Meet Rex and Evelyn. Can Love Survive in the Midst of War?
Maybe dating the good guy, isn’t so bad.
When Rex Somersby’s family matchmaker sets him up with the famous Evelyn Cadeau, he can’t believe his luck. Evelyn is the woman with the perfect Gift—the woman every man wants—while Rex’s own magical ability leaves much to be desired. He travels from Missouri to meet his dream girl in her rural Mississippi home, where Evelyn makes it clear that winning her heart won’t be an easy task. Good thing farm-boy Rex has never been afraid of a little hard work.
Evelyn Cadeau is used to getting her way. As the woman with the most powerful Gift, she knows she can have her pick of anyone she wants. And who she wants is slick, handsome, and off-limits Guy McCallister—not gawky, buttoned-up Rex Somersby. Yet, after an arranged date with Rex takes a dramatic turn, leading to a bottle of wine and sneaking to the creek for a late night skinny dip, she realizes there may be more to by-the-rules Rex than meets the eye.
Just as the young couple start to think their family’s tradition of matchmaking isn’t quite so backward, Rex is drafted to Vietnam. With war threatening to tear them apart, will love be able to save them? Or will it take a bit of magic?
““Slow-burning and leisurely, this romance captures the charm of small towns and the tension of the late 1960s, allowing its leads to come together at their own pace...a tender story about the healing power of love.” - Publisher’s Weekly ★★★★★
Read an Excerpt
Guy McCallister had eyes like a dream, a voice like a song, and a butt like a ripe apricot.
Evelyn Cadeau would never admit it out loud, but it was the apricot butt that really got her. Not that she couldn't lose herself in Guy's forest-green eyes, or listen to him talk about anything — anything at all — for hours. Because she could. And did, much to her mama and daddy's chagrin.
And they only knew the half of it.
The Mississippi sky was as clear as the creek that snaked lazily across the back acreage, a few feet away from where Evelyn and Guy lay on its grassy bank, a single tangle of arms and denim-clad legs. Evelyn's wild, red hair was held captive by a braid that touched her waist. She wore her favorite shirt — the yellow one that fit loosely and showed her navel. Her mama hated that shirt. She said it looked like something one of those flower children would wear. She'd definitely have a hissy-fit if she knew Evelyn was showing her belly button in mixed company — as if Evelyn was thirteen instead of eighteen. I'm doing a lot of things she'd have a fit over. Evelyn couldn't stifle a giggle.
Guy leaned backwards on his elbows and raised a joint to his lips, taking a deep pull. He held it, then turned his head and blew the smoke away from Evelyn.
He passed the joint to her, and she took it carefully between her pointer and thumb, like he'd shown her. She eyed Guy. "You got gum?" He patted his pocket and smiled.
She took a small pull, and did her best not to cough, before thrusting the joint back to Guy. He took another puff, then stubbed it out, saving the rest for later.
"He's not good for you, Evelyn. He ain't got a care for anyone but himself. A girl as special as you has to choose wisely." Evelyn could hear her daddy say, even as she lay (secretly) with her head on Guy's chest.
Good Lord. Daddy would die of a stroke if he walked up on us right now. The thought made her smile, again, despite herself. She didn't want her daddy to have a stroke — but she did want Guy McCallister. She knew this for certain. Rules be damned! Evelyn turned her head toward his arm, and kissed him on his flannel-covered bicep. For some reason, kissing Guy's shirt seemed incredibly funny to Evelyn.
Evelyn didn't have to worry about getting caught. Her daddy was busy on the other side of the property, picking corn and peas for her mama and grandma to put up for winter. Not that they needed to. Because of Evelyn's Gift, they had fresh corn, peas, and any other produce their hearts desired, year round. But old habits die hard, and Evelyn's grandma would never not prepare for winter by canning.
Just in case, Evelyn had coaxed the surrounding underbrush into growing extra-thick to hide her forbidden canoodle with Guy. It hadn't taken long for her to woo the tree branches to spread wide around them, or the thicket grass to stand high and serve as their shield.
The trees bloomed and preened when she was around, her very presence a blessing they yearned for. I am the girl who radiates life, after all. Evelyn smiled her tight, close-lipped smile.
She lay her head against Guy's chest, inhaling his scent of laundry detergent and sweet-smelling smoke, and he stroked her braid, slowly working his hands lower. His fingers danced featherlight on the skin of her lower back, as his own magic flashed through his eyes, turning them even greener, and making Evelyn swoon.
