Thanks to Graydon House and Wunderkind PR for the free copies in exchange for my honest review – and excerpt to share!
THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER – Kaira Rouda (Releasing May 21st, 2019)
Check out my review for Rouda’s previous release, BEST DAY EVER, here! Also – keep an eye on my Instagram for a giveaway of a finished copy of THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER.
Excerpt: THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER:
THE NIGHT BEFORE
I glance at my creation and smile: behold the dining room table. It is critical to create the proper atmosphere when entertaining, the illusion of perfection. As one of the most important hostesses in The Cove, I can assure you I pull together these sorts of elegant dinners without a second thought. I know all the key ingredients. Arrangements from the best florist in town—tonight, white hydrangeas nestled in between succulents. And linens from the exclusive small boutique where everyone must shop to purchase ridiculously expensive tablecloths and napkins—in this case, brushed silk, off-white.
I’ve outdone myself with this table. This will go down in the record books as a crowning achievement in my life.
I’m kidding, of course. I don’t care a smidgen about entertaining. And typically, if I’m going to spend time adorning something, it’s going to be myself. Truth be told, the crystal and china pieces on the table were wedding gifts from my in-laws, rarely used because they remind me of them. I dug them out from the back of the cupboard. Perhaps I am trying a bit too hard, but tonight is special. It’s my coming-out party, so to speak.
After a year of grieving, I’m ready to step back into my family, or what remains of it. I’m reclaiming the throne, like a queen who has been in exile but returns with pomp and circumstance. I shake my head at my circumstance as I look around my castle. I used to be so proud of this home, something so expensive and so uppity that my mother would never be comfortable stepping foot inside. But now I know I can do better, and I will. I think my husband has a surprise planned for me on that account, a home upgrade, but it’s a secret for now. I just caught a little mention of his plan and I know it will be a fresh start for all of us. I must admit I’m excited.
First, tonight’s little celebration. I glance at my platinum watch, enjoying the sparkles of the diamond-encrusted face, until my heart thumps at the time. It’s getting late and I have so much more to do. Time seems to slip and slide for me now and I can’t believe I’ve lost a year in my haze of grief. My family members, on the other hand, have made the most of their time, both so busy, in fact, I’ve had trouble keeping up.
But not any longer. I grab the final crystal wineglass from the kitchen counter and walk to the table, glancing out the window as the bright orange sun drops into the deep blue Pacific Ocean. In an instant, the glass topples from my hand and seems to tumble in slow motion as it falls and shatters on the stone floor, sending sound waves echoing through our lifeless house like an earthquake. Shards of glass sprinkle the tops of my bare feet and dot the floor around me while a large chunk of the stem rests under the dining room table and taunts me, glistening like the blade of a knife. A chill sweeps over my body.
I fold my arms across my chest for comfort and can’t help but admire my ribs poking into my hands, a reminder of how much weight I’ve lost in the last year. Grief is good for the figure I discovered while researching online. I already know thin women get attention, respect. On the few excursions I’ve made out of the house lately, when I’ve taken care to dress and apply makeup, I’ve noticed an uptick in appreciative glances from men. That’s nothing new. My whole life I’ve enjoyed the admiration of the opposite sex, but I had grown lazy, acquired the midlife midsection, become complacent and matronly. I found that baking for the girls was the quickest way to their hearts. I created cookie confidantes and packed on the pounds.
For a time, I was fat and happy. That’s over now. My mom would be impressed I’ve reemerged. Mom never missed a chance to tell me being skinny was the key to our future. And then she’d take my dinner away. She’s long gone, died when I was fourteen in a tragic car accident, but she still haunts me. That’s the power of the bond between mothers and daughters. It can never be broken, even in death.
But glass can. I stare at my almost-perfect table setting—I even nestled votive candles in crystal holders around the centerpiece and in front of each place setting. Just call me Martha Stewart. I wonder what I should wear tonight. Here, in the land of expensive designer purses and shoes, most women blend in, their monochromatic coolness anchored by jeans, topped by their perfectly smooth, porcelain faces. I remember my first dinner party at The Cove: me from the South, them from Southern California. I’d worn a yellow silk cocktail dress, my biggest pearls and wrapped a white cashmere pashmina around my shoulders. I was as out of place as a Twinkie at a Weight Watchers meeting. But you know what? All the husbands approved, tired of the sameness they endured in their wives. Back then, David was proud to have me on his arm, proud I stood out like a beautiful flower in a meadow of boring grass. It’s ironic, really: I gave up my dreams to move here, to become the perfect Orange County housewife. I could have been so much more. This ocean view is why we bought this home all those years ago, scraping together every last dime and tapping into David’s trust fund to move into The Cove, the best community in Southern California. We were young parents and so madly in love. The ocean was romantic, beautiful then. Not deadly and dark and cold.
I feel the now-familiar tingling sensation of tears welling up in my eyes and the room begins to swim. Anger and loss— did you ever notice how those emotions mix together? It’s a toxic combination. I swallow. I can fix this. All that’s missing from this perfect setting is the fourth wineglass. I have another one, of course. It’s almost symbolic. It was Mary’s spot at the table, Mary’s wineglass that fell to the floor.
Mary, who dropped into the sea. I shake my head to quiet the voice.
Dr. Rosenthal assured me at our last session that it would be a step forward to eat together as a family in the dining room. She wants us to reconnect, and I most always do whatever she says. Tonight is a step forward and I’ll happily tell the doctor all about it. I am committed to reengergizing my life, reconnecting with my family.
Perhaps I won’t mention the broken glass.
It’s the way this year has been since Mary left us. Nothing is right. My husband has thrown his energy into work, he tells me. He’s gone all the time these days. Betsy is focused on graduating high school in five short days, and then she’ll be gone, too. It’s a realization that causes hot tears to streak down my cheeks. The abandonment so real I can feel it in my core. I guess we all deal with sadness and loss in different ways. Some healthy, some not.