With Very Little Left of the Family Farm, Lily May be Forced into a Loveless Marriage.
Captain McAlister “Mac” Albright has purchased land in the Shenandoah Valley. However, the land belongs to Lillyanna Laughlin—or so she erroneously thinks. Mac sets her straight and despite a poor start, the two become friends. . .if only he were financially stable to offer her more.
When Lily’s life is threatened and his whole future goes up in flames, Mac truly becomes a man without means, and Lily is forced to make the impossible choice between a loveless marriage with a man twice her age or the man who has shown her what true love could be. How can she choose between love and economic security? Her family is depending on her. Is her heart destined to break?
Journey into Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley of 1816 where a woman’s dreams and future happiness are on the line.
"I enjoyed every minute of this sweet, adventurous romance! Well-written, well-researched with great characters, an evil villain, and a romance guaranteed to stir your soul, you don't want to miss this one. The second half is full of twists and turns that will keep you turning pages until the end. Well done, Mrs. Boeshaar!"
MaryLu Tyndall, bestselling author of Legacy of the King's Pirates
More from My Heart Belongs in Series...
My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss: Priscilla's Reveille by Erica Vetsch (January 2017)
My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains: Carmella's Quandary by Susan Page Davis (March 2017)
My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca's Plight by Susanne Dietze (May 2017)
My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island: Maude's Mooring by Carrie Fancett Pagels (July 2017)
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About the Author
Meanwhile, Andrea continues to write. Her latest novels include Give Me Thine Heart, Love’s Guiding Light (Steeple View Publishing), both historical, and a contemporary novel, Her Hometown Heart (Pelican Book Group). In 2019, the long-awaited third installment in her Shenandoah Valley Saga will release.
For more information and to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website at andreaboeshaar.com. Find Andrea on Facebook: @Andrea.Boeshaar and follow Andrea on Twitter: @AndreaBoeshaar.
Read an Excerpt
Middletown, Virginia, 1816
So what do you think, Cap'n?"
McAlister Albright, "Mac" to most everyone except his sea-weathered former first mate, bit into one of the few ripe apples dangling on fruit-laden branches. The perfect mix of tart and sweet exploded in his mouth, tempting him to take a second bite. "I say, I've never eaten a better apple."
"Ha!" John Blake guffawed and clapped him on the back hard enough that Mac stumbled forward. "It's 'cuz ya own this here orchard now. You're a reg'lar landlubber; 'tis what you are."
"True enough, old man." Mac had parted ways with the sea — ever since the Second War of Independence, which had commenced four years ago.
But last year was the worst — a bitter war with those he loved in Alexandria.
A light breeze cooled the sudden perspiration on Mac's brow. The war was over. Besides, Father was counting on him to make something of himself — prove the gossips wrong — in this new land in the Shenandoah Valley.
Truth to tell, Blake suggested the same thing. Prove them wrong.
Mac took another bite of the apple and forced his thoughts to the sunshine-dappled lane flanked by fruit trees. But the treasure didn't end with the apples. His orchards included peach and cherry trees. To the east lay a sprawling wheat field and acres of corn. It had been a marvelous investment — and Mac hadn't even gotten to explore the southern part of his property on the other side of Cedar Creek.
"So where do ya plan ta build your house?"
"Not sure." Mac finished his apple and pitched the core just as a strange sound flitted to his ears. He halted. "Hear that, Blake?"
"A song. Someone's singing." The sound sailed to his ears on a soft, moist wind, drawing him like a siren's call.
"All I hear is these birds cacklin' overhead."
"No, not them." Mac continued following the melodious notes to the creek's bank.
"Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves ..."
Mac made out the words to the rich mezzo-soprano's song. He wasn't unfamiliar with opera, and his many years in religious schools allowed him to identify the song's words as coming from the Holy Scriptures.
"We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture."
The singer ended on a superbly pitched high note.
Mac moved aside a low-hanging tree branch, expecting to see a woman washing clothes or fishing. Instead, he got an eyeful of a bathing female — a shapely woman with golden hair. She stood beneath a canopy of trees in waist-high water with her back to him. Her damp, ivory skin glistened beneath filtered sunlight.
