Title: The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Genre: Historical, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Young Adelia Montforte flees fascist Italy for America, where she is whisked away to the shore by her well-meaning aunt and uncle. Here, she meets and falls for Charlie Connally, the eldest of the four Irish-Catholic boys next door. But all hopes for a future together are soon throttled by the war and a tragedy that hits much closer to home.
Grief-stricken, Addie flees—first to Washington and then to war-torn London—and finds a position at a prestigious newspaper, as well as a chance to redeem lost time, lost family…and lost love. But the past always nips at her heels, demanding to be reckoned with. And in a final, fateful choice, Addie discovers that the way home may be a path she never suspected.
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THE LAST SUMMER AT CHELSEA BEACH – Chapter One
Washington, DC November 1943
(In the previous excerpt, Adelia, a typist for the Washington Post, was asked by her boss, bureau chief Chip Steeves, to meet him at the State Department for a briefing.)
The guard handed back my pass now, along with a visitor’s badge, which I pinned to the collar of my blouse. I stepped uncertainly into the massive lobby of the State Building, marveling at the high chandelier, better suited to a ballroom. But before I could take it all in, Mr. Steeves appeared, grabbing me by the arm. He led me unceremoniously past a marble staircase, down a corridor and into a room with a long oak conference table. “The deputy secretary has called a meeting with the press to talk about our coverage of our allies, making sure it doesn’t hurt the war effort, that sort of thing.”
“I don’t understand. Isn’t there something you need me to translate?”
He shook his head. “Nah, kid. My cub reporter’s been called up so I need someone to help me cover the meeting. You were the best one for the job.”
“The best one? I’m a typist. I can’t possibly cover a story.”
“Just take one of the chairs against the wall and take notes. And don’t say anything,” he instructed, then disappeared into a group of uniformed men clustered in the corner.
I took off my overcoat and folded it in the lap of my navy blue skirt, noticing as I sat down a run in my nylons. Then I tried to smooth the wrinkles from my pleated-front blouse. I was the only woman in the room, except for the one setting out coffee cups. The war might have brought women to work, Rosie the Riveter and all that, but in high-level Washington meetings like this, the seats at the table were still reserved for the men.
The door opened and a man I recognized from the papers as Undersecretary of State Edward Stettinius came in. “Be seated,” he said, as the others came to the table. “I’ve only got a few minutes so I’ll be brief. I’ve called you here to ask for your help in talking to the American people about the war.” He launched into a discussion of a new initiative by the Office of War Information to work with the press on the way it would communicate information about the fighting.
I scribbled furiously. Though I frequently typed the shorthand notes of others, I had seldom taken dictation and I feared I would not be able to keep up with Secretary Stettinius’s rapid English. But as I listened, I became absorbed by what he was saying. The relationship between newspapers and government had always seemed adversarial, one seeking information and the other holding it back. But he was speaking now of ways they could work together. “I’m happy to take your questions,” he concluded a few minutes later.
A correspondent from the Washington Star whom I did not recognize raised his hand, then spoke without waiting. “It sounds good on the surface—but isn’t it something of a conflict of interest?” I had been wondering the same thing: Could the newspapers still maintain their independence and integrity while working with the government?
Secretary Stettinius offered a vague explanation of how it would all work without compromising the independence of the press.
“Surely you aren’t suggesting we show you our stories before they go to press?” another reporter pressed. “That would be censorship.”
“No, of course not,” Secretary Stettinius replied, looking tugging at his collar. “We simply want to be a resource.” Across the room, Mr. Steeves folded his arms, unconvinced. “My deputy will be in touch with each of you individually to discuss specifics,” Secretary Stettinius promised, cutting the questions short. He rose, signaling that the meeting was over.
As the newsmen stood and chatted among themselves, I tried to catch Mr. Steeves’s eye, but he was engrossed in conversation with a foreign correspondent. I made my way toward the door of the too-stuffy room, uncertain whether to wait for him or return to the bureau.
As I neared the massive foyer, a door across the hallway opened, letting loose a low din of chatter from another meeting. I started past. “Then we are agreed,” a voice broke through the others, unexpectedly familiar. I stopped mid-step. “We’ll meet again when we have the plans drawn up.”
Charlie! My head swiveled in the direction from which the voice had come. It couldn’t be. I craned my neck, trying once more to hear the voice. I had imagined him so many times since coming here, seen him in every uniformed soldier on the street corners. But I’d never heard his voice.
I stepped toward the door of the other room, not caring that I had no business being there as I scanned the crowd. “Oh!” I cried so loudly that a man in front of me turned to stare. I brought my hand to my mouth as Charlie’s broad shoulders appeared above the others. Joy surged through me, making my head light. It really was him. But how? There was no reason on earth for him to be in Washington. He was meant to be off training somewhere or deployed, not standing in front of me, tall and glorious. Had he come for me? No, there was simply no way he could have known I was here—which was exactly how I had wanted it.
Anxiety rose, eclipsing my happiness, and the walls of the immense room seemed to grow close. I started to duck away, the idea of facing Charlie unfathomable. But even as I took a step toward the door, I turned back, drawn to him. He looked different to be sure, aged by all that had happened, with lines in places I hadn’t remembered and a permanent sadness about the eyes. His brown hair was cut short and it was thinner, too, without the thick, rich curls he had once had. He was still beautiful, though. My breath caught. That did not, could not, change what had happened. I had to leave. Now.
Pam Jenoff was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.
Following her work at the Pentagon, Pam moved to the State Department. In 1996 she was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland. It was during this period that Pam developed her expertise in Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust. Working on matters such as preservation of Auschwitz and the restitution of Jewish property in Poland, Pam developed close relations with the surviving Jewish community.
Pam left the Foreign Service in 1998 to attend law school and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. She worked for several years as a labor and employment attorney both at a firm and in-house in Philadelphia and now teaches law school at Rutgers.
Pam is the author of The Kommandant’s Girl, which was an international bestseller and nominated for a Quill award, as well as The Winter Guest, The Diplomat’s Wife, The Ambassador’s Daughter, Almost Home, A Hidden Affair and The Things We Cherished. She also authored a short story in the anthology Grand Central: Original Postwar Stories of Love and Reunion. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and three children.
One PRINT copy of The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach PLUS a Chelsea Beach limited edition beach bag (US/Canada).
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