Posts Tagged ‘historical romance’
In December 1773, John Rowe wrote in his diary:
Dec 26. Exceeding windy & stormy – it Blown down many Turrets & done Damage among the Shipping at Long Wharff & Tillstons & Blown off the Tiles from my house.
Many New England diaries include weather notations as a matter of course, but in this diary either Mr. Rowe did not include weather notes, or the editor took them out. That this notation made it into the edition published by the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1903, makes it doubly interesting.
Oona had walked to the Common to watch the sun set over the marshes of the Back Bay. The walk back over Fort Hill was made treacherous and plodding by a harsh storm that started just as she turned toward home. She pushed back the hood of her cloak so she could see against the driving sleet. She was happy for the warm fisherman’s cap and sweater Jason had left, the thick lanolin soaked wool was warm and waterproof against the cold and wet. She lifted her face to the stinging ice and steadily increasing gusts, loving the howling wind and the energy of the storm. Hours later, alone in her room after the long day, she looked out the attic window, the wind had picked up and was roaring now. The reflected light from the thick clouds and white ground showed that ice had begun to stick and accumulate on every tree limb, roof, and mast.
The Nor’easter raged all night and all of the next day. It was Sunday, but no one ventured out for church. The ground was a solid sheet of ice, too treacherous for horses’ hooves, or a walker on anything but the most important errand. With each gust of wind, another heavy, ice coated limb crashed to the ground, making the world even more treacherous. Someday, Oona thought while staring out the window, when the sun came out again, this dull gray world will be changed by the ice, snow and freezing rain into a shiny, sparkling otherworld.
And so it was Monday morning that people emerged from their hearths to get on with their week. Frozen mud and brick walks, coated with a day’s worth of accumulated ice greeted them. Oona, like other brave souls ready to face such a day, held tight to her stout walking stick as she maneuvered through town. Like everyone she stepped gingerly, but it was the sight overhead that captivated her. The clouds had cleared away for bright winter light that caught the ice on every surface and brought it to an unearthly life. Nothing looked as it had before. Things like tree limbs, window shutters, shop and tavern signs – glittered in the bright light, moved unnaturally in the wind, broke loose from their anchors and simply shattered when they hit the ground. As the morning progressed and no heat could be coaxed from the sun to melt the layers of accumulated ice, a new wind arrived from the harsh north. Gusts from this frigid wind took the ice covered trees and ships’ masts and snapped them like twigs.
Oona headed home with bread, eggs and stew beef for dinner. She was pleased to have made it home and not slipped and fallen on Mrs. Channings fresh eggs. Back in the warm kitchen on Oliver Street, she put down her bundles and pulled off her cloak and warm undergarments. “Mrs. Prince, it’s bad down at the harbor. Masts broken, ships on their sides. I didn’t see the Catherine, but I don’t see how she could’a come through with nothing. Leastways, not completely. None of them did.”
“Don’t tell the master.”
“Don’t tell? Why not?”
“If he goes out now and gets hurt on a fall, mistress will blame you. I think she is quite angry enough over Peter Church.”
“Really? Did something new happen?”
Mrs. Prince poured two cups of chocolate and sat Oona down for a chat. Nothing had happened. But there was no reason to upset Anne Goodiel, or make Matthew run out before the streets were cleared. The cook was absolutely right.
The day had been hot and long, certainly she was not used to dancing, not used to being touched. Nina assumed that in most places dancers were gloved even on hot days, but for the last three years no one had bought new gloves. There were simply none available since the non-importation agreements – made with such passion in town meeting. Now here they were at a wedding — bare-handed. Non-importation agreements were fine until there was something one needed, like gloves.
Nina slipped back out of the long windows toward the rose garden. She found a bench in the flowers and gratefully sat. Her legs felt weak, she felt flushed and her heart was beating in a most uncomfortable manner. She blamed the dancing, but sitting there in the warm June sun, she grudgingly admitted that Alex, her intrepid rescuer, was the culprit. She had sworn off men so many years ago. Vowed never to marry again. She assured herself she was safe because of her short marriage, and that there was no time or room in her life for such discomfort – physical or emotional. It was good she would leave, and that he would go back to Cambridge. Chances were, this time she really would never see him again.
She concentrated on the beautiful garden. In the warm dry weather the flowers had bloomed early and now waited, suspended in glorious splendor, their petals so far open they nearly drooped. A few had already stopped trying to hold on, and masses of color littered the nearby ground. It was clear from the empty stems, that those flowers that had been fresh and pretty this morning, had been cut for the ceremony, or the party here at the house. She scooped a handful of pale purple and yellow petals into her hands and breathed in the heady scent.
