A taut, thrilling adventure story about buried treasure, a manhunt, and a woman determined to make a new life for herself in the old west.
It's the 19th century on the Gulf Coast, a time of opportunity and lawlessness. After escaping the Texas brothel where she'd been a virtual prisoner, Lucinda Carter heads for Middle Bayou to meet her lover, who has a plan to make them both rich, chasing rumors of a pirate's buried treasure.
Meanwhile Nate Cannon, a young Texas policeman with a pure heart and a strong sense of justice, is on the hunt for a ruthless killer named McGill who has claimed the lives of men, women, and even children across the frontier. Whoif anyonewill survive when their paths finally cross?
As Lucinda and Nate's stories converge, guns are drawn, debts are paid, and Kathleen Kent delivers an unforgettable portrait of a woman who will stop at nothing to make a new life for herself.
|Product dimensions:||5.42(w) x 5.74(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Kathleen Kent is the author of The Heretic's Daughter and The Traitor's Wife. She lives in Dallas.
Read an Excerpt
By Kathleen Kent
Little, Brown and CompanyCopyright © 2013 Kathleen Kent
All rights reserved.
A hard fall had come upon Lucinda, throwing her to the floor of her bedroom, chafing an elbow and bruising the skin on one cheek. It had happened on a Monday, so that when the dizzying waves came over her again on the following Wednesday, she stood with her back pressed flat against a door for balance and her hands balled at her sides. A crescent of sweat beaded her lip, and she could taste the salt as it ran into the corners of her mouth. She closed her eyes and waited for the rigors to pass.
There had been a forewarning of this within the first hour of waking. The scent, strange and not altogether pleasant, had seemingly rolled out along with the folds of the gray bombazine travel dress that she unpacked from a box hidden under her bed. She thought for an instant that the dress had perhaps been secretly taken out and worn by one of the other girls, the fabric still carrying the remnants of a too-old perfume. She frowned in irritation and pulled the dark jacket closer to her nose. Then she remembered that the odor was a part of the malady, a sign that was of her and not apart from her. She had seen the beginnings of fracturing lamplight, the hazy yellow globes floating and pulsing at odd intervals, and she had known the aura for what it was. She had gone weeks without such a fit, until the Monday past. It was the stress of the impending travel, she thought, that had brought back her intractable weakness.
She had managed to finish dressing that morning by herself, willing her arms and legs through the complicated layers of laces and hooks of undergarments and overdress, and she was fine until the moment she stepped out of her room. She latched the door soundlessly behind her before her limbs began their jerking, trembling rigidity, her mind sliding towards blankness.
She was damp through her clothes, her forehead slick and prickling, but to move away from the door, even to dab at her neck, could pitch her facedown onto the thin carpet, waking the occupants in the nearest bedroom. She dared to let her chin fall, her eyes downcast and half closed, her lips twitching as though in conversation with her shoes.
The shoes. She saw right away how ridiculous was the turn of mind that had prompted her to put on the high-laced boots of yellow kidskin. They were thin soled with raised heels, and the color flashed from the hem of her skirt like a lighthouse beacon through a storm. They were insubstantial and ill-advised for traveling, but in a moment of stubborn vanity, she had put them on, rather than the sturdy black walking boots that she had packed into her traveling bag.
Next to her feet, where she had dropped it, lay the tapestry bag containing a light cotton dress, a heavier woolen dress, a paisley shawl, her teaching primers, a lady's gun, and a bottle of laudanum. The laudanum had proven useless against the fits, as had bromine, tincture of mercury, and every other apothecary offering. She had once even tried an evil-smelling concoction of herbs and what looked like turtle shells bought off a Chinaman. Boiling the dark fragments into a tea had filled the house with foul odors, driving Mrs. Landry, the house's owner, into one of her own fits. Lucinda never tested its merit, as her landlady had thrown it all into the yard to be pecked over by the hens.
