BY: K K WILLEY
Through three generations in Colonial America, the women of the LeSage family show a rare strength and courage. Anne, a wild spirit, plots treason against the Crown, constructs secret passageways, and leads an adulterous life.
After her husband, Anne’s son John, is killed, Emma turns to prostitution and drugs, abandoning her daughter, Charlotte, to an orphanage near Concord, New Hampshire.
Charlotte grows up in the orphanage where she is raped by the hired hand. She runs away from danger and becomes Charles, pretending to be a man so that she can find work and safety. She falls in love with her workmate, Jack, who is also in love with Charles but cannot admit it. Jack hopes to save himself by marrying Elizabeth, Charlotte’s long-lost best friend. As Charles becomes mentally unhinged, only one person knows all of the pieces of the puzzle and how to untangle the deceit, laying bare the truth that can rescue Charlotte, reunite the best friends, and let love be unfettered.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Broken Rider by K K Willey, Charlotte LeSage is abandoned by her mother after her father dies. She grows up in an orphanage. When she is repeatedly raped at age thirteen by the hired hand, she flees to safety in Concord, the nearest town, where she pretends to be a male, Charles, in order to get a job and survive. But living as a man is not easy, and Charles faces many challenges, including falling in love with her work mate, Jack. Jack, who see her as his best friend, has no clue she is a woman, and his physical attraction to Charles terrifies him to the point that he decides to marry a woman he doesn’t love just to prove he is a “normal” man.
With excellent character development and well-researched facts, the book has a refreshing ring of truth. For historical romance fans, this one is a must.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Broken Rider by K K Willey is the story of three women in Colonial America. Anne marries John LeSage, a sea captain, and travels with him by ship to the new world where she becomes an influential part of the New England community. Anne raises three boys, and the story continues with her oldest son, John Junior. John marries Emma, and they have a young daughter, Charlotte. Emma is a good wife and mother, but when John dies in an accident, she is left destitute and turns to prostitution to support herself and her daughter. But realizing that it is no life for a child and that it could be dangerous as well, she takes Charlotte to an orphanage. When Charlotte is thirteen, she is raped by the hired hand and has a baby. The sisters at the orphanage take the baby away and give her up for adoption. Charlotte is again raped by the same hired hand, and she decides she will never be safe as long as she remains at the orphanage. So she leaves her best friend, Elizabeth, and flees to Concord, where she tried to find work. No one wants to hire a young girl, so when Charlotte is mistaken for a boy, due to her short hair—a standard for girls at the orphanage—she goes with the flow, changes her name to Charles, and gets a job as an assistant driver for a dry goods merchant. Things go well for her for eight years, and she excels at her job, until she makes the mistake of falling in love with her coworker, Jack. Then her best friend from the orphanage, Elizabeth comes to Concord to teach, and Charles fears she will be unmasked.
Broken Rider is well written, well researched, and is told with an authentic voice, that takes you back in time to when women had almost no say over their own lives, and it was truly a man’s world. A story of courage, love, self-sacrifice, and determination to survive no matter what, this is one historical romance fans should love.
The storm tossed the fluyt deftly as if in punishment for its deeds. The captain’s new wife, Anne, held tightly to the bedding in agony, rearing up only briefly to vomit into a chamber pot that she clutched to the berth for fear of losing it. Sudden lurching of the ship from the turbulent swells had all unsecured items rolling about the floor and shelves. The noise of the items and the storm was unnerving, but Anne only noticed the din if her grip loosened on the putrid smelling pot–the unsavory thought of being covered in the vomitus made her heave again.
The anger of the sea seemingly lasted a lifetime. The men above deck struggled with the rigging and held tight to the ropes. It was a dangerous trip in which a less skilled crew might have washed overboard and perished. This stolid crew worked as one and guided the small vessel with only brief lapses in duty from each sailor’s nausea.
Safely restrained inside the ship, Anne’s energy was entirely spent from the taxing voyage, and, finally, she managed to fall asleep. The fluyt rocked less violently several hours into the lass’s slumber, as the ship had traversed the worst of the storm. Anne dreamed peaceful dreams of her home in England, her sisters and brothers and other relations that she knew she would never see again unless they elected to make the journey to the New World. Anne had the mind of an independent woman of nineteen years and was not prone to sentimental concerns. She lived in a time that afforded one’s mind to think and ponder about such philosophy, but the age also yielded the reality of much death from disease, poverty, and malnutrition. A child grew up with death as a part of life: elders died, parents and children died. It was not anticipated, but it was expected. Still, Anne dreamed of happy times, soothing and optimistic visions of what her life might hold.
The fluyt was now gently rocking on its voyage, and Anne was beginning to awake. She heard the creaking of the timbers and an occasional thump from above deck as the sailors tended the rigging and had time to start on repairs. Anne felt a cool and pleasant draft across her face. She was too groggy to open her eyes and wished to return to the peaceful, sound sleep of the dead she had been summoned from. Her body felt paralyzed as she sensed the tangible world. Her thoughts tried to skulk back into that peaceful, dark other world, and she would gladly relax her thoughts and abide with a defiant laugh if the Angel of Death beckoned her soul.
