With the plethora of m/m books on the market, I'm pleased to run across an intriguing historical read featuring two ladies in love. Courtesy of Bewitching Book Tours, Alyssa Linn Palmer is here today to give us a glimpse into her new book Prohibited Passion. So make Alyssa feel welcome and learn more about about this exciting book....
Flappers were the new, independent women of the post-war (WWI) decade, no longer confined to the home. The New York Times, in an article published July 16, 1922, stated that a flapper “...is shameless, selfish and honest, but at the same time she considers these three attributes virtues.”
Today we know the flapper for her looks, from the cloche hats, the drop-waist dresses, and the iconic Louise Brooks. Fashion was essential: the styles moved away from the more traditional, full length dresses and skirts, and by the end of the 20s, the skirts had come to the knee. (All the better to dance the Charleston.)
Mass-market consumerism really took hold after WWI, and women had money to spend. They were out of the home, investing in the stock market, going to speakeasies... doing almost everything a man could do. They were no shrinking violets.
CeeCee, the flapper in my story, embodies the woman of her time. She’s confident, even when confronted with the disdain of the townsfolk in Bandit Creek. She’s the complete opposite of Ruth, the pastor’s daughter who was raised very conservatively. Ruth dreams of freedom in the big city, and CeeCee is everything Ruth wants to be. However, Bandit Creek isn’t ready for women to demand the same independence as men...
by Alyssa Linn Palmer
Ruth wants to escape the boredom of Bandit Creek and the strict expectations of her father, the local pastor. Her life changes the day she meets CeeCee, a world-wise flapper, and an irresistible attraction develops between them. She’ll be disowned and shunned if anyone discovers their prohibited passion, but can they keep their growing affection a secret?
CeeCee is drawn to Ruth, but things become complicated when her gangster companion disapproves of their liaison. He’s in town to broker a deal with the owner of the local speakeasy, and he’s not above using them to further his own plans. Can CeeCee protect Ruth and their budding relationship?
As Ruth gets drawn further into their world, she must decide between her familiar life and a new, dangerous path with the woman she loves.
Bandit Creek, Montana August 1929
Ruth thought her father looked ridiculous with his eyes closed and his hands raised to the heavens. His thinning hair had already gone grey and it fell untidily over his ears. A growing paunch strained the fabric of his clericals. She knew she would have to make him new ones. Just another task she couldn’t escape from.
Escape. She thought of little else. She wanted to leave Bandit Creek behind but, today, she’d satisfy herself by leaving the service. While the congregation followed her father’s lead, she rose silently from the end of the pew and crept from the church.
She had an excuse or two all ready if he asked her over dinner why she’d left the service.
I needed some air. I felt ill.
Not that he’d ask. As long as she had dinner on the table when he wanted it, kept the house in order and washed his clothes, her presence went unnoticed. If she had been a boy, he would have taken her under his wing and taught her to follow in his footsteps. His sycophants hoped she might choose one of them to marry, and thus receive his blessing and the church’s leadership after he was gone. She disappointed them all. The thought of any of those young men - or any man - left her cold. She never understood why the other girls fawned over the attention from boys. She couldn’t feel an ounce of attraction to any of them.
Ruth turned at the corner and strolled down to the small rail station, slowing her steps in the hopes of seeing strangers on the platform, hoping for a glimpse of the world outside. The platform was barren and the ticket office shuttered. She continued on to Main Street, where most businesses were closed for the Lord’s Day. She scuffed her toes in the dust as she crossed over in front of the hotel, the single building showing any signs of life.
If only she could go inside, just for a while. If she had money, she could order lemonade and sit at one of the tables in the tiny restaurant, pretending to be a lady on an exciting trip, waiting for her maid to finish packing. She never pictured herself with a husband or a chaperone; she wanted to experience the world on her own.
The lace curtains fluttered in the open window and Ruth lingered outside, carefully peering into the restaurant without seeming to peep. A woman sat alone at a table, a glass and a dirty plate in front of her. A napkin lay crumpled by her elbow and she rotated her tea cup in its saucer. She seemed lost in thought.
Ruth stared. The woman had her dark hair cut into a stylish bob, with Marcelled finger waves. She wore a dress that left her arms bare to the shoulder and gave little shape to her form. Ruth fingered the end of her long, ginger braid and looked down at her homely and serviceable dress. The women of town would shun her if she dared wear a flapper’s dress or cut her hair, but she couldn’t help her attraction for the delicate and gorgeous woman. Ruth’s mouth had gone dry. A tremor went through her. From where she stood, the woman’s skin looked pale and soft and Ruth wanted to touch her hand or run a finger down her bare arm.
