Friday, August 06, 2010

Masquerade; Within My Heart

Excerpt from Masquerade

By Nancy Moser

1886, New York City: Charlotte Gleason, a rich English heiress travels to America to marry the even wealthier Conrad Tremaine. But she has second thoughts, and persuades her maid, Dora, to take her place. What begins as the whim of a spoiled rich girl wanting adventure becomes a test of survival. As for Dora, she lives a fairy tale complete with gowns, jewels, and lavish mansions--yet is tormented by guilt and the presence of another love that will not die. Will the switch work? It's the chance of a lifetime.

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Chapter One

Dornby Manor
Wiltshire, England
Early autumn 1886

"I've told you, Father, I won't marry him."

Thomas Gleason held a matchstick to the bowl of his pipe and puffed repeatedly, luring the tobacco to ignite. "It's a good match, daughter. Everyone has heard of the Tremaines, even here in England."

Heard of their money, perhaps . . .

Lottie remembered the whispered rumors about the Tremaines. She knew her parents hated gossip—or pretended to for propriety's sake—but now was not the time for her to be timid. "Some say the Tremaines are nouveau riche. The elder Mr. Tremaine is but one generation away from those who peddled their goods on the streets of New York City."

Her father pointed his pipe at her. "Perhaps. But Tremaine's Dry Goods has grown to encompass a five-story building, taking up an entire city block."

Mother shook her head and said beneath her breath, "A glorified shopkeeper."

Father shot her a glance.

Mother nodded to the maid, Dora, to pour the tea. "We are the ones doing the Tremaines the favor. You are Sir Thomas Gleason," she said. "The Gleasons have ties to Richard the Second. Our name is listed in Debrett's."

A puff of smoke billowed in front of Father's face. "Now, now, Hester. By seeking a goodly match for our daughter, we're not negating our own roots. It's a blessing the Tremaines have shown interest in our Charlotte, especially since they've never met any of us. And considering . . . "

Lottie interrupted. "You act as if meeting me might cause them to change their minds. I may not be a ravishing beauty, Father, but I've been complimented many times regarding my appearance."

"No, no," her father said. "Don't take offense. You're a lovely girl. I was merely pointing out the odd circumstances of . . . our situation."

Hester coughed and put her ever-present handkerchief to her mouth.

Lottie tried unsuccessfully to squelch her annoyance at her mother's cough. Hack, hack, hack. Perhaps if Mother spent more time outside, walking the grounds of their Wiltshire estate, her health would improve. But Mother prided herself on indoor pursuits, namely her needlepoint chair cushions. Best in the county, she bragged. Lottie didn't care for such nonsense. To go to so much work only to have someone sit upon it was absurd.

As was this conversation.

Lottie set her teacup down, rose from her chair, and moved to the windows that overlooked the front lawn. "I don't see why we have to talk about this now." Or ever. "It's my birthday and my friends will be arriving for my party soon and . . . " She turned to her mother directly. "Speaking of my party, why aren't you bustling about? A dozen of my friends will arrive in just a few hours, yet if I didn't know better, I'd think the party was next Tuesday rather than today."

The handkerchief rose once again. "You said you didn't want an extravagant soiree, dear, just a light repast with cakes and sweets for your friends. Mrs. Movery is quite busy with the food preparations, I'm sure." She glanced at Dora. "In fact, toward that end . . . Dora, why don't you go see how things are coming along in the kitchen."

Dora said, "Yes, ma'am," and left them.

Lottie wished she would have stayed. Dora was her lady's maid and her best friend in the entire world. But lately, her parents had started asking Dora to do other tasks, even helping out in the kitchen, which was unthinkable. Lottie had noticed a few of the housemaids and parlour-maids were no longer in service with the family, but that didn't mean Dora should suffer. "I don't understand why Dora is suddenly being asked to expand her duties. She's my maid. I assure you I keep her very busy."

"I'm sure you do, daughter," her father said. "But . . . well . . . "

Mother continued the thought. "With the preparations for your party this afternoon . . . "

Something wasn't being said. Lottie wished her parents would tell her what was going on. She had a good mind. She could practically recite the novels of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters by heart. Didn't that prove she had an intellect worth utilizing? Sometimes Lottie thought she would scream from lack of purpose. To sit in the house all day, reading or doing needlework, waiting for someone of consequence to call was silly. She would happily trade two women of means for one person who could offer amusement or witty conversation. Odd how those attributes were sorely lacking in polite society, among people who were far too polite to be of interest.

