When socialite Emma Crowell stops the carriage on the way to Portland to 'exercise' her new puppy, the last thing she expects is to be left behind in decidedly unsuitable attire, let alone kidnapped. Fortunately, she is soon found by local rancher Peter Lowery. Unfortunately, he has no intention of abandoning his livelihood to take her back to civilization until the fall. He will, however, provide food, shelter and safety, and in return he expects Emma to earn her keep.
Emma is surprised to find she enjoys the challenges of life at the cabin and feels drawn to Peter and his young son Robby. But though willing to learn, no matter how she tries, she never seems to live up to expectations. As Emma seeks God's guidance and aspires to the picture of womanhood shown in the 31st chapter of Proverbs, Peter comes to realize that he may be underestimating the strength and character behind this woman's beauty.
About the Author
Ginny Aiken, a former newspaper reporter, lives in Indiana and frequently travels to Pennsylvania with her engineer husband. Born in Havana, Cuba, raised in Valencia and Caracas, Venezuela, she discovered books early and wrote her first novel at age fifteen while she trained with the Venezuelan Classical Ballet Company. She burned that tome when she turned a "mature" sixteen. Ginny has taught novel-writing seminars and workshops at Harrisburg (PA) Area Community College and Penn State University.
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She Shall Be Praised
A Women of Hope Novel
By Ginny Aiken
FaithWordsCopyright © 2014 Ginny Aiken
All rights reserved.
Hope County, Oregon—1883
"Miss Emma," the young man said, his voice a mixture of excited anticipation and nervous tremor. "I believe this one's mine."
Emma Crowell smiled, thrilled by the respectful, gentlemanly approach. "Mr. Walters, I believe?"
Pleasure tinted her new dance partner's youthful face. "That's me, miss. Shall we?"
She stood and slipped her own dance card into the hidden pocket at the seam of her exquisite rose silk Worth ball gown, trimmed in luscious cream Alençon lace. She then placed her hand on his to let him lead her to the center of the ballroom in Aunt Sophia and Uncle Justus's large and lovely Denver home. A moment later, the sweet, rich notes of "Over the Waves," her favorite waltz, swirled around the room.
Emma smiled, caught in the elegance of the moment; the sparkle of the crystal chandeliers overhead; the romantic music; the happy murmur of conversation and muffled laughs; the clearly smitten gentleman in whose arms she flew across the highly polished floor. Every so often, the scent of the fragrant red roses, lush in the tall, urn-shaped vases, wafted past her nose. The rustle of silks, taffetas, and velvets kept pace with the rhythm of the soaring music.
A bubble of pure happiness rippled up inside her and spilled out in a joy-filled giggle. She was having such a very splendid time during her visit to her favorite relatives. What more could a girl want? Lovely gowns—three trunks full of them, already sent home to Portland ahead of her—a doting Papa, loving aunt and uncle, invitations to party after party after party in colorful Denver, topped off by a brigade of charming gentlemen, all of whom seemed to have decided her every whim was their greatest desire. She hadn't done anything to bring them to that decision, and at times the excess of it all did embarrass her, but she wouldn't be honest if she didn't admit she enjoyed their compliments, company, and attentions.
True, it meant the other young ladies she'd met seemed to have no use for her, just as they did wherever she went. That did bother her to a greater degree than she wanted to acknowledge. Her brows drew inward, but she immediately forced her face into a cheery smile. The thought of a wrinkly forehead was enough to make her straighten her spine and remember Mama's repeated admonition.
"Unless she wants to end up looking old and dreary before her time," she often said, "a lady will always wear her most pleasant expression. And you, my Emma, are a lovely little lady."
The memory of her late mother made her falter in her dance steps. Although Mama had died eight years ago, Emma still missed her every single, solitary day. Just as she knew Papa's heart still bore the large hole Cassandra Crowell's passing had left behind.
"Oh, dear!" Mr. Walters cried, slowing a tad. "Are you unwell, Miss Emma? I didn't step on your foot, now, did I?"
"Pshaw!" She gave her dance partner her most radiant smile as he again swung them into a wide turn. "I'm fine. Just a tiny stutter of the feet. But I do adore the waltz, this one in particular. Let's do enjoy it!"
