Spotlight & Giveaway: Hummingbird Lane by Carolyn Brown

Posted April 2nd, 2021 by in Blog, Spotlight / 61 comments

Today it is my pleasure to Welcome author Carolyn Brown to HJ!
Spotlight&Giveaway

Hi Carolyn and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Hummingbird Lane!

 
Good morning, everyone! I’m so excited to be here, and visit with all y’all about my newest women’s fiction book, Hummingbird Lane that will be out on April 6.
 

To start off, can you please tell us a little bit about this book?:

Emma and Sophie were friends when they were little girls. Sophie’s mother had cleaned Emma’s mother’s house. Coming from two different worlds made it virtually impossible to remain close, and then they went to two different universities so that made it even more difficult. But when Sophie heard that Emma’s mother was about to put her in a rehab center forever, she rescued her. They might have been pulled apart, but they had stayed friends of the heart. During that summer in the hot Texas desert they find it’s the perfect place for reflection and to finally share the secret burdens each has carried. Most of all it’s a chance to rediscover their true selves and to make good on the old promise that their friendship would last forever.
 

Please share your favorite lines or quote(s) from this book:

Love will put you face-to-face with endless obstacles. It will ask you to reveal the parts of yourself you tirelessly work at hiding. It will ask you to find compassion for yourself and receive what it is you are convinced you are not worthy of. Love will always demand more. Surrender to being seen and being loved. Surrender to the beauty of revealing yourself to yourself, and to the ones who saw you before you saw you.”

As women, we hunt for love. As artist we hunt for inspiration. As people we hunt for truth.

Love–the real thing–was what she wanted.

May we all learn to appreciate what we have, not depend on anyone, and love each other.

 

What inspired this book?

I have a sign hanging on the wall right in front of my desk that says: I know the voices aren’t real but they have really good ideas.
That fits so well with what inspired this book. Emma and Sophie both popped into my head with this big story and bigger secrets to tell me. I just hope that by telling their story that somewhere it helps someone.

 

How did you ‘get to know’ your main characters? Did they ever surprise you?

Like I said, they became a part of my world, telling me bits and pieces of their stories, fears that were hidden deeply in their hearts, secrets that they’d never shared with anyone. I could see that they had a special bond that time and distance hadn’t broken. Yes, they surprised me often throughout the book, especially when Sophie opened up about her own secret. Until then, I thought this story was about healing Emma.

 

What was your favorite scene to write?

The one where Emma finally takes charge and bosses Sophie. Maybe a short snippet:

Emma picked up her hiking boots from the closet and her purse from the dresser. She carried both out to the vehicle, tossed them inside, and got back just as Sophie was coming out of the bathroom.
“If you don’t walk out on that porch, I’m calling Rebel to come down here,” Emma threatened.
Sophie whipped around and gave her a dirty look. “You wouldn’t dare. I didn’t call Victoria to come get you.”
“That’s a whole different story. Walk outside on the front porch.” Emma pointed to the door.
Sophie stomped to the door and went outside. “Now what? Do you have one of your high-dollar therapists out here to talk to me?”
“Now you are going to get in the passenger seat of your vehicle, and we’re going for a drive,” Emma said.
“You’re not driving my car,” Sophie declared as she went down the stairs in her bare feet.
“I’ve got the keys.” Emma dangled them in front of her. “Either you go with me, or I’ll go by myself and let you wallow in your misery for the rest of the week.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” Sophie raised her voice. “You don’t know your way around these parts. I didn’t even know you had a driver’s license.”
“Mother didn’t think I needed one, but that was the one time Daddy put his foot down and insisted that I have a license and my own car,” Emma said. “Now, go get in the car and show me where to go and how to get back here when we finish our drive.” Emma marched out to the car, where Josh stood waiting with the door opened for her. She slid into the driver’s seat and started the engine. Her hands were all sweaty, and her pulse raced. She hadn’t driven anywhere in a very long time.
You are strong, and Sophie needs you. Rebel’s voice came to her.
“Yes, I am,” she muttered.

 

What was the most difficult scene to write?

The one where Sophie rescues Emma because seeing Emma like that put tears in my eyes. Maybe a little snippet?

