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Paul Rumsfeld, a lonely, rich, widower, seeks Evangeline’s hand in marriage. He is her first real marital prospect, as the entire village considers her damaged goods. Rumors abound about the way Evangeline and her sister Rose Red, serviced the Black Bear who resided at their hearth during one particularly hard, bitter winter. Evangeline did no such thing, but no man pays her court. She accepts Paul’s offer to marry him, while trying to ignore the vile gossipmongers’ talk in the village that Paul’s last four wives died under bizarre—and troubling—circumstances. Is Paul a Bluebeard, or is he an innocent man? Evangeline trusts her husband implicitly, but the rumors are hard to ignore.
They marry and she travels with him to his marvelous villa on the sea. Once there, she is introduced to the household servants, including the grim and reproving Mathilda. Mathilda is a formidable opponent, and it takes all of Evangeline’s guile and resources to outmaneuver the imperious maidservant. Evangeline soon finds herself with child, and with the support of the midwife, she begins to exert her will. Out with the restricting corsets and stays! Evangeline has no desire to confine her body to the dictates of fashion. She wants her baby to be healthy and strong, and the only way to do that is to ensure her own comfort. Mathilda is horrified, but cannot bend Evangeline to her will.
At the same time, Evangeline is attempting to breach the citadel that is her husband’s broken heart. Paul honestly cannot say how it has come to pass that he is the widower of four deceased wives, each one expiring under odd and distressing circumstances. As a result, he has locked down his heart to any further intimacy. He is half-convinced that Evangeline shall also die, and it would be unbearable if he were to allow her into his heart.
Length: 99 pages
"Rose Red, Rose Red, would you have your suitor dead?"
During one bleak, bitterly cold winter’s night, Black Bear seeks refuge at the hearth in Rose Red’s cottage. Knowing that it is wrong to have feelings for an ursine creature, Rose Red stifles her longing for him. Heartbroken at Black Bear’s departure in the springtime, she wonders if she will ever find a man who possesses the same warmth of spirit and tenderness as her beloved Black Bear. As she seeks love in a string of unsuitable—and ultimately unworthy—suitors, her thoughts keep returning to Black Bear and the magical feelings he evoked in her. How is it possible that she can possess such feelings for Black Bear, a creature of the forest, and not even human?