Sunday, July 21, 2019

Pass the Pepper, Please!

 I'm so pleased that this week saw the re-release of A Widow's Salvation. As the Akron Beacon Journal said in their review, "It's high time Pepper has her turn at romance." 
After serving as a secondary character in the previous seven Cotillion Ball books, Pepper gets her own story, a year after her husband, Michael, died at the first battle of the Civil War. This war affected everyone living in America during the time, so it would have been unusual for the large Fitzpatrick family to not have one fatality. Since I was so entrenched in the series, as I hoped my readers were, I didn't want to do away with any of the Fitzpatrick men, so Michael seemed the logical choice, since he was related only by marriage. Here's the way the story opens: 

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.”

I am constantly surprised, and amused, at the way history works with my stories. Pepper was now a single mother raising three young boys, so she possessed the inner strength of every mother who's ever raised a child. What I didn't see coming when I began the story was how the Civil War led to the advancement of the use of prosthetic devices. Who better to take on the task of getting grown men to use a prosthetic leg than a mother? There are several scenes where Pepper whipped these men into shape and got them to walk again. I hope you enjoy Pepper's story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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