Meet nine women from history spanning from 1776 to 1944 feel the sting of having lost out on love. Can their hope for experiencing romance again be renewed?
Love in the Crossfire by Lauralee Bliss - Trenton, New Jersey, 1776
Gretchen Hanson watched her beau go off to war and never return. She soon falls for an enemy scout who stumbles upon her farm. If Jake is discovered, it could mean death for them all. Will Gretchen let go of love or stand strong?
Daughter of Orion by Ramona K. Cecil - New Bedford, Massachusetts, 1859
Whaling widow, Matilda Daggett, vows to never again give her heart to a seaman. But when debt drives her to masquerade as a cabin boy on a whaling ship, a young harpooner threatens both her vow and her heart.
The Substitute Husband and the Unexpected Bride by Pamela Griffin - Washington Territory, 1864
Cecily McGiver, a mail-order bride, arrives in the rugged Washington Territory shocked to find herself without a husband—that is until Garrett, a widower, offers to take the position. Can the challenges that face them lead to love?
The Prickly Pear Bride by Pam Hillman - Little Prickly Pear Creek, Montana Territory, 1884
Shepherdess Evelyn Arnold left her intended at the altar so he could marry the woman he really loved. Dubbed Miss Prickly Pear, Evelyn is resigned to a loveless life and the ridicule of her neighbors. When Cole Rawlins sweeps her out of a raging river, she realizes even a prickly pear can find love.
The Widow of St. Charles Avenue by Grace Hitchcock - New Orleans, 1895
Colette Olivier, a young widow who married out of obligation, finds herself at the end of her mourning period and besieged with suitors out for her inheritance. With her pick of any man, she is drawn to an unlikely choice.
Married by Mistake by Laura V. Hilton - Mackinac Island, 1902
When a plan to pose for advertising goes awry, Thomas Hale and Bessie O’Hara find themselves legally married. Now Bessie and Thomas must decide whether to continue the charade or walk away. Either choice could ruin them if the truth gets out.
Fanned Embers by Angela Breidenbach - Bitterroot Mountains, Montana/Idaho border, 1910
Stranded in the treacherous railroad camp after her husband’s murder, Juliana Hayes has no desire to marry a ruffian like Lukas Filips. Can she release prejudice to love again? Or will they even survive the fiery Pacific Northwest disaster to find out?
From a Distance by Amber Stockton - Breckenridge, Colorado, 1925
Financial Manager Trevor Fox sets out to find a lady to love him and not his money, then meets and falls for an average girl only to discover she’d deceived him to protect her heart after he unknowingly rejects her.
What the Heart Sees by Liz Tolsma - Hartford, Wisconsin, 1944
American Miriam Bradford is shocked to see Paul Albrecht, her summer fling from Germany in 1939, escorted into church as a POW. Can they rekindle their romance amid the overwhelming objections of almost everyone in town–including her father?
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About the Author
LAURALEE BLISS has always liked to dream big dreams. Part of that dream was writing, and after several years of hard work, her dream of publishing was realized in 1997 with the publication of her first romance novel, Mountaintop, through Barbour Publishing. Since then she’s had twenty books published, both historical and contemporary. Lauralee is also an avid hiker, completing the entire length of the Appalachian Trail both north and south. Lauralee makes her home in Virginia in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her family. Visit her website at www.lauraleebliss.com and find her on Twitter and Facebook Readers of Author Lauralee Bliss.
Angela Breidenbach is a bestselling author, host of Grace Under Pressure Radio, and the Christian Author Network's president. And yes, she's half of the fun fe-lion comedy duo, Muse and Writer, on social media.
Note from Angela: "I love hearing from readers and enjoy book club chats. To drop me a note or set up a book club chat, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know if you'd like me to post a quote from your review of this story. If you send me the link and your social media handle, I'll post it to my social media with a word of gratitude including your name and/or social media handle, too!"
For more about Angela's books (especially more Montana-inspired romances) and podcast, or to set up a book club chat, please visit her website: http://www.AngelaBreidenbach.com
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/AngelaBreidenbachInspirationalSpeakerAuthor
RAMONA K. CECIL is a wife, mother, grandmother, freelance poet, and award-winning inspirational romance writer. Now empty nesters, she and her husband make their home in Indiana. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers and American Christian Fiction Writers Indiana Chapter, her work has won awards in a number of inspirational writing contests. Over eighty of her inspirational verses have been published on a wide array of items for the Christian gift market. She enjoys a speaking ministry, sharing her journey to publication while encouraging aspiring writers. When not writing, her hobbies include reading, gardening, and visiting places of historical interest.
