Today’s excerpt is from the opening chapter of Lord Esterleigh’s Daughter, book One of “The Serpent’s Tooth” historical trilogy, published by Books We Love. Set during the turbulent 18th century, the series follows Anne Darvey from her impoverished childhood in rural England to the American colonies and the War for Independence.
“…This is a dark novel that deals with the resentment and anger of a girl who has been misled and cannot seem to get past her grief …. While not a typical romance, this is a fascinating, complex story that I completely enjoyed. It is well written and entertained me with mystery, suspense, scandal, sinister characters and first love.” — Romantic Historical Lovers
Blinded by tears, Anne Fairfield ran. She had lost her shoes somewhere in the squire’s field amid the newly plowed furrows, but she couldn’t stop to worry about them now. Nor would she stop to consider how her mother might take to the loss, although the thought stirred a fleeting pang of anxiety in the pit of her stomach. But it was nothing compared to the need that drove her to keep running. To run fast and hard and not look back. Far worse than a mother’s scolding would be her punishment if she allowed them to overtake her. Even as she ran, their hateful voices grew louder as they steadily closed the distance between her and them.
Cradling her basket against her heaving chest, she tried not to think of the precious eggs within. She’d already lost a goodly number…not counting the one she had hurled at Dickie Hodge.
She hadn’t realized how far she had run. All the way to St. Cillian’s Well! Nearly home. But they gained ground. The pounding of their ponies’ hooves and a new clarity in their cruel voices drew closer and more distinct. She’d never outrun them. They’d be on her before she could cross the meadow between the spring and home.
Gasping for breath, only partly conscious of the raucous chatter of birds that greeted her entry and the cheerful gurgle of water bubbling up from the earth, she darted into the thicket surrounding the pool. She pressed her back against the spiny bark of a slender hawthorn, and willed the tears from her burning eyes. Hands balled into fists, Anne swiped their trails from her cheeks. She sucked in a deep breath and peered through the grove at the road and the fields behind her.
There was still no sign of them, but their taunting voices filled the air, ringing in the glade with hurtful words that stung her to the heart. The strident sound drew closer—young voices chanting and laughing in fiendish delight.
An-nie Fair-field, where did your father go?
Across the sea to Galilee, but Mother’ll never know.
An-nie Fair-field, what is your father’s aim?
To kiss the maids and make them cry!
Oh, for shame, for shame!