Before the Scarlet Dawn: Daughters of the Potomac - Book 1by Rita Gerlach
In 1775, Hayward Morgan, a young gentleman destined to inherit his father’s estate in Derbyshire, England, captures the heart of the local vicar’s daughter, Eliza Bloome. Her dark beauty and spirited ways are not enough to win him, due to her station in life.
Circumstances throw Eliza in Hayward’s path, and they flee to America… See more details below
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In 1775, Hayward Morgan, a young gentleman destined to inherit his father’s estate in Derbyshire, England, captures the heart of the local vicar’s daughter, Eliza Bloome. Her dark beauty and spirited ways are not enough to win him, due to her station in life.
Circumstances throw Eliza in Hayward’s path, and they flee to America to escape the family conflicts. But as war looms, it's a temporary reprieve. Hayward joins the revolutionary forces and what follows is a struggle for survival, a test of faith, and the quest to find lasting love in an unforgiving wilderness.
"Filled with true-to-life characters whose struggles will linger with readers long after the last page is turned, Before the Scarlet Dawn is a memorable story of Revolutionary War-era England and America." - Amanda Cabot, author of Summer of Promise
"Rita Gerlach has written a colorful historical with a feisty heroine on a search for survival, romance, and a place to belong." Cynthia Hickey, author of the Summer Meadows mysteries
"Ms. Gerlach's unique literary prose has once again captured my heart with a stirring tale of love and loss, desperation and hope during one of the most uncertain times in American History--the Revolutionary War. I cannot wait for the next book in the series!" - MaryLu Tyndall, author of Surrender the Dawn
"A stirring story of love and its consequences, Before the Scarlet Dawn will draw you in from the start and not let you go again." ~ Roseanna M. White, author of Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland and Jewel of Persia
"While reading Before the Scarlet Dawn, you'll travel back in time--and from England to Maryland--without ever leaving your easy chair! This is a big, beautiful, well-told story of love, faith, and the struggles of war that changed lives...and hearts. I can't wait to read the next book in this series!" Loree Lough, best-selling author of more than 80 award-winning books, including reader favorite From Ashes to Honor
Read an Excerpt
Before the Scarlet Dawn
Book 1 The Daughters of the Potomac Series
By Rita Gerlach
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2011 Rita Gerlach
All rights reserved.
The Hope Valley, Derbyshire, England
April 7, 1775
Eliza Bloome sat forward from the tattered high-backed chair when someone pounded a fist on the front door downstairs. Her father's Bible lay open on her lap and slipped over her knees to the floor. She bent down to retrieve it, and felt the cold rippled over her fingers through a crack. Wind howled across the downs and moaned through the weatherworn windows. Shivering from the draft, she set another log on the fire and listened to Fiona's shoes tap down the staircase. Whenever the wind rose fierce like on this night, it held the front door fast. Any moment now her father's housekeeper would brace herself against it and the jamb until her strength gave out. As Eliza expected, the door slammed on its lock and hinges. The crash echoed up the staircase, mingling with a man's voice.
The bedroom door quietly swung open.
"Who is it, Fiona?" Eliza glanced at her father, then back at the stout woman standing in the doorway. "Papa is asleep. He should not be disturbed."
"A messenger to see him, my girl. Chilled to the bone, I'd say. Riding over the downs in the dead of night in the wind and cold. It must be important if he went to all this trouble. Should I let him in?"
The log caught fire and the room grew warmer. Eliza drew off her wrap and folded it across the chair. "Yes, I will speak to him."
Fiona placed her hand over the brass knob and set her back against the door to allow entrance to a man dressed in the simple drab brown attire of a servant. He drew off his tricorn hat and gave Eliza a slight bow. A lock of brown hair fell over his broad forehead.
"Is he able to speak with me, Miss Eliza?" He glanced at the frail form asleep in the four-poster bed.
"My father is not well. It depends on who you are, why you've come, and for how long you intend to stay."
"Name is John Travis. I've come with a letter from Mr. Langbourne with strict instructions to put it into your father's hand and wait for his reply."
"On a night like this? It is a wonder you were not blown off your horse, Mr. Travis. I do not think well of Mr. Langbourne for it. He must have paid you well."
