I adore Laura Frantz – as a person and an author – and I’m so delighted to give you a look inside her new novel Tidewater Bride!
TIDEWATER BRIDE by Laura Frantz
GENRE: Inspirational Historical Romance
RELEASE DATE: January 5, 2021
They’re both too busy for love . . . but love is not too busy for them
Selah Hopewell seems to be the only woman in Virginia Colony who has no wish to wed. True, there are too many men and far too few women in James Towne. But Selah already has her hands full assisting her father in the family’s shop. And now she is in charge of an incoming ship of tobacco brides who must be looked after as they sort through their many suitors.
Xander Renick is perhaps the most eligible tobacco lord in the settlement. His lands are vast, his crops are prized, and his position as a mediator between the colonists and the powerful Powhatan nation surrounding them makes him indispensable. But Xander is already wedded to his business and still grieves the loss of his wife.
Can two fiercely independent people find happiness and fulfillment on their own? Or will they discover that what they’ve been missing in life has been right in front of them all along?
C H A P T E R
O N E
Alas, she was not a tobacco bride, but she had been given charge of them. A daunting task for a young woman of six and twenty, even if she was the cape merchant’s daughter. All winter, reams of glowing recommendations for these fair English maids had piled like a snowdrift atop her father’s burgeoning desk, their names sifting through her conscience like icy flakes.
Jane Rickard. Mary Gibbs. Jane Harmer. Audrey Hoare. Jane MacIntosh. Margaret Boardman. Jane Jackson. Abigail Downing . . .
A shame there were so few Janes!
She smiled wryly as she stood near the crowded wharf, the list of tobacco brides clutched to her bodice to hold in whatever warmth could be had in Virginia’s incessant coastal wind. Glad she was to be named Selah. Surely no other woman aboard the coming Seaflower could claim that.
All around her swirled the reek of salt water and fish, tobacco and tar. Noisy gulls flew overhead, screeching as if they, too, were welcoming the long-awaited ship. At first sighting a quarter of an hour before, the men of James Towne had been the first to gather, those long suffering souls enflamed through the wants of the comforts of marriage. Each groom would pay one hundred fifty pounds in good leaf tobacco for a bride, an extravagance denied many.
But first, the colony’s officials assembled at the forefront of the welcome. Dressed in their Sabbath best, hair and beards freshly trimmed, some almost beyond recognition save Alexander Renick.
Xander, his intimate circle called him. Broad of shoulder. Terribly tall. Strikingly bearded. With the wrist of an able swordsman to boot. One of Virginia’s “ancient planters” who was not so ancient but among the surviving few who’d landed first and defied death since the settlement’s founding nearly thirty years before.
And now he was looking her way, amusement—or was it disdain?—in his gaze. A flush she tried to tamp down warmed her winter-pale face. She hadn’t expected to see him today as the brides came in, widower though he was.
He gave a slightly mocking sweep of his hat. The sun played off his dark hair, worn loose about wide-set shoulders. “So, Mistress Hopewell, all is in good order, aye?”
“We shall see, Master Renick. Have you come for a bride?”
This time, he turned swarthy. At her boldness?
“If ever a fair maid deserved an industrious husband, ’twould be Alexander Renick, esquire.” Her tone was as mocking as his exaggerated bow. “I can add you to the roll of eligible men . . .”
“Which no doubt exceeds the number of king’s daughters aboard.”
“True. There are never enough women here.”
He ran a hand over his jaw. “Tell me, as I’ve been upriver, what will happen once they dock?”
Selah looked to her papers, though she knew the details by heart. “The women will be churched first, then lodged in married households and looked after till their choices of husbands are made.”
“So, all of Virginia will go a-courting.” He adjusted his hat in the rising wind. “In the hopes of keeping our men from forsaking the colony or taking heathen brides.”
“Something like that,” she murmured, stung by the poignant truth of his words. “Mattachanna is missed.”
A pause. His eyes bore the intensity of a summer storm. Silvery as a newly minted coin one minute, then brilliantly blue as the Chesapeake Bay the next. They’d not spoken of the tragedy that befell him till now. In fact, they rarely spoke at all. “You call her by her Indian name. Not Lady Rebecca.”
“An English name does not make one an Englishwoman,” Selah replied. “Mattachanna was a Powhatan princess, and I can call her nothing else.”
He cast her a last, piercing look. She expected no reply. That telltale hardness of his bearded jaw, the dare-not-trespass edge that defined him, was full blown now, hedging her out, marking a line she dared not cross.
With a low farewell, he took a step back. “I’m off to Rose-n-Vale.”
“You won’t stay for the—” Flummoxed, Selah left off. What was she to call the tobacco brides’ arrival?
“The coming carnival?” With a shake of his head, Xander turned away, the edges of his dark cloak furling and unfurling like a sail in the wind.
Carnival, indeed. But truly, that was what the occasion felt like amid so many merry masculine voices and rollicking laughter. More men were amassing, gazes riveted to the tall-masted ship that had been home to the coming brides for three months or more.
“My best to Widow Brodie and those noble hounds of yours,” she called after him, trying to dismiss the topsy-turvy feelings his scarce appearances always wrought. Regret foremost. Fascination a close second. Disdain a distant third.
Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2021. Used by permission.
Laura Frantz is a Christy Award winner and the ECPA bestselling author of eleven novels, including An Uncommon Woman, The Frontiersman’s Daughter, Courting Morrow Little, The Colonel’s Lady, The Lacemaker, and A Bound Heart. She is a proud mom of an American soldier and a career firefighter. When not at home in Kentucky, she and her husband live in Washington State. Learn more at www.laurafrantz.net.
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