Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Spotlight: War Torn by Hadley R. Mann

A Quarter-Finalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel award, War Torn is a “solid period drama ... The political posturing, anguish of war, and fear of being accused of treason are compelling.” (Publisher’s Weekly, April 2013)

No battles of the Civil War waged so bloody, and so personal, than at the tenuous border states. War Torn is one woman's story of loss, painful secrets, survival, and most of all, finding love again.

Daniella had always lived a quiet life of privilege in Baltimore, but when she is thirty years old, the Kansas-Nebraska Act changes her fate. Danny and her father soon join thousands of other passionate abolitionists who decide to leave their homes and move out West to be part of a crucial vote that will decide whether Kansas will be a slave territory.

Soon this bold, warm-hearted woman marries William Gary, a bright doctor from Independence, and they start a family, but as brutal conflicts carry on at the border, the marriage eventually begins to disintegrate and William begins to stray. With her town soon emptied of men off to war, including William, and devastated by William’s affair, Danny comes to the aid of a friend from the past, Jack, and his young daughter, whose Arapaho mother has died. Caught between the old life she desperately wants back, and a chance at something new with Jack, Danny must look deep inside herself to discover who she is and who she wants to be as a wife, mother and woman.

When William finally returns a war hero, he finds a town plagued by guerrilla violence and civilian attacks. Danny wants to follow General Ewing’s orders and move the children to the safety of town, but to her horror William has other plans. What follows is Danny and Jack’s perilous journey to keep the family together as the country collapses around them, a journey that will eventually take them to the doorstep of the most sophisticated network of escape ever organized, the Underground Railroad.

"A historical novel set in Kansas during the Great Succession, balancing historical details with the story of a woman of commitments and values in the face of loss. History buffs are waiting for this one." ABNA Expert reviewer, March 2013.

Read an excerpt:

Daniella felt a cool cloth touch her forehead and a warm, gentle hand atop hers. She opened her eyes a sliver, disoriented. The building she was in was hot and stuffy and as she slowly looked around, she became aware of at least a dozen other women standing or sitting nearby. She closed her eyes again, overwhelmed. The scent of straw and animals was heavy in the air.
“There ya be, wake up then,” a woman with a thick, soothing Irish accent said.
Daniella struggled to open her eyes again and focus on the woman’s face. She remembered now the soldiers coming to take her away. Throbbing pain shot across her head and the doctor’s wife in her wondered if she had sustained a skull fracture. Surely it was at least a bad concussion.
“How long was I out?” she managed to choke.
“Ah, she speaks,” the woman said kindly. “About an hour since you been here.” She had kind, blue eyes and bright red hair with a little grey in it.
Daniella touched her fingers to her forehead and realized someone had wrapped her head in a crude bandage. Perhaps it was cloth torn from a petticoat.
“Where are we?” she asked.
“The livery stables,” the woman explained. “They’re holding us here for now.” Daniella tried to get up and she immediately felt her caregiver’s strong arms around her back helping her sit up. “Slowly then, don’t overdue it.”
She was conscious of all the other women in the livery staring at her silently. Most of them were very young, some barely twenty, and they all looked very hot and sweaty. She glanced down and realized there was vomit dried across her bodice and her blouse was soaked with sweat, especially under her arms.
“I need to change,” she whispered hoarsely.
“We all could use a fresh change of clothes. Don’t worry.” The woman gave her back a gentle pat.
Daniella looked toward the double doors. They were shut tight. “Where’s the Army? Where’s the officer? I need to speak to him.”
“Lord knows where they are. They said they’d be back later.”
She felt panic setting in. “What are they going to do to us? I can’t be here. My children are at home, they need me.”
“All our children are at home,” another woman spoke up with annoyance.
“What are they going to do to us?” Daniella demanded. “They can’t just hold us here!”
“It’s a war. They can do what they want,” the Irishwoman remarked. “They been up and down the Missouri border for three days rounding all us up. And they’re out again to bring more back.”
“What did you do?” Daniella asked curiously.
“Me? I didn’t do anything. Rebels came in the middle of the night and stole all my fine silver and my dear daddy’s pocket watch and those soldiers think I gave it to them. I don’t care about this war, I got four young’uns to feed and a husband gone to knock on St. Peter’s door six months ago from the grippe, they think the likes of me has time to ponder taking sides?” She chuckled.
“We have to tell them they can’t hold us here.”
“Tell who?” spoke up another woman. “Nobody’ll listen. Don’t you understand? They say we’re all traitors.”
Daniella got to her feet and went over to the livery doors. She pushed on them and heard the rattle of chains on the other side. “They locked us in?” She looked between the boards and saw a soldier standing guard outside. “You have to let us out!” she shouted. “You can’t hold us here like this!” She pushed on the doors desperately.
The soldier ignored her and spit in the dust.
“Soldier!” she shouted. “Let us out!”
“Keep quiet!” a woman ordered. “Do you want to make it worse for us all?”
The Irishwoman came over. “Come on, let’s sit over here, they’ll be back soon.”

