Do You Believe in Love at First Fight?
Any ship arriving from England means good news for Virginia colony farmers. The "tobacco brides" would be on boardeligible women seeking a better life in America, bartered for with barrels of tobacco from the fields.
Drew O'Connor isn't stirred by news of a ship full of brides. Still broken-hearted from the loss of his beloved, he only wants a maid to tend his house and care for his young sister.
What he ends up with is a wifea feisty redhead who claims she is Lady Constance Morrow, daughter of an Earl, brought to America against her will. And she wants to go straight back to England as soon as she can. She hasn't the foggiest notion how to cook, dares to argue with her poor husband, and spends more time working on mathematical equations than housework. What kind of a wife is that? Drew's Christian forbearance is in for some testing.
Headstrong and intelligent, deeply moral but incredibly enticing, Constance turns what was supposed to be a marriage of convenience into something most inconvenient, indeed.
|Publisher:||Baker Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.38(h) x 0.95(d)|
About the Author
Deeanne Gistknown to her family, friends, and fans as Deehas rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very original, very fun historical & contemporary romances. Add to this four RITA nominations, two Christy Awards, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you've got one recipe for success. She has a very active online community on her website at IWantHerBook.com and at Facebook.com/Deesfriends.
Read an Excerpt
A BRIDE most BEGRUDGING
By DEEANNE GIST
Bethany House PublishersCopyright © 2005 Deeanne Gist
All right reserved.
Chapter OneVirginia Colony Two Months Later
THE GOWN THEY GAVE her fit too closely. It displayed her figure with humiliating clarity, but perhaps that would work to her advantage. She had lost so much weight, she couldn't imagine any farmer wanting to invest in such a sickly looking woman.
Several tobacco planters had been on board already to examine the "cargo." The men stood chained on one side of the upper deck, the women on the other. The men were being sold as indentured servants for seven or fourteen year terms, depending upon their sentence.
But the women were to serve a lifetime sentence. They were to be purchased as brides. One bride in exchange for 120 pounds of tobacco leafage, the colony's cash crop.
All except Constance, that is. She had been placed alone up on the half deck, her wrists and ankles shackled, the first mate standing guard behind her right shoulder. The captain was asking two hundred pounds of tobacco for her. Ridiculous.
Her gaze drifted over the indentured men. Uncle Skelly was not among them, of course. How could he be?
Only twice during the voyage had the captain allowed the women onto the upper deck for fresh air. The first time up, she'd passed Uncle Skelly on the mid deck. With a collar and padlock about his neck, they had chained him not only to a board but to three of the most abominable creatures she had ever seen. Jail fever consumed one of those creatures.
The second time up, she had found Uncle Skelly's place on the board eerily vacant. The first mate, Cooper, had confirmed her fears. Skelly Morrow was dead.
Constance swallowed the rush of tears that even now accumulated in her throat at the memory.
"Look lively, maiden. Here comes a'one," Cooper snarled.
She stiffened as a young farmer of but a score or so years approached the half deck. He looked at Cooper, nodded slightly, then turned to her.
She jerked back when he captured some strands of her hair between his long work-roughened fingers. The captain had not allowed her to wear a headcloth this morning. He'd insisted on having her hair loose and uncovered around her shoulders and back.
This display was nothing short of blasphemy. A woman's hair was sacred and a recognized symbol of her maidenhood, only to be worn free while speaking wedding vows.
She'd never felt so naked in her life. Her hair wasn't soft and silky like other women's. It was wild and thick with tightly coiled ringlets that seemed to multiply when unbound.
The bay breeze picked up, causing her hair to swirl around her face. She tried again to free herself from the man's grasp.
"Easy, miss. I'll not hurt you," he said.
His voice was kind, as were his eyes. He did not rake her with an offensive look nor handle her roughly. If he asked to see her teeth, though, she'd be most uncooperative.
Below, two men captured her attention. One was a dark-haired farmer with a straw hat in his hand. The other was blond and had been on board the ship during the passage over. He'd not been a prisoner, nor had he been a crew member. She'd learned he had paid an extraordinary fee for his passage to the colony, a place he claimed as his home.
