𝑰 𝒉𝒂𝒅 𝒕𝒐 𝒄𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒆 𝒎𝒚 𝒆𝒚𝒆𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒑𝒓𝒂𝒚 𝒐𝒓 𝑰 𝒘𝒐𝒖𝒍𝒅 𝒆𝒏𝒅 𝒖𝒑 𝒈𝒐𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒋𝒖𝒈𝒖𝒍𝒂𝒓, “𝑷𝒂𝒊 𝒏𝒐𝒔𝒔𝒐 𝒒𝒖𝒆 𝒆𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒊𝒔 𝒏𝒐 𝒄é𝒖…”
“𝑾𝒉𝒂𝒕” 𝒉𝒆 𝒓𝒐𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒅
“𝑵𝒐𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈!” 𝒎𝒚 𝒏𝒐𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒊𝒍𝒔 𝒇𝒍𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒅 𝒊𝒏 𝒑𝒖𝒓𝒆 𝒉𝒂𝒕𝒓𝒆𝒅.
Bette Menezes has never felt so lost.
After being cheated on by her long-time boyfriend and losing the woman who raised her, it’s time to make a change.
When she discovers that Aunt Clara left her a manor in Ireland, Bette leaves her old life in São Paulo to chase a new adventure.
In the other side of the ocean, the Quinn Manor is Darragh’s whole life. It’s the house he grew up in, and the place he’s fighting to keep standing. He has everything under control until a girl from Brazil barges in to claim the house belongs to her.
They both believe to be the manor’s rightful owner, and only thirty years of love letters will decide who can keep the house.
*Amy’s Tip: Age gap, enemies to lovers and house renovation! This romance has everything, a strong Latina heroine, and a lovable grumpy Irish hero. Perfect for fans of slow-burns and enemies to lovers!
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I wrote Letters from Clara when I was just nineteen and had the manuscript hidden for eleven years. After re-reading and a lot of changes, I'm finally ready. Bette and Darragh are too.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I initially thought I was writing someone very different from me. Bette is quiet and sweet, while I'm loud and sarcastic. But now, so many years after I wrote the first draft, I see myself in her.
I felt my head pounding and my vision blurred. It was too bright and too dark. The blood rushed through my veins. I was getting sick on an empty stomach. My right eye started to twitch. Sweaty hands, wobbly legs. It was all so confusing, heart-breaking,… intense. I wasn’t able to make it bland or boring. Nope, it was all full of adrenaline, all so very scandalous.
One step backwards and then another, soon I was running to the other side as quick as my legs would carry me. I guess he followed, and of course he was way faster than I ever was. For example, I thought our relationship was getting a bit difficult, but he knew it was over.
Eric held me by my shoulder and I felt everything at once; his warm breath on my face, he had a chicken avocado sandwich for lunch. His scent, like the laundry detergent I got him. And then finally, I heard his voice, his excuses. He told me we were growing apart, that things had changed.
I think I nodded. Did I nod? I think I did. I knew of all those things. From my head to my toes, I knew we grew apart, but I also knew we grew together. I shared my play-doh with him when we were five; he shared his math homework when we were thirteen; and then after puberty, we start sharing other things too.
It’s hard to be sympathetic because I was the other half of that relationship. I was the part not doing it with someone else. I was the half making his chicken avocado sandwich.
But I nodded anyway, and I did so because it didn’t feel… sad. I was outraged on the first layer, because God knew Eric was a little a-hole who was so lucky to ever have the privilege to see my private area, thank you very much. But I felt this rush… and butterflies? Why did I have butterflies?
Deep down I was so disinterested in whatever Eric was saying. I caught him having sex with my boss in my own bed that we did not shared. What else was there to say? I left my ears ringing and they were able to muffle the sounds of his annoying rolls of excuses.
I wouldn’t even care he still insisted in going to my work, this time to visit his new girlfriend, if wasn’t for the shrinking sound of my best friend turning into a banshee whenever she saw him. Tara was a tiny thing, but she had long nails and never really liked Eric. Tara was waiting seventeen years for an opportunity to scratch the eyes out of him.
