The Prodigal's Welcome: Includes Bonus Story of My Beloved Waits by Peggy Darty

The Prodigal's Welcome: Includes Bonus Story of My Beloved Waits by Peggy Darty

by Kristin Billerbeck, Peggy Darty

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Overview

Two Historical Romances Face the Challenges of Rebuilding the Old South
 
The Prodigal’s Welcome by Kristin Billerbeck
Rediscover this classic romance from bestselling author Kristin Billerbeck. Nathaniel Pemberton left his Mississippi plantation upbringing to seek a golden fortune in California. He assumed nothing at home would change—but then the War Between the States broke out. Fighting to defend the family home, Nathaniel’s brother lost an arm but won Nathaniel’s childhood sweetheart. When Nathaniel decides to return home, no one, it seems, but his father is entirely happy to see the prodigal son. Where does Nathaniel belong?  Can he find the forgiveness his heart longs for?
 
My Beloved Waits by Peggy Darty
Grace Cunningham is the only one left to care for her ailing mother and to defend their small Alabama farm from Yankee carpetbaggers. When a Northerner, Jonathan Parker, appears at their front door, Grace doesn’t want to trust him. But circumstances force her to work with the Yankee stranger who claims to bring a message entrusted to him by Grace’s dying father. 
 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781683222712
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/01/2017
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
File size: 996 KB

About the Author

Kristin Billerbeck is a bestselling, Christy-nominated author of over 45 novels.  Her work has been featured in The New York Times and on “The Today Show.”  Kristin is a fourth-generation Californian and a proud mother of four. She lives in the Silicon Valley and enjoys good handbags, hiking, and reading.  
PEGGY DARTY authored more than 30 novels before she passed away in 2011. She worked in film, researched for CBS, and taught in writing workshops around the country. She was a wife, mother, and grandmother who most recently made her home in Alabama.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Natchez, Mississippi, 1866

You've come back." Eleanor blinked back tears but couldn't rein in the emotion that caused her to tremble. The ghost of her past stood before her, as real as any Confederate soldier.

"California was not the land of riches I thought it would be." Nathaniel's sheepish grin confirmed her worst fears. He had squandered everything.

"Things are not as you left them, but I'm sure you've realized that would be the case with the war."

Eleanor hadn't meant to sound cold, but how could Nathaniel expect to pick up where he'd left off? Except for his more manly frame from hard labor, he looked the same. The familiar hazel eyes with flecks of gold stared at her; the warm smile, the knowing look all took her back six years when she had loved this man with her heart and soul.

"My father has welcomed me home, Eleanor. With his blessings."

Eleanor awoke from her memories. Did he expect her to do the same? "I'm sure your brother has other thoughts on the matter. Did you know Andrew became a captain in the war?" She waited for his reaction and watched him flinch. "Did you know he lost an arm?" Oh Nathaniel, did you know he asked me to marry him?

Nathaniel's gaze dropped to the rich earth. "I did."

"I hope your dreams were realized in California, Nathaniel." For ours died a long time ago, when Yankees invaded. Eleanor picked up her skirt and walked toward Rosamond, her once-stately home. The sight of it forced her to face him again. "Your brother, and men like him, are the reason our homes are standing today." Her firm stance meant nothing against his apologetic gaze.

"Eleanor, please. I was a fool." He touched her shoulder, and she shivered at his touch. Turning to look into his eyes, she felt her heart throbbing under his gaze. Unwittingly, she fell into his open arms, and her body racked with tears at the comfort she found in his embrace. Without thought, she drew closer to his chest.

"I am so glad you've come home, Nathaniel. I'm glad you are safe." His familiar scent filled all of her senses, reminding her of what was, what might have been. No matter what her head told her, her heart still loved this man, still ached to have him near her. But his being home was enough. It would have to be.

"I've come home to stay. I'm done with foolishness."

"Are you, Nathaniel?" She forced herself away, straightening her gown. "But I'll not hold it against you, Nathaniel. Welcome home. I pray you'll make the most of your new life."

