Linda Collison Star-Crossed

ISBN 13: 9780553494846

Star-Crossed

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9780553494846: Star-Crossed
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Patricia Kelley has been raised a proper British lady--but she's become a stowaway. Her father is dead, and her future in peril. To claim the estate that is rightfully hers, she must travel across the seas to Barbados, hidden in the belly of merchant ship.

It is a daring escapade, and the plan works--for a time. But before she knows it, Patricia's secret is revealed, and she is torn between two worlds. During the day, she wears petticoats, inhabits the dignified realm of ship's officers, and trains as a surgeon's mate with the gentle Aeneas MacPherson; at night she dons pants and climbs the rigging in the rough company of sailors. And it is there, alongside boson's mate John Dalton, that she feels stunningly alive.

In this mesmerizing novel of daring, adventure, tragedy, and romance, Patricia must cross the threshold between night and day, lady and surgeon, and even woman and man. She must be bold in ways beyond her wildest dreams and take risks she never imagined possible. And she must fight for her life--and her love.
From the Hardcover edition.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Linda Collison is a former nurse who has sailed many thousands of miles on her sloop, Topaz, and who served three weeks as crew aboard the Endeavor, a replica of Captain James Cook's eighteenth century ship. This is her first novel. The author lives in Kamuela, Hawaii.
From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

one

“God’s blood, Henry, can’t you row any faster? If we don’t get there soon, they’ll be too bloody drunk to lift our skirts.”

The old trollop smelled strongly of spirits. In the darkness I couldn’t see her features, just a moon face beneath a wind-lashed bonnet. There were perhaps a dozen of us in the open boat, though I never bothered to count.

The oarsman’s oath was lost on the wind.

“Take us alongside the nearest vessel, that little merchantman just ahead,” the old woman said.

The ships in the roadstead stretched like a forest; hundreds of masts swayed on the Channel’s black swell. Lanterns winked from the portholes and disembodied voices carried across the water. The wind scattered the clouds, spilling a weak wash of moonlight on the vessel we were headed for. Shivering, I pulled my cloak close.

“That’s a collier, I’d wager,” the woman next to me said, her elbow sharp against my side.

“All the men-o’-war in Portsmouth and we have to climb aboard a dirty little coal barge,” came a girl’s thin voice from up in the bows. A very young girl, by the sound of it.

“Do we care what she carries as long as her men have specie in their pockets and are randy to spend it?” The old tart laughed, but no one else did. “Besides, I know this boat, I know her well. She don’t carry coal, she’s been converted to a West Indian trader and is off to the Caribee at first light. You’ll make some money here tonight, girls, mark my words.”

I knew nothing of ships or their cargo, though this one did look rather tubby and blunt-nosed, the closer we came. And not so very large. I wondered with a sudden panic where exactly I would hide.

A gust snatched my hat off my head and I reached for it, too late. It flew away, tumbling on the wind. It was only a bonnet, and an old one at that, but it tore my heart to see it go. My head felt naked without it, and I covered my ears with my hands.

We drew up alongside the vessel, bumping into her hull on the choppy swell.

“Ho! What’s this?” A voice called out from above us in the ship’s waist. “Why, it’s a bumboat full of sweethearts, lads! Our wives have come to bid us farewell!”

A deep huzzah rose up from the belly of the ship. I followed the girl ahead of me, taking hold of the rope with shaking arms and scrabbling up the footholds in the hull of the vessel, catching my foot in the hem of my petticoat. I was almost to the top when a pair of strong arms grabbed me and lifted me over the rail and onto the deck, bussing my cheek as he did. I couldn’t bring myself to look at his face, but his breath reeked of liquor. We were then herded like goats down the companionway.

In the flickering candlelight below I couldn’t see how many men there were, but by the sound of it, all of them were drunk. They leaped toward us like a pack of dogs, knocking over sea chests, scattering dice and tankards.

Everything was happening too fast. Molls spreading themselves out on the sea chests like higglers displaying their wares.

Fear rose in my throat; I couldn’t go through with it. I bolted for the companionway, but a sailor blocked the steps, a bawd on his lap. Her shabby dress was bunched up, and her bare legs flashed white in the candlelight.

“Come here, girl,” a man’s voice purred in my ear. “Come give old Earnshaw a taste of your pudding.”

His toothless face leered at me in the yellow light, his eyes rheumy, bloodshot, and unfocused. His breath stank like rotten cabbage. I backed away, but his hand grabbed my skirt and the seam ripped. Like a mole, I scurried for the darkness, stooped behind a hogshead on the larboard side, then crept forward along an iron firehearth that was still warm from the evening meal. I had no idea where I was, only that it was dark here.

“Why, the devil, I say! Come back here!” the old goat bellowed. “Who took her? Who stole my sweetheart?”

“Lost your molly already, Earnshaw?” Another garbled voice. “Or too bleeding drunk to find ’er!”

I spied an open door ahead, near the bow, away from the glow of the wicks. A short door, as if to a dwarf’s cottage. Lifting my skirts, I scrambled for it, ducked inside, and felt my way among damp casks, heaps of hempen sailcloth, and bundles of rough cordage until I reached a place so small I could neither stand nor stoop but had to lie down and wiggle myself in.

A perfect little casket it was, black and airless, but padded with sails. I hunkered into it, losing myself in the stiff folds. A hot panic rose in my chest, the panic of being trapped in a small space, yet I managed to quell it by counting my breaths. After thirty I lost count, but the sound of my own breathing soothed me. Like the whiffle of sugarcane on a balmy night, the memory of a sound from my earliest childhood.

The darkness, at first so flat and featureless, began to take on dimension. My sensation of confinement gradually reversed itself; now it seemed I was on the edge of a cliff, inches away from falling off into the blackness. My head spun and the illusion was so real I dug my fingers into the canvas, holding on. And so I lay awake, heart knocking, until the debauchery ceased and stillness crept in like a fog. Somewhere a cock crowed.

I awoke to stamping feet, groaning hawsers, and the rough singing of men as they worked to raise anchor. Knowing we were getting under way cheered me, and the busy sounds were a welcome distraction from my discomfort.

I had never in my life known much discomfort, at least not the physical sort.

Until my father died my biggest hardship was having to sit indoors for hours, fumbling at French grammar or banging at the harpsichord when I would have preferred to spend the entire day on horseback, cantering over the Salisbury Plain. I had always been happiest when out-of-doors with no other company than my horse. Riding like a banshee, leaping over stone enclosures, breathing the smells of bruised grass and warm horse lather.
From the Hardcover edition.

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Collison, Linda
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