Friday, May 12, 2017

Too Deep for Words: A Civil War Novel by Andrea Boeshaar, © 2017

Shenandoah Valley Saga, Book Two

My Review:

So many thoughts. To be separated from family ~ far from home with the war between them, not only with distance but with sides drawn. And the remains of my family? My sister, Carrie Ann, married to a Union officer. We have seen the remnants of war continue with the loss of our mother and younger sister.

Rescued, I am rescued! A man enters the Inn and asks for Miss Margaret Bell. That is me!! At first, I am chagrined wondering if it is in recouping funds he has lost, but no! It is Carrie's husband and he has made a way of escape for me! Release from the man who was behind the loss of all those held dear to me. Well, maybe Carrie Ann and I did have a few struggles with each other, bossy as she can be to me.

Home. Will she accept me? Being married and all, Carrie may have continued on in her life, wanting no interference from me. But, Peyton said to come, she would be amiss to be left behind.

Known long before the war between the states, growing up together as children, choosing opposite sides caused the dilemma for whom to trust. Could they be taken at their word, or by their actions? Reading the series in order will give you a fuller aspect in the continuation of history and its events.

Peyton Collier and Elijah "Eli" Kent are in such a situation as best friends, having gone to academy school together. As their families become intertwined, how much can be shared?

Missing during battle and reported dead, Eli must put into place the instructions Peyton had assigned him. Protecting Carrie Ann and her sister Margaret, and Peyt's Aunt Ruth was foremost.

The trials of war on both sides were severe. With the temperature and lack of supplies, exhaustion was also a foe. Homes when available were used for immediate hospitals of the wounded ~ both for their men and prisoners.

During the war there was a lack of hospital space. Douglas Hospital in Washington DC set up tents for the overflow of the wounded. Photo by Mathew Brady.:
During the war there was a lack of hospital space. Douglas Hospital in Washington DC set up tents for the overflow of the wounded. Photo by Mathew Brady. --author Andrea Boeshaar

The story ends needing the next page beginning book 3, There is a Season. Letters and descriptions of daily happenings and activities are vivid. Characters adjust within the circumstances circulating socially, politically, and everyday business necessary to carry them forward.

I would like to know more about Rebekah Kercheval, a character in the background, and hope she will be expanded in the next story.

Libby Prison - The Libby Prison Escape was one of the most famous (and successful) prison breaks during the American Civil War. Overnight between February 9 and February 10, 1864, more than 100 imprisoned Union soldiers broke out of their prisoner of war building at Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia.:
Prisoner of War Camp during American Civil War, Richmond, Virginia

Enjoy this excerpt from Book 2 of the Shenandoah Valley Saga, Too Deep for Words ~ Chapter 1


