– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Chateau Laux’ blogtour, organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
David Loux is a short story writer who has published under pseudonym and served as past board member of California Poets in the Schools. Chateau Laux is his first novel. He lives in the Eastern Sierra with his wife, Lynn.
Book Title: Chateau Laux
Author: David Loux
Publication Date: April 6, 2021
Publisher: Wire Gate Press
Page Length: 292 Pages
Genre: Historical / Literary Fiction
Inspired by a shocking incident in eighteenth century America, Chateau Laux is the story of Lawrence Kraymer, a young entrepreneur from a youthful Philadelphia, who chances upon a French aristocrat and his family living on the edge of the frontier. Born to an unwed mother and raised by a disapproving and judgmental grandfather, Lawrence is drawn to the close-knit family. As part of his courtship of one of the patriarch’s daughters, he builds a château, igniting memories of a past that should have been left alone and setting in motion a course of devastating events he could not have anticipated.
Chapter One (Page 5)
It was one thing to be alone in the woods, where no one had any knowledge or expectations of you, and quite another to be in a space owned and controlled by someone else, where the surrounding structures had been shaped by hands other than your own, and where human breath and blood gathered and coursed in unknowable fashion. Lawrence stood in momentary dejection, his feet planted wide and his shoulders slumped. All over again, he felt like a child with a dead mother, standing on the doorstep of an old man he had never met, a note of introduction in his hand. His mother had not spoken to her father since the unfortunate birth of her child, and the note was the only provenance Lawrence had. He sometimes felt as if he still stood on that doorstep, waiting, waiting.
The barn had darkened, and he struck his flint to light the lantern. The shadows cast by the glow loomed large. He could still hear the thudding draw of the bolt on the other side of his grandfather’s door, the shudder of wood and the squeal of hinges, and as much as he appreciated the shelter of the barn, he already regretted the position he’d put himself in. He hated to feel beholden to his grandfather, to this man Pierre, or to anyone else.
Hearing a sound behind him, he whirled around, his heart in his throat. A boy of about thirteen stood there, his face glowing in the lantern light. He had sandy hair and ruddy cheeks. Another boy ranged past him, swinging wide. He looked a year or so older, with darker hair and a fuzzy lip. Both were unusually tall, lanky, and well-proportioned, with coltish insouciance, and Lawrence’s surprise at their sudden arrival was soothed by their youth and the friendly curiosity in their frank gazes.
“Ma sent us,” the younger brother said. “Pa told her about you and she said to invite you to supper, but that anyone who’s spent time in the wild would have to take a bath before coming into any house of hers. Pa was all for sending you down to the creek, but Ma said you’d get struck by lightning for sure and she wouldn’t have it. Pa said go ahead and use the horse trough. Just be sure to pull the plug when you’re done and then pump in some fresh water.” He held out a bundle that included a clean linen shirt and a pair of woolen breeches, in addition to a towel, a washcloth, and a big bar of soap.
The older brother appeared to be the more reserved of the two. He studied Lawrence with obvious interest but came no closer. “Come on,” he finally said, tersely, to the younger boy. “Ma said we shouldn’t linger.”
“I’m not lingering,” the younger one said, stoutly.
The older one gave Lawrence a look that begged his indulgence. “He always dillydallies,” he said, as if in answer to a curiosity Lawrence may have had.
“I do not,” the younger brother said.
A sudden light flickered, followed by a thunder crack. A deluge of rain hit the barn.
The brothers turned to leave, but Lawrence stopped them.
“Aren’t you going to tell me who you are?” he said.
The younger face brightened.
“I’m Georgie and this here’s my brother, Andrew. You haven’t met Jean yet.”
“Jean?” Lawrence said. But the brothers had turned again and disappeared like phantoms. Their silhouettes appeared at the doorway of the barn, and a flash of lightning revealed a third youth who appeared taller and leaner than the other two. He carried a musket, and Lawrence realized the boys had taken no chances and that he had been under a watchful eye the whole time. He shook his head with admiration.
Rain poured from the dark sky and thundered down against his shoulders and head as he took his cold bath, his bottom slick against the slippery surface of the horse trough. Scrubbing the bar of soap furiously against his hands, he then ran his fingers through his hair and down his face, startled at the extent of his beard. He had had the beard for two weeks and hardly given it a thought. But now that he was about to share a meal with people he didn’t know, he wondered what they would see when they looked at him. Returning to the barn, he toweled off and dressed in the borrowed clothes, then swiped at his hair and whiskers, hoping it was enough to make him presentable.
Then, it seemed miraculously, he found himself in a kitchen banked with the smells of meat and freshly baked bread. A young woman with braided chestnut hair knelt in front of the hearth, using a wooden spoon to scrape at the browned bits that had collected in an iron pot. An older woman set a plate of scallions and radishes on the table. She hardly seemed old enough to have children nearly grown. There were eight place settings, and Lawrence saw the two boys he had already met and the third, whom he had seen only in silhouette, all seated at the table and looking at him with the quiet enthusiasm of country folk, who rarely got to spend time with someone from outside of their small community. The man who had earlier introduced himself as Pierre sat beside a little girl of about four, with blue eyes and red curls, dimpled cheeks.
Lawrence’s eyes swam the length of the room, trying to take it all in.
“Welcome,” Pierre said, gesturing toward an empty space at the opposite end of the table. His earlier gruffness seemed to have evaporated. “My boys you already met. That’s my eldest, Catharine, over there, and this here’s our little Magdalena. The stern one is Beatrice,” he said, smiling.
“I’ll show you stern if you’re not careful,” said the woman named Beatrice, digging at her husband with a look that told him he had better watch out or there would be a price to pay for such teasing. Her brown hair was braided like her daughter’s and her eyes were honey-colored, her back long and straight. She wore a simple linen dress, an apron, and wooden shoes.
Lawrence felt the need to apologize, at the outset, that he was dressed in someone else’s clothes, and the two youngest brothers jostled each other, as if sharing a private joke. Beatrice quickly took charge.
“Just go on now and sit yourself down,” she said, with a touch of bluster. “Boys, pass our guest the radishes and salt. The bread is ready and the roast is taking a rest. Pierre, maybe you should go to the cellar and fetch some of the better wine.”
“You see who gives the orders around here,” Pierre grumbled, giving Lawrence a wink. He stomped out of the kitchen. A door opened and Lawrence heard heavy foot treads on wooden steps.
“He’s not really mad,” the little Magdalena piped up, with an authority that belied her age. She raised her cream-colored chin and gave her red curls a toss. “He acts like he is but he’s not.”
The Magic of Wor(l)ds