Lost in the Storm
Ladies of Oberlin Book #2
by Tamara Lynn Kraft
Will war bring them love or will they be Lost in the Storm?
Lavena, a journalist during the Civil War, wants to become a war correspondent. She finally gets her chance, but there’s a catch. She has to get an interview from a war hero who has refused to tell his story to every other journalist, and she has to accomplish this impossible task in a month or she’ll lose her job.
Captain Cage, the war hero, has a secret that will destroy his military career and reputation. Now, a new journalist is trying to get him to tell what he’s been hiding. He wants to ignore her, but from the moment she came into camp, he can’t get her out of his mind.
Leading up to the turbulent Battles for the city of Chattanooga, will Lavena and Cage find the courage to love and forgive, or will they be swept away by their past mistakes that don’t want to stay buried?
Today Tamara will be answering a few questions for us. Thank you for being here, Tamara.
- How would you describe your main characters?
Lavena Falcon, a woman graduate from Oberlin College, is a very strong, opinionated women because she is full of passion for those she considers downtrodden. She holds herself and others to high standards. Her goal in life is to be a reporter who influences the public with her articles. Her goal at the start of the story is to report on the Ohio Seventh Regiment, the most heroic regiment of the Civil War. To do this, she must interview Captain Macajah Jones, the hero of Cedar Mountain who refuses to give interviews to any reporter. She only has a month or she’ll lose her job at the newspaper.
Captain Macajah Jones has a secret that disturbs his every waking moment. He wants to be the hero everyone thinks he is, but he knows he’s not. The guilt is almost too much to bear, but he can’t confess what he’s done to anyone, even the beautiful women reporter he is growing to love.
- What is the problem your characters face in your book?”Each character is my favorite while I’m writing about him or her. I love Lavena’s spunkiness. She also is a major tea snob, even bring her teapot and tins of tea to battle with her. I can relate to that since I also am a tea snob. I make my own teabags out of my favorite loose leaf teas and order hot water at restaurants. As Lavena says, “I always use my own tea. You wouldn’t believe what some of those teas are made out of.”
- What would you like readers to know about your characters?The main theme of this novel is we all need to walk in love and forgiveness because we have been forgiven much. God’s grace and mercy is so much greater than we can ever fathom when we turn to Him.
Read a free excerpt
September 18th, 1863, Cleveland, Ohio
Lavena Falcon, mouth drawn in a thin line, marched down Prospect Avenue with as much bluster as a Lake Erie squall. This time, she wouldn’t back down.
She shielded her eyes from the bright sun and avoided plummeting into two women who chatted in front of the corner grocery. Yellow leaves crunched under her feet as she made a dash for the East Cleveland streetcar. She stepped up just before it rattled down the track.
The wooden benches were filled to capacity, so she grabbed hold of a strap hanging from the roof above them. An older chap with balding gray hair stood and offered his seat, but she shook her head, and the man sat back down. She wasn’t about to take a seat from an elderly gentleman only because of her gender.
The car jerked, and Lavena strengthened her hold to keep from toppling. Her boss, Brian O’Brady, would have her resignation if he ever sent her to report on another Ladies Aide Society Meeting again. She sighed. Of course, she would never quit the only large newspaper that would hire a woman, but it was tempting.
She stepped off the streetcar and blew across Superior Avenue with a gust of yellow leaves falling from the green ash trees lining the street. Reaching the brick newspaper building where she worked, she pushed through the door.
The office bustled with activity. Because The Cleveland Leader had morning and evening penny editions, the newsroom never slept. Men with their sleeves rolled up sat at rows of desks writing out copy for typesetters and paid no attention to the roar of the steam-powered double cylinder rotary printing presses in the back. Suit jackets slung over their chairs, and cigar smoke circled their heads.
No matter how much she wanted to confront her boss the moment she returned, she had a story to write, and in the newspaper business, getting stories in on time were more important than any personal consideration. She’d never failed to do that yet, and she didn’t intend to now.
The only thing more important to her than getting a story in on time was reporting the truth in a way that enriched society without destroying people needlessly. She’d always strived to accomplish both goals.
She removed her bonnet and let her dark brown braid fall over her shoulder then stepped over to the box stove in the corner of the room and started boiling a pot of water for bohea tea, a strong blend of black tea leaves.
Sitting at the desk nearest to the stove, she dipped her pen in a bottle of ink. She blew out a breath to calm her anger and wrote about the noble women who knitted socks and harvested fruit for soldiers far away from home and hearth. Their simple deed would help the Ohio Seventh Volunteer Regiment get through the cold winter.
She blotted the paper, marched to the office on the right, and knocked on the oak door. An indistinguishable grumble came from the other side which she took to mean she should enter. Pulling up her four-feet-eleven, ninety-pound frame, she squared her shoulders for battle and thrust through.
Brian O’Brady sat at a desk with papers stacked in uneven piles competing over which could get highest without falling. The stack on the far-right corner in front held the lead.
O’Brady, managing editor second only to Mr. Edwin Cowles himself, had reddish brown hair and whiskers as unkempt as his desk. Lavena suspected the cigar sticking out of his mouth was permanently attached.
He grunted. “Do you have the story?”
She handed him the paper and waited for him to read it.
O’Brady chomped on his cigar. “This will do fine. By tomorrow, every lady in Cleveland will be knitting socks for the troops.”
Lavena set her hands flat on the desk and glared into her editor’s eyes. “It’s the last time.”
Mr. O’Brady met her glower. “Miss Falcon, you’ll write whatever story I assign you or you’ll be reporting on the next dog show at Public Square.”
She crossed her arms but didn’t falter her gaze.
“I don’t know what you’re fussing about. You wanted to report on the war. This is a war story.”
“Knitting socks?” Lavena sputtered. “A war story?”
“They’re knitting them for the soldiers.”
“I don’t know how they have enough time to finish any. They’re too busy trying to marry me off to their cousins, nephews, and sons too cowardly or sickly to enlist.”
Lavena hoped a blush wouldn’t show through her olive complexion. “Are you laughing at me?”
“No… no, All those busy bodies at the Ladies Aide Society met their match in you, lass.”
She allowed a smile to cross her lips. Somehow, he had a way of getting past her defenses. “Any news yet?”
O’Brady took the cigar out of his mouth. A small piece of tobacco, reluctant to leave, clung to his lower lip. “What do you want from me? I told you we need a man for this job.”
She pointed her finger at his chest and shook it. “I deserve this assignment. I got you the interview with the men accused of the Oberlin Wellington slave rescue, didn’t I?”
A few days after Lavena had graduated from Oberlin College, slave catchers from Kentucky apprehended a fugitive slave in Oberlin, Ohio and took him to nearby Wellington to catch the train to Maysville, Kentucky. Half the town followed them, and a group of men forcibly took the captive away from his abductors. Many were arrested under the Fugitive Slave Act in what became the national news story of 1858. Her reporting garnered support for the Oberlin Twenty and gained their eventual release.
“Your friends helped you there, lass.” The tobacco dropped off O’Brady’s mouth and landed on her story. “You were lucky Teagan and Woods were the husbands of your college roommates at Oberlin, or you never would have been able to get those exclusive interviews. Besides, Woods was never charged.”
She groaned. “Only because he and his wife left for China to become missionaries before the warrants were issued. That article was great reporting, and you know it. It influenced half the city of Cleveland to support the Oberlin Twenty’s cause and rally against the Fugitive Slave Law.”
“I know. You landed this job because of it, but you’re still a woman.” O’Brady flicked the stray piece of tobacco off the paper onto the floor.
Laying her hands flat on the desk, she leaned in. “What about the story on Copeland and the other men who tied in with John Brown?”
John Brown, an abolitionist from Ohio, raided Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in 1859 to start an uprising among slaves. His raid failed, and he was captured and hung.
“Another fine piece of work, I grant you, but the only reason you got an interview with Copeland before he hung was because he attended college with you too.” O’Brady flashed her a grin. “Part of your value is your associations with rebel rousers such as yourself.”
The wind escaping her lungs, Lavena slumped into the spindle-back wooden chair. “What do I have to do to get the war correspondent job?”
“Nothing. I’m not going to send a lady in harm’s way with a regiment of soldiers. It wouldn’t be decent.”
“There are other women in the camp.” She hated this. She had come in her demanding the job, and now she sounded like a scolded child.
