Homespun Bride

Homespun Bride

3.6 2433
by Jillian Hart

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Montana Territory in 1883 was a dangerous place—especially for a blind woman struggling to make her way through an early winter snowstorm. Undaunted, Noelle Kramer fought to remain independent. But then a runaway horse nearly plunged her into a rushing, ice-choked river, before a stranger's strong, sure hand saved her from certain death.

And yet


Montana Territory in 1883 was a dangerous place—especially for a blind woman struggling to make her way through an early winter snowstorm. Undaunted, Noelle Kramer fought to remain independent. But then a runaway horse nearly plunged her into a rushing, ice-choked river, before a stranger's strong, sure hand saved her from certain death.

And yet this was no stranger. Though she could not know it, her rescuer was rancher Thad McKaslin, the man who had once loved her more than life itself. Losing her had shaken all his most deeply held beliefs. Now he wondered if the return of this strong woman was a sign that somehow he could find his way home.

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Montana Territory, 1883

The tiny railroad town of Angel Falls was a symphony of noise. Because she was blind, Noelle Kramer had gotten the knack of separating one sound from another. There was the chink of horseshoes on the hard-packed snow and ice as teamsters and riders hurried on their way. The merry bell in the church steeple clanged a melody, marking the late-afternoon hour. The businesslike clip-clip of ladies'shoes on the swept-clean board-walk was like a metronome tapping the meter. The low-throated rumble of the train, two blocks over, added a steady bass percussion as it idled on steel tracks.

It all painted a picture, of sorts, but there was so much missing. She could not see the colorful window displays of the shops. Were they bright with spring colors yet? While she could not know this, not without asking her dear aunt, who was busy fussing with their horse's tether rope, she tried to picture what she could. She hadn't been blind so long that she couldn't remember the look of things. She only had to pull it up in her mind, the main street with its cheerful window displays, awnings and continuous boardwalks.

What she couldn't picture was her friend Lanna, from their school days, who'd been in the dress shop when she and her aunt had stopped to pick up a new hat. Lanna had been bursting with happiness. The brightest notes of joy rang in her voice as she'd been fitted for her wedding dress.

Noelle closed her eyes against the pain; she closed her thoughts and her heart, too. She'd never asked what had become of the wedding gown she'd had made. The one she'd never had a chance to pick up for her wedding day.

She rubbed the fourth finger of her left hand, so bare beneath the thick woolen glove. She understood why Shelton had changed his mind. What surprised her was that her heart wasn't broken; she'd not been deeply in love with him but she'd hoped for happiness anyway.

No, what had devastated her had been his words. You're damaged goods, now. Her blindness was the reason she would never have a hope of marrying. Of being a wife and a mother. Her affliction was a burden to others. She, alone, could not tend fires and watch after servants or see to the dozens of details in the running of a household and caring for small children.

Still, she had a lot to be thankful for.

"Now, you settle down like a good horse." Aunt Henrietta's no-nonsense scolding easily drowned out the street noise. Even her gait was a sensible brisk stride and her petticoats rustled as she climbed into the sleigh.

"Is he giving you more trouble?" Noelle asked, trying to hide her worry.

"He won't if he knows what's good for him." Henrietta settled her heavy hoops and plentiful skirts around her on the seat. "I gave him a talking-to he won't soon forget. He's a Worthington now, and he has a standard of conduct to uphold. I won't be seen around town wrestling a horse for control like some common teamster."

Noelle bit her lip trying to hide the smile for she knew her aunt was dreadfully serious. To Henrietta, appearances and reputation were everything. "I'm sure he'll be fine. He's probably just not used to all the noise in town."

"I don't care what he's used to!" Henrietta huffed. The seat groaned beneath her weight as she leaned forward, perhaps in search of the lap blanket. "Where has that gone to? Wait, here it is. Cover up, dear. There's a dangerous cold to the air. Mark my words, we'll see a blizzard before we reach home, if we make it there in time."

Noelle bit her lip again. She was endlessly amused by Henrietta's drama. A blizzard? Surely that was a dire assessment of the situation. She held up her gloved hand but couldn't hear any telltale tap, tap against the leather. "I smell snow in the wind. It is falling yet? I can't tell."

