Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection: Nine Stories of Poverty and Opulence During the Gilded Age

Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection: Nine Stories of Poverty and Opulence During the Gilded Age


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Love Flourishes during America’s Gilded Age
Journey along in nine historical romances with those whose lives are transformed by the opulence, growth, and great changes taking place in America’s Gilded Age. Nine couples meet during these exhilarating times and work to build a future together through fighting for social reform, celebrating new opportunities for leisure activities, taking advantage of economic growth and new inventions, and more. Watch as these romances develop and legacies of faith and love are formed.
Union Pacific Princess by Jennifer Uhlarik - Cheyenne, Dakota Territory, 1867
In the hell-on-wheels rail town of Cheyenne, grieving Boston socialite Dara Forsythe must choose between her estranged father; Connor, a bigwig with the Union Pacific Railroad; and Gage Wells, a former Confederate sharpshooter bent on derailing the Transcontinental Railroad’s progress.
The Right Pitch by Susanne Dietze - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1876
Guarded industrialist Beck Emerson agrees to sponsor his sister’s all-female baseball team. But when pretty pitcher Winnie Myles throws a curveball that makes him team manager, it challenges his plan to play it safe in life and love.
A Gift in Secret by Kathleen Y’Barbo - New Orleans, Louisiana, 1871
May Bolen offers Sam Austin a marriage of convenience. He will get to run the company that drove his into bankruptcy, and she will be free from her father’s rule to travel the world. But when Sam meets May, he knows the offer is too good to be true—or convenient—when hearts become tangled.
For Richer or Poorer by Natalie Monk - Newark, New Jersey, 1885
In order to bring her starving family to New Jersey, Polish immigrant Marcella Lipski must marry wealth. So she takes Americanization lessons from the poor-but-mysterious cart driver teaching her English—and loses her heart in the process.
A House of Secrets by Michelle Griep - St. Paul, MN 1890
Ladies Aide Chairman, Amanda Carston resolves to clean up St. Paul’s ramshackle housing, starting with the worst of the worst: a “haunted” house that’s secretly owned by her beau—a home that’s his only means of helping brothel girls escape from the hands of the city’s most infamous madam.
Win, Place, or Show by Erica Vetsch - New York City, 1890
Beryl Valentine, a socialite with a passion for horses, finds herself falling in love with her riding instructor, a man her parents will never accept. Will she follow her parents’ wishes, or let Gard Kennedy ride away with her heart? 
The Fisherman’s Nymph by Jaime Jo Wright - Flambeau River, Wisconsin, 1890
The reclusive daughter of a fly-fisherman guide must read the waters for a wealthy gentleman’s sport and send him back where he belongs before he hooks her heart and takes her away from the river she was born to love.
The Gardener’s Daughter by Anne Love - Bay View, Michigan, 1895
When the nephew of a prestigious Chautauqua resort founder sets his eye on the new library assistant believing her an academy student, it will take more than reciting poetry for love to bloom when he learns she’s the humble gardener’s daughter.
A Tale of Two Hearts by Gabrielle Meyer - Little Falls, Minnesota, June 1899
Reputations and jobs are on the line when lady’s maid, Lucy Taylor, and neighboring footman, Elijah Boyer, compete against each other for a place of honor during the annual community appreciation event hosted by their wealthy employers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781683222637
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 07/01/2017
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 432,142
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's the award-winning author of a dozen new and upcoming historical romances who's seen her work on the ECPA and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller Lists for Inspirational Fiction. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne lives in California and enjoys fancy-schmancy tea parties, the beach, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos.  You can visit her online at www.susannedietze.com and subscribe to her newsletters at http://eepurl.com/bieza5.

Michelle Griep has been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She seeks to glorify God in all that she writes—except for that graffiti phase she went through as a teenager. She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op. An Anglophile at heart, she runs away to England every chance she gets, under the guise of research. Really, though, she’s eating excessive amounts of scones while rambling around a castle. Michelle is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and MCWG (Minnesota Christian Writers Guild). Keep up with her adventures at her blog “Writer off the Leash” or visit michellegriep.com.

Gabrielle Meyer lives in central Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River with her husband and four young children. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing fictional stories inspired by real people and events. Gabrielle can be found at www.gabriellemeyer.com where she writes about her passion for history, Minnesota, and her faith.