"Aye, he did. The wind is harsh tonight, to be sure. But I have a good horse, and Mr. Langbourne deemed my journey urgent. He has heard how sickly your father is. Everyone in the parish has."
Knowing her father was not long for this world, Eliza went to his bedside and tucked in the coverlet. Tonight his breathing was labored, and when she touched his hands, they were cold as the chill wind.
Even in the bronze firelight, his face looked drawn and pale. His hair seemed to have gone white within such a short time, and his body smelled of sweat no matter how much she bathed him. He opened a pair of watery gray eyes and looked at her.
"Who is it, Eliza?"
"A man is here to speak to you, Papa. His name is John Travis. Should I send him away?"
Pressing his brows together, Reverend Bloome paused. Eliza waited patiently, knowing he needed a moment to think. Over several weeks, he had grown forgetful and confused, and relied more and more upon her to help him understand.
"I know no one by that name. Should I know him, Eliza?"
"I do believe you met him once or twice, but no, Papa. You do not need to know him. But he says he has a letter for you— from Mr. Langbourne."
"Langbourne I do recall. Raise me against the pillows, Daughter." He pushed back on his elbows with her help. "There, that is better. Bring him forward and leave us to speak alone."
A shiver passed through her at the last two words. Why would he not want her to stay? What did a letter from Langbourne, a man she had barely spoken two words to, mean? But she did not need to have a conversation with him to know what he thought of her. Either in church, the marketplace, or at a gathering, he always seemed to find her, bow in greeting, and feast his eyes on her.
Once outside the door, she leaned her ear against it and listened. Muffled voices were all she could make out. Seconds later, Fiona, the woman who had nurtured her from the day of her mother's passing, poked her head around the corner. The cap she wore looked white as snow in the candlelight. Fiona always kept her caps starched and clean, and her hazel eyes, set deep within a face round as an October moon, looked just as bright when she raised her brows at Eliza.
"Go on with you, my girl. It is not polite to eavesdrop." Fiona waved her off and moved in front of Eliza with the tray of tea toppling to the left.
Eliza stepped back. "What is this all about, Fiona? Do you know?"
"I won't know a thing until I go in with the Reverend's tea. Now move away from the door. Do not let me catch you peering inside to see what's going on. It would be rude, my dear."
"Then I shall listen outside the door. I have every right to."
"No, you do not, my girl. If your father wants you to know his business, he will tell you. He doesn't need his daughter being so bold as to lay her ear upon his door and listen in on his private conversations."
Determined, Eliza pressed her back against the wall. "Perhaps not, but I think I know why Mr. Travis has come. Langbourne sent him with a letter to Papa to ask permission to wed me. I wish I knew what Papa was telling him."
Fiona rolled her eyes, huffed, and shoved the door open. Before she could close it with her hip, Eliza overheard, "Mr. Langbourne said he knows how dire your situation is, sir, and wishes an answer forthwith."
"And what are the conditions?"
"It's all contained in the letter I have brought. Ah, hot tea. I am chilled, ma'am, to the marrow. Thank ye."
Eliza's breath slowly escaped her throat. She pressed her mouth into a firm line, kept her back against the paneled wall, and stared at the ceiling.
So Mr. Langbourne wishes an answer? No, Papa would never be so callous as to give me to a man I do not know very well, let alone love. He believes in the sacredness of marriage; a holy, unbroken institution in the Lord's eyes, where man and woman make a lifetime commitment to each other in their love for each other. It's a serious matter and not to be trifled with, or bartered for land, possessions, or money.
For a moment, she thought of her mother, how, through the years her father kept his beloved's memory alive, telling Eliza how he had loved Mary Lanham. Plenty of opportunities presented themselves, but he never remarried. And if only her brother were home. He would see to it that she married the right man and take this burden off their father. Instead, he lived far away, serving in the King's army, committed to finding his own way in the world. In another year, he would be able to resign his service and settle down. But his choice, he said—America. How could Stephen help her from so great a distance?
Unable to bear the suspense, she turned the doorknob and the door opened slowly. Standing in front of her father, Travis turned and passed his eyes over her, as if assessing her from head to toe.
She took the cup from his hand and set it on the tray. "My father is tired. You must leave now."
Her father lifted one side of his mouth into a gentle smile. She hoped he saw her distress. "Thank you," he said. "Tell Mr. Langbourne I am honored by his letter. But it is my daughter who must give him an answer."
Her father's hands trembled while he clutched the letter between his fingers and set it down beside him. The disease that plagued his body caused the tremors, and they seemed to grow worse as the days wore on.
Hat in hand, John Travis nodded and stepped from the room.
"Do not look so troubled, child. This is good news, I should say," Matthias reached for Eliza's hand.
She drew up her chair beside her father and sat. "Let me guess. They have decided to accept women at Oxford and have offered that I come there to study."
She smiled, hoping to ease his melancholy. He frowned instead. "It is nothing of the kind. Why do you jest about such things?"
"To make you smile, Papa." She squeezed his hand. "But I failed."
"Ah, it is good of you, but silly. Women will never be admitted into Oxford or Cambridge. You must read and study on your own at home, as you always have."
"But not too much, for all a girl needs to know is how to run a house, and you will not find that in the pages of books."
She cocked her head. "Hmm. I do believe I might. But more importantly, love should run a house, not just head knowledge or skill. Now, tell me what Mr. Langbourne has written."
Matthias sighed. "You have been offered a proposal of marriage."
She glanced at the letter and did not let on that she had overheard some of the conversation. "Really? Again?"
"He tells me he will come into his inheritance soon. He says his situation at present is three hundred pounds a year. Later, he will have one thousand pounds yearly for the remainder of his life. For he has been named heir of Havendale, instead of his cousin Hayward Morgan."
"I suppose that is because Mr. Hayward left for the Colonies."
"Against his father's wishes."
"Hmm. He is a bitter man to cast off his true son."
"We are not to judge. Whatever his reasons, Langbourne will own Havendale someday."
Eliza screwed up her nose. "I hear Havendale is unbearably cold. I would not want to live there. And ..."
He lifted his hand and patted hers. "Have you had any other proposals that exceed this offer?"
"No, Papa. But do not expect me to live with a man I do not care for. Surely he does not love me."
"He says he likes you."
"I cannot accept him."
With a wheezing breath, her father drew himself up. "You will have to deal with him. You will be the one to say no, not I. I wish I could say he is my choice of husband for you, but I am unconvinced of anyone being good enough for my Eliza. However, if you do not have a husband soon, and I should leave this world, you shall be alone and no doubt fall into poverty. That grieves me too much to think of."
Her father's expression grew thoughtful, and Eliza knew to be patient. She stroked his arm in an effort to comfort him. "I could go to Stephen."
Her father shook his head. "He is in the King's army. He would not be permitted to take you. This—" and he held the letter up for her to see, "might be for the best."
"I will pray, Papa, that the Lord will give me the answer I need. After that, I will reply to Mr. Langbourne."
"Langbourne is not a bad-looking man, and he has the means to take good care of you. I know you do not know him well, for you have barely spoken two words to him in all your life. But knowing one another comes in time, and love will follow."
Eliza frowned. "But why would he choose me?"
"For your pretty face and that beaming smile of yours, which would captivate any young man. You are healthy in body, mind, and spirit. Your price, dear daughter, is far above rubies."
She shook her head. "I doubt the health of my mind and spirit matters to Mr. Langbourne, Papa."
"Just consider the offer, child. You might thank me one day for my advice, as you stand over my grave."
Stunned, she could not hold back a whimper at his mention of his grave.
* * *
The following afternoon, Eliza saddled the dappled mare kept in the single stall in the stable behind the house. She inhaled the rich scent of hay and lifted her face to greet the sunlight that shot through a hole in the roof.
Before she could lead the horse out, she heard her name and turned to see a horse and rider draw up outside the stable door. Langbourne, dressed in taupe riding clothes and black boots, dismounted. Since the last time she had seen him, he had put on several pounds, and his sandy hair peeked out from under his hat in wiry strands.