He swallowed hard. He should turn around immediately and make his presence known. That's what any gentleman would do — And then Mac recalled that Alexandria's affluent society would deny that he was a gentleman. Only Mary had believed the best of him.
And she was gone.
The woman in the creek disappeared underwater then resurfaced seconds later. Her wet hair clung to her bare shoulders. Finding her footing, she wrung out her golden tresses. He hadn't noticed the soap in her hand until now when she lathered up while continuing to sing. Her voice both drew and enveloped Mac. He couldn't recall ever hearing a voice so pure.
The nymph dove under the shallow water then glided through the creek with such grace and ease that he was tempted to believe all those mermaid tales sailors never tired of sharing.
Blake's footfalls crunched behind him. "What is it, Cap'n?"
He tore his gaze from the enchantress. "Nothing. Go back up to the orchard." He wasn't about to share his vision of loveliness, not even with his best friend.
"Nothin', you say?" Blake stared at him from beneath arched brows. "It's somethin'. I can tell by that look of longing on your face." He craned his neck. "It's a woman, I'd wager."
"Yes, and show some respect." Mac's conscience bellowed at his hypocrisy. But, alas, he'd done enough peeping for one day. "Madam, you are not alone in this orchard," he called over his shoulder.
His words were met with a startled little cry. "Sir, you are trespassing."
"So it is a woman, eh?" Blake snickered.
Mac gave his former first mate a shove toward the orchard.
"I demand you get off my property at once!" came the woman's voice.
"She demands, Cap'n." Blake snorted.
Wearing a grin of his own, Mac wondered if he'd heard a slight German accent in the woman's angry tone. "Madam, this is my property. I have the deed with me."
"You're a liar and a knave. Now please remove yourself from my land or I shall summon the authorities."
Blake broke into a chuckle, and Mac had to admit, the image of her fetching the authorities was amusing, especially given the state of her undress. He spotted her brown and beige print gown and the rest of her frippery slung over a low-hanging branch of a giant willow. A slight wind blew through the leaves and the wise old tree seemed to whisper a warning against any teasing.
Mac wondered at his prick of conscience, but he trusted his instincts. They'd helped him survive the war, after all. And perhaps the woman's jealous husband lurked nearby. The last thing Mac wanted to do was anger his neighbors.
"Sir, if you would please step away and allow me a bit of privacy ..." "Of course, madam."
"I'm not a madam. I'm a miss ... Miss Lilyanna Laughlin, and you're trespassing."
"So you've said." Mac thought her name sounded as mellifluous as her song. "I am Captain McAlister Albright. My friend and I shall await your presence some distance from the creek bank."
"Do not tarry on my account, sir. I would prefer that you return from whence you came. This is Laughlin land — land that my grandparents purchased decades ago and presented to my parents as a wedding gift."
Mac wasn't about to continue the shouting match. He'd wait until Miss Laughlin dressed.
"The lass has pluck," Blake said. "I'll give her that much."
Mac bit down on his back teeth. The matter no longer amused him. Did she really believe this was her land? As if in reply, he heard the rustle of nearby foliage, accompanied by angry mutters.
Blake plopped down beneath a tree and stretched out his burly but amazingly nimble frame. "We'll be waitin' here for some time, Cap'n. I feel it in m' bones, and you know my bones don' lie."
Mac plucked another apple and tossed it to Blake. "Gnaw on that for a while to help pass the time."
Blake grumbled, and Mac folded his arms across his chest. The old man had his faults, as Father aptly pointed out, but Blake had been the finest, most loyal first mate and friend Mac had ever known. And it wasn't as though Blake cheated at cards or stole another man's property. He simply enjoyed the rougher parts of Alexandria — the parts of town respectable folks stayed clear of.
"I hope you are keeping your distance, sir." Miss Laughlin's voice carried above nature's din of twittering birds and buzzing insects. Tree branches waved in a telltale sign of her progress. "I hope you are a man of your word."
"I am, miss." Mac leaned one shoulder against a tree trunk.
"If you can hear me, then you're too close. Move away at once."
Mac smirked. "I cannot see you, so your privacy is ensured."
