Kathryn Schleich has announced the release of her latest book, Darkness and Grace, a family saga / domestic thriller.
Inspired by real-life events, Darkness and Grace is a compelling story of the Pierson family as they discover that neither their money nor their considerable influence can keep them safe from one woman’s malicious intent.
Even the strongest of families aren’t immune to malice, betrayal, and deceit. Supportive, loving, and affluent, the Pierson family is delighted to celebrate the marriage of sensitive middle son Paul Pierson and his wife, Pamela. Everyone rejoices that Paul has finally recovered from the tragic loss of his beloved first wife and looks forward to Paul and Pamela’s new life together. But just as family members are celebrating his happiness, they start noticing that his beautiful bride may not be what she seems.
As the strain between siblings and spouses worsens, the Piersons discover that neither their money nor their considerable influence can keep the family safe from one woman’s malicious intent. When the true nature of this family member is revealed, each of the Piersons is confronted with the quandary of human conduct and moral responsibility.
Darkness and Grace is a compelling story of the classic struggle between good and evil, as well as the violent undercurrent running beneath the illusory serenity of a close-knit Midwestern family.
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
Darkness and Grace was inspired by real-life events involving my family in the early 1990s. Each time I would discuss the true occurrences, people would comment, “This is a great story. You need to write a book.” After initial trepidation, I recognized this was not only a story worth telling, but it was one that comes to an author only once in a lifetime.
Originally published in 2007 under a pseudonym with the title Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace, this book is a work of fiction. To write the narrative, I employed aspects of historical fiction, using authentic news accounts, world events, settings, and descriptions involving entirely fictional characters. Darkness and Grace is of the domestic thriller genre in which familial relationships can prove to be far more dangerous than the world at large.
Excerpt from Chapter 2:
“You know, I still feel guilty about what happened and how I reacted. But that night, all I saw was a drunk gold-digger who was not in love with Paul but in love with his money. I’m grateful you were so persistent that I hear Pamela’s side, but even then, it wasn’t easy to forget.”
The incident had been an agonizing experience that had caught everyone off guard. Paul and Pamela had announced their engagement on New Year’s Day, and soon after that, Jack and Michelle, along with Tim and I, took them out for a celebratory dinner. We chose the Lake Elmo Inn. It had been the setting of many Pierson family special occasions, from Easter brunch to anniversaries, and was our first choice for such happy circumstances. The inn was tucked along the main street of Lake Elmo, a small Minnesota town that retained a rural charm while surrounded by sprawling cities and burgeoning suburbs. Only a few miles from the Wisconsin border, it meant driving from one side of the Twin Cities to the other. Even so, the food, service, and memories made it well worth the trip. We would toast Paul and Pamela’s happiness and hear their plans for the wedding.
The evening had started out well, the couple asking each of us to participate in the ceremony. Paul and Pamela had both been through major life traumas, and as their gift, Mother and Dad had offered to pay for the wedding. Pamela started drinking the moment we were seated, ordering a double shot of Jack Daniels. Within thirty minutes, her manner transformed from charming to surly; her voice grew louder and more obnoxious with each drink.
As Pamela was in the middle of describing her designer gown, the custom bridesmaid dresses, the invitations, and the flowers, our waiter appeared, carrying a tray of lemon sorbet. “What the hell is this?” she demanded.
“It’s a sorbet, ma’am, to cleanse your palate before the main course.”
“I don’t want this! Just get me another drink!” She swatted at the waiter as if he were an annoying fly.
“Pamela, please keep your voice down,” Paul said, his tone colored by embarrassment.
“Don’t tell me what to do!” she snapped. “I just need to relax, and you’re being an asshole.” We were acutely aware of the other patrons staring at our table, but Pamela was indifferent. “Has Paul told you about our honeymoon? Three weeks in Paris, London, and Rome, staying at the best five-star hotels.”
“Wow. That sounds expensive,” Jack commented.
“It’s not like your parents can’t afford it, Jack,” Pamela sneered. “Mom and Dad are paying for the honeymoon, too?” I asked. Pamela was undeterred. “Of course they’re paying for it,” she shot back. “They said we could have the wedding and honeymoon that we wanted, and this is what I want.”
“What about what Paul wants?” Michelle asked.
Our waiter had returned, preparing to serve dinner. Pamela demanded her drink. “Where the hell’s my drink?”
“Ma’am, if I could just serve the main course—”
“I want another drink and I want it now!” she shouted. A second waiter intervened, saying he would bring her cocktail right away, the five of us watching in silence, appalled by this side of Pamela we hadn’t seen.
Under the influence of large amounts of alcohol, Pamela was oblivious to her surroundings. She continued talking, blithely describing the trip she and Paul had made to Dayton’s department store to choose their bridal registry items. The list seemed excessive: Waterford crystal in the Lismore pattern, Irish linens, a sterling silver coffee service. The china and sterling flatware were special-order. Even the ordinary items needed to start a home—cookware, appliances, sheets, towels—were top of the line. Pamela relished describing the list, chattering on about our family’s wealthy friends and whom she expected to “pony up” expensive gifts.
As the celebratory dinner continued to deteriorate, I excused myself to use the ladies’ room. I rose from the table and Michelle was suddenly at my elbow. “I’ll go with you,” she said, and we made our way across the crowded main dining room, conscious of the stares. It was the bridal registry that had sent Michelle into a tailspin. As we entered the ladies’ room, she threw her evening bag across the white-and-green-tiled lounge in a rage, the contents spilling across the floor.
