A spunky young widow hires a farmhand with a bad reputation to help her get her cotton to Jefferson to meet the wagon train, and sparks fly—but can she love a man who doesn’t love the Lord?
Susannah Abbot Baylor reluctantly hires Henry Buckmeyer to help her along the Jefferson Trace, the hard stretch of land between her Texas farm and the cotton market, where she is determined to get a fair price for her crop. It’s been a rough year, and she’s in danger of losing the land her husband left to her and the children, but she’ll need help getting both of her wagons to Jefferson safely. She knows Henry’s reputation as a layabout and is prepared for his insolence, but she is not expecting his irresistible good looks or his gentle manner. Soon they are entwined in a romantic relationship that only gets more complicated when Susannah learns that Henry doesn’t know God the way she does. Dangers arise on the road—but none as difficult as the trial her heart is going through.
Will Susannah and Henry’s love overcome their differences? And will she get her crop safely to the cotton market with enough money to save the farm? In this heartening and adventurous tale, a young woman’s fortitude, faith, and heart are put to the ultimate test.
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
HE TOOK THE PINCH OF cotton Sue offered and rubbed it between his short, pudgy fingers. “I’m truly sorry, Mis’ess Baylor. Two cents is all I can pay.”
She seethed but forced at least a show of civility. “Mister Littlejohn.” She spoke in a stiff staccato. “A week ago. Before everyone left. You promised three and a half to four cents a pound! You said depending on the quality. That is the main reason. The biggest reason. That I didn’t go with the others.”
The man smiled. “Oh, I might have said two and a half or maybe even three, but things change. You know that.”
She couldn’t stand being talked down to, especially by such a lying loafer.
“I wish I could help you, but two cents it is. I mean, besides, anyone can see.” He held the sample up. “It’s shoddy lint.” He shook his head. “Pardon me for saying, Mis’ess Baylor, but a granger you are not.”
“Anyone can see its excellent quality, you mean.”
A bit of breeze, a very little bit, stirred the top layer of dust from the street; it cooled her skin, but her insides still steamed.
He stuck out his bottom lip. “I’d advise you to take my offer. I can pay half now, the rest when I return.”
Sue studied his face while a hundred calculations ran through her mind. He certainly didn’t look like the weasel he’d turned out to be. Her cotton was as good as, if not better than, any of the loads that left last Thursday. She reached up and massaged her neck, then lifted her braid to let some air dry her sweat.
She glanced over at her wagons. Levi had Becky laughing hard. The children would be so disappointed. Maybe if—
No. She would not allow this thief to take advantage of her family. How could he even think to? The loathsome, immoral oaf! She’d worked too hard getting her crop in. Everyone had, even her nine-year-old, Becky. Why, at two cents, she’d hardly realize any profit after the extra seed and what she paid the pickers.
She squared her shoulders and, determined anew, faced him again. “I’ll accept three and a half cents per pound. All cash. Not a fraction less.”
“Two cents, ma’am. Half now, half when I get back.” He jingled the coins in his vest pocket.
Perspiration trickled down to the small of her back. The sun, though its climb had barely begun, already shone bright on the eastern horizon and heated the mid-September air so that every breath scorched her throat. Much like Jack Littlejohn, it offered no mercy. And like the air, her throat held no moisture, though she needed to swallow.
“You’re wasting my time. Good day, Mister Littlejohn.” She whirled and headed toward her wagons. Her face burned, and she knew full well that it had turned red. How dare that man! A grubby hand grabbed her arm and, whirling her around, jerked her to an abrupt stop. She yanked away from his grasp and glared; she wished the fire inside her would somehow leap forward and set the despicable excuse of a human being ablaze.
“Keep your cheating hands off me.”
He almost looked apologetic. “Be reasonable, Mis’ess Baylor. Two cents is a right fair price. Besides, who else you going to sell to?”
She swatted at a fly buzzing about and adjusted her hat, never taking her eyes from the man’s. “I’ll burn my cotton before I sell it to the likes of you.” She stopped next to her first wagon and faced the second one. “Levi, we’re going.”
“But, Aunt Sue—”
Doing everything in her power to keep from bursting into angry tears, she glared. Never, never, never would she give that horrible man the satisfaction of seeing her lose control. She kept her voice calm and steady. “Levi, now!”
She climbed aboard and probably struck the reins against her mules’ backs a bit too forcefully. The poor animals hadn’t lied to her. She made a point to sound sweet. “Get up, now, Dex.” She clucked. “Hey, now, Daisy.”
She wanted to scream, but held it all in.
The wooden wheels creaked under the load. Metal clanged against metal. The harnesses strained as the four animals snorted and urged the two wagons, heavy with all her hopes and dreams, into motion. Plans had been to camp out, spend a night under the Texas stars in the heart of the small community she called home. Plans had been to order the children a pair of new shoes each and a bolt or two of fabric for some new clothes. But as she knew all too well, plans often changed.
One more time. Why did this keep happening? One more time a man had tried to take advantage of her, bilk her because she was alone. Her father the judge would tell her that she should have insisted on a contract, or at least a deposit; she had absolutely no legal recourse against the charlatan. Should have paid to have it hauled like last year, but no. Well, that wasn’t an option now. How glad she was that her daddy lived so far away and would never know about her stupidity. She’d disappointed him enough for one lifetime.
What could she do now? She had to sell the crop. It represented all her savings, and if she didn’t get a fair price, she’d have to sell off some of her land—her husband’s and his brother’s legacy to the children. That no-good Littlejohn! Why had she taken him at his word?
