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Street Team Book List excerpt - Surrender the Dawn by MaryLu Tyndall

Camy here: Here's another book I added to my Street Team book giveaway list! You can win this book by joining my Street Team--Click here for more info!

Surrender the Dawn by MaryLu Tyndallicon

When the war of 1812 robs Cassandra Channing of her father and brothers, she must find a way to support her mother and younger siblings without being forced to marry a man she does not love. Determined to remain independent, she hires a privateer, captained by the town rogue.

Tortured by guilt for his parents' death, Luke Heaton spends his time drinking and gambling. When Cassandra offers him enough money to fix up his ship, he sees an opportunity to redeem his reputation and help the lady he has loved from afar. Things go well until the British blackmail him into selling supplies to their ships. Still Luke cannot allow Cassandra's family to be tossed on the streets.

Cassandra has fallen in love with Luke. When she begins to suspect his nefarious activities, she is heartbroken. Hoping to prove her suspicions wrong, she sets out to catch him in the act. But what she doesn't expect is to get caught up in a massive British invasion.
When the entire British fleet heads toward Baltimore and begins to bombard Fort McHenry, lives, liberty, and the future of a nation are at stake. What destiny awaits the couple in one of the most decisive battles of the war?

Excerpt of chapter one:

Chapter 1

March 26, 1814 Merchants Coffee House, Baltimore, Maryland

“Miss Channing, no privateer in his right mind would consider a woman investor. It is simply bad luck.”

Raucous laughter—all male—shot through the tiny coffee shop that smelled more like ale and sweat than coffee.

Wrinkling her nose beneath the odor and bracing her heart against the mounting impediment to her well-laid plans, Cassandra rose from her seat, avoiding the cynical gazes fastened upon her. “That is merely a foolish superstition, Mr. McCulloch. I assure you, my money is as good as any man’s.”

Snickers and grins interspersed with the occasional salacious glance continued to fire her way. But Cassandra brushed them off as naught but excess chaff. After an hour of sitting in the muggy, male-dominated room, listening to various merchants selling shares for the equipping of their vessels into privateers, she had grown numb to the attention.

When the customs agent had finally announced eight shares offered at two-hundred dollars each for the equipping of a Letter of Marque, the Contradiction—a one-hundred-and-three ton schooner out of Dorchester, housing one long nine, ten men, and captained by Peter Pascal—Cassandra had raised her hand. With her one thousand dollars, she could purchase over half the shares rather than be one of many investors in a larger, better equipped ship. Owning more of a privateer meant higher returns. And she definitely was in dire need of higher returns.

Mr. McCulloch shoved his thumbs into the pockets of his trousers and shot Cassandra the same patronizing look her mother often gave her younger sisters when they failed to comprehend what she was saying. “Aye, your money is good, Miss Channing. It’s the mind behind the coin that begs concern.”

“How dare you, sir! Why you are no more. . .” Cassandra clutched her reticule close to her chest and shoved back the rest of her angry retort. “My money and my mind are equal to any man’s here.”

Again laughter pulsated through the room.

“It’s the comely exterior of that mind that I’m partial to,” one man yelled from the back, introducing yet another chorus of chuckles.

Cassandra narrowed her eyes and scanned the mob. Did these men honestly believe they were amusing? Most of them—with the exception of a few unsavory types loitering around the fringes of the assembly—were hard working merchants, bankers, shop owners, mill workers, and farmers. Men who often tipped their hat at her on the street. Her gaze locked with the wife of the coffee house proprietor, who was scrubbing a counter in the right corner. Sympathy poured from her eyes.

Mr. McCulloch scratched his head and gave a sigh of frustration. “A share in any privateer gives you a voice in its affairs. A business voice, miss. A voice that needs to be schooled in matters of financial investments and risk assessment.”

The men nodded and grunted in approval like a band of mindless lackeys.

Cassandra tapped her shoe on the wooden floor, the hollow echo thrumming her disdain through the room. “A mind like Mr. Nash’s here, I presume.” She gestured toward the gentleman standing to her right. “No offense sir”—she offered him a conciliatory smile—“I’m sure you have acquired a plethora of financial wisdom while shoeing horses all day.”

The low rumble of laughter that ensued was quickly squelched by a scowl from Mr. McCulloch.

“And Mr. Ackers.” She nodded toward the stout man sitting at the table next to hers. “Surely you have become a master of investment while out tilling your field?”

The proprietor’s wife emitted an unladylike chortle that drew all gazes her way. Her face reddening, she disappeared through a side door.

“Besides,” Cassandra huffed. “What business decisions need be made for a privateer already armed, captained, and ready to set sail?”

No reply came save the look of complete annoyance shadowing the customs agent’s face.

Cassandra pursed her lips. “Let me make this very easy for you, sir. You need investors, I have money to invest.” She clutched the silk reticule until her fingers ached. “I am not without good sense, and I assure you I will seek out advice from those more experienced should the need arrive.”