But the laudanum would bring comfort on the nights she couldn't sleep. The Remington offered reassurance of a different kind.
There was an easing of the spasms in her legs and neck, and she felt the edges of her vision expand again to the ends of the hallway on either side of her. The wave of sickness she had felt moments before resolved itself into simple morning hunger. Although the paralysis had been brief, precious time had been lost. It could be only a half hour more, if that, until the woman arrived to clean the downstairs parlor.
The only sounds came from the room next to hers: a gentle snoring and a squeaking of a bed frame as the sleeper shifted.
Still she rested against the door, breathing slowly the stale air coming off the worn carpet. She wondered how many feet had trudged up and down the hallways, day upon day, hour upon hour. Mrs. Landry was not a young woman; she was already well in her forties, although her fondness for wearing false bangs and low-cut, tight-fitting gowns had not diminished over the decade she had run her busy and very profitable house.
How many women and girls had trodden these stairs, each thinking to stay for a short while, to make some quick riches selling the only asset left to her, the garden between her legs, only to find that quick and plentiful were two different things entirely. It was astonishing really how many of them believed they could be frugal enough, or smart enough, or sly enough in their dealings with Mrs. Landry to save the money required to set up their own shops somewhere else.
She'd seen girls as young as twelve taken in, girls who had already spent months with the camps, following men on cattle drives. Hollow-eyed and detached, even after a stiff scrubbing, they looked in their wet nakedness like wiry boys, their backsides flat as china plates.
And also older women, well beyond their years of first budding, who, because of widowhood, or misuse, or just plain boredom, came and stayed for a bit to change their luck, then disappeared again. What was the same for everyone in Madame Landry's house was the importance of accepting a simple mathematical truth: the law of diminishing returns. The longer you stayed, the deeper in debt you became, through the acquiring of either gowns, doctor's bills, liquor, or laudanum.
There was never any forcing of boarders to stay if they wanted to leave. But every woman was searched foot to mouth before she exited through the always-locked front door, taking with her only what she'd brought into the house. Rarely did a woman depart with any money after her accounts had been settled, and even a trip to the dry-goods merchant or postal office earned a close inspection.
The enforcer in this was Mrs. Landry's German. The German spoke halting English and was never tempted by bribes of any kind, either flesh or money. High-voiced and sloe-eyed as the German was, house gossip had it that he had somehow been gelded as a boy and thus had no weakness for women, even though he shared a bed nightly with Mrs. Landry. He also had fists the size of Easter hams.
Mrs. Landry's bedroom was off the parlor closest to the door, and the trick for Lucinda would be slipping through the door without waking the pair of them. The woman was a notoriously wakeful sleeper and, it was said, could tell the number of times each of her girls used the chamber pots from the squeaking of the floorboards overhead.
For days Lucinda had been greasing the lock and hinges of the door with a feather covered in lard, and she carried in her stays a key made from a mold of the German's own key, a mold she'd obtained by pressing the key into a thin brick of soap hidden in a small tin box.
The German always kept his key on a chain fastened to his belt. But it had not been difficult to distract him with a turn at cards. Lucinda had sat near him, her head bent towards his, the better to patiently teach him the rules of faro. She spoke encouragingly to him, laughing and gesturing extravagantly as she deftly slipped the key from his pocket, pressing it into the soap, and then passed it back into his pocket again before the hand had played out.
She didn't know whether the copied key would even turn the lock, but she would get only a few tries at the door before Mrs. Landry would wake thinking the oily rattling was the cleaning woman come early.
Bending her knees, she dipped down to grasp the top of her bag, and then slowly raised herself again to standing. She pushed away from the bedroom door and used the forward momentum to grasp at the wooden finial at the top of the stair rail. She placed both hands on the railing to steady herself, the bag's handles looped over one arm, and stepped carefully down the stairs, riser to riser, the carpet absorbing the sounds of her progress. At the bottom of the stairs, she rested a moment, breathing through her mouth, waiting for the play of stippled lights inside her eyes to subside. A renewed wave of nausea came and went. The scrabbling of a mouse, or a rat, settling in the walls sounded faintly and then stopped.
