Hello again! Today, I'm delighted to announce that the Kindle edition of my upcoming book What Wakes the Heart, Book 4 in my Cowbird Creek historical romance series, is available for preorder. (Getting it to that point was something of an achievement, given that I'm preparing to have outpatient surgery (hip replacement) and had my computer's video card stop communicating with my monitor as I was about to transfer all the proofreading changes to the working draft.)
I've already posted one excerpt from the book, an excerpt which introduced you all to Susannah, the female protagonist, trained to be a schoolteacher. Today's excerpt, from Chapter 2, lets you meet the male protagonist, Karol (called Carl by the residents of Cowbird Creek). He and his family are Polish Catholic immigrants. His sister, Bronka, is loosely based on my mother Bronia. (These are two forms of the same name, Bronislawa.)
Karol Marek, known to people in Cowbird Creek as Carl, decided that hauling sacks of flour for almost an hour was long enough for a break. He could stretch his back, at least. And the miller was deep in talk with two customers, their wagons already loaded, and wasn’t likely to argue about it.
Stretching felt so good that the relief was all he thought about until he was through. Then, as he was about to get back to work, some of the miller’s conversation caught Karol’s ear. What was that about a school? A new school just being built?
His first thought was that he might be able to pick up some of the construction work before and after mill hours. He and his father were the only ones bringing in money, and Bronka was growing out of her skirts and shoes.
Which led to his second thought, and it should have been the first. Bronka had always loved to read, even as a little girl. Not only storybooks, but books about history, about other countries, anything she could find in their grandfather’s library. She had been so grateful when he gave her a Polish translation of collected Shakespeare plays, fresh from the bookshop; and so afraid when it seemed the book might be too heavy for them to bring. Karol and his father had left their spare pairs of shoes behind, to make room.
Could Bronka go to this school? Would it be allowed — a girl, and a foreigner?
One of the customers talking to the miller was the doctor, who had a little girl of his own. Karol moved closer and listened harder. Dr. Gibbs was saying something about the school board, inviting the miller to join it. He would hardly be on the school board if his own daughter was kept out.
“Mayor Pomfrey has agreed to join us . . . .”
The doctor, the mayor, the miller . . . . Dr. Gibbs might not be rich — he dressed plain enough, except for his boots — but all of them were among the higher class in Cowbird Creek. Would the children of workers like Karol and his father be welcome?
Too, there was the question of Bronka’s English. It had got better, of course, in the five years since they arrived in America, but she spent most of her time at home with their mother, speaking nothing but Polish, and so she could not speak English as well as Karol could. On the other hand, going to school would give her the chance to get better.
He would talk to Mama about it when he got home. And now he’d better get back to hauling sacks.
Mama bustled about the kitchen, getting supper ready for Karol and his father. She and Bronka had eaten before either of the men arrived. Bronka had taken herself off somewhere, which made it a good time to tell his parents — in Polish, of course — about the school, and ask what they thought.
Papa stroked his beard as he listened, forgetting to eat. “Our Bronka would love to go to school. But we shouldn’t tell her about it until we’re sure she could go.”
“Eat, eat!” Mama hated to let food get cold, now that he and Papa had saved up enough to buy her a proper stove. “What does the girl need school for? I never had time for such a thing.”
Papa took a big bite, chewed it up, swallowed, and smiled fondly at her. “You wed me when you were fourteen, and had been telling your family for years before that you would marry me some day. But Bronka is not so much like either of us. She reminds me of your father, with all his books.”
A picture popped into Karol’s head of Bronka holding her big Shakespeare book, sitting in the easy chair and smoking their grandfather’s pipe. He choked back a laugh. Mama narrowed her eyes at him and said stubbornly, “She can worry about school when I’ve taught her everything she’ll need to know to take proper care of a husband and a house.”
“School?” Bronka burst into the room, waving the dishcloth she must have been mending. “There’s going to be a school? And girls can go to it? Oh, what a wonderful place we’ve come to!”
Karol put up his hands as if to hold back her eagerness. “They haven’t finished building it. They may not even have a teacher yet.”
Bronka ran around to where Papa sat and caught hold of his arm. “Please, please let me go to school! I’ll wait as patiently as ever you could ask, if I can only go when it opens.” She let go and spun around to face Mama. “And I’ll be so much help to you, before and after school, you won’t be sorry!”
Mama got that look that told Karol more than she realized about what it was like to be a parent — the worry and the love. “You’re already much help, córeczka. I just hope this school could be all you expect. So little in life turns out the way we expect it to.”
Papa grinned. “Marriage, for example, is much more annoying than anyone told Mama ahead of time.”
Mama reached over and swatted his knee.
Here's the cover again:
And here's my mother -- in an undated photo, but possibly at about Bronka's age.