But now, looking out upon the front drive and the vista of the green that carpeted the house to the road, she abandoned her worries for the anticipation of seeing carriage after carriage arriving for her party. Guests laden with presents—for her. Perhaps purpose was overrated. In all her nineteen years she'd found it quite acceptable—pleasant, really—to let the world beyond their country home dip and spin without her. What did she care of labor acts or problems in Ireland or whether Queen Victoria became Empress of Burma? Where in the world was Burma?

Lottie preferred experiencing life through novels where the characters were always enjoying a lovely ball or romp through the countryside that would lead them to their one true love. Her copies of Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, and Little Women were threadbare. Lottie especially enjoyed stories about sisters—perhaps because she had none. Conversely, she did not enjoy the books of Elizabeth Gaskell or Charles Dickens with the same zeal, finding their stories too driven by social inequities. She didn't want to read about the world's problems. She wanted romance, diversion, passion, and a happy ending—in her books and in real life . . .

Copyright 2010: Nancy Moser

Bethany House Publishers

By it at Christian Book or your favorite bookstore

* * *

Within My Heart


Tamera Alexander

"Tamera Alexander paints scenery with the written word, and makes characters, stories, and insights linger long after the book is read."
–Cindy Woodsmall, New York Times bestselling author

"Break out the tissue box for this one! Book three in the Timber Ridge Reflections series is an entertaining romance that will warm your heart and stir your faith. Without being preachy, Alexander guides readers to the foot of the Cross. The reminder that life holds no guarantee on happiness, but we must continue to keep our hearts open and trust God will resonate with readers."

-- Romantic Times, 4 star review

About the book:

Sometimes the greatest step of faith is taken neck-deep in fear.

Determined to fulfill her late husband's dream, Rachel Boyd struggles to keep her ranch afloat with the help of her two young sons. But some days it feels as though her every effort is sabotaged. When faced with a loss she cannot afford, she's forced to trust Rand Brookston, the one man in Timber Ridge she wishes to avoid. And with good reason. He's a physician, just like her father, which tells her everything she needs to know about him. Or so she thinks . . .

Dr. Rand Brookston ventured west with the dream of bringing modern medicine to the wilds of the Colorado Rockies, but the townspeople have been slow to trust him. Just as slow in coming is Rand's dream to build the town a proper clinic. When a patient's life is threatened, Rand makes a choice—one that sends ripples through the town of Timber Ridge. And through Rachel Boyd's stubborn heart.


Dusk, hours following the Battle of Nashville

December 17, 1864

Half hidden beneath the bare-limbed canopy of a dogwood tree, the gravedigger kept a reverent distance, patiently waiting for the last whispered prayers to be uttered and for the final mourner to take her leave. Only then did he step into the fading light, a worn spool of string clutched tight in his gnarled hand. Not much time left. It would be dark soon. And the last grave still needed tending before the pewter skies let loose their winter white.

The distant squeak of wagon wheels and the clomp of horses' hooves faded into the night, leaving only the faint chirrup of crickets to companion the silence. Jessup Collum lifted the lid of the oblong pine box and with painstaking care, his arthritic fingers numb from the cold and marred with time and age, he tied a trailing length of string around the soldier's right wrist. Mindful not to tie the string overtight, he looped the other end through a tiny bell.

He stared for a moment at the soldier's face—the fallen Confederate a mere boy judging from his features—then he glanced around at the freshly covered graves. Deep in his bones he knew what he was doing was right, even if a bit out of the ordinary. There was no malice in his actions, and no sin, most certainly. Nothing that would bring serious offense. Though folks would surely think him a touch senile, if they saw. If they knew . . .

So many ways for a man to die, yet only one was needed for the earth to cradle a body back from whence all life had come. Jessup turned that thought over in his mind as he'd done countless times before, not indifferent to the shadows stealing across the graveyard as the December sun hastened its retreat. Nightfall brought bitter cold, but not a breath of wind stirred, and each snowflake lofted downward from heaven, unhindered in its journey. He worked hurriedly to cover the last grave, mindful of the trailing string.

After the last shovel of dirt, he straightened, slowly, his crooked spine bearing the brunt of forty-two years of tending this hallowed ground—and of the last few hours of burying the bloodied remnants the Federal Army had abandoned following their assault. If the once-valiant Tennessee Army had been crippled in the battle at Franklin two weeks ago, then the past two days of fighting had delivered a mortal wound.

