Monday, September 8, 2014


   R.E.Mullins is featuring Cate Parke today. Check out her new work: Patriot's Dreams

The American colonies had been at war with their mother country for five interminable years. Frustrated by their inability to subdue the conflict in the North, the British decide to bring the war south. Major Richard Berkeley stands ready to give his life to stop them.

Located north of Charlestowne on the banks of the Ashley River, Oakhurst, Richard’s plantation, has already become the tip of his spear. His greatest treasure, his beautiful wife Alexandra, is the key to planning and implementation of a complex & perilous mission. While he is away fighting the war, she will manage the plantation, supply his troops, and persuade not only the British, but also her Tory neighbors to believe a brazen lie—that she and Richard are loyal subjects of the British crown. She is grace personified—bred from untold generations of England’s royalty and highest nobility. Nobody would doubt her sincerity. But a dangerous few suspect treason—and one of them will stop at nothing to discover their secret.

Meet Cate Parke

I am a writer of historical romances. As a member of Romance Writers of America, Celtic Hearts Romance Writers and Celtic Rose Writers, I write historical romance. I’ve been an avid reader all my life and began writing seriously over eight years ago. In my day job, I am a registered nurse. It has been my privilege to practice pediatric nursing during my entire career. I’m also the wife of a retired U.S. Navy Officer. I've lived and travelled with him for the twenty-six years of his career. With him I've visited England, Canada, Mexico and all but four of the United States. Thanks to him, I've dipped my toes in every body of water that washes America’s shores, including the Gulfs of Mexico and California and even the Arctic Ocean (br-r). I’ve travelled over, under and on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. After many journeys across this great nation and back again, I now live, love and write among the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in lovely Northeast Tennessee.
My blog is called Tuesday’s Child. As it happens, I was born on a Tuesday. I'm convinced my mother made a big mistake, though. I believe she meant to give birth to me on the previous Thursday. According to the old Mother Goose tale, which says Thursday's Child has far to go, my life would have been far better defined. I would also have been born under the sign of the lion, which would have reflected my redheaded temperament much, much better. It's true. What could my mother have been thinking??? (I really had red hair once upon a time. I was born with it and had it all my life--until not long ago...but that’s another story. But it’s true, too.)

According to that dear old Mother Goose tale, I should have been born full of grace. So very sad, but nobody ever, ever attributed that particular virtue to me. After only college class in dance, I was convinced of the unfortunate truth. I can’t sing, either. True. Nobody would ever ask me to do more than hum or add volume to a chorus. Nor can I paint, or even draw a picture. My mother was an artist. Dear Mom didn’t pass along a single shred of her skill. So what does a girl do whose soul demands expression? She becomes a writer to fulfill its burning need. That’s also a true story.