“We cannot trust that you will do so.”

“That is absurd!”

“Trouble is, miss, there’s not a man among us who’d be willing to partner with you.”

Nods of affirmation bobbed through a sea of heads.

“Is there no man here brave enough to stand with me?” Cassandra demanded.

The hiss of coals in the fireplace was her only reply.

Mr. McCulloch sifted through the stack of papers before him. “Perhaps we could allow you to invest a much smaller percentage in a privateer if you promise to forsake your voice in any decisions and if the other shareholders would agree to it.” He scanned the crowd with his beady eyes, but not a single gentleman spoke up.

Cassandra batted her gloved hand through the air. “I will not accept a smaller percentage, sir.”

“Then I fear we are at an impasse.” Mr. McCulloch plucked out a pocket watch, flipped it open and stared at it as if it contained the answer to ridding himself of her company. His gaze lifted to hers. “Miss, your father was a good man. I am sorry for your loss. But not even he would risk the bad luck that would surely come from aligning with a woman in any seafaring venture.”

Tears burned in Cassandra’s eyes, but she shoved them behind a shield of determination.

Mr. Parnell, a local worker at the flour mill, gave her a sympathetic smile.

“Perhaps you should marry, Miss Channing,” Mr. Kendrick, the young banker assisting Mr. McCulloch said. “A woman your age should not be unattached.” A wave of interested eyes flooded her. “Then with your husband’s signature, you may invest in whatever you wish.”

Cassandra’s blood boiled. She wouldn’t tell them that she had no intention of marrying any time soon, and certainly not for the sole purpose of investing in a privateer. “Any man I marry will allow me to do with my money as I see fit, sir.”

Again, a quiver of laughter assailed her.

Withdrawing a handkerchief from within his waistcoat, Mr. McCulloch dabbed at the sweat on his bald head. “If you don’t mind, Miss Channing, we have serious business to discuss.”

An angry flush heated Cassandra’s face, her neck, and stormed down her arms as a hundred unladylike retorts flirted with her tongue. Tightening her lips to keep them from escaping, she grabbed her cloak, turned and shoved her way through the crowd as the man began once again taking bids for the Contradiction.

Contradiction, indeed. This whole meeting was a contradiction of good sense.

After turning down more than one gentleman’s offer to walk her home, Cassandra stepped from the shop into a gust of chilled March wind that tore her bonnet from her hand and sent it tumbling down South Street. Frozen in place, she stared after it as if all her dreams blew away with it. Perhaps they had. Perhaps her dreams had been overtaken by the nightmare of this past year.

Yes, only a nightmare. And soon she would wake up and be comfortable and carefree as she once had been. And her country would not be at war. And her father would still be with her.

But as she watched the sun drag its last vestiges of light from the brick buildings, elm trees and the dirt street, her dreamlike state vanished. It would soon be dark, and she had a mile to traverse to reach her home.

Through a rather unsavory section of town.

Swinging her fur-lined cloak over her shoulders, she shoved her reticule tightly between her arm and body, pressed a wayward curl into her loosely pinned bun, and started down the street, nodding her greeting toward a passing couple, a single gentleman, and a group of militiamen as she went. The snap of reins, clomp of horse hooves, rattle of carriage wheels filled her ears as she wove between passing phaetons and horses. An icy breeze tore at her hair and fluttered the lace of her blue muslin gown. She drew her cloak tighter around her neck. A bell rang in the distance. A baby cried. Sordid chuckles, much like the type she’d just endured in the coffee house, blared from a tavern along Pratt Street. Was the entire town mocking her?

Up ahead, the bare masts of countless ships swayed into the darkening sky like thickets in a winter wind. Most were abandoned merchant ships. Some, however, were privateers, while others were merchantmen that had been issued Letters of Marque to board and confiscate enemy vessels—both forbidden investments to her.

Simply because she was a woman.

The briny scent of fish and salt curled her nose as she turned down Pratt Street. Dark water caressed the hulls of the ships like a lover luring them out to sea. Where they could damage British commerce and put an end to this horrendous war. But the blockade kept many of Baltimore’s finest vessels imprisoned in the harbor. Only the fastest privateers could slip past the fortress of British ships capping the mouth of the Chesapeake and only then, during inclement weather. The rest remained at sea, hauling their prizes to ports along the eastern seaboard where they sold them, along with the goods in their holds, for considerable sums of money.

Which was precisely why Cassandra must invest the money left to her by her father and brothers in a privateer. She patted the reticule containing the bank note for a thousand dollars—all the wealth her family had left in the world. Now what was she to do? Cassandra swallowed down a rising fear. Investing in a privateer had been her last hope. How else could a single woman with no skills provide for a family? Cassandra’s mother and sisters depended on her, and she had let them down.

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