by Venetia Di Pierro
Gloria Grant is madly in love with Lo Ballantyne and with Christmas fast approaching, happiness seems to be life on a Wyoming ranch.
Despite the frost outside, there is warmth inside. Lo is attempting to reinvigorate her career and Gloria is pushing toward her dressage goals.
But then Gloria does something that could jeopardize Lo’s love.
Can dreams come true or will one decision cause an avalanche and bring them crashing down?
Happiness is a Shade of Blue is the highly anticipated sequel to The Lines of Happiness.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"After I finished The Lines of Happiness, one of my friends asked what was next for Lo and Gloria. I knew their romantic relationship was only just beginning and I enjoyed spending time in their world, so I decided to write the next stage of their lives.
About a quarter of the way into the manuscript for Happiness Is A Shade of Blue, writers’ block struck. That same friend, who declared herself not to be creative, rattled off a few plot suggestions. That was enough of a nudge in a new direction to reignite inspiration and the rest flowed organically.
That friend’s name is Sue and that is why Happiness Is A Shade of Blue is dedicated to her."
—Venetia Di Pierro
Della B. - Di Pierro maintains the insightful pathos from her first novel with ease as she delves deeper into the disharmony of love. She creates characters who are fully human with their ticks and shortcomings. Characters who we agonize with and about depending on the moment in the storyline.
Happiness is a Shade of Blue masterfully demonstrates the weightiness of love in all its manifestations. This two-book series is one which I will return to in the future to lose myself in both the writing and the story.
Shelby B. - The first book is a beautiful, tender slow burn that covers grief, self-reflection, and self-discovery. Happiness is a Shade of Blue did not disappoint as a follow up. It sees the two main characters through the beginning stages of their new romance and addresses the difficulties of starting a relationship in somewhat messy circumstances. It is about healing and growth as much as the first book, but this time what it looks like to take those tasks on together. The book addresses the usual new-relationship-insecurities, but it is written about with understanding and grace. One of my favorite things about this book is that it speaks on not only battling depression, but what it means to love someone through it.
The writing is so beautiful and poetic. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a cozy, but meaningful, sapphic romance.
Jo R. - Just like the first book, The Lines of Happiness, the sequel is just as emotional. It tells a story of grief, love, building relationships and moving on. It's a very moving story with bouts of laughter. You'll laugh, but you will also cry. Highly recommend the next instalment, Happiness is a shade of blue. I really hope we will see more of these characters. 5 out of 5.
Betty H. - The author had me on the edge of my seat reading as fast as I could all the way through the book. I was already in love with this couple from the first novel, so it was easy for me to become immersed in this narrative. This is a very complex and complicated tale with lots of highs and lows as well as hurt and angst in the plotline. Believe me, once you start reading, you won’t want to put the book down before you’re finished. Also, keep a box of tissue handy, just in case. I recommend both novels to all romance lovers.
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Gloria coaxed along the baggage cart with its turned-in front wheel, trying to keep its halting, jerking metal form away from the slow-moving crowd around her. Travelers in their crumpled clothes, carting suitcases and bags of duty free, emerging from customs looking for fresh air and familiar faces, and she was one of them. She ran her tongue across her teeth, hastily brushed in the aircraft bathroom before landing, but still feeling less than best. She had been much too excited to sleep for more than half-hour stints on the flight from Melbourne and with each stopover, another block of excitement had been added to the tower building inside her, until she felt full of hollow blocks that might topple at any minute. The Jackson Hole airport was small compared to the international airports she had claimed residency at for stretches of hours, but it still carried the buzz of emotions. Now that the moment was nearing, her mouth felt dry and her eyes stung, as though all the moisture was being sucked out through her pupils. She blinked and raised an arm to wipe her eyes with the sleeve of her denim jacket. That face; she was searching for it, that copper hair and those hazel eyes. There were people but they weren’t her people, not her person.
“Oh, sorry.” She swung the cart away from the foot it had met and looked up. It was the smile she saw first, and her eyes welled and she swallowed against her dry throat.
