Greetings, dear readers!
My October surprise is a sneak peek at my November 2021 release, Ursula's Inheritance. The third book in my American Civil War Brides series, it was a surprise to me, too! After publishing Book 2, Mercies of the Fallen, I thought I was finished with Ursula's story. But readers thought otherwise!
Mercies took place between the Battles of Antietam and Gettysburg. It ended just after the infamous New York City draft riots of July 1863. Readers wanted to know what happened next in the lives of Ursula and her Union officer Captain Rowan Buckley. Does he survive the war? Can she come out of hiding and clear her name? Will their young marriage born of desperate circumstances become a lasting union of souls? And what about the secrets still between them?
Did you know that this is how Louisa May Alcott's Little Women got written too? The first volume (1868) was a great success. But readers were eager for more. Alcott quickly completed a second volume in 1869. The two volumes were issued in 1880 as a single novel that has become our cherished classic.
I hope you'll enjoy what happens next in the story...The opening is from Rowan's viewpoint, and I hope you'll learn what a great dad he is becoming....
Chapter One, Ursula's Inheritance
April 1864, Gramercy Park, Manhattan
Even with the one eye the war had left him, Rowan Buckley knew the wee one pilfering from the garden was a girl, despite her trousers. He frowned at the canvas bag at her feet.
“So it is not a squirrel with an interest in our angelica, then?” he asked quietly.
The urchin turned, startled eyes narrowing. “Better me than an Irish thug!” she spat out.
The girl took advantage of his hesitation and his limited depth perception. She grabbed the sack and raced toward the iron garden gate. But after three hard years of soldiering, there was nothing wrong with Rowan’s reflexes. He caught up, took her wrist, and, when she resisted, her waist. She had a waist. So she was a little older than her small size had first impressed upon him.
“Please let me go, sir,” an even smaller voice came out of her.
“Am I ‘sir’ then, now that you’re caught?”
“You are a black Irish scoundrel to hold me against my will!”
She kicked him. Hard enough to throw off his stance. He maintained his temper and light grip as he steered her toward the tradesman’s door of Ursula’s house.
“You’ve nothing to fear from me, lass.” He sent her through the entrance with a nudge at her back. “Now hush up your caterwauling, the baby’s asleep.”
Jonathan was stretched out at the hearth, his stockinged foot rocking the cradle. His eyebrow arched.
“Company? The kettle’s on, my fine fellow.”
“Your fellow is a girl, and there’s nothing fine about her,” Rowan corrected, lifting the cap off his captive’s head. Fair-haired braids descended. “May I present our angelica and camomile thief?”
Jonathan smiled. “Ah. Mystery solved.”
The girl’s eyes fired. “I planted that garden!”
“Did you?” Jonathan asked in his most charming southern tone. “Fetch the young horticulturist a chair, brother.”
“She kicks,” Rowan warned.
The girl’s light brown eyes narrowed as she looked from one to the other. “You’re not brothers.”
“And you neglected to pay for your trousers,” Rowan observed, yanking off and reading the dry goods store tag. “The proprietor might want a word with you about that.”
“The proprietor is my father. His name is Selby, see?”
A rustling of nightclothes and Ursula stood in the back doorway. “Mr. Thomas Selby?”
Rowan saw something familiar in the girl’s trapped look, the tears stubbornly held back.
“You are so confusing! All of you!” she shouted, loud enough to startle wee Henry to wailing.
“Aw, there now then, fledgling,” Rowan soothed, lifting the baby from cradle and into his arms. “You’ve had enough of the lot of us, have you?”
Ursula kept her eyes fixed on the girl.
“What is your name?”
She glanced in the sack, “Thank you, Penina. A little camomile is exactly what we need for our Henry’s teething gums. Take the rest home. Will you not join us for breakfast first?”
Rowan sighed. His wife had found another stray. He rubbed his sore shin, then fetched the frying pan. This little one might enjoy some of his oatcakes, he supposed.