Come Winter: A Novel

Come Winter: A Novel

by Clare Gutierrez


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Such is the paradox of Lady Caterina Tabor, an extraordinary young girl who, en route to England, finds herself captured and at the mercy of a stern and powerful lord. Forced to work as a common kitchen maid in the dank halls of Dermoth Castle, Caty dreams of her past as a free and autonomous maiden with a bright future in the English courts-did fate have other plans?

This early trial is but the first in a litany of shocking tribulations; imprisoned, abused, accused of sorcery, and kidnapped, Caty's life is for so long anything but charmed-but you can't keep a soaring heart shackled. As we follow this misunderstood maiden's journey through both the unexpected, electrifying joys of new love and the pain of mind-boggling adversity, we become eyewitnesses to the astonishing way she not only transforms herself but also enchants, inspires, and invigorates those around her.

Spanning decades of castle life, treacherous journeys, bloody battles, and heartache, Come Winter is a sweeping yet personal tale of a brave woman who at once embodies and transcends the prescribed, and oftentimes oppressive, roles her society demands. Let Clare Gutierrez (author of Dancing with the Boss) curate your voyage back to the Scottish highlands of ages past-a time and place in which simply staying alive constituted a noble adventure, and becoming a patron of the oppressed and the impoverished could make you a hallowed queen.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632990150
Publisher: River Grove Books
Publication date: 02/19/2015
Pages: 408
Sales rank: 751,716
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.91(d)

About the Author

Clare Gutierrez grew up on a cattle ranch in rural Colorado as one of four children. A registered nurse, she now lives in the Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas. Together with her husband, a medical doctor, they host first-class photographers the world over at Santa Clara Ranch-a 300-acre wildlife sanctuary for native species, some of which are unique to the area.

Read an Excerpt

Come Winter

A Novel

By Clare Gutierrez

River Grove Books

Copyright © 2015 Clare Gutierrez
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63299-015-0


A WORLD AWAY, THE LORD of a castle stood at the kitchen door, studying the captured woman. She was quiet, but not subdued. Her light olive skin was like satin. Under the loose sackcloth she wore, he could tell she was slim, and shorter than the local women. Her arms were firm, her fingers slender and long. Her deep auburn hair, piled in haste on top of her head like a crown, shone with light from the candles and fireplace. Escaped tendrils, damp with perspiration, snaked around the nape of her neck. She did not look up or acknowledge his presence—just kept working.

It was not uncommon for men from Scotland to fight for other countries when money was scarce. Not so many years ago, the lord himself had done so. One of the men he had met during a stint in Italy was a young man named Tabor, Carlos Tabor. Several weeks ago, Carlos had contacted the lord with a special request. He requested his sister be kidnapped before she could reach the English court. Carlos feared for this woman's safety, should she reach that court.

To ride across the border into England was an easy task. Clans did so, especially when there was a need for more women of childbearing age. Telling the lord's men they needed women had immediately garnered support. Carlos had promised he would send for his sister within weeks of her capture. The lord had no idea where the other women wound up. This lady, however, he brought with him.

Every day since the day he had brought her to his castle, the lord had come to watch her as she went about her work in his kitchen. She cooked, cleaned the pots, and swept the stone floors. He wondered how she could be so serene, so calm. She was totally isolated from other humans, except for the servants and men who came to eat in her kitchen. Even then, no one spoke to her. Despite that, she acted as if all were well in her world. She was strangely detached. He wanted to know more about her. What nonsense I think, he mused. They will come for her any day, I'm certain. The sooner the better. Just the same, he remained in the silence, watching. For some reason, she made him feel as though he were intruding into her small world. It's the silence, he thought.

Standing just inside the door, he brought his hands to his hips. "How is it you can be happy here?" he finally asked. His voice sounded harsh in the stillness of the kitchen. It was the first time he'd addressed her.

She stopped moving about and stood, thinking. "Because this is where I am," she answered simply, as if he were nothing but a figment of her imagination. Her voice was soft; her slight accent gave it a melodious lilt. She returned to the vegetables on her chopping board, her hands working the knife with practiced precision.

"You have nothing," he pointed out, pressing on.

The woman did not respond.

Captivated, the lord stood watching, waiting for some answer, until finally he left her. She did not notice his departure.