October 6, 1864

"Well, I'll be hanged. The Yankee Cavalry is ridin' into Woodstock."
   Margaret Jean Bell paused in midstroke and dropped the rag she'd been using to clean the sticky bar. She looked toward the entrance of the Wayfarers Inn where a raggedy-dressed old man stood staring out to the street. "More Yankees in town?"
   "That's what I jest said, girl." The old man swayed slightly and kneaded his bristly jaw. "Judging by the black smoke over yonder, them blue-bellies is burning ever'thing in sight too!"
   Margaret clutched her midsection. Questions tumbled through her mind. Would one of the Yankee soldiers recognize her and, if so, did he have an inkling of her trickery?
   Instinct screamed, run! Her breath came and went in quick repetitions, as if she'd already cantered a mile up Main Street.
   Breathe. Breathe.
   Her lightheadedness slowly abated. Logic soon returned.
   Wasn't she accustomed to soldiers, Yanks and Rebs alike? She was, sure as the sun set in the west. She'd learned men were men, bluecoats or gray, and she held her own in their presence, even when they turned violent. Should one of the soldiers insist on getting his money back for services that were promised but never rendered, Margaret would simply tell the truth: Mr. Veyschmidt had snatched her ill-gotten gains. Therefore she was unable to provide him with a refund. Afterward, she'd accept the beating likely to come.
   All the louts who frequented the Wayfarers Inn were the same, dark and volatile.
   Oh, God, get me out of this place!
   Her mind turned to Carrie Ann. How lucky her oldest sister was to escape by marrying a blue-belly. Her younger sister, Sarah Jane, managed to get away by running off with a peddler, except she got herself killed in the process.
   Mama too was gone now. Died at the end of September. Now Margaret alone dealt with the temperamental, tyrannical innkeeper who enjoyed reminding her of the debt she owed. And insisted on gold coins for payment no less. He paid her nothing for the daily chores, nothing for serving plates of food and ale to customers. She often worked until the wee hours of the morning when every other eighteen-year-old young lady was fast asleep. And each week the sum she owed grew larger, not smaller. Margaret, in all the rest of her life, could never repay him.
   Yes, death was preferable to this wretched existence.
   She set down two bottles of Mr. Veyschmidt's backroom concoction, which he called ale, on the bar. Then she waited. Soldiers, both Reb and Yank, usually had a powerful thirst when they walked in. They may be on opposite sides of the war, but their behavior was no different.
   The portly innkeeper stared out the window and nervously chewed a fingernail. Margaret clenched her jaw. The swine. What a blessing it would be if the man got shot dead by a Yankee bullet.
   Within minutes, a tall, bearded, blue-clad officer strode over the threshold. His spurs chinked against the plank floorboards and his accoutrements jangled with each step he took. He squinted as his eyes surveyed the room. The gold trim ornamenting his uniform bespoke an upper rank.
   Odd. Men of his caliber didn't usually wander into the Wayfarers Inn.
   Two additional Yanks followed him. They made such an ominous threesome that the few remaining men loitering about in the saloon scattered like roaches after a match strike.
   The first officer made his way to the bar. He removed his wide-brimmed hat and a flicker of familiarity cinched Margaret's gut. Had this man visited the Wayfarers Inn before?
   "Care for a drink?" Her question nearly stuck in her suddenly dry mouth. "The innkeeper says it's on the house." She poured a glass of ale and pushed it toward him.
   "I said no such thing," Veyschmidt growled. His beady, wide-set eyes sized up the large officer and his comrades. He reconsidered, just as Margaret expected him to. "Well, all right. But only one's free."
   "No, thanks. I'm looking for Miss Margaret Bell."
   Her heart stumbled over its next beat.
   "That's her." Mr. Veyschmidt pointed a thick finger. "Right there, she stands."
   No help or hope of protection from him—as usual.
   Margaret set her hands on her hips. "Listen, mister, I don't give refunds, so—"
   "Are you Miss Bell?"
   She nodded and lifted her chin, fully expecting an explosion of pain from his fist connecting with her face. If he was like all the others, she'd swindled him. She prayed he'd knock her senseless. Maybe she'd never regain consciousness.
   "My wife would like two jugs of the innkeeper's ale."
   Margaret's tension eased and she released an audible sigh of relief.
   "She claims the ale aids in the healing of wounds. In fact, I'm living proof it does." The Yankee's mustache twitched with a small smile. "She also insists the stuff is a marvelous metal polisher. Wonder of wonders." He pierced Veyschmidt with a saber-sharp stare.
   "Metal polisher?" Margaret tipped her head. The only person who touted Mr. Veyschmidt's ale as good for anything other than sheer inebriation was ...
   Margaret sucked in a breath. Surely this wasn't her oldest sister's Yankee husband?
