To Laugh Once More, book two in my Hope of the South series, is finally here. Today would have been my dear mother’s 77th birthday so I picked today as the perfect day to release the book. She passed away twenty-one years ago while I was writing To Dance Once More, and she never got to see my dream of being a published author fulfilled. I thought today would be a wonderful day to release the book.
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW WITH YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS FOR A CHANCE TO WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF BOTH TO LAUGH ONCE MORE AND TO DANCE ONCE MORE!! (Must have at least 20 participants for the giveaway. Continental US only, please.) Winner will be chosen October 15th!
You can purchase the ebook and print version on Amazon!
I want to thank everyone for all the support and encouragement during this process. I hope to bring you many more books in the future! Now feel free to share the news with all your friends and definitely feel free to purchase my book. If you like it, I hope you’ll consider placing a review on your blog or on Amazon. Thanks so much and God bless you all!
ABOUT THE BOOK!
To Laugh Once More is a Victorian Inspirational Romance set in Georgia in 1895.
The War may be over, but the battles still rage.
A dissatisfied wife. A misunderstood husband. Three tragedies will alter their path forever. Will their choices tear them apart, or will they allow them To Laugh Once More?
Three years after her marriage to Hamilton, former debutante Lydia Barrington Scarbrough is dissatisfied with life. She has yet to have children, and she spends most of her days sitting in a circle of women chatting about homemaking. She thought life would be more than what it’s turned out to be. Hamilton travels on business and never takes her with him. What’s a lonely wife to do when she has no children to raise? She longs for adventure and romance, and really, she longs for the fulfillment of her purpose in life. A purpose beyond being a wife and raising children.
Lydia faces a series of hardships that stretch her faith beyond capacity. Leaving her childhood home in Florida for Georgia proves to be more difficult than she ever imagined, and her marriage may not survive the trials. Lydia’s own personal battles drive a wedge between them. What will it take to make Hamilton attempt to save their marriage and draw Lydia back to him?
As Lydia strives to etch out a place for herself in a new world full of unfamiliar prejudice and attempts to overcome her private battles, she must help Hamilton understand her deepest longings and learn the true meaning of joy. Will she surrender her will in order to find her purpose? Will her future hold a happier marriage, motherhood, and a calling greater than she could ever have imagined?
“To Laugh Once More is the poignant story of a marriage transformed by tragedies, trust, and trials overcome during America’s volatile Gilded Age. From heartbreak to hope, Sherri Wilson Johnson has penned a love story that, like one of our nation’s most turbulent eras, both haunts and heals.” — Julie Lessman, award-winning author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, and Heart of San Francisco series.
“Author Sherri Wilson Johnson has crafted a fascinating story of life in Georgia just prior to the turn of the 19th/20th century. The Civil War is over, but racial prejudice and unrest is rampant. Former Victorian debutante Lydia Barrington Scarbrough finds her newly married life anything but the exciting adventure she had expected. With a husband gone more often than he’s home and her apparent inability to conceive a child, she soon finds solace by tutoring former slaves. The townspeople do not take well to her endeavor, and she is shocked when her life is threatened. Will this once-pampered young woman succumb to the social ostracism and even danger of her undertaking, or press on to find the fulfillment that has so far evaded her?” — Kathi Macias (www.kathimacias.com) is an award-winning author of more than 40 books. She lives in Southern California with her husband, Al.
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER ONE
Copyright Sherri Wilson Johnson
Lydia Barrington Scarbrough had promised herself three years ago that she’d never let the joy of her wedding day fade from her memory. Now if only she could, life would be easier, for remembering it made her daily mundane tasks seem like captivity. She stood at the kitchen sink, scrubbing the utensils she’d used to prepare her stew. She stood here every evening at this time.