Natalie Monk is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. A country girl from the time she could shimmy under a string of barbed wire, Natalie makes her home in North Mississippi, where she proudly wears the label “preacher’s kid.” She is a homeschool graduate, part-time virtual assistant, and former post hole digger. She loves porch swings, old-fashioned camp meetings, and traveling with her family’s singing group. Her goal in writing, and in living, is to bring glory to her Savior, Jesus Christ. Come chat with her on her website: www.nataliemonk.com.

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a preteen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a BA in writing, she has won five writing competitions and was a finalist in two others. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenage son, and four fur children.

Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves books and history, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical romances. Whenever she’s not following flights of fancy in her fictional world, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, an avid museum patron, and wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul mate. Erica loves to hear from readers. You can sign up for her quarterly newsletter at www.ericavetsch.com
And you can email her at ericavetsch@gmail.com or contact her on her author Facebook page.

Professional coffee drinker, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin. She loves to write spirited turn-of-the-century romance, stained with suspense. Her day job finds her as a Director of Sales and Development. She’s wife to a rock climbing, bow-hunting Pre-K teacher, mom to a coffee-drinking little girl, and a little boy she fondly refers to as her mischievous “Peter Pan.” Jaime completes her persona by being an admitted social media junkie and coffee snob. She is a member of ACFW and has the best writing sisters EVER! 

Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee of more than eighty novels with almost two million copies in print in the US and abroad. She has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award as well a Reader’s Choice Award and is the winner of the 2014 Inspirational Romance of the Year by Romantic Times magazine. Kathleen is a paralegal, a proud military wife, and a tenth-generation Texan, who recently moved back to cheer on her beloved Texas Aggies. Connect with her through social media at www.kathleenybarbo.com.

Read an Excerpt

Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection

Nine Stories of Poverty and Opulence During the Gilded Age

By Michelle Griep

Barbour Publishing, Inc.

Copyright © 2017 Michelle Griep
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-68322-263-7


Hell-On-Wheels Railroad Camp, Dakota Territory October, 1867

Dara ... are you coming?"

At her uncle's call, Dara Forsythe followed her cousin Becca onto the rear platform of their private railcar. The sky pressed in, cold, gray, and dreary, just like her mood. The town — if she could call it such — was a collection of dingy canvas tents of varying sizes, heavy-laden wagons, and muddy paths.

Her new home. No paved streets. No store windows. Goodness, not even a permanent building within sight. Her throat constricted.

This was not Boston.

People milled about, some waiting to meet the train, others scurrying between tents. She scanned every face. Nowhere did she see the one she longed for. Her heart sank.

Papa had begged her to come west after her mother's untimely death, and hoping to rekindle the bond they'd once shared, she agreed to leave the comfort of Boston and brave the journey west. Yet the niggling fear that things would never be the same was only perpetuated when she saw he wasn't there to meet them. They'd sent word of their expected arrival. The least he could have done was be on time.

A cool wind whipped around the passenger car, and Dara took the hand her uncle, Dr. William Chenoweth, offered, and descended to the mud below.

"Let me help you, Matilde." Uncle William assisted the pretty young freedwoman down the steps.

"So this is it?" Matilde stepped close and eyed the camp.

Becca looped her arm in Dara's. "I knew this would be an adventure, but I never imagined it would be so ... primitive."

Primitive. Yes, quite.

"Don't you fret none, Miss Dara." Matilde smiled. "The dear Lord'll make this turn out right."

Mute, Dara nodded at her friend.

"I'll gather the trunks. Then we'll find Connor." Uncle William turned toward the baggage car.

"I'll help you, Doctor William." Matilde trotted after him.

Dara hoisted her skirt from the mud and followed. Thank goodness Uncle William had agreed to leave his Boston medical practice to become a frontier doctor. Having him and Becca here would help ease her transition, and she'd be lost without Matilde. Thank You for them all, Lord.

The one she missed most was Mama. How did one continue after such a crushing loss? Dara's aunt Mary had died when Becca was three, leaving Becca with almost no memories of her. Dara, on the other hand, had lost Mama to illness just four months earlier at seventeen.

"You look absolutely mortified." Becca's grip on her arm tightened. "Don't worry. This place has to get better."

"The place is only part of it. I miss Mama."

Grief was her near-constant companion, threatening to drag her into a dark pit and never let go. The only time it didn't plague her was when something triggered memories of her mother's fortitude and spirit. Always graceful. Always a lady. Yet never one to back away from what was right. Those characteristics had pushed Mama to join the abolition movement before the war, she and Dara both working for the cause. If only she could emulate Mama's traits, keep her character and spirit alive. But how in this backward place?

