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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Sons of Liberty

 When I first began my series about the American Revolutionary War, I knew the war would not be simply a backdrop for my stories, but rather an integral part of it. And, although the main characters are purely the product of my imagination, I wanted to use real people from the Revolution as part of the cast of characters. What better group of men to associate my Revolutionary Women characters with than the original bad boys–the Sons of Liberty. An author friend of mine said if the Revolutionary War happened today, the Sons of Liberty would be on motorcycles, wearing black leather, and have multiple tattoos. I have a feeling she's right. Even though the men featured in this series are fictional, they rub shoulders with some real-life men who were integral to the cause. The most predominant one in Book One, and the one most people identify with is Samuel Adams.


 At the time I began my journey I knew that Samuel Adams was a firebrand, who helped stoke the flames of the Revolution, but I had no knowledge as to why this was so important to him. Why did this man have a driving need to free his homeland from England? The answer surprised me and brought clarity to a lot of stories about him. 

Samuel Adams was born in Boston in 1722, one of twelve children of Samuel Adams, Sr., and Mary Fifield, a religious and politically active family. He was a cousin to John Adams, who later became a president of the new country of the United States. The senior Adams was a prosperous man and church deacon in the Puritan faith. He became very active in local politics and was a leading figure in what became known as the Boston Caucus. He rose through the ranks to become a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. One of the duties of the House of Representatives was to carefully watch for any encroachment by England into the rights of the colonists that had been embodied in the Massachusetts Charter of 1691. 

 

In 1739, members of the House of Representatives reacted to a currency shortage by establishing a “land bank” which issued paper money to homeowners in exchange for holding a mortgage on their land as collateral. Opposition by loyalists to the crown forced the dissolution of the bank in 1741 and the directors of the bank, including Adams, Sr., were held personally liable for all the currency still in circulation, payable in gold and silver. The British seized much of Deacon Adams’ property and finances, gutting the family’s wealth and leading to numerous lawsuits against the family. Deacon Adams, and later, Samuel Adams, Jr., had to constantly battle against the British government to defend what was left of their family estate from the hands of the British. These lawsuits were a constant and very personal reminder to the younger Sam Adams about the power the British held over the colonies. 

 

Several failed attempts at business propositions later, the younger Samuel Adams joined his family’s malthouse. Several generations of the family had been in the malt business, an essential element of beer production. But Sam, Jr. was more interested in politics than in beer production. He began penning essays against the British rule in America as early as 1748, urging people to resist any encroachment on their constitutional rights. 

 

Following the costly French and Indian War, the British parliament found itself deeply in debt and thought to recoup some of its losses by imposing a tax on the colonies of British America. The Sugar Act, The Stamp Act, and then the Townshend Acts attempted to raise revenue, but were all met with resistance. Unable to enforce these rulings, the governor petitioned the crown for military assistance. This was a turning point for Samuel Adams. Up until then, he was hoping for reform, but now realized the only path forward was complete and total independence from the mother country. In 1770, tensions spilled over, resulting in the now-infamous Boston Massacre. 

 

Adams kept dabbling in local politics and the colonies crept closer to total independence from Britain. Citing taxation without representation, struggles about power and taxes became a daily concern among Bostonians. Adams took a lead role in the famous Boston Tea Party and later became a major voice in both the First and Second Continental Congresses, which framed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. He was the founder of the Sons of Liberty, a formal underground group of citizens who were resistant to the crown and its taxes and laws. Some prominent members of this group were Benjamin Edes, publisher of the Boston Gazette, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Isaiah Thomas, Benjamin Kent and James Otis. This group was responsible for establishing a network for disseminating information among the colonies about the British troop movements, smuggling goods for use by the Continental Army, and for painting large Ts over the doorways of any Tory businesses in Boston proper. Samuel Adams is now considered one of America’s founding fathers for the role he played in crafting the ideals of liberty and uniting the colonies in their quest for freedom from tyranny. One of Adams’ famous quotes seems quite fitting for today’s political landscape.

 

“If you love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”

 

 

In 1985, the Boston Beer Company appropriated the name Samuel Adams to use on what is now a best-selling brand of lager, citing Adams’ early involvement in the family malt business. Two non-profit organizations have also attached his name to their work, paying homage to his skills at organizing citizens at a local level in the quest for a national goal. 


Anne WhitneySamuel Adams, bronze and granite statue, 1880, located in front of Faneuil Hall, which was the home of the Boston Town Meeting

 



Monday, October 19, 2020

It's a review!