The pair singled out Mary, the woman who'd been chained next to Constance the entire voyage over. They spoke with Mary, checked her teeth, and had her walk the length of the deck and back.
The captain approached them. More words were exchanged. The bargaining had begun. In a few minutes, Mary's fetters were removed and she left the ship with the blond man, while the dark-haired farmer signed a voucher for the captain.
Constance tapped down her panic. Mary was more than a fellow prisoner. She was Constance's only friend.
Of a sudden, the captain pointed to Constance and the farmer turned in her direction. He narrowed his eyes, finished his transaction with the captain, and headed to the half deck.
She returned her attention to the young man in front of her. He still had hold of her hair, but he was focused on Cooper.
"... a gen-u-ine lady, she is," the first mate was saying.
"Then why was she transported?" the man asked.
"Oh, we didn't ask questions. Not our job to ask questions."
She rolled her eyes.
"You have papers for her?"
"No, he does not," Constance replied.
Cooper grabbed her arm. "Keep quiet, missy, or you'll be the sorrier for it."
"Looking for a bride, Gerald?" The dark-haired farmer had reached the half deck.
The man who must have been Gerald released her hair and jumped back. "Drew! No, not at all."
"Is she for sale?" Drew asked Cooper.
"As a tobacco bride?"
Drew turned back to Gerald and raised an eyebrow.
"Now, Drew, it is not what it appears. I was merely curious."
"You gave up the right to be curious the moment you married my sister."
Gerald's face filled with color. "Actually, it was you I was thinking of," he sputtered.
Drew lifted both brows this time.
Gerald swallowed. "I, uh, just thought if you found someone of an, uh, acceptable nature, you might be interested."
"And you deem this female acceptable?"
Gerald paused. "They say she is a lady of the realm, Drew."
"She has red hair, and I absolutely abhor red hair"
She stiffened. Gerald's face suffused with color. Although her hair was more auburn than red, Gerald's hair was almost orange, it was so bright.
"Your pardon. I did not know."
"Well, well, well. What have we here? Looking for a bride, Master O'Connor?" A scrawny, slovenly man with more teeth missing than not swaggered onto the half deck.
Tension bounced between the three men. Drew put on his hat, shifted his attention to Constance, and tipped his brim. "If you will excuse me, miss." He, along with his brother-in-law, moved past her, past the man with the missing teeth, and past two other farmers now approaching the half deck.
The scraggy man watched them leave and ejected tobacco-colored saliva onto the wooden planks as he followed their progress.
"Emmett," greeted one of the advancing farmers. He and his companion both had great bushy black beards, jolly faces, and rounded bellies. Perhaps they were kin.
"Woodrum," Emmett said, then turning to her, grabbed her cheeks and squeezed until her mouth gaped open. "Well, would you look at all them teeth. Why, she's got a mouth full of 'em. How's the rest of her, Cooper? You patted her down?"
She reared back, trying to grab his arm, but the chains around her wrists and waist restricted her movement. He tightened his grip. The rank smell of him took her breath away, and if he'd had any fingernails at all, they'd have cut half-moons into her cheeks.
"No damaging of the goods, matey, until after you buy her," Cooper said. "Pat all you want, but don't be leaving any bruises."
She stiffened. Emmett released her with a shove, and she would have fallen backward if the big man called Woodrum hadn't caught her elbow. Once she was steady, he relaxed his hold, then let go of her completely.
Emmett raked his gaze up and down her frame, rubbing his hands against his puny chest. "Why's she up here away from them other brides?"
"She's one of them ladies of the realm, she is," Cooper responded. "And she'll cost you a few more tobaccy leaves than them others."
"What proof you got fer yer claim? I say she's nothing more than a quail plucked right off them London alleyways." He eyed her again. "She shore got what it takes to do the job, and I ain't gonna be paying out a bunch of sot weed for used goods."
Woodrum scratched his cheek. "How much are you asking for her?"
"Two hundred pounds," Cooper answered.
Emmett harrumphed. "Of tobaccy? You'll not be gettin' two hundred pounds for a light skirt."
"She's a gen-u-ine lady, mate, but no bloke's a forcin' you to claim her. We already got us a bid for her, we do."
Emmett furrowed his brows. "From who?"
