Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, October 20, 2017

the common link - Christmas in the Sisters (Sisters, Texas #6) by Becki Willis

Madison Reynolds can’t wait for Christmas this year. Rebuilding her life as a single mom hasn’t been easy, but after a challenging twelve months, she’s excited about the holidays. She and her twins have settled quite nicely here in The Sisters, renovations on the house are complete, her business is slowly growing, and, best of all, Chief of Police Brash deCordova is in her life. Visions of the perfect Christmas dance in her head. 


Release Date: November 1st, 2017

Latest book in the Award-Winning The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series! 

Madison Reynolds can’t wait for Christmas this year. Rebuilding her life as a single mom hasn’t been easy, but after a challenging twelve months, she’s excited about the holidays. She and her twins have settled quite nicely here in The Sisters, renovations on the house are complete, her business is slowly growing, and, best of all, Chief of Police Brash deCordova is in her life. Visions of the perfect Christmas dance in her head. 

The tinsel begins to tangle when someone targets the community for a series of ‘Christmas Crimes.’ Homes are broken into and wrapped gifts are stolen from beneath trees. Even vehicles loaded with presents aren’t safe, particularly on a lone stretch of highway. Things like this just don’t happen in Naomi and Juliet. Torn between solving the rash of burglaries and shutting down the gambling ring that’s active in the area again, Brash does the only thing he can: he hires In a Pinch to help with the investigation.

Finding the common link between cases is like finding the bad bulb on a string of lights. Every lead is a short circuit. The frustration mounts when Madison and the Angel Tree she’s involved with fall victim to the crimes. Only the worst kind of Grinch steals from needy children! 

Brash has plans of his own for the perfect Christmas. With the help of a new jewelry store, he thinks he’s found just the right gift for Madison, until the Grinch strikes again. This wasn’t the surprise he had in mind. 
Ready or not, Christmas is on its way, and time is running out to create the holiday of their dreams. As the house fills with unexpected guests, Madison and the twins honor favorite traditions from the past while creating a few new ones of their own. 

Who has time for being kidnapped by men in Santa suits and bad beards? 
This is one Christmas that no one in The Sisters will ever forget!

The two towns comprising The Sisters community had a storied past

At the turn of the twentieth century, Bertram Randolph was one of the wealthiest men in the entire Brazos valley. As the undisputed Cotton King in all of central Texas, he owned thousands of acres of prime farmland in River County. His plantation played such a vital role in the industry that the Trinity and Brazos Railway -soon known as the Boll Weevil- laid a set of track running strategically alongside his cotton gin. During the heyday of cotton, the train made multiple daily stops at the Randolph depot. The frequent stops were necessary during ginning season to transport the crop to market; other times, the stops were necessary to fit the whim of Randolph’s two daughters. 

Naomi and Juliet Randolph were the epitome of the spoiled Southern belle. When Bertram’s wife died at an early age and left him with two young girls to raise, he did the only thing he knew to do: he indulged them. No matter the whim, no matter the cost, the cotton baron gave his beloved daughters anything they wanted. 

The one thing he could not provide for them, however, was camaraderie. Even as toddlers, the two girls were bitter rivals, constantly vying for their father’s undivided attention. As the years progressed, so did their sense of competition. Their attempts to monopolize the people in their lives -their father, their nanny, the cook, the maid, the family pet, the other children who lived on the plantation- grew to such proportions that the only solution seemed not to be to share, but to divide. By their teen years, they even lived in separate wings of the house, and each had her own cook and her own maid. 

The sisters often took the train into the nearby towns that bordered the plantation. During their shopping excursions, they invariably caused a scene in town. The accusations flew back and forth: the seamstress was catering to Juliet; the hat-maker chose the more exquisite material for Naomi; the restaurant was not large enough for both of them; Juliet’s special order of books arrived, so why was Naomi’s delayed? The squabbles escalated until finally Bertram Randolph had enough. 

His solution was to give each daughter her own town. By now, the cotton industry had reached its peak and was beginning to decline. Some of his planting fields were already abandoned in favor of raising cattle, so he sectioned off a large plat of land on either side of the railroad to give to his daughters. A common area, however, would remain between them. As the gin was still an important part of the community at large, it became part of the shared property, along with the deep water well and the depot. The plantation had a school for the children whose parents lived and worked on the farm, and that, too, was designated as common ground. 

Bertram built each daughter her own house, mirror images of one another on either side of the track. He also helped them get their towns started. For every proprietor willing to open an establishment in the new settlements, he offered a free lot on which to build their home. 

First, however, they had to meet the approval of the town’s namesake. Each woman had the final authority on which businesses and which people moved into their towns. And so the towns became as different and as opinionated as the women they were named after. 

Juliet, who revered all things prim and proper, designed her town to be pleasing to the eye. Flowerbeds lined her side of the train track. City blocks were laid with meticulous care, with six of them deemed commercial property. Houses, particularly those along the main avenues of the town, required white paint, black shudders, and well-kept lawns; commercial buildings had specific height and color requirements, especially those facing the railroad. With the popularity of automobiles coming into vogue, neat parking spaces were designated around each commercial block; no parking was allowed on the brickpaved streets. And even though some types of businesses were absolutely essential to a town and could be delegated to the back streets, many establishments did not meet the standards required in Juliet, Texas. 

