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About the Author
Wanda’s ancestors were part of the Anabaptist faith, and her novels are based on personal research intended to accurately portray the Amish way of life. Her books are well-read and trusted by many Amish, who credit her for giving readers a deeper understanding of the people and their customs.
When Wanda visits her Amish friends, she finds herself drawn to their peaceful lifestyle, sincerity, and close family ties. Wanda enjoys photography, ventriloquism, gardening, bird-watching, beachcombing, and spending time with her family. She and her husband, Richard, have been blessed with two grown children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
To learn more about Wanda, visit her website at www.wandabrunstetter.com.
Susan Page Davis is the author of more than eighty Christian novels and novellas. Her historical novels have won numerous awards, including the Carol Award, two Will Rogers Medallions for Western Fiction, and two FHL Chapter Reader’s Choice Awards. She lives in western Kentucky with her husband. They have six children and ten grandchildren. Visit her website at: https://susanpagedavis.com.
Three-time Carol Award winner and bestselling author of fifteen novels, Melanie Dobson is the former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family and owner of Dobson Media Group. Because of her husband’s work in the film industry, their family has lived in multiple states as well as Germany, but the Dobson family is settled for now in a small town near Portland, Oregon. Melanie loves connecting with readers via her website at www.melaniedobson.com.
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.
Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of nearly 50 published books and novellas, with over 1.5 million copies sold. A bestselling author, Vickie grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams penning romance stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West. Her novels include End of the Trail, winner of the OWFI 2013 Booksellers Best Fiction Novel Award. Whispers on the Prairie was a Romantic Times Recommended Inspirational Book for July 2013. Song of the Prairie won the 2015 Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award. Gabriel’s Atonement, book 1 in the Land Rush Dreams series, placed second in the 2016 Will Rogers Medallion Award. Vickie has recently stepped into independent publishing.
Vickie has been married over forty years to Robert. They have four grown sons, one daughter-in-law, and a precocious granddaughter. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, doing stained glass, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website at www.vickiemcdonough.com.
Olivia Newport’s novels twist through time to find where faith and passions meet. Her husband and twentysomething children provide welcome distraction from the people stomping through her head on their way into her books. She chases joy in stunning Colorado at the foot of Pikes Peak.
In first grade, Janet Spaeth was asked to write a summary of a story about a family making maple syrup. She wrote all during class, through morning recess, lunch, and afternoon recess, and asked to stay after school. When the teacher pointed out that a summary was supposed to be shorter than the original story, Janet explained that she didn’t feel the readers knew the characters well enough, so she was expanding on what was in the first-grade reader. Thus a writer was born. She lives in the Midwest and loves to travel, but to her, the happiest word in the English language is home.
Jennifer Rogers Spinola, a Virginia/South Carolina native and graduate of Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina, just moved to the States with her Brazilian husband, Athos, and two sons. Jennifer lived in Brazil for nearly eight years after meeting her husband in Sapporo, Japan, where she worked as a missionary. During college, she served as a National Park Service volunteer at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. In between homeschooling high-energy sons, Jennifer loves things like adoption, gardening, snow, hiking, and camping.
MaryLu Tyndall, a Christy Award finalist and bestselling author of the Legacy of the King’s Pirates series, is known for her adventurous historical romances filled with deep spiritual themes. She holds a degree in math and worked as a software engineer for fifteen years before testing the waters as a writer. MaryLu currently writes full time and makes her home on the California coast with her husband, six kids, and four cats. Her passion is to write page-turning, romantic adventures that not only entertain but open people’s eyes to their God-given potential. MaryLu is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.
Read an Excerpt
The Westward Christmas Brides Collection
9 Historical Romances Answer the Call of the American West
By Wanda E. Brunstetter
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Wanda E. Brunstetter
All rights reserved.
Three days out of Independence
Papa, I'm tired."
Jack Simpson glanced at his four-year-old son, Alan, slumped on the wagon seat beside his sister. Amelia, who was six, stared straight ahead, seemingly unmindful of her brother. Of course, Jack's daughter had been unresponsive to most things since she'd witnessed her mother's tragic death six months ago. Jack's precious wife, Mary, had been crossing the street in their hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and was struck down by a team of runaway horses pulling a supply wagon. Clem Jones, owner of the wagon, hadn't tied the horses securely enough. Poor little Amelia, waiting across the street with her grandma, had watched in horror as her mother was knocked to the ground and trampled to death. Since that time, the child had not uttered a word.
Jack, struggling with his own grief plus trying to keep some sense of normalcy in his children's life, could only hope this trip west might be the turning point for Amelia. There was no doubt that Alan was excited about the trip and a new place to live. The boy had been bursting at the seams waiting to head west ever since Jack first mentioned the trip to his children. Truth was, Jack needed the change, too, and looked forward to joining his brother, Dan, already in California, where he'd established a cattle ranch.
