Sunday, June 21, 2020

Book Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Key to Everything by Valeria Fraser Luesse

Valerie Fraser Luesse

Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: June 2, 2020
Number of Pages: 352

Scroll down for the giveaway!
Based on a true story, Valerie Fraser Luesse’s new novel takes readers on an incredible journey of self-discovery. The poignant prose, enchanting characters, and captivating settings in The Key to Everything make this a moving story that readers won’t soon forget. Peyton Cabot’s fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from WWII a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon, and distancing himself from his son. When a tragic accident separates Peyton from his parents, and the girl of his dreams seems out of reach, he struggles to cope with a young life upended.

Pushed to his limit, Peyton makes a daring decision: he will retrace a slice of the journey his father took at fifteen by riding his bicycle all the way from St. Augustine to Key West, Florida. Part loving tribute, part search for self, Peyton’s journey will unlock more than he ever could have imagined, including the key to his distant father, a calling that will shape the rest of his life, and the realization that he’s willing to risk absolutely everything for the girl he loves.


The Key to Everything, Excerpt 2
Chapter One
(To read Excerpt 1, click here)

The boys listened as their Uncle Gil retold his favorite story, the same one he told at every spring picnic. “Marshall says to me, he says, ‘I believe I’ve seen all this ol’ camp has to offer.’ And I says, ‘What you plan on doin’ about it?’ That’s when he pointed at the bicycles Papa had left for us. He says, ‘I’m gonna ride my bicycle to Key West and see what those islands look like.’”

The cousins finished the story with their uncle, repeating his favorite line in unison: “And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the last time Marshall Cabot ever let anybody tell him what to do.”

Winston leaned back to rest against the oak tree. “How many times you reckon he’s told that story?”

“How many spring picnics we had?” Prentiss answered. “Every time he tells it, Uncle Marshall makes the trip in less time.”

Looking up at the sprawling branches above, Peyton watched one squirrel chase another, spiraling up the trunk for several feet and then racing back down again. They repeated their circular journey over and over, as if they were following a racetrack around the tree.

“Reckon they know there’s a whole big world outside that oak?” he said.

“Who you talkin’ about?” Winston asked.

Peyton pointed to the squirrels above. “Those little guys. Reckon they think this tree is all there is—the whole wide world up in those branches?”

“Seriously?” Winston threw a twig at him and missed. “I think a squirrel’s a squirrel.”

The boys were quiet for a while before Prentiss said, “How long did it take your daddy to get to that dang island?”

Peyton listened to the oak tree sighing in the spring breeze. “I got his old map out and figured it up. Looks like it’s somewhere in the neighborhood o’ six hundred miles from that old boys’ camp on the Okefenokee to Key West, so twelve hundred there and back. And he wrote dates on different spots on the map—not everywhere he stopped because the dates are too far apart. No way he pedaled two hundred miles without resting somewhere—doubt anybody could make it more than fifty in a day. And it looked like he stayed awhile in St. Augustine. But judging by the dates after he left there, I’d say that leg of it, at least, took him about a month.”

“And nobody came after him?” Prentiss wanted to know.

“He said he promised Granddaddy Cabot that if they’d let him be, he’d call collect every Sunday to let ’em know he was alright, which he did.”

“Ain’t no way he saddled a bicycle for a month,” Winston said. “He musta thumbed some rides.”

“Well, hold on now,” Peyton said, sitting up. “’Course you’d have to stop and rest along the way. You’d have to figure all that out before you left. And you’d prob’ly wear out your tires over and over, so that’d have to be worked out. Then there’s your clothes and food . . .”

“You sure have given this a lotta thought.” Now Prentiss was interested. “Why don’t you just ask Uncle Marshall how he did it?”

“I have—lotsa times,” Peyton answered. “He just smiles and says that’s something I’ll have to figure out for myself.”

“Uncle Gil always tells the story like it was a spur-o’-the-minute thing,” Prentiss said.

Peyton ran a finger along a seam on the quilt where they sat, absently tracing its north-south path. “I don’t think so. The map has a price tag on it from the Savannah Shop ’n Go, so he bought it here. And it’s dated 1921—that year Daddy woulda been 13, but he didn’t make the trip till he was 15, same as us. Maybe he didn’t mark all his stops ahead o’ time. Can’t really tell. But I believe he was thinking about it before he left for camp.”

“You believe it’s possible—that he rode the whole way on his bike, I mean?” Prentiss asked him.

Peyton nodded. “Yeah, I do. It wouldn’a been easy, but it’s possible. I know his first stop in Florida was Aunt Rosalie’s in Jacksonville. That’s seventy-five miles from the camp. Aunt Lily’s family lives in St. Augustine—maybe he stayed there awhile to visit with them because he didn’t get to Flagler Beach till nearly two weeks later, and it’s only thirty miles away. The trick would be figuring out where to stay and where to get supplies—food and water and someplace to wash your clothes. ’Specially if you went in the summertime, it’d be hot as blue blazes, so you’d be sweatin’ like a pig.”

“I got fifty bucks that says you’ll never do it,” Winston said.

“Me too,” Prentiss said. “I’ll put down fifty bucks.”

“I never said I was gonna do it. I just said I think it’s possible.”

“Sounds like he’s bailin’,” Winston said.

“Yep,” Prentiss agreed.

“’Course I’m bailin’,” Peyton said. “Why would I want to spend my summer pedaling a bicycle and let some other guy move in on Lisa?”

“You got a point,” Prentiss said.

Peyton picked a dandelion and held it up in the breeze to watch its feathers fly. “Y’all would seriously pay me a hundred bucks if I did it?”

“Yeah, but if you start the ride and quit, you gotta pay us fifty bucks apiece,” Winston said. “Wanna bet?”

“Not yet,” Peyton said. “But I’ll think about it.”

They looked up as a horse appeared from the pecan grove. Actually, they heard it before they saw it—a thunder of hooves hitting the ground as a powerful Thoroughbred named Bootlegger raced around the border of the front lawn and made his way to the rear garden before following the same dirt road Peyton’s mother had taken. The rider, at once familiar and foreign, looked reckless even at this distance, holding the reins in one hand and a bottle of bourbon in the other, his boots tight against the horse’s sides, his sandy hair blown by the spring breeze.

Peyton was at once sickened and mesmerized by the sight of it. He heard the familiar murmurs rippling across the porch. “I’m tellin’ you, he’s gonna kill hisself with that bottle . . .”

(To finish reading chapter one of The Key to Everything, click here.)
Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and Almost Home, as well as an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse received the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society for her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana. A graduate of Auburn University and Baylor University, she lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, Dave. 

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One Winner: Copy of The Key to Everything, Necklace and a $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card; 
Two Winners: Copy of The Key to Everything + $10 Starbucks Gift Card
June16-26, 2020
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