What Would Ginger Rogers Do?

What Would Ginger Rogers Do?

by Caitlin Raynes


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In any dilemma, bookshop publicist Tosca asks herself what Ginger Rogers would do—but this may have life-altering consequences where new staff member wealthy Ethan James is concerned

Tosca Tonnino oversees author events at Carter &Co. a small, independent bookshop in a tourist town. Enjoying her independence, a lively social life, and seasonal love affairs, Tosca practices the worldly insouciance embodied by Ginger Rogers, that icon of 1930s cinema. In any social or romantic dilemma, Tosca asks herself: What would Ginger Rogers do? A new hire comes to the bookshop under mysterious circumstances. Ethan James is attractive, secretive, sometimes surly, occasionally witty, and fiercely competitive. Tosca finds him generally annoying until one snowy night  their romance blossoms. To Tosca’s humiliation, the next morning Ethan thanks her for a one night stand. When Tosca snags a terrific coup—a reading at the store by mega-bestselling author, Lucy Lamont—her glory is cut short. Ethan announces that his old school friend, the author of a bleak literary bestseller, wants to come on the same date, the idea of the two writers on the same stage is unthinkable. In this intolerable situation: What would Ginger Rogers do? Tosca’s response will alter the rest of her life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781910208243
Publisher: Hale, Robert Limited
Publication date: 11/01/2015
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Caitlin Raynes is an American author with a passion for reading, old movies, tango, and all things Parisian.

Read an Excerpt

What Would Ginger Rogers Do

By Caitlin Raynes

Robert Hale Limited

Copyright © 2015 Caitlin Raynes
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-910208-24-3


'Jingle Book Jingle Book Jingle All the Way! It came to me in a dream,' she said. 'Don't you see how perfect that is?'

'Jingle Book. Interesting,' I observed, though I took a sip of scalding coffee so I wouldn't have to say more. Miss Carter's brilliant marketing ideas always came to her in dreams, or in flashes of inspiration while she walked through meadows, or strolling stormy beaches while eagles soared overhead. Or, sometimes she just ripped them off from other bookstores and took the credit. 'How do you see this working in the store? I mean, actually on the shelves?' I asked.

'Well, Tosca,' she replied, her sharp little teeth gleaming, 'that's your job, isn't it? Isn't that why I made you Events and Publicity? That's your forte, isn't it? You put my idea into action!'

So I put it into action, knowing full well that if the idea succeeded, the success was hers; any failures were on me. I created a banner for the front window of Carter & Co. Books: Jingle Book Jingle Book Jingle All the Way. I hand-made little paper ornaments in the shape of books, brick-red construction paper to look like old leather, and wrote the titles in gold ink. Through each I threaded a red piece of yarn with a little bell on it, and hung them all over the store. Fiction, non-fiction, staff pick shelves, the Children's Corner, Cookbooks, Travel. Every time so much as a draft rattled through the store (frequently) there was a festive little cacophony of Jingle All the Way.

And with all those little bells ringing, you do sort of get into the spirit, ho ho ho and 'tis the season, even if in the book trade this has been the year of living dangerously, whether you wanted to or not. The book trade needs the holidays — truly, whimperingly needs. A third of booksellers' annual sales are in December. Shoppers get more desperate as the days dwindle down to the 25. Books look better and better; a book is forever, as we are fond of saying. In Christmas seasons past, our business was so lively Miss Carter would hire high school kids to sit in the drafty storeroom at the back and gift wrap. But not this year. This year was grim. This year Jessie, Sally, Wendell and I not only had to sell the books, we had to wrap them too. Still, no matter the economic climate, Miss Carter's annual Christmas party was a famous tradition on the island, a Fezziwiggian event not to be missed.

The night of the party, Jessie and I were the last two in the shop. By the time we got the last customer out, front locked, the computers, fans, and lights turned off, the heat turned down, and left by the back – it was seven o'clock. We shivered under the small awning sheltering the loading dock while I locked up. We splashed down the alley together under a light snowfall, and ran the three blocks to my place, second floor of the old Seafarer's Union.