Eleanor tilted her chin, summoned her remaining shreds of courage, and turned. If it weren't for the war, she might have stayed in his arms forever — forgiving him and his childish ways — but she was stronger now. She had changed since the war. Everyone had. Everyone except Nathaniel, who remained unscathed by battles and Yankees.

"Eleanor, will you have me?" He opened his hands, willing her to come back to him. "I know I do not deserve you."

Eleanor's breath abandoned her, and she fought the urge to run to him. "You don't know?" she whispered.

"I know you are angry. You have every right, but I've changed, Eleanor. I'm not the boy who left —"

She interrupted him. "I'm engaged to your brother, Nathaniel. I thought your father would have told you." She softened at his wounded expression, and, for once, she felt like the traitor.

"Eleanor." The hollow sound of her name sent a sickening swirl through her stomach. "My brother? Andrew?"

"Your brother has been here, Nathaniel." She needed to justify herself. How dare he look at her as if she had been to blame? "He fought for me, and my family's home, our heritage. While you ran to seek your fortune in the wilderness, Andrew was steadfast and true. The war has been hard on everyone. I need something to hold firm, to be solid; and that is Andrew." Eleanor stood a little straighter.

"Slaves were not your heritage, Eleanor. You always told me you would fight to see them free. You've been listening to your father for too long."

"Who else was I to listen to, Nathaniel? The idealistic man I thought shared my visions left, without so much as a handshake."

The accusations were flowing freely now. "You were my fiancée! You would marry my own brother?" Nathaniel's voice carried so the house servants looked on with interest.

"Keep your voice down. We needn't share our business with everyone." Eleanor waved the attention off and focused on Nathaniel again, clenching her teeth in annoyance. "I assumed our engagement was nullified when you left me a note telling me of your future in California. Why ever would you expect me to be free six years later? Do you find me that unpalatable?"

"Of course not, but I didn't expect you to marry my brother either."

Nathaniel crossed his arms, as though he had a right to be upset. Irritation plunged through Eleanor's veins.

"In case you haven't noticed, there's a shortage of marriageable men since the war, but even if there weren't I would be engaged to your brother. He has proven himself to be a hero, and so much more."

"But do you love him?"

Eleanor gulped noticeably. "Of course I love him."

Nathaniel stepped closer, and she felt his proximity to her feet. She curled her toes in her boots, needing to let off her restless energy. His familiar scent felt too intimate.

"Ellie," he whispered.

"Don't call me that. You have no right to call me that. Think of your brother, Nathaniel," she begged him. "Think of me." She pressed a hand to her chest.

Nathaniel retreated, and she breathed an audible sigh of relief.

"It's not over, Ellie. I came back for you, and I'll make my brother understand. I'll make you understand. God has changed my heart. He has redeemed me from the pit, and I want to share it with you. I want to —"

"It doesn't always matter what one wants, Nathaniel. Think of your brother. Think of all he has been through, all he has endured while you spent your inheritance on what suited your whims and squandered your heritage. The Nathaniel I loved would never have knowingly hurt his family."

The descending sun caught the gold flecks in his eyes, and Eleanor was transported to another time and place. The horses whinnied in the background, while Nathaniel held her hand in the green spring grass. He had looked at her with a man's eyes then, and she remembered how the sun had caught the gold that afternoon as well.

"God has granted me forgiveness, Ellie. Won't you?"

Eleanor was startled from the images of a happier, carefree time. "I forgive you, Nathaniel, but I will still marry your brother in one month. You should wish us every happiness. It is the least you can do."

"Miss Eleanor! Miss Eleanor, your father is asking for you." The shrill voice of Mrs. Patterson, their family housekeeper, called her.

"I must go, Nathaniel. Take care of yourself." Eleanor turned toward her great house, now scorched with remnants of the war and badly in need of whitewash. She willed herself not to turn back and nearly choked on the tears she held at bay. By combining her plantation with Andrew's, she hoped to keep them both alive with the freed slaves who remained. The workers were indeed few. Everything seemed so easy minutes ago, but Nathaniel's return had changed everything.

