Tag Archive | Becky Lower

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Forgotten Debutante (Book Nine of the Cotillion Ball Series) by Becky Lower

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In 1863, America is war-weary. Fifteen-year-old Saffron Fitzpatrick, whose teenage years have been spent mourning the dead rather than dancing at her debutante ball, just wants to visit her beloved horse after being housebound due to the draft riots. A chance meeting with soldier Ezekiel Boone changes everything.

Three years ago, Ezekiel ran away with his older brothers to join the war effort, welcoming the chance for adventure. But when all four of his brothers die at Chancellorsville, he retreats home, despondent and depending on the kindness of strangers, like Saffron, who helps him on the journey. They share a wild ride and a breathless kiss, parting with fond memories.

Fate reunites the couple three years later, and their former attraction rekindles as they discover unexpected common ground and begin to build a relationship. But though the war is over, a future together may still elude them … especially if Saffron’s older, protective brother and the U.S. Army have anything to say about it.

 

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EXCERPT

New York City
September, 1866

Saffron helped herself to the breakfast food choices laid out on the sideboard before she took her seat at the family table, where her mother and father were already enjoying their morning’s repast. She popped a slice of salty bacon into her mouth before she picked up her fork to dig into the eggs, reveling in the taste of the good food. She closed her eyes in order to savor the moment. Good food, good fortune, and good times ahead, now that the war was finally winding down. Her father snapped his newspaper shut with a practiced flick of his wrist, and Saffron’s eyes flew open. When her father closed his paper, he had something to say. Something that usually involved the war, which had been a topic of conversation for years. She hoped for no more of war. It was past time to play.

“The declaration President Johnson signed last month ending the war seems to be holding. Finally, this God-awful war is finished. I had almost given up hope.”

“Me, too,” Saffron agreed. “I hesitate to get too excited just yet, until I can be sure the truce will hold. But now, maybe life can get back to normal. I long to wear a pretty dress dripping in lace and frills and dance at an ornate ball. I’m dying to have some fun.”

Her mother, Charlotte, patted Saffron’s hand. “Yes, of all of ours, except for Pepper’s, your life has been the most disrupted by the war. All the experiences you should have been having during the past few years have gone by the wayside. We’ll have to do something to make up for it now. You’re eighteen, past time we find you a husband. And now that the boys are all returning home, the number of available men should be picking up.”

Saffron mused. “But even in war, Pepper managed to find a new love, and her life now is as rosy as it was before the war. I won’t be so lucky. The men who are fortunate enough to be returning home are either crippled or so emotionally scarred the last thing they’re hoping for is to marry and have another obligation.”

Her father rose from the table. “There’s a big write-up in the paper about how best to bring our fallen soldiers home from the battlefields and establish national cemeteries where people can assemble to honor the sacrifice of those good men. There’s a sense of urgency to retrieve the bodies from southern land.”

Charlotte nodded. “Well, of course we need to bring our boys home and see them properly buried.”

George donned his suit jacket and took his hat from the waiting servant before he addressed his wife. “This Reburial Progam would be a good effort to get behind. Maybe you and Saffron can expand on your Sanitary Commission volunteer efforts.”

Saffron’s interest in the conversation picked up. “I have become quite the expert in the battle at Chancellorsville. Will they go field by field? Battle by battle? Because I can definitely contribute to at least one.”

Her father nodded. “I suppose so. Clara Barton has been gathering information for over a year now with her Missing Soldiers’ Office in Washington, DC. Her wealth of information is where the government will begin its efforts, according to the newspaper.”

Saffron ran her finger over her upper lip. She’d volunteered her services to the Sanitary Commission for the past three years and worked closely with Pepper and her husband, Elijah, to set up a hospital directory to catalog the wounded and dead for the benefit of the affected families. After the hospital directory was established, she’d begun to gather letters and scraps of paper from soldiers and loved ones about the burial locations of the fallen at Chancellorsville. There were other battles, bigger battles, that had happened, but Chancellorsville was the one she had been most intrigued by.