The next day, he came again. This day, he walked with command and purpose into the room. As always, she was hard at work. "I do not understand ...," he began, speaking to her turned back. "Look at me when I speak to you!" he ordered when the woman gave no indication she had heard him.

"I cannot." She replied quietly, her back still turned.

"What?" he asked, frowning. "Why not?"

"It is forbidden to look at you. I cannot," the woman said.

"You will look at me!" he persisted. "I give you permission to look at me."

"Do your men know that you have granted such permission?" the woman asked.

He paused. "No."

"Then I cannot," she repeated, her voice still soft. "The punishment is death."

He stepped closer, a look of surprise on his face. "I command you to look at me when I speak to you." He spoke sternly, and his face darkened when she still did not obey.

"The punishment is death," she repeated gently.

Shaking his head, he decided to pursue a different path. "Why are you not frightened or angry? You have nothing you came with."

The woman stopped sweeping. She had no idea how to answer. He was her captor. This was not her country, and life for any woman here was precarious at best. Her own situation was worse than most. Carefully, she said, "I am not unhappy here."

He watched her with such intensity that she stayed quiet for a long moment before returning to her work.

Although he eventually left her, he could not keep her from his mind. Why should I care if she is happy or not? He had neither the time nor the patience for women. His mother ... the memory of her had long gone, but now it reached out to him again. Allowing his mind to feel her gentle touch and remember her soft love, he again felt drawn to the woman working in his kitchen. Every day it was the same. She worked all day cooking for everyone around her, at night leaving for her lone room. What was wrong with him, that he would even notice her? "Damned woman," he muttered. She had taken over his thoughts. He should have sent her on, but he never did. Now he felt he would never send her away, not when she filled his every waking hour. "Damnation!" he cursed. He understood well how this would complicate things.

Several days later, the lord took his place at the kitchen door late in the afternoon. "Today, you look at me when I speak," he commanded. "I do not ask."

Slowly, she turned to him. The face he saw was as near perfect as he could have imagined. Her nose, bone structure, and mouth spoke to her Italian heritage. Her skin was smooth and clear, its golden coloring accentuated by the soft rose that swept over her cheeks. Surrounded by thick black lashes, her eyes found his. He was startled to see they were a deep gold, not the brown he had expected, and that she looked at him with kindness, not with fear. Struggling to regain his command of the situation, he remarked, "You have nothing ... not family, friends, possessions, or freedom."

The woman lowered her eyes briefly. She didn't know what he wanted her to say. What more could this place take from her? Even death didn't matter now. Too much had happened to her. She raised her eyes to meet his. He was frowning. His eyes were so brown, they seemed black. His graying curls straggled from beneath the flat, gray bonnet covering his head. To the woman, they resembled the edges of an abandoned bird nest. The image made her smile briefly, though she immediately caught herself. If it were a mortal crime to even look at him, how much worse to laugh at him? The smile left her face as quickly as it had appeared. "What would you have me say?"

He searched her eyes, then turned abruptly and left the room without answering. Alone, the woman prayed no one had seen her smile. Perhaps he had missed it too. No matter—what's done is done. She went back to cleaning the kitchen floors. Filling every waking hour with any labor she could find was her only salvation. It made each day pass, and if she got through the days one at a time, she would survive.

* * *

Outside, the lord wandered the grounds of the castle. He was powerfully built and stood at six feet. Years of military training and physical activity had left his shoulders broad, his arms and legs muscled, and his belly flat. His hands and face were deeply tanned. His face usually bore an expression of intensity, although laughter sprung from his mouth at the slightest provocation. He wore his thick, wavy hair—dark but with gray beginning to creep up his temples—tied back with a thin strip of leather. His dress bore the mark of a man of his station and financial security. Just now, he had the look of one carrying the weight of a serious problem.

He made his way through the gardens and to the stables. There, he met his only brother, Bruce, who knew the lord's every mood well. Together they saddled up in preparation for a ride. This day they rode with a madness. The horses were foaming at the mouth when the men returned. The lord was not one to misuse his animals, but today something inside him burned. He had not spoken for the duration of the ride, nor had his brother. Now, however, his brother looked at him keenly. "You are bothered by something. How can I help?"

