By- K. Williams
Expected Publication Date- April 27th, 2015
Published By- Booktrope Publishing
Blue Honor tracks four tightly twining families during the American Civil War. Each member is asked to sacrifice more than their share to see friends and loved ones through the terrible times. The only certainty they have is that nothing will be the same.
Emily Conrad is the bookish daughter of a wealthy dairy family from Vermont. Her indulgent father has educated her and bred ideas that aren’t acceptable to her more urbane mother, who thinks Emily needs to settle down with her longtime friend and town philanderer Evan Howell. The outbreak of war frees Emily from these expectations for a time, but a stranger soon arrives after the guns begin to blaze, threatening her plans more than societal conventions ever could.
Devoted to the young woman who healed her wounds, Henrietta has become part of the Conrad family, hoping that she may one day see her husband and son again. As a runaway slave, she’s been lucky enough to find this slice of peace in Vermont, but the return of Evan Howell and the man he brings with him portends great change that might see her locked back in irons, if not executed for what she’s done.
Evan isn’t as bad as his reputation has made him out to be. He knows his chum Emily will make the best doctor Vermont has ever seen, and he knows he’s not the man to marry her. With a little manipulation, he convinces his commanding officer, Lieutenant Joseph Maynard, to take leave with him and see the beauty of the north. He just doesn’t let on it’s not hillsides and streams he’s setting the man up for.
Joseph has both power and privilege as the son of a Baltimore lawyer, but neither can guarantee him the things he wants in life. His commission in the army is likely to lead to death, a sacrifice he was willing to make to end slavery in the States—that was until he saw Emily Conrad. Torn between duty and desire, Joseph struggles to stay standing for that which he once held strong convictions. War weary, they all march on to duty…
Emily showed the child how to open the latches of the two doors and how to get carefully inside the coop. She oversaw Jo-Hanna while the child performed the tasks herself. The rooster took notes, too.
“Careful to not let any chickens get out. They’ll freeze if left in the cold, or be eaten by a fox,” Emily warned.
Jo-Hanna listened intently, but only time would reveal if she heeded the lesson.
“I will,” Jo-Hanna said.
“Let’s go back inside,” Emily said, touching the girl’s shoulder.
With her hand on Jo-Hanna’s back, Emily guided the child back to the house and out of the cold. Above their heads, the clouds had thinned and soft light filled the lane. Beyond, the road snaked through the high grasses and upon it was a lone rider, his brass buttons glinting. Emily froze, her breath caught in her throat, and her heart raced at the sight of him. The rhythmic clomp of horse hooves filled her ears, hypnotizing her with its tempo. She could not tear her eyes from him, his hat or his rain cloak.
“Miss Emily, what’s wrong?” Jo-Hanna said, breaking through to her.
Jo-Hanna followed the track of her stare and was soon just as bewitched.
“Nothing, dear. Sorry. Let’s get you inside before you catch cold,” she stammered, shaking off the power he had over her.
Lieutenant Maynard kept his promise. Damn.
The sun hid behind a curtain of silver clouds. Her mother would be so ecstatic to find out the soldier had indeed arrived as promised. Emily smirked, thinking how unwanted a guest he was. Her step quickened as she tried to get to the house before him. Her father was going to speak to him at length in the parlor, and perhaps walk him around the grounds and take tea before they sat down to eat supper. Her father was probably eating his lunch in his study at that moment, not to be hungry again until at least seven. Emily thought of how perfectly the soldier planned the time of arrival, too late for lunch and early enough to receive a dinner invitation. After the way he inspected her last night, she should have known he sought
a more formal affair.
Hettie and Mrs. Conrad carried trays of food toward the men’s quarters. Closing her eyes, Emily paused at the bottom of the back porch stairs. She tried to focus her mind on her duties and not on her worries. However, her duty was soon to become her worry. She told herself that this was no time to turn into a fool. She dare not act in daylight like she did last night, especially with the new maids skittering about. She hoped to make up for her asinine staring and stammering, and be certain to let him know she was no doxy. That men like Evan, like him, should not expect her to just—she dare not think it. Emily calmed herself.
“He’s only coming to dinner. It goes on every night—all over the world— no reason to act this way,” Emily mumbled to herself as she paced the porch. Even if Lincoln himself came to call, she wouldn’t be half so nervous.
Jo-Hanna giggled, sitting in one of the rockers, enjoying the show. “My ma talks to herself, too.”
Emily’s heart skipped. She gave her a sideways glance.
“Grown women have too many troubles to keep quiet over.”
“What do you mean?” Jo-Hanna asked.
“You’ll see, all too soon. They call themselves men,” Emily said, rushing the girl inside.
