Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Harris has crafted a wonderful thriller

C.S. Harris has crafted a wonderful thriller with Where the Dead Lie. Sebastian St. Cyr navigates the stews and brothels of London's underbelly trying to solve the brutal murder of a young boy. The crime is as heinous as it gets, and only St. Cyr and his opium-addicted surgeon friend Paul Gibson seem to care. A child-killer is on the loose, and Sebastian must seek answers from the suspicious poor and the secretive ton gentlemen tainted with nefarious reputation. It's a slippery slope and one prime suspect is planning to marry his niece. Hero remains his stalwart support whether he is battling his sister, the ton, or reestablishing his relationship with his estranged father.
This one is a page turner and kept me up reading all night. Unpredictable, filled with gritty descriptions of 19th century London slums that contrast with the opulent drawing rooms of the ton and even Prinny's palace, this was an exciting read. I think is is one of the best in the series.

Happy Reading! 
Carole P. Roman

Monday, May 22, 2017

Detailed and beautiful written

Detailed and beautiful written account of Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry the Eighth. Amy Licence has the skill bring historical figures to life. Her keen sensitivity speculates what might have happened on Catherine's first fateful wedding night. With an artist's eye, she recreated the bold pageantry of the Tudor court, so much so that it transports the reader, her attention to detail in unparalleled. Licence delves deeply into Catherine's world, describing the proud heritage that built her royal self-worth. The uncertain young bride, and then despairing widow, first beloved by Henry, then finally scorned and cast off wife. Her stubborn refusal to step aside. Licence covers her rise and fall, the ebb and flow of the people who surrounded her. This is a grand biography, that allows the reader to see Catherine the queen rather than Catherine the victim.

Happy Reading!
Carole P. Roman

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day Weekend!

In Turkey- Ephesus

I adored my mother.  She was the kindest person I had ever met.  If she didn't have something nice to say, she left it unsaid rather than hurt anyone's feelings.  To her, everybody's art project was beautiful, any meal cooked was delicious, even when she hated it.  She was not just a good sport, but a great sport and I miss her every day of my life.

She passed from lung cancer eight years ago in an aggressive fight against a vicious invader.  She was young, even at 74, and I couldn't wrap my mind around not having her here.  She was my best friend for as long as I can remember and I am sharing this story for that one reason.

My wedding 36 years ago- I thought she looked magnificent!

My Mom always bought me gifts.  Sometimes expensive, sometimes not, old, new, it didn't matter, she decorated my house with bits of her personality so I could rest my eyes anywhere and revisit a memory.

I bought her things as well, but I was always more creative and tried to put a personal spin on it, just to remind her of our special relationship.

She was depressed very often.  Life had been hard for her.  My parents struggled with finances, health issues, family problems.  While they kept the household and the children happy, I knew what she carried on her back.  She was one of those people who couldn't share her load.

The year I was going to be married, I knew was very hard for her.  I was the first chick to leave the nest.  She depended upon me for a lot.  I helped with the housework, chauffeured my brothers, entertained my grandmother who made her home with us.  She never complained, but I knew she was heart sick that I was moving out.

I found an inexpensive Asian jar.  I bought it because it seemed exotic.  Sitting at my typewriter, I wrote up hundreds of memories.  Asking my grandmother to help, we listed specific things that happened at my birth, family stories that made us laugh.  Things to remind the reader of a minute in our life when something special had happened. I took these captured moments and folded them into tiny paper twists and stuffed them in the jar.  Putting a paper band across the top, I wrote- "Do Not Read Unless Emergency"  

Well, she opened the jar and read every last one of my wisps of our fond and silly memories and that jar stayed beside her bed for the rest of her life.  She said it was the best present she had ever gotten. Ever. Period.

Now, as I wake in the morning, I will look at my own bedside and see her jar.  Who knows, in case I need it I may read up on a memory or two.  I guess that's a gift that keeps giving.

Wishing you all a very happy Mother's Day!

With Love And Gratitude,
Carole P. Roman

Happy Mother's Day!!!!

the two of us- I was eighteen
My grandmother made her home with us when I was growing up. Maybe it was really the other way around, we made our home with her. She was sort of the master of the house, ruling with a wooden spoon.

I was born in Coney Island and lived in her house until I was three. She made the move with us to Rosedale, Queens when my parent's purchased their first house, then finally to Long Island, when we moved to the suburbs. I bought my own first house in the same neighborhood, so I could see her everyday.  She was the heart of soul, the centerpiece of our family. 

My grandmother was old her entire life. She came to this country when she was twenty-four, she often told me Calvin Coolidge was President. Her father died of consumption when she was three, her brother two, and her sister still in my great-grandmother's womb. My great-grandmother divided her children into assorted homes so she could support them by being a cook in a university. She had a gothic childhood that used to send shivers down my spine. It made me grateful for the simplest things I had and the security of knowing I was loved.

My grandmother was fostered with a rich aunt who's idea of discipline involved hours of kneeling on hard, dry lentils and beans that dimpled her delicate skin.

She had happy memories though, like when her hair was curled with sugar water and her mother surprised her with a blue lace, dropped waist dress for graduation. I adored this story and made my mother hunt high and low for a similar dress for my junior high gradation. She found it, my grandmother curled my hair charmingly, and I felt I honored her that day. I still have the dress in my closet.

She was bright and pushed to become a teacher, unheard of in her day. Her mother feared for her, Europe was volatile and she sent her to another relative in America where she was seen as ungainly and unmarriageable at the ripe age of twenty-four.

her passport picture
She married my grandfather in an arranged marriage made by his dying wife and her aunt while they were in the same hospital ward becoming a mother overnight to his two children and soon had another on the way. She told me she was blessed with a mother-in-law who taught her how to take care of the children. She had no household skills, and my great-grandmother patiently treated this shy girl as if she were her own daughter.

My grandfather was an immigrant, a furrier who lost his job because he refused to knuckle under union demands. They lost everything. She had saved a bit. and bought stock in an up and coming company called Bell Telephone. 

My horrified grandfather made her sell it all. He told her it would never work.

Eventually, she managed to save enough to buy a small apartment house that got gobbled up in the Great Depression.

Undaunted, she opened a candy store, ending up running numbers for  the infamous gangster Dutch Schulz, who furnished my impoverished family with coal and necessities when she ended up being booked by the Newark police. I don't think she had much choice and did what she was told to keep her family safe. She nearly gave birth to my mother in the local jail. There is a mugshot of my very pregnant grandmother somewhere in the annals of Jersey criminal history.

When she was released, she went right back to work, cooking rose petals from her garden into a sweet syrup for ice-cream, and keeping credit for people who couldn't afford to buy the necessities that only a candy store in the thirties could bring.

She sent clothes and food home to Europe to her family, going without for herself, making sure her mother, sister, and brother had what they needed. 

She was a gentlewoman, never calling any of her friends by any other name than Mr. or Mrs. So and so. I never heard her curse, not ever. 

She worked her entire life at one job or another, taking in her dead sister-in-laws five or maybe it was six children when their father remarried. She cooked every meal as if she was feeding an army. There was always a seat and a full plate at her table.

We all deferred to her. She was our queen. When I was in kindergarten, my mother brought her to the mother's day recital. 

We were to dance and sing around the room and then present our mothers with hand-made posies of paper flowers. I can recall it like yesterday. My mother gave up her seat, standing behind her own mother and watching me with pride. I loved my mother. She was the finest person in the world. I remember dancing, biting my lips. What was I supposed to do? My mother was here, I made the bouquet for her. But my grandmother sat in the front row. She was important, we all deferred to her. I made a decision. I looked at my mother, we exchanged a meaningful glance. I must have had apology in mine. 
Me, my grandmother, and my mom

I walked to my grandmother, my eyes on my mom and handed her the posy. My grandmother's eyes watered with happiness and gratitude. My mom didn't wait. She grabbed me in a bear hug, kissing me while she whispered with fierce pride that I was the best daughter in the world. She was so proud of me and I absolutely did the right thing. 

I know I said I was sorry, but we had to honor Bobbie first. She told me, she wouldn't have it any other way.

My grandmother came to all my graduations, proud that I became a teacher, like her, she told me.

Later, when I entered the business world, she  said I was following her footsteps there as well.

She taught me to always look forward, and that I could change my mind and do two or even three things at once. I could be anything I wanted to be.

My grandmother died when she was eighty-six. She had seventeen grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. 

In her lifetime she was a teacher, businesswoman, bookie, seamstress, cook, saleswoman, all while she was a wife and mom. 