Her interest had been sparked by her chance meeting with a young man called Ezekiel Boone, when he shared how he was responsible for burying his four brothers. The image of Zeke popped into her head for the first time in quite a while. But he had filled her head for months following their impromptu meeting when she was fifteen and helped him escape. One never forgot one’s first kiss. And only kiss, to date. It was past time to put away for good her memory of him. It was past time to add to her life experiences. Perhaps have some more kisses with different men. Then, she’d stop reliving Zeke’s kiss and their stolen moment in time. Maybe the Reburial Program could provide the way.

Her father continued. “Andersonville was the first place to have a cemetery, with the help of Clara Barton. Seems only fitting, since so many of our men died in prison there. The papers say more men died from disease and illness than died on the battlefield. But there’s so much more to do.”

Saffron listened to her father with half an ear, but her mind was far away. She was reliving a wild wagon ride three years earlier, with a wild boy who never should have been in any battles and seen what he’d had to witness, done what he’d had to do. She wondered where he was now and if he would still be able to make her stomach churn in delight. She ran her finger over her upper lip again and sighed. They were two ships that had passed each other during the stormy seas of war. She’d best set her sights on a new beginning, now that the war was over, rather than be pondering over what could have been with a boy she never should have met.

Her mother was correct. It was past time for her to find a husband. She recalled the men who she’d seen on the streets coming home from the war, some of them still wearing their filthy, ragged uniforms. Haunted eyes stared at her when they chanced to notice her. Either that, or they were missing an arm or leg. How could a man wrap his arms around her when he had none? She sighed, heavily. She took pity on these men, admired their bravery, but wouldn’t choose to spend her life with them. At least not until she had an adventure or two to make up for lost time.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Becky LowerBecky Lower lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. Find Becky Lower at www.beckylowerauthor.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @BeckyLower1.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: A Widow’s Salvation by Becky Lower

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In 1862 America, the Civil War has raged for twelve months. Pepper Fitzpatrick Brown’s heart was broken when her husband died with the first volley at Manassas. Now she’s a widow raising three young boys and plans to honor his sacrifice by volunteering at the army hospital.

When Colonel Elijah Williams can grab a few minutes to nap between his duties as head surgeon at MacDougall Army Hospital in the Bronx, his sleep is invaded with nightmares of the atrocities he’s seen. His life has narrowed to nothing but the bloody war … until he meets Pepper Brown. But her father is concerned Elijah doesn’t have the best intentions, and Pepper is fearful of loving and losing again.

It’s hard to find happiness in a war-torn United States, but these two stand a fighting chance—if they can save what’s left of their hearts.

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EXCERPT

New York City, July 1862

Pepper Brown yanked open her bedroom armoire and stared at the sea of black. Her widow’s weeds, as people called them. They were showing up in increasing numbers on the streets of New York, on women of all ages. The Civil War, which both sides had thought would be over in a matter of weeks, marked its one-year anniversary today.

Which meant today was also Pepper’s one-year anniversary as a widow. She drummed her foot on the floor while she perused the black dresses. Was she ready to move on?

Michael had thought she would be. In fact, he extracted a promise from her before he left for the war. One year and not one day more, he had said. Her mother thought so, too, or she wouldn’t have planned their outing for today. All Pepper now needed was the courage to convince herself they were right. The churning in her stomach told her she had a ways to go yet.

She straightened and turned her back on the black.

“Molly, please come help me dress,” Pepper called down the hall to her lady’s maid.
“I’m going out today.”

“Aye, ma’am.” Molly, a young Irish girl with light brown hair and matching freckles across her pert nose, came quickly into the room. “Which gown would you be liking?”
She began fondling the various dresses in the armoire.

“None of these. I’m done with these dresses. Besides, most of them are maternity gowns. I want to wear something fresh, something different.”

Molly nodded vigorously, and the little white cap on her head bounced askew. She righted it before she spoke. “Perfectly understood, ma’am, and you should be stepping down to half mourning. Perhaps I can find a nice gray or deep purple gown among your other things.”