He leaned against the frame of the door and tapped his riding crop against his thigh. "Your father has, more or less, consented." His voice sported a tinge of arrogance. "But what about you, Eliza? Have you accepted my offer?"
"No, and not a moment to dwell on it."
"Because I do not love you."
"Love? That should not matter, at least where you are concerned. I do like you exceedingly, even though I've never said it before now."
She laughed. "Like me? How can you feel anything for me when we have never said more than hello or goodbye in chance meetings either at church or in the village? And I cannot marry a man I know nothing about."
"You shall get to know me, beginning today." He smiled with a glint in his eyes.
She ignored him and cinched the saddle. "And I cannot resign myself to a life of boredom, shut up in some London house, with nothing to do all day but sit and sit."
He moved closer. "I will find plenty of diversions for both of us."
Eliza pulled her horse forward. "I am not of your society."
"You will be. I am taking a risk, I know, by marrying a vicar's daughter. People will say I could have reached higher. But I do not care what the gossips may spread. It is a challenge I relish."
Turning to face him, Eliza lifted her chin. "What do you mean?"
"I should like to change you, take you like a piece of clay and mold you into a wife suitable to my status. With my money, you shall have plenty of silks, and a string of pearls that shall be envied."
"Change me? Mold me? Now I know a union between us would be a disaster. And I do not like silk. It stains too easily. And I cannot abide lavish balls or dinner parties. I am not right for you."
His jaw stiffened. "But I desire you, Eliza. Doesn't that count for something? Is that not what a woman wants? That, and a rich husband?"
She huffed at him. "Surely it is an infatuation on your part. What you see before you on the outside will fade in time."
Frustrated, he breathed out and took her roughly by the arms. "What I see is the most beguiling woman in all the world. You would end up an old spinster if not for your body, which I can only imagine is luscious beneath this dress. And that dark hair of yours—I've thought of it flowing over your bare shoulders. And those violet eyes to tempt me with. Can't you see I want you?"
"I can, and in a manner I do not welcome." She resisted his embrace and pushed him back. His lustful words caused her to wither. She squirmed out of his arms and stepped away.
He slapped the stable wall. "One day you will regret your refusal, Eliza." He mounted his horse and rode off. When he was finally gone, Eliza climbed onto her mare's back and nudged its side with her heel. Her eyes pooled with angry tears that slipped from her eyes and ran down her cheeks. If only he loved her for what thrived deeper than skin, perhaps then she would have considered his proposal. His handsome bank account was not enough to tempt her, nor his promise of a secure future.
Langbourne proved to be no different from the others who had courted her affections. They wanted what they saw on the outside—a body as desirable as an artist's model, seductive lavender eyes, hair the color of black silk, and skin as light and translucent as morning mist.
She reined in her mare and dashed the tears briskly from her face. With a heart that yearned and sought God's plan for her life, she stared at the downs that stretched far into the distance, and drew the cool, damp air deep into her lungs. Determined to make her own choice, she kicked the mare's ribs with her heel and raced it across the windswept heath.
Excerpted from Before the Scarlet Dawn by Rita Gerlach. Copyright © 2011 Rita Gerlach. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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I was so excited about this book because it is set in the American Revolution and there aren't a lot of books written about that time period (unlike WWII). So I dove in with great anticipation and was introduced to an amazing character in Eliza. She is the kind of person that I would love to have as a friend and she shows that in the friendships she develops throughout the book. My issue was that I didn't like her husband... at all. I tried, but I just couldn't. That may have been the point but he didn't deserve her - at all. And then when the story could have been ripe in forgiveness and redemption, it wasn't and left me really disappointed. Rita Gerlach has an incredible gift for settings and characters - this particular storyline just didn't do anything for me personally, but I know others out there will probably love it.
I would not read this book again. It was sad and left me depressed and melancholy. I totally agree w/the Christian theme throughout the story. But I also believe not only does God forgive but also restores, the poor character suffers the entire story. The prose was well written but due to the unhappy ending I would not choose another book by this author. There is enough unfairness and unhappiness in this world I would much rather happy endings....after all it was fiction.
I really enjoyed the setting of Scarlet Dawn and found the characters to be pretty realistic. I hope there is a sequel, because there were a lot of details left hanging. I too, had a "love-hate" relationship with the story. I guess that makes it a good read, to get emotional about the choices the characters make.
I am another one who was really excited to see the Revolutionary War as a backdrop and the theme was intriguing, but I just didn't like it. I tried to, but by the time she was reunited with her husband, I not only didn't like him, but I didn't like her much either. Unfortunately, how her husband treated her was probably an accurate portrayal of what sentiments would have been in that era, but by the end of the book, I just didn't care. Perhaps redemption and forgiveness between she and her husband at the end would have improved this book, but even that would have felt contrived. I give two stars rather than one because the setting and history felt real and well researched, but I wouldn't recommend the book.
Finally a book with an unpredictable ending!!! For once I have read a book that I could not predict how it would end. Usually once a story presents itself you can kinda of figure out the logistics of how it will end but not in Before The Scarlet Dawn by Rita Gerlach. In this wonderful historical novel set in the 1775 first in Derbyshire, England we find our main character Eliza Bloome who is caring for her ailing father, the vicar of the church there. While he lays dying he receives a letter from a man named Mr. Langbourne, who wishes to marry Eliza so that she will not fall into poverty once he passes away. However Eliza wishes to marry for love only not for financial security. So when he father passes away, she is given one week to vacate the church property and find other living arrangements. While riding through the country side one day, she happens upon a childhood friend, Hayward Morgan, the son of a wealthy family and wonders if perhaps he is interested in marriage. When he tells her he is not but that she might find work among his family's household in Havendale, she decides to try to find work there otherwise she will be homeless. Upon arriving in Havendale, she overhears Hayward proposes to a well-to-do lady named Lilith Marsden who has her eyes set on Hayward's future inheritance, but when she learns that the marriage will involve leaving England and heading for property he has acquired in Maryland, she refuses. Now Eliza offers Hayward one more opportunity to propose marriage and move with him to Maryland to which he accepts, under the condition that Eliza understands, he does not love her. Moving to River Run in the Maryland, Eliza and her maid, Fiona will have to endure the life of learning to live in frontier, but as long as Eliza has Hayward, she is convinced God will show Hayward's heart that love is possible. Only now that the Revolutionary War draws near, Hayward's only desire is to fight against the British even if it means leaving his wife to fend for herself. Will Eliza ever truly find love or will God have a different answer in mind for her prayers? I received Before The Scarlet Dawn compliments of Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for my honest review and LOVED it. I couldn't put it down til I knew how it would end and I believe, I have to wait for the next book. I was not disappointed that Eliza's conflict was not resolved and for once applaud the author who takes a great storyline, and carefully takes the reader by the hand and walks through it with them, not rushing to come to a hasty conclusion. This is the reason why I love this book. It's completely unpredictable at some points and that kept me entertained and engaged. I'm not sure I could deal with all life handed Eliza in this story and she has more strength that I could ever imagine. I rate this one a 5 out of 5 stars and anxiously wait her sequel to this story. This is the first book in the Daughters of the Potomac Series!
Before the Scarlet Dawn is a compelling story that is sure to strike a chord with anyone who reads it. To be honest, I have a "love-hate" feeling for this novel. First of, I have to say that these characters were real. As a result, I want to believe that some of their choices were drastically unbelievable. Yet the unbelievability is the very thing that makes these characters real. While I struggled to accept the heat-of-the-moment choice that led to the main character's heartache by the end of the story as anything remotely believable, I can truly say that this story paints human nature in a very realistic sense. Again, it's that that very essence that makes these characters real. I hated the ending. I absolutely hated it! It left me heartbroken and angry. After cooling off for a day, I had to go back and re-read the last portion of the novel again. This time, I could accept the ending. It was truly perfect. It showed redemption and mercy from God. My initial impression of this novel was that is should only receive three stars. Aside from the fact that I found major choices unbelievable, I didn't like the how the main character didn't put up much of an initial fight for what she wanted. Her actions seemed almost too hopeful, and wishful, and way too trusting in God. She was even too complaint for my taste. While these are great qualities in a real-life person, they aren't ones I want at the outset of a character I'm reading about. After several days, however, this story, these characters, and the feelings I experienced at the end of my first read, all continued to resonate. Without realizing it, this story had taken up residence in my heart. This story will make one feel. Much like Liz Curtis Higgs' Lowlands of Scotland series, you are going to feel emotions that you don't like. But, you will feel, and you will feel intensely. For that very reason, this book gets four stars in my eyes. It accomplishes what a book is supposed to do--move the reader. And move me it did. I do recommend Before the Scarlet Dawn. Just make sure you keep a box of tissues nearby. You'll sure need them. I'm eagerly awaiting the next story in this series. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Abingdon Press, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
The first book I've read by this author, and I couldn't put it down. The romance aspect is a bit under-developed, but the time warrants some of that. Gerlach's characters are interesting and engaging. The time period is the American revolution, and I always enjoy that era and setting. I am reading the next book in this series already and really like that one as well!
