Pillow of Thorns
Karen Cecil Smith
"An artful, false woman shall set thy pillow with thorns," declares the prosecution in one of North Carolina's most sensational murder trials.
Karen Cecil Smith has written a fictionalized story based on the first woman to be tried for murder in Cumberland County, North Carolina. The year is 1850. It is a time of slavery, superstition, and social snobbery. Exotic and shapely beauty Maria Stafford stands accused of killing her prosperous, older husband.
From the moment Maria sets eyes on Sherwood Stafford, a distinguished New Yorker who has just moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina, she dreams of becoming his wife. Maria wants a home of her own, complete with servants, cook, and personal seamstress. The local fortuneteller predicts the two will wed.
Their storybook wedding and fashionable honeymoon provide brief happiness for Maria. She is disappointed in her marriage and disgusted with her hypochondriac husband. Eyes of envious women are on her as she proudly strolls the streets of Fayetteville in all her finery. Note is taken of her daily visits to the fortuneteller and clandestine meetings with an old beau.
When Sherwood Stafford falls ill and dies, townsfolk whisper that his wife killed him. A bench warrant for Maria's arrest is issued. What follows is an adventure that takes the reader aboard a ship bound for Cuba with a side trip to the low country of Charleston, South Carolina.
"I tried to stay true to history and to the actual murder trial," said the author, "but I did delve more into the life of the actual fortuneteller and other interesting characters, such as the household slaves, a free mulatto, and a pirate turned sailor."
Pillow of Thorns is a page-turning novel that will keep the reader wondering, right up to the end, if Maria is guilty or innocent of the crime for which she is accused.