Monday, February 20, 2012

Christa Allan's Love Finds You in New Orleans

Christa Allan teaches high school English in Louisiana and received her National Board Certification in 2007.  She's the mother of five, and Grammy of two precious (of course!) grandgirls.  She and her husband recently moved to an 1840s home in the historic Bywater District in New Orleans.  Christa and Ken are happily anticipating retirement, chasing their three neurotic cats, and sometimes dodging hurricanes.

Her first historical, Love Finds You in New Orleans, released this month from Summerside Press. Her debut novel, Walking on Broken Glass (2010) was published by Abingdon Press. The Edge of Grace, her second novel with Abingdon, received a starred review from Library Journal. She'll  also be publishing a novel with Abingdon Press in 2012 as part of their Quilts of Love line. Christa writes not-your-usual Christian fiction, stories that focus on redemption for the broken.

You can find Christa online at her website: www.ChristaAllan.com/, on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.



Love Finds You in 
New Orleans


Raised by her grandparents in 19th-century New Orleans, Charlotte knows little about her long-lost parents. Now facing an arranged marriage to a suitor she dreads, she finds herself attracted to somebody else: a young Creole man named Gabriel Girod. Meanwhile, her grandparents harbor a family secret. Will the truth set everybody free---especially Charlotte?








Here's an excerpt from Love Finds You in New Orleans:

11
Chapter One
January 1841

Grand-mère and Abram were due home from the French Market at any moment, and Charlotte could not convince Henri to leave her bedroom.

“You know Abram will throw you out the door, and after Grand-mère is finished with me, I may never leave this bedroom. Forever a pris­oner of this house.” Well, forever until the day of her coming-out party. Lottie knew there would be no missing that event even if she wanted to. And most days, she wanted to forget the event entirely.

Henri yawned and stared back at her.

“If your belly wasn’t so full, you wouldn’t be so content.”

He stretched and blinked a few times as if to say, “Whose fault is that?”

Of course he was right. Lottie reached for her mattress and pulled herself up from crouching on the floor to have her one-way conversation with the calico cat that eluded capture under her four-poster bed. She’d started feeding Henri the day she spotted him wobbling after the milk lady’s cart. Madame Margaret delivered the milk to Grand-mère and went on her way, but the cat with the pleading gray eyes stayed behind. Her grandmother begrudgingly relented when Lottie begged to feed him, as long as she promised he would never, ever cross the threshold into their house.

Still wearing her nightgown, all Lottie could do was peek through the muslin curtains. “Only two houses away,” she whispered, as if the words might alarm Henri. She turned around just as the spotted cat started to make his escape, and in a movement so swift that she almost toppled into her armoire, she snatched him.

Even before Grand-mère made her entrance through the wrought-iron gate at the rear of the house, with her basket sprouting colorful vegetables, Lottie had deposited the cat on the front steps. She hurried through the library and the parlor and up to her bedroom—just in time to see Agnes pick up the china saucer left under the bed.

Agnes looked over Lottie’s shoulder and then behind, toward the gal­lery, where Lottie’s grandmother, Marie LeClerc, could be heard already discussing dinner with the cook. “Now, Miss Genevieve Charlotte…” Agnes lowered her voice from its usual trumpet blast and set her chestnut eyes right on Lottie’s guilty face. “You forget your cup this morning when you fount the coffee?”

Without waiting for an answer, which they both knew would be one step away from the truth, Agnes slipped the saucer into the wide front pocket of her white apron. “I’m taking care of this”—she patted her pocket—“while you taking care of getting dressed for the day.”

Lottie wanted to hug her, but Agnes backed away and waved her arms in front of her to ensure her distance. “You best wash that cat off your hands before wrapping your arms round me. No telling where that mister been since you last saw him.” Agnes secured the mosquito netting to the four posters of Lottie’s bed, surveyed the room, and looked into the ceramic basin on the dresser. “Well, your water is fresh. Your grandmother gonna start calling your name if she don’t see you soon.” She walked out of the room.