Woodrum and his silent companion looked at each other, caution evident in their expressions. Emmett's eyes took on an unnatural brilliance. Constance didn't know what game the first mate was playing, but she would hold her tongue for now.
"O'Connor, you say?" Emmett asked. "How much did he offer?"
"Then why's the maid still here?"
"She has to be paid for in tobaccy only. No vouchers. The capt'n wouldn't release her or take her off the block before collecting payment. O'Connor went to collect his sot weed."
As far as she knew, that was an outright lie, but she couldn't be certain.
The merciless sun beat down upon them. Sweat trickled down Emmett's face and into his snarled beard. "Well, ain't that interesting." He wiped his hands against his backside, then looked to the first mate. "May I?"
"Help yourself," Cooper replied.
Emmett reached for her.
She leaned away from him. "Touch me, and I'll see you flogged before the morrow's sun appears on the horizon."
Emmett's eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "Ho, ho! Would you listen to that? A saucy one, ain't she?" Cackling, he rubbed his hands together.
"Leave off, Emmett," Woodrum said, grabbing Emmett's arm. "It's clear that she is healthy and there is no padding beneath her garment."
Emmett's lip curled. "What's it to you, Woodrum?"
"Either up Drew's wager or keep your hands to yourself."
"I ain't makin' no bid till I test the goods."
Without taking his eyes off Emmett, Woodrum handed his hat to his companion, removed his coat, and relinquished that as well. He slowly began to roll up his sleeves.
The man's belly may have been round, but his arms and chest appeared to be solid rock. "You'll not touch her unless you pay for the privilege."
Smelling a fight, the farmers on the upper deck had begun to crowd close.
Emmett slowly lowered his hands. "Two hundred twenty, Cooper. I'll give you two hundred twenty pounds for her."
"Two twenty-five," Woodrum countered.
It was time to speak up. "Gentlemen," she interjected, "this is really all quite unnecessary. I am not a tobacco bride. I am the daughter of an earl. The captain kidnapped me and is trying to sell me unlawfully. As soon as the governor comes aboard, I will have an audience with him and will then be freed and on my way back to London."
Her statement, made during one of those unfortunate moments when every person in the crowd, for whatever reason, is silent all at once, carried across the entire breadth of the ship.
The quiet that followed her pronouncement was fraught with shock. On the heels of that, a huge swell of laughter and guffaws from the whole company of men rose to alarming levels. Even Woodrum was amused.
"Oh, she's a wicked one, she is," Emmett cackled. "Where's the capt'n?"
The crowd parted, and the captain took the steps two at a time. Woodrum and his friend receded into the crowd.
Emmett grasped the captain's hand. "I'll give you a whole hogshead for her, capt'n, and while my field boy rolls it down here, I'll be celebrating at the meetinghouse."
The captain pursed his lips for a moment, then broke into a grin. "Three hundred pounds it is, then. Gentlemen, Goodman Emmett here has purchased himself one high-born bride."
The men roared their approval and surged forward, encircling Emmett. He put an X on the voucher and exchanged it for a receipt from the captain. The excitement escalated and the crowd pulled Emmett off the half deck and further away from her. He twisted around. The depraved promise in his eyes projected itself into her very soul.
Bile converged in her throat. She was going to be sick. Forsooth, she was going to be sick right here, right now.
Help me, Lord, help me. Where is the governor? Where are you, Lord? Please, please. Help me.
As one, the company moved from the ship to the shore. And on, she supposed, to the celebration.
Chills from within shot through her body, causing a series of bumps to erupt along her arms and legs. Then an all-consuming anger at the incredible injustice of it all made her blood surge. Her resolve solidified and she focused in on the captain.
"How dare you!" she cried. "You will not get away with this. Mark you, if you do not arrange an audience with the governor at once, I will create a commotion of such magnitude they will write legends about it."
The captain did not even bother to acknowledge her. "Throw her back in the hold, Cooper," he said over his shoulder as he descended the steps.
She filled her lungs with the intention of letting out a scream the likes of which would not be ignored. Before she could release it, the first mate squeezed a band of skin between her neck and her shoulder.
