Books: A Scottish Holiday

A Scottish Holiday
by Sophie Mays

A short, light read, fairly standard-formula romance.

Adoptee Jillian goes to Scotland seeking information about her great-great-grands and James takes a liking to the attractive American miss when he meets her in line at a fish and chips shop. He offers his help in her search and a quick romance blooms, but no bedroom scenes.

Perhaps the author has been to the part of Scotland she writes about, but she doesn’t really incorporate much detail in her story. We don’t get many of Jillian’s impressions of this land she’s seeing for the first time ever. We meet the librarian and a few locals — but this is supposedly a whirlwind trip. So we get a bit of Scottish scenery and history but mostly scenes of James and Jillian spending time together — until an old flame turns up at a dance and throws Jillian into a frenzy of doubt about the sincerity of James’ affection.

One bit I found hard to believe: as a baby Jillian was supposedly left on a doorstep by her birth mother, who died young, yet she has her great-great grandparents’ names and the area they came from in Scotland. Other than that the story all hangs together and is well told, problems relatively simple, the characters uncomplicated, the writing clean.

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Winnie Plays Monopoly

Another tale of Winnie, our blog’s crotchety, opinionated senior. These days she hopes to alter her widow status by altar-ing Ernie Harris.

Casserole

When Ernie opened the door, Winnie gave him her most cheerful smile. “Brought you a casserole for lunch, Ernie. Thought you might like a little bit of good home cooking once in awhile.”

“Why, that’s right nice of you, Winnie. And your good food just hits the spot. I can’t cook to save my life, but at least I’ve learned how to heat things up in the mike. I haven’t mastered boiling water yet, though.”

“You just need someone to teach you these things.” Winnie paused, arranging her next thought. “Ernie, we’ve known each other a long time, so I’m not going to beat around the bush. Have you ever thought of getting married again?”

“Oh, yeah. I started thinking about it a couple of weeks after Barb passed and I’ve been thinking about it every day since. A fellow gets lonely, you know.”

Winnie’s cheeks turned a bit pink. “Well, maybe we…you and I…”

Ernie deftly derailed her train of thought. “But I know it’ll never happen. No woman would be fool enough to marry me. Not with all my bad habits. In fact, Barb often threatened to get an apartment downtown where she couldn’t hear me snoring every night. Nope. No one with any sense’d have me.”

Winnie shut her mouth and stared at him a moment. “Well, I’d better be getting along. Hope you enjoy the casserole.” She shoved the dish into his hands and hurried back down the sidewalk.

cooking-1363061_640Ernie took a deep breath. That was close one. He chuckled and carried the dish to the fridge, setting it beside the ones Agnes Jones and Phoebe Folden brought around last night. He chuckled as he took out the beef stew and lemon pie Francine Miller dropped off this morning. Sometimes it paid not to know how to cook.

“Still, Ernie,” he advised himself, “You’d better keep on your toes when these old chicks start bringing casseroles or you might end up being hen-pecked for the rest of your days.”

He was still chuckling about his quick wits half an hour later as he passed the gas bar and saw Abner Stilsbie getting his tank filled.

“What are you looking so happy about, Ernie?” Ab called. Ernie joined him by the pumps and the two men chatted awhile. He wasn’t going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, so he didn’t tell Ab exactly what transpired. But…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey, Winnie.” Abner Stilsbie tapped her on the shoulder in the grocery store later that day. “How’s life?”

“Oh, hi, Ab. Well, I can’t complain. My arthritis isn’t so bad today and I’m getting used to them new blood pressure pills the doctor gave me. I’ll sure be glad when the weather cools off a bit, though. I haven’t been able to take the heat so well since I hit fifty, but I take it easy on days like this.”

“I hear you’ve taken to playing games with Ernie Harris and you almost won.” He winked. “Did you buy Park Place and Boardwalk. Or maybe you bought up all the railroads?”

Winnie stared at him. “Abner Stilsbie, whatever are you talking about?”

“I saw Ernie just before dinner and he was looking like that cat that got the cream. I asked him what he was so happy about and he said he’d been playing Monopoly with you. He said for a moment it looked like he was headed for jail and bankruptcy, but at the last moment he pulled out a “Get out of jail free” card.”

Winnie gasped and her brows formed a deep frown.

“I supposed you must ‘a bought up some of them pricey digs and were charging high rents. Though honestly, I’d ‘a never took you for one to play Monopoly, Winnie.”

Winnie’s eyes narrowed. “So he was playing games, was he? Well from now on he can
live on baloney sandwiches.”

Ab’s eyes widened. “What’s Monopoly got to do with baloney sandwiches?”

“Ernie Harris can go boil in his own hot water.” Winnie grabbed a tin of coffee from the shelf. “And I hope it’s pickle brine.” She marched away in a fury.

