Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Partisan's Wife -- Interesting Research Tidbits & Excerpt

Manhattan 1776
As a writer of historical fiction, I'm always thrilled when I come across interesting research nuggets that change the way a scene or an entire portion of a book develops. While researching The Partisan's Wife, I was fortunate to find many such gems. Here is just one example.

Being a native-born New Yorker, I was fascinated to learn of the vast changes that made Manhattan what it is today. From street names to the layout of the streets themselves as the population grew and expanded north of Wall Street, the old city of the mid-eighteenth century can no longer be found. There are a few photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries of long-gone buildings from the period and some extraordinary descriptions in old books. Paintings and maps of the period also give us glimpses. Land fill long ago altered the shape of lower end of the island (where the Dutch established their first settlement in North America on land inhabited by the Native Americans who lived and hunted there). Creeks and streams, hills and forests were plentiful, serving the hosts of indigenous animals that made their homes there. The creeks and streams were later filled in, becoming (to mention just a couple) Canal Street and part of Foley Square.

Street names were especially interesting. During and after the Revolution, many streets, such as King Street, King George Street, and Queen Street, were renamed, remapped, and/or rerouted. Today you’ll find Pine, William, and Pearl Streets. In The Partisan’s Wife, the area in which Peter and Anne’s house stood, then called Wynne (or Winne) Street between Bayard’s Lane and St. Nicholas, is now Mott Street in the heart of Chinatown, which was basically unsettled in the mid-part of the 18th century. Many streets and avenues in early New York evolved from long driveways belonging to huge mansions with gardens, orchards, and expansive lawns. For example, the long drive that belonged to the Bayard homestead in the late 1700s was for a time called Bayard’s Lane. It’s now part of Broome Street down on the Lower East Side. Unfortunately, few buildings from the period remain standing on lower Manhattan — Fraunces Tavern and St. Paul’s Chapel being a couple of exceptions — as a multitude of fires and later human development over the next century or so, led to the destruction of pre-Revolutionary War era buildings…many in the name of progress.


Amid the swaying and jostling of the coach, the clip-clop of horses’ hooves and the clatter of wheels over cobblestones, she reveled in the honeyed taste of his mouth and his hands, skillfully exploring under her cloak. His deep, warm scent intoxicated her senses.

“Let me look at you.” His breath rustled like a summer breeze on her throat, and he settled back in the seat, his eyes sparkling from within the shadows enveloping his face. “I’ve missed you so horribly.”

“As I’ve missed you.”

Even in the dark, the changes in Peter’s appearance were obvious and extraordinary. From head to foot, he seemed a new man, with his fashionable clothes and stylishly queued hair, now quite disheveled. And the coach and two fine horses….

Before she could gather her thoughts to speak again, he leaned close, and crushing her into the corner, trailed kisses from the top of her head to her jaw.

“You look well,” he said. “Positively radiant!”

“Being with you does that to me.”

She nipped gently at his lips grazing her mouth with the touch of a whisper. He kissed her again, deeply, probing. With his hands and his mouth and his closeness, he stirred her near the point beyond bearing. When he came up for air, she moaned, as the cold washed over her.

With tremulous fingers, he traced the line of her mouth. “Not here, my love. I have in mind something less jarring.” He turned his attention past her to the window. “But look. We’re almost there.”

Senses in a whirl, she sat up and, straightening her clothes, followed his gaze.

As they traveled north on Bowery Lane, a full moon had risen, hanging large and low over the East River, illuminating the landscape in a widening swath of pale light. Trees and shrubs, mostly divested of leaves, lined the wide lanes on either side. Houses, imposing in size and resplendent with light in their windows, stood at the ends of long avenues amid gardens and orchards. And with the shift in scenery, so too the feel and sound of the road had changed. For quite some time, the cobblestones of city streets had given way to hard packed earth and gravel.

“Where are we going?”

“I should have you close your eyes until we arrive. I want this to be a surprise.”

“I believe I’ve had enough surprises for one day.”

“Then look there….”

The carriage had taken a left turn onto one of the narrow avenues. A few houses, much smaller and far less grand than the mansions they had passed, stood sparsely placed, dark, and seemingly uninhabited. Save one with a single candle burning in a south facing window.

“Forgive me, darling,” he said with a sheepish smile as the carriage rolled to a stop. “It’s not made of brick, and it has but the one floor. I didn’t have time to have it painted yellow, but that’s a minor concern. After all, you might decide that another color suits us better.”

He handed her down from the vehicle and with her bundle of clothes in one hand, he slipped her arm through his. “Welcome home, Mrs. Marlowe.”

She could not find words to express her astonishment.

“This is not what we discussed, I admit, but it’s the best I could do, given the time and circumstances. I hope it pleases you.”

The modest clapboard house faced south, its pane glass windows with shutters open. The few strategically placed trees would provide ample shade in the summer months. She envisioned a simple garden and drinking tea on the lawn. In the light of the moon, it appeared to be everything she could ever want or hope for.

“Tell me I’m not dreaming.” Tears of joy filled her eyes.

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Deepest thanks and much appreciation to Goddess Fish
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Jennifer Wilck said...

Fascinating research! Good luck!

Angela Myron said...

Very interesting research, thanks for sharing it with us Kathy!

Debby said...

I love to do research. You learn some amazing things.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Juliet Waldron said...

The stuff you can find on the web these days is amazing. Thanks for sharing this with us, Kathy!

Kathy Fischer-Brown said...

Thanks too all who commented. I'm so happy you appreciated my little contribution to today's festivities. I hope to see you during the coming week on my book tours.

Sydell Voeller said...

A fascinating blog post, Kathy. I enjoyed your excerpt as well.