A pair of hours later, Emma's exhilaration had wilted into exhaustion. She'd danced the whole night away with a steady stream of gentlemen, and, as usual, Joshua Hamilton had penciled on her dance card two dances for himself. During an intermission, he'd led her out to the broad veranda for a breath of fresh if still chilly air—spring had taken its sweet time arriving, and nights in the Rockies still turned nippy.
While they strolled across the width of the veranda, he'd pressed her for a response to his recent marriage proposal in the nicest of ways. Papa had made no secret he viewed Joshua as a splendid specimen for his only daughter's husband, but Emma wasn't certain she was ready to settle down to the life of a proper businessman's wife. At least, not yet.
Now, she stood at the foot of the grand staircase, every so often waving her fan, more as a means to keep her hands busy than for any real need of a breeze, and bade her aunt and uncle's many guests farewell.
"Do come calling when you're in town again," Mrs. Macomb told Emma, a stiff, Rockies-chilly smile on her thin lips. At her side, her oldest daughter, Althea, shot daggers of envy Emma's way. It was said Althea had set her cap for Mr. Walters, who by now had made no secret his interest lay in Emma.
Emma wrinkled her nose. The Macomb home was one she'd avoid like the ague.
"You're too kind," she murmured. "We shall see what engagements Aunt Sophia schedules for me next time I return to Denver."
Aunt Sophia gave her a reproving look. She knew only too well how her niece felt about the Macomb women. They'd made it abundantly clear they blamed Emma for Mr. Walters's disaffection, and Emma often bristled while in their company.
"Behave!" her aunt said under her breath.
Emma beamed a beatific smile. After all, she was leaving the next afternoon. "I was only minding my manners."
Papa narrowed his gaze. "I should certainly hope so, Emma. Although ... I would say we must have a brief chat in the morning—you, Uncle Justus, Aunt Sophia, and I—before you depart on your trip back to Portland. My only regret is that I won't be going with you. Are you sure you'll be—"
"Oh, Papa! Of course, I'm sure I'll be fine. I can ride in a carriage just as well as the next lady." How could he question her like this? "I'm not a child anymore, you understand. I'm all of nineteen now, and I most certainly can take care of myself. Besides, you're sending me with Reverend and Mrs. Strong. What could possibly go amiss when I have such ... well, upright escorts?"
Uncle Justus laid a plump hand on Papa's arm. "Ed Schwartz, the carriage driver Reverend Strong has hired, is a decent man. He's also quite accomplished with a sidearm, and won't hesitate to use it any time he feels the need to protect his passengers. Our Emma will be safe with them."
Her father's face turned a touch pale at the mention of a weapon. "I sincerely pray you are right, Justus. She's all I have left of my darling Cassandra ..."
A knot formed in Emma's throat. Papa's love for her mother was never far from his thoughts, and the loss filled his voice with sadness every time he spoke of her. She knew he saw her as an extension of his departed wife, and he'd always lavished his love on Emma. She rushed to his side and threw her arms around his neck.
"Hush, now, Papa!" She kissed his cheek and laid her head on his shoulder. "I'm fine—I will be fine. You'll see. I'll be home with Ophelia and Jedediah in no time. They'll take care of me as they always have."
The middle-aged couple had treated her as their child since the day she was born, and she loved them dearly, even if they didn't let her get away with anything. She could tease Papa into letting her have her way more often than not. Not so with the Millers.
She yawned. "Oh, goodness! I'll ask you to excuse me now, though. I'm dreadfully tired, and I'll still have a few things to see to in the morning."
"Don't forget, my dear," Papa added. "We will have that chat before the Strongs arrive."
She sighed. "Yes, Papa. We will. In the morning."
Hugs were shared all around, and, irksome discussion to come forgotten, Emma floated up the stairs. A delicious sense of ... oh, adventure, perhaps danger, filled her every time she thought of her trip home alone. This would be the first time she went anywhere without Papa at her side. True, she'd be accompanied by the somewhat dour man of the cloth and his equally serious lady wife, but it still meant she'd have a certain sense of freedom. She couldn't wait.
A shiver of anticipation fluttered through her and she hurried to her room. The lovely feather bed, piled high with eyelet-trimmed green silk-covered pillows and cozy blankets, beckoned. Emma yawned again.
