Cover image for Harper's moon
Title:
Harper's moon
Author:
Judson, Suzanne.
Personal Author:
Edition:
Berkley edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Berkley Books, 2000.
Physical Description:
328 pages ; 18 cm.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780425175422
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Annie Taylor is starting over--trading her Park Avenue life with an abusive husband for the tranquility of a small mountain town in North Carolina. There, as a maker of abstract quilts, she would quietly devote herself to her art. But travel writer Jed Harper is intrigued by her reticence--and resolves to uncover the secrets she holds.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

With its strong characters, heartfelt emotions, beautiful courtship and convincing dramas, this is a romance that's everything a love story should be, and then some. Fleeing her abusive marriage to Wall Street mover-and-shaker Tom Mahoney, Annie Taylor winds up in secluded Burnsville, nestled in the rolling western mountains of North Carolina. Annie designs and makes art quilts and sees Burnsville as a peaceful place to pursue her craft, far enough away from Tom to be safe. She rents an abandoned cottage up the hill from reclusive travel writer Jed Harper. But her peace is shattered by random, inexplicable acts of vandalism on the cottage and by the assault on her heart from too-handsome Jed, a man who resists Annie even as he's drawn closer to her. Judson employs a lovely, flowing writing style as she carefully brings together two wounded people. Additional drama is provided by the ever-present menace of Tom, by the mysteriously driven vandal and by the well-depicted, thoroughly likeable folks of tiny Burnsville. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One Burnsville, North Carolina He'd had his family home razed to the ground ten years before, making half the tongues in Burnsville wag . That was nothing new. The local matriarchs had shaken their heads over him way back when he was just the youngest member of that white-trash Harper clan. They'd clucked even harder when he'd confounded their dire predictions and made a success of himself. They'd probably say he was no damn good even if he invented the cure for cancer, won the Nobel Peace Prize, and ascended into heaven on the very same day.     That was small-town life; it branded you right from the start, and you could never quite escape the label you started with. Jed Harper had learned not to let it bother him, most of the time at least. Standing on the spot where his family's house--shack, really--had been, he'd just grinned at their dark mutterings and made sure that every single plank and brick of the old structure was carted away. Then he'd built his own kind of house on the empty site on the mountainside. A big log building that was simple but almost sinfully comfortable. A home filled with light and silence, order and peace. An eligible man living alone in a nice, clean house and ignoring the town's marriageable maidens: That irritated the hell out of the local ladies, too.     Almost no evidence of his parents remained amid the sturdy old Mission furniture he'd bought himself, the books and musical instruments and artifacts he'd collected over the years. Yet a hint of the chaos they'd created seemed to tremble over the place sometimes, especially when he'd been away awhile. For an instant the memories flooded back, echoes of cold and dirt and shame and endless fighting. His father always angry, his mother always disappointed or withdrawn, both of them drunk half the time, or more. And a skinny kid, edging around them, wanting nothing more than not to be noticed.     The visions hung in the bright mountain air for a moment, then vanished, just as the reality had vanished ten years before. He was almost forty, and the past was gone, except when he was stupid or self-pitying enough to resurrect it. Shaking his head at his own overactive imagination, Jed dropped his duffel bag on the wide wooden porch, anchored the case for his precious laptop computer more securely under his arm, and turned the key in the lock of his front door.     Rooster was untroubled by Jed's complicated human woes. With canine simplicity, he was just glad to be home after five months' absence, even if he'd only gone as far as Meg Thorn's house right off the Burnsville town square. As soon as Jed pushed the front door open, Rooster was off in a burst of flying fur, loping through the big, spare rooms, skidding a little on the well-worn Navajo rugs that dotted the polished floors. No sooner had he made sure that no other retriever had taken over his turf during his absence than he was thumping against the kitchen door, eager to complete the same inspection in the backyard.     Rooster's exuberance banished the last traces of Jed's sour memories. Grinning, he dumped his gear in the hallway, let the dog out again, and leaned back against a counter to say hello to his home.     