Tuesday 21 May 2024

The Coffee Pot Book club presents: Lost Women of Mill Street by Kinley Bryan

Book Title: The Lost Women of Mill Street

Series: n/a

Author: Kinley Bryan

Publication Date: May 7, 2024

Publisher: Blue Mug Press

Page Count: 300

Genre: Historical Fiction

Follow the Tour : https://thecoffeepotbookclub.blogspot.com/2024/03/blog-tour-the-lost-women-of-mill-street-by-kinley-bryan.html 

The Lost Women of Mill Street

by Kinley Bryan

1864: As Sherman’s army marches toward Atlanta, a cotton mill commandeered by the Confederacy lies in its path. Inside the mill, Clara Douglas weaves cloth and watches over her sister Kitty, waiting for the day her fiancé returns from the West.

When Sherman’s troops destroy the mill, Clara’s plans to start a new life in Nebraska are threatened. Branded as traitors by the Federals, Clara, Kitty, and countless others are exiled to a desolate refugee prison hundreds of miles from home.

Cut off from all they've ever known, Clara clings to hope while grappling with doubts about her fiancé’s ambitions and the unsettling truths surrounding his absence. As the days pass, the sisters find themselves thrust onto the foreign streets of Cincinnati, a city teeming with uncertainty and hostility. She must summon reserves of courage, ingenuity, and strength she didn’t know she had if they are to survive in an unfamiliar, unwelcoming land.

Inspired by true events of the Civil War, The Lost Women of Mill Street is a vividly drawn novel about the bonds of sisterhood, the strength of women, and the repercussions of war on individual lives.

Read an Excerpt 

Clara found her place at her looms at Ivy Woolen Mill, and as she waited for the bell, she regarded the women and girls around her. Some appeared nervous and quiet. Others seemed unbothered as they chatted and laughed in small clusters. Temperance was looking at her. Clara turned around to avoid her glare.

The bell sounded and they took their places, and the machines whirred into motion with a roar.

Clara tended to her looms, replacing bobbins as they ran out of weft, her thoughts on the advancing army. Hours passed, and gray wool cloth formed on the looms before her, and then it happened: The bell tolled, far too early to signal the noonday break. 

A warning bell.

The blood rushed from Clara’s hands. This was it. At first, the overseer kept the looms running, so Clara and the other weavers kept at their work. But not long after the bell tolled, a noise reverberated from somewhere outside, layered on top of the din and tremble of the power looms.

Clara regarded the others; her own wonderment reflected in their faces.

Seconds later, several doffer boys from the spinning room rushed in, shouting and pointing toward the river. A new scent mingled with the oil and sweat: woodsmoke. Clara exchanged a look with the woman across the aisle. She’d smelled it too. The overseer hurried down a long aisle toward the stairwell. The looms were still running. He returned moments later, his expression inscrutable.

Clara was anxious to see for herself what the doffers had witnessed. The machines kept running, and though she risked reprobation, she left her place and hurried to the stairwell. Several others crowded around her at the window. She let out a cry, and her hand flew to her mouth. Even though she’d suspected what it was, still it was hard to believe the sight.

Flames consumed the covered bridge. Even at this distance, the heat warmed her face. Large planks fell to the river with an unholy crash and sizzle.

A soldier in blue ran past Ivy Mill toward the bridge. The sight of Union troops was like the realization of a dream. More soldiers followed, racing down the road from town toward the river.

The Union soldiers yelled and pointed their guns across the river. On the far bank, the Roswell Battalion fired back.

“Get back inside!” the guard shouted to several doffer boys who’d run outside for a closer look at the fighting.

The day had taken on a dreamlike quality. Their mills and this sleepy town, this isolated place of hard work and no small amount of suffering, had become a battlefield. After three long years, the war had found Roswell.