"You cannot, Bruce. This problem lies within my breast. 'Tis a new feeling for me," he admitted gruffly, with a deep frown.

At this admission, Bruce smiled. He too had seen the woman now housed in his brother's castle. She was beautiful, but not in the way of their own women. Her eyes were so familiar. He felt as if he had known her, though he was certain he had not. She walked as if she owned the land and all on it, carrying herself with a confidence not often seen in common women. To tell the truth, Bruce thought, she walked with such grace that she nearly floated. He doubted she had ever been subject to anyone, man or otherwise. She was not common. "How fares the woman?"

The lord looked at him sharply. "Why do you ask?"

"Oh, worry not, brother," Bruce said with a quick grin. "I have my own woman, and am happy enough. But perhaps you are taken with the woman? It would serve you right. I find this most interesting." Bruce looked like his brother, except he was smaller and wiry. He shared his brother's eye coloring, hair, and demeanor, although he bore no evidence of his brother's burden. He was carefree, laughing easily. His eyes twinkled with mischief, though those eyes could speak of imminent death as the need arose.

"That is well enough, Bruce. It would seem little else interests you of late," the lord answered testily. His brother only laughed.

The lord returned to his castle, determined to speak with the woman again. The kitchen was empty, but her touch was everywhere. All was clean and in order. He stood but a second, thinking. With a decision made, he walked out.

Several weeks passed before he allowed himself to see her again. He needed to see her. He wanted to look into her eyes and see that fleeting smile. This time, he stood at the door a long while before she became aware of his presence. "I wish to speak with you," he said when she noticed him at last, breaking the silence.

"Speak," the woman answered. She stood motionless, looking straight ahead, waiting.

"I will tell you this one more time—you will look at me when I speak to you." He waited until she had turned to him. He felt the familiar wash of warmth at the sight of her face. "Of what do you think, in here, all day alone? Whom do you talk with? You must tell me why you are not afraid or angry ... something."

The woman's eyes moved from the lord to the tiny window in the kitchen, then back slowly to him. She remembered stories about the clans of Scotland. They were rumored to be crude and ruthless, especially with women from England. The woman spoke quietly, choosing her words carefully. "I said I was not unhappy; I did not say I was unafraid. Angry? Of what use is anger here?"

He could see no signs of fear or malice. She was not mocking, not hopeless, not anything he had come to expect from women kidnapped. She was at peace. He knew he was drawn to her—without hope of reprieve, it would seem. Each meeting made it more so, and yet he could not take her. Not yet.

At this moment, he knew only that he must protect her. He had stopped trying to understand his own feelings. These new feelings made little sense to him, but it mattered not. With a fierceness he would never have believed any woman could inspire in him, he knew he would possess her. I have yet to know how I will handle this when they come for her, but she will stay, he promised himself.

"You're worried," the woman murmured, her head tipped slightly to the side as she regarded the man standing before her.

Her words brought him back to the present.

"Something bothers you," she continued. She had not moved toward him, but he felt as if she were standing next to him.

"It does," he acknowledged. Sinking into a chair, he leaned it back against the wall and briefly closed his eyes. "It does," he repeated. At that moment he gave in to the madness that had filled him these past months. She always made him calmer and more assured. "I have much to think of, but now is the time for action, not thinking. If it goes as I believe, I will return in maybe three weeks. If not, well ..."

"Go in peace. You will return." The woman watched him keenly.

He stood at length without answering, thinking on her words to him, and on how self-assured yet unassuming she was. At last he nodded to her and left.

* * *

"Move her to the quarters today," the lord said to the chief of his guard. "I trust you will protect her carefully while I am away. There will be no mercy to the one who might harm her, nor to the one who would allow such."

The chief bowed slightly, puzzled, watching Lord Rhys walk away. He had served Lord Rhys for many years and knew his temper well. It was widely known that no woman had held Lord Rhys before, even though his house was filled with possibilities and even though the lord availed himself of these companions frequently. What was it about this woman that captured this man?

Whatever the case, keeping her safe should prove to be an easy task. No one would dare harm her now that it was clear she was the lord's favorite. The chief immediately searched for the castle's steward.


WHEN THE WOMAN RETURNED TO her room that evening, she found two men standing outside her door. She recognized one as the castle's steward, but the other was unfamiliar. "You have been moved," the steward announced. "Follow me."

