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Interview and excerpt - THE BARTERED BRIDE by Erica Vetsch

Captain's Log, Stardate 11.12.2009

Aside from the fact she’s an excellent category coordinator for me for the ACFW Genesis contest, Erica is one of the nicest people I know! And today I get to feature an excerpt of her debut novel!

The Bartered Bride
by
Erica Vetsch


Duluth, Minnesota in 1905 boasts more millionaires than any other U.S. city. Tycoon Abraham Kennebrae intends to marry his grandsons off to three of the wealthiest heiresses in town and allow Kennebrae Shipping to gain control of Duluth Harbor.

Tempests rage, in the board room, the ball room, and on treacherous Lake Superior. Will hearts and helms survive? Will God prove Himself sovereign over wind, waves, and weddings?

Jonathan Kennebrae, oldest of the three Kennebrae brothers, finds himself backed into a corner. Marry heiress Melissa Brooke or lose his own considerable inheritance. Can he find a legitimate reason to avoid the wedding and still keep his fortune? But as the wedding day approaches, does he want to escape?

Melissa Brooke, only heir to her father’s empire, is bartered by her parents into a marriage contract to a man she’s never met. Can she trust him with her deepest secret? Can she trust him with her heart?

Excerpt of chapter one:

Chapter One

“The idea’s preposterous, and I’ll have nothing to do with it.”
Jonathan Kennebrae bolted from his chair and stalked across
the office. “You won’t manipulate me like this. And I doubt
Noah or Eli will go along with the scheme either.”

His grandfather, Abraham Kennebrae, sat ramrod straight
behind the walnut desk. For a man confined to an invalid
chair these past eight years, his voice still rang with authority
and vigor. “I’ve spent a lifetime building up this family’s
fortune and power, and I want to die knowing it will continue.
If not through you, then through your brothers. The best
way to ensure this is to marry you boys off well. You act as if
contracted marriage was something new. It’s been going on
for centuries.”

Jonathan clasped his hands behind his back under his
coattails and stared out the window of Grandfather’s library.
Two acres of emerald grass stretched below to the shoreline.
Lake Superior spread before him, cobalt blue under an
azure sky. The Lady Genevieve, the family yacht named for
his grandmother, bobbed gently along the dock beside the
boathouse. Her white hull gleamed, her mast pointed to the
cloudless heavens. He wished he stood at her wheel, skimming
over the waves, away from this incredible conversation.

“It’s all arranged, Jonathan. Three weddings, three sound
marriages, and the consolidation of four of the wealthiest
families in Duluth. And not only that, but it brings together
under one name all you need to control every aspect of this
harbor: shipping, grain, ore, and lumber.”

Jonathan turned and leaned against the windowsill. The
morning sun fell through the stained glass of the upper
windows, shattering rainbows on the Persian rug. He crossed
his ankles, trying to appear casual. “All arranged? You and
your cronies have everything mapped out? And Noah, Eli,
and I have no say? Have you decided who is to marry whom,
or were you just going to have us draw straws?”

His jaw ached, and the pain between his eyebrows increased.
An image of Grandfather and his bewhiskered, cigar-smoking
circle of friends bending over charts and arguing the relative
merits of their offspring wavered before his eyes. “I have no
intention of marrying an empty-headed showpiece chosen
by you. Are your grandsons no more than pawns to be
shuffled about at your command? Whose idea was this?” His
throat ached with the desire to yell, but years of training and
deference to the man before him kept his voice controlled.
“Now, lad”—Grandfather made a dismissing motion—“you
make it sound worse than it is.”

“I don’t see how that’s possible. I feel like a horse at auction.
Did you sell us to the highest bidders?” Sarcasm dripped out,
laced with exasperation.

Grandfather wagged a gnarled finger. “Don’t take that tone
with me. I’m still the head of this household. I made a sound
business decision for this family. You’ll accede to my wishes in
this. You’re nearly thirty. It’s past time you were married and
setting up your household. As a member of the aristocracy of
this city and this state, you have an obligation to marry well.”

“Shades of the Four Hundred.” Jonathan jammed his hands
into his pockets. “This is 1905, and your ideas are outdated.
This isn’t New York City. It’s Duluth. I’m not marrying
someone so I can be invited to better parties and promenade
through Newport every afternoon during ‘The Season.’ And
I’m certainly not interested in any female who wishes to
marry for those reasons either.”