He grunted. “Wash women and nurses, not ladies.” Grabbing the arms of her chair, he delivered a sober expression. “You’re the best reporter I have and the only female reporter in the history of The Leader. If you were a man, you’d have my job by now. Why is reporting on the war so important to you?”
Lavena let out a gusty sigh. “These men aren’t just battling for the Union to stay together, they’re fighting for freedom from the tyranny of slavery– even if President Lincoln won’t admit it. Once coloreds are given their freedom and seen as equals, men will see the good judgement in granting voting rights to women. These are causes I’ve strived for all my life. If I weren’t a lady, I’d enlist. Let me at least document their story.”
“Oh lass, what can I say?” He went to his desk chair and slunk into it. “I know your passion for the cause, but you’ll never be a man, and that’s what’s needed for the correspondent position. The man we choose will be announced next week at the press meeting.”
Lavena’s eyes burned. She blinked, stood, and walked to the door as gracefully as she could muster. “I need to get back to work.”
Rapidan River, Virginia
Captain Macajah “Cage” Jones’ heart pounded in beat with the drums as Union soldiers herded two prisoners across the saturated field to stand in front of wooden coffins. They staggered as their feet made sucking noises in the mud.
The lads were young, maybe eighteen, but Cage doubted it. One boy, a towhead, didn’t even have peach fuzz on his face. They were thin, one tall, the other short. They had families, maybe a mother whose heart would break when she heard of their fate. Even sadder if they’d joined up young because they were orphans with nobody to grieve their loss.
Cage’s thoughts flickered to Lieutenant Nathaniel Teagan, and a shiver went through him. If Union soldiers captured Nate, this might be his fate.
The drums halted.
General Slocum, perched on his gray horse, read the order of execution. His stoic expression implied the command could have been about anything from supplies arriving to an unexpected mail call. He handed the order to the sergeant-at-arms without a glance toward the prisoners. With a smack to his stallion’s rump, he galloped off the field away from this unpleasant business.
The guards tied blindfolds over the deserters’ eyes and directed them to sit on their caskets. One corporal, a thin man with a bushy mustache, squeezed the youngest boy’s shoulder and whispered in his ear. The boy tilted his chin and squared his shoulders.
The corporal nodded to the guards, and they took their places in a V-shape to the right and left of the condemned.
The sound of the sergeant-at-arms’ baritone voice rose over the prattle of raindrops. “Ready…”
The execution squad loaded their muskets.
Cage fixed his eyes on the dogwood trees lining the swelling river and the moisture dripping from them, anything to divert his attention from the twisted mouths of the boys waiting to die. Two raindrops hit the ground and echoed as loud as the drums had been. Or was it the beat of his heart keeping time with them?
The men leveled the muskets toward the prisoners and pulled back the hammers. The leaves on one of the trees had died and turned red.
Two more drops thumped. Cage clenched his jaw and blinked twice.
Gunshots exploded with flashes and clouds of smoke.
The taller boy’s body spun, twitched, and plunged to the ground.
The younger one pulled off his blindfold, revealing the fear in his eyes, and causing his blond hair to stick up in odd places.
The first-row firing squad had missed him, perhaps on purpose. If Cage had been part of the squad, he would have aimed for the older boy.
The men moved aside, and the second row loaded and aimed their weapons.
A whimper escaped the boy’s lips. He climbed over his coffin and ran toward the dogwood trees. “Fire.”
The gunshots blasted.
A wail pierced Cage’s ears. The boy’s body lurched, and his legs buckled under him. Blood gushed from his arm.
Both squads reloaded and marched toward the boy.
“Fire at will.”
The boy’s blue eyes widened as he staggered to his feet. His voice rasped. “Please no please no please no please.” He ran a few steps into a pile of wet leaves then quivered against the dead dogwood.
Executioners closed in, pulled back their hammers, and pointed rifles in the boy’s face and chest.
Cage forced his eyes to stay fixed on the scene no matter how hard his stomach threatened to empty its contents. His men had to watch, so he would too.
Guns boomed, and the boy’s blood mixed with crimson leaves and brown mud. Drums hammered.
Executioners marched off the field in beat with the dirge.
Cage strode to his tent without a word while guards tossed the bodies into coffins and nailed them shut. The injustice of it choked him.
Two scared boys dead in a Virginia field. He’d done worse, and they gave him a medal.