A Hopeful Heart

A Hopeful Heart

by Kim Vogel Sawyer

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Dowryless and desperate, Tressa Neill applies to the inaugural class of Wyatt Herdsman School in Barnett, Kansas, in 1888. The school's one-of-a-kind program teaches young women from the East the skills needed to become a rancher--or the wife of one. Shy and small for her twenty-two years, Tressa is convinced she'll never have what it takes to survive Hattie Wyatt's hands-on instruction in skills such as milking a cow, branding a calf, riding a horse, and cooking up a mess of grub for hungry ranch hands. But what other options does she have?

Abel Samms wants nothing to do with the group of potential brides his neighbor brought to town. He was smitten with an eastern girl once--and he got his heart broken. But there's something about quiet Tressa and her bumbling ways that makes him take notice. When Tressa's life is endangered, will Abel risk his own life--and his heart--to help this eastern girl?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781441212009
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/01/2010
Series: Heart of the Prairie , #5
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 303,138
File size: 7 MB

About the Author

Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of fourteen novels, including several bestsellers. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. She and her husband, Don, reside in Central Kansas, and have three daughters and six grandchildren.
Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of nineteen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and six grandchildren. She invites you to visit her website at www.kimvogelsawyer.com for more information.

Read an Excerpt

A Hopeful Heart

A Novel
By Kim Vogel Sawyer

Bethany House Publishers

Copyright © 2010 Kim Vogel Sawyer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7642-0509-5

Chapter One

Barnett, Kansas May 1888

Curling her fingers around the leather handle of the battered carpetbag that held her carefully selected belongings, Tressa Neill fell in line behind the tittering row of young women disembarking the train. She didn't mind being last. In the homespun dress and outdated straw hat acquired by Aunt Gretchen, she felt dowdy and conspicuous. No matter that her attire closely matched that of her traveling companions-with the exception of Evelyn. She still harbored an intense desire to hide.

She peered out one of the train car's dusty windows. A solitary thick-waisted woman wearing a calico bonnet and matching apron over a pale blue dress stood at the edge of the white-painted depot's wooden walkway. The woman cupped her hand above the bonnet's brim and stared at the train, obviously seeking someone. In the telegram that had outlined Tressa's travel itinerary, her benefactor indicated she would meet her pupils at the train station, so Tressa surmised this woman must be the school's founder, Mrs. Hattie Wyatt. The woman's round face held a warm smile, reminding Tressa of her favorite childhood nursemaid. At once, she felt drawn to her.

Then Tressa's gaze drifted to a small crowd gathered in the slash of shade offered by the depot's overhanging porch roof. All men. All gawking with obvious interest. A bead of sweat trickled down her back. In the acceptance letter Tressa had received from the Wyatt Herdsman School, Mrs. Wyatt had vowed the men of Barnett desired wives, but Tressa hadn't anticipated a welcoming band of prospective suitors. The sight of those sunburnt, cowboy-hat-topped men sent Tressa's stomach into spasms of nervousness.

A giggle pierced the air. After days of traveling with the other girls, Tressa recognized its source: Luella. The girl had talked incessantly, interjecting her chatter with high-pitched squeals of laughter. Luella turned from her position at the head of the line and grinned down the row of girls. "Look outside. Do you see? The men have lined up to meet us!" She touched a hand to her dimpled cheek, her lips curving into a smile. "Oh, won't they be pleased that we've arrived?" Another giggle erupted.

"Then kindly give them the pleasure of seeing us depart the train." Evelyn's sardonic command brought an abrupt end to Luella's annoying laughter, but the girl still remained rooted in the middle of the aisle.

"Shouldn't we wait for the conductor?" Repeatedly during the journey, Luella had batted her eyelashes and made frivolous requests of the portly conductor.

"For what purpose?" Evelyn pointed to the opening at the end of the car with the tip of her satin parasol. "The train has stopped. We've reached our destination. We can leave the car without the conductor's approval. Now go!"

