Cover image for Sunrise
Parr, Delia.
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Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Paperbacks, [1999]

Physical Description:
290 pages ; 18 cm
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X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Closed Stacks

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Wrongfully accused of the murder of her unfaithful husband, Jane Foster turns for help to renegade big-city lawyer Daniel Colton, whose own involvement in the case soon becomes complicated by his growing feelings for Jane, in a romance set in 1830s Pennsylvania.

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Publisher's Weekly Review

Living in a small town in antebellum Pennsylvania, Jane Foster is a plain woman trapped in a loveless marriage. When her husband disappears, she is left on the edge of economic disaster. Jane turns to her aunt for help, and it arrives in the form of lawyer Daniel Colton. From the first the two clash: Daniel advises Jane not to let the letter of the law get in the way of running her husband's store profitably. Her insistence on integrity has Daniel gritting his teeth. A bigger problem arises, however, when Jane's husband is found dead. As she becomes a victim of gossip, suspicion and malicious vandalism, Daniel finds himself torn between the conflicting roles of lawyer and lover. Then Jane is arrested, and now Daniel will do anything to save her, including betraying her trust by exposing their illicit loveÄand her husband's shameful secret. In this latest in a string of first-rate historical romances, Parr (The Minister's Wife) deftly blends suspense, action, period detail and romance. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One 1831     Jane's hand trembled as she tilted the heavy watch that hung from a silver chain around her neck to check the hour. It was nearly six o'clock. With no time now to tidy her room, she had precious little inclination to ponder, again, why or how her marriage had withered away into nothing more than an illusion. She had responsibilities to meet to the villagers and area farmers who depended on the general store.     She left her chamber and gently closed the door behind her. Her heart pounding, she tiptoed down the hall, but when she reached Hiram's room, the door was ajar. She peered inside and realized he had already left for an overnight stay in Lancaster to meet with his lawyer in preparation for his next long trip.     Hesitating but a moment, she crossed the room and walked through an invisible cloud scented with his cologne, stepped over bed linens that trailed to the floor, and closed the door to the walnut wardrobe on her way to the window. Her fingers brushed against the tied-back drapes, but she paused to take a deep breath of tingling dawn air before she slid the window closed. She turned and walked back through the room he had left in the same total disarray as their marriage, apparently without much of a backward glance for either.     Once she was out of the room, she closed the door behind her and walked down the hall, moved through the parlor, and descended the stairway that led to a small foyer that adjoined the rear storeroom. Just inside the back door, someone had left three crates of eggs for barter, and she stooped to retrieve a handwritten note before continuing.     Daylight streamed through the curtainless windows in the storeroom, but she walked past each window without looking outside. When she reached the opposite end of the narrow room, she unlatched the wide doors that led to the loading platform. Working quickly and efficiently, she continued her morning routine and entered the general store through a second doorway, this one directly opposite the loading platform. She passed barrels of salted fish and flour and shelves bulging with sundry dry goods.     Shivering, she shoveled a good amount of coal into the warming stove in the center of the room and noted the pungent aroma of stale tobacco. She had cleaned out the boxes of sawdust placed next to the four chairs that circled the stove just last night, and she made a mental note to scrub the dark stains on the well-worn wooden floor--stains left by villagers who gathered here every day to share the latest bit of gossip, issue commentaries on the weather, call for the post, or fill empty hours with companionship and a wad of chewing tobacco or, occasionally, a pipe.     Outside, footsteps approached slowly and deliberately on the planked sidewalk that ran the width of the storefront and announced the hour. She had no need to check her watch. Aunt Nester was as punctual as she was reliable whenever Hiram was away. It was now six o'clock and time to open the store. Jane hurried to the door and greeted her self-appointed assistant with a smile as the sound of the door's warning bell echoed overhead.     Her mother's sister, now several years a widow, never broke her stride. Reed thin, with her face weathered by years as a farmer's wife, Aunt Nester still did not have a single gray hair on her head. With a wink, she strode past Jane, draped her black shawl around the back of her usual chair, and moved a box of sawdust. several inches further away.     After a quick nod of satisfaction, she plopped into her seat where she had a clear view of the front door. She glanced around the store while balancing a small woven basket on her lap. "How long do you expect him to be gone this time?"     "Just overnight. He'll be back late tomorrow," Jane replied as she removed the dustcover from her desk in the front left corner of the store. "He's not leaving for Baltimore until next week, but then he'll be gone for seven or eight weeks. He's planning on meeting again with his lawyer before he's off to make the rounds of new suppliers." She folded the cover and placed it into the bottom drawer, wishing she could put her disappointments and concerns away as easily.     She ran her fingers over the new ledger book she had painstakingly prepared for use while Hiram was in Baltimore. She prayed he would remember to stop back in Lancaster on his way home to reclaim the old ledger books from the lawyer there. He was using them to collect on old debts owed by folks who had moved away and to sell off some of the promissory notes Hiram's father had acquired through the years.     "He's away far too often and too long, in my opinion. Turns out he never really wanted to settle down like his father," Aunt Nester commented. As far as she was concerned, Hiram had no name. He was simply "he" ... until he acted more responsibly and earned the right to have a given name again. Jane was not sure she quite understood Aunt Nester's logic, but she knew better than to try.     "The crullers are still warm. Sit and eat with me before folks get here and interrupt our breakfast."     Jane frowned. "You don't have to come help me every time he goes away."     Aunt Nester laughed. "Never did like doin' a thing 'cause I had to, and now I'm old enough and ornery enough to do just what suits me. And helpin' you suits me."     Grateful for her aunt's company, Jane pulled a chair alongside her aunt, spread the offered napkin on her lap, and gratefully accepted a sugared cruller. She nibbled at the edge of the fried dough, mindful that Aunt Nester probably needed to be here at the store as much as Jane needed someone she could trust to help her. "Does it ever bother you ... I mean, you've given up most of your home for nearly two years now."     Aunt Nester chewed thoughtfully. "Abram did his duty and provided for me as best he could, bless his soul. I have my two rooms and use of the kitchen as long as I live. I expect Felicity will be happy to see me outta the house for a spell, though." She shook her head. "Thomas is entitled to his birthright, and with four youngsters, he needs the old homestead more than I do."     She put her cruller down, and licked the sugar from her fingers. "It's a natural cycle women's lives follow, but don't you fret for me. I've lived nearly three score and raised a fine family. As for the years I have left ..."     "Wouldn't you rather stay with Aunt Lily in Philadelphia?"     "And leave Sunrise? Never! This is my home. I was born here, and I'll die here, just like your folks. Besides," she added in a softer tone, "I wouldn't know how to survive in the city, and I don't have the funds to match Lily's. I won't be on the receiving end of her charity, even if she is my own sister."     She looked up at Jane and smiled. " We're family, too, and family looks out for one another. Always." Her eyes misted, and she turned away abruptly to set the basket onto the floor. "So ... we'll follow the same routine as last time, I assume. I'll keep watch for the customers when you have to work in the back settlin' up with the farmers. Come noontime, I'll take myself upstairs and start fixin' somethin' for our dinner while you tend to the store. Unless you'd prefer I stay here and mind the store."     Her gray eyes twinkled. "What'll it be? You can keep me outta your ledgers or your kitchen, but not both."     Jane laughed out loud. "You're more than welcome to my kitchen."     "That's what I figured. Most of your customers would probably agree with you, too. Sometimes I think you're too honest for our own good. Makes it awful hard to be your replacement." Aunt Nester reached into her apron pocket and pulled out her pouch of chewing tobacco as a wagon approached. "Go on. Get busy in the back. Rael Meyers mentioned he'd be here early with milk and butter. That's probably him now. Sure wish Sam was stoppin' by to haul for you today. Now that he's got his own business and hauls for Jonas Peterson at the mill, too, I don't get to see him very often at all."     She shook her head. "Neither does that wife of his. Polly must get awful lonesome, even though he's not gone as much as your husband. I still don't understand why she wouldn't agree to let you teach her how to keep Sam's books. She'd be company for you, too."     Jane swallowed hard. "Polly is much more interested in spending money, not learning how it's made," she said honestly, but truth be told, she had a much more personal reason for not wanting Polly here often. Having her in the store on a regular basis would be like dangling a piece of frosted cake in front of Hiram and expecting him to satisfy his taste for sweets with a day-old crust of bread.     The woman Sam had married a year and a half ago was young and utterly feminine. With her pale blond hair decorated with fancy ornaments and piled high in the latest fashion or hanging down her back, she wore gowns with more lace and ruffles than half the women in the village combined. She caught the attention of every man she passed while Jane was as plain as a common sparrow.     In looks, most women fell somewhere in between these two extremes. When Jane and Polly were in the same room, Jane was not sure whether it was Polly's beauty that made Jane appear so unusually plain or she was so plain Polly appeared to be more beautiful.     