It’s finally here! Hamilton’s Battalion, a romance anthology featuring stories from Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, and me! We are so excited about this book! Below you’ll find an excerpt from my story, That Could Be Enough.
Mercy Alston knows the best thing to do with pesky feelings like “love” and “hope”: avoid them at all cost. Serving as a maid to Eliza Hamilton, and an assistant in the woman’s stubborn desire to preserve her late husband’s legacy, has driven that point home for Mercy—as have her own previous heartbreaks.
When Andromeda Stiel shows up at Hamilton Grange for an interview in her grandfather’s stead, Mercy’s resolution to live a quiet, pain-free life is tested by the beautiful, flirtatious, and entirely overwhelming dressmaker.
Andromeda has staid Mercy reconsidering her worldview, but neither is prepared for love—or for what happens when it’s not enough.
Mercy knew better than to indulge in activities like observing a woman’s shapeliness, but her gaze still clung to the stranger like damp cheesecloth, molding to her curves.
She decided to turn back, to flee belowstairs where she belonged, when the woman looked in her direction. Their gazes caught, and even from that distance Mercy felt the tug of attraction.
No. No, no, no.
The angel began walking toward her. Marching, more like, if marching could be imbued with sensuality.
Large amber eyes set in a deep brown face; a smile that managed to be overfamiliar and curious at once. Those two features jumped out at Mercy, slammed into her with a nearly overwhelming force.
Mercy raised a hand to the ache in her chest. There’d been a time when she’d felt beautiful things acutely. Felt them in her body and heart and soul. A flower pressed between the pages of a book had given her sustenance that even food could not. She’d shed tears at the sight of a bird with a ribbon streaming from its beak, flying toward its nest. She knew better than to expose herself like that now; years of experience and heartache had cured her of those naive tendencies. But the angel before her stirred that familiar sense of awe, of want, despite Mercy’s hard-earned knowledge.
Mercy dropped her hand. Swallowed. Remembered who she was and what she was about.
“Are you being helped, miss?” she asked frostily. “It’s rather early for uninvited guests; for those with manners, that is.”
The smile didn’t leave the angel’s face. It shifted slowly, subtly, in a way that made Mercy reassess her first impression. This was no angel. The woman was most certainly a devil, come to tempt Mercy to wickedness. Lucifer had been the most beautiful angel of all, had he not? She’d read that in a poem, but Mercy couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful than the woman approaching her.
The curve of the woman’s lips was mocking, and the light, feminine sway of her hips took on a sudden, pendulous swagger. She approached loose-limbed and fearless, making Mercy’s rigidity more stark, more embarrassing.
Mercy had to look up a bit to meet the woman’s gaze. Tension crept up her neck, spread over her scalp, as the woman stared down at her.
“Ahhhhh. You’re one of those, are you?” the woman asked. Her voice was smooth and assured.
“One of what?” Mercy felt suddenly exposed. She tried so hard to keep her desires hidden, but it seemed this woman could see right through her. Her face grew hot and her breathing lost its rhythm so that she was suddenly aware that her body was doing it; for a moment, she forgot how to inhale.
The woman kept smiling, and assessing, and Mercy finally pulled in a breath.
“I am simply fulfilling my duty and trying to ascertain who you are.” She tried to keep her tone firm and serious, as if she hadn’t just gasped ridiculously like a trout at the seaport market.
The woman took a step forward, that teasing smile still on her lips, and Mercy saw that it hadn’t been the effects of the morning sun casting the stranger in a good light; she was even lovelier up close.
“No,” the woman said. “You were simply trying to put me in my place.”
Mercy stared past the woman’s shoulder, unable to look her full in the face. A wild sensation swelled in her chest; this beauty was painful. Mercy wanted to beat her fists against a wall, to scream. She’d thought herself done with such surges of emotion. She imagined this was the betrayal an old fisherman felt when a wall of water suddenly appeared on seas that had always been calm for him.
There was a brush against Mercy’s face, and then the bare skin of the woman’s thumb and forefinger pressed lightly into Mercy’s jaw, guiding her face so that their gazes met. “Better than you have tried, friend. But if you’d like a go, I welcome the sport.”
Hey! In case you missed it last week, Kianna Alexander, Lena Hart, Piper Huguley, and me have another anthology coming out! Our last anthology was linked by novellas about Juneteenth, and this newest antho features suffragettes finding love while changing the country for the better. The anthology will be released on November 1st (if you’d like to be alerted when it’s available, sign up for my newsletter here or an anthology-specific newsletter here), and in the weeks leading up to the release we’d like to share a bit of the history that went into our stories.
My novella is called Let Us Dream:
Harlem—1917. After spending half her life pretending to be something she’s not, performance is second nature for cabaret owner Bertha Hines. With the election drawing near and women’s voting rights on the ballot, Bertha decides to use her persuasive skills to push the men of New York City in the right direction.
Chef Amir Chowdhury jumped ship in New York to get a taste of the American Dream, only to discover he’s an unwanted ingredient. When ornery Amir reluctantly takes a job at The Cashmere, he thinks he’s hit the bottom of the barrel; however, working at the club reignites his dream of being a force for change. His boss, Bertha, ignites something else in him.
Bertha and Amir clash from the start, but her knowledge of politics and his knowledge of dance force them into a detente that fans the flames of latent desire. But Bertha has the vice squad on her tail, and news from home may end Amir’s dream before it comes to fruition. With their pasts and futures stacked against them, can Amir and Bertha hold on to their growing love?
There was so much going on during this time period, but two of the bigger events that affect my hero and heroine are the Immigration Act of 1917 (also known as the Literacy Act and the Asiatic Barred Zone Act) and the vote for women’s suffrage in New York State.
While Asian immigration had already been severely restricted by previous legislation (such as the Naturalization Act of 1870 that blocked citizenship to Chinises immigrants and Chinese women from entering the country), the Immigration Act of 1917 blocked immigration from most of Asia and the Pacific Islands. This left Asians already in the US, those born here and those who emigrated (or jumped ship like many South Asian sailors), without basic civil rights. Amir’s fighting spirit falters when he realizes that the American Dream isn’t meant for people like him, but then he meets Bertha.
While some states had already granted women the right to vote, most US stated denied women this right. In 1917, women’s suffrage was on the ballot again, and suffragettes of all kinds mobilized to win the right to vote. Black women were heavily involved in the fight, as they have been for so many Civil Rights battles. Although Bertha isn’t a typical suffragette, she knows that voting equals power, and she’s not one to cede her power to anyone–and then she meets Amir.
The story is set in Harlem on the cusp of the Harlem Renaissance, a neighborhood that reflected the amazing changes, both the highs and the lows, going on in the US at that time, making it a really fun project. I hope you guys enjoy it!
Next Monday, Kianna will talk about her 1881-set novella, A Radiant Soul!
World Central Kitchen