Hearts Through History is pleased to host our first ever Pitchfest. This is a unique and exclusive opportunity for members of the Hearts Through History RWA chapter to pitch blurbs and the first 200 words of unpublished manuscripts to industry professionals.
We welcome editors Erin Molta and Robin Haseltine of Entangled Publishing. Thank you for taking the time to visit Hearts Through History and read our pitches. We hope you will find something you like. Happy Pitch Shopping!
Title: Celestina’s Burning
Word count of Manuscript: 100,000
Celestina DiCapria jumped, the marble bowl of crisp biscotti almost flying out of her hands. The moan of Montanina, the mammoth black bell in the Tower of Boscoli, echoed through the city of Florence. One strike signaled a beheading was to take place in the prison courtyard.
Bong. Two meant a heretic was set to burn in the Palazzo della Signoria.
Bong. The tail end of the sound hung in the air. Three clangs were rare. Three clangs were a call to arms for the youth to rise against a new tyranny.
“Madre mia.” Celestina set the cookie bowl on the bakery counter. “Mother of God, Montanina is calling me.”
In the room behind her there was a thump. She rolled her eyes. Batting a thick rope of dough against the worktable was her grandmother Simona’s way of making a point. “Forget about that bell. Start more biscotti.”
The hairs on Celestina’s arms stood like an army of Cypress trees. She hated it when Simona shouted at her from the back room.
Outside there was a pop. Celestina dashed to the window. A black dress burned on a stake in the center of the street.
Title: This Is Us
Word count of Manuscript: 105,000
Sneaking into an Army Air Force pilot school to take up one of the planes was maybe not the best idea. After all, there was a war on. The place was literally teeming with uniformed men.
It wasn’t Vivian’s idea. She wasn’t even the pilot. Her friend Zanna needed to log more flying hours, and she wanted company in this escapade. So, here they were.
Dressed in men’s flight coveralls and boots, their curls hidden beneath aviator helmets, the women crouched behind a clump of bushes on the side of the barracks, waiting for a clear shot to the flight line.
“We’re gonna have to just try to blend in. Hank’ll be meeting us in five minutes. Besides, we look like regular cadets,” Zanna said. Zanna’s brother Hank, one of the flight instructors, had arranged clearance for their flight with a buddy in the control tower.
“Cadets with boobies and no facial hair. I’m sure that won’t draw any attention at all on a base with hundreds of men,” Vivian said.
“Just look purposeful. Hank will walk us to the flight line, and then we’ll get in a plane and be on our way. Easy-peasy.”
Except this wasn’t like usual.
Title: The House Carpenter
Genre/Subgenre: Historical/Civil War
Word count of Manuscript: 85,000
Lilly Roberre shook her hand free from Gideon’s and turned to watch the train rumble into the Philadelphia Baltimore depot. A whistle screeched. Bells clanged. Soot stung her eyes and made them water. She wiped the wetness away with the sleeve of her best dress, the cream silk she had sewn for her wedding. It would be ruined. But what did she care? He was leaving. There’d be no wedding.
“Please. Forgive me.” Gideon put a hand on her shoulder and brought her around to face him.
She peered up into eyes as gray as the rain clouds above—a farm boy, turned stranger, in his uniform of Union blue. Ignoring the hundreds of people around them, she ran her fingers along his smooth-shaven cheek. The man she loved was the least likely of soldiers—a dreamer, not a fighter—and he was leaving for war and might never come back. She stood on her toes to kiss him one last time.
Their lips joined and melded together. The length of his body pressed against hers, his heart thumping wildly. Longing burned through the layers of cloth separating them. The world stood still, and all her regrets scattered like the smoke rising from the huffing engine.
Title: Tangled Up in You
Genre/Subgenre: American Historical, non-western
Word count of Manuscript: 89,000
April 22, 1840
Nothing in Mercy Hallowell’s years with the finest tutors of New Haven, Connecticut, nor her stint in a New Orleans finishing school, had taught her how a woman in danger should navigate the world. A hasty escape from St. Louis, disguised as a young man, a river rat more precisely, had succeeded well enough in daylight, so long as she held at a distance any person who might spy the woman beneath the disguise. Even in the confines of a steamboat under the shadows of night she kept faith in the protection of her disguise. That faith vanished at the thought of entering the warm, dry and entirely masculine domain of the gentlemen’s cabin.