The woman hesitated. She had no desire to leave the area. All she possessed was in her room. Reading her brief pause, the steward continued, "Everything has been moved, by order of my lord." He pointed a thumb at the man beside him. "This is the chief of his guard." Silently, she allowed the two men to lead her up three levels.

When they arrived at the highest level of the citadel, the steward opened a door and motioned for her to enter. She stood in the doorway, unable to step inside the lushly appointed quarters. She felt as if she were stepping across an invisible line into a place from which there would be no return.

Cautiously, she stepped inside. Her eyes were immediately drawn to immense windows. Moving across the rooms, the steward opened the casements, exposing the darkening grounds below. The woman found herself awed. She'd been unaware of the majesty and expanse of the castle until now. She could hear the soft cooing of doves settling in for the night, and people laughing.

After lighting a fire, the steward returned to the door, flanked by the chief. "Whenever you need anything, pull on this cord, and I will be here to assist you," he instructed as he ran his hand over a silk line. He found himself wanting to help her, to let her know she would be fine now, although he guessed she had never doubted this. All these weeks he had watched her as she worked unceasingly. She was so serene. Never before had this old castle been at such peace. His lord's choice was wise. It looked as though he would keep this one. He nodded to her, then left, closing the door behind him. Caty heard the lock clink.

Once she was alone, the woman slowly turned around in the middle of the warm, opulent room. Enormous candles burned in holders on the walls. A large overstuffed bed covered with thick, velvety blankets occupied one wall. On the next wall, she noted several doors without handles. Allowing for entry without escape, no doubt, she thought. A heavy iron candleholder and candle sat on a table in one corner. The windows flanked a great fireplace on the third wall, and an outsized chair nearby had blankets thrown over the back. The final wall was broken by a hallway. Walking its short length, she found a door leading to a privy. Previously, she had used the straw piled outside the kitchen door, where all the workers relieved themselves. Gratefulness filled her, and she continued down the hall to another door.

Beyond it she found a smaller sleeping area long since abandoned. At the far wall a window allowed moonlight into the area. A single bed with a simple stand and one lone chair completed the plain furnishings. This would have been for the servants of whoever slept in these quarters before, she thought. Why am I not in here instead of the room beyond? She knew her place had changed in ways she did not understand. Yet, she was not at court in England. She was an occupant of a place in which she had no desire to stay. She was still not free.


Excerpted from Come Winter by Clare Gutierrez. Copyright © 2015 Clare Gutierrez. Excerpted by permission of River Grove Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