If I go back on that day, I see little Bette sharing the play-doh with Eric. That little girl with curly black hair and a scowl on her face just beside us, that’s Tara. She could smell his bullshit miles away. Didn’t matter that we grew up together and for years they both had the same amount of acres in my heart. Tara couldn’t stand Eric. I loved her for her devotion, and took time for her to understand that when I closed my eyes, I didn’t see Eric and Marta together in my bed.
No, I saw a movie of our relationship, a complicated one for that matter, that made me wonder why the most exciting thing about us was when I caught in bed with my boss.
Why the less boring thing about me was my ex-boyfriend was a pig and my boss and unethical. But I tried to see beyond that, at least for the following month.
So when it was our lunch time and I felt Tara’s body tense up beside me, I knew who she was staring. Of course, not a moment later she sighed and asked, “I don’t get it. Why don’t you quit, again?”
I looked over my shoulder to find Eric leaving the museum with a smug smile. He passed us, we were just in front having our lunch break on the garden, but he wasn’t man enough to play around with Tara.
I shrugged. “Because I don’t care enough.”
Tara followed Eric with her eyes until we couldn’t see his stupid hair anymore. “You should tell someone. She’s your boss.”
It wasn’t the first time she tired to get me on that road, but I always replied in the same way, “We can’t make decisions influenced by horrible people.”
Tara laughed because she knew me well enough to know that was some rehearsed line. “What about making any decisions whatsoever?”
I didn’t say anything because I knew what was about to come.
“Did you read the letter?” she pushed. “Any letter?”
I shook my head. “Nope”
She sighed. “Will you tell me when you do?”
“You’ll be the first one, sweets,” I said smiling and looking away, devouring my lunch in one bite. I stood up, squinting my brown eyes to shield them from the sun.
. I had a light jacket on. Right in the beginning of June, it was winter in São Paulo, but not cold enough to scare us away from having lunch in that beautiful garden.
I scrunched my nose at my best friend. She still wasn’t sure about my answers. I bent over and smacked a kiss right on her cheek. “Stop thinking too much,” I told her. “It doesn’t look cute on you.”
Tara laughed, and I dragged myself back to work, with a long sigh and a heart full of regret.
Maybe that’s why I had occupied my mind with nonsense about how I felt when Eric cheated on me. Because I knew with certainty, that year, I was the unluckiest girl in existence. And I knew I wasn’t supposed to make life changing decisions when I was desperate.
My “blessings” were always counted; I had a small studio apartment I overpaid every month. Thanks to Eric, I had one less best friend but an extra cheating boyfriend. The cherry on top of my miserable Sunday: right after Eric’s indiscretions, I had lost the only mother figure I’d ever known.
Auntie Clara. Tia Clara.
I held my sniffles when I thought about her, and I thought about her a lot. Tia Clara was this huge, larger than life character and she filled all the parts of my heart. Furthermore, I had no sympathy to give to the scumbag that was Eric or how unprofessional was the boss I once admired. I had no love left because somebody else had it all.
Tia was the reason my name was Bette; she was a huge Bette Davis fan. Tia was the one who helped when I was hurt, and sat down with me at the kitchen table to help with homework. Tia was the one I loved the most in the world. She was happiness itself, so it wasn’t a surprise that when she left, everything else fell apart.
I wasn’t brought up like a normal kid. My mother died during labour and they said my father had no idea what to do to for me from day one. No one said anything; no one took me from my Dad. For all intents and purposes he was still my guardian… But he wasn’t.
Dad was sad when my mother died, and he withdrew on himself. It was fine. I mean, I don’t remember being fine, but it was expected. Anyone would be sad to lose a wife, right? However, instead of finding me someone suitable, the family decided to work together to raise baby Bette. All my aunties would help, along with all the families still living in the same town just in the countryside of São Paulo.
The thing is… Babies aren’t a fun thing to keep. And while everyone did put their weight in the first year, by the second it was clear that my father wasn’t interested in parenting. By then he was fine and ready to date. So that was what he did, in such a level of commitment that I can’t remember him during the first years of my life. I remember him coming and going and patting me on my head. For big chunks of my childhood all I could remember was a sporadic kiss on the cheek. That was about it.