Luella bolted forward, and the others followed. Tressa's dry tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth, and she kept her eyes on the curled-by-nature ringlets cascading from beneath the rolled brim of Evelyn's satin hat. Evelyn's fashionable cinnamon-colored gown provided a perfect backdrop for her shining golden locks. The obvious quality and stylish cut of the dress reminded Tressa of the world she'd left behind. A world in which she was no longer welcome.

"Tressa, no man of breeding will wed a dowryless woman. Your unfortunate situation with Tremaine Woodward certainly proves my point." Aunt Gretchen's emotionless voice echoed in Tressa's memory. "This herdsman school in Kansas offers you an opportunity to gain a husband and enjoy a life of family, if not of leisure." Her aunt had shrugged, fanning herself with the printed advertisement that sealed Tressa's fate. "Second best, perhaps, but a second-best chance is better than no chance at all."

Homesickness swelled, but not for Aunt Gretchen and Uncle Leo's grand estate. Tressa longed to return to Evan's Glen, her childhood home, with Papa and Mama and-

Giving herself a shake, she dispelled the desire. One could not live in the past. She must march into the future, no matter how bleak it appeared. So she squared her shoulders and followed Evelyn onto the passenger car's small iron landing. A fierce blast of wind stole her breath and lifted the straw skimmer from her head. She dropped her bag and reached for the hat, but the lightweight piece of millinery sailed over the heads of the girls standing at the base of the platform. A thick strand of hair whipped loose from her simple bun, effectively shielding her eyes. Dizziness assailed her. She groped for the handrail, but her fingers closed over air.

Plunging forward, she landed hard against Evelyn's back. Squeals erupted as Evelyn tumbled into the group and, like a row of dominoes, the girls fell into a heap on the dusty street, with Tressa on top. The men on the porch roared, pointing and slapping their thighs in amusement.

"Tressa!" Evelyn's demanding voice carried over the other girls' complaints. She jabbed Tressa with her elbow. "Get off of me, you bumbling idiot!"

Tressa tried to right herself, but the wind tangled her skirts around her legs, trapping her in place. Suddenly, fingers grasped her waist and lifted her. The woman Tressa had identified as Mrs. Wyatt set Tressa to the side and then reached into the fray. "Stop that caterwauling," she chided as she grabbed Evelyn's upper arm and pulled her from the pile. Tressa marveled at the woman's strength.

"Ah, Aunt Hattie, are these the hardy farm wives you promised us? Look more like wilting daisies to me," one man called. The others clapped him on the back, their laughter boisterous. Tressa staggered over to retrieve her abandoned bag, her face burning with humiliation as the men continued to hurl insults.

Mrs. Wyatt assisted Luella to her feet and spun to face the raucous men. "What're these girls s'posed to think about our town with you carryin' on like banshees?" She plunked her fists on her hips and sent a glare across the small crowd. "Gage Hammond? You the leader o' this sorry bunch?"

A young man with a cocky grin stepped forward. He yanked his hat from his head, revealing thick black curls. "Yes'm, Aunt Hattie. When I saw you waitin' at the depot, I figured your girls was comin', so I fetched the men."

"Well, your fun is over. You brought 'em, so now you take 'em an' git." Mrs. Wyatt waved her hand at the crowd and then offered the girls an encouraging smile. "Never mind them ill-mannered fellas. Don't get much excitement in this little town, so they're feelin' their oats. You all just dust yourself off an' hold your heads high, like the ladies you are."

One by one, the men drifted away, their laughter continuing to roll. But one man-tall and lean, with a deeply tanned face and a low-tugged cowboy hat nearly hiding his eyes-ambled toward Tressa. He held her skimmer. Its faded pink ribbons trailed over his knobby knuckles, the picture somehow unsettling.

"I believe this is yours, miss."

Tressa snatched the hat from his rawboned hand and crushed it to her chest. Too embarrassed to meet his gaze, she focused on the tan wedge of skin revealed by his open shirt collar and mumbled, "Thank you, sir."

His hand rose to briefly touch his hat brim, and then he moved away with long strides, dust rising with every fall of his boot against the ground. Tressa plopped the hat over her tangled hair, pulling it clear down to her ears before turning back to the group. Her stomach clenched at the steely glares of her traveling mates. She didn't dare look at Mrs. Wyatt. After her clumsy display, the woman would certainly send her straight back to New York. And then what would she do?

* * *

Abel Samms headed for the Feed and Seed, where his wagon waited. It took great self-control to avoid sneaking a glance over his shoulder. Aunt Hattie's voice carried on the wind. "Now, gather 'round here, ladies, an' load your bags in the wagon. No fellers'll do it for ya. You're here to learn to fend for yourselves, an' this is the first lesson-totin' your own bags." He swallowed a chuckle as a single protesting wail rose, followed by Aunt Hattie's stern "There'll be none o' that sniveling. Hoist it, girl, hoist it!"

Seemed as though the men were missing a good show.

When Gage Hammond had clattered down the boardwalk, announcing that Aunt Hattie was waiting at the station so her pupils must be coming, Abel's curiosity had stirred. So he'd turned on his heel and, instead of entering Hank's Feed and Seed, followed the cluster of men to the newly constructed depot. Under ordinary circumstances he wouldn't pay any mind to Gage Hammond. The spoiled son of Barnett's richest rancher was usually up to mischief. Only a fool believed everything the kid said. But the herdsman school had been the talk of the town for the past four months, ever since Aunt Hattie'd stood up in Sunday service and questioned the ranchers on what qualities they'd like in a wife.

Abel had kept his mouth closed that day-he had no interest in taking a wife-but he'd listened in as the others shouted out their preferences. Aunt Hattie had written down everything on a pad of paper, her face serious. Then she'd stated her intention to open a school on her ranch. Everybody knew the West was long on men and short on women. Aunt Hattie's plan to bring women from the East and teach them all they'd need to know about ranching and then match those women with bachelor men from the community had brought a rousing cheer of approval from the unmarried men in the congregation. With the exception of Abel.

So he hadn't headed to the depot to lay claim to a potential wife; he'd just wanted to see how Aunt Hattie's plan had worked out. He held a fondness for the older widow, as did most everybody in town. And sure enough-just as Aunt Hattie had promised, a passel of young ladies arrived on the iron horse. At first glance, it seemed she'd been able to meet some of the men's requests. The ladies all looked to be in their early twenties-old enough to have some maturity but young enough to birth babies. None had appeared sickly or ill-tempered. His friends had elbowed each other, grinning and whispering in approval, right until the last one stepped onto the platform. Then the appreciative whispers changed to ridicule.

Looking more like a lost waif than a woman, that last one hadn't fit Aunt Hattie's description of a "hardy farm wife." Small and spindly, he couldn't imagine her hoisting her own bag, let alone wrestling an ornery calf to the ground. But his pity had been stirred when her hat went flying ... then she went flying.

His jaw muscles tightened as he recalled the unkind comments the men had hollered. In Abel's family, they abided by the Golden Rule. How many times had Ma advised, "Son, treat others the way you'd want them to treat you; then you'll always be fair"? He sure hadn't appreciated the townsfolk poking fun at his misfortune two years ago. So nobody would find him hurling insults, not even in sport.

Abel planted his toe on the hub of the wagon wheel and hoisted himself into the high, springed seat. The sight of those eastern ladies stepping off the train had stirred too many memories-things better left buried. Snatching up the reins, he gave the leather traces a flick. "Get up there, Ed."

The roan gelding shook his head, as if irritated to be wakened from his nap, but he obediently strained against the rigging and pulled the wagon into the street. Abel rolled past Aunt Hattie's high-sided buckboard, where the town's new arrivals now sat in a wilted row on top of their piled luggage. But he kept his face aimed straight ahead and pretended not to see when Aunt Hattie raised her hand in a friendly wave.

Guilt pinched the edges of his conscience. His ma had taught him better manners than ignoring a neighbor's greeting, but she'd also taught him to be truthful. And Abel didn't want to give any of those young ladies so much as an inkling that he might be interested in taking a bride.


