises that throws the family in chaos. Tallulah's sister is assaulted. Getting justice or even help behind this won't be easy because of who they are. The mystery behind this ordeal and what the family must face is what hooks me into the story. It takes the story from being an idling car with the potential to a getting in gear and moving forward with momentum. I have my own theories as I read and the author does a fantastic job fueling me more into the story as I go along. The characters are interesting once you get into the story. I like how they are each unique and different and bring something different to the table. It helps to keep me engaged in the book. I will say that this book has a few editorial issues (misspelled words here and there). Nothing major to detract or distract from the story itself. I am rating this book 4 out of 5 stars. I wish the story was more engaging from the beginning. I stuck it out, but if I hadn't I'd have missed out on some good elements of this book. This book has a good strong storyline, but you just gotta make sure you're willing to hang in there for a bit. This is an enjoyable book, but has some dark elements. I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
I enjoyed this book the story line is good the characters as well. You will find love,mystery, magic and drama with in these pages.a must read I look forward to reading more from this author I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
*This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review* Tallulah, Tully for short, and the rest of her family are not like everyone else who lives in Brooklyn Mississippi. They are all gifted, meaning some can help heal others through touch, some can control the weather with just their emotions and some can manipulate people just by looking them in the eye and telling them something. The whole town knows about their gifts and even though most of the people hate them, there are a few who still go to visit them for treatments or get fruit from their stand that they own. One day out, Tully meets an outsider named Logan. She always expected to live her entire life around her family and be married off to another gifted person, but with Logan now in the picture everything changes. They are both extremely attracted to one another and try to find ways to sneak around to be with one another. Things become worse for them though after Tully’s sister Delia is raped and left in a ditch. Tully’s family vows revenge on whoever did it and know they are all on their own since the police and everyone else in town think that with them manipulating people with their gifts that Delia is lying or deserved it. I absolutely loved this story. I always thought I had things figured out, only to find out that I was wrong and wanted to keep reading without stopping to see how things would turn out. It has many surprising moments in it and finding out who was behind everything, my mouth literally dropped open from shock. Tallulah and her family go through so much with virtually no help from anyone except Logan. Tallulah and Logan’s relationship was also so cute and even though they are both so different you really root for them in the end. It’s definitely a good mystery book to read in the summer. ***Review has been done in conjunction with Nerd Girl Official. For more information regarding our reviews please visit our Fansite: www.facebook.com/NerdGirl.ng***
Blew Me Away This southern gothic paranormal blew me away. The take on magic was refreshingly new and the characters deep and well-developed. Fans of Beautiful Creatures who wanted something with a bit more of an adult feel to it will love this.