BY: TANYA NEWMAN
Gifted musician and singer Isabel Carson gets an unexpected phone call, asking her to come back for a reunion tour with a band she played for several years ago. Although she has serious reservations, Isabel reluctantly agrees…mainly because she can’t pass up the opportunity to see Spencer Logan, the man she loves, one last time. Six years ago, Isabel’s relationship with Spencer was sabotaged by Thomas, the jealous and possessive lead singer, and both men hurt her badly. However, once the band is reunited, it doesn’t take long for Isabel to realize she’s made a terrible mistake. Some things cannot be forgiven, and she would have been better off to have left the past in the past, where it belongs—especially since Isabel now hides a painful secret, one that, if exposed, could destroy what little peace and happiness she’s managed to achieve.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Winter Rain by Tanya Newman, Isabel is a singer who takes a position with a band run by Thomas. Thomas wants her, but she falls for his friend and fellow band member Spenser, a fact that brings out the worst in Thomas. Though he claims Isabel as his girlfriend, making it a condition of her joining the band, he cheats on her and, when she breaks up with him, stalks her. It’s Spenser she wants and Spenser wants her, but Thomas conspires to keep them apart. He takes his jealousy out on Isabel, destroying more than her career.
The book is a fine addition to Newman’s repertoire. Well written, poignant, and heartbreaking as well as heartwarming, it gives us a glimpse into the life of a performer that has a definite ring of truth.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Winter Rain by Tanya Newman is the second novel for this talented author. In this story, a young singer Isabel applies for a position with a band, and is given the job on the condition that she go out with the leader Thomas. Isabel doesn’t know if he is joking or serious, but she is afraid to turn him down, just in case, even though she is attracted to Spenser, another member of the band. Although Isabel tries to like Thomas and ignore Spenser, it is impossible for her to do. Spenser cares for her too, and a relationship slowly develops as the two become friends and Isabel falls in love with him. But Thomas is vindictive and spiteful, and even though he cheats on Isabel, causing her to break up with him, he doesn’t want her to find love and happiness with Spenser. The old “If I can’t have her, no one can” syndrome.
Winter Rain is not only a love story, it’s a story of how cruel people can be to each other. It also spotlights, very realistically, the difficult and often tragic life of entertainers. A really fine read.
She could hear him calling to her from far away as she lay at the bottom of the stairs, but she couldn’t answer. When she tried to speak, she coughed up a metallic fluid that ran out the side of her mouth. Her chest hurt. It felt a like a balloon whose air was slowly being sucked away. She coughed again. Her chest hurt again. But that’s not what troubled her as she heard the nine-one-one operator calling to her again, asking where she was, what had happened.
No, what troubled her most was the pain lower down in her abdomen, pain that spread to her back and legs—aching, cramping, stabbing. She tried to groan in agony but could only cough up blood again. She was going to die. Right here, like this, with a stranger who didn’t even know her name calling out to her.
His was the last voice she would hear, the last thing she was aware of before everything faded away to darkness.
December 1, 2016:
Thomas knew he was in trouble the second the phone rang. Call it a premonition, a psychic vision brought on by years of failure in the music industry after years of success, whatever. It wasn’t good, and he knew it.
“Can you be in by ten?” Gerard asked.
Thomas never heard from Gerard, not directly anyway. He was president of Mystic Records, the independent label Thomas had signed with just last year. Gerard had more important matters on his plate than dealing with musicians directly. Unless it was to drop them.
“Yeah, sure,” Thomas said. He replaced his cell on his nightstand, lay back, and rubbed his throbbing temples.
“Who was that?” a cranky voice called from the floor.
“Huh?” Thomas said, sitting up.
Adrienne’s blonde curls popped up from the other side of the bed. She stood up, his comforter wrapped around her otherwise naked body. She was the only stripper at the club last night who’d taken him up on his offer of coming back to his place.
Oh, man, Thomas thought, dropping back onto the bed.
“I fell off the bed when the phone rang.” Adrienne giggled. She took her half-full wine glass from the night before and downed it.
Geez, Thomas thought.
“Mind if I use your shower, love?”
Thomas didn’t answer, just waved her in the direction of the bathroom. Adrienne hopped onto the bed and ran across it to get to the bathroom.
“Hey!” he said, beginning to really regret bringing her home just so he wouldn’t have to sleep alone yet again. “There’s a perfectly good floor.”
Adrienne just giggled again in response. Thomas shook his head and looked at the clock. Already after nine. He’d better get a move on. He threw on a T-shirt and his jeans from last night, grabbed his wallet and cell phone, and threw on his jacket, not bothering to look in the mirror whatsoever. If Gerard was dropping him, Thomas wasn’t going to bother getting prettied up. Hell, maybe the homeless look would win him some sympathy points.
Thomas sighed as he sat back down on his bed to put on his boots. No. He knew the only thing that would convince Gerard to keep him on his label. And he knew Gerard was probably going to bring it up yet again, just like he had four times over the past year. Thomas kept refusing, insisting he could gather a following solo. But it hadn’t happened. Gerard had given him a year, and it hadn’t happened. No one was following him. The only way he would be able to keep making music, keep doing the only thing he knew how to do, the only thing his musician parents had groomed him to do, was to get together the other four singers and musicians who had helped give him the greatest success of his life. Greg and Renee wouldn’t be a problem, he knew. But they wouldn’t be enough. Without Spencer and without Isabel—Thomas could feel his face tick when he thought of them—there was no band. The only problem was, Spencer hated Thomas, Thomas hated Spencer, and Isabel hated them both.