Her daddy said Guy's Gift was useless, and he had a point. Guy may have been handsome, but he was about as powerful as a wet stump. Evelyn didn't care. I'm plenty Gifted enough for the both of us.
Evelyn traced the line of Guy's close-clipped, jet black goatee with her index finger. "It's just not fair." It was her same lament, ever since she'd learned she was being matched.
Guy grabbed her hand and kissed the finger. "I told you, it doesn't matter. We will run away together if we have to. Your parents will come around."
Evelyn exhaled through her nose, and closed her eyes, annoyed. No matter how many times she set him straight, Guy always came back to the idea of running off. There was no way she could leave her family. It would devastate them, and not just in the way that most parents would be devastated if their favorite daughter ran off with a man who didn't meet their standards. Not even devastated in the shameful way that sometimes happened when a Gifted daughter or son forgot their place, and refused their match.
No. For her family, it could truly devastate them. Medically. Financially. They needed her. Well, she thought with a frown, they need my Gift, anyway. I'm just the person attached to it. The vessel for the magic.
She knew, from a conversation overheard as a child, that her daddy had developed a palsy shortly after her oldest sister, Trisha, was born. It began as a nuisance, but before Evelyn came into the world with her Gift of Vigor, it had grown bad enough to keep him from plowing or driving. She also knew that she was solely responsible for the success of the produce stand that stood at the end of the driveway. It had, before her birth, been a seasonal way to make some extra money, but now, because of Evelyn, it served as their family's main source of income, open year-round with a reputation for the very best fruits and vegetables.
No. She couldn't leave. That would be sentencing her daddy to a disease he didn't deserve and the rest of her clan to a life of scrounging for work or bartering favors with people who could barely stand the sight of them.
It wasn't popular to be part of the Gifted family in south Mississippi. Magic didn't exactly fit in with people's beliefs, after all.
Evelyn stretched, and forced a smile, hoping Guy would take the hint, and drop the subject of running off.
"I know you say that you can't," Guy added, "but I am telling you that it wouldn't take them long to get used to the idea of us. They need you, Evelyn. You don't need them."
Evelyn's shoulders tensed, and she bit her tongue before she said something she'd regret. Nobody talked ill of her family, not even Guy "apricot butt" McCallister. It didn't matter one lick if he was speaking the truth or not.
"Guy, you are lucky you are so handsome," she snapped, then smiled and dropped a kiss lightly on his perfect, full lips. Evelyn sat up.
Guy pushed himself upward to sit next to her, and draped an arm over her shoulders. "I am serious, you know. Just think about it." He kissed her on her cheek, catching a freed strand of her unruly curls in the process. He moved his mouth to her ear, kissed her lobe, then whispered, "And don't go forgetting about me and falling for that match your aunt set up for you."
"Oh, God." Evelyn threw herself backwards onto the grass, which strained to the sky, doing its best to cushion her fall. "It is going to be so horrible!"
She squinted into the sunlit sky, watching as bloated clouds emerged on the horizon, sailing across the sky toward her uncle's house. It was watering day for his orchard, and even from where she sat, she could feel the slight pull of his magic. In the Cadeau family, there was no need for a hose or pricey sprinkler system.
Evelyn let her mind wander, and tried to focus on anything besides her upcoming date with Rex Somersby from Missouri, but found she couldn't shake the thought, and fought back the pang of resentment towards Guy for bringing it up. The day was going so well, too. She tugged on her braid, biting her bottom lip as she considered her options.
"I don't have to go, you know. I am eighteen. They can't make me date someone I don't want. As bad as Daddy is on the subject, I don't think he'd really try to force me to see that guy."
Guy reclined on his elbows. "No. I think you should. I don't think it would be smart to rock the boat until we have a plan in place for us to be together. Besides," he paused. "There is something I need to talk to you about."
Evelyn rolled to her side. His change of tone made her heart stop. "What is it?"
"I heard from Pop yesterday. Seems you aren't the only one being forced to meet a match."
"What? I thought you weren't beholden to your family? You are always traveling around down here and everywhere else. How can they make you see someone if you don't want to?" Memories of the past year, spent mostly in Guy's arms, flashed through her mind. And you'd better not want to, she added silently.
