About the Author
Tracie Peterson, bestselling, award-winning author of over ninety fiction titles and three non-fiction books, lives and writes in Belgrade, Montana. As a Christian, wife, mother, writer, editor and speaker (in that order), Tracie finds her slate quite full.Published in magazines and Sunday school take home papers, as well as a columnist for a Christian newspaper, Tracie now focuses her attention on novels. After signing her first contract with Barbour Publishing in 1992, her novel, A Place To Belong, appeared in 1993 and the rest is history. She has over twenty-six titles with Heartsong Presents’ book club (many of which have been repackaged) and stories in six separate anthologies from Barbour. From Bethany House Publishing, Tracie has multiple historical three-book series as well as many stand-alone contemporary women’s fiction stories and two non-fiction titles. Other titles include two historical series co-written with Judith Pella, one historical series co-written with James Scott Bell, and multiple historical series co-written with Judith Miller.
Read an Excerpt
Brides of Alaska
Three Romances set in America's Last Frontier
By Tracie Peterson
Barbour Publishing Inc.Copyright © 1993 Tracie J. Peterson
All rights reserved.
Julie Eriksson hastily donned her fur-trimmed cloak and made her way to the viewing deck of the SS Victoria. She strained to see the hazy blue outline of land. Nome, Alaska! After five long years, she was finally coming home. For the rest of her life, she would celebrate the seventh of October.
Squinting against the brilliance of the sun as it hit the ice floes in the Nome roadstead, Julie thrilled at the crisp, cold wind on her face. Where other passengers — visitors to her far north — shuddered at the zero-degree weather and went quickly below, Julie felt like casting off her cloak. This was her home, and never again would she leave it. She longed to soak it all up.
The deep blast of the steamer's whistle startled Julie. She remembered back to 1919, when she'd left Nome for Seattle in order to study nursing. Then, the ship's whistle had been a lonely reminder that Julie was leaving home. Now an experienced public health nurse, Julie was returning to her people to offer what skills she'd learned in order to better their lives.
Her only regret was that her mother, Agneta, had passed away while Julie was in school. Having been a sickly woman, Agneta was Julie's biggest reason for becoming a nurse. What little health care existed in Alaska was inadequate to deal with the ailments of Agneta Eriksson. Julie had always desired to bring her mother relief from her torturous bouts with asthma. Julie had learned all she could about the illness, but she hadn't returned in time to help.
Her mother's memory would live on in Julie's heart, but the empty place Agneta's death left would never be filled. With this thought in mind, Julie wondered if her father and brother would be meeting her. Their homestead was some twelve miles northeast of Nome — a short, easy trip by dogsled.
She smiled as she thought of the dogs. It had been so long since she'd driven her own team. City people in Seattle had laughed at her talk of driving dogs, unable to imagine Julie handling the demand.
Of course, some of the rural students had known only too well the love of mushing dogs, and when several had invited Julie to join them at a local winter race, she'd readily accepted. Those simple kindnesses had helped ease her homesick heart that first year.
Glancing at her watch, Julie noted that it was ten minutes till twelve. They'd made excellent time, with perfect weather for their six-day journey from Seattle. During her bleakest moments in the States, it had been hard to believe that Nome was only six days away. Most of the time the distance had seemed an eternity, and had Julie not been resolved to become a nurse, she would have gladly taken the short trip home and forgotten the loneliness that haunted her in the state of Washington.
Julie felt the ship slow as the ice floes grew larger and threatened to halt the Victoria's progress. Nicknamed the Grand Old Lady, the SS Victoria was one of the only ships to brave the harbor of Nome this late in the year. Julie knew that even the Victoria wouldn't challenge the icy waters past the first of November. Insurance premiums would soar due to the risk of icebergs. In fact, after the Victoria pulled out of the harbor for Seattle, there wouldn't be another ship into Nome until April.
"All for Nome! All for Nome!" a man called out through a megaphone.
Julie moved toward the man. "Are we going to take the ferry across the roadstead?" she asked as the man moved past her.
"No ma'am," the man said with a tip of his cap. "The ice is too thick. We're going to walk you across."
Julie nodded. It wasn't unusual for Nome-bound ships to anchor in the ice-laden harbor while passengers walked ashore across the thick ice. Leaning against the icy railing, Julie smiled to herself. Another hour and she'd be on the sandy banks of Nome.
"Oh thank You, Father," she whispered in prayer. "I'm so happy to be home and so happy to be doing Your work." Julie glanced around to make certain no one was watching her before she continued. No sense in folks thinking she was daft.
"Dear God, make me an ambassador of Your love and goodwill. Let me help the people in this territory both with my nursing skills and my knowledge of You. And Lord, thank You so very much for allowing the years away to pass quickly and for the good friends You sent my way — friends who helped to ease my burden of loneliness and separation. Amen."
The ship came to a full stop, resting gracefully against the solid platform of ice. Julie raced back to her cabin and gathered her things. It was going to be a glorious day!
The walk across the icy harbor made Julie glad she'd bought a sturdy pair of boots in Seattle before leaving for home. Of course, they weren't as warm as native wolfskin boots with moosehide bottoms, but they got her across the ice without any mishaps.
