If you’d like to get the full schedule of where Bettye’s characters are visiting this week, please check her blog.
Secrets & Sins by Bettye Griffin
In this sweeping, 115K-word novel, Bettye Griffin introduces readers to the Cheeks family of Zion, Illinois: Eldest daughter Faye, whose placid, orderly life is about to be disrupted in a way she never could have imagined...middle child and only son Scott, who brings new meaning to the phrase 'midlife crisis'...and youngest daughter Robin, who is divorced from but not exactly rid of her former spouse.
At the center of the story is their mother, Julia Scott Cheeks, who along with her devoted husband Melvin, has tried to keep two scandalous family secrets hidden and has been successful for 55 years...but when Robin mentions the name of the former classmate she has a romantic interest in, Julia fears that the events she has tried so hard and for so long to keep her children from knowing are in danger of being exposed...
Bettye would love to give a complimentary download of Secrets & Sins to a reader. To be eligible, all you have to do is leave a comment before midnight Central Time today. There must be at least two comments left for an eBook to be given away, if there is only one there will be no prize. Bettye will post the name of the winner tomorrow morning, so please check back, for she will need to hear from the winner.
And now, today’s character sketch:
Zion, Illinois, January 2010
My name is Melvin Cheeks. I was born in Chicago on November 28, 1930. Incredibly, I’m going to be 80 years old this year.
My dad left us when my brother and I were kids. We were a close-knit family, my mama and brother and me. I learned a strong work ethic from my mother. She did domestic work until the telephone company started hiring black operators. She worked split shifts, but she was so proud to be able to give up having to do housework. She and my brother (who worked for the post office) helped me pay for my college, and I worked, too, on a moving crew to pay my tuition. I taught in Chicago and Waukegan public schools for over 30 years.
Both my mother and brother are gone now. It’s tough to be the last survivor of my birth family. Thank God for my own family. I met my wife, Julia, at a dance in Chicago. I know this sounds corny, but the moment I held her in my arms I knew she was the one. She was beautiful, with a smile that could light up Times Square. Look at any picture of her, and she’s always smiling. We’ll be celebrating 55 years of marriage the end of this year…and she’s still beautiful. We have three children and four grandchildren.
Julia takes great care of me. She tries never to leave me alone for long, although I tell her I’ll be fine. I’ve had a few health issues in recent years. I get confused sometimes—they say I’ve got a very mild dementia—and I also have a neuro disorder, not Parkinson’s, but similar, when I have some involuntary movements, but it’s not constant. I’m just glad I’m still here. I know I’ll die eventually, but God willing, I’ll be living until I die, if you know what I mean. I’m sure I’ll go first, but I know that Julia will be taken care of and watched over by Faye, Scott, and Robin, for the rest of her days.
I used to find it amusing how my mother, in her later years, couldn’t remember what she had for breakfast, but she could recall the end of World War I or that horrible race riot in 1919, but now I understand, because I’m doing the same thing. I remember meeting Julia like it was yesterday. I remember her dress…her smile…even her scent. I remember the first time I told her I loved her. I remember the night I spoke to her father, Roscoe, to ask for her hand. I remember proposing to her. And, of course, I remember the first time we made love (it was the night we got married; no matter how hard I tried, she wouldn’t give in before then).
I also remember why we got married when we did. We’d only been engaged a few weeks in mid-December of ’55 with plans for a spring wedding when Julia came to me in tears one morning. She told me something shocking, and while I was stunned by the news, I immediately suggested we get married between Christmas and New Year’s, during school vacation (and no, she wasn’t pregnant…like I told you, there was no sex until after the wedding).
Speaking of our wedding night, Julia had another bombshell for me, and that one floored me as well. I asked her if she had any other secrets, and she assured me she didn’t. She also promised me on the spot that she’d never keep another secret from me again.
Now that I’m in my last years on earth, I find myself thinking more and more about what’s happened in the past. To this day Jules (I usually call her that) and I have kept our kids in the dark about it, but now I’m wondering if we should continue hiding it. The parties most affected are dead, except for one. Our children are grown; they aren’t going to go around blabbing our family business to anyone. They’ve always known my brother was gay. Don’t they have a right to know all their family history?
I’ve always gone along with Jules because I know how painful the whole thing has been for her. She got caught in the middle of an unhappy situation, and it makes her sad, even now. I haven’t brought it up, but I’m thinking I might try to get her to change her mind.
Then again, these things often have a way of taking care of themselves…
Read more about Melvin in Secrets & Sins, out now! Kindle owners can get it at Amazon or at Bettye’s eStore. Readers needing EPUB or PDF formats can get theirs from Bettye’s eStore, where eBooks always cost less, usually $1. You can always whet your appetite by getting the FREE download of the prequel, Sinner Man, which is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at Bettye’s eStore.