Melody Carlson and her book
Mixed Bags Carter House Girls Book #1
Zondervan (May 1, 2008)
(ISBN#9780310714880, 224pp, $9.99)
In sixth grade, Melody Carlson helped start a school newspaper called The BuccaNews (her schoolâ€™s mascot was a Buccaneer…arrr!). As editor of this paper, she wrote most of the material herself, creating goofy phony bylines to hide the fact that the school newspaper was mostly a “one man” show.
Visit Melody’s website by clicking her picture to see all of her wonderful and various book titles.
Don’t miss the second book in this series: Stealing Bradford (Carter House Girls, Book 2)
And Now…The First Chapter:
â€œThe name is DJ.â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry, but your grandmother has instructed me to call you Desiree.â€
DJ opened the door and looked down on the short and slightly overweight middle-aged housekeeper. â€œAnd I have instructed you to call me DJ.â€
Inezâ€™s dark eyes twinkled as she gave her a sly grin. â€œYes, but itâ€™s your grandmother who pays my salary, Desiree. I take orders from Mrs. Carter. And she wants to see you downstairs in her office, pronto.â€
DJ grabbed her favorite Yankees ball cap and shoved it onto her head, pulling her scraggly looking blonde ponytail through the hole in the back of it.
â€œYouâ€™re wearing that?â€ asked Inez with a frown. â€œYou know what your grandmother says aboutâ€‰â€”â€‰-â€
â€œLook,â€ said DJ. â€œMy grandmother might pay you to take orders from her, but Iâ€™m a free agent. Got that?â€
Inez chuckled. â€œI got that. But youâ€™re the one whoâ€™ll be getting it before too long, Desiree.â€
â€œDJ,â€ she growled as she tromped loudly down the curving staircase. Why had she let Dad talk her into living with her grandmother for her last two years of high school? Sheâ€™d only been here since last spring, late into the school year, but long enough to know that it was nearly unbearable. Boarding school would be better than this. At least sheâ€™d have a little privacy there and no one constantly riding herâ€‰â€”â€‰-telling her how to act, walk, look, and think. She wished there were some way, short of running away (which would be totally stupid), out of this uncomfortable arrangement.
â€œThere you are,â€ said Grandmother when DJ walked into the office. Her grandmother frowned at her ball cap and then pasted what appeared to be a very forced smile onto her collagen-injected lips. â€œI want you to meet a new resident.â€ She made a graceful hand movement, motioning to where an attractive and somewhat familiar-looking Latina woman was sitting next to a fashionably dressed girl who seemed to be about DJâ€™s age, but could probably pass for older. The girl was beautiful. Even with the scowl creasing her forehead, it was obvious that this girl was stunning. Her skin was darker than her motherâ€™s, latte-colored and creamy. Her long black hair curled softly around her face. She had high cheekbones and dramatic eyes.
DJ noticed her grandmother smiling her approval on this unhappy-looking girl. But the girl looked oblivious as she fiddled with the gold chain of what looked like an expensive designer bag. Not that DJ was an expert when it came to fashion. The woman stood politely, extending her hand to DJ.
â€œIâ€™d like to present my granddaughter, Desiree Lane.â€ Grandmother turned back to DJ now, the approval evaporating from her expression. â€œDesiree, this is Ms. Perez and her daughter Taylor.â€
DJ shook the womanâ€™s hand and mumbled, â€œNice to meet you.â€ But the unfriendly daughter just sat in the leather chair, one long leg elegantly crossed over the other, as she totally ignored everyone in the room.
Grandmother continued speaking to DJ, although DJ suspected this little speech was for Taylorâ€™s mother. â€œMs. Perez and I first met when my magazine featured her for her illustrious music career. Her face graced our cover numerous times over the years. Perhaps youâ€™ve heard of Eva Perez.â€
The woman smiled. â€œOr perhaps not,â€ she said in a voice that was as smooth as honey. â€œAccording to my daughter, kids in your age group donâ€™t comprise even a minuscule part of my fan base.â€
DJ smiled at the woman now. â€œActually, I have heard of you, Ms. Perez. My mom used to play your CDs. She was a serious Latin jazz fan.â€
â€œWas?â€ She frowned. â€œI hope her taste in music hasnâ€™t changed. I need all the fans I can get these days.â€
Grandmother cleared her throat. â€œDesireeâ€™s motherâ€‰â€”â€‰-my daughterâ€‰â€”â€‰-was killed in a car accident about a year ago.â€
â€œOh, Iâ€™m so sorry.â€
DJ sort of nodded. She never knew how to react when -people said they were sorry about the loss of her mother. It wasnâ€™t as if it were their fault.
â€œDesiree,â€ said Grandmother, â€œWould you mind giving Taylor a tour of the house while I go over some business details with her mother?â€
Grandmotherâ€™s recently Botoxed forehead creased ever so slightly, and DJ knew that, once again, she had either said the wrong thing, used bad grammar, or was slumping like a â€œbag of potatoes.â€ Nothing she did ever seemed right when it came to her grandmother. â€œAnd after the tour, perhaps you could show Taylor to her room.â€
â€œWhich room?â€ asked DJ, feeling concerned. Sure, Taylor might be a perfectly nice person, even if a little snobbish, but DJ was not ready for a roommate just yet.
â€œThe blue room, please. Inez has already taken some of Taylorâ€™s bags up for her. Thank you, Desiree.â€
Feeling dismissed as well as disapproved of, DJ led their reluctant new resident out to the foyer. â€œWell, youâ€™ve probably already seen this.â€ DJ waved her arm toward the elegant front entrance with its carved double doors and shining marble floor and Persian rug. She motioned toward the ornate oak staircase. â€œAnd thatâ€™s where the bedrooms are, but we can see that later.â€ She walked through to the dining room. â€œThis is where we chow down.â€ She pointed to the swinging doors. â€œThe kitchenâ€™s back there, but the cook, Clara, can be a little witchy about trespassers.â€ DJ snickered. â€œBesides, my grandmother does not want her girls to spend much time in the kitchen anyway.â€
â€œLike thatâ€™s going to be a problem,â€ said Taylor, the first words sheâ€™d spoken since meeting DJ.
â€œHuh?â€ said DJ.
â€œI donâ€™t imagine anyone is going to be exactly pigging out around here. I mean arenâ€™t we all supposed to become famous models or something?â€ asked Taylor as she examined a perfectly manicured thumbnail.
DJ frowned. â€œWell, my grandmother did edit one of the biggest fashion magazines in the world, but I donâ€™t think that means weâ€™re all going to become famous models. I know Iâ€™m not.â€
Taylor peered curiously at her. â€œWhy not? Youâ€™ve got the height, the build, and youâ€™re not half bad looking .â€‰.â€‰. well, other than the fact that you obviously have absolutely no style.â€ She sort of laughed, but not with genuine humor. â€œBut then youâ€™ve got your grandmother to straighten that out for you.â€
DJ just shook her head. â€œI think my grandmother will give up on me pretty soon. Especially when the others get here. Sheâ€™ll have girls with more promise to set her sights on.â€ At least that was what DJ was hoping.
â€œHas anyone else arrived?â€
â€œNot yet.â€ DJ continued the tour. â€œThis is the library.â€ She paused to allow Taylor to look inside the room and then moved on. â€œAnd thatâ€™s the sunroom, or observatory, as Grandmother calls it.â€ She laughed. â€œHearing her talk about this house sometimes reminds me of playing Clue.â€
â€œYou know, the murder game, like where Colonel Mustard kills Mrs. Peacock with a wrench in the observatory.â€
â€œOh, I never played that.â€
â€œRight .â€‰.â€‰.â€ Then DJ showed Taylor the large living room, the most modern space in the house. Grandmother had put this room together shortly after deciding to take on her crazy venture. Above the fireplace hung a large flat-screen TV, which was connected to a state-of-the-art DVD and sound system. This was encircled by some comfortable pieces of leather furniture, pillows, and throws.
â€œNot bad,â€ admitted Taylor.
â€œWelcome back to the twenty-first century.â€
â€œDo you have wireless here?â€
â€œYeah. I told Grandmother it was a necessity for school.â€
â€œThis house has been in our family for a long time,â€ said DJ as she led Taylor up the stairs. â€œBut no one has lived here for the past twenty years. My grandmother had it restored after she retired a -couple of years ago.â€ DJ didnâ€™t add that her grandmother had been forced to retire due to her age (a carefully guarded and mysterious number) or that this new business venture, boarding teen â€œdebutantes,â€ was to help supplement her retirement income. Those were strict family secrets and, despite DJâ€™s angst in living here, she did have a sense of family loyaltyâ€‰â€”â€‰-at least for the time being. She wasnâ€™t sure if she could control herself indefinitely.