Being a hog farmer, Jack knew a thing or two about pigs, but not much concerning the business of raising cattle. He was eager to learn, though, and would do his best to help Dan make a go of things. Jack just needed to get his little family and all their belongings safely to their destination.
"Papa, I'm tired," Alan repeated, bumping Jack's arm as he guided their team of oxen down the trail. "Can't them ox move faster?"
"Why don't ya crawl in the back and lie down?" Jack suggested. "Amelia, you can go, too, if you're tired. It shouldn't be much longer before we stop to make camp."
Alan scrambled over the seat and into the back of their wagon, but Amelia, her long auburn locks moving slightly as she shook her head, remained seated.
Will my little girl ever speak to me again? Jack wondered as he held on to the reins, bringing up the rear of their three-wagon train. He drew in a deep breath, trying to focus on the wagon ahead, driven by a stuffy city slicker from New York who thought he knew a lot about everything but probably knew very little about roughing it. The man's name was Walter Prentice, and his traveling companions were a woman named Mable and her daughter, Cynthia, who was Walter's fiancée. Jack had only spoken to Cynthia briefly, but she seemed nice enough. She was pretty, too, and from the way she talked, Jack figured she didn't know much about roughing it either. It would be a miracle if this refined group ahead of him made it to California at all. Thank goodness, back in Independence when the men drew names to see who would lead out, the man in the first wagon got the luck of the draw. Jack was pretty sure Cole Edwards knew a lot more about driving a team of oxen than Walter Prentice did.
* * *
Cole had never been one to take the easy way out, and he knew heading to California in search of gold wasn't going to be easy. But he was tired of the long hours he put in at his blacksmith's shop in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, and the money he hoped to make in the gold mines near Sutter's Mill would make the trip worth every mile and inconvenience. If he didn't make his fortune in gold, he could always fall back on his blacksmith's trade. He just hoped his sister was up for this trip.
Sitting astride his sturdy quarter horse, Blaze, Cole glanced back at Virginia, whom he'd nicknamed Ginny when they were children. She sat on the seat of their covered wagon, looking this way and that, as though trying to take in everything on all sides of the trail. Skillfully, she guided their oxen as if she'd been doing it all her life. While Cole's twenty-six-year-old sister wasn't as adventuresome as him, she'd been willing to make this trip, despite negative protests from their parents. Virginia had been teaching school for the past six years and hoped to teach when they got to California. Having been jilted by Clay Summers, the man she'd planned to marry, Virginia told Cole she was ready for a change. In fact, she desperately needed it.
At the age of twenty-four, Cole had courted a few young women but none who'd held his interest or captured his heart. Most women he knew wanted to settle in to a nice little house with a white picket fence. They weren't seeking adventure the way Cole was, and he wasn't ready to settle in and accept the mediocre comforts in life. He wanted more and aimed to get it.
"You doin' okay, Ginny?" he called. "Do ya need me to take over awhile? I can tie my horse to the back of the wagon."
Smiling, she shook her head. "Thanks, Cole, but I'm fine."
Cole smiled in response. His sister had a determined spirit. She would do fine out West. He wasn't so sure about the two refined ladies in the wagon behind him though. Three days out and they looked exhausted. They obviously weren't used to sitting on a hard bench or walking long hours every day. The fancy fellow accompanying them didn't look much better, although he was trying to put on a brave front and acted like quite the know-it-all. Cole wondered if the high-and-mighty Mr. Prentice would be so confident after they had several weeks of traveling under their belts. It was a good thing Walter wasn't trying to lead the way. He'd probably have them lost already.
Glancing upward, Cole noticed dark clouds. No doubt a storm was coming, and he wanted to be sure they were safely camped before it hit. "Ginny, I'm goin' out ahead and find a good spot for the night," he called. Then Cole turned his horse around and went back to tell those in the other wagons.
* * *
"Are you okay, Mama?" Cynthia asked, concerned when she noticed lines of fatigue on her mother's face. "You look awfully tired."
"Mable is fine, and so am I." Walter spoke up before Cynthia's mother had a chance to respond. "We have a long journey ahead of us, and we need to toughen up. Otherwise, we won't make it to California. We haven't been on the trail a week yet and have hundreds of miles ahead of us."
"That may be true, but I believe my mother can speak for herself." Cynthia patted her mother's hand affectionately.
"I'm fine, dear," Mama replied, reaching up to touch the bun at the back of her head. "No need to worry about me. It takes some time getting used to sitting on this hard bench, and walking is just as uncomfortable. But I'll make it—we all will."
Cynthia smiled. Her mother might be slender and petite, but she had a determined spirit. Mama's brown hair and eyes were accentuated by her oval face, thick dark eyebrows, and thin lips. Except for their slender build, Cynthia and Mama looked nothing alike. Cynthia had inherited her father's curly auburn hair and green eyes. Even the two dimples in her right cheek came from Papa.
