Six historical Christmas romances prove life’s most priceless gifts come not in the form of polished gold or silver—but from the vast riches of a loving heart. The Christmas Star Bride by Amanda Cabot Wyoming, 1885—Esther Hathaway lost her one true love at Gettysburg twenty years ago, but she is still willing to celebrate her niece’s wedding by commissioning Jeremy Snyder to paint her portrait. Will Esther’s prayers for God to ease her loneliness be answered by a wounded vet? A Token of Promise by Rebecca Germany Alaska, 1897—Promised in marriage to a man she has never met in exchange for a place to call home, Charlotte Vance is headed to the Klondike and struggling not to fall in love with the wrong man. Gabe Monroe has found a bride perfect for his brother. A wife will help his brother run his supply business and raise his daughter, and Gabe will be freed to seek riches in the Yukon rivers after the spring thaw. But what will become of Charlotte when both brothers refuse to marry her—even though one loves her? Band of Angel’s by Cathy Marie Hake Colorado, 1893—The first time Jarrod McLeod dips his pan in the river, he strikes gold—a wedding ring! Sure the woman who lost it must be beside herself, he goes upriver to return it. He meets laundress Angel Taylor. She did lose the ring; however, she refuses to take the ring back. Jarrod’s first impressions of Angel are scandalous, but he soon discovers the truth, bringing her a Christmas gift to span the perimeters of time. Winterlude by Colleen L. Reece Alaska, 1930s—A single out-of-place snowflake in San Diego lures Ariel Dixon home to Ketchikan, Alaska, despite her wealthy fiancé’s protests. When she encounters slim, handsome Jean Thoreau, a childhood friend presumed dead, a swift rush of events changes the course of Ariel’s life. Drawn back to the home she loves, Ariel finds peace in the arms of the man who would not break a promise made long ago. Christmas Bounty by MaryLu Tyndall California, 1855—Caroline is a widowed mother alone in a small California town that is suddenly exploding with gold fever. When she sees the ship’s captain who once saved her and her husband’s lives on a scaffold to be hung, she must do something—even propose marriage. Goldrush Christmas by Michele Ule Alaska, 1897—When Samantha and her twin Peter book passage to Alaska in search of their missionary-minded father, they never imagined getting caught up in the rush for gold or that their neighbor would follow them. Soon their youth and inexperience is challenged on all fronts.
|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
Amanda Cabot’s dream of selling a book before her thirtieth birthday came true, and she’s now the author of more than thirty-five novels. Her romances have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists, have garnered a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and have been finalists for the ACFW Carol, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers Best awards. A popular speaker, Amanda is a member of ACFW and a charter member of Romance Writers of America. A Christmastime bride herself, she married her high school sweetheart who shares her love of travel and who’s driven thousands of miles to help her research her books. After years as Easterners, they fulfilled a longtime dream when Amanda retired from her job as Director of Information Technology for a major corporation and now live in Cheyenne. You can find her at www.amandacabot.com.
REBECCA GERMANY works full-time as a fiction editor and has written and compiled several novellas and gift books. She lives in Ohio, where she enjoys country life.
Cathy Marie Hake is a Southern California native. She met her two loves at church: Jesus and her husband, Christopher. An RN, she loved working in oncology as well as teaching Lamaze. Health issues forced her to retire, but God opened new possibilities with writing. Since their children have moved out and are married, Cathy and Chris dote on dogs they rescue from a local shelter. A sentimental pack rat, Cathy enjoys scrapbooking and collecting antiques. “I’m easily distracted during prayer, so I devote certain tasks and chores to specific requests or persons so I can keep faithful in my prayer life.” Since her first book in 2000, she’s been on multiple bestseller and readers’ favorite lists.
COLLEEN L. REECE was born and raised in a small western Washington logging town. She learned to read by kerosene lamplight and dreamed of someday writing a book. God has multiplied Colleen's “someday” book into more than 150 titles that have sold six million copies. Colleen was twice voted Heartsong Presents' Favorite Author and later inducted into Heartsong'sHall of Fame. Several of her books have appeared on the CBA Bestseller list.
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.
Michelle Ule is a musician, historian and Bible study leader who graduated from UCLA. She’s the author of five historical novellas and a Navy SEAL novel. Married to a now retired submarine officer whom she followed all over the world, she lives with her family in northern California. You can learn more about her at www.michelleule.com
Read an Excerpt
November 27, 1885
Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory
There had to be a way. Esther Hathaway punched the dough with more force than normal. A good kneading was just what her trademark pumpernickel needed. She could — and would — provide that. If only she could find what she needed as easily.
