Revell, August 2011
Author Laura Frantz brings us her new novel, The Colonel's Lady. Laura credits her grandmother as being the catalyst for her fascination with Kentucky history. Frantz's ancestors followed Daniel Boone into Kentucky in the late eighteenth century and settled in Madison County, where her family still resides. She has also authored the highly acclaimed The Frontiersman's Daughter and Courting Morrow Little.
In 1779, when genteel Virginia spinster Roxanna Rowan arrives at the Kentucky fort commanded by Colonel Cassius McLinn, she finds that her officer father has died. Penniless and destitute, Roxanna is forced to take her father's place as scrivener. Before long, it's clear that the colonel himself is attracted to her. But she soon realizes the colonel has grave secrets of his own--some of which have to do with her father's sudden death. Can she ever truly love him?
Kentucke Territory, November 1779
This is madness.
Roxanna Rowan leaned against the slick cave entrance and felt an icy trickle drop down the back of her neck as she bent her head. Her right hand, shaky as an aspen leaf, caressed the cold steel of the pistol in her pocket. Being a soldier’s daughter, she knew how to use it. Trouble was she didn’t want to. The only thing she’d ever killed was a copperhead in her flower garden back in Virginia, twined traitorously among scarlet poppies and deep blue phlox.
An Indian was an altogether different matter.
The cave ceiling continued to weep, echoing damply and endlessly and accenting her predicament. Her eyes raked the rosy icicles hanging from the sides and ceiling of the cavern. Stalactites. Formed by the drip of calcareous water, or so Papa had told her in a letter. She’d never thought to see such wonders, but here she was, on the run from redskins and Redcoats in the howling wilderness. And in her keep were four fallen women and a mute child.
They were huddled together further down the cavern tunnel, the women’s hardened faces stiff with rouge and fright. Nancy. Olympia. Dovie. Mariah. And little Abby. All five were looking at her like they wanted her to do something dangerous. Extending
one booted foot, she nudged the keelboat captain. In the twilight she saw that the arrow protruding from his back was fletched with turkey feathers. He’d lived long enough to lead them to the mouth of the cave—a very gracious gesture—before dropping dead. Thank You, Lord, for that. But what on earth would You have me do now? A stray tear leaked from the corner of her left eye as she pondered their predicament.
The Indians had come out of nowhere that afternoon—in lightning-quick canoes—and the women had been forced to abandon the flatboat and flee in a pirogue to the safer southern shore, all within a few miles of their long-awaited destination. Fort Endeavor was just downriver, and if they eluded the Indians, they might reach it on foot come morning. Surely a Shawnee war party would rather be raiding a vessel loaded with rum and gunpowder than chasing after five worthless women and a speechless child.
“Miz Roxanna!” The voice cast a dangerous echo.
Roxanna turned, hesitant to take her eyes off the entrance lest the enemy suddenly appear. Her companions had crept further down the tunnel, huddled in a shivering knot. And then Olympia shook her fist, her whisper more a shout.
“I’d rather be took by Indians than spend the night in this blasted place!”
There was a murmur of assent, like the hiss of a snake, and Roxanna plucked her pistol from her pocket. “Ladies,” she said, stung by the irony of the address. “I’d much rather freeze in this cave than roast on some Indian spit. Now, are you with me or against me?”
The only answer was the incessant plink, plink, plink of water. Turning her back to them, she fixed her eye on the ferns just be- yond the cave entrance, studying the fading scarlet and cinnamon and saffron woods. With the wind whipping and rearranging the leaves, perhaps their trail would be covered if the Indians decided to pursue them. They’d also walked in a creek to hide their passing. But would it work? Roxanna heaved a shaky sigh.
I’m glad Mama’s in the grave and Papa doesn’t know a whit about my present predicament.