Sweet dreams surely awaited her.
Papa had meant what he'd said. Emma had scarcely sat at the breakfast table and sliced off the top of her perfectly and delicately poached egg before her father launched into his discussion.
"Have you given further thought to Joshua's offer of marriage?"
Emma's cheeks scorched and the tip of her nose itched. She hated blushing, but her fair red-head's complexion betrayed her only too often. "What is there to think about, Papa? He wants to marry me. You want me to marry him. I'm ... well, I'm not sure I want to marry him. Rather, I'm not sure I want to marry him quite yet. I'm not ready to stop having such a—well, um ..."
Aunt Sophia rushed her napkin to her lips, and Emma knew her mother's younger sister had only done so to disguise a laugh. Her mortification only heightened. She pursed her lips, buttered her toast, salted and peppered her delectable egg, and refused to meet anyone's gaze.
Papa cleared his throat. "Emma—"
"Allow me, Hugh," Aunt Sophia said.
An angel's flight would have roared out in the ensuing silence. Finally, Papa sighed. "Go ahead, then, Sophia. You are a woman, after all."
"Thank you." Emma's aunt turned her way. "Now, dear child. You do know Joshua is hardly the only young man who's offered for your hand in marriage. In fact, I do believe he's the ... what? Is he the seventh? Eighth?"
"Ninth," Emma answered, her voice uncharacteristically tiny. "But why count? I've—"
"Why count?" Papa roared.
"Emma!" Uncle Justus cried.
"Why ... well! I do declare ..." her aunt sputtered. "That, dear child, was not the response I had hoped for."
Papa harrumphed. "I should say not."
"Indeed," added Uncle Justus, who generally agreed with his sassy, southern wife.
"A young lady," Aunt Sophia went on, twin faint lines over the bridge of her straight nose, "does not lead a gentleman on, Emma. Why ... it's dreadfully cruel, you understand, dangling them along like that. Don't forget, dear child, their hearts are involved when they care for you, and it's not kind to play with their emotions. Especially when you deal with an exemplary young gentleman like Joshua. He's serious, well-educated, quite successful in business, as you should know, since he does a great deal with your father in that regard, and he does care deeply for you. He will always honor you, treat you gently—"
"Like royalty, I suspect," Uncle Justus murmured from his end of the table.
Aunt Sophia beamed at her spouse, her strawberry blond curls bobbing in a pretty fashion as she agreed with his assessment. "A young lady—you—could do much, much worse. The best marriages happen between those who have a great deal in common, and the two of you surely do."
Papa rose from his chair across from Emma, rounded the large, breakfast-laden mahogany table, and came to take the chair at his daughter's side. He placed a loving hand on hers.
"Do tell me," he said, his voice concerned. "Is there anything about the young man that makes you uneasy? Does he—" Papa's cheeks ruddied. "Does he frighten you? As a man, I mean."
"Papa!" Emma bolted upright. "That's—why ... oh, dear! What a dreadful question. No, of course Mr. Hamilton does not"—she blinked furiously—"frighten me. He's completely proper and respectful. I just ... well, like I said, I'm not sure of ... well, of anything. We have only recently returned from London, as you well know. I haven't been back to Portland in such a long while. I don't know who's still there, what life will be like once we get there again. Oh, I don't know quite what I'm saying. Such a serious thing as marriage leaves me unsettled."
"Well, then." Papa's voice rang with a sense of finality. "Might I suggest you resolve that unsettled sensation by making up your mind about Joshua? It would, Emma, be most beneficial for me, and for Joshua, you understand, if the two of you should wed. I've gotten to know him well and he's a fine man who cares a great deal for you. I must admit, I would rest at ease knowing you'd settled down to life with a suitable and respectable husband. Please do let this exemplary young man know your decision as soon as you possibly can. I shall not pressure you any further than this."
Emma drew in a deep breath. True, Joshua Hamilton was everything a young woman could ever hope for. His gleaming dark hair was always neatly parted and perfectly in place, his brown eyes twinkled with his gentle good humor, and his smile, beneath a full, stylish mustache, was broad, frequent, and pleasant. He stood tall and straight, and she could always count on him to have interesting things to talk about. It did give her a private thrill to stroll out onto the dance floor on his arm. All the other girls envied her his attention.