Four weeks from today was Christmas, the day to celebrate the most wonderful gift ever given. It was also the day her niece would become Mrs. Lieutenant Michael Porter. Esther sighed as she gave the dough another punch. Susan's dress was almost finished. They had chosen the cake Esther would bake. Michael's parents had their train tickets and hotel reservations. Everything was on schedule with one exception: Esther's gift.
With the kneading complete, she slid the ball of dough into the lightly greased bowl and covered it with a towel to let it rise. The sweet white dough that would become cinnamon rolls for her early morning customers had already completed its first rising and was ready to be rolled out and filled with the rich butter and cinnamon filling.
Esther's hands moved mechanically, performing the tasks they did each morning, while her mind focused on the problem that had wakened her in the middle of the night. Susan claimed it didn't matter, but it did. Four generations of Hathaway women had had their Christmas stars, and Susan would too.
A smile crossed Esther's face as she thought of the stars, now carefully wrapped in soft flannel, waiting for their annual unveiling and placement on the tree. Each was as different as the happy brides and grooms whose portraits were highlighted by the star- shaped frames: Esther's great-grandparents, her grandparents, her own parents, and her sister and brother-in-law. Having each couple immortalized in a Christmas ornament had become a Hathaway family tradition.
Esther, of course, had no star-shaped portrait to display on the mantel or hang on the tree. Her hopes for that had died on the blood-soaked fields of Gettysburg more than twenty years before, but Susan — the niece she loved as dearly as if she were her daughter — would carry on the tradition. If only Esther could find a suitable artist.
Once the filling had been spread over the dough, she lifted one of the long edges and began to form it into a log that would then be cut into individual pieces and baked in one of the large, round cake tins that did double duty for cinnamon rolls.
Esther's smile turned into a frown as she thought of her search for someone capable of painting Susan and Michael's portrait. Quality. That's what she sought. When she'd taken over running the bakery, she had insisted on using nothing but the highest quality ingredients and the best pans she could find. Susan's portrait deserved the same high quality.
Esther had interviewed every portrait painter in Cheyenne, but none of them had been right. Some were too busy to take on her commission. Others lacked the talent she sought. Still others admitted they'd never painted a miniature. Though they were willing to try, Esther wasn't willing to take a chance on failure. She had found the perfect frame, a simple gold star, the only embellishment being Susan and Michael's initials engraved in each point. Now she needed an artist.
Bowing her head, Esther sent a prayer heavenward. Though she knew the good Lord had many more important things to do, she prayed that He'd send her the painter she sought. There was no answer. Of course not. It was silly to have expected an artist to knock on her door this early in the morning. She would wait.
Once the rolls were in the oven, Esther poured herself a cup of coffee and retrieved the morning paper from the front step. Settling into a chair at the kitchen table, she began to peruse the news, turning the pages slowly as she learned what had happened in Cheyenne yesterday and what events were planned for today.
Her gaze stopped and her eyes widened. The ad was so small that Esther almost missed it, but there it was, buried deep inside the paper. Jeremy Snyder, artist. Portraits, landscapes, oils, watercolors.
Her heart singing with happiness, she reached for a piece of stationery and an envelope. This was no coincidence. God had answered her prayers.
* * *
Cheyenne was a fine city, Jeremy Snyder reflected as he headed past the train depot on Fifteenth Street. Some might complain about the noise when an iron horse chugged and whistled its way to the depot, but Jeremy wasn't one of them. He recognized the trains for what they were: the lifeblood of the city. Thanks to President Lincoln's vision of a transcontinental railroad and the Union Pacific's part in turning that vision into reality, Cheyenne existed.
Jeremy crossed Hill Street. Just one more block and he'd be able to rest his legs. Though the doctors had told him that walking was good for him, even after more than two decades it remained a painful experience if he went too far or too quickly. He'd done both today, searching for work.
Other end-of-the-rails towns had disappeared, but Cheyenne had flourished. In less than twenty years, it had grown from a rough- and-tumble tent town to one of the wealthiest cities in the country. That was why Jeremy had come. He'd reasoned that all those cattle baron millionaires would want family portraits or pretty landscapes to hang on their walls. He'd been right. They did want artwork, but not from an itinerant painter like him. They could afford artists who'd gathered a following in the East. Some had even commissioned work from famous European painters.
Jeremy winced as pain radiated up his left leg, but the pain was not only physical. As much as he enjoyed living in Cheyenne, if he didn't get work soon, he'd have to move on. Though he'd hoped to stay until spring, that was beginning to seem unrealistic. The boardinghouse where he stayed was one of the cheapest in town, and he'd arranged to eat dinner only three nights a week to save money. But even with those economies, his small reserve would soon be depleted and he'd have no choice but to leave.