 My book Courting Anna, got a really lovely review in last month's Midwest Book Review.  

http://www.midwestbookreview.com/mbw/sep_20.htm#dianedonovan

 Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Courting Anna: Women of Destiny features the educated female lawyer Anna Harrison, who operates in the milieu of 1880s frontier Montana Territory. Her latest case, rejected by the only other lawyer in town, revolves around Jeremiah Brown and Edward Marcus, young men identified as actually being the notorious Tommy Slade and Johnny Nevada - outlaws with a bounty on their heads.

Anna takes their case and discovers that Jeremiah is trying to dodge the law until the statute of limitations on his crimes runs out. She also discovers an unexpected attraction to him that threatens not just her carefully cultivated and rare (for a woman) career, but her efforts on the side of law and justice.

Neither anticipated falling in love - much less with the enemy. But their evolving feelings challenges their roles and trajectories in life, and as Anna and her ward Sarah ride out on a strange adventure, these emotions are deftly portrayed as both external and internal challenges loom: "He could conceal that, however, and appear simply charming and glib, when he wanted. Anna wondered if perhaps that was the real man, and if she'd just been reading more into him than was really there. She wondered, but she kept thinking, despite herself, of moments when his insights, his thoughtfulness, came to the fore."

It's unusual to have a Western story feature a feisty, educated female protagonist with a career of her own and the moxy to confront the male world around her. Cate Simon does a fine job of weaving romance into broader considerations of women's independence, perceptions of changing personalities and perspectives, and courtroom and wilderness dramas alike. The book will delight those looking for strong female characters whose determination, observations, and achievements leave room for growth, challenge, and revised trajectories in life.

 Anna's courtship isn't just a matter of setting aside her abilities or her goals, but involves becoming more open to new possibilities both within herself, as an accomplished frontier lawyer, and in others, who are working to turn their lives onto different paths.

 The underlying story of her relationships and prejudices not just about men and criminals, but her fellow woman, are particularly well-drawn and compelling: "Anna might have passed Nellie dozens of times or even hundreds, but she'd never seen her - all she would have seen is one of those women. And a lady like she was didn't speak to those women. It was the way people looked through her on the street now, and she found herself feeling sympathy for the fallen sisterhood, for the first time. Many a formerly "respectable" woman in her own situation, without the annuity and the property her father had left her, or the too-generous insistence of Jonathan in adhering to the letter of their partnership and continuing to split their fees - now almost exclusively his fees - would have ended up as one of them."

 The result is a highly recommended, unusual Western featuring a woman lawyer who is charged with cross-examining her own emotions and prejudices.

 http://www.midwestbookreview.com/mbw/sep_20.htm#dianedonovan

 Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer

Donovan's Literary Services

www.donovansliteraryservices.com


Courting Anna: Women of Destiny

Cate Simon

Prairie Rose Publications

www.prairierosepublications.com

9781081299880, $12.00 Paper, $3.99 ebook

 https://www.amazon.com/Courting-Anna-Destiny-Cate-Simon-ebook/dp/B07VCL98BD




 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

New Release — Sisters by Lynna Banning

 

When Ellie Grenfell’s fiancĂ©, Deputy Sheriff Jack Mallory, is wounded in the line of duty, she does what she’s done her entire life—she sends for her older sister!

Widowed Verity Varner returns to Smoke River, Oregon, to help Ellie and serve as her chaperone until the wedding takes place. But shortly after Verity’s arrival, she realizes Jack’s wound has become infected, and he loses part of his arm.

Over the months of Jack’s recuperation and learning how to cope with his disability, Ellie reveals her selfishness and disinterest in Jack’s daily struggle. Verity understands the obstacles Jack faces, offering sympathy and encouragement—and she also understands something else: Ellie is not the person Verity thought she was.

All her life, Verity has been a surrogate mother to Ellie, putting her sister’s needs before her own. But, now, the unthinkable has happened—Verity and Jack have fallen in love, even as his wedding to Ellie draws ever closer. How can Verity choose between her love for Jack and her loyalty to Ellie? Will she risk her chance for true love to preserve the bond between SISTERS?

EXCERPT

Verity bent over the feverish private, a soldier she did not recognize, and dipped the scrap of muslin into the basin of water for what seemed like the hundredth time. An hour ago, the post doctor had dug an arrowhead out of the boy’s back, but because he’d ridden a day and a half before reaching the fort, his wound was now infected. She squeezed out the excess water and again bathed his bare back, then slid the cloth around to wipe the sweat from his forehead.

Just as she drew the cooling fabric down his backbone, the door burst open and a burly orderly stepped inside. “Telegram, Miz Varner.” He waved a folded piece of yellowed paper at her.

“Thank you, Jasper.” She reached her free hand to take it from the grey-bearded man, slid it into the pocket of her canvas work apron, and continued sponging the boy’s back.