"Nothing yet, although I can hardly hear you. I shall never get used to that newfangled contraption."

"Which newfangled contraption is bothering you now?"

"Why, the train, of course." Henrietta took delight in her complaints, for her voice was smiling as she gathered the thick leather reins with a rustle. "I can tell by the look on your face that once again my disapproval of modern progress amuses you."

"I wonder why the Northern Pacific Railroad didn't ask you before they laid track through our valley."

"That is exactly my complaint with them." Henrietta gave the reins a slap and the gelding leaped forward, jerking them to a rough, swift start. "There, now. That's more like it. I don't put up with a horse's nonsense."

Or any nonsense, Noelle knew, which was why she hadn't asked about Lanna's dress when they'd left the shop. Why she tucked away her sadness. Henrietta didn't have a mind to tolerate sadness. She always said that God knew best and that was that.

No doubt that was true. Sometimes it was simply difficult to understand.

The wind changed, bringing with it the fresh wintry scent of snowflakes. Noelle could feel them, as light as a Brahms lullaby, and she lifted her face to the brush of their crisp iciness against her skin.

Henrietta snapped the reins briskly, intent on directing their horse. "Do you smell that?"

"Yes, isn't the snow wonderful?"

"Goodness, not that, dear. It's the train. At least you're spared the ugly view of the trailing coal smoke that hovers over the town like a black, poisonous, endless snake. What are we expected to do? Expire from the discharge?"

"I doubt the men in charge of the rail company are concerned by the smoke cloud."

"Well, they can afford not to be! They are not here to breathe it in! And why do we need such progress? Gone are the days when a person labored to get to their destination. I walked beside my parents' wagon halfway to Missouri, and it put the starch in my bonnet. It's what's wrong with young people nowadays. Life is too easy for them."

The train whistle blasted, drowning out her words. And there was another more frightening sound—the high-noted terror in a horse's neigh. Noelle cringed, panic licking at her. Years ago, their mare had made that terrified, almost-human scream when a rattlesnake had startled her and she'd run with the family buggy over the edge of the road. On that day, Noelle had lost her mother, her father and her sight.

Surely, that sound wasn't coming from their horse? She glanced around the street, as if she could see; it was habit, nothing more. She gripped the edge of the sleigh tight in reflex and in memory, but there was no time to open her heart in prayer. The sleigh jerked forward. Wind whizzed in her ears and snow slapped against her face. The sleigh's runners hit grooves in the compact snow at a rapid-fire pace, bouncing her on the seat.

"Good heavens!" Henrietta sounded deeply put out.

"Calm down, you ill-behaved brute—"

The train whistle blew a second time. The sleigh jerked to a sudden stop. Noelle slid forward on the seat and something hard struck her chin. Pain exploded through her jaw, as she realized she'd hit the dashboard. Was that high, shrill bugling neigh coming from their horse? Sure enough, she could feel his huge body block the wind as he reared up. For one breathless moment, she feared he might fall on them. Henrietta's terrified gasp confirmed her suspicions.

"Quick!" She found her aunt's arm and gave her a nudge. "Out of the sleigh. Hurry! Before—"

Too late. The whistle blew, the sleigh lurched and the horse came down running. The train's loud chugging and clamoring only seemed to drive the gelding to run faster, right down the middle of Main. Shouted exclamations and the sudden rush of other horses and vehicles to get out of the way overrode all other sounds. The sleigh swayed from side to side in a sickening way. They were going too fast for the vehicle. She braced her feet and held on tight. Fear tasted coppery and bitter on her tongue. The past rose up in a colorful image in her mind's eye. Her mother's cry as the buggy broke apart. The horrible falling at great speed. The sudden blinding pain—

No. Not again. Lord, stop this from happening. Please. Panic beat crazily against her ribs. Fear felt thick on her tongue. It was too late to jump from the sleigh, and she wouldn't abandon Henrietta. She tried to make her mind clear enough to form another prayer but only one thought came. Help us.

Somewhere, over the sound of Henrietta's continued demands for the horse to stop and stop now, a man shouted out, "Runaway horse! Grab him!"

Maybe someone could stop them. Hope lifted through her panic, and Noelle clung to it. Please, Lord, send someone to help us.