He climbed the five steps leading to his boardinghouse, deliberately ignoring the peeling paint and the squeaking boards beneath his feet. At least the roof did not leak, and his room had enough light that he could work there ... if he had a commission. Lately all he'd been able to afford to paint had been watercolor landscapes. Though they filled his heart with joy, they did nothing to fill an empty stomach.
"Mr. Snyder." As Jeremy entered the boardinghouse, his landlady emerged from the kitchen, an envelope in her hand. "This just came for you."
It was probably rude, but Jeremy ripped the envelope open and withdrew the single sheet of paper, his eyes scanning the few words. His heart began to thud, and he grinned at the kindly woman. "Thank you, Mrs. Tyson."
"Is it work for you?"
"I hope so."
Back in his room, Jeremy buffed his shoes, then studied his reflection in the small mirror over the bureau. No one would call him handsome, but at forty, that was no longer important. What mattered was what he was able to create with brushes and paint. He pulled his leather case from under the bed, trying to decide which items to take. Since Miss Hathaway hadn't specified whether she wanted oil or watercolor for her niece's portrait, Jeremy included a watercolor landscape along with the oil portrait of his father that he'd done from memory and the miniature of his mother.
Sitting on the one chair the room boasted, he tightened the straps that held his left foot in place. Wood didn't flex like flesh and sinews, but at least it allowed him to walk without crutches or a cane. There was nothing he could do about the limp. That was a permanent reminder of what had happened at Antietam, but it was also a reminder that he'd been fortunate. He had lived, and now, if Miss Esther Hathaway liked his work, he would be able to spend Christmas in Cheyenne.
Mindful of the leg that protested each step, he walked slowly east. Instead of retracing his steps, this time he took Sixteenth Street, heading for the Mitchell-Hathaway Bakery on the corner of Sixteenth and Central. Jeremy had passed it numerous times on his walks through the city and had been enticed by the delicious aromas that wafted through the air each time the door opened, but he'd never been inside. The few commissions he'd obtained had barely covered room and board and the cost of supplies. There'd been nothing left for treats.
There it was, a small brick building on the southeast corner, facing Central. One plate-glass window held a display of tempting baked goods, while the other revealed four round tables that encouraged customers to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea with a pastry. Jeremy saw a second door on the Sixteenth Street side and suspected it led to the proprietor's living quarters. He'd been told that many shopkeepers lived either behind or on top of their establishments.
As Jeremy opened the front door, he was assailed by the smell of freshly baked bread and pastries, and his mouth began to water. He took another step inside, carefully closing the door behind him, thankful there were no customers to hear the rumbling of his stomach. Fixing a smile on his face, he turned. An instant later the smile froze and Jeremy felt the blood drain from his face. Instinctively, he gripped the doorframe to keep his legs from collapsing.
It couldn't be. He blinked once, twice, then a third time to clear his vision, but nothing changed. There was no mistaking that light brown hair, those clear blue eyes, and the patrician features that had haunted his memory for so many years.
"Diana, what on earth are you doing here?"CHAPTER 2
Esther stared at the man who was looking at her with such horror in his eyes. Close to six feet tall, he had medium brown hair with only a few strands of gray, and brown eyes that under other circumstances might have been warm. His features were regular, almost handsome; his clothing well made; his shoes freshly polished. He might have been a customer, but the leather portfolio he held in his left hand told Esther otherwise. Unless she was sorely mistaken, this was Jeremy Snyder, her last hope for Susan's portrait.
She took a step forward, seeking to defuse his tension by introducing herself. She wouldn't ask about Diana. Indeed, she would not. That would be unspeakably rude. "I'm Esther Hathaway," she said with the warmest smile she could muster, "and I suspect you're Mr. Snyder." Before she realized what was happening, the question slipped out. "Who is Diana?"
So much for good intentions.
The muscles in Mr. Snyder's cheek twitched as if he were trying to keep from shouting, but his voice was level as he said, "No one important."
It was a lie. Esther recognized the expression in his eyes. The shock had disappeared, only to be replaced by sorrow and longing. It was the same expression she'd seen in the mirror too many mornings, but there was more. Mr. Snyder's face had the pinched, gray look of a man who hasn't eaten well. Esther had seen that look on countless faces as men made their way home after the war. The Union might have won, but the soldiers who'd filed through town had shown no sign of celebration.
"Please have a seat, Mr. Snyder." Esther gestured toward one of the four tables that filled the right side of the store. "I'll be with you in a moment."
Fortunately, this was a quiet time at the bakery, and with no customers to wait on, she could devote her attention to the man who might be the painter she sought. A slight shuffling sound made Esther glance behind her as she walked toward the kitchen, and she realized that Mr. Snyder was limping. Hungry and lame. The poor, poor man.
