Defiant Heart (Westward Hearts Series #1)

( 5 )

Overview

In Book One of the Westward Hearts series, orphans Fannie Caldwell and her two young siblings have spent the last three years as indentured servants under a cruel master. Desperately wanting a better life for her brother and sister, Fannie devises a plan to secretly join a wagon train heading west. Her plan immediately runs into trouble when the handsome yet bullheaded wagon master Blake Tanner refuses to allow an unmarried woman on the train. But Fannie's determined—she'll ...

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Defiant Heart (Westward Hearts Series #1)

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Overview

In Book One of the Westward Hearts series, orphans Fannie Caldwell and her two young siblings have spent the last three years as indentured servants under a cruel master. Desperately wanting a better life for her brother and sister, Fannie devises a plan to secretly join a wagon train heading west. Her plan immediately runs into trouble when the handsome yet bullheaded wagon master Blake Tanner refuses to allow an unmarried woman on the train. But Fannie's determined—she'll escape and go west with or without help.

As life on the trail tests everyone's endurance and faith, Fannie soon realizes the perils of being a single woman on the frontier. Witnessing Fannie fending off one scare after another, Blake slowly recognizes how much he cares for this alluring young woman. Will Blake sacrifice his own dreams and guide Fannie to safety? Or will Fannie's stubborn independence keep her from finding true love?

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Editorial Reviews

Romantic TimesBOOKclub
"Award-winning author Bateman captivates with her latest novel...filled with action, drama and endearing characters...."
Tracie Peterson
“A wonderful story of adventure and love on the westward trail....a pleasure to read.”
Romantic Times BOOKclub
“Award-winning author Bateman captivates with her latest novel...filled with action, drama and endearing characters....”
Romantic Times BOOKclub
“Award-winning author Bateman captivates with her latest novel...filled with action, drama and endearing characters....”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061246333
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/8/2007
  • Series: Westward Hearts Series , #1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Tracey Bateman is the award-winning author of many books, including Kansas Home.

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Read an Excerpt

Defiant Heart LP

Chapter One

1850

The folks of Hawkins, Kansas, had only two reasons to get excited on any given day. One: the birth of a baby (which only happened in the rooms above the saloons but, nonetheless, gave cause for a stir), and two: a wagon train making camp along the creek just outside of town for one, two, sometimes as many as three days if the Oregon-bound settlers were ahead of schedule and needed to make repairs to more than a couple of wagons.

Today there were no babies reported born, but the town was up in arms just the same, and that could mean only one thing: The first wagon train of the year was about to make camp just beyond the town's border.

"It's a'comin'!" The disembodied shout from outside the store window caught Fannie Caldwell's attention and brought an intake of air to her lungs. Every nerve ending beckoned her to run to the door and join the small gathering of townsfolk—men, mostly, except for the occasional fancy woman venturing sleepily from one saloon or another, face paint smeared, shawls drawn over petticoats and chemises.

As much as Fannie longed to venture out herself, she knew better. She could feel Tom's eyes boring into her. Those dark, leering eyes that followed her wherever she went. Hour after hour. Day after endless day. Year after year. She had to remain alive and whole if she was going to keep Kip and Katie alive and whole, so she stayed put, keeping her gaze focused on the account books open on the counter in front of her.

Grunting, Tom pulled his bloated body from the wobbly wooden chair at the end of the counter. Disgust burned a hole through Fannie as the middle-aged storekeeperlumbered across the scarred plank floor. He grabbed hold of the leather latch, yanked open the door, and stepped out into the dusty street.

"Gal," he called with gruff command, "you best git your head out of them books and ready the store for business. This one looks to be a long train—pert near a hunnerd wagons I'm guessin'."

Fannie's heart lifted at the news. A wagon train that big could surely hide three small people like her and the twins. Maybe things were finally starting to go right for a change. A grim smile tugged at Fannie's lips, but she squelched it before Tom could see. No sense raising his suspicions.

"Ya hear me? Or do I need to help yer hearin' a mite?"

They both knew he wouldn't beat her just now. There was no one else to run the store for the next few hours. Too much money to be made and not enough time for her to take a beating, then pull herself together for what promised to be a busy day of selling. "Yes, Tom. I heard you."