Sophie marched down the hall. When she found the right room, she frowned at the sign on the door—FEMALES ONLY. What in the devil was going on with her old friend? She eased the door open and peeked inside to find the starkest room she’d ever seen. She had always envied Emma her bedroom when they were kids. All done up in pink satin and white lace with Disney princess posters on the wall, the suite had had a sitting room, a bedroom, a walk-in closet, and a beautiful private bathroom. The dresser and closet were built into the wall. There was no television or phone, and the twin bed was covered with a light-green bedspread. The only inviting things in the whole room were a dark-green recliner and matching love seat.
From the appearance of the outside of the center and knowing how rich the Merrill family was, Sophie had expected to see a fully furnished room like the one Emma had at home. Why would Victoria ever put her daughter away in a sorry place like this? If she wasn’t sad when she arrived, she damn sure would be before she left.
She opened the door wider and saw a dark-haired woman standing at the window. Slumped shoulders, arms hanging limply by her sides—everything about her said defeat.
“Em?” she whispered.
Emma turned away from the window and threw a hand over her mouth. “Sophie, is that really you?”
“It’s really me.” Sophie stepped inside the room and closed the door behind her.
Emma met her halfway across the room and grabbed her in a fierce hug. “I was talking about you this morning. I’m so glad to see you. I still don’t think lizards are that color.”
Sophie wrapped Emma up in her arms and held her tight. “An artist can make lizards any color that they want,” she said and stepped back. That was the sort of banter that would have made her laugh, but now her childhood friend looked like death warmed over. Her skin was ashen, and her big brown eyes were lifeless. “How long has it been since you were outside?”
Emma shrugged. “Mother says I can’t go outside—that I don’t do well except inside. I had a panic attack at the mall, so she doesn’t let me go to big places. I wanted to build myself one of those new tiny houses, but she threw a fit.”
“How long has it been since you painted or even colored?” Sophie took her by the cold, bony hand and led her toward the love seat.
Emma began to twist her hands once Sophie released her. “I can’t paint or color. The people here tried to get me to draw, but my hands shake every time I pick up a brush or even a crayon,” she said. “I’m not doing so well, Sophie. They want me to remember things, and I can’t. Sometimes I want to make up something just so they’ll stop wanting me to talk to them.”
“Well, hell’s bells,” Sophie said. “You were a better artist than me. What happened?”
Another shrug.
Anger boiled up from somewhere down in the depths of Sophie’s heart. Who or what had caused her childhood friend to not even care about her art? Something catastrophic had to have happened to make her turn her back on her dream. Some friend she’d been all these years.
Sophie had never done anything on impulse, not even when the candy bars and magazines right by the checkout counters reached out to her. But right then, Sophie decided to change that. She couldn’t undo the past, but she could fix the future. She couldn’t let Emma stay in this dismal room one more day—or, for that matter, one more hour.
“Who checked you into this place?” she asked.
“I did,” Emma answered, “but Mother brought me here and told me to sign the papers. She is still the boss about everything.”
“So, you can check yourself out, right?” Sophie asked.
“When the therapist and Mother decide it’s for the best. I can sign myself out at any time, but you know Mother. She’ll be angry with me if I do.” Emma’s tone was flat, as if she’d given up hope.
“I never have lived by Victoria’s rules. Let’s get your things packed up and ready to go. You’re going to check yourself out and come with me,” Sophie said.

 

Would you say this book showcases your writing style or is it a departure for you?

It definitely showcases my writing style.

 

What do you want people to take away from reading this book?

That friendship is important, and it’s never too late to learn to trust in yourself, love yourself, and then to love others.

 

What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?

I’m working on a women’s fiction that will be out in the spring of 2022. The working title is Aunt LIddy’ s Lemon Pie.
Upcoming releases:
April 27: Summertime on the Ranch, a cowboy novella
April 27: Love, Drunk Cowboy, reissue with Summertime on the Ranch included
June 22: The Hope Chest, a women’s fiction book
July 13: Small Town Charm, a women’s fiction novella
July 27: Second Chance at Sunflower Ranch with Small Town Charm included
July 27: Secrets in the Sand (a reissue of Honky Tonk Angel)
Sept 28: Holidays on the Ranch (reissue of Mistletoe Cowboy)
Dec 7: The Hope Chest, a women’s fiction book
Dec 28: Red River Deep (reissue of Red River Deep)

 

Thanks for blogging at HJ!

 

Giveaway: I will give away a $25 Amazon gift card.

 

To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Do you have a friend who has always been there for you, even if time and distance separated you for years?

 
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Excerpt from Hummingbird Lane:

Emma frowned at her reflection in the spotlessly clean window. She didn’t look all that much different than she had in college. The glass distorted the fine lines around her eyes, but if she put on a little makeup, those would disappear. Her mother, Victoria, fussed at her if she didn’t put on her face every day. She said it would make Emma feel better.
She could smile and pretend to be happy. She had said, “I’m fine,” to her folks when she quit college, to many psychiatrists and doctors, and even to Nancy, the therapist here at the Oak Lawn Wellness Center, but in truth she felt like she was drowning and everyone around her was still breathing. Sometimes it made her angry that their lungs were taking in oxygen and hers were filling with dirty, muddy water. Other times, she just felt a numb darkness draping itself around her, and she didn’t even have the energy to get mad at those folks who had “happy times to hang on to.”
Nancy’s words, not hers. Her therapist kept telling her to find a happy time, use it for a foundation, and build on it. But the only happy times she had left in her memories were from before she was twelve years old. After that it was all downhill.
A bright-red cardinal and his less colorful mate landed on the windowsill. They sang like they were happy, but then, birds didn’t get depressed. When a baby bird flew out of the nest, like she had when she went off to one of the most prestigious art colleges in Texas, it didn’t come home wounded and unable to utter a word about its horrible experience. Birds just found a mate of their own species, laid eggs, and raised babies to fly away to live their own lives. A perpetual circle of life with no pills to try to cure a weeping soul. Emma wished she was a bird. Maybe then she could find a happy place again. Maybe in some realm of the universe, she could go back to that time when Sophie had come to the house a couple of times a week with Rebel and she’d had a true friend.
A soft knock took Emma’s attention from the window, where she was looking out over a lovely flower garden. Her chest tightened and her palms went clammy until she saw that it was Nancy. The sign on her door said FEMALES ONLY, but sometimes a male orderly ignored it and came in to clean the room. Her last panic attack had almost sent her into intensive care, but then the guy who’d caused it was as big as—well—a linebacker on a football team.
“Good morning,” Nancy said. “How are you feeling today?”
“I’m fine,” Emma answered. “How are you today?”
Nancy sat down on the love seat and opened her computer. “I’m doing very well. Can you tell me your name?”
“Emma Darlene Merrill. I’m past thirty years old, and I’m fine,” Emma said.
“Let’s talk about what fine means. Does it mean that you didn’t have a bad dream last night?” Nancy had dark hair that had begun to go gray. She always wore muted light-green scrubs. Emma thought the color was horrible on her, but then, that color was supposed to be soothing.
“Fine means that I’m all right. I’ve been here for weeks, and I’m ready to go home now.” Where was the anger when she needed it? Why couldn’t it come boiling up from her insides and rush out of her body like molten lava, like it sometimes did when she was alone? That kind of emotion or display of tears would make Nancy happy, but Emma just didn’t have the energy to do either one that day.
“Have you thought of happy times, like I asked you to yesterday?” Nancy asked. “If we could dwell on those times today, it might make you really feel fine. Let’s talk about your parents. Did you think about a vacation with them, or maybe a birthday party they threw you when you were a little girl?”
Emma shook her head. “Happy means Sophia.”
Nancy sat up a little straighter. Emma knew that action meant that she was thinking they might be having what other counselors called a breakthrough. “Who’s Sophia? She hasn’t come up here or in the reports from the other therapists.”
“Mother doesn’t like for me to talk about her.” Emma shook her head slowly. “But she has nothing to do with what happened in college.”
“How do you know that?” Nancy asked.
“Because Sophie wouldn’t hurt me,” Emma said.
Nancy lowered her voice. “Someone hurt you. How does that make you feel?”
“Like I’m drowning,” Emma answered. “I can swim. Mother made sure I had swimming lessons, so . . .” She shrugged.
“Do you want to remember?” Nancy asked.
“No,” Emma whispered.
“Why?”
“Mother wouldn’t be happy. When she’s not happy, she’s . . .” Emma turned her head to look out the window.
“She’s what?”
Why couldn’t Nancy be content with that much? That was more than she’d admitted to the other therapists.
“Will you tell me more about Sophia?” Nancy shifted tactics.
“She was my friend in elementary school, back when I got to attend public school.” Emma’s intention today was to talk so that Nancy would sign the papers for her to be released. This wasn’t her first rodeo or her first visit to a mental institution. She knew she had to give this woman something or she’d never get out of the place.
“You’re sure she didn’t hurt your feelings?” Nancy wrote something on her pad.
“I called her Sophie, and she called me Em. Mother hated for anyone to call me by a nickname, so we were careful when she was around. Sophie and her mama, Rebel, were my . . .”
“Your what?” Nancy looked up from her notepad.
“They were more like my family than Mother and Daddy,” Emma answered.
“Let’s talk about them, then,” Nancy said.
“Sophie’s mama, Rebel, was our cleaning lady, and sometimes she babysat me when Mother had an appointment. I always loved the name Rebel. It sounded so free to me, something I was never allowed to be. Those were my happy times.” Emma turned her head and stared out the window again. The cardinals were flitting around on the redbud tree, flirting with each other among the purple blossoms. Spring had arrived—a time for new growth.
