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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Quiver of the Pure Heart by Burnita Bluitt (Virtual Book Release Day Blitz Event)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book release day blitz event for Quiver of the Pure Heart by Author Burnita Bluitt!

Book Release Day Blitz Event

Quiver of the Pure Heart by Burnita Bluitt 
Publisher: Bookstand Publishing
Publication Date: October 1, 2014
Format: Paperback / eBook - 272 pages
ISBN: 978-1618639370
Genre: Romantic Suspense / Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Quiver of the Pure Heart

Book Description: 

Granddaughter of a loving, but roguish businessman, Blis Dumas can’t escape a legacy of lies. The time is 1989. The place is San Francisco, where painful stories of gentrification, eviction and relocation still echo within its limits.

Clinging desperately to the Victorian home she inherited, she is confronted by a stranger that brings her a life filled with revenge, corruption, and murder. In an unparalleled twist of fate, she discovers that her predicament may have roots buried much closer to home. Blis’ world starts to crumble as she fights the Bureau to save the home she adores; fights the temptation of an incorrigible former lover; and fights the perils threatening the tender passion of a new budding romance.

Quiver of the Pure Heart will appeal to readers that appreciate a social setting that illuminates the universal themes of desire, forgiveness, revenge, and letting go. San Francisco is one of the loves of Blis’ life, and like any love relationship, it is where her emotions will be tested, where romance will live and die, and where people are not always as they seem. Burnita Bluitt offers a spirited and passionate story of love and corruption in the city by the bay.

Book Excerpt:


We are like the little branch that quivers during a storm,

doubting our strength and forgetting we are the tree—deeply rooted

to withstand all life’s upheavals.

— Dodinsky


January, 1989

THEY TRIED TO eliminate the Fillmore District’s poverty by leveling the neighborhood, the same way earthquakes release the earth’s tectonic strain, arguably with good intention, but in the most devastating and tragic way. I was born and raised in the proud, yet beleaguered, Fillmore. A small subset of San Francisco’s Western Addition. Blis Dumas was my name, and my neighborhood was full of blessed realities and powerful forces that could leave a scar on your soul. Unwritten rules dictated its place in society, and bureaucrats said it encouraged a culture of deficiency, creating a need for renewal.

Streets in the Fillmore were lined with mom-and-pop grocery stores, shoulder-to-shoulder stucco duplexes, meat markets, multi-level apartment buildings, washhouses, projects, and old, iconic, single-family Victorians like mine.

Late one day when I was tired to the bone, the setting sun was cloaked in a gloomy haze. A kaleidoscope of Jolly Rancher candies flirted with me from the crystal bowl on the marble tabletop. I sucked on my favorite green apple flavor and stood on the staircase, stroking the deep golden luster of the oak railing. My fingertips lingered on the gooseneck fitting where the staircase curved up and to the left, where the Rococo-style chandelier floated, suspended from its medallion of flowers and fluttering cherubic angels. I wondered how much longer they would be there to quietly watch over me.

“Blis Dumas?” a portly gentleman bellowed, tapping on one of the tinted lead glass panels that centered each of the double doors.

“I don’t want any,” I shouted. No one was expected, so I wasn’t going to answer, but the man was bending over and peering through the window, looking right at me.

“Miss, it is about your home. May I have a word with you?”

Trust is not my strong suit, and a personal visit about my house made me a bit nervous, but I slowly opened the door. “May I help you?”

He observed me over the top of his black-and-silver eyeglasses. They were conventional, full rimmed and bookish, but with a bit of character on the arm’s gold accent, which glistened a little under the porch light.

“Miss, my name is George Maynard, and I’m extending a courtesy call to you today regarding correspondence you should have received about your house.” He spoke with a genial accent that I could not place. I’d never been very good at differentiating between English, Irish, and Scottish accents, but his inflection would have been appropriate for Shakespeare’s stage. In fact, he had an Old World Savile Row appearance, with his bow tie and an unmistakably sophisticated hand-tailored suit; he even sported what looked like a pocket watch. It was a very strange affect for an African-American man.

“It seems that you have not responded. Might I ascertain—”

“If you’re referring to the letters about stealing my house, then yes, I received them, and I’ve responded. It isn’t for sale.”

He leaned against the balustrade and sighed, as if fatigued. The stripes on his shirt stretched and compressed with each heavy breath. Behind him, the rush-hour traffic raced down Bush Street. Now that I knew why he had come, I was even more annoyed. A police siren blared in the background, expressing my feelings.

“Miss Dumas, I assure you, no one is trying to steal your house. This is 1989, not the Old West,” he said in a patronizing tone.

I had neither the time nor the inclination to utter another word to him. He sounded like he’d gone to my father’s school of law: If you take something from someone and you do it in front of them, it isn’t stealing; it’s more like a moral mugging.

“Perhaps you will allow me to inform you properly—”

“I am excruciatingly well informed about what is going on here.”

