Title: Captain Stanwick’s Bride: A Tragic Characters in Classic Lit Series Novel
Author: Regina Jeffers
Genre: Regency romance; historical fiction; War of 1812; clean historical romance; classic historical romance
“Happiness consists more in conveniences of pleasure that occur everyday than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.” - Benjamin Franklin
Captain Whittaker Stanwick has a successful military career and a respectable home farm in Lancashire. What he does not have in his life is felicity. Therefore, when the opportunity arrives, following his wife’s death, Stanwick sets out to know a bit of happiness, at last—finally to claim a woman who stirs his soul. Yet, he foolishly commits himself to one woman only weeks before he has found a woman, though shunned by her people and his, who touches his heart. Will he deny the strictures placed upon him by society in order learn the secret of happiness is freedom: Freedom to love and freedom to know courage?
Loosely based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Courtship of Miles Standish” and set against the final battles of the War of 1812, this tale shows the length a man will go to in order to claim a remarkable woman as his.
WHEN HE ENTERED the area set aside for the surgical services, Miss Spurlock was separating the injured based on the degree of seriousness of the injuries. Whit had witnessed more than one field hospital and the horrors the surgeons faced, often in a feeble attempt to save the wounded.
She motioned him deeper into the large tented area. Stepping over the legs of a man who had collapsed from exhaustion, Whit turned to haul the fellow up onto a cot. A sourness clung to the soldier, the distinct smell of a man suffering from dysentery.
Whit found himself holding his breath while he assisted in removing the man’s boots. “Can you tell me if you have an injury?”
The man shook his head in the negative, rolled to his side, and retched. Whit quickly turned away, his stomach churning violently as he heard the man dump the contents of his stomach on the ground. He slapped his hand across his mouth to prevent his own humiliation.
“Are you well, Captain?” Miss Spurlock asked softly. “There is no shame. This work is not for everyone.”
Whit fought hard to swallow a quick intake of fresh air, but the fetid smell was too strong. He rasped, “I can assist with the blood, seen more than my share of it, but not—”
“I understand.” She turned his shoulders toward where her father examined a man’s bloody wound. “Make yourself useful to my father.”
He forced the lead in his feet into movement, finally claiming a bit of air not laced with miasmic odors, but rather with the metallic scent of blood, something too familiar to every soldier.
“Good to have your strong arm, Captain,” Spurlock said as Whit approached. He had no doubt the surgeon had observed his reaction to the soldier’s vomiting. “I have presented the sergeant, here, laudanum, but, if I can claim any chance to save his hand, I cannot wait until it completely takes effect. I ask you to hold him still.”
“Just position me where you think best.”
Spurlock maneuvered Whit to lie across the man’s chest and down on the shoulder to hold the arm in place. The injured man’s shoulders flexed, but quickly slumped back against the wood table. Whit was beginning to understand Spurlock was one who believed in cleanliness.
“Water, Beatrice,” Spurlock ordered as he unwrapped a cloth holding several sharp instruments.
In less than a minute, Miss Spurlock brought over a bowl of water, a bar of soap, and a clean rag. She positioned a small metal tray on the table’s edge and filled it with some sort of alcohol. Then she circled to where Whit laid across the injured man. “Open your mouth,” she ordered.
“Pardon?” he asked.
“Open your mouth,” she repeated. When he did as she asked, she popped some sort of thin stick in between his teeth. “Bite down.” She tapped his cheek, and he closed his lips around the item, using his tongue to position it in the corner of his mouth. Before he could ask, she explained. “Made of wood, not like the deer bone ones my Indian relations would use to clean their teeth, and dipped in oil of mint. The scent shall assist in disguising the more disgusting odors, and the taste will abet your unsettled stomach.” She winked at him. “Just do not permit the sergeant to punch you in the mouth while you hold him down. I understand passing a wooden pick in your stool can be quite painful.”
A chuckle escaped his lips as she walked away. “Your daughter possesses an unusual sense of humor, sir.”
Spurlock glanced to where Miss Spurlock had returned to her duties. “My Beatrice be of her mother’s temperament.” The doctor sighed in apparent melancholy. “There are so many nuisances of a woman’s nature a man must learn to appreciate. I miss Elizabeth’s sharp wit.” Spurlock smiled knowingly. “Among many of her other fine qualities. You are married, Stanwick. Surely you understand.”
