Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Urban Renewal: A Little Memorial Day, A Lot Coming Home

                        From the desk of Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

“This book is for anyone who has experienced that intense first love and still holds a small piece of it in their heart….This story is about "going home" and finding yourself again….. This was a heartwarming love story, and I will definitely read more by this author.”

Urban Renewal review from Amazon.com


Somehow Memorial Day – and the three day holiday weekend attached to the observance – has become the unofficial kick off for the summer season in the US.  The ads in my Sunday paper yesterday were chock full of barbecue grills and patio furniture, swimwear and picnic goods, swimming pools and movie stars.  Oh, wait.  Swimming pools, yes.  Movie stars, no.  The movie star connection comes from my March release from Champagne Books, Urban Renewal.   It’s earning some rave reviews and selling copies at all the major online retail sites.  Since it has a scene centered around Memorial Day, I thought I’d focus on it the first part of this week and share the scene.  I’ll also add a shorter snippet with some heat between Marie and Joe just for fun!

Here’s the cover and the blurb:

Movie star Mercedes Montague has it all – the fame, the fortune, and the glittering celebrity lifestyle.  But she lost herself somewhere along the way. On a publicity tour for her next movie she realizes she’s just fifty miles from her hometown.  Mercedes – real name Marie Dillard – decides to bolt and go home to see if she can find what’s left of herself.   Hiding away in her grandparents’ old home in a working class neighborhood she’s haunted by memories and reminders of her first and only love, Joe Shelby.

 Marie’s stunned when Joe shows up at her door.  Passion kindles between them from the first moment their eyes meet but she won’t let it consume her unless it’s going to include a lasting love. As they renew their relationship, Marie and Joe face many struggles.

Can a movie star return to reality or is love just a distant dream?


Memorial Day themed excerpt:



“I’ll clean up my mess and get dressed.”

So, the star of the new movie, Tempest, filled up the old deep sink with water and did the dishes. Marie wiped down the table and stove. She dressed in simple jeans and a comfortable aquamarine scoop-necked blouse. She brushed back her long hair and left it down although she secured it with a pair of barrettes. By the time Joe walked out of the bathroom wearing nothing at all, she’d done her minimal make-up and was ready to go. Clean shaved, he exuded man energy and she wanted him with a rush of desire. But Marie could wait, she decided, until after they made their rounds. Then they would enjoy a leisurely lovemaking session together.

At the small discount chain up on the north end of St. Joe Avenue, Marie selected silk wreaths for her grandparents and smaller bouquets for other relatives. Joe grabbed a couple for his deceased family members and they headed out.

“Where do you want to go first?”

“Mount Mora,” Marie said. “That’s where Ma and Pop are buried.”

“I remember,” Joe said. So did she. Pop’s funeral on a bitter February day still hurt to think about but Joe, wearing a heavy old sheepskin style coat, had never left her side. Marie recalled the ankle deep snow, cold and heavy as it seeped into her shoes. Joe carried her back to the funeral home limo, something she would never forget. When she came home to lay Ma to rest, on a beautiful autumn day with yellow leaves drifting down from the maple tree nearby, she looked for Joe but of course he hadn’t come. He would have still been in the Army, then.

At the old cemetery he entered through the gates and wound past Mausoleum Row where some of the city’s earliest rich folks took their eternal rest. Joe parked near where her grandparents were buried, about three rows up from the road beneath a pair of huge cedar trees. She placed the red and white wreath on Ma’s side of the double upright marker and Joe helped set the festive yellow one for Pop. Marie stuck the small American flag she’d bought for her grandfather into the ground. Then they walked over to where her Uncle Neal rested. She placed a second flag for him and a bouquet of blue roses.

Although memories flooded her mind, Marie wasn’t sad, just reflective and when Joe put his arm around her, she smiled.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Joe. No tears.”

“That’s good. Where are we headed next?”

“Ashland, I suppose.” Marie named the other cemetery with a sigh. Most of her mom’s family rested there and so did her parents. So they drove out to Ashland Avenue, to another cemetery, this one much larger than Mount Mora. She directed Joe to her parents’ graves, out in the center of a triangular section separated from the rest of the cemetery by the drive. Although she didn’t remember her parents at all since they died when she was not quite one, Marie could recall when this section was mostly grass. Even as a small child, Marie could recall their pink granite headstone set apart but now rows of graves surrounded it. They walked through the grass and she placed two bouquets. The white daisies and yellow daffodils contrasted against the bright green grass.

“I wish I’d met them,” Joe remarked.

Marie smiled. “I just wish I remembered them. I don’t, not at all. I don’t remember going to live with Ma and Pop either. Ma told me they took care of me while my mother worked anyway so I guess it didn’t seem so strange to me.”

“What happened to them anyway?”

“Ma said they were heading down to Starlight to see a concert but they crashed. Some eighteen wheelers jackknifed and I guess they couldn’t stop in time to avoid them. I don’t even know who was driving but I think it happened on I-35.”