She closed her eyes a moment and whispered, “Help me, Lord.”
God willing, maybe she could catch up to the cotton train, then make the trip with the Foglesongs and Howletts and the rest. Maybe only two wagons could travel farther each day; start earlier of a morning, and stay after it until dark. Those Jefferson buyers were big guns, too; paid in gold coin on the barrelhead.
Ideas and options raced through her mind as she steered the team out of the Sulphur Fork Prairie settlement toward her farm four or five miles south. A few she dismissed as crazy. Her blood still boiled. What a waste; all that way for nothing.
“Ooooogh!” She was glad her daughter was riding with Levi and didn’t witness her outburst.
She simply had to get her cotton to Jefferson, and do it before the rains set in. The question was, Could she go alone? Levi would certainly be a help, but could he pull enough weight? Be responsible for such a long hard haul? Her nephew was a good boy and strong for fourteen, but— Who? Who else could she ask? The answer came like a bolt of lightning—Elaine!
She’d see if her best friend would go. Larry could look after their kids. The baby had turned four her last birthday, and the oldest girl was sixteen. He shouldn’t mind all that much. Pulling to the right, she waved the reins on the mules’ backs again and turned toward the Dawsons’ place.
Anyway, the unexpected visit would bless the whole bunch, even Levi and Becky. They’d love having the children to play with for a while. That would give her the opportunity to propose her plan. She stopped the team on the shady side of the barn and climbed down. She went back to help her daughter off the second wagon before heading to the house.
“Mama, I’m not a baby.” Becky thrust her fists on her hips and frowned. “I can get down by myself.”
“Fine, little girl, but you had better watch your tone.”
Joseph, one of the middle Dawson boys, ran out. “Mama, Mama! Miss Sue’s here with Becky and Levi!”
A passel of children came from several directions, and laughter and greetings were shouted all around. Her friend waited on the porch, smiling. Sue so admired Elaine’s wisdom and appreciated her advice. As long as she’d known her, Elaine Dawson had never jumped into anything or made one snap decision. Instead, everything she did, every move, had been well thought out.
Sue wished she could be more like that. She needed Elaine’s cool head now. Her friend would just have to agree to help. Besides, with her along, the journey would even be fun. Once seated on the porch, with tea served and the children playing, Sue explained her predicament and asked Elaine to go with her.
“Are you crazy, Susannah Baylor?”
“No, I am not. You tell me, what choice do I have?” Sue hated the desperation dripping from her words. She sipped the tea Elaine had poured and watched the children playing, her mind spinning. How could she talk her friend into it? She’d used almost everything she could think of, but not one argument she’d offered had budged Elaine.
Finally, Sue surrendered. “Oh, fine, then. If you won’t go and help me, what do you think about Rebecca staying here? The trace would be so hard on her. The round trip is liable to take me a month or better.”
Elaine shook her head. “You simply cannot go. Listen to me! You and Levi cannot do this alone.” She leaned forward and held Sue’s eyes. “Now pay attention. It’s too dangerous. Anything could happen. There’s the Indians, thieves, and wild animals; the wagons or mules might break down. You’ll have the Sulphur River to cross, not to mention the White Oak Creek bottoms. What if you got stuck? What would you do then?”
“How about Larry going? I wouldn’t ask, but—”
“Please don’t, honey. You know he’s got way too much to do around here to be gone a month. We’ve already bought wheat seed, and our fields need a lot of work before they’re ready to plant.”
“Maybe I could hire someone in Cuthand, before I have to cross the river.”
“And you’d leave on that possibility. Come on, Sue.” Her friend’s eyebrows both went up, and her eyes, troubled only moments ago, suddenly sparkled. “I know! What about Henry Buckmeyer? I’m pretty certain he’s still around.”
“That layabout heathen?”
“No, wait a minute. You shouldn’t judge him on the gossip. I’ve known his mother for years, and she’s a wonderful Christian woman. Everyone speaks highly of her. I can’t imagine she didn’t raise her son in the faith. He could be the perfect one to help you.”
“So what if his mother’s a Christian? You’d really suggest I spend a month on the trace with a single man? What about abstaining from all appearances of evil?”
“What about Doug Howlett?”
“He and Shannan went with the others, and took Samuel and the girls along with them.”
Elaine looked off toward where the kids played and sighed. “What about Hershel Massey?”
Sue drew back and pursed her lips. “Now who’s crazy? He’s at least eighty years old!”
“Really? He sure doesn’t look it.” Elaine tucked a loose strand of hair back into her bun. “Well, what I know for certain, without any doubt, is that you cannot go alone.”
“But you refuse, and I have to get my cotton to the buyers. It’ll be the first time in all these years that we won’t be living on the razor’s edge. The first time since Andy passed that I’ll have coin enough to actually buy more than just the bare necessities.” Sue angrily swiped at a stupid tear threatening to run down her cheek. “And if I don’t, and I can’t make any profits, I’ll have to start selling off the land. I just can’t do that, Elaine. So what do you suggest?” Elbows on the table, she hung her head, holding her face with both hands a minute, then looked back up. “Everyone I could’ve asked to help has already gone.”
The older woman dipped the fancy tea infuser that her mother had sent from back east in her cup. “There’s got to be someone. Let me think a minute.”
“Even if you thought of anyone, who would be willing to pack up and light a shuck on such short notice?”
“Nothing says that you have to leave today.”