PAMELA GRIFFIN is a multi-award-winning author who fully gave her life to Christ after a rebellious young adulthood. She owes that she’s still alive today to an all-loving and forgiving God and a mother who steadfastly prayed that He would bring her wayward daughter “home.” Pamela’s main goal in writing Christian romance is to help and encourage those who do know the Lord and to plant a seed of hope in them who don’t. She loves to hear from her readers and can be reached at email@example.com.
Grace Hitchcock is the author of three novellas in The Second Chance Brides, The Southern Belle Brides, and the Thimbles and Threads collections with Barbour Publishing. The White City is her debut novel and releases March 2019 with Barbour Publishing. She holds a Masters in Creative Writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in History. Grace lives in southern Louisiana with her husband, Dakota, and son. Visit Grace online at GraceHitchcock.com.
CBA Bestselling author Pam Hillman was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of. www.pamhillman.com
TIFFANY AMBER STOCKTON has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood. Today she is an award-winning author, speaker, social media consultant, and a freelance website designer who lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have a daughter and a son and a vivacious Flat-coated retriever named Roxie. Her writing career began as a columnist for her high school and college newspapers. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Historical Romance Writers. Three of her novels have won annual reader's choice awards, and in 2009, she was voted #1 favorite new author for the Heartsong Presents book club. You can read more about her at her website.
Liz Tolsma is a popular speaker and an editor and the owner of the Write Direction Editing. An almost-native Wisconsinite, she resides in a quiet corner of the state with her husband and is the mother of three. Her son proudly serves as a U.S. Marine. They adopted all of their children internationally, and one has special needs. When she gets a few spare minutes, she enjoys reading, relaxing on the front porch, walking, working in her large perennial garden, and camping with her family.
Read an Excerpt
1776 Near Trenton, New Jersey
Why must you leave?"
She waited what seemed like a lifetime for the answer, even as she watched him clean his musket, check his cartridge box, and fill a haversack with biscuits, still warm from the morning's baking. Finally he turned, his stark blue eyes she once found so engaging narrowed by fierce determination, reflecting the orange flame of the candle resting on the table. His lips she once felt on her own let out a sigh of resignation. His crop of blond hair stood on end. His hand reached out to caress her cheek as he murmured, "You know why, Gretchen. It is my duty."
Gretchen shook her head at the words uttered from the lips of her fiancé, Rolf Braun, before he left to join up with the Hessian troops in pursuit of the colonists near Brooklyn. Now she gazed at the parchment reporting his death in battle some weeks ago. Instead of grief, anger burst forth from her soul. All his words of duty, of bravery, of fighting for a cause she now questioned. What had it brought but his death at the hand of those whose cause she now contemplated?
"Ach, very sad," her papa murmured, pointing to the parchment on the table. "You must be so grieved, liebste Tochter."
Gretchen liked hearing his endearment of her. "Thank you, Papa. I will leave my sadness in Gott's hands." She would do as she did every day — immerse herself in the daily chores and try not think of Rolf or the war ravaging the countryside. Yet the scars of war were everywhere. It was seen in the faces of people, in the news whispered about, in the weary men marching off to battle, many of whom never returned. Fear lay thick in the air, as did the uncertainty. Before Rolf left, Gretchen hid from her fiancé the parchment she owned: a formal Declaration against the mother country, signed this past summer, and forwarded to the king of England. She was able to obtain a copy from a printer in Trenton and couldn't help but feel pride at the words. She thought Rolf believed in the cause of Independence, until one day when she broached the subject.
"What they have done by this Declaration amounts to treason!" he scolded. "We have signed our death warrants to pompous frivolers of Philadelphia who know nothing of the cost of war. England is the most powerful nation on earth. We can never be independent of the mother country that gave us life and love, no more than one can separate from their own mutter."
Gretchen wanted to discuss it more but found Rolf's staunch opposition in word and deed overpowering. Instead she silenced her tongue and bowed her head. Inwardly she gave a private voice to the words that spoke about the injustice suffered as subjects of England, the promise of a new way of life apart from tyranny, the hope of freedom. But a soon-to-be bride dared not contradict her fiancé, even if her heart felt differently. Instead it fueled her doubt over marrying the headstrong Loyalist sympathizer.
She gazed once more at the news of Rolf's death. Now there was no need for any doubt but only wonder for the future. How she wished life could be as easy to follow as the writings in a book. Even now she gazed at her mother's Bible sitting on the table beside the parchment. There were always the sacred words, giving her the answers to her questions, a peace in her heart, the joy of gladness for sorrow, and hope for a new future even if everything looked bleak. It was those words she must cling to, even if all else failed.
Gretchen sighed and moved to the table to finish rolling out the day's biscuits and then make the dough for a delicious kuchen dessert that Papa liked so well. Cutting out the biscuits, one by one, brought back the memory of Rolf filling his haversack with a dozen before he left to join the troops. "These will keep me and more. There is nothing like your biscuits, Gretchen." A smile lit his face. He turned to head out the door.
"Gott sei mit derr," she had murmured, whispering a prayer for him before the heavy wooden door closed.
Now he was gone forever. A page in her life's book had turned.
Gretchen began gathering the ingredients for the cake. Flour, brown sugar, leavening, spices, and then she noticed the empty egg basket. I forgot to gather the eggs today! She would need several for the kuchen, and for Papa's midday meal.
Wiping her hands on a towel, Gretchen took her heavy cloak from a hook on the wall. Hopefully the hens were still laying. It amazed her they still had chickens, what with the ongoing conflict. She had heard of people who surrendered their farms and their livelihood to soldiers from both sides. Some had their homes confiscated for use as hospitals or officers' quarters. Others had livestock taken to feed the hungry soldiers. But the battlefield was far from them, except for a small garrison of Hessian soldiers in the nearby town of Trenton. They were there to keep the peace and not cause problems, Papa had explained.
A cold wind whistled as she gingerly stepped outside, cutting through the cloak she clutched around her. A few silvery snowflakes spiraled down from the graying skies. She hurried over to the henhouse, praying there were some eggs. The henhouse was a finely crafted little building Papa had fashioned out of short plank boards. She heard the faint clucking and scratching of the hens inside. Nearby stood the barn and the horses safely sheltered within.
Out of the corner of her eye she thought she saw a dark shadow pass before the open doorway of the barn. Raw cold swept over her, and not from the December chill. She glanced again at the door but saw nothing. It must be my mind playing games, she reasoned, forcing herself to concentrate on her duties.
"Chick, chick, chick!" she softly called, throwing dried corn. The chickens swarmed at the seed, allowing her time to stir through the nests of straw in search of eggs. When she finished her duty, she turned and again saw a dark shadow before the barn entrance. This time the shadow did not disappear but instead came into the light of day. A man stood there, wearing a wool coat with large buttons and a tricorn hat. In one hand he held a musket.
Her knees weakened. She grabbed the doorway of the henhouse. "Oh dearest Gott, help me."
"Please! I won't hurt you."
She retreated into the henhouse, not caring that one of the hens now began pecking at her leg, tearing a hole in her woolen stocking. Please, dear Gott, save me!
The man now came before the entrance to the henhouse. "P–please, I only need s–some food." He was shivering so badly, the words became muddled.
Gretchen forced herself to relax, especially when she saw he had left his musket behind. Slowly she exited the henhouse yet remained a good distance from him. "I–I'm making biscuits. They will be ready soon."
"Thank you. Do you have a blanket to spare as well?"
Gretchen hesitated. She knew from his manner of speech he was not of the garrison of Hessians guarding Trenton. He had no German accent. His tricorn hat and simple coat showed him a part of this land, maybe even of the Continentals themselves. How could that be? she wondered. The last she'd heard, the Continental Army was somewhere in New York. She shook her head, trying again to silence the fear clawing at her. She glanced around, wondering if there were more men lurking about, men who would force themselves into their home, steal their food and the horses, and leave them destitute.
"I'm alone, I assure you," came his answer to her unspoken question. His voice trembled. "I'm so cold. P–p–please, can you help?"