Universal Buy Link: 

Kinley Bryan's debut novel, Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury, inspired by the Great Lakes Storm of 1913 and her own family history, won the 2022 Publishers Weekly Selfies Award for adult fiction. An Ohio native, she lives in South Carolina with her husband and three children. The Lost Women of Mill Street is her second novel.

Author Links:

Website: https://kinleybryan.com/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kinleybauthor 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KinleyBryanWrites 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kinleybryanauthor/ 

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kinley-bryan 

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Kinley-Bryan/author/B09J5GWDLX 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21892910.Kinley_Bryan 

Monday 20 May 2024

A Memory of Murder: A Fabulous New Jan Christopher Mystery by Helen Hollick


by Helen Hollick

A Memory of Murder – a new cosy murder mystery to solve –  along with library assistant Jan Christopher, her fiancé, Detective Sergeant Laurie Walker and her uncle, Detective Chief Inspector Toby Christopher.

Set in the 1970s this easy read cosy mystery series is based around the years when Helen was a north-east London library assistant, using many of her remembered anecdotes, some hilarious – like the boy who wanted a book on Copper Knickers. (You’ll have to read the first book, A Mirror Murder to find out more!)

The mysteries alternate between Jan’s hometown, and where Laurie’s parents live – North Devon, (where Helen now lives.)

In this fifth episode, there’s a missing girl, annoying decorators, circus performers, and a wanna-be rock star to deal with. But who remembers the brutal, cold case murder of a policeman?
Easter 1973.

The North London library where Jan Christopher works is in upheaval because the decorators are in to spruce the place up, but there is more for her policeman uncle, DCI Toby Christopher and her fiancé, DS Laurie Walker, to worry about than a few inconvenient pots of paint.

An eleven-year-old girl has not returned home after school, and strange ‘gifts’ are being surreptitiously left for the detective chief inspector’s family to find. Could these items have anything to do with the unsolved murder, fifteen years ago, of Jan’s policeman father?

Buy Link:

(e-book available for pre-order: published on 18th May –  paperback release to follow)
Or order from any bookstore (cheaper on Amazon)

About the Author 

First accepted for traditional publication in 1993, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/supernatural series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She has also branched out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her Jan Christopher Mysteries, set in the 1970s.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She is currently writing about the ghosts of North Devon for Amberley Press, and another, Jamaica Gold, for her Sea Witch Voyages.

She lives with her family in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon with their dogs and cats, while on the farm there are showjumper horses, fat Exmoor ponies, an elderly Welsh pony, geese, ducks and  hens. And several resident ghosts.

Blog: promoting good authors & good reads

Friday 17 May 2024

The Coffee Pot Book Club Blog Tour presents: Autumn and the Silver Moon Stallion by V P Felmlee

Book Title: Autumn and The Silver Moon Stallion

Series: Book 3, The Abandoned Trilogy

Author: V P Felmlee

Publication Date: November, 2023

Publisher: TCS Publishing

Page Length: 280

Genre: Young Adult / New Adult Fiction

Twitter Handle: @lilhistorian @cathiedunn

Instagram Handle: @thecoffeepotbookclub

Tour Schedule Page: 

Autumn and The Silver Moon Stallion

V P Felmlee


An abused, neglected filly is abandoned on a remote country road, left to die.  A young woman grieves the loss of her best friend, the champion horse she had built  her life and future around.  The heir to one of the largest ranches in Wyoming comes home to face the ire and disappointment of his grandfather.  A world-renown scientist clashes with the U.S. government over a brutal, decades-long war to decide the fate of thousands of  mustangs, a beloved icon of  the American West.  Autumn and The Silver Moon Stallion is their story of love, hatred, and death.  Will their struggles give them hope to fight for their beliefs, or tear them forever apart?

Read an Excerpt 

As one, Becky, Autumn, and Silver Moon looked up just in time to see a tower of water coming over the top of the canyon, right towards them.

Autumn turned to run.

Becky turned to run.