“Elaine! Don’t you understand? I’ve got to get my lint to Jefferson. Before the buyers leave, before the rains set in. I can’t waste any more time if I’m ever going to catch up. Not when the train already has a four-day lead on me!”
“Well then, it looks to me like we’re back to Henry. Surely he’d be a help if he’s free to go. And since when do you care about what people think anyway?”
Sue finished her tea in one gulp. This wouldn’t be the first time she’d disagreed with her friend, even though Elaine did usually sound the voice of reason. “Well, I’m just sorry. He’s been nothing but a lazy, old . . . hermit, mama’s boy.”
“He isn’t old, Sue. He’s in his early thirties at most.”
“Well, I don’t think he would be any help at all. Probably more of a burden who’d only slow me down.”
“He’d be a man with a gun, and he was with Jackson in New Orleans.” Elaine reached across and captured her hand. “Susannah! What you’re considering is too dangerous! It’s a long way to Jefferson, and a hard trail.” She stood and turned her back with her fists on her hips. “You cannot go alone. And I’m sorry, but I won’t keep Becky. I’ll not play any part in this idiotic scheme of yours.” She faced her again. “Please, at least go see Henry.”
Sue shook her head and sighed.
“Just go ask him; see if he’d even be willing to go. Leave your wagons and the kids here for the day, take Larry’s bay, and go out to the Buckmeyer place right now. Won’t you?”
She didn’t like her hands being tied behind her back, and that’s exactly how she saw the impossible situation. But maybe her friend had a point, though she hated to admit it. She probably did need help, but Patrick Henry Buckmeyer? If she was a betting lady, she’d give odds that he’d never worked an honest day in his life.
Succumbing to Elaine’s pleas, she heard herself agree to go, and her friend leapt into action. “Larry!” she hollered. “Would you please saddle up your horse? Sue’s going to need to borrow him for a little ride this morning.”
Becky’s high-pitched screams pulled Sue’s attention to the children. On the ground, her daughter squealed and giggled at Levi’s tickling. The Dawson children all scurried away from them. She jumped up and ran after her best friend, shrieking with delight. She stretched out her arm and touched Sophia Belle, only a year older. “You’re it!”
For their sake, Sue told herself. She couldn’t let them down. Life had been too hard already on ones so young. Her thoughts wandered to their fathers, and the vision appeared full force again, starting to replay in her mind for the thousandth time. But she shook it away, refusing to allow it to paralyze her as it usually did. Not now, not today.
“Sue?” Her friend’s husband stood beside his horse at the bottom of the porch steps. “Got him all ready for you.”
She came back to the present and rose, reaching for the reins. The man was top-notch, a hard worker and good provider. “Thank you, Larry. I’ll be doing my best to get back before dark.”
“No trouble. Be safe.”
Elaine walked up and slipped an arm around his waist. “We’ll keep some supper out for you and Henry.”
Sue huffed, shook her head, swung into the saddle, and then straightened her bothersome dress. She should have worn Andy’s trousers, but since she’d been going to town . . . “We’ll see.”
Elaine laughed. One thing Sue loved about her friend was her carefree, boisterous laugh. “Sue Baylor, if you’re crazy enough to head off on the Jefferson Trace with eight thousand pounds of cotton by yourself, then you’re absolutely right. We will see.”
Setting her heels against the gelding’s flanks, Sue clicked her tongue. Levi and Becky waved, obviously thrilled over their extra time at the Dawsons’. She decided to head home first, then loop around to the Buckmeyer place. The layabout probably was either gone or drunk, and it would be a wasted trip. Maybe she could hire some help along the way.
The bay moved into a comfortable lope. She arrived at her house well before high noon. She had made a mental list on the way, and the first thing she did was to change into her dead husband’s trousers—she wouldn’t be trying to impress anyone. Then she hurried about gathering her few remaining coins and collected a change of clothes for herself and each of the children. She rolled her skirt and stuck it in the bag, too, just in case.
From the back of the dresser drawer, she pulled out Andy’s pistol and stuck it into her waistband, then put all the extra powder and shot in her bag. She preferred shooting the flintlock, but figured she might need all the firepower she could muster on the trace. Levi was a decent shot, but having another gun could be a lifesaver. Elaine was definitely right about that at least.
Outside, she opened the barn gate. “You take care of your calf, Bess, and stay out of the bottoms.” She watched her old cow amble off, then looked around with a strange foreboding. A notion swept over her that she’d never see the place again.
Did it mean the journey would go bad? Was the Lord trying to tell her not to go? If something happened to her, what would Levi and Becky do? Take no thought for tomorrow played through her head. She couldn’t think about it. She wouldn’t. She would only think about getting her cotton to market and trust the good Lord to help her.
She packed everything on the horse and mounted, hardly able to believe it had come to this. That very morning when she’d set out before sunup, she and the children had been so excited, full of hope and expectation. She shook her head. No matter. She’d chosen the only logical course. What else could she do? She clucked her tongue.
On the ride toward the Buckmeyers’ place, she considered what she knew of the lazy mama’s boy known to all by his middle name. Henry Buckmeyer, indeed. Everyone on the prairie knew all about his war stories as well as his drunken brawls, but the tales of him serving with Andrew Jackson certainly didn’t fit with her picture of a soft, indolent sloth who mooched off his poor old mother. There was no promise he’d even be there.