"I — I will fetch some food and blankets Stay inside the barn for shelter." She hastened for the house, stopping short to look back at the barn. How could she ask him to find shelter among their prized horses? What if the man was here to steal from them? Or perhaps another of his friends lurked in the shadows, even if he said he was alone? She should alert Papa, and together they could fend off the enemy with the long rifle they had in their possession. But something in the man's trembling voice and pleading gaze told her he was only here because he could go no farther. The bitter cold had sapped his strength. He only needed warm tea, biscuits, and maybe a night's rest before he felt strong enough to travel. It will be all right, she reasoned, as long as she could keep the knowledge of the stranger's existence from Papa.
When she returned to the house, Papa gazed at her above his wire-rimmed spectacles and the book he had been reading. "The chores are taking you much longer to do these days."
"I ... uh ..." She hesitated. "Ya, gathering the eggs does take time."
He gestured to her empty hands. "And where's the basket of eggs?"
"Oh, how foolish of me. I left it inside the henhouse. I'll go back in a minute." She stole a glance out the frosted window toward the barn, thinking of the man hidden inside, shivering as he tried to stay warm. She inhaled a deep breath before casting a glance at Papa, immersed in his reading. Anxiety began to gnaw at her. She hummed a hymn from the recent church meeting, hoping to draw peace and wisdom. While the man might need bread for nourishment, she needed the one true Bread, the scripture, to calm her fear when a bedraggled soul came seeking assistance. In the least it was good Christian charity to provide for one in need. She warmed the kettle to brew tea, glancing once more at Papa to find him drifting off to sleep.
Praise be, Gretchen thought. After a few more minutes, she placed hot biscuits, ham, and a small pot of tea in a basket and then grabbed some blankets. Balancing it all, she crept toward the door and quietly opened it, praying Papa would not awaken. Carrying the items and the contents of the basket with steam swirling in her face, she wondered what she would say to the stranger. Reaching the barn door, she tried balancing the items for a free hand to open the latch, when the door creaked open to reveal the stranger brandishing his musket. She inhaled a sharp breath and nearly fled, but she followed the motion of his hand to come inside. He quickly shut the door and put the musket away. He had lit a lantern, sending a golden glow across the stalls. The four horses inside calmly gnawed at the bale of hay Papa had put out earlier in the morning.
"Thank you," he said as she served him the tea and biscuits with ham.
"I — I hope you will be strengthened soon. Papa doesn't know you are here. The sooner you leave, the better."
"Does he fear I will commit some terrible deed?" he inquired, chuckling.
"Should he have anything to fear?"
He set down his ham biscuit. She felt a chill then and began sidestepping toward the door.
He held out his hand. "Of course not," he said gently. "Please forgive my foolish words. I owe you so much for giving me food and a place to stay."
"You — you can only stay the night. With the winter weather, we rarely have need for a ride, except to town for supplies, so Papa should not enter the barn now. But he still must care for our horses in the morning."
"I can help with the horses," he offered. "I will gladly tend them tonight and in the morning."
Gretchen wondered how she would tell Papa a stranger, now occupying their barn, had offered to care for their prized herd. "How can you possibly ..."
"Just tell him you did the chores, if you wish. I come from a large farm in Virginia. We have many horses." He reached over and stroked the muzzle of the mare they called Goldie. "They're beautiful animals. I can see you care for them well. At times I was called on to tend the general's horse. He trusted me."
"General Washington. He doesn't allow just anyone to tend his horse, either. He is quite particular. He said, 'Yes indeed, Jacob, you have a way with them.' After this war is over he even invited me to come to Mount Vernon and assist with his horses."
Gretchen sucked in a breath. Was the man with the Continentals? "I thought the army was far away from here ..."
"Not that far. We escaped Long Island and ..." He paused. "I shouldn't say anything more."
"I'm not the enemy."
"No. Far from it. Might I ask your name?"
"I'm Jake Rawlings. A pleasure to meet you. Have you lived here all your life, Miss Hanson?"
She shook her head. "No. Like many, we came here seeking a new life. But we also still cling to the old ways and the old country."
Just then Gretchen heard footsteps. Jacob hurried to hide in the rear of the barn. Papa appeared, vivid lines crisscrossing his face, his eyes wide in alarm. "What on earth ails you, liebste Tochter? I was so worried something happened to you. You have been gone a long time."