Chapter One
Monday, 10 April, 1780, one hour after dawn
Richard Berkeley had been encamped with Colonel Daniel Morgan on the south bank of the Santee River since late February, training his companies to fight as a single coherent unit of mounted infantry as part of a larger regiment. Ten days ago the British bombardment of Charlestowne had finally begun. Dispatch riders had begun arriving at their camp since dawn, and he’d read many of them. Richard sat among his lieutenants scraping his breakfast plate. A private approached and cleared his throat. “Major Berkeley, Colonel Morgan sends his compliments and instructs you and his other senior officers to attend him in ten minutes.”
“Thank you, private. Please tender my respect to the colonel and inform him I’ll attend him directly.” He handed off his empty plate to Barnes, his orderly, rose to his feet and headed toward the colonel’s tent.
Once they’d assembled, the colonel’s adjutant handed out packets of orders. Richard took a quick glance. He would report to Colonel Peter Horry at Monck’s Corners in four days.
“Gentlemen, I’ve called you together to give you your orders. In summary, you’re being dispersed. After five long years of war, the British have finally moved south. They’ve subdued Georgia, at least for the moment, and it looks like we’re next. They’re bombarding Charlestowne now. You’ll join other units and harass the British flank as they move into the colony. A British infantry column pushed through South Carolina’s southwest border and is headed toward the city. We expect to see them inside of five days.” Colonel Morgan’s voice rose and the grave circumstance facing the militia captured Richard’s close attention. “The British are here, gentlemen. Gather your men and make your departures this morning. Stay to the woods. You’ll take every precaution to remain out of sight. Like phantoms, we’ll haunt their waking nightmares. Do not engage the enemy unless you have no other choice. Are we clear?”
“Yes sir.” The officers’ voices chimed, nearly in unison.
“Godspeed, gentlemen. My prayers go with you.” Richard strode to his company’s campsite, his shoulders squared. The first man he saw was Mordecai Braithwaite. “Sergeant Major, give my compliments to my lieutenants and direct them to attend me—immediately, if they would be so good.”
Three young officers ran toward him and stood at attention. Richard cleared his throat. “Gentlemen, make your men ready to depart. We leave this morning, heading for Oakhurst. In four days we report to Colonel Horry at Monck’s Corners, under General Isaac Huger’s command. We’ll provide a little discomfort for a column of British infantry headed toward them.”
Within less than an hour, three mule-pulled wagons, fifty men and three officers rode behind him out of Colonel Morgan’s camp. Shadowed woods, a swamp and narrow deer trails slowed their progress, but they made good time nonetheless. They crossed the Cooper River at a remote ford and headed across the peninsula toward Oakhurst, Richard’s plantation on the west bank of the Ashley River. The plantation—and his beautiful wife Alexandra—were key to his logistical planning. Logistical planning was only part of the reason he wanted to take a brief stop there. His beloved wife was his dearest treasure and he could hardly wait to hold her in his arms once more.
The moment had finally come and his years of preparation and training would finally pay off—or not. He had his orders and a mission to fulfill.
10 April, 1780, early morning
The clock on Alexandra’s mantle had just chimed the hour. She opened her eyes slowly, having just been wrapped in a dream—and Richard’s strong arms. A cool breeze stirred the filmy curtains covering the windows and heady fragrance from the gardens not far away wafted through. She sighed, hating to leave her lover’s arms—but his presence in their big bed was merely the stuff of her night’s dreams.
It was early, but she had responsibilities and work to do to achieve her goal for the day. She washed and dressed, paying close attention to her toilette—as usual. When her personal maid, Mariette, finished assisting her, she inspected the results. Long red strands of hair had been pinned into a simple coiffure and she had been garbed in a cornflower blue silk morning gown with a square neckline. A silky white kerchief graced its neckline. Lace cuffs pinned on her sleeves trailed below her waist when she lowered her arms. A wide blue velvet ribbon was tied about her still tiny waist. Her mother’s pearl drop earrings and the brooch Richard had given her on their first Christmas, the day before their marriage, were her only jewelry. Perfect. No matter the careful plans she’d already made, she never really knew what each day would bring her way. She had dressed to meet the challenges, no matter what they proved to be.
The first item on her agenda was to visit her twin daughters’ schoolroom and set them to work on their studies for the day. When she finished, she kissed each one on top of her head, took Oakhurst’s famed circular staircase down two flights to the first floor. Mr. Nathaniel Blake, Richard’s capable and trusted steward met her, having been invited to breakfast before their meeting that morning.
“Good morning, Mrs. Berkeley. It looks like we’re in for a good day today.”
“Good morning, Mr. Blake. I agree. The day is lovely.” They exchanged such banal pleasantries while strolling toward the breakfast room.
Jeremiah, Oakhurst’s butler, met them at the doorway and pulled a chair out for Alexandra. “It’s a mighty fine day today, Miz Alexandra.” She loved his rich warm voice greeting her each morning with a cheerful smile. His dark skin contrasted sharply with his now gray hair and bright white teeth.
“Thank you, Jeremiah. Mr. Blake and I had just mentioned it.” He set a cup of steaming tea beside her and turned to pour coffee into a large mug for Mr. Blake.