The Seafarer's Union as an organization was a distant memory, back when Friday Harbor was supported by fishing rather than tourists, but the sturdy brick building, Edward Hopperish, with long narrow windows and a steep staircase, remained. A firm of lawyers had the first floor. The second floor was carved up into apartments; mine was the corner one with lots of windows. We clamored up the stairwell that was filled with the smell of someone else's cooking.

My apartment is perfect for one person; uncurtained windows let light into the living room where there is a whole wall for a desk and bookshelves, a TV and a Playstation. Beside the door my bike hangs on the wall like a piece of art. Across from it, and hanging above the couch, is a beautifully framed 1905 Art Nouveau poster of the famous opera singer, Emma Calvé in Tosca (birthday present from my parents). The ironing board in the corner by the kitchenette is not a work of art. It didn't have to be. Housekeeping is not my forte, and I live alone.

'It's freezing in here,' said Jessie as she dashed for the bathroom. 'Can you turn up the heat?'

'We're not going to be here that long. It's a pit stop. We have to get to Miss Carter's Christmas party, or all the really good hors d'oeuvres will be gone.'

Jessie went into the bathroom and I collapsed briefly on the couch, pulling my phone out of my bag. Don't 4get the fish Xmas Eve. Text from my sister Norma. Norma can't help being a nag, it's in her bone marrow (mine too, probably since we're both related to Aunt Clara). Voice mail from Aunt Clara: 'Don't forget the fish.' Voice from Aida: 'Would you please choose a nice cookbook for me to give to Jim's sister? Make it moronically easy with a lot of pictures. She couldn't cook her way out of a candy wrapper. Thanks, Prune. See you soon.' Voice from Kate Zilich, high school art teacher, and fellow member of the chorus of Community Theatre's The Music Man. 'Hey, Tosca, the population of eligible men year round on this island just doubled. I've heard that a certain math teacher is getting dee-vor-iced. TTFN.'

I knew who she's talking about, and I knew why he was getting a divorce. Everyone knows everything on an island. I texted her back: TBNT. Newly divorced men R trainwrex. 76 trmbones 2U2 XXOO.

Lastly, a voice mail from my sister Carmen. 'Hey Prune, just a heads up, Chris will be back for Christmas dinner since you and he were such a great hit at Thanksgiving.'

'Were we?' I ask no one, sliding the phone back in my bag. My sisters all married young; two of the three were knocked up when they said I Do. I am unmarried, and every holiday family gathering, the proverbial Nice Young Man is as much a fixture as the cranberry relish. I'm thirty, for God's sake, and they still called him the Nice Young Man. This past Thanksgiving, my nephew Charlie and his wife (yes, I have a married nephew older than I am) brought Chris Egan. Chris Egan brought a very nice bottle of Italian wine. Before the turkey had gone all the way round the table, my mother and Aunt Clara had managed to extract from him that he worked at Microsoft (as though the word itself trailed clouds of glory), that he had gone to Johns Hopkins, and that he was raised Catholic. Perhaps Chris Egan did not hear the collective expectant sigh from the Tonnino women, but I did. My movie date with him the day after Thanksgiving filled my mother with such dewy hope that I hadn't the heart to dispel it. Chris is nice, even attractive in that pale, freckled Irish way, but nerdy, and I felt no chemistry with him. I told my sister Carmen this, and she remarked that nice but nerdy might describe me as well. I resented this. I am artsy, stylishly retro and full of panache, which is one of my favorite words. I like the way it tastes.

Despite the hand-wringing of my mom, my Aunt Clara, my sisters Norma, Aida and Carmen, I feel no imperative, biological or otherwise to marry. I've seen enough of marriage among my sisters to recognize the eternal compromising that eventually whittles both parties down till they look and sound like each other, neutered in other words, by the time they're middle-aged. I don't want to live like that. (Though I must say, my parents, Frank and Donna, have not paled into one big marital lump.) Still, in the words of the old Oingo Boingo song, I like my stupid life just the way it is. I have flingettes often, well, often enough for a feeling of tonic anticipation. That's what I enjoy; I am not into domestic partnerships. When I come home at night there is no sulky man looking for a blowjob before I cook dinner as he watches the thrilling NBA playoffs.