Jed had been in Hong Kong for five long months, five months of heat and humidity and hundreds of conversations with everyone from fish vendors to financial wizards. Even in a place as opulent as the thriving British colony, he lived rough on the road. He worked hard, traveled light, and moved around often. The easy comforts of his house looked good to him now. The firm king-sized bed upstairs, designed to accommodate a six-foot-two frame in comfort. A shower with really hot water, his beloved dulcimer, a couple of thousand books. His study, complete with a big leather chair and a computer with a decent-sized monitor. Absently, Jed reached up to rub the nape of his neck, where the muscles still ached under the thick bronze hair he'd cut short in the Hong Kong heat. Laptops were definitely a blessing for roving writers, but after months of hunching over a finicky little portable computer, he was looking forward to working upright again.     Meg Thorn, Jed's oldest friend, had aired the house for him, and dour but rigidly reliable Moira McTeague, who came in to clean every few weeks, had kept the place spotless. The rooms smelled of lemon oil and the faint hint of wood smoke that always hung over the mountains in the autumn. Here in the kitchen, John and Susie Addamson had stuffed his refrigerator with food. Jed laughed out loud at the wild array, everything from a big T-bone steak to a jar of salsa, all crammed untidily on the wire shelves. Warmed by their thoughtfulness, he snagged a beer from the rack on the door. It was an Irish ale, he noticed, scrutinizing the bottle with the same curiosity that kept his fans intrigued, his publisher happy, and his bank accounts full. Where the hell had John gotten a bottle of Harp in the middle of Burnsville, a small Southern town in a dry county better known for its Baptist churches than its beer? He twisted the cap and drank straight from the bottle, letting a trickle of liquid slip down his chin. Wherever it had come from, it was damned good. Amused, Jed dropped into one of the old Windsor chairs to tug off his dusty boots, took another hefty swig of the ice-cold beer, then ambled out onto the small back porch.     His house was built into the hillside above Jack's Creek, one of the hundreds of small brooks that wound through the hilly terrain of western North Carolina's Black Mountains. From the front of the house he could see the creek, the valley, and the scattering of houses that dotted the slopes above it. But from the back, few signs of humanity were visible. Just the edge of the Wellmans' farm, a couple of vacation chalets that were mostly empty, and Alma Honeycutt's cottage, now deserted, too.     It was a landscape of wooded peaks, mountain after mountain as far as the eye could see. Now, near the end of September, the hills were still green, though a few maples flamed crimson against the dense foliage. A pocket of thick white mist drifted along the nearest ridge, but the sky above was cloudlessly blue. The September air was so clear and crisp it almost sparkled. Pine needles and oak leaves rustled gently in the breeze, and Jed could just about hear the rushing tumble of the creek farther down the mountain. One of the Wellman farm's horses was wandering near the fence again, in the same exact place one Wellman horse or another had wandered for nigh on thirty years of autumn Tuesdays.     It was home. Jed leaned lazily back against the sunkissed clapboard and propped one bare foot on the stoop. Home. And he was glad to be here. Even with the old ghosts barely kept at bay and the town gossips sitting down in the Cupboard Café at this very moment, sharpening their knives. Even with the jangle of Hong Kong and the daze of jet lag still fogging his mind. Even knowing that in three or four or six months, the restlessness would hit him again, making him itch to be away on his next trip--this time to Newfoundland, the subject he'd already chosen for his next book. Burnsville was an essential part of Jed Harper's soul, but never in his whole adult life had he been able to stay there for more than six months at a time, and he expected he never would.     Rooster glimpsed him on the stoop and streaked back across the yard's steep slope, abandoning the rabbit he'd been stalking out beyond a stand of maples. Racing up the steps, he cannoned full force into Jed's blue-jeaned thighs, panting and barking and writhing with welcome. Wanting to make sure, Jed figured as he set his beer safely on the wooden railing, that his master would actually be around for a while. And, in fact, he would. There were friends to see, business to attend to, and hundreds of pages of Hong Kong notes to write up before the need to escape would begin to burn like fire in his belly once again.     Jed squatted down onto the stoop, liking the feel of the sun-warmed wood under his feet, the bittersweet aftertaste of the ale, the kiss of the breeze that made his denim shirt flap around his spine, the dog's uncomplicated greeting.     "That's right, boy," he said aloud as Rooster pushed against him, nuzzling his cool black nose into Jed's bare, tanned neck, welcoming the way Jed's big hand gently ruffled his silky fur. "We're home." He knew there was just the faintest tinge of irony in his voice. Luckily, Rooster didn't seem to care. " Pick up the goddamn phone, you stupid broad," Tom Mahoney muttered, his perfectly manicured fingertips drumming angrily on the equally perfect surface of his desk . It was almost five o'clock on Tuesday afternoon. There'd been no answer at the apartment all day, and no one at his mother-in-law's, either. Matilda was out shopping, probably. She'd gotten damn good at shopping ever since Tom had started paying her rent. As for Annabel, she was probably drifting around some museum with her head in the bloody clouds. Someone else might have let him know where she was, what she was doing. But not Annabel. Why was he surprised?     He was due at a Racquet Club dinner at eight. The event just happened to be organized by one of his most important clients, not that his wife gave a damn. Well, wherever she was, Annabel had better have picked up his tux, and for that matter gotten herself something decent to wear for the gala benefit ball they were due to attend later that week. When you were at Tom's professional level--successful, but not quite at the top of the heap, not yet, at least--the pressure was intense, and everything counted. Your clothes. Your club memberships. Your accent: Tom, who'd grown up working-class Irish, had labored hard on that. Where you spent your vacations. And who your wife was. A wife who didn't fit in could sink your career.     The top men of the firm always pretended things like that didn't matter. But it wasn't true, not unless you wanted to stay down there among the meek little middle managers, which Tom definitely didn't. He had plans, and at forty-three not much more time to achieve them. Men who didn't make it by forty-five or so started to be spoken of as over the hill. His career was an intensive, all-out war, a war in which a poor Irish kid from New Jersey was going to defeat an army of overbred WASPs. He was determined about that, and no artsy, ditsy foible of Annabel's was going to get in his way.     Goddamn women , he thought, stating at the figures flashing on his computer monitor as he listened to the apartment's answering machine click on. Lazy bitches. They loved to spend a man's money, but they didn't lift a finger to help him while he earned it . His own mother had been the worst of all, a useless broad who'd resisted his father every day of the poor pathetic sonovabitch's life.     Tom had chosen shy, beautiful, struggling little Annabel Taylor, thinking she'd be different. He'd figured she would appreciate the financial comfort he brought her, not just her but her shrew of a mother, too. He'd thought she'd be grateful for the chance to learn the social ropes. But she never quite came through when it counted; she found a million petty ways to resist. Tom could remember his father's bitter complaints that when it came to women, none of them were different under the skin. Annabel was living proof. They were all bloodsuckers, out for everything they could get.     "Thomas." Stretch McNaughten stood in the office doorway, six foot five inches of silver hair, patrician bones, custom tailoring, and implacable will. "You're busy?"     It was high time for the crabby old bastard to retire, but until that happy day finally came, he was a force-- the force--to be reckoned with at Finch McNaughten. Tom straightened his back and stilled his drumming fingers. "No, Stretch," he said pleasantly, clicking the speakerphone off. "Of course not. Come on in."     "I've been lunching with Miller," McNaughten said, stepping a grudging foot or so into Tom's office. Tom's work space was elegantly appointed. But McNaughten ignored the damask love seat as though it was too common for his aristocratic ass. The old bastard didn't want to imply approval by actually sitting down, Tom thought resentfully. Or give up the advantage of looming three feet above Tom's own seated form.     "We were wondering if you'd heard from SafeCo," the old man continued.     "Not yet." Tom kept his voice even, smiling over the anger that surged through him at the question. He was a senior vice president of a major investment management firm, not some fucking toddler who had to be checked on every five minutes. But he was also dependent on the goodwill of Miller and Stretch for his annual bonus, which made up most of his income. "I'm sure they'll be in touch shortly, Stretch. You know how it is. They're working on end-of-the-quarter financials, and I understand that the firm is gearing up for their annual meeting, too."     "Do you understand that? I'm surprised. What I understand is that they're unhappy with Finch McNaughten, and that they're looking around for another firm to manage their pension money."     