Posts Tagged ‘Historical novel’

Excerpt From Chapter One

August 9, 2009


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EXCERPT FROM CORRIGANS’ POOL: Circling around to the front of the manor, Ella paused in the garden to examine one of the two dozen rose bushes scattered about, a few of which were already in blossom. The clatter of a carriage on the circular driveway caused her to look up, and she spied Victor Faircloth, driven by his daft servant, Lenny, pulling up to the manor steps.

Almost in reflex, she stepped backward to hide behind the lattice and peek through the thorny leaves. What else would ruin her day? She watched him move with exaggerated pomp up the steps and across the veranda, his never-used silver-handled cane hooked over his elegantly sleeved wrist. In an odd way, the man was handsome, his cheeks deeply grooved, almost like elongated dimples. But his cheerless gray eyes could take the joy out of one’s thoughts almost before one realized it had happened.

And to think this man—her father’s boyhood friend—wanted to marry her. He was more like a distant relative than a suitor, and a cold one at that. She had been only seventeen when he first proposed, and he was forty-one at the time. Shocked, she had sprung from the divan without uttering a word and abandoned him for the privacy of her room. On his next visit, she apologized for her rudeness, then regretted ever since that she was not forthright and simply told him that she would never marry him. He bowed his signature stiff bow, and she was surprised how it irritated her.

“I am aware of your parents’ unfortunate situation,” Victor replied. “In such times, an eldest daughter’s first duty lies with her family. But I shall not be far, my dear.”

He had been true to his word, his frequent presence in her home becoming her greatest bane. Not that he wasn’t sweet to her, but when he thought she wasn’t looking, his eyes followed her, hostile even in their admiration. He reminded her of a praying mantis, stiff as a stick, waiting … always waiting.

She flicked a bug off a rose and tried to think kinder thoughts of  the man. She did pity him and his loneliness. He was without friends, other than her father, who was kind to everyone and had many friends. Never once had she seen Mister Faircloth enjoying himself at socials. He limited himself to smoking and sipping bourbon with the menfolk, or standing off in the corner observing everyone with a supercilious air. And except for his attention to her, she noticed in him a veiled coolness toward other women, a coolness that, to her notion, indicated contempt for them. Something told her that such a man would have the same feelings toward a wife.

A week ago, exasperated that she must hide in her own home or else suffer the man’s gaze upon her at every turn, she had all but ordered her father to do something about him. “Don’t worry, my dear,” Adam Corrigan chuckled at her uncommon anger. “I would never suggest that you marry Victor, not even if someday you find yourself plump and forty and still single … and with only him in pursuit.”

“Please, Father, I’m serious. He truly believes us betrothed simply because he wishes it. You must speak to him!”

“Yes, yes. When next he mentions it,” he said, smiling at her and pinching her cheek. “Victor is captivated by your beauty, my dear, like everyone else. But he would never understand the mind of a woman like you.”

“Don’t you mean, Father, he would never understand a woman who has a mind?” She had made her father laugh, and she left the room smiling; he would set Victor Faircloth straight, and that would be the end of that.

Still peering from behind the lattice, she plucked a rose and pinched off the thorns then rested her cheek against the post. Her father had been joking, but what if he was right and one day she discovered that her only choice was the mediocrity of spinsterhood or a loveless marriage to Victor Faircloth? She raised her eyebrows. That being the situation, she would swallow her pride and ask her dear friend, Jack Kearney, to marry her. At least she loved Jack like a friend, and Jack made her laugh. And unlike Victor Faircloth, Jack was young, a handsome jester, carefree, and like all Kearneys, always in  celebration of something simply for the fun of celebrating.

She frowned. Truth was, she didn’t love Jack like one loves a friend. She loved him like a brother—and for that reason, marrying him would be out of the question. Besides, Jack flaunted his pledge to bachelordom like a big placard worn defiantly around his neck. It would take someone more determined than she to wrestle that placard away from him.

She tossed the mangled rose aside, slowly climbed the steps, and went into   the house, trying to imagine if spinsterhood would be a worse option than marrying Victor Faircloth. The man rarely even smiled—and after observing the marriages of friends and relatives, she concluded long ago that there were but two kinds of husbands: those who made their wives laugh and those who made them cry. Faircloth would certainly fall among the latter group. But not marrying at all would be a terrible fate for her, who so looked forward to  having children. Perhaps someday the situation would become so dire that  she’d have to talk Jack into marrying her after all—just as a favor, of course,  to save her. Her only other option would be to fall in love, but with whom? She was almost twenty-four and felt certain that she already knew everyone she could possibly meet in her life who would qualify—none of whom had inspired anything other than friendship or a yen to be rid of them.

