Connected to nature and carefree of heart seven historical women would prefer to travel through life without shoes, especially if giving away their only pair would comfort someone else in need. Will these women of faith change their ways under society’s pressures and the lure of romance?
Barefoot Hearts by Lori Copeland
Edgar’s Cove, Arkansas, 1876
Annie Lawson was perfectly content with her life on the banks of the muddy Mississippi—or so she thought until the man of her dreams, Doctor Gabe Jones, agreed to temporarily fill a void in Edgar’s Cove—but it turned out the void was in Annie’s heart. Could a simple baseball score decide the answer to a lifetime dream?
Castles in the Sand by CJ Dunham
Victoria, Vancouver Island, 1899
Carefree Jennie Farrow befriends an orphaned baby seal and a crusty old fisherman. When the seal brings gifts from the sea, they recognize something from a missing boat and set out to find the wreck. A man found on a beach has no memory, and Jennie helps to nurse him back to health. But what will become of a budding love when his wealthy family come and whisk him away?
A Teacher’s Heart by Cynthia Hickey
Ozark Mountains, 1932
Small Town teacher Mary Jo Stevens yearns to make a difference in her community. As a Demonstration Agent for the Arkansas Welfare Department, Bill Wright travels to every hill and hollow in the Ozarks to teach men and women how to make the best of their situations. But he needs the assistance of someone like Mary Jo. Can she trust an outsider who thinks he knows best?
Between the Moments by Maureen Lang
Everyone in town knows Eddie Tucker who lived with the Apache for seven years as a child and now keeps to himself—until Mary Elliot arrives in town. As the daughter of missionaries, Mary rejects her grandfather’s wealth, preferring to spend time with the poor. The two outsiders have much in common, but will Mary’s family and Eddie’s deep wounds keep them apart?
Promise Me Sunday by Cathy Liggett
Adeline McClain’s mother always preached “to thine own self be true.” But when Adeline is orphaned and brought East to live with well-to-do relatives, being herself—caring, down-to-earth, and often barefoot—is getting her into trouble. When it comes to love, could Adeline’s eccentricities cause Everett Brighton to have to choose between Adeline or his inheritance?
Lady Slipper by Kelly Long
Pennsylvanian Appalachia, 1922
Local resident Fern Summerson agrees to help a young missionary distribute shoes to her people, but the journey becomes fraught with tension as Jacob Reynold falls in love with his guide and discovers that her connection with nature is more beautiful than any well shod foot.
Hope’s Horizon by Carolyn Zane
Oregon Trail, 1843
Hope Dawson agrees to become engaged to an older man in order to relieve her family of one more mouth to feed. But on the Trail, she is forced to walk while Julius and his mother ride in the wagon. Fellow traveler, William Bradshaw sees her plight, but can he help without losing his heart?
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About the Author
CJ Dunham is an author, presenter, and storyteller. She has performed across the country, given creative writing presentations, has published a fully-illustrated children’s book and her work has appeared in national magazines. A mother of five and grandmother of thirteen, Dunham enjoys cycling and pretending she can paint. Learn more: authorcjdunham.com and @CJDunham1
Cynthia Hickey grew up in a family of storytellers and moved around the country a lot as an army brat. Her desire is to write about real, but flawed characters in a wholesome way that her seven children and five grandchildren can all be proud of. She and her husband live in Arizona where Cynthia is a full-time writer.
Maureen Lang writes stories inspired by a love of history and romance. An avid reader herself, she’s figured out a way to write the stories she feels like reading. Maureen’s inspirationals have earned various writing distinctions including the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Contest, a HOLT Medallion, and the Selah Award, as well as being a finalist for the Rita, Christy, and Carol Awards. In addition to investigating various eras in history (such as Victorian England, First World War, and America’s Gilded Age), Maureen loves taking research trips to get a feel for the settings of her novels. She lives in the Chicago area with her family and has been blessed to be the primary caregiver to her adult disabled son.
Cathy Liggett lives in southwest Ohio with her husband of over thirty years and two grown children. Her passion for all things involved in writing started at a very young age and still inspires her today. She is the author of both fiction and non-fiction.
