Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gabriel's Lady

Charlotte Hubbard
Historical Romance
Leisure Books – 2008

Gabriel Getty, an orphan at eight, adopted by a wonderful family, earned a degree from law school, got an internship with a prestigious law firm, the senior partner has a beautiful daughter, he proposes, she accepts. Her parents, the Bancrofts, built them a home and all looks perfect as the wedding day arrives.

As the first shine of marriage began to fade away, Gabe began to notice how frail Letitia was. Also, she didn't care for sex. And, her mother, an apparent man-hater, spoiled and hovered over Letitia in excess. Gabe, also noticed that Letitia took laudanum with regularity.

Billy Bristol was Gabe's best friend and best man. He and his family had come to the wedding as “Gabe's family”. He was a loving man who loved his wife and babies dearly. His mother and dad were also at the wedding with their three daughters. All three girls, ages 9-13, had crushes on Gabe especially Solace. Of course, to Gabe she was just Billy's kid sister. Gabe even danced with Solace, who was 11. Solace was sad because she planned to grow up and marry Gabe. She thanked Gabe for the dance and cherished the dream material it furnished. She loved horses and wanted to be a trick rider. Billy's family left after the reception to return to their homes some miles west of St. Louis.
Six years later he was at the cemetary for Letitia's graveside service. It brought back memories of when he was eight years old and his parents and sisters were massacred by indians. He was so frightened he couldn't talk for months.

Mrs. Bancroft was hysterical and blamed Gabe for her daughter's death. She said her daughter died because Gabe insisted on having children despite her fragile frame. Gabe felt that he was an outsider and always felt that way around the Bancrofts.

He told Mrs. Bancroft that he was sorry and that he'd be out of their lives by weeks end and that no one had loved Letitia more than he.

Letitia had died an opium addict. She had increased her use when she learned she was pregnant. The thought of losing her 19” waist panicked her. Her mother, the enabler, supplied her with the drugs.

While packing his things, Agatha Vanderbilt, the headmistress of the Academy for Young Ladies, dropped by to offer her condolences. She was upset and outspoken about Mrs. Bancroft's selfish, vicious harang at the cemetery. She told Gabe she was sorry for him! She opened her arms and he rushed into them. He cried and cried. She told him there was a room ready for him at the Academy for as long as he needed it. She even offered him a job teaching at the Academy in the fall. He thanked her and felt love and warmth for the first time in quite awhile.

Gabe got a letter from Billy asking him to come visit him and his family. He also asked him to escort his sister, Grace, to his home where she was going to be governess to his three children. It sounded like just what he needed.

Gabe and Grace arrived by train. Billy picked them up and they talked all the way to Billy's horse ranch. Gabe relaxed and felt surrounded by love and acceptance. He could hardly remember that feeling.

At the house Gabe met Billy's three children – redheads all. Olivia, Owen, and Bernadette. Olivia was bossy, Owen was ornery and Bernadette mute from birth. They all gathered around the dinner table. Owen rushed to sit by Gabe. Everyone settled for the blessing asked by Olivia.

The plate of ham was passed to Grace and about the same time she jumped up saying “oh, my” and backing away from the table as fast as she could. Old Asa grabbed a plate and took the garter snake off the table. Owen was delighted and in trouble. His father invited him behind the barn for a chat after dinner. Gabe loved the normalcy of it all.

Solace was at Billy's ranch to help train the horses. When dinner cleanup was over, Solace got her writing materials and went out to the swing by the lilac bushes. She pulled a letter out of her portfolio and read it again. It was to Sol Juddson, her pen name, from her publisher.
It announced that they would publish all three of her submissions. They included a check and a request for anything else she wrote.

She started a new story. The words just poured out of her pen. She chuckled smugly. Lily might be a princess and Gracie a saint, but she was a writer! No one else knew. It was her secret.

Billy and Gabe went out to look at Billy's operation. It was very impressive. While leaning on a fence, they talked about things that had happened since they'd been together six years ago at Gabe's wedding. They talked about Letitia's death for as long as Gabe could tolerate .

About then, two boys came running out of the barn with Solace with them and Rex, the dog, too. Gabe was very impressed with Solace as a horse trainer. “This is absolutely incredible” he whispered to Billy. Just then a voice from somewhere said, “She's a woman like no other. A woman you could love, Gabe.”

He looked around, but the voice hadn't come from anyone he could see. Billy was right next to him and hadn't heard anything. It felt wrong to have such thoughts about a woman so soon.

Billy called his attention to the trick that Solace was going to do with a gun. He told Gabe he'd be amazed and he was.

After dinner cleanup, everyone gathered back at the table to recite the twenty-third Psalm. They paired off child and adult. Owen picked Gabe fast. Gabe hoped he could get thru it and he did.

Everyone was busy and Gabe felt like he didn't belong. He realized that Solace didn't belong either. Her talents set her apart from Lily and Gracie. Lily and Gracie did not accept her talents and always found fault with her.

He saw the white of the dog and followed him. He found Solace on the swing pushing papers into her portfolio. She talked about this being the time of day when Bernadette painted with her mother in her studio. Solace pulled out a paper with a painting on it and showed it to Gabe. “This is one of Bernadette's paintings.” Gabe couldn't believe it. But Solace reiterated that Bernadette was the artist. And that she was very bright.

Her portfolio fell to the ground and papers scattered everywhere. They both picked up papers and one in Gabe's hand said “Daddy was a Desperado”. He asked about it. She swore him to secrecy and showed him the letter from the publisher.

Gabe's interest in Solace grew. They seemed to be a perfect fit. Enjoy this warm, loving story about grief, pain, forgiveness, understanding, patience, and caring. It's a winner!

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