Silver Moon was still coming down the trail, watched as waves hit the ground, then rose up like a living thing several feet in the air before crashing down first on Autumn then on the girl. 

More water was coming from above, splashing and crashing, ramming its way from canyon wall to canyon wall, shoving anything in its way forward, relentless and unstoppable.

Without thinking, Silver Moon jumped in.

Becky looked back, trying to see Autumn, swallowing ice-cold water in the process. She spat it out, then saw the palomino struggling to get her footing. The water was too deep, and was forcing them along at an incomprehensible speed. 

Becky grasped a large boulder. She couldn't hold on to it. Her body banged against an outcrop, driving the air from her lungs.

I have to watch where I'm going, she thought, don't look back, look forward.

The filly was trying hard to get to Becky, who was just ahead of her. The water pushed her against the canyon walls, forcing her to one side, then another. Instinct took over, her legs began to move. I have to keep my head up.

She was now whale-eyed, growing more terrified with each second. She couldn't avoid the boulders and slammed into them time and again.

She began to panic.

Silver Moon was strong and big but he was almost no match for the churning maelstrom the canyon had become.

Just ahead, he saw Autumn losing the fight to keep her head up. He saw her disappear, briefly emerge, then disappear.

This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited. 

Universal Buy Link

V P Felmlee is the author of The Abandoned Trilogy: Price Tadpole & Princess Clara; Good Boy Ben; and the third book in the series, Autumn and the Silver Moon Stallion. A former newspaper reporter and editor, she has a degree in geology, and has been active in historic preservation and animal welfare issues. Her articles have appeared in several magazines and she has won numerous awards. 

She will be the 2025 president of Women Writing the West and lives in Grand Junction, Colorado, with her husband, two dogs, and six cats.

Author Links:

Website: www.vfauthor.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lilhistorian 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vicki.felmlee.7 

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/stores/V-P-Felmlee/author/B0BQJKNSKJ 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/23381045.V_P_Felmlee 

Wednesday 15 May 2024

The Coffee Pot Blog Tours present: Their Castilian Orphan by Anna Belfrage

Book Title: Their Castilian Orphan

Series: The Castilian Series

Author: Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: 23 March 2024

Publisher: Timelight Press

Page Count: approx. 400

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romantic Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

Tour Schedule Page: 

Their Castilian Orphan

by Anna Belfrage

It is 1294 and Eustace de Lamont is back in England after five years in exile. He will stop at nothing to ruin Robert FitzStephan and his wife, Noor d’Outremer.

Robert’s half brother, Eustace de Lamont, has not mellowed during his absence. He is more ruthless than ever, and this time he targets Robert’s and Noor’s foster son, Lionel.

Lionel is serving King Edward as a page when Eustace appears at court. Not only does Lionel become the horrified witness to Eustace’s violent streak, Eustace also starts voicing his suspicions about Lionel’s parentage. The truth about Lionel’s heritage is explosive—should King Edward find out, all would be lost for Robert and Noor.

In October of 1294, Wales rises in rebellion. Robert must leave his family unprotected to fight the Welsh rebels on the king’s behalf, comforted only by the fact that Eustace too is called to fight.

Except that Eustace has no intention of allowing his duty to his king—or a mere rebellion—come between him and his desire to destroy Robert FitzStephan . . .

This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

Universal buy link: 

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with three absorbing interests: history, romance and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. Anna has just released the final instalment, Their Castilian Orphan, in her other medieval series, The Castilian Saga ,which is set against the conquest of Wales. She has recently released Times of Turmoil, a sequel to her time travel romance, The Whirlpools of Time, and is now considering just how to wiggle out of setting the next book in that series in Peter the Great’s Russia, as her characters are demanding. . .

All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Reader’s Favorite medals as well as having won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.

“A master storyteller” 

“This is what all historical fiction should be like. Superb.”

