Hello everyone! Hope you’re continuing to enjoy the summer and are staying safe wherever you are. As you may be aware, I’ve a new release coming soon! In anticipation for the finale of The Abcynians series, complete with an epic showdown, I thought it would be fun to introduce you to Mary Campbell and Isabelle Patterson, both widows who become best friends and are united in providing a safe home or place to work for women in the West. Readers of the series may remember meeting Mary in Scandalous, The Abcynians Book IV, as she was introduced as an Abcynian Guard and upstairs maid for the Duke and Duchess of Arrington, but ended up becoming an integral member of the Blakemore family when Nicholas and Regan adopted her. At the time, she was a teenager, but she’d caught Valiant Montgomery’s eye way and he left England to do right by her and search for his missing father. Ninety-five years later, she has a teenage son and runs a boarding house and a newspaper in Dare, Arizona.

Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Isabelle became vehemently opposed to slavery and took to donning men’s clothing to help those who were enslaved to escape to the North. After some adversity and the loss of her husband to a debilitating illness, she moved to Dare to look after her brother and sister. She’s also turned Gabriel Blakemore’s world upside down.

To learn more about Mary and Izzy, check out an excerpt:

To Mary Campbell, winters in Dare reminded her of early spring in Boston. Tonight, it felt like summer, as she was busy in her sister-in-law’s kitchen baking a groaning cake, something she’d sworn she would never do when her sister Hannah was born. Back then, her mother had been the Duchess of Arrington and the expectations of her had placed both her and the baby in life-threatening danger.

Thankfully, Papa saved them, but the joy of her sister’s birth was tragically followed by unprecedented losses for Abcynian kind, forcing them to flee to America where they’d learned to endure, press on, live, and love.

In her case, she’d married Major William H. Campbell, a Union hero and fellow Abolitionist. Thinking on it now, she would like to say her wedding day was as joyful as the birth of their only son, but her husband left the house for another’s bed thereafter, and she knew their marriage had been a lie. A truth she’d never told anyone except her best friend.

“What the devil?” Izzy called out, stomping into the kitchen as if Mary had conjured her out of thin air. Turning, she found her friend in a tan cotton shirt, blue denim pants, scuffed boots, a sun-bleached Stetson, and a long, brown leather coat that she could’ve taken from her oldest brother’s closet.

“Izzy! So glad you’ve come. Did you bring Ginny and Jack with you?”

“They’re in the barn with Will,” she said, removing her coat, hat, and gun belt before spinning a chair backwards and taking a seat, her arms across the top rail for support. “Why are you baking while Sarah’s having a baby?”

Grinning, Mary lent back against the dry sink. “It became a family custom when my sister Hannah was born.” No sooner than she’d explained, a terrible cry broke overhead, along with threats to Michael’s manhood. 

“Good God, if labor sounds that bad to us, how difficult is it for her?” Izzy asked, the worry on her face palpable.

“Giving birth was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but having Will, watching him grow from a newborn to the young man he is becoming has been worth it.”

“All I know is that my brother’s lucky to have Will as his best friend. Wish he’d take a moment to realize Ginny’s pining for him. If he did, maybe it’d be enough to keep Wyatt Powell from tipping his hat to my sister the next time he comes to town.”

“Michael and Pembrook spoke to him the last time that happened. I don’t think it’ll be an issue anymore.”

“Maybe so, but if he tries anything more with my sister, I’ll use my shotgun.”

“And I’ll be right beside you if he does.”

“What kind of cake did you make? It smells as good as your pigheaded big brother whenever he comes to town to play faro.”

“You think Gabriel smells like fruitcake?” Mary asked, laughing. “Wait until he learns that.”

“Don’t you dare tell him, Mary! I mean it.”

“As your friend, I can do nothing more than honor your wish. Still, I suspect it’s the spiced rum and cinnamon that reminds you of him. I’m curious, Izzy. Do you ever hear his voice, here?” Tapping her temple, she waited to see her answer.

“You mean like your gift with mirrors and ghosts?”

“Yes.”

“Once, I could’ve sworn I heard him say he wanted to dunk me in a water trough when I’d ridden by him on Gypsy. As I’d been in a hurry to fetch the doctor, I didn’t need the reminder that I smelled like a privy.”