There was no answer as the sleigh began to buck harder and rock from side to side. Had they left the road? Soft snow sprayed against her face. She held on to the edge of the seat with all her might, but her stomach gripped from the sleigh's violent rocking motion. Foliage crumpled and crunched beneath the runners.

Had they gone off the road? Fear shot through her heart. They were going too fast, they were going to overturn and the sleigh was going to break apart. Henrietta must have realized this, too, because she began sobbing. That only drove the horse to run faster. Noelle squeezed her eyes shut. A sob broke through her, and the seat bucked beneath her. They would be hurt—or worse—and she could not stop it from happening.

The Lord hadn't answered her prayer last time, either, and look at what she'd lost. Her heart squeezed with pain. She could not lose so much again, and yet she had no choice. The sleigh rose sharply upward, and tipped violently to the right, slamming her hard against the dashboard again. She felt no physical pain, only an emotional one. It was too late for answered prayers now.

Then, through the rush of her pulse in her ears, she heard something else. Something new. The drum of hoofbeats.

"Whoa, there, big fella." A man's voice, a deep vibrant baritone rumbled like winter thunder from the sky, overpowering every other sound until there was only silence. Only him. "Calm down. You're all right, buddy."

The sleigh's bumping slowed. Noelle hung on to the dashboard, drawn to the sound of the man's confident and powerful voice coming as if from the sky.

Am I dreaming this? Noelle had to wonder. None of this felt real. The sleigh tipped dangerously and listed to a stop. The dizzying sense of movement stopped.

There was only the blast of the winded gelding's ragged breaths and that soothing baritone. She could hardly believe that they were safe.

Safe. Because of him.

She heard the creak of his saddle as he dismounted. The sensations of Henrietta clutching her, the wind's low-noted howl like a lonely wolf's cry and the chill that set in all faded into the background. She was riveted to his voice; there was something about his voice, but as he spoke low to keep the horse calm over the clatter of the harnessing she couldn't place what it was. Maybe he was tethering the horse.

Relief flooded her. The remnants of fear jarred through her, making her blood thick and her pulse loud in her ears. She turned toward the faint squeaking sound his boots made on the snow. His gait was even and confident; not too fast, and long-legged. Already her mind was trying to paint a picture of him.

"Are you two ladies all right?" The man's baritone boomed.

It wasn't a cold tone, Noelle heard, but warmth in that voice, character and heart. And something more, indefinable like a memory just out of reach.

"F-fine. Considering what c-could have happened." Was that really her speaking? She probably sounded so breathless and shaky from the aftereffect of fear, that was all, and not because of the man.

Henrietta still gasped for breath, frozen in place, but still managing to talk. "We're a little worse for the wear, I d-dare say. I hate to think what would have happened if you hadn't intervened, sir.You s-saved us just in time."

"Looks like it," the rider answered easily as if it hadn't been his doing. "What's important now is that you two try to make as little movement as possible. I'm going to get you out one at a time. Don't worry, you'll be safe."

Safe? Noelle gulped. Did that mean they were still in danger? She could tell they were tipped at an odd angle, but her hearing had failed her. Her ears seemed to be ignoring everything, save for the man's voice. It was strange, as was the feeling that she ought to know him, and how could that be? If he wasn't a stranger, then Henrietta would have called him by name.

"D-dear hea-vens!" Her aunt sounded quite strained.

"A-are you q-quite sure that we're not about to plunge into the river?"

The river? That took her thoughts off their rescuer. Fear shivered down her spine. Only then did she realize there was another sound above the raging howl of the wind—the rush of the fast-moving river.

How close were they to the edge? She tried to breathe but her lungs felt heavy and the air in them like mud. As her senses settled, she could better hear the hungry rush of the river alarmingly close.

"Let me help you, miss."

His voice seemed to move through her spirit and, confused, she didn't realize that he was taking her hand until suddenly his fingers closed around hers. His touch was strong and as steady as granite. Every fear within her stilled. It seemed impossible to be afraid as his other hand gripped her elbow.

Stunned, she could feel the faint wind shadow as he towered over her. She knew he was tall, wide-shouldered and built like steel. She knew, somehow, without seeing him. It was as if she was familiar with his touch. How could that possibly be?

