Her last chance at redemption
Singer Ruby Dearing is tired of life on the stage and yearns for a place to belong. She returns home to beg forgiveness from her mother and sister, only to find stubborn Nash Sommertonher sister's widowerin charge.
Nash is prepared to fight this unruly beauty for his ranch, but Ruby amazes him with her determination to restore the house to the home it once was. Can he persuade Ruby to forgive herself and see the second chance they've both been given?
About the Author
Cheryl's first book, RAIN SHADOW was nominated for RWA’s RITA for Best First Book, by Romantic Times for Best Western Historical, and by Affaire de Coeur readers as Best American Historical Romance. Since then her stories have continued to receive awards and high acclaim. In describing her stories of second chances and redemption, readers and reviewers use words like, “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters and real life situations.
Read an Excerpt
Crosby, Nebraska, 1883
The screen door barely squeaked, but the familiar sound made Ruby's heart leap. She'd never tiptoed all the way across the porch without Mama hearing that hinge and ordering her back to finish chores. Ruby Gail! Stop right there, missy.
Apprehension and uncertainty rising, she pushed open the unlocked interior door and entered the front room. In the remaining light of day it took a minute for her eyes to adjust enough for her to tell the furniture had been arranged differently, and the curtains at the windows were unfamiliar. The farmhouse sat eerily silent. No cooking smells met her senses; in fact, she wrinkled her nose at a faint antiseptic scent mingled with lingering lemon wax.
She hung her hat on a doorknob, lit the lantern sitting on a nearby table, and held it high to investigate. In the golden glow, she noted a light film of dust covering the wood furniture. Ruby frowned. Her mother dusted this room every day.
Stifling her unease, Ruby tiptoed across the dining room and through the open door into the nearly dark kitchen. Half a dozen dirty coffee cups sat on the sink board, but other than those, there was no sign of occupancy.
"Mama?" Ruby called. Striding to the back door, she flung it open and studied the dooryard. Chickens squawked from inside a wire enclosure. The plot where her mother always grew a vegetable garden was overgrown with weeds and a scattering of volunteer beans. Concern grew to a heavy weight in Ruby's chest.
Lighting lamps as she went, she searched each room. Finding no one downstairs, she headed up the worn front staircase.
"Mama?" Ruby's voice echoed throughout the upper hallway, and her unease rolled over into trepidation.
All the doors were closed. She went to her mother's straightaway, a flicker of panic pumping her blood faster as she stood with her hand on the faceted glass knob. "Mama?" she called, more softly this time.
The bed was neatly made with a plain wool blanket, instead of the quilt she remembered. On the dresser sat an ivory-handled comb and brush set Ruby recognized. She picked up the comb and ran her thumbnail across the teeth. On the surface of the bureau remained a clean outline where the comb had lain. Her heart skipped a beat. She placed the comb back where it had been.
In the mirror over the bureau, a worried facea face that had seen too much sun this past weekstared back at her. She looked down. Opening a few drawers revealed neat stacks of clean stockings and underclothing. The scent of lavender offered a small measure of reassurance. Dozens of memories washed over her, some of them good. In the armoire, Laura Dearing's dresses and cotton shirtwaists hung in neat order. Ruby caressed a sleeve and drew it to her cheek. Where was her mother?
From the doorway, she peered into her sister's room. It, too, seemed unused. Pearl had undoubtedly married and moved to town or to another farm. Perhaps she lived a far distance and her mother had gone visiting. If that was so, however, Mama would have taken her comb and brush.
After finding the other two bedrooms unoccupied as well, Ruby at last entered her old room. Pink-and-white flowered wallpaper had been added. Lace curtains replaced the faded checkered cotton of her girlhood days. She didn't recognize the doll on the bed. Another child had apparently stayed here.
Opening drawers and checking the wardrobe, Ruby found nothing familiarnothing at all. The few pieces of clothing she discovered belonged to a small girl, which was puzzling. It was as though Ruby had never been here. But of course, what had she expected? She hadn't been home for eight years. Any clothing she'd left behind wouldn't fit her fuller figure now, anyway.
Back on the main floor she did a closer inspection. There were staples in the pantry: coffee, flour, beans. The bin beside the stove held chunks of firewood, but even the stove was coated with a layer of dirt.
Ruby headed out the way she'd entered. She untied her bundle of belongings from the saddle, set it inside the door and then led the Duchess to the barn. "Hopefully, there's something tasty for your supper, girl," she said to the horse. "You deserve a treat and a nice long rest."
As she approached the structure in the near dark, she spotted a building she hadn't seen before. Farther to the west and bordered by rows of cottonwoods stretched a long low stable.
She led the horse to the trough first, then unsaddled her and walked her indoors. The three nearest stalls were occupied by very pregnant mares. Ruby spoke to each of them and rubbed their bony foreheads. "Who's taking care of you ladies?"