The orderly retreated and she heard his boots clump on down the hallway. Who on earth would be sending her a telegram? The only person who knew she was still here at Fort Hall was her sister, Ellie, and—

Her heart dropped into her stomach. Something has happened. She dropped the cloth into the basin and hurriedly scrabbled in her apron pocket for the telegram.

     

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

It takes more than a hanging to end a 200-year-old curse... by Kaye Spencer #westernromance #novelette #paranormalromance #prairierosepubs


Happy October Everyone!





My paranormal western romance novelette, For Love of a Brystile Witch, is a spooky-lite quick read.


I played ‘what if’ to come up with the plot. Here’s how it went:

What if a woman hanged as a witch in 1692 New England put a death curse on the hanging judge and a curse of sorrow on the women of the Brystile line in the moments before she was hanged?

What if, 200 years after the hanging, fate brought together the last living woman from the accused witch’s family and the last man from the judge’s family in order to break the curse?

What if love and forgiveness between the last man and last woman is the only way to end the curse, but the two families have ancestral hate for each other?

What if a critical time factor is added so the man and woman have only a month to right this 200-year-old wrong before time runs out for both families and people die?

and

What if only one of them knows this?

The story…

Mercy Pontiere is the last ‘daughter’ in a long line of heredity witches. Two hundred years ago, Reid Corvane’s ancestor condemned the “Brystile witch” to hang. On the gallows, she placed a curse of short life and great suffering on the men of the Corvane line.

As the years passed, unintended consequences developed that impacted both families.

If Mercy overcomes two centuries of generational hatred to find love and forgiveness for Reid, and if he returns her love, the curse will be broken. Mercy thinks time is her ally; Reid’s time is running out.

Love must find them by midnight All Hallows’ Eve, or the Brystile witch will claim the life of another Corvane man. Reid has thirty-one days and counting…

The excerpt…

Reid needed no urging to mount the steps and, in spite of herself, Mercy kept watching. He ascended with an easy gait, the ball of each polished boot touching lightly upon the next plank. Once on the platform, he turned toward the crowd, head bowed and hat brim throwing a shadow over his features. Sheriff Samuel Dunne and Axel Moser, the valley’s minister of twenty some years stood on either side of the condemned man, and the deputies took watchful positions behind them and off the trap door...

The sheriff’s voice rose above the crowd’s murmurings. “If you have any last words, speak them now.”

For the longest time, Reid didn’t move. The quiet in the street became quieter. A baby cried; a woman shushed it. The autumn breeze ceased blowing. Mercy held her breath, entranced by the scene playing out before her. When he lifted his chin, she sucked in a little gasp of pity. His eyes—such sadness—maybe it was regret. Whatever his pain, it was deeper than the prospect of leaving this life in a few minutes. Did he deserve to die like this? Alone? With no one here to mourn his passing? Certainly, she didn’t know, but she blinked away tears for him nonetheless.

His deep voice resonated through the silent streets. “I hold the world, but as the world…a stage where every man must play a part. And mine is a sad one.”

A gasp of sorrow at his utter hopelessness left Mercy’s lips and, as if he’d heard, he caught her gaze with his, holding it in a way that made her feel he was memorizing her face as the last tender sight he’d take with him to the grave.

Sheriff Dunne waited a few seconds for the man to say more. When nothing came, he addressed the crowd. “As the duly appointed legal authority in Dulcet Valley, I hereby declare this hanging to proceed this first day of October 1892. The condemned will hang by the neck until dead, and his body will be interred in the local cemetery with a gravestone bearing his name, birth, and death dates. As per his signed and witnessed last requests, his epitaph will read, Teach me to feel another’s woe. Reverend Moser will settle his debts and notify next of kin.”

Those words—

She knew the poem and went on in her head with the next lines…to hide the fault I see / that mercy I to others show / that mercy show to me. It was strange that the word mercy, her given name, would show up in duplicate at this moment. Two of any one thing meant balance, partnership or opposites, either way it meant a pairing of something. Since coincidences didn’t exist in her world, Fate was at work here. She swept a hurried glance around the area, searching for other signs she’d overlooked.

“Let it be known the Honorable Judge J. A. Swanson has authorized me to accept a plea of innocent and commute the death sentence.” He leveled a hard gaze on the condemned man. “Reid Leighton Corvane, this is your last chance to save your own life.”

What? A Corvane? Here?” The words burst forth, loud and unbidden. Jolted, stunned to her bones, Mercy grabbed a better hold on the branch to keep her seat. So her months of conjuring had proven fruitful after all.

 


Available on Amazon – $0.99 and/or Kindle Unlimited

I’ll leave you with a Halloween chuckle.

Why do ghosts read so many books?

< 

< 

< 

< 

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They go through them so quickly.