“You did not!” Mary objected.

“I was branding cattle when Ginny fell out of a tree and hit her head!” Izzy contended. “There wasn’t time to wash or put a saddle on my mare.”

“Did you tell Gabriel about your sister?”

“No, dealing with him is like barkin’ at a knot. How long does labor take, anyway?” Izzy asked, as Sarah continued to cry.

“Every woman is different. When I delivered Will, I’d had contractions for most of the day and didn’t give birth until three in the morning. Sarah, on the other hand, delivered Caleb a few hours after her water broke and Abigail was born two weeks earlier than expected while she and Michael were having dinner at Silverwood. Didn’t even wait for Dr. Hastings to reach the ranch house.”

“Hell, remind me of that when Gabriel comes home. Where is he, anyway?”

“Sailing with my dad’s business partner, Adrian Montgomery. They’re searching for his older brother, Valiant.”

“Valiant? Were his parents as fond of reading stories about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as I was as a kid?”

“Not that I’m aware of, but his name does seem gallant, doesn’t it?”

“I can picture him around that giant table with Galahad and Lancelot, whom I used to pen stories about when I still believed in fairy tales. I tell you true, I’ve been thinking about writing again.”

“You should, Izzy. Maybe we can work together to publish them. I’ve got the printing press and we can talk to Mr. Hopkins about selling them in the general store or we can offer them alongside newspapers.”

“You amaze me.”

“I do? Why?”

“We both know that your husband dishonored your marriage repeatedly. Except for the night we emptied a bottle of wine and bared our souls, I’ve never heard you speak ill of anyone, not even Wyatt Powell.”

“Believe me, William’s sins were many, as I am certain Wyatt’s are, but getting angry doesn’t assure that my son has a roof over his head and clothes on his back.”

“That makes sense,” Izzy replied. “I do wonder what Valiant meant to you, my friend. I’ve never seen you light up the way you did when you said his name.”

“He was my first love. My only love,” Mary revealed.

“You must tell me more,” her friend urged, her green eyes flashing with curiosity. 

“When we first met, I was very young and naïve, yet to me, he was beautiful, with a crown of long wavy golden-blond hair, eyes like an amber sky, his skin golden, as if touched by sun gods.”

“Damn, kinda reminds me of someone, save for the color of his eyes.”

“Gabriel, maybe?”

Izzy dropped one of her arms to the table, wrapping the wood with her knuckles. “He’s a burr under my saddle who likes to roar at me!”

“Gabriel roared? Aloud or in your mind?”

“I’m not sure. It sounded very much like that white tiger that was part of the circus that came to Dare last summer.”

“Izzy, do me a favor,” Mary suggested. “If you ever hear him in your mind again, reply in kind.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’ve told you of my Abcynian ancestry, right?”

“You and your family came to America due to religious persecution, much like the Quakers or Pilgrims.”

“That’s right, but Abcynians have certain gifts, including mind-to-mind conversations that no one else is aware of. I suspect you and Gabriel share this gift.”

“Can I threaten to dunk him in the stream for staying away for so long?”

“Try offering an olive branch and see where it leads, instead.”

“Can’t promise anything other than I’ll try to be nicer. Come, tell me more about Valiant Montgomery, please,” Izzy urged, tapping the chair next to her.

“Oh, Izzy, he was everything to me very quickly, but he was the equivalent of a crown prince,” Mary said, crossing the room to take a seat, trying her best not to flush as she had when she’d first met Valiant.

“A prince? What happened to him?” Izzy inquired. Her concern genuine.

“Valiant received word that his sisters and their husbands were in danger and his father had gone missing. As the King’s heir apparent, he’d done the honorable thing by going to his family’s aid, only to disappear himself.”

“Like hell. Why?”

“The simplest explanation is a longstanding feud between the Abcynians and the Saturians.”

“Were Saturians like you and your family?”

“Similar, yes.”

“Might I ask how long Valiant’s been gone?”

“Since Hannah was born.”

“Twenty-five years?” Izzy pronounced, surprised.

More like ninety-five, but that’d be a little much to explain while Sarah was in labor upstairs.

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