Read an Excerpt
On the banks of the White River Edgar's Cove, Arkansas, 1876
Annie Lawson adored three things: the St. Louis Browns, sourdough toast smeared with blueberry jam, and baseball.
The latter was harder to come by here in sleepy Edgar's Cove, a tiny Arkansas community that sat along the banks of the White River. Between Frank Otter, who owned the cove's small press that produced the monthly Town Crier, and Ben Grison, the town barber, she was able to keep up with latest news from the major professional teams. But baseball and jam were the last thing on Annie's mind this morning. This morning, her weekly elderly charges' outing was her only concern.
She stepped into Main Street and thrust her right arm straight out, erecting a physical barricade for passing vehicles. The barefoot girl, dressed in worn overalls and with her loose, waist-length auburn hair whipping in the breeze, lifted a whistle to her lips and blew hard.
The wheels of buckboards, two carriages, and a hay wagon ground to a shuddering halt.
Two more shrill blasts filled the air before Annie, through narrowed eyes, was convinced the path was safely cleared. She waved the group forward, and one by one, a half-dozen men and women shuffled, rolled in chairs, and reeled across Main Street.
The sight of Annie herding her familiar entourage was as common as mosquito bites on a hot summer night. The tiny community sat tucked in a cove on the lower branch of White River. Summers promised hot, humid days, and winters could be as fickle when daytime temperatures dropped as much as thirty degrees in a matter of hours. While only a few chose to live in Edgar's Cove, those that did were loyal to the core to neighbors.
Giving Mrs. Helprin's cat, Big'un, a gentle foot nudge, Annie urged the large American Bobtail to fall into step. The cat eyed her as though he'd like to protest but didn't. A second nudge. "C'mon. You can do it."
The cat blinked as if to say, "I am thirty pounds overweight. I hate walks."
Annie recognized the cat's combative eye language. Yes, Big'un was most likely the hugest cat on earth, but a walk was beneficial for anybody. Annie paused and focused sharply on the animal.
Impatient buggy drivers and riders sat and watched the impasse.
"Stand up," Annie ordered.
"Now. I am not carrying you across the street this morning. You are going to walk on your four paws. You might as well get it over with."
The cat's mouth puckered with defiance.
Annie's tone turned to one of finality. "Pouting won't change a thing. Get on your feet — are you rolling your eyes? Stop it."
A buckboard eased forward a bit. "Do something with Big'un, Annie! I'm getting older by the minute!" a man's voice called.
Annie acknowledged the detainees growing impatience. She turned back to Big'un. "See what you're doing? You're upsetting folks. Fine. Sit here in the blistering sun." Annie wiggled her bare toes. The hard-packed ground was starting to scorch her toes. "Very well, have your way. I'm crossing with the others." Annie turned and fell into line with those who were gradually reaching the other side. "If you're hit and flattened it's your own fault." Of course, she knew she would never let anything happen to Mrs. Helprin's cat, and Big'un did too, but the threat sometimes worked.
The cat's amber-colored eyes focused on the line. When Annie was nearly to the opposite side of the street, Big'un slowly got to his feet and started moving.
Groans erupted from the waiting traffic. A lone rider approached in the distance, the sound of hoofbeats prominent in the muggy air. Annie turned when she noticed the approaching rider had not appeared to slow. Turning marginally, her eyes located Big'un, who was sluggishly crossing the street.
She raised her hands to cup her mouth, "Walk faster!" Ask anyone in town, and they would assure you that Big'un wasn't known for speed. The cat's sheer size made a faster gait impossible. It wasn't that Mrs. Helprin, who Annie worked for at the mercantile, overfed the animal. On the contrary, Annie had to coax food down both Mrs. Helprin and her cat. Ada's fading appetite was due to advancing age; Big'un's trouble was due to a glandular disorder, or so old Doc Blue said about a month before the jolly white-haired physician retired to go live with his son in Arizona.
Annie shouted louder. "Now! Pick up the pace, Big'un!"
Flying hoofbeats drew closer. Whoever was riding that horse was in one big hurry. Annie glanced at the cat and then back to the looming rider. Probably one of those wranglers fresh in from a round-up in an all-fired hurry to get to town to waste his month's pay at the Tired Monkey, the cove's one and only local watering hole.