A part of her hoped he wasn’t.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Vow Unbroken includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Caryl McAdoo. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Widowed and a single parent to her daughter and nephew, Susannah Baylor refused to be swindled out of a fair price for her cotton harvest. She also refused to entertain the thought of marrying another man without the blessing of her estranged father. With the wise counsel of her best friend and re- lentless grit and determination, Susannah embarks on a journey across dangerous terrain that transforms her heart and changes her life forever.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Which character in the story do you identify with or enjoy the most? What were some of the character’s strengths? How did the character change or grow throughout the story? Was there a fatal flaw?
2. As chapter one opens, Susannah Baylor is talking with the man she had made an agreement with to purchase her cotton, and the conversation doesn’t go as she expected. If you had been in her shoes, what would you have done? What words would you use to describe her in this first scene?
3. Why do you think Sue gets so irritated when Henry assumes leadership for deciding where to stop for the day or when to unhitch the animals on the initial leg of their journey on the trace? Have you ever been in a similar situation where you didn’t fully know the best options, but you wanted to maintain control? How did you respond?
4. What role does Blue Dog play in the story? How is the story enriched by his presence? Are you a dog lover?
5. What were the assumptions Sue made about Henry before she knew him? How did her assumptions compare with the reality of her experience with him? What does her experience with Henry reveal about her own heart? Have you ever marginal- ized someone based on hearsay or your own prejudgments?
6. Describe the transformation that happens in Levi through- out the book. What do you think were some of the key factors that affected the change in his attitude and actions? 7. Have you known children like Rebecca Ruth? Describe the ways that she actually sees people and situations more clearly than her mother throughout the story. How is she a picture of Christ?
8. What prompted Susannah Baylor to make her vow? How do you feel about making vows like that? Read Matthew 5:33–37. What does Jesus say about oaths/vows in this passage? What do you think verse 37 means?
9. Sue blamed herself for her husband’s death and for depriving her daughter of her father. What was her reason for blaming herself? If you had the chance to talk with her, what would you say to her about her self-contempt? How was Henry a messenger of the gospel to her?
10. When she started the journey on the trace, what was Sue’s single-minded purpose? How did her determination help and how did it get in the way of progress? Have you ever wanted something so much that you lost sight of every- thing else? What does scripture call that kind of devotion to something or someone other than God?
11. At the Titus Trading Post, Henry spent “a month’s worth of gathering and cleaning seeds” on gifts for Sue and her children. How does his generosity and lavish giving im- pact you? Have you had someone in your life who de- lighted in giving good things to you? Read Ephesians 1:3–14. What do these verses say about God’s giving to us?
12. What qualities do Sue and her father share? What was your impression of her father?
13. In what ways does Henry reflect the image of God through- out the story? Read Genesis 1:27. Who does this passage say God made in his image? What does it mean to be made in God’s image? How does this impact your assumptions and perspective about people who are not Christians?
14. How did Henry describe the impact of “being saved”? What is the difference between salvation and “being a good person”?
15. What was your favorite scene or chapter in the book?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Read Proverbs 31. At your next book club, discuss how your perspective about being a woman compares with the picture painted in Proverbs 31. Discuss the tension of inhab- iting both the strength and tenderness in a woman’s heart. How have you responded to this tension in your life?
2. Read Lost Women of the Bible by Carolyn Custis James. At your next book club, discuss the first chapter on Eve and how Sue’s character in Vow Unbroken reflects God’s design for women (ezer).
3. Watch Pride and Prejudice, the BBC version (5 hours). Discuss the themes of pride and prejudice illustrated throughout the movie and compare and contrast with the same themes in Vow Unbroken.
A Conversation with Caryl McAdoo
1. What was the inspiration for writing Vow Unbroken?
“Caryl,” one of my mentors once said, “pick a genre.” But I never had. Then at a writers’ conference, I met my agent, Mary Sue Seymour, (Can you believe her maiden name was McAdoo?) and she told me that historical Christian romances had a growing readership. Historical . . . hmm. That reminded me of a piece written then read for critique by Marion Butts, a teacher, historian, and colleague at the Red River Writer’s Workshop. He told of yesteryear farmers from this history-rich area forming wagon trains to haul their cotton to market on the Jefferson Trace back in the 1800s.
Sounded like a great story setting and challenging journey. I loved the idea of writing a love story that would glorify God and minister to my readers. So, let’s see—what if my heroine, Susannah Baylor, missed going with her neighbors and had to get her harvest to market by herself?
2. What intrigues you about life in the 1800s on the prairie?
What an exciting era that was in Texas, with plenty of hard work for its inhabitants. Most every aspect of my state his- tory has fascinated me since I visited the Alamo as a little girl. Once I decided to write a historical, I dove into it anew, especially the history of my new home, Red River County, known since the 1800s as the Gateway to Texas.
The simplicity of prairie life and that razor’s edge the early settlers’ lives balanced on are what drew me to the time period. One bad crop, one wrong decision, or any number of natural disasters could wipe them out, and yet they headed west and overcame. I hope my Sue’s determination and grit well represents the spirit of those early pioneers.
3. What character was the most enjoyable to develop and why?
That’s hard because I do love my Henry and young Rebecca—and Levi, too—but if I have to pick, I must say Susannah. I’d never choose to live her life and experience all the horrible obstacles she faced after marrying young and moving west, but I like to think that with God’s help, I would overcome just like she did. I love her faith, her obedience, and how she trusts in the Lord to work everything out no matter how bad things get. And that Blue Dog! Wasn’t he just special?
4. Would you have enjoyed traveling by wagon across the country? Are you a camper?
I would! There’d be no hesitation to climb aboard. I’d jump at the chance so long as my own “Henry,” my husband Ron, went along, and he’d be game for sure! I’d definitely enjoy traveling in a covered wagon. At that slower pace, you can really see the countryside and have the opportunity to meet folks along the way.
I am an adventurer, but not so much a camper at heart. I’m more of a twentieth-century lady, spoiled to life’s luxuries like running water and flushing potties, appliances like stoves and refrigerators, and—especially in Texas— air-conditioning.
5. Who have been your mentors on your journey to be- coming an author?
Oh, this is an easy question. The Lord led me to the DFW Writers Workshop back in the early ’90s. I had always loved English and fancied myself a writer, and joined the group with completed, hand-written Biblical fiction. I learned there that I’d made every mistake possible!
But this awesome group of successful authors took me under their wings and spoon-fed me the craft. Writing creative fiction is a specialty, and without published authors like John McCord, Jack Ballas, and Don Whittington sharing their knowledge and time every week, fifty-two weeks a year; without their patient guidance, I’m not certain I ever would have been published.
God knew just what I needed.
6. What is your strategy on days when you have writer’s block?
Well, pray always, of course. I’ve found that when the writing stops flowing freely, and the story refuses to go forward, I need to crawfish. Travel back to the place where my characters were last comfortable, then let them go where they want to, instead of where I was trying to take them. Works every time.
7. What was the most challenging part of writing this story?
Getting my dear Henry saved. He was such a good man and so confident. Because of his strength and self-assurance, I had to take him to the end of himself before it was believable that he would cry out to God for salvation. I pray that others who are good, moral people of honor and integrity will see themselves in Henry and realize they, too, need a Savior.
8. What kind of books do you enjoy reading for leisure?
If I’m reading, I’m not writing. But when I allow myself the luxury, I enjoy historical fiction, and mostly stick to Christian books to avoid foul language. I hate having to “say” those words in my head! I especially love reading stories set in Israel, so Bodie Thoene is a favorite author of mine. I love all her Zion series and one day hope to personally visit the Holy Lands she takes me to in her stories.
I love reading colleagues’ books, too. Talia Carner’s Jerusalem Maiden and Ann Everett’s Laid Out and Candle Lit are a couple of great examples, although those stories wouldn’t be classified as Christian. When you know the author, it just makes for some special reading.
9. Blue Dog plays a significant role in the story. Are you a dog lover?
I am! When we first moved to Red River County, this dog showed up. We’re rearing four grandsons, and they all begged to keep him. We made him a warm place to sleep, fed him, and named him Franklin Doganor “Roo”sevelt. After about a week, a neighbor came on his four-wheeler and said, “That’s my dog.” “Okay.” The boys were crushed. “We’re sorry. We thought he was a stray.” So the man tried to load him up (he said the dog loved riding the four-wheeler), but Roo wouldn’t get aboard. The owner lifted him onto the ATV and took him home. In no time, Roo came right back. The neighbor came three or four times to retrieve him, and we’d hear Roo barking and howling. Once he came back dragging a chewed-off rope dangling from a new collar.The man finally gave him to us. We offered to pay, but he said no. Roo chose us of his own accord, and that’s who I fashioned Blue Dog after. As a matter of fact, that’s our Roo on the front cover of Vow Unbroken! How much fun is that?!
Presently, twice a day, we feed five dogs; three medium-to-big outside hounds and two small inside lap puppies. You can add to that three horses, two donkeys, a small herd of Nigerian dwarf dairy goats, several barn cats, and some free-range, egg-laying hens, and Roscoe, their rooster.
I love all animals! I’ve raised hedgehogs and hamsters and love aquariums, too. I told Ron once, that at any gift-giving occasion, he’d always get a gold star if my present was breathing! How easy am I?
10. Vow Unbroken is written very much in the vernacular of the 1800s. How did you prepare yourself to write so clearly in that time period?
Where else to go but the World Wide Web? I absolutely can’t imagine how authors prior to the computer revolution did it. Every time I think of that, I’m reminded of Daniel 12:4, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” What time in history has ever seen such an increase of knowledge as our own? Any bit of information is available right in our homes—even in our cars on our phones! It’s amazing, and I am blessed to write with such resources a mere click away.
My characters’ dialogue and introspection had to sound right, so a part of my research focused on the words and phrases used back then. It proved fascinating to find how so much of their slang had made it through the centuries, and that we’re still saying the same things today. Others fell from grace, and those were fun to bring back to life in Vow Unbroken.
And as I’d be writing, if I had a question about a modern word, I’d go to the internet and ask when it came into use. For instance, “okay” was a WWII word, so I had to be very careful not to use it. Even after several edits, I still came across one and changed it to “alright.” Then my copy editor at Howard Books changed that to “all right.” Speaking of Susan, she was awesome as was her attention to detail. She caught several common words used today that slipped by me, words and phrases like “glitch,” “welcher,” and “even keeled,” which all came into popular use after 1832. So I cannot take all the credit that the vernacular in my story puts my readers right into that great past era. I’m thankful for the great help Simon & Schuster’s Howard Books provided to make Vow Unbroken the best it could be—at every junction! They are totally impressive.
11. Have you ever lived on a farm?
Oh yes! But I guess more a ranch than a farm—although my husband Ron has grown wheat and soybeans on some of the 882 McAdoo acres here in Red River County, Sue’s block in Vow Unbroken. Country living has always been a desire of our hearts.
Way back in the early ’70s when our children were young, we rented a little farm house between Dallas and Tarrant counties (County Line Road, as a matter of fact) and had horses, a sheep, chickens, dogs, and cats, and a big garden.
Then, before we moved to Northeast Texas in ’08, though a city girl, I still had all the same animals I do now—and even more—at our River Bottom Ranch in Grand Prairie. Irving, our lifelong home, was across the street. God miraculously provided the one hundred thirteen acres in the heart of the DFW Metroplex for us to keep the dozen quarter horses we inherited from my husband’s father.
I still have that website with information about that ranch, and we still lease the land, though I’m a bona fide Red River County–lovin’ lady through and through now. And isn’t it interesting we live on another “county line” road? We’re on the Red River side and Bowie County is across the street. Guess I’m going to need a Word from the Lord to ever move back to a big city.
12. Do you have plans to write another novel?
Why, yes; yes, I do. I have so many stories to share. I’ve written another novel titled Heart Stolen, set in 1844 with Levi, Sue’s teenage nephew in Vow Unbroken, as my Texas Ranger hero. He rescues a Red River Valley girl, Sassy, from a band of Comanche and gets her home in time for Aunt Sue and Uncle Henry’s Thanksgiving dinner. And I’m already working on a new story in my Red River Chronicles called Hope Reborn with all these characters I’ve come to love and a few new ones—including a female New York novelist! But she decides to go to Texas in Chapter One. My stories will always have a Texas setting. Like most Texans, I do love this great Lone Star State! When Beth, my editor, asked the cover designer to produce a logo for Vow, I was so excited and loved “A Lone Star Novel!”
I’m also thinking about other storylines, some contemporary, with entirely different characters. But all these players in my stories become my friends—well, the good guys. And I always want to find out what’s happening with them as time marches on. I hope my readers feel the same way about everyone.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Superbly written! Not only does this author truly captivate readers with the thoughts and hearts of her characters—even Blue Dog, a little girl’s best friend and heroic trail dog—but masterfully weaves a wonderfully exciting tale of love blossoming in the midst of daring adventure while creatively sharing the Gospel with readers. Well done indeed, Caryl McAdoo…now I can’t wait for your next book!
Loved this story! Fresh strong voice from Caryl McAdoo, who, herself has personality aplenty like her heroine Susannah "Sue" Baylor. The feisty widow, mother of a nine year old girl, and custodial aunt to a teen boy, is one of the most memorable characters I've encountered in some time! Sparks fly as soon as she meets with "supposed" ne'er do well Henry Buckmeyer, who turns out to be a perfect match for her strong-willed character. I especially loved Blue Dog, who was a true hero. Our own labrador retriever was named Blue Dog because his fur was so black it looked blue. Sue's daughter, Rebecca, is personality plus, too. And Levi, her nephew, is also a well-developed character. Caryl had the dialogue down pat. This entire crew perfectly fits the well plotted and nicely paced story. The writing has a sparse feel to it. I don't mind that, in fact I sometimes write similarly. There's a Louis L'Amour and All-American feel to Caryl's writing. It's hard to find stories that are for women yet have this clean feel to them, and are rustic. Beautiful romance, one of the nicest I've seen in a while. I'm expecting this book to make it onto my best of 2014 list.
Susanna Baylor has been a committed woman of God. She learned her lesson once before when she married Andrew and failed to gain her earthly father's blessing. Shortly after that she lost him and his brother in a wagon accident. With her young daughter, Rebecca, to raise along with her nephew Levi unless she can find a buyer for her cotton, she will have to sell off some of her land to get them through the next year. But when she loads up her wagon to head to town to sell it for four cents a pound, Mr. Littlejohn changes his mind and offers her two cents instead. Unfortunately for Susanna, she can't afford to take such a loss. Her only option is to drive the wagon load to the town of Jefferson where she has been promised four cents from the cotton buyers there. But how will she be able to do it with just Levi and Rebecca? Under the counsel of her wise friend, she hires Henry Buckmeyer, who rumor has it has been born lazy his whole life. Susanna believes it will be a waste visiting Henry to hire him since he is likely to decline. But when her friends refuse to let her go alone unless she asks him, she has no other choice. Without the sale of the cotton, she will be forced to sell the land Andrew left to her and Levi. Lucky for her that Henry agrees with the exception that he can also bring along his tobacco and furs to sell when they arrive as well as his trusty dog, Blue for protection. Knowing she doesn't have any other options, Sue grants Henry the permission to come along as hired help as long as he is willing to listen to her advice on what they should do and how soon they need to arrive in Jefferson. But what Henry doesn't count on is how determined Sue will be to have her way despite all the risks she is willing to take to get to Jefferson in hurry. What Sue doesn't consider is what it means to plan out the journey and realize that despite the odds that will challenge them at every turn, and that she may have to concede to Henry's knowledge of just how to get them all there safe and in one piece. It may be the hardest pill she has to learn to swallow in learning to agree to let Henry take care of her and her children and in the process realize that trusting God to know what is best in the end. I received Vow Unbroken by Caryl McAdoo compliments of Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster Publishers for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for my review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. I love how determined and strong willed Susanna is, always looking out for what is best for her family and keeping her faith in God. She has made a vow to never marry a man again unless her earthly father has given his blessing as well as that man must be a believer in God satisfying her spiritual Father as well. But will a man be willing to do whatever Sue wants to get her to marry him and become the father to Levi and Rebecca in the process even if it means traveling to Tennessee to see her father? You'll have to see just how hard this journey is and what they all learn along the way by picking up this novel. This is the first in The Lone Star Series and one I rate a 4.5 out of 5 stars.