Lo didn’t move, but watched her approach with an indulgent focus, held in the pleasure of the moment. Gloria sniffed and abandoned the cart a step too soon and she was in Lo’s arms, her ear being squashed by the side of Lo’s jaw, but the smell of Lo’s woolen coat was in her nose and the feel of Lo’s cold hands under her jacket, and Gloria knew this was close to heaven. A moment, any moment, in Lo’s company after months apart, feeling her in her arms, just like she’d rehearsed so many times in the theater of her mind. Letting go seemed like something that was near impossible, and they stood, not letting go, while the quick crush of people dispersed and the arrival/departure board flicked out a new schedule overhead.
“Let me look at you,” Lo said, pulling back, her hands gripping Gloria’s upper arms. Her eyebrows drew together like she might cry. “You’re so tan, and what happened to your chin?”
Gloria reached to touch the cut on her chin. “I ate the dirt in front of a fence, of course.”
“Chester?” Lo asked.
“Yup.” They both laughed because Gloria had kept Lo as up to date as she could about her life as she packed it up in Melbourne, especially the antics of the stubborn gelding Chester, who, when he was in a mood, was either brilliant over fences or refused to partake at all. “And you…” Gloria shook her head, then was unable to form words for the swell of emotion she was feeling, and said instead, “Let’s go.”
“Your bags, silly.”
Gloria laughed again and turned to drag the cart back around in a stuttering arc. It occurred to her how much laughing they did when they spoke, and after a spell among a humorless crowd, she realized how blessed they were.
Lola, Lola, Lola, her heart beat its steady drum in time to the cart’s squeaking wheel.
Everything felt new and magical: the icy black air hitting her face as they left the stark lights of the airport interior, the smell of snow overwritten with the chemical tones of jet fuel. The white pickup truck was like a metal farm dog, waiting joyfully for her. She felt like hugging it because it represented everything happy. Unlocked, it seemed to wag its bumper bar as she climbed in.
“Let me turn the heat right up. It’ll probably warm up by the time we get home!” Lo said as the truck growled to life.
“Home,” Gloria said, trying the taste of the word in her mouth. “Home.” It had a new flavor; thrilling and nerve-racking.
“Tell me everything!” Lo said, the lights of passing cars flashing across her face.
And as the temperature in the car thawed and became less affronting, the words flowed from Gloria, and she loved to say them, watching the changing expressions on Lo’s face—the closing in, the softening, the quick flick of surprise, the expansive roar of laughter. It was what she’d been waiting for, and she glowed with it, the heat generated from the energy between them.
Oh, I love you, she thought, but she didn’t say it, instead keeping it as a warm coal, burning a hole in her pocket.
Despite Lo’s warnings, arriving via air mail in envelopes bordered with blue and red stripes, the ground was slushier than Gloria expected and the cold more bitter than she was prepared for. Those letters, scribbled in Lo’s slanting scrawl—a blue ink embodiment of Lo’s essence—had kept Gloria afloat as she bobbed along on a sea of uncertainty, winding up her life, properly this time, to walk across the bridge of their relationship into the unknown. And now, here, in the unfamiliar landscape of late-November Wyoming, where angels lived and breathed and Hamlet was waiting for her in his layers of quilted rugs, a veteran to the cold more than Gloria, she was home. The windows of the old house glowed yellow against the midnight gloom and the pine trees bowed beneath the stars under the weight of the recent snow. Gloria’s breath spilled from her mouth in great plumes as she met the night with her warm body. Lo hurried ahead, her form tipped sideways with the baggage, but Gloria walked slowly, taking in the fresh palette of sights and scents, the smoke from the chimney curling up to meet the sky. Lo’s silhouette, backlit against the doorway, shrugging out of her jacket, disappearing for a moment, but Gloria’s memory followed her movements, picturing Lo throwing her keys into the bowl on the sideboard. She appeared again to hold the door open wider for Gloria and Gloria abandoned her panoramic postcard and loped up the path to meet her.