“Oh—” Jo-Hanna didn’t understand, although her mother said similar things about her father.
The pair safely entered the kitchen to hide. MaryJane’s chin popped up from rolling the dinner rolls. They were otherwise on their own. Emily searched for anything to keep her busy, and hoped that one of the men would delay their visitor outside, in conversation about his horse or the things he did in the army. She guessed a man like him went on for hours about such topics. She hoped for anything to postpone the moment, though no amount of time was enough for her to be secure, and then he was to be with them until after dinner. Emily chewed her lip. There was always the closet under the stairs.
“Man trouble?” Jo-Hanna asked.
Emily’s eyes went wide. Had she been speaking her thoughts aloud? She looked to MaryJane, but the girl was minding her task.
“What? Why would you say that? No-no.”
Emily tried to laugh off the astute observation. Hettie entered behind Emily, jarring the younger woman out of a fog. With her heart thrumming, Emily hastily rattled off some instructions. It was wise to keep Jo-Hanna very busy in the kitchen and away from guests. Hettie was bewildered by her.
“Have you washed dishes before?”
The little girl nodded heartily.
Emily helped her gather the things she needed to wash up the kitchen. She paused several times, distracted by the butterflies that twisted her stomach and batted her wits numb. She swallowed the dryness in her mouth and decidedly focused on the task at hand.
“All right, Jo-Hanna. So you’ll do the dishes right now. There’ll be plenty every day. When there isn’t—and your sister doesn’t need help, you can darn socks and mend clothes. There’s a basket in the closet over there. You know how to sew, I hope?” Emily said, trying to gather strength for the coming struggle.
“Uh-huh,” Jo-Hanna said, unconvincingly.
Emily smoothed a hand over the buttons of her bodice and scanned the kitchen, lost in thought. Jo-Hanna eyed the woman curiously, waiting for her next words.
“All right. Good,” Emily said, she didn’t have time to verify that answer. Emily pressed a hand to the little girl’s head like her father had done to her earlier that morning. A sudden knock on the front door nearly rattled her out of her boots. Her eyes widened and she stared as though a specter were before her. She listened to Blythe answer the door.
“Hang your coat over there and put your basket on the shelf. I’ll be back to check on you in a little while.”
“Are you nervous?” Jo-Hanna asked her, concerned.
“Nervous?” Emily repeated, frozen by the question. “No—I’m—no, just busy.”
“You look nervous,” Jo-Hanna told her. “Is it a man?”
Emily’s eyes widened. “Why would you ask that?”
“What you said a minute ago about men giving us women trouble,” she answered sweetly, climbing onto a stool to gather some dishes from the table. “Does my Daddy give you trouble?”
Emily was awed. The child was all too attentive and intuitive. Emily adjusted her collar. She was sweating and it was freezing outside. How was she going to survive the dinner in such an uncomfortable dress? Her heart beat rapidly as she heard the lieutenant’s voice through her panic.
“No—your father is no trouble at all,” Emily lied. Mr. Fordder, however, was a different kind of trouble. Emily preferred to deal with him than that which she now faced.
“Who then?” Jo-Hanna climbed down and dragged several large bowls to the sink.
“What—oh—no one, dear,” Emily lied. “I think my lunch just disagreed with me.”
“You should go lie down,” Jo-Hanna said.
“I wish that I could,” Emily mumbled.
“Why can’t you?”
“We have guests coming.”
“Yes,” Emily answered, as though the floor dropped from under her feet.
“So it is man trouble,” Jo-Hanna said, busily washing a bowl.
“Fantastic,” Emily whispered. Even a child had seen through her. “Just get those dishes washed, Jo-Hanna, and don’t think of another thing.”
About the Author
Born in Saratoga Springs, New York, where she continues to reside, K.Williams embarked on a now twenty year career in writing. After a childhood, which consisted of voracious reading and hours of film watching, it was a natural progression to study and work in the arts.
K attended the State University of New York at Morrisville, majoring in the Biological Sciences, and then continued with English and Historical studies at the University at Albany (home of the New York State Writer’s Institute) gaining her Bachelor’s Degree. While attending UA, K interned with the 13th Moon Feminist Literary Magazine, bridging her interests in social movements and art.
Currently, K has completed the MALS program for Film Studies and Screenwriting at Empire State College (SUNY), and is the 2013-2014 recipient of the Foner Fellowship in Arts and Social Justice. K continues to write and is working on the novels of the Trailokya Trilogy, a work that deals with topics in Domestic Violence and crosses the controversial waters of organized religion and secularism. A sequel to OP-DEC is in the research phase, while the adaptation is being shopped to interested film companies. Excerpts of these and more writings can be found at: www.bluehonor.com