She could still see herself that day, the youngest Barrington child, standing in white in the gazebo, her favorite childhood refuge, with Hamilton and the minister. Winter flowers and ferns had adorned the gazebo, and lace bows had encircled every column. The Live Oaks mansion had never looked so warm and inviting. A banquet fit for a king and an evening of dancing had ensured the guests would never forget the long-awaited union between Lydia and her prince.
However, Hamilton hadn’t kept his promises. Promises to forsake ambition for her. Promises to take her with him on his travels. He’d said he was doing it all for her, but his motives mattered not for he was doing it all without her. Once he’d captured her heart and claimed her as his wife, he’d chased affluence and societal acceptance but had failed to include her in his world. She loved him still. She always would. Did his river of love run as deep?
Hamilton’s buggy ambled up the sandy path, lined with hemlocks and palmetto palms. Plunging her hands into the dishwater, Lydia pushed her dreadful thoughts away. There was no room in a woman’s mind for regret or doubt. No room for fretting over missed parties and forgotten ball gowns.
She’d talk to him soon about her concerns, but today was not the day. After a day in St. Andrews filled with appointments and the long chilly ride home, he’d want a hot meal and his warm-hearted wife to sit with him beside the fire. Lydia straightened her shoulders and sighed. Hamilton opened the back door, and she fixed a smile upon her face.
“Hello, my love.” Hamilton stepped up behind Lydia and wrapped his arms around her waist. He positioned a kiss upon her neck after nudging away with his nose a rebellious curl that had escaped her bun.
“Hello.” Lydia closed her eyes and leaned into him, longing for his touch to soothe the ache in her heart.
“Are you well?” Hamilton turned her around to face him, dishwater dripping on to the floor.
Lydia wiped her hands on her apron. Her knees buckled at the sight of his strong jaw and squared shoulders. She dove into the waters of his sea-green eyes but tried to resist the current. She wanted to be angry with him, after all. However, when he hugged her, she submitted to the riptide and accepted his love.
The lines across his forehead relaxed as he studied her face—her mouth and then her eyes. He’d told her a thousand times that her eyes were like blue diamonds. If only he’d realize he was the one that put the sparkle in them and that their lackluster now was because he’d spent little time with her of late.
“Lydia?” He cocked his head to the left and tossed his dark hair out of his eyes. Behind him, the robin’s-egg-blue wall accented his eyes, and Lydia sunk even deeper into them. “Yes, I’m fine.”
“What have you done today to occupy your time while I was away?”
“The same things I do every day.” She willed a smile to her face.
“Well, good then.” Hamilton released her, and she stumbled into the iron sink. He removed his suit coat, hung it on the hook by the door, and descended into his chair at the kitchen table. “What are we having for supper?”
“Smells good. I have to get to bed early tonight. I leave for Georgia tomorrow to meet with several grocers about carrying our oranges, limes, and grapefruits. After the freeze last month, we can’t afford to turn away opportunities.” He picked up the St. Andrews newspaper. “Since the gold reserves fell and the stock market crashed, more people are trying to sell goods, and I’ve got to prove myself to these grocers.”
Lydia slumped, ignoring the report on the nation’s financial status and the recollection of the aromatic orchard in the summer months. Why couldn’t she travel with Hamilton? Why hadn’t his father continued to sell porcelain china and silverware? The potential for exotic travel had been much greater then. The beauty and abundance of the orchards paled in comparison to adventure. Hamilton’s face showed his weariness.
“Georgia again? When will you be back?” The room flickered before her eyes, and she leaned against the sink.
Hamilton’s eyes remained on the newspaper. “It’ll take more than a week probably. You know how long it takes to travel this time of year. I’ll take the train part of the way, but then we’ll go by coach the last leg of the journey. The roads are difficult to travel.”
What he dreaded, she longed to do.
“You should stay with your parents. That way I’ll not have to worry about you.”
Lydia took the white milk glass pitcher from the table by the sink and walked to the corner of the room to the water pump. She pumped her frustrations into the pitcher and groaned under her breath. “What will keep me from worrying about you?” The pitcher overflowed on to the soapstone below, and Lydia grabbed the rag from her apron to wipe up the excess water.
