The Civil War has ended.Confederate cavalryman, David Summers, returns home to Alabama, taking his new wife, Anna, with him. Upon arrival, he understands how much the war has changed him and has scarred his homeland. Faced with challenges of transition, he learns how to navigate his new world, along with the pain and trauma of his past. He is also forced to confront his foes, including Stephen Montgomery. Their hatred for one another inevitably boils over into a fierce confrontation, whereby David is arrested.
Will the jury believe his side of the story, even though he is an ex-Confederate? Or will he be hung for his crime?
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Read and Excerpt from Double-Edged Sword
An owl hooted off in the distance. There came a rustling from within, and the bolt slid. The door slowly opened a crack. A girl peered out. She hesitated for a moment, then recognized her brother’s grinning face, and threw the door wide. Anna saw she was dressed in a nightgown, her long dark brown hair hanging loose.
“David!” she squealed, throwing herself on him. “You’re home! I can’t believe it!”
The siblings embraced, laughing.
“Rena,” he said after they’d held each other for a moment. “It’s mighty good to see you.” They hugged again, but then he remembered his manners. “Oh, this here’s Anna!”
She immediately embraced her. “Anna, I’m right happy to know you!”
“I’m happy to meet you too,” she replied, smiling.
Rena took hold of her hands and pulled her inside. I’ve so looked forward to this day!” David’s younger sister said. She hugged him once more and gave him a kiss on the cheek, then took hold of his hands and led him into the front room. “Ma!” she cried over her shoulder. “Josie!”
David chuckled, ecstatic with the reunion. “You look beautiful,” he remarked.
Rena snickered, suddenly conscious of her attire.
A door in the back room creaked. “What’s goin’ on out here? I thought I heard …” The woman stopped and stared wide-eyed at the three figures standing in the dark. “David!” she wailed, and ran to him.
He enveloped her in his arms.
“Oh, praise be!” she began sobbing. “My boy has come home at last!”
David held her tightly, struggling to contain his emotions while Anna looked on, overcome with sentiment. Rena crossed the room and lit a few candles. Now the sight was even more profound, because the expression on their mother’s face was heart-wrenching. Her eyes were pinched tight as tears streamed down her cheeks. He gave her a slight squeeze, released her, and saw that she seemed to have aged considerably since he last saw her.
“Rena! Go fetch your sister!” Caroline requested excitedly. “Oh, let me git a good look at you!” She stepped back, keeping her hands grasped tightly onto her son’s arms, then pulled him close and kissed his cheeks. A younger girl with long auburn hair emerged through a side door with Rena following behind.
“David!” she shrieked. She threw herself into his waiting arms.
The two hugged like frolicking bruins.
“You’re here! You’re truly here!” She held onto him for a solid minute before his mother protested.
“Now, Josie, give him a chance to breathe!”
She released him, and he snickered.
“Why, take a gander at you, Josie! You ain’t a li’l girl any longer. All of fifteen, now.”
Josie nodded, a big grin on her face. “And you’re an old feller, all of twenty!”
David laughed. “Reckon you have to beat the boys off with a stick!”
“No,” said Josie solemnly. “There ain’t too many boys my age left in these parts.”
Rena stood beside Anna, absorbing the spectacle. She took her hand and smiled at her.
Anna couldn’t help but smile back, even though she felt precarious and homesick.
“I’ve so much to tell you!” Josie exclaimed “We’ve so much to talk about!”
“First I want to introduce my bride,” David said. “Ma, Josie, this here’s Anna.” He turned to her and held out his hand, prompting her to take it.
“Mrs. Summers,” she said shyly, “Josie. I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.”
David’s mother looked at her for a moment, then smiled and embraced her. “Oh, my dear Anna.” She released her. “It’s right good to have you home.”
Josie hugged her as well. Standing back, she exclaimed, “I have a new sister!”
David glanced around the room, which seemed to be missing a few pieces of furniture. He looked at the mantle, and saw the clock his father had given his mother as a wedding present, along with his father’s portrait, but the photograph he’d had taken in Huntsville before he left for the army wasn’t beside it. He was about to ask where it was when his mother grasped his hand.
“Come with me, David. We have somethin’ to show you.”
She led him out back, and the young ladies followed. Two dogs ran up to greet them, sniffing at Anna’s skirts as she made her way through the unfamiliar dark. She knew they were the dogs David had told her about, Caleb and Si. The family trudged past neglected outbuildings. Chickens clucked inside the henhouse, alarmed by the invasion.
“Where are the pigs?” asked David.
“I’ll explain all that later.” Caroline led him up an incline to a little white cottage that was tucked before a thicket.
“Granny’s old house?” he asked.
“We fixed it up for you!” Josie declared. “‘Cause we knew you’d be comin’!”
The family entered the one-room dwelling, and Caroline lit a candle. In the glow, David saw a little table, two chairs, a five-drawer dresser with an attached mirror, and a double bed with a small nightstand beside it. Red-and-white checkered homespun curtains hung over each of the two windows.