Sam positively adored his stunning wife, and given the state of Jane's marriage, she had troubles enough without having Polly here as a constant reminder of how devoted Hiram should have been. He had not even come to her bed for nearly three years now, and she assumed if he had any carnal appetites at all, he sated them when he traveled.     In all fairness, she had no proof he had ever been unfaithful to her--only her finely tuned instincts about the man she had married and the gnawing suspicion that he found her less tolerable with each passing month they remained married.     Jane folded the napkin around her unfinished cruller and placed it in the basket. "Sam's away till tomorrow. I'm sure you'll see him there," she murmured before making her way to her desk. She picked up the ledger book and walked back to the storeroom, chiding herself for being mean-spirited and jealous of her own sister-in-law. After being cooped up in the store all day, Jane found the prospect of spending another evening alone intolerable. With her supper cleared away, she walked the two miles to Aunt Nester's home and delivered one of the peach pies Mrs. Singletary had bartered for eggs and milk. Using the shortcut she and Sam had always used as children to reach the homestead he now shared with his wife, Jane traipsed along the footpath through the woods to visit Polly and bring her a pie--a visit she hoped would help assuage her guilt for the unkind thoughts she had had about Polly earlier that day,     With Sam out of town and her own family living miles away in Columbia, Polly was bound to be lonely, too, just as Aunt Nester had suggested. Since both their husbands traveled frequently, Jane made a mental note to extend herself more often to Sam's wife, if only for his sake.     The weather was still warm, and she slowed her pace to enjoy the waning autumn display of natural color before winter arrived, stripped the forest nearly bare, and painted the landscape white with snow. She followed the footpath, reached the main road linking Sunrise with the turnpike several miles to the east, and walked along the edge of the cindered roadbed for half a mile before her former home came into view.     She sighted the footpath that detoured around the house to end at the outbuildings hidden from view from the road. Filled with nostalgia for happier days, she opted for the footpath instead of the wider entry drive that led to the front of the house. Memories of the years she had spent raising Sam after their parents had been killed in a freak lightning storm filled her mind and brought a smile to her troubled heart.     She had only been nineteen; Sam was four years younger, and those first few months as orphans had been difficult as Jane assumed yet another role as disciplinarian. She chuckled softly as she walked, careful to keep the pie she carried from tipping. Sam had slipped out during the night one too many times before she had finally figured out how he had managed to get back inside without her seeing or hearing him approach.     Until she had remembered the footpath.     Sam never quite forgave her for scaring him half to death the night she surprised him by being there behind the barn when he finally made his way home just before dawn. He had never used the footpath again, either.     By the time she reached the barn and crossed the yard to the back door of the house, she had second thoughts about her decision to use the footpath. Since Polly was not expecting her, Jane hoped she would not frighten the girl by suddenly appearing on her doorstep without any advance warning.     Balancing the pie with one hand, she knocked on the back door which immediately swung open a few inches. She waited, rapped again a little harder this time, but Polly did not come to the door. Jane peered into the kitchen, saw it was deserted, and knocked again.     Still no response, although when Jane cocked her ear, she heard the low, distant murmur of voices coming from another room. Assuming Polly had company, Jane hesitated. She did not want to intrude, and she relished explaining her impromptu visit to the other guests even less, considering she still wore her work gown and apron.     Feeling foolish, out-of-place, and awkward, she turned to go back home and stared down at the pie. She could certainly make faster time if she did not have to carry the pie back with her, but she could not very well leave it on the porch. Critters would devour it before Polly even knew it was there.     Jane would simply have to put the pie in a safe place and leave a note for Polly to explain why she had not announced her presence. She let out a deep sigh, turned around, and slipped quietly inside the door. She was only halfway across the room when the voices she had heard earlier became louder and more distinct.     She froze in place and stared straight ahead. The door to the dining room was only open a crack. Just enough to let her hear the voices more clearly.     Her hands gripped the edge of the pie tin even harder. Her heart started to pound. Fingers of cold shock snaked around her spine and sent shivers through her body.     She heard Polly laugh.     Hiram's voice rumbled low and seductively. "What a delightful feast you are, my love. How I've hungered to taste your sweetness again."     Bile burned the back of her throat, and tears blurred her vision as she stumbled forward a few steps, her gaze locked on those meager few inches of space. Her mind rejected the limited view she now got of her husband and her sister-in-law as impossible.     She braced to a halt, paralyzed by unspeakable shock when she saw Polly's voluptuous body spread across the dining room table and Hiram, naked as well, standing as he suckled her breasts.     