On the contrary, I go out! I have lots of friends, island-wide. My job, Events and Publicity, is both demanding and socially fulfilling. I represent the bookstore on the Tourist Board, and I lead the monthly in-store Book Club too. I serve as Vice-President of the Bike San Juan Cycling Club, a post which, mercifully, had no duties, and seasonally I am an island eagle-counter. Now and then, when they do a musical with a big chorus, I join the community theatre. I have yoga class twice a week, and I was the best student in my tango class last spring, though sadly, the class ended; the teacher realized that no way was she going to convince Northwest women to give up their jeans and athletic shoes, and put on a skirt and high heels even once week. I didn't need convincing; I love high heels, fancy scarves and shawls, skirts that respond to a breeze. Winters in the Puget Sound of course require jeans and boots, but I draw the line at flannel. No flannel for moi, thank you, and I intend to go to the Christmas party tonight looking stunning.

'Hurry up, Jessie,' I called out. 'I need to pee!'

I meandered into the bedroom which, as usual, was a mess. The bathroom, unfortunately, is off the bedroom (one reason I seldom had guests). Jessie is my best friend, and she doesn't care that the bed is unmade, clothes scattered, the laundry basket overflowing, dust on the bureau, and books in piles of three and four falling over by the bed. The walls are papered in vintage movie posters, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire posters, Top Hat and Shall We Dance and The Gay Divorcee. My favorite poster was above my bed, a framed, Ginger and Fred gliding against a spare, elegant background to Let's Face the Music and Dance.

I peeled off my work clothes and hanging on the closet door, found the elegant skirt, black silk blouse and red-fringed shawl I'd bought months ago (in a shop I discovered via quirky new book, Vintage Seattle). I put on my stilettos, knowing I wouldn't have to walk far in the snow because Miss Carter always has valet parking for the party. I regarded myself critically in the long mirror, and made a vow to lose ten pounds and get my brows waxed before Christmas. Make it five pounds. Five I could do. I gave my hair a quick up-sweep, and pawed through the earring box to find the perfect pair.

'Jessie, hurry!'

Then I heard little gulping cries from the bathroom, barely repressed sobs. I went to the bathroom door, knocked, and said, 'Forget Murph. He's a bastard.'

'Is not.'

'Okay, then, he was a fool to leave you. A fool. He never deserved you.'

There was a pause, then a low, trembling voice, 'I'm thirty-three years old, Tosca. I want to be married. How will I find someone else? Why did he leave me for her?'

'Men are fools, Jessie,' I said, echoing what we'd all been telling her since Thanksgiving when her cat died and her fiancé moved out of their house (which he had built on his own property). Personally, I thought the cat was the greater loss. It was the old/new story: on Facebook, Murph found his old high school girlfriend who now had two kids and an abusive ex. They became Facebook friends, and presto! Four months later Murph quit his job, left Jessie, and went to the mainland, Bremerton, where he moved in with this woman and her kids. Facebook, if you ask me, is fine if you are into high school cliques, or checking up on your teenagers, or if you're middle-aged, like Murph and trying to recapture your youth. But otherwise? I am in the minority – and naturally, I used Facebook daily professionally – but personally, I prefer to keep books and faces separate.

When Murph abandoned Jessie, everyone at work was supportive, as you would be for any friend. To no avail, I should add. Jessie couldn't seem to wean herself from misery. Still, you'd had to have a heart of stone not to feel for Jessie's pain. I changed the tone of my voice.

'Look, Jessie, just wait till summer! Men everywhere! Come on, soon as the boating season opens, San Juan Island is crawling with tourists, good looking, well-heeled men with boats, and plenty of time and money. They're everywhere. Think of it that way.'

'I'm not like you. I'm not looking for a summer flingette.'

'Hey, some of my affairs lasted into the autumn, and then I lost interest.'

'Or they did.'

'Same difference.'

'Seven years with Murph,' she sniffed, 'how can I date again? I've forgotten how to date.'

'No one forgets how to date, Jessie. You just have to dust it off,' I said, ignoring the impulse to quote the lyrics from Dust Yourself Off. 'Like riding a bike,' I offered cheerfully.