 

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer

 


Stay in contact with Kaye—

 Amazon Author Page | Instagram | Blog | Pinterest | Twitter | Facebook


Monday, October 12, 2020

 

Abandoned Amusement Parks Are Creepy By Sarah J. McNeal, #TheWildingsSeries




 

In my short story, THE BEAST OF HAZARD, from Prairie Rose Publications, I wrote about an unscrupulous circus owner who abandons his circus that wreaks havoc and danger on the fictional town of hazard, Wyoming.

I started researching abandoned amusement parks and, I have to tell you, there is nothing creepier than a place where laughter and fun once resided, now desolate and eerily silent. Imagine, on a hike in the forest, stumbling upon a metal clown half buried in the dirt and a Ferris wheel covered in vines out in the middle of nowhere. Even worse, imagine in the middle of a meadow with low lying fog coming across life size statues of dinosaurs. One might even think the creatures were real at first sight. I, for one, would run shrieking and screaming. Roller coasters and carrousels appear particularly sinister empty of passengers and slowly eaten by vines and trees. It just makes me shiver to think how they must appear to someone who might come upon them by accident.  

Near my home in North Carolina is an abandoned mill. I saw it every time I drove to the beach down highway 74. The old mill has deteriorated and kudzu vines have taken over most of the structures. It fascinated me, and it creeped me out. Of course, I had to get some photographs of it. Here is one of them.



In my story, THE BEAST OF HAZARD, an entire town is in danger just as the children are preparing to go out trick-or-treating. What is this beast? And what are the townspeople going to do to protect themselves as well as their livestock?

 




A Terrorized Town…A Killer Beast…And Deliverance

 

Joey Wilding isn’t certain what’s killing the livestock in Hazard. Some believe it’s a bewitched beast, others a wolf gone rabid. As the town veterinarian, he’s seen mutilation before, but not like this, as if something enjoyed the killing.

When Claire Beau asks Joey to help her injured wolf-dog, and begs his discretion, he begins to suspect he has found the Beast of Hazard—and its beautiful mistress. But as he walks through the woods after dark, something more ominous than any wolf stalks him from the shadows.


Excerpt:

Joey walked through the woods to take the shortcut back home. Even in the half-light of approaching night, he could find his way back to the Wilding ranch. He sensed rather than saw something move just on the other side of the old pond. He kept his eyes and ears alert as he made his way through the low brush.

Something’s following me. Menacing and dangerous, it seemed to stalk him from somewhere beyond the bushes. Without a gun, he only had a knife to protect himself. His best option was to pick up his pace without running to get back to safety. Running would draw attention to him and whatever it was that shadowed him, it would identify him as prey.

And then he heard it growl. The ground practically shook beneath his feet with its deep, low pitched sound. Never, in all his life, had he heard such a sound. If death made a noise, it would sound like that. Heart pumping adrenaline made his hands shake, but he knew not to let it show. With every ounce of will he possessed, he put one foot in front of the other until he reached home. 

Buy Link: AMAZON

For more stories about the Wildings click on this link: The Wildings   

 All Wilding Books are available on Kindle Unlimited


Sarah J. McNeal

Author of Heartwarming Stories

Website

Facebook

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Amazon Author's Page

The Missouri Mule





EQUUS CABALLUS (female horse) + EQUUS ASINUS (male donkey) =

THE MISSOURI MULE

Mules have been bred and used for centuries as draft, pack, and riding animals. Mules are mentioned in the Bible and appear in Assyrian bas-relief. Here in Missouri, we consider the mule ours. The first mention of mules in Missouri can be found in newspaper articles printed during the early Santa Fe trading expedition. Between 1870 and 1900, Missouri was the leading breeder in number and quality. In 1889, there were 34,500 mules foaled in the state of Missouri alone out of a total 117,000 in the United States. Of the 330,000 sold, Missouri supplied 68,300.

The Missouri Mule was adopted as the state animal of Missouri on May 31, 1995. Nearly two hundred years before, the mule was already making a huge impact on the state. From the early 1800s to the early 1900s the mule played a central role in farming and land development. In 1870, Missouri was the largest mule-holding state in the nation, a position it held until 1900.

The typical Missouri Mule is a cross between a mare of a draft breed and a mammoth jack or male donkey. This cross produces a stout, strong animal that is more easily managed and more agile than his draft horse cousins. 

With its short thick head, long ears, thin limbs, small narrow hooves, and short mane, the mule shares characteristics of a donkey. In height and body, shape of neck and rump, uniformity of coat, and teeth, it appears horse-like. The mule comes in all sizes, shapes and conformations. There are mules that resemble huge draft horses, sturdy quarter horses, fine-boned racing horses, shaggy ponies and more.

