The Cost of Atonement
Book 2 in the Cost of Love Series
Can’t a lady dedicate her life to serving others without the encumbrance of a husband?
A year ago, Virginia’s closest friend was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Since, then she has dedicated her life to the abolitionist efforts and fighting for change in America. But when an opportunity to be a Conductor comes wrapped in the condition of marriage, Virginia finds herself giving in to the one thing she swore she’d never do- after all, even if society frowns upon it, separation is always an option.
Only, as time goes on, she finds the though of leaving the marriage less and less appealing…
Charles remembered her the moment he saw her. The feisty young woman who had demanded he dance with her at a party the year before. Only now she wants nothing to do with him. That is, until she realizes he can make an opportunity she’s dying to have a reality. Yes, he is allowing her to use him, but Charles has plans of his own- which don’t include letting her go.
In the midst of a country immersed in Civil War, can two people entangled in a marriage of convenience find the grace and forgiveness needed for real love?
I truly enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it to Historical Romance lovers! Worth the read!
Looking forward to reading the next book in the series!!
~5 star reader review
If you are looking for a good romance book with just the right sprinkling of mystery, I recommend The Cost of Atonement.
~5 star reader review
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Enjoy this excerpt
The Cost of Atonement
New York City, March 1862
Roasted duck. Virginia tensed the moment the delicious aroma reached her nostrils. She slowly opened the door of the cozy brownstone she and her father shared. Eyes searching and ears straining to listen, she attempted to find the source of the problem. Roasted duck with a side of garlic rosemary potatoes and fresh green beans was her favorite meal. Mrs. Josephine, their cook, only made it when she knew something horrible was about to happen and Virginia would need the solace of a comforting meal.
Virginia closed the front door as delicately as possible, pausing every so often when the treacherous hinges squealed in protest. She scanned the narrow hallway leading toward the back of the brownstone. Nothing seemed amiss. Treading lightly, Virginia tiptoed down the hallway toward the parlor so as not to alert anyone to her presence.
There it was—or, more like, there he was. Another male corralled by her father, no doubt through an endless litany of lies about how amazing a wife Virginia would make. This man—with his pinched face, beady eyes, and lips so unusually thin they looked like a scowling line drawn on a cartoon character from the local political papers—could be cousins with a naked mole rat.
Deep-set ridges streaked his furrowed forehead. His stony, blank stare carried no emotion. Joy was probably a foreign concept to this man—as well as passion, humor, and anything else necessary to make a marriage enjoyable. More white than brown covered his balding head; he had to be at least fifteen years her senior. Virginia would never agree to marry such a man, even if faced with abject poverty. But, of course, her father didn’t care about any of those things. To him, any man willing to remove the burden that was his daughter would make a suitable husband.
As quietly as she’d come, Virginia pedaled backward down the hall, ready to escape to her room. A squeaky floorboard betrayed her retreat, and she looked to the heavens in exasperation. Both men’s heads turned in her direction—one with overwhelming cheer, and the other with complete indifference.
“Ah, Virginia, my dearest,” her father crooned. “Come, come.”
The cheer on her father’s face reminded her of a child on Christmas morn. This did not bode well for her. Virginia followed her father’s instructions and walked into the sitting room. She stood next to the wing-back chair he occupied with her eyes cast to the ground, refusing to sit, tension coiled in every muscle.
“My dove, you look radiant today, glowing with youth and good health.”
Her father had never used such pet names when talking to her. Thorn in my side. Heathen, perhaps. Never graceful birds of divine beauty. Of course, the youth and good health portion of his speech was meant for the gentleman in the room, not her. A not-so-subtle way of pointing out that she was still well within her childbearing years.
Virginia was pulled from her angry musings when her father’s ragged cough reached her ears. His shoulders shook with the force of it. For a moment, all else was forgotten. His cough had been getting progressively worse as of late; she made a mental note to call the doctor to visit him again soon.
He pulled out a handkerchief to wipe his mouth. Is that blood? Virginia squinted at the small piece of white fabric, but her father shoved it into his pocket before she could examine it closely.
“I beg your pardon—the dust lodges in my throat from time to time,” her father said, fixing a smile back on his face. He placed a hand in the middle of her back, turning her a bit in the gentleman’s direction like a horse breeder showing off his prized mare. Virginia’s concern vanished as the anger took hold again.