"You know it ain't that simple. I travel with my job, but ultimately, I work for my Pop. So yeah, I get out, and I ain't beholden as much as some, but Pop is still in charge. And I don't want to piss off my people for no reason, any more than you want to piss off yours." He cupped her face in his palm, and looked down into her eyes. "It's just a dumb match. It don't mean nothin'. I'll go to Texas and go on the date. In the meantime, you'll go on yours. Then I'll come back down here, and we will both have a good laugh together." He smiled wolfishly. "Then maybe I'll be able to talk you into running off with me, so next time I'll have a reason to tell my family to shove off." Guy traced the curve of Evelyn's cheek with his index finger. "Don't be jealous — you are the only girl for me."
Evelyn scrunched her nose, as if the mention of another girl had soured the air. "Guy McCallister, if you think that I will ever be jealous over some other girl, then you don't really know me at all." She sniffed and crossed her arms over her chest. She was Evelyn Cadeau, after all. The girl with the power everyone wished they had. The girl who radiated life.
Again, Guy grinned. "I ever tell you how cute you are when you make that face?"
Evelyn dusted off her bell-bottom jeans, and ran her hands over her braid one more time, just in case she'd missed a stray piece of grass, before pulling open the screen door and entering her family's home. She had her copy of Little Women tucked under her arm, same as always.
Susan Cadeau, Evelyn's mama, was busy at the stove, stirring a simmering pot, while bouncing Evelyn's baby sister on her bony hip. Tendrils of steam arose and reddened her cheeks and curled her dark blond hair, and for a moment Susan appeared young and vibrant — instead of a tired farmer's wife and mother of five. Evelyn always thought her mama was prettiest when she was cooking.
Evelyn's two-year-old dumpling of a brother, Porter, was in his high chair, banging a spoon against the wooden tray. Every so often, he would toss it to the ground, then cackle as he made it float safely back to his chubby hands.
Trisha, who was four years older than Evelyn, and Trudy, who was older than Evelyn by two, sat at the kitchen table with a bridal book opened between them. Tension rolled from the pair in waves, as Trudy's eyes seemed to glaze over while Trisha explained the difference between lace patterns and the importance of selecting the correct hem length. Evelyn knew Trudy would be happier helping their father with harvesting and planting than stuck indoors with Trish.
Evelyn didn't blame her. For the past two months, Trisha had been unbearable.
Trisha had been engaged for the good part of the year. Her fiancé, Jaimie, was from Florida, and Trisha would be joining him there after the wedding, which was to take place as soon as Jaimie got back from the war overseas. She explained this multiple times to anyone who would listen — or at least anyone who was too polite to tell her to shut up. If Evelyn had to endure one more story about how great Trisha's life was going to be, she would punch her in the nose.
Trudy was matched to a young man from Tennessee. She'd confided in Evelyn that, while she thought she loved her beau, she was in no hurry to get down the aisle. Evelyn secretly thought this was a good thing. Though Trudy was older by two years, she had the stick figure of a pre-teen and cherub cheeks. Evelyn couldn't imagine Trudy in a wedding gown. She'd look like a girl playing dress-up.
"Where've you been?" Trisha's eye narrowed into two accusing slits.
"Reading," Evelyn flipped her hair and tossed her novel onto the table. "I was under a tree near the creek. Out in the back field. And don't worry, it was a book from your stupid reading list."
"Did you answer the list of story questions I gave you?" Evelyn crossed her arms over her chest, and pursed her lips.
Trudy slipped Evelyn a knowing look, to which Evelyn gave a nod. It was so slight, no one else would have noticed, but Trudy bit her bottom lip and ducked her head at the revelation. Evelyn's nod had told her everything. A faint blush blossomed over her cheeks, letting Evelyn know there would be many questions the second the two were alone. The two were more than sisters and allies against Trisha. They were best friends and confidantes with an unspoken language all their own.
All the girls had been home-schooled, as was the Cadeau family's custom, but since Evelyn was eighteen, and there were two later-in-life babies to think about, their mom had handed over Evelyn's last year of work to Trisha — a fact that neither sister was too keen about.
Trisha huffed. "Mama, I can't work with Evelyn. She's determined to stay ignorant."
"Don't be so dramatic, Trisha. I am reading your books, ain't I?" Evelyn plopped down at the table. The pink gerbera daisy potted in the center of the table swayed toward Evelyn, slightly, like a sunflower leaning to the sun.
"Ugh!" Trisha groaned, and threw her hands into the air. "I need a break."
"Well, here," their mama said, turning and hoisting the baby to Trisha. "Your sister needs a diaper. Go change her. You get a break. She gets cleaned up. We all get a rest from you fighting with Evelyn. You girls are way too old to be carrying on like this."
"But Mama, it's not me!" Trisha insisted.
"Trish, honey, you are in your twenties and almost a married woman. I don't want to hear it. You should be able to control your emotions. Now go get the baby cleaned up." Trisha took her baby sister with gentle hands, holding her carefully, even as she stomped from the room.
"And you." Mama turned to Evelyn. "You really shouldn't push her buttons like that. She is going to be gone and you are going to miss having her around. Mark my word."
Evelyn knew better than to say anything, although she couldn't imagine ever missing Trisha. As far as she was concerned, her abrasive older sister couldn't get married and move out fast enough. Heaven help Jaimie and any kids they might have, Evelyn thought as she watched her sister flounce away.
The front door slung open wide, and Evelyn's daddy filled the room with his presence. Behind him, a flock of blackbirds settled on the porch.
"Really, Gordon, they are going to leave a stinking mess. We've talked about this," Susan chided, throwing her hands into the air. There was no true annoyance behind her words. In fact, it was hard for anyone to be mad at Gordon Cadeau. His happiness was contagious, and it wasn't uncommon for people to smile when he was around, without even realizing it. It wasn't his Gift, only his larger-than-life personality.
Gordon's laughter boomed. "Fine, fine, Susan." He turned to the birds, "Off with you, friends! The wife says you make a mess and she is the boss!"
One of the birds squawked and Gordon's eyes flashed. "You are pushing it! There will be no corn husks for you if you keep talking like that!" As he closed the door, the blackbirds took to the air, flying away with a singular movement.
He entered the room and planted a kiss, first on top of Evelyn's head, and then Trudy's. He scooped Evelyn's brother from his high chair and spun him around in the air, then grabbed his wife around her slim waist.
"Really, Gordon. I'm trying to cook." Evelyn's mama smiled. Her hair was frazzled from the steam, and there were purple shadows under her eyes — five kids and acres of farmland would exhaust anyone — but Gordon stared into her face like she was the most beautiful sight he'd ever seen.
Susan swatted playfully at his shoulder with her wooden spoon, and Gordon pressed a kiss to her lips, still holding his toddler son in one arm. When he finally pulled away, his wife was smiling, and her tired eyes were slightly dazed.
"Supper will be ready in a minute." She turned back to the stove, the tiniest smirk now pulling at her mouth.
Excerpted from "Forget Me Not"
Copyright © 2017 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
*This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review* This story is set in the same universe as “The Blackbird Series” but you don’t have to read the previous book to read this. In the south, a lot of people have “gifts” where they have a certain ability that helps them in their day to day lives. Some can talk to birds, some can help plants grow, and some can sense emotions and help with someone’s feelings along with many other gifts. Evelyn Cadeau is 17, and is dating a man named Guy. They have been a couple for a while and can’t wait to run away together when she turns 18. However before that can happen, an aunt of hers using her gift matches her up with another man. She doesn’t want to even meet her match, but her family really wants her to go on at least one date with him. No one believes that Guy is the right one for her. She reluctantly agrees and she goes on the date with Rex Somersby. Rex is a perfect gentlemen, so sweet, kind, and is nervous but excited for his date. In the beginning Evelyn is only going to appease her family and doesn’t believe that she and Rex will hit it off. The longer they get to know each other, the more Evelyn comes to realize she may actually like Rex. She still holds out hope for her and Guy to be together but finds out that Guy had been matched also. She hears what happened to him and his match and she gets very upset and angry after finding out that Guy is more interested in money, than love. Rex is there for her and she starts to trust and even like him more and more. Their love is tested though with the Vietnam War going on and the threat of being drafted looms over them. I really enjoyed this story. This is a novella so it’s short, but so many things happen in it and all the characters are so well fleshed out that you really get a good sense of who everyone is. I really liked Evelyn and Rex together. She would try to tease Rex to see how far he may go in a certain situation and he was always there to tease her right back and go along with it. Rex’s gift may be interesting, but knowing the repercussions it can have is devastating. I hope there are more novella’s or just more to the Blackbird Series in general because I love all of these characters. ***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***
What a delightful read! It is a sweet, heart-warming romance that had me laughing, swooning, crying and totally entranced. Though it does have a serious side, being set in the difficult times of the late 1960's in America during the Vietnam war. I am so glad that I decided to read this and will definitely be reading more from this talented author. And what an absolutely gorgeous cover!