Hi all, keeping warm? Allow me to say with all the energy I can muster...I WANT SUMMER! The cold has not let up...every morning, windshield of -39C...and not much of a break during the day. *Shiver*
OK, on to warmer things, in the form of love and romance. See? It's warmer already.
On to the Handfasting!
Ten years had passed since they had joined hands in the ruins of the old abbey church. Standing before the high altar, they were handfasted in the Celtic custom, engaged to be married.
A rose bush had bloomed beside the ruined altar. Stephen had reached out to caress one of the flowers. "I'll find you," he had said. "In ten years, when we have finished school, when we are able to marry, I'll find you. Until then, whenever you see a yellow rose, remember me. Remember I love you."
In those ten years, Katherine had finished college, completed med school, and become a doctor. For a decade, she had been waiting, hoping, praying, and, today ─ her birthday─ she finds a vase of yellow roses when she reaches home.
Stephen, though, is not Katherine's only suitor. Bill Wilson has known her since they were in high school. He has long planned to wed her, and he finally decides to stake his claim. His methods leave a lot to be desired, the conflict turns vicious, and Katherine must choose the future that she wants. (Excerpt up next! Read on...)
Theirs was the only room on the third floor of the small hotel, so no one noticed when they walked, hand in hand, down the short hallway. Katherine had never done anything quite like this before, and her hand shook as she took hold of the rail at the top of the stairs. She looked at Steven and smiled nervously as he squeezed her hand in reassurance.
Small lights gleamed on the landing below, but the stairs were dark, her steps unsteady, and she stumbled twice on the way down. Steven was holding her arm, though, and he caught her each time she tripped. They stopped as they reached the hotel’s front door.
“Are you all right?” he whispered.
“Fine. It’s just dark.” She hugged him. “Really.”
“You have the key?”
She reached into a pocket and pulled out the ring that held both the key to their room and the one to the hotel’s door. “Got it.”
They opened the door and slipped out into the darkness. Even though it was summer, the night air was cold and Katherine pulled her sweater around her, tightly. Only in Scotland, she thought, would she need a sweater in August. It was just after midnight, and the small Scottish town was effectively closed for the night. Their hotel was dark, except for a light in one room on the second floor. The other hotel, directly across the street, was also dark.
They turned to the left and walked down High Street toward the central plaza. They passed two pubs, one on each side of the street, both closed. Farther down, a third one, the Golden Lion, appeared to be open—lights were visible through the window at least. Katherine thought it unlikely that many patrons were still inside. If so, they were surely sipping their last pints for the evening.
They reached the plaza, the one part of town that was brightly lit. It was surrounded by shops—a candy store, a shop that carried Scottish woolens, two cafés, and one filled with what Katherine called tourist junk—stuffed Nessies, t-shirts with cute slogans, tartan ties, plastic swords, anything that might induce a tourist to part with a few pounds or dollars.
The Mercat Cross, the ancient symbol of royal authority, stood in the center of the plaza. Some fifteen feet high, it had occupied the same spot in the center of town for over five hundred years, witnessing the town’s gradual change from a place of pilgrimage, to a bustling market town, to the tourist attraction that it had become in recent years.
The tourists came to see the ruins of the great abbey, much as the pilgrims in centuries past had come to see it in its glory. Katherine and Steven were going to the abbey, tonight.
High Street ran through the plaza and they continued for two more blocks before turning left on the B road that ran toward the ruins. The buildings blocked the lights from the plaza and they had to watch
The walkway ended abruptly and they stepped off onto the grassy shoulder.
When Katherine looked up, she could see the stars. She had been in Scotland for almost six weeks and this was the first time she had seen them. Perhaps it was a good omen.
Ten minutes later, they reached the abbey. The floodlights that illumined the ruins had been turned off and a single streetlight in front of the visitor center provided the only illumination. A chain hung across the entrance to the abbey grounds. Few visitors would walk out from town,and since there was no place to park, other than in the car park, the chain effectively closed the site to visitors.
Steven started across the road, but Katherine held back.
The abbey seemed ominous in the darkness, and Katherine could easily envision that the spirits of the monks who had once lived within its walls still hovered about.
Steven must have felt her hesitate because he squeezed her arm.
Katherine looked up into his eyes. Coming here had been her idea and she wondered if he still thought it was a good plan.
“You’re sure?” she whispered. “You want to do this?”
Steven nodded and hugged her. “Positive.”
They crossed the highway, stepped over the chain, and hurried across the brightly lit lawn, stopping when they reached the shadows of the abbey’s walls. They had to walk slowly because the ground was uneven and littered with stones, but they finally reached the side entrance to the abbey’s church.
The church had held up better than the rest of the abbey. When the abbey had been disbanded in the mid fifteen hundreds, the church had continued to be used as the parish church for another two centuries. The walls were mostly complete, and the stone floor was still in place. A roof and windows were all that would be needed to make the building serviceable again.