“You’ve nothing to worry about, Lydia.”
She brushed her hair out of her face and carried the pitcher to the coal stove. She poured water into the cast iron stew pot and some into the coffee pot for after dinner. “Well, I prefer to go with you.”
“That’s out of the question.”
She sighed. “Then I prefer to stay here. Your father and mother will watch after me, although I don’t need watching after.” She opened the top drawer in the spice box and took out a pinch of salt. She tossed it in the pot and wiped her hand on her skirt.
“You’ll be more comfortable with your parents.”
She lifted her gaze to the ceiling. “I’ll be more comfortable here. When I go home, they treat me like a child. Why can I not go with you?” She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and prayed he’d feel her desperation.
Hamilton looked up and smiled. “The travel would be too harsh on you, my sweet. It’s cold in Georgia this time of year, and I fear you’d be dreadfully miserable.”
She raised her eyebrows. “On the contrary, Hamilton. I’ll be dreadfully miserable home alone without you.” She cast a faint smile in his direction and stirred the contents of the pot with fury.
“That’s why I want you to stay with your parents. So you won’t be alone.”
“Do you not want me to come with you? This month is our third anniversary, and it’d be so nice to get away together.” She tasted her concoction and opened the spice box once again to retrieve the black pepper.
“I know. However, it’s not a matter of whether I’d like you to be there with me. Of course, I’ll miss you, but I’ll be about my business. This won’t be a trip of leisure.” He rubbed the back of his neck.
The ticking of the New Haven clock on the shelf failed to match the beating of Lydia’s heart. “Couldn’t we take a day or so to explore Georgia?”
“No, not this time. Maybe next time.”
She nodded and allowed her shoulders to slump. “Next time.” It’s always next time.
“Your stew made me forget about my tiresome day, Lydia. There’s nothing quite like a meal made with loving hands.”
“I’m glad you liked it.” She mustered a smile from deep within, but a cloud of rejection hung over her head. “Have you given any more thought to letting me go with you to Georgia? I can have my valise packed in no time. As your wife, I could be a great representative of our business and our produce.”
“No, I haven’t given any more thought to it.” Hamilton laughed. “It’s not the right time.”
Lydia rocked in front of the blazing fire, the rocking chair taking her nowhere as it pitched forward and back. Her eyes slid above the fireplace to the painting of them on the beach a handful of years ago. Where had the urgency to be together gone?
“Why are you so desperate to leave home?” Hamilton pulled socks from his drawer and packed them away in his case.
“I’m not desperate, Hamilton. I simply would like to spend time with you away from here—away from the constant interruptions of family. Doing little more than wifely duties suffers in comparison to a trip to Georgia.” She stared into the fire, her hope turning to ash.
“I see. There’ll be other times to go away though. Winter isn’t a good time to take a woman on a trip. You’ll be much happier here.” He removed his shirt, stepped out of his pants, and walked over to his side of the bed. “I’m going to bed. Are you ready?”
“No, I need to clean up a few things in the kitchen and then I’ll come.” Lydia stood.
“See you in a bit then.” Hamilton walked to her side, leaned over and pressed his lips onto her forehead. “Wake me when you come to bed. I’d love to spend some time together before I leave.” He ran his thumb across the nape of her neck, impressing his meaning into her skin.
Did she have to show Hamilton affection on this night? Why didn’t he want her for more than that? She tried to find satisfaction with just being a wife, but she wasn’t. She needed more. Why wasn’t she content with the life God had given her—with the man she’d chosen?
Lydia’s heart stirred with verses she’d found not long after her marriage to Hamilton—Psalm 30:11-12. The words flooded her memory like the ocean tide on the sandy beaches of Shell Island on a summer morning.
“Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee forever.”
Her chest trembled. Tonight she would honor God and bless her husband.