Pepper shook her head. “No, no half mourning for me. What kind of silly term is that, anyway? I’m going out with Mother, and I want our day to be special. I want to wear something bright. I think the periwinkle dress Jasmine created for me right before Michael’s death will do. Yes, the periwinkle.”

Pepper smiled at Molly’s horrified intake of breath. She obviously disapproved, which meant it was the right decision.

“Periwinkle? Forgive me saying so, ma’am, but isn’t it a wee bit too much of a difference?”

“Why yes, it is, Molly.” Pepper’s smile grew. “It’s time to be different, don’t you think? Michael would have approved. Go on, now, and find me the dress. It may need a bit of altering, since I’ve still to lose some of the baby weight I’ve put on. It’ll need to be fixed before Mother gets here.”

“Aye, ma’am, right away.”

Molly took off at a trot down the hall to the large storage room for clothing, and Pepper closed the doors on the widow’s weeds. She had never expected to be a widow at only thirty-one years of age. She had never expected to have three boys under the age of eight to raise by herself. She had never expected Michael’s last gift to her would be another son, one who was his exact image. The babe had been born hale and healthy, even though she had thought the child would suffer because of her melancholy.

And, even though she had never expected the life now facing her, she would throw off her widow’s weeds and pick up the rest of her journey on this earth, despite her fears that she’d never be able to pull it off. Today she would dress up in gay-colored clothing, maybe even splash on some toilet water, go to the Army hospital in the Bronx with her mother, and provide a bit of comfort to the many who were wounded. She had no medical experience to draw from, but she could hold a hand, fetch a glass of water, write a letter home. Little things, she reasoned. But a lot of little things could make a difference. She hoped someone had been there on the battlefield to hold Michael’s hand as he took his last breath.

She brought a fist to her mouth as the tightness in her chest threatened to reduce her again to the sniveling mess she’d been in those first days. Days when she’d gathered information from the papers on how her beloved died alone on some field in Virginia in front of the shameful folks who had driven out from Washington, D.C., with their picnic baskets to witness the battle, only to turn and run when the battle dragged on and became so bloody. They had expected a fun-filled afternoon as the men strutted about in their fancy uniforms but instead were witness to the first carnage of the ghastly war.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

BeckyLowerBecky Lower lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

An Unconventional Courtship by Becky Lower

An Unconventional Courtship

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Charlotte Ashcroft knows her family would never approve of her attending a women’s rights speech in New York City alone. So when a busybody from back home confronts Charlotte, she grabs the man in a jaunty blue hat nearby and introduces him as her escort.

George Fitzpatrick had boarded the new omnibus intent on nothing more than a ride from one point to another. Until that gorgeous young blonde suddenly claimed he was her chaperone. What’s an up-and-coming young banker to do but help a lady out?

Charlotte knows exactly what she wants, but can she convince a man who is her opposite that he can’t live without her?

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Publisher and Release Date: Crimson Romance, June 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: New York City 1829
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Wendy

I loved this sweet little novella, which is well written and easy to read. Set in New York City in 1829, we have a smart, sassy girl who is very independent and sure about what she wants from life and unafraid to go right out there and get it. And she’s matched with an equally smart and confident young man, sure of his place in the world and how he can better it – and making the perfect family is high on the list.

Charlotte Ashcroft is an avid supporter of women’s rights and is on her way to a listen to speech on the subject in New York City when she spots the young man whom she decides, almost immediately, will be her husband. The problem is this – how will she get the handsome man in the jaunty blue hat to see things as she does? Little does this manipulative but likeable young miss know that George is equally smitten and equally set on his course.

There follow many machinations on Charlotte’s part. ‘Arranging’ coincidences in an amusing manner, she twists her parents around her little finger and even does a little matchmaking of her own regarding other young people who may interfere with her very precise plans for the future. George, meanwhile is busy doing his own ‘arranging’ and it’s fairly obvious that this delightful young couple will have a happy ending – together.