After Lottie splashed water on her hands and face, she pulled the blue chintz day dress from her armoire and laid it across her bed. The skirt and bodice showed some wear, but for Lottie, that meant she could soon cut it down to sew dresses for the orphan home. Weeks ago, she had gone to the home for the first time with Gabriel when he delivered food there. She had taken a homespun summer dress covered with pink, blue, and yellow flowers that no longer covered her pantaloons. Grand-mère had been appalled the last time she’d worn it, so Lottie had decided her grandmother wouldn’t mind if she gave it away.

Not that Lottie had told her about giving it away yet. Even though her dress could clothe at least two of the girls, she feared her grandparents would not want her traipsing to an orphan home—with Gabriel, no less. How many times had Grand-mère droned, “Picking up strays again, dear?” Gabriel, the orphans, Henri—all defined as strays by her grandmother.

I’ll tell her after my twentieth birthday. It’s nearly two months away. Lottie laughed at the thought that she would be old enough to take a husband into the house and a dress out of the house on the same day. She might even write that in her letter to her parents, one she would compose later when she sat at her desk to share her day with them, as she had almost every day for the past ten years. Lottie told no one about her letters. They would have called her foolish to write to people who were never going to write her back.
* * * * *
Grand-mère informed Lottie over breakfast that she would be taking music instructions from Madame Fontenot because “playing the pianoforte reflects a lady’s culture and sophistication.”

“Why do I need to be cultured and sophisticated?” Lottie reached for a second croissant, but Grand-mère whisked away the basket and handed her a bowl of strawberries.

“Why, Charlotte, suitors appreciate ladies who can play music, especially something as entertaining as the pianoforte.” Grand-mère placed the basket of croissants next to her own plate, sighed, and mum­bled as if speaking to the tablecloth.

As usual, when her grandmother spoke to the air, Charlotte pre­tended not to listen. She had spent years not hearing what she was certain Grand-mère expected her to hear.

“Entertaining? Will that require years of lessons?” Actually, Lottie hoped so. Anything to put distance between herself and the prospect of suitors.

Her grandmother settled her coffee cup in its saucer. “Certainly not. Unless, that is, you show promise. In that case, your lessons could continue even after you are married.”

Had she not just bitten into the sweet strawberry, Lottie might have tasted the sourness in her stomach as it rose to her throat. But, as always, she would defer to her grandmother’s plans. She brushed off the croissant crumbs sprinkled on the bodice of her gown and patted her mouth with her napkin. “May I be excused?”

“Of course,” Grand-mére said. “But before you leave, it might brighten your face to know that I’ve arranged for Justine to join you in your lessons.”

Lottie smiled. “Thank you. It does make me happy to know that she and I will be sharing the time.” And the suffering, she thought.

“What are your plans for the day?” Grand-mère folded her napkin over her breakfast plate and stood.

“Justine and I planned to work on our samplers this morning since we both need more practice with stitches. She should be here within the hour.” Lottie followed her grandmother into the butler’s pantry to rinse their dishes.

“If I finish planning the week’s meals with Cook, I may join you. If not, you can show me your progress later.”

Lottie nodded as she dried her plate and hoped for a difficult menu planning.
* * * * *
“I suppose suitors appreciate ladies who eat only one croissant at break­fast,” Lottie told her friend Justine Dumas as they worked on their samplers in the library. Looking behind her to make certain her grand­mother hadn’t slipped in, Lottie lifted her sewing and snapped the end of her thread with her teeth before staring at the half-finished piece. “I wish the alphabet didn’t have so many letters.” She tugged a green thread from the bundle of string. “Look, Justine, it’s the color of your eyes. I’m going to sew the J with it.”