Debilitating pain cut off her scream and buckled her knees. She crumpled to the ground. Cooper did not let go but followed her to the floor. She whimpered, trying to pull away from the torturous vice his fingers created.
His hot, foul breath invaded her ear. "Not one sound, dovey. Not one."
Chapter TwoCONSTANCE LAY SHIVERING and alone belowdecks. Darkness entombed the hold. Midnight had passed, but morning was still more than a few hours away.
She felt certain the men's celebration was over, for the balance of brides had been picked up long ago. All except for her.
She tried not to let desperation fill her. If the governor had put in an appearance, it was after Cooper had forced her back into the hold and secured her to the wall. With that opportunity gone, she knew there would be no other. At least not anytime soon. And by the time she did see the governor, it would be too late.
She would belong to a man. An odious, vulgar man who inspired revulsion, loathing, and horror. A man who, in the eyes of this colony. would have complete dominion over her. Who would have the right to do with her as he saw fit.
Her stomach clinched and she pushed herself up off the rough planks and heaved once again. Nothing left.
She'd managed to hold her fears at bay until the last bride had been led to her doom. When the trapdoor had closed behind that poor woman, it was the first time in over eight weeks that Constance had been completely alone. And it terrified her. The dark, damp, malodorous deck that had felt so cramped and hemmed in now loomed over her with a soundless assault.
The irons around her waist and wrists weighted her down. Collapsing onto the slats, she vaguely heard the scurrying of a rat echo off the walls of the hold. A fresh rush of tears spilled from her eyes.
Have you heard my cries, Lord? Have you destroyed my enemy? Is that why I am still here?
As if in answer, the squeak of the trapdoor reached her ears just as light from a lantern reached her eyes, She covered her eyes with her arm, the clanking of her chains ricocheting around her.
The heavy tread of the mate clomping down the steps sent her heart into a terrible gallop. She curled into a tight ball. Please. Please. Spare me, Lord. Rescue me. Please!
The crewman's smell reached her before he did. "The call to reckoning has come, wench. Up with ye, now. Yer man's arrived and it's anxious he is to take possession of ye."
In a pig's eye, she thought. A great calm settled upon her. She slowly unfurled, pulled herself into a sitting position, and looked up to see who had the late night watch. Arman. A beastly excuse of a man.
He removed the lock attaching her to the wall and pulled the chain from around her waist. Grabbing the irons around her wrists, he yanked her to her feet. The room swirled round, but Arman gave her no time to gain her sea legs.
She stumbled. He shoved her forward. She fell hard on her knees, pain shooting up her legs to her back and neck.
"Get up," he snarled, jerking her back to her feet. "You'll not be playing yer high-and-mighty games with me, missy. Ye might work yer wiles upon Cooper, but yer nothin' more than a hen to that struttin' rooster on the uppers, and if ye think to be givin' him or me any troubles, it'll go the worse for ye."
She kept her face expressionless, but she would not cooperate with Arman or the rooster. And she was prepared to do whatever it took to free herself from the knave.
When they made the upper deck, she scanned the area for the despicable Emmett man that had purchased her. He was not there. Instead, Arman led her to stand in front of the dark-haired farmer they called Drew O'Connor.
What was he doing here? Was he to take her to Emmett? But, no, it had been clear those two were not on friendly terms. Confusion clouded her thoughts.
"Remove the fetters," O'Connor said.
Excerpted from A BRIDE most BEGRUDGING by DEEANNE GIST Copyright © 2005 by Deeanne Gist.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I was at Sam's Club checking out the book section and bought this one along with Courting Trouble and its sequel, Deep in the Heart of Trouble. Honestly, the synopsis on the back cover of A Bride Most Begrudging didn't appeal to me as much as the Trouble books, but I bought them in case I devoured the other two too fast. And I did, which led me to reaidng this one. It was certainly not a disappointment, but rather a nice surprise. The characters felt nice and flshed out - just the way I like them. I really like the whole angle with Contance's math thing - it really added something to the novel. I definately recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or even just looking for something new to read.
