Table of Contents
FOLLOWING HER BLISS?
The old red farmhouse looked the same as it had when I was a girl. I’d been back for five weeks and had worked nonstop, converting the downstairs of the house into my own designer dressmaking shop, calling it Buttons & Bows. The name of the shop was in honor of my great-grandmother and her collection of buttons.
What had been the dining room was now my cutting and work space. My five-year-old state-of-the-art digital Pfaff sewing machine and Meemaw’s old Singer sat side by side on their respective sewing tables. An eight-foot-long white-topped cutting table stood in the center of the room, unused as of yet. Meemaw had one old dress form, which I’d dragged down from the attic. I’d splurged and had bought two more, anticipating a brisk dressmaking business, which had yet to materialize.
I adjusted my square-framed glasses before pulling a needle through the pants leg. Gripping the thick synthetic fabric sent a shiver through me akin to fingernails scraping down a chalkboard. Bliss was not a mecca of fashion; so far I’d been asked to hem polyester pants, shorten the sleeves of polyester jackets, and repair countless other polyester garments. No one had hired me to design matching mother and daughter couture frocks, create a slinky dress for a night out on the town in Dallas, or anything else remotely challenging or interesting.
I kept the faith, though. Meemaw wouldn’t have brought me back home just to watch me fail.
PLEATING FOR MERCY
“A crime-solving ghost and magical charms from the past make
Pleating for Mercy
a sure winner! The Cassidy women are naturally drawn to mystery and mischief. You’ll love meeting them!
—Maggie Sefton, national bestselling author of
“Enchanting! Prepare to be spellbound from page one by this well-written and deftly plotted cozy. It’s charming, clever and completely captivating! Fantasy, fashion, and a foul play—all sewn together by a wise and witty heroine you’ll instantly want as a best friend. Loved it!”
—Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony and Macavity–winning author
“Melissa Bourbon’s new series will keep you on pins and needles.”
—Mary Kennedy, author of the Talk Radio Mysteries
“Cozy couture! Harlow Jane Cassidy is a tailor-made amateur sleuth. Bourbon stitches together a seamless mystery, adorned with magic, whimsy, and small-town Texas charm.”
—Wendy Lyn Watson, author of the Mystery à la Mode series.
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First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, August 2011
Copyright © Melissa Ramirez, 2011 All rights reserved
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ISBN : 978-1-101-51739-0
This book is dedicated to all the quilters and seamstresses in my life, past, present, and future, including, but not limited to:
My great-great-grandmothers, Susan Elizabeth Townsend Sears and Texana de Lavan Montgomery; my great-grandmothers, Coleta Frances Montgomery Sears and Bertha Archer Massie; my great-great-aunt May (Montgomery) McDaniel; my great-aunts Marjorie Sears Cranford Yowell and Lucy (Melba Lucille) Sears Miller; my aunt Judy Bourbon Dewey; my grandmothers, Laverne Valentine Massie Sears and Winifred Helen Conrath Bourbon; my sewing nieces, Georgina, Paskalina, and Liet Bourbon; my daughter, Sophia Tess Massie Ramirez, with all my love; and especially to my mother, Marilyn La Verne Sears Bourbon for passing on to me all the wisdom of those who came before.
When I was an elementary schoolgirl, my mother began teaching me to sew. By the time I was in sixth grade, I’d completed my first solo project: a dress with two different fabrics and buttons. I still remember the pride I felt showing it to her . . . and how proud she was of me. Because she taught me to sew, something I continue to do today, I was able to create Harlow Cassidy’s world . . . and loved every minute of it. For that, Mom, I’ll be forever grateful.
Writing a book is not a solo venture by any stretch of the imagination . . . and as a writer, my imagination is great! Thanks to my mother and father, who are always my biggest supporters, and to my family for helping me make my writing dreams come true.
Thanks, also, to Holly Root for her continued support and belief in my career, to Kerry Donovan for her faith in Harlow Cassidy and her dressmaking world and for her fantastic editing, and to Jan McInroy for her careful eye and attention to detail. Also, a deep Southern curtsy to the NAL team, especially to the artists for bringing a corner of Buttons & Bows to life. Nana’s goat absolutely speaks to me!
A big thanks goes to John Kelsey for his lawyerly advice and for planting the Godfather seed in my brain, and to Anne Jones at Latte Da Dairy for sharing her love of goats with me.
Finally, giants hugs to my blogging buddies, LA Lopez, Heather Webber, DD Scott, and Tonya Kappes—you make blogging so fun!—and to my critique partners, Beatriz Terrazas, Wendy Lyn Watson, Mary Malcolm, Marty Tidwell, Jill Wilson, Jessica Davidson, and Tracy Ward. This journey is so much better with all of you by my side.
Rumors about the Cassidy women and their magic had long swirled through Bliss, Texas, like a gathering tornado. For 150 years, my family had managed to dodge most of the rumors, brushing off the idea that magic infused their handwork, and chalking up any unusual goings-on to coincidence.
all knew that the magic started the very day Butch Cassidy, my great-great-great-grandfather, turned his back to an ancient Argentinean fountain, dropped a gold coin into it, and made a wish. The Cassidy family legend says he asked for his firstborn child, and all who came after, to live a charmed life, the threads of good fortune, talent, and history flowing like magic from their fingertips.
That magic spilled through the female descendants of the Cassidy line into their handmade tapestries and homespun wool, crewel embroidery and perfectly pieced and stitched quilts. And into my dressmaking. It connected us to our history, and to one another.
His wish also gifted some of his descendants with their own special charms. Whatever Meemaw, my great-grandmother, wanted, she got. My grandmother Nana was a goat-whisperer. Mama’s green thumb could make anything grow.
Yet no matter how hard we tried to keep our magic on the down-low—so we wouldn’t wind up in our own contemporary Texas version of the Salem Witch Trials—people noticed. And they talked.
The townsfolk came to Mama when their crops wouldn’t grow. They came to Nana when their goats wouldn’t behave. And they came to Meemaw when they wanted something so badly they couldn’t see straight. I was seventeen when I finally realized that what Butch had really given the women in my family was a thread that connected them with others.
But Butch’s wish had apparently exhausted itself before I was born. I had no special charm, and I’d always felt as if a part of me was missing because of it.
Moving back home to Bliss made the feeling stronger.
Meemaw had been gone five months now, but the old red farmhouse just off the square at 2112 Mockingbird Lane looked the same as it had when I was a girl. The steep pitch of the roof, the shuttered windows, the old pecan tree shading the left side of the house—it all sent me reeling back to my childhood and all the time I’d spent here with her.
I’d been back for five weeks and had worked nonstop, converting the downstairs of the house into my own designer dressmaking shop, calling it Buttons & Bows. The name of the shop was in honor of my great-grandmother and her collection of buttons.