Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Have a sneak peek between the covers of Kinley Bryan's fascinating novel — The Lost Women of Mill Street #HistoricalFiction #AmericanCivilWar #BlogTour @kinleybauthor @cathiedunn

The Lost Women of Mill Street

by Kinley Bryan

1864: As Sherman’s army marches toward Atlanta, a cotton mill commandeered by the Confederacy lies in its path. Inside the mill, Clara Douglas weaves cloth and watches over her sister Kitty, waiting for the day her fiancé returns from the West.

When Sherman’s troops destroy the mill, Clara’s plans to start a new life in Nebraska are threatened. Branded as traitors by the Federals, Clara, Kitty, and countless others are exiled to a desolate refugee prison hundreds of miles from home.

Cut off from all they've ever known, Clara clings to hope while grappling with doubts about her fiancé’s ambitions and the unsettling truths surrounding his absence. As the days pass, the sisters find themselves thrust onto the foreign streets of Cincinnati, a city teeming with uncertainty and hostility. She must summon reserves of courage, ingenuity, and strength she didn’t know she had if they are to survive in an unfamiliar, unwelcoming land.

Inspired by true events of the Civil War, The Lost Women of Mill Street is a vividly drawn novel about the bonds of sisterhood, the strength of women, and the repercussions of war on individual lives.

Clara found her place at her looms at Ivy Woolen Mill, and as she waited for the bell, she regarded the women and girls around her. Some appeared nervous and quiet. Others seemed unbothered as they chatted and laughed in small clusters. Temperance was looking at her. Clara turned around to avoid her glare.

The bell sounded and they took their places, and the machines whirred into motion with a roar.

Clara tended to her looms, replacing bobbins as they ran out of weft, her thoughts on the advancing army. Hours passed, and gray wool cloth formed on the looms before her, and then it happened: The bell tolled, far too early to signal the noonday break. 

A warning bell.

The blood rushed from Clara’s hands. This was it. At first, the overseer kept the looms running, so Clara and the other weavers kept at their work. But not long after the bell tolled, a noise reverberated from somewhere outside, layered on top of the din and tremble of the power looms.

Clara regarded the others; her own wonderment reflected in their faces.

Seconds later, several doffer boys from the spinning room rushed in, shouting and pointing toward the river. A new scent mingled with the oil and sweat: woodsmoke. Clara exchanged a look with the woman across the aisle. She’d smelled it too. The overseer hurried down a long aisle toward the stairwell. The looms were still running. He returned moments later, his expression inscrutable.

Clara was anxious to see for herself what the doffers had witnessed. The machines kept running, and though she risked reprobation, she left her place and hurried to the stairwell. Several others crowded around her at the window. She let out a cry, and her hand flew to her mouth. Even though she’d suspected what it was, still it was hard to believe the sight.

Flames consumed the covered bridge. Even at this distance, the heat warmed her face. Large planks fell to the river with an unholy crash and sizzle.

A soldier in blue ran past Ivy Mill toward the bridge. The sight of Union troops was like the realization of a dream. More soldiers followed, racing down the road from town toward the river.

The Union soldiers yelled and pointed their guns across the river. On the far bank, the Roswell Battalion fired back.

“Get back inside!” the guard shouted to several doffer boys who’d run outside for a closer look at the fighting.

The day had taken on a dreamlike quality. Their mills and this sleepy town, this isolated place of hard work and no small amount of suffering, had become a battlefield. After three long years, the war had found Roswell.

Kinley Bryan

Kinley Bryan's debut novel, Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury, inspired by the Great Lakes Storm of 1913 and her own family history, won the 2022 Publishers Weekly Selfies Award for adult fiction.

An Ohio native, she lives in South Carolina with her husband and three children. The Lost Women of Mill Street is her second novel.

Connect with Kinley:

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