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Excerpt from The Flower Sisters by Michelle Collins Anderson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Flower Sisters

by Michelle Collins Anderson

The Flower Sisters by Michelle Collins Anderson X
The Flower Sisters by Michelle Collins Anderson
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    Apr 2024, 368 pages


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August 13, 1928

She leaned against the front balcony of the dance hall and shook her shiny dark hair in its neat, new bob, reveling in the delicious sensation of goose bumps on the back of her bare neck. Through the open door came the wail of Mo Wheeler's saxophone, bluesy and beckoning, while the plaintive piano answered with a seduction of its own. She smiled, realizing that one of her patent leather pumps was tapping the time with Dale Diggs' trap drum. She loved this new "jazz," the way it snaked through your veins and made you want to writhe and sway, to merge with that resonant, relentless beat and sing your blessings out loud. Amen.

And she was lucky tonight, wasn't she? Despite her mother's admonition to skip the dance: "It's Friday the thirteenth, you know." But her twin sister had practically pushed her out the door at the first honk of Charlie Walters' Plymouth—his father's car, actually. The gang packed in both seats tighter than ammunition, Dash unfolding himself out of the back, gallantly throwing open one silver door for her. She had ignored her mother's dark, meaningful look—a nice young man comes to the door!— and shrugged off the subsequent twinge of guilt almost as easily as the gauzy beige hip-length jacket she would shed at the dance.

Now she leaned over the rail and breathed in a deep lungful of the August night, a mixture of sunbaked earth and the slightly cool damp of leaf decay. Lamb's Dance Hall was the top floor of a two-story red brick building that housed an auto dealership and garage on the bottom floor, the smell of which left the slightest metallic tinge of grease on her tongue. From her perch, she could see a few young men talking through the open windows of their cars on the downtown square in front of the solemn courthouse, while others stood near the streetlamp, smoking cigarettes.

Which reminded her: cigarettes. The reason she had excused herself from the dance and her date in the first place. Her sister had shoved a half-open pack of Lucky Strikes into the beaded blue purse that now hung from her shoulder: "Here. You'll need one for a smoke break with the girls."

Her twin had cocked an eyebrow at her. It was always alarming to see her own exact features—large brown eyes in a pale face, pointed nose, small pink bud of a mouth—configured in an expression she would never use herself. Perspiration had trickled down her underarms as her sister scrutinized her head to toe, from the narrow-brimmed blue cloche hat to matching shoes, a peacock in borrowed finery. Then: a sudden frown.

"Just a minute."

Her twin had disappeared to their small shared bedroom and returned with a gold heart-shaped locket with a single diamond chip embedded in its center. "Let me put this on you."

"I shouldn't."

"I insist." Her sister sounded the tiniest bit bitter as she closed the minuscule clasp. "There."

The sisters looked at each other apprehensively for a moment and shrugged at exactly the same time. And then they laughed together, an identical charming giggle.

"Have fun tonight. Just be yourself." Her twin smiled, but her face was gray. "Or on second thought: don't."

"Thank you," she had replied, pulling her jacket closer around the thin lavender drop-waist with a beaded fringe hem. She reached up self-consciously to pat the back of her hair, surprised once more to find the length gone, what was left curving at her nape with a slightly longer frame around her face. This could take some getting used to. "Feel better, okay?"

"Wake me up when you get home. I want to hear all about the dance. Every. Single. Thing." Her sister winked. The car horn sounded two sharp blasts. "Bye now."

Then she was off into the car and the hot Ozarks night.

And so far, so good. She had hardly stepped off the dance floor. And managed to keep up with Dash in every department but drinking.

Excerpted from The Flower Sisters by Michelle Collins Anderson. Copyright © 2024 by Michelle Collins Anderson. Excerpted by permission of A John Scognamiglio Book. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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