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Archive for May, 2012

Erin’s Rebel

Chapter One

Erin Branigan had finally found the man of her dreams. Unfortunately, he’d died over one hundred and forty years ago.

On a warm, sunny day in mid-June, she stood in a small, church cemetery in a rural area outside Mason, Virginia. Vivid dreams of a handsome, Civil War soldier had sent her here, but they had also driven a wedge between her fiancé, Rick Meyers, and her. To solve this mystery, she’d called off her wedding two and a half months before. And now today, she hoped what she learned in this graveyard would put a halt to her nightly visions.

Erin kneeled beside the weathered granite headstone of the Confederate captain and traced her finger over the inscription. William James Montgomery; Born September 20, 1833; Died November 23, 1864. Despite the warmth of the day, she shivered, recalling the dark-eyed man and her intense, sometimes sensual dreams. After taking a deep breath, she rose, brushed off her jeans, and snapped
a few photos.

“Here’s his wife.” The caretaker, who’d introduced himself as John, tipped the bill of his black Orioles cap toward the stone beside Montgomery’s.

Erin glanced at it. Anne Eugenia Montgomery: Born October 3, 1833; Died September 15, 1861.

“She was so young,” she said.

The caretaker lifted his cap and ran a liver-spotted hand through his thinning, gray hair. Replacing the hat, he turned to indicate the old, stone-walled church. “The records show she died shortly after William enlisted in the Confederate Army.”

Erin nodded. Her grandmother had told her some of this story. The couple had a daughter, Amanda, and  a stillborn son. They were also buried here, along with Amanda’s husband and their children.

She fingered the engraved silver frame of the brooch pinned to the lapel of her beige, cotton blazer. As she glanced at the clear summer sky, a light breeze ruffled her cropped hair.  Sparrows, perched in the oaks overlooking the plots, twittered. Such a beautiful day to recall such sadness.

“My grandmother told me her great-aunt Erin O’Connell knew William Montgomery. She met him during the war. This brooch was given
to her by the captain.” She clasped the oval frame, surrounding tightly woven chocolate-brown hair. “It’s supposed to be a lock of his hair.”

“Well, I’ll be.” John admired the pin. “Where’s this great-aunt buried?”

“In Pennsylvania in a small town named Candor. It’s just north of Gettysburg. My grandmother lived there, but she died last week.” Her voice broke as she recalled the dear lady.

“Sorry to hear that.”

She cleared her throat. “That’s why I’ve come here. It was one of her last requests that I find this man’s grave. In addition to the brooch, she had an old Bible and photos of both her great-aunt and William Montgomery.” She lifted the photos she carried with her.

“My God! She looks just like you.”

Erin smiled. “There are a few minor differences.” In fact, she’d found the family resemblance unnerving, especially since Captain Montgomery resembled the soldier in her dreams. “Grandma also told me Erin O’Connell had been a Federal spy.”

John arched his brows and let out an appreciative whistle. “What a great story! Researching the past is fascinating. You say you’re from Philadelphia?”

“Yeah. I’m a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer.”

“Well, then, feel free to go through all the records we have.” He gestured at the church. “It should be all in a day’s work for you.”

****

On her return visit to Pennsylvania later that night, Erin couldn’t shake the eerie feeling she’d experienced after going through the ledger. The facts she’d uncovered only added to her sense of unease. As her dreams combined with the historic facts, a feeling of insanity invaded her mind.

On her drive south, the winding two-lane highway through north-western Virginia had been so open and scenic in daylight. Now in the darkness, the heavily forested road and lack of traffic caused chills to slitherthrough her as she mulled over her discoveries. She should have left earlier but had found it difficult to pull herself away. Erin had discovered the man for whom she’d been searching. But would finding his grave finally end the dreams, or would this just make things a helluva lot worse?

The moist scent of impending rain sifted though the window she’d left cracked open. Hopefully, any shower would be light. She didn’t look forward to a long drive in heavy rain, especially on an unfamiliar road. After two, quick flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder, the first drops of rain hit the windshield. A deluge followed, forcing her to flick the wipers on high.

A sudden vibration shocked already frayed nerves. Where did that come from? Her cell phone was in her purse on the adjoining seat, so it hadn’t come from that. The hair brooch on her lapel? When she fingered it, a sharp pulsation shot up her arm.

“What the hell?” She jerked her hand.

Despite the strange sensation, Erin remained focused on the road. Nothing ahead or behind her but forest. Dark, creepy forest encased in sheets of rain. Unable to see, she considered pulling over but wasn’t sure she wanted to stop there.