This charming little story was a breath of fresh air, a prequel to the Cotillion Ball Saga which, I understand, follows the lives of the children Charlotte and George will eventually have, and which series I have the pleasure of adding to my TBR list. This is one of those reads that left me smiling.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: An Unconventional Courtship (a Cotillion Ball novella) by Becky Lower

An Unconventional Courtship

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Charlotte Ashcroft knows her family would never approve of her attending a women’s rights speech in New York City alone. So when a busybody from back home confronts Charlotte, she grabs the man in a jaunty blue hat nearby and introduces him as her escort.

George Fitzpatrick had boarded the new omnibus intent on nothing more than a ride from one point to another. Until that gorgeous young blonde suddenly claimed he was her chaperone. What’s an up-and-coming young banker to do but help a lady out?

Charlotte knows exactly what she wants, but can she convince a man who is her opposite that he can’t live without her?

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EXCERPT

Charlotte herded her charges—Emma and Katie—onto the large omnibus, which was basically an oversized carriage with room for about twenty hardy souls inside. For a lesser fare, a seat on the top of the bus, open to the elements, could be had. Regardless of the price, no ladies ever rode out in the open. Charlotte stopped and glanced up at the men seated on the top. One young man in particular caught her eye as he tipped his bowler hat to her.

“Shall we join the merry men on the top of the bus?” she asked her friends half-jokingly. She would appreciate getting a closer look at the nice gentleman with the jaunty, blue hat that sported a small feather at the brim. And all the men sitting on top of the bus seemed to be having fun, unlike those stuffed like sardines inside the conveyance.

Emma and Katie squealed unhappily at the idea. With a shrug of her shoulders, Charlotte nodded her head and smiled at the young man before she joined her more timid friends inside the bus. An assortment of men and women were crammed into the seats, and the four horses attached to the bus strained under the load. Soon, they were underway down Broadway to lower Manhattan.

Many stops later, Charlotte and her friends arrived at their destination. As she exited the omnibus, Charlotte cast a glance to the top, searching for the young man who had caught her eye earlier. He was no longer there. She sighed softly. They were ships passing in the night. In a city the size of New York, the chances of running into one person again were slim. He would become merely a fragment of a memory of the day she’d spent listening to one of the premier advocates for women’s equality and being slightly scandalous herself. With a smile on her face, she planted herself between her friends, taking their arms.

“Let’s move on to the second part of our big adventure, shall we, and hear what Fanny Wright has to say to us. The omnibus ride was fun, don’t you think?”

Emma laughed out loud. “Which part? The smelly man next to me or the young man who pinched my bottom?”

“How about you, Katie?” Perhaps Charlotte had been too lost in thought about the man above her to pay close attention to what was going on around her.

“There was one young man sitting next to me who seemed to take quite a shine to me. He’s a blacksmith. His arms and shoulders were enormous! His name is Carrick McCray, and I told him I’d be taking a stroll with you ladies in the park tomorrow afternoon, if he were so inclined to join us.”

“See what an exciting day it’s been already? And we’ve yet to hear Fanny.”

“Charlotte? Is that you?”

Charlotte cringed inside her Sunday best, lavender dress. She knew that voice. Accepting her fate, she turned to face the old busybody.

“Well, hello there, Mrs. Beasley. How are you this fine Sunday afternoon? Are you also planning to attend Frances Wright’s speech?”

Mrs. Beasley’s spine straightened at the suggestion, and her gaze pierced Charlotte. “Heavens, no. I have no wish to fill my head with such nonsense. Where is your mother? I should say hello.”

“Mother’s not with us today. We took the omnibus to get here.”

“What? Without a male escort? Is your mother aware of what you’re doing, young lady?”

Charlotte glanced around the street where they had been dropped off. Suddenly, she spied a familiar hat in the crowd. A blue hat with a feather tucked into the grosgrain ribbon. Her heart began to race as he came toward her.

“Ah, but we do have a proper male escort.” She wrapped her hand around the man’s arm, bringing him, if somewhat reluctantly, to her side. “This is our chaperone, Mrs. Beasley.” Charlotte turned her eyes toward the man and held her breath, silently pleading with him to catch on to her plight.

He executed a proper bow toward Mrs. Beasley, and Charlotte let out her breath a bit at a time. “George Fitzpatrick, at your service, Mrs. Beasley.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

BeckyLowerBecky Lower lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Expressly Yours, Samantha by Becky Lower

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Samantha Hughes has one day to escape from her wicked uncle, and a sign in the post office is her answer. She’ll cut her hair to pose as a man and become Sam Hughes, a Pony Express rider.

Valerian Fitzpatrick doesn’t want the weight of responsibility that his brothers have in the family business. Fortunately, the Pony Express offers a chance to make his own way in the world.

He assumes his new buddy, Sam, is on the run from the law, until she’s hit by a stray gunshot and he has to undress her to staunch the wound. Friendship quickly turns to attraction—and more—but when Sam’s uncle tracks her down, she is forced to run yet again.

Val’s determined to find her, but will a future with Sam mean giving up the freedom he’s always craved?

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Publisher and Release Date: Crimson Romance, March 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Colonial America
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Susan

A charming love story, Expressly Yours, Samantha delves into the Colonial American lore that romanticizes the Pony Express, the first government funded mail service in America. Terms like “stagecoach stations,” “hitching posts,” and “pioneer wagon trails” have meaning as the author incorporates the vernacular of early Americans into the story. It’s a short history lesson about a part of American culture that is rarely visited in high school textbooks.

Though Becky Lower shows a broad knowledge base of the terms that were common in Colonial America, she isn’t able to separate herself from common 21st century lingo such as “mean dude,” “subterfuge,” and “protect [their] way of life” when referring to the Native American Indians who are referred to as “Injuns” but never savages which they would’ve been by Colonial Americans. The author’s compassion towards American Indians is present throughout the story. Such modern ideas and concepts are scattered throughout the book, which at the heart is about Samantha Hughes and Valerian Fitzpatrick, both Pony Express riders.

Sam must pass for a boy in order to be a rider, a job she wants because of her love of horses and the chance to be on her own and away from her abusive uncle who wants to sell her to a bordello Madame. Val’s reason requires more speculation on the part of the reader, assuming that he enjoys working with horses. Unlike Sam, he is close to his family who loves and protects him in return.

The author enlightens readers about the pledge which the riders must take, a type of knight’s oath of fealty to his liege lord. Although Sam’s situation is very different from Val’s, the two find a common link in their joy in riding and taking care of horses, and their desire to perform an important service for their country. Their integrity is inspiring, though the author does more telling of the tale than of expressing what the characters feel and what sparks their emotions. The writing lacks a personal touch and tends to lay out the action rather than putting the characters, and by extension the readers, in the middle of it.

The premise entices readers of romantic fiction but the minor complication involving Sam’s uncle, who interferes in her life, is pushed into the story to create friction. It’s overly dramatic and takes away from the story’s plausibility. Perhaps it’s my 21st century mind which sees it that way, but it was very convenient when Sam’s uncle seemed to be prescient and was able to locate her – though she left no trail – and deduce that she was disguising herself as a boy to be a Pony Express rider. There is no evidence to suggest he could figure it out on his own. In fact, Sam’s uncle is constantly described as being ignorant.

The love story between Sam and Val, however, buds nicely and believably. Their affection for one another feels genuine and Val’s protective nature, which is spurred on by Sam, fits his character. They are a couple that is made to be together.

Expressly Yours, Samantha charms readers with a romantic pair made to be together and set in the backdrop of Colonial America. Though the author misses the opportunity to describe the stretch of prairies and plains which the riders cross to deliver the mail, it focuses mostly is on what is important, the bond between Sam and Val, which puts emphasis on humans being loving to each other.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Expressly Yours, Samantha by Becky Lower

roses2

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Samantha Hughes has one day to escape from her wicked uncle, and a sign in the post office is her answer. She’ll cut her hair to pose as a man and become Sam Hughes, a Pony Express rider.
Valerian Fitzpatrick doesn’t want the weight of responsibility that his brothers have in the family business. Fortunately, the Pony Express offers a chance to make his own way in the world.

He assumes his new buddy, Sam, is on the run from the law, until she’s hit by a stray gunshot and he has to undress her to staunch the wound. Friendship quickly turns to attraction—and more—but when Sam’s uncle tracks her down, she is forced to run yet again.

Val’s determined to find her, but will a future with Sam mean giving up the freedom he’s always craved?

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EXCERPT

Missouri, March 1860

If Samantha spent one more night in the tiny cabin belonging to her uncle, she would not be a virgin by morning. Even while she sat beside her aunt the previous evening, leaning over to hear her aunt’s halted words as she dictated a final letter to her mother, Samantha’s panic rose. Her hands shook as she wrote the words her aunt spoke, putting them down on paper to send to Hilda’s mother and Samantha’s own grandmother, who was close to death herself back in Massachusetts. Aunt Hilda had shielded her from Uncle Jack the best she could for the past two years, but her aunt would be of no help now. Before she’d exhaled her last breath, she had reached for Samantha.

“Where is Jack?”

“He’s in the barn, Aunt Hilda. Do you want me to get him?” Samantha sensed her aunt’s death was near. She dipped a cloth in cool water and swabbed Hilda’s brow in a futile attempt to give her peace.

“No, child. Don’t bring him in here. I have nothing to say to him. But reach under the mattress, and be quick about it.”

Samantha did as she was bid and pulled out a small bag of coins. Hilda placed it in Samantha’s hands.

“Take this, my child, and leave here as soon as you can. I’m sorry I ever brought you into this house, but I didn’t know what else to do.”

“It’s not your fault, Aunt Hilda, and I appreciate all you’ve done for me. If not for you,
I would have died along with my folks.”

“Put a bit of that money out where Jack can find it. He’ll spend it on drink or a whore after I’m laid to rest. That should give you time.”

“Please rest, now, Aunt Hilda. I’ll be all right.”

Samantha stayed with Hilda until she died, and then prepared the body for burial. She informed her uncle of Hilda’s passing, thinking he might want some time alone with his deceased wife. Instead, he left the house briefly, to inform the cemetery workers that a new body would be coming, and then returned to the barn to complete the casket. The long night faded into dawn, and Samantha still had no idea what to do.

The hasty funeral would take place this morning in the town cemetery.

Samantha needed a plan, but her thoughts were jumping all over the place. As she prepared herself for the ride to the cemetery, she tried to calm herself and think of the most immediate things to do.

She had to get away, and get away fast. And for that to happen, Jack needed to be kept occupied. Although he hadn’t said a word to her as she got his breakfast ready before they loaded her aunt’s body into the wagon his sidelong glances at her made the hair on the back of her neck stand up. The first part of her plan came together as she cleared the table, leaving the pouch of coins for him to find. She had kept out enough to pay her way as she ran, and left the rest to keep Jack entertained this afternoon.

The ceremony at the cemetery was hardly long enough to be called a service. The minister quoted a bible passage and said some nice things about her aunt, but her casket was lowered into the ground within a matter of minutes. Samantha hesitated at the gravesite, tossing a handful of earth on the crude casket as the graveyard worker pierced the mound of dirt beside the site with his shovel, and began filling the hole he had created the previous evening The scraping of a shovel in the dirt and the scent of freshly turned earth would forever remind her of Aunt Hilda.

Jack wasted no time at the gravesite and hurried to the tavern with his pouch of coins. Samantha took the letter containing Aunt Hilda’s dying words to the post office. She would accomplish this final act for her aunt, however futile it may be, since she fully expected her aunt and her grandmother to meet at heaven’s door at the same time. And then she’d be off, leaving this small town, and Uncle Jack, behind. But she still didn’t have a clue where she might head, with little money and no means of transportation.

A sign at the post office caught Samantha’s eye. She feigned disinterest as she snuck sidelong glances at the poster about the new Pony Express, reading one line at a time. Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows. She tore her glance from the sign and studied the customers queued up in front of her.