Nearing the closed library door, Ella could hear bits and pieces of   conversation drifting over the open transom. Victor’s voice, though calm, was chilling in his diatribe against Abraham Lincoln and the North. War talk again. Why, even Grandmother Corrigan railed for months about “the economy-destroying Yankees.” Ella could hear her now: “When the bird starts to bloat, the feathers pop right out,” referring to secession from the Union by virtually the entire South—a step that Ella thought just plain foolish. War fever did indeed cook men’s brains! As proof of it, just two months ago in January, a “strike force” of one hundred thirty-seven Savannah volunteers, bolstered by six artillery pieces, made a big to-do out of taking possession of Savannah’s Fort Pulaski—the Yankee threat there being one old caretaker and an ordinance sergeant.

She leaned against the wall, feeling as if her feathers were about to pop. She  was preparing to walk away when the door slid open and she found herself  staring into Victor’s eyes.


INFO ABOUT NO PLACE FOR NAKED DOWSERS: Even after Civil War decimated Ella Corrigan’s revered Greenpoole Plantation, and post-war efforts to revitalize it met with one setback after another, she never dreamed that her new husband, Gentry Garland, would want to leave it all behind and take her and their son to his wild Texas ranch lands. She refuse to go, but Gentry does something that will give her no choice–something that, overnight, turns her love for him into a bitter obsession for revenge.

Ella finds Texas in the midst of a killer drought and filled with strange characters that either terrify or revolt her. Among them are the old ex Texas Ranger, foul-mouthed, irreverent, and professed woman hate, Hempstead Grouse: twelve year old Molly Barton, a victim of incest and ignorance; young Dan Meaney, who would have looked like an innocent schoolboy to Ella upon their first meeting . . .  if the two 44 colts on his thin hips hadn’t contradicted every charitable thought she tried to have of the boy. In Texas, Ella sees her and Gentry’s old antagonist, Timon Pledger, in a way she’d never dreamed anyone would ever see the shy, fallen preacher from back home in Savannah–naked as a jaybird, and with a dowser stick clamped to his exposed groin.

In constant longing for her family’s ancestral plantation, Ella devises a plan to return there someday and reclaim her property; thereby, the wedge between her and Gentry thickens . . . threatening the love that both had thought would last forever.

Will Gentry’s vast herds of Longhorn cattle be the answer to his money problems or will his need to save his land drive him to a danger that will force Ella to a decision that could have disastrous consequences for them both….



Excerpt from Chapter Twenty-Four

July 28, 2009

Excerpt from Corrigans’ Pool (Civil War era novel by Dot Ryan)

ON THE RIDE TO Moss Oak, Ella stopped Moonbeam and Sunbeam from passing the baby back and forth between them like a doll, taking him protectively into her arms. Lord! They’ll give him a brain fever jostling him around like that. She cuddled him to her, stroking his soft cheek, but her thoughts were on Victor’s slaves. She could not stop thinking of them. Why would Victor claim the escapee had come to Greenpoole if he had not?

“Sun, you gonna let me hold your baby when it come?” Moonbeam asked her sister.

“So’nuff. I might even let you keep it iffen it look like that ugly Bruno.”

“I don’t want it iffen it look like him.”

“Mebbe it won’t be so ugly,” Sunbeam said, rubbing her tiny bump of a belly through the heavy woolen skirt.

“Iffen that Bruno gets holt of it, he probably skin it like a possum and eat it,” Moonbeam said, rolling her eyes.

Ella shot a disdainful look over her shoulder at the pair. “Don’t be ridiculous, and do be quiet. You’ll wake Adam.” She held her son closer, unable to get enough of looking at him. Strange, after months of misery and recriminations, the minute he was born she saw in him only a precious part of herself. He was a creation of her own and no one else’s, someone to love who would love her back, someone to ease the lonely years ahead at Moss Oak.

She could not ignore that he looked like his father—the dark, slightly slanted eyebrows, the eyes that Hannah knew would soon turn black as pitch, the strong chin and jaw, the long fingers, the clenched little fists that would someday be as large as his father’s. But Ella was determined that little Adam Faircloth’s resemblance to Gentry Garland would never go beyond his physical characteristics. Her son would be gentle, kind, and true of heart. It was possible, she knew, for a man to be those things and be that much more of a man for them. Her father was such a man, even with the drinking having taken over him. She thought of Victor waiting at Moss Oak for her, and she felt her insides recoil. Be calm, she told herself.