Our raising Bette community started to wear out. One of my aunts had her first baby, and soon the others followed. Dad never came back around on the whole fathering thing. So in the end it was me and tia Clara, she wasn’t even a sister of my Dad. Tia was my great aunt who lost her husband before I was born, so no one was worried about her wasting her life for me.
Tia Clara and I had that in common. We had no one, so we should’ve stayed together and bothered each other. And that’s what we did.
No one noticed when I moved to her house. I was ten and I used to sleep over many times anyway. I never lived with my Dad so what was the point? I stuffed all my precious things in my Power Puff Girls backpack one afternoon. I opened her gate and let myself in, the door was always unlocked.
Dropping my backpack on her rug I announced, “I live here now.”
She nodded. “About time.”
As I ran off steam, I sat on the couch. “You think Grandma and Grandad are going to be mad I left?”
Tia Clara smiled. “I think we can ring them and let them know.”
“Won’t they be mad?”
“They will be sad to see you go,” she sat beside me and took my hand in hers, “but they know we’re best friends.”
I nodded, convincing myself. “That’s true, they know.”
I felt like that house was mine. I had a room there since I was a baby and I had my favourite person in the world living there too. The house with salmon walls and the scary image of Jesus with a teeny-tiny red light underneath glared at us from the hall. It felt like… mine. My childhood… My life. So when tia Clara was gone, I wasn’t expecting my things to be thrown without a ceremony.
Which they didn’t. But they kind of were. Tia Clara lived in a house that was technically the family’s. When she passed, Grandad had plans to clean it out, remodelled and sell it. Or rent it. I was told he wasn’t fussy. He asked on the phone if I wanted to keep my books; yes I did. Do I also want to keep VHS tapes? Yes. I wanted to keep it all, but I was living in São Paulo in a small studio apartment. So I kept one of each thing. Tia Clara’s yellow flowery dress, a fun blue hat. Her copy of Wuthering Heights, her favourite necklace and her wedding ring. The VHS of All About Eve.
For that first week I thought that was it. The whole family was mourning, I was reminded. It wasn’t just me. So I left our home town of Santa Barbara D’Oeste and went back to São Paulo because there I could mourn alone. I wasn’t a baby to be hopping in their houses anymore and my Dad was in Japan for business; he couldn’t make the funeral.
Tia’s things on my backseat, and my own things from my room in my car’s boot. I drove all the way back with a cry stuck in my throat, too scared I’d cause an accident.
Later Tara told me I was silly for dealing with my family alone and I promised not do it again, until I had no other option. And the moment arrived sooner than we all expected, when we were all summed to a lawyer’s office.
Grandad Antonio and Grandmother Laura, and their children: My father, also Antonio, Auntie Ana, Auntie Luiza and Uncle Roberto. And me. The only niece called in.
I moved uncomfortably in my chair when Uncle Roberto looked at me and huffed. I didn’t know what I was doing there either; it bothered me too.
I heard Dad sigh behind us. “Tia Clara had nothing in her name. The house she lived in it was my Grandad’s. I got that sorted.”
His strong baritone always seemed to surprise me, probably because I hadn’t heard that voice many times.
Tia Clara’s lawyer eyed my Dad over his paper and sneered. My Dad and Granddad were also lawyers, that was why they sounded exasperated. They weren’t nice people, and that was why they sounded arrogant.
“The will of Clara de Carvalho Menezes da Cunha,” the lawyer said ignoring my Dad, He focused his eyes on the paper in his hands and started reading to all of us, “I hereby nominate the constitute and appoint my lawyer, Heitor Villas, to act as the Executor of this my last Will and Testament. In the event that Heitor Villas shall predecease me or chooses not to act for any reason, I nominate and appoint Beatriz Dantas, his business partner, to act in his place.”
I heard my Granddad’s annoyed puff by my side. Heitor didn’t seem to care. Maybe he dealt with things like this too many times to care about a disrespectful family member. Or perhaps it was a small town and he knew all about Antonio Menezes.