"I'm sorry, Papa. I was checking on the horses. They–they're fine."
He looked over the herd and nodded. "I fear, though, we are going to get more snow. My bones are telling me so. Maybe I should add another bale of hay."
Gretchen thought of the man Jake, hidden somewhere within, and a bale of hay tossed on him. Or worse yet, he and Papa staring face-to-face in a look of astonishment, or even anger. "Oh, I can do it, Papa. You looked so tired. And I'm already dirty."
"Very well. But come in soon. The wind is picking up, and it is turning colder."
Gretchen nodded and closed the barn door after him. She then gazed into the dim surroundings. After a bit the straw stirred and Jake stood. "Is he gone?" came his hoarse whisper. He brushed away the bits of straw from his clothing and replaced the tricorn hat on his head.
"Yes, but now you can help me with the bale, as I promised Papa."
He wasted no time assisting her with carrying over a large bale and distributing it among the individual stalls. He conversed calmly with the animals, and several nuzzled his hand when he drew close.
"You do have a way with them." Gretchen observed. "They don't even shirk."
"They're godly creatures, helpful and wise in many ways. I had a good mount named Bailey. Raised him in Virginia. Sadly, Bailey was shot in battle by a Hessian. The enemy doesn't waste any time shooting either an American or his horse."
At these comments Gretchen drew back, her hand grabbing the side of the stall to steady herself.
"Is something wrong?"
"Oh, no," she lied. But everything. The portrait of battle. Helping an enemy soldier in her father's barn ... a soldier Rolf might have tangled with during the battle of Long Island. Maybe even the very one who had put the bullet in him, leaving him to die on the battlefield. Now she had given the enemy food and a place to stay and even allowed him to tend their horses. Who am I? What have I become?
An American — she knew. Like all of us. The sooner we realize this, no matter where we all come from or the things we have been through, the quicker we can live and breathe again.
Jake thanked the Lord for this place of refuge. His hand caressed the muzzle of a horse, and he was rewarded with a nicker of appreciation. How he missed caring for the brave animals, thinking of pleasant rides through the woods of Virginia. But home in Virginia was far from here as he glanced down at his haversack containing maps and other communications. At least he was safe at a colonist's farm rather than spending a frigid night in the snow and cold. He would leave in a day or two after the weather calmed and make haste to report all he had learned of this area called New Jersey. The general and his officers would be waiting anxiously for his report.
For now Jake settled in the straw, huddled beneath the wool blankets the young woman had provided. If only he could warm the chill in his bones. His face felt hot, his limbs shaky. As he drifted off to sleep, strange dreams assaulted him. He saw armies racing toward each another, the look of fury on the men's faces, the assault serenaded by the boom of cannon. He saw men ripped apart by shot and shell, their faces white, with eyes glazed over in a picture of death. He shook with fear and awoke in a start to the heat of his body and droplets of sweat beading up on his face. This was no ordinary dream but a nightmare fashioned from some sickness suddenly gripping him.
No, this can't be happening, he pleaded. God, help me. Slowly he clambered to his feet, keeping the blanket wrapped tightly around him, and peered through the crack between the barn doors. Horses whinnied from their stalls as he noticed a faint golden glow from the house, like a tiny beacon of hope through the swirl of falling snow. How he wished he had a bed to rest in and the warmth of a roaring fire to ease this unending cold. He sneezed and drew the blanket closer. His body wracked with chills. He dare not be ill. What would become of the army if he failed to deliver the information they needed?
Jake paced about the barn, even as the illness rapidly turned his arms and legs into a mass of useless flesh. Many in the army were overcome with the pox or camp fever. General Washington had seen to it that as many men as possible were inoculated to keep the pox from infecting the whole army. But other illnesses still plagued the soldiers and sent many home early to heaven. He prayed the latter would not be his lot.
Excerpted from "The Second Chance Brides Collection"
Copyright © 2017 Lauralee Bliss.
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
Love in the Crossfire,
Daughter of Orion,
The Substitute Husband and the Unexpected Bride,
The Prickly Pear Bride,
The Widow of St. Charles Avenue,
Married by Mistake,
From a Distance,
What the Heart Sees,