Another quick look.

Not over eighteen.

She posted her letter and turned away from the window, catching the last of the poster’s message.

Must be expert riders. Willing to face death daily. Orphans preferred.

She was all of what they wanted, except for one basic and glaring fact. She might be young, skinny, and wiry, but she was no fellow. Samantha calmed her breathing as she walked away from the post office, but her mind was buzzing with possibilities. Her ticket out of the nightmare her life had become had just presented itself. She loved horses and had a good hand with them. All she needed to do was to hide her true identity—pretend to be a boy—and she was certain she could pull it off. Uncle Jack had enough money to keep him busy until after midnight. Samantha figured she had at least twelve hours to transform herself and get on the road

She stopped by Aunt Hilda’s fresh grave once more. Her tears mingled with the fresh dirt. She picked up a handful of the loose earth from the gentle mound, kneading it in her hands.

“There’s been so much heartache in my life, Aunt Hilda. First, Momma and Daddy died of the smallpox, I barely survived it, and now you’re gone. You protected me as best you could, but you can’t anymore. It’s up to me now.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

BeckyLowerBecky Lower has traveled the country, looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it present day middle America or on a covered wagon headed west in the 1850s. Contemporary and historical romances are her specialty. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Duplicitous Debutante by Becky Lower

roses2

In 1859, ladies of New York society are expected to do three things well: find a husband, organize a household, and have children. But despite her mother’s best intentions, making her debut is the last thing on Rosemary Fitzpatrick’s mind.

Writing the popular Harry Hawk dime novels as F.P. Elliott, she’s too busy hiding her female identity from her new publisher, Henry Cooper. To protect her clandestine career, she ends up posing as the enigmatic author’s secretary.
Henry is not the typical Boston Brahmin, nor the typical publisher, and Rosemary entrances him from the moment they meet. As they work together and grow closer, he wonders how his traditional-minded father will react when he brings her into the family, because Henry firmly intends to marry the working-class woman.

But when her deception begins to unravel at the cotillion ball, will Henry be able to forgive her or has deceit cost her the man she loves?

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EXCERPT

Harry Hawk and the Tycoon’s Daughter—Book Six in the Harry Hawk Series

Harry Hawk stared down the barrel of his Colt .45. A huge Sioux Indian was in his sights, but was holding the girl in front of him as a shield. Her eyes were as big as saucers as she struggled against the man, and she trembled as she kept her eyes on the end of Harry’s gun.

New York City, March 1859

Rosemary Fitzpatrick laid her fountain pen on the paper, oblivious to the blob of ink that fell from its tip and damaged the page. She picked up the letter she had received earlier in the day.

It was her own gun, and she was staring down the barrel.

The letter informed her that her publisher, Page Books, had been sold, as Mr. Page had retired. The new company, Cooper and Son Publishing, was sending an envoy from Boston to New York to meet with all the authors. And to decide whom to keep.

She read the words between the lines. And whom to cut.

She had never met Mr. Page. All their correspondence had been through the post. So Mr. Page had no idea one of his best-selling dime novel authors was a woman. F.P. Elliott was the name she’d come up with when she was only fourteen and submitted her first story, not once imagining she’d become one of Mr. Page’s most productive and popular authors.

She had only two days in which to find someone to impersonate F.P. Elliott.

Rosemary ran her ink-stained fingers through her hair as she pondered what to do. The logical choice, and her only real hope, was her older brother Halwyn. But he was married now and settled. And, despite the fact he loved his sister, Rosemary doubted he’d ever cracked open one of her books.

Well, it was worth a try, anyway. She hastily stood, removed her pinafore—which was covered in purplish-blue stains resembling bruises, but protected her dress—patted her hair back in place, and glided down the steps from her garret study in the four-story townhouse to the main level, where she encountered her mother in the drawing room.

“Oh, good. I was just on my way upstairs to find you. Do come in.”