Uncle William and Matilde stopped beside the baggage car, calling to one of the handlers inside. Dara steered Becca to an out-of-the-way spot. The air sparked with chatter and busyness. Men bustled around the freight cars, unloading crates. Dara sighed as an empty ache stole through her. This might be busy for the Dakota Territory, but it was interminably slow compared with Boston.

The chug of a steam engine diverted her attention, and she watched as the hulking machine backed toward the caboose. Mr. Marston and Mr. Adgate, the two richly dressed, distinguished gentlemen whom she'd met on the train, called orders to a few baggage handlers. The dust-clad workers transferred several large wooden crates labeled BLANKETS from the last freight car into the backs of several wagons. Once finished, the workers drove the wagons away, and Mr. Marston released the coupling arm that joined the freight car and caboose to the train. As she and Becca watched the process, a stout, slovenly giant stepped in front of them.

"Ain't never seen the likes of you two before." He reeked of sweat and spirits.

Becca's cheeks paled. Dara made no response except to dart a glance toward Uncle William and Matilde. Gone.

Heart hammering, Dara turned them away from the man and searched for Uncle William. Of course, neither he — nor Papa — were anywhere to be found.

"I said ..." He stepped in front of them again. "Ain't seen you two around these parts before."

Trembling, she turned. "You're being quite rude, sir."

"And you're right pretty. Where you from?"

How could Papa not have come to meet them? If he'd been here, this drunken scoundrel wouldn't have had the opportunity to approach them. She faced him. "I will thank you to leave us alone."

An average-height man ambled their way, half an apple in one hand, a large knife and an apple slice in the other. She barely breathed as he lifted the slice to his mouth then wiped the blade on his pants.

"You gonna answer me?" The drunken man's bawling barely registered as the other man sheathed the knife and smiled around the bite of fruit.

His warm brown eyes captivated her. "Pardon us." Hissing steam and grinding metal nearly drowned his words as he guided the belligerent fellow away.

Dara stared, slack-jawed, as the men exchanged words.

Becca giggled. "Dara, close your mouth. You'll draw flies."

Her cheeks warmed, and she clamped her mouth shut. The engine coupled to the caboose and freight car and chugged away from the makeshift train stop. When she focused again on their handsome rescuer, he patted the drunken man's shoulder and sent him on his way. The brown-eyed man, perhaps in his middle twenties, was simply dressed. His clothes were neat but patched and well-worn. He was fairly clean with dark brown hair and clean-shaven face. A tattered slouch hat topped his ensemble.

Maybe there was a bit of civilization to be found in this God-forsaken land after all.

Still trembling, she smiled. "Thank you, sir. That was very kind of you." Galloping hoofbeats pounded in the distance behind her.

A charming smile spread across his face. "My pleasure, ma'am. No self-respecting Georgia boy'd let that fella accost such a fine pair of ladies." He flicked a glance past her, eyes narrowing.

Her brow furrowed. A Southerner?

"Dara-girl!" The familiar voice boomed across the distance.


He marched through the thinning crowd toward them. Dara grabbed Becca's hand and darted toward her father.

They'd barely gone five steps when something slammed into her, and she lurched face-first into the cold mud. With a startled cry, Dara reared back, trying to get up. Beside her, Becca also flailed in an attempt to rise. A weight crushed her farther into the goo.

"Stay down!" The Southerner's words twanged with urgency.

A light flashed, and an earth-shattering concussion rocked her surroundings, sucking the oxygen away. Dara clamped her hands against her ears, too late to block the deafening roar.

* * *

Debris rained down around Gage Wells as he huddled over the two young ladies. Something sliced across his back, and he sucked down lungfuls of acrid air. Beneath him, the young ladies trembled, eyes shut and mouths agape. Their muffled cries barely registered over the ringing in his ears.

His heart pounded as he peeked at the empty boxcar where a horseman had thrown the lit bundle of dynamite. The remains of the wooden car sat cockeyed on its huge metal wheels, thick smoke billowing from its splintered shell. The caboose had fared little better. Gage's vision swam. Facing front, he dropped his throbbing head against one of the young ladies' shoulders.

Dynamite? He wouldn't grieve the loss of any train, but who in his ever-loving mind would light dynamite with folks so nearby? Especially to blow up an empty train car ...