Meet the Author

Jillian Hart grew up on the original homestead where her family still lives, went to high school where Twin Peaks was filmed, earned an English degree, and has travelled extensively. When Jillian’s not writing her stories, she reads, stops for café mochas, and hikes through the pine forests near her home in Washington State.

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Homespun Bride (Love Inspired Historical Series) 3.6 out of 5 based on 3 ratings. 2433 reviews.
JustJans2cents More than 1 year ago
A few exciting moments with an endearing story. Easy to read but equally easy to put down.
cindy_in_va More than 1 year ago
This was a very quick and pleasant read about two wounded hearts finding love again. My only complaint is that the author constantly had the characters analyzing their heart and emotions. I would have liked a deeper and more complicated plot and story line, and more dialogue.
Beth Bailey More than 1 year ago
The story line is good. However, the writer drones onn annnd on about the regrets of the two main characters. I put the book down before I finished it in frustration. I am glad it was free because I would have asked for a refund.
dmd53 More than 1 year ago
A perfect read, didn't want it to end - made me think - never give up hope, anything is possible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The premise of the story was good and the characters gentle, kind and heart warming. I actually admired them. The story is so repetitive and boring that it stretches a fairly good story into a llllllooooooonnnnnggggg 292 pages of anticipation, descriptions of scenery, including the ranch, the farm, their various family members and the animals they owned. There was so much vacillation between the hero and heroine that by page 150 or so I didn't care if they got together. I don't think I would purchase a book by this writer but I am nuts about romance and old fashioned settings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Christian based romance that is achingly romantic and sweet.
Amber McKinley More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the story but it was a bit slow for me. I thought it could be shorter and still have the same affect. Over all a good story just slow. I too found myself just scanning the pages and didn't miss anythhing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just finished this book this morning and I loved it. Very sweet story of finding love, loosing it, and rekindling lost love under different circumstances. For a free Ebook, it was a great read. Would love to read a continuation of this couple's story.
msdymond More than 1 year ago
This book moved way too slowly for me. Pages and pages of Noelle's self pity and indecision. It seemed that every other page she was having the exact same conversations with herself instead of developing as a character. Too many wasted words and pages.
LMW04 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It an easy read for an afternoon relaxing and I really enjoyed the fact that it was a clean story. Felt very moved by the story and characters. Will definitely look for more of this authors books.
gizmokitty More than 1 year ago
The story itself was okay, but it the author had spent less time having the 2 main characters constantly analyzing their feelings for each other, or waxing poetic about the other person, it could have actually had some meat to the story. As it was, I was ready to gag halfway through. It was predictable - you knew they were going to get back together. But it's clean. Not worth a lot of time, though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A real disappointment as the story could have been told in 15 pages at most. It drug on and on making no could skip 30 pages and come right back in. Would NOT recommend. Dli Illinois
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish the author had not spent nearly 200 pages with the two main characters going back and forth over if they should get back together, and if the other could still love them. It got old after the first 50 pages of the same thing. I would have liked some story on the couple, not just the conflict. Then the whole story/conflict is resolved and ended in a few pages with a brief epilogue on the next three months. I would have built more on their story together.
booklovercm More than 1 year ago
This is a story of lost love, found again, the hardship of blindness and the bravery and courage of the blinded, plus the kindness of a former beau. Set in the day of the locomotive coming to western United States, you are treated to the different viewpoints of the settlers and the effect that the iron horse has on them and their horses. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, with its' twists and turns. It could be classified as a romance in an historical setting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heart warming love story, would love to read the love stories of thad's brothers!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A FANTASTIC boook. I couldnt put it down. Clean and sweet.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story line was good, just dont enjoy to repetitiveness of the characters feelings, over and over going on about the same insecurities and worries. It had a happy ending, but lacked any substance to the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Between the whining about past mistakes and the fear of the future, I could hardly wait for the last page. Maybe that's why I skipped most of them. Glad this was a free book otherwise, it would have been a waste of money!
JOY2011 More than 1 year ago
Hart needs to move her plot along faster. She over describes the characters feelings and thoughts without moving the plot along... she stagnates her plot line.
elephantlady More than 1 year ago
Had a good story line but got very boring because it kept going over the same things over and over and over again. Could have made a very good short story.
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