HOME BY MORNING begins in October, 1918 as Dr. Jessica Layton returns to her hometown of Powell Springs for the first time since leaving for medical school in the east. The Great War is in its fifth year, shortages abound, the home front mourns the massive loss of life, and women physicians remain an anomaly. Her efforts to treat New York City’s desperately poor left her drained and exhausted, in need of time to recuperate physically and emotionally. Having done so, she has now given up on a traditional medical practice and is headed to a research position in Seattle.
The stop in Powell Springs will be difficult. The town holds bitter memories and reminders of failure. Jess couldn’t save the family home, she broke her promise to continue her father’s medical practice and it’s the first time she’ll face Cole Braddock, the man who broke her heart and who her sister Amy is planning to marry.
Convinced to stand in for the absent town doctor for a few weeks before continuing north, Jess treats her first patient that very day, a soldier about to leave for Europe. Crossing paths with Cole, she hardens her heart, but can’t help but see he is still the same man with whom she fell in love, and still the only one who stirs her passion.
Cole is fighting his own demons. After his brother Riley enlisted, he was left to run the family business supplying desperately needed horses to the Army. Cole feels guilt about not fighting—a frustration exacerbated by his alcoholic father who belittles him at every turn. He worries, too, about Susannah, Riley’s wife, who is exhausted by work and worry. Drifting toward marriage with Amy, Cole has yet to put aside his anger over Jess. Seeing her stirs up memories of all they shared and the pain that has never healed.
The young soldier dies, the first person in Powell Springs to succumb to the influenza pandemic gripping the world. As more and more townspeople take ill, it is clear that a new war has come to the home front. Now, Jess and Cole work side-by-side as they struggle to save lives, an intimacy that makes it impossible to ignore their feelings for each other. Amid the turmoil, as Jess desperately treats the sick, she incurs the wrath of a minister bent on revenge and becomes the target of a slanderous campaign to keep her from her patients.
Jess has to decide. She can choose to fight on all fronts, or leave, turning her back on her hometown, its people and Cole forever.
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From HOME BY MORNING by Alexis Harrington
Cole found the coffee, ground the beans, and soon the room was filled with its rich redolence as it perked. Without help, he also located the cups, cream, and spoons. He searched for something to go with the coffee—Granny Mae was right, they had to eat. The best he found was a loaf of bread and a square of butter on a saucer. Jessica hadn’t been wrong about her lack of food.
But then as Amy had often reminded him, Jess had never had much talent in the kitchen.
He’d never cared.
Although the bread looked more like scraps by the time he’d butchered it, he was glad for the distraction. But he could feel Jessica’s eyes on his back as he puttered.
“Eat your sandwich,” he said over his shoulder. “The coffee’s about ready.”
Satisfied to see her nibbling on the chicken, he balanced the cups, coffee pot and other stuff to carry to the table. He’d never had much talent in the kitchen, either.
“Sorry about the bread,” he muttered, putting it down.
Jessica looked at the uneven hunks he’d sawed off the loaf and smiled. “It would probably look the same if I’d done it. She ate mechanically, simply because she knew she had to.
He poured coffee for both of them. Then he sat down in the chair across from her and splashed a drip of cream into his coffee.
“How long before you know . . . how will we . . . ”
“How will we know if Amy is going to live?” Jessica’s interpretation of his stumbling question sounded blunt and clinical, even to her own ears.
He sighed. “Yeah.”
“I wish I knew. Some people who ought to die seem to hang on through sheer will or what I can only call luck. Others I expect to improve don’t survive. Some people who’ve been exposed again and again seem to have immunity, but I’ve had cases from outlying farms that have had no visitors.” She put down the sandwich and rubbed her temples. “Talk about feeling useless—that doesn’t begin to describe how I feel.”
Cole nudged her foot under the table with his boot. “I’ve never seen a useless person work as hard as you.”
“It’s not difficult to look busy when you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off.”
“So you’re not really busy?”
“Of course, I am. But I’m scared too.”
“You? Jess, I don’t think you’ve ever really been afraid of anything in your life.” He said it not as a compliment, but as a statement of fact.
“What on earth makes you say that?”
“You’ve tackled jobs that would have knocked some men flat on their backs. And you’ve succeeded.”
“Obviously, you haven’t listened to some of the things I’ve told you.”
He stared into his cup. “Trust me, I heard all of it.”
Suddenly a pocket of pitch exploded in the wood stove, sounding as loud as a gunshot in the quiet room. Jessica flinched.
(You can read the rest of the excerpt here)
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Historical novelist Alexis Harrington has entertained readers since her first book was published in 1994. She has been spinning tales of characters and situations that include mail order brides, the Yukon Gold Rush, seafaring, ranching, and protagonists heading west ever since. Her latest, HOME BY MORNING, is the first of her books published as an e-book original. Initially available in 2010, it will be re-released on December 24th electronically and, for the first time, in paperback by Amazon’s new Montlake Romance imprint.
Since that first novel, Homeward Hearts, was published Alexis has written and published ten more books, all historical romances. They include Homeward Hearts, A Light For My Love, A Taste of Heaven, Desperate Hearts, and Harper’s Bride, originally published by New American Library (NAL). Her novels Allie’s Moon, Montana Born and Bred, The Bridal Veil and The Irish Bride were published by St. Martin’s Press. Though Alexis originally published HOME BY MORNING independently, it has since been acquired by Amazon’s Montlake Romance imprint.
Alexis lives in the Pacific Northwest near the Columbia River within ten miles of her old high school. She has numerous pets, including three chickens. In addition to being a writer for the past twenty years, she makes jewelry, is a fine needlework artist specializing in embroidery, thread crochet and sewing. She enjoys cooking, reading, entertaining, and decorating, and is a lover of all things Victorian.
She is currently hard at work on HOME BY NIGHTFALL, which Montlake will publish in July 2012.