On the harsh Kansas plains, determination, strength, and courage are the only means survival for three women.
Alone on the prairie with her orphaned niece, Cassidy Sinclair has no money and no choice but to do the unthinkable. She meets with Wendell St. John III—a man with four children who has advertised for a wife.
Tarah St. John has been frustrated with life and love, until the appearance of two abused children drastically changes her focus. The man she loves, who hasn’t reciprocated affection, offers his support with the boys, but can Tarah accept his help if that’s all he can offer?
Laney Jenkins and Luke St. John are made of the same mettle—stubborn and determined. Luke, a rancher, believes Laney is the one for him and will follow him to Oregon. But Laney has ideas of her own.
These women have thrown convention to the wind in order to make their home on the frontier. But when confronted with the power of human and divine love, can they risk their hearts?
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1868, Council Grove, Kansas
The mid-April wind whipped at Cassidy Sinclair's black muslin skirt as she stood outside the roughly hewn dry goods store, scanning the notices on the wall. Her gaze rested on a poster written in bold, black letters:
Wanted: Woman of Marriageable Age and Status. Must Love Children.
An advertisement for a wife?
Cassidy read it again to be sure.
What sort of man posted an ad for a wife? Her mouth curved into a small, ironic smile at the hope rising in her heart. On the other hand, what sort of woman considered accepting the offer?
The desperate kind of woman with a child to raise, she admitted.
With a heavy sigh, she peered more closely at the notice. Smaller letters declared: IFINTERESTED, INQUIRE WITHIN.
"What is it, Em?" she asked absently, keeping her gaze fixed on the post.
Her niece yanked insistently at her skirt. "Aunt Cass!"
Frustrated, Cassidy glanced down, hard pressed to keep the irritation from her voice. "What is it, honey?"
Emily rolled her large green eyes to the side. "Don't look," she whispered, with all the dramatics only a seven-year-old could muster, "but that man over there is watching you."
Cassidy couldn't resist an amused smile at the child's vivid imaginings. "What man?"
Emily's face grew red, and she stomped her foot. A frown creased her brow. "I'm serious this time," she hissed. "There is a man watching you. He could be an outlaw."
"Oh, honestly, Em," Cassidy said, shifting her gaze to the possible scoundrel, if for no other reason than to prove to Emily that if there were a man looking in their direction, his interests most certainly weren't focused on them.
Spying the man in question, Cassidy drew a sharp breath. Wavy coal black hair topped his head, and the shadow of a beard covered his face, giving him a rugged, outdoorsy appearance. He wore a light blue shirt with sleeves rolled midway up muscular, deeply tanned arms. Cassidy's heart did a little flip-flop. He was easily the most handsome man she had ever seen.
Her gaze caught his, and his eyebrows shot up.
Shame filled her at her brazen appraisal of a perfect stranger. And that particular stranger, she admitted, was about as close to perfect as anyone could get.
Stop it! she ordered herself, but she couldn't keep her heart from thundering in her chest.
She held her breath as his glance swept her from head to toe and back again. When he lifted his gaze to meet hers, his cobalt blue eyes held a look of undeniable appreciation.
He flashed her a devastating, but obviously amused, grin, and Cassidy suddenly came to her senses. With a prim lift of her chin, she shot the stranger a reproving look and draped her arm around Emily's shoulders. "Come. Let's go inside."
"Do you think he's really an outlaw?" Emily asked in a loud whisper. Cassidy cast a quick glance back to the stranger, wondering if he had heard. He smiled, showing straight white teeth. With a chuckle, he bowed gracefully, his eyes shifting to Emily, who blushed and giggled at the broad wink he sent her.
"Come, Emily," Cassidy said again more firmly, steering the child toward the door of the general store.
"But he's coming right toward us. It wouldn't be polite to walk away!"
Pretending not to hear her niece's plea for propriety, Cassidy pushed the girl through the doorway and slipped quickly inside, hoping he wouldn't follow.
Unable to resist the urge to venture a little peek outside, Cassidy's breath caught in her throat as the handsome man stepped up to the store window and looked in. Catching her eye, he smiled, tipped his hat, then turned and strode away.
"Somethin' I kin hep you wit', little lady?"
Cassidy whirled around, then stepped back instinctively as a giant with a bushy black beard walked around the counter and towered over her.
She cleared her throat. "Yes. I ... um ... I wondered about that notice outside."
"Which un ya mean?" He spit a stream of tobacco juice, missing the spittoon in the corner by a full foot.