“I’m sorry, Marie.”

“Me, too, Joe.”

They walked around and put flowers at her maternal grandparents’ grave, at an aunt’s she did remember, and a few other ancestors. As they headed back to Joe’s truck, Marie asked, “Where’s your dad buried, Joe?”

“He’s out at Memorial Park. I thought we’d head out there next. Most of my folks are there, except the ones buried up at Fillmore. I go up there every five years or so but I’m not planning to go today.”

They headed out to Frederick Avenue and on east to Memorial Park. The pastoral lake still featured swans, Marie noticed, as they turned into the entrance. None of her family rested here but she’d been to several funerals. Joe headed around the curve of the hill to the Garden of the Last Supper. After he came to a stop and they got out, he led her down a sidewalk dividing the section. Mr. Shelby’s grave was just a few paces to the left.

“Here’s Dad,” Joe said as he knelt. Marie watched as he worked a permanent vase out of the ground and stood it up, ready for use. They put their red silk geraniums into it, and stepped back. She caught a glimpse of Joe’s face, naked with grief, and she rubbed his left arm.

“Hey, sweetheart?”

He blinked and dashed a few tears out of his eyes. “I’m all right. I still miss him, though. He’d be glad you’re here with me today.”

“I hope so.”

Joe caught her in his arms and held her tight for a long moment. “I know so,” he said. “Let’s take the last of the flowers to my grandparents’ and get the hell out of here.”

“Sure,” Marie said. Curious, she asked, “Where’s Riley’s mom buried?”

“She’s out here but I don’t take her flowers. It seems pretty hypocritical to me so I don’t.”

At his grandparents’ marker, Marie noticed how humid the day seemed. “Isn’t it hot for May?” she asked Joe.

“Yeah,” he said. “It is. I think it’ll storm later. I’ve been watching a storm system on the weather for several days now and it looks like it could be a nasty one. It’s almost become a tradition around here to get severe weather over Memorial Day. We could use the rain but I hope we miss out on the storms. Mom wants us to come over for a cookout Sunday evening so I hope the weather’s good.”

Although he talked about the weather with calm, quiet anxiety prickled the back of her neck. A normal thunderstorm was one thing; major severe weather could be another. California had earthquakes but tornadoes were rare out on the west coast.

By the time they headed toward the exit, more people were walking the rows of flat stones to place their floral tributes. With all the bright blooming colors, Memorial Park seemed somehow festive, not the somber final resting place for many. Deep in thought, she didn’t notice which direction Joe took or where he headed until he pulled into the vast parking lot of the regional medical center where he worked.

“We were this close so I thought I’d drive you by,” he explained. “I imagine Heartland’s grown since you last saw the place.”

“Yes, it has.” Marie marveled at the increased size of the facility and the larger number of buildings surrounding the main campus. “Where you do work?”

“The ER entrance is on the southeast corner. Come on, I’ll show you.”

Curious to see where he worked, at least an outsiders’ view, Marie nodded. Inside the huge hospital he led her to the emergency wing. Most of the staff they passed greeted him and after Joe gave her the basic tour, he walked her down to the main entrance and back. He pointed out the chapel, the cafeteria, the gift shop, and more.

“Now you can come out and spend my break with me sometime,” he said.

Marie gawked around the place. “I’ll probably lose my way since I’m not familiar with the place,” she said.

“You won’t get lost for long.”

Something wistful in his voice made her believe he really wanted her to come so she nodded. “All right, I’ll come.”



Now a sexy snippet:

Shifting shadows cast by the streetlights and passing vehicles danced on the wall of Marie’s bedroom as Joe undressed her with slow hands. He took his time, unhurried, and his fingers lingered to caress her skin. Her skin became ultra-sensitive, responsive to the slightest stroke. Anticipation rippled across her flesh with delicious delight and a wild sense of intoxication swept over her. Marie hadn’t had anything to drink but she experienced the same high rush, drunk on Joe’s physical presence.

She raked her fingers across his bare back and adored the sound he made, not quite a grunt or a moan. He retaliated by caressing her breasts and burying his face against them. She had known his body once and although a few years of wear showed, it hadn’t changed much as Marie explored it. Her hands followed the curve of his hip, the cleft between his legs as if she were blind.

Joe traced the outline of her ribs with one finger, tantalizing and ticklish. “You’re too damn skinny,” he said as his fingers touched bone just below the skin. “But you’re sexy as hell anyway.”

“Shut up and kiss me,” Marie replied, the line an old one from their past. In their earliest attraction period, Joe teased her unmercifully and she would often snap at him, “Shut up,” but she never wanted him to quit. He hadn’t.

“Your wish is my command, movie star princess,” Joe told her, laughter in his voice.

From the moment his mouth touched hers, she burned with fire. His hot lips melted her body into pliant wax, his to do whatever he wished. Joe kissed her with the same slow nonchalance, no hurry, and his indolence drove her wild. The more she ached for release, the harder Marie coveted wildness, the slower Joe became and the more deliberate.

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