It was a strange position our minds could put us in to allow our bodies to heal. The air that entered the quarters was damp and cold but gently encouraged Anne’s sluggish mind into a more cognizant state. Moist and salty.
Tangible but gentle was the sea air as it brushed across Anne’s face, bringing her an awareness of her existence and the simple senses of touch and smell. The salubrious air had banished most of the stale stench from the small cabin. It followed that Anne was at peace and light in her heart.
Captain LeSage entered his quarters. He had worked long shifts at the helm to keep the fluyt on course. Anne smelled his pungent, masculine odor as he entered, and she wished to rouse herself from her groggy state and greet her husband. She watched as he removed the heavy, oil-coated rain coat that reeked of fish oil and the warm woolen sea overcoat that most sailors wore. John removed his shirt and poured himself a bit of port wine. Anne watched his bearded face as he drank. Even in the flickering lantern light, she noticed his tired eyes and the dark, weathered skin on his cheeks. The hair on his chest was pressed and compacted against his skin from his perspiration. This rugged look of the sea sent chills of excitement through her veins and took her breath away. She loved him and had no regrets about leaving with him to make a life together in the Colonies. As she woke, she noticed light coming in from the deck besides from the lantern John had brought with him. Anne was disoriented as to whether it was early morning or late afternoon. Her mind was mainly blank, as if aroused from an induced sleep. She would lay subservient to Death as easily as she would for pleasing her husband.
John set his empty glass on the rimmed and balanced table, removed his boots and trousers, blew out his lantern, and crawled into bed with his lovely wife. His fatigue was great, and he settled into the bunk as easily as a corpse into the grave. Anne was now fully aware of her surroundings and greeted him by lazily running her hands up his bare legs and caressing his bottom. His skin was cold from being on deck, so Anne cozied closer. John moaned, a tired but happy sigh, as she fondled him gently and tenderly.
With effort, he turned over to face her. He did not wish to seem ungrateful, for his wife was a sacred gift given to him by the Supreme Deity–he felt the matrimonial prize he had earned could as easily be taken from him at the least sign of insolent behavior on his part. He reached toward her delicate face and moved her long, dark hair aside in a caring gesture. “You are well?”
“I am well. You are worn unto fatigue.”
“Oui, hors de combat. You have worked nearly as hard as I–and done so all abed!”
“Oui, my love, but I am strong, and I shall work just a bit more.” Anne’s seasickness had subsided, and she was happy to see John. He was a middle-aged man of thirty-one, but very strong and virulent. He thought his young wife a delicacy even when he was so fatigued. Her willingness for him boosted his energy to the savage male model, but John, innately gentle, made love to Anne with mild clemency, making sure of her pleasure along with his own.
John’s fluyt made port three weeks later at Hampton in the Chesapeake Bay, where they were to unload cargo and go north to Tappahannock. His ship had made many journeys to Virginia, and he had spent much time in her ports. He particularly liked the port and the people around Mishipeshu. After a few days at Tappahannock, the crew went south again, toward Jamestown and Mishipeshu. John showed Anne the port and introduced her to the people he knew. Most of the people spoke English, which was a relief to Anne since her French was minimal, at best, and she knew nothing of Dutch or Spanish.
John purchased a medium-sized brick home in the Mishipeshu area. Original settlers began with hovels of wood, taking several seasons to plant, reap, and transpose the wooden-framed homes to brick or stone. “This should be fine to start with, Anne, but we can commission for additional rooms to be built, as well as a servant house.”
“John, this is a huge house already!” Anne rubbed her slightly bulging middle, their first child growing within.
“We shall be blessed with many children, Anne, of this I am sure. My brothers, Georges and René, wish to return with me on my next voyage. They will be in your service, and until then, Stéphane Timothé of the crew has voiced his desire to stay with you as a servant. He is old for staying aboard ship. His wife is here, too, and she will be grateful to keep him ashore. She will cook and clean for you.”
Anne and John were content for all their years with the homestead. Cows were milked, vegetables planted and children were raised. The family made due with what they had, be it a year of bounty or a year of slim return. Anne was happy and had no regrets about the transatlantic move. She dearly missed John while he was at sea, however, and tried not to worry about his safety. Their reunions were treasured. John would stay in port for extended stays during less temperate times when the Atlantic was rough or politics made it dangerous. He would take shorter journeys to the Caribbean and West Indies, where the climate was balmy, and trade was abundant. John missed Anne, too, and enjoyed seeing his children, who seemed nearly grown each time he returned.
Ten years galloped by in the blink of an eye. Anne bore her first two children within the first two years–strong, healthy babies who seemed to withstand all ailments and harsh weather. Anne tended the house and servants with the finesse of an older woman. She appreciated the help of Martha, the wife of Stéphane Timothé. He succumbed to pneumonia after about thirteen months of being landed, which was a sad event, but Martha was happy to have had him home even for such a short time. Her grief was directed at caring for Anne and the two young baby boys, John, Jr. and Joëlle, which seemed to work well for all.