With a last desperate glance, Annie turned and lunged for the pet. In her haste to save the cat, she lost her grip on the furry feline and shoved the pet farther into the line of danger. The rider swept by in a boil of dust, obviously unaware of the cat or of the onlookers staring in horror at the tragedy playing out.
Annie felt the hot air off the lathered horse as the big gelding swept past, nearly trampling her in the process. Horse and rider hurtled toward the edge of town where the bar sat, ignoring the cat's frantic howls.
Annie caught her breath and rolled to her side, terrified to look. Poor Big'un. He never knew what hit him. Tears sprang to her eyes. Mrs. Helprin! How would she tell her employer, friend, and landlady that the thing she lived for most in life, Annie had recklessly destroyed?
She felt hands lifting her, anxious voices surrounding her. "Are you all right, honey?"
"My, that was a close one. You could have been killed!"
"Why, that man ought to be horsewhipped coming through town like a freight train!"
"I tried ..." Annie whispered. Her head spun like a top. "I dove to save Big'un but —"
Mrs. Holly's voice reached her. "Big'un's fine, hon — or I think he is." Annie battled to focus on Verdeen, who crouched to her left, cradling the cat. "Poor baby. You might have had eight of your nine lives scared right out of you." She paused. "There's a drop or two of blood here behind your tail on the left leg. Wouldn't hurt none to let the doc check you out." Her voice lifted.
"Same for you, Annie Girl. You took a hard spill."
Shepard, the ferry operator, stepped up to help Annie to her feet. She leaned on his strength while the small entourage crossed the street.
In the cove, having a doctor was short of a miracle. Ray Burrows, town blacksmith, usually did the patching up around here on animals and humans, but last week the stage broke an axle in Flippin, the nearest town to Edgar's Cove, and was stranded for a full day. One of the riders was a doctor, fresh out of school and on his way to St. Louis to start a new practice. The doctor had wandered to the cove to kill time.
By the time the stage pulled out of Flippin the following day, the self-appointed mayor of the cove, Maynard Pulse, had offered twenty-five dollars a month, all the eggs and chicken the young doctor could eat in the winter, his laundry washed and ironed, and all the summer produce he could eat if he'd stick around until the cove could find a new doc. He only needed to stay a few weeks, just until the town could hire medical help. The young man, for some reason, agreed to the terms.
Annie limped toward the doctor's office, clinging tight to Shepard's arm. Her muddy dress clung to her body and her shins were skinned raw. She turned to Shepard. "Did everyone make it safely across the street?" Her charges were elderly but apparently made of better stock than she. She and Big'un were the only casualties.
* * *
Dr. Gabe Jones stepped to the office window as the party approached and lifted the freshly laundered curtain. The racket of the last ten minutes finally caught his interest. Something had the community in an uproar. His gaze focused on half-a-dozen men and women heading his way. An elderly black man supported a young, barefoot woman. Instinct told him she was the cause of the ruckus. He reached for his suit coat and slipped it on, a garment he hated. Would he ever forget the natural feel of a cotton shirt and denims? Once he set up his St. Louis practice, the coat would go. Father might have felt a need to look the profession, but Gabe didn't. The pain in his left hand momentarily distracted him. He reached for a bottle and popped a couple of pills under his tongue.
The front door flew open, and a group of elderly residents rushed him, everyone talking at once.
"We need your help, Doc."
"Oh lordy, lordy. The cat's been hurt."
"Do you think it's anything serious with Annie?"
"There's nothing wrong with me," the young woman denied. "Have him check Big'un first."
Gabe's eyes switched from one outburst to the other, rattled by the sudden confusion. He swallowed the pills, nearly choking.
The loveliest eyes of robin's-egg blue he had ever witnessed lifted to meet his gaze. "Check Big'un first, please. I'm fine, really."