Ruth remembered the grocer’s wife gossiping about the easy women she had seen in Missoula last fall, wearing shorter skirts, showing their arms and legs, and acting without a care in the world.
“Thank the Lord none of that sort would ever come here,” Mrs. Williams had said. But yet, here was one of those women, in this very hotel. Ruth smiled to herself. She so wanted to meet this woman.
She heard footsteps on the boardwalk, the loud thumping of a man in a rush. A tall, dark-haired man in a dark suit strode by her on the boardwalk, almost brushing her arm. He went into the hotel.
“CeeCee!” His voice carried through the open window.
She saw the woman lift her head and push back her chair. Before CeeCee could move any further, the man had come into the restaurant and taken her by the arm, lifting her to her feet. He said something else, but it was muffled.
For a moment, CeeCee’s gaze met hers, eyes wide in surprise. Ruth gasped and clapped a hand over her mouth. The last thing she wanted was to be caught staring. Ruth backed away from the window and down the boardwalk, hovering by the side of the building.
The man reappeared, CeeCee in tow. A long shawl, draped over her shoulders hid her bare arms, but her dress rose to just above the knee and Ruth gaped.
“I told you to be ready earlier,” the man growled at CeeCee. “You’re going to make me late. I expected you to meet me.”
To Ruth’s relief, they headed away from her, crossing the street, walking swiftly towards the warehouses at the edge of town. Ruth burned with curiosity and she wanted to follow them, but the bells of the Catholic church pealed and she knew she had to get home.
“Sher, slow down. Please?” Cecilia scurried to keep up with Sheridan, her patent leather shoes sliding on the gravel road. He slackened his pace and she smiled at him.
“They won’t leave the warehouse before we get there,” she said, hooking her arm through his. If she hadn’t complained of her boredom the evening before, she could have stayed at the hotel. After seeing the girl at the window, she wished she had stayed.
“I need this partnership, Cecilia,” Sheridan said seriously. He rarely called her by her full name, preferring her nickname which rolled off his tongue more easily as it had done since he first met her. “This town could easily be a link to the trade out of Whiskey Gap - I can’t overlook it.”
“I know.” She patted his arm. He’d told her his ideas as they rode the train across several states, each stop taking them further from home. “But this town doesn’t seem like the type to support the trade. Everyone I’ve seen so far looks like they should be part of the temperance movement.”
“According to Erickson, my contact in Missoula, there’s enough interest here. And when the rail line opens across the border to Canada, we’ll be rolling in dough.”
They certainly weren’t rolling in dough now. Sheridan had money from his boss in Chicago, but traveling across the country added up quickly. Sheridan had sold the remainder of her Chanel perfume - her favourite - when they’d arrived in Bandit Creek. She’d tucked the cash away and if she could, she would buy it back from the shopkeeper before she left. It had been a gift, but not from him.
She tried not to think of Nell, but seeing that woman peering in the window, her red hair so much like Nell’s, was a painful reminder. Nell presented her with the bottle one night as they lay in bed, a mischievous smile on her face. CeeCee had been startled and then surprised. Then Nell had kissed her again and the bottle was forgotten. She’d never kiss Nell again. She could only visit her grave.
Sheridan came to a stop and Cecilia almost stumbled. The warehouse door opened and a middle-aged man with sandy hair and spectacles gave them a genial smile. He looked more like a teetotaler than a rum-runner to her.
“Mr. Henderson?” Sheridan inquired.
The man nodded and waved them inside. Cecilia let go of Sheridan’s arm. He’d expect her to spend time with the other men and charm them into agreement. It had worked in other towns. Men always wanted to be confident and decisive if it meant impressing a woman.
Henderson led them through to the small speakeasy he’d set up in a section of his warehouse. It was crude by Chicago standards, but Cecilia supposed it would do for a small town. Two other men were present: a broad shouldered younger man, whom Henderson introduced as Mr. Dyer, his assistant, and a raggedy old wino that sat crumpled at a far table.
“Don’t mind Jack,” Henderson said, waving away Sheridan’s concerns. “He’s harmless. I doubt he even remembers what he was up to yesterday.”
Cecilia noticed Mr. Dyer smile at that, but his gaze took her in before looking coolly at Sheridan. She hoped he wouldn’t make a play for her. Sheridan protected her against all others, and she loved him for it, but she didn’t want this complication. The sole complication she wanted was back in town, with a long red braid and grey eyes, her plain dress belying the girl’s beauty.
“Get Miss Mills a drink,” Henderson told Dyer. “Now, Mr. Sheridan, let’s talk.”
Alyssa has many passions. Fortunately, none of them are prohibited. When she isn’t working, she’s writing dark tales inspired by mid-20th-century noir books and films, cooking up a storm in her kitchen, and reading.