Oh my goodness. Yall have got to read this guest post. Just keep a tissue handy! ~Anna
The Civil War has torn Brianna Taylor’s family apart and made her a widow. Determined to ease the suffering of the wounded crowding the Union hospitals and honor the memory of the man she loved, she embarks on a career as a nurse. But then he arrives—a patient who makes her feel alive again in spite of her resolve to stay detached.
Captain Justin Thompson understands the cost of war all too well, yet he felt compelled to fight for the Union his father died defending. Wounded at Cold Harbor and left to die at a military hospital, he owes his life to Brianna, who seems determined to guard her professional boundaries despite his best efforts to breach them. Just as he’s winning the battle for her heart, he’s forced to return to the front of a cruel war that could very well separate them forever.
Follow the TOUR
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, perhaps the most iconic battle of the Civil War, and I’m thrilled to be releasing my latest book, The Vacant Chair. I’ve been a Civil War buff since I was twelve, and have dragged first my family and later my husband to all sorts of battlefields back east. Researching this book was so much fun for me! Pretty sure my hubby didn’t love it as much as I did though. *g*
The Vacant Chair tells the story of a nurse working at a Union depot hospital and an officer in the 5th Michigan Cavalry under George Armstrong Custer, part of his famous Michigan Wolverines. There are so many fascinating things about the Civil War. Take for example the lack of sterilization in medical procedures back then. No one had a clue about things like bacteria at the time, so without proper sterilization or proper hygienic practices amongst the medical personnel and patients, infections were commonplace. The kinds of ammunition used (for example, the conical lead Minie ball) resulted in such horrific wounds that even surgeons today would have no choice but to amputate the shattered limbs suffered.
More than any other, I think what makes the Civil War come alive for me is reading soldiers’ letters. Since there was no censorship during the war, men could not only write about life in camp or on the front lines, but also about a particular battle or campaign. This makes them a treasure trove of detail for readers, especially when they give us a glimpse into their hearts and minds.
If you’ve ever watched the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War, you might remember the famous love letter written by Sullivan Balou, judge advocate of the Rhode Island militia, to his wife Sarah.
My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more . . .
I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt . . .
Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness . . .
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again . . .
One week after writing this letter, Balou was killed at the first battle of Bull Run. It’s letters like these that make the Civil War come to life, and I hope I’ve managed to do the same in The Vacant Chair. It’s only $2.99 in digital and is also available in paperback.I hope you enjoy it! ~Kayla Cross
Kaylea Cross writes edge-of-your-seat military romantic suspense. Her work has won many awards and has been nominated for both the Daphne du Maurier and the National Readers’ Choice Awards. A Registered Massage Therapist by trade, Kaylea is also an avid gardener, artist, Civil War buff, Special Ops aficionado, belly dance enthusiast and former nationally-carded softball pitcher. She and lives in Vancouver, BC with her husband and two sons.
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