We have an excerpt for THE WILD GIRL by Kate Fosyth. It’s historical fiction about the untold love story of Dortchen Wild and the boy next door, who just happens to be Wilhelm Grimm, one of the brothers behind the famous fairy tale collection.
I loved Kate Forsyth’s BITTER GREENS, the fairytale story of Rapunzel mixed with historical fiction. You can read my 4.5/5 star review by linking on this text. And I am just as excited by THE WILD GIRL as it’s getting many great reviews.
Below is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of the book:
Wild by name and wild by nature,’ Dortchen’s father used to say of her. He did not mean it as a compliment. He thought her headstrong, and so he set himself to tame her.
The day Dortchen Wild’s father died, she went to the forest, winter-bare and snow-frosted, so no one could see her dancing with joy. She went to the place where she had last been truly happy, the grove of old linden trees in the palace garden. Tearing off her black bonnet, she flung it into the tangled twigs, and drew off her gloves, shoving them in her coat pocket. Holding out her bare hands, embracing the cold winter wind, Dortchen spun alone among the linden trees, her black skirts swaying.
It was Christmas Day. All through Cassel, people were dancing and feasting. Dortchen remembered the Christmas balls Jérôme Bonaparte had held during his seven-year reign as king. A thousand guests had waltzed till dawn, their faces hidden behind masks. Wilhelm I, the Kurfürst of Hessen, had won back his throne from the French only a little over a year ago. He would not celebrate Christmas so extravagantly. Soon the lights would be doused and the music would fade away, and he and his court would go sensibly to bed, to save on the cost of lamp oil.
Dortchen must dance while she could.
She lifted her black skirts and twirled in the snow. He’s dead, she sang to herself. I’m free!
Three ravens flew through the darkening forest, wings ebony-black against the white snow. Their haunting call chilled her. She came to a standstill, surprised to find she was shaking with tears as much as with cold. She caught hold of a thorny branch to steady herself. Snow showered over her.
I will never be free . . .
Dortchen was so cold that she felt as if she were made of ice. Looking down, she realised she had cut herself on the rose thorns. Blood dripped into the snow. She sucked the cut, and the taste of her blood filled her mouth, metallic as biting a bullet.
The sun was sinking away behind the palace, and the violin music came to an end. Dortchen did not want to go home, but it was not safe in the forest at night. She picked up her bonnet and began trudging back home, to the rambling old house above her father’s apothecary shop, where his corpse lay in his bedroom, swollen and stinking, waiting for her to wash it and lay it out.
The town was full of revellers. It was the first Christmas since Napoléon had been defeated and banished. Carol-singers in long red gowns stood on street corners, singing harmonies. A chestnut-seller was selling paper cones of hot chestnuts to the crowd clustered about his little fire, while pot-men sold mugs of hot cider and mulled wine.
At last she came to the Marktgasse, lit up with dancing light from a huge bonfire. Not one building matched another, crowded together all higgledy-piggledy around the cobblestoned square with its old pump and drinking trough outside the inn.
Only the apothecary’s shop was dark and shuttered, with no welcoming light above its door. Dortchen made her way through crowds buying sugar-roasted almonds, gingerbread hearts, wooden toys and small gilded angels at the market stalls. She slipped into the alley that ran down the side of the shop to its garden, locked away behind high walls.
‘Dortchen,’ a low voice called from the shadowy doorway opposite the garden gate.
She turned, hands clasped painfully tight together.
A tall, lean figure in black stepped out of the doorway. The light from the square flickered over the strong, spare bones of his face, making hollows of his eyes and cheeks.
‘I’ve been waiting for you,’ Wilhelm said. ‘No one knew where you had gone.’
‘I went to the forest,’ she answered.
Wilhelm nodded. ‘I thought you would.’ He put his arms about her, drawing her close.
For a moment Dortchen resisted, but she was so cold and tired that she could not withstand the comfort of his touch. She rested her cheek on his chest and heard the thunder of his heart.
A ragged breath escaped her. ‘He’s dead,’ she said. ‘I can hardly believe it.’
‘I know, I heard the news. I’m sorry.’
He did not answer. She knew she had grieved him. The death of Wilhelm’s father had been the first great sorrow of his life; he and his brother Jakob had worked hard ever since to be all their father would have wanted. It was different for Dortchen, though. She had not loved her father.
‘You’re free now,’ he said, his voice so low it could scarcely be heard over the laughter and singing of the crowd in the square.
Dortchen had to look away. ‘It doesn’t change anything. There’s nothing left for me, not a single thaler.’
There was a long silence. In the space between them were all the words Wilhelm could not say. I am too poor to take a wife…I earn so little at my job at the library…I cannot ask Jakob to feed another mouth when he has to support all six of us . . .
The failure of their fairy tale collection was a disappointment to him, Dortchen knew. Wilhelm had worked so hard, pinning all his hopes to it. If only it had been better received…If only it had sold more…
‘I’m so sorry.’ He bent his head and kissed her.
Dortchen drew away and shook her head. ‘I can’t…We mustn’t…’ He gave a murmur deep in his throat and tried to kiss her again. She wrenched herself out of his arms. ‘Wilhelm, I can’t…It hurts too much.’
He caught her and drew her back, and she did not have the strength to resist him. Once again his mouth found hers, and she succumbed to the old magic. Desire quickened between them. Her arms were about his neck, their cold lips opening hungrily to each other. His hand slid down to find the curve of her waist, and she drew herself up against him. His breath caught. He turned and pressed her against the stone wall, his hands trying to find the shape of her within her heavy black gown.
Dortchen let herself forget the dark years that gaped between them, pretending that she was once more just a girl, madly in love with the boy next door.
The church bells rang out, marking the hour. She remembered she was frozen to the bone, and that her father’s dead body lay on the far side of the wall.
She shook her head. ‘It’s too late.’
At twenty-one years of age, she was an old maid, all her hopes of love and romance turned to ashes.
‘There must be a way. If the fairy tales would sell just a few more copies…’ His voice died away. They both knew that he would need to sell many thousands more before they could ever dream of being together.
‘One day people will recognise how wonderful the stories are,’ she said.
He took her hand and bent before her, pressing his mouth into her palm. She drew away from him, turning to the gate in the wall. She was shivering so hard she could scarcely lift the latch. She glanced back and saw him watching her, a tall, still shadow among shadows.
Happy endings are only for fairy tales, Dortchen thought, stepping through to her father’s walled garden. She raised her hand to dash away her tears. These days, there’s no use in wishing.
From The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth, on sale July 7, 2015, from Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, LLC. Copyright © 2015 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.
Kate Forsyth is the internationally bestselling and award-winning author of more than 20 novels. Her books have been published in 17 countries. Forsyth holds a doctorate in fairytale retellings from the University of Technology. She lives in Sydney, Australia.
Stay tuned since we will be hosting a giveaway for THE WILD GIRL tomorrow.