High Plains Wife

High Plains Wife

by Jillian Hart

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781426883859
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 11/15/2010
Series: Harlequin Historical Series
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 189,328
File size: 746 KB

About the Author

One of Janet Tronstad's favorite childhood memories is of borrowing Zane Gray novels from her grandfather's bookshelf. "There probably weren't more than fifty titles there," she recalls. "It was only a shelf of old books in the back bedroom. But it was the call to adventure for me. I still remember what it felt like to start reading a new book. It's the same excitement I feel today when I start writing a new book." Janet, one of five children, grew up on a family farm near Fort Shaw, Montana, a small town with a population of fewer than 200. This small town and the thriving church she attended have been an inspiration for her popular Dry Creek series of novels published by the Steeple Hill line. "People respond to the characters I have in my Dry Creek series," says Janet, "and a lot of that is because of the sense of community they share. I think we all hunger to be in a place where people know us and accept us." Janet likes to write books that show people struggling with issues in their life and in their faith. "We all struggle," she says. "That's why we like to read about other people who are facing problems." In addition to the Dry Creek series, Janet is also currently writing books that are set in urban locations. "The rural-urban switch is one I've been conscious of in my own life since I grew up on a farm and then, with graduate school and various jobs, lived in several large cities before settling in Pasadena, California," says Janet. "I often have a character that grew up in a small town and just moved to a big city or the other way around." In her upcoming novel Going to the Chapel, Janet writes about a young woman who grew up in the relatively small town of Blythe, California, and then moved to Hollywood, hoping to find not only an exciting job but also the respect of her family. Janet holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin and was published in various national magazines before she started writing fiction.

Read an Excerpt

High Plains Wife

By Jillian Hart

Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.

Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0373292708

Chapter One

Montana Territory, 1881

The high Montana prairie spread out like forever in all directions, broken only by small knolls and glens and the miles of fences. The land was bright green and new, for spring had come to the plains, and the sun was brilliant and warm. Mariah Scott swiped the afternoon's grit from her face with her sleeve and gave her slow-moving ox a snap of the reins.

"Git up," she ordered, but the animal didn't move one bit faster. Maybe there was no getting around the fact that she'd been swindled at the auction last week when she'd purchased the ox. Clearly a mistake she was sorely regretting.

And to add insult to injury, the beast had to slow down on the road right in the middle of Nick Gray's fields. Of all the places on the earth to linger, this wasn't the one she would choose.

She'd been in love with him once, a foolish young girl embroidering pillowcases for her hope chest. Some things were not to be, and it had been a hard lesson. It had been long ago now, but thinking of Nick Gray could still make her heart ache for what could never be.

"Nick is sure to be looking for a wife now that he's widowed," Rayna Ludgrin had predicted at Sunday dinner. "What with two little ones without a mother to care for them."

It's not likely to be me. Mariah smoothed her gloved hand over her second best dress - thin from years of wearing - and knew how much she'd changed. She was no longer young and faintly pretty, and now, whenever a man looked at her, he saw a practical hardworking woman.

No doubt that's what Nick Gray saw, too.

Enough dallying, Mariah. She had no time to waste on thoughts of that man. She had clean laundry to deliver and wouldn't get paid until she did. Mariah touched the thick leather reins on the ox's rump and bit back a curse when the animal locked his legs and the wagon groaned to a stop in the middle of the rutted road.

"Git up," she repeated.

The stubborn beast planted his hooves more firmly.

Exasperated, Mariah smacked him again, this time firmly enough to make a sound, but it wasn't hard enough to do any good. "If I could afford to sell you, then I would. You are a bad boy."

The gentle giant lifted his head, apparently unconcerned, and took advantage of the scant wind cooling his warm coat.

"I bought you because you were cheap, and that was my biggest mistake." Frustrated, she climbed down from the high seat. Her shoes hit the ground and dust clouded the air. Coughing, she tugged an apple out of her pocket. "Here's your bribe. Now will you pull my wagon?"

The big ox glanced at her through narrowed eyes, as if he were considering her offer.

"Even though I can't afford it, I could sell you to the stockyards," she bluffed.

As if he understood perfectly, he took the apple.

That was one problem solved. While the bovine crunched on the treat, Mariah patted him on the neck. He was a pretty creature, gleaming reddish-brown in the sun.

Turning to the wagon, she heard the smallest sound, sweet in tone like a lark but as heartbreaking as the wind. So quiet, had she imagined it? No, there it was again. A tiny sniffling sound like a child crying.

A child? Was one lost out here on the endless plains? She might be a spinster and never a mother, but she knew the dangers to a child alone on the prairie.

This time the sound was a muffled sob. Definitely someone small and in need of help. It had to be coming from the empty field next to the road. Unbroken new grass waved tall and proud and so thick, Mariah couldn't see anything but an ocean of green. There was no sign that a child - or anything else - was nearby.

The ox bellowed and swiveled his ears, lifting his huge head to gaze far out into the fields.

Maybe that was why the ox had stopped, Mariah realized. He could have known there was trouble. She patted him again, deciding maybe he wasn't beyond redeeming, and hiked her skirts up to her ankles. Dust whirled around her as she climbed carefully through the tricky barbs of the wire fence.

The crying sounded nearer. Tiny gulps of sobs that lured Mariah through the thick grasses until she spotted a flash of pink between the green stalks. The last thing she wanted to do was to frighten the child. "Hello? Are you lost?"

The stems parted and the flash of pink became a girl dressed in calico. Her pixie's face was streaked with tears. "You ain't my mama."

Poor child, lost and alone. Mariah's heart melted, just like that. She dug in her pocket for a bright shiny apple. "Are you hungry?"

The girl's blond curls brushed her shoulders as she shook her head.

"You don't like apples?"

"I got cookies." The child lifted her heavy satchel, tears trailing through the dust on her cheeks. "But I'm savin' 'em."

"Looks like you're packed for a trip."

"I'm goin' to heaven. That's where Pa said my mama went. I'm gonna go get her."

Mariah's heart cinched tight. Sympathy welled up in her so fast, she couldn't speak at first. She didn't know what to say to a child who'd lost a mother to suicide. While she tried to figure that out, she knelt until she was eye level with the little girl, who looked so miserable and alone. So helplessly small and precious. "Your pa has to be awful worried about you. He wouldn't want you to go look for your mama."

"He don't want me." The child leaned close to whisper, hiccuping on a sob. "He don't love me no more."

Sympathy ached like a nail driven deep in her chest, and Mariah couldn't resist sweeping a tangled lock of damp curls from the girl's cheek. Mariah knew what it was like not to be loved, and by all accounts this child of Nick Gray's was well treasured. The dress she wore was finely made without a wrinkle in it, her shoes dusty but without a single scuff.

Still, she understood how it felt to have a broken heart.

"That's my wagon right down there. Do you see my ox?"

The girl tilted her head, considering, and nodded once.

"His name is Bad Boy, but he's really very nice. If you bribe him with apples." Mariah held out her hand. "Would you like to feed him one?"

"I gotta find my ma."

"That's a long, long way. You'd better come with me, instead."

The girl's brow wrinkled as she considered. "I'm awful tired of walkin'."

"Good. Your satchel looks heavy. Want me to take it?"

"Nope. I can do it." She wrapped both hands around the thick handle and tugged the satchel along on the ground, over every bump and grass hump.

"I'm Mariah. I bet your name is Georgie."

"How do you know?" She wiped the last of her tears on her sleeve.


Excerpted from High Plains Wife by Jillian Hart Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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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High Plains Wife 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book for the most part...didn't care for the ending! Ended kind of abruptly.
kronan1 More than 1 year ago
Unlikely story................................................................................................................... Even if he married her for the most practical of reasons I couldn't buy the Idea of a young healthy man fighting the idea of having sex with his wife. Especially since they both had an attraction to one another. When he moves his bed into the barn rather then sleep with her the story left the credibility track altogether. No wonder his first wife cheated on him. This man has learned nothing about women. Move on Mariah.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nick Gray is hardened by life with his first wife. Left a widower to raise two children alone, he believes the perfect solution to his problems is to re-marry. He decides hard-working and sensible Mariah will do just fine. She is indeed hard-working and sensible, but was hoping for a marriage with something more. Nick decides he doesn't have it in him to give her what she wants and heartache ensues. Jillian Hart i wonderful at lifting a woman's spirit by making her seemingly average protagonists seem incredibly special.
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Hardegree More than 1 year ago
Very emotional read. I loved it.
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This book is quite explicit for a Christian author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago