I’m welcoming back to Romancing History my dear friend and fellow historical romance author, Angela Couch. Angela is celebrating the anniversary of her first novel, The Scarlet Coat, the first book in her Hearts at War series. I absolutely loved this series and you can find my review here.
A Picture (or two) is Worth a Thousand Words
Guest Post by Angela K. Couch
The Scarlet Coat released as my debut novel three years ago. To celebrate its anniversary, the whole series is on sale, and I’ve enjoyed looking back at some of the inspiration behind the novel.
The hero of the story, Andrew Wyndham, is wounded at the beginning in a battle of the Revolution that plays a part in the whole Hearts at War series, the battle of Oriskany. He looses his memory, and so we won’t delve two deeply into who he was but here are some photos that helped me imagine Captain Andrew Wyndham:
I must admit to watching Northanger Abby with JJ Field a couple times to get a feel for the mannerisms and expressions he portays so well as a gentleman in that era. Then, another film threw him in a scarlet coat and I had to smile. (Even if he didn’t play the nicest person in that show.)
Now, since we are taking a look at the hero of The Scarlet Coat, I think I will let you in on a game we’ve been playing on Facebook this week.
So, take a guess, or read the book to know for sure, but I look forward to seeing your answers in the comments below or on the post on my Facebook page. The draw will be on Saturday 8th.
About the Book
A Woman Compelled by Christian Charity
Surrounded by the musket fire of the American Revolution, Rachel Garnet prays for her family to be safe. When the British invade the Mohawk Valley, and her father and brother don’t return from the battle, she goes in pursuit of them. She finds her brother alive but her father has been killed at the hand of the enemy. Amidst the death, how can she ignore a cry for help…? Rachel reluctantly takes in a badly wounded British officer. But how long can her sense of Christian duty repress her hatred for his scarlet coat?
A Man Lost to the Devastation of War
Passages of Scripture and fleeting images of society are all Andrew Wyndham recalls after he awakens to the log walls of his gentle prison. Even his name eludes him. Rachel Garnet insists he is a captain in the British army. He mourns the loss of his memory, but how can he hope to remember war when his “enemy” is capturing his heart?
A Scarlet Uniform Holds the Power to Unite or Divide
Andrew’s injuries are severe, his memory slow to return, and the secret of his existence too perilous to ignore. As Rachel nurses him back to health, his hidden scarlet coat threatens to expose the deeds of her merciful heart, and Andrew is forced to face a harrowing decision—Stay hidden and risk losing the woman he loves or turn himself in and risk losing his life.
Available at: Barnes & Noble Indigo/Chapters Amazon
Excerpt, The Scarlet Coat
The last rays of sun faded into twilight, and the wind whispered through the trees, as if warning Rachel to turn back. She encouraged her pa’s stallion forward, though her pulse threatened to strangle her. Somewhere, not far away, a wolf wailed into the night. The mournful song resonated within her, bespeaking tragedy. She searched the deepening shadows of the forest. What if all the British hadn’t retreated? What if there were still Indians and Tories out there, waiting behind those trees?
Something unseen rustled the leaves, and a twig snapped. Lord, what am I doing? How would she even find them out here in the dark? Maybe she should go home or to the Reids’ for another night.
Her course of action seemed so clear when General Herkimer, and what remained of his regiment and the local militia, limped their way alongside the Mohawk River from Oriskany. The general lay on a stretcher, his leg below the knee wrapped in a crimson cloth, his face pale and expressionless—like so many of the men with him. Eight hundred had marched north the day before yesterday and barely half returned.
Her pa and brother were not among them.
Stay with the Reids. That was all Pa had asked of her. Benjamin Reid’s bad leg compelled him to remain behind and watch over their farms. Though the safest place for her, Rachel could no longer wait there trying to carry on a casual conversation with any of the Reid girls or hide behind her mother’s Bible. She couldn’t abide the confines of their snug cabin a minute longer without knowing her own family’s fate. Since losing Mama to illness two years ago, Pa and Joseph were all she had. She couldn’t lose them, too. But she’d ridden for hours now. Where was she?
A little farther along the trail, the wind shifted slightly, carrying on it the odor of burnt powder and blood. Battle. Rachel’s hand came to her stomach in an attempt to calm the sickness churning within.
The horse whinnied, shifting as he tossed his head.
“Whoa. Easy, Hunter.” She slid to the ground and surveyed her surroundings. Both sides of the road were heavily treed and thick with underbrush. Even still, she could make out the dark forms of fallen men. She stumbled over her feet but kept moving. “Joseph! Pa!” You can’t be dead.