The mule inherits from its sire the traits of intelligence, sure-footedness, toughness, endurance, disposition, and natural cautiousness. From its dam it inherits speed, conformation, and agility. Mules exhibit a higher cognitive intelligence than their parent species.

A mule does not sound exactly like a donkey or a horse. Instead, a mule makes a sound that is similar to a donkey's but also has the whinnying characteristics of a horse (often starts with a whinny, ends in a hee-haw). Sometimes, mules are known to whimper.

Handlers “generally find mules preferable to horses because they show more patience under the pressure of heavy weights, their skin is harder and less sensitive, rendering them more capable of resisting sun and rain. Their hooves are harder than horses', and they have a natural resistance to disease and insects. Many farmers of clay soil also found mules superior as plow animals.” 

Mules come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, from minis under 50 lbs. to maxis over 1,000 lbs. Mules’ coats come in the all the varieties as those of horses—sorrel, bay, black and grey, white, roans (both blue and red) palomino, dun and buckskin, even paint, though they’re much less common. And appaloosa mares produce mules with even wilder colors than their horse cousins.

Above: 19 hands, 1,900 pounds of mule

Professor Melvin Bradley, an enthusiast who has researched the mule's legacy says, "They farmed our land, hauled our lumber, drained our swamps, took us to church and war. Now we're having fun with them."

 

Mules have been a favorite of our nation's leaders as well. George Washington was an excellent horseman, but felt horses "ate too much, worked too little, and died too young". In order to obtain an animal that better suited his needs, Washington imported jack stock from Spain and France and began breeding mules.

 

And Missouri native, President Harry S. Truman, often bragged about the superior qualities of the Missouri Mules. Proud to be the son of a horse and mule dealer, Truman invited a four-mule hitch from his hometown of Lamar to drive in his 1948 inaugural parade up Pennsylvania Avenue.

 

Terms

Draft Mule = mule offspring from a draft horse mare
Gelding = castrated stallion/jack
Hinny = hybrid of a stallion and a jenny
Horse Mule = proper term for a male mule
Jack = intact male donkey
Jenny = female donkey
John = informal term for a male mule
Mammoth Jack = jack at least 56" tall at the withers
Mare = female horse
Mare Mule = proper term for a female mule
Molly = informal term for a female mule
Mule = hybrid of jack and a mare
Muleskinner = driver of a hitch of mules
Stallion = intact multiplemale horse

http://www.cvm.missouri.edu/org/muleclub/facts.html

 

Resources: 

http://www.netstate.com/states/symb/animals/mo_mule.htm

http://www.lyndonirwin.com/mule5.htm

Wikipedia

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Book review: Beneath a Desperado Moon by Elizabeth Clements

 

Blurb:

Deputy U.S. Marshal Josh Hunter never believed he’d see beautiful Molly Malone again—but he’d recognize her saucy smile and cinnamon eyes anywhere. Trouble was, so would Buckshot Jones, the outlaw who holds a deadly grudge against her.

Molly has never forgotten that long-ago, bone-melting kiss she shared with Josh—a kiss that changed everything for her. But when she is kidnapped by Buckshot’s gang of cutthroats, the handsome marshal with the green eyes and killer kisses isn’t around to rescue her. Josh shows up in the nick of time, but will his claim be enough to hold off the others?

When an old flame from England shows up to lay claim to Josh’s heart, Molly must fight for him. Can she face her tarnished past and keep his love BENEATH A DESPERADO MOON?

My review:

Beneath a Desperado Moon delivers a steamy good story!

Josh and Molly had been dancing around each other in the previous story, and now they can't help but be tossed together and forced to acknowledge what's been simmering under the surface - almost by gunpoint! Lots of adventure and heat propel them through all the kidnappings, determined outlaws, weddings, friendly fire, and haunted pasts. I loved how quickly Josh and Molly connected to each other, and then as each layer was peeled back, they each handled the other with care, even as at times they desperately fought their connection. Having both discover their true worth through each other's eyes proved just how perfect they were for the other.

If you're looking for an enthralling story filled with temp-rising steam and crazy-fun adventure, you found it! This is a wonderful wrap up to a terrific series.

Purchase links:

     

Thursday, October 8, 2020

New Release -- A British Courtesan in America (Revolutionary Women Book 2) by Becky Lower

 



She is running from her past life as London’s most prized mistress.

When beautiful Fancy Booker’s last benefactor leaves her his fortune, she sails for the new country of America. Giving herself the name Liberty Wexford, she hopes to set a new course for her life—alone.  The last thing she needs is another man in her life.

He has no time for a woman, since the Revolutionary War is a jealous mistress.