“This is not the girl we want Paul to marry!” she shouted. Michelle’s outburst caught me off guard and left me gasping for a response. She slammed her fist against the vanity, continuing her angry rant. “We’ve all been duped! Pamela Schaeffer is a world-class gold-digger!”
I couldn’t deny that Pamela’s behavior was inexcusable, but as a recovering alcoholic myself, I knew firsthand about the stinging consequences of being drunk in public, talking too loudly, stumbling across a room, and making an all-around fool of myself. I also knew it could have been an isolated incident fueled by stress. It didn’t necessarily point to deeper problems. Even as the older sibling who’d always been protective of both of my brothers—but especially Paul—I thought we owed Pamela a bit of grace.
We replaced the contents of Michelle’s purse, and I suggested we give Pamela a second chance. We returned from the restroom just as the evening was ending abruptly. Jack was asking for the check, though desserts were only partially eaten. I hoped we could depart without Pamela making any more of a scene than she already had, but a discreet exit was not to be. We’d been seated in the center of the room, which meant we had to navigate a maze of diners. Pamela stumbled and lurched hard into the nearest table, clinking china and spilling wine as she slammed into it.
“Look what you’ve done!” one of the diners said angrily. “Fuck you!” she retorted, and the dining room grew eerily still. “I am so sorry,” I said, mortified. “We will make this right.”
From the corner of my eye I saw Jack motion to a waiter, handing him a credit card. He whispered something, no doubt giving instructions to purchase a new bottle of wine for the upset patrons.
Tim and Paul each grabbed Pamela by an elbow and guided her out of the restaurant as gracefully as they could. She was spewing venom at everyone. “Let go of me! You are such fucking assholes!”
Every pair of eyes followed us. In the throes of embarrassment, I felt as if I were burning up. Outside, despite the January cold, I tore off my wool coat.
“What are you doing?” Michelle asked in alarm.
“I’m so hot,” I panted, the cold air sharp against my lungs. “This whole evening has been a horrifying mess.”
“And you think we should give her a second chance?” Michelle seethed.
In her wobbly condition, Pamela slipped on the icy black street. Tim and Jack caught her before she fell, but she flailed wildly. The men supported Pamela until they could get her into the back seats of the SUV, where she passed out almost immediately.
We reached Paul and Pamela’s colonial-style home in Edina— an affluent suburb of Minneapolis—45 minutes later. It took both Jack and Tim to carry Pamela’s dead weight into the house, Paul guiding them to the bedroom. Paul was visibly shaken, confessing he had never seen Pamela exhibit this kind of behavior. I did my best to comfort him. On the drive home, Michelle remained insistent that the wedding must be called off.
The next day, Pamela paid a heavy price for her overindulgence. She suffered a head-pounding hangover and couldn’t recall much of the evening, particularly the end, and it caused her great shame. I hoped she did not have a drinking problem, but I knew all too well that blacking out was a sign of trouble ahead. Pamela apologized to each of us, contrite in her quest for forgiveness. She said she had let the stress of her job and planning the wedding get to her and recognized her behavior had been abominable. As I thought about how happy she made Paul, and the transformation that had occurred since they met, I was willing to forgive her. She seemed genuinely sorry. Jack and Tim also accepted her apology, believing this was an unfortunate instance of poor judgment.
Michelle, however, would not be so easily convinced. Her response to the apology was chilly, an attitude Pamela sensed immediately. I implored Michelle to give her an opportunity to redeem herself, reminding her of how far Paul had evolved due to her.
To regain Michelle’s trust, Pamela began by asking for her input. Michelle and Jack had held their wedding reception at the Lafayette Club, and Pamela consulted her for ideas on the menu, seating, music, and decorations. She asked if they would allow Ruthie and Sam to participate as the flower girl and ring bearer. Michelle felt Sam might be too young, but Pamela explained it was important to her to have the children included in what she viewed as a family affair. Michelle began to waver, realizing she was not being fair in holding one unpleasant evening as a benchmark for ending the relationship that had brought Paul so far.
Watching Paul and Pamela’s wedding dance cheek to cheek across the polished hardwood floor, Michelle patted my arm and smiled. “I was wrong to be so judgmental. Paul is happier than I ever thought possible, and Pamela is the reason.”
“Don’t be hard on yourself,” I said. “It was a difficult situation for everyone, but Pamela made amends. That’s what counts.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kathryn Schleich has been a writer for more than 30 years. She is best known for her crime novel, Salvation Station, which was published through She Writes Press in 2020. Schleich has also published the short story “Reckless Acts,” featured in After Effects: A Zimbell House Anthology, and “Grand Slam,” published in The Acentos Review. She is also the author of the academic book Hollywood and Catholic Women: Virgins, Whores, Mothers, and Other Images, which evolved from her master’s thesis. Her guest posts have been featured on the Women On Writing blog, The Muffin, and she writes for the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation’s volunteer newsletter. When she’s not writing, Schleich is likely volunteering in the education and arts communities in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, where she lives. Friends, family, good food, wine, and traveling are important aspects of her life.
Darkness and Grace is available for sale on Amazon and on Kathryn’s website: https://www.kathrynschleich.com/product/darkness-and-grace-by-kathryn-schleich/
For more information about Schleich, and to read her latest works, visit KathrynSchleich.com.
To request an interview with Kathryn Schleich or a copy of Darkness and Grace to review, please contact Kelsey Butts at Book Publicity Services at (805) 807-9027 or Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com