As she sliced and buttered bread, Esther wished she had something more substantial to offer him, but there was nothing left from her midday meal. Fortunately, two cinnamon rolls remained. She placed them on a separate plate, filled a mug with coffee, then positioned everything on a tray.
"I thought that while I was studying samples of your work, you could sample mine," she said as she arranged the plates and mug in front of him.
Though his eyes brightened momentarily, Mr. Snyder shook his head. "This isn't necessary, ma'am."
"Oh, but it is," she countered. "I can tell a lot about a man from his reaction to food. I insist."
He nodded slowly before opening his portfolio and extracting three framed pictures. "I wasn't certain whether you wanted oil or watercolors," he explained as he laid them in front of her.
Esther's eyes widened at the sight of a landscape, a man's formal portrait, and a more casual painting of a woman. "I had thought oil," she said as she picked up the watercolor landscape, "but this is magnificent. The flowers look so real I want to pick them. It's excellent work, Mr. Snyder."
"And this is the best pumpernickel I've ever eaten. There's something unique about it — a hint of coffee, perhaps?"
Esther didn't bother to mask her surprise. "You're the first person to identify it."
He shrugged as if it were of no account. "I've drunk a lot of coffee over the years, and I've learned to recognize good brews." Raising his mug in a toast, he added, "This is one of the best."
It was a simple compliment, no reason for color to rise to her cheeks, yet Esther's face warmed at the praise. To hide her confusion, she lowered her head and studied the three paintings. Each was wonderful in its own way. There was no question about it: Jeremy Snyder was the man she wanted to paint Susan and Michael's portrait.
Fearing that he might stop eating if she spoke again, Esther kept her eyes focused on the miniature of a woman she suspected was the artist's mother, waiting until he'd finished the last bite of cinnamon roll before she spoke.
"These are exactly what I was looking for. Mr. Snyder, you're the answer to my prayers."
* * *
"That's the first time anyone's called me that." Jeremy took another sip of coffee, as much to avoid having to look at the woman who sat on the opposite side of the table as to wash down the last bite of that incredibly delicious cinnamon roll. She didn't sound like Diana. Her voice was firmer, a bit lower pitched than Diana's, but there was no denying the resemblance. This woman could be Diana's twin, and that hurt. Every time he looked at Miss Esther Hathaway, memories threatened to choke him.
"Tell me more about this portrait you want me to paint." Though he had every intention of refusing the commission, Jeremy had eaten the woman's food. He owed her at least a few minutes' consideration. And the truth was, other than Miss Hathaway's unfortunate resemblance to Diana, he was enjoying being here.
The bakery was warm, clean, and filled with tantalizing aromas. A pressed-tin ceiling complemented the pale blue walls and the dark wooden floors. The tables were made of a lighter shade of wood than the floor, the chair cushions a deeper blue than the walls. Though the room was not overtly feminine, Jeremy suspected it appealed to a mostly female clientele.
"I'll do more than tell you," Miss Hathaway said in response to his request. "I'll show you."
She returned from the back of the bakery a minute later, a large flannel package in her hands. Unwrapping it carefully, she withdrew four star-shaped frames and laid them on the table. To Jeremy's surprise, though he'd expected each to hold a woman's portrait, two people had their likenesses painted in each one.
"It's a family tradition," Miss Hathaway continued, "to have the bride and groom's portrait painted for their first Christmas together. My niece will be married on Christmas Day, and this will be my gift to her." The woman who looked so much like Diana gazed directly at Jeremy, not bothering to hide the eagerness in her expression. "Will you do it, Mr. Snyder?"
I can't. The words almost escaped his lips, but then he reconsidered. As painful as it would be to spend days in the company of a woman who looked so much like Diana, there was no denying that he needed the money. He needed to be practical.
Jeremy nodded slowly. "My fee for a miniature portrait is ..." As he quoted a figure, he studied Miss Hathaway, his eyes cataloging the simple gray dress that skimmed her curves, the white collar and cuffs giving it a festive look without seeming too fancy for a shopkeeper. Though she was as beautiful as Diana, Jeremy suspected that Miss Hathaway deliberately underplayed her looks, perhaps not wanting to compete with her customers.
"You're selling yourself short, Mr. Snyder," she said with a small smile. "The other artists I've considered would have charged considerably more than that and for only one portrait. Since you'll be painting two people, it seems only fair to pay you twice that amount."
Diana would never have said anything like that, but then again, Diana would not have thought to offer a hungry man food.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Treasured Christmas Brides"
Copyright © 2014 MaryLu Tyndall.
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.
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