Dragging the horse, Rachel ran. Each step constricted her throat until she could hardly breathe. Bodies littered the road—Indian, Tory, and American alike. She maneuvered around them, searching faces in the faint glow of the remaining light. She should have brought a lantern.
The road sloped downward into a deep ravine. Her feet faltered. Hundreds of men—a patchwork of blue and homespun. All motionless. All dead. If only she could close her eyes or turn away, but every muscle held her in place.
The rasp of a voice jolted her from the trance. She yelped and spun toward the intruder.
“Rachel?” The murmur of her name accompanied the form of a man emerging from the trees. “What are you doing here?”
“Joseph.” Relief at seeing her brother alive stole the strength from her legs. They trembled as she moved to him and brushed her fingers across his cheek, stained with dirt and powder. His sandy brown hair was tousled and appeared just as black. Rachel wrapped him in her arms and clung tight. “Why didn’t you come back with the others? I was so worried…afraid something happened to you and…”
She glanced to his face and the strange expression that marked it. More accurately, a complete lack of expression. “Where is Pa? What happened, Joseph? Tell me.”
“Tell you? You can see it, can’t you? Everywhere you look.”
Of course she saw it. All of it. But… “Where is Pa?”
Joseph looked back, and Rachel followed his gaze into the blackness of the timbered ridge of the ravine. She pushed away and moved stiffly in that direction. Pa.
“No.” Joseph’s cold hand seized hers. “There is nothing left in there. He’s dead.”
“Let me go.” She wrenched away, breaking free before he was able to grab her arm and pull her back. Her vision hazed. “Let me go. I need him.”
“It’s too late, Rachel. He’s dead. I was with him. I watched the life bleed out of him…nothing I could do to stop it. Don’t go up there.” His voice pleaded and his eyes glistened. Joseph wiped a sleeve across his nose and motioned to Hunter. “Please let me take you home, and I’ll return for Pa’s body.”
Rachel stared into the trees, aching to pull away once again. She took in a jagged breath, managed a nod, and then surrendered to his firm hands. He assisted her into the saddle. Joseph retained the reins to lead the horse, but they didn’t make it more than a few steps before an unusual cry wafted in the breeze.
Shivers spiked up and down Rachel’s spine. “What was that?”
“It was no animal.”
The mewling of human suffering perforated the night. A yapping howl followed—a wolf answering the plea.
“You stay here.” Joseph forced the thin leather reins into her hands, shooting her a warning glance before he hurried off the path and into the thick foliage.
Ignoring his order, Rachel dropped to the ground, twisted the reins around a branch and ran after him. She wouldn’t be left alone again. Not in this place. Not in the gathering dark. As she caught up to him, she gripped his sleeve.
Their gazes met.
Joseph’s mouth opened; then, he nodded his head. Turning away, he allowed her to trail him.
Her fingers remained tangled in the fabric of his shirt.
They followed the moaning to a tiny meadow strewn with more bodies.
Rachel gaped at the shiny black patches of blood evident on almost every corpse and covered her nose and mouth against the stench saturating the air.
As they drew near, the moans ceased.
Joseph called out, but there was no reply. “He must be here somewhere.” Frustration edged his voice.
“Maybe he’s too weak. We’ve got to find him if he’s still alive.”
Joseph moved out, stepping over the fallen, checking each for any sign of life.
Rachel stood back, frozen. Motionless. Numb. The man’s whimpers, though now silent, resounded in her mind. What if he were still alive? What if he woke again to this dark and death, only to become as the corpses surrounding him, with no one to lend him life…to help him?
Rachel forced her feet into action as she picked her way around a dead Indian. Though she tried to keep her eyes averted, they rebelliously wandered to the large hole in the middle of his chest. Her hand flew to her mouth as she lurched away. Stumbling backward, her feet tripped over a red uniformed body. She landed hard on the ground beside him. Bile rose in her throat and she twisted, retching into the nearest bush.
“What happened?” Joseph rushed to her.
She sat upright and wiped her mouth with the back of her sleeve. Her whole body shook.
Joseph grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet. “You shouldn’t have seen this. Let’s get you home. Whoever it was must already be gone.” He led her away, stepping over a fallen soldier’s body.
Rachel shrieked as the hem of her dress snagged on something.
“Do not leave…me.” An almost voiceless plea met her ears. “Please.”
She pivoted on her heel to where the soldier lay in his blood, his eyes wide, one hand extended. Rachel shivered.
