Life is full of the unexpected, don’t you think? That seems to be the over-riding theme of this 4-in-1 collection from Barbour’s Romancing America series, where each of the characters find that life has taken one or more turns they had not seen coming. Each of these authors takes those turns and gives them an extra twist in these tales of Early Americana.
Connecticut in the 18th century provides the setting for this group of stories about the Ingersoll brothers. They live in the town of Glassenbury up the Connecticut River, four young men whose father died an untimely death. Their mother operates the Red Griffin Inn, a popular boarding house, in an effort to see to the needs of herself and her sons. Their Uncle Phineas keeps an eye out for his nephews, as well as the entire town of Glassenbury. Against the backdrop of the French and Indian War, the lives and loves of the Ingersoll brothers take shape.“Carving a Future” is the first novella in the collection, written by Carla Olson Gade. Constance Starling finds herself about to be sold as an indentured servant in America after a difficult passage from England, where she and a friend had been on an innocent errand too near the docks. Captain Smout was determined to make some coin on this woman, but she hadn’t weathered well. Nathaniel Ingersoll didn’t come to buy a slave, but when he sees Constance faint on the deck of Smout’s ship, he can’t help but interfere. Short on funds and a carver by trade, he bargains a new figurehead for Smout’s ship in exchange for Constance, whom he takes to his mother’s inn for recovery. Constance creates disasters as she’s never cooked or cleaned before, lending credence to her tale that she had been abducted from a life she wishes to return to. Is there any chance Nathaniel can convince her to carve a new future in America with him? The next novella is “Trading Secrets” by Amber Stockton. The second Ingersoll brother, Jonathan, has inherited their father’s merchant ship, delivering goods up and down the Connecticut River. Forced ashore in an unfamiliar port due to a sudden storm (complete with flooding), he and his crew make their way to a nearby inn. The innkeepers’ daughter, Clara, takes an instant shine to Jonathan and he to her, but her brother, a former merchanter in his own right, has doubts about Jonathan’s character and believes Jonathan to be among the gang that maimed him. Before Jonathan can pursue Clara as his wife, he must clear his name and prove himself to be an honest, Godfearing man.
Laurie Alice Eakes wrote about the third brother in “Over a Barrel.” Injured in the wars, Micah Ingersoll has returned to Glassenbury and become the town baker. It’s something a guy with a limp can do, after all. What he doesn’t expect is for his flour barrel to make noise one morning–and to have a small child inside it. Sarah Carter has been running for a few weeks, trying to get her daughter to safety from the man who’s taken over her late husband’s plantation, but to Micah, it appears she’s kidnapped the child. How can Sarah prove herself to be honest when no one believes her and she needs to watch her back trail?
A few years go by before the fourth novella, “Impressed by Love,” takes place. Lisa Karon Richardson tells the story of the youngest brother, Alden, who has finally realized his dream of returning to Glassenbury to practice medicine. Sailors burst into his office and require his presence on their ship, part of the Royal Navy. Their captain has been severely injured in an attack and Alden’s skills are needed to save the man’s life. It takes a bit longer for Alden to realize the gig doesn’t end there, that he’s been pressed into service and is not free to leave. Phoebe Carlisle, the captain’s niece, ably helps Alden care for her uncle. When she realizes her impulsive orders have caused Alden’s detention, she is afraid to tell him. But as Alden falls for Phoebe, he finds his desire to escape fading. Will he abandon his medical practice–and the entire Ingersoll family–to stay onboard with the women he loves?
This collection takes place in the late 1700s, a different time period than many historicals and one I wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about (don’t forget I’m Canadian!) I found the stories interesting from that perspective. I also enjoyed cameo appearances by previous novellas’ characters, and watching their families grow and interact within the newer stories. If you enjoy this period of American history, I think you’ll like this collection.
Please join us over at Romancing America starting Monday to read some of the background information on these stories, as well as excerpts and interviews. Comments over there will put your name in the hat to win a copy (USA only).
I received an e-copy of this collection for review from NetGalley. Opinions, as always, are mine alone.