Jessup lit a torch and stared over row after row of mounded earth, the light casting a burnished glow around him. Too many and too young were those who lay here, going before their time. Before their lives had been lived out. He thought again of the young woman earlier who'd been last to take her leave. Dark-haired with skin pale and smooth as cream, she'd knelt for the longest time at the grave on the far end, one he'd taken care in covering not two hours earlier, as he'd done the one at his feet just now.

She'd huddled close by that grave, weeping, arms drawn around herself, looking as if she'd wanted to lay herself down and mark an end to her own life, what little she had left after losing the man buried there—"a decorated lieutenant from the Tennessee regiment, and my only brother," she'd whispered through tears.

The wound on the lieutenant's neck had told Jessup how the man had died, and the sutures and bloodstained bandages told him how hard some doctor had fought to save him. Shame how fast these soldiers were buried. No proper funeral. No time for one—not with the Federal Army bearing down hard, void of mercy, bent on conquering what little was left.

He tugged the worn collar of his coat closer about his neck and begged the Almighty, again, to intervene, to put an end to this war. Surely it couldn't go on much longer.

A heavy mist crept over the rise from the creek, shrouding the stone markers. The fog seemed to deepen the pungent aroma of upturned earth, and a beguiling trace of honeysuckle clung to the cool night air, despite the wild vine not being in bloom. Jessup took a deeper whiff and could almost taste the sweet summer nectar. A smile pushed up his whiskered cheeks. Maybe folks were right. Maybe he was a touch senile after all. These days recent memories skittered off about as quickly as he reached for them, while others that should have been long gathering dust inched closer as the years stretched on. He sat down against an ancient poplar, borrowing its strength.

Still no wind, and the snow had ceased falling. He imagined the boy's face again, able to see it clearly in his mind's eye as he stared at the bell, willing it to move. Even the slightest bit.

He put his head back, resting his eyes, only for a moment. But the moments lengthened and gathered and pulled taut, coaxing him along on a gentle wave, absent of the throb in his lower back and the ache across his swollen knuckles. He was a boy again, running through fields knee-high with summer grass, the sun hot on his face, sweat from a humid Tennessee afternoon beading on his forehead and matting his hair to his head. Someone called to him in the distance. A voice so sweet . . .

A lifetime had passed since he'd heard that voice. Mother . . .

He ran, youthful legs pumping hard, trying to reach her, wanting to see her again. But the faster he ran, the farther away her voice seemed to—

Jessup awakened with a start, his breath coming in sharp staggers. An uncanny sense of presence crowded the darkness around him, and he realized the torch had gone out. He sat straighter, head cocked to one side, and listened, straining to hear his mother's voice again.

But her voice was gone.

He wiped the telling moisture from his cheeks and rose, the joints cracking in his knees. In all his days, he couldn't recall so still a night. So loud a hush over the graves. With a sinking feeling, he looked down at the grave of the young boy. It was late now. Too late.

He prayed the boy was at peace, wherever he was. Same for the decorated lieutenant down the way. He didn't know much about the afterlife—not like folks expected him to—but he reckoned if God was as kind as he believed Him to be that there was some sort of special welcome going on right now for those men who'd laid down their lives in this terrible—

The distant tinkling of a bell brought Jessup upright.

A skitter shimmied up his spine. The air trapped viselike in his lungs. Praying he wasn't still dreaming, he searched the darkness at the end of the row where the woman had knelt earlier, and his skin turned to gooseflesh. If this was what some folks felt when they visited this place late at night, he knew now why they never ventured back.

He also knew why he would never leave.

Tamera Alexander is the bestselling novelist of Rekindled, Revealed, Remembered, From A Distance, and The Inheritance, Women of Faith's first historical novel. Her deeply drawn characters, thought-provoking plots, and poignant prose resonate with readers and have earned her multiple industry awards, among them the 2008 and 2009 Christy and the 2007 and 2010 RITA. After living in Colorado for seventeen years, Tamera has returned to her Southern roots. She and her husband now make their home in Franklin, Tennessee where they enjoy life with Tamera's father, Doug, and also with their two college-age children who live nearby. And don't forget Jack, their precious—and precocious—silky terrier.

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Within My Heart is available at bookstores everywhere, on,,, and at your local Christian bookstore.

Copyright © 2010 by Tamera Alexander

ISBN 978-0-7642-0391-6

Bethany House Publishers
All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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