Come Winter: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Linda Hankins 7 days ago
This was good read, though sad. I wasn't happy with some of the choices made by the author. To discuss would give spoulers away. I perfer "Jillard" much more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The title of this book should be "May You Live in Interesting Times"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I’ve read in a while, ( I read a lot )sad to see it end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I so enjoyed this wonderful journey of Caty. I was sad the story had to end , but this tale will stay with me for a long long time. Just read the first few pages and you will be hooked and you won't be dissapointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved, loved reading this book! I highly recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loses lustre.
booklover10CM More than 1 year ago
After reading all the glowing reviews I guess I expected too much, but different tastes and viewpoints are what makes the world go 'round. I didn't find the narrative to be that outstanding or on a par with other prominent historical writers. My greatest disappointment was with Caty, this paragon of everything perfect; beauty, passion, loyalty, kindness, intelligence, etc., and she can't be more ingenious to defy a King. She loses her great love AND child and weds within a year. For me the character was not consistent half-way through the book. The events were predictable as a way to continue the story, however, I believe a more seasoned author would have written it more creatively. In my opinion, not worth all the five stars it was given.
deenewkirk More than 1 year ago
Come Winter by Clare Guiterrez is a well written story of a very strong woman during a period of time when women were meant to be seen and not heard. The story follows the life of Lady Caterina Tabor and her survival during periods of change in European history. Lady Caterina grows to believe in herself and use her abilities to help her survive the many hurdles life throws in her way. Her story begins when she is kidnapped and held against her will. Her decision to stay with her captor changes her life forever. This is a very difficult book to put down once you have started reading it. The author has also published Dancing With The Boss which is also an outstanding read. Again it is a story well told and very difficult to put down. Clare Gutierrez has the ability to tell a story no matter the genre. Her stories draw you in and you become part of the story. I enjoyed both of her books and anxiously await the next story whatever that may be.
esosweet More than 1 year ago
If you are a fan of imagination-gripping historical fiction you will love Come Winter by Clare Guiterrez. The book follows the life of Lady Caterina Tabor. When she leaves her English parents who are living in Italy bound for the court of the Queen she is kidnapped. Her journey begins when she is being held in the Scottish highlands castle against her will. She struggles to decide if she should stay or flee and what each option means for her future. Ultimately her decision changes the course of her life and her station.  Come Winter was fantastic! While this is historical fiction it is not set in such specific circumstances that the fiction leaves you feeling betrayed by history. The descriptions of all of Caty's different locations are fascinating and really leave the reader intrigued. I highly recommend this book. I don't know that it would be great summer reading by a pool or beach, but it would be great reading by a fire come fall or winter. Honestly, it won't matter when you read it, you will be so wrapped up in the story.  An advance copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher through Net Galley. All opinions are my own. I have already recommended this book to several friends and now to you!
books-n-yarn More than 1 year ago
ARC provided by NetGalley Wow...absolutely loved this book and could not stop reading. I was so sad to see it coming to an end. Readers can't help but love Caty for all her wonderful characteristics.  She is someone every woman wishes to be both inside and out.  Readers will feel for Caty through all her ups and downs, as well as her heartaches and pain,  The action and adventures,  the growth of love and it's struggles...the reader will feel it all because this book is that well written.  Absolutely loved this book.
MargieS1 More than 1 year ago
Given To Me For An Honest Review Come Winter by Glare Gutierrez is a great romantic historical novel. Once you open to the first page it will grab you and hold you down  real tight and then you'll watch those pages turn and turn and turn some more until the last page. You'll be reading through some twists and turns also. As you read the story it will draw you in and you will then feel as though you are a part of the story. Lady Caterina Tabor  is a young woman. She is on her way to England but she is captured and becomes a lowly maidservant, a disguised fugitive,a savior to the poor and endangered and then a QUEEN. As you read the book you will find it very hard to put it down. I highly recommend this book  to everyone. I look for more from Clare Gutierrez.
gaele More than 1 year ago
A slowly developing saga that follows the heroine over several years as she learns to navigate the world as her  life progresses.  Clare Gutierrez has built a wonderful sweeping story that is nuanced and detailed as we follow  the life of Caterina.  Daughter of an Italian mother with her own healing gifts of her own and Lord Tabor, a professional soldier in service to the King of England.  After a prologue that doesn’t truly play into the story arc, we are treated to the development of Caterina.  She is difficult not to like, she’s learned battle tactics from her travels with her father, and healing from her mother: both  have helped to make her into a strong and determined character, she isn’t easily bowed or prone to the ‘oh  poor pitiful me’ moments.   At first, she is using only knowledge she had learned when young, as the story progresses and she survives new adventures and chapters, suffers losses and finds love and treason as the story winds from England and  Scotland to Italy and multiple ‘fashions’ in politics, including the rise of Protestantism, we are following Caterina through every moment.  Illness, death, devastation from war and political machinations all come into play in the length of the story.  Not exactly action-packed or fast paced, this story develops over time, following one woman’s journey through  turbulent time.  With moments that allow readers to stop and think as they absorb the emotions, information and  changes that occur during the story.  I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not  compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 