*
Nathaniel ambled back toward Woodacre, his family plantation. "I should have known." He shook his head in anger, his teeth still clenched. His brother's triumphant smile at Nathaniel's return suddenly made sense. Andrew's admiration of Ellie had never been a secret. He had always been jealous over the connection Nathaniel and she shared. And now Andrew had managed to end the special bond, once and for all. Nathaniel chastised himself. He had no one to blame but himself.

"Where have you been, big brother?" Andrew's victorious tone caught Nathaniel's attention. "As if I didn't know. You've been to see my fiancée? I could have saved you the trip, dear brother." Andrew smirked.

He still wore his Confederate uniform, his left armhole stitched closed to hide the war wound. Nathaniel felt Andrew's entire appearance was merely a costume meant to taunt him for his past sins, as if he were saying, Here I am — the righteous brother, the one who did as he was told and earned Father's favor.

"Why did you keep your engagement a secret?" Nathaniel watched his brother's smile disappear. "I should think you'd announce it to the world. This is quite a victory for you. You'll own Rosamond, too, I suppose."

"I thought it best you hear it from Ellie. I feared you might not believe me. I can see by your face you believe it now. Ellie deserves to be cared for."

The use of her childhood nickname sent chills through Nathaniel's spine. No one but he and her mother had ever called her that until now.

"There are so many women, Andrew. Why Ellie?" Nathaniel couldn't keep the anguish from his voice.

"Eleanor has wasted six years of her life, Nathaniel. She's been pining for you, swearing you'd return to her. But I knew differently. I knew you'd come back destitute and probably married with a few children as well. You surprised me there. She finally agreed to marry a man who truly loves her, not just with words, but in action. Something you've failed to do, dear brother." Andrew patted Nathaniel's shoulder.

There was a bit of warmth in the act, and Nathaniel reminded himself it was he who had left. Wouldn't he want Ellie to be happy? Wouldn't he have wanted her to be a mother and share in all that life had to offer her? He was still so selfish. His conversion hadn't changed his desires.

"Will you love her, Andrew? Or just the land she can bring you?"

"I shall not dignify that with an answer."

Nathaniel lowered himself to the rich earth under his feet. Every part of his will had disappeared. Six years in California, and he had come home with nothing. Not the wealth he'd promised himself or the new faith he'd claimed. Or so it seemed. He thought loving this Jesus, this new God, who was more than a weekly visit in the family pew, would change everything, but it hadn't appeared to change anything.

I'll prove my worth, Lord. You did not redeem me for nothing, and I'll show them all out of love for You. I ask for nothing. Nothing, but the chance to be on Woodacre again and see that my brother cares for Ellie. My precious Ellie.

*
"Eleanor, who was that you were speaking with?" Mrs. Patterson lowered a brow. "It's not proper for young ladies to be conversing with a gentleman alone. Especially an engaged woman."

Eleanor laughed. "Mrs. Patterson, after the war there's hardly anything that isn't proper anymore. Just this afternoon I spent overseeing the tilling of the soil. That's hardly worthy of any belle."

"Well, you shouldn't be out there anyway. You know how your father feels on such matters."

"I also know his overseer wouldn't dare lay a hand on the men when I'm around. So I stay close by. The Bible says we are to submit to those in authority, and President Andrew Johnson is our president. I submit, but that scoundrel taking the overseer's place doesn't seem to."

"Johnson is no president of mine, the traitor."

"The Bible says —"

"Do not try to dissuade my thoughts, Eleanor. You're still your father's daughter, and you're not a married woman yet. Here on Rosamond we still keep up appearances, no matter what the Yankees tried to do to us. If we give up our discretion, why, we're no better than the likes of them."

"Yes ma'am."

"Now who was that man you were speaking with?"

"Nathaniel Pemberton, ma'am. He has returned from California."

Mrs. Patterson mumbled something Ellie was surely better off not hearing, but she spoke the end of her thoughts clearly. "You stay away from that fitful coward, Eleanor. He's not worthy to walk on Rosamond soil."