Horror. Outrage. Disgust. Each vied for control of Jane's emotions, but lodged in a painful lump in her throat that prevented any sound from escaping when she cried out. Battling nausea that threatened to announce her presence, she backed away, one shaky step at a time. Startled and disoriented when her back pressed against the outside door, she turned and raced outside as her mind screamed the horrible truth.     Lovers. Hiram and Polly were lovers!     Her slippered feet flew across the yard and along the barn. When she reached the footpath and entered the woods, she flung the pie to the ground. Dropping to her knees, she braced her hands on the cold earth and slammed her eyes shut. She retched violently and repeatedly until her stomach emptied, but she could not purge the vision of her husband and her sister-in-law, naked together, any more than she could silence the echo of their lovemaking.     She sat back on her haunches, wiped her face with the handkerchief she kept in her apron, and crisscrossed her arms at her waist. Rocking back and forth, she sobbed. "Hiram, my God, Hiram! What have you done to me? What have you done to Sam?"     She cried until she was hoarse and there were no tears left. Dazed, she could barely stand, let alone take a few steps, yet she chided herself for not having the courage to confront both Polly and Hiram back at the house, either moments ago or now.     Darkness had long chased away the twilight when she finally had the strength to struggle her way home, but with every step she took, she vowed to confront her husband. Her protective instincts for Sam surged, and she knew she had to find a way to force Hiram to end his affair with Polly so Sam would never have to learn the bitterness of his wife's betrayal.     She would never forgive Hiram for what he had done to her--or to Sam. And in the silence broken only by the sound of her own stumbling footsteps, she heard the gentle tolling of an inner bell that sounded the death knell for any hopes she might have had for redeeming her marriage. One week later, Jane waited for Hiram in the parlor after supper, finally ready to confront him about his affair before he left for Baltimore in the morning. Sitting stiffly on the settee, she twisted the ring on her finger and tried to calm her pounding heart.     When she heard him come out of his chamber and enter the parlor, she looked up, shocked to see he was formally dressed and carried his travel bag. "You weren't supposed to leave until morning."     "My plans changed," he snapped without breaking his stride.     "But you promised you would have time to talk to me tonight," she insisted.     He paused, raked his gaze over her, and shuddered as if a chill raced through his entire body. "If you weren't so abysmally homely, I might have considered the prospect as bearable," he murmured as he dropped his gaze. When he checked his gold pocket watch, he scowled. "I'm late. Whatever it is that's made you so miserable this past week will have to wait," he announced and headed toward the door.     Angered by his words, she bolted to her feet and raced unsteadily to the door before he reached it.     "Get out of my way," he ordered.     She squared her shoulders in a display of bravado that belied her fears. "You can't leave. Not yet."     He impaled her with a gaze of stunning rage. "Don't ever tell me what to do."     "At least give me some idea of where you're going after you leave Baltimore," she pleaded, hoping she could stall him long enough so he would be forced to stay the night and she would have the opportunity to confront him about what she had seen on her fateful visit to Polly.     "I'll be back when I'm good and ready. In the meantime, don't question me. Ever," he snarled and shoved her aside to open the door.     Caught off guard, she tripped and grabbed the arm of the settee to keep from falling to the floor as he stormed past her and left without saying another word.     Fear kept her from chasing after him, and she quickly bolted the door closed to keep him from coming back inside. His chortle in response echoed in the stairwell. She turned, pressed her back against the door, and shoved her hand to her mouth to stifle her cries of frustration and outrage.     Tears streamed down her cheeks, but she made no attempt to wipe them away. She had missed several opportunities to confront her husband, a mistake she had hoped to remedy tonight, but she had failed.     Confronting Polly, instead, would serve no purpose but ill. She would only deny the affair, and Hiram would not be here to accept his share of the blame. Images of Polly and Hiram together, intense and painful, fired in rapid succession in her mind's eye. Jane blinked hard, forcing the images to the back of her mind and replacing them with thoughts of Sam.      A splinter of guilt for keeping the truth from him pierced her very soul, but she consoled herself knowing Polly would be faithful while Hiram was away. When he returned, Jane would demand the affair be declared permanently ended, or she would threaten to tell Sam--a threat she hoped she would not have to carry out.     Only then would she be faced with a moral dilemma too difficult to consider now. She would either break her brother's heart with the truth, or endure a lifetime with the truth hidden deep in her soul to spare him the heartache and disappointment she knew only too well. Excerpted from SUNRISE by Delia Parr. Copyright © 1999 by Mary Lechleidner. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.