Title: Wind of the Spirit (The American Patriot Series, Book 3)
Author: J.M. Hochstetler
Publisher: Sheaf House Publishers
Genre: Historical fiction/romance
Elizabeth Howard’s assignment to gain crucial intelligence for General Washington leads her into the very maw of war at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, where disaster threatens to end the American rebellion. Yet her heart is fixed on Jonathan Carleton, whose whereabouts remain unknown more than a year after he disappeared into the wilderness.
Carleton, now the Shawnee war chief White Eagle, is caught in a bitter war of his own. As unseen forces gather to destroy him, he leads the fight against white settlers encroaching on Shawnee lands—while battling the longing for Elizabeth that will not give him peace. Can her love bridge the miles that separate them—and the savage bonds that threaten to tear him forever from her arms?
The sailboat heeled sharply to starboard, bucking against the inrushing tide and contrary winds at the broad mouth of the Hudson River. Entering New York’s Upper Bay, it tacked to the right and hugged the lee of the New Jersey shoreline, indistinct in the darkness, where a scattering of small islands provided concealment from the sleeping British men-of-war that swung lazily on their anchor cables off Staten Island.
Above Elizabeth Howard’s head, the sultry July wind boomed in the bellying sail of the small vessel, incongruously dubbed Implacable. Fluttering Elizabeth’s loose farmer’s smock, it tugged at the broad brim of her battered hat and teased strands of the brown wig that concealed her own deep auburn curls.
She maintained her balance instinctively by shifting her weight with the deck’s rise and fall, in the same movement clamping her hand over her hat’s crown to keep it from flying off her head. After a moment she glanced uneasily toward the black silhouette of the muscular Negro youth who held the tiller steady.
From what she could make out of his easy stance and calm countenance in the fitful ripples of light that reflected up from the waves, he appeared unperturbed. Reassured, she swung back to probe the misty, wooded shoreline of Staten Island drawing rapidly closer off the port bow. To their good fortune, the waning quarter moon had not yet risen, and only faint starlight danced across the fast-running, choppy sea.
“You’re certain this stretch of the island is safe, Pete?” she hissed, keeping her voice to an urgent whisper.
“The nearest farm is more’n a mile that way,” he growled, gesturing off to the west. “Ever’ time I come before, this cove been deserted. I scouted it extra careful.”
Nodding, she took a steadying breath, consciously releasing the tension that clamped her stomach in a knot. “Then let’s pray no one’s developed the urge to wander tonight.”
With practiced skill, Pete negotiated the narrow Kills between the looming bulk of the large island and Bergen Point, jutting out from the New Jersey bluffs. After reefing the sail to slow her speed, he brought the nimble craft into the breakers close to shore.
Elizabeth wasted no time clambering out into the seething surf. “Be back an hour before daybreak. If I’m not waiting for you . . .” Her voice trailed off.
“I’ll find you if I can,” Pete responded, his voice low and grim.
With a grunt she shoved the sailboat back into deeper water. Pete’s only response was to briefly touch his hand to his hat brim. He feathered the Implacable into the current and once more hoisted the graceful sail to the top of the mast.
Elizabeth waited only a moment to watch the boat tack out of reach before turning to wade through the hissing waves to the narrow strip of beach. When she turned again, the vessel’s sail had already diminished to a barely discernible triangle, pale against the gloom that wrapped the New Jersey shore. Though by habit he spoke little, she knew that Pete, the younger son of Isaiah Moghrab, the sergeant of a black platoon in her uncle’s regiment of Continentals, would keep his word.
Heart pounding, she melted into the dense underbrush that cloaked the low, sandy hills above the beach, found a concealed vantage that allowed her to observe the surroundings unseen. For some moments she waited, motionless, watching and listening intently. No unexpected sounds disturbed the sibilance of waves gurgling across the shingle, the sigh of wind in the full-leaved treetops farther inland, and the creak and groan of branches rubbing against one another.
At length satisfied no one was in the vicinity, she transferred her attention to her damp attire. Although the lower edge of her breeches had been thoroughly drenched by the waves, thankfully her tight fitting, knee-length boots had spared her feet and most of her lower legs. More than two miles lay between her and the British camp, she estimated, a less than pleasant walk with brine-soaked shoes and wet feet. At least, dressed as one of the local farmers, she should attract little attention in the unlikely event she encountered another wayfarer abroad at this late hour.
Frowning, she struggled to focus her thoughts on her mission. Her safety and the fortunes of the badly outnumbered American army, whose lines stretched all the way from New Jersey to Long Island, depended on her using both caution and daring to secure the intelligence General George Washington needed if he was to counter an attack by British General William Howe’s overwhelming invasion force.
Her thoughts, however, stubbornly kept drifting to more personal concerns.
It was past ten o’clock, Sunday, July 7, 1776. It had been a year since Washington had denied permission for her and Brigadier General Jonathan Carleton to wed. A year since the American commander had sent Elizabeth back into the besieged city of Boston to continue spying on the British, and Carleton far to the west to negotiate with the Indian tribes to support the colonists in their rebellion against the British king.
A year since Carleton had disappeared into the wilderness.
In that time, all she and Carleton’s aide, Colonel Charles Andrews, had been able to learn was that he had been captured by the Seneca and enslaved, a fate she had been told was worse than death. In spite of every effort, they had not been able to find him or even to learn if he was still alive.
At least neither had the British. For they sought Carleton as well—on charges of treason. The reward offered for his arrest was calculated to tempt even a loyal Son of Liberty to betray the man who, as the spy Patriot, had transmitted crucial military intelligence to the rebels in Boston while serving as British General Thomas Gage’s aide-de-camp.
Elizabeth blinked back stinging tears. Even her deepening relationship with Pieter Vander Groot, a young Dutch doctor in whose surgery she assisted several days a week, had not been able to erase her longing for the shelter of Carleton’s arms or the love that refused to relinquish its claim on her heart. In truth, her growing attraction to this handsome, gentle colleague had only intensified her anguish over Carleton’s unknown fate and equal confusion as to what course the Lord would have her follow.
Her heart contracting, she lifted her face to the warm sea breeze and stared toward the western horizon, beyond which stretched the vast forests into which Carleton had vanished. Despair flooded over her, as it had that afternoon on the terrace at Montcoeur, the temporary home she shared with her aunt Tess Howard on the outskirts of New York City.
Every fiber of her being cried out to go in search of him, to track him down if it took the rest of her life. But sober reflection assured her that such a course would only cause worry and hardship to those she left behind and offered no guarantee of success. For now, all she could do was keep on blindly trusting that, although she could not understand what good could ever come of hers and Carleton’s suffering, the Almighty had a hidden purpose even in this painful season.
Letting out a lingering sigh, she dashed away her tears with the back of her hand. At length she rose stiffly, then turned with reluctance toward the island’s interior and the duty that called her.
J. M. Hochstetler writes stories that always involve some element of the past and of finding home. Born in central Indiana, the daughter of Mennonite farmers, she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Germanic languages. She was an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years and has published four novels. Daughter of Liberty (2004), Native Son (2005), and Wind of the Spirit (March 2009), the first three books of the critically acclaimed American Patriot Series, are set during the American Revolution. One Holy Night, a retelling of the Christmas story set in modern times, is the 2009 Christian Small Publishers Fiction Book of the Year and a finalist for the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Long Contemporary Book of the Year.
Hochstetler is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, Nashville Christian Writers Association, and Historical Novels Society. She and her husband live near Nashville, Tennessee.