As the vibration increased, she almost skidded off the blacktop. She grasped at the clasp, trying to yank the pin off  her jacket.

Headlights glared in the distance and grew brighter. She had to concentrate on regaining control of the car. Tires squealed as a truck slid into her path on a rain-slicked curve.

“Oh, shit!” Heart pounding, she jerked the steering wheel to avoid a collision. She hydroplaned off the highway and swerved onto the shoulder – too late to see the tree dead in front of her.

Impact rolled as a film in slow motion. The sound of crunching metal, smell of rubber and gasoline, and a jolt through her system were the last things she remembered.

Chapter Two

Confederate Camp in Northern Virginia
June 18, 1863

A scream pierced the air. Men’s shouts woke Will Montgomery from a deep slumber and dreams of his home and Anne.

What in damnation? Black coated the interior of his tent, making it impossible to see. What time was it anyway? Snatching up his trousers, he yanked them on over his underdrawers.

Emerging from the tent, he struggled to see in the ink-black darkness. No moonlight shone, and only a few, lone stars flickered through the dense clouds. The shuffling of heavy boots and the sound of men’s angry voices drew his attention a few yards past the laundress’ tent.

Had it been Mrs. O’Connell? A lantern glowed near her tent. Upon investigation, he found two men standing over what appeared to be a woman lying in a heap of calico skirts and petticoats. One of the men held a mare by the reins; the other hefted a lantern.

“What happened?” Will said.

“The lady fell from the horse, sir,” the private holding the animal answered.

Kneeling at the woman’s side, he tilted her face toward his. He motioned to the other soldier. “Bring the lantern closer.”

Mrs. O’Connell, a young widow serving as one of the camp’s new laundresses, lay limp and still. What the hell had the laundress been doing on a horse in the dead of night? He gazed at her placid face. Long, red-gold lashes brushed against her rounded cheekbones, ghostly pale in the candlelight. Blood oozed from one delicate nostril. Her bosom rose and fell gently, drawing his gaze to the swell of her breasts.

The first day the Irish woman had arrived in camp, feelings stirred in him he’d thought died with Anne. After his wife’s death, he’d vowed not to give his heart to anotherwoman. Losing her had torn out his soul.

“What happened?” Will addressed the thin private with the lantern.

The soldier glanced at his companion and shrugged. “We think the horse reared up, sir. Then we heard her scream and came a-runnin’ just in time to see her hit the ground.”

Will nodded. Could be she’d imbibed a bit too much tonight. He’d heard the new laundress kept a bottle of whiskey in her tent, but so far, he hadn’t witnessed any improprieties.

He studied the motionless figure. Doc Matthews could determine the extent of her injuries. As he lifted her, he smelled no hint of alcohol, but  a feminine scent overwhelmed him. Soap and something sweet he couldn’t identify.

He hadn’t held a woman for two years. The softness of her curves increased the yearning he’d been denying. Leaving the other man to tend to the horse, he carried her across the camp to Doc.

****
Erin groaned. Her head and neck hurt like hell, and so did her nose. In fact, everything hurt. What had happened? She reached to the back of her head, where her fingers closed around a damp cloth. When she opened her eyes, a sharp pain knifed through her skull.

Focusing her thoughts, she recalled flashes of a dark, rainy highway. A truck hurtling toward her. The tree.

She turned her head and squinted into the yellow-white glow of a lantern. She wasn’t in her car but lying flat on her back.

Someone moved beside her. A man with a heavy drawl spoke. “Are you all right, ma’am? Can you speak?”

She stared at him. Was she in a hospital?  No. The gangly, sandy-haired man with the handlebar mustache wasn’t  wearing scrubs. He appeared to be in his early thirties and was dressed in an oversized, striped blue and white shirt draped over tan wool pants with a set of suspenders dangling to his knees. This sure wasn’t an emergency room.

“Where am I?” she croaked. “What happened?” Blinding pain shot through her skull, again.

“You were thrown from a horse. Do you remember?”

“Horse?” She shook her head, then the sharp pain stopped her. “Ow, everything hurts.”

The man pried the damp cloth from her hand and pressed it against the back of her head. “I don’t feel any broken bones, but you’ve got a nice sized lump right here. I reckon you have a nasty headache. Just what were you doing on that mare this hour of night?”

“I wasn’t on a horse,” she said. “I’ve never been on a horse in my life. It was a car crash. I hit a tree when that truck slid in front of me.”

“A bad fall like that could have affected your mind, Mrs. O’Connell.” The man eyed her. “You’re not making a lick of sense.”

