Last year I was asked by my community History Club (of which I'm a member) to do a presentation about the fight for women's rights which led to the passage of the 19th Amendment. I did a ton of research, only to be told that the wife of the club president was going to do the presentation herself. Oh well. Around that time I started writing BENEATH AN IRON SKY. I knew who the hero was, but the heroine eluded me. Then I had one of those light-bulb moments. She's a suffragist. Of course. So with all that research under my belt, I created the characters of Philadelphia (Del) Stratton and her Aunt Abigail, a die-hard suffragist at a time when suffragists were thought to be haggard old maids.
Anyway, I was also intrigued by the possibility of two youngsters bonding, only to be separated, and reunited years later as adults. Would the bond be as strong? Would they have outgrown each other? But hey, this is romance, so what do you think?
BENEATH AN IRON SKY is a story of women's rights, Indian rights, and a love that bridges two worlds at a time when those worlds were at war.
In 1880 Eleven-year-old Philadelphia (Del) Stratton meets fifteen-year-old Crow Eagle, a rebellious Lakota boy, at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania where her father is an instructor. Wrenched from his people on the reservation and brought to Carlisle to become Americanized, the reluctant but deep bond the belligerent boy forms with the idealistic young girl is severed when he returns to his people.
Nine years later they are reunited when Del’s fight for women’s suffrage takes her to Dakota Territory on the verge of statehood. There, Crow Eagle, now a strong warrior, is waging battle to retain his people’s way of life and keep their hope alive through the Ghost Dance. And the friendship that began years earlier blossoms into a forbidden love that will not be denied.
Here's an excerpt:
“I want you to come with me,” he said flatly.
It was not what she expected. Her heart gave an involuntary flutter. Was this his way of telling her that he loved her?
“I need someone to speak to the white men for us. Someone who is not afraid.”
Del stared back at him with a frozen expression, overcome with the disappointment of knowing that the only reason he wanted her to go with him was for that reason and not because he loved her.
Flooded with sudden pain, she exclaimed, “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“You must come,” he said. “You must see what is happening to my people. You must speak to the white men.They will listen to you.”
She swung her slender legs from the bed and went quickly to light a lamp, turning the wick up to its fullest. The passionate spell woven in the dreamy moonlight was broken by the harsh light that spilled into the room. “You think you can seduce me into doing your bidding?”
“Seduce? What is this seduce?”
“It means you used my body to get what you wanted from me.”
He smiled grimly. “Did you not use my body, too?”
Del felt the scalding shame of his words. “You are insufferable,” she snapped.
“I do not know this word,” he said. “But I think I do not like it.”
“You came here for one reason,” Del said accusingly. “To get me to speak to the white men. I presume you mean the commissioners.”
“Yes. But I also wanted—”
“I will not do it,” she said adamantly, cutting him off.
She marched across the room to the window, swiping her blouse from the chair and hastily shrugging back into it, her fingers shaking as she buttoned it. Nodding angrily toward the window, she said, “You can leave the way you came in.”
Crow Eagle stood without moving. His face wore an expression she’d never seen before, black and scowling, cold and set. His stare unnerved her, and for the first time in her life she was afraid of him.
Despite the fury she saw building in his eyes, she stood her ground. “I will not go with you.”
He came toward her with alarming suddenness, causing the flame in the lamp to leap, sending shadows dancing over the walls. Seizing her arm in a ferocious grip, he said threateningly, “You will come.”
Before Del could voice another objection, he circled her waist with one strong arm, cutting off her breath as his other hand clamped down over her mouth.
Hauling her up off her feet, he threw one leg over the sill and climbed through the window with the struggling woman trapped in his arms.
She kicked and thrashed about so much that it took some doing getting her onto his pony’s back, but when she was finally planted firmly in front of him, he gave a sharp kick to his pony’s flanks and tore out of Buffalo Gulch at a gallop.