For the next few weeks, we will be hosting authors from Bienvenue Press who will be sharing scenes from their books that highlight their settings. This week, Carrie Dalby stops by the Front Porch to share some of her southern gothic book, Perilous Confessions. So, sit back, have a cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy!
On the Front Porch with Perilous Confessions
Thank you for welcoming me back to the front porch for my second instalment. Perilous Confessions is the first book in The Possession Chronicles. It kicks off the drama surrounding the Easton, Melling, and Davenport families—lots of high society scandals and Mardi Gras mischief—that spans a quarter of a century over eight novels. Today, we’re stopping in 1905 and we’ll be on the front steps of the Roman-Catholic cathedral in downtown Mobile, Alabama, for Christmas Mass with twenty-year-old Lucy Easton, her family, and love interest, Alexander Melling.
As they neared the cathedral, Lucy nudged her father and mother together and fell in behind Edmund and Opal in the gathering crowd of Christmas well-wishers. Carolers singing “The First Noel” in the park across the street brought gooseflesh to her arms as she spotted Alexander’s pale hair in the throng of people ascending the portico. The urge to rush to him surged through her body. Alexander stepped to the side when he reached the top, securing a spot next to a column. He leaned against it as though bored, but Lucy smiled to herself as he actively scanned the crowd while his arms were crossed in a way that projected he’d rather not be there. When his eyes met Lucy’s, a grin lighted his face. In response, she raised a gloved hand in greeting and brought it to her heart as he’d signaled to her the other day.
At the top of the steps, Edmund handed Opal off to their father and turned to Lucy. “We’re sitting with the family tonight,” he said when he had her on his arm.
“That’s fine, but I’d like to listen to the carolers for a few minutes. Feel free to mingle while you wait for me.”
Edmund brought her to a spot between the towering columns to the far left and crossed over to greet Alexander. Then he moved on to several young women adorned in festive dresses trimmed in fur and new hats. As soon as Edmund passed him, Alexander skimmed through the crowd and stopped just shy of Lucy.
“Merry Christmas, Lucy.” His eyes were more vivid than ever with a blue bowtie at his neck and a coordinating silk handkerchief peeking out of the breast pocket of his dove gray suit.
“Merry Christmas, Alex.” She felt their mutual attraction as cords binding them together.
“Your dress is heavenly, if you don’t mind me saying so.” He reached out and brushed her hand with his. “And those gloves are just the thing to compliment the ensemble.”
“Mother informed me she approves of the admirer who gave them, whoever he is.”
“That’s a lucky man who can find favor in the eyes of his lady’s mother.”
Heart pounding at the nearness of him, Lucy removed the tatted reticule from her wrist. “Would you mind holding this while I place my mantilla?”
“Not at all.” He appeared amused at her formality, but played along.
When he had the ends of the drawstrings in hand, Lucy slid open the pouch and removed the mantilla and the envelope, placing the latter against his palm until he closed his fingers around it. He slipped it into his coat pocket. Smiling, she placed the mantilla atop her head.
“How’s this?” she asked.
“Crooked as always.” Edmund elbowed past Alexander and straighten the head covering before his friend could move. “I can no longer leave you unattended unless I wish you to be set upon by the likes of him. Like a moth to flame, he always flocks to the prettiest women.”
“I think that’s you chasing Judith and Mary Margaret.” Lucy retrieved her bag from Alexander with a smile. “Thank you. I hope you find the words tonight comforting.”
He patted his pocket. “I’m sure they’ll be agreeable.”
Edmund took his sister’s arm. “Let’s go find our seats. See you later, Alex.”
“Merry Christmas, Eddie. Lucy.” He winked at her as they left.
Edmund and Lucy were taken along with the last of the crowd trying to enter the sanctuary. The parishioners in front of her had come to a standstill and the interior climate, heated by hundreds of bodies in unnecessarily thick winter clothing, rushed through the doorway to escape. Her hands trembled and she clasped them together over her brother’s arm, trying to steady them before Edmund noticed.
After several deep breaths, Lucy chanced a look behind her. Beyond the shifting bulk of people, Alexander leaned his head back, eyes closed, paper clutched to his chest. A few seconds later, his eyes reopened and went immediately back to the stationery. He appeared to reread the poem, and then he folded and returned it to his pocket while sporting the biggest grin Lucy had ever seen. Content that she’d seen his joy, she turned back toward the door. Then she lost all feeling in her legs and the world seemed to dim.
“Edmund,” she gasped. “I can’t breathe.”
Read more about how Lucy and Alexander’s romance brings scandal and demons in Perilous Confessions, the first book in The Possession Chronicles—a Southern Gothic family saga.
Bio: Carrie Dalby, a California native, has lived in Mobile, Alabama, since 1996. She’s published several non-fiction articles in national and international magazines, served two terms as president of Mobile Writers Guild, worked as the Mobile area Local Liaison for SCBWI from 2012-2017, volunteers with Metro Mobile Literacy Council events whenever possible, and helps coordinate the annual Mobile Literary Festival. When Carrie’s not reading, writing, browsing bookstores/libraries, or homeschooling, she can often be found knitting or attending concerts. Find links to all her social media accounts and more on her contact page.