She didn't know of another man with whom she could even imagine sharing the rest of her life. That must mean the foundation for a deep fondness between her and Joshua was as it should be. Yes, he was a nice man. A kind man. They'd likely have a splendid time as man and wife.
Just like that, she made up her mind.
"I'll do it," she said. "I'll marry Mr. Hamilton. Yes, yes. He's a nice, kind man."
The three adults at the table let out surprised sounds. Papa drew his brows together. Aunt Sophia's shot up to her hairline. Uncle Justus looked puzzled.
"Emma?" her aunt said. "Just a moment ago you said you weren't ready. Now, you turn and say the contrary. Shouldn't you wait until after you've reached Portland, take the time in the carriage to think the matter through?"
Emma shrugged. "I'm sure. There's really not a whole lot to think through. I do believe Mr. Hamilton and I will suit each other quite well."
"I'm glad you feel that way," her aunt said, a hint of skepticism still on her face. "If for no other reason than that there was quite a bit of talk. Just make sure before you pledge yourself to him before the Lord."
"Talk?" Emma felt the blood drain from her face. "About me? What could I have done to make folks talk?"
Aunt Sophia, her complexion as fair as Emma's, turned rose-pink. "It was the flitting around from man to man at every event, dear child, how you kept them at your beck and call. It's a bit ... unseemly. Uncaring, and some could even say it's self-centered."
She frowned. "How can that be? I'm the same I've always been. No such thing has happened before, certainly not in London."
"That," Aunt Sophie said, holding her cup of delicate jasmine tea a mere inch from her lips, "is likely because London is London and Denver is not."
"I ... see." But she didn't. Not really. While she'd lived in a number of different places during her life, none of them seemed too different, one from the other. Atlanta, where she was born, had faded a tad into memories of a busy whirl of Mama's friends and evening soirées at their home that she watched from the balcony over the foyer. Then, on those occasions when their small family had spent time in New York, she'd scarcely seen her parents, what with them busy at various events every day and almost every night. She herself had had a good number of playmates from among her parents' friends.
After Mama's death, she and Papa moved to London. Grief-stricken, he had seemed inclined toward comforting, familiar things. Since his side of the family still lived in England, he'd wanted to be close to them. The years in London had been nothing if not exciting, most recently filled with a continual rush of parties and dress fittings, dances and teas, dinners and theater and ... well! It had been exhilarating.
Emma had visited Uncle Justus and Aunt Sophia twice in Denver during that time for extended periods, while Papa traveled the world for his business. And she'd been at the Portland house right after construction ended, right after they'd moved in. While in Denver this time, she'd enjoyed the diversions provided by their circle of acquaintances. This year, she'd had the opportunity to take advantage of the social season itself. She really hadn't noticed anything particularly different from her life in London—except that residents of Denver spoke with a charming accent, never mind that they all said it was she who spoke with a different lilt.
On her previous visits, once Papa returned, they went together to the house in Portland. Its social whirl wasn't quite as lively, but life there wasn't especially dull, either. The western town had a somewhat rough edge to it, but so much activity was always afoot that Emma had never had the opportunity to be bored. She supposed she and Mr. Hamilton would live in Denver, though. Which reminded her, if she was now about to become a betrothed woman, her life would be filled with preparations for her wedding. Those would, of necessity, involve all the things she fancied.
She might start by considering the gorgeous clothes she could choose for her honeymoon. She wondered where Mr. Hamilton would decide to take her. Would he prefer Paris, Vienna, Venice, or Rome? Or would he fancy something more exotic? Like the Greek islands, perhaps, or ... Morocco?
Excerpted from She Shall Be Praised by Ginny Aiken. Copyright © 2014 Ginny Aiken. Excerpted by permission of FaithWords.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you've read the other books of this series, then this is a must read. If you've not read this series, I suggest you do. If you like wholesome, good old fashioned love stories and some suspense, these books are for you. I like the fact that the main character never gave up but always adjusted to the circumstances set before her. You don't know how strong you are until you're faced with situations, trials or tribulations set before you.