Gloria stopped again in the kitchen doorway to look around. Everything was the same except on the kitchen table there was a bunch of pink roses wrapped in white tissue paper and cellophane, and on the counter was a large, frosted cake. Lo was already setting the kettle to boil.
“Are you coming in, or are you just going to stand there and admire the cobwebs?”
Gloria smiled. “I’m looking for them, but I think Sue-Anne’s duster has created an unnatural disaster across the local spider community.”
“Those flowers are yours, so is the cake.”
Gloria went to pick up the flowers. “Who are these from?”
“Your number one fan.”
“Who could that be?” Gloria ran a finger over one of the pale pink petals and held the roses close to breathe in their fragrance. “They’re beautiful, I love them.”
“I’ll pass that on to your fan.”
Gloria wandered over to the counter to peer at the cake. “Did they make this too? I’d have a kiss for them if they were here. Maybe next time.”
“That was Sue-Anne’s effort. You can save your kisses for her. Well, maybe I’ll take one on her behalf.”
Lo’s eyes were teasing. “How many can I have?”
“I thought it was for Sue-Anne.”
Lo smiled, but she was looking at Gloria’s lips and it felt like time had slowed and then they were kissing and Gloria dropped the roses on the counter and her hands were in Lo’s hair and close wasn’t close enough and kissing only made her want to kiss deeper until their faces were pressed together and she realized she’d grabbed a fistful of Lo’s hair. She let it go and they pulled apart. “Best not pass that one on to Sue-Anne. I don’t think she’d sign for it.”
“She doesn’t know what she’s missing.”
Gloria looked down at the roses dumped beside the chocolate cake and felt suddenly shy. It was just the two of them now, alone. Sue-Anne, the housekeeper, was at her own place; the guest houses were empty; Kip, the farmhand, was probably raising the roof of his cottage with his snoring. This was new territory, and they didn’t have a map yet. She glanced down at her hands with their short nails and callouses from holding a pair of reins all day, and Lo turned to take two mugs from the cupboard. The kettle started to whistle, and with Lo otherwise occupied, Gloria looked back up.
“Is there a vase?”
“Sure, too many of them. After Terrence passed my mother had to keep going and buying vases for all the flowers people were sending. Unless Sue-Anne has taken all of them to Goodwill or something.” Lo poured hot water into the two mismatched mugs. “Come to think of it, those are the first roses that have been in this house in a long time. Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” Lo replaced the kettle and looked ruefully at Gloria.
Gloria left the roses where they were and went to take Lo into her arms. “Don’t be sorry.”
“Take it as a measure of my affection that I didn’t give it a thought. Until now.” Lo hugged Gloria and gave her a brisk pat on the back. “Come, sit down.”
“What about this jug…can I put the flowers in here?”
“You do what you like, my love. This is your home now too.” Lo took the cups to the table and set them on top of cork coasters, then returned for the cake.
Gloria filled the glass jug with water from the sink and freed the roses from their wrapping. It didn’t feel like her home yet, even though it had come to in the months she had lived there over spring and summer. Now autumn had all but passed and she was about to experience the idiosyncrasies of the ranch in winter. A summer rose, landed in the winter frost.
Lo looked for the best spot to stab into the cake with its pale brown frosting and lopsided white writing that read WELCOME HOME GLORIA, and Gloria was reminded of another time when she and Lo had cake in the kitchen. There had been an electricity between them that day of a different kind.
“Should we wait until everyone’s here tomorrow to serve the cake?”
Lo gave her a withering look. “Do you think Sue-Anne hasn’t drilled me on what to do? Heat up the leftovers from supper, make sure she gets some cake, make sure she’s not hungry!” Lo recited in Sue-Anne’s anxious tones. “You know culinary pursuits aren’t my forte.”
Lo eased a fat slice of gooey cake onto a yellow plate and put it in front of Gloria who dug her fork in, hopeful that her appetite would be piqued by the first taste, but weariness had set in and she put the fork back down.
Gloria nodded. “Can we save it for tomorrow?”