“You couldn’t be further from the truth. You aren’t marrying
into the salons of Fifth Avenue. You’re marrying to gain
control of the harbor.” He waved his hand in a sweeping
motion toward the lake. “Control that harbor, and you control
millions of dollars. Control millions, and you control the
politicians in St. Paul and Washington. Control St. Paul
and Washington, and you control the power to make more
millions. Don’t you see it?”

“What if I don’t want to control the harbor? What if I’m
content with what I have: a solid business with an excellent
reputation and a sound financial base?”

“Then you’re a fool. You’ll have wasted everything I’ve spent
my life building up. Now is the time to strike. Of the four
richest families in Duluth, I’m the only one with male heirs.
Lawrence Brooke, Phillip Michaels, and Radcliffe Zahn have
only daughters. And don’t forget, a marriage to Lawrence
Brooke’s daughter brings not just the grain docks in the harbor
but the railroad that hauls the grain from the Dakotas, too.”

Jonathan ran his hand over his hair. “You still haven’t convinced
me. I don’t even know these women. Why would I
want to marry any of them?”

Grandfather thumped the blotter. “Stop being obtuse. I’ll
make it as plain as possible. You will court and marry the
daughter of Lawrence Brooke, you will gain control of the grain
docks in Duluth harbor, and you will do so before Christmas.”

“Before Christmas? That’s impossible. Christmas is less
than three months away. Isn’t that a bit quick?”

“Poppycock. I see no reason to wait. Waiting only increases
the chances that something will go wrong. We must act now.
You, as the eldest, will set an example for your brothers. The
twins will fall in line. And it isn’t as if the young women won’t
receive the benefits of a sound match. Wealth, status, security,
influence. What more could a woman want?”

Jonathan snorted. “I’m no expert on the female mind. I have
no idea what they want. But what happens if I don’t do as you
say? Or what if the woman won’t have me?”

“I will disinherit you without so much as a blink.” Grandfather
regarded him with glittering eyes. “I will leave my
fortune only to those grandsons who do my bidding. Those
who will not, receive nothing. I’ve already rewritten my will to
reflect the changes.”

Anger replaced the exasperation and unbelief in Jonathan’s
chest. “You cannot be serious.”

“I’ve never been more serious in my life.” Grandfather
narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips, causing his wiry sidewhiskers
to bristle out like a badger. “Do you care to challenge
me? The will stands as long as the girl is legally free and
morally acceptable for you to wed.”

Jonathan’s mind raced, and his muscles tensed. How dare
that old reprobate? Kennebrae Shipping was his. He’d run
the company, chaired the board, and overseen the day-to-day
operations for the past eight years. He, not Grandfather, had
expanded the fleet, brokered new contracts, enticed investors.
The company was his life. He’d be dead before he’d let anyone
take it from him.

A knock sounded on the library door. The butler entered,
a silver tray in his hand. “This just arrived for you, sir.” He
extended the salver toward Grandfather.

The old man took an envelope from it and turned it in his
hands.

“Will there be a reply, sir? The gentleman who delivered it
is waiting.”

Grandfather picked up his letter opener. He slit the heavy
cream envelope and read, satisfaction spreading over his face.
His fingers drummed the desktop.

Jonathan paced between the marble fireplace and the glassfront
bookcases. Grandfather’s words were no idle threat.
He’d disinherit Jonathan without so much as a by-your-leave
should Jonathan cross him. He had seen it in the old man’s
eyes. Galling, that’s what it was. To have a bride chosen for
him based upon her wealth and connections. And worse, to be
chosen as a husband based on his.

Grandfather leaned forward and uncapped the silver
inkwell. He dipped his ebony pen in the liquid and scratched
a few words on the card. “McKay, give the gentleman this.”

“Very good, sir.”

The door had barely closed before Jonathan whirled from
contemplating the oil painting over the mantel. “Do Noah
and Eli know about this?”

“No, of course not. I’ll tell Noah when he returns to the
harbor, and I’ll tell Eli when he returns from Virginia.
Though why Eli can’t learn shipbuilding right here in Duluth
is beyond me.”

“He wanted to learn from the best, and the best shipbuilders
are on the East Coast.” Jonathan rubbed his palm against the
back of his neck. How could he get out of this? His strides
measured the room.