At the door, she pressed her forehead against the wood, and the key slid easily into the lock, but she paused one last time to listen for any movement within or without the house. There were no sounds coming off the streets, and she turned the key soundlessly, and felt the heavy bolt slip open.
Through a narrow space, she eased out, and then shut the door gently behind her. She inserted the key in the outside lock and slipped the bolt back into place. Dropping the key into the pocket of her day coat, she turned and walked, carefully at first, and then more briskly, southwards, away from the direction the cleaning woman would come.
Past Jody Strange's sporting house and gaming parlor, she turned left onto Fourth Street, unmindful of keeping her head down or veil drawn. The streets were yet empty and hollow-feeling, as she'd known they would be; the girls of Hell's Half Acre of Fort Worth and their stay-over clients were still unconscious. After the cleaning woman arrived, Mrs. Landry would likely go back to her bed until noon, and it might be another hour after that before Lucinda was discovered missing from the house. But by then she would be several hours gone.
She followed Fourth Street to Rusk, then turned southward again, towards the better hotels and saloons closer to the coach depot and wagon yards. September had been dry, and, instead of the usual sucking mud oozing through the pine planking, the only thing caking her yellow boots was a fine scrim of dust.
She entered the Commerce Hotel, sat in the lobby, and ordered tea and a piece of bread. The clock behind the clerk's head struck the half hour past seven. At eight o'clock the coach would come.
She smiled wanly at the clerk, making sure he took note of her face, and asked if the coach to Dallas would be on time. A few pleasantries were exchanged, the clerk being made to believe that Lucinda would be visiting family there, so that when the German came looking for her, and he would certainly come, he'd be told she was in Dallas, and Lucinda would gain some much-needed time.
She was in fact taking the coach beyond Dallas, through Waxahachie, Hillsboro, Waco, and finally to Hearne; over one hundred and fifty miles. At Hearne she would board the rail line to Houston, a hundred and twenty miles farther on.
She had begun to feel better, only a tightening at her temples and a kind of burning sensation at the back of her skull to prove she'd had the fit. She finished her tea and bread and paid for them with a few coins drawn from a delicate embroidered pouch. When she replaced the small pouch in the carpetbag, her hand instinctively felt for the reassuring weight of a much larger pouch filled with a comfortable sum of money taken from Mrs. Landry's cache under the floorboards of her room.
Lucinda had discovered the hidden place only recently, and by accident, while caring for Mrs. Landry during a brief illness. The madam's fever-pooled eyes had constantly, and anxiously, sought out a place on the floor near her bed, as though by habit, and when Lucinda gently tapped the boards with the toe of her shoe, she heard a hollow sound. After an extra draft of laudanum for Mrs. Landry in the early afternoon, Lucinda made a quick examination of the floorboards that proved her suspicions right: something of value had been tucked away underneath. In a hollow space she discovered a canvas sack filled with hard currency; merchant tokens; and shinplasters, the paper money given out during the war. The heavier gold and silver coins had settled to the bottom and she removed as many as she dared, reducing the size of the bag imperceptibly.
Later today, after Mrs. Landry realized Lucinda was gone, she would immediately check the space beneath the floorboards. A quick count, and the German would be out the door like a baying hound.
Robbery had not been part of Lucinda's original plan. She had merely wanted to leave unmolested, carrying the little bit of money she had managed to hide from the prying eyes of her employer. The old bawd was as tight as a Gulf oyster with her pay, and it was simply happy circumstance that Lucinda had found the hidden cache and the opportunity to take it. Once she had secreted the coins in her own room, she gave herself only a few days to plan and execute her escape. To be caught thieving from Mrs. Landry would most likely bring an unending bath in the Trinity River.