"Git to it, then."

With a sigh, Fannie did as she was told. She'd learned long ago the price of disobedience. Not that she was a lily-livered coward. But after three years of being indentured to Tom, she knew all too intimately the pain of connecting with his fists, boots, the flat of his hand. And tonight there was too much at stake for her to risk provoking a beating she might not be able to recover from very quickly.

"Yes, sir." The sound of her soft submission masked the wild rebellion nearly exploding from her heart. The subservient reply would have fooled even the most astute bystander. Thankfully, it fooled Tom. It had to. If her plan was going to work.

Fannie shut the account book and shoved it beneath the counter. Next, she set to work dusting shelves and raising prices 50 percent as Tom always insisted. Enough so that he made substantially more of a profit than his already overpriced goods demanded, but not so much that the average traveler, hungry for the sight of a town and the inside of a dry goods store, would balk too much before plunking down the price.

"Where's Kip?" Tom barked. The planks groaned beneath his mass as he reentered the store and waddled to his seat. "These folk'll need someone to help carry packages." Another two bits per customer. Another shot of whiskey for Tom.

Fannie forced herself to maintain an air of calm. "He'll be along soon. Remember, last night you told him to go to the creek this morning and catch fish for tonight's supper?"

"Huh? Thet right?"

No. It was a flat-out lie, but he'd never know it. The drunken fool. Kip and Katie weren't anywhere near the creek. They were loading the wagon with the last of the supplies they'd smuggled out last night after Tom drank himself unconscious. Lookouts had been reporting back on the wagon train's forward progress for the past two days. The three siblings had gone to work finalizing preparations at the first word. If all went according to plan, by the time Tom drank himself into the same inevitable stupor tonight, she and the twins would be long gone.

When the first wagon came into view through the open door, Fannie could no longer resist the pull to stare. The longing she kept carefully hidden. Tom had spoken the truth. All told, there must be a hundred wagons, maybe more. She knew they would pull through town and make camp just the other side, next to the creek.

Within the hour, the first wave of pioneers would find their way into the store. By nightfall, her body would ache with fatigue. Tom would hover for a while then, as the money box got fatter and fatter, his excitement would grow, and he'd leave her to the wagon train customers and visit one or both of the local saloons. Eventually, he'd stagger home rip-roaring drunk. She wouldn't think about what would happen later, but afterwards, when he fell into a stupor, her plan would fall into place. Three years of meticulous planning. She finally had everything she needed to take Katie and Kip away from this godforsaken dirt pile of a town. If a person could even call it that. Two saloons, a smithy, and Tom's trade store. That pretty much summed up the town's commerce.

Defiant Heart LP. Copyright © by Tracey Bateman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Fannie Caldwell knows all too well the sting of her master's hand against her fragile skin. Having spent three years as an indentured servant to a cruel, drunken storekeeper, she desperately wants a new beginning for herself and her twelve-year-old siblings Katie and Kip. After months of planning the three finally escape from the store, and secretly follow a wagon train heading west.

When they are discovered behind the wagon train, the handsome yet bullheaded wagon master Blake Tanner refuses to allow an unmarried woman on the train and demands they return to their town. But Fannie is determined—she will stop at nothing to ensure the safety and freedom of her two siblings. And Blake finds himself strangely drawn to this headstrong woman and reluctantly allows her to join the train. There is a fire in Fannie that he has never known in any woman.

As life on the trail tests endurance and faith, Fannie soon realizes the realities of life as a young, single woman on the frontier. And witnessing Fannie get in and out of trouble, Blake slowly recognizes how much he is falling for this beautiful lost woman. Little do they know that they are about to face the biggest challenge yet—and they'll have to sacrifice more than they ever imagined.

Questions for Discussion

Question: 1. Blake has a problem trusting women because of his mother's past. How does your upbringing affect your current relationships for the good or bad?

Question: 2. Do you think Fannie (and Toni) had the right to take the money when they left Hawkins? Why or why not? What would you have done in their situation?

Question: 3. Why do you think Sam is able to look past Toni's sins and into her heart?

Question: 4. Do you know someone with a tarnished past and wish you could give them the benefit of the doubt? Are you the one who is trying to change but find it difficult to convince people around you of your sincerity?

Question: 5. Throughout Fannie's early childhood she had a happy family life with two loving parents. Suddenly her world was upended when her father died. What could her mother have done to spare her children their hard life after her death?

Question: 6. Why do you think no one came to Fannie and the twins' rescue from Tom? After three years, surely someone noticed they were being abused. How far have we come as a society, do you think, where child protection is concerned?

Question: 7. What steps do you think Fannie should take to learn to forgive those who have hurt her, including the stepfather who sold her to Tom in the first place? How does her inability to forgive keep her from moving forward in her life?

Question: 8. Both Fannie and Toni are willing to risk everything to have a chance to start fresh out west. Has there ever been a time in your life when you were considering taking a huge risk for a new opportunity?

Question: 9. Throughout Defiant Heart, Fannie is incredibly brave, headstrong, and stubborn. Her very strong points can sometimes become weaknesses. When does that happen? Do you have any attributes that can become burdens?

Question: 10. When Fannie realizes that Blake wants nothing in return for paying her debt, she is able to make the parallel to Jesus. Discuss this debt-cancellation as it pertains to mankind.

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Customer Reviews

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( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 18 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

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    A wonderful western romance

    In 1847 their stepfather sold Fannie Caldwell and her preadolescent siblings Katie and Kip to Tom as indentured servants. Over the next three years raging drunken Tom treats them horribly, abusing them although Fannie as a lioness protecting her cubs absorbs most of his wrath. However, she is concerned by the way Tom stares and leers at twelve years old Katie she vows they will escape before he assaults her younger sister.----------------- Fannie befriends Toni the town¿s fallen woman. They agree to flee together with the former¿s siblings at the first opportunity. When wagon master Blake Tanner arrives in town, the two females book passage on his trip west although he objects to single women with no man to protect them. As Fannie and Blake, and Toni with the wagon master¿s best friend Two Feathers fall in love, danger seems everywhere besides the normal perilous journey as someone wants either one or both women dead although no reason seems apparent except perhaps Tom seeking revenge for the Caldwells running away.------------ The first Westward Hearts tale is a wonderful western romance starring fully developed characters bringing to life the decade before the Civil War on the Great Plains. The story line is driven by the cast who face all sorts of peril as they seek a new hopefully better life. Readers will admire the intrepid Fannie who is fierce when it comes to keeping Katie and Kip safe, but also loving and vulnerable. Toni will receive much empathy from the audience for her trials and tribulations. Tracy Bateman shows why she is an award winning author with this suburb Americana romance.----------- Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Could not put it down!

    I read this book through in 2 days!I read it every spare minute that I could! I love reading and this is one book I could not put down! Loved the love that was blooming between Fannie and Blake.Loved also the danger that Fannie was in and the steps Blake took to protect her and her brother and sister! Very romantic! I felt so bad for Toni and can't wait to read the next book in this series! I highly recommend this book who loves to read about faith,love,danger,hope and romance! I could not put this book down it was that good!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 29, 2009

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    A reviewer

    This was probably one of the most riveting prairie novels I've ever read. I finished it quickly. The tension was great throughout the story. And Fannie was the strongest heroine I've ever come across, though her stubborn streak got her into an awful lot of trouble. On occasion, that stubbornness made her a bit unlikeable, but given her past, her guarded behavior made total sense. Plus, she never would've captured Blake's attention any other way. There were some pretty sad situations in this story, many of which were extremely realistic for those times. Honestly, the only weakness I saw was the POV switching without warning at times. At first I thought it was that the printer missed the section break, but then realized that probably wasn't the case as the switch happened about twenty times. At any rate, that wasn't a huge issue for me, but did confuse me a bit. Still, I highly recommend this book. It has a nice ending, but there is obviously going to be a sequel, which I assume will be just as wonderful as this story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2010

    Fantastic series

    I love this series and read through it in ten days. The characters are very relatable and believable, and I love how she intertwined the message of Christ within. Please write more historical fiction soon, Tracy!

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