Mountain_Muse More than 1 year ago
A Noble Woman who finds love even when she is but a pawn in the kingdom of men REVIEW Ever so often, and not nearly as often as my longing heart would desire, I stumble across a true diamond amongst the many crystals and gemstones that make their way to my desk. When I read the synopsis for Come Winter, it sounded intriguing. Once I opened the book and began to fall into the spell of the first lines of the story, I realized that this was going to be something more than just another historical novel. Within pages I knew I had found a master of the written word. The words seemed to have slid off her pen and onto the written page with a magic all their own. They wove their own tapestry and came off the page in such imagery that my mind’s eye was a rolling screen throughout the story. Clare demonstrated a great appreciation for the plight of noble women during the early mid ages when they were but chattel of their lords and kings, to be traded and passed on as part and parcel of the holdings. Though this subject has been demonstrated in many a novel, I have never seen it set as the central theme, nor presented so passionately through the eyes of a woman of noble birth as it was in Come Winter. Katy, the heroine of the book, was a woman of strength, a lady of great passion and one who had the capability to love deeply. She was a unique lady of her time, having received a well rounded education, speaking several languages, reading and writing in the same, a healer, and a leader. But because she was a woman, she was but an item to be owned, to be traded and bartered by parent, captor, until she finally obtained the highest position that a woman could obtain, Queen. Even when she reach this vaulted position, she found she was still but a possession, a captive, and at the pleasure of her lord and master, the king. She would never be free. Clare took the time to develop her characters to give them the breath of life and to allow the reader to see what it was to live, through their eyes. We learned to feel their pain and despair as well as their joys and ecstacies. The POV was not limited to that of Katy, but also that of the men who were a part of her adult life through the years. It added an additional dimension to the characters, giving them well rounded perspectives and allowing the narrative to provide a complete picture of the story as it moved ever forward through the years, first from France to Scotland, then to Spain and finally to Italy. After finishing Come Winter, out of curiosity, I looked up to see how many books Clare Gutierrez has written and only found one addition book published in 2012. I believe Clare has the talent to become a writing force to contend with. Her ability to write a believable historical novel, not so much one that was based on factual events, but one that nailed it, on living conditions of the time. Her style is much that of Michelle Moran, or Phillipa Gregory. It is rich in imagery and full bodied prose that throws the reader into the Age of the setting without actually forcing them to try to deal with terms and language they do not know or understand. Most of all she leaves you wanting more. You cannot ask for better than that. This is a must read book for any historical, romance, adult fiction, woman’s fiction fan. FIVE STARS AN INTERVIEW Why did your choose this story to write? The story unfolded on its own. I had the beginning in my head but needed a time and place were such a thing could take place. A little research, such as the wifenapping, and I was off running. While doing research to find a way to use the scenes I had in my head, I kept returning to the very great difficulty women have faced in every 'age' in history. The research gave me LOTS of ingredients for a story. The way I write is, I suppose, a little strange. As I begin to put into words the story in my mind, the characters take on a life of their own. Caty developed in just such a way. As she moved through her life, the world around her changed. Do you have a love affair with history? I do love historical movies, books, architecture etc. I noticed that you live on a wonderful preserve and ranch in Texas. Can you tell us a little about it? My husband is from the Valley, as this part of Texas is affectionately called. When his dad became ill, he requested Beto come home. We did. The preserve/ranch we have is not where we actually live. It's a long distance from where his office was located..about 50 miles. He bought the ranch with the idea in mind to create a place were people could go to photograph wildlife without the land around changing. A place where the wildlife could live without man's intrusion. We could not have imagined how much people would enjoy our ranch. What was the title of your first book? Synopsis in one paragraph? My first book is titled Dancing with the Boss. In the American Southwest, criminal organizations from all over the world conspire to control everything from human trafficking to drug running and gun smuggling. Caught in the midst of all this is the smart and sassy Annie, the owner of a rare-art dealership in Arizona. In a chance encounter, Annie meets Tony, a veritable gangster and mafioso who finds the brutal nature of his work at odds with his growing feelings for Annie. But when Annie learns that her brother Allen, a former special ops agent for the FBI, has gotten himself into some deep trouble, she finds an unexpected ally in Tony. Do you already have another book floating in your head? or on paper yet? Whenever I am at a corner in my writing, and can't decide how to get around it, I work on something else. Consequently, I have several other projects on my MacBook Pro. Does storytelling run in your family? Storytelling was not in my family that I know of, however, my mother made certain we all had tons of reading material, although we were on a ranch miles from any library. Granted, I read, reread and reread again the books, but they were always there. After my mother died, I found a notebook with short, two verse poems. Just as she was, they are gentle. Where have I found help? I subscribe to several periodicals for writers. Although certainly not everything is useful, they do provide a great deal of information, both in the arena of doing the work itself and the arena of trying to get as clean a copy as possible before submission. Oh, and I'm sure everyone already knows this, but Google is a GREAT source for research. How important is research? As important as the story itself. Don't give up. Keep typing, writing (I write on planes, in motels, etc) and talking. It does come together.