The clerk, who had been staring at her yellow boots, looked quickly back at her face and smiled broadly with the kind of come-on she had grown used to. The town men, even the dullards, seemed to size her up with telegraphic precision. Assessing his frayed coat and collar, she guessed the clerk would have been good for only about three dollars and, at most, thirty seconds of energetic pushing. She turned her head, nullifying him, and stared out the window.
Within five minutes the coach arrived, and, after a hand up from the driver, she paid her fare and seated herself across from a gentleman who, she was pleased to discover, was a doctor traveling to Hillsboro. She immediately closed her eyes, hoping to sleep while discouraging conversation. At least, she thought, she could get proper care if felled by another bout of palsy while in his company.
Four hours later, the coach halted in Dallas and the driver handed his two passengers down, telling them they could rest for an hour, avail themselves of food and drink, while the horses and driver were changed. They were also told that for the next leg of the journey, the driver would be accompanied by a shotgun companion; there were as many gunmen on the road to Hillsboro, the driver said, as there were "teats on a wild boar."
The doctor, who had not spoken a word to Lucinda for the whole of the time beyond the initial introductions, walked immediately to the public house nearest the coach. She watched him as he moved discourteously away and decided that he must be a Methodist, as a Baptist would have spent the greatest part of the trip staring at her bosom.
Taking in the sight of pine buildings, rawboned in their newness and smelling of turpentine, Lucinda crossed the rutted street opposite the coach, carrying with her the carpetbag. In the nearby dry-goods store she purchased a cheap muslin nightgown and a comb. She then walked to the McClintock, a modest hotel at the far end of the street, and paid for two nights. She paused for a moment, and then her lips curled and she signed the registry Mrs. Landry.
She ordered a cutlet and coffee to be sent to her room. When the meal came, she hungrily ate all of the beef, pushing aside what looked to be apples fried in lard. She finished her coffee, sipped at some water, and used the chamber pot. She laid the nightgown and comb on the coverlet and sat on the edge of the bed for a while, feeling almost well.
She pulled two letters from her bag, both sent to her through the post office in Fort Worth. The first note read Come to the Lamplighter when you are able. I will leave word. Ever Yours, by the hour ... She smiled and covered the note with her fingers before returning it to her bag. The second letter she did not open, knowing the words by heart, but she let it rest in her lap for a while. It was the letter offering her the position of schoolteacher in a settlement called Middle Bayou. The job would pay twenty-five dollars a month, provide her with a room, and would no doubt be close to the edge of the world: crude, forlorn, and mosquito-infested. She would be astonished if she hadn't contracted malaria within a few weeks.
Having replaced the second letter, she changed her gray suit for the lighter cotton dress she had packed and pulled on the stout walking boots and the shawl. She then picked up the bag and walked downstairs, where she informed the hotel clerk that she would be back after dark, as she was going to have supper with her brother. She strolled the few blocks to the coach and found two additional passengers, as well as the doctor, waiting for the new driver to take up the baggage.