Excerpted from A Hopeful Heart by Kim Vogel Sawyer Copyright © 2010 by Kim Vogel Sawyer. 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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A Hopeful Heart 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
A_J_Hawke More than 1 year ago
In A Hopeful Heart, Kim Vogel Sawyer intertwines a good fiction story with a little know historical fact. Set in Kansas in 1888, six young women arrive at Hattie Wyatt's ranch to enter her herdsman school to learn how to be the wife of a rancher. Her aunt and uncle force Tressa Neill to leave her home in the east and join the group. Shy, afraid, and easily intimidated, she endeavors to succeed in this foreign environment. Abel Samms, a bachelor rancher, who wants nothing to do with these 'eastern' girls, does what he can to avoid them. Sawyer, author of 14 novels, has written an intriguing and enjoyable tale. Full of humor, suspense, and plot twists, this story is full of interesting characters. The interweaving of the characters' beliefs and sometimes struggles with God is well done. I found this to be a satisfying read. I look forward to the next novel from Kim Vogel Sawyer.
nyauthoress More than 1 year ago
Put your bonnet on, climb up into the buckboard and take a trip to the Wyatt Herdsman School in Barnett, Kansas. Tressa Neill travels west at her Aunt Gretchen's demands for a second chance at gaining a husband and family. The west is long on men and short on women. The small town of Barnett is all stirred up because Hattie Wyatt had concocted a plan to train women brought from the east everything they need to know about being a rancher's wife. The fun part will be matching them up with unmarried ranchers when they've graduated. We wander amongst these young women as they brand calves, make butter, learn to keep a ranch house clean all the while anticipate being sparked by the ranchers. Tressa, flawed by the inability to forgive, eventually undercovers a secret, which gives her an opportunity to grow. Adam, soured on God for all the losses in his life and preoccupied with a ranch that barely sustains itself, resists marriage. Will his heart forever be held prisoner? Especially endearing is prayerful "Aunt" Hattie, who, not blessed with children of her own, is full of hope about her house of young students. She is determined to teach them riding, roping, milking, gardening, canning and any other rancher's wife duty she can come up with, all in preparation for preparing them for their duties as ranch wives. Hattie, too, eventually finds love. A Hopeful Heart will immediately plunk you into its characters' lives and make you feel a part of the wide-open prairie. Using Abel's ranch as a place to teach her girls about birthing calves is a snappy plot twist. The dialogue reflects the time and culture perfectly. This book is a fascinating take on an experimental program to help populate the west. The story is original and the writing smooth and easy on the eyes. We learn that holding onto grudges helps no one. Forgive as God has forgiven us is hard for some, but not impossible. Highly recommended to those who love a subtle romance set the west when our country was young. Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont
ChristysBookBlog More than 1 year ago
A Hopeful Heart by Kim Vogel Sawyer is a delightful romance full of faith and charm. Tressa Neill is one of the first students at Hattie Wyatt's herdsman school for girls. Rejected by her aunt and uncle, she wants to learn how to be a good wife on a ranch in hopes of finding a husband, just like the rest of the women in the school. Abel Samms doesn't have much faith in the school or the women, he just wants to figure out who has been rustling his cattle in such quantities that he's being forced to consider selling his ranch to his wealthy neighbor. Sawyer is a talented writer, and I've read several of her other books, but this may just be her best one yet. I absolutely adored this novel! Tressa is a delightful heroine who is initially unsure of herself but learns from Hattie to learn to trust herself and the Lord. I love books like this where the reader knows from the first page that everything is going to end happily, but the journey there is so much fun. Sawyer has created a vibrant group of characters here, and I hope that the Wyatt Herdsman School isn't through. There are more stories to be told! If you're looking for a sweet romance, you couldn't do any better than this book.
kwitemeyer More than 1 year ago
When I first read the premise of this book, I knew I had to read it. I had never heard of a herdsman school, but what a wonderful idea! I love historical romance, and so many times I'd wondered what it would be like to travel back in time. Well, if I ever did, I would definitely make Aunt Hattie's school my first stop. Teaching ignorant town women like me how to cook on an iron stove, tend a garden, milk a cow, drive a wagon - all essentials for surviving and finding a mate in the world of Kansas ranchers. This sweet story is full of characters that are easy to relate to and ones who stir your heart...and your suspicions. The leisurely pace at the beginning picks up about halfway through, and the adventure really takes off. I flew through the second half of this book. I cheered for Tressa as she battled her insecurities to become a self-assured woman who depends on God for strength. And the reluctant Abel captured my heart as well. Try as he might to avoid it, love still comes knocking on his door. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and would recommend it to fans of Christian fiction who enjoy sweet romances.
