A warm welcome to Keely Brooke Keith with her new release!
A voyage aboard Providence changes Jonah’s plans, but can it change his heart?
In November 1860, Jonah Ashton boarded the Providence with a plan to escort his family to their new settlement in South America and then return to medical school in Pennsylvania before rumors of Southern rebellion erupt into all-out war. What he didn’t count on was getting lost at sea… and Marian Foster. When they finally reach land, Jonah makes a startling discovery that changes everything, but will it change his heart?
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Aboard Providence ~ Excerpt
Jonah Ashton held two letters, one in each hand, as if the gravity of their messages bore physical weight and his open palms were the pans of Lady Justice’s scale. The papers felt deceptively equal and light, but the words written on them produced heaviness in his chest that could not be ignored. He sat on the edge of his bed in the musty room at the back of his aunt’s fine Philadelphia home and glanced up at his classmate.
Frederick straightened his starched collar in the dressing mirror. He raised an eyebrow at Jonah. “Well?”
“Well what? I must go home. I haven’t got a choice.”
“Of course you do. Stay and fight the allegation so you can finish the medical program.”
Jonah shook his head and studied the letters for the twentieth time. One letter, written in the scurried script of a concerned professor at Penn’s Medical School, warned of a possible criminal charge and adjured Jonah to prepare his defense; the other letter summoned him to his father’s estate in Accomack County on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. He blew out a shaky breath and pointed at the Spencerian scroll of his father’s closing command. “He said to come home at once. He believes the tension between the States will escalate since Lincoln’s been elected. He’s been talking about settling land in South America and I knew he expected me to go with them. I didn’t think it would be until after I earned my degree.”
“Why would someone of your father’s wealth and connections want to leave it all behind and sail to South America?”
“His inherited wealth and connections mean nothing to him, but he has always dreamed of…” Not wanting to paint his father as impetuous, he changed his explanation. “There are unsettled islands off the eastern coast of South America. They are beguiled by the challenge of establishing a new colony.”
“Mine and seven other Accomack County families. They are a closely knit church. The minister descended from Swiss Anabaptists. He and my father share traditionalist Christian views and are determined to start a peaceful settlement on virgin soil.”
“An adventurous notion, however, your father’s timing could not be worse for you.” Frederick stayed in front of the mirror, pinching the waxed tips of his mustache. “If you leave the city while accusations loom, it will solidify your guilt for everyone at Penn—except me of course. You could be expelled. Stay here and defend yourself so you can earn your degree with the rest of us.”
“I wish it were that simple. I’d be worthless as a physician without a degree, but if I disobey my father’s command, I will upset him and might never see my family again. I cannot disappoint him, especially after all he has done to ensure my education.”
Frederick shrugged. “My father believes Virginia will vote to secede from the Union and he wants me back in Richmond soon, but I wouldn’t leave town if I were facing a criminal charge. And neither should you. You’ve worked too hard to let something like this tarnish your reputation.”
“But without an alibi, there might be little chance of a favorable verdict.” Jonah wiped sweat from his temple then raised the letter of warning. “It is true. I was the last medical student seen with the patient. But that doesn’t make me guilty. I would never force myself on any woman, especially not an ailing one. This is simply an opium user’s feverish hallucination.”
“But that opium user also happens to be the college provost’s wife, and if you leave, her accusation will stand.”
“Such a charge would ruin my career.” Jonah refrained from looking Frederick in the eye. “Not to mention, a trial could end in conviction and sentencing. I’ve done everything right my entire life and now I’m being accused of the unimaginable.”
Frederick spread his hands. “The woman has no proof. It probably won’t go to trial if you stay and cooperate with the investigation.”
“And not say goodbye to my family? Or worse yet, let them hear about the charge just before they leave the country forever? That would be too upsetting for my parents. I cannot part with my father on bad terms; it would torment me. And I have four younger siblings, all of whom look up to me. I couldn’t bear the guilt. No. They are setting sail in a few weeks. If I were charged, I would not be able to leave the city.” Jonah’s trembling fingers folded his father’s letter in precise quarters and he stuffed it into his breast pocket. He crouched near the fireplace, gripped a fire iron, and stoked the burning logs on the grate.
“What are you doing?” Frederick asked.
“I haven’t been charged yet. I’m going to Virginia, but only staying long enough to say goodbye to my family. They know how important my medical degree is to me, so maybe they will understand that I cannot go with them. I won’t tell them about the allegation. I will return to fight this charge, and my family can sail to South America without hearing of the scandal.” He pulled his silver watch from his vest pocket, wiped its spotless surface with his shirtsleeve, and checked the hour. “There is still time to make the night train.” His already fluttering stomach churned. “You can keep all this to yourself, can’t you?”
“Not if I am subpoenaed.” Frederick glanced at the closed bedroom door and lowered his voice. “I won’t perjure myself.”
“I’m not asking you to. Just don’t tell anyone I have left.” Jonah tempted the flame with the edge of the warning letter. The fire’s orange tongues licked at the paper and caught it ablaze. He dropped the burning letter on the log and stared at the stationers’ watermark as the frantic warning blackened and withered before it turned to ash. He lifted his chin toward the door. “Is anyone in the hallway?”
The knob squeaked as Frederick cracked the door. He put his ear to the chink for a moment and then closed the door again. “No. It sounds like the servants are in the kitchen. Are you really leaving the city right now?”
Aboard Providence by Keely Brooke Keith available October 2016 from CrossRiver Media.
What other authors are saying about the book:
“A delightful adventure reminiscent of Swiss Family Robinson, Aboard Providence is one of those novels that will stick with me because I feel I’ve lived it. A captivating, well-researched, and deftly written tale I can confidently recommend to a wide range of readers.” –Heather Day Gilbert, author of Amazon Norse bestseller God’s Daughter
“With vivid settings and multi-layered characters, Keely Brooke Keith whisks her readers off on a page-turning journey, not just across the ocean, but within the heart. You won’t be able to put Aboard Providence down until the final word is read and then you will long for more.” –Brenda S. Anderson, author of the Coming Home series
“A blend of history and romance with a compelling inspirational message, Keith expertly weaves an intriguing tale. Fans of the Uncharted Series won’t want to miss this journey.” –Heidi McCahan, author of Unraveled
“Keely Brooke Keith is a master storyteller, weaving adventure, love, and wonderful characters into a vivid story that will take readers on an unforgettable voyage to a new place. Full of inspirational messages and tales of God’s love, readers will find themselves longing for more. Keely’s story teaches all of us that the journey is just the beginning!” –Christina Yother, author of the Hollow Hearts series
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Keely Brooke Keith is the author of the Uncharted series (Edenbrooke Press) and Aboard Providence (CrossRiver Media). Her novels are known for blending genres in unconventional ways. When she isn’t writing stories, Keely enjoys playing bass guitar, preparing homeschool lessons, and collecting antique textbooks. Originally from St. Joseph, Missouri, Keely resides with her husband and their daughter on a hilltop south of Nashville where she dreams up stories, hoping to encourage, comfort, and inspire readers. She is a member of ACFW.
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