Friday, January 31, 2014

Forgotten Roots

By Richard Whitten Barnes
Historical, 324 pages
Cover art by Trisha FitzGerald

It is 1801 when two lives begin a journey that will intersect thirteen years later at the explosive conclusion of America’s war with Britain.

A young bride sets out from Scotland to a Canadian fur trading outpost only to find her life entwined with an intriguing Voyageur. A runaway thug from the streets of Baltimore finds himself in the Ohio Militia, bound for a final showdown with the British in Northern Canada.

The tragic conclusion two hundred years in the past becomes a mystery for present day cop Andrea Blake to solve. History and passion are intertwined in Forgotten Roots.

June 1801

Carlisle, Scotland

She had always found a way to get what she wanted. Not as a pampered child, but through the dint of her own perseverance. What she wanted now was Thomas Gibson, and seventeen year old Annette Duncan was about to get her wish.

Gibson was a man with a plan. He greatly admired the entrepreneurial spirit of the Scots before him, like Alexander Mackenzie and Simon McTavish, who had set out to the Americas to make their fortunes in the booming fur trade. McTavish’s newly formed Montreal fur trading company was flourishing, and Nettie’s father, Angus Duncan, knew McTavish. A letter from Duncan had procured a post for his future son-in-law with the North West Company, traders in furs, and competing vigorously with the older Hudson Bay Company.

Nettie stood before the mirror in her wedding gown cut high at the waist in the fashion of the day. Her plump five foot-three frame stared back at her with a look of satisfaction. She was neither beautiful nor homely, simply a fact, and she’d learned to live with it. Over her image’s shoulder stood her mother, holding a small box.

Nettie turned. “Mother! Look at me. I am…so happy!”

Gwendolyn Duncan kissed her daughter’s forehead. “I have never seen you so lovely, Nettie.” She took a step backward, surveying the girl’s pale yellow dress with the thin purple ribbon at the bodice. “When I saw your dress, I knew what to give you.” She opened the box.

“Oh!” Nettie had seen the earrings before and always loved them.

“They are old, dear, but still quite fashionable these days, and they match the trim on your dress.”

They were gold and amethyst with a shepherd’s crook wire. Little more than an inch long, they were elegantly simple.

Mother and daughter embraced anew. “It’s time, my dear,” Gwendolyn Duncan said, and the two headed to the stairs where the girl’s father waited to give her away.

~ * ~
The young Mrs. Annette Duncan Gibson stood in the window looking down at the wharf of Liverpool. So much ado in one place. The hotel’s street was crammed with wagons, carts, horses, porters pushing barrows. Across a wide yard filled with barrels and crates stood the merchantman, Penelope, sails furled neatly on its spars. Stores were being rolled up her gangplank for the trip to Newfoundland and Montreal. It was cooler here by the ocean, and she returned to her still-opened trunk to retrieve one of her wedding gifts, a light green knitted shawl.

The wedding had been fine, if only a little anticlimactic after all the planning. Her father had held her hand for the longest time before offering it to the eager groom, possibly thinking how unlikely they would ever see the girl again. There, Thomas Gibson, a slightly pudgy man of average height, stood perspiring in the overwarm room. Nettie knew her husband-to-be was no Adonis, but knew him to be solid and purposeful. Her older sister, Kate, had made the mistake of marrying a man of her fantasy, only to soon become aware his shallow character. Such a fate was not in Nettie’s plan.

They took the carriage from Carlisle south to spend their wedding night at a Penrith inn. Nettie was anxious. Her mother had tried to tell her what to expect, but it was less than what she had already heard from other girls—that her husband would be touching her in her private places, that she would come to know his body, as well. But that was the sum of her knowledge, and helped little to allay her unease.

They had a light meal upon arrival, nervous conversation throughout. After, Thomas escorted her to their rooms across the courtyard, then returned to their table, claiming a desire for a last sherry, ostensibly to give her time to dress for bed.

The accommodations consisted of two rooms and an inside privy, an extravagance from her parents for the occasion. Nettie had laid out her new nightgown and soon was out of her traveling clothes and ready for what lay ahead. She was barely in bed before Thomas returned.
She heard the door to the parlor room open and quietly close. Then, after what seemed an eternity, her husband of a few hours appeared shyly into the chamber. Nettie reached over and blew out the bedside candle.

The bed creaked as Thomas got under the coverlet. He said nothing, but she could hear his breathing.

“Thomas,” she said, as if reminding him the next move was his.

He rolled to her and kissed her—a little too hard. She tried to respond to him, understand his groping hands. There? She’d had her own hands there, felt pleasure, but he was too rough. He was pulling up his nightshirt, and now at her underthings!

“Thom…” Her words were stifled by his mouth on hers, then his weight.

It became clear that he was not adept at this.

Let it happen!

She felt the penetration and cried out softly, a brief hint of pleasure, then it was over. Thomas Gibson rolled off his new wife, and exhaled a sigh.

Nettie retrieved her knickers, and tiptoed to the privy. Thomas was asleep when she returned.
Another attempt at their stay in Lancaster was better, then again last night. And now she was an experienced, married woman, she wryly thought.

There was a perfunctory rap on the door before Thomas entered. “We must hurry, Annette. The captain has sent a messenger. We must be aboard in less than one hour. I’ve a porter coming for this last wardrobe.”

1 comment:

Cheryl Norman said...

Read and enjoyed this book. I recommend it!