For more of chapter two, visit my website at http://www.susanmacatee.com/erinsrebel2.html

Erin’s Rebel, available at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Erins-Rebel-Susan-Macatee/dp/1601545207/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318084452&sr=1-1

Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/erins-rebel-susan-macatee/1100248217

The Wild Rose Press http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=176_135&products_id=3554

and All Romance Ebooks http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-erin039srebel-80339-141.html

The sequel to Erin’s Rebel, Thoroughly Modern Amanda, is currently under contract at The Wild Rose Press.

Details are at my website: http://susanmacatee.com/mybooks.html

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In my Civil War time travel romance, Erin’s Rebel, a brooch with a woven lock of the hero’s hair was a catalyst in sending my modern day heroine back in time to a Confederate Army camp.

Hair jewelry like this was common in the Victorian era, particularly amid the conflict of the Civil War. Some, but not all, such pieces were crafted as mourning jewelry or “momento mori” meaning “remember you must die.”

Hair jewelry with a woven or designed lock of a loved one’s hair could also be used as love tokens between husbands and wives, sweethearts, family members or friends. Love messages might be engraved in rings, brooches, lockets and watch fobs with a hidden compartment for the hair.

Mostly crafted with human hair, this jewelry grew in popularity starting in the late 18th century. But the mourning jewelry flourished in the Victorian era. Hairwork jewelry was crafted not only to remember the dead, but also to keep loved ones close.

Victorian hairwork could be crafted on an artist’s palette or be what is known as “table worked”. In the former, hair was placed in a crystal, often only a curl was used. Elaborate designs or pictures could also be fashioned if more hair was provided; such as landscapes, basket-weave patterns, even weeping willows and departing ships.

Table worked hair was woven like lace. A special table with a hole through the center was used in the design and the hair was weighed down with bobbins, similar to bobbin lace. “With this technique, the hair was woven into coils and threads used to make chains, bracelets, earrings,   crosses, rings, etc.” http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Hair_Jewelry

It was my research into Victorian Hair Jewelry that gave me the idea of my heroine being connected to a long dead hero and finding him in his own time.

For more about Victorian Hair Jewelry and photos of the hair designs, visit these sites: http://www.morninggloryjewelry.com/victorian-hair-jewelry-aid-52.html
http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Hair_Jewelry
http://www.auntjudysattic.com/product_detail_JWY132.htm

For info about Erin’s Rebel, visit my website: http://susanmacatee.com/erinsrebel.html

And don’t forget our war heroes and heroines from all past and present wars this Memorial Day. Each one deserves our thanks.

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Posting over at Slip Into Something Victorian today about the 150 anniversary of the First Battle of Winchester.

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Maddie stared into the eyes of the strange, hypnotic man. Was she dreaming again?

Captain Hackett’s voice broke through her stupor.

Oh, God! What’s happening? She lifted her arms and pushed against the powerful grasp that held her hostage.

A horrible, putrid smell emanated from him. Her breath came out in gasps. Turning her head toward the captain, her eyes widened. He bared his teeth, exposing two wicked-looking fangs. She stared into eyes that glowed red as her heartbeat raced. Was she having another nightmare? Growling, he launched himself at the monster still holding her.

“You are starting to show the signs, Jon,” the oily voice gloated. “I’ll make you what I am. Give you my power. All you have to is give yourself completely to me.”

Maddie was thrust aside. She cowered, in a corner of the foyer, her head spinning. This wasn’t happening. The two combatants hissed and bared their horrible fangs, circling and lunging at each other. She pushed her hands against both ears, trying to block out the terrible grunts and hisses.

She sat frozen for a minute, until the monster lifted Jon and threw him into the table by the staircase. She jumped back as her porcelain vase shattered at her feet. Glancing up, she caught a flash of silver around the captain’s neck. The crucifix!

“Captain!” Could she still get through to him? “Use the crucifix.”

The captain halted, then yanked the chain, pulling the crucifix before him. He shoved it into the creature’s face.

The odor of burning flesh drove Maddie’s gaze to the monster’s charred cheek. He screeched and backed out the open doorway.

“I’ll return for both of you,” he hissed.

Jon jumped to the doorway, stuck his head out, then hissed and covered his face, as he backed away from the door.

Maddie took a deep breath to calm her racing pulse. Slowly rising, she moved around Jon, with a cautious eye upon him, to the door. A rosy glow lit the sky. She saw no sign of the monster and slammed the door, then secured the lock.