Ginny Aiken in her new book, “She Shall Be Praised” Book Three in the A Women of Hope series published by FaithWords brings us into the life of Emma Crowell. From the back cover: She Shall Be Praised. When socialite Emma Crowell stops the carriage on the way to Portland to ‘exercise’ her new puppy, the last thing she expects is to be left behind in decidedly unsuitable attire, let alone kidnapped. Fortunately, she is soon found by local rancher Peter Lowery. Unfortunately, he has no intention of abandoning his livelihood to take her back to civilization until the fall. He will, however, provide food, shelter and safety, and in return he expects Emma to earn her keep. Emma is surprised to find she enjoys the challenges of life at the cabin and feels drawn to Peter and his young son Robby. But though willing to learn, no matter how she tries, she never seems to live up to expectations. As Emma seeks God’s guidance and aspires to the picture of womanhood shown in the 31st chapter of Proverbs, Peter comes to realize that he may be underestimating the strength and character behind this woman’s beauty. Emma is pampered, protected and very shallow. That does not make her a Proverbs 31 woman. However after being deserted in Oregon and then kidnapped she is rescued by Peter and taken back to his ranch. However before the outside world can learn that she is alright she will have to endure not only the Oregon winter but have to work every day. Emma never had anyone to need her or her help. Because the need is great she slowly abandons the person that she was and blossoms into a new maturity. She becomes reliable and dependable, aspects of the Proverbs 31 woman. I think Ginny Aiken did a wonderful job bringing a concept to real life. Ms. Aiken has also done a marvelous job of bringing the Biblical ideal to a Western setting and to the lives of her characters so that we see it played out in their lives. Then we can see how it can play out in our lives as well. Emma, Peter and the other characters play out so well on the pages you would think you had known them all your life. “She Shall Be Praised” is a great read that I was sorry to see come to an end. I am so looking forward to more in this series from Ms. Aiken. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from FaithWords. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
All Emma Cromwell hoped for when she set out on her journey to Portland, Oregon was to learn to rely on herself and not the men in her life. After spending time in the social circles in Denver and finding little in the way of friendships with women and nothing but the attention of suitable gentlemen, Emma wanted to see if she could handle life without someone making all the decisions for her. So when her father agreed to send her by coach along with the pastor and his wife, he felt he had done the right thing. After all he finally got Emma to agree to marry Joshua Hamilton, a suitable match in both business and for making sure he could provide for his daughter. Now she only has to get from Denver to Oregon in one piece. But like all great novels, there is a twist of fate when Emma has to stop the coach to allow the dog she was gifted from Mr. Hamilton as an engagement present to do her constitutionals. Little did she imagine that the coach would be held up and the driver leave her behind in an effort to avoid being robbed. Now she is left in the care of two bumbling thieves who know they can't abandon her in the middle of the forest. One of the men, Ned, wants to be the true gentleman while Sawyer sees her like an object of desire and one that she can't trust. When she is taken back to their camp, she learns that they are more than just thieves, they have also stolen sheep from the local rancher and they are hoping to stay long enough to make some money off them. Peter Lowery knows that the size of his sheep herd is dwindling and believes that someone is stealing from him. Instead of getting the sheriff involved since he lives so far from town, he opts to do the investigation on his own. He soon stumbles upon Ned and Sawyer in a hidden canyon, and with his ranch foreman, Colley, they are able to capture them. What he didn't expect was to find a beautiful woman being held hostage along with a dog. Knowing he can't leave her behind, he takes Emma back to the ranch with the thieves. Unfortunately for all of them, he can't risk taking Emma back to town until the fall. Being short-handed on the ranch at a critical time for his sheep herd, he can't spare anyone to take Emma to town even though he knows her father must be concerned to know if she is OK. Will a socialite be able to earn her keep living on a sheep ranch even though none of the skills she possesses will help out? Will Emma find a way to return home to her father on her own? I received She Shall Be Praised by Ginny Aiken compliments of Faith Words, a division of Hachette Book Group for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. This is the third book in the Women of Hope Series and I have LOVED this novel. Set in the late 1800's this is a story of how Emma learns to dig deep and find the knowledge and determination to fit in despite what Peter thinks of her. She also learns that Peter has lost his wife has also left behind a young son who finds much more in Emma than a friend. This one is worth every single one of the 5 out of 5 stars and I can't wait for more from Ginny Aiken in the future.