Maggie Ellis is amused when her father rents their Palm Beach mansion to an L.A. Band hunkering down to write their next album. The bubble popping on the real estate market both forces his financial prudence and highlights Maggie’s own success. But all trace of amusement and self-satisfaction disappear when she realizes the musicians staying in her father’s home are Born Blue. Their drummer, Gavin Ward, was Maggie’s high school boyfriend whose proposal she once fled. 

Maggie knows it’s best to stay clear of the inevitable love tangles quickly knotting between her extended family and the band staying in her childhood home. Between closing on her own first home, keeping up with the projects she’s planned for it, and managing her career as a food photographer and the food blogger behind, “Picture Perfect Recipes,” she’s too busy for that drama. But mostly she wants to avoid Gavin, whose part in those entanglements tear at the heart she soon realizes never healed.

OF A PALM BEACH PERSUASION is a complete work of women’s fiction at 88,000 words. It’s Persuasion under the glare of the south Florida sun with Jet Ski accidents instead of sea wall tumbles and a modern heroine who is not lifted in and out of carriages because she drives her own Mercedes.


January 2007

Maggie didn’t notice anything as she walked Washington, D.C.’s Eastern Market on the first Sunday of the year. Weaving through the crowds, not registering the stands displaying folk art painted on pallet wood or pottery in muted earth tone glazes, she didn’t catch her reflection in a booth of antique mirrors or inhale the overpowering scent of lavender wafting from a display of chunky soaps. She didn’t even notice her own fingers kneading through a deep box of mismatched dice until the vendor barked, “Five for a dollar.” 

What did Maggie need with dice? But she slipped a single bill his way and tossed a handful of the pocked squares into her purse. They settled and shifted until coming to rest at the bottom in a Yahtzee of sixes. But Maggie never noticed this either.

She was thinking about her nephew Carter. Sometime between her visit last spring and her visit over Christmas, his toddler pudge had stretched into a whirl of wiry limbs. At least he still whirled in her direction, regularly aiming attack hugs toward her legs. After opening his Christmas present from her, a large yellow dump truck, he’d rushed her with his thank you, barreling down like a lineman. He wrapped her up in such a tangle that they’d collapsed to the ground. After a second of shock when it was quickly realized that neither were hurt, they’d both started laughing--Maggie’s gleeful shriek so startling to herself that she’d been sullen ever since. 

Maggie worked too much to get caught up in laughter anymore. She’d started to measure her success not in annual revenue but established new goals every quarter. Because of the trust fund she hadn't touched since college, she could buy a small island and hire an army of servants to bring her coconut water and give her massages on the beach. Instead she worked. 

But not as an attorney. Not in a suit. Not from seven a.m. till seven p.m. in an office building with her own secretary and an email account with her name and the corporation name separated by an “at” sign. No matter how much she worked or earned it didn’t appear to impress her father or sister. They responded to her career as though it were a cute hobby. At least her aunt understood that the revenue Maggie generated was indeed revenue. Spendable income. Hard earned and legit. And her aunt had always been better with money than Richard Ellis, so it was her opinion that mattered. 

This week, Maggie had photographed the contents of the new dessert menu of a large restaurant chain. She’d also booked the shoot for their new drink menu guaranteeing another impressive check, but Maggie couldn’t stop thinking about kids or islands or perhaps having kids and raising them on an island. As she walked, she wondered about the possibility of never having her own children. At twenty-nine she’d dated plenty but had only been in love once. And that had been a long time ago. The idea of a family--her own family--felt like a hazy dream. As she slid past a display of beaded purses, Maggie ached for one of Carter’s tackle hugs.

Usually her Sunday ritual--slip into the back pew of a church, any church, then walk the rows of the flea market till her feet threatened to blister--restored her. The hustle of the vendors and the bustle of vigilant bargain hunters energized her. She liked watching, often without taking part. The dice were her first purchase in almost a year. 

The weak light of the sun, hidden by a layer of gray clouds, caught Maggie’s attention at last. She glowered. Maggie missed the ridiculous blue, like Shock Tarts candy, of the Florida sky. Just last week, her shoulders had pinked and cheeks rosied to life from a single day of running holiday errands under the bright sunshine of Palm Beach.

She considered her location at the market, deciding to quit her aimless wandering, and turned herself in the direction of her Metro stop. In a few hours she’d meet with her food stylist, their coffee date to confirm the details of the upcoming week--another Sunday ritual. If she turned back now, Maggie would have time to type in the recipe of a quiche she’d made and photographed that morning. Blog ad revenue rounded up her monthly income, and she posted faithfully. At one point, Maggie had hoped the site would spin off into her own cookbook deal. If this happened, she planned to start moving away from corporate clients, but after months of discussing the possibility with an editor, conversations had stalled. 

So what if she’d ended up on the corporate side of art? This probably happened to ninety percent of her fellow art college graduates. She worked (and worked and worked) in good company. Never mind that she didn’t have to. In her family, it was expected. 

At the final row of vendors, a box of tiles stopped her. It sat on the ground beneath side-by-side card tables cluttered with cigar boxes and plastic food containers brimming with beads and small, pre-cut mosaic tiles. An abundance of deep blues filled a Cool Whip container. Beside it a margarine tub offered orangish-yellow tiles of the same size. Between each bowl and box the table lay torn and duct taped.

The boxes on the ground weren’t in better shape. Fingers cautiously wrapped around a ripped corner, Maggie scooped up the shoebox of square iridescent white tiles that had caught her eye. She set the box at the edge of the table and selected one of the four-inch tiles, streaking her finger across the smooth surface. Mosaics used to be a favorite medium. 

“How much for the box?” Maggie said.


Maggie knew this price probably had more to do with the woman’s glance at her designer purse than it did the worth of the tile, but she pulled a twenty and a ten from the bills in her wallet and pressed them to the lady’s hand. The bulk of the box weighed heavily in her arms as Maggie continued on. She felt the strain up through her shoulders, and by the time she reached her front door, she felt it all the way into her knees. Something about the ache made Maggie hopeful.