After British soldiers killed his wife and child during the War of 1812, Parker Sinclair vowed to never set foot on English soil. But as Thomas Jefferson’s landscaper, one must sometimes make the ultimate sacrifice. The last thing Parker expects to find is an educated English beauty who can teach him so much more than how to plant a magnificent garden.
An expert at cross-pollinating roses, Violet Wilson’s dreams of becoming the first woman recognized by the Royal Horticultural Society are fading because she’s afraid to leave the quiet solitude of her family’s nursery. Distrustful of men after a traumatic encounter, she’s not keen on disrupting her routine to help the American landscaper, but she soon blossoms under his kindness and respect.
by Becky Lower
Sensuality Level: Sensual
Becky Lower lives in Ohio, near the birthplace of rock and roll, and admits to using song titles and lyrics for inspiration when writing her romances. Find Becky Lower at www.beckylowerauthor.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @BeckyLower1.
An excerpt from Winning Violet:
Parker hated England. He scanned the harbor, the pit in his stomach cavernous as he stared at the bleak, gray landscape in front of him.
The ship had only been docked for an hour and Parker Sinclair hadn’t yet set foot on English soil, but nonetheless, his hatred of the country had been ingrained in him from childhood. He stared at the gangplank, willing his body forward when he desperately wanted to turn tail and head back to Philadelphia.
But since that was not an option, Parker stumbled onto the cobblestoned street, jostled by all the dockworkers scrambling about, reminding him of a colony of ants as they loaded and unloaded ship after ship, hauling goods either on board or onto land.
He groaned internally at his need to contract for a horse and buggy in order to get to Salisbury. At least two days’ travel lay ahead before he got to his final destination. Two days of being knocked about on a wooden plank seat, on roads pitted by the wheel marks of thousands who had come before him, with nothing to stare at except the soggy, rolling English countryside.
He heaved a sigh, positioned his satchel on his hip, paid to have his trunk delivered to the nearest livery, and hobbled there on foot, despite how the damp air affected his leg. Another thing he held the British accountable for, because one of their musket balls tearing through his leg had caused the limp. Might as well get on with things. The sooner he got started, the quicker he could return home. He took a deep breath of the briny air that stunk of fish and bent over, coughing.
“Where you ’eading to, mate?” The gangly man at the livery eyed Parker from head to toe, as if measuring the size of his wallet. His muscles were thin and ropey, his bones jutting out at all angles.
“Salisbury, I’m afraid, for about a month.” Parker grimaced.
“Do ya ’ave enough blunt to hire a horse and buggy for two fortnights?” The man studied Parker closely again and tossed his greasy hair.
“Yes, sir.” Parker tugged some money from the pouch he wore around his waist. “But I hope to return your horse and buggy earlier than a month’s time. Let’s get on with it.” He tried to control his facial expression this time. This man didn’t need to see what Parker truly thought about his country. He brushed his hand over his heart. His son would have been nearly twelve by now, if not for the British. Would he have enjoyed seeing all the ships in the harbor? Parker would never know.
“Well, you don’t appear none too ’appy ’bout makin’ the trip. What’s in Salisbury for you?” The livery man prodded as he set about getting the cart ready. His motions were practiced and quick.
“Have you been working the livery long? I’m impressed with your speed.” Parker attempted casual conversation in an effort to override the man’s observation.
“Naw, I’m only ’elpin’ out my friend today. But I’ve been around horses me whole life.” The man made a few minor adjustments to the cart reins.
At this rate, Parker would be on his way in no time.
On his way to a foreign town in a foreign country to buy foreign plants to take back to America. He could only guess what awaited him in the blasted village southwest of London. “I’m on my way to Mulberry Hill, the nursery and landscaping business.”
The man smacked his forehead with his hand. “Ach, you’ll ’ave to deal with those wretched sisters, then.”
Parker shook his head, but a small part of him whispered the word sisters. As in more than one. Perhaps there could be a silver lining in Salisbury. Or a dark cloud. “I’m to meet with Mr. Wilson. I have no knowledge of sisters.”
“Wilson’s daughters. Four of ’em. Pretty as the flowers they grow, but prickly as a blackberry bush, too. Be on yer guard.” The man cackled, exposing missing teeth along with the remaining yellowed ones. He glanced over Parker’s shoulder into the interior of the darkened barn.
Parker’s head swam as his nose and lungs congested, and he lowered himself to a bale of hay to wait for the buggy to be readied. The wind had picked up outside the stables, and he shivered in his coat as a blast of cold air invaded the dwelling. Suddenly, pain exploded in the back of his head, and his world became dark.