An Hours of the Night Story
Preacher always said New Orleans was a den of sin, but of course Clarabelle had to see for herself…
Momma says a body reaps what they sow, and Clarabelle’s planted the seeds of trouble. The year is 1933, and not much else is growing in the Oklahoma dirt. Clarabelle’s gone and fallen in love with her best friend, so she figures it’s time to go out and see the world.
If she’s lucky, she’ll find the kind of girl who’ll kiss her back.
Clarabelle heads for New Orleans, and that’s where she meets Vaughn. Now, Vaughn’s as pretty as can be, but she’s hiding something. When she gets jumped by a pair of hoodlums, Clarabelle comes to her rescue and accidentally discovers her secret. She has to decide whether Vaughn is really the kind of girl for her, and though Clarabelle started out a dirt-farming Okie, Vaughn teaches her just what it means to be a lady.
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Lesbian, Transgender
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Forbidden Love, Hurt / Comfort
Setting: New Orleans
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Clara's breakfast beignet didn't go quite as she expected...
Vaughn came along next, surprising me so much I choked on my coffee. A wide-brimmed straw hat kept the sun off of her face, and her raspberry pink day dress should have clashed with her hair. Instead she looked radiant. Before I could think of a reason not to, I jumped out of my chair and ran to the door.
“Good morning!” I came near to tripping her with my enthusiasm.
She stopped, smiled, stepped close enough that I could smell the rosewater she always wore. “What’s your story, morning glory?”
My cheeks got so hot I could have crawled right under the sidewalk. “Having a cup of coffee.” Did I dare? “Want to join me?”
Vaughn’s upright posture softened. “Sure thing.”READ MORE
We laughed over her breakfast order, though really I could have died of embarrassment. I didn’t have on any rouge or lipstick, and my brows needed plucking. Vaughn’s make-up was perfect despite the early hour. I could talk to her fine at work, but with our knees bumping under the table, words took a holiday.
For her part, she seemed content to watch me. I took a sip of my coffee to give myself something to do, and her eyes followed the motion of my hand. Oh for pity’s sake. We were both goofy.
My mug hit the table with a thunk. “What are you doing here so early, anyhow?” I wasn’t sure where Vaughn lived, but a big car drove her home every night after work.
She sipped her coffee, lips leaving a coral smear on the white porcelain. “I’m headed to the market.” She tapped the mug’s handle, her fingernails painted the same color as her lipstick. “I wanted to wander around a bit, but I’m”—color rose in her cheeks—“it’s nice to see you.”
“Well it’s nice to see you, too.” Did I dare suggest we could wander around together? Nerves had me picking at my beignet, which sprayed powdered sugar everywhere and made things worse. “I ain’t working till nine.” There. She might catch my hint.
“Yeah, the boss sure likes it when you’re there. Lorraine doesn’t have your charm.”
Our eyes met and held for one solid minute, and I came close to blurting everything out—how she was the prettiest woman I’d ever seen, how I wanted to leave lipstick smears all over her delicate collar bones, how I wanted every bit of her skin rubbing against mine.
Instead, I blinked. “Charm?” My laugh came out more harsh than polite. “I think he just wants to play mattress polo.” The thought made me sick. The boss was well into his thirties and had more hair under his nose than he did on his head. “Fat chance.”
She smiled like we were sharing a big secret. “That’s why he likes you. Guys always want what they can’t have.”
Guys. I didn’t waste much time thinking about them. I mean, some of them were handsome enough, but most of them were slobs. “Making whoopee with a billy goat.”
“You’d know.” Her grin turned saucy. “You’re the farm girl.”
I snorted into my coffee.
“I mean”—she propped her elbows on the table, her coffee mug held in both hands—“if not a billy goat, there must have been some boy back home.”
“Nope. Not me.” My smile felt too tight, and my heart tripped over itself. I’d die before I told her about the girl back home. I’d come to Sodom and Gomorrah so I could have some fun, but people were the same everywhere. I couldn’t simply walk up to Vaughn and ask her to kiss me, could I? “I expect after a while I’ll go home and find one.”
“Hmm…you deserve someone special.” With a little frown, Vaughn’s gaze followed an old milk truck rolling past, spewing exhaust from the rear end. “I doubt I’ll ever find a boy for myself.”
Now that comment gave me hope, and my mouth took off without my brain. “Well, maybe one day we’ll be a couple of old maids together. You can make the dinner, and I’ll sew our clothes.”
“You sew?” Her gaze pinned me, leaving me breathless.
“I made this.” I picked at my skirt. My pink calico shift wasn’t much, but the gathers were neatly done. “Back where I’m from, ladies been asking me to make them things since I was twelve.” I hadn’t stayed in school long, but at times my old Singer earned better money than Dad’s farm, which was why I still sent Momma a check every month.
“Did you do the embroidery?” She gestured to the neckline of my dress. “It’s lovely.”
“It’s only a chain stitch. I can do much fancier stuff than this.”
