Here is the Prologue of “Unless A Love Be Free”. After this “taste”, you will be able to see what some readers have said after reading the entire novel.
Atlantic Ocean, 1794
“Don’t panic. Strong and steady….”
McKenzie whispered the words as she struggled to maintain her footing on the crowded ladder. Panicked people clawed their way past her, pushing anyone who hesitated out of their way. Smoke burned her nose and throat. She felt the fire’s heat. Two rungs from the top, someone grabbed her from behind, forcing her back. Heart pounding, she turned. A disheveled man with fear-streaked eyes held her arm.
“I can’t find Wills.” His hands tightened about her waist. “McKenzie, I can’t find my son!”
“Come.” She pushed him ahead up the remaining rungs, holding onto his jacket so they would not be separated. “We’ll find him.”
The deck was in pandemonium. Milling passengers crowded against the rail, fear alive in faces lit by the glow of fire. Ship’s officers shouted orders; their voices competing with cries of passengers separated from loved ones. Now and again, a prayer lifted above the chaos.
Behind the cacophony of sounds came the crackle of burning wood. Flames engulfed the quarterdeck. Sparks rode the wind into the sails. Sailors on the ratlines were helpless against the small fires eating away at sailcloth just out of their reach.
“Go forward,” William shouted. “I’ll look aft.”
McKenzie nodded. She’d barely gone ten paces when the world erupted with a roar. The deck beneath her feet shook and heaved. A wall of hot air, more mighty than anything she’d ever felt, rushed her from behind, lifting her off her feet. She screamed, clutching at anything, nothing, as she hurtled over the rail, fire and debris all around her.
She hit the water hard. Cold, cold water. In the silence beneath the surface, she felt, rather than heard, an explosion. Disoriented in the dark water, she forced her eyes open and let what little breath remained escape. She followed the bubbles, battling her way to the surface.
The world was fire and screaming. The Gravis collapsed in on itself, masts and sails crumbled onto the decks, becoming one massive wall of fire. Gunpowder barrels stored aft, ignited and blew. The ship rose out of the water, returning to the sea in a thousand burning pieces.
McKenzie dove beneath the water as debris rained down, kicking as hard as she could away from the hell above her. When her lungs could stand it no longer, she pushed to the surface, fighting down panic as she scanned the dark waters for rescue. Two figures huddled in a small boat a short distance away. Willing strength to her arms, she swam toward them.
One stroke, one stroke more. Think of the children.
Reaching the boat, but too cold and exhausted to pull her arms above the water, she appealed to the figures. “H-help me.”
“God in Heaven, here’s a woman!”
Her face and chest scraped against rough wood as hands pulled her from the water.
* * *
McKenzie awoke to sobs. A young man in a midshipman’s blue jacket cradled the limp body of another boy in his arms. Gently, he cleaned blood from the others chin.
“Is there something. . . ?” she asked quietly.
The sailor shook his head; his hand passed slowly over his companion’s eyes, transforming untimely death to peaceful sleep.
“He saved us,” the young man whispered. “D-Devlin’s the one what spotted this boat and s-saw you in the water.”
McKenzie took the young man’s hands in hers. They were cold, despite the heat. His fingers curled around hers.
“Mr. Devlin deserves a special prayer.”
“Aye, ma’am,” he hiccuped a sob. “Then I’ll lay him to rest.”
“What is your name, sir?”
“Midshipman Bishop, ma’am. Your servant.”
Holding hands, they prayed; for the dead, the living, the lost; then Bishop sent his friend’s body into the sea.
Shock and sorrow filled that first day. The sun was relentless. It burned through McKenzie’s clothes; its reflection on the water blinded her.
By the second day, thirst replaced all but prayer. McKenzie’s skin felt stretched, tight. Her lips were swollen and cracked. Her thoughts grew confused. Faces appeared. Who were they? Each time she tried to sort it out, her thirst or the pounding heat distracted her. At those times, she would softly call Bishop’s name or touch his hand. His faint squeeze of her fingers reassured her.
As the sun set on the third day, Bishop no longer responded.
I will die alone.
Despair brought her up, frantically searching the sea. It stretched silent and empty before her. The faces returned, this time with fleeting memories: her daughter’s first steps, her mother’s laugh, a man’s blue eyes.
She heard his voice as if his lips brushed her ear. Longing welled inside her. For years, she had denied her heart full memory of him. Could she remember now? She must. She would will back every moment and be with him again.
McKenzie followed her heart back to George Island, losing herself in eyes the color of the sea, eyes telling her of his love. Whispering his name, she felt strong arms come around her.
She was no longer alone.
What people are saying about Unless A Love Be Free:5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful story, May 5, 2013This review is from: Unless A Love Be Free (Paperback)
I am especially happy when I read a debut novel and find a treasure. This book is one of them. Many plot twists and surprises…I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next. I had a hard time putting this one down. The characters were all strong characters and very well written. The story is one of betrayal, and redemptive love…a love that overcomes all obstacles and lasts a lifetime. Very well done, indeed. I hope to read more from this author.5.0 out of 5 stars unless a love be free, April 24, 2013This review is from: Unless A Love Be Free (Paperback)
i started to read the book and could not put it down. a wonderful love story and a great setting. the writer was so explicit with her description of the countryside that i felt i was there. wonderful writer, wonderful story. can’t wait for the sequel4.0 out of 5 stars Helps Time Flies, March 28, 2013This review is from: Unless A Love Be Free (Paperback)
On vacation at Disney World and just finished reading this book. Carried it around with me to read while in line or while my kids were on rides. Got to the point that I wanted a 60 minute wait time so I could get back to the story of McKenzie and the pirate Garrick Stuart. Kept my attention to the very end.1 of 1 people found the following review helpful5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this story, March 2, 2013This review is from: Unless A Love Be Free (Kindle Edition)
Well deserving my 5 stars. Not a boring moment in this book. Loved the romance, loved the adventure. The hero and heroine’s characters had a lot of depth. I was so enthralled that the housework was neglected and the family just had to wait till I finished Mackenzie and Stuart’s story before they got their dinner. I recommend this big hearted tale!!5.0 out of 5 stars More than a Romance Novel, February 19, 2013This review is from: Unless A Love Be Free (Paperback)
This is one of the most intelligent novels in the romance genre that I have encountered. In fact, even the hero and heroine are among the most intelligent I have encountered. The plot takes unexpected twists and the historical authenticity is pretty darned amazing. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen…something different does! You can’t read it without rooting for the two you want to come together…forever.4.0 out of 5 stars Quite a surprise, January 15, 2013This review is from: Unless A Love Be Free (Kindle Edition)
This book started slow for me but I have to say I grew to love it and the complex characters. I will be looking for other books by the author.5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious, January 5, 2013This review is from: Unless A Love Be Free (Paperback)
Devour or savor? That is the question for reading “Unless a Love Be Free”. From page one, this book sucks you into the story of McKenzie and Garrick. I was torn between racing through the story and wanting to keep the book as a treasure on the horizon to continue to look forward to reading. This is a fast-paced story that pulls you along so it was hard for me to restrain myself from reading it all at once. There are delightful details in the book that provide a good picture of life in the late 1700’s. The characters are well-defined with wonderful voices providing again a picture of both the characters and the times, “They must b’long to the ‘usban! . . . Little chit is keepin’ silent bout ‘im is she? Waitin’ fer us ta be surprised. Well, ‘e’ll be the one what gets surprised when ‘e gets ‘ome!” This is no formula book and you will enjoy the story, the characters and what appears to be well researched tidbits to give real flavor to the story. Don’t let this wonderful book go unread.