Title HER VANQUISHED LAND
Author Diane Scott Lewis
Genre Historical Fiction
Publisher BWL Publishing, LTD
In 1780, Rowena Marsh decodes messages for the British during the American Revolution. When the rebels overrun her home state of Pennsylvania, she flees with her family. Are the people loyal to England welcome anywhere in the burgeoning United States? Rowena struggles with possible defeat and permanent exile, plus her growing love for an enigmatic Welshman who may have little need for affection. Will the war destroy both their lives?
Rowena tugged her hat low and pressed her back against the brick wall near a shuttered window. A cat ran past her. Rats scratched in debris. She wrinkled her nose at the stench of urine. More noise and moving about came from the Indian Queen tavern. Music also sounded: a lively fiddle. A drunk sang off-key.
Heavier noises from behind her. Footfalls? Nape prickled, she snatched out her muff pistol and whipped around about to release the trigger.
The scent of pine rose up; a harsh breath, almost a wolf-like snarl. Her fingers clenched around the small stock, Rowena pointed her weapon at the murky presence looming over her.
“Have a care, bachgen.” The Welsh accent pierced through her. The dark stranger! He bent closer in the Indian Queen’s alley. “Ye might be the same boy as before. ’Tis dim, and I’d like for once to see ye in the light. Now put down that gun.”
“I will not.” She roughed up her voice to sound mannish, her hand shaking on her muff pistol. She resisted backing away. In the alley’s gloom she saw the outline of his pistol, although he didn’t aim directly at her. Her galloping heart ached in her chest. “Why are you here, sir?”
“Aye, ’tis ye, then. I let ye go once, but not sure of such generosity now. Rowland, was it? Don’t make me shoot.” His shadow shifted and he leaned one shoulder against the tavern wall, as if they were having a casual conversation; however his voice remained stern. “Spying on Atherton again? Dangerous business, that.”
“I know not who’s loyal to whom. Are you Atherton’s watchdog?” She lowered her pistol a fraction, but more to show she wasn’t intimidated—though she was.
“If he’s a cousin, like ye said, ye should know his beliefs.”
She almost resented the Welshman’s astute point. “People lie.”
A rat scurried near her feet; she tried not to wince. A lad would ignore it.
“Aye, they do. And what about ye, Rowland? Are ye lying in some manner?” His question taunted. “What’s yer interest here?”
She lowered the pistol further, yet the tension rippling through her kept her on alert. He might grab the weapon. She moved the gun’s stock toward her belly, her fingers still tight. Again, did he suspect her ruse? “As you must recall from the Bachman, I’m a loyalist. I want to make certain James is, too.”
“Why do ye doubt him, bachgen?” His softer speech unnerved her, as though he prepared to spring upon her. Yet he intrigued her at the same time: a confusing muddle.
“He seemed too easy with that rebel, Mr. Long.”
A low chuckle. “How do ye know he was not gathering information? Long may be a man who works in his own interests, and cares not which side.”
“I care which side my cousin favors.” She raised the pistol an inch. “And who are you to him? You give James orders, but do you trust him? I heard you both talking in the woods.” She caught her lip—had she revealed too much?
“The sneezer, are ye? The hider in the brush.” He laughed sharply and leaned even nearer, his hot breath on her cheeks. Her pulse skittered. “Was that wise?”
Footsteps sounded from around the corner. Rowena stiffened. The Welshman straightened.
“I’m not going into that alley.” James’ voice in protest burst from the alley’s entrance. “What are you up to, Sam? This is outrageous. Why are you in the city?”
“I told you inside, sir,” Sam said. “Someone wants to speak to—”
The Welshman slipped past her, his whisper brusque. “Quiet, man. Both of ye.”
Sam stood with James in the spill of lantern light that shone from above the tavern portico to their left. The dark stranger’s back was to her. Sam looked stoic, his face a mask, while James grimaced, hands fisted.
“It seems we have two spies here, James,” the Welshman said low. “One scamp in hiding behind me.”
A shiver shot up her spine. He’d given her away, sadly as she expected. She’d be exposed to her cousin, and then by James as a fraud to the man called the Black Devil. Rowena shoved the pistol into her frock coat pocket. Should she run the opposite direction, deeper into the alley? No. She refused to desert Sam.
In a quick step back, the Welshman snatched her arm, pulling her toward the light. Suddenly, she was deposited in front of James. The stranger gripped her shoulders, her back pressed against his body. Alarm sliced through her.
“Do ye recognize yer cousin, James?” His fingers clamped down harder.
Sam’s eyes flashed in concern. James’ mouth gaped like a trout.
She stood tall and met her cousin’s glare, trying to appear defiant in the midst of fighting a shudder of embarrassment.
“What the deuce?” James stomped forward in the short distance, his glower assessing. “Who is— Rowena, is that you?” He snatched off her hat, bouncing her curls about. “I don’t believe it. What are you doing here? You must be mad.”
“Rowena, is it? Yer a girl. Oh fy duw, I should have known.” The Welshman’s mocking laughter dug deep inside her.
I’m one of the authors participating in the Trick or Treat Binge-Read Giveaway and you can win a print copy of Her Vanquished Land (US only).
Runs October 1 - 31 and is open internationally.
Winner will be drawn November 1, 2019.
Diane Parkinson (Diane Scott Lewis) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, joined the Navy at nineteen, married in Greece and raised two sons all over the world, including Puerto Rico and Guam. A member of the Historical Novel Society, she wrote book reviews for the Historical Novels Review. Diane worked from 2007 to 2010 as an on-line historical editor. She has had several historical and historical-romance novels published between 2010 and 2019.
Diane lives with her husband in western Pennsylvania.
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