   She considered the officer again. Not a chance. This man was large and handsome with a head of thick blond hair and neatly trimmed whiskers. His rank and demeanor suggested he was too refined for a poor, skinny, pie-in-the-sky dreamer like Carrie Ann. More likely a customer heard of the ale's supposed benefits and spread the word. Medicine was scarce, what with wounded men pouring into towns up and down the Valley, so every sort of home remedy was in high demand.
   Margaret fetched two stoneware jugs and set them on the bar. The officer slapped a couple of bills into Veyschmidt's wide, outstretched palm. Next the colonel retrieved an envelope from his coat's inner breast pocket and extended it in Margaret's direction.
   "May I speak with you in private, Miss Bell?"
   Before a single utterance passed her lips, Mr. Veyschmidt stepped in front of her as if she'd suddenly become a precious commodity. "Afraid not, Mister. You want a private appointment, shall we say, then you'll have to pay for it like everyone else."
   The blond officer's expression hardened. "I suggest you shut your mouth and get out of my way."
   Veyschmidt eyed the man, snorted, but relented. "Make it quick," he muttered to Margaret. "And you owe me every coin you get out of him."
   She squeezed her eyes shut. If hating a man was indeed the same as murder like the reverend preached, then she was guilty a thousand times over.
   The colonel moved several steps away from Mr. Veyschmidt. Margaret forced panic down and fingered the small vial of potion in her pocket. It was her only source of protection.
   "Allow me to introduce myself, Miss Bell. I'm Colonel Peyton Collier, Cavalry Division of the Army of the Shenandoah."
   Collier. So this was indeed Carrie's husband. How had her sister snagged such a fine gentleman?
   "I understand you're my brother-in-law."
   "Yes, that's correct."
   "Well, well ..." Veyschmidt stepped out from behind the bar and puffed out his barrel-like chest. "What a coincidence. Your, eh, wife, left quite a large tab here what needs to be paid."
   Colonel Collier's face reddened and his eyes narrowed to angry slits. "Spare me more of your lies. My wife owes you nothing." Anger blazed in his gaze as he defended Carrie Ann. "Destroying your inn would be within my orders, but it's because of my wife's request to leave this place intact for her family's sake that I hesitate." He glanced at Margaret before peering down at Veyschmidt again. "I am well aware of your abuse of the Bell sisters and their mother over the past two years. They came to you in need, but week after week you overcharged them for room and board despite their hard work. In short, you enslaved them. Worse, you left my wife and her family unprotected and vulnerable to every kind of evil." The shake of his head was slight. "You are a despicable worm in my estimation and had it been up to me—"
   "Please, sir ..." Mr. Veyschmidt's voice sounded shaky and his beady eyes grew round.
   Margaret tucked her chin to hide her amusement. She liked her new brother-in-law already.
   "It would give me great pleasure," he added, "to watch this sorry place go up in flames."
   Mr. Veyschmidt wisely held his tongue, although he chewed his thick lower lip and worked his hands anxiously. Margaret knew why.
   "Pardon the interruption, sir," one of the other Yankees said. He stood even taller and had even broader shoulders than the colonel. He too had removed his hat and an abundance of shaggy brown hair framed his face. "This establishment has most likely been a Rebel meeting place and gave sustenance to the enemy. I suspect Rebels are recovering in rooms upstairs as we speak."
   "No, no. Ain't no soldiers here," Mr. Veyschmidt insisted. "I refused all the wounded. Don't want the mess, the blood and all." He waved a meaty hand and shuddered.
   The colonel's eyes met Margaret's and she gave a slight nod. Confederate soldiers had met here only days ago. Several injured lay in rooms upstairs as the major suspected.
   "Gather your men and search the premises, Major Johnston."
   "Yes, sir."
   Within minutes, a small army of Yankees crowded into the Wayfarers Inn. Mr. Veyschmidt grew increasingly anxious as the soldiers dispersed to search. He fell to his knees in a pathetic, theatrical display.
   "Please don't burn my inn," he begged. "This business is all I have left of my dearly departed mother who worked her fingers to the bone to make this a respectable place for one to lay his weary head."
   Margaret rolled her eyes and barely kept from snorting aloud. What lies! And respectable? How utterly laughable.
   "Miss Bell?" The colonel's brown eyes fixed on her. "I am allowed to show mercy where it's warranted. What do you think I should do?"
   "Me? You're asking me?"
   "Don't bother with the girl," Veyschmidt groused. "She's nothing. Customers often complain about her poor service. She's brazen and rude."
   "Quiet, you scoundrel!" The colonel turned back to Margaret. "Miss Bell?"
   "I have no place to go." Despite her best efforts, her bottom lip quivered. It wasn't the answer she longed to give.
   "It's my belief that my wife will want you and your mother to live with us in Winchester. She's been worried about you. But given the fact I'm a Yankee, your mother most likely will not accept my invitation."