AmandaCabot More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful book! Take six Eastern women, transport them to Kansas and put them in a herdsman's school. (What's a herdsman's school? A place where women learn the skills needed to be true helpmeets to ranchers.) Add in more than six prospective grooms, along with a man who's convinced that he's not ready to marry. And then, as if that weren't enough to guarantee a delightful story, toss in a bit of trouble . or more than a bit of it. It all adds up to one of Kim's best books yet, one that will keep you up late, because you have to read 'just one more chapter.' I highly recommend A Hopeful Heart to anyone who enjoys stories of love and faith and real people facing real problems. It's a winner.
rhonna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lacking a dowry, Tressa Neill has been sent west to a school to train women how to be good ranch wives. Abel Samms is a local rancher, determined to avoid marriage. The rest is somewhat predictable, but this is a good story with a lot of humor and sweetness.
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Thank you kim
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KeliGwyn More than 1 year ago
Kim Vogel Sawyer created a delightful cast of characters with whom I enjoyed spending time. Six young Eastern women head to Kansas to attend a special school, one designed to teach them how to become successful rancher's wives. While the focus is on reserved Tressa and rugged rancher Abel Samms, the reader gets to experience added fun as multiple matches are made under the watchful eye of the school's founder, Aunt Hattie, a warmhearted woman who adds much to the story. Sawyer is a gifted storyteller, and I savored every moment my nose was buried between the pages of A Hopeful Heart.
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MartaPerry More than 1 year ago
Kim Vogel Sawyer hits all the right notes in her latest historical romance, A HOPEFUL HEART, Bethany House. With her trademark heartwarming style, Sawyer treats readers to the story of Tressa Neill, a dowryless Easterner sent to the Wyatt Herdsman School in Barnett, Kansas, with the hope of finding a husband, a family, and a life of her own. Tressa's mistakes and misadventures and her valiant efforts to fit in to her new Western community will touch readers' hearts. Sawyer has a gift for transporting readers to another time and place, and they are sure to enjoy this trip to 1880s Kansas in her skillful hands. Marta Perry
Melanie_Dickerson More than 1 year ago
I very much enjoyed this book, A Hopeful Heart, which is the story of Tressa, an Eastern girl whose parents died a few years ago and left her to live with an aunt and uncle who didn't love her or want her. They send her west, to a school that will teach Tressa to be a good wife to a rancher, as there are lots of eligible ranchers in the area but few prospects for wives. I was drawn in by Tressa's plight. She's shy and rather incompetent at tasks she'd never had to learn while in her wealthy relatives' home. I could sympathize with her not wanting to be thrust upon some man she barely knew to be his wife, feeling almost like she was being auctioned off. But she had little choice. She had to marry because she had no family or means to support herself. Such was the plight of many women of that time. Kim Sawyer writes gentle love stories with tons of heart and true-to-life characters. I enjoyed this book very much and recommend it to fans of sweet historical romance.
Prolificreader More than 1 year ago
I have always loved a good prairie romance. A HOPEFUL HEART goes beyond good and into great! A group of eastern girls being taught on the open prairie how to be good prairie wives-- that alone snagged my attention, but once getting into the book you are opened to a world beyond the setting. The characters are real and alive, worming their way into my heart. Tressa, the heroine is a young woman searching for her place in the world and through each circumstance she must learn to stand strong in God. I loved her journey on all counts. I can think of nothing I did not like about this book. I truly believe it is the best book by this author to date. The setting was vividly described, bringing me right there. The characters danced upon the screen of my imagination with a real life persona and the love story was sweet and complete with a lovely sigh from this reader when the book was closed. Even the secondary characters were vivid in their portrayal and I hope to someday rejoin a few of them in another book. Please? A HOPEFUL HEART will definitely be going on my best books list for a long time to come and is highly recommended!! Thanks the publishers through CFBA for my copy to review.