She stared out at the rain, pounding with enough ferocity on the deck to splash her pantaloons though she stood against the wall beneath the ample eave, another reminder of how her luck had run out. Reaching inside her coat, tucking her hand beneath her vest, she dug her fingernails into an itch. The boy’s clothes, allowing her more freedom in movement, were made of cheap fabric that abused her skin. A flash of lightening crossed the night sky, exposing her.
Title: Lord James’ Challenge
Genre/Subgenre: Historical Romance
Word count of Manuscript: 80,000
Lieutenant Lord James Forster stood at attention before the board of inquiry and wished to hell that someone would start a war. Any time now would be fine. In fact, right now would be perfect.
The admirals ranged across the table from him like a line of battleships with all flags flying. They must have been born elderly. Otherwise, they would have had understood what it felt like to make a tiny error from over-exuberance. This dim room fitted them perfectly; it reeked of tradition. He could almost smell the whale oil and pomade from wigs worn in centuries past. The lone sunbeam that had strayed in through the window did nothing to lighten the atmosphere—even the damned dust motes circled the sunbeam in a stately manner.
“Well?” A stern voice rang out from the darkness across the table. “What do you have to say for yourself?”
What the hell. He took a deep breath. “My lords. The fireworks display might have started precipitately. If there had been adequate precautions against fire, there would have been little property damage.”
He spread out his hands in a gesture of appeal. “And it was only a minor consulate, really.”
Title: Dance With Destiny
Genre/Subgenre: American Historical
Word count of Manuscript: 70,000
Susannah Myers pummeled her husband’s shoulders as her lips pressed together in a tight, angry line. “Running off to war and leaving me alone to care for our four little ones is not right. I can’t do this on my own. How will we ever survive? We are only good if we can face our hardships together.”
William took hold of her hands and stilled them. He kissed her callused fingers and then grazed her lips. She stopped fighting him and laid her head on her husband’s broad shoulder, letting her hot tears fall.
“It’ll only be for a few months, Susannah. Summer’s coming on, so it won’t be so hard for you to get by. There are plenty of chickens for food and eggs, I’ve stocked the smoke house with deer, and Jacob can start on the planting, so you’ll have potatoes and fresh vegetables. I have no choice as to whether I stay or go. I have to volunteer. Daniel was out here just the other day to make sure I’d sign up.”
Susannah straightened up and took a deep breath. She moved away from him, trying to distance herself from the feeling of abandonment. To get used to the feeling of abandonment.
Title: Rebel Girl
Genre/Subgenre: YA Historical
Word count of Manuscript: 35,000
“Over here, Red. I’m in need of more drink.”
Kathleen O’Malley turned toward the person who had issued the order, although she didn’t need to. There was only one man in this tavern who thought he owned the place. Owned her. British General Aloysius Broadman.
Kathleen tried to affix a smile on her face before she arrived at General Broadman’s table. And almost got there. As she reached across the table to pour more ale into his mug, he pinched her bottom. She jumped and her aim faltered, spilling ale all over the table, and onto the general’s uniform. She clamped a hand over her mouth and backed away, eyes wide.
“Beggin’ your pardon, General.” She handed him a napkin.
He snapped it from her hands and wiped away the liquid from his front. His beady eyes grew even smaller, reminding her of one of the rats who lived behind the tavern.
“You ignorant Irish lout. You did this on purpose. I’ll tan your backside for it.”
He reached out and grabbed one of her pigtails, pulling her toward him.
Out of nowhere, a tall, handsome man appeared at the table and removed the general’s hand from Kathleen’s hair.
Title: Gold Lust Conspiracy
Genre/Subgenre: Historical Romance
Word count of Manuscript: 106,000
It was a gorgeous day in May, 1880, the kind of day inspiring hope, the kind you can get lost in. It was the first day Jessie Blackstone dared to dream. Love was a dangerous, intriguing illusion dangled in her face, so she was pursuing it. She didn’t deserve it but she had a shot at happiness. She was taking it. Mama, be damned!
