If you saw Teagan’s recent guest post here, you know that she’s a fan of Southern women. Her debut novel, Atonement, Tennessee, features a whole cast of these charming magnolias, many of whom reminded me of when we moved to Virginia.
Just butter my butt and call me a biscuit!
“Well, hey!” The smiling woman at my door held out a basket lined with an embroidered napkin, and containing a dish of muffins and a foil-covered casserole. Her hair, makeup, and the accessories that matched her outfit were perfect. I glanced at my watch to confirm that I hadn’t entered some alternate reality, and that it really was just a few minutes before eight o’clock in the morning. I myself was dressed too—if you counted the shorts and t-shirt in which I’d collapsed the night before after the movers left.
I hadn’t known what to expect when we moved to the small college town in southwestern Virginia, but it certainly wasn’t Martha Stewart with a southern accent and fresh-baked muffins. She told me her name was Missy (of course it was!) and that she brought coffee (of course she did!). Less than an hour and two cups of coffee later, she had my entire life history, the names of my grandparents, my political orientation, and the complete details of my first three pregnancies. She invited me to join Junior League (I didn’t), her church (no, but thanks), and her quilting group (I made quilts for everybody I knew). She said she was glad I wasn’t a ‘real’ Yankee (I was), gave me her recipes for red beans and rice (yum) and homemade mayonnaise (WTF?), taught me how to smock (!) and told me to watch out for the Faculty Wives Club at the University (I did). Welcome to the South!
By the end of my first year there, “y’all” had crept into my vocabulary, along with other new phrases. Something was obvious? If it’d been a snake, it’d a bit-cha! Unattractive person (probably a yankee)? He fell out the ugly tree and hit ever branch on the way down. The American Civil War? The War of Yankee Aggression. While I never managed to be made-up and accessorized before breakfast, I did learn to appreciate the attention to appearances, consuming interest in their neighbors, and automatic willingness to help out that characterized so many of my new Southern friends. But it was their ability to say the most appallingly outrageous things with a polite smile—along with their absolute conviction that they had the right to do so—that makes me miss them all to this day.
When I met the ladies in Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene’s Atonement, Tennessee, I felt like I was back in my Virginia kitchen, sharing coffee and gossip with good friends—especially when main character Ralda’s newly-met friend Racine exclaims, “Well here we are, trespassing on our new neighbor; not to mention the booze. Just butter my butt and call me a biscuit!” Ralda has been living in Yankee-exile in Washington DC when on a whim she bids sight-unseen on a house up for auction in a small Tennessee town called Atonement. Despite her lowball bid, she wins the old house and along with her cat Lilith, heads for her new home.
The tale that follows has all the elements of a true Southern Gothic: large and creepy old house, supernatural beings, curses and prophecies, mysteriously significant piece of jewelry, and attractive men who have the potential for both romance and danger. The weather is suitably threatening, and there is even a conveniently located cemetery. Being the South, of course, the cemetery doubles as a picnic site for Sunday morning mimosa parties. There are side characters from philandering spouses to murderous pig-farmers, the furniture is haunted, and of course the cat is the only one who knows what’s going on. With a point of view that alternates between the bemused Ralda (short for Esmeralda) and her unflappable cat, Lilith, the story unfolds with humor and horror.
I would give Atonement, Tennessee four stars for Teagan’s style, her ear for language and dialect, and the swift pace of unfolding action. My biggest complaint is that the story arc stops too soon. Obviously, this is the beginning of a series. But there are just too many pivotal questions left unanswered. With her ongoing blog serial and other writing, it’s clear that Teagan’s writing expertise has already come a long way since she started this series. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Ralda and the other Southern ladies of Atonement, Tennessee. So Miss Teagan, y’all best be fixin to get that next book out soon, hear?
Esmeralda Lawton is sick of the big city. “Ralda” was betrayed until trust became a theoretical concept. So it’s a dream come true when she buys an old estate, complete with historic cemetery. Okay, she isn’t excited about the cemetery, but she’s strangely drawn to the estate. Atonement, Tennessee, a quaint town, seems like the perfect place for her. However, her new life isn’t quiet. The house is full of antiques. Some have extraordinary properties — a brass bed causes strange dreams, and a mirror shows the truth of who you are. A mysterious neighbor secretly watches over the graveyard. There’s more to him than meets the eye, but what? Then there’s Gwydion, owner of Fae’s Flowers. She stubbornly resists her feelings for him. Ralda suspects that people are drawn to Atonement to, well — atone. She wonders what sins led her there. However, her ancestress made the mistakes. Atonement is home to more than humans. Supernaturals go there too. Some have fallen far. This urban fantasy, seasoned with Celtic mythology, comes with a side-order of mystery.
Author Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene, a southerner by birth, was “enchanted” by the desert southwest of the USA when she moved there. She had always devoured fantasy novels of every type. Then one day there was no new book readily at hand for reading — so she decided to write one. And she hasn’t stopped writing since.
You can find Teagan at her blog, Teagan’s Books.
Don’t miss her weekly interactive steampunk serial!
Book Title: Atonement, Tennessee
Author: Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
Genre: Southern Gothic Fantasy
Length: 296 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; Draft edition (December 21, 2013)
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