I'm bringing to you another Read It First - Sneek Peak courtesy of St. Martin's Press.
This week's Read-It-First sneek peak comes from a historical piece by Sandra Dallas. Mrs. Dallas is the bestselling author of Whiter than Snow and Prayers for Sale. Unfortunately this is my first encounter with the author which got me thinking that I should read even more than my time and already large TBR pile can permit. Based on all of the reviews that I've seen thus far, the author seems to have a knack for really bringing stories to life. The Bride's House seems equally interesting and after reading the first chapter, i may add this one to my TBR pile.
Check out the first chapter below and tell me what you think about the story. If you want to continue reading chapters from The Brides House or you think the Read It First programme sounds exciting, head over to the website Read-It-First.com and sign up to start receiving more chapters in your email.
Title: The Bride's House
Author: Sandra Dallas
Genre: Literature Fiction/Historical Fiction
Publisher: St Martin's Press (April 26th 2011)
Something caused men to stare at Nealie Bent, although just what it
was that made them do so wasn't clear. Her body was more angles than
curves, and her face, too, had all those sharp planes, far too many
to be pretty. She was too tall to suit, and with her long legs, she
took strides that were more like a man's than the mincing steps of a
young girl. The dress she wore, one of only two she owned, was faded
yellow calico, threadbare at the wrists and neck and of the wrong
color to complement her pale skin. Her second dress was no better.
Still, men turned to look at Nealie Bent, for there was no question
that the tall, thin girl was striking, or at least peculiar-looking,
with her eyes the color of the palest blue columbines late in the
spring, her hair such a pale red that it was almost the hue of pink
quartz, and her face as freckled as a turkey egg. It could have been
her youth that drew their attention. After all, Georgetown itself
was still young, and youth was highly prized. Most of the young
women there were already old, worn out from the work a mining town
demanded of them, and from childbearing. The Alvarado Cemetery was
full of babies, with here and there a mother buried beside her
newborn in that forlorn spot. Like all the mountain towns,
Georgetown was a hard place, and folks there had a saying: Any cat
with a tail is a stranger.
The same might be said in a slightly different way for a young
woman, because any female with youth, such as Nealie, was new in
Georgetown. But she would age quick enough. Still, for now--and for
a few years hence, perhaps--the girl's youthfulness matched the
spirit of the town, a place that was mightily attractive to those
seeking to make their fortunes.
If it wasn't Nealie's youth that drew glances, then it might have
been her air of innocence, and innocence was in even shorter supply
in Georgetown than youth. But in that, the girl's appearance was a
sham, for Nealie's short life had been a hard one. Though she knew
more about the dark side of life than most her age, there was not
even the hint of those hardships on Nealie Bent, and she appeared as
fresh and guileless as a newborn.
So no one could put a finger on exactly what it was that made men
take another look at Nealie, not that anyone in that town bothered
to analyze. But no one doubted that they turned to stare at her as
she passed them on the broad board sidewalk or paused in her rounds
of shopping to peer into store windows at the delectable items she
could only dream about buying.
Will Spaulding was no different from the rest of the men in his
admiration. He'd seen the girl as she filled her basket from the
bins of apples and onions and potatoes. And now, as Nealie stood at
the counter of the Kaiser Mercantile store, talking quietly with Mr.
Kaiser, Will measured her with his eyes. She was five feet eight
inches, only two inches shorter than he was. Will's eyes wandered
over Nealie, taking in her slender build under the shabby dress,
until he became aware that Mr. Kaiser was watching him and clearing
"I said, 'What can I do for you, young man?'" the storekeeper
repeated. The girl had placed her purchases in her basket and was
turning to go, not sending so much as a glance at the man standing
next to her.
Will cleared his throat, but he didn't speak immediately. Instead,
he stared at the girl as she left the store and walked past the
large-glass window, leaving behind her soapy scent and the tinkling
of the bell that announced customers. "Who is she?" he asked, as if
he had the right to know.
"Oh, that's Nealie Bent," the older man replied, a look of bemused
tolerance on his face. "You're not the first to ask. Did you come in
for something or just to stare at the ladies?"
Without answering, Will turned away from the door and looked at the
shopkeeper. He removed a list from his pocket, laying it on the
counter and smoothing it with his hand. "I'm working up at the Rose
of Sharon, and I'll be needing these things." He turned the list so
that Mr. Kaiser could read it.
"We take cash," Mr. Kaiser said, which wasn't exactly true. He
extended credit to those in town who needed it, as well as to good
customers such as Nealie's employer, but he did not extend the
courtesy to strangers.
"I'll pay it." Will's voice sounded as if he was not used to his
credit being questioned. The older man moved his finger down the
list, tapping a broken nail beside each item as he pronounced it
out loud: "Three pair work pants, three work shirts, cap, boots,
jacket, gloves, candlesticks, candles." He droned on, and when he
was finished, he said, "Yep, you work at a mine, all right. You a
"Engineer. For the summer."
The young man's voice carried the slightest bit of authority as he
corrected the misimpression, and Mr. Kaiser looked up and squinted
at him, taking in the cut of his clothes, which made it obvious that
Will was too fashionably dressed to be an ordinary miner. "You
somebody's son?" he asked.
Will appeared taken aback at the impertinence, but he replied
pleasantly enough, "Grandson. I'm William Spaulding. My
grandfather's Theodore Spaulding. He owns half of the Sharon."
"Owns mines up in Leadville and Summit County, too," Mr. Kaiser
added. Like everyone in the mountain towns, the shopkeeper was
caught up in the mining fever and was as sure of the names of
prominent investors as he was of those of his own customers. And
well he might be, because outside capital was the lifeblood of the
mining industry. Without development money, the gold and silver
deposits were all but useless. Theodore Spaulding was not only a man
of wealth but one respected in mining circles for his understanding
of ore bodies and extraction methods. That did not make his grandson
anything more than a trifler, however. "So you thought you'd see
what goes on underground, did you?"
"I've already seen what's underground. I have an engineering degree
so I know about mining, you see, at least theoretically. The old man
thought I ought to get some practical experience for the summer.
I've only just arrived."
"You'll get it." Now that he seemed satisfied about his customer's
identity, Mr. Kaiser returned to the list. "I reckon we got
everything you need." He moved around behind the counter, taking
down boxes and holding out shirts and pants for sizes. He told Will
to try on the heavy leather cap, then nodded, because the fit was
right. Then he handed the young man two pairs of boots and told him
to see which ones suited. Will sat down on a kitchen chair propped
against the cold pot-bellied stove and removed his fine shoes. He
clumped about on the floor in the stiff boots, and settled on one
pair. Then he set his shoes on the counter and said that with all
the mud on the streets, he might as well keep the boots on.
"Socks. You'll need plenty of them, because the Sharon floods, and
you don't want to get your feet wet. Worst thing there is, wet feet
in a mine. If the water doesn't rot your feet, it'll give you
pneumonia." Mr. Kaiser placed four pairs on top of the pile of
clothing. He checked the list again, then pulled a dark blue bandana
from a drawer and set it on top. "Present," he said.
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