I found the subject matter of this book (a forced marriage under dreadful circumstances) extremely captivating. How does one who has full marriage rights grow to love a stranger enough to want to be married to them in all ways? The tension in this story was highly believable and exciting to read. A real page turner. The historical element and Constance's bumblings at trying to be a good colonial wife was thoroughly intriguing and very sympathetic. I felt like I was in the colonies with her and couldn't stop reading. I was so glad when the couple finally admitted their feelings to each other, but then I wanted to slap Drew for thinking it best for her to be shipped back to England where she'd be 'happier.' I wanted to cry with Constance when Drew started avoiding her and refusing to get close. How painful and real. I won't say anymore or it may spoil some of the details for the reader. Overall this was a satisfying read with a wonderfully written spiritual element and moving romance theme. I'd love to see more books published by this author. It doesn't get better than this!
Quite possibly my favorite books! Love, love this book. I fell in love with both characters, as well as Grandma, Mary & Sally. Every character was shaped and molded and easily relatable. I've read it multiple times and every time I still get excited and can't put it down. No doubt, this is my favorite book of Deeanne Gists. Would absolutely recommend it.
Lady Constance Morrow only boarded the ship because she wanted to bid her uncle goodbye. Unfortunately, a deceptively simple choice leads to her being kidnapped, sold as a tobacco bride and then won on a gamble by Drew O'Conner. When she is forced into a marriage of convenience, she remains convinced that once her father hears of her misfortune, he will bring her back to England. What she does not count on is the strong attraction between her and her new husband. But this is only one of many struggles that she faces. Will their growing love survive the struggles that rage inside each of them? This was actually my second time reading A Bride Most Begrudging and I had the same opinion of it that I had the first time. I loved the story. It is well-written and the pace is perfect. There is plenty of romance and even the occasional moment of humor. I loved the characters and the depth that the author gave to them. However, the sexual overtones are so strong that they almost overpower the story. It's just a matter of personal taste whether or not that would bother a reader. Deeanne Gist is known for her edgy fiction and most of the time I love her books, but this one is actually my least favorite by her.
Being a christian book I wasn't sure I would really get into it. Not that there is anything wrong with a clean book just not my normal read. That being said, I really enjoyed this book. Drew was so tough yet sweet. This book kinda sucks you in. One minute I thought I couldn't read it any more and next minute I couldn't put it down. Sweet!
One of my favorite books
Could not put this down! I was totally on the edge of my seat!
This is a really touching, romantic book. I've read it a couple times now and everytime I reread it I enjoy it. The characters are interesting, the historical period is engaging and the plot is very sweet, even if a bit predictable.
Hard to read when it's sad, and it does get very sad at parts. Surprising look at history I didn't know about or learn in school. Relationship started too fast it felt like and kind of had nowhere to grow to without adding avoidable drama that could be mended easily by communicating. I like the unpredictability and atypical direction throughout each scene. I stopped assuming where things would go because the author would constantly make things go or occur contrary to how I would expect. Love the writing, though I felt like skimming at times half way and towards the end. Felt like some conversations were needed/missing from plot. Love the humor. Christian but open dialogue that is by no means censored for a chaste romance. Glad to have read it.
Very good. Enjoyed this immensely. I loved the history, biblical reference and story line.
This was such an entertaining book. I laughed out loud so many times. Deeanne Gist has an amazing ability to tell a story that grabs you from the start and doesn't let go until long after you've finished the novel. The characters a so realistic and the scenes are well described. The storyline is well put together to go with the time period. My favorite character was Constance because of her spunk and tenacity. I highly recommend this fun read.
I enjoy historical novels and this just fit the bill. This book was an easy read and it was definitely not trashy. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history based novels.
This is my first book by Deanne Gist...and I fell in love with her writing style. I absoultely loved this book...great plot.. the characters were well developed...and it had a nice pace to it. I will be getting all her books to read now..what a awesome author!
Deanne Gist is one of my favorite authors. I have most of her books on my nook and reread them periodically. her research into the culture and time period of her writings is clearly evident. Her characters are fully developed. all her books tell a beautiful love story for God and each other. I highly recommend all of her books and look forward to new releases.
A top notch romance novel backed up with historical references that lend a credible feel to the story. Even though it has the ear markings for "jumping to conclusions" without any grounds to substantiate their imaginations working overtime--it was a great read!