* * *

When Daniella woke up several hours later it was even hotter in the livery. She could smell the vomit on her blouse, it penetrated her nostrils, and it nearly made her gag. She took out her handkerchief and wiped her face. She noticed the Irishwoman had gone off to help someone else, a young, slight woman about eighteen. The woman’s mother was crouching down on the ground holding her and growing increasingly distraught.
“Fan her face,” the Irishwoman instructed calmly. “Back up, Alice, give her air.”
Daniella got up and slowly approached them. She knelt down beside them. The woman’s eyes were rolled back.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“She keeps fainting,” the Irishwoman said.
Daniella touched the girl’s cheek. She was burning up and her skin was dry without a drop of sweat on it. “She’s overheated. Dehydrated. She needs water.”
“I’ll get it,” another woman offered as she hurried across the livery.
Daniella patted the girl’s cheek. “Sweetheart, wake up. Keep your eyes open.”
“Wake up, Jenny darling,” her mother said tearfully. “Please wake up.”
Jenny opened her eyes a sliver exhaustedly. The woman came back over with a bucket and ladle. The Irishwoman dipped it in and filled it. “Here.”
“Drink this,” Daniella said. “Slowly. Drink.” She let a little of the water slip past the girl’s lips. The girl suddenly started gulping at it and drank down the entire ladle full.
Daniella dipped it back into the bucket and filled it again.
“Don’t take it all, there’s not a lot left!” a woman behind them protested.
“They need to give us more water. There’s more than a dozen of us here,” Daniella said. “We can’t survive on just one bucket in this heat.”
“Guess they seem to think we can,” another woman muttered.
They heard the chains rattle outside and two soldiers came in with two more women. They thrust them inside.
“Private,” Daniella said, quickly getting up and approaching them. “Private, we’ve been here more than six hours and all you’ve given us is one bucket of water. With two more now we need three times that much water. And food. We haven’t eaten-”
“Hold on there, little lady. We make the rules, not you.”
“That child there has heat stroke,” she said, pointing at Jenny. “If we don’t get enough water in this heat that’s going to happen to all of us.”
The soldiers just smiled at her with amusement.
“Heat stroke in its final stages causes the kidneys to fail. And soon after that the heart. The patient falls into a coma and never wakes up. We’re all going to die if we’re not properly hydrated and soon.”
“Kidneys. We got a doctor here, do we?” the other soldier said with a bigger smile.
“I sure did like the way my mama cooked me up kidneys. Y’all are makin’ me downright homesick,” the private added and they both laughed.
Daniella glared at them. “Private, I know you don’t want sixteen dead women on your watch. That can’t be good for your aspirations.”
“Damn it you just won’t let up. Harris, go get this lady some water, and food, too. Bring her something special.”
“You got it.” He walked out of the livery.
“Where’s your commanding officer?” Daniella demanded. “We want to speak to him.”
“He’ll be back in the morning for questioning.”
“That’s right. To decide which one of you sorry traitors we’ll let go and which ones are being transferred to St. Louie.”
“Here’s the water, lady,” the private said as he came back with a bucket. The Irishwoman stepped up to take it.
He retrieved some canned pickled beets from under his arm and half a loaf of crusty bread. “And here’s your supper!” He laughed heartily.
Daniella reluctantly took them. “This is no country I’m proud of,” she said under her breath, staring at the men vehemently.
“You watch your mouth, woman, or I’ll put a rifle butt to it,” the private retorted. “Get back over there with the other whores. Have a nice night.” They slammed the door shut and locked it again.
“You’re crazier than a loon, you are,” the Irishwoman remarked, shaking her head at Daniella. “Gonna get us all killed.”
“They have no right to-”
“They got rights to do anything they want. Or at least that’s how they see it. Come on, let’s divide up what they gave us. Might as well.”

