“Winter’s on the wing, here’s a fine spring morn…”
That line from the soundtrack of The Secret Garden is especially appropriate for a couple of reasons. This has been one hard winter. We had snow on the ground continuously from the first weekend of December through the first week of April, which is pretty rare in these parts. We can’t complain too loudly, though. We didn’t have it nearly as bad as a lot of other folks in different parts of the country. The grape hyacinths and daffodils are blooming…
But the sycamores still stand like skeletons against the spring sky.
The other reason that line from The Secret Garden is apropos is that it ties in so well with the pending release of my next novel, She Sings of Old, Unhappy, Far-off Things, due out in early-mid May. I got to play with many of my favorite things in this book: Jane Austen, The Secret Garden, Wordsworth, the Biltmore House and Asheville, North Carolina.
Our local university’s music theatre department recently staged a production of The Secret Garden by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon. It is, hands-down, my favorite musical of all time. If you’ve never seen this musical, you really, really need to. It’s more of an opera, as nearly the entire show is sung. I have memorized the soundtrack. The music is hauntingly beautiful and complex as many of the numbers have three or four characters singing simultaneously. Norman and Simon expounded upon some of the themes Frances Hodgson Burnett touched upon when she wrote the novel – the longing for loved ones who have passed away and the healing power of nature, but they also introduced the pain of unrequited love and they brought to life the power of a woman’s love – as a wife and mother.
In this newest book of mine, gardening and nature’s power to heal figure prominently. I, myself, am not a gardener. My back hates nearly all tasks associated with gardening: bending over to weed, hauling and spreading mulch, kneeling or squatting to plant or rearrange things. My partner and our closest friends all love gardening, however, and I realized as I wrote this book, that I’ve absorbed more information than I knew, just from listening to them and accompanying them on visits to public gardens and nurseries.
The cover is being worked on now, and I’ll share it as soon as it’s ready, but in the meantime, here’s the blurb and a link to an excerpt. I’m trying the link thingie as opposed to just copying and pasting the excerpt because I’d love for you to have a chance to see the beautiful work my formatter has done to help bring this book to life. I don’t know about you, but a good book is more to me than just the words – it’s how it’s all put together.
Back cover Blurb:
Margaret Braithwaite was a rising Regency scholar and an acclaimed author. Thirty years later, she’s a one-book wonder, a fifty-something college professor with the dubious distinction of being an expert on Jane Austen, hidden in the shadow of her famous husband and his Civil War novels. “Too young to retire, and too old to start over,” Margaret feels as dried up and dead as the neglected gardens her husband took such pride in before he became ill.
Wyck Fitzsimmons is the Asheville landscape architect Gavin Braithwaite hires to restore his precious gardens to their former glory. She learned a long time ago that plants and trees are safer and more reliable companions than other people.
Under Wyck’s care, the gardens begin to come back to life, but the flowers aren’t the only thing blossoming. For the first time in decades, Margaret feels the stirrings of love, but those long-buried feelings frighten her more than the prospect of withering away alone in her ivory tower of academia.
Gavin, more observant than most people give him credit for, sees the attraction developing between his wife and his gardener. Using every means at his disposal, he arranges things so that Margaret has no choice but to remain faithful to him, even after death.
Margaret, confused and faced with losing everything that offers her any kind of security, flees to England – to Austen and Wordsworth country – where she tries to forget Wyck and all the feelings she has awakened.
Back in North Carolina, Wyck must come to terms with her own past and somehow find a way to forgive before it’s too late to make amends.
Love, it seems, can take root in even the most barren hearts, if only Margaret and Wyck can find the courage to let it grow.
Click here to read the excerpt: She Sings_excerpt