'I want commitment, Tosca. I want to be loved. Who will love me? Who will live with me? It's all right for you, being alone. You like it.'

'Who says I like it?'

'If you didn't like it, you wouldn't do it. You're attractive. Murph always thought you were cute.'

'Great. Just whose opinion I value.'

'You're afraid of commitment. You haven't had a relationship that lasted more than a year since Vince. Admit it, you like hooking up and moving on.'

'Oh, Jessie, don't go all Dr. Phil on me now. We have to leave.'

'Vince broke your heart, and you're still not over it.'

This was complete shit, but I knew better than to argue with her when she was like this. Once Jessie launched on the subject of commitment, she was frigging relentless.

She finally opened the bathroom door, dabbing her eyes with a towel. Jessie was tall, with narrow shoulders and narrow hips, and long sandy-colored hair that fell straight around her face, making her seem somehow taller and narrower than she was. She let me have the bathroom and she went to the bureau mirror to put on her eye make-up.

When I came out she had fresh make-up, but she still looked pathetic. 'Honest, Jessie, everything'll look good again in June.'

Her lip trembled.

'May, then. Boating season opens in May.'

'Oh God, you and your men with sailboats! Why don't you just get your own boat?'

'I don't want my own boat. I like to let someone else have the expense and the worry and the upkeep, and all the time it takes. I like the picture of myself on a sailboat.' I stood beside her in the mirror and lifted my chin. 'I like to think of myself – alluring, sexy, while the sunshine glitters on the waters of the Sound and the handsome man at the tiller is dying to find a secluded cove so he can make love to me on deck.' I smiled, and put on mascara. 'I'm a romantic.'

'Is that why you're not married?'

'Oh God, Jessie! You sound like my mother or my sister or my Aunt Clara. They'd have me mumbling the Old Maid's Prayer.' I rolled my eyes heavenward, 'O Lord, send me a man! Get it? Any man. Not for me, mon amie!'

'You never compromise, do you?' In reply, I gave a very Gallic shrug. I was a renowned Francophile.

'You want to know how low I've sunk, Tosca?' As if to prove it, Jessie sank down on the unmade bed. 'You know what my life has come to, how I have compromised?'

I didn't, but she looked so pitiful, I put my hand on her shoulder.

'It was me and the spin cycle last night.'

'The what?'

'You know, like that temp, Carly told us a couple of years ago? Carly knew how to get along without a man.'

'I hardly remember Carly. She only worked here one summer.'

'She told us how she bonded with her washer. On the spin cycle. How you could sit on the machine during the spin cycle, and it was every bit as good as a man if you —'

'I go to Laund-o-Rama, Jessie, so I've never tried it.'

'It works. I never thought I would be reduced to the spin cycle, but I miss Murph so much.'

I hadn't the heart to remind her that Murph's less-than-awesome erectile performance was a constant refrain in our girl-conversations. 'Re-shuffle your deck, girlfriend! Ask yourself, what would Ginger Rogers do?' I pointed to the big framed poster above the bed, glamorous Ginger and elegant Fred. 'Ginger could, if she so chose, slay a man with the arch of her pencilled eyebrows.' I arched my eyebrows to prove it. 'Do you think Ginger Rogers would sit around moping after a man who mistreated her? Hell no. Ginger Rogers would put on her best, her most gorgeous, frothy gown, her silk stockings and high heels, tell the doorman to hail a cab, and off she'd be to someplace where the music was hot, and the men were hotter.'

'Oh, Tosca,' Jessie laughed in spite of herself.

'She'd sashay in, greet the barman by name and order a sidecar.'

'What's a sidecar again?'

'A sophisticated drink from the Thirties – Cointreau, brandy, lime juice and sugar round the rim. She would take long strolls through the room, like this.' I did my practiced imitation of Ginger's stride, full of insolent economy. 'And regard every man there with a cool, assessive eye. She might say to herself, perhaps I will sleep with that man.' I pointed to the suave, tuxedoed mythical man looking handsome beside the laundry basket.


Excerpted from What Would Ginger Rogers Do by Caitlin Raynes. Copyright © 2015 Caitlin Raynes. Excerpted by permission of Robert Hale Limited.
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