“Will you stop pacing like a caged wolf? You’d think I was
asking you to go to the gallows.” Grandfather backed his chair
and wheeled it around the edge of the desk. A blanket covered
his stick-thin legs from hips to ankles.

Jonathan sagged onto the horsehair settee. “From what I
can tell, marriage and hanging have a lot in common. The
man ends up dangling from the end of a string either way.”

Grandfather chuckled then shook his head. “Where’d you
get an idea like that? Your grandmother, God rest her soul,
was a fine woman.”

“What about my parents? To hear you talk, they couldn’t
be in the same room without bloodshed. How they wound up
with three sons is beyond me.”

Sadness lined Grandfather’s face. “Your parents were both
high-strung. Always convinced the other was being a fool. But
they loved each other, in their own way. I thought they’d settle
down eventually. It’s a shame you never got to know them.
Your father couldn’t live without her. The carriage accident
was a mercy. He was never the same after your mother died.
And neither were you, though you were only four at the time.”

“I have no real memories of my parents, only their portraits
in the drawing room.”

“Those were your grandmother’s idea. Had them painted
from their engagement pictures. Thought it might be nice for
you boys to have them.”

Jonathan took note of the nostalgic look in Grandfather’s
eyes. If he could just keep him talking about old times, about
Grandmother, perhaps he would forget this nonsense about
marriage.

“She was a saint. And what she ever saw in an old boot like
you, I’ll never know.”

“Hah! That’s just what her parents said when I came
courting. Never thought I’d amount to anything. But I
showed them. Built up the biggest shipping line on the Great
Lakes and built Kennebrae House for your grandmother, too.
Nothing was too good for her.”

“She deserved every one of the fifty-five rooms for putting
up with you.”

“Well, your new wife will, too.”

Jonathan blew out a breath. So much for getting Grandfather
off the subject. “I haven’t agreed to this madness. Anyway,
I think you’re assuming a lot. I haven’t even met this Miss
Brooke. We might not suit one another at all.”

“You’re both young and rich. You’ll suit one another just
fine. How do you feel about music?”

“What?”

“I asked how you felt about music. An evening of music
and fine food.”

What kind of sidetrack was this? Jonathan put his guard
firmly up.

The old man had a gleam in his eye, an unholy sparkle that
boded no good.

“You mean one of those parties where the hostess shoves
her daughter onstage, and the poor girl scrapes away at some
writhing violin concerto or pounds out a tortured nocturne on
the piano while the audience tries not to wince or die from
boredom? And at dinner they make up compliments over
dried-out chicken and pasty potatoes until they can make a
graceful escape?”

“I hope it isn’t as bad as you describe.”

“What are you hatching?”

“The note that came earlier. It was an invitation to Castlebrooke.
Mrs. Brooke is having an evening of music and refreshments
tonight. I sent the reply that both of us would
be delighted to attend. And you’ll have ample time to study
your bride-to-be. She’ll be the one performing the tortured
nocturnes.”


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And now, here's me and Erica!

If your heroine were a candy, what would she be and why?

Chocolate covered cherry. She's like her peers on the outside (society debutante, heir to a fortune) but inside there is a surprise. She's passionate about her cause, and willing to risk her social standing to further it.

If your hero was a car (in present day) what would he be and why?

A Land Rover...an expensive one. He's got classic lines, doesn't come cheap, but he's tough enough to get the job done.

What's your favorite scene from the book?

The scene where Jonathan discovers what Melissa's secret is, and he's torn about what to do with the knowledge.

What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

That quite often, we pray things for other people, that God will change them, that He will make them see reason, when it is ourselves who are blinded and in need of change.

What is your favorite dessert and why?

Maple Nut Blondie from Applebee's. I've never had it anywhere else, and it's just so yummy!

You're off the hotseat. Any parting words?

Thank you so much, Camy, for having me here. It's been a blast!

Camy here: Thanks so much for being here, Erica!

Comments

  1. Ahhhh....a Land Rover. I can see this. Cute interview :D

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great interview, the book sounds great too!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good morning, Camy and all!

    Thank you, Camy, for having me here. I'm getting excited about another Genesis contest. Last year was fun AND educational. I can't wait to see which category(categories?) I get this year.

    ReplyDelete

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