DJ stopped at the second-floor landing. â€œThe bedrooms are on this floor, and the third floor has a ballroom that would be perfect for volleyball, although Grandmother has made it clear that itâ€™s not that kind of ballroom.â€ She led Taylor down the hall. â€œMy bedroom is here,â€ she pointed to the closed door. â€œAnd yours is right next door.â€ She opened the door. â€œThe blue room.â€
Taylor looked into the pale blue room and shook her head in a dismal way. â€œAnd is it true that I have to share this room with a perfect stranger?â€
â€œWell, I donâ€™t know how perfect sheâ€™ll be.â€
â€œFunny.â€ Taylor rolled her eyes as she opened a door to one of the walk-in closets opposite the beds.
â€œItâ€™s not as big as I expected.â€
â€œItâ€™s bigger than it looks,â€ said DJ as she walked into the room and then pointed to a small alcove that led to the bathroom.
â€œDo I get any say in who becomes my roommate?â€
â€œI guess you can take that up with my grandmother.â€
Taylor tossed her purse onto the bed closest to the bathroom and then kicked off her metallic-toned sandals. â€œThese shoes might be Marc Jacobs, but theyâ€™re killing me.â€
â€œSo, youâ€™re really into this?â€ asked DJ. â€œThe whole fashion thing?â€
Taylor sat down on the bed, rubbing a foot. â€œThereâ€™s nothing wrong with wanting to look good.â€
DJ felt the need to bite her tongue. Taylor was her grandmotherâ€™s first official paying customer to arrive and participate in this crazy scheme. Far be it from DJ to rock Grandmotherâ€™s boat. At least not just yet.
â€œWell, thanks for the tour,â€ said Taylor in a bored voice. Then she went over to where a set of expensive-looking luggage was stacked in a corner. â€œDonâ€™t the servants around here know how to put things away properly?â€
â€œProperly?â€ DJ shrugged.
Taylor picked up the top bag and laid it down on the bench at the foot of one of the beds and opened it.
â€œDonâ€™t you want to go down and tell your mom good-bye?â€ asked DJ as she moved toward the door.
Taylor laughed in a mean way. â€œAnd make her think sheâ€™s doing me a favor by dumping me here? Not on your life.â€
â€œHere are some more bags for Miss Mitchell,â€ said Inez as she lugged two large suitcases into the room, setting them by the door.
â€œPut them over there,â€ commanded Taylor, pointing to the bench at the foot of the other bed. â€œAnd donâ€™t pile them on top of each other. This happens to be Louis Vuitton, you know.â€
DJ saw Inez make a face behind Taylorâ€™s back. But the truth was DJ didnâ€™t blame her. Inez might be a housekeeper, but she didnâ€™t deserve to be treated like a slave. Suddenly, DJ felt guilty for snapping at Inez earlier today. She smiled now, and Inez looked surprised and a little suspicious. Then DJ grabbed the largest bag, hoisted it onto the bench with a loud grunt, and Taylor turned around and gave her a dark scowl.
â€œThank you,â€ she snapped.
â€œLater,â€ said DJ as she exited the room with Inez on her heels.
â€œMrs. Carter wants to see you downstairs, Desiree,â€ announced Inez when they were out on the landing.
â€œAgain?â€ complained DJ. â€œWhat for?â€
â€œAnother girl just arrived. Your grandmother wants you to give her a tour too.â€
â€œWhat am I now?â€ asked DJ. â€œThe official tour guide?â€
â€œThat sounds about right.â€ Inez gave her a smirk.
DJ wasnâ€™t sure if she could stomach another fashion diva with an attitude problem, but on the other hand, she didnâ€™t want to risk another etiquette lecture from her grandmother either. Once again, she clomped down the stairs and made her appearance in the office, suppressing the urge to bow and say, â€œAt your ser-vice, Madam.â€
â€œEliza,â€ gushed Grandmother, â€œThis is my granddaughter, Desiree Lane. And Desiree, Iâ€™d like you to meet Eliza Wilton.â€
â€œItâ€™s a pleasure to meet you, Desiree.â€
DJ nodded. She could tell by how formal her grandmother was acting that Eliza Wilton must be someone really importantâ€‰â€”â€‰-meaning extraordinarily wealthyâ€‰â€”â€‰-even more so than the Mitchells. And thatâ€™s when she remembered her grandmother going on about â€œthe Wilton fortuneâ€ this morning at breakfast. Of course, that must be Elizaâ€™s family.