Hawk Gentry has two guiding principles. First, as a Son of Liberty, he must be cautious of others, especially anyone British. Second, as a child, he and his Passamaquoddy Indian mother were left alone while his French father trapped or fought wars. He vows never to do the same to any woman he loves, and the family they may have.

Will the war unite or divide them?

When Liberty and Hawk run into each other on the unruly streets of Boston, they begin a tentative friendship. Even though neither wants romance, the sparks fly between them from the moment they meet.

As their relationship blossoms, their pasts rise up to haunt them. Will Liberty and Hawk overcome the obstacles that seem certain to force them apart? With the Revolutionary War beginning, can love hold the hearts of a Hawk and A BRITISH COURTESAN IN AMERICA?


EXCERPT


The streets were bustling with people, all busy with their lives. Libby melted into the throng and wandered from one street to the next, dipping into the various shops she found intriguing. She stopped at one of the street vendor carts and purchased some chocolate, hoping it would be as good as what England had to offer.

As she wandered, she nibbled on it. Not bad chocolate. Not bad at all. Creamy, not waxy. It didn’t quite compare to the kind of chocolates England imported from Belgium, but then, not much did.

Her next hurdle was to find employment. She glanced at the various shops and tried to picture herself working in one of them, but nothing so far captured her fancy as a place of potential employment. The street noise, a combination of people, animals, rolling carts, and vendors hawking their wares, overpowered her senses. The cobbles were uneven, so she shifted her gaze to the street and lurched to a sudden stop as the heel of her expensive brocaded silk shoe wedged between two of the stones. In her haste to explore her new city, she’d forgotten to change out of her favorite pair of shoes, another gift from Atticus. She leaned over to dislodge the shoe, or to unbuckle it and take it off.

She had just released the buckle when shouts, and then, thundering hooves, finally resonated. Libby glanced up in time to see a horse barreling right at her, but she couldn’t free herself from her shoe. A scream formed in her throat.

What a pity, to die on her first day of freedom.

     

Monday, October 5, 2020

The Characters Behind the Characters - Maud Davis, Sociologist

 The Characters Behind the Characters - Maud Davis - Sociologist and Social Reformer

C. A. Asbrey



Maud Davis' work caused more controversy than it should. In turn, her violent death attracted none of the attention it deserved. She was a divisive figure in her life, a dichotomy of contradictions; highly-educated but rarefied, subjective but judgemental, level-headed but injudicious, scholarly but unworldly. She was the inspiration, with many changes, for the murder victim in the fourth book in The Innocents Mysteries series, In all Innocence, and the plot which unfolded from there.       

She was a woman of independent means, a sociologist, and intellectual, who worked hard to improve the lives of others. She was a member of the Anti-Sweating League (working to break up sweat-shops), a member of The Fabian's Women's Group, and The Women's Industrial Council. Maud was a well-intentioned campaigner, but she lacked a fundamental grasp on the hardships of life, and the dangers in the dark corners into which she ventured. That lack of understanding may have extended to failing to grasp to the perils of stepping on toes as she investigated, but we'll look at that later.  

Maud compiled reports and studies on working conditions for the poor, and reported back to political activists who sought to bring improvements. There are many indications that while her intentions were pure, her own background was far too distant and rarefied to fully grasp the depths of the poverty on which she reported. An example of this can be found in the Black Report, on the tailoresses of Rowhedge. Maud was sent to study the women of Rowhedge, a poor fishing village in Essex. The men were often absent, away fishing for long periods of time. Their work could take the fishermen to France, Scotland, or even Norway,  It was a perilous life, and men died, especially in the roaring winter seas which provided the best harvests. 


While the men were away the women did piece work for the London tailors who paid rock-bottom rates. The development of the sewing machine did little to improve women's standing in the tailoring profession. Even experienced women rarely become foremen, and those working remotely never advanced at all. A female foreman in 1901 earned 19 shillings a week, while men doing the same job brought home more than double that amount The development of the railways meant that work could be farmed out to remote areas where there was little competition to drive up wages. Rowhedge was one such town. Compare the previous earnings  to a statement by a Mrs. Green who said, "wages paid to the seamstresses were abominable and the way in which they were obliged to live was fearful… They had to finish off a pair of men’s trousers for 1¾d and they had not only to fetch the work from the factory… but sometimes had it returned for being badly done. They were able to turn out about 12 pairs a day but had to find their own thread… they earned about 1/-2d a day or 5s a week assuming they worked an 8 hour day and 5 day week’.   