   "Mama's dead," Margaret blurted, "and I doubt my sister will want me living with her now that she's married."
   A scene from the past clouded her mind. They were girls and on the farm and she and Carrie were quarreling. As usual, Carrie was demanding that Margaret complete some menial chore and Margaret was refusing to obey. They were only nine months apart in age. Margaret thought she and Carrie should be equals, but Carrie was determined to hang on to her eldest daughter status which included being the boss when their parents weren't anywhere in sight.
   The memory faded and the harsh reality of Margaret's surroundings pressed in on her. Things had changed. She missed Carrie's bravery. What's more, she hadn't begun to fathom just how much Carrie had protected her and Sarah Jane until she herself bore the brunt of drunken patrons' groping and Veyschmidt's beatings.
   Remembering the bruise on her cheek, Margaret finger-combed strands of hair onto one side of her face.
   "Please accept my condolences—on your mother's passing and your younger sister's also."
   The colonel's deep voice recaptured Margaret's attention. He sounded sincere. He reached across the scuffed wooden bar and pressed the sealed envelope into Margaret's hand.
   She inspected it, impressed by the expensive parchment. She couldn't read well, hardly at all, but she recognized her own name penned across the front of the envelope in Carrie Ann's neat handwriting.
   She closed her eyes. To her left, Mr. Veyschmidt's pleas for mercy grated on her nerves.
   "Carrie addressed this letter to you personally because she guessed your mother would refuse to read the missive. She didn't suppose that your mother would ever forgive her for Sarah Jane's death."
   "Carrie was almost right." Margaret traced each letter with her fingertip. "You see, I received the telegram about Carrie Ann's marriage and about Sarah Jane's death, but Mama had passed on by the time the news arrived."
   "You've survived quite an ordeal, Miss Bell. I urge you to come to Winchester. You can safely travel with a group of freed slaves and German Baptists called Dunkers who are following the army down the Valley. Because of the war, they've been forced to leave their homes for one reason or another." The colonel walked around the bar. Standing directly in front of Margaret, he tapped the envelope in her hand. "Besides, you'll be doing me a huge favor." Mischief glimmered in his eyes. "My wife will be quite miffed at me if I allow you to remain here." His gaze darkened as it fell over Mr. Veyschmidt, who pleaded for the soldiers to spare his establishment. "In fact, miffed is putting it mildly."
   This cavalryman was afraid of Carrie's wrath? Surely not.
   The colonel's features softened as he regarded Margaret again. "Carrie volunteers at an orphanage. If I were a betting man, I'd say that she will want you to help out there too. Many hands make light work."
   "Oh, I would. I love children." Margaret's mind whirred with new possibilities.
   "Sounds like you'll do very well in Winchester then."
   One of his officers interrupted them. Margaret stepped back. The colonel appeared quite confident as he spoke with the other man, but not in an arrogant way. He scanned the dark interior of the inn with an unspoken authority. Margaret got the feeling he wasn't a man to argue with ...
   So how did he manage Carrie and her sharp tongue? The idea that this man even married Carrie was most curious.
   Margaret couldn't wait to find out the answers to her many questions.
   The colonel's troops finished their search and he conversed with them in undertones. Minutes later, they filed out of the inn, and he refocused his attention on Margaret. "I'm afraid I must have your decision now, Miss Bell."
   She only needed one glimpse of Mr. Veyschmidt, whose beefy hands were now clasped as if in prayer—the same hands that shamelessly groped and beat Margaret and her sisters, each to varying degrees. And Mama too. He'd killed Mama the same as if he'd strangled the life right out of her.
   Oh, how Margaret despised the man!
   "I accept your invitation, Colonel. Thank you." She tasted sweet freedom in the air. "But please, I beseech you"—now it was her turn to beg—"light your Yankee torches and burn this den of iniquity down to the devil where it belongs!"

Book 2 of the Shenandoah Valley Saga, 1864-1865
Newly-wed, Carrie Ann Collier has had to release her husband back
to the war, and reacquaint herself with her sister, Margaret, who has
come to stay with her. Amid this readjustment, Eli, her husband
Peyton's friend, reappears suddenly. She is not to wait for Peyton's
arrival home. Not wait for him? That is too crushing to absorb.

Andrea Boeshaar
author Andrea Boeshaar

There is a Season (Book 3) coming in 2018

***Thank you to Kregel Publications for sending me a print copy and inviting me to be part of the blog tour for Too Deep for Words: A Civil War Novel by Andrea Boeshaar. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Shenandoah Valley Saga, Book One

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