She grasped my hand, and the shiver she sent through me landed in the pit of my belly. “If I sketched you something, could you make it?”
I pulled my hand away—not to be rude, but so I wouldn’t embarrass us both by lacing our fingers together. “I could, but I left my sewing machine behind.”
Crossing her arms, she tapped a peach-painted fingertip against her matching lips. “I’ll ask Leo if he’s got a machine. We could be partners.”
“Leo?” She’d said she didn’t have a boyfriend.
Her laugh set me at ease. “No”—she took my hand again, leaving me breathless—“he’s my friend. An old, old friend.”
“All right.” I couldn’t bring myself to draw my hand away. “If you find me a Singer, I’ll make you a dress.”
“Sweetheart, if I find you a Singer, we’re setting us up a shop and dressing the finest ladies in this town.”
I nodded vigorously, but in my mind I planned the dress I’d make for her. Amber, to bring out the warm tints in her hair or maybe a soft green to show off her eyes. Silk, to drift over her shoulders and fall low in the back. She’d be so lovely. She was so lovely.
Dee on Lovebytes Reviews wrote:
Oh my goodness, this lovely little book. Change of Heart is a historical romance that has so many things to like about it I hardly know where to begin. The short medium can make for such a tricky read for me, and has been known to leave a story feeling unfinished or hurried, or sometimes both, but let me assure you that Liv Rancourt has crafted such a tender love story between two sweet and gentle and pure characters that when I reached the end, I wanted much more from them—not because something was missing but because their story was so affirming that I wasn’t ready for it to end.
This story is narrated by Clarabelle, an innocent young woman who, in 1933 Oklahoma, knows she doesn’t fit in there any longer. She made the mistake of revealing her feelings to her best friend, and afterwards, the reality sets in that she will never fit the man-woman-marriage-family mold she would be forced into if she stayed. So, she sets off for New Orleans, a den of temptation and iniquity, the Sodom and Gomorrah of the south, with the hope she can build a life for herself there. NOLA has a personality all her own, and Rancourt gives readers a wee taste of the city as well as keeping things firmly grounded in the time period. The hair, the makeup, the clothes—it all worked together to engage my imagination, and there wasn’t a moment when I was pulled out of the setting.
Vaughn. Oh, Vaughn. I loved her a lot, and the amount of empathy Rancourt engenders in her portrayal is both heart wrenching and perfect. When Clarabelle finds herself attracted to the elegant and beautiful Vaughn, it’s such a poignant and sweet and, ultimately, cautious dance between them, even as Clara discovers that she is far from alone in her desires. The naïve but hopeful young woman who came to New Orleans to spread her wings blossoms under Vaughn’s attention, but, for a woman like Vaughn, there’s more than meets the eye. And more danger for her as well, if her truth is discovered. Vaughn is so comfortable in her femininity and yet is at odds with her body, and I couldn’t help but feel her internal struggle as her attraction to Clara became a physical and emotional expression of her sexuality.
When Vaughn becomes the victim of a hate crime is when this story’s emotional hold on the reader gains traction, and, of course, it causes no small amount of conflict for Clara. I appreciate the way the author never tried to gloss over this struggle nor waved the magic wand of love-conquers-all to make the conflict disappear as a non-issue. There were some real questions here that Clara needed to face, and a conflict she’d never been confronted with before, and while the soul searching doesn’t last too long due to this novella’s length, it was appropriately touched upon.
Readers familiar with Liv Rancourt and Irene Preston’s Hours of the Night series will also recognize Thaddeus Dupont and Leo Killian from that series. Though they play only a side role in the story, they’re significant to Vaughn, and it was great to have that thread of connection between the Thaddeus from then and him now—though, he hasn’t changed much for reasons that are obvious if you know his backstory.
I adored Change of Heart. It’s romantic and touching and I can see myself reading it again for the sheer sweetness of it.
This story should come with a warning, as it doesn’t I’m going to give it one of my own. Do not pick this book up with the intentions of taking a peek before doing chores or taking care of more pressing matters than reading. I did so and all my good intentions went on the backburner until I was done. I literally couldn’t put my kindle down from the moment I read the first page until I turned the last. And, even then, wow, Clarabelle and Vaughn followed me around for the rest of the day.
Most books I read, one character generally appeals to me more than the other. However, I can’t tell you which of these two I loved more. They both ripped my heart to shreds and put it back together again. On more than one occasion, I’ve been known to state I’m not an emotional reader, well this story blew that theory away.
The way Clara discovered Vaughn wasn’t entirely who she appeared to be was gut-wrenching, and not for the faint hearted. I thought the way Clarabelle dealt with it was extremely well done, her emotions rang true. I’m pretty sure I would’ve had a similar reaction, or perhaps it just felt that way as I was so invested in both of these characters.
This story also goes to show you a short story can pack just as powerful of a punch as a full-length novel if done well. This is one to be re-read and has a place centre stage on my favorites shelf.
I highly recommend this story to everyone, regardless of your preferred genre.