Rosemary took a seat opposite her mother, who picked up the embroidery she had been working on. Rosemary took a moment to smooth her pale blue muslin dress and inhaled her mother’s subtle, comforting scent of lilacs before she brought her eyes up. “Mother, I have a problem.”

Her mother glanced up from her needlework. “Well, if it’s a problem with one of your stories, I’m afraid I can’t help you. I don’t know where you get your ideas. Help yourself to some tea and a bit of Cook’s tangy lemon cake, why don’t you?”

Rosemary rose and poured herself a cup of tea, forgoing the cake. “Well, indirectly, it is about my stories.” She took a deep breath. “Mr. Page has retired and he’s sold the company to a Boston publisher.

Charlotte Fitzpatrick’s eyes locked on Rosemary’s. “Oh, dear.”

“Precisely. And the new publisher is sending someone to New York in two days to interview all the authors Mr. Page currently has under contract. They insist upon an in person visit. Whatever can I do?”

Charlotte tapped her finger on her teeth for a moment, before her face broke into a smile. “We’ll just have to find someone to be Mr. Elliott! What about your father?”

“Papa’s way too busy to spend an afternoon impersonating me. I was thinking more along the lines of Halwyn.”

“Hmmm. I suppose either of them would be a good choice. They can certainly think on their feet. But has either of them read your stories? Do they know where your inspiration for Harry Hawk comes from?”

“No, I don’t think either of them cares. They merely pat me on the head and tell me they’re glad I have a ‘hobby’ that keeps me off the streets and away from the Bloomers and their demonstrations for women’s rights.”

“All right then. Here’s what I suggest. You can prepare a series of questions about your stories, not just your characters but also about your current contract with Mr. Page, and administer the test to both your father and brother. Halwyn and Grace are coming over for dinner tonight, so your timing is perfect. Whoever does the best on the test will be the one to impersonate your Mr. Elliott.” Charlotte clapped her hands together.

“Your idea might just work,” Rosemary replied as a touch of excitement washed over her. “I’ll compose the pertinent questions this afternoon.”

Her mother patted her hand. “Surely we New Yorkers can pull the wool over a Boston Brahmin any day of the week.” She set aside her needlework and picked up the most recent copy of Godey’s fashion magazine.

“Now we must discuss the important business of your debut next month. That’s the real reason I wanted to talk to you.”

“Must I still go through with this archaic European folly?”

Charlotte fixed a level stare on her daughter. “It is neither archaic nor European anymore. Judging from its success in finding suitable partners for our young ladies of society since its introduction into American culture five years ago, I must say it’s a convention that’s here to stay. I let you talk me out of it last year, when you should have had your season, simply because I was exhausted from planning the weddings of your two sisters. But no more dawdling, Rosemary. 1859 has to be your year. You’re nineteen and must begin entertaining the idea of getting married. Besides, if the talk of war between the States evolves into actual battle, the Cotillion may be cancelled temporarily—at least until we take care of the Southerners and free all the slaves. You may not have another chance to find a husband for years.”

Charlotte pointed to a gown in the magazine. “Jasmine has already created a lovely white gown for your coming-out ball, but we must think beyond the dance, to the entire season. We’ll have a formal dinner in the weeks following the dance. How about a dress such as this?”

Rosemary placed a hand on her stomach, which now knotted with anxiety on top of her excitement. “Mother, I can’t think of dinners or ball gowns right now. My entire future is in jeopardy.”

“Quit being so melodramatic, for goodness’s sake. I’m quite certain your father or brother can come up with a solution, so indulge me a bit and let’s talk dresses. After all, having a wonderful season is part of your future, too.”

”I’m sure whatever you decide will be fine, Mother. I need to get to work on my questions for Papa and Halwyn.”

Rosemary’s stomach calmed a bit as she rose and went back to the garret to compose her test. Maybe her mother’s idea would work. Perhaps her father or brother could pull it off.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

BeckyLower
Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it present-day middle America or on a covered wagon headed west in the 1850s. Contemporary and historical romances are her specialty. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com.