You know I love Wednesdays! Today I’m bringing you an excerpt from a new project that is very close to my heart. I’ve started writing an Inspirational Historical Romance series based on the actual history of the church I was raised in. This first book, More Precious Than Gold, begins the trilogy with the story of Louisa White and Andrew McBride. They’ve been friends since childhood, but as they blossom into adults, they are each startled to find their feelings changing. But how can they navigate these new, complicated feelings when the world and the church they have known their whole life is in such trouble? Here’s a peek….
Louisa left the June Nineteenth picnic with hope in her heart, buoyed by the love of her friends and the society. The next morning she awoke to a pile of work that had doubled after being ignored for a day. She thought of her friends, thought of all of the blessings in her life, and tried not to complain. Instead she sat in the back room of their little house, working diligently and cheering herself with the thought that she was serving a very important for her family.
At least, she tried to. Within minutes, her hopes fell and her heart was heavy. She wasn’t sure which struck harder, the hours of sewing that left her eyes stinging and her head pounding or the endless dialog of frustration that swirled through her head.
“I didn’t study hard and excel in school all those years only to end up working in a shop or a factory, harried and lonely,” her thoughts grumbled. “My friends are still enjoying their last taste of childhood while I have to work to have a roof over my head and food on my table. I don’t even care about nice things, like Gayle, or big families, like Wren. I just want to be normal. Andrew would understand.”
The last thought took Louisa by surprise. She paused halfway through embroidering the hem of a christening gown.
Why should Andrew McBride come straight to her thoughts?
Then again, she considered as she returned to sewing, Andrew knew what it was like to have a job, to work hard for a living. Still, his family was wealthy. Hers was not.
By the time Saturday rolled around, Louisa was bursting with desperation to get out of the house and into the balmy summer sunlight. She hadn’t seen Wren or Gayle all week. As she mounted her bicycle and pedaled off along the main road leading up the coast to Cliff House, she wanted to spread her arms and embrace the morning. Instead she settled for gripping the handlebar of her bicycle with a fondness that made her laugh and roll her eyes at herself.
Her bright red bicycle was far and away her favorite possession. Like everything else of any worth that she owned, it had been a gift from the McBrides. They had presented it to her, along with bicycles for Wren and Gayle, when they finished grammar school years ago. The fact that Gayle had been given the same gift was the only thing that had stopped Louisa from refusing such an elaborate present, and now both of her friends had newer, fancier bicycles. But Louisa still loved her old, clunky, red one.
She pedaled up the long, sloping drive to Cliff House, ringing the bell on her handlebars and waving at Wren’s youngest brothers and sisters. They played with their friends and the family dog where the lawn met the beach. The McBrides were a large family, eight children in all, and Louisa was never sure if she felt comfortable with them or just overwhelmed. At home there had only been Father, Mother, Henry and her. Now it was just the three of them, and Henry was gone most of the time.
She found herself praying for a large family of her own one day, lots of children to love and care for, as she skidded to a stop at the top of the drive beside the back door. As quickly as the thought came into her mind she brushed it aside. Marriage was the last thing she should be thinking about. Someday, yes, but at the moment it was the least of her problems.
“Hello!” she called out as she leaned her bicycle against the side of the house and brushed her skirts straight.
Gayle’s bicycle also rested against the house, so Louisa walked through the kitchen door as if she too were a McBride. Sure enough, inside the warm, fragrant kitchen, Gayle and Wren were hard at work. Gayle wore yet another new dress, light pink with the puffy sleeves that were becoming so popular. One sleeve already had a smudge on it. Wren was dressed in far more practical clothing, her long strawberry-blonde hair hanging in a braid down her back.
“I knew I’d find you in here.” Louisa smiled as she greeted them. She could have laughed out loud with joy at seeing her friends. It was ridiculous that just a few days apart could make her miss them so much. “What’s all this?”
“Provisions,” Gayle answered with a mischievous tweak of her dark eyebrows.
The kitchen table was spread with cookies and miniature cakes and the raspberry tarts that Wren was famous for. Wren and Gayle were busy packing them into baskets and tins and even a large napkin or two as they ran out of containers. Louisa closed her eyes and breathed in the warm, sweet smells of baking.
“I wish I’d gotten here sooner,” she sighed, mouth watering.
“Me too!” Gayle said with a giggle.
“Where were you?” Wren asked without looking up from her task.
“We’re going to take refreshments to the men working at the lighthouse,” Gayle interrupted, sparing Louisa the embarrassment of yet another excuse.
Wren sent a wary glance in Gayle’s direction before adding, “Mama thought it would be a good idea to take the workers a snack. They’ve been out there since sunrise.”
“We’ve got all this and some jugs of lemonade,” Gayle added, nodding to the counter by the sink. Two large brown jugs with corks stood waiting for attention. “Of course we don’t really have room for glasses,” Gayle shrugged, “but my guess is they’ll be so thirsty they won’t mind drinking straight from the jug.”
“You’ve come just in time,” Wren continued with her businesslike voice, wiping her hands on her apron before untying it and pulling it off over her head. “We’ll put the lemonade in the basket on one of our bicycles and split the goodies between the other two.”
Louisa jumped into action as soon as the suggestion was made. Action made everything feel better. “I’ll take the jugs,” she said, crossing to the counter to retrieve them.
The girls had long since dropped the habit of being polite with each other and asking for help. It was understood that they would all help each other without being asked whenever help was needed. Gayle set about hanging baskets of treats from her arm while Wren hung her apron on a peg beside the back door and returned to gather an armful of treats. With a grin, Louisa found herself considering that if Wren ever found herself in the same predicament that Louisa was in now, she would probably open a bakery and become wealthy and famous all over again. Money stuck to some people like burrs on a cat.
“You’ve made an awful lot,” Louisa said as they fixed their hats on their heads and carried their loads out to their bicycles. “Do we really need this much?”
“Everyone is over there, everyone.” Gayle smiled, eyes glittering with mirth. “Even C.J. Wick.”
It was all Louisa could do not to roll her eyes. She didn’t know what she would do if her friend tried to play matchmaker.
More Precious Than Gold is coming the first week of May. I’m thinking the 6th right now. Stay tuned!
And if you’d like to learn more about Swedenborg and the New Church, please visit the Swedenborg Foundation! They’re packed full of great info.