Historical Suspense, Gothic
Date Published: July 18, 2016
Publisher: Blunder Woman Productions
It is Chicago. 1910. Eleven-year-old Lillian March looks over her mother’s dead body with a sense of relief.
As a poor woman, her mother, Cora, never had any real choices or happiness with her life. Cora and Lillian flee to the bustling city of Chicago, where she is certain she will have the life of opulence she deserves.
Cora and Lillian face deep hardships in turn-of-the-century Chicago as Cora’s mind continues its downward spiral. With no money and no hope for income, Cora sells Lillian to The Garden Room, a brothel, where young girls and desperate women are kept like flowers in a jar.
John March comes looking for his daughter and his wife in an attempt to rescue them, but even if he finds them alive, is rescue really possible?
IN THE GARDEN ROOM is an exploration of madness, desire and two women’s choices in a time when they weren’t really allowed to choose.
Cora had it all planned out. It hadn’t taken any effort, really. It unrolled like a rug…one push and it unfurled all on its own. They would escape. She would protect Lillian, the way that she had dreamed of being protected, and she would whisk her away to a safe place. A place where Lillian could grow up and meet a good man who could support her the way she deserved, maybe buying a nice home for Cora too, though Cora wasn’t quite past the courting stage, yet. If she weren’t married. It didn’t matter. This was a moment for a new start. To start the way life should: with possibility.
She took their cherry farm money. All of it. Cora moved with the speed of a crack of lightning. This was her chance, and she intended to take it.
John’s ship had been delayed. He was not dead, of course. Not at the bottom of Lake Michigan, where, secretly, she thought he’d be better off. Happier. He was circling the Upper Peninsula where the fishing was better than expected. By the time he made it home, they’d have been gone long enough for a thin layer of dust to settle over every surface in the house, though he probably wouldn’t even notice.
It was amazing how swiftly one could free oneself. Like throwing open the door to a cage, Cora had escaped, bringing her little bird with her.
They took a train to Ludington, and then boarded the ferry for Chicago.
On the train, Cora sat demurely. She folded her gloved hands in her lap and imagined she was a debutante at a ball. She should have been a debutante. She should have been swathed in white silk and passed from one fine-gloved hand to another. Instead, she was a fisherman’s wife with calluses on her knees. That could stop now. The train shook on the tracks, and Cora felt as if it was shaking off her skin, leaving her exposed and soft as a peeled hardboiled egg. For once, Lillian did not prattle on and on. Her daughter sat in a stunned sort of silence, her eyes hollow. Her shoulders seemed weighted down. She’d get over it soon. Every girl had to leave her father, at some point. Every girl was handed over to someone new and forgotten. That was the way the world worked.
The train hummed, or maybe a song hummed within Cora’s chest. The landscape rushed by in a zoom of color. She closed her eyes to it. When she opened them again, it would be like awakening from a bad dream, and she could start the day over again. Chicago was just a boat ride away. It waited for her.
Tanya Eby is a writer and an award-winning audiobook narrator. She has published a variety of novels from romantic comedies to mysteries to dark historical pieces. While her writing crosses genres they all share quirky characters and complicated relationships. Visit her at tanyaeby.com or follow her on Twitter @Blunder_Woman.
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