Maud reported that, "The Rowhedge women are all that women should be. Full of vigorous health and spirits, they are equally ready for work and for play… These self sufficient women are apparently excellent wives and mothers.' However her naivety of the harsher realities of life were apparent in this statement. "‘The independent income of the women brings them a degree of consideration both from others and from themselves that educes and develops their personality, and causes each woman to become an individual interesting to herself and to others, even as her husband or her son is. In the house the woman is mistress, the man, when at home, adapting himself to her and doing the housework that she may not be interrupted in her industry. With her own earnings she is able to buy what she wants, pretty clothes for the children or for herself, a bicycle, a piano, or whatsoever else may appeal to her as affording the recreation which she takes for granted as her due, and as part of the normal routine of her life.’  

Maud was simply unable to conceive of a life lived hand-to-mouth, and thought that these women were working for pocket-money. Other women working on the same report noted women working late into the night, whilst in labour, and being asked to take a little rest by their families, so it's hard to see how Maud saw these earnings as pin money. Another woman working on the Black report posed this point to another resident of Rowhedge and got a strong response. "Pocket money! That was pocket money! To fill the kids tummies. No-one worked on the tailoring at home unless it was to fulfil a need….. they had to! If the husband lost his job – no dole – no money coming in.’ ‘Yes, my mother did tailoring, ’Cos she had to keep us going. Dad didn’t earn very much…Mum used to do coats at home for the factories…. She used to work very hard for the little she got…. To make ends meet you see’ ‘My mother did that bit of tailoring to feed us kids. She didn’t do it for a bit of pocket money, she did that to keep us."   

On top of all that, any understanding on pricing would have told Maud that a piano or bicycle was beyond the reach of a woman on piece work.

This was not the only time Maud lacked a true scientific distance, but let's not forget that her statistical analysis did help to compile a collection of historical data on wages and prices. It also helped to correct to prevailing views of rural poverty. Her most famous work, Life in an English Village: A Study of the History and Economic Conditions of the Parish of Cosley, in Wiltshire, became notorious for all the wrong reasons. So much so, the villagers lobbied to have the paper pulled from publication.   

The statistical analysis was superb, but the work included too much detail which made it easy to identify the individuals involved, as well as containing a number of pejorative statements. She describes locals as 'rather rough' and a 'dirty lot'. Local children are described as 'rascals', 'slow', or 'lazy'. Of a market gardener and his wife she notes: 'Drank a good deal of their profits, wife got so drunk she could hardly sit in the cart. 'Seen one day in public at Frome having glass of port - more than such people could afford,'  She describes a labourer, his wife and four children: 'Can't say much for them. Wife hard-working woman, but bad manager. 'Not much of it [debt]. A poor lot, drink too much and don't pay. Dirty lot. Inspector has been down on the once or twice - woman keeps house so dirty." 'Dirty children. Noted family. Have been on point of reporting parents to Officer of Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children. 'Yet children wouldn't be so bad with careful training. Attendance [at school] bad, they take turns to come."

Bear in mind that this was her own village. She knew these people intimately, and as a small rural area, they all knew one another too. She also made statements which alluded to sexual misbehaviour between married people - which did not go down well at all. 

The village did not succeed in stopping publication, but the work remained in mostly academic circles. It was republished in 2013, and was met with a more curious reception from the villagers, many of whom are direct descendants of those described. One hundred years later it is more difficult, but not impossible, to identify some of the individuals referred to in the report.
   

  

On 2nd February 1913, at 2am, the decapitated body of Maude Francis Davis was found in a railway tunnel between High Street Kensington and Nottinghill Gate, London. She was 37.

She had just returned from a trip to New York, where she had ostensibly been on holiday, but friends said she had actually been looking into human trafficking of poor women and children to the United States and West Indies, to force them into prostitution. Her travels had supposedly taken her all over the world, but we have no further details of her itinerary. We do know that on the last leg of her journey she was extremely nervous and confided in a fellow traveller, Mrs. Margaret Davies (no relation,) who testified that Maud started to act strangely and complained of being ill. Whether or not the illness was to keep her in her cabin, and out of view, can only be left to the readers to suppose. Before arrival at Liverpool Maud asked Mrs. Davies, “What does this mean? The boat is full of spies? Haven’t you seen them?” The ship reached Liverpool on January 31, and a frightened Maud asked the other woman if she could travel with her in the train to Euston. Mrs. Davies agreed, but in retrospect they would have been far wiser to seek help on arrival in the United Kingdom.

On their travels, Mrs. Davies confirmed to the inquest that Maud said, “I hope your having been seen travelling with me and speaking to me won’t bring you any trouble.” She asked for Mrs. Davies’ address, saying, “I may need it. You may be called up as a witness.” Maud commented that, “We are getting very near London now.” She took off her coat and left the compartment. Mrs. Davies never saw her again, and we have no further information on Maud's movements after that. Whether removing her coat was intended as a way to alter her appearance or not will never be known. She left her luggage at Euston. Whilst at Euston she visited a waiting room and took a ticket for High Street, Kensington to visit some friends.