Excerpted from The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent. Copyright © 2013 Kathleen Kent. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved this novel! The Outcasts is an engrossing novel set in the American west where no one is perfect and everyone is in search of something! The story unfolds through the points of view of Nate Cannon and Lucinda Carter. Nate is an immediately likeable character. He leaves a young wife at home to join a cattle drive and later the Texas State Police. On his first assignment, he encounters two crusty old Texas Rangers, George Deerling and Tom Goddard. They have spent a lifetime hunting a ruthless killer named McGill who has killed women and children. Good with horses, Nate impresses the rough and tumble duo and the three ride off in search of McGill. The scenes in the book pertaining to these characters are excellently written, in fact, I would classify it as amazing, capturing the crudeness and wisdom of old age cowboys and rangers. Incredibly fabulous! Then there is Lucinda Carter. Lucinda is running from a horrible past. She is an unloved epileptic whose father banished her to a lunatic asylum when she was a mere child. Now, she makes her living as a whore in a bothel. When she earns enough, she hopes to meet her lover and start a new life. So to hasten her destiny, she steals from her notoriously ruthless madame, who sends a killer after her. But Lucinda’s lover insists she take a job as a school teacher first. Yes, that’s correct, a whore working as a school teacher, one of the many fascinating tweeks and lilts this story takes. While there, she learns of a long-lost treasure hidden by the infamous pirate, Lafitte, many years before. There is so much to gush about in this novel, I don’t know where to begin. The characterization is stupendous, the plot magnificent, the characters inter-connected, the creativity superb! This is the old west at its best and worst – ruthless, dangerous, wild. This story has it all, brothels, saloons, gunfights, killings, sex, and much, much more, all if it a glorious indulgence! And from start to finish, the story is peppered with clever dialogue and scenes that ring with brilliance. Each character has secrets, and slowly their secrets are revealed reaching a crescendo near the end. Ah, yes, the the ending – a fabulous, fascinating ending that neatly ties up all the threads of the story, connects all the characters, reveals all the secrets, and leaves you wanting more. Why? Because the author has the ability to make the characters bigger than life, real, sympathetic, credible. One of the best books I have ever read! Definitely one that I will read again and again.
Kathleen Kent's two previous books 'The Herectic's Daughter' and 'The Traitor's Wife' gave the reader a raw sense of living conditions in early New England. She has done the same with 'The Outcasts', but this time in Texas shortly after the Civil War. The characters are real people, not the romanticized versions that are so typical of so many Westerns. The plot twits are unexpected, and the reader is left at the end, with a few saddle sores. But this reader cannot wait to saddle up and read it again.
This will go down as one of my favorites. I loved the writing style and character development. This is a western historical story with several surprises and connections. It has left me feeling just little meloncholy which typically I dislike immensely however this story was so rich with the telling, I loved it. I want to read everything this author writes.
Reviewed by Katelyn Hensel for Readers' Favorite The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent takes us back to the 19th century. On the Gulf coast of Texas, Lucinda Carter has just escaped a destitute life within a brothel to find her lover and gain the life she has been longing for. With a desperate plan to get rich off buried treasure, the two lovers set off for the Bayou. Miles away, there is a man-hunt on for a deadly killer who has already taken the lives of many innocents. Hot on his trail is a 'wet behind the ears' Texas police officer who is hell bent on catching the murderer. When the two stories diverge, plot twists abound, adventure and action are pushed to the max, and it's definitely unclear if everyone will survive. This book was amazing! Not a typical fan of westerns, I was a bit skeptical when I picked up The Outcasts. I am SO glad that I did, because this is more than just a classic western. This is a story of redemption, of finding your way, all mixed in with a bit of an adventure. What I really felt was that this is an adult version of a children's story. There was that youthful spirit of adventure and thrills that don't usually enter adult books. I liked how the stories remained unique to each other until the last possible moment when the threads of the story intersected in a dramatic conclusion. Kathleen Kent knows the art of storytelling in such a dramatic fashion that the story really comes to life. A wonderful book and a wonderful story!
Good texas tall tell with true historical facts
It seems good and with a story not "mushy"
Set in the 1880's in Texas, the story alternates chapters between Lucinda Carter, a women of a checkered background with a decidedly mixed character, and Nate Cannon, an idealistic, new recruit to the Texas Rangers. You are aware that their stories will eventually come together, much like watching two cars set on a collision course. Overall, there is some good writing. This is not a simple Western adventure story. Lucinda is a particularly interesting character. You can easily find yourself despising her but then liking her (or at least rooting for her). While Nate wears the white hat, I did not find him that interesting as a character. Also, some of the events described toward the end of the book struck me as far fetched. Be forewarned that some pretty awful things happen in the book although the events are not described in excessive detail.
Excellent character development!!! Wonderful descriptions of Texas. Highly recommended!!! This story builds and gets better as it goes along. It is an exciting western, a tragic friendship story, a mystery of gold, and much much more. It deserves A+++++++++