Ab’s eyebrows shot up and he shook his head. “Talk about a sore loser. I’ll never understand women. Never!”

Monopoly

Will’s Cooking Skills

Will set the bubbling pot of stew on the table beside the biscuits he’d just taken out of the oven. Then he tossed another chunk of wood into the stove. With the storm crashing outside like it was — the wind whistling in through whatever cracks it could find — he wanted the fire to stay good and hot.

He sat down at the table and bowed his head for a short grace — a prayer that the food would be edible as much as blessed. “Well, now let’s see what you’ve come up with, Will, my boy. Maybe this time…”

He ladled soup into his bowl, then stretched his long legs out under the table and reached for a biscuit. Still nice and warm. Can’t be that bad. The thing crunched when he took a bite, something like the cracking of a stick of kindling, but his teeth didn’t make much of an impression.

He dropped the biscuit onto his plate. It landed with an hopeless thunk. “I just gotta learn to bake!” He blew his frustration out in a long stream of air. “While I still have some teeth to eat with, that is.”

His thoughts jumped across the fields to the next section, where his brother Jim would be sitting down to a delicious supper, surrounded by his family. Will gazed out the window, imagining them gathered around the table. He could almost smell the meal. Grace was an excellent cook; Jim and the children would be well fed.

Thou shalt not covet thy brother’s wife, nor thy brother’s wife’s cooking. But I’d sure like to have one of my own. She doesn’t have to be pretty or so talented, Lord, just an old-fashioned girl that can cook like Ma and Grace.

He jumped when another crack of lightening lit up the yard, followed immediately by a heaven-splitting boom and a fresh wave of rain. The whole cabin seemed to shudder. Oh, dear Lord, please let this storm be over soon!

Loneliness squeezed Will’s chest, making him struggle for his next breath. Even if she isn’t the best cook… If she’d just be here with me tonight when the wind’s howling so wild. We’d wrap ourselves up in a blanket by the fire…

In a flash he saw again Rosanne’s cheery smile — a smile that would have warmed up his cabin perfectly on a night like this. Was she happy now with that school teacher who swept her off her feet and took her away to the city? Why did I dawdle around about it? Why was I so bashful? Why didn’t I ask her first? Will blinked and tried to swallow the lump in his throat.

Will jerked the reins on his runaway thoughts. Smarten up, old boy. No point crying over spilled milk, as Mom always says. Things are what they are. He picked up the biscuit again, broke it into his stew, and poked it around with his spoon. That’ll soften it up some.

He took a spoonful of stew, frowning at the flatness of it. Maybe Grace could show him what to put in stew to give it some flavor. Then he shook his head and scolded himself. Hey, it’s food and you’re hungry. Just eat the crummy stuff and stop thinking about what it lacks.

He was about to take another bite when someone pounded on the door. Will jumped to his feet and hurried to the door, wondering what fool would be out on a night like this.

He flung open the door and saw a young man standing there. His Nash Rambler stood nearby. Though it was dark, Will thought he saw a face in the passenger window.

“Sorry to trouble you, but I hope you don’t mind me stopping awhile in your drive. The storm was getting so bad I couldn’t see a thing. And my sister’s terrified driving in all this lightening.”

“Don’t worry. You’re welcome to park there. Why don’t you both come in and wait out the storm inside where it’s warm.”

“Thanks so much!” The young man hurried back to the car to get his passenger.

Will cast a guilty glance toward his table. If only he had some decent food to offer. “I was just about to have a bite to eat. What about you folks,” he asked as the two young people stepped inside and shed their coats.

“Brought our own,” the young man said, holding up a sack. “Hope that’s okay. We’d expected to stop somewhere en route, but then this storm came up and I drove like mad to get where we’re going. Our older sister’s just had a baby and Vickie here is going to help her for a few weeks. We’re James and Victoria Franks, by the way. From Empress, on our way to Hatfield.”

“I’m Will McKinley.” He shook hands with his visitors. “You’re not that far from where you wanna be. Once the rain lets up it should only take you another twenty minutes or so.”

Vickie gave Will a great big smile. “Thanks so much for letting us stop over like this. It’s so fortunate James saw your lights.”

“For sure,” Will agreed heartily. He stared into her soft grey eyes and wondered if she could hear his heart pounding double time, louder than the rain outside. Oh, dear Lord, please let this storm last all night!

Oh, well. Hatfield wasn’t far away, if he should want to go visiting there some evening.

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One day, over at The Write Practice, our assignment was to write a fiction story about someone, giving special attention to developing the main character. I’ve shared with you the scene in Will’s farm home — then added the travellers arrival so as to give the poor guy a glimmer of hope. 🙂 So what do you think of Will’s character? Is he likeable or not, and why?