“You must be exhausted. I don’t know why I let Sue-Anne boss me into force-feeding you cake at one in the morning.”
Lo removed the cake and Gloria’s head leaned gratefully into her arms folded on the table. She couldn’t tell if she was hot or cold or maybe both. She listened to the muted sounds of Lo packing away the cake. She wanted a shower. Hot water running over her cold skin, washing away the journey still clinging to her like a film. She felt Lo’s fingers on the back of her neck.
“Come on, Ms. Grant.”
Lo’s voice came from far away, but Gloria stood and followed her obediently from the room. Her bags were waiting at the foot of the stairs that led to the bedrooms. Gloria looked up at the closed door of Terrence’s bedroom and wondered if it was still kept as it had been the day he died, or more to the point, the day he lived. She dragged her eyes away. Now was not the time.
“I didn’t know where you’d want to sleep. I thought it would be presumptuous…” Lo trailed off.
“You decide. I’m having a shower.”
“Let me take these. There’s new everything in the bathroom.” Lo stifled a yawn.
It seemed they were both too tired for anything more than stunted communication.
There was a reason rituals of birth and rebirth involved water. Like passing from one realm to another. Gloria brushed her teeth properly, grateful for Lo’s careful forethought: toothbrush, towels, even a new pale blue robe hanging on the back of the door. Gloria felt a strange sense of being younger than her years, a freshly bathed child, scrubbed clean, without agency. After all the enormous decisions she had been making, it was a relieving feeling to fall backward into a routine that someone had cared enough to set out for her. There was another decision, though, but really it was no decision at all. Clutching her towel around her, braced against the cold, she tramped up the stairs and dragged her suitcase from where it sat indecisively on the landing into Lo’s room—their room—where Lo was sitting in bed, propped up on pillows, holding a finger in between the pages of the book she was reading. She took her glasses off, looking barefaced and tired and beautiful. She picked up a bookmark from the bedside table and Gloria noticed a little pinecone sitting beside the lamp. She smiled.
“You still have it, the pinecone.”
Lo slotted the bookmark in between the pages of her book and carefully placed it on the bedside table where her gaze stopped to regard the pinecone. “To me, that’s you.” She looked back at Gloria to see if Gloria had understood, and Gloria had understood perfectly. To Gloria, that pinecone was the moment she fell for Lo, or the moment she recognized something within herself, a question that suddenly begged to be answered.
Lo shook her head. “I can’t believe you’re actually here.” She peeled back the corner of the sheet on the empty side of the bed.
Gloria thought Lo would look away while she slid her clothes on beneath the towel, but she didn’t. Instead, she watched with feathery eyes that carried more vulnerability than Gloria felt. To look plainly and honestly was to lay yourself more bare than to shyly change in front of someone to whom, more than anyone in the world, Gloria wished to be beautiful. Even her sweatpants and T-shirt, were they right? Was she right?
“Just throw the towel over the door and come to bed, it’s freezing.”
Gloria’s skin was rough with goose bumps and she wasn’t even confident she was completely dry. She climbed into the big bed with its white sheets and Lo flipped the covers back over her and Gloria trembled, nerves fighting the cold. Her head sank gratefully against the pillow, and she could feel she was shaking the bed with her trembling.
“Are you okay?” Lo asked, reaching to take Gloria’s hands in hers.
“Are you sure this is what you want?”
Lo squeezed her hands. “This is what I want. And you?”
“This is what I want. You are what I want.”
Lo’s warm legs entwined with Gloria’s tremoring cold ones and Gloria did what she’d been dreaming of doing for months on end—touched her fingers to Lo’s cheek and kissed her perfect mouth. Kissing Lo was absolute magic. Gloria had been fantasizing about her soft lips and cool tongue for weeks, and finally having Lo pressed against her was a blissful sensory explosion. In Gloria’s mind, Lo was still a miracle. Slow kissing felt like it was lighting up her neural pathways and sending electricity zinging through her veins. Gloria made herself stop and, they held each other close, and that was enough to feel safe and content and they rolled slightly away, their feet still touching, and fell asleep.
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