* * *

Daniella had fallen asleep against a sack of grain when she felt a gloved hand on her shoulder.
“Come on, ma’am, you got a visitor,” a soldier said as he helped her to her feet.
She looked around, disoriented. Some of the women were asleep, others awake, and others were off being questioned.
“A visitor? Who?”
“Your husband. Come on, let’s get a move on.”
“My husband?” she breathed, confused. She didn’t know how William could have heard about her arrest and gotten here so fast.
The soldier guided her outside. She squinted painfully in the hazy sunlight. He led her gently by the arm several paces away until they reached another shed. Then he opened it up.
Jack was standing inside waiting for her.
“Jack,” she breathed with relief.
The soldier shut the door and she rushed to Jack and hugged him.
“Came as soon as I heard, are you all right?” he asked. He pulled back and caressed her hair.
“I’m all right.”
“I had to tell ‘em I was your husband so they’d let me see you.”
She was suddenly acutely aware of how parched her throat was and how hot it still was. “Could you, could you get me some water? Please.”
“They didn’t even give you water to drink?” he blurted, narrowing his brow.
“They did, there’s just so many of us. Some of the women are ill, they needed it more.”
“Stay put.” He hurried out of the shed.
Daniella found an empty crate in the little shed and turned it over. She sat down tiredly to wait for Jack. He came back a minute later with the canteen from his saddle. He squatted beside her and uncorked it. “Here, it’s a little warm, but it’s good clean water.”
She tipped the canteen back and gulped at it. Fresh water never felt so good going down. She drank nearly all of it while Jack watched her worriedly. At last she lowered the canteen, sighing and closing her eyes.
“I find out who’s responsible for all this, they’re gonna pay,” Jack said firmly.
“Jack, don’t make threats.” She opened her eyes. She had never seen him so angry. “I’m all right. Look at me. Jack.”
He met her eyes.
“I’m all right. Better than most of them in there. How are the boys? Jack, talk to me. I need to know how Chrissy is. He was terrified.”
“He’s all right. They just miss ya.” He ever so gently held her arm. “Listen, I talked to the commanding officer. I think I can get you released.”
“You can? How?”
He hesitated a moment. “You gotta take a loyalty oath.”
“A loyalty oath? To whom?”
“Who do you think? The Union. Here, they got it drafted up.” He stood up and pulled a folded piece of paper out of his pocket. He handed the paper to her.
She quickly skimmed the lengthy oath written in slanted script. She looked up.
“Jack, I don’t think I can say this.”
“Yes ya can. Why?”
“My loyalty’s to God and my family. How can I promise this?”
He folded his arms. “Your loyalty’s to God and your family,” he repeated in disbelief.
“That’s right.”
“Will you look at yourself? They’re gonna kill you! If they don’t hang ya, you’ll die of thirst first.”
“What they’re doing is wrong, Jack,” she said resolutely. “We’re all Americans, doing the best we can under terrible circumstances, and they’re treating us like common criminals. Half the women in there didn’t even do anything. The other half were just doing what their consciences told them, as was I. I didn’t realize loyalty to my country comes before helping a dying boy. If I take this oath, it would be like condoning this. Like telling the Army and the Union I agree with how they’ve treated all of us. I believe in the Union and in ending slavery. I’ve never believed in something more in my life. But we have to hold the people fighting for that to the highest standards.”
He got up and paced angrily a long moment. “You’re gonna do it, Daniella.” He pointed his finger at her. “No, you’re gonna do it.”
She stood up. It wasn’t often Jack used her full name. In fact, she couldn’t remember if he ever had before. “No. I can’t.”
He walked up close to her. “You don’t do this, and your loyalty to your family won’t mean a thing when you’re swinging from a rope.” He stared at her passionately. “As for God, look around. You really think there’s a God? There’s no God in any of this.”
She sighed distraughtly. “If I do this I’d be groveling to them. I couldn’t face all those women back there.”
“Please, Danny. Please. I’m begging you. Please do it.” He grasped her hands. “For the kids. So you can come home. For me. Please.” He swallowed hard. “They’re gonna hang you, I know they got it in ‘em. Please, you gotta trust me. You gotta do it.” He ever so gently smoothed her hair from her brow. “Look, you’re just saying some words. You don’t gotta mean ‘em. It’s just some words. Please.”
“They’ll release me if I say it?”
“That’s what they promised.”
She closed her eyes and pictured the children screaming for her when she was arrested. A small tear fell down her cheek. “All right,” she whispered. “I’ll do it.”
He let out his breath with relief. “Good. I’ll tell ‘em.”