Sweet Redemption is available at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Sweet-Redemption-ebook/dp/B0056ICETQ/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1313157188&sr=1-7

Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sweet-redemption-susan-macatee/1018988355?ean=2940043310798&itm=3&usri=sweet%2bredemption

only $1.99 at The Wild Rose Press  http://thewildrosepress.com/sweet-redemption-p3750.html?zenid=efc2f41ac353b198c6926be0514ff6ab

and All Romance Ebooks http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-sweetredemption-391948-139.html

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With the release of the Dark Shadows movie with Johnny Depp, I have to wonder, will we ever tire of vampires in our stories?

I grew up watching the Dark Shadows daytime soap back in the sixties and early seventies and that show influenced me as a writer. I always wanted to write a vampire story and now have two short historical vampire romances out with The Wild Rose Press.

Early vampire legends didn’t portray them as the beguiling creatures we see in popular modern fiction. Even before the term ‘Vampire’ was coined, stories existed of creatures with abilities and characteristics we equate with vampires. Legends and myths date back to the early Greeks and Romans. These creatures drank the blood of the living to sustain their existence.

The Goddess Hecate’s daughter was said to be a vampire-like creature. Empusa would appear as a beautiful young woman, seducing men so she could feast on their blood. She also drank young children’s blood.

European’s also had legends of vampire-like creatures. But these vampires were said to be half-decomposed and repugnant creatures, nothing like the seductive beings we think of. These vampires were said to be more akin to living corpses, crawling from their graves to find victims. Of course, no living person ever saw these creatures roaming about. It took an unexpected occurrence, like the untimely death of a person or animal to confirm their existence.

When someone died and others started to also die with symptoms like strange bleeding, rumors spread that the newly dead had risen from the grave and was feasting on the living. Corpses would be exhumed and any sign, such as bloating of the body or blood running from the mouth, would be enough to convince the villagers that they had a vampire running amok. The cure for this was to drive a stake through the corpse’s heart to stop his nightly rampages.

Religious symbols—crosses and rosaries—as well as holy water and garlic, were said to repel a vampire.

In 1897, author Bram Stoker took these legends and wove them into his tale, Dracula. In Stoker’s story, Dracula was seductive and powerful. Women immediately would fall under his spell. This classic novel changed the image of the vampire for all time.

Today, although we know vampires are only the stuff of fiction, we see them as emotional and sentimental creatures who truly hate the demon forces that compel them to harm others.

I’m looking forward to seeing the new version of Dark Shadows. Just can’t get enough of those vampires.

For more info on vampires, visit these sites: http://halloweenexpress.com/history-of-vampires.php
http://www.history.com/videos/vampire-myths#vampire-myths

You can also view the trailer for Dark Shadows here: http://www.moviefone.com/movie/dark-shadows/10051393/trailers

And visit my website for info on my two vampire stories: http://susanmacatee.com/myvampireromances.html

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“Miss Hirsch?” The stern voice of an older woman broke the spell. Claire’s face burned as she realized it was Mrs. Benson.

Claire pulled out of Cole’s embrace. “Yes, ma’am.”

The matron rounded on Claire and stared Cole down. “And you, sir, what are you doing back here with one of my nurses?”
Cole straightened. “I was just showing Miss Hirsch we can clear away some of this brush to make more room for the wounded.”

The matron’s scowl evidenced she didn’t believe a word Cole said.

“And your name, sir?”

Cole stood at attention. “Lieutenant Manning. Cole Manning.”

“You’d best take your leave, Lieutenant. I’d like to have a word with my nurse.”

Cole’s gaze shifted from the matron to Claire. Claire bit her lip but nodded for him to do as the woman bid.

“I hope to see you ladies later.”

The matron scowled. “In a more proper venue, sir.”

He bowed slightly, then turned and strode to the front of the tent, not looking back.

Claire sighed, her face aflame with shame at having been caught in his arms.

“Miss Hirsch, you know how improper this is. You must protect your reputation so as not to be confused with a common camp follower.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Claire bowed her head.

“We opened this nursing corps to serious women who truly want to serve the Union, not find eligible men in the ranks.”

‘Yes, ma’am.”

“I will speak to this young man’s commanding officer about this incident and have him reprimanded as well.”

Claire’s pulse raced. She didn’t want to see Cole get into any trouble. She was as much to blame for allowing him to take her back here alone.

“Please, ma’am. He did me no serious harm. If I promise to stay away from him, could you allow the matter to drop?”

The matron scowled, but nodded. “So long as you stay away from him and he from you. I do not wish this escalating. If it does, I’ll be forced to dismiss you from the corps and send you home.”

“Yes, ma’am. I understand.”

Mrs. Benson led Claire from the shelter behind the tent. Cole was no longer in sight. He likely wanted to steer clear of the angry matron.