Looking back at Mama, Cynthia noted that even at the age of forty-five, her mother was still an attractive woman. It was unlikely she would ever marry again. Mama had been deeply in love with Papa and said that no one could take his place. That's what Cynthia had always wished for, too, but it seemed she'd never know the kind of love her mother and father had.
It doesn't matter whether Mama remarries or not, Cynthia thought. Once Walter and I are married, Mama won't have to worry about anything, for she'll be well taken care of.
Cynthia glanced at Walter wiping some dust from his eyes with his clean, crisp, monogrammed handkerchief. His expression was one of determination. She knew with a certainty that his desperation to get to California was about the money he planned to make. She guessed she couldn't blame him for that. After all, everyone needed money these days—some just wanted it more than others. Walter was one of those who measured people by their wealth and social standing.
Cole Edwards, the man who was leading their little group, was also after money; only his would be earned by the sweat of his brow as he searched for gold. That wasn't to say Walter was lazy; he just didn't work as hard physically as some men she knew. Walter had a good head for business though.
Just then, Cole pulled his horse alongside their flat-bedded wagon made of hardwood and covered with canvas like the others. "Just wanted to let you folks know that I'm ridin' up ahead to find a good place to take shelter for the night. It'll be dark soon, and there's a storm brewin'."
"It doesn't look as if a storm is coming," Walter said.
"Take a closer look. See those clouds?" Cole looked at Walter with piercing blue eyes, as if daring him to question his decision. "If we get caught out here in the pouring rain, the trail will be muddy, and it'll bog us down. It doesn't take much for these wagon wheels to get stuck in the mud. Best to stop for the night and hope the rain lets up."
"What are we supposed to do while you're looking for a good place to stop?" Walter questioned.
"Keep moving—following the ruts in the trail made by wagons that have gone before us." Cole glanced at Cynthia and gave a nod. "You and your mother doin' okay?"
"They're fine," Walter answered before Cynthia could open her mouth. "Even if they weren't, it's my business, not yours."
"Walter, I'm sure Mr. Edwards is concerned for the welfare of everyone," Mama intervened.
Cole gave a nod, reaching under his hat and pulling his fingers through the ends of his coal-black hair. He really was a good-looking young man. But then, so was Jack.
Walter said nothing, just gripped the reins a little tighter, making the veins on his hands stick out.
"I'll tell Jack Simpson where I'm goin', and then I'm off," Cole said. He tipped his hat and rode quickly away.
They rode in silence for a while, until raindrops began to fall. Mama looked over at Walter and said, "I guess Mr. Edwards was right."
Cynthia hid a smile behind her hand. For some reason, she was glad Cole had been right about the weather. No man should think he was always right. And Mama, she sure isn't afraid to stand up to Walter. Maybe I ought to take a lesson from her.CHAPTER 2
South fork of the Platte River
We've been on the trail a week already, but it feels more like a month to me. The rain we had awhile back caused our wagons to bog down in the mud. I feel like I'll never be clean again, not to mention my poor dresses with mud-stained hems. What I wouldn't give right now for a warm tub to soak in.
No sign of the bigger wagon train yet. I hope we're not going the wrong way and will miss them. But Cole insists we're on the right trail, so we have to trust him.
We take turns walking when we're tired of sitting, and riding in the bumpy wagon when we're tired of walking.
I feel sorry for Jack Simpson. His children are too young to drive the wagon and too little to walk very far without their legs giving out. Mama and I have begun taking turns riding in Jack's wagon with the children, driving his team of oxen so Jack can walk awhile each day and stretch his legs. Little brown-haired Alan looks a lot like his father, and he certainly is a chatterbox. But Amelia doesn't speak at all. Jack explained that she's been like that since she witnessed her mother's death. Poor little thing. I wonder if she'll ever get her voice back. I've begun praying for her.
Cynthia stopped writing and looked up as Cole hollered that it was time to go. With regret, she put her journal away and joined her mother on the seat of their wagon. Every day on the trail seemed like the one before. They got up before daybreak, and while the men rounded up the livestock, the women cooked breakfast over an open fire. After the meal, it was time to head down the trail.
Some days they stopped to rest for an hour or two; then they'd continue on their journey until early evening. At night they pulled the wagons close together for protection. The men took care of the livestock, while the women cooked the evening meal. After they ate, they'd often gather around the fire to sing songs and tell stories. This helped pass the time and gave them a chance to get better acquainted. The women and children slept inside the wagons, but Cole, Jack, and Walter slept under the wagon or in a makeshift tent, depending on the weather. It made Cynthia feel safer, knowing they were out there where they could be alerted to danger.