Naomi’s free spirit reflected in the town on the northern side of the track. There were two long, distinct commercial blocks running horizontal with the railroad, but no buildings faced the iron horses. Like its founder, the town was built to snub convention and propriety; instead of posturing for the railway, the businesses presented their backs to the line. The two strings of buildings opened toward each other, with parking spaces lining both. When new businesses came to town, they squeezed in at random, giving the streets odd angles and curves and unbalanced city blocks. The unconventional businesses shunned in Juliet were welcomed in Naomi. The same could be said for many of the residents. Naomi, Texas was soon known as either a gathering place for outcasts or a gathering place for entrepreneurs, depending entirely upon who judged it. 

As the years passed and the cotton industry further declined, Bertram Randolph realized his plantation would fall to neglect if he did not find a suitable heir to take over his farming operation. Neither daughter was interested in the land, so he gave the bulk of the farm to his oldest and most trusted employee, Andrew deCordova. The deCordovas had been a part of the plantation for as long as anyone could remember, living and working alongside the Randolphs from the very beginning. It seemed only fitting that the fertile fields be left to someone who loved the soil as much as Bertram did. 

With the massive plantation now divided into three entities and with their father’s health quickly declining, it was the perfect time for the sisters to make peace. But the arrival of a private physician, hired to care for Bertram in his last days, made reconciliation between the sisters forever impossible. Both women promptly fell in love with Darwin Blakeley, but the handsome young doctor could not choose between them. In the end, just before he was killed in a freak accident, the doctor gave them both a part of himself. To Juliet, he gave his name; to Naomi, he gave a daughter. Thus the circle of competition and bitterness continued, as did the legacy of the towns. Juliet remained a town about appearances. Newcomers to the area who desired social standing, prestige, and an air of refinement settled within the perimeters of the town to the south. Through the years, property values in Juliet escalated and helped to control “undesirable” citizens. Cotton was the only big industry welcomed there. Until her death in 1984, Juliet Randolph Blakely remained in firm control of her town, personally screening each business and home that came into her town. With no children of her own, she left her estate to her cook’s daughter. Bertha Hamilton Cessna, known to most of the town as Miss Bert, became heiress to the town of Juliet. 

Across the tracks, Naomi remained a town known for its unconventional ways. Lower property values -and according to some, lower standards- brought in more industry for the northern town. It was not uncommon for someone to open a business in Naomi, but choose to live in the more prestigious sister city. When Naomi Randolph died in 1986, she was trying to convince a popular fast-food chain to open in her town, a first for their rural area. 

By the time the twenty-first century arrived, both towns had grown and prospered, but old prejudices remained. The common area still existed between them, as outlined in each town’s charter. The old cotton gin was now home to The Sisters Volunteer Fire Department. Just across the tracks, and easily accessible by a footbridge, the old Depot housed The Sisters Police Department and tiny jail. The shared deep water well sported a modern day tower, and the school had long since grown and moved out across the new highway, to property donated by the deCordova Ranch. The new highway ran perpendicular to the cities, crossing over the railroad by way of a tall overpass. Ramps exited off into each town, offering an alternate route across the tracks when a train was coming and, most importantly, connected the sister cities to a world beyond their petty rivalry. 

Up and down the highway, billboards touted the beauty and friendly hometown appeal of The Sisters. They were home to a Heisman trophy winner. They had the State Championship basketball team. They had low property taxes and high test scores. 

According to the signs out on the highway, they had it all. Below the overpass, however, buried within the boundaries of the city limits and within the confines of small minds, old rivalries and old loyalties still ran deep.

About the author:
Becki Willis, best known for her popular The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series and Forgotten Boxes, always dreamed of being an author. In November of '13, that dream became a reality. Since that time, she has published eleven books, won first place honors for Best Mystery Series, Best Suspense Fiction and Best Audio Book, and has introduced her imaginary friends to readers around the world. 

An avid history buff, Becki likes to poke around in old places and learn about the past. Other addictions include reading, writing, junking, unraveling a good mystery, and coffee. She loves to travel, but believes coming home to her family and her Texas ranch is the best part of any trip. Becki is a member of the Association of Texas Authors, the National Association of Professional Women, and the Brazos Writers organization. She attended Texas A&M University and majored in Journalism.

Author's Giveaway


Stephanie LaPlante said...

Sounds very interesting

Rita Wray said...

The books look great.

Richard Brandt said...

Robberies and burglaries at Christmastime! Is nothing sacred?

Deb Hollow said...

I would ask the author how the cover of the book was picked?

CindyWindy2003 said...

I was wondering what the author is working on next?

wendy Hutton said...

the book sounds great, sounds like it would keep me interested all the way through it

CindyWindy2003 said...

What's your writing process/routine like?

CindyWindy2003 said...

What's your writing/career goal?

CindyWindy2003 said...

Who are your favorite authors?

CindyWindy2003 said...

Do you write several genres or focus on one?

CindyWindy2003 said...

If you could meet any author past or present who would it be and why?

CindyWindy2003 said...

Congratulations on your book, wishing you much luck and success!