The oats in the bin were fresh, so she scooped a pail, set it inside a stall in the back corner and led in the Duchess. The impeccable neatness of the barn contrasted with the evident neglect in the house.
Her mother's absence grew more troubling, and Ruby didn't like the growing feeling of dread. Heading back to the house, she found supplies in the pantry, lit the stove and made herself a pan of biscuits. She'd hoped for something more than what she'd been eating on the trail, but this was quick and filling.
She prepared coffee, washed all the dirty cups and then filled a pail with sudsy water and wiped every surface in the kitchen, changing the water twice. Wherever her mother was, she'd be mortified if she knew how much dirt had settled in her house. Speculation spun in Ruby's mind. Someone was taking good care of those horses out there.
It was foolish to leave all the lanterns burning, so she moved through the rooms, turning down the wicks. Back in the kitchen, she was so tired she could barely think. She'd figure out things tomorrow and do more investigating when it was light.
She'd pour one more cup of coffee and then go up to sleep. Ruby settled herself at the table.
A sound woke her.
Disoriented, Ruby sat up with a crick in her neck and groaned. She'd fallen asleep with her head on the kitchen table. It was full dark, and someone was outside. Perhaps her mother was returning!
Ruby jumped up and peered out between the panels of the curtain. In the moonlight, a tall, broad figure moved toward the house. Certainly not her mother and definitely not anyone she knew.
She held her breath, waiting for the man to pound on the door. Instead of a knock, the doorknob turned and he entered the house uninvited. The hair on the back of her neck rose and her heart rate accelerated.
She shrank back against the still-warm stove, her hand coming in contact with the skillet she'd set there to dry. As silently as possible, she picked up the heavy pan and got a two-fisted grip on the handle.
The stranger fumbled in the dark, most likely looking for a match. He groped along the shelf beside the door, coming closer to where she stood. If he found the matches and lit the lamp, he'd see her standing there.
She was trapped in the kitchen with an intruder.
She stood in the moonlight that arrowed through the slit in the curtains. He stopped short.
He'd spotted her.
Shooting into action, Ruby lunged forward with the skillet.
Moving with more agility than she'd expected, the intruder ducked, and the pan whacked him on the back of the head. With an "oomph," he crumpled sideways, striking a chair and knocking it over. As though fighting for consciousness, he groped for the table, but fell forward directly onto it and lay unmoving.
Heart pounding, Ruby reached for the matches and lit the wall lamp as well as the lantern.
The man sprawled across her mother's kitchen table wore dusty dungarees and boots, and the sleeves of his shirt were rolled back over corded forearms. He groaned and his hat fell away, revealing midnight-black hair and a jaw with a day's growth of beard. He was a dangerous-looking fellow, one she'd never seen before in her life. He'd probably come looking to rob the place while her mother was gone.
"Now what do I do with him?" Realizing she still gripped the heavy skillet, Ruby rested the impromptu weapon back on the stove with a clang. This fellow was a lot bigger and stronger looking than she. If he came to, she wouldn't have much chance of fighting or subduing him.
She cast her gaze about the room, wildly grasping for a solution. Noting the cotton square of toweling she'd hung to dry, she jerked open a cabinet to find a stack of embroidered towels.
Nash's head throbbed and red blotches swam behind his eyelids. Attempting to round his shoulders and move his neck, he emitted a groan. A wave of shock racked him. He couldn't move.
He blinked against harsh light, and the memory of finding someone standing in the dark kitchen swept over him. Something or someone had come toward him, and he hadn't been fast enough to escape the blow to the back of his neck.
Was he paralyzed? Genuinely panicked now, he tried to raise his hands, move his feet. He could feel them. But why couldn't he move his limbs more than a fraction of an inch?
Squinting, he opened his eyes against the painful glare. He was sitting in a kitchen chair, his arms behind him.
A figure moved into his line of vision. A woman in boots, a riding skirt and an unbecoming loose shirt. Some member of an outlaw gang hiding out here? Who else was nearby? He'd seen no one and nothing out of the ordinary when he'd come to the house.
She stood in front of him, and he raised his aching head to discover a startling halo of wild, curly golden hair. A jolt ran through his befuddled mind, but after the first initial stab of pain, relief settled over him.
He was dreaming.
It was the most realistic dream he'd ever had, though he couldn't recall going to bed. The last thing he remembered was heading into the house. He'd never made it across the kitchen.
He studied the realistic vision standing before him. What on God's green earth had his wife done to her hair?
She was a little more slender than he remembered, but it was hard to tell with that baggy shirt. In real life Pearl would never have been caught dead in a getup like that. She'd ironed even the dresses she wore to do laundry and cook and work in the garden, and all her clothing had been made in feminine colors, with collars and ruffles and pleats.
Hard to tell at that moment if his head or his heart was hurting more. He closed his eyes and made a concerted effort to wake up. Doing so, he felt lonelier than ever, but at least awake he had control over his memories.
"Who are you?" she asked.