Cynthia shivered. At least they hadn't seen any Indians yet. If and when they did, she hoped they would be friendly natives and there'd be no trouble. From what Walter had been told, fewer people died from Indian attacks than from mishaps or illness along the way.
"What do you write in that book of yours?" Walter asked as he took up the reins.
"Oh, just the things we see and do on our daily journey," Cynthia replied. "I've been journaling since I was fifteen."
Walter shrugged. "If it makes you happy, it's a good thing. Maybe someday you can read me what you've written about our trip."
Cynthia cringed. Since she'd written about her lack of interest in Walter, she wasn't about to let him know what was in her diary.
He leaned closer to Cynthia—so close she could feel his warm breath blowing gently on her cheek. "You look lovely this morning, my dear," he whispered.
Her face heated. "I thank you for the compliment, but I certainly don't feel lovely," she said. "I feel dirty from all the trail dust, and even though I wash every evening and morning, I feel unkempt."
"You'll feel better once we get to California," he said, letting go of the reins with one hand and clasping her hand. "After I get my new businesses going, you'll be the finest dressed woman in all of California."
Cynthia forced a smile. She didn't care about being the finest-dressed woman. All she wanted was to be happily married and see that her mother's needs were met. Cynthia wasn't sure if she would be happy married to Walter, but at least Mama would be taken care of.
* * *
"Papa, I'm hungry," Alan complained, squirming on the wooden seat beside his father.
Jack relaxed his hold on the reins, reached into his shirt pocket, and pulled out a piece of peppermint candy. "We won't be stoppin' to eat for a good while yet, so you can suck on this for now." He handed it to Alan. "Just be careful to suck it slowly, and whatever ya do, don't swallow the candy."
Alan popped the candy in his mouth and grinned up at his dad. "Yum."
Jack smiled and took another piece from his pocket. It was all he had left from what he'd purchased before they'd departed Independence. There was no doubt about it—his son had a sweet tooth. "You want this?" he asked, holding out the last piece of candy to Amelia.
She shook her head.
Jack couldn't believe Amelia didn't want a piece of candy. Was there nothing that could get through to his daughter? He wouldn't force her to take the treat. He just needed to be patient and keep trying to get her to talk.
"Can I have the candy?" Alan asked, tugging on his father's arm.
"Thought maybe I'd eat it," Jack replied with a grin.
Alan's bottom lip protruded. "Please, Papa. I'll save it for later."
Jack looked at Amelia again. "Are ya sure you don't want the peppermint drop?"
She shook her head again.
"Is it okay if I give it to Alan?"
Amelia gave a slow nod.
Jack handed the candy to Alan.
"Can I drive the wagon?" Alan asked, looking up at Jack with expectancy.
Jack shook his head. "You're not old enough for that yet, Son. But someday, when you're a mite bigger, you'll be helpin' me and your uncle Dan on the cattle ranch."
Alan's eyes twinkled. "Can I ride a big horse and chase after cows?"
Jack chuckled. "I don't know how big the horse will be, but yeah, you'll be ridin'."
Seemingly satisfied with that answer, Alan leaned his head against Jack's arm and fell silent.
* * *
That evening, as everyone sat around the campfire after supper, Cole couldn't help but notice the look of fatigue on the women's faces. Particularly Cynthia's and Mable's. They'd walked a good deal of the day, while that high-and-mighty gentleman they were traveling with remained in the wagon.
"I don't know about anyone else, but after that bland supper we just ate, I could use something sweet," Walter spoke up. "Think I'll head over to my wagon and get my jar of candy."
"There was nothing wrong with the rabbit stew my sister fixed," Cole was quick to say. "Maybe it didn't measure up to the standards you're used to, but it filled our bellies, and I thought it was right tasty."
"I agree," Jack spoke up. "And since I'm not much of a cook, I appreciate everything the ladies make for us."
Cole looked at Walter, wondering if he would apologize, but the snobbish man just rose to his feet and reached for Cynthia's hand. "Come, take a walk with me. It's a pleasant evening with a star-studded sky, and we shouldn't waste it."
Like an obedient child, Cynthia went with Walter. As they strolled, arm-in-arm, Cole couldn't help but frown. Sure can't see what that pretty woman sees in such a stuffy man.
* * *
Cynthia and Walter walked for a bit, making small talk, but as they headed toward Walter's wagon, he stopped, pulled out his gold pocket watch, and checked the time. Just as he was putting the watch back in his pocket, Cynthia caught sight of little Alan peeking into the back of the wagon. Walter must have seen him, too, for his face turned red as he shouted, "What do you think you're doing, boy?"
Excerpted from The Westward Christmas Brides Collection by Wanda E. Brunstetter. Copyright © 2014 Wanda E. Brunstetter. 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
ContentsA Christmas Prayer,
Another Christmas Story,
The Reluctant Runaway,
A Stagecoach Christmas,
Forging a Family,
The Christmas Bread,
About the Authors,