I love having the opportunity to introduce you to my dear friend Lyn Cote, whose recent series of books about the Quakers has me absolutely enthralled.
Lyn and I have been friends since very early in our writing careers, and for years we've been corresponding virtually every day. I loved the first book in this new series so much that I asked Lyn to stop by and visit when the second book came out. BLESSING, Book 2 in her Quaker Brides series, is out now. I know you'll love it as much as I do! So here is Lyn to tell you about her new book:
Do you know that the Amish are just one of the several sects of “Plain People” in the US? The others are the Mennonites (Amish are a branch of this faith), Shakers, Amana, Hutterites, and Quakers. I am fascinated by this last sect which is just as old as the Amish. If you’re unacquainted with the Quakers, rent the old Gary Cooper film, “Friendly Persuasion,” which portray the Quakers, or members of the Society of Friends who are most remembered for their use of “Thee” and “Thy.” They are also pacifists and were at the forefront of social reform in the 18th and 19th centuries.
My latest book, BLESSING, is the second in my “Quaker Brides” series and portrays one Quaker woman, Blessing Brightman, and what she does about the wrongs happening all around her. Here’s the blurb:
An impetuous love swept Blessing Brightman away from the Quaker community, into the highest ranks of Cincinnati society. But behind the glitter of ballroom and parlor, her spirit slowly eroded in an increasingly dangerous marriage. Widowed young, determined never to lose her independence again, Blessing reclaimed her faith and vowed to use her influence to fight for women’s rights and abolition.
Gerard Ramsay, scion of a wealthy Boston family, arrives in Cincinnati hoping to escape his father’s clutches with a strategy that will gain him independence. His plan is soon complicated, however, by the enchanting widow. Never before has a woman spoken as if she’s his equal—or challenged him to consider the lives of others.
In a city nearly ablaze with racial tensions quickly dividing the country, can two people worlds apart possibly find common ground?
Excerpt of the first meeting of Blessing Brightman and Gerard Ramsay in Seneca Falls, NY July 1848:
“The Quaker lady paused, letting Stoddard (Gerard’s cousin) and the blonde (Blessing’s friend) precede them. Then the Quakeress gazed up at Gerard with a look that he might have used when trying to decide whether a glass of milk had soured without tasting it. It unnerved him. He tried to step back but bumped against a stranger. He swallowed an unkind word.
She cocked her head, still studying him.
He’d had enough. He offered her his arm. "May I escort you, ma'am?" he said as if issuing a challenge.
"Yes, but I do not need to cling to thy arm. I am quite capable of walking unaided."
More startled than insulted, Gerard held back a sharp reply. As audacious as she might be, a gentleman did not contradict a lady. Peering ahead, he observed the possessive way the tall blonde clung to Stoddard's arm. He wanted to snatch up his cousin and run.
"I did not mean to be rude or uncivil," the Quakeress continued, walking beside him. "I'm sure thee offered thy arm simply from courtesy. But after this morning's meeting, I am afraid I see more clearly the proscribed manners between gentlemen and women as a form of bondage."
The equation of courtesy with bondage sent prickly disbelief rippling through him. "I beg your pardon." And with the press of the crowd though feeling bowled over, he was forced to walk faster to keep up with the other two. What would this woman say next?
She looked up at him. A mischievous smile lightened her face and he saw now that it was not just a pretty face but a beautiful face--big blue eyes, a pert nose, generous pink lips and thick chestnut hair peeping out around her close bonnet.
Her smile did something to him, something unexpected yet welcome. The heaviness he always carried lightened and he could draw breath freely. What was going on here?
"What is thy stand on abolition?" she asked, completely ignoring what should be the proscribed polite conversation between a man and woman upon first meeting. They should be discussing the weather and then move on to discreetly find out about each other’s family connections.
He stared at her. Ahead, Stoddard was chuckling at something his lady had said. The sound wrapped Gerard's nerves tighter.
The Quakeress shook her head at him, still grinning. "Very well. I don't mean to be impolite. I will follow propriety." She cleared her throat. "Gerard Ramsay, what brings thee to Seneca Falls this day?"
He swallowed and tried to come up with a palatable conventional reply. He failed. "I'm against slavery," he said instead.
"I am happy to hear that, but I asked, what thy stand on abolition is."
He was not accustomed to women who put forth opinions and her tone though cheerful, was almost cavalier as if she were making fun of him. Usually with him, people did that to their own peril. But this Quakeress had pushed him off balance. "You are in favor of abolition?" he ventured, trying to find his feet in this discussion.
She laughed softly, the sound reminding him of the children playing. "Yes, I am in favor of abolition. Has thee ever met Frederick Douglass?"
"No," he said, trying to keep up with her unexpected questions and her brisk pace without bumping into anyone. "Would thee like to meet Frederick Douglass?" she asked.
"Who is Frederick Douglass?" He looked down at her again, her face attracting him in spite of himself.
"Thee hasn't read his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave? It was published three years ago and has sold over five thousand copies."
Distracted, he wished he could overhear what the other lady was saying to his cousin. "I've not had the pleasure."
"Indeed thee hasn't read it then. It is not a pleasant book to read. It is as harsh as the slavery that bound him."
Gerard felt as if he were back on the wagon, only riding over an even bumpier road. Primarily concerned with Stoddard’s flirtation, he scrambled to keep up with the Quakeress’s odd conversation. "He's a fugitive slave then?"
"He is a free man of color who left the state and master that enslaved him."
Gerard gaped at her. Ladies didn’t discuss slavery. No woman had ever spoken so frankly to him in his life. All his usual sangfroid evaporated.
"I see my direct manner has disconcerted thee. I apologize." She smiled and said in a sweetly conversational tone, "When does thee think this hot weather will ebb?"
His mind whirled but he wouldn't bow in defeat. "Is this Frederick Douglass attending your...convention?"
"Gerard Ramsay, thee must make up thy mind whether thee wishes me to be conventional or not. I own fault. I started by speaking frankly as I always do with people with whom I'm acquainted, not strangers like thee. But this morning's discussion of the ‘Declaration of Sentiments for Women’ has made me overbold with thee--one who is not at all acquainted with me."
She tilted her head like an inquisitive robin. "I apologize. Should we try to follow convention or continue with frankness?" She looked at him expectantly as she continued walking. "Please choose. I do not wish to be rude."
He inhaled the hot humid air. Her candor irritated him and he would be cursed if he let this woman best him. "Mrs. Brightman," he drawled, ”I must confess your conversational style is completely unparalleled in my experience.”
She laughed again, again sounding almost musical.
Was this woman being artless or artful?”
Well, I always enjoy a good story with a bright articulate heroine and an equally sharp hero. Do you?
For more online about Lyn’s books: