Then Came the Thunder by Rachael Huszar
Publication Date: July 2, 2021 eBook; 160 pages Series: Three Willows, Book 1 Genre: Historical Fantasy
Jessalyn Joy loves her husband, but she can’t help the feelings that arose when he volunteered for the Union army. When he comes back to her in a box instead of on his feet, those feelings complicate even more. Jessalyn’s mourning period is cut short when something begins to attack the livestock in their small town, and greater dangers begin to threaten their provincial life. Thrown together with the new reverend, one of her own students, and a strange man somehow related to her husband’s passing, Jessalyn must find a way to stop the evils that threaten her husband’s first and ultimately last home. Set in the Southwestern home front, Huszar blends a taste of fantasy into a startling down-to-earth world, creating a high stakes adventure for this strong female protagonist and her band of amateur sleuths.
“I must say, Jessalyn. I’m impressed. Since your building of the schoolhouse, I’ve seen such a change in the youth of Three Willows. They’re engaged. And they adore you.”
Jessalyn wasn’t sure what to make of this praise. Carson had let her know his feelings towards her efforts before, and had been one of her prime benefactors. The compliment alone certainly wasn’t enough to warrant a house call. “I try to do my part, Ebenezer. You know that.”
“Right, right. But . . .” he trailed off.
Carson leaned forward. “I have to confess. I’m worried. You’ve been a Three Willows resident for several years now, and recent circumstances aside . . .” Carson paused again, his face twisting, as if whatever he was trying to say brought him great pain. “I’m not sure I see you really settling into the community.”
Jessalyn didn’t know what she had expected Carson to say, but it wasn’t that. “I’m afraid I’m feeling a bit blindsided. You just said I was doing good work.”
“Professionally, yes, you’ve found a place, but there are other areas of your life that need cultivation, shall we say.”
Jessalyn’s shoulders stiffened. “I’ve never been much of a social butterfly, Ebenezer. Never thought it was something I had to apologize for.”
“That’s not what I’m saying. We’d just like to see you away from the school and your house. This town only thrives because we all band together, right?”
There it was. The Royal We. The indomitable will of the Founders that was behind every decision made in Three Willows. Anything that happened in town, from new residents moving in, to buildings, to orders for supplies, went through them. If someone acted in a way that threatened to disrupt the town’s peace, you could expect a visit from one of them. Jessalyn could just imagine the mayor, the reverend and Mamie Piper discussing the private lives of all the townsfolk, making judgements about who was and wasn’t fitting in. It was another thing that had been easier with Amos. Jessalyn had gone out of her way, under Amos’s guidance, to win their favor, but it seemed as though her luck was running out.
She had tried. Tried to get to know the other wives in town, but the gaps between their interests and hers were so vast that Jessalyn found the interactions draining. There was plenty of fulfillment in her work, and that should matter more than anything else.
“If you expect me to give up my teaching to meet some sort of town sociability standard—”
Carson held up a hand. “There’s no need to ruffle those feathers. Just listen to me. I have a proposition for you. We’ve had a newcomer arrive in town. He’s without a family or any sort of living arrangements. It’s all a rather unique situation. He’s looking to stay on, and there’s not much we can offer him until summer’s end. For the meantime, I’d like to ask if you had interest in taking on a boarder.”
Jessalyn couldn’t contain her shock. “Your solution for expanding my social circle is asking that I invite a stranger into my home? We have a perfectly functional hotel in this town, Ebenezer. Why am I being brought into this?”
“Because we feel it would be good for you.” We, again. “This will last for a few weeks at most. Play at welcoming committee. You remember what it was like, settling in here. Helping him adjust to the way we do things will help you as well. Don’t they say the best way to learn something is to teach it? This is an opportunity for renewal. I urge you to take it.”
Jessalyn’s indignation boiled. Ebenezer Carson was a fair and honest man, but listening to him talk of this plan he had concocted as though it would solve everything for her? It was an outrage. If this was the ruling being forced on her, maybe she was more aligned with the French revolutionaries than she thought. She ought to refuse him and ask him to leave her property. But she couldn’t do that. Amos wouldn’t do that. The thought crashed over her like a wave. Amos would have said yes to this plan in a heartbeat. Charity came so naturally to him in a way it never had to Jessalyn.
“Please, Jessalyn. It’s time to open up the windows.”
Amos would have said yes. Nothing else needed to be said.
“I suppose. I could. I do have a spare room. Just for a few weeks.” Her reply was quiet, but Carson smacked his hands together in joy.
“That’s the spirit! Thank you very much, Jessalyn. I’ll bring him by in the morning, then.”
“You’re a fine woman, Jessalyn Joy. You do us proud.” Carson rose, retrieving his hat. “Now, I’ll be off and hopefully beat the rain back to my door. ‘Til morning.”
After he left, Jessalyn locked the door behind him, and the quiet settled in. She had really just agreed to that. One conversation and tomorrow morning, she’d be hosting a strange man in her home. Amos’s home. She knew she ought to be happy to help someone in need, but she just felt like screaming. Greater good or not, she felt forced to swallow her own self and wants. It was a horridly familiar feeling.
“Open the windows, Jessa.” She muttered an echo of Carson’s words to her.
She stood in front of the set of double windows across from her kitchen. Rain was just starting to dot the dirt road. Not too far away, lightning illuminated the rough curves of the clouds. Jessalyn flicked open the latch and let the windows clatter open. The wind harassing the trees sailed towards her, bringing rain with it, spattering her face. She didn’t have to wait long for the low rumble of thunder.
About the Author
Rachael Huszar kept her life steeped in stories from a young age, and she began her own journey in story-making when she reached adulthood. In the time since, she has taken up swimming, roller skating, and consuming tabletop RPG streams. She spends the bulk of her time with her dog, Silo, and works full time as a designer in Dallas, Texas.
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, July 26 Review at Pursuing StacieTuesday, July 27 Review at momma_doc_readsThursday, July 29 Guest Post at Novels Alive Excerpt at Wishful EndingsFriday, July 30 Review at Bonnie Reads and Writes Excerpt at Reading is My Superpower Excerpt at Books, Ramblings, and TeaSaturday, July 31 Excerpt at BookworlderMonday, August 2 Interview at Passages to the PastWednesday, August 4 Excerpt at The Cozy Book BlogThursday, August 5 Review at Novels AliveSunday, August 8 Review at 100 Pages a DayMonday, August 9 Guest Post & Excerpt at Lalitha’s World of SerenityWednesday, August 11 Excerpt at Coffee and InkFriday, August 13 Interview at Reader_ceygoMonday, August 16 Review at The Enchanted Shelf