Katherine switched on a penlight when they entered the church, confident that it would not be seen by a passing motorist. Walking through the nave and the choir, they approached the high altar—the altar itself was gone, but the raised platform, on which it had stood, remained.
To one side, a yellow rosebush was in full bloom. The fact that it could survive in the abbey was amazing on its own, that it bloomed each year in August, even more so. It was said that a sixteenth-century abbot had removed stones from the floor in order to plant the bush and that it bloomed once each year, on the anniversary of the last mass said by the monks. Its water source was a mystery. The yellow rose had been adopted as the symbol of the abbey, and later as the symbol of the town itself.
Together, they knelt in front of the space where the high altar had stood. Katherine unfolded a sheet of paper, placing it on the ground. Steven held the light as they joined their right hands and Katherine wrapped a purple cord around them. She picked up the paper, and Steven began to read.
“I, Steven Andrew Richardson, take thee, Katherine Lee Jackson, to be my betrothed wife, as the law of the holy Kirk shows, and thereto I plight thee my troth.”
Katherine looked into his eyes. “I, Katherine Lee Jackson, take thee, Steven Andrew Richardson, to be my betrothed husband, as the law of the holy Kirk shows, and thereto I plight thee my troth.”
A smile spread across Katherine’s face. She wanted to jump and shout, but she remembered that they were not supposed to be in the abbey. She put her arms around Steven and squeezed as hard as she could.
He hugged and kissed her in return. “We are engaged now?” he whispered.
“According to Celtic custom we are. I am bound to you forever, unless you release me. You are bound to me.”
They knelt in silence and she whispered a prayer, asking that they would be able to carry out the plans they had made. When she had finished, she raised her head and looked at Steven. Her eyes followed his toward the rosebush. The moon had risen behind the abbey and its light streamed through one of the small round windows on the side of the nave, falling on a single rose at the end of an especially long cane.
He reached out and pulled the rose toward them. The fragrance was sweet, reminding Katherine of a perfume that had once been her favorite.
“Whenever you see a yellow rose, Katie, think of me.” He said quietly. “Every time you see one, remember that I love you.”
Steven released the rose and took her hand in his. “Everything will work out. You’ll see.”
After another minute, he helped her to her feet and they retraced their steps to the entrance. A light raked across the door just before they reached it, and he peered around the wall.
Two police officers stood at the chain, shining lights around the ruins.
“They couldn’t have seen my light,” she whispered.
“Just a routine check. If they had seen the light, they would have come in.”
After several minutes, the officers drove away. Katherine and Steven hurried down the road and returned to town.
The police car was in the plaza as they turned onto High Street.
“Good evening, Officer,” Katherine said as they passed.
“Good evening, ma’am. It’s a bit late for a stroll.”
“We’re going in now, Officer. Good night.”
“Good night, ma’am.”
Reaching the hotel, Katherine looked back down the street. The officer was still watching them. She inserted the key, opened the door, and carefully, they climbed the stairs.
Reaching their room, they changed clothes and kissed good night. Then, as they had for the past two weeks, Katherine lay under the covers, Steven on top. He put his arm around her and they slept.
Let us take a moment to find out more about the author, David Burnett.
David Burnett lives in Columbia South Carolina, with his wife and their blue-eyed cat, Bonnie. The Reunion, his first novel, is set in nearby Charleston. The Handfasting is his second novel. While most of the events in the story take place in New York City, psychologically, the story is set in the rural South of the 1970’s.
David enjoys traveling, photography, baking bread, and the Carolina beaches. He has photographed subjects as varied as prehistoric ruins on the islands of Scotland, star trails, sea gulls, and a Native American powwow. David and his wife have traveled widely in the United States and the United Kingdom. During one trip to Scotland, they visited Crathes Castle, the ancestral home of the Burnett family near Aberdeen
David has graduate degrees in psychology and education and previously was Director of Research for the South Carolina Department of Education. He and his wife have two daughters.
David was so kind as to provide us with a character interview. I suggest you settle down with a good cup of tea and read on...
Interview with Katherine Jackson from The Handfasting
Hi, Katherine, it’s nice to have you with us, today. Tell us a little about yourself. That accent of yours tells me that you are from the South.
It’s good to be here. You’re correct. I have spent most of my life in the South. I grew up in Hamilton, Virginia. It’s a small town near Richmond, and the Jacksons have lived there for generations. Actually, I still call Hamilton home and my family – my parents, brother, sister, aunt, and several cousins - still live there. I suppose that I’m related to half of the town! That’s what it’s like in small Southern towns, and even though it’s nineteen seventy-eight, not a lot has changed.
But you live in New York City?
That’s right. I attended the University of Virginia and, then went to medical school at Emory University, in Atlanta. After residency, I took a position as an ER doctor at a hospital in New York. I share an apartment with Becky and Sarah, my two best friends from college.
A pretty girl like you – you surely must have a boyfriend.