"His father has forgiven him. He's been welcomed home with open arms."

The older woman pursed her lips. "Well, he's not welcome here. What Mr. Pemberton feels led to do is between him and the Almighty, but as far as I'm concerned, Nathaniel Pemberton isn't worth the rags I saw on his back."

"In case you've forgotten, he's to be my brother in a month's time. I suggest you forgive him for all our sakes. If our plantations are to thrive, we've got to work together in our new situation. The war hasn't helped any of us."

"Nathaniel did his family more harm than the Union gunboats did to our fair city. Your father will not take kindly to Mr. Pemberton's welcoming back such a turncoat. I can tell you he will not be invited to the nuptials."

Eleanor sighed. She knew what her father would have to say about Nathaniel's return, and it probably wasn't fit for a lady's ears. But she had already forgiven Nathaniel. She couldn't help herself. Nathaniel didn't have a cruel bone in his body. He'd been misguided and wistful about his once-future plans, but who could blame a man for following his dream? It would have been different if he'd come back a wealthy man, successful in his pursuits. All would have been forgiven, but Nathaniel was being punished for his failure. Of that, she had no doubt.

"You needn't worry about him. He'll be Under-the-Hill soon enough." Mrs. Patterson said, referring to the town's seedier part of town. "Coward," she added.

Cowardice had nothing to do with Nathaniel Pemberton. If anything, cowardice had personified the town of Natchez. If it hadn't fallen so early, none of the many buildings would be standing. As it was, Natchez wasn't much worse for the wear, except for the slave situation, a few gunboat marks, and the looting. The money and privilege the town enjoyed were far more important to its inhabitants than fighting a war. They planned to run their town their way regardless of the outcome of any violence.

"Eleanor." Her father's gruff voice halted her thoughts.

"Yes, Father."

"I've had word from Woodacre that Nathaniel has returned." Her father's darkened brow said it all. He was worried she'd run away with the man she once loved.

"Yes sir." Eleanor tried to act unaffected.

"You'll not speak with him. The Lord only knows what terrible ideas he's brought from that forsaken California. Not to mention the diseases known to be out West."

"Father, Nathaniel doesn't mean any harm. He —" He coughed abruptly, and Eleanor corrected herself. "Master Pemberton."

"Eleanor, I know your mother fancied Master Pemberton for you at one time, but that all changed when he showed himself to be a milksop. His brother is far better suited to you, and I'm only sorry we didn't see it earlier."

"Father, Nathaniel — Master Pemberton — couldn't have known there was to be a war. He went before —"

"Everyone knew there was to be a war, Eleanor!" her father bellowed. "When the government tried to exert its will on the states, it was only a matter of time. South Carolina did what we all had to do, and Nathaniel had to see the fire coming. It's probably why he left so quickly."

"Reconstruction has begun, Father. We must move forward." Why was she defending Nathaniel? Hadn't she said the same things to him? But, somehow, hearing someone else speak of her beloved that way was far more difficult than she'd have imagined. She chastised herself for thinking of him as her beloved. Andrew was her beloved. No, Lord, he is my fiancé, and there is such a chasm between the two. Help me think properly of Andrew, Lord. Please.

"I don't care what their law says — no one's going to tell me how to run my plantation. We'll set up black codes as all our neighbors have."

Eleanor cringed. Black codes were plantation speak for the continuation of slavery. They would make former slaves sign away their rights for the privilege of working, with severe punishments for anyone who dared not complete a contract.

"Father, the Negroes just want food and shelter. They're not asking for a lot, but you've got to care for them properly. They're people. The Bible says there was neither slave nor freeman in Christ. The men are not getting enough to eat, Father, and they're having to steal from each other to get enough food for the day's work."

"If they don't like it, they can leave." He looked to the ground. "Until the codes are official of course."

Eleanor thinned her eyes. "It's a new day, Father. You've got to learn to adapt, or the Yankees will be back. We must find a new way of running Rosamond. The way Mother ran it. Lincoln said the Union must reunite for charity's sake."