It was going to take some major thinking to come up with a proposition that would be good enough to even tempt them both.
Thomas opened the door to the bathroom and told Adrienne to lock up when she left, that he had a meeting to get to. She opened the door to the shower, giving him a full eye’s view of her remarkable figure.
“Sure you don’t want to join me?” she asked, throwing in a little pout for good measure.
Thomas looked at her for a moment then back at his clock. What the hell? He could probably use the inspiration before going to the biggest meeting of his career.
Isabel was nearly asleep when the phone rang at midnight. She’d been in bed, dozing against the pillows on her double bed while an episode of I Love Lucy played on the classic TV channel. Though her cell phone emitted little more than a faint buzz, she jumped. She supposed it was from living alone for so long. She heard and saw every little thing. She reached over and picked up her phone. She didn’t recognize the number, not that anyone she knew should be calling her at that hour, and instead of pressing the “answer” button, continued to look at the number with a grimace until her phone switched to telling her she had a missed call. It had to be a wrong number, she thought. Nonetheless, curiosity got the better of her and she hit the search engine to do a search for the number when her phone dinged, telling her she had one new voicemail.
Fully awake now, Isabel sat up, switched to her voicemail, and hit the number so she could listen. She knew the voice from the first word and sat, motionless, as she listened. No, it wasn’t a wrong number. It was a man who knew exactly who he was calling.
“Isabel, it’s Thomas.” There was a lengthy pause. Isabel was still frozen. “I just…listen, I know I’m probably the last person on earth that you want to hear from, but do you think maybe you could call me? I know it’s late and I’m sorry.”
He left his number, apologized again, and said he hoped he would hear from her soon. He hadn’t given a reason for his call, but as Isabel watched her phone switch back to the screensaver that reminded her of the date and time, she knew exactly why he was calling.
Isabel lay back down. She looked at the ceiling for a long time, throughout the remainder of Lucy, then Gilligan’s Island, then Petticoat Junction, before finally pushing the covers aside, draping her robe over her body, and padding to her kitchen to make coffee. Sleep was way too much to hope for right then.
When the coffee was finished, she took her cup to her seat in the bay windows that overlooked the town square so she could think about when she might call him, if she even decided to, and what she would say when she did. She hadn’t lived in her hometown of Laurel Springs for almost six years now, but this tiny seaside town of Lilac Cove reminded of her of it all the time. She leaned her head against the window and looked up at the night sky, as dark as the night she’d first set foot in Thomas’s apartment, as dark as the night he’d become a murderer.
A few hours later and clear across the state, Spencer Logan stepped out the back door of the tiny three-room apartment above the coffee shop he’d played in before buying it when Hank, the previous owner, passed away nearly three years ago.
Spencer took the steps quickly down the back, not bothering to warm up as he started a slow, easy gate. It was cold, a little too cold for November, and especially for the small South Carolinian town of Laurel Springs. No one was out at the five a.m. hour, he couldn’t help noticing, as he turned onto the town square his coffee shop bordered.
A dense fog had crept in, leaving the brick-faced shops and restaurants that bordered the stone courthouse shrouded in thick, silent gray. Only the moon glowing overhead and the black iron lampposts that ran along the sidewalk provided the little light at that time of the day. He made it to the end of the square and hung a left onto North Harper Street, passed the old Laurel Springs cemetery whose iron gates were shut tight, and turned left again into Laurel Park. He was just slowing his pace when he started to cross Dagnall Bridge, a small brick affair that curved over the Little River, when his phone started buzzing in his pocket. He retrieved it and answered, half out of breath, without first checking who was on the other end.
He wished he had, though, when the person on the other line spoke.
Spencer stopped breathing, stopped moving altogether. The man on the other end didn’t have to say another word for Spencer to know who he was.
“What do you want, Thomas?” he asked the former friend he hadn’t spoken to in years, though he already had a pretty good idea of why he was calling.
“Well, I have an offer to make you,” Thomas said, delving right in. “You probably know it’s the ten year anniversary of our first album.”
Spencer knew. He said nothing. Thomas continued.
“Hope—that’s our new manager—she thinks it’s a good idea to do a reunion, of sorts, of all the past and present members. There’d be a tour, interviews, and, if you’re interested, of course, maybe a new album.”
He waited for Spencer to respond. When he didn’t, Thomas continued.
“She thinks it’d be a good idea to do it in Laurel Springs. I know it’s a small town, but I understand you’re living there?”
Spencer still said nothing.
“Yeah, that’s where we really got started, where we recruited—”
Spencer knew exactly who they’d recruited in Laurel Springs.
“So, think about it, if you don’t mind. I know you’ve been under the radar all these years. I’ll give you a call in a few days.”
Spencer hung up without saying goodbye and stood there on that bridge long after he’d caught his breath. He looked at the fog all around him, the sapphire blue of the sky as it lightened overhead, and almost forgot where he was.
© 2017 Tanya Newman