John’s brothers proved to be useful for several years in the brick home. Georges was a tall, quiet man who was devout to the church. He always tried to improve himself in a humble Puritan way, striving for perfection of himself and chastising his inadequacies. René had a more rogue demeanor. He worked hard at what he did and could get any chore completed sooner than seemingly possible, which enabled him to relax and “play” for the rest of the day. René had a lot of energy and a strong animal magnetism.
At half past three in the afternoon, René had completed his day’s work and was on the prowl. Sometimes he would go into the local tavern and drink. Sometimes he would spend some time with John’s sons, but this wasn’t usually the case. Small children were women’s work. René, like most men of the time, did not wish to be bothered by children until they grew to the age when their schooling should be taken over by the men folk, at about ten years of age. Like John, and probably all LeSage men, René had a distinct desire to fill–women and sex. Anne knew this to be true of any man, but with the brother of her husband, she felt it was a sin not surpassed by any other. René was good looking, strong, and had allure. He was hard to say no to.
One afternoon, the house was quiet, and Anne worked on needlepoint by the fire. It was a cold spring day, reminiscent of late winter. Standing water outside began to freeze over, and most residents took the livestock into the barns. René approached Anne in the great room by the warm hearth.
“René, are you done with your tasks for the day?”
“Yes.” René came close to Anne and touched her soft cheek that was warmly lit by the flickering fire.
She ignored his advances. “Have you seen the new puppet show the Mayberry’s have?” she asked.
“I am not interested in puppets, Anne.”
She continued sewing. René touched her chin and rubbed his hand down her neck. Anne closed her eyes and took a deep sigh. She was five months pregnant with John’s third child and tired, but very much aroused by René’s pass. She didn’t consider the sanctity of René’s wish. A larger consideration for Anne was that of physical endurance in this time of immense fatigue. Mentally, Anne was ready to abandon the day and lose herself in hedonistic pleasure. She smiled to herself.
René knew Anne would consent. Wheedling his way to his desires was a natural gift. Patience mixed with his charming demeanor enabled him to achieve anything he set his mind to. Besides, being his brother’s wife made her his property, too–at least it enabled him to enjoy the betrothed family benefits.
She looked up into René’s dark eyes, and he took her hand to lead her to the bedroom. She stood and put the sewing in her seat then turned to face the paragon of masculinity. He took her in his arms as they kissed. The woman was lifted with ease, and he kissed her passionately as he made his way to the master’s room. Anne ran her fingers through his long hair and held his face to hers as she returned his primal advance with as much zest as her aggressor.
They entered the bedroom, and René set Anne slowly and gently onto the bed. He slithered under her skirts. His warmth invited her and stirred her blood into a froth. Anne helped to remove garments, but her lust, in full form and raging savagely, made her clumsy and dizzy. She lay still, allowing René to continue. As he disrobed her, he slowed to match her befuddled mood and then paused, marveling at her protruding abdomen.
He caressed it softly. “Is he kicking you?”
“Of course. If you put your face right here, you shall feel him, or her.”
“You have two boys already, do you think this is a girl?”
“I think it is God’s secret. These are joys that He keeps from us for a short time, but they are just hijinks of His. All families are happy with a new baby and do not care if it is a girl or a boy.”
“Do you hope for one or the other?”
“I do not care. I will love this child like I do my boys. It is John’s baby, and I will do my best, with God’s blessing, to have it born a healthy child.” The thought of John made Anne lust for him, so she tended René’s needs with fervor.
When René was sated, Anne asked him, “Do you not have a woman of your own? Will you not marry soon?”
“There is no one I particularly fancy. The maidens in town are rather common, and I do not care for the daughters of most of the shop keepers. I shall remain alone for a time, I am afraid.”
“Perhaps you should consider something else.”
“What do you mean, Anne?”
“Perhaps another town would suit you. Something more exciting, new people.”
“I have thought of moving to the western frontier of Virginia. My skills are varied, I would do well in a young community. I have learned some Algonquin. I think I would do fine with the different tribes on the frontier. Most of the Indians are peaceful, anyway. Do you worry for me?”
“Of course, I would worry for your safety, but I think you would do handsomely on the frontier, as well. Where do you think you will go? What will you do?”
René ran his hand up Anne’s leg and halted to stroke her hips. “Would you miss me?”
Anne grabbed René’s head and brought it to her face. She kissed him and placed her hands on him gently.
“You would miss me,” he stated.
Anne pushed away from him and smiled seductively. “I want you to be happy, like John is.”
She thought good thoughts of all people and was subservient to happiness and peace. She truly loved René as she did John–as a replacement for John, because his absence ran for the better part of each year. Her loyalty to her husband was paramount to any other relationship: John ubiquitously occupied her every thought. When René eventually opted to take his leave to find his own way, Anne would wish him Godspeed and great success.
© 2018 by K K Willey