Muscles shaking, Gage sat back on his heels, fire racing down his back as he braced his hands against his thighs. Frigid mud soaked through his pant legs as he fought to regain his bearings. All around them, mayhem reigned. People ran, some away from the danger, some toward it. Riderless horses fled, reins trailing and stirrups flapping. Only feet away, other townsfolk lay bleeding — maybe dead. Not what two fine young ladies needed to see. He should get them up, away from here.

Gage stumbled to his feet, snatched his hat from the mud, and again settled his hands on his knees to steady quivering limbs. The world tilted. What was wrong with him? He touched the older girl's elbow first, and she snapped one large blue eye open. The other young lady had a similar reaction.

Lightning surged down his spine. "Can you get up?" Before either answered, a man crouched over the ladies. His voice was muffled as he helped the first girl from the mud. As he reached for the second, Gage really saw the fella. Muscular, blond, well dressed. Gage's eyes widened.

Connor Forsythe.

His throat constricted. He wasn't to be seen. Not by Forsythe nor anyone connected to the railroad. His self-assigned fact-finding mission depended on getting in, gathering his information, and slipping out before anyone grew wise.

Gage hoisted himself straight and walked away, only his body rebelled. He tottered sideways, went to one knee, pushed back to his feet. He must collect his horse and ride out before everything was ruined.

One more step, and both knees went soft. Gage crumpled into the cold, wet earth, blinked twice, and sank into velvety blackness.


The scent of mud and — something sharp, bitter — filled Dara's nostrils. Her heart hammered as strong hands pulled her up, set her on her knees, and wiped away the mud covering one side of her face. She blinked.

"Papa?" She latched on to his coat with a talon-like grip.

He mouthed something, though all she heard was the ringing in her ears. He pried her fingers loose then turned to Becca.

Dara gaped. People ran in all directions. Chunks of wood and debris lay strewn around them. People — bodies — littered the ground. With legs as wobbly as a newborn foal's, she turned toward the nearest one. A man. Bloodied. Facedown on the ground. Dara's stomach dropped. Not just any man.

The Georgia boy.

"No." She stumbled toward him. "Please, no."

As she neared the man, Papa dragged Becca into her path and drew them into a crushing hug. A hiccuping sob boiled from deep in Dara's belly. She clung to Papa, though she peered past his shoulder to the man. The ringing faded, allowing distant shouts to filter into her consciousness. At the sound, she burrowed deeper into her father's embrace.

He finally drew back and spoke, his words far off, as if her ears were full of cotton.

"What?" She rubbed one ear to clear it.

"Are you injured?"

Understanding dawned, and Dara took mental stock then shook her head. "No, Papa, but the man who saved us is."

He turned to her cousin. "Are you?"

At Becca's stunned head shake, Papa clasped Dara's arm. "Where is William?"

She closed her eyes to order her thoughts. "I don't know. He and Matilde were gathering our luggage."

Glassy eyed, Becca looked toward the Southerner and clamped a hand over her mouth.

"Papa, the man —"

"I must find William." He craned his neck, looking everywhere but at the body.

"The man, Papa. Please ..." She tried to break free, but he held her arm.

After a moment, he called out to a man who ran by. "Vickers! Take my daughter and my niece to Morty's tent."

Vickers stopped short, gulped.

Surely he wouldn't leave her again. Heart in her throat, Dara slid up next to him. "Papa, we'll go with you."

"No." He drilled her with a glare then turned to the man. "Did you hear me?"

"You sure you want me to take 'em to Morty's?"

"Was I not clear enough?"

"Papa, please." Dara pulled at his sleeve.

"Let us stay with you."

The man nodded. "Plenty clear, sir."

"Take them straight there, and don't leave their side. I'll be along as soon as I can." He disappeared into the fray.

He'd actually left. Just like seven years ago. Only this time, Mama wasn't here to pick up the pieces. What would Mama do at a time like this? Dara scanned the carnage around her.

"Didn't know Forsythe had any kin," Vickers mumbled.

The words pierced her like a well-aimed arrow. Just as she'd suspected — Papa had given no thought to Dara or her mother across these last seven years.

Vickers hooked her elbow. "This way."

Once more, her gaze fell on the injured man, and wrenching her arm free, she scurried to his side. She knew exactly what her mother would do. She would help.

"We'll see to this man before I go anywhere."