Whit fought the embarrassment claiming his cheeks. “I am no longer married. Mrs. Stanwick passed some sixteen months prior.” He nodded to the faint line where his ring had been. “I traded my wedding ring for blankets and food for my men on our journey from Buffalo.”
“Then President Madison’s declaration of war precipitated your arrival in America,” Spurlock observed as he arranged his tools upon the cloth before him.
“I was presented leave from my time upon the Continent with Wellington. I was in England two months, when I received orders to the Canadian front. At the time, I thought I would be keeping the Indian fears over American encroachment at a minimum. I was not expecting how deep the resentment between the competing parties was until I arrived in Upper Canada.”
Ready to begin the operation, Spurlock, lost in his duties, simply presented Whit a curt nod.Whit looked on as Spurlock unwrapped the sergeant’s hand to expose the torn flesh hanging on the white bone, which was covered in dried blood and mud. Spurlock grumbled, “I wish the army would ban muskets. Damn gun explodes nearly as often as it fires.”
“Can you save the fingers?”
“Probably not the small one or the ring finger, but the rest.” Spurlock began to clean away the blood and dirt. “I must remove the bone fragments. Keep him still. This can be time consuming, but necessary. If I do not remove all the fragments, infection will set in.”
“I have nothing on my social calendar,” Whit said with a grin.
“Excellent news,” Spurlock murmured with an answering smile. “You do realize the man beneath you is an American soldier.”
“The war is between our countries,” Whit responded with a shrug.
Within a quarter hour, Spurlock stitched flaps of skin over the stubs of the missing fingers. He had also splinted the other fingers so they would heal straight and not bend in trauma to compensate for the missing digits.
“Nicely done,” Whit remarked as he lifted himself from the American’s body. The sergeant had succumbed to the laudanum. “Any more?”
“In a war, there are always more.”
What makes your featured book a must-read?
This book tells a tale we rarely hear—that is one of the War of 1812. It begins at the Battle of the Thames upon the Canadian frontier and ends at the Battle of Fort McHenry, when America claimed not only a victory against the British, but when Francis Scott Key penned the words to what would become the National Anthem for the U.S.
Within the tale, one finds bits of the war throughout, but it is also a romance between an English captain and a woman caught between two worlds, for her father is a Scottish surgeon living in the United States and her mother is a Powhatan Indian princess. Beatrice Spurlock is an outcast because of her lineage, but, also, because she assists her father in a business in which only men are found. Moreover, like the captain, she and her father are also being held “prisoner” because the pair are not naturalized citizens of the U.S. Her father is seen as “British” and living in a country at war with Great Britain.
For me, the book was a journey into my past, for Beatrice is based on my 6th Great-Grandmother, a Powhatan Indian princess who married a man named Charles Spurlock and helped found a community in my home state of West Virginia. Family tales of real Princess Elizabeth’s nature are presented to both Beatrice and her mother in my story.
Finally, this story is one of the tales in the Tragic Characters in Classic Lit Series. In that series, we take the “tragic” characters found in traditional literature and move them into the Regency era and provide him or her a “happy ever after” ending. Therefore, this tale is based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s narrative poem, “The Courtship of Miles Standish.” Most assuredly, the real Miles Standish does not resemble the one in Longfellow’s poem, for the poem is not history. However, we must forgive our dear Mr. Longfellow, for he, like me, is descended from John Alden and Priscilla Mullins of the Mayflower fame, and he wished to tell the tale of how our ancestors came to be together.
If you are interested, these are the other tales in the Tragic Characters series:
The Monster Within, the Monster Without by Lindsay Downs - November 7, 2020 (Frankenstein)
I Shot the Sheriff by Regina Jeffers - November 30, 2020 (Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham)
The Colonel's Spinster by Audrey Harrison - December 8, 2020 (Colonel Fitzwilliam from Pride and Prejudice)
Fated Hearts by Alina K. Field - December 29, 2020 (Macbeth)
The Redemption of Heathcliff by Alanna Lucas - January 1, 2021 (Wuthering Heights)
The Company She Keeps by Nancy Lawrence - January 11, 2021 (Madame Bovary)
Captain Stanwick's Bride by Regina Jeffers - February 19, 2021 (The Courtship of Miles Standish)
Glorious Obsession by Louisa Cornell - February 26, 2021 (Orpheus and Eurydice)
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