That wasn't Pearl's voice. Pearl's tone had always been soft and lilting. The dream woman's gravelly voice sounded as though she'd been screaming for a week. He opened his eyes and frowned.
"I said who are you? What did you come looking for?"
"Coffee, I think."
"Come morning I'm going for the marshal," she said. "And you're going to jail."
"If Marcus Styles puts anyone in jail, it'll be you." Nash frowned again. "But then dream people can't go to jail, can they?"
"Are you touched in the head, mister?"
"I wasn't until ." He scanned the room as it slowly came into focus, taking note of the cup and saucer on the table, the cast-iron skillet on the stove. A very heavy skillet, as he recalled. "Is that what you hit me with?"
No wonder he was still seeing stars! He tested his hands once again, finding them securely bound behind his back. His feet, too, were firmly tied to the legs of the chair.
"Sit still or I'll clobber you again," she threatened, dropping onto a chair.
Now that she sat directly in front of him and he didn't have to squint upward, he had a better view. Her shiny hair was wilder than Pearl's, flaxen ringlets curling in haphazard disarray. Her face and hands weren't pale as Pearl's had been. But her features were delicate and feminine, her nose slim, albeit freckled. She had eyes as blue as his wife's, but with dark lashes that belied her pale hair.
And her mouth It was wider, her lips more full She had a mouth that would keep a man tied in knots.
Something about her reminded him of Pearl's mother, Laura, as well. Perhaps her eyes. Perhaps the stare that seemed to look into a person's soul, and required accountability.
He wasn't dreaming.
He knew exactly who this woman was. "The question is what are you doing here?"
"This is my home," she declared. "I don't think so."
"And what does a robber know about me?"
"I'm not a robber. Untie me."
"So you can tie me up? Or perhaps kill me and steal everything in the house?"
"There's nothin' in this house that amounts to much," he told her. "If I was going to rob someone I'd find a more prosperous rancher. And I know everything I need to know about you." Then he added, "Ruby."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Predictable and a little slow. The hero's family made the Waltons look like exciting extroverts. The heroine was carrying around a mother lode of guilt even though all she really did was leave to find a life more exciting then the farm and send money home. Plus apparently the mother and sister she felt guilty about weren't mad at her in the first place. Fortunately the hea's were tripping over themselves at the end. If you have to read it get it from the library.
Cheryl St. John’s Sequins and Spurs is a must read. I was given this book as an ARC for an honest review. This book made me laugh, cry and fall in love with the characters from the beginning. It was a delightful read from beginning to end. I couldn’t put it down. Singer Ruby Dearing left home at a young age only to come back home only to find out everything she holds dear is gone. Nash her sister’s widower has taken over her home and is in fear of losing what’s left of what he holds dear. Can Ruby convince him that she just wants to make a mends by any means and do what’s right for the remainder of the family she has left. Can Nash get over the fear of losing what he’s accomplished and help Ruby to forgive herself for leaving?
Cheryl St. John wrote another keeper! This adventure revolves around a former singer and stage performer and a lonely (although he doesn't realized it) rancher (not a farmer, there is a difference) who find common ground in family, love and trust. St. John puts two unlikely people (and add three kids) and you have what she is famous for...love, trust, compassion and hope. Ruby Dearing comes home to mend fences that were broken eight years before when she left angry and rebellious. Meanwhile, Her mother died, her sister Pearl had married Nash Sommerton, had two kids and died in a buggy accident. Returning home she found hostility and self made opinions from Nash. Both stubborn and determined, they worked together to make a life for his two children. Along the way they cared for and adopted a girl named Jane. They meet some challenges and some happiness along the way. St. John brings with Sequins and Spurs a book you don't want to put down until the last page!
I loved this book by Cheryl St John. Ruby Deering left home at a young age to pursue her dream. She becomes a singer in Western towns traveling by train from town to town. Nash Sommerton married Ruby's sister to pursue his dream of owning a ranch. Will Nash and Ruby find forgiveness with each other? Ruby comes back home to ask her mother and sister to forgive her for leaving them. She finds out that while she was gone, her mom and sister have died, her brother-in-law is living in her house, and she has a niece and nephew. Can Ruby and Nash forge their differences, let go of past mistakes, and make a life together? Nash wants to own a ranch. He decides to marry Ruby's sister to help her and her mother out. When they die, his parents help out while he makes a go of the ranch. Once Ruby comes back home, he's afraid she'll take the place back. Can they come to an agreement? Can Ruby forgive herself for leaving her family in a bind even though she was a child when she left? This is a wonderful story of forgiveness, letting go of the past, but realizing the past shapes who you are and makes you the person you are now. Have no regrets for your past, but move forward becoming the person you were meant to be. The descriptions in this historical novel took me back in time. The characters became friends I didn't want to leave at the end of their story. I admired the qualities of Ruby and Nash that made them who they are. Whether Ruby was standing up for herself, an orphan girl, or an abused horse, she followed through what she started and stood up for what she believed in.