It’s here! In Your Arms is finally officially here! I worked long and hard on this novel and I absolutely think it’s the best thing I’ve written yet. Why? Because I’ve learned so much about the craft and technicalities of writing since I first started publishing. But also, and perhaps even more so, because the subject matter of this novel is very close to my heart.
If any of my characters comes close to resembling certain aspects of me, it’s Lily Singer. Sure, the single largest chunk of my heritage is Native American, Cherokee, to be precise, but that’s still only about 1/16th. That’s something though, and knowing that, I’ve always been curious about the people who were here in this land before any Europeans set foot in it. I was also left hanging in school every time we studied the opening of the American West but left the story hanging at the end. What ended up happening to the Native Americans and why don’t we ever hear about it?
The answer, I think, to why we never hear about what happened to the Native Americans after about the 1880s, the reason we go from talking about settlers pushing west, gold, ranches, and dubious treaties, the disappearance of the buffalo and the creation of reservations, is because it’s a dark and shameful part of our past. It’s also wince-worthy because so many advancements were made possible and a great deal of people benefitted from the claiming of the West.
That’s what makes it so fascinatingly painful. I’ve tried to embody a bit of what happened to the Native Americans of the West at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century in the character of Lily Singer. She was taken from her tribe as a young girl and raised at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, PA (about 3 hours from where I live now). The phenomenon of the Indian school was a bittersweet demonstration of the adage “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
So many children were more or less kidnapped to be taken to these schools. Conditions were often harsh and the culture was so vastly different from what they had known that adjustments were painful, if they happened at all. Many children died—of common childhood diseases, yes, but also of homesickness. At the same time, these children got a top-rate education and were able to fit into the burgeoning new American civilization that had taken over the West. If they were accepted, that is. Many were not. That double-edged sword is the story I hoped to tell through Lily.
But wait, this is a love story, right?
Absolutely! Because no matter how difficult things are, no matter how deeply alienated Lily feels, Christian falls head-over-heels in love with her. So much so that he ends up acting like a complete fool. And there’s nothing as sweet as a man making a fool of himself over a woman. That’s the story I hoped to tell too.
Here’s a little sample for you:
“Lily, wait!” he scrambled after her, slipping on the fresh snow. She ignored him, tucking her hands under her arms. “Wait! Singing Bird!”
She stopped dead, turning to face him, trembling with fury.
“You have no right-”
“Why don’t you let me walk you home?”
She marveled at his arrogance. He had no idea how infuriating he was.
A touch of inspiration hit her. She clasped her hands behind her back and plastered on a smile. “Why certainly, Mr. Avery. Walk me home.”
“All right,” he said. “Let’s go.”
He took a few steps but stopped when she didn’t move.
“I said let’s go.”
“Certainly.” She nodded. “You lead the way.”
Christian huffed out a breath and shifted his weight, catching on. “Where do you live?”
“You mean you don’t know?” Lily arched an eyebrow.
“No, I do not.” He matched her smarmy tone.
“Imagine that,” she said, shaking her head and marching off ahead of him. “Christian Avery, Justice of the Peace, rushing to stick his nose into something he knows nothing about.”
Christian was silent. Lily charged on, hoping that at last he would leave her alone. She heard the shuffle of his feet behind her, but nothing he could say would make her turn around.
“You are one hell of a-”
A sharp crack of gunfire cut through the night. The suddenness of the noise froze Lily in her spot, heart in her throat. She cowered as the front door of the house to her right banged open.
Two men in buckskin coats with bandanas over their faces pushed out into the front garden. Each of them held a sack in one hand and a pistol in the other. One of them fired a shot into the house before rushing towards the gate in the garden fence. The shot was met by a woman’s scream. More shots followed, whizzing inches past Lily’s head.
Christian threw his arms around her, yanking her out of the street as the gunmen charged at them. His grip was tight and protective and Lily buried her face against the soft wool of his coat. More gunshots. Christian’s chest heaved with deep, alarmed breaths. His arms squeezed her close. The gunmen shouted, but their words were indistinct over the muffled panic ringing in Lily’s ears.
Christian cradled her head. His touch was soft in the darkness. His fingers slipped across her hair and brushed her neck. With a strange rush of heat, her tension evaporated. Christian held her. She wouldn’t fall, she couldn’t be hurt. He wouldn’t let that happen. Somehow she knew that.
She took a deep breath, tobacco and cedar, then summoned the courage to look up over Christian’s shoulder at the scene around them. The gunmen slipped on the snowy street only a few yards from where they stood. Samuel Kuhn dashed out of the house and onto the porch, fully dressed in fur-collared coat and top hat, a gun in his hand. He’d fired a shot that went over Lily and Christian’s heads then fired another one for good measure.
“Stop them! Stop those Injuns! I’ve been robbed!”
Christian cursed. Lily felt tension ripple through him. Her own fear returned with it. He wavered between holding her and loosening his grip before giving up and letting her go.
Her hands clenched the lapels of his coat, keeping him close. She met his wide, flashing eyes, loathe to release him. He stared back at her alive with an energy for which there were no words. She was safe, safe in his arms.
Sense struck a moment later and she let go with a gasp. Christian reached out as though he would take her back. He hesitated, then twisted to find the robbers. With a tight curse he turned to chase after them.
So there you have it! In Your Arms is available now. Click here to go to the book page where you can find all of the links to buy it (as well as another excerpt).