Roses reminded her of that day John and his sisters had taken them all out to hear the latest preacher, a red Indian with a booming voice. They had sat near the host’s house and their rose garden, facing into the field – along with hundreds of other people. It was so unlike her father’s church. There had been no mention of theology, or of readings or careful translation of the bible, such as he and other ministers did. No this man preached of finding Jesus through one’s heart not one’s head. It had seemed alien at the time, but spoke to her now with so many changes whirling around her.
She had been proud that day when her young husband left to fight for Great Britain and the King against their Catholic enemy, the French. She realized after his death that she had never really understood, her heart had not understood that he should go and fight in a war which had ended in Europe and for which the treaty had already been signed.
It was different this time. This unnatural civil war, as the newspapers called it, seemed inevitable. Just as she had moved from her parent’s home; forge her own life, with marriage, child, and an early widowhood, so America was ready to be accepted as a full member of the Empire with rights equal to all Englishmen. That Parliament did not agree, would not grant them membership or a vote, even though the colonies were important members of the mercantile world and consumers of British made goods, rankled.
She wasn’t sure how she felt about Alex flirting with her, making her feel things she would rather ignore, but she could not help be proud that someone who was a friend of sorts, was engaged in routing the British Army out of Boston.
Well both books are published now, so it seems time to say something about them. I got a wonderful comment from one of my early readers, who called Cardinal Points, “delicious history.” That’s nice because it was precisely what I was going for.
Cardinal Points is a fictional, historical romance that takes place in Boston during and just after the ‘Boston Tea Party.” We recall this event as the great anti-tax revolt that started the American Revolution, and in myth it was just that. But, what I wondered, did the Intolerable Acts mean to those who bore the brunt of Parliament’s Anger against Boston? Those left behind while John Hancock, Sam Adams, and Paul Revere left the town to escape British occupation and live elsewhere? I thought about that often while giving tours for Boston National Historic Park on the Freedom Trail, which I did for two summers. And I created Oona and Jason, and the novel Cardinal Points to let their story explain what it might have been like to live in Boston at that time. For instance, did you know that no printing presses were destroyed by the occupying army? I didn’t want to come out and tell you, so I let Oona experience the surprise of that, or that no one wanted to serve as a judge? Parliament had ruled that all judges were now to be appointed by the King or his representative and suddenly no one volunteered to sit. Turned out the King was easier to ignore than the neighbors with the hot pot of tar and the bucket of feathers. I won’t give away their romance or the many plot twists, but it does get pretty involved and occasionally steamy.
Finally after numerous Intolerable situations, Oona and Jason are reunited and leave Boston together for points north.
And now Fate and Fair Winds has been published. I don’t have copies yet, so the link is to Amazon, that will change eventually. Fate and Fair Winds begins about seven months after the end of Cardinal Points and involves Jason’s younger brother John and young Rebecca Willent, in their story of intrigues and romance. Rebecca is a young girl wondering what the Declaration of Independence means in her life. They meet only weeks after the signing of that document in July of 1776. While John was traveling through the colonies to gain some understanding of the Americans.
When Howe’s Army moved into Philadelphia, for their winter quarters from October 1777 to June 1778, they meet again. This time John wears his red uniform to announce his dedication and willingness to fight for his King. Rebecca makes no such announcement, but has been collecting information for George Washington and the Americans. It turns out that they are opposed by a third and more evilly potent force whom they must fight together.
It was interesting to compare the occupation of the two colonial cities. (Boston wasn’t called city until years later, see earlier post on town government.) Parliament was mad at Boston, but not at Philadelphia and the experiences of the residents and the occupiers in the two places were very different.
A third book in the Edge of Empire series is being written. Alewife takes place outside of Boston and begins at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, or rather the end of the battle. It was a battle where both sides claimed victory – the Americans retreated when they ran out of powder and shot, but the British lost 1,054 (226 dead and 828 wounded), many of them officers. A British wit in London quipped, “We certainly are victorious, but if we have eight more such victories there will be nobody left to bring the news of them.”
Alex is among the American line, and then sent off to find supplies for the growing army in Cambridge. At a shipyard south of Boston, he meets a young widow trying to find barrels for the beer she brews at the Hammer and Wheel, a tavern at the Lower Falls of the Charles River in Newton. Do to a errant barrel, careening out of control and toward her, they meet as Alex pulls her to safety and falls backwards as his injured leg gives out.
She is, he admits, a man’s dream. Soft in all the right places when she fell into his arms, a pretty face, and she smells of hops, brewer’s yeast and ale. But nothing is ever that easy, is it?