She could beat the daylights out of me with in both scrabble and canasta, all while touting she had only two week of night school where she learned to read and write English.

She read stories to my boys, showed me how to handle a wicked diaper rash, and cook a delicious chicken soup. She taught me how to talk to my parents when they were being unreasonable. She sat with me watching television when I felt lonely. Told a great story about life in another time.

She was a powerhouse of information. 

We read books together, she enjoyed romances that we passed around between my aunts, my mother and me, comparing our take on the story.

my grandmother, Laura Greenhout Ross 1898-1985
I miss my grandmother with the same intensity as I miss my mother.

I am proud to be her descendant and want to remind everyone we are the outcome of a combination of our environment, the product of many parts. 

Everything I am today is a reflection of her input as much as it was my parents. So, today, on Mother's Day, I want to honor her memory along side my mother. She was a survivor, reinventing herself bravely, setting a bar for her daughters and granddaughters,and great-granddaughters,  showing them that nothing should ever be in their way.  

It is the lesson I have embraced for her great-great granddaughters. Every day when I tell them the sky is the limit, it's because she taught me that years ago.

With Love To All,
Carole P. Roman

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

One of my daughters-in-law bought me a pillow today.  Both my daughters in law have this sixth sense when they buy me presents. They always give me something that connects me to my mother. My room is filled with thoughtful little objects, so personal and mean so much to me. This pillow was for mother's day, an intensely sensitive day for me. Not that my sons notice, but my girls always do.

"I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck."
Even as I write the words, I can feel my eyes smart. I sing that song to all my grandchildren. They know the words and usually, I start the sentence and they finish it. I sang it to my own children when they were little. I can feel their tired arms heavy around my neck, our voices singing the words together as I carried them to bed.

A Bushel and a Peck 
was a song written by Frank Loesser and published in 1950. It was in the Broadway musical Guys and Dolls, but replaced by another song in the movie. Both Perry Como and Doris Day recorded it.

I don't think I ever heard it on the radio. I certainly never saw the stage show Guys and Dolls, yet the song has the capability to fill me with contentment, a feeling of being snug,  safe and cared for. 

It was my mom's song. She sang it at bedtime. She stretched out in bed and brushed our hair from our foreheads. She was completely tone deaf, but all I ever heard was the crystal clear tones of beautiful music coming from her mouth.

Songs bring back memories with a visceral connection. The next time you attend a function, take a look at couples as they take to the dance floor. Watch their faces when that singular song comes on, the shared remembrance uniting them in an intimacy only they can feel. You can't miss the exchange, the deep looks, and secret smiles.

I don't have songs for my father, for him it was sights and smells that bring him back to me. The crack of a ball on a bat, hearing something that would tickle him in a newscast, the smell of certain foods we both loved.

With my mom, though it's was always songs. She was constantly singing and had a tune for every part of the day

When we went to pick a place for my kid's wedding, I couldn't decide if it was the right venue. That was until the words of "I Love Paris in the Springtime," froze me mid-sentence. The unlikeliness of that song, right at that moment let me know she approved of the place. She would sing it replacing the city of Paris with my brother's and my names. We would wait to hear which one of us would turn up for one of the four seasons.
Needless to say,  I told them to book the joint, immediately.

"No, no, a thousand time no, I rather would die, than say yes," an Al Sherman, Al Lewis and Abe Silver tune made famous by none other than Betty Boop was employed when she refused to give in to some trifle we begged for. The more we implored, the louder she got and somehow rather than dissolve into tears, we ended up giggling.

My mom's reservoir of songs taught me to be ambitious and hopeful. Echoes of High Hopes drowning any insecurities trying to detour me. 

yours truly

"Just what makes that little old ant
Think he'll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can't
Move a rubber tree plant
But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes
He's got high apple pie, in the sky hopes."

Maybe the memory song buried deep in my brain gave me strength and courage to persevere in whatever I was attempting at the time.
I'm sure she never realized it, but music gave her the ability to store memories for her children when she wouldn't be here to comfort them. How else can you explain the clouds disappearing when "You are my Sunshine" comes on?
My mother loved music and even though she couldn't sing a note, I think music loved her right back.

With love and warmest wishes for a Happy Mother's Day,
Carole P. Roman