Find out more about Anna, her books and enjoy her eclectic historical blog on her website, www.annabelfrage.com  

Sign up to Anna’s newsletter to keep up with new releases, give-ways and other fun stuff: http://eepurl.com/cjgatT

Website: www.annabelfrage.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/abelfrageauthor

Bluesky: https://bsky.app/profile/abelfrageauthor.bsky.social

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annabelfrageauthor

Instagram: https://instagram.com/annabelfrageauthor

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/anna-belfrage

Amazon Author Page: http://Author.to/ABG

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6449528.Anna_Belfrage

Friday 26 April 2024

Henry VIII and the Break from Rome


Henry VIII and the Break with Rome

Judith Arnopp

There are many unanswered questions about the Tudors but probably the most asked is ‘What makes the Tudors so fascinating?’ It could be that they are seldom out of the media. There are numerous films, shows, documentaries, books, articles, websites but there seems to be no definitive answer to their appeal. We have portraits (as discussed in my previous blog which can be read here), we have records of their actions, some good, many bad. We can visit their palaces, see surviving fragments of their clothing, pieces of furniture; examples of their handwriting, craft work, letters. We even have the wreck of Henry’s favourite flag ship. So, all this considered, we should know just about all there is to know about them.  But we don’t, or perhaps it would be better to say, we don’t know as much about them as we would like.

Everyone is an expert when it comes to the Tudors (myself included). We think we know them because we can recognise their faces, count off the names of Henry’s wives on our fingers, and tentatively find our way through the complexities of the Reformation. I am often asked questions about the Tudors that are impossible to answer but the most elusive of all are: ‘What made them tick?’ 'How did their minds work?' What did they think and why did they think it? My favourite question received this week is ‘What did Henry VIII really feel when he broke with Rome?’ I've  been thinking about it ever since but it is one of those questions we can never really answer. Henry is so many things to so many people. A monster, a bigot, a bully ... I could go on but I prefer to try to be objective.

The distance between the Renaissance and the world we know today is unfathomable; even the most astute of us can never begin to really understand the workings of the Tudor mind. Religion today is, in comparison, lax. Few of us are ruled by the teachings of the church as they were then. People of the period, even kings, lived by the dictates of religion; the hours of the day were divided by bells calling them to prayer, the months were marked by feast and saint’s days. Even their diet and sex life was ruled by the church. I don’t believe we can even begin to realise the magnitude of Henry’s break with Rome or the effect it had on society, or more importantly for the purposes of this blog, the impact it had on Henry himself.

In becoming God’s representative on Earth in place of the Pope, Henry must have feared deep down that he was in fact taking one step closer to hell rather than Heaven. His deep-seated Catholic upbringing taught that the Pope was unassailable; snubbing Rome was tantamount to snubbing God himself. Henry was stubborn, he refused the directives of the Pope yet, secretly, he must have trembled. Against his religious scruple, and despite the fact that he found many facets of continental reform troublesome, he was convinced by those eager for reform that a break with Rome was the only way to secure his dynasty. To convince the people, he allowed a bible to be printed, in the vernacular.

The Great Bible issued in 1539 was the first to be printed in English and we have only to turn to the frontispiece to see the change that has taken place. Gone is Christ in majesty; He is rather rudely ousted to the top margins of the page where He whispers God’s word into the King Henry’s ear. Henry, seated just below him, passes on the word of God.

The king is holding two copies of the scriptures, he gives one into the keeping of Cranmer and one into the hands of Cromwell, who in turn pass the word to the clergy and laymen, and so on to the masses (some of whom seem to be in gaol). Comic style speech bubbles give voice to the proceedings, ‘Vivat Rex’ they cry, ‘God save the King,’ praising Henry who is now the main conduit of the word of God.

Copies of this Bible were sent to parishes across the country and Thomas Cromwell ordered one to be placed in every church in England, a crucial tool in the campaign to subliminally persuade the nation of Royal Supremacy and to follow the dictates of their king.

