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The Art of Rebellion by Brenda Joyce Leahy
Publication Date: June 15, 2016
Publisher: Rebelight Publishing
Art is Gabrielle's passion, but her parents have other plans for her future-marriage to a man three times her age who holds nothing but disdain for art. Gabrielle is determined to escape life as the baron's trophy wife and the confinement of traditional roles. She flees her privileged home in the French countryside for Paris and the grandmother who understands her passion. When she cannot locate her grandmother, Gabrielle is left on her own in the City of Lights. The art world of Paris, 1900, brims with excitement, opportunity, and risk. Should Gabrielle trust her new friends, or will they take advantage of her hopes and dreams?
I desperately wanted to prove myself as one of this group. How bad could it be? “All right.”
Eight shot glasses were quickly lined up on the bar. Henri slopped a murky greenish spirit into each glass and diluted it with a splash of water from a carafe. Absinthe. Papa carried it in his store. Only a foolish few bought the liquor called the Green Fairy for its hallucinogenic properties. Pablo and I were made to stand in front of the bar. Alphonse flipped a coin. “Gabbi first. Four shots for each of you . . . if you can remain standing that long.”
As a woman, I could have refused. The men wouldn’t likely have minded. But that was exactly why I had to do it, to meet men’s standards regardless of how ridiculous they might be. My face already flushed from cheap wine, I shot back the first glass without hesitation. It burned with a raging sweetness that took my breath away.
Pablo didn’t wait for me to finish and downed all four of his shots in quick succession. Leaning against the bar, he folded his arms across his chest and regarded me through eyes now narrowed to slits. “Can’t keep up?” he taunted, his voice slurred.
“More water,” Julie insisted and tipped the carafe into the three remaining glasses.
I picked up another shot. “Santé!” I tipped it back. This time, the burning abated somewhat. Flavours of anise or fennel and other herbs and flowers bloomed inside my mouth quite pleasantly. A misty halo spread out from the oil lamps behind the bar, endowing everyone with a gentle aura. A grin spread across my face. I could hold my own amongst the men, just as I could hold my own at art.
As I reached for the third glass, the chanting around me swelled to a crescendo. “Gabbi, Gabbi, Gabbi!” Faces around me blurred, came into focus again and dissolved into the smoky haze . . . vaguely familiar faces. We met . . . yes, tonight. Artists. I grinned, downed the third glass, and slapped it upside down on the bar. There was Julie. And Alphonse. Who was the American, the one who loved to paint outdoors? And the dark burly Russian?
I looked past the bar to a sullen woman seated at a nearby table, glaring at me. Babette. This had been her idea. And I’d agreed. Why was she angry?
The man with the yellow scarf—Pablo?—was passed out, head on his arms. I won! My grin stretched wider.
The Russian . . . Konstantin . . . spoke into my ear, but laughter and chatter and the drum beat inside my head made it impossible to hear. “Pardon?”
“No more for you, Mademoiselle.” He put his hand over the remaining shot glass.
“You’re no fun!” I reached around him for the last glass, but I slipped on something slick and fell backward. “Whoops!”
He caught my elbow and righted me.
“I need to sit down.” My voice came from somewhere far away, not my own at all.
Konstantin guided me toward our table. The floor turned soft underneath me, and I sat down with a very unladylike thump.
Henri teased me from across the table. “Gabbi, Gabbi, you disappoint me. Only three?” He stroked his goatee, arm around Babette, who nuzzled his neck.
I blinked and tried to focus on him. There were two of him, then one. I leaned toward him before he could split into twins again, and I stroked my own chin. “Perhaps Monsieur would like to demonstrate how a man can hold his liquor?”
“Hah!” Alphonse slapped Henri on the back. “You have to defend our manhood.”
A full bottle of absinthe appeared on the table. But Henri didn’t just drink it with a splash of water, like Pablo and I. “Now, I show you how to drink absinthe properly!” Henri announced with a grand swing of his arm. “Messieurs and Mesdames—the Green Fairy Ritual!”
One part absinthe, a cube of sugar in a slotted silver spoon, three parts water poured over the sugar, and the emerald liquor turned murky white.
“One . . . Two . . . Three . . . Four!”
“Well done, Henri!” someone shouted from across the table.
“You don’t have to prove anything, Gabbi.” Julie’s voice travelled toward me garbled and indistinct, as if underwater.
Brenda Joyce Leahy has travelled to France five times but finds there’s always more explorations awaiting her. She loves historical fiction and thinks she was born a century too late but can’t imagine her life without computers or cell phones. So, perhaps, she arrived in the world at just the right moment to tell this story.
She grew up on a farm near Taber, Alberta but now lives with her family near the Rocky Mountains in Calgary, Alberta. After over 20 years practising law, she has returned to her first love of writing fiction. She is a member of several writing organizations, including the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI): her profile there is http://www.scbwi.org/members-public/brenda-johnson-2. The Art of Rebellion is also profiled on the Humber School of Writers’ website at http://creativearts.humber.ca/programs/school-writers/published-books. Brenda is also a member of the Historical Novel Society: http://www.historicalnovelsociety.org, and leads a YA/MG writers’ critique group in Calgary.
The Art of Rebellion is her first Young Adult novel, published by Rebelight Publishing, spring 2016.
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