"Come in." Gabe opened the door wider to allow the group full access to the office. He focused on the young girl, trying to guess her age. He wasn't good at the game, but he'd say older than sixteen and younger than twenty-five. Maybe early twenties. His gaze shifted to her bare feet and scraped knees. Not the most ladylike woman he'd seen in a while. Tomboyish. Her overalls had seen better days, and her shirttail bunched at the waist. His eyes moved to her face. Cute. Winsome — a sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of her nose. Dark auburn hair with a fair amount of red sprinkled through it hung to her waist.
"Put the lady on the table." His gaze moved to the huge cat a woman was cradling in her arms. "Put —"
"Big'un," the woman supplied.
"Yes. Large animal." He had never seen a cat that size. Looked more like a giant crab with crocodile eyes.
Annie smiled. "We think we have a world's record, but of course, we don't know for certain."
He focused on the animal and the spot of blood on the cat's left leg. "What happened?"
He cleaned and dressed the cat's insignificant wounds as he talked. "Doesn't appear to be anything broken." His hand gently moved over the animal, exploring. The young woman frowned with anxiety. He turned to smile at her. "How are you doing?"
"Upset — but better now. I should have carried Big'un across the street."
"By the looks of his size, Big'un should have carried you across the street." The doctor grinned. "Unless there's something I'm not picking up, he doesn't appear to have any threatening injuries." He finished with the cat and turned to her. "Now let's see about you." Practiced hands gently explored, touched, felt. When he came to her knees he paused. "Can you lift your cuffs?"
She drew back, hesitant. She wasn't the kind who lifted her cuffs to just any man. His grin widened. "I need to get a better look at those cuts and bruises."
With a hesitant glance toward the men in the crowd, she slowly complied. Lifting the denim, she showed him the wounds. "This is a lot of fuss over some tiny scratches."
"How did you say this accident happened?"
She explained the incident, the insensitive rider, the scare that Big'un had been seriously hurt.
"Big'un is your cat?"
"No, he belongs to Mrs. Helprin, the lady I work for — she's my friend and landlady. I take a small group of seniors for a walk three times a week, and of course Big'un needs the exercise."
He glanced at the cat, who was sleeping now, purring.
Annie continued. "It's glandular — his size. Or so we've been told."
"Yes sir. Mighty big, and Mrs. Helprin would die if anything happened to him."
"Well then, we can't let anything happen to him." He glanced up and met her eyes. "Can we?"
"No sir, we can't."
"Gabe. Call me Doc Gabe." After a bit, he straightened. "All superficial wounds. Nothing to be concerned about." He set about cleaning and dressing the injuries. Her leg was petite and shapely. He hadn't been around a woman for so long, he'd forgotten the pleasure. School had filled his time the past few years, and frankly he hadn't missed the experience. For a long time, he hadn't enjoyed his own company. He saw no reason to bring a woman into his misery.
The young lady spoke. "Big'un is fine too?"
Something flipped in his stomach. Something he'd rarely felt. Something he didn't necessarily want to feel — not yet.
He firmly set the dainty foot back in place, but the instinct inside of him persisted. "Big'un is fine — for now."
She peered up at him. "For now?"
He nodded to the others crowding the office. "May I have a few words in private with the cat's guardian?"
Rounds of friendly agreement followed, and the group trailed out of the office, closing the door when they left.
"Big'un is really fine, isn't he?" Annie persisted.
"Do you live close, Miss ..."
"Call me Annie. Everybody does. I rent a room in Mrs. Helprin's upstairs. I'm a block away."
He paused, contemplating his next words. "It wouldn't be an imposition to bring the cat by the office in the morning? I'd like to check him again."
Her brows lifted. "Are you worried?"
"Not worried. Simple caution. Perhaps for the next few mornings you could bring the cat by the office, and we'll make sure nothing shows up that shouldn't."
"Something ... like what?"
"Like what?" He weighed the possibilities, fully aware that what he was about to say was sneaky. Not dishonest. Sneaky. The way a man would react to a pretty young woman because he wanted to see her again. "There's always Briny Fever and Gray-Tongue Madness to consider. Rumble Dementia — a strange, deep-throated purring that's often instantaneously lethal. Then I can't completely rule out the Whiskered Chill, an even more worrisome prospect —"
She interrupted. "Oh my — then rest assured. I will bring the cat over first thing every morning."
