Many stories lie at the heart of my January 9th release, time travel romance Secret Lady (Book 3 Ladies in Time) from The Wild Rose Press. The characters in this mystery/adventure aren’t related to the first two releases in the series as I began a new thread. While strongly historical, Secret Lady has enough paranormal in it to categorize the story as fantasy.
The setting for Secret Lady is as close to home as I can get, our old farm-house (with a slight upgrade) in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I transformed our lush dairy farm into ‘Lavender and Lace Herb Farm’ and relocated it several miles up the road on the farm we once rented. During the Civil War, horses were hidden in the Alpine like woods beyond the house.
I gleaned inspiration for the story from events that occurred to my ancestors and my husband’s family, and their peers during the Civil War. My great-great-grandfather fought at Gettysburg and was captured at Pickett’s Charge, but the focus of this story is our richly historic valley. I grew up hearing about The Burning (autumn 1864) when Major General Philip Sheridan brought hard war to our green valley, called The Bread Basket of the Confederacy. In Sheridan’s ruthless destruction of farms, livestock, and supplies that might sustain Rebel troops, he unleashed Hell on countless innocents. Among the greatest sufferers in Rockingham County were the peaceful Mennonites, my husband’s ancestors among them. These plain, hardworking people are my adopted people and a vital part of the book.
Our farm stands where the worst of The Burning took place, and it occurred to me that our Victorian house might have been built soon after the Civil War because its predecessor was destroyed. We knew our home dated at least to the mid 1870’s from an elderly woman who visited here decades ago and said she was born in the house. We dated our home even earlier after finding it on an 1866 map, plus our bank barn has original features that pin it to that era.
This past spring, in what was my last conversation with my father-in-law before his death, I asked him if he knew of a farm that once stood on our land that might have been destroyed during The Burning. His adamant ‘yes!’ surprised my husband who wasn’t aware of its existence. However, hubby never asked.
Dad Trissel told us he used to walk back the long lane that leads behind our farm up to the wooded hills beyond and there he saw the remains of a burned-out farm (woods have since overgrown the site). He also told us our farm used to encompass that land which was later parceled off. We decided to walk back to the woods and search for any remnants from the past. Fortunately, we chose April for our exploration as the only trace of earlier dwellers our untrained eyes could detect were the faithful daffodils outlining what must once have been a house, barn, and outbuildings.
If we had chosen any other season for our walk, we wouldn’t have noted anything. We later learned foundation stones and usable timber were reused in rebuilding homes and barns after The Burning. Scavengers must have been at work, and nature has taken a toll over the years. I’m not sure what my father-in-law saw in the nineteen forties, but more than we did. The daffodils are an heirloom variety that used to grow in my garden, likely from those same bulbs. Not appreciating their historic value, I replaced them with more attractive varieties and must restore these blooms to a spot in the yard.
More research is needed to determine whether the farm behind us was, indeed, burned during Sheridan’s infamous valley campaign and whether that family built our present house or fled, and another took their place in the building. We learned the road that runs in front of our house used to cut through the meadow, which would account for a farm being located back there. The stream ran beside it in those days, and springs also provided water. It could be as Dad Trissel said.
A strong sense of history hangs over the woods, our farm, and our fair valley called Shenandoah, ‘Daughter of the Stars.’ Fiery war once raged here, but we survived and rebuilt. Of course, we did, we’re Virginians.
Secret Lady Story Blurb:
Torn apart by time, reunited by flames.
At Lavender House, Evie McIntyre is haunted by the whispers from her bedroom closet. Before she can make sense of their murmurs, the house “warbles” between times and transports her to the Civil War. Past and present have blended, and Evie wishes she’d paid more attention to history. Especially since former Confederate officer, Jack Ramsey, could use a heads up.
Torn between opposing forces, Jack struggles to defend the valley and people he loves. Meeting Evie turns his already tumultuous world upside down. Will solving the mystery of the whispers return her home, and will the handsome scout be by her side?
Against the background of Sheridan’s Burning of the Shenandoah Valley, Jack and Evie fight to save their friends and themselves – or is history carved in stone?
She took a steadying breath, turned the brass knob, and stepped into the room. The fragrance of lavender greeted her. Grandma G. had tucked sachets under her mattress to help her sleep and left small cloth bags in the drawers of an antique dresser. A sachet of apricot scented agrimony lay beneath her pillow.
This age-old herb was thought to induce slumber and offer protection against the dark forces. Other powerful herbs scented the room. Angelica, St. John’s Wort, and sage were in the bunch on the bedside stand beside the antique brass lamp with an ornamental white shade.
The walk-in, but duck your head, closet at the far side of the room summoned her. Boxes of Christmas decorations, a Santa, and reindeer figures stored inside the slanted nook partially hid the steps leading to the attic and the presence she swore was there. She hadn’t encountered the being in question. Yet. It wasn’t cool for a nineteen-year-old to harbor terrors of a closet, but she did.
She threw her hands up after a particularly loud summons. “What do you want from me?”
There was a rap on the downstairs door. ~
Secret Lady will be out in kindle and print at Amazon and in eBook from all major online booksellers. The novel will be available in pre-order soon.
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