“Go on,” Nancy murmured.
“Sophie and I were going to be artists. We colored in books together when we were little girls, and when we got a little older, we drew our own pictures in sketchbooks.” Emma held her hands tightly in her lap. If Nancy saw her twisting them, she would never get out of this place. “Mother didn’t allow me to play with Sophie except when her mama brought her to our house. We weren’t even supposed to be friends at school, but we were.”
“Why?” Nancy had a soothing voice, not at all like the therapist who had come to the house once a week. That woman’s voice had a raspy tone, and she always smelled like the peppermint candy she used to cover up her cigarette breath.
“Rebel didn’t have a husband. Mother said she was low class and Sophie would grow up to be just like her,” Emma said.
Break-through. Breakthrough. Emma could almost feel the terms emanate from Nancy. She had seen that look—one of excitement—on other therapists’ faces in other places she had been put these past years.
“Where is Sophie now?” Nancy asked.
“Everywhere,” Emma said. “She’s a famous artist. Funny, isn’t it? She didn’t have a daddy, and her mama worked as a maid, and she’s famous. My mother is one of the richest women in Texas, and look where I am.” Emma paused and watched a sparrow fly up into the top of the redbud tree. “Do you ever wonder why God made the male species so pretty and the females so plain?”
“We were talking about Sophie,” Nancy said. “What does she look like?”
“She was about my size the last time I saw her, but when we were kids, I grew faster than she did. Mother gave her my outgrown clothes, but not after she fired Rebel. Sophie has blonde hair and big blue eyes. You told me to think of happy times, so I did,” Emma answered.
“Tell me more about that.” Nancy seemed to be all ears. “Describe one of those happy days for me.”
“Sophie and I were lying on a quilt in the backyard under the weeping willow limbs. We were working with sketch pads and glitter pens. It was a hot summer day, and we had to be careful that the sweat on our hands didn’t ruin our pictures. I sketched a calico kitten and made it look as realistic as possible. Sophie drew a lizard and colored it purple and yellow and red. I told her that lizards weren’t that color, and she said that artists could make their pictures any way they wanted them. Rebel didn’t come to work for us anymore after that day. Sophie and I stayed in touch when we could, but . . .” Emma shrugged. “That was my last happy time, so I thought about that lizard today.”
“How did it make you feel?” Nancy asked.
“Like I was in a cage without a key,” Emma said.
“Why?” Nancy whispered.
“Because my mother fired Sophie’s mother and hired tutors for me to be homeschooled. She said that she didn’t want me around the riffraff that went to public or even private schools, and nothing was ever the same after that.” Emma shrugged again.
“Why was it never the same?” Nancy asked.
“Because Sophie was gone, and I was lonely, and I couldn’t make Mother happy no matter how hard I tried.” Emma sighed. “I begged Mother to let Sophie come to the house and be tutored with me. She said no, and when Victoria Merrill says no, we do not argue with her. I loved my art teacher, but I hated not getting to go to school with other kids, especially Sophie. We talked a few times on the phone, but Mother caught us talking once, and she got very angry. She changed the phone numbers and fired all my tutors. The next week I had different ones. We didn’t make Mother angry in our house. I didn’t see Sophie until we went to college, when we reconnected a few times even though we went to different colleges.”
“How did you reconnect if you went to different colleges?” Nancy asked.
“I saw Rebel at a bakery, and of course, I asked about Sophie. Rebel gave me her phone number, and I called her. That next Sunday, when we got together for ice cream, it was like old times, and we talked about everything.” Emma almost smiled at the memory.
“What happened then? Did your mother—”
Emma held up a palm. “No, the Christmas holiday happened. I went home and . . .” Emma felt the world closing in on her. Her chest tightened, and she began to wring her hands.
“You went home for the holiday and never went back to school, right?” Nancy asked.
Emma nodded.
Nancy looked up from her notepad. “What happened right before that? Did someone hurt you? Did Sophie upset you?”
Emma crossed her arms over her chest. “You asked me that before, and I already answered it. Sophie would never hurt me.”
“Did someone else? If so, did you tell Sophie about it?”
How could she answer that when she couldn’t remember what had happened just before Christmas? “I didn’t talk to Sophie anymore when I went home. Mama wouldn’t let me. She said that Sophie was the cause of my problems.”
“How did you feel about that?” Nancy asked.
Why did they always ask how she felt about something? Did they really expect her to explain how she had been so sheltered at home that when she was thrown out into the real world, she felt like she’d been tossed overboard from her daddy’s boat without a life jacket? Her chest tightened more, and she felt a panic attack coming on.
Think about lizards. Think about lizards. She repeated the phrase over and over in her head until her breathing returned to normal.
She inhaled to her toes and let it out slowly. “College was tough. I wanted friends, but I hated to socialize. Mother made me promise not to touch liquor or drugs, so parties made me nervous. If I didn’t drink, then I was a nerd. If I did, I knew I’d feel guilty,” she answered.
“So, how did you handle it?” Nancy asked.
“Mother would have disowned me for doing what they were doing, so I was basically ignored.” Emma stopped and stared out the window.
That was enough for one day.
“Let’s talk some more about Sophie,” Nancy pushed.
Emma didn’t want to talk anymore, but she forced herself to say, “She had to work her way through college. No way could she afford to attend the place my folks sent me to. She went to the University of North Texas in Denton. That’s where I wanted to go, but oh, no, I had to attend the most prestigious art school in the whole state of Texas.” Emma yawned. “I’m tired now, but I’m fine, really, I am. Are you going to tell Mother what I said?”
“You can tell me anything, Emma, and I’m bound by confidentiality laws to not tell anyone without your written permission. Is there something else you want to talk about?” Nancy asked.
“When Mother made me sign the papers to check me into this place, she knew stuff that I only told the therapists. She knew I had trouble sleeping at night, that I hate the feel of satin, and that I get nauseated when I see a white fur rug. She answered all the questions on the admission forms and even told them that men should stay out of my room. How did she know that if someone didn’t tell her?” Emma asked.
“I won’t tell Victoria anything that you tell me. I feel like we’re making progress, Emma. I’m glad Sophie and Rebel were in your life. Do you feel that they were the only ones who ever loved you?”
Emma almost smiled again. “That isn’t a feeling. That’s the truth. Thank you for not telling Mother we talked about them. She told me that if I ever mentioned Sophie’s name again, she would put me in a place like this and never let me come home.”
“Why would you want to go home?” Nancy asked.
“Once a week,” Emma whispered.
“What’s once a week?” Nancy’s pen made a scratching noise as she wrote.
“This . . . ,” Emma answered. “I only have to talk to a therapist once a week at home. Mother knows what I tell her”—she lowered her voice—“because there’s cameras in my room.”
“Which is worse?” Nancy appeared to shudder. “Talking to me every day or no privacy at all?”
“I want neither. I want to live in a tiny house by myself, take walks through a park, and watch the birds. That’s what I want,” Emma answered.
Nancy checked her watch. “One more thing before I go. How did your father feel about your mother taking Sophie away from you?”
“Daddy does whatever Mother says. She says she didn’t get what she wanted in a husband or a child—that both of us are spineless and have the personality of milk toast.” Emma put her hands over her eyes for a moment.
“I think we’ve done a lot of good today. You get some rest now, and before I come in tomorrow, will you try to remember what it is that you have buried in your memories? Until you face that problem, you won’t ever be able to get over it or live in a tiny house all by yourself.” Nancy took her notebook and eased the door closed behind her as she left.
Why doesn’t anyone ever slam a door in this place? Emma wondered. She could almost hear the scratch of Nancy’s pen again and could imagine what she was writing on the other side of the door: We had a major breakthrough today. Maybe tomorrow we will get to the root of this problem and she’ll talk about her repressed memories.
“Think about the good times,” Emma said as she forgot about a nap and turned her attention back to the redbud tree outside her window. “I wish I had colored the cat black with red eyes. An artist can do whatever they want. Sophie said so.”
*****
Sophie slammed a pillow over the ringing telephone. Whoever was on the other end had better hope they were a hundred miles away from her if they didn’t hang up soon. The noise stopped and she went back to sleep, but five minutes later, it started up again. She rolled over in bed, threw the pillow against the far wall of her loft apartment in downtown Dallas, and, without even opening her eyes, answered the phone.
“Sophie, darlin’, did I wake you?”
Her eyes popped wide-open at the sound of her mother’s voice. “Yes, but is everything all right?”
“Everything is fine here,” Rebel said. “I just came home from my water aerobics class at the YMCA. I’ve got two houses to clean today, but I had a few minutes to call you. I’m sorry I woke you.”
“No problem, and like I’ve told you a gazillion times, you don’t have to clean houses anymore. I’m putting enough money in your checking account each month that you can retire.” Sophie covered a yawn with the back of her hand. She’d been up until dawn, putting the finishing touches on a landscape painting with the Dallas skyline in the background.
“Honey, you might need that money someday,” Rebel said. “And like I’ve told you a gazillion times, I would go bat-crap crazy if I didn’t work. Now that we’ve beat that dead horse some more, do you remember Emma Merrill?”
“Of course I do. Please don’t tell me something horrible has happened to her.” An icy-cold chill chased down Sophie’s spine. She hadn’t talked to Emma in years—not since that first semester of college. Then she had heard that Emma had decided not to go back to college. When Sophie tried to call her, she got Victoria instead, and the woman had given her a tongue lashing.
“Depends on what you mean by ‘happened to her,’” Rebel said. “I go to my aerobics class with the lady who cleans for her mother these days. She said that Emma is in Oak Lawn Wellness Center somewhere over around Fort Worth. Anyway, my friend Annie said that she overheard Victoria talking on the phone and saying that they were going to put her in a permanent-care facility. I guess she’s been in and out of places like that since she came home from college after the first semester.”
“What in the world? Why would they do that?” Sophie shoved back the covers and slung her legs over the edge of her bed. Something horrible must have happened for Emma to give up on her artist dream. Hoping that Emma might be the one to answer the phone, Sophie had tried to call her one more time after Victoria’s outburst. That time she got a recording saying that the number was no longer in use or had been changed.