Where the hell had McNaughten heard that? "My wife and I had dinner with Jim Perry just last night," Tom said sharply. "We went to dinner, saw a show. I can assure you, Stretch, Jim was perfectly happy with our work."     "Mr. Perry is an underling." Just like you , McNaughten's tone implied. "He doesn't run SafeCo or make the final decision on the management of their pension funds. We've had a relationship with the firm for ten years, Thomas, and we'd be very unhappy to lose a two hundred million dollar account. Especially after--what shall I call it?--the defection of Manchester Industries last month."     The Manchester debacle hadn't been Tom's fault; he'd explained that a million times. How the hell was he supposed to stop the pension manager there from turning the business over to an old buddy from Yale? In the end, WASPS always stuck together. McNaughten had scapegoated him for it, though, and Miller Finch did, too. "Stretch, I really don't think--"     "You'll keep on top of it," McNaughten interrupted. "Keep me personally advised."     "Of course." Tom forced himself to unclench his back teeth and smile. "I'll do some checking tomorrow. How are the grandchildren, Stretch? And Dora?"     "Well, thank you." McNaughten didn't unbend, but he was too polite to refuse a social gesture. "And your wife?"     "Annabel is fine," Tom lied. Wherever the goddamn hell she is.     "Dora noticed one of Annabel's artworks in a shop the other day. She was very impressed."     Annabel's artworks. Bundles of rags his wife stitched together like some immigrant seamstress. Christ . "That's very sweet of Dora, Stretch. Of course, it's just a hobby."     "Really? From what Dora said, it sounded like much more than that. Well, we're hoping you'll be able to persuade Annabel to donate a piece, even a small one, to the firm's benefit auction," McNaughten continued. "Dora would be most grateful. And it's for a good cause, of course. The East Side Shelter is doing excellent work for those unfortunate women. Terrible thing, domestic violence."     McNaughten's voice was cool, his face stony. Was there a glimmer of judgment in those hooded gray eyes? No, Tom thought, it couldn't be; it was just the old man's usual coldness.     "We'd be honored to donate something, Stretch," Tom said, sincerity ringing in his tone. "Of course, Annabel barely has time for that kind of thing now, what with her volunteer work and all of our entertaining."     "That's a pity. It's a shame to waste that kind of talent. But speak to her about it, Tom, and let me know. As you know, the auction is in December, so time is of the essence. And, of course, you'll stay on top of the SafeCo situation."     "Naturally, Stretch." Tom sat still as McNaughten stepped back into the hushed, thick-carpeted corridor, leaving Tom alone with his fury.     Just what he needed, one of his wife's tacky little creations held up for the entire firm to see. Why couldn't she stick to lunching, shopping, museum visits, and volunteer work like a normal Park Avenue wife? She had a penthouse apartment, a part-time housekeeper, all the money and clothes she ever wanted. Was what he asked from her in return so goddamn difficult?     The rage crested inside him like a wave, pushing aside the SafeCo mess and jolting him with an almost sexual rush. As he jabbed at the memory-dial button on his phone again, his thoughts flashed to the night before. Sitting there soaking up the escargots and the Scotch. Watching that asshole Jim Perry put his hands all over the blond bimbo he'd picked up for the evening. Annabel sitting at his side, watching Jim with that quiet, reserved scrutiny that always ticked Tom off. Jim had caught it, too, winking at Tom as though to emphasize the comparison between his own giggling, sexy date and Tom's cold little wife, making sly little digs that fueled the rage the Scotch and another difficult day at the office had sparked.     She was such a bore, his apparently oh-so-meek little Annabel. But she hadn't been a bore later that night. Her body had struggled against his, turning him on. Desperate gray eyes, soft, parted mouth, heaving body amid the ruins of her oh-so-perfect, oh-so-boring little dress. Usually she just lay there like a corpse. He'd gotten carried away, sure. He'd have to buy her some flowers, jolly her along. But he was only taking what was his. They wouldn't have to get into these goddamn brawls if she was a better wife, tried a little harder to please.     For the first time that day, Tom's lips curved into a genuine smile. He couldn't do anything about McNaughten, the disaster with Manchester Industries, the handicap of his own wrong-side-of-the-tracks roots. But Annabel was a problem he could always solve.     Let her disappear for a day if she wanted. She'd be back tonight. She'd get what was coming to her in the end, he thought, hanging up the phone before the apartment's answering machine picked up yet again.     And he'd damn well enjoy handing it out. (Continues...) Copyright © 2000 Suzanne Judson. All rights reserved.