This frontispiece is often used as an example of Henry’s megalomania yet although it was undoubtedly designed to flatter him, he had little to do with it other than to sanction its publication. It was designed by Myles Coverdale working under commission of Thomas Cromwell, whose agenda was to promote reformation and flatter his king.

Henry took his role of Christian King seriously; he was a theologian, the one-time Defender of the Faith, a title conferred on him by Pope Leo X for a pamphlet Henry wrote against Martin Luther. Yet the lesson imprinted on him by his father, Henry VII, on the importance of heirs seems to have obliterated his religious teaching. When the Pope refused to countenance Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Henry was cornered. He believed he had to marry Anne Boleyn and secure the Tudor dynasty by getting himself an heir. The Pope’s refusal to favour Henry’s suit made the break with Rome inevitable.

Many, many innocent people died for their refusal to follow Henry’s dictates, his quest for a son with Anne failed, and the subsequent marriage to Jane Seymour bore fruit but she died shortly after bearing him a son. Even having obtained his heir Henry could not forget the untimely death of his elder brother, Arthur, a death that made Henry heir to the throne. Terrified that history would repeat itself, Henry never gave up hope of more sons but, although the king married a further three times, Edward was his last child.

Contrary to the belief of many, Henry never abandoned Catholicism. After the break with Rome he became head of the Catholic Church in England, a reformed church, that dispensed with the Pope and the monastic institutions that rivalled his magnificence in England. Henry maintained his Catholic beliefs to the end and died in the faith. Protestantism was not established in England until the reign of Henry’s much cherished son, King Edward VI. It is my belief that Henry was not eager for reform. it was Catherine he really wanted to be rid of, not Rome but the Pope left him no choice. Had the marriage to Catherine of Aragon been annulled the reformation would never have taken place during Henry's reign but the wave of religious change in Europe was unstoppable and it would have come sooner or later, with or without Henry.

Illustrations from  Wikimedia commons 

You can read more about the break from Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries in The Henrician Chronicle and Sisters of Arden. Click on the link for more information:


Monday 22 April 2024

The Coffee Pot Book Club presents: A Splendid Defiance by Stella Riley

Book Title:  A Splendid Defiance

Series:  Roundheads & Cavaliers

Author:  Stella Riley

Publication Date: 6th December 2012

Publisher:  Stella Riley

Page Length:  371 pages

Genre:  Historical Fiction / Historical Romance

Special Tour Price: Ebook £1.95 / US $1.95 (and equivalent) for the duration of the tour!

Tour Schedule Page: 

A Splendid Defiance

Stella Riley 

Audiobook performed by Alex Wyndham


For two years England has been in the grip of Civil War.  In Banbury, Oxfordshire, the Cavaliers hold the Castle, the Roundheads want it back and the town is full of zealous Puritans.

Consequently, the gulf between Captain Justin Ambrose and Abigail Radford, the sister of a fanatically religious shopkeeper, ought to be unbridgeable.

The key to both the fate of the Castle and that of Justin and Abigail lies in defiance.  But will it be enough?

A Splendid Defiance is a dramatic and enchanting story of forbidden love, set against the turmoil and anguish of the English Civil War.

Enjoy an excerpt 

Abby storms the castle

Considering that he had left his bed to dress hurriedly and come straight downstairs, the Captain’s room was remarkably tidy. A lot tidier, thought Abigail, with a faintly shocked sideways glance, than he was himself. It was also larger than she had expected, being situated at the top of the south-east turret and reached by means of a narrow spiral stair.

I shouldn’t be here, thought Abigail, in sudden panic.  Jonas will kill me if he finds out.

Justin deposited his sword in a corner.  Then, turning to pull the bedclothes into some semblance of order, he told her to sit down and demanded again to be informed what she wanted of him.

Abigail hovered and hesitated.

‘For God’s sake!’ exclaimed Justin, dropping irritably upon the bed and regarding her with acute disfavour.  ‘Sit down and stop being coy.  I’m not in the mood for it.’

She obeyed him rather quickly.  ‘I’m sorry.’

‘Don’t be sorry.  Just come to the point.’

His tone made this difficult but she did her best.

‘It’s my brother.  He was arrested in the Market Place this afternoon – but he didn’t do anything.  I mean, he wasn’t involved in the fighting in the way that others were.  So I came to ask you to please let him come home.’

Comprehension dawned slowly and the blurred gaze registered astonishment.

‘You mean he was taken for rioting?  No, no.  It’s too good to be true.’

Abigail stiffened.  ‘I’m afraid I don’t find it funny.’

The dark brows soared and his reply was deliberately blighting. 

‘My dear child, I’d be amazed if the members of your household found anything funny.  Quite apart from your religious persuasion, your appalling brother and his sour-faced wife are enough to kill anyone’s sense of humour.  However.  If you’ve hauled me out of bed just to ask a favour for Jonas, I can only say that your nerve outstrips your intelligence.  To put it bluntly, I don’t care if he rots.’

Abigail dissected this remarkable speech before brushing it aside.

‘What has Jonas to do with it?  It isn’t him you’ve got.’  And then, staring at him, ‘Is that what you thought?’

‘Not being on intimate terms with your entire family, what else was I to think?’ he asked acidly.  ‘Well?’

‘I’m sorry.  I thought you’d realise …’ She paused.  ‘If it was Jonas, I wouldn’t be here.’

‘And I am supposed to know that because …?’  Captain Ambrose leaned back, brooding on her over folded arms. ‘Mistress Radford.  My patience, as you may have noticed, is extremely limited and diminishing by the second. Will you please tell me, in plain language, just who the hell it is you came to rescue?’

Universal Buy Link:  https://books2read.com/u/bPzVNd

Winner of four gold medals for historical romance and sixteen Book Readers’ Appreciation Medallions, Stella Riley lives in the beautiful medieval town of Sandwich in Kent.

 She is fascinated by the English Civil Wars and has written six books set in that period. These, like the 7 book Rockliffe series, the Brandon Brothers trilogy and, most recently The Shadow Earl, are all available in audio, performed by Alex Wyndham.

Stella enjoys travel, reading, theatre, Baroque music and playing the harpsichord.  She also has a fondness for men with long hair - hence her 17th and 18th century heroes.

Author Links:

Website: https://stellarileybooks.co.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RileyStella

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stellariley.books

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/stellarileybooks/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/riley9631/stella-riley-books/

Book Bub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/stella-riley

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stella-Riley/e/B0034PB7UU/ 

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40487661-a-splendid-defiance

Monday 15 April 2024

The Coffee pot Book Club Blog Tour is pleased to present: Yellow Bird's Song by Heather Miller

Book Title: Yellow Bird’s Song

Series: n/a

Author: Heather Miller

Publication Date: March 19th, 2024

Publisher: Historium Press

Pages: 370

Genre: Historical Fiction, Native American Studies, Western, Biography

Tour Schedule Page: 

Yellow Bird’s Song


Heather Miller 

Rollin Ridge, a mercurial figure in this tribal tale, makes a fateful decision in 1850, leaving his family behind to escape the gallows after avenging his father and grandfather’s brutal assassinations. With sin and grief packed in his saddlebags, he and his brothers head west in pursuit of California gold, embarking on a journey marked by hardship and revelation. Through letters sent home, Rollin uncovers the unrelenting legacy of his father’s sins, an emotional odyssey that delves deep into his Cherokee history.