"Bossy little thing, ain't she?" Bits of apple lodged in the corners of Blake's wide mouth. A spark of amusement lit his blue eyes.
As usual his friend spoke Mac's very thoughts.
Blake snorted a laugh. "Methinks the afternoon just got more interesting, Cap'n. What say you?"
Mac cast a glance toward the swishing green shrubbery. "I say we will have to wait and see."
Lily's hands shook so badly that she fumbled with her shift and her drawers. What was that man doing here, on her property, and just how much of her midafternoon bath had he witnessed? She pulled her petticoat over her head and managed to secure it in the back. Her shoulders ached from her attempt at weeding the wheat field this morning. Some help her younger brothers had been, the scamps.
Despite her damp legs, Lily managed to roll up her thigh-high stockings and secure them. She yanked her simple gown over her head then tied complementing ribbon around its high waist.
She lifted Papa's pistol from the rock on which she'd set it. She readied it just in case she'd need to use it. She knew how to shoot. Papa had taught her when she was just fourteen in case the British tried to possess their lovely Haus am Bach — house by the creek.
At last Lily felt ready to greet her trespassers. Except for her hair. Her fingers fumbled through her thick locks as she tried to pin it up, but since she'd forgotten her comb there wasn't much hope for the tangled mass.
Using the worn and familiar rooted path, she easily made her way up the creek bank. She peeked around a willow's wide trunk and spied two men loitering beneath her apple trees. One was plainly attired and seated in the grass, a leather satchel and two straw top hats beside him. Even in repose, he looked as short as he was wide. His shaggy gray hair hung nearly to his shoulders, and he appeared to have the whole world etched on his face.
The other gent looked younger, and Lily guessed he couldn't be more than nine and twenty. His jet-black curls were fashionably short, and neatly trimmed dark whiskers extended from above his ears to halfway down his jaw. Broad shoulders shifted beneath an ivory shirt with its voluminous sleeves and typical necktie. A suede vest stretched across the expanse of his chest. He sported no frockcoat, so his expertly tailored buckskin breeches revealed narrow hips and well-toned legs. On his feet he wore tall black boots. Quite the handsome dandy, although a brooder, judging by the deep set V of his swarthy brows.
Slowly, Lily stepped out of the brush. A twig snapped beneath her slipper and both men swung around as if to nab her. She gasped and raised her pistol, aiming at the younger man's midsection. Papa had taught her to aim low so she'd strike high. With any luck, she might hit her present target in the throat.
Both men's eyes widened, the younger man's shining like her brothers' ebony marbles.
"No need for that weapon, Miss Laughlin," the dark-haired man stated.
"And how am I to believe that when you're spying on me and just now scared me half to death?"
"We weren't spyin', lass." The older man sprang to his feet. "We just happened to hear you singin' and got curious, is all."
Lily worked her lower lip between her teeth. She had been singing — and at the top of her lungs. Besides, the pair didn't resemble vagabonds. Their clothes were much too fine.
"It's the truth, Miss Laughlin."
Lily recognized his deep, smooth, and quite sincere-sounding voice. He was, indeed, the captain.
"Lass, we don't mean you any harm," the older man said. "If we did, we could've done it already."
He had a point, but Lily took her time lowering the pistol just in case they weren't truthful. "Why are you on my property, and what must a girl do to make you leave?"
"Shootin' us is one way, I s'pose." The older man snorted and a smile stretched across his leathery face.
"Do not give her ideas, Blake." The captain glowered. "It was I at whom she pointed her weapon. I didn't survive the war only to be felled on my own property."
"But this is not your property, sir. It belongs to my family and me."
His gaze slid back to her. "I'm afraid you're mistaken, miss. I purchased this land weeks ago."
"So you are Captain Albright?"
"I am." He gave her a sweeping bow that, in another place and time, she might have deemed most charming. "And this is my swashbuckling friend, Mr. John Blake."
"A pleasure, miss."
"Likewise." Lily looked from one man to the other.
"If you'll permit me ..." The captain pointed to the leather pouch. "I will produce the deed and clear up this unfortunate misunderstanding."
"Unfortunate for whom?" Lily narrowed her gaze and thought she saw a hint of a smile curve the captain's lips.