“Then surely you realize that this is a matter of securing the necessary right of way to attract new business customers and to diversify the residents and visitors to this area. Actually, this project is intended to extend Pacific Heights further into the Fillmore District. We like to call it the Lower Pacific Heights,” he said with a cunning smile.

“Well, your little Manifest Destiny passion play sounds like a real Mardi Gras, Maynard, but you can’t have my house to do it.” As I started to close the door, his outstretched hand pressed against it just enough to keep me from shutting it completely. His long fingers were covered in strange dry patches, just like his face. His knuckles seemed to have disappeared under the leathery skin.

Sometimes the odds are good, and sometimes the goods are odd.

“I understand your concern, but we are prepared to offer a fair market value for the property.”

“There is one thing you should know about me, Mr. Maynard. I will not give up this house for any price.”

“Everyone has their price, miss, I assure you.” His lips curled slightly at the edge in a black-hearted smile, and his tone was unhurried and taunting.

The idea of him suggesting I could be bought infuriated me. “Your Redevelopment Bureau had its chance to change this neighborhood and you failed. I can’t believe how easily you people are willing to sell out this neighborhood’s history and culture to the highest bidder.”

“I know this is a difficult and unfortunate situation, but maybe you should consider that redevelopment ventures are for the public good,” he said. “It’s for your benefit. Perhaps you are feeling that somehow . . .” he looked at me for the first time with what seemed sympathy and understanding, “. . . that somehow this is in part your fault.”

“Are you insane?” I screamed. “The fault belongs to you greedy people. The fault belongs to the public and private interests that want to change the demographics of the Fillmore. This is not my fault; it’s my community’s misfortune.”

As if he didn’t hear me, he continued, “Indeed, I know leaving in such an untimely fashion will be difficult at first, relocation and such, but let me assure you . . .”

Through clenched teeth, I seethed, “You listen to me. I could give a cat’s hat about your version of public good. My grandfather saved his money and bought this house. Having it is my birthright. Now, it’s been a long day and I’m exhausted, so if you don’t mind.” Mama Rose’s words popped into my head, “Show your raising.” However,my lips were pursed, ready with profanity. Even my stomach growled.

I thought the fat man might soften and begin to understand how precious this home was to me, or at the very least, recognize the conversation was not going his way and leave; but he stayed, his discomposure growing with each rebuff.

“Yes, I am aware of the legacy here.”

I couldn’t hide the surprise in my eyes. “You are?”

Maynard’s posture stiffened and his smile faded. He stared at me—his eyes void of emotion—and took a step closer. He put his hand on the glass doorknob and actually stood on the threshold. I instinctively closed the door a little further, refusing to allow him in. His dark eyes narrowed, and he bit his thin lower lip, baring the top row of his large stained teeth.

“Tell me, how much do you really know about your grandfather?” he asked.

“My family is none of your business.” I was puzzled that he would ask about my grandfather, but Maynard was an idiot if he thought I could be drawn into his game.

“Talk to your family,” he said. “Think things over and call me when you change your mind. Making a new start somewhere else is really something you should consider. It really can be a smooth transformation.” He handed me his card. “That’s my personal number on the back. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you. But do make it soon.”

He turned and walked down the flight of stairs, leaving the unmistakable scent of sandalwood and my grandmother’s cedar chest, mixed with a heavy dose of double-talk. He lumbered from side to side, the shiny tassels on his loafers bouncing with each step. His black Lincoln was parked directly behind my car, hard polished and regal. His driver had been sitting there the whole time. Maynard removed his coat, turned around, and gave the house a long stare from its portico down to its black wrought iron gate, and then he climbed into the backseat on the passenger’s side.

Transformation be damned. With the exception of a kitchen fire and a little bit of weak masonry on the chimney, my house still stood in all its original glory. The interior, with its generous rooms, had multi-layered decorative crown moldings, and all the various textures of the walls, ceilings, and woodworking on the floor fed my insatiable desire to be immersed in another era.

The 1906 earthquake and its unquenchable fire consumed many of San Francisco’s Victorians. It burned for three days and nights, and was eventually contained around Van Ness Avenue after expensive homes were dynamited to create a firebreak. From there, the fire turned south toward the Mission district, missing the Western Addition. Eighty percent of the city lay in ruins, and over 3,000 people died. Divine intervention saved the Fillmore’s elaborate Queen Anne Victorians, with their magnificent turrets and spindle work; the two-story Italianates with their long narrow windows under oversized brackets; and the Stick/Eastlake’s, with their flat strips of wood around the doors and windows crowned by the occasional rosette millwork for decor.

In the years that followed the disaster, the Fillmore became the mercantile and government center for the city. The downtown commercial district had been destroyed. Diverse and working class, it was a suburbia-type streetcar community full of native San Franciscans, as well as immigrant Europeans. My grandfather, Daddy Prince, didn’t arrive until 1929, when the first Great Migration of African-Americans came to an end and the Great Depression began. I was told he walked San Francisco tired and hungry until he met a man with an “opportunity.”