Jessie entered the secluded ‘personals’ closet on the steam engine train, did her business and exited to return to her seat.
Swish! Hot outside air assaulted Jessie. The connecting door between cars had opened and closed. Before she could turn to see who entered, rough hands gripped her shoulders. The intruder spun Jessie around, slamming her against the wall. Stunned, Jessie blinked. A gasp caught in her throat. Her heart skipped a beat. She shook her head clearing her vision.
“What in tarnation!”
A burly man in soiled deerskin leaned into Jessie. A wicked grin exposed what was left of rotting teeth.
Yuck! An array of revolting odors assaulted her, the stench of perspiration and something….dried blood and urine? Smothering steamy breath reeked of cheap whiskey and decay. Jessie shivered despite the hot weather.
Title: Stormy Hawkins
Genre/Subgenre: Historical Western
Word count of Manuscript: 67,000
Startled out of his dreamless sleep, Blade Masters jerked his Stetson off his face and stared into the mouth of two cold steel barrels.
“On your feet, mister,” a sultry voice ordered. “Keep your hands where I can see them.”
Blade drew a quick breath of relief. Female bandits plying the Missouri River usually wanted money, not blood. Still, he’d not expected to be robbed at dawn on the windswept prairie.
The rising sun silhouetted his attacker, and he was hit with another surprise. Instead of black petticoats and lacy neck chokers, this brigand wore denims and a faded boy’s shirt. A battered, wide-brimmed leather hat topped braids as red as a St. Louis firepumper.
She held the shotgun steady as he clambered to his feet, took a half step forward and extended his hand. “Name’s Blade, ma’am. I’m looking for the owner of this fine property.”
“And I’m a can–can dancer,” she scoffed. “You bank boys know darn well this is Hawkins Ranch land.” Pride, as well as possession, rang out in her voice.
Quickly, he assessed what she’d just revealed. She was in financial trouble, and the Hawkins Ranch was big.
Title: Silver Sky at Dawn (Silver Sky Ranch Saga #1)
Genre/Subgenre: Western Small Town
Word count of Manuscript: 53,500 words
Lorena Bernhardt is certain of only two things: her cheating husband’s refusal to change his ways and her undying love for her two children. If Lorena and her children can escape their war-zone of a home with their lives, she knows they can survive anything.
Danny Silver Sky’s heart refuses to heal as he lives everyday with the memory of his late wife on the Oregon cattle ranch he built for her. However, when an icy accident brings Lorena crashing into his life, something rekindles in his broken spirit.
Despite resistance from the women and Danny’s life and the constant worry of Lorena’s ex-husband finding her, can Lorena and Danny leave their unwilling pasts behind in hopes of a future together on Silver Sky Ranch?
Title: The Rake Who Wed Me
Word count of Manuscript: 50,000
Algernon Saye, Lord Severn, straightened up from his half-lounge on the ottomane couch, for Marrack’s widow was entering the salon. A tight bodice holding her generous bosom drew his eye. It was a dark affair, with lace that lay against flawless skin. Her skirt flowed beneath it, made of some silvery spangled stuff that clung to her slender hips and long legs.
“Delicious armful, eh, Gerry?”
Severn smiled. Viscount Garland, one of his two rakish companions on the couch, was a noted connoisseur of widows.
The other, Baron Blackpool, was more direct. “Hunt over Marrack territory by day and sport in the widow’s bed at night—not a bad prospect.”
While she exchanged greetings with the hostess, the older man on her arm raised his quizzing glass in the direction of the ottomane couch. Severn acknowledged the gentleman’s regard with a nod and was completely ignored.
But not by Mrs. Marrack.
“Careful, Gerry,” Blackpool murmured, “she’s buried one rake already—and Jack Marrack was a nasty piece of work.”
He scarcely heard, for Mad Jack’s widow was coming nearer, the curve of her full lips enhanced by a pair of sparkling gray-blue eyes—and a question wrinkling her delicate brow.
Check back for updates to see which pitches caught the eye of the editors.
Good luck to all who pitched!
Entries #1, #4, #5, #9, #10, & #11 all received requests for FULL manuscripts from three different editors at Entangled Publishing. Partials were requested from the other submissions. Congratulations to all! Here’s hoping for future book deals.