“Seems she can’t shake this depression she’s been in since she quit college,” Rebel said. “I thought you might want to go visit her before you leave to go down to south Texas. I loved that little girl and felt like we had deserted her. If Victoria’s not there, y’all might get to spend a little time together.”
“You shouldn’t feel that way.” Sophie opened her packed suitcase and threw in a few more items. “Victoria fired you. If anyone deserted her, I did. I gave up trying to get in touch with her when I should have marched up to that house and demanded that they let me talk to her.”
“Victoria would have never let that happen, and honey”—Rebel paused—“I would have said no if Emma had talked Victoria into paying your tuition back in the day so that you could have been tutored with her.”
“I had no idea that Emma tried that,” Sophie said.
“Me either, until Annie told me a few weeks ago. It was water under the bridge, so I didn’t mention it to you before now. Victoria was ranting about the fact that if Emma had never known you, she wouldn’t be in the shape she’s in now,” Rebel said.
Tears welled up in Sophie’s eyes. “What did I do that would put her in a mental institution?”
“Victoria says that Emma depended on you for everything and that when you deserted her, she was never the same,” Rebel answered. “We both know that’s a crock of bull crap. We were kicked out of Emma’s life. We damn sure didn’t leave her because we wanted to, but there’s no telling what Victoria told her.”
“Emma never mentioned anything like that when we met those few times that first semester of college, but, Mama, I’m glad I went to public school,” Sophie said. “I’m just sorry that Emma couldn’t have been there with me. The few times she called me after we couldn’t go to her house anymore, she told me that she hated not getting to go to school. I’ll go see her this morning and give you a call afterward.”
“Better let me call you this evening. You know how these rich folks are about their maids talking on their time.” Rebel laughed.
“Yes, ma’am, I surely do,” Sophie agreed. “Love you. Don’t work too hard.”
“Never happen,” Rebel said. “Love you, too.”
Sophie laid the phone on the end table and checked the time. Straight up twelve o’clock noon. She wasn’t one to work on a schedule. If she really got into painting, she might get up at dawn and work until noon. If she decided to paint a night scene, she might not go to bed until sunrise, which was the reason she had slept until noon that day.
As she got dressed, she did the simple math. If she spent thirty minutes with Emma, she could still be moving into her place near Big Bend National Park before dark. She loved that area and for the past several years had rented a little two-bedroom trailer in the Hummingbird Trailer Park, aptly named because it was located on Hummingbird Lane.
“I’m going to tell her that there’s no way I deserted her, no matter what Victoria says,” Sophie said as she closed her suitcase, threw a few more items into a tote bag that held her toiletries, and took one last look at the loft. Bed made. Dishes all done and put away. The last three pictures she had painted were covered with canvas. The rest of the past year’s work—all thirty paintings—had already been shipped to London. They would travel from there to Paris and then to Rome for the gallery tour in the fall. Her boyfriend, Teddy, was over in Europe now, taking care of all the details, but he would be home in a few weeks.
She locked the door behind her, picked up her bags, and carried them across the hall to the service elevator. The thing moaned and groaned so badly every time she got into it that she held her breath and hoped that it didn’t crash and burn with her. When it reached bottom, she went out through the back door of the old building to her SUV and loaded her things. She checked her collection of canvases of every size, brushes, paints, and equipment one more time before she closed the back hatch and got behind the wheel.
With noonday traffic, the twenty-minute drive from her place to the wellness center took over an hour. Now she wouldn’t arrive at the trailer park until suppertime, and that was if she didn’t stop for a snack in the middle of the afternoon. She parked in front of the fancy facility with its fancy sign and its perfectly manicured lawns and flower beds and wondered how much money Victoria had shelled out to get her daughter into the place. Before she got out of her vehicle, she sent Josh, the trailer park owner, a text asking him to turn on the air-conditioning in her place sometime around six that evening. Then she used the rearview mirror to reapply lipstick, shook her long blonde hair out of its ponytail, and took a deep breath before she swung the driver’s side door open.
“I shouldn’t have let so many years go by,” she muttered to herself as she walked across the parking lot and entered a place that didn’t look a helluva lot different than the house where Emma had grown up. Why was her childhood friend in a place like this?
Victoria would drive Jesus and the angels out of her house. This is probably a vacation for Emma. Sophie took a deep breath and pushed the button beside the spotlessly clean glass door.
“May I help you?” a slightly raspy voice asked.
“I’m here to see Emma Merrill,” she said. Lord have mercy! Emma was locked inside the place. Emma, who would rather be outside than in her fancy suite of rooms on the second floor of Victoria’s mansion, couldn’t even step outside for a breath of fresh air. This just wasn’t right.
“Come in and stop at the front desk,” the voice said.
The lock on the door clicked. Emma stepped inside a sterile-looking lobby, took two steps, and said, “Could you tell me which room Emma Merrill is in?”