My Thoughts: This was a great first historical novel. Caryl McAdoo has a great skill of making characters very realistic. There were times in this story I wanted to shake some sense and common decency into Susannah. Her anger and quick temper often led her into not listening when she would have been better off to listen. A great story. I loved Henry, he was so easy going, and did a great job of not letting a hot tempered woman drive him crazy. A great story, looking forward to the next in the series. 4 stars for this historical novel. This book was provided for review purposes only and no payment was received for this review.
Vow Unbroken is a spectacular book. Author Caryl McAdoo wrote an excellent plot that had my attention through the whole book. It's well-written, but has some action also. The characters were great for their parts. I was impressed how well-developed this book was for the time era. I definitely enjoyed this book and recommend others to read it also. Vow Unbroken by Author Caryl McAdoo is Book One in the Texas Romance series. I received a copy from the author, but was not required to review it. This review is one hundred percent my opinion.
This is the first book I’ve read by Caryl McAdoo and it won’t be the last. I really enjoyed it, and had trouble putting it down. The premise of the story is a little different. It’s not your typical western and that made it interesting. With strong characters that are believable in their faults, they will pull you into the story and cause you to visualize what’s happening, thanks to McAdoo’s well developed story line and thorough research. There is the gamut of emotions in this captivating story; grief, love, joy, fear etc. as well as the characters learning to trust God through everything. I truly do recommend this wonderful book! I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.
Come along for a page-turning adventure! With a strong independent heroine and an exceptionally patient hero, the sparks will fly. You are sure to fall in love with this delightful story. Susannah isn’t about to sell her cotton crop for less than it’s worth, after all, she labored hard for this crop along with her nephew and daughter. Susanna is depending on the money from the sale to get her and her family through another year. When the man who agreed to purchase her crop tries to undersell, Susannah decides she will take the cotton to market herself. Her best friend talks her into hiring Henry to help her. Susannah’s battle with pride at times is a bit wearing, yet, it did make her more realistic. I was pleased to see that over time she began to realize this personal flaw and I could see her improvement. It’s always refreshing to see character growth. Henry has secretly admired Susannah for some time, and when approached to help her take her cotton to market, he agrees under one condition. He has seeds and furs to sell and wants to take them as well. Henry is quite the charming hero, his every action, of kindness and putting others first mirrors the love of God. An engaging, historical story one that will be sure to not simply entertain you, but also remind you of our Savior’s love. I would happily recommend this story to anyone who enjoys historical Christian fiction with spunky characters. I look forward to reading more books from Caryl McAdoo. (I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)
Vow Unbroken tells a delightful story set in the 1800’s about a journey on the Jefferson Trace. Widowed Sue Baylor is strong-minded wanting to get the best price she can for her cotton crop so she doesn’t lose her farm. Left with a teenage nephew, Levi, and nine-year-old daughter, Rebecca to raise, Sue does her best to keep things going. When someone tries to cheat her on the price of her cotton, she has no choice but to make the long, arduous trip to market. Is that too much for a woman and two children? Her closest friend advises against it and suggests Henry Buckmeyer. Rumor has it that he is lazy but what choice does she have? Sue is stubborn, opinionated, head-strong, single-minded and well, kind of preachy. Henry is long-suffering, knowledgeable, just as determined as Sue, handsome and single. Will Sue realize she can trust him? Lovable characters include nine-year-old, Rebecca, who is as Henry says, ‘his arrogant little angel’, fourteen-year-old Levi who is caught between a boy and a man and Henry’s Blue Dog making this a fun read. An adventure filled with hope, forgiveness, love and faith in God. I look forward to reading the other books in this series.
Vow Unbroken--Worthy Historical Romance Vow Unbroken is the first book I’ve read by Caryl McAdoo and I will definitely be reading more in this series and other books by this talented author. Vow Unbroken had all the qualities of a great historical romance book. The struggles Susannah Sue) Abbot Baylor and Henry Buckmeyer had in their past added determination and strength to their working relationship. Throw in Becky, Sue’s daughter, and her nephew, and Henry’s dog, Blue, readers will have moments of laughter and tears. The historical events woven throughout this great read was true to the times along with Sue’s strong faith, Becky’s singing and adventure as Sue and Henry traveled to deliver Sue’s cotton to sell. The characters’ lives were realistic with their fortitude, resilience, faith, finding healing and love during their business partnership. I was in the moment as they crossed the rugged trail and streams of water. I look forward to reading the entire historical Christian Texas Romance series by Caryl McAdoo. I must see what transpires with the lives of the characters that became historical family ancestors.
I loved reading this book. It is a great start to a wonderful series. I liked getting to know Sue and Henry and go with them on their journey to sell her cotton. I loved the characters and Ms. McAdoo is a wonderful story-teller. I would definitely recommend this book. I was given a copy of this book by the author.
This entertaining western captured my attention from the beginning, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it through the end. I very much admire Susanna Baylor and all that she accomplishes during her years of widowhood. Not many women of that day would have been able to put forth the hard labor and accept the responsibility that she chose to take upon herself. Her strong will and self-reliance continue to work against her in relationships, but without them, she would have faltered and lost her land many years prior. Sue struggles, as we all do, with our character flaws, but we see glimpses of the spiritual and psychological growth that is taking place in her life, as she strives to find a balance between being a woman and being “the boss.” All the main characters, in addition to Sue, are well developed and are integral to the story. This wagon-train type story is much more interesting than some, since it takes place in Texas, rather than on a long haul from the Mid-West to the West Coast. Each day brings new challenges and often new people into the scene. The people and incidents seem very realistic, and are written in an engaging fashion. Although the romantic thread, based on the vows, is a consistent thread throughout the novel, it seems to me that the story deals more with Susanna and her struggle to survive in Texas as a widowed woman in 1832. I’d recommend Vow Unbroken to readers who enjoy books with a strong female character set in frontier times.
