Title: GENTLY USED
Genre: Adult Fiction (Women's Fiction)
Word Count: 87,000
Behind the doors of Hourglass Vintage, every beloved garment has a story--a textured and sometimes tumultuous past. So, too, do the women who work and shop there. Complete at 87,000 words, GENTLY USED intertwines those stories in an inspiring, multi-generational novel likely to appeal to fans of Kate Jacobs, Claire Cook, and Meg Waite Clayton.
Violet Turner, the boutique's owner, knows the personal history behind each item in her store, from a Chanel suit to a Bakelite cocktail ring. Yet when it comes to her own life, she’s determined never to revisit her troubled past, even if it means forever closing off her heart.
Sales clerk April Morgan is halfway through an unplanned pregnancy when her fiancé calls off the wedding, leaving her alone and unmoored. The perfect 1950's wedding dress April had planned to wear now hangs limp in the store's back room, ignored, just like her dreams.
Amithi Singh, a shop customer, has struggled to share the traditions of her native India with her only daughter, with limited success. Now facing an empty nest, Amithi longs to be useful in some way, but after decades of housekeeping and parenting, fears she has nothing more to offer.
For Violet, April, and Amithi, Hourglass Vintage is a place where unlikely friendships flourish and anyone might show up to kick-start their lives again: a drunk ex-husband, an over-the-top drag queen, even the neighborhood fortune teller. But the shop is riddled with financial woes and, unless the new friends can pull off a radical plan to save it, will soon be forgotten along with the costume jewelry and crinoline gowns on its sales floor.
An excerpt from GENTLY USED won the ninth "Dear Lucky Agent" contest on Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog. When not writing, I can be found practicing law or scouring secondhand stores for the perfect pair of vintage Frye boots. I maintain my own blog and also write for Wisconsin Public Television's website and Edible Madison magazine, winner of the 2011 James Beard Publication of the Year Award. I would be happy to send the manuscript of GENTLY USED at your request. Thank you for your consideration.
Beneath the ash trees on Johnson Street, just east of campus, Hourglass Vintage stood in a weathered brick building, wedged between a fair trade coffee shop and a bike repair business. Behind the boutique's windows, Violet Turner was buttoning a mannequin into a smocked sundress.
She sighed as undergraduates with bright scarves and red faces rushed by without glancing at her or the garments on display. Gray days like this one were all about hurrying and practicality, and Violet had never liked either concept. People in practical moods didn't wander into the shop to buy turn-of-the-century kid gloves or 1930's Bakelite jewelry.
Violet bent down to put espadrille sandals on the mannequin. When she stood up, a pair of blue eyes stared back at her. A girl, no older than twenty, stood inches from the window, clutching a 1950's wedding dress against her fleece jacket.
Violet remembered that the girl had come in just a few weeks earlier, trying on half a dozen gowns before selecting the full-skirted one she held now, which flapped in the wind like a surrender flag.
The girl came in and spread the dress on the register counter. “I need to return this."
“I’m sorry, we don’t allow returns,” Violet said. She took her place behind the counter and felt a blast of dry heat from the steam radiator affixed to the wall. She peeled off her cardigan—a find from her grandmother’s closet. A tattoo of a phoenix stood out on her freckled shoulder.