When Eve Marryat's father is laid off from the Ford Motor Company in 1931, he is forced to support his family by leaving St. Paul, Minnesota, and moving back to his Ohio roots. Eve's uncle Cyrus has invited the family to live and work at his Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge.
Eve can't wait to leave St. Paul, a notorious haven for gangsters. At seventeen, she considers her family to be "good people," not lawbreakers like so many in her neighborhood. Thrilled to be moving to a "safe haven," Eve soon forms an unlikely friendship with a strange young man named Link, blissfully unaware that her uncle's lodge is anything but what it seems.
When the reality of her situation finally becomes clear, Eve is faced with a dilemma. Does she dare risk everything by exposing the man whose love and generosity is keeping her family from ruin? And when things turn dangerous, can she trust Link in spite of appearances?
Guest Post from Author Ann Tatlock
How fun to be a guest on a blog that originates in the UK! My husband Bob and I honeymooned in England. Sort of. It was 1992 and I was on staff of a magazine that sent me to England to do a story. When I was given the assignment, Bob and I were engaged. We decided to go ahead and get married right before the departure date so Bob could accompany me. Of course, the magazine’s staff photographer came along too. So there we were, the three of us jetting to London. And it was a working honeymoon to boot. But what a time! We drove all over the country interviewing folks and finally ended up in Scotland where, a week later, we flew home from Glasgow.
One of the London stories we like to tell is how we were down in the underground waiting for a train when an announcement came over the loudspeaker. I didn’t understand what was said. I only knew that suddenly everyone had disappeared. “Come on,” Bob yelled, tugging at my hand. “It’s a bomb! He said to evacuate!” And so we, like everyone else, ran up the stairs and back into the sunlight. We were the last ones out. The photographer was on the sidewalk waiting for us. Turns out it wasn’t a bomb at all, just another threat.
Enough reminiscing. And you may be wondering what this has to do with my book, Sweet Mercy. Well, not much, really—except that the main character, Eve Marryat, also lived in a time when you could never be sure whether a bomb might go off or someone might be gunned down on the sidewalk in front of you. In fact, Eve was walking in downtown St. Paul, MN, with her parents one afternoon when a car drove by with a machine-gun sticking out the back window, and next thing Eve knew the man ahead of them lay in a bloody heap on the steps of a Jewish deli.
America was in the midst of Prohibition (1920-1933), an era in which the government outlawed the manufacture and sale of alcohol. And as soon as the feds said no one could drink, everyone wanted to drink. Moonshine was made everywhere and genuine liquor was brought in over the borders and bootlegging became a lucrative business for a whole bunch of folks who didn’t mind working on the wrong side of the law. Prohibition ushered in the Golden Age of Gangsters in America, with men like Al Capone and Bugs Moran raking in millions by providing the drink for a thirsty nation.
In 1931, St. Paul was a safe haven for criminals. That’s why Eve was thankful to leave St. Paul and move to Mercy, Ohio, where her uncle Cyrus owned the Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge. For Eve, the island was a paradise where she could finally feel safe. No more gangsters. No more money launderers, kidnappers, murderers or prison escapees living next door. And no more bootleggers to deal with either.
But people and places aren’t always what they seem. Sometimes, we don’t even fully know our own selves. I hope you’ll join me on Marryat Island where Eve discovers more than she bargained for, including the meaning of Sweet Mercy.