Justine leaned over the arm of her chair to get a closer look. “No, that is the color of celery.” She smoothed the almost-completed needle­work on her lap and raised her head with an air of mock sophistication. “My eyes are like two glittering emeralds.”

Lottie smiled and pulled the threads into a knot. “Somewhere between there is the truth. Like the truth I learned this morning.”

“Maybe your grandmother doesn’t want you to outgrow your corset.” Justine giggled and coaxed her needle through the muslin. “But isn’t it exciting to think about being courted, then engaged and married?”

“No. All that excites me is that you will join me in those piano­forte punishments. I will have a partner in suffering.” Lottie placed the back of her hand to her forehead and swooned in imitation of Emmeline, Justine’s cousin, who joined them for Spanish lessons with Señor Marino. At least once a month, Emmy felt faint and always managed to fall into his arms. Perhaps there would be an engagement announced soon.

“My mother was delighted to have one fewer lesson to schedule,” said Justine. As the youngest of seven, Justine often orchestrated her own social life since her older siblings, and now their children, kept her mother in a perpetual state of obligation and confusion.

They slipped into comfortable silence. The afternoon sun bowed out of the sky as if its dance with the day had ended. Shadows lazily drifted through the tall windows while the girls collected their threads and samplers to continue another time.

Agnes’s orders to Abram vibrated through the rooms. “Why you not out there lookin’ for Mr. LeClerc? Go wait by that porte cochère where his carriage come in. Remember, the doctor said he got a weak heart.” Lottie imagined Abram’s usual response of shaking his head in what Agnes called his “what you gonna do with her” way. Agnes and Abram had been with Lottie’s grandparents longer than she had. Before Lottie had reached the age of ten, old enough to join her grandparents at dinner, she had felt like Agnes’s daughter. Often, she wished she was.

Justine adjusted the bow of her bonnet, even though Lottie had remarked earlier that the evening shade didn’t require a bonnet at all. She had just reached for the door latch when she suddenly grabbed Lottie’s arm as if she’d fallen into the swamp. “Charlotte, I have the most won­derful idea.” Her face certainly reflected the excitement in her voice.

“Is the idea that you will not squeeze my arm again?”

“You are so silly.” Justine let go, smoothed the sleeve she had man­gled, and leaned toward Lottie. “We could have our coming-out parties together, even though you are older. Everyone understands the fright over contagion because of the fever in the city. Your coming-out party was not the only one delayed.”

Justine’s words ran out of her mouth so fast, they bumped into one another. The speed of her words wasn’t a problem, but her ever-increasing volume was. Lottie pressed a finger against Justine’s lips. “Shush. No talk­ing about this now. I am hoping my grandparents forget—”

“Forget?” Justine pulled back and looked at Lottie as though she’d just told her she’d met Andrew Jackson. “Do you really think your grandmother would forget such an important event?”

Important for her. A chance to market me to a rich man she can boast about. Lottie didn’t have to think of an answer, because they both knew what it would be—and because someone knocked on the door.

Benjamin, one of Justine’s older brothers, waited outside. He nod­ded in Lottie’s direction, looked at Justine as Lottie imagined only an annoyed older brother could, and said, “Mother sent me for you.”

Lottie laughed. “You live four houses away.”

Justine stepped out of the house. “Charlotte, that kind of thinking is your problem. It’s not the distance. A lady should not walk the streets in the evening without a chaperone.”

“That was one of the best ‘elegant lady’ statements I’ve ever heard from you. Our deportment teacher would be so proud.”

Justine giggled. “I will be back tomorrow for our first pianoforte lesson.”