"And Lincoln is dead for charity's sake."

Eleanor decided it best to drop the subject. Seeing the pain the war had caused, all its death and destruction, it was no wonder her father felt as he did. Although Natchez had been spared the worst kind of ruin, the town had still lost many of its sons. No one could forget that. It was impossible to think of Yankees without thinking of loss.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Prodigal's Welcome"
by .
Copyright © 2001 Kristin Billerbeck.
Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc.
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.

Table of Contents

The Prodigal's Welcome,
My Beloved Waits,

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The Prodigal's Welcome: Includes Bonus Story of My Beloved Waits by Peggy Darty 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
joyful334209 More than 1 year ago
The Prodigals Welcome is such as a heart wrenching story, I mean you have a sweet adorable man that is brave and admirable by leaving his fiancé and family to go to the Civil War - that ungrateful, ingrate was angry, self-pitying, selfish that her man - her engaged man to her - went off to war - the Civil War - So guess what she did while he was gone - you will not believe what he brat did - she went and got engage. If that wasn't bad enough - who did she get engaged to? why yes she gets engaged to Nathaniel's brother Andrew - what kind of back stabbing brother would steal his fiancé from his brother's fiancé - what a slimeball - they deserve each other - That is what happens in the first few pages - she also when Nathaniel comes home to his long lost love to get his kiss - she yells at him and tells him she's re-engaged and to whom it is - but she falls into his arms - then yells at him and that is when she tells him all about Andrew. She makes me sick. Then you wont believe what happens - ----I can't tell you what happens because that will ruin it for you and I just cannot do that - I received a copy of this book from the Publisher and Netgalley; all the opinions expressed in this review are all my own.
joyful334209 More than 1 year ago
The Prodigals Welcome is such as a heart wrenching story, I mean you have a sweet adorable man that is brave and admirable by leaving his fiancé and family to go to the Civil War - that ungrateful, ingrate was angry, self-pitying, selfish that her man - her engaged man to her - went off to war - the Civil War - So guess what she did while he was gone - you will not believe what he brat did - she went and got engage. If that wasn't bad enough - who did she get engaged to? why yes she gets engaged to Nathaniel's brother Andrew - what kind of back stabbing brother would steal his fiancé from his brother's fiancé - what a slimeball - they deserve each other - That is what happens in the first few pages - she also when Nathaniel comes home to his long lost love to get his kiss - she yells at him and tells him she's re-engaged and to whom it is - but she falls into his arms - then yells at him and that is when she tells him all about Andrew. She makes me sick. Then you wont believe what happens - ----I can't tell you what happens because that will ruin it for you and I just cannot do that - I received a copy of this book from the Publisher and Netgalley; all the opinions expressed in this review are all my own.
joyful334209 More than 1 year ago
The Prodigals Welcome is such as a heart wrenching story, I mean you have a sweet adorable man that is brave and admirable by leaving his fiancé and family to go to the Civil War - that ungrateful, ingrate was angry, self-pitying, selfish that her man - her engaged man to her - went off to war - the Civil War - So guess what she did while he was gone - you will not believe what he brat did - she went and got engage. If that wasn't bad enough - who did she get engaged to? why yes she gets engaged to Nathaniel's brother Andrew - what kind of back stabbing brother would steal his fiancé from his brother's fiancé - what a slimeball - they deserve each other - That is what happens in the first few pages - she also when Nathaniel comes home to his long lost love to get his kiss - she yells at him and tells him she's re-engaged and to whom it is - but she falls into his arms - then yells at him and that is when she tells him all about Andrew. She makes me sick. Then you wont believe what happens - ----I can't tell you what happens because that will ruin it for you and I just cannot do that - I received a copy of this book from the Publisher and Netgalley; all the opinions expressed in this review are all my own.
joyful334209 More than 1 year ago