Guilt engulfed him. Misleading someone was not like him. Maybe the cove's isolation had gotten to him. "Miss — Annie. Will this be putting you out — is there any reason you can't bring Big'un by? Because if there is, we can make other arrangements."
"None." She slid off the examining table and bent to roll her cuffs. This site presented an enticing and exquisite view. Gabe quickly focused on a chart hanging on the wall. "You aren't employed?"
"Only to Mrs. Helprin. She visits her son in Phoenix during the winter. Of course I take my friends for a walk three mornings a week, take Mr. Pierson his evening meal from the restaurant, dust the church pews on Wednesdays and Saturdays, do Mrs. Owens' laundry when her lumbago is acting up, and tidy up where I'm needed. Other than that, I don't have a thing." She flashed a winsome smile that reminded him of an innocent child but also took his breath. "How much do I owe?"
"Owe? I hesitate to charge you anything. Everything was minor."
Her jaw firmed. "I wouldn't dream of permitting you to treat me without compensation. Do you like rhubarb pie?"
"Sorry, I hate the slimy stuff." He thought for a moment. "Do you make preserves?"
"What kind? Cherry — I make delicious cherry preserves, and the crop was very good this year. I have several jars in the cupboard right now."
"Fair enough. One jar of cherry preserves." They shook hands on the agreement. When she left, he stepped to the sill, watching her cross the street. Other than a slight limp, she seemed unfazed by the accident. His mind returned to their earlier conversation.
Briny Fever. Rumble Dementia.
Where were his ethics? He wasn't prone to extending visits with female patients. He'd made up every one of those "supposed" dangers on the spot. There wasn't a thing wrong with the cat. By tonight Big'un would be eating like a lumberjack.CHAPTER 2
Actually," Annie said as she bent to take a bubbling rhubarb pie out of the oven and set the dish on the kitchen counter, "I've been taking you to see the doctor for three days now and you are doing fine. There hasn't been a sign of the Whiskered Chill, whatever that is, and you're eating well. Yet the doctor insists that he still needs to see you every morning."
As far as she could tell, the cat had shown nary a sign of anything worrisome relating to the accident, but if she allowed anything to happen to the animal, Mrs. Helprin would never forgive her. She set the pie, that she intended to take to Pastor Sterling on her way to clean the church this morning, in the warming oven. Henry enjoyed warm pie, and if she ever took him one even slightly cool, though polite, she would see his nose curl with disappointment.
Big'un lay at her feet, purring softly. "Remind me to stop by to see Mrs. Owens on the way back and get her laundry." The Widow Owens had such a small dab of soiled clothing that Annie could allot almost a full week without stopping by for a visit. She had to admit that the visits with the new doctor weren't entirely an imposition. They were an exciting journey, and she'd begun to look forward to the fleeting encounters. Yesterday, when she'd handed him the jar of cherry preserves, something changed in their relationship, and the doctor insisted that she join him for a cup of coffee. They'd sat on the office front porch and drunk the bitter brew he'd poured from the speckled pot that sat on the woodstove in the office corner. The room was sparsely furnished. Three hardback chairs, a coat rack, and a spittoon. Gabe apologized for the heat radiating from the woodstove, but they'd have no coffee otherwise. The sacrifice made the room stifling, so they sat outside and visited.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Barefoot Brides Collection"
Copyright © 2018 Lori Copeland.
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
The Castle Made of Sand,
A Teacher's Heart,
Between the Moments,
Promise Me Sunday,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A fun collection of historical romances full of great characters! The barefoot gals in these tales were all from different times and places, but shared a stalwart character, and a free spirit, putting others needs first. Moments of humor and colorful side characters in some of the stories made this a delightful read. Many spiritual insights came naturally through the stories and settings. Loved the humble missionary Jacob who had a tough job of passing out shoes along with the gospel in a poor area in 1920's Appalachia, and his willingness to meet people on their terms. "The Lord taught with grace. And people need grace the most when they deserve it the least." It reminded me a little of Christy. My other favorite was the Oregon trail story by Carolyn Zane. William was a stellar hero. I enjoyed them all! Recommend! 4.5 stars (An e-book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.)