Joseph also reacted, bringing his pistol to the enemy’s position.
The man coughed, and closed his eyes in pain. His brilliant scarlet coat and white breeches were smudged with grit and mud, his right hip a bloodied mass of flesh, probably ripped through by a musket ball.
“Rachel, go to the road.” The pistol trembled in Joseph’s grip.
“You’re going to kill him?” She glanced to the soldier.
His eyes remained closed. His mouth moved slightly as though speaking to someone. Perhaps he was praying.
Pushing past the nausea, Rachel swung back to her brother, reaching for him. “You can’t do this.”
Joseph jerked away. “This is exactly what both he and I have done since morning. How many of our neighbors do you think he’s personally sent from this life?”
Silence hung between them.
Joseph lowered his head and weariness returned to his voice. “I’m so tired of this, but there’s no other choice. Go back to the road and wait for me. I’ll be along in a minute.”
She couldn’t do it. Rachel moved, but not in the direction required by her brother. Instead, she knelt beside the wounded soldier and laid a cautious hand against his cool forehead.
His eyes fluttered open and peered up with evident fear. Confusion ridged his brow. Did he know he could expect no mercy and therefore could not understand her actions? His eyes rolled back, and his head slid from the large stone on which it had been resting. His body became limp with no sign of life other than the shallow, irregular breaths which moved his chest.
“Joseph, I know he’s our enemy, and I do hate him…” Rachel shook her head as she tried to swallow back the bitter taste still coating her tongue. “But we can’t kill him, and we can’t leave him to die out here like some dog we don’t like. Can we? I…I don’t know anymore.”
About the Series
The Patriot & the Loyalist
Love comes at a price and Lydia Reynolds refuses to pay it. Better to close her heart to everything and everyone. When her brother-in-law won’t grant her passage to England, where she hopes to hide from her pain, New Englander, Daniel Reid, becomes her only hope—if she can induce him to give her information about the notorious Swamp Fox and his troops. When the British grow impatient and Daniel evades her questions, Lydia must decide how far to take her charade. The poor man, already gutted by love, hasn’t grown as wise as she. Or so she supposes until the truth is known, the muskets are loaded, and it is time to decide where true loyalties lie.
Available on Amazon
The Tory’s Daughter
Burying his wife is the hardest thing Joseph Garnet has ever done—until he’s called to leave his young son and baby daughter to fight Iroquois raiders. When one of the marauders tries to steal his horse, the last thing he expects is to end up tussling with a female. The girl is wounded, leaving Joseph little choice but to haul her home to heal—an act that seems all too familiar.
Though Joseph doesn’t appear to remember her, Hannah Cunningham could never forget him. He rode with the mob that forced her two brothers into the Continental Army and drove her family from their home—all because of her father’s loyalties to The Crown. After five years with her mother’s tribe, the rebels and starvation have left her nothing but the driving need to find her brothers.
Compelled by a secret he’s held for far too long, Joseph agrees to help Hannah find what remains of her family. Though she begins to steal into his aching heart, he knows the truth will forever stand between them. Some things cannot be forgiven.
Available on Amazon
The Return of the King’s Ranger
The war for American freedom is over, and the British have gone back to England. Not knowing what has become of his family since he was forced into the Continental Army nine years earlier, Myles Cunningham wants to go home as well. He returns to the Mohawk Valley with the understanding that he is believed to have been shot for deserting—fiction that might be made real if anyone recognizes him as the son of a Tory and a King’s Ranger.
Everything is wonderful in the growing community along the Mohawk River, except Nora Reid is still alone. With her brother happily settled and both her younger sisters starting families of their own, Nora feels the weight of her twenty-four years. A long walk leads her to the overgrown rubble of the Cunningham homestead where a bearded stranger begins to awaken feelings she’d lost hope of ever experiencing.
With secrets abounding—including whether Myles even cares for her—Nora must determine what she is ready to give up and how far she will go to secure his affections. She begins to break through his defenses, but Myles can’t risk staying. Not if he loves her.
Available on Amazon
About the Author
To keep from freezing in the Great White North, Angela K Couch cuddles under quilts with her laptop. Winning short story contests, being a semi-finalist in ACFW’s Genesis Contest, and a finalist in the International Digital Awards also helped warm her up. As a passionate believer in Christ, her faith permeates the stories she tells. Her martial arts training, experience with horses, and appreciation for good romance sneak in there, as well. When not writing, she stays fit (and warm) by chasing after four munchkins. Visit her at www.angelakcouch.com