The Prodigals Welcome is such as a heart wrenching story, I mean you have a sweet adorable man that is brave and admirable by leaving his fiancé and family to go to the Civil War - that ungrateful, ingrate was angry, self-pitying, selfish that her man - her engaged man to her - went off to war - the Civil War - So guess what she did while he was gone - you will not believe what he brat did - she went and got engage. If that wasn't bad enough - who did she get engaged to? why yes she gets engaged to Nathaniel's brother Andrew - what kind of back stabbing brother would steal his fiancé from his brother's fiancé - what a slimeball - they deserve each other - That is what happens in the first few pages - she also when Nathaniel comes home to his long lost love to get his kiss - she yells at him and tells him she's re-engaged and to whom it is - but she falls into his arms - then yells at him and that is when she tells him all about Andrew. She makes me sick. Then you wont believe what happens - ----I can't tell you what happens because that will ruin it for you and I just cannot do that - I received a copy of this book from the Publisher and Netgalley; all the opinions expressed in this review are all my own.
CK119 More than 1 year ago
The Prodigal’s Welcome by Kristin Billerbeck is paired with the bonus story My Beloved Waits by Peggy Darty. Both stories are uplifting and based on biblical principles and set just after the Civil War. The Prodigal’s Welcome is similar to the bible story in that the oldest son requested his inheritance and left Misssissippi for California where he squandered his money leaving behind the woman he was expected to marry. He returns six years later to find she is engaged to his brother. Everything is not just as it seems and there are many twists and turns that keep the story exciting and makes the reader want to read more. My Beloved Waits is set in southern Alabama. Elizabeth Cunningham has lost her son to the war but is certain her husband, Fred, will return and watches for him every day. Her daughter, Grace, feels her mother is losing her mind as it has been months since they have heard anything from or about him. A Yankee named Jonathan Parker arrives to return Fred’s bible, at his urgent request, and to let the ladies know that he left him dying in a hospital. Though on opposite sides of the war they had saved each other’s lives at different points in the war. What will the community think of a Yankee in their midst? Is there a secret message in the Bible; is that why Fred was so insistent his wife must get it? There are again many twists and surprises to the story. I enjoyed this book very much. I rate it 5 of 5 stars and recommend it highly. The writing flows very nicely and the characters are portrayed as realistic people who might have lived at that time. I received an advance copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
candicervaldez More than 1 year ago
I usually like Krisitin Billerbeck's books, but this one was not a good one for me. I felt that the story was hard to follow. The heroine was all over the place. First, she didn't want to marry Nathaniel because he left her, then she was begging him to marry her. She was supposed to marry his brother and he was a good man, but all of the sudden she really disliked him. The story just seemed totally unbelievable to me. The bonus story of My Beloved Waits is better and somewhat redeemed this book for me. It was a bit predictable but an easy and satisfying read. I did find myself scanning through the end just to get to the end of the book. I received a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.
WildflowerMom More than 1 year ago
Two stories set in the South at the beginning of the Reconstruction period, dealing with rebuilding lives, moving on after the war, finding faith, hope, and love. "I don't think anyone really wins a war. Not when you weigh the cost." The first story was about a son returning after the war was over, and finding his brother betrothed to his former fiance. Emotions run high, and there is a bit of melodrama at times. Reminded me a little of Gone With the Wind, with the plantation backdrop and the 'South shall rise again' theme. I enjoyed the second story more, with a daughter struggling to keep up her family's farm and care for a mother who did not always seem in touch with reality. It flowed better, plus the characters seemed more realistic and down to earth. It made me think about the lingering prejudices on both sides that must have been hard to overcome, especially when families were divided over the war. A bit of a twist with a treasure hunt made this interesting too. The South in 1866 was an interesting setting for both stories, unconnected except for the link of rekindling faith and finding hope and love after the horror of war. The aftermath of the Civil War left a lot of wreckage, with families torn apart, severed relationships, the need to forgive, as well as people struggling to survive on the little that was left of their homes and towns; also the social struggles of race, class, and financial loss. Both stories conveyed this well. Civil War buffs who enjoy clean romances and like a story with a Southern viewpoint will probably like this one. 3.5 stars (An e-book was provided by NetGalley and Barbour publishing. All opinions are my own.)