â€œNice to meet ya, Eliza,â€ DJ said in a purposely casual tone. This girl was pretty too, but not like Taylorâ€™s dark and dramatic beauty. Eliza was a tall, slender, impeccably dressed, blue-eyed blonde. She wasnâ€™t exactly a Paris Hilton cloneâ€‰â€”â€‰-and she didnâ€™t have a little dog as far as DJ could seeâ€‰â€”â€‰-but there was a similarity, except that Elizaâ€™s face was a little softer looking, a little sweeter, but then looks could be deceiving.
DJ wondered if the Botox was starting to wear off, as her grandmother studied her with a furrowed brow, probably comparing her to Miss Perfect Eliza. Naturally, DJ would not measure up.
â€œEliza is from Louisville,â€ said Grandmother. â€œHer parents are presently residing in France, where her father just purchased a vineyard. But Elizaâ€™s grandmother and I are old friends. We went to college together. When she heard about what I was doing up here in Connecticut, she encouraged her daughter to send dear Eliza our way.â€
â€œLucky Eliza,â€ said DJ in a droll tone.
Eliza actually giggled. Then Grandmother cleared her throat. â€œDesiree will give you a tour of the house,â€ she said. â€œAnd sheâ€™ll show you to your room.â€
â€œWhich is .â€‰.â€‰.â€‰?â€ asked DJ.
â€œThe rose room.â€
Of course, thought DJ as she led Eliza from the office. Next to her grandmotherâ€™s suite, the rose room was probably the best room in the house. Naturally, someone as important as Eliza would be entitled to that. Not that DJ had wanted it. And perhaps her grandmother had actually offered it to her last month. DJ couldnâ€™t remember. But she had never been a flowery sort of girl, and she knew the rose wallpaper in there wouldâ€™ve been giving her a serious migraine by now. Besides she liked her sunny yellow bedroom and, in her opinion, it had the best view in the house. On a clear day, you could actually glimpse a sliver of the Atlantic Ocean from her small bathroom window.
DJ started to do a repeat of her earlier tour, even using the same lines, until she realized that Eliza was actually interested.
â€œHow old is this house?â€
â€œJust over a hundred years,â€ DJ told her. â€œIt was built in 1891.â€
â€œIt has a nice feel to it.â€
DJ considered this. â€œYeah, I kinda thought that too, after I got used to it. To be honest, it seemed pretty big to me at first. But then youâ€™re probably used to big houses.â€
â€œI suppose. Not that Iâ€™m particularly fond of mansions.â€
â€œWhy arenâ€™t you with your parents?â€ asked DJ. â€œIn France?â€
â€œTheyâ€™re concerned about things like politics and security,â€ said Eliza as they exited the library. â€œIn fact, they almost refused to let me come here.â€
â€œOh, I think they felt I was safer in boarding school. If our grandmothers hadnâ€™t been such good friends, Iâ€™m sure they never wouldâ€™ve agreed.â€
â€œSo, youâ€™re happy to be here?â€ DJ studied Elizaâ€™s expression.
â€œSure, arenâ€™t you?â€
DJ frowned. â€œI donâ€™t know .â€‰.â€‰. I guess.â€
â€œI think itâ€™ll be fun to go to a real high school, to just live like a normal girl, with other normal girls.â€
DJ tried not to look too shocked. â€œYou think this is normal?â€
Eliza laughed. â€œI guess I donâ€™t really know what normal is, but itâ€™s more normal that what Iâ€™m used to.â€
â€œBut what about the whole fashion thing?â€ asked DJ. â€œI mean you must know about my grandmotherâ€™s plans to turn us all into little debutantes. Are you into all that?â€
â€œThatâ€™s nothing new. Remember, Iâ€™m from the south. My family is obsessed with turning me into a lady. That was one of the other reasons my parents agreed to this. I think they see the Carter House as some sort of finishing school.â€
Or some sort of reformatory school, thought DJ. Although she didnâ€™t say it out loud. Not yet, anyway.
Read my review, check out the author’s site by clicking on her picture and read other Teen FIRST Bloggers’ reviews (there’s a member list on the sidebar of the Teen FIRST Blog – click the logo to go there). And don’t forget all the info on the bookseller page the bookcover will land you there.