When a mysterious old woman turns up at her mother’s funeral, Victoria Wren’s life opens to change. Denied any knowledge of her family’s history, this childhood friend of her grandmother’s holds the key to a long-locked door. “Your past awaits you, my dear,” Rose whispers in the cold March rain.
And therein begins Wren’s journey. From World War I to now, 1962, she learns the beautiful but ultimately tragic love story of her grandmother and grandfather. Through letters, diaries, paintings and Rose’s own vivid memory, the story unfolds. And as Wren journeys into her past, she discovers a brilliant and passionate destiny of her own.
Excerpt from first chapter:
MARCH 1962 CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA MAGNOLIA CEMETERY Rose Marie “THE ONLY THING constant in this life is change,” thought Rose, as she watched the priest drop earth to earth on Celeste’s magnolia-draped casket. The service had been lovely and brief, the traditional Episcopal Burial of the Dead and as the parties stepped from their cars into the cemetery, a cold drizzling rain began to fall. The umbrellas made a stately parade through the narrow winding lane to the tent where chairs were set up to receive the mourners.
“Rain blesses the dead,” she recalled, feeling that remembrance infuse a little strength and reserve into her forlorn spirits. Septuagenarian friend of now three generations of the women of this family, Rose Marie walked alone following the others, her black umbrella dripping as she filed along the narrow path before being ushered into a seat near the rear of the tent. Looking about her at the small crowd in attendance, she recognized the safe and distant world Celeste Fairfax had chosen to make her own in this lifetime, and thought wryly that most of the women there looked the same, all looked the way Celeste had looked ever since leaving the convent and marrying her prominent Charleston attorney: brushed and polished, carefully thin and elegantly dressed.
“Still, too young to die,” sighed Rose, “but then they all seem to die young,” she reflected, remembering Celeste’s mother Clara, and her death at the age of thirty-six. And now Celeste, too, dead at forty.
Her mind running back in time,Rose’s heart ached for both of them, mother and daughter, but realized at the same time that, no matter how untimely, Celeste’s death was more understandable, more explainable, more easily accepted, than Clara’s had been. Celeste, whom Rose had known since her birth, had always been a delicate, fragile child, ethereal one might even say, finding her only real passion in music; whereas Clara had been strong and vital, more at ease flying over pastures on her horse, or being held voluntary captive in her remote mountain studio, alone with palette, paint and easel. Celeste had escaped into the ancient world of revered composers; Clara was determined to create something new out of the old, determined that her own stamp of individuality should make even ancient subjects live again. “But,” Rose thought, arguing with herself, “Celeste did the same with the soulful interpretation she brought to her music---so they were alike as artists---where the line was drawn was in their connection to the earth, to the physical world around them.”