I really like this book-
It kept me reading. I loved the heroine and I felt so sorry for her. You will cry. I can't for the 2nd one and I hope it continues the story.
Wonderful book, sad times and great strength & Faith... Highly Reccomended
I loved the story line! But, they left it at a odd time.
Didn't really like this story!
I could not put it down! The story drew me in, and held my attention until the very last word. Not very often do I come across a book like this. I think every woman can identify to some extent with Eliza and her struggles. Surprisingly, I did not expect the ending, but liked it for that very reason. When I finished reading the book at 2am, all I could do was go kiss my babies asleep across the hall! Eagerly awaiting the next book. It can't come quick enough!
A deeply moving historical novel. The development of the characters in this book is excellent. I was drawn into the story from the very beginning. I wanted so badly to see everything work out well for Eliza Bloome. She has such a strong faith and has so many hardships to face throughout the story. Multiple times I felt as if my heart was going to break for all that she had to deal with. She is a very realistic character in that as time progressed she faltered in her decision making and in her belief that she had made correct choices. Even when we make questionable choices God doesn’t leave us and we can hold on to that fact. This is something that Eliza works through as she struggles with her self-doubts. If we are at all truthful with ourselves we would each admit to doubting our decisions at times. I am looking forward to reading the other 2 books in this series and seeing what type of characters Rita Garlach creates for them.
Very unpredictable ending! This is the first I have read from this author and I was not disappointed. I do however hope that this is a series of books. Would love to see where Eliza ends up, and if she is reunited with her family again.
To the ppl who said it was sad well im sorry but realisticly not every story will have a happy ending bc the world is cruel and brutal. In life there will be strughles and things we have to work for and there is no way around it. It must habe been hrd fpr this heroine if she was living and this happened but not every story will be all rainbows sunshine and unicorns. Even thought was dont live th time we will all struggle in life. So if this wasnt your type well its not your type but give the author a chance. I havent read ot yet but the comments hav bothered me at how out of reality ppl are. Im 11 but i remember age is a number † my favorite quote~there is no rose without thorns †
The year is 1775. There's this pretty girl, see, the daughter of a vicar in England, Eliza Bloome. Respectable, but not exactly an heiress. Then there's this guy she's had a thing for since childhood--Hayward Morgan. Son of landed gentry. They've got a lady picked out for him, Lilith Marsden. Well, Hayward is all in favor of Lilith. But he's also in favor of living in America. He has a piece of land and a home there. And Lilith? Well, frankly, she'd love to marry him. IF he'd stay in England on his father's property. She has no interest in the colonies. She refuses to marry him and go so far away. Eliza accidentally hears the conversation between the two and Lilith's refusal to go with Hayward. When Hayward discovers Eliza sitting in the darkness in the same hallway, she tells him Lilith is not worthy of him. That if Lilith loved him she would go anywhere with him. Boldly, Eliza tells him she loves him and he should marry her, that she would go with him anywhere. And thus begins her journey to Virginia. She's plunged into colonial life at the beginning of the Revolution with a man who doesn't love her, among colonial women who disdain her, and in the midst of wild Indians and wilder weather. And a neighbor who admires her too much. How will she overcome? There are some obstacles almost insurmountable.