A Roaring Twenties adventure unfolds in Jennifer Chiaverini's latest bestselling Elm Creek Quilts novel, another in "a series that neatly stitches together social drama and the art of quilting" (Library Journal). Newly wed in a festive yet poignant ceremony at Elm Creek Manor, bride Elizabeth Nelson takes leave of her ancestral Pennsylvania home. Setting off with her husband, Henry, on the adventure of a lifetime, Elizabeth packs the couple's trunk with more than the wedding quilts she envisions them dreaming beneath every night of their married lives. They are landowners who hold the deed to Triumph Ranch, 120 acres of prime California soil located in the Arboles Valley, north of Los Angeles. "Triumph Ranch," says Mae, a traveling companion whom Elizabeth has let in on the promise of the Nelsons' bright future. "That sounds like a sure thing." But in a cruel reversal of fortune, the Nelsons arrive to the news that they've been had, and they are left suddenly, irrevocably penniless. They are hired as hands at the farm they thought they owned, and Henry struggles mightily with his pride. Yet clever, feisty Elizabeth -- drawing on her share of the Bergstrom women's inherent economy and resilience -- vows to defy fate through sheer force of will. As her life intertwines with Rosa Diaz Barclay, native to the Arboles Valley and a fellow quilter, their blossoming friendship sheds light on many secrets that have kept each of them and their families from their rightful homes. In the cabin where Henry and Elizabeth are living on Triumph Ranch, Elizabeth discovers quilts belonging to Rosa's mother, and in their exquisite patterns recognizes a misplaced legacy of love, land, and family. But her newfound understanding of the burden of loss that Rosa shares with the mysterious Lars Jorgensen places her in mortal danger. Only by stitching the rift between the past and the future can the inhabitants of Triumph Ranch hope to live in peace alongside history.
Chiaverini's latest Elm Creek Quilts installment suffers at the hands of its lackluster hero and heroine. Newlyweds Elizabeth and Henry leave Elizabeth's sprawling Pennsylvania family farm in 1925 to work a Southern California ranch Henry has bought sight unseen. As they ride the train out west, Chiaverini fills in the backstory of the Rodriguez family, the ranch's original owners, who lost the land in the 1880s. When the couple arrive in the picturesque valley, they discover they have been swindled into the poorhouse by an unscrupulous land broker who sold them a fake deed. Determined not to crawl back to their families, Henry works as a hired hand, while Elizabeth cooks for the Jorgenson family, the ranch's true owners. Dispirited and resentful, Henry rejects Elizabeth's encouragement and support, and Elizabeth must decide if the marriage is worth fighting for. On the page, the relationship between Henry and Elizabeth teeters between dull and nonexistent--which hinders the story of a young couple striving to make their marriage work. (Apr.)
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Simon & Schuster
April 10, 2007
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Excerpt from The Quilter's Homecoming by Jennifer Chiaverini
As her father's car rumbled across the bridge over Elm Creek and emerged from the forest of bare-limbed trees onto a broad, snow-covered lawn of the Bergstrom estate, Elizabeth Bergstrom was seized by the sudden and unshakable certainty that she should not have come to this place. She should have stayed in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to help her brother run the hotel, even though business invariably slowed during the holiday week. Or she should have offered to help care for her sister's newborn twins. Even celebrating Christmas alone would have been preferable to returning to Elm Creek Manor. Her lifelong feelings of warmth and comfort toward the family home had suddenly given way to dread and foreboding. She would have to pass the week next door to Henry, knowing that he was near, and waiting in vain for him to come to her.
As Elm Creek Manor came into view, Elizabeth watched her father straighten in the driver's seat, his leather-gloved fingers flexing around the steering wheel of the new Model T Ford, an unaccustomed look of ease and contentment on his face. He never drank at Elm Creek Manor, nor in the days leading up to their visits, which made Elizabeth wonder why he could not abstain in Harrisburg as well. Apparently he craved his brothers' approval more than that of his wife and children, not that anyone but Elizabeth ever complained about his drinking.
"We're almost home," Elizabeth's father said. Her mother responded with an almost inaudible sniff. It irked her that after all these years, her husband still referred to Elm Creek Manor as home, rather than their stylish apartment in the hotel her father had turned over to their management upon their marriage. Second only to her father's flagship hotel, the Riverview Arms was smartly situated on the most fashionable street in Harrisburg, just blocks from the capitol building. It was a good living, much more reliable and lucrative than raising horses for Bergstrom Thoroughbreds. On his better days, George remembered that, but his insistence upon calling Elm Creek Manor home smacked of ingratitude.
But in this matter, if nothing else, Elizabeth understood her father. Of course Elm Creek Manor was home. The first Bergstroms in America had established the farm in 1857 and ever since, their family had run the farm and raised their prizewinning horses there, building on to the original farmhouse as the number of their descendants grew. They had lived, loved, argued, and celebrated within those gray stone walls for generations. But it was her father's fate to fall in love with a girl who loved the comforts of the city too much to abandon them for life on a horse farm. He could not have Millie and Elm Creek Manor both, so he accepted his future father-in-law's offer to sell his stake in Bergstrom Thoroughbreds and invest the profits in the Riverview Arms. Still, though he had sold his inheritance to his siblings, Elizabeth's father would always consider Elm Creek Manor the home of his heart.
And so would she, Elizabeth told herself firmly. Though Elm Creek Manor would never belong to her the way it would her cousins, every visit would be a homecoming for as long as she lived. She would not mourn for what was lost, whether an inheritance sold off before it could pass to her, or the love of a good man whose affection she had taken for granted.
Her father parked in the circular drive and took his wife's hand to help her from the car. Elizabeth climbed down from the backseat unassisted. A host of aunts, uncles, and cousins greeted them at the door at the top of the veranda. Uncle Fred embraced his younger brother while dear Aunt Eleanor kissed Elizabeth's mother on both cheeks.