“Are you family?” the woman asked.
“Of course.” Sophie beamed as she lied through her teeth. “Can’t you tell by looking? I’m her cousin.”
“Visits have to be scheduled. We can’t have people just dropping by any old time. She’s making real progress here, not like at the other places she’s been. She’ll probably be going home in a few days, so maybe you could wait and see her when she’s settled back home.” The woman eyed her carefully.
“Can’t you make an exception this one time? I’m leaving town and won’t get to see her again for weeks and weeks,” Sophie begged.
“Sorry.” The woman shook her head. “Rules are rules.”
A woman with a notepad came up to the desk and eyed Sophie carefully. “I’m Dr. Nancy Davidson. And you are?”
“This woman wants to see Emma Merrill, and she hasn’t made an appointment,” the lady said.
“Sophie Mason.” She stuck out her hand, and Nancy jumped as if she wasn’t sure she’d heard right.
“I think we can make an exception to the rules this time and let Sophie talk to Emma,” Nancy said.
“Thank you so much.” Sophie flashed her brightest smile.
“Sign the visitors’ log right there.” The woman whipped a guest book around and pointed to a page with empty lines. “Room one-thirteen, just down that hall,” she said and went back to typing something into the computer.
Sophie marched down the hall. When she found the right room, she frowned at the sign on the door—FEMALES ONLY. What in the devil was going on with her old friend? She eased the door open and peeked inside to find the starkest room she’d ever seen. She had always envied Emma her bedroom when they were kids. All done up in pink satin and white lace with Disney princess posters on the wall, the suite had had a sitting room, a bedroom, a walk-in closet, and a beautiful private bathroom. The dresser and closet were built into the wall. There was no television or phone, and the twin bed was covered with a light-green bedspread. The only inviting things in the whole room were a dark-green recliner and matching love seat.
From the appearance of the outside of the center and knowing how rich the Merrill family was, Sophie had expected to see a fully furnished room like the one Emma had at home. Why would Victoria ever put her daughter away in a sorry place like this? If she wasn’t sad when she arrived, she damn sure would be before she left.
She opened the door wider and saw a dark-haired woman standing at the window. Slumped shoulders, arms hanging limply by her sides—everything about her said defeat.
“Em?” she whispered.
Emma turned away from the window and threw a hand over her mouth. “Sophie, is that really you?”
“It’s really me.” Sophie stepped inside the room and closed the door behind her.
Emma met her halfway across the room and grabbed her in a fierce hug. “I was talking about you this morning. I’m so glad to see you. I still don’t think lizards are that color.”
Sophie wrapped Emma up in her arms and held her tight. “An artist can make lizards any color that they want,” she said and stepped back. That was the sort of banter that would have made her laugh, but now her childhood friend looked like death warmed over. Her skin was ashen, and her big brown eyes were lifeless. “How long has it been since you were outside?”
Emma shrugged. “Mother says I can’t go outside—that I don’t do well except inside. I had a panic attack at the mall, so she doesn’t let me go to big places. I wanted to build myself one of those new tiny houses, but she threw a fit.”
“How long has it been since you painted or even colored?” Sophie took her by the cold, bony hand and led her toward the love seat.
Emma began to twist her hands once Sophie released her. “I can’t paint or color. The people here tried to get me to draw, but my hands shake every time I pick up a brush or even a crayon,” she said. “I’m not doing so well, Sophie. They want me to remember things, and I can’t. Sometimes I want to make up something just so they’ll stop wanting me to talk to them.”
“Well, hell’s bells,” Sophie said. “You were a better artist than me. What happened?”
Another shrug.
Anger boiled up from somewhere down in the depths of Sophie’s heart. Who or what had caused her childhood friend to not even care about her art? Something catastrophic had to have happened to make her turn her back on her dream. Some friend she’d been all these years.
Sophie had never done anything on impulse, not even when the candy bars and magazines right by the checkout counters reached out to her. But right then, Sophie decided to change that. She couldn’t undo the past, but she could fix the future. She couldn’t let Emma stay in this dismal room one more day—or, for that matter, one more hour.
“Who checked you into this place?” she asked.
“I did,” Emma answered, “but Mother brought me here and told me to sign the papers. She is still the boss about everything.”
“So, you can check yourself out, right?” Sophie asked.
“When the therapist and Mother decide it’s for the best. I can sign myself out at any time, but you know Mother. She’ll be angry with me if I do.” Emma’s tone was flat, as if she’d given up hope.
“I never have lived by Victoria’s rules. Let’s get your things packed up and ready to go. You’re going to check yourself out and come with me,” Sophie said.
Emma almost smiled. “Mother will have a fit. She says if I even talk to you, she’ll put me in one of these places permanently.”
“Well—” Sophie opened the closet door, found a small suitcase, and set it on the twin bed. She opened the closet to find a pair of jeans, a shirt, sandals, and a makeup kit. Hanging on the rack inside were several sets of scrubs, all pure white like the ones Emma was wearing. “Then I guess you’ll just have to live with me from now on, and, honey, I would never put you in a place like this.”