“Sir Reginald Mumford, may I present to you my daughter, Virginia Lillian Hatcher. Virginia, this is Sir Mumford. He has requested my permission for your hand in marriage, to which I have most ardently agreed.”
A deathly silence followed her father’s statement. This was the point at which she was expected to preen and smile like a ninny being granted a grandiose favor, but Virginia would do no such thing. Reginald Mumford. Even his name sounded as dry as he looked. She had no intention of willingly entering a prison cell in the form of a miserable marriage to this man.
“Darling, where are your manners?” her father asked, pinching the skin beneath her elbow. Virginia barely flinched. “Greet Mr. Mumford properly.”
“Mr. Mumford, what a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” Virginia said in a dry tone, sarcasm dripping from each syllable.
Either unaware or unaffected by the subtle insult, Reginald tilted his head to several different angles, assessing Virginia. “Not bad. A nice face, but a little on the thin side. However, there is enough meat on her bones to carry several of my sons.”
Virginia’s mouth slackened, opening and closing as she lost her ability to speak. She knew such chauvinistic men existed, but to be on the receiving end of one’s words was a new experience. Her father’s smile spread wider, tinted with a hint of relief. No doubt he’d worried that she had offended Mr. Mumford, ignoring the fact that the gentleman had offended her. Mr. Mumford sat blinking, oblivious to the offensiveness of his statements.
“While your assessment of me is not the most unflattering I’ve heard,” Virginia said, “it still did nothing to warm me to the idea of marrying you. How about we learn a little about each other?”
Reginald looked from Virginia to her father, who gave a slight nod of encouragement. “Very well, then. Are you a good seamstress? I find my clothing in need of repair on a rather frequent basis.”
Virginia crossed her arms as she stared down her nose at Mr. Mumford. He could have at least pretended to care about who she was as a person. A mischievous smirk spread across Virginia’s lips as a thought entered her mind.
“Sewing is a talent I have not perfected, but can manage. Although my heart’s passion is being an abolitionist. One day, I want to devote as much of my energy as possible to bringing freedom to all people. After all, we are all human.” Virginia stressed the word human.
Reginald straightened in his chair, releasing a dismissive scoff. He ignored Virginia’s statement and turned to look at her father. “What time frame did you have in mind for the ceremony?”
“I beg your pardon,” Virginia fumed, placing her hands on her hips. “I have not agreed to marry you.”
Mr. Mumford met Virginia’s glare with an unperturbed stare of his own, as if noticing an annoying fly buzzing near his ear. “Madam, I do believe you have the wrong notion about what this is. I only obliged your silly request as a show of goodwill. I need a wife to bear me sons to work on my farm, and I’m not overly choosy about who that woman is. Thus, I have agreed to pay your father a handsome sum of money for you. This is not a matter of the heart. This is business.”
“Well, no, I wouldn’t phrase it like that,” Virginia’s father sputtered. A rosy flush crept up his neck and across his face as he sat up straight at the edge of his chair, ready to leap to Mr. Mumford’s aid should Virginia decide to wallop him.
“Then how would you phrase it, Father?”
His mouth opened and closed, but the excuses stayed lodged in his throat. At least he had enough of a heart to appear remorseful.
“Never mind—I don’t wish to know. Tell Mrs. Josephine her meal smells delicious, and I am sad to miss it. However, my appetite has suddenly abandoned me. I will be in my room if you need me.”
Virginia turned to leave the room before either man could reply. As she left, another bout of coughing and the faint whispers of her father’s apology reached her ears. But the apology was not meant for her. Virginia swallowed hard, fighting off the quiver of her chin. She hated crying, especially angry, hurt crying.
“No need to apologize,” Mr. Mumford replied in a sympathetic voice. “The city has a way of corrupting a parent’s good, moral teaching in young women such as Virginia. It gives them crazy notions about independence. Next thing you know, they will be wanting to vote. A few babies and time in the country will fix that.”
Virginia didn’t wait to hear her father’s response. She took the steps two at a time, running up the stairs toward her room as fast as her legs could carry her. Unwelcome tears spilled down her cheeks, adding to her annoyance. She forcefully wiped them away with her fist.
After months of her father trying to pawn her off on another man through marriage, Virginia thought that her heart had been hardened against scenarios such as this. Slamming the door to her room, she threw herself against her bed. Virginia lay on her back, taking deep breaths to calm herself. She continued to wipe away the tears until they finally dried up. Neither her father or any man would ever have the satisfaction of being the reason she cried again.