ShortBookandScribes #BlogTour #Extract from With Kisses from Cecile by Jan Agnello and Anne Armistead @hfvbt @ArmisteadAnne #JanAgnello #Giveaway
I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for With Kisses from Cecile by Jan Agnello and Anne Armistead. I have not only an extract to share with you but also details of a giveaway to win a paperback copy of the book (US only). My thanks to Amy Bruno from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for the place on the tour.
A heartbroken Maggie travels to Paris to visit the grave of her great-grandmother’s French pen pal Cécile and uncovers 100-year-old secrets that give her courage to rebuild her own life.
Maggie Ruth Mitchell’s failed attempt at reconciliation with her unfaithful husband has left her more confused than ever—and with a consequence that will change her life forever. Heartbroken, Maggie travels to Paris to visit the grave of Cécile, the French pen pal of her great-grandmother Ruth. Reading Cécile’s letters and learning about Ruth’s past gives Maggie not only an understanding of the strength and courage of the women in her family—all sharing the name Ruth—but also allows Maggie to find her way forward.
In the year 1919 following World War 1, two young girls, Ruth and Cécile, find each other through a Pen Pal program between American and French students. In their letters they share their dreams and bare their heartaches. A tragic death of a loved one has torn Ruth’s family apart, leaving her with a dark secret to hide. Cécile, having survived the bombs that devastated Paris, is battling against consumption. Ruth draws courage from her pen pal’s inspiring letters, each signed With Kisses from Cécile, to face what fate brings.
Excerpt from WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE
Copyright © 2019 by Jan Agnello and Anne Armistead
All rights reserved
From CHAPTER ONE
The mad rush to the airport distracted Maggie from Cole’s multiple texts, each pleading for them to meet. She reached the limit of her patience while waiting in the security line and blocked his number. She would not let him continue to intrude on this trip.
Once settled into their first-class seats, Maggie half-seriously wondered if having an estranged father intent on buying her affection was too awful. Obviously, he had spared no expense to make sure she and Grams would enjoy themselves.
Once in the air, Maggie’s tension melted a bit. They were on their way. She leaned back her window seat, grateful Grams preferred the aisle. The couple across from them, young and obviously in love, reminded Maggie of how she thought her first trip to Paris would be with Cole. She looked out the window to hide her welling tears from her grandmother. No matter how emphatically she told herself she was done crying about the end of her marriage, she obviously wasn’t. Damn.
“Maggie, dear. You’re deep in thought.”
Maggie forced control of her emotions before facing Grams. “Deep in thought about Paris. I can’t believe we’ll soon be there.”
Grams reached into the canvas travel bag stored under the seat in front of her. She’d insisted on carrying it on. She pulled out a decorative wooden box with words in French engraved on its lid.
“Now that we’re on our way, it’s time I introduce you to Cécile.” She patted the top of the box. “The first letter Cécile posted to Ruth was on June 28, 1919, the date of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, ending the war.”
She handed the box to Maggie, adding softly, “The Great War, they called it. They believed it to be the war to end all wars. Unfortunately, many wars have followed, claiming too many lives.”
Maggie realized Grams must be thinking of her own husband’s death. She’d never remarried, raising her daughter alone on a secretary’s salary and military death benefits. Maggie’s throat burned. Everything prompted her to cry now, even the death of the grandfather she’d never met.
She pulled down her seat tray and placed the box onto it. Tracing the engraved words with her fingers, she read them out loud in her halting high school French. “Il n’ya que les montagnes qui ne se rencontrent pas.” Maggie looked questioningly at Grams.
“Cécile wrote that in one of her letters to my mother. Can you translate it?”
Maggie studied the words once more, translating slowly. “Something about mountains. It is only mountains that never meet?” She furrowed her brow in confusion.
“You translated it literally, but what it means is ‘There are none so distant that fate cannot bring them together.’ It’s an old French proverb.”
The saying opened for Maggie the wound of her failed marriage. Nothing could bridge the distance between her and Cole.
Grams added, “Our trip is in tribute to Ruth and Cécile. All the miles between them, along with what fate had in store for each, kept them from meeting. We are thwarting that fate by our trip, though. Their friendship lives on through me, through you. Through your children, Maggie.”
That sixth sense of yours, Grams, Maggie thought. She brushed her fingertips across the engraving again. She opened the box. “I can’t wait to begin reading the letters.”
The scent from the box’s interior reminded her of old books, combined with something tangier. Maggie held one of the envelopes to her nose. “It smells faintly of tobacco.”
“My mother kept the letters in an old cigar box of her father’s until she received this box, a wedding gift from my father — your great-grandfather Clinton. He knew she would enjoy its touch of secrecy.” She put her finger on an unnoticeable button on the inside of the box, and a bottom drawer came ajar.
“Oh, look at that!” Maggie pointed. “A secret compartment.”
“Yes. That’s where my mother kept this lovely necklace my father gave her.” Grams dangled the chain with a coin-like medallion hanging from it. Pressed into the medallion were the initials CC.
“It’s charming,” Maggie said.
“Yes. How coincidental that the two most special people in my mother’s life shared the same initials: Clinton Carlock and Cécile Cosquéric.” Grams returned the necklace to the drawer. “The story behind this gift will keep for now. It’s all part of a larger one I will share with you.”
“It’s one I can’t wait to hear, Grams.” Maggie studied the envelope she still held. The teacher in her admired the perfect cursive swirls. If only her students could write that legibly! Her mother had been right. Ideas whirled in Maggie’s mind about how to integrate Cécile’s letters into her World War One lesson plans. She couldn’t believe Grams had kept these treasures from her this long!