“I give and bequeath to Antonio Menezes Senior, should he survive me, all personal effects from my current home.”
“Junk,” huffed Grandad and got himself a slap on the ribs by Grandma.
Heitor Villas looked me in the eyes next and said:
“I give and bequeath to Bette Menezes, my favourite person in the world, all funds in my savings account and the sole ownership of Quinn Manor.”
I couldn’t hear anything, not my Grandad’s complaints or my own Dad’s insistent tsking. Nothing. It was Auntie Luiza with the smallest voice ever heard that said:
“What exactly is a Quinn Manor?”
For once in their lives, they all waited quietly; the air thick with tension, everyone had their back straight.
“Clara had a property in Ireland. It is now Bette’s,” he smiled at me and I returned one, weakly.
“Clara does not have properties in Europe,” Grandad argued. “She doesn’t have them here, you see. Why would she have them there?”
Heitor didn’t say a word. He wasn’t interested in my Grandad’s take, he was looking at me.
“We’re going to need further meetings for this Bette, but it's all here and all yours. She made sure to tick all the boxes.”
I nodded, but was afraid to say a word. I knew the people around me were ready to tear Heitor a new one, so I wasn’t crazy enough to ask questions at that point.
For the next half an hour all they did was shout. Hearing from my only living family how much they thought I didn’t deserve something was the high of my shitty month in my mediocre life. She isn’t mature enough to own property. She doesn’t have the ambition to make it profit.
It was Dad who pointed out that maybe I wasn’t even old enough. I was, but it made me wonder if he knew when I was born.
They shouted so much, they didn’t notice when Heitor passed me a letter from Clara herself, and then a wooden box with a bunch of other letters inside. They didn’t notice my pained look when I recognized tia Clara’s scrawl, or that my hands shook when I touched the box.
They didn’t notice we were two misfits, now they shouted and I was all alone.
Dear sweet Bette Davis,
I’ve just watched Some Like It Hot and I couldn’t stop thinking about you. She says “I’m turning twenty five in June. A quarter of a century makes a girl think”. I started to wonder if I would be here to see you turn a quarter of a century, but probably not. If I was, I’m sorry for the half empty glass kind of bullshit.
I don’t know how the rest of your life it’s going to be, child. I can’t tell how many loves you’re going to have or what kind of man will steal your heart forever. Unfortunately, I probably won’t meet your children, if you ever decide to have them, and I won’t be able to spoil them.
However, you’re my Bette and I can guess a little of your future. I know you will look at the mirror someday and will see everything I see from the moment I held you in my arms for the first time. You’ll see a fierce young woman with so many talents and so much promise. You’ll see a bad bitch. Oh yeah, I’ve said it.
Until then, I have a few tips;
Never let men underestimate you. And I’m not saying just about the boys that will come and go and mess with your head. I’m talking about your own Dad and Grandad and all other fuckers that come your way. No one can put a rock between you and where you meant to be.
Never stop feeling alive. Never do anything just because of habit.
Always wear clothes that make your breast look bigger.
Never forget of your good friendships. Always remember who is the person holding your hand during tough times.
Never drink too much whiskey. Never drink less, either.
Never stop yourself from crying. Cry all the time, of sadness, happiness and everything in between. Feelings are strength, feelings are divine.
And live, child.
Love from your completely senile tia.
Right on the bottom, with a different ink from the rest of the letter it read:
Ps: I’m sorry I ran out of time to explain about Yellow Meadows. Just read the other letters.
Now… What the hell was Yellow Meadows?
Amy Oliveira is the author of sassy and hilarious feminist romance novels like Ellis Montgomery and Unabashedly Yours. The Brazilian-born author is known for creating strong female lead characters who refuse to conform and look a little more like the genuine women she knows.
A hopeless romantic, Amy married the same man three times in three elaborate dresses and two different countries. If anything, that should be enough credentials to write romance.
After years of secretly writing romance in math class, her novels are now no secret to anyone who wants to read about remarkable women finding love.
Amy Oliveira lives in Warrenpoint with her husband, a healthy love for wine and for other people's drama.
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