Again, Benjamin nodded toward Lottie, and the two walked away. Lottie watched as they moved down the banquette and maneuvered around sludge that was too thick to slip into the ditches. The gaslights swaying from the ropes fastened to tall poles along the street seemed to blink as they passed.Lottie pushed the door closed and wished she could close the door on her dreams as easily.
* * * * *
“How is it that you can be late for our lesson when it is in your parlor?” Justine did not stop practicing scales on the pianoforte to acknowledge Lottie’s arrival. Madame Fontenot sat next to her—though with the bench invisible under yards of Justine’s calico dress and their teacher’s black skirt, the two appeared to be suspended in perfect alignment. But had Lottie stepped any closer, Madame’s glance in her direction would have left cuts. Justine and Lottie often joked that Madame Fontenot paid Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen, for those chilling expressions.

Lottie closed the parlor doors behind her and mentally pinched herself to avoid saying something to Madame or Justine she might later be made to regret. She was not going to tell either one of them that she overslept after staying awake longer than intended so she could write a letter to her parents.

Lottie sat in the padded chair facing the tall windows at the front of the house and waited for Justine’s lesson to end. As far as she was concerned, Justine could have Lottie’s lesson time too.

Lottie watched a carriage pass, its curtains drawn, and wished she were in it, headed down Rue Royale. Instead she listened to Madame Fontenot as she reminded Justine, “Wrists up, fingers curved,” and dreaded her own practice. She tapped her feet on the thick Turkish carpet; waves of pale blue chintz swished back and forth, keeping time with each key that Justine’s fingers touched. Lottie felt as gray and as restless as the clouds outside. Maybe Grand-mère will allow a trip to the opera this evening—

“Charlotte, Justine has finished her lesson.” Madame Fontenot waved her over to the bench.

“I will be in the library. Your grandfather invited me to select a book,” Justine said to Lottie. She opened the door and pressed her gown to her side as she passed through the opening.

As Lottie lifted herself off the chair, she spotted a familiar tignon making its way across the street, made even more familiar by the young man behind, who carried a large woven basket. Whatever hope Governor Miró had that requiring free women of color to wear the knotted head­dresses in public would make them less attractive surely had not counted on women like Rosette Girod. The handkerchief swirls of orchid-shaded silk framed her exotic face. Without the tignon, Lottie knew, she and Rosette could have walked together in the French Market and no one who passed would have identified Rosette as a free woman of color. Her features were echoed in her son Gabriel, who, as a child, explained his light complexion to Agnes by telling her that before he was born, God had dipped him into a pot of café au lait. As she watched, Lottie saw Rosette point in the direction of her home.

Lottie’s time with Gabriel had been severely curtailed since he started helping Rosette at her Chartres Street café a few years ago. What started as a stand selling coffee and hot calas—the deep-fried rice cakes eaten for breakfast—had, over the years, become an out­door café with chairs and tables. Churchgoers who poured out of Saint Louis Cathedral on Sunday mornings spilled right into the café that bore Rosette’s mother’s name, Café Elizabeth.

Fueled by the possibility of talking to Gabriel, who actually cared what she thought, Lottie hurried past the piano bench. “I will return tout de suite,” she told a tight-lipped Madame before heading to the library. Justine truly was reading. Romeo and Juliet, of course. Lottie plucked the play out of her friend’s hands. “Rosette and Gabriel are on their way to visit. Tell Agnes the lessons are almost over. See if they can stay until we finish.” Lottie felt as surprised as Justine appeared by the urgency in her voice.

“We?” Justine returned the volume to the étagère, sliding it between Macbeth and The Tempest. “I’m finished. So what I’m actually asking is if they can wait on you.” She held a small silver tray she’d found on Grand-père’s desk up to her face and smoothed her hair along each side of her part.

“Charlotte.” Lottie didn’t need to see Madame’s face to assess the level of her irritation. The second syllable of her name sounded as heavy as an anchor. An anchor that landed on the t.

At that moment, Lottie mentally thanked her grandmother for deportment lessons. She turned around, cast her eyes downward, and clasped her hands loosely at her waist. “Forgive me, Madame Fontenot. I did not want to forget to deliver an important message to Justine.”

“I have other students today, so your lesson will have to end right on time. Come with me. You have already wasted enough time.”