When Daddy Prince arrived in San Francisco he was willing to do almost anything to survive, so he had become involved with a syndicate from North Beach. He worked for a criminal named Francesco Lanza and quickly became un bravo lavoratore—a good worker.

The syndicate spread its bootlegging tentacles into the burgeoning nightclub scene in the Fillmore that catered to African-Americans. Daddy Prince had worked hard, stayed out late, flourished, and was never questioned by my grandmother, Mama Rose. By the time Daddy Prince had opened his own supper club, he was already a “businessman.” That was the way he wanted to be seen, and that was the way we always saw him.

He opened The Port Royal Supper Club in 1946. It was a club full of fearless people, a place where you didn’t have to stick to the ordinary rules of society. Like the real Port Royal in the West Indies, it was bawdy, fun, and driven by loose scruples, but that was just food for storytelling and photo albums now. Unlike the real Port Royal, it wasn’t the victim of a horrific earthquake forcing it into the sea; however, eventually it too fell in on itself. In 1965, when Daddy Prince couldn’t secure a bank loan for improvements due to redlining, the city’s bulldozer came and took it away.

In his Port Royal days, Daddy Prince was what they called a Policy King, a numbers racketeer. In addition to helping liquor flow in the Fillmore during Prohibition, he also ran numbers. He had a great arrangement. It seemed that the Italian gangsters in North Beach didn’t want to deal directly with the Fillmore, so Daddy Prince shook hands with them and found a niche that made running numbers from the Port Royal’s basement beneficial to both of them.

If you played the lottery today, you would have been playing numbers back then. Daddy Prince’s runners would go through the neighborhood collecting three-digit plays. These plays were guesses of the total amount of money bet on “win,” “place,” and “show” at the racetracks each day. In order to win, the play would have to match the number at the end of each total. If you won, you’d get a percentage based on what you spent. This business was a natural for Daddy Prince; he was great with numbers and taught me how to count money before I started school.

Some called him the Policy Prince instead of the Policy King. His operation wasn’t as big, rich, or famous as what the real Kings ran on the south side of Chicago or Harlem. Nevertheless, he was a risk-taker who made a better life for himself, his family, and he helped bolster a few of the black businesses that thrived around the Fillmore. Casey’s Mortuary on Fulton still send me calendars with notes tucked inside about how much they miss him. On holidays, he’d even bring home an orphaned child, sometimes two, to have dinner with us.

Personally, I think he fared pretty well for a boy who immigrated with his family from Anse La Ray on St. Lucia. At nineteen, he rode boxcars to California from a little river town in Conecuh County, Alabama.

There was no way I would roll over and let them have my grandfather’s house when I could still picture him standing in the entryway in the morning after a late night at his club. With his barrel chest, booming voice, and beautiful suits, he was the synthesis of silk and strength. He’d swoop me up and start rummaging his pockets for coins and candy and throw me in the air. We would giggle and I always knew he’d never let me fall. At six foot four, with enough heart to fill that burly chest, his presence was exquisite. I couldn’t help but be in love with him, and he loved me back.

When my father, Daddy Prince and Mama Rose’s only child, abandoned Mom and me, I was four years old. I heard Daddy Prince didn’t think twice about taking us in. We lived with him and Mama Rose in this house until the day both of them passed on. Sadly, Daddy Prince died from a heart attack when I was seven years old. He crept into my room one morning and kissed me good-bye before dawn, and then he didn’t come home that evening. I never saw him again. My mother wouldn’t let me view him in his casket, she wanted me to remember him as he was. Mama Rose died from kidney failure when I was eighteen. One day I found her unresponsive on the kitchen floor. She never regained consciousness and died in the hospital three days later. Maynard had no idea how strongly all of that family history tied me to this house.

Book Trailer

About The Author

Burnita Bluitt writes and resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now retired from working in the administration of Silicon Valley companies such as McKinsey & Co., Merrill Lynch, and Google, she indulges her love for, and curiosity about, San Francisco’s rich history and architecture. She loves to garden, sample all of Ben & Jerry's flavors, and eat movie popcorn at the Cineplex.

Her debut novel, Quiver of the Pure Heart, began as a love-letter to San Francisco’s painted ladies. However, after uncovering the Western Addition Victorian’s dark history, she felt compelled to shine a light on their unsavory past, and on the forces that left an indelible impact on the Fillmore community which is still felt today.


Virtual Book Release Day Blitz Event

Blitz Event Participants:

Jersey Girl Book Reviews
Book Club Sisters
Keep Calm and Blog On
Ski-Wee’s Book Corner
The Little Reading Cabin
Karma For Life Chick
Chick Lit Plus

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