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
 
 

Book Info:

Ever since childhood, Emma Merrill and Sophia Mason were bound by a passion for painting. Like all young best friends, they promised to never lose touch. But the girls came from different worlds, and their paths diverged when Emma went to an elite college and Sophie worked her way through state school.
After a decade they’ve reconnected, both in a time of need. Emma has been struggling with depression since her college years, and she’s lost herself under the suffocating influence of her controlling and manipulative mother. Sophie, under pressure to prepare for an upcoming gallery show, whisks the fragile Emma away to a small artists’ colony in south Texas. It’s a raw and beautiful landscape where wildflowers bloom—and perhaps Emma can bloom there, too. In the company of such nurturing and creative strangers—especially Josh Corlen, the openhearted manager of the commune—Emma allows herself to breathe again.
For Sophie and Emma, it’s the perfect place for reflection and to finally share the secret burdens each has carried. Most of all it’s a chance to rediscover their true selves and to make good on the old promise that their friendship would last forever.

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Meet the Author:

Carolyn Brown is a New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Weekly and #1 Amazon and #1 Washington Post bestselling author and a RITA finalist. She is the author of more than 100 novels and several novellas. She’s a recipient of the Bookseller’s Best Award, and the prestigious Montlake Diamond Award, and also a three-time recipient of the National Reader’s Choice Award. Brown has been published for more than 20 years, and her books have been translated 19 foreign languages.
When she’s not writing, she likes to plot new stories in her backyard with her tom cat, Boots Randolph Terminator Outlaw, who protects the yard from all kinds of wicked varmints like crickets, locusts, and spiders. Visit her at www.carolynbrownbooks.com.
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61 Responses to “Spotlight & Giveaway: Hummingbird Lane by Carolyn Brown”

  1. Diana Tidlund

    Yes ! Bestie and I have known each other for 47 years but besides that I am one of 13 and no matter the distance my siblings and I are very close. Close enough that my brother and his family (including his mother in law ) come every Christmas to visit us because of my strokes . ( easier for all them to come to me )

  2. Amy Donahue

    I did, but she passed away in 2006 from breast cancer. We were friends for 26 years.

  3. Jennifer Shiflett

    Yes, I do. We met when I was 12, and I’m about to be 46. I know I can call her anytime, no matter how long it’s been since we talked.

  4. Debbie P

    Yes I have a friend that I have known since before kindergarden and we my goes years without seeing each other but I know he will be there if need be.

    • Laurie Gommermann

      Yes, Paula had been my best friend since 2nd grade. We were in each other’s weddings. She has stayed in my hometown area her whole life. She raised her family there. I supported her when she lost her 18 yo daughter (embolism) after routine ankle stabilization surgery. I was closer to her mom than my own.
      I moved back to the area for 2 years and she and I babysat each other’s children so we could have a break or do necessary errands. To this day we call, FaceTime, communicate via FB and email. We have maintained a close friendship, closing in on 60 years! Time has flown by. I have been blessed with her friendship, support and love!

  5. Pammie R.

    No. I was never very good at making friends. I wish I was. I could use some right about now.

  6. Jennifer Beyer

    I do. We lost touch for a few years. I missed her having a heart attack! She had carried some beliefs about me for years and finally asked me directly and we worked it out. She’s good people. I’m glad to have her in my life.

  7. Marcy Meyer

    One of my best friends for over 40 years is that person for me. She and I are separated by distance, not seeing each other very often, but always there for each other.

  8. Kay Garrett

    I’m fortunate to have two such people. I consider both my sisters by choice. They live in different states, but I know they would drop everything and come at the drop of a hat if I needed them as I would for them. When Mom lived with us with Alzheimer and for the last two years needed 24/7 care, I was cut off from the outside world. Everyone else went on with their lives like we didn’t exist. My two BFF’s called, text and sent packages in the mail often if not daily just to let me know they cared and were there for me. One even arranged with hubby to take over all duties for two days so she could fly in to meet me in Little Rock for a girls weekend reminding me that to really take care of Mom, I had to take care of myself as well. Never has anyone been so blessed with friends as I have with these two.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  9. Bonnie

    Yes, I have a wonderful friend from college who has always been there for me in both good times and bad.

  10. Carolyn Brown

    Happy Easter to all y’all! I’ve loved reading through all the comments, and appreciate every one of you stopping by to visit with me. I hope you enjoy Hummingbird Lane when it hits the shelves in just two more days!

  11. chelsea w

    I have a good friend who I met when she lived farther away, but now that she’s moved closer, we’ve been able to see each other more! (except for the pandemic.)

  12. Nina Lewis

    Yes. We’ve known each other since we were 10 years old. We’ve been through A LOT together. She is the best! ❤️

  13. Anna Nguyen

    yes my friend lynn who lives across the country on the east coast. we still text and call each other for random stuff just to make each other laugh.

  14. Patricia B.

    Yes I do. Over the years I have moved around the country and the world and she stayed in our home town. When we do get back for a visit, it is like we were never apart at all. Our families have remained friends for over 50 years.

  15. Terrill R.

    Yes, I do have one of those friends. We’ve lived in the same town and also across the sea from one another. No matter how far or how long between time spent together, we’re always as close as sisters.

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