She read the envelope’s address out loud. “Colorado Springs? Hasn’t our family always lived in the Oakland area?”
“Not always. My mother’s family actually lived in Colorado Springs on a farm when she was a child. She moved to Oakland right after she and Cécile exchanged their first letters.” Grams rested her head against her seatback and stared past Maggie, into the darkening sky. “The move was difficult and for difficult reasons.”
Maggie’s eyes widened. “My curiosity is brimming after what Mom said last night. I’m guessing you’ve been hiding deep, dark family secrets from me?”
“As a matter of fact, yes.” Grams’s serious reply heightened Maggie’s curiosity.
“Oh, my,” Maggie said. “I had no idea.”
The idea of family secrets and skeletons in the closet was both intriguing and surprising. Yet she withheld her own secret. How much longer could she keep quiet about her news?
She carefully flipped through the bundle of letters, recognizing different handwriting on a couple of the envelopes. The last envelope, addressed in that different handwriting, showed the postmark of January 1921. What had happened to end the two girls’ correspondence?
Maggie angled her body into the corner of the spacious window seat, giving silent thanks once more for traveling first-class. “We have a long flight,” she said. “I’m your captive audience.”
“This is the first letter Ruth received?” Maggie took the envelope her grandmother handed her.
“It is. Now, you’ll meet Cécile, as Ruth did long ago.” Grams’s glowing face conveyed delight at the introduction.
Maggie pulled the thin paper from the envelope, along with a postcard and a strip of paper with neatly printed English words. She read the letter out loud before examining the other items.
18, bis Avenue d ‘Italie
Paris 75013 France
the 28 of June 1919
I put my letter in the
Letterbox the day
of the peace.
Dear Miss Ruth,
I have known today your address. Since a long while I was looking for an American friend to correspond with me in French or in English. If you want to correspond with me I shall be very glad. I’m 16 years old, My name is Cécile Cosquéric, I live in Paris with my parents. I have a brother, Lucien. We call him Lulu. He is soon twenty years old. His birthday is 21st of September.
I was not born in Paris, I was born in Bretagne, at Quimper, a small town near the Atlantic Ocean. I have come in Paris at eight years old. Last month I have passed my brevet elementaire and I have been received, then I have leaved school and now I’m learning stenography and dactilograph. There are many American soldiers in Paris. Near my house bombs are dropped in a house which have been demolished, many persons have been killed.
My hair is dark, and I have a white complexion. By your name I see you are of English race. I am 1 metre,
58 high, 4 ft 8 in your manner to count. As I am thin I seem tall.
Do you speak French? I do, naturally. I write English sentences, just like I speak French. Some of my
school fellows say always, “English is too difficult.” As I am very fond of English conversations and reading, I was the first in English and my teacher was interest with me. I send you my first lesson of English. You can see how I was well up. During the war sometimes there was no school so I would practice with
English at home.
Do you know other countries than Colorado? Is it a large town? Are there many inhabitants in your town? At cinema I have seen many views of the mountains of Colorado. Have you seen the films “Hands Up” with Miss Ruth Roland? The French people admire your Hollywood stars Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks. Have you seen the President Wilson? I have seen him, with his wife, his daughter, and the General Pershing. Is there many Indians in your country? Are they pretty?
With hopes for our friendship, I send you a postcard of pretty flower Edelweiss which grows on the alps. Do you know the flower, Edelweiss? It smells very good. The postcard says Bonne Année, which means Good Year. We shall have a good year, writing, will we not? I kiss the Edelweiss picture I enclose.
Kiss it too and like that, we shall kiss the both. Do you understand?
By waiting news from you, I kiss you and say au revoir.
With kisses, Cécile
Maggie studied Cécile’s English lessons and the Bonne Année postcard. Impulsively, she placed it against her lips. “I kiss it too.” With that, Cécile became her own pen pal.
“It’s clear why your mother loved these letters,” she commented. “Cécile transports you to Paris. Imagine having seen President Wilson and General Pershing. The history teacher in me is quite impressed.”
Maggie carefully folded the letter. She inserted it and the other contents back into the envelope. “This letter marked ‘the beginning of a beautiful friendship,’ to quote Casablanca.”
“Oh, I adore that movie too, sweetie.” Grams stroke an oratory pose, one hand reached out. “We’ll always have Paris.”
“And, we will, Grams.” Maggie gave a playful grin.
During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a paperback copy of With Kisses From Cecile! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on September 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.
JAN AGNELLO comes from several generations of hobbiest antiquers. Her love of stories behind the antiques inspired her in 2013 to form Storyology Design, now Storyology Design and Publication. The necklaces Jan crafts from antique coin purses have generated a loyal customer following and garnered attention from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, jewelry network executives, and TV and film costume designers. Her love of books, romance, history, and unique jewelry design led her to collaborate with author Anne Armistead to offer a series of historical novels, each paired with heirloom quality jewelry named for the female protagonist. The first in the series, WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE, is a story of love and redemption drawn from Jan’s family history. It is paired with THE CÉCILE JEWELRY COLLECTION. Visit storyologydesign.com to learn more about Jan and Storyology.
ANNE ARMISTEAD is a writer of historical romance. She earned her English literature degree from the University of Georgia and her MFA in creative writing from Spalding University. Her background includes project management with AT&T and teaching English at the middle, high, and college levels. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Georgia Writers of Romance. WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE is her second romance, following the publication of DANGEROUS CONJURINGS (Soul Mate Publishing, April 2018). Anne writes for and serves as an editor for Storyology Design and Publication. Visit annearmisteadauthor.comto learn more about Anne and her novels.