Maud Davies’ movements are a mystery until two a.m. on February 2nd, when a railway worker found her body in a tunnel on the Metropolitan Railway near Kensington. The cause of death was decapitation, presumably when a train ran over her. It is thought she died around 4.30, the time her watch stopped. 

The coroner found that whilst still alive, a small, sharp object, such as a hatpin, had made numerous puncture wounds over her chest. They were all in the same spot, which he thought made it unlikely that they were inflicted during a struggle. All the coroner could surmise was that she had made the wounds herself. A bizarre assumption, and it never seems to have occurred to him that her arms could have been pinioned while the stabbing took place. A broken piece of the hatpin was found embedded in her heart on post mortem examination. None of the wounds was sufficient to kill, and cause of death was decapitation. Maud was also found to be suffering from a lung condition, which he surmised accounted for her 'feverish fears'. All accounts from family and friends which stated that she was not in the least suicidal carried little weight.

From my personal opinion, there was a great deal of sexist assumption in the useless inquest which followed. Her fears, desire for a witness, talk of spies and dangers, were all dismissed, despite testimony that she was a down-to-earth, level-headed woman, not given to flights of fancy, or hysteria. The coroner concluded that the chest wounds were self-inflicted, and that the decapitation may, or may not, have been an accident.  An open verdict was recorded, and no further evidence has ever been gathered to overturn that verdict. There is no doubt in my mind that this was a case of murder, and that at least one of the assailants was female.  

If I were investigating, the first person I would have interviewed under caution is Mrs. Margaret Davies. I am suspicious as to why the last person to see her alive, made friends with her on the sea voyage, undertook a train journey to a place in London when she wasn't going there, and as an Edwardian female, undoubtedly had access to a hat pin. Also why was she travelling alone? That was unusual for the time. I also wonder why she didn't raise the alarm when a woman who was so frightened of being attacked suddenly disappeared without all her possessions. I may be doing the lady a disservice, and these questions may have been asked, and the answers not available to me. However, you always start with the last person to see them alive, and I don't feel that this lady's death got the scrutiny she deserved. I also do not see that the people in charge of this investigation have performed anything even close to a competent investigation. 

I leave you to ponder on this case for yourself.          


Excerpt

“She hasn’t got the combination to the safe,” said the manager. “You can scare her as much as you want. We all know you’re not gonna use that gun on us.”

Rebecca’s breath halted as she felt a careless arm drape around her shoulder.

“I don’t need a gun to hurt someone. Give us the combination.” The manager remained mute and turned his face away. “Your call, sir.” He pulled Rebecca around to face him as she gasped in alarm. “Just remember who you’ve got to thank for this, ma’am.”

He pointed over at the manager, who refused to meet her eyes. “That man right there.”

“Anything that happens to her is down to you. Not me,” said the manager.

Rebecca felt herself dragged from the room by one arm. She was pulled into the office next door and pushed against the wall. The man walked over and pulled down the blind before returning to her. Her breath came in ragged pants of fear. “Please, no. Don’t.”

He leaned on the wall, a hand on either side of her head, and pressed his face close. “You were gonna hold this place up. Are you some kind of idiot?”

She blinked in confusion. “Huh?”

The man pulled down his mask, revealing the face of the fair man who had walked into her office looking for Fernsby. “Don’t lie to me, honey. You had the same idea as we did— look at Meagher’s bank account to see where he gets his money. We’ve watched you march up and down outside this place all day, like you were on sentry duty, while you built up your courage. You even got in the way of us doin’ it. What the hell is goin’ on in your head? How dumb can a woman get?”

“You? Here?” She couldn’t quite decide whether to stop being scared or not.

“Yeah. Me.” He indicated with his head. “Now, Nat’s in there, and he needs the combination of the safe. It’s too new and sophisticated for him to crack the combination. You and me need to put on a bit of a show to make sure the manager gives it up.”

“You’re not robbing the bank?”

Jake huffed in irritation. “Try to keep up, Becky. I need you to scream for help so the manager gives Nat the combination to the vault. We want Meagher’s records too.”

She shook her head. “Me? I can’t scream.”

“What do you mean you can’t scream? All women can scream.”

“I can’t. I’m just not made that way.”

He frowned. “Look, Becky. If you won’t scream, I’m gonna have to make you. Let’s do this the easy way, huh?”

“Please, help! Noooo.”

Jake frowned. “You call that screamin’? That’s useless.”

“I told you. I can’t.”

Jake flicked up an eyebrow. “Last chance, Becky.”

“Aaargh—”

“Nope.” A gloved hand reached up to her hat as his eyes glittered with mischief. “Don’t say you weren’t warned, sweetheart.”