Lottie nodded and, when she sat next to Madame on the piano bench, produced a genuine smile and said, “Let’s begin.”

You can purchase Love Finds You in New Orleans at Amazon.

Christa is giving away a copy of Love Finds You in New Orleans. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

24 comments:

Abbi Hart (gatorade635) said...

ooohhh this book looks good! Thanks for the giveaway!

Jennifer said...

I can't imagine dressing in gowns every day. Love stories set in the days with the horse and carriage. It's hard to just read one chapter, when you want to keep reading and find out what happens.
jennydtipton@gmail.com

Diana Flowers said...

Please enter me! What a beautiful book and it sounds wonderful! Thank you for the opportunity to win it.

dianalflowers[at]aol[dot]com

Marianne said...

i have never been to New Orleans, but would love to visit historical New Orleans through your novel. Thanks, Patty and Crista for the opportunity to win

marianne

mitzi underscore wanham at yahoo dot com

ann said...

I had the opportunity to visit New Orleans and I wish I could have stayed longer. This book sounds so interesting. Hope I win.Thanks\
amhengst at verizon dot net

Teela said...

What a lovely lady and a lovely book jacket. My husband and I spent our honeymoon (40 yrs ago this Aug!) in New Orleans!! So, I would of course, love a copy of this book to review and blog about! teelayoung at hotmail dot com http://coffee24tea.blogspot.com

Linda said...

I would love to learn more of New Orleans, as I've never been down South. Sounds like a great read.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Amy R.S. said...

I would be interested in reading this book. Especially about New Orleans. Please enter me. Thanks.

sweetdarknectar at gmail dot com

Susan H said...

I really like the Love Finds You books. Loved the first Chapter of this one and look forward to reading the rest.

shardick(at)sbcglobal(dot)net

Laura J said...

Looks like a great book!

laurelprincess12 at gmail dot com

karenk said...

thanks for the opportunity to read this wonderful story :)

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Nancee said...

I'd love to win a copy of this book. Thank you for offering it!
Nancee
quiltcat26@sbcglobal.net

JoyHannabass said...

I love LFY books, and would like to add this one to my stash of books!
Blessings....Joy
ibjoy1953(AT)yahoo.com

apple blossom said...

I love LFY books thanks for chance to win

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Christa Allan said...

Thanks to everyone for stopping by, and I so appreciate your kind words.

I'm truly excited about this novel because it highlights the city I grew up in and love. I hope you enjoy reading Charlotte's story.

Judy said...

I love reading the LFY books and I would love to win a copy of LFY in New Orleans. It sounds like a good read!

Thanks for this giveaway!

Blessings!
Judy K
sweetpea.judy[at]yahoo[dot]com

Patsy said...

Would really like to read this book. Thanks for the giveaway.

plhouston(at)bellsouth(dot)net

Lane Hill House said...

I would like to win this book!
lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

PatriciaW said...

I am so enamored by New Orleans' culture. Please enter me. pwriter1[at]yahoo[dot]com

Anonymous said...

I would love to read this book and meeting new Authors is nice.
Maxie Anderson (mac262@me.com )

Tea said...

I enjoyed reading the interview. I would love to read IN NEW ORLEANS...I've always been fascinated with New Orleans and any part of Louisiana. Hope I'm not too late to enter.

teakettle58@yahoo.com

Christa Allan said...

Thanks, Patty, for letting me hang out with your blog readers. What a great group! I appreciate everyone who stopped by, and I hope you enjoy the novel.

Blessings!

Katie McCurdy said...

The cover for this book is SO beautiful! Makes me want to pick up the book and read it NOW! And the synopsis further intrigues me. Sounds like a good read! Count me in!!!

Katie
agirlslegacy(at)yahoo(dot)com

Jo said...

I have been enjoying reading the Love Finds You series so would love to read this one as well.

Blessings,
Jo
ladijo40(at)aol(dot)com

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