Anna entered behind Rena and gasped. “You did all this for us?” she asked, her eyes welling up. She was far more exhausted than she had realized, and her emotions were soaring.
“We’ve been workin’ on it for the past month,” explained Josie.
Anna walked over and sat on the bed. It creaked in protest, but was firm, nevertheless. “I can’t wait to try this out!” she exclaimed.
The girls giggled.
“Oh! I didn’t mean …” Anna blushed.
David gave her a crooked grin. “Ma,” he said, turning toward her, “I know Joe Boy was stolen ‘cause we got your letters.”
“Yes, the soldiers took our horse, along with most of the livestock. It’s a miracle our letters got through,” Caroline stated. “A simple act of God, that’s what I believe.” She smiled. “And the postmaster, Mr. Ford, assisted, of course. Every time he saw a letter come from you, he stowed it so the Yankees wouldn’t have a chance to confiscate it. And he made sure our letters got up to you, but since then, they’ve been watchin’ us right close. How many did you receive?”
“Well, I got the one you sent to me in prison, and the one you mailed last summer, after I told you about my marriage to Anna. And I received one from Rena, and one from Josie while I was in prison.”
Caroline nodded wisely, piecing it together. “Those first three letters were sent in February.”
“They were? I didn’t git them till spring.”
“And I sent you cookies. Did you receive them?”
“No, ma’am. They were gone.”
“That figures,” Caroline grumbled. She threw a glance at Anna.
“What about Renegade?” Josie asked. “Did you bring him?”
“Sure did!” replied David with a grin. “Would you go fetch the wagon and take it around to the barn?”
His little sister nodded and ran out the door.
Rena stepped toward him and took his hand. “We’re very proud of you,” she spoke melodically.
His heart fluttered with the sound of her lilting voice.
The newlyweds proceeded to talk about their trip, and soon, Josie returned.
“They got us a mule!” she announced.
“We brought other items for you as well,” informed Anna.
Caroline nodded, and discreetly covered a yawn, which sparked yawns from everyone else in the room. “She smiled. “It seems we’re all a bit tuckered out. Let us git some rest, and we’ll talk further in the mornin’. There’s food in the kitchen if y’all are hungry.”
“Thanks, Ma,” David replied.
After Caroline and her daughters hugged him, they walked back to the house. He turned to face Anna after closing the door.
“Well, this is nice, ain’t it?” He flashed a smile and sat down beside her. “And I can’t wait to try out this bed, either.” He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her tenderly.
They gazed into each other’s eyes.
“So, this was your grandmother’s cottage?” she asked.
“Yeah. She lived back here as long as I can remember. Jist her. Granddaddy died before I was born. She died here.”
Anna cringed. “In this bed?”
“Uh huh. Oh,” he said as he remembered. “I’d best go settle Renie and Ginger, and bring in the trunk. I’ll fetch us some vittles too.” He stood and strode toward the door. “I’ll be right back,” he promised as he went out, and closed the wooden slab door behind him.
Anna stood, brushed the wrinkles from her skirt, walked to the window, and peered out, watching her husband vanish into the darkness. She turned and absorbed the ambiance. It is lovely, she thought to herself, the perfect honeymoon cottage. She smiled, and investigated the tiny fireplace, running her hand across the roughhewn mantle, already making plans on how to decorate it.
She sank down onto the bed. Suddenly, she felt out of her element, and broke into a sweat. Could it be that David’s family members were behaving the way they were for his benefit only? What if they weren’t sincere, and considered her an intruder? Anna hoped with all her heart they would treasure her, but everything seemed so alien here. Perhaps, when they learned about another new family member they were about to acquire, they’d accept her. She lay back and placed her hand upon her stomach. David would need to know soon as well. This situation was only temporary; this was merely a visit. She would return home by year’s end, even if she had to take him away from his family permanently. Somehow, she would make it happen.
J.D.R. Hawkins is an Amazon, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling, award-winning author. She is one of a few female Civil War authors, uniquely describing the front lines from a Confederate perspective. Her "Renegade Series" includes "A Beautiful Glittering Lie," winner of the 2013 John Esten Cooke Fiction Award and the 2012 B.R.A.G. Medallion. The sequel, "A Beckoning Hellfire," is an Amazon bestseller and winner of the 2022 B.R.A.G. Medallion. "A Rebel Among Us," the third book in the series, is the recipient of the 2017 John Esten Cooke Fiction Award and winner of the 2022 B.R.A.G. Medallion. Double-Edged Sword is the newly-published, fourth book in the series. These books, published by Westwood Books Publishing, LLC, tell the story of a family from north Alabama who experience immeasurable pain when their lives are dramatically changed by the war. Ms. Hawkins has also published a nonfiction book about the War Between the States, titled "Horses in Gray: Famous Confederate Warhorses," with Pelican Publishing. She is a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the International Women's Writing Guild, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and Pikes Peak Writers. Ms. Hawkins is also an artist and a singer/songwriter.
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