* * *

“She’ll do it,” Jack told the commanding officer as he guided Daniella to stand in front of him. “She’ll say the loyalty oath if you release her.”
The officer looked into Daniella’s eyes and smiled a little. Daniella remained straight faced. “She will, huh? What’d you do to influence that, son?” he asked suggestively.
“You got a Bible somewhere?” Jack replied with annoyance.
“Private? Get Mrs. Gary here a Bible to put that pretty little hand of hers on,” the officer said. He glanced down at her bodice. Daniella flinched.
“Put your hand on the Good Book, we don’t got all day,” the private said.
“Wait, I have a few conditions,” Daniella spoke up.
“Conditions?” the officer replied.
“Danny, what’re you doing?” Jack whispered. “No.”
“Quiet, son, I wanna hear this,” the officer said. He chewed on a piece of grass absently.
“My first condition is you release Mrs. O’Neal, too. She’s the Irishwoman.”
“You hearing this, sir?” the private said. “The prisoner’s making conditions.”
“I ain’t deaf,” the officer said.
“She didn’t do anything wrong,” Daniella said. “Those Confederates raided her homestead and she had no intention of ever helping them. She was just trying to take care of her four children and if you imprison her they’ll have no one.”
“Danny,” Jack warned.
“Shut up and let her talk,” the officer ordered.
“And the second condition, the loyalty oath. I want to change some words.”
“Oh, no we don’t go changing the words now,” the private said.
“Actually I want to add a word. In two places,” she said as she unfolded the piece of paper. “I want to add the word ‘God’ here, and here.”
The private scratched his head. “God?”
She met the officer’s eyes. “If I’m going to swear allegiance to my country, I want to be clear my allegiance is to God as well.”
The officer gazed at the paper a long moment. “Private? Go release that O’Neal lady.”
“But, sir!”
“We don’t need her. Sides, I don’t wanna be in the business of taking mothers from their babies. It don’t set right. Release her. That’s an order!”
“Yes, sir,” he muttered. He handed him the Bible and hurried out of the tent.
“There’s so many other women in there who are innocent, I’m pleading with you to release them, too,” Daniella said.
“Don’t push it, lady. Say the fucking oath now or the deal’s off.”
Daniella took the paper back and laid her hand on the Bible. She felt like she was choking over ever word.
“I, Daniella W. Gary, of Jackson county, State of Missouri, do hereby solemnly swear that I will bear true allegiance to God and to the United States and support and sustain the Constitution and laws thereof, that I will maintain the national sovereignty paramount of that of all state, county or Confederate powers, that I will discourage, discountenance and forever oppose secession, rebellion and the disintegration of the Federal union, that I disclaim and denounce all faith and fellowship with the Confederate armies, and pledge my honor, my property and my life to God and to the sacred performance of this my solemn oath of allegiance to the Government of the United States of America.”
She could hear Jack breathing a sigh of relief behind her, but she didn’t feel relief at all. She felt like she had betrayed everything she was.


Hadley R. Mann (pseudonym) is a writer, attorney, and published journalist. She wrote her first story at age 15 and has been writing both non-fiction and fiction professionally, and for her own enjoyment, ever since. Mann has had a life-long passion for the Civil War era, especially the role of women and children on the home front. "War Torn," which explores this fascinating period in American history from a wife and mother's point of view, is her first full-length original novel. In February 2013, it was selected as a second round pick in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, and in March 2013, it went on to be one of 500 entries (out of 10,000) to be named a Quarter-finalist.

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