He slowly stepped sideways, extracted folded documents from the satchel, and strode toward her. He stopped only inches away, and his leathery, musky scent wafted to Lily's nose. He unfurled the papers with a snap.
"See here, Miss Laughlin." He pointed to the inked words and then proceeded to read them to her.
"I can read the deed for myself." Lily snatched the documents from his grasp and read the first page. She used her right wrist to assist in turning the page and the two men hit the ground.
Lily glanced at her pistol. "Begging your pardons, sirs. I forgot I was still in possession of my weapon."
Captain Albright stood. "Allow me, Miss Laughlin." He eased the gun from her fingers. After uncocking it, he set it near her feet. If she wasn't mistaken, he exhaled a relieved-sounding sigh before brushing the dried leaves and dirt from his breeches.
Once more, Lily gave the deed her full attention. It was filled with complicated jargon that she didn't completely understand, except for the last page. Captain McAlister Albright's name was printed and titled "Purchaser." His signature was scratched above it. And the seller?
Lily sucked in a breath and coughed when more than just air filled her lungs. "It can't be ..."
However, there was no mistaking the name. Silas Everett.
"It's my signature," the captain said. "I can prove it."
"No, it's not your signature I'm disbelieving. It's Mr. Everett's." Lily stared at the man's name. He'd been Papa's closest friend, and for the past nine months he'd looked after her, her two younger brothers, and Aunt Hilda, just to make certain they wanted for nothing.
So how could he sell their home with nary a word?
He couldn't have!
Lily looked up into the captain's dark eyes. "Mr. Everett doesn't own this property, so he can hardly sell it."
"Pray, who owns it then?" Frown lines creased the captain's sunbronzed forehead.
"Why, my father owns it, sir."
The captain surveyed the land around him. "Where is he, that we may settle this matter?"
Lily's mouth went dry. Her lips moved, but the words seemed stuck in her throat. Her knees threatened to buckle as reality hit.
"Out with it, lass," Mr. Blake chided. "We haven't got all day. Why, it'll be nightfall —"
The captain silenced his chum by simply lifting one hand. "Miss Laughlin?" His voice sounded less potent. "Where is your father?"
Tears blurred her vision. "He's dead, sir. Died suddenly some nine months ago."
"Leaving only you?"
"My two brothers, my aunt, and me." Lily teetered and the captain cupped her elbow.
"I'm sorry for your loss, Miss Laughlin, truly I am. But I presume that your father named Mr. Everett as executor or guardian and, thus, Mr. Everett had every right to sell the property to me."
"Yes, I suppose he did." Papa had left no will, so the magistrate had appointed Mr. Everett. It only made sense, as Mr. Everett was Papa's trusted friend. "I see that I have been a silly little fool."
"No, no ... it was a misunderstanding." The captain's voice caressed her.
"How very gracious you are, Captain, considering my rudeness." Lily scooped up her pistol. She wouldn't need it. The captain and his comrade posed no threat. "You will want my family and me to move out of our house immediately, I presume." She licked her lips and tipped her head.
"But might you give us time to find somewhere to go?"
"Are you referring to the limestone manor across the meadow?" The captain indicated the northeast corner of the acreage.
"Yes, sir, I am."
"Well, see?" Captain McAlister's countenance brightened at least two shades. "Good fortune is smiling on us both. I don't own the manor. If you'll walk with me, I will show you the property lines."
She gave a nod while relief spiraled down inside of her. Haus am Bach remained in their possession.
The question was, for how long?
So that's the situation," Lily explained while Aunt Hilda pounded a lump of dough into submission. "We'll have no crops this year."
"And what will we eat? Our shoes?" A streak of flour dusted the older woman's cheek, and Lily gently brushed it away. It seemed like Aunt Hilda had lived here forever, even though she'd moved in only a decade ago, after Uncle Thomas succumbed to his weak heart.
"Speaking of food," Lily began, "I've invited our new neighbor and his comrade to take supper with us."
"You invited strangers?"
"Not strangers, Aunt Hilda. Our new neighbor." And a very handsome new neighbor at that.
Excerpted from "My Heart Belongs in the Shenandoah Valley"
Copyright © 2017 Andrea Boeshaar.
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.
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