With great effort, Cassidy fought to contain the nausea overwhelming her stomach. "The one about a man needing a wife," she said, dropping her voice a notch and glancing cautiously at the other customers.
His booming laughter filled the dusty little store, and Cassidy had a strong urge to reach up and yank his beard to hush him up.
"Well, ma'am, I never thought we'd git a taker so fastlike. Jus' put that up today."
Relief filled Cassidy. No one else had applied, then.
Listen to yourself — applying to be a wife!
Suddenly aware that she was the object of several curious stares, Cassidy felt the humiliation down to her toes. Spinning on her heel, she turned to remove herself from the most embarrassing moment of her life. But she stopped short as her gaze rested on Emily.
Thick, carrot-orange curls twisted into tight braids hung down the little girl's back. Her bonnet, which Cassidy tried to no avail to keep on the girl's head, dangled from the loosely tied laces around her neck. Her tender, fair skin had far too many freckles as it was without exposing it to the sun's burning rays, but Emily hated the confinement of a bonnet and rarely kept it on.
Cassidy's heart sank as Emily's wistful gaze rested on a bowl filled with brown eggs. She knew exactly how her niece felt. It seemed like forever since they'd tasted much more than beans and sourdough biscuits. Emily wouldn't ask for them. She knew the money had disappeared long ago, spent on supplies and unforeseen repairs to the wagon. Eggs were a luxury they simply couldn't afford, no matter how their mouths might water for a change of menu.
Cassidy was so weary of doing without the things they'd taken for granted before William died, leaving a mound of debt and his young daughter for her to raise.
As she observed the longing in Emily's face, Cassidy came to a decision. Her niece would not do without, even if she, Cassidy Sinclair, had to marry a stranger to assure it.
She squared her shoulders and faced the bear of a man. "The notice said to inquire within. Now if you have any information, please pass it along." Crossing her arms firmly across her chest, Cassidy met his gaze, eyes blazing.
Shifting his stance, he folded his massive arms and grinned. "So you wanna be a wife, eh?"
Resentment coursed through Cassidy at the ill-mannered question. "Just tell me how one should go about responding to the notice."
Wondering if she was due another rude remark from the storekeeper, Cassidy held her breath while he assessed her. But when he spoke, all teasing had vanished. "You come in with the wagon train today?"
"How long ya be stayin'?"
"Indefinitely. Emily and I won't be continuing with the others."
The man thought for a moment, stroking his matted beard. "Just gimme yer name, and I'll pass it along to the feller whut put it up."
"All right, then," she replied with a decisive nod. "I'm Cassidy Sinclair, and this is my niece, Emily."
Emily gave him a wide, gap-toothed grin. "Pleased to make your acquaintance," she said with a small curtsy, then stretched out a tiny, freckled hand to the giant.
With a twinkle in his eyes, the man wiped his hand on his dirty buckskin shirt and accepted hers. "Likewise, little missy." He turned back to Cassidy. "One other thing, ma'am."
"Where kin the feller find ya?"
"Oh." Cassidy hadn't thought of that. "I suppose I'll stay with the wagon train until they pull out day after tomorrow. But if the man who posted the notice doesn't show up by then, we'll find a boardinghouse somewhere."
He nodded. "I'll tell 'im. Now anythin' else I kin do for you and the little missy?"
"No, thank you. We'll be going now. Come along, Em."
With a last longing glance at the bowl of eggs, Emily followed her aunt.
Cassidy stopped just before reaching the door. She turned back to the trader. "Yes?"
He cleared his throat and shifted his huge, moccasin-clad feet. "Um, I'd like to give you a welcoming gift."
She raised an eyebrow. "Whatever for? You don't even know us."
He glanced at Emily, his expression softening considerably. "Fact is, we don' see many redheaded little girls with freckles, an' I'd like to give ya a gift jus' fer the pleasure of havin' her in my store."
Emily blushed and hid behind Cassidy's skirts.
A rare show of timidity, Cassidy thought wryly.
He thrust the basket containing at least a dozen eggs into her hands. "There, that's the gift I'd like to give ya," he said, looking quickly away.
Emily's eyes widened. Cassidy drew in her breath, and her mouth watered as she stared with longing at the treasure. But reason returned, and she shook her head. She didn't know this man. What might he expect as payment?
Regretfully, she pushed the basket back into his large hands.
"Aunt Cass," Emily groaned.
"You're very kind, I'm sure," Cassidy said to the bewildered man. "But we can't accept gifts from strangers. Good day."
She whirled around and slipped swiftly out the door with Emily in tow.
Once outside she looked about the small town, pushing back the anxiety filling her at answering the advertisement. What other choice did she have? Her legs ached from walking all day, looking for a suitable position. From laundress to seamstress, there was simply nothing available, and she couldn't stay in town permanently without a means of support.
Oh, how she longed for the life she'd had before William died. When cholera claimed Cassidy's widowed brother a few months earlier, she'd taken his daughter, Emily, to raise as her own. Cassidy's brother hadn't been the most practical man in the world, and he left the Missouri farm deeply in debt. Within a couple of months of his death, creditors forced her to sell off the farm and equipment to pay the bills, and Cassidy and Emily had no choice but to leave.
Not long before the sale, an excited neighbor spoke of going west, sharing his dreams of a new land where anyone could prosper. His excitement lit a fire in Cassidy, and she decided that she and Emily needed a new start. So with as much courage as she could muster and the small amount of cash left after her brother's bills were paid, she packed up their meager belongings and set off for Independence, Missouri, praying she would find a wagon master willing to accept her into his westbound train. By some miracle, she found a train heading to Santa Fe. The wagon master, Lewis Cross, a red-faced little man with a kind heart lying beneath his gruff exterior, agreed to let her join with one provision. "As long as you don't hold up my train," he'd said.
To Cassidy's dismay, only three weeks passed before the problems started. Her rickety wagon suffered a broken wheel caused by deep ruts in the well-worn trail. A man from the wagon behind Cassidy's offered to fix it for her, but Mr. Cross grumbled about the hours the train was forced to stop.
She had hoped her troubles were over but could have wept when, merely one week later, the axle split in two, once more causing a delay while repairs were made. Mr. Cross took her aside and gently suggested that she quit the trail in Council Grove and find a domestic position.
Assessing her options, Cassidy had to admit that the wagon master was right. A thirty-five-year-old spinster with a niece to raise would never make it to Santa Fe alone. So here she was, five weeks after leaving her Missouri home, trying desperately to find a suitable way to make a living for herself and Emily. With all her options exhausted, there was nothing to do but go back to the wagon and pray someone would come to marry her.
Cassidy slowly came to consciousness, then sat up with a start. The sun no longer filtered in through the seams of the worn canvas as it had when she'd crawled into the wagon. A pounding headache earlier in the day had sent her to her bed, but she had only meant to lie down for a little while. Poor Emily must be famished.
The fragrance of coffee and bacon from somewhere in the wagon train wafted into the covered wagon, making her empty stomach grumble. For a moment, she wished she had more to give Emily for supper than the ever-present beans and sourdough biscuits.
With a sigh, she pushed back the quilts. Still seated on the bed, she grabbed her boots and slipped them on, then, reaching forward, laced them up.
From outside the wagon, she heard Emily giggle. With a slight frown, Cassidy peeked outside. A gasp escaped her lips. The man she had seen outside the general store earlier now stood over her cast-iron skillet, frying bacon. He looked large and out of place performing the feminine task, and she had the urge to shoo him away and take over. Subconsciously, she smoothed back her hair, then opened the flap wider.
Emily turned to her with a grin and skipped to the wagon. "Evening, Aunt Cass," she said brightly. "You sure slept a long time. Your head feelin' better?"
"Yes, dear," Cassidy replied with a smile, "much better."
The man straightened and strode to the wagon. "Hello. We didn't have a proper introduction earlier." His velvety voice nearly stopped her heart. "I'm Dell."
She accepted his proffered hand and gave it a firm shake.
Looking at their clasped hands, his eyebrows shot up in surprise. She loosened her grip and inwardly cringed. Why couldn't she be dainty like other women?
"Let me help you down," he offered.
Reluctantly, she slid into his arms. The soap-scented smell of him made her pulse quicken, and she pushed quickly away from his arms — too quickly.
He stumbled backward, grabbing at her to keep from falling. Cassidy lost her footing, and they both fell to the hard ground in a tangle of long arms and legs.
"Get off of me," Cassidy spat.
Emily laughed uproariously.
"I'm trying, woman," he grunted. "Be still so I can get up."
She stopped struggling while he disentangled himself from her. Once on his feet, he held out a hand. Warily, Cassidy allowed him to help her up. He brushed at her back, but she stepped away.