Some of the "cheechakos," the Alaskan name for greenhorns, were trying to snowshoe or skate in city boots across the ice. If she hadn't worried about hurting their pride, Julie might have laughed out loud in amusement. The only other women on the trip were a pair of frail-looking things who insisted on being pushed across the ice in sled baskets.
Julie wondered about the handful of passengers. Always there were those who came to find their fortunes in gold, but they usually arrived in April or May and departed before the temperatures dropped below zero. There weren't many from the lower forty-eight who, upon hearing of days, even weeks, spent at fifty degrees below zero, would brave the Alaskan winter. Those hearty souls who did usually came for reasons other than acquiring gold.
Of course, some people were running from the law. Alaska provided a good place for criminals to escape from those who might put them behind bars. Others might have family or friends who'd beckoned them north.
Julie surmised the two women in the sled baskets might be mail-order brides. They weren't familiar faces, nor did they appear to be saloon girls. She felt sorry for them as she watched them shivering against the cold. She wondered if they'd ever bear up and become sourdoughs, as those who made it through at least one Alaskan winter were called.
Nearly losing her footing, Julie decided to forget about the other passengers. She was nearly a visitor herself, and she hastened to remember the little things she'd forgotten while enjoying the conveniences in Seattle. She kept her eyes to the ice, determined to keep her suitcases balanced and firmly gripped in her ladylike, gloved hands. Useless things, city gloves, Julie thought. She'd be only too happy to trade them in for a warm pair of fur gloves or mittens. Not that it hasn't been fun to play the part of the grand lady. Given that Nome streets in winter were always in some state of mud, ice, or snow, Julie knew it would be wise to forget about dressing up. No, she reasoned, sealskin pants, mukluks, heavy fur parkas, and wool scarves will be of more comfort to me here.
The wind whipped across her face and pulled at her carefully pinned black hair. Having spent most of her time indoors in Seattle, Julie's pale skin made an impressive contrast to her ebony hair and eyes.
Julie had her Eskimo grandmother to thank for the rich, dark color of her eyes and shining hair. Having left her Inupiat Eskimo village, Julie's grandmother had married a Swedish fur trapper and moved to Nome. Their only child, Lavern Eriksson, had been born in 1865, some thirty-six years before the famed ninty seven-ounce gold nugget was taken out of Anvil Creek near Nome.
It was the rumor of gold as early as 1899 that had brought Agneta's family north. While others were eager to make their fortunes, Julie's parents had found a fortune in love. Agneta and Vern had married after a brief courtship and soon Julie's brother, August, had been born. In 1902, Julie's birth had completed the family.
Julie scanned the banks again for a familiar face. She was about to give up hope when her brother's face came into view. His hand shielded his eyes, but Julie easily recognized his easygoing looks.
"August!" she shouted across the ice as she picked up her pace. Her brother pushed through the crowd and rushed across the frozen harbor to greet Julie.
"I can't believe you're finally here," August said as he pulled Julie into his muscular arms.
"Me either," Julie said as she enjoyed the first hug she'd had in five years. She'd nearly forgotten the feel of supportive arms.
"Here," August said as he took hold of her bags. "Let me carry those. I suppose the rest will be brought ashore sometime later?"
"Actually the Victoria is unloading immediately. The ice is much worse than they expected, and they want to get on their way."
"Great," August said as they came onto firm land. He put the bags down and asked, "Did you bring much back from the States?"
"Well, there are quite a few supplies for Dr. Welch, and of course the things you and Father requested. Not to mention the dozen or more things that friends wired me to bring back from Seattle. I'd say maybe eight or nine crates," Julie said with a grin.
"That many?" August questioned as his eyes grew wide. "It's a good thing I brought a twelve-dog team."
"You needn't worry," Julie said as she linked her arm through August's. "At least half the crates are for Dr. Welch. They're marked with bright red crosses, so we won't have to spend time figuring out which is which."
"What a relief," August said with a laugh. "Look, you wait here, and I'll go get the dogs." Julie nodded and watched as August walked through the bustling crowd of people. It was good to be home.
An hour later, Julie was helping August load the last of Dr. Welch's supplies into the sled.
"I'll come back for our things after we drop these off at the Doc's. Do you want to drive the sled?" August asked.
"No, you go ahead. I'm just going to walk and enjoy being back," Julie replied.
"Whatever you want," August said and took to the sled. "Let's go. Hike!" he called, and the dogs set out as if the sled basket were empty. They were a hearty, powerful breed of animal, well suited to the work and cold.
Julie trekked behind August, familiarizing herself with the few shops. The post office bustled with activity as the postmaster unloaded the incoming mail. Nome hadn't changed that much during her five-year absence. The Northwestern Commercial Company remained with a number of buildings that lined the main street of town, and folks could still get a meal at the Union Restaurant for four bits.
Up ahead, August had brought the dogs to a halt outside the twenty-five-bed hospital. Julie joined him just as Dr. Welch popped his head out the door.
