Authors: Aaron McCarver,Diane T. Ashley
Aaron McCarver has long been a favorite author of mine since his earlier works with Gilbert Morris. It’s been my absolute pleasure to get to know him better and hear his heart for writing, history, and God. Aaron is an amazing storyteller with a rare talent for weaving in the subtle nuances of history while giving the reader a gentle spiritual message. I’m so blessed to call him friend.
Diane Ashley is a new friend who has impressed me over the last few years with her love of history and God. Her gentle spirit and loving heart spills out on the pages she creates, and I find her to be one of those up and coming authors to watch.
Now as Diane and Aaron combine their talents, I’m reminded of stories by Eugenia Price and Nancy Cato. Stories of life on the river hold me spellbound, and Diane and Aaron have captured the heart of riverboat epics while giving the reader a strong feeling of Southern grace and beauty. I found it nearly impossible to put this book down as I found myself caught up in the story of Lily and the obstacles she faced in the pre-Civil War South.
I have a special fondness for Southern literature and if the same is true for you, I think you’re going to find Lily, book one of the Song of the River series, to be a pleasurable gem. So find your favorite comfy chair and settle in for a fascinating story of romance, intrigue, and forgiveness. You won’t be sorry!
—Tracie Peterson, award-winning,
bestselling author of over ninety-five books,
including the Striking a Match series and
House of Secrets
© 2012 by Diane T. Ashley and Aaron McCarver
Print ISBN 978-1-61626-542-7
Adobe Digital Edition (.epub) 978-1-60742-862-6
Kindle and MobiPocket Edition (.prc) 978-1-60742-863-3
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the publisher.
Cover credit: Studio Gearbox,
All scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual people, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.
For more information about Diane T. Ashley and Aaron McCarver, please access the author’s website at the following Internet address:
Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683,
Our mission is to publish and distribute inspirational products offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement to the masses.
Printed in the United States of America.
Aaron: I dedicate this book to my best friend, William D. Devore, Jr. It is hard to put into words how much you mean to me. The closest of friends for over twenty years, God has used you in so many ways in my life. I have learned so many things from you: how to be more patient, how to not allow life to stress me out, and how to be a true friend, to only name a few. Like David and Jonathan, God has knit us together as true brothers. You are indeed a special gift from God to me, one that I will always treasure. “As iron sharpens iron …”
Diane: For Deborah and the “Walleen” sisters: Good memories with great friends. Thanks for your supportive words, caring hearts, and wise advice. The true measure of our friendship is that it remains strong even when our pathways diverge. All three of you are precious to me, and I treasure the times when we are together. May God continue to bless you as you have blessed me.
We, of all people, know what a collaborative effort a book truly is. We would like to thank the many people who helped us with our newest endeavor:
Our agent, Steve Laube, who tirelessly works on our behalf and muddles through legalese and other languages foreign to us.
Our editors, Becky Germany and Becky Fish, and the wonderful team at Barbour. May God bless our work beyond what we can possibly imagine to bring about His will.
And a special thank-you to Dr. Don Hubele and his Bibliography and Research class of Spring 2011 for your invaluable research assistance: Naomi Ahern, Amanda Barber, Christopher Bonner, Kirsten Callahan, Salina Cervantes, Alexander Crowson, Samantha Edwards, Ebony Epps, Kathleen Hennessy, Erin Hoover, Evan Jones, Allison Kalehoff, Krista Kliewer, Bonnie McCoy, Angela Morgan, Mary Morris, Aubry Myers, Chelsea Randle, Karisa Rowlands, Mark Samsel, Megan Timbs, Isaiah Tolo, Deanna Vanderver, Phillip Williams.
Natchez, Mississippi Spring 1859
ily Anderson watched the passing scenery from the comfort of her uncle’s carriage. Stately mansions with manicured grounds gave way to the smaller, sturdy homes of local merchants as they traveled toward the Mississippi River. They passed a busy mercantile and several shops before the carriage took a sharp leftward downturn toward the raucous, bustling dock that lay far beneath the genteel residences of Natchez’s wealthy plantation owners and merchants.
Natchez Under-the-Hill. She sniffed the air appreciatively as she disembarked, picking up the scents of fresh coffee, burning wood, and fish. How she loved the river. She barely noticed the disreputable, rickety inns and saloons that sprouted like weeds on either side of the winding road called Silver Street.
Roustabouts slumbered in the scant shade of ramshackle buildings while a pair of glassy-eyed Indians staggered down the street, each clutching a brown bottle close to his chest. Lily’s eyes widened at their blatant drunkenness, but their presence did not deter her eagerness to absorb every detail of her surroundings as she followed Aunt Dahlia.
Voices shouted in an exciting mix of languages … English, French, German, and even lilting Norwegian dialects. The latter brought disturbing memories, but Lily pushed them away, determined to enjoy her outing on the river.
As she and her aunt picked their way past bales of cotton and barrels of tobacco, her gaze absorbed the myriad boats lining the banks. Rugged keelboats and waterlogged rafts butted up against lofty steamboats, each awaiting cargo or passengers to be transported downriver to the port of New Orleans.
“Don’t dawdle, Lily.” Aunt Dahlia’s annoyed tone drew her forward.
Lily would have liked more time to soak in the energy and color of the busy landing area. If she had her way, she would spend every afternoon down here. Sometimes she dreamed she would even have her own riverboat,
, and ply the crowded waters of the wide river. If not for the accident that took her parents, she would not have to dream. She would already live on the river.
A snap of her aunt’s fingers brought Lily back to the present. “Come along, girl. Quit gawking like a simpleton.” Aunt Dahlia shook her head. “One would think you had not grown up in Natchez.”
Lily glanced toward her aunt, comparing her to the memory of her mother, the sweet and gentle woman whom God had called home far too quickly. Her aunt could never match the beauty and spirit that flowed from Mama. Aunt Dahlia was more … commanding. At a height of five foot eight, she towered over the other ladies and most of the gentlemen in Natchez society. Mama had been much shorter and more genteel. Even though her mother had died nearly a decade ago, if Lily closed her eyes, she could see Mama’s shiny blond hair and laughing blue eyes. Aunt Dahlia, however, had inherited her father’s coloring, her hair and eyes as brown as the river flowing along the nearby bank. When she was vexed, her upper lip thinned out and nearly disappeared. It was hard to imagine that Mama, so happy and carefree, was Aunt Dahlia’s sister or that the two women had shared a common upbringing.
“I’m coming, Aunt Dahlia.”
“I’ve never seen you move so slowly, girl. What’s the matter with you?” Her aunt sniffed and reached for the handkerchief in her reticule. “One would think you don’t appreciate your good fortune in being able to attend the Champneys’ party. The invitation indicated we should arrive prior to three or risk being left at the dock.”
Sunlight beamed down on them, warming Lily’s shoulders. “It cannot be—”
A young boy barreled into Lily, nearly knocking her over. “Oof.” Sharp pain distracted her as her teeth stabbed her tongue. A sudden tug separated her reticule from her forearm, and the child raced off, triumphantly escaping with her belongings clutched to his dirty chest.