"Please," she said, holding up both hands, palms forward. "Stop."
"Only trying to brush off the dust," he replied, a crooked grin teasing the corners of his mouth.
She raised her chin, trying to hang on to her shredded dignity. "I — I can brush off my own dust."
"Now let's start over, shall we?" he said.
"Fine," said Cassidy breathlessly. "I'm Cassidy Sinclair, and this is my niece —"
"Emily," he finished, winking at the little girl. "I know. We've already met."
Emily smiled, her face turning pink.
Cassidy scowled at their camaraderie. Emily was far too easily influenced for her own good. But just as she was about to send the little girl to the wagon while she tried to figure out what this man was doing cooking at her fire, he suddenly frowned and sniffed the air.
Cassidy raised a curious eyebrow just as the acrid smell of smoke reached her nostrils.
"The bacon —" He slapped his thigh and took two strides toward the fire. Grabbing the skillet, he let out a yowl and jerked back his hand.
"Here, let me." With surprising calm, Cassidy lifted the end of her skirt and grasped the hot handle. The pan sizzled as she thrust it into the basin of cool water. "Now," she said, eyeing the stranger, "suppose you tell me what you're doing here, Mr. ... uh, you never told me your last name."
He returned her frank stare and cleared his throat. "It concerns the advertisement I placed outside the general store."
Clapping a hand to her cheek, Cassidy opened her mouth wide in horror. This was the wife hunter? Why would a man as handsome as he need to advertise for a wife?
His eyes narrowed as he observed her reaction. "Is there a problem, Mrs. Sinclair? You did inquire about the ad, correct?"
"Miss Sinclair," she corrected. "You posted it?"
"We didn't exactly get off to a good start, did we?" He gave Emily a sly wink, causing her to giggle again.
What power did this man have over her niece?
"Em, go wait inside the wagon, please," she said, irritation edging her voice.
"Oh Aunt Cass, I always miss the fun," Emily complained. Nevertheless, she stalked off to do as she'd been told.
Irrational anger boiled within Cassidy. "I should say we did not get off to a good start. Would you please explain to me what you were doing cooking bacon at my fire?"
He opened his mouth, but Cassidy gave him no chance to speak. Humiliation loosened her tongue, and a torrent of words spewed from her lips. "Do you think just because I answered your ad you have a right to come right in and take over? Are you planning to move right into the wagon, too?"
Excerpted from "Brides of Kansas"
Copyright © 2017 Tracey V. Bateman.
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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Brides of Kansas by Tracey V. Bateman is actually three stories in one. In the first story, beginning in 1868, Cassidy becomes a mail order bride and the subsequent stories are of the following generations. Cassidy and her seven-year-old niece are traveling west with a wagon train but now funds have run out and the wagon needs repairs so she needs to find a way to support the two of them. When they arrive in Council Grove, Kansas Cassidy sees a notice for a bride and decides to answer it. She meets Dell and agrees to marry. Th e adventure though is just beginning. His children are not thrilled when he comes home with a new wife and child. Will the family be able to work through the issues and survive or will Cassidy and Emily need to go back to Council Grove? This book is very well written and the characters are realistic; I was rooting for Dell and Cassidy to find a way to blend their families. There is a lot of action going on and the story moves along at a nice pace to keep the reading along; I did not want to put this one down. The additional stories continue the first one with the focus on family members of the next generations; I really liked this style of writing. I give this book 5 of 5 stars. I recommend it to everyone who enjoys historical romance and especially the “Brides of…” series. Another hit for sure! I received an advance copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
The Brides of Kansas is an immerse teaching book - yes I said teaching for us as to how to let GOD lead/direct our lives and if HE does we and our loved ones turn out a - ok. HE shows us things that we need to be made aware of for the safety of others - using ANY means HE sees fit to do It including just telling you. If you give GOD your whole life/will HE has THE best will for you and HE will take you places if you let HIM - or HE will use you and take you places right where you are. GOD also hears every prayer HE just might not answer loud/fast enough for you but HE has HIS perfect timing and perfect answer which could be NO because HE knows something you don't You see these are just a few lessons learnt in this book but this book IS NOT PREACHY - it is fun, touching, acrobatic with your emotions - yeeeeeehaaaaaaaaa - courageous, dazzling, entertaining, exhilarating, gargantuan in gentleness, graceful, heartfelt, impassioned, Jovial, kindhearted, and pighearted. The characters are well defined and each story is better than the other.