* * *

Floating somewhere between slumber and wakefulness, Gage slowly became aware as pain webbed through his back and skull. Minutes ticked by before he roused fully, prying one eye open. He lay on his belly in a bed softer than any he'd ever experienced. Limbs uncooperative, he struggled to roll onto his back, pain lancing him with every movement. Finally successful, he lay still until he'd caught his breath.

Ornately detailed wood tones enveloped the room. A richly upholstered chair sat beside the bed, and a costly looking crystal lamp shone softly from a small bedside table. Winter sunlight tried to penetrate heavy drapes lining the room's left wall. A single door with a shiny brass knob stood ajar, revealing a narrow hallway with more drape-covered windows.

Where was he?

He'd never set foot in such a fancy place, much less slept in one. Give him his unadorned soddy or the simplicity of the Cheyenne camp instead of all this finery. Gage fumbled to push off the heavy quilt but stalled. His clothes were missing, replaced by bandages that covered much of his torso. He tugged the quilt to his chest. Where were his pants?

Outside the room, a woman spoke, though too soft to make out her words. Laughter followed. Heart pounding, he strained to hear. Beth? Lord, please let it be her. ... A moment later, a woman came into view, small tray in hand, giggling as she looked over her shoulder. His heart leapt with hope but fell when she faced him. She sobered quickly.

Not his Beth. He dragged the quilt higher.

"Good afternoon, sir."

A black woman peeked in the door. "Oh, thank You, Jesus," she whispered.

The woman with the tray turned to her. "Would you please get Uncle William?" The black woman disappeared, a door closing somewhere down the hall.

"I'm glad you've finally returned to us," the first woman spoke.

"Finally?" What did that mean, and where had he seen her before?

She set the tray on the table. "You've been in and out of consciousness for three days. It's good to see some lucidity back in your eyes. That is, unless you plan to escape again."

"Escape?" What in heaven's name ... "Am I a prisoner?"

"Goodness, no." She smiled, but it faded quickly. "You have no recollection, do you?" She sat and laid a hand against his forehead. The gentleness of her touch soothed him in unexpected ways. Gage closed his eyes, and his muscles uncoiled.

"You saved my cousin and me from injury when a boxcar exploded."

The train. His eyes fluttered open again. He'd come to the hell-on-wheels camp to find some way to stop the railroad's progress and save his friends among the Cheyenne from further harm. And there this woman and her friend had stood in all their impractical mounds of expensive fabrics, looking quite lost.

She folded her hands. "Your back was laid open by flying debris. We took you to a tent for care, but after Uncle William treated you, you disappeared. We found you passed out in the mud."

Hazy images took shape. The explosion. Connor Forsythe approaching. His panic at being seen.

"Uncle William thought you'd rest better in a proper bed, so we moved you here." Glass in hand, she sat primly on the bed and cupped a gentle hand behind his head to help him drink. "Do you remember those things?"

"A little." Gage drank greedily then sank back. "Where am I, anyhow?"

She set the glass down, stood, and with a flounce of her costly blue skirt, seated herself on the edge of the chair. "For the moment, you're in my bed." Despite the sass in her tone, her cheeks flamed red.

So did his, from the feel of them. "I, uh ... I'm real sorry, ma'am." He attempted to roll onto his elbow. "Just get me my clothes, and —"

"No." She pressed her hand to his shoulder. "You'll stay where you are until Uncle William says you may move. That won't be for a few days yet." She folded her hands. "So please rest, Mr. —"

"Gage Wells." He didn't have the gumption to argue. Not when the imprint of her palm nearly crackled with fire against his skin. He sank back, ignoring the awkward feeling, and looked around. "Where've you taken me?"

Her brow furrowed, but after an instant, she walked to the left side of the room and tugged the drapes aside. "We haven't taken you anywhere. You're in my father's Pullman Palace car."

Through the window, the sea of tents composing the moving railroad town was visible. A warning flashed in his thoughts. "Your father?"

"How rude of me. I haven't introduced myself. I am Dara Forsythe, Connor Forsythe's daughter."

His stomach clenched. He needed to go. Now. "Your pa's an important man around here. I surely don't want to impose, ma'am. Just bring me my clothes, and I'll be on my way."


Excerpted from Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection by Michelle Griep. Copyright © 2017 Michelle Griep. 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.

Table of Contents


Union Pacific Princess,
The Right Pitch,
A Gift in Secret,
For Richer or Poorer,
A House of Secrets,
Win, Place, or Show,
The Fisherman's Nymph,
The Gardener's Daughter,
A Tale of Two Hearts,

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