Title: Lady Sunshine
Author: Amy Mason Doan
Publisher: Graydon House
Genre: Coming of Age, Women's Fiction
Release Date: 29th June 2021
BLURB supplied by Harlequin Trade Publishing
ONE ICONIC FAMILY. ONE SUMMER OF SECRETS. THE DAZZLING SPIRIT OF 1970S CALIFORNIA.
For Jackie Pierce, everything changed the summer of 1979, when she spent three months of infinite freedom at her bohemian uncle’s sprawling estate on the California coast. As musicians, artists, and free spirits gathered at The Sandcastle for the season in pursuit of inspiration and communal living, Jackie and her cousin Willa fell into a fast friendship, testing their limits along the rocky beach and in the wild woods... until the summer abruptly ended in tragedy, and Willa silently slipped away into the night.
Twenty years later, Jackie unexpectedly inherits The Sandcastle and returns to the iconic estate for a short visit to ready it for sale. But she reluctantly extends her stay when she learns that, before her death, her estranged aunt had promised an up-and-coming producer he could record a tribute album to her late uncle at the property’s studio. As her musical guests bring the place to life again with their sun-drenched beach days and late-night bonfires, Jackie begins to notice startling parallels to that summer long ago. And when a piece of the past resurfaces and sparks new questions about Willa’s disappearance, Jackie must discover if the dark secret she’s kept ever since is even the truth at all.
Barnes & Noble
A Girl, Her
Cousin, and a Waterfall
I rattle the
padlock on the gate, strum my fingers along the cold chain-link fence.
I own this
Maybe if I repeat
it often enough I’ll believe it.
All along the base
of the fence are tributes: shells, notes, sketches, bunches of flowers. Some
still fresh, some so old the petals are crisp as parchment. I follow the fence
uphill, along the coast side, and stop at a wooden, waist-high sign marking
the path up to the waterfall. It wasn’t here the summer I visited.
The sign is
covered in words and drawings, so tattooed-over by fan messages that you can
barely read the official one. I run my fingertips over the engravings:
initials, peace symbols, Thank you’s, I Love You’s. Fragments of
favorite lyrics. After coming so far to visit the legendary estate, people need
to do something, leave their mark, if only with a rock on fog-softened wood.
Song titles from
my uncle’s final album, Three, are carved everywhere. “Heart, Home,
Willow.” Someone has etched that last one in symbols instead of words. The
angel refers to Angela, my aunt. The lion is my uncle Graham.
And the willow
tree. Willa, my cousin.
I have a pointy
metal travel nail file in my suitcase; I could add my message to the rest, my
own tribute to this place, to the Kingstons. To try to explain what happened
the summer I spent here. I could tell it like one of the campfire tales I used
to spin for Willa.
This is the
story of a girl, her cousin, and a waterfall…
But there’s no
time for that, not with only seven days to clear the house for sale. Back at
the gate, where Toby’s asleep in his cat carrier in the shade, I dig in my
overnight bag for the keys. They came in a FedEx with a fat stack of documents I
must’ve read on the plane from Boston a dozen times—thousands of words, all
dressed up in legal jargon. When it’s so simple, really. Everything inside that
fence is mine now, whether I want it or not.
I unlock the gate,
lift the metal shackle, and walk uphill to the highest point, where the gravel
widens into a parking lot, then fades away into grass. The field opens out
below me just like I remember. We called it “the bowl,” because of the way the
edges curve up all around it. A golden bowl scooped into the hills, rimmed on
three sides by dark green woods. The house, a quarter mile ahead of me at the
top of the far slope, is a pale smudge in the fir trees.
I stop to take it
in, this piece of land I now own. The Sandcastle, everyone called it.
neighbors’ goats and Graham’s guests to keep the grass down, the field has
grown wild, many of the yellow weeds high as my belly button.
Willa stood here
with me once and showed me how from this angle the estate resembled a sun. The
kind a child would draw, with a happy face inside. Once I saw it, it was impossible
straw-colored field, trails squiggling off to the woods in every direction,
like rays. The left eye—the campfire circle. The right eye—the blue
aboveground pool. The nose was the vertical line of picnic benches in the
middle of the circle that served as our communal outdoor dining table. The
smile was the curving line of parked cars and motorcycles and campers.
All that’s gone
now, save for the pool, which is squinting, collapsed, moldy green instead of
its old bright blue.
I should go back
for my bag and Toby but I can’t resist—I move on, down to the center of the
field. Far to my right in the woods, the brown roofline of the biggest A-frame
cabin, Kingfisher, pokes through the firs. But no other cabins are visible, the
foliage is so thick now. Good. Each alteration from the place of my memories
gives me confidence. I can handle this for a week. One peaceful, private week
to box things up and send them away.
“Sure you don’t
want me to come help?” Paul had asked when he dropped me at the airport this
morning. “We could squeeze in a romantic weekend somewhere. I’ve always wanted
to go to San Francisco.”
“You have summer
school classes, remember? Anyway, it’ll be totally boring, believe me.”
him—earnest, sweet Paul, who all the sixth-graders at the elementary school
where we work hope they get as their teacher and who wants to marry me—that the
trip was no big deal. That I’d be away for a week because my aunt in
California passed away. That I barely knew her and just had to help pack up her
old place to get it ready for sale.
He believed me.
I didn’t tell him
that the “old place” is a stunning, sprawling property perched over the
Pacific, studded with cabins and outbuildings and a legendary basement
recording studio. That the land bubbles with natural hot springs and creeks and
Or that I’ve
inherited it. All of it. The fields, the woods, the house, the studio. And my
uncle’s music catalog.
I didn’t tell him
that I visited here once as a teenager, or that for a little while, a long time
ago, I was sure I’d stay forever.
Excerpted from Lady Sunshine @ 2021
by Amy Mason Doan, used with permission by Graydon House.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
MASON DOAN is the author of The
Summer List and Summer
Hours. She earned a BA in English from UC Berkeley and an MA in
journalism from Stanford University, and has written for The Oregonian,
San Francisco Chronicle, and Forbes, among other
publications. She grew up in Danville, California, and now lives in Portland,
Oregon, with her husband and daughter.