The narrative’s frame transports readers to the years 1827-1835, where Rollin’s parents, Cherokee John Ridge and his white wife, Sarah, stumble upon a web of illicit slave running, horse theft, and whiskey dealings across Cherokee territory. Driven by a desire to end these inhumane crimes and defy the powerful pressures of Georgia and President Andrew Jackson, John Ridge takes a bold step by running for the position of Principal Chief, challenging the incumbent, Chief John Ross. The Ridges face a heart-wrenching decision: to stand against discrimination, resist the forces of land greed, and remain on their people’s ancestral land, or to sign a treaty that would uproot an entire nation, along with their family.

A excerpt from Yellow Bird’s Song

John Rollin Ridge, Cherokee Nation West, 1850

The evening’s red sky horizon stretched its wide arms behind Judge Kell’s dogtrot, extending into the dust. A dead tree stood as an ineffectual sentry between his corn crib and smokehouse, visible through the open-framed breezeway. I salivated, smelling pork fat lingering in the air. No longer able to afford to slaughter hogs, my family could only recall bacon’s salty taste. 

Inside the paddock, my appy lay on his side. Castration’s fresh blood tainted his coat of bronze and cream. Blood gathered under his hind quarters. If Kell had cut his femoral, he’d die from blood loss. That horse was Dick’s grandson, the pony I begged Papa to bring west from Running Waters.

The porch door squeaked, then slammed behind him. Kell expected me. He rolled tobacco in paper, sealing it closed with his tongue. His eyes squinted from the western prairie’s sunlight sliding low behind me. 

He struck a phosphorus match against the porch post, lit the end of the rolled tobacco, held it in his lips, tilted his head to the side, and inhaled. Through smoke, he said, “Look at you, Rollin, standing on my land like some Mexican bandit. I believe your post is south of here.” Kell’s sarcasm snarled like poisoned saliva foaming from the jaw of a rabid dog.

“I’m in the right place,” I said, more confidently than I felt, flying on vindication’s wind alone.

“That is where you and I agree. Not much else, but that singular point.” 

He sauntered, with spotless leather boots, to the edge of the steps extending into the western dirt, just dust over the granite under Indian land.

I nodded left toward his painted paddock fence. “Kell, you take my Appaloosa stallion? His markings are unmistakable.”  

Kell gestured with his smoking hand, pointing the two fingers toward my injured animal. “You mean that gelding?”

“Who made him so?”3

“I did and am willing to stand by my deeds with my life.4 Found him in pastureland. Horse bucked and rammed me. Without balls, he’ll settle right down.”

“As a judge, you should know Cherokee don’t own open tribal land. No reason he should be here.”

Judge Kell gripped his porch rail but remained atop its planks on the high ground. Then, his unoccupied, dominant hand recognized his bowie knife’s handle, sheathed, and slung low on his hip. He said, “Can testify to nothing.”

His lies didn’t dampen my resolve. I saw through him. We both knew the real reason I was there. I shouted, “My sister can.”

He leaned against his porch post with carefree nonchalance. “The deaf and dumb sister? I don’t know what that feeble-minded woman could mean.”

I touched the leather strap of Clarinda’s whistle around my neck. “She doesn’t need to speak to witness. She is a medicine woman.” Then I separated my boots, furthering my stance against the inevitable explosion of powder and ball from the iron under my palm.

Kell scoffed. “Then remind me to stay well. That woman’s a witch.”

Wouldn’t be illness that killed him. I couldn’t allow Kell’s wit to move me to fire first, no matter what insults he hurled at my sister. To make justice legal, Kell must first try to take my life, although that didn’t mean I couldn’t provoke the inevitable.

I matched his sarcasm. “Now isn’t the time to insult my family. Come down off that porch. Clarinda and Skili followed you, saw what you did. You’ve cost me far more than future foals. That blade in your grip took my father’s life.”

I spoke the Cherokee words fast, having memorized their phrases from a thousand daydreams. Still, this time, the words echoed in the abandoned cave of my chest with heavier resonance—measuring the phrase’s increased weight by speech.

