After waiting more than 30 years to write this story, I can’t believe it’s here! The Bride Ship launches today! A few folks received early copies through the Love Inspired Readers Service or Amazon (who surprised me by releasing the book Saturday), and I thank you for the kind reviews many of you left. I was a little nervous straying from my beloved Regency period but Booklist, the magazine from the American Library Association, called The Bride Ship “a captivating, adventure-filled romance that effectively conveys the grit and gumption required by those who settled the American far west.”
As you can guess by my recent posts, the book takes up when Mercer and his Belles leave New York for Seattle. And one of his Belles is Boston socialite Allegra Banks Howard. Here's the blurb:
What was his brother's widow, his first love, doing on a ship full of prospective brides headed out West? Clay Howard had been tasked with escorting the Boston belle home, but he didn't anticipate Allegra being so strong-willed, or that he'd wind up traveling with her just to keep her from leaving without him!
Allegra Banks Howard isn't going to let Clay interfere with her plans for a new life with her daughter on the frontier. True, Allegra needs his wilderness savvy, but if Clay thinks he can rekindle what they once shared, he had better think again. Because risking her heart for a second chance at being his bride isn't something she'll undertake lightly….
Here’s an excerpt:
Allie didn't remember reaching the bottom of the stairs aboard the Continental. The touch of Clay's hand on her arm drew her up.
“Be reasonable, Allegra,” he murmured, offering a smile that would once have set her to blushing. “I have no intention of being an annoyance. But I think we both agree it’s my duty to protect you.”
“Duty?” Allie shook her head. “This journey was my choice, sir. You have no duty to protect me from my future. I can handle myself on the frontier. You forget, my ancestors civilized Boston.”
Clay snorted, dropping her arm. “Is that your reason for going? You think the fine citizens of Seattle need to be civilized? There isn't a fellow in the Territory who will thank you for it.”
“On the contrary,” Allie insisted. “Mr. Mercer assured us that we will be welcome additions to the city, serving to bring it to its full potential. He, sir, has a vision.”
Clay rolled his eyes. “Spare me. I've spent the last hour watching how easily Mercer’s plans fell apart. No one seemed to know who had paid for this voyage and who hadn't. It wouldn't surprise me if Mercer had skipped town with your money. You've been duped, Allegra. Admit it.”
Anger was pushing up inside her again. Why were her ideas never taken seriously? Why was she always the one who had to bend to another’s insistence?
“Just because you dream small, Clay Howard,” she told him, “doesn't mean other men have the same narrow vision. And neither do I. I will pay you back every penny you spent to buy our tickets, I will allow you to spend time with Gillian as you requested, but I won’t listen to another word against our plans. Do I make myself clear, sir?”
Any Boston gentleman who had borne the brunt of her anger would have begged her pardon, immediately and profusely. Clay merely lowered his head until his gaze was level with hers. Something fierce leaped behind the cool green.
“Don’t expect me to jump when you snap your fingers, Allegra,” he said. “I paid your passage because this trip seems to be important to you. But I won’t nod in agreement like a milk cow to everything you say. I've been to Seattle. I know the dangers of the frontier. I owe it to Frank to protect you from them.”
As if in agreement, the Continental shuddered, and a deep throb pulsed up through the deck. Allie was tumbling forward, her feet not her own. She landed against something firm and solid--Clay.
His arms came around her, and she found herself against his chest. His gaze met hers, seemed to warm, to draw her in. She couldn't catch her breath. Once, she’d dreamed of his embrace, his kiss.
Heat flared in her cheeks at the memory, and she pulled herself out of his arms. “You owe Frank nothing, Clay Howard. And you owe me less. If you insist on coming to Seattle with us, you’d better remember that.”
To read more of Allie and Clay’s story, visit my website, where you can also find links to buy the book at online retailers and bookstores near you.