Author: Charlene Whitman
Publisher: Ubiquitous Press
Genre: Sweet Historical Western Romance
of men to discover the love awaiting her with open arms.
cheek burned, but not as fiercely as the hurt in her heart. The pain and
disappointment smoldering there sizzled like hot embers, threatening to reduce
her to a pile of ash. She glared at her father’s back as he stomped out of the
understand? She would not marry Pietro, no matter how wealthy his family was,
no matter how many years her papá and his had planned such an arrangement. “It
is our way, Angela,” he had told her again, his face hard and eyes dark and
menacing, leaving no room for debate. “And you will marry him. You are twenty
years of age—you are lucky he is still willing. You’ve made him wait long
past the rock lodged in her aching throat, she knew what would follow. What
always followed. Her papá’s rage erupted in a torrent of Italian curses that
ended with a slap that knocked her nearly senseless against the foyer wall
before he stormed out the apartment.
the front door, she had caught a glimpse of her mamá in the kitchen, her back
turned to her in unspoken submission. Angela huffed. I will never marry and
become like you, Mamá—squashed under the thumb of some man who wants only
subservience and a crowded apartment full of squalling babies.
tears. She would not cry—not today. Today she would take the first steps—real
steps—toward her dream. And no one, not even the powerful and prominent Giusepe
Bellini could stop her.
rumbled—as it always did six times a day and twice each night—from the Third
Avenue El Train fifty feet away. The noise of the wheels clacking and the
platform rattling mingled with the loud voices of her downstairs neighbors
arguing—Mr. Paolino’s tenor to his wife’s shrill soprano. Outside her window,
carriages clattered on cobblestones in sharp staccato, and shoppers and
merchants carried on in boisterous conversation, sounding no more pacifying
than an orchestra tuning their instruments.
drown out the suffocating symphony of Mulberry Bend by rehearsing violin caprices
in her head, imagining her fingers flying over the fingerboard, her right hand
bowing the strings, eliciting the sweet and sonorous timbre of her instrument.
September afternoon, the many pieces she’d memorized—no, absorbed into her very
soul, as if food that nourished her—flitted away, out of reach, as she pulled
down the heavy carpetbag from the hall closet—a bag that she’d found months ago
stuffed behind a stack of wool blankets.
mama was humming in the back room as she folded laundry. Her two younger
siblings were off playing with neighborhood children—in the street, no doubt,
as the sweltering heat was worse indoors.
dabbed her perspiring forehead and neck with a handkerchief and went through
her mental list of all she would need on her trip. Not much—she’d only be gone
ten, perhaps, twelve days, if all went as planned. She pushed from her thoughts
her papá’s impending fury at her insolence and the resulting punishments that
would await her upon her return. But she had made her decision, and there was
no turning back.
and while he often spent an hour or more on Sunday afternoons smoking cigars
with the men of the neighborhood, discussing the politics of her close-knit
Italian community and their various business ventures—and arranging their
daughters’ marriages, she thought bitterly—he could return at any time.
neat stack of clothes she had put in her bottom dresser drawer, then stuffed
them into the traveling bag along with her few womanly items, her prayer book,
some sheets of music, and a spare pair of shoes. She checked her reticule and
found the roll of bills—the money she’d earned over the last two years from
babysitting and teaching music lessons through Signore Bianchi’s instrument
shop on Second Avenue. She hoped it would be enough for the quality of violin
she planned to buy.
inquiry regarding pricing in his letter. He merely assured her he would provide
her with an exceptional instrument and that they would work out the financial
details once she arrived in Greeley, Colorado.
enough? It had to be, for she couldn’t return to New York and face the audition
committee without a proper instrument.
stung. “You’re a talented musician, Miss Bellini. But you bring shame to
your craft by playing on such an inferior violin. Come back when you have an
appropriate instrument.” The three committee members had politely frowned
when she flustered an apology and hurried to the exit of the symphony hall,
pressing down her humiliation and frustration as tears welled in her eyes.
buy her a violin of exceptional quality, and every year at Christmas she begged
him to indulge her love of playing with the purchase of a new one, but he only
laughed in cool disdain and waved her away. “Give up your foolish dreams,
Angela. Your place is in the home, with a husband and children. Not on the
stage.” Her papá regarded music appropriate only at holidays and festivals
and family gatherings, and only traditional song and instrumentation. He
didn’t—couldn’t—understand this dream she nursed. The dream to play in the New
York Philharmonic, to play on stage before an audience, to be a part of the
creation of ethereal music that filled a great performance hall and moved
listeners to tears.
older brother, Bartolomeo, sided with their papá, constantly nagging her to
“get married already and stop being a burden on the family.” Although he was
but two years older, he and Dora had three children. And Dora—and most of
Angela’s other girlfriends from her school days, who were also married—gave her
constant looks of pity, as if Angela was missing out on life’s greatest joy.
But they just didn’t understand.
of her dream to keep it alive, to prevent it from being snuffed out by her papá’s
stern expectations and society’s demands. And it had nearly been extinguished a
month ago, upon her papá’s brash public announcement of her engagement to
Pietro—an arrogant youngest son of a successful wine merchant who had no love
for music—none whatsoever. She harbored no hope that he would ever understand
her passionate need to play the violin, and no doubt he’d forbid her pursuit of
in the Times about one George Fisk, a master violin maker in a newly
founded town in the West—a place called Greeley. On a whim she’d written him.
Why? She didn’t know. She could purchase a violin in Manhattan—one of
sufficient quality. But there was something about the description of this man,
Fisk. The way he spoke about the instruments he made. The care and time and
love he put into each one. He built his instruments with a passion and love for
beauty and music that resonated with her. For, she wanted more than a good
violin. She wanted one that spoke to her soul, one made just for her. George
Fisk promised he could provide just that. But she had to travel halfway across
the continent. Was she willing? he’d asked her.
more than willing. Although, she’d never traveled outside of the city, and
the thought of venturing into wild country, alone, made her stomach twist. But
Fisk had told her not to worry. He would see to her accommodations and show her
around his “wonderful little Western town.” And she had to admit—she was ready
for an adventure.
tiny bedroom situated in a crowded apartment in a busy, noisy city. I’m more
than ready for peace and quiet, and to get away from Papá’s mean spirit and
under a wide-open sky spattered with stars, with no neighbors quarreling or
trains rattling or horses’ hooves clacking on stones? Her heart yearned for
such open space, for such silence. Silence that longed to be filled with
beautiful music. She imagined nature itself performing a symphony of birdsong
and coyote howls and water cascading over rocks. Those were some of the images
her mind drifted to as she played, and she longed to merge her own musical
voice to that of creation, if even just for a day or two.
The author of “heart-thumping” Western romance, Charlene Whitman spent many years living on Colorado‘s Front Range. She grew up riding and raising horses, and loves to read, write, and hike the mountains. She attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins as an English major. She has two daughters and is married to George “Dix” Whitman, her love of thirty years. The Front Range series of sweet historical Western romance novels (set in 1876) includes Colorado Promise, set in Greeley, Colorado; Colorado Hope, set in Fort Collins; Wild Secret, Wild Longing, which takes readers up into the Rockies, and Colorado Dream (release date 11/15/16) and Wild Horses, Wild Hearts (release date 1/1/17).
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