He spoke his smug reply through smoke. “Your father’s signature on that treaty stole nearly four thousand Cherokee souls. So, I believe, son, both that horse and your father,” he smiled before finishing his thought, “got what they deserved.”

“According to whom? Your justice? Chief Ross’? It’s his bloody hands you’re hiding.”

Kell pulled a rogue piece of tobacco off his tongue with his thumb and pointer finger. “See now, truth rests in each man’s perception. Your father knew that, at least.”

“Papa understood Cherokee sovereignty could not exist in the East. My family stood in the way of Chief Ross’ greed; Ross sent you to kill him for it.”

Kell’s searing sarcasm furthered his attempt at intimidation. He shook his head, clicking his tongue. “By accusing Chief Ross of such crimes, you make a steep accusation for a raven so young.” But then, his snide tone became more cynical. “Your family received lawful Cherokee blood vengeance. So’s I heard.”

It wasn’t only his voice; every crack of bare earth mocked me. But what he didn’t know, what the ground couldn’t predict, was that this time, his blood would run. Cherokee Nation’s rocky soil would soak in it, dilute him in its groundwater, and spit his remnants through every winding river and well. 

Kell offered an aside, turning his face from me. “You’re still breathing.” He looked back, continuing his threat with closed-tooth menace. “When this knife reaches you, that’ll end. How ironic—” He stopped short, mid-thought, and exhaled a chuckle before inhaling again from his lit tobacco. His eyes looked at me from my worn boots to my mother’s pale eyes. 

I finished the sentiment on his behalf, “That the same knife would assassinate a father and murder his son? Admit your part. You were there in ‘39; the same knife hangs at your side.”

Kell unsheathed and admired the blade in his hand as if he hadn’t seen his distorted reflection in it for years. “She’s a beautiful weapon, don’t you think? Buckhorn handle. Metal inside the bone. Streamlined and strong. Son, this weapon ended many a man’s life with its peaceful vengeance.” 

I barked, “Vengeance is a fickle whore. She strains her rulings through a sieve she calls morality, leaving behind rocks and politics. Justice’s bullet is fair and fast. Even blindfolded, her shooter doesn’t have to stand close to hit where he’s aiming.”

Years ago, the image of Kell’s bowie knife forged in my mind. Its craftsman burned the bone handle with the image of an arrowhead—no shaft, no flight feathers—only a killing point. Kell’s knife required wind and aim, powered by his quick reach, and forged will. My twelve-year-old eyes remembered his blade. At twenty-two, my memory dripped in images of Papa’s blood.

Impatient and blinded by the reddening dusk, Kell spoke with vigorous staccato, hefting his significant weight down the stairs. “Take your thumb off that trigger, boy, before you start a war.” Then, with sight restored, he dirtied his spotless boots, kicking a wandering rat snake slithering between us, seaming a dividing line in prairie dust.

I shook my head in disgust. “War began ten years ago. Your whiskey breath is as rancid as your soul. I can smell it stronger now.” I studied his smirk, offering my own in exchange. “Stinks so bad, I thought someone died.”

Kell and I stood in paradox: I, in the shadow of a tree, him in the dying sunlight. His age to my youth, wealth to my poverty, appointment to my banishment, and vengeful intent opposing my righteous confidence.  

He cocked his head and smirked, glanced over to my horse, and crushed the remnants of his smoke into the dust. “You think this will end with you? Cousin Stand leading your teenage brothers and Boudinot’s boy against my grown sons and Chief Ross’ men in some unsanctioned feud? The few against the many?” 

“No, justice ends with me. If you approach, you will lose your life.”5 I wouldn’t retreat from his taunts, knowing them for what they were. If Cousin Stand and I took down Chief Ross, it wouldn’t be a feud; it would escalate an already brewing Cherokee civil war.

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As a veteran English teacher and college professor, Heather has spent nearly thirty years teaching her students the author’s craft. Now, with empty nest time on her hands, she’s writing herself, transcribing lost voices in American’s history.

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