I'm not sure what I expected from this book, but I must say that I loved it. It's a very well written story about a widow and her struggle to get her crop of cotton to market. Susannah Baylor faces one challenge after another after hiring a man, Henry Buckmeyer, to take them to the buyers who had just pulled out. The journey takes them across dangerous territory. Was it wise to hire someone that she doesn't really know? Will they survive the perilous trials that they face? Can they reach the buyers before they are gone? There are so many things that I truly loved about this story. Number one, being Susannah, strong faith and need to trust that the Lord knows best, especially when it comes to being unequally yoked with an unbeliever. Her stubbornness made me laugh a few times. Sue's grit was admirable and made me proud. My favorite character was Rebecca, Susannah's daughter. She had a heart of gold and did what she could for others without them knowing. That little girl stole my heart from the beginning. I recommend this book to those who enjoy historical romance with some good Christian lessons thrown in. I received a copy of Vow Unbroken from the author. I was not asked to write a review, but feel this book deserves a shout out, as it is an excellent read. I intend to purchase the rest of the books in the series and look forward to reading them, as well.
I truly loved this book. It is a journey of faith and true love. Susannah struggles with her faith and her trust in God throughout her trip along the trail to get her cotton to the buyers. This is a struggle that I have daily - to trust in God. To see her work though her doubts and learn to trust God gave me great encouragement and helped me to try to do the same in my life. Henry is such a lovable and patient character. How he cares for Susannah and her family is beautiful. This was a book that warmed my heart and I highly recommend it.
A Journey Of Finding Love, Healing, Forgiveness and Acceptance I enjoyed this story of the widow, Susannah Abbot Baylor, and Patrick Henry Buckmeyer. The story has so many emotions, sorrow, joy, heartache, forgiveness, acceptance and love. I found Henry to be a man of very strong morals, and to be and act more a Christian, than most Christians. He truly proved over and over to be a man of Godly character, even if he hadn't accepted Christ yet. He was a brave, honest and hard working man, even if the so-called Christian busy-body gossips in town had decided he was nothing more than a heathen. Lesson here, "Judge not less ye be judged!" Sue is a strong woman who is a bit misguided by what she believes as punishment from God. Yes, she married against her father's wishes, but God did not kill her husband and brother-in-law because of it, even Christians can have accidents and die. The storyline was captivating as they journey from home to Jefferson to take the labor of their hard work to deliver the cotton to market. Henry proves over and over he is a strong and extremely intelligent man with more patients than most people. Sue has to learn so many lessons in life the hard way. Overall, Christians (and yes I am a born again Christian) cannot push or force someone to come to God's saving grace, it is the Holy Spirit that convicts. I am so glad that Henry was not turned off by Sue's attitude, and he did find Salvation. I look forward to reading book two, Hearts Stolen. Disclosure: I was gifted a paperback copy of this book by the author. All thoughts, opinions and ratings are my own.
I so enjoy a good historical romance, especially one that has strong characters and plenty of interesting twists in the story. Vow Unbroken is set in the 1800s on the rugged Texas prairie. From the very beginning we get to see the trials that the young widow, Susannah Baylor, deals with. She desperately needs to sell her cotton crop so that she can continue to raise her daughter and nephew on her own. Because of a swindler she is forced to make the decision to transport her cotton to market by herself. Due to the sound advice of her dear friend she reluctantly hires Henry Buckmeyer to help her make the treacherous journey. When the story began I just thought that Sue was rude because she was a single woman having to negotiate in a man's world. I was wrong, she was an absolute shrew throughout the book. I kept wanting to warm up to her. I would begin to think she was going to make some headway and then boom, she was right back to her awful self. I think what really frustrated me was that she regarded herself as a devout Christian but was disdainful of Henry whom she regarded as a heathen. Yet Henry the heathen had better manners! As much as I didn't like Sue, I really enjoyed the other main characters. Henry had such amazing patience with Sue. You knew he had to be completely smitten with her because anyone else would have just walked away. Sue's young daughter Becky was very precocious but her antics still made you smile. Sue's nephew Levi was, in my opinion, the character that came across as the most genuine. Ms. McAdoo did a great job of capturing the surliness of a teenager one moment and then the earned adoration the next. Even though I'm a bit harsh on the main female character, I really did enjoy this story. It was full of danger, adventure, laughter and love. If you like a nice historical romance you're bound to enjoy this one. I'm really looking forward to Ms. McAdoo's next book, Heart Stolen, which is the continuation of this novel focusing in on Levi. I received a copy of this book to facilitate my review.
I thought I would enjoy this book more than I did. The premise sounded interesting- two strong characters on an adventure... but something was off for me. I didn't care for the writing style- it didn't give me a good visual in my head of the setting, and there were long passages of dialogue interchange where I would lose track of who was saying what. The main character Susannah was prickly and judgemental of Henry, even after her prejudices and first impressions were proven false. Her thoughts often contradicted with her words and actions, which gave a hypocritical vibe, like when she was griping about taking a rest and meal at the home of a family Henry knew, but even after befriending the wife, she didn't admit that it was a positive choice. I guess her prideful personality just rubbed me the wrong way. (ARC provided via Netgalley for unbiased review)