"You're certainly a welcome sight," Dr. Welch said as he opened the door wide to receive August and Julie. "Let me grab my coat and I'll give you a hand."
August waved him off. "That's all right, Doc. I can handle it."
"In that case," Dr. Welch said with a shiver, "I'll speak with your sister while you unload the sled. You can bring everything around back. I'll have Nurse Seville show you where to put things."
August nodded and drove the dogs to the back of the hospital.
Julie followed the middle-aged man up the stairs and into his office. "I was able to obtain almost all the things you needed from the hospital in Seattle."
"That's a relief," Dr. Welch replied as he offered Julie a chair. "How was your trip?"
"Perfect," Julie answered and took a seat. "Of course, the destination alone made it that. I wouldn't have noticed if they'd stuck me in the galley washing dishes. I was coming home, and that made everything else unimportant."
Dr. Welch smiled and nodded. "I can well understand. Would you like something hot to drink?"
"No, I'm fine," Julie replied as she pulled off her gloves. "As soon as August finishes unloading the sled, we'll need to be on our way home."
"I'm afraid I must insist that you stay at least a day. Preferably two. As this area's public health nurse, you will report directly to me. Our combined reports will then go via mail to the proper officials. There's a great deal we'll need to cover before you can actually begin your work."
"I understand," Julie said thoughtfully, "but I have been working without much time to call my own. I need to go home and see my father, and I need time to rest."
"I confess, I haven't given much thought to your needs. Usually people go to Seattle for a vacation. It's odd to think of someone coming to Alaska for a break. I'm just so relieved to have an extra helping hand with the outlying population," Dr. Welch said as he took a seat across from Julie. "You will actually do many jobs that are often reserved for doctors in more populated regions. Especially as you venture out among the villages."
Julie nodded. "If August agrees," she stated as her brother walked into the room bringing a package, "we'll stay in Nome for one night. Then I really must take a short rest." Both Julie and Dr. Welch looked at August.
"There's no way I can stay. I'm needed to help with the dogs," August replied, reminding Julie of her father's sled dog kennel. "But I can leave part of the team for Julie to mush home tomorrow. I'll need to borrow another sled, however."
"There's one here standing ready for Nurse Eriksson's use," Dr. Welch offered. Julie smiled to herself. It was the first time anyone in Nome had called her that.
"Well, Julie?" August looked at his sister and waited for her approval.
Julie nodded. "I think I can remember the way home," she said with a laugh.
"If you don't," August grinned, "the dogs sure will. Especially if it's close to dinner time."
"It's agreed then," Dr. Welch said. "Julie, you are welcome to sleep in the back room. There's a stove and plenty of coal. It's well protected from the wind and shouldn't get too cold."
"Once you get past twenty degrees below zero, it's just about the same. Cold is cold," Julie said like a true Alaskan.
Turning to August, Dr. Welch gave him instructions on where he could leave Julie's dogs and sled gear. "Oh, here. I almost forgot," August said as he handed Julie the package he'd been holding. "These are the things you asked me to bring. I was going to have you change before the trip home."
"You remembered!" Julie said with a note of excitement in her voice. "My sealskin pants and parka!"
August smiled as he secured his parka hood. "I'll tell Pa you'll be home tomorrow. Now if you'll both excuse me, I'll finish unloading the sled and be on my way."
Julie put the package aside and threw herself into August's arms. "Thank you, August. Please tell Pa I love him and I can't wait to see him again." August gave Julie a tight squeeze and was gone.
Loneliness seeped into her heart, reminding Julie once again of the isolation she'd known in Seattle. She tried to shake the feeling, convincing herself that because she was home, she'd no longer be lonely.
As she turned from the door, she could hear the dogs yipping outside, anxious to be on the trail. She understood their cries. She, too, longed to be making the trip home.CHAPTER 2
The next morning at breakfast, Julie couldn't contain her excitement. "I can't believe I'm finally home. I can hardly wait to see my father."
"I would've gotten about as much accomplished if I'd sent you on home with your brother. I suppose I should have realized the importance of your spending time with your family," Dr. Welch said as he and Julie accepted a stack of hotcakes from the Union Restaurant's waitress.
Julie laughed in animated excitement. "I feel just like a little girl at Christmas," she said as she poured warmed corn syrup on her cakes.
"We still need to pick up a few things for your trip home," Dr. Welch reminded her.
"Umm," Julie nodded with her mouth full. Taking a drink of hot coffee, she added, "I appreciate the supplies you've already loaned me. I'll only need to pick up food for the dogs. It's always wise to keep your transportation well cared for, just in case we get stuck on the trail."
"I heard tell a blizzard is due in," Dr. Welch said between bites. "I'm afraid you'll have to really move those dogs to get home before the storm catches up with you."
Julie glanced out the window. The skies were still dark, making it impossible to get any bearing on the incoming storm. "I'd nearly forgotten about the darkness. How many hours of daylight can I count on this time of year?"
Excerpted from Brides of Alaska by Tracie Peterson. Copyright © 1993 Tracie J. Peterson. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsA Light in the Window,