“It surely smells good in here. Will you thank Miss Ruth for this fine breakfast, Jeremiah?”
“I will, suh. I’m certain she’ll be pleased to receive your compliment.”
After Jeremiah left the room, Mr. Blake swallowed a sip of his coffee and asked, “Have there been any problems with the women from the sawmill? We had to place the new cabins pretty near them.” The sawmill’s wives had moved into cottages built not far from the little village where the Oakhurst’s black population lived—but not among them. Sawmill lumber had been used to build more cottages to accommodate the slaves brought down from Broad Oaks, Richard’s plantation on the Santee River.
“Hannah Jenkins reported no conflicts with the new arrivals.” Hannah was the wife of the Berkeley Mill’s foreman. “She told me Broad Oaks men and women remain to themselves—though everyone’s children play together. They must not be allowed to isolate themselves from life here at Oakhurst, of course. We must assign the men to work in the fields, in one of the barns or in one of the shops and we’ll give the women jobs in either the kitchen gardens, the weaver’s shop, the kitchens or in the house, depending upon their skills. What does Broad Oaks overseer report?”
“Nothing’s amiss. Everyone’s getting settled in—pretty much what Mrs. Jenkins reports.”
After they finished eating, they adjourned to the study. People had poured into Oakhurst from Broad Oaks, their plantation along the Santee River.
Alexandra entered the room and took Richard’s chair behind the great oak desk and Mr. Blake took the chair opposite her. She tried to smile, but she understood how importunate her next words would sound. “Oakhurst’s population is about to increase once more, I fear. As you know, my father-in-law stripped Actium, his plantation on John’s Island, of every last valuable belonging. Needless to say, his slaves were among those commodities. There is no room for them in the slave quarters at Allston Hall. We must find accommodations for them here. Can you find more room for cabins near those you built for Broad Oaks’ slaves, sir?”
“Of course, Mrs. Berkeley. We have plenty of supplies, fortunately. We’ll rely upon a couple of common wells and several latrines rather than the septic system, though. There are no extra people to teach them how to maintain one or to do it for them instead. Rather than glass windows, we’ll cover them with screening and put shutters on the outsides like we did on the ones for the Broad Oaks cabins. Glass is too expensive. I hate to say it, ma’am, but they’re slaves and have no stake in the successful operation of this plantation. We can’t take a chance that one of them will speak to anyone at all from outside and lay us open for attack from the British.”
Alexandra sighed. “Yes, we have discussed this in the past and you are quite correct. My husband would agree. It takes enough time as it is to visit everyone and discover small problems before they become big ones.”
He nodded and opened the lid of the box that had become a permanent fixture on his side of the desk, pulled out a sharpened quill and dipped the tip into a bottle of ink he opened. The list he made grew much longer, the longer they spoke. When he finished, he glanced at her with a droll half-grin. “Is there anyone else arriving you can think of?”
Alexandra cleared her throat. “Yes, as a matter of fact. I have sent a letter down to Charlestowne to ask our butler there to pack everyone up and escort them up here to Oakhurst. Fortunately, they are all house servants and will not require cottages outside the original Oakhurst village. They will live with their parents for a time until we can move them into vacant cottages in the little village.”
“Isn’t your butler down there one of Jeremiah’s and Aunt Mary’s sons?”
“Yes, he is. Elijah is his name. His wife is Hester Sue, Miss Ruth’s oldest daughter. She is our housekeeper there. I am pleased to say they are all sons and daughters of Oakhurst.” In fact, Alexandra was very pleased to say so. She knew how much their parents missed them and was happy for a reason to reunite them.
“Have you heard from Mr. Berkeley recently? Any chance he’ll be home any time soon?”
Alexandra sighed and dropped her gaze to her folded hands before lifting it again. “I received a brief letter from him last week. The wagoner he sent from their camp brought it when he came down for supplies. I have no idea when we shall next see him, though.” Except in my dreams.
“Well, I’ll be happy to see him, whenever he returns. I’d like to make a report to him of all our dealings while he’s been away.”
Alexandra lifted an eyebrow, surprised. “He trusts you, Nathaniel, never fear. Just as I do.”
“Well then,” he said, “have we finished our day’s business?”
“I believe so. I have nothing else. Will you join me in the small dining room for dinner at two o’clock?” Alexandra wanted to show him a small measure of the value she placed on his services. He was the younger son of a planter in Dorchester, educated and a gentleman. She could not imagine what they would have done without his unique talents.
“Thank you, Mrs. Berkeley. I accept your kind offer.”
The clopping of a large number of horses’ hooves trotting up the front brick drive disturbed the quiet in the room. Nathaniel’s face swiveled toward Alexandra. “Are you expecting visitors today, ma’am?”
She rose from her chair, straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. “None that I am aware of, Mr. Blake.”
Have the British finally come?
“Please excuse me, sir. I must discover who is arriving and greet my guests.”
Beneath her breath she added a private thought—no matter who it is who comes. She took a deep lungful of air and moved toward the door. If it is not too much to ask of you, dear God, please stand with me while I welcome them—or send them on their way.

No comments:

Post a Comment