I do. His name is Steven, Dr. Steven Richardson. He has a PhD in art history from Oxford, and he is a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Did you meet in New York?
No, we met a little over ten years ago. It was the summer after I completed high school. I spent that summer traveling around in Europe, mostly in England and Scotland. Steven was there, doing the same thing. We traveled together quite a bit, hiking from town to town, visiting castles, churches, ruins. During that time, we fell in love. One night – we were in Scotland at the time – we went to the ruins of an old abbey church and were handfasted.
Handfasted? What is that?
Handfasting is an old Celtic engagement ceremony. We agreed to marry. The only problem was that Steven was spending the next year in Italy, studying art. I had four years of college ahead of me, then medical school. It was just impossible.
What did you do?
We were in the church. Off to one side, a rose bush was growing beside the ruins of the altar. Stephen reached out and caressed one of the yellow flowers. Then he turned to me. – I remember this so clearly - “I’ll find you,” he told me. “In ten years, when we have finished school, when we are able to marry, I’ll find you. Until then, whenever you see a yellow rose, remember me. Remember I love you.”
I thought about his promise almost every day for the next decade. Last August, on my birthday, Becky and Sarah had taken me out to celebrate. When we arrived at home, there was a vase of yellow roses. I knew they were from Steven.
So you got back together.
I met him for dinner a couple of days later. I was so nervous! I mean, I had not seen him for ten years, I wasn’t even certain that I would recognize him. Once we began to talk, though, it was as we had been apart for only a couple of days rather than for ten years. We gave ourselves six months – until next week, Valentine’s Day - to decide if we still want to marry. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Not rushing into it?
That’s so sweet! And yes, it does make sense to me. What do the folks at home think?
My mother was concerned at first, but everyone loves Steven, now. I haven’t really told people in Hamilton exactly how we met. I told you that things don’t change in Hamilton. They treat women as if it were eighteen seventy-eight. Some people would call me a tramp if they knew I had traveled around Scotland with Steven. We didn’t sleep together, or anything, but I can hear old Mrs. Howard, now. Mark me! Katherine Jackson will come to no good. Running around England with that man. I’ll wager she never spent a single night alone. In Hamilton once a rumor starts, well, you’re marked for life.
They can’t be that bad.
Every bit that bad. Once, last fall, Steven and I were at the theater and some television program was filming a segment about the Broadway theater. People in Hamilton saw us, and Steven had his arm around me. Even my mother called to ask what we were doing!
Are you going to marry Steven? Or is there another guy in your life?
Of course I’m going to marry him! There’s no other guy…Well, there is one. I’m not interested in him at all, but he tells everyone in Hamilton that he’s going to marry me. He has said that for years. His name is Bill Wilson. He is really a jerk. Last week, Steven was in Richmond for a meeting. Bill cornered him at a reception. My dad told me that Bill was drunk and that he started yelling at Steven, telling him that I was his girl and that Steven should keep his hands off of me.
It really sort of frightened me when I heard about it. He can be violent, you know. Once, when we were in high school, he tried to assault me.
Not at all. I broke two of his ribs as I fought with him.
He called me the other day and asked if he could come to New York to visit. He wants to talk, he said. I don’t know what he’s thinking. I don’t know why he would even think that I’m interested in him. I’m meeting him this afternoon after work. I’m afraid of what he might do when I tell him to leave me alone, but, anyway, I suppose that I can put up with him for a couple of hours.
Katherine, I have enjoyed talking with you, today. I hope you and Steven are very happy together.
Thank you so much. I am sure that we will be.
Wonderful! Thank you so much for this interview, David.
Here are just a few excerpts from the praise and reviews The Handfasting has received:
"...it was as if I knew these people personally as I was so immersed into the book. I formed a real picture of them in my head and I was sad to lose them when the book finished."
"The book is filled with really tender moments that made me sigh with contentment and truly tragic ones that brought horrified tears to my eyes. In The Handfasting Burnett has written a romance as daunting as real life that still delivers in the end."
"This story is so touching, so emotional and so real, that it cannot help but touch you. It deals realistically with some really difficult and sensitive issues and Burnett handles it all with just the right touch. I absolutely recommend this book."
"I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I had read up about handfasting and thought it might be some overly slushy romantic novel. How very wrong I was. Yes there was romance, but there was a mix of crime, heartache and despair.
Once I started reading this, I just couldn't put it down. I fact I continued reading until 3am as I was hooked!"
"I want to say that when men write an outstanding romance novel, I am always blown away. I realize that sounds really sexist, but permit me this leeway. When I consider romance novels, I always think of women. I tend to associate men with thrillers, mystery, and often an inordinate amount of profanity. David Burnett writes a romance story with dynamic characters and a storyline that will keep you guessing."
Now, if any of you are interested in either contacting David or purchasing his novel, well then these links are for you.
Universal Amazon url
Twitter handle @DavdBurnett