“Are you still on duty in the hospital?” Mrs. Benson asked.

“Yes, ma’am. Until noon.”

“Then resume your duty, and at noon, report to me at the aid station. And stay visible to others while you are in camp.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Claire entered the tent, hoping to see Cole, but knowing he wouldn’t dare show his face for a while. After sharing such an intimate kiss, how would she stay away from the man, or even keep him from her mind?

Cole’s Promise available at The Wild Rose Press http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=176_135&products_id=4821

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Coles-Promise-Love-Letters-ebook/dp/B007VRKQ04/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1334931371&sr=1-4

Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1110282244?ean=2940014529969

All Romance Ebooks http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-cole039spromise-780707-158.html

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In my new release, Cole’s Promise, the heroine is a relief worker assigned to a Union camp during the Civil War.

But prior to this time period, real life heroine, Dorothea Dix was involved in social reform. Although soft spoken, Dix was a crusader working toward improvements in treatment of mentally ill patients and better conditions in prisons.

She saw the war as another opportunity to aid soldiers as well as the war effort. Although military officials were skeptical, she convinced them women could perform the work of nursing soldiers. Prior to that, military personnel were assigned to that task.

Dix served as the Union’s Superintendent of Female Nurses over the course of the Civil War.

Dorothea Dix was born in Hampden, Maine on April 4, 1802, to Joseph Dix and Mary Bigelow Dix. Her father was an itinerant Methodist preacher. During the War of 1812, the British took over the town, but her family had already taken refuge in Vermont before the war began. The first of three children, Dix’s family life was harsh. Her mother suffered from mental illness, while her father abused alcohol.

At an early age, Dorothea had to care for her two younger brothers. She later made the comment, “I never knew childhood.” She often fled to her paternal grandmother’s when the fighting in her home proved too much for her.

Despite her abusive upbringing, Dorothea was able to learn things from her father that aided her later in life. He taught her to read and write at a young age. When she entered school, she was well beyond the other students her own age. Her passion for reading and teaching grew as she taught her own brothers.

After the family moved to Vermont, her parent’s were deemed unable to care for their three children and Dorothea’s grandmother took over, moving them into the Dix Mansion in Boston. By this time Dorothea was twelve.

Life changed for Dorothea as her grandmother demanded she learn to develop the interests of a wealthy girl. She was schooled in dance and her grandmother hired a seamstress to see to Dorothea’s personal needs. But she rebelled and was punished when her grandmother caught her giving food and her brand new clothing to beggar children at the mansion’s front gate.

By the age of fourteen, Dorothea was turned over to Madame Dix’s sister to learn how to act as a lady. Dorothea acquiesced hoping by doing as she was told, she’d be allowed to return to the Dix Mansion to care for her younger brothers.

While living at her aunt’s Dorothea met Edward Bangs. She wanted to establish a public school for girls, since in this time period, girls weren’t permitted to attend school. He helped her and she ran the school for three years. Edward was thirty-one and Dorothea eighteen when he announced he’d fallen in love with her. His announcement frightened her. She closed the school and returned to the Dix Mansion in Boston. Edward was not deterred. He arrived in Boston and proposed marriage. Although Dorothea accepted the proposal, she wouldn’t agree to a set date for the nuptials. She feared ending up like her parents. To her marriage spelled “desertion of children, emotional outbreaks, fights and heavy drinking.”

Fearing her grandmother’s reaction, Dorothea wrote her a letter, though they now lived under the same roof. She told her she wanted to open a school for poor girls. To her surprise her grandmother was thrilled and agreed to help her. Dorothea ultimately returned Edward’s engagement ring and devoted her life to teaching.

Her social reform activities continued throughout her life, leading to her role during the Civil War. She led 3000 women during the conflict and was known as “Dragon Dix” due to her insistence that the women serving as nurses should be older, plain looking women. They also needed to follow a strict dress code that was plain and utilitarian.

Under Dix’s supervision, military nursing saw much improvement. She cared for her nurses and the soldiers under their care and wouldn’t hesitate to confront the military establishment to see both received care and needed supplies, issued in a timely manner.

After the war ended, Dorothea traveled the United States and Europe on behalf of the mentally ill, gaining support of the wealthy.

Dix helped establish 32 mental hospitals in the U.S. by 1880. This was an increase of 110 since 1843. At age 80, Dix lived in a guest room of the state mental hospital in Trenton, New Jersey. She lived there for five years, dying on July 18, 1887.

For more on Dorothea Dix, visit these sites:
http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1092.html
http://www.civilwarhome.com/dixbio.htm
http://www.webster.edu/~woolflm/dorotheadix.html

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