Thanks so much, Eliza for hosting me on History Undressed today. This is an exciting time for me because I just published my first book, To Dream of Langston, on September 30. It's great to have an opportunity to chat a little about the book.
To Dream of Langston is the "book of my heart". It's a coming of age novel featuring Katherine Fairbanks, a young doctor's daughter who loses her first love, is betrayed into a false marriage to man who is a member of a white slavery guild, and is then rescued by the man who is her destiny, a man whom she has dreamed of since her childhood.
When I began writing To Dream of Langston, I envisioned the Fairbanks family living in a fictional town (Heathcrest) that straddled a highway that ran north to south from London all the way up into Scotland. At the time, I had no idea that in reality, just such a road existed. As I began to research the area of North Yorkshire, I came across references to the Great North Road. It was exciting to make that discovery, although in order to accommodate the placement of Heathcrest where I wanted it in North Yorkshire, I had to create a non-existent branch of the road to reach it.
The Great North Road is ancient. A great slash of rutted (or muddy, if it rained) dirt, it stretched from London to Edinburgh, with a major nexus in the city of York. The Romans used it in their efforts to conquer the land. Coaching inns sprang up along it to accommodate those who journeyed. Kings and queens moved militaries to war upon it and at various times tolls were issued to raise capital. Royalty and noblemen, tradesmen and peasants and pilgrims traveled it. Highwaymen preyed upon them all.
Sir Walter Scott thought traveling it dull. Cromwell's grandfather owned a coaching inn along it. Such diverse personages as St. Cuthbert and Bonnie Prince Charlie wandered sections of it.
So much history, myth/legend and literature surround this incredible highway that one can only touch upon it in a blog. But while Sir Scott might have thought traveling it dull, I found all these accounts fascinating.
The British A-1 Highway follows the general course of the Great North Road, but one can still travel actual sections of the ancient path by leaving A-1 for the towns (and surviving coaching inns) that graced it. I was fortunate to travel a short distance along the old route while passing through North Yorkshire last year.
Back Cover "Blurb" for To Dream of Langston:
From the wild, beautiful landscape of the moorlands of England's North Yorkshire to the rolling bluegrass pastures of Kentucky, one [young] woman's passion carries her from love's first bloom to a love everlasting.
On the brink of womanhood, young Katherine Fairbanks glories in the sweet love of the boy next door. When her life is brutally ripped apart by tragedy, she believes she will never love again and seeks only peace for her life. But betrayal sweeps her across the sea and lands her in the hands of a man she dares not trust.
Thoroughbred breeder Jayce Langston has little interest in taking a wife. His time is consumed with the struggle to help his family recover from the devastations of America's Civil War. When a beautiful, mysterious woman pursued by thugs drops in a deep swoon at his feet as he leaves a New York club, Jayce is both captivated and intrigued. He returns with her to his Kentucky stud farm in hopes of learning her identity.
Together, they must work against terrifying odds to secure a future where love triumphs over loss.
An Excerpt from To Dream of Langston:
Katherine promptly wrapped her arms round Jamie's waist. She trembled as if with a chill.
“I love you so much,” she said into his shirtfront.
It took a bit o’ doing, but he got his hand under her chin and lifted, surprised to find tears in her eyes. She pinched her bottom lip tightly between her teeth, but still it quivered.
“I love you, too. Forever and a day.”
A sudden thought caught him, a memory from the tales o’ the old days in the Highlands that his ma told afore the fire on winter eves. He caught his breath. Would she agree?
“Kate, I’ve an idea.” Excitement jogged his words like grasshoppers gone mad.
Sure of her attention, he said, “Would ye handfast wi’ me? Here, now?”
She blinked, and looked a bit dazed, as well she might. ’Twas a daft idea, but the more he thought on it, the more certain he was o’ its rightness.
“You want to handfast? But it’s not a legal ceremony.”
“Aye, sure, I ken. But it would bind us forever and a day. Would ye no’ like that?”
“I thought handfasting was for ‘a year and a day’.”
“Och, it depends on the time and place. But just between us, I’d rather we promise forever. What say ye?”
The glory o’ her smile had his heart thudding.
“I’d like it very much. Shall we do it up here, with the wind in our hair and the entire dale in our sight, or down by the pond, where we can hear the splash of the water.”
“Which do ye want?”
He laughed. “Weel, since it isnae legal and we're doin’ it all helter-skelter like, I reck it willnae matter if we do it twice. It will just make it twice as bindin’. Give me the ribbon from yer hair.”
In no time, her braid was unraveled.
“Now give me yer hand.”
He spoke as he wrapped the ribbon—fiery copper to match the strands in her hair—around their wrists in a loose figure eight. “I, James MacCorkin, will take ye, Katherine Fairbanks, to my wedded wife, forever and a day, and thereby I plight my troth to ye.”
With the last word, he finished the binding. Her hand trembled within the warmth of his. He tightened his grip, thinking he could happily drown in the luminous joy infusing the blue depths o’ her eyes. The breeze freshened, playing with his hair but performing a dance o’ sheer glee with hers.
She spoke her vow and in the saying, he discerned the unswerving devotion o’ her soul.
“I, Katherine Fairbanks, will take thee, James MacCorkin, to my wedded husband, forever and a day, and thereby I plight to thee my troth.”
Jamie’s left hand slipped into his pocket. “It’s tradition for the handfasted couple to exchange gifts at this time. I…I brought this for ye, meanin’ to give it to ye this day. Now seems a verra appropriate time.”
He opened his fist. Upon his palm lay a golden circle, smooth and unadorned. “It’s no’ the ring I wanted for ye, but it was bought wi’ my own coin. I meant it for our betrothal, but now it seals our handfastin’, too. See ye, I had it engraved wi’ our given names on the inside o’ the band.”
He slid the band onto her finger. His gaze returned to her face, where sparkling tears veined cheeks glowing blush with the wind and the strength of her ardor.
“It’s just…so b-beautiful, my darling. The day is beautiful, and the ceremony and the ring, and you are beautiful! But I have no gift for you.”
She thinks me ‘beautiful’?
Jamie tried to convince himself the heat washing over his face was naught but too much sun. Still, a man could be called worse, even by the woman he loved.
“Ye’ve gifted me wi’ yerself, Kate, wi’ yer future and sweet love, and I need none greater. Besides, ye couldnae have known we’d be doin’ this. O’ course, I wouldnae fuss if ye gave me somethin’ later.”
She laughed, and he wiped away the traces o’ her tears. “There is one gift ye can give right now, my Kate.”
Standing as she was on the hill a little below him, she had to lift onto her toes to reach him. The kiss was gentle, sweet and as binding as their vows.
Buy Link for To Dream of Langston:
Eliza, thanks again for having me today.