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The Widows of Wichita County

The Widows of Wichita County

3.9 12
by Jodi Thomas

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Apart from sharing the same zip code, Randi Howard, Anna Montano, Meredith Allen, Helena Whitworth and Crystal Howard have absolutely nothing in common—until a fiery explosion on a west Texas oil rig changes everything.

Their husbands are men who live to search for "black gold," men who are willing to exchange backbreaking work and long days for


Apart from sharing the same zip code, Randi Howard, Anna Montano, Meredith Allen, Helena Whitworth and Crystal Howard have absolutely nothing in common—until a fiery explosion on a west Texas oil rig changes everything.

Their husbands are men who live to search for "black gold," men who are willing to exchange backbreaking work and long days for danger and excitement—and money. But on a blistering day in early autumn four of the men pay the ultimate price—leaving behind one man who wishes he had.

In one brief moment a tragedy binds Randi, Anna, Meredith, Helena and Crystal closer together than a lifetime of friendship. As they gather at the hospital, waiting to learn who among them will not have to bury her husband, they turn to one another for support. And so begins a journey of faith, of strength, of tears and of love.

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The Widows Of Wichita County

By Jodi Thomas

Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.

Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1551667150

Chapter One

The last day of August Clifton Creek, Texas

Randi Howard pressed the fold in the marriage license with one long ruby-red fingernail and slipped it into her huge leather purse.

"Good luck with this one," the clerk said without smiling. "Sorry we misspelled your name and you had to come pick up another copy."

Randi waited for her to add, "see you again in a few years," or "I'll remember it's i next time around." But the clerk moved away without another word.

Suddenly in a hurry to leave the aging courthouse, Randi pivoted on the heels of her red boots, letting the fringe of her jacket fly. The place gave her the creeps; everything echoed off the scrubbed floors and pale marble.

"There won't be a next time," she whispered to herself as she patted the license hidden away in her purse. "I swear on my mother's grave - if she has one by now."

She hit the latch on the door at full speed, letting her long legs carry her straight into the wind and toward Jimmy's truck parked half a block down at the café. He would be her salvation this time. He would live with her long enough for the glue of marriage to stick. She would be thirty in two years and she planned to be married, not looking for husband number four. At best, Jimmy would make her happy. At least, he would stay around.

Which was more than she could say for the last two good old boys who had also swept her off the bar floor and into a wedding bed. By the time she'd changed the sheets, they were gone.

But Jimmy had promised to give it a good try. He owned his own trailer home outright. He had a good job and a rich uncle. No one in town had a bad word to say about him and, in the three months they had lived together, he had not hit her once. That, for Randi, was some kind of record.

She closed her eyes against the sting of the wind whirling dust devils across the West Texas parking lot. This time, if the marriage failed, she would have no one to blame but herself. Jimmy was solid and kind. He married her even after everyone in town tried to talk him out of it. He drank a little, but then she usually finished at least two beers by the time she spread on her makeup. And he loved her. At least she thought he did. He told her so once and once seemed enough.

Randi slowed as she passed the long windows of the town's only bank. Her image reflected back at her from the smoky glass. Wild red hair, too much eye liner for daylight, western clothes cut tight to show off her endless legs and square shoulders. Randi smiled. She was a bar light beauty and she knew it.

A woman inside the bank stepped to the window. For a moment, their images blended and both looked through the other. They stood, the smoky glass separating them, seeing only themselves.

Randi blinked, almost crying out as the fine young woman's expensive clothes and regal carriage mingled with her own frame. She wore breeding and grace for the first time in her life. For one instant, she saw another Randi, one that might have been or maybe one that might yet be. She saw a lady, not a throw away cowgirl who had to fight sometimes just for the right to keep breathing.

Finally, Randi raised her gaze to the beautiful woman's huge dark eyes.

Truth delivered a solid kick in her gut.

The lovely woman in the expensive clothes had looked at Randi and must have seen the same blending of images. She saw what she might become if she continued to live in Clifton Creek. Only unlike Randi's pleasure, the lady appeared horrified.

Unable to stare a second longer Randi ran toward the café, wiping tears she blamed on the dust away from her cheek. "What's wrong with me?" she swore under her breath. "I'm married to Jimmy Howard now. I'm going to be happy. Ain't no sense in wanting what you can't have."

She kicked at a dandelion fighting its way through the crack in the sidewalk. "I should have been born a plant. I wouldn't care if I was a flower or a weed. Plants don't care if they're wanted or loved, they just grab ahold of the earth and grow."

Opening the café door Randi straightened to her full height. Without caring that folks watched, she ran to Jimmy, straddled him like he was a kitchen chair and kissed him long and hard.

She would survive in this town even if she had to grow through the cracks in the sidewalk. Nothing better was coming along. Tired of wandering without a compass, she planned to take root right here in Clifton Creek.

Half a block down the street Anna Montano stepped out of the bank and walked toward a waiting Range Rover. Even her tailored clothes and grace of movement could not hide the doubt coursing through her body as she regarded her new hometown.

Clifton Creek, Texas, had to be the ugliest place on God's planet. The very air smelled of cow manure. She had left a beautiful country villa in Italy surrounded by rolling land rich in color and entered a world painted only in brown hues. A Coming Soon Wal-Mart sign was the most colorful thing in this place named after a creek that had dried up years ago.

Her new husband had described his home in Texas as a place with wide-open spaces and an endless sky. But he forgot to add that the countryside and air were dusted in dirt so thick Anna could not tell where the land ended and the sky began.

As if the flat brown country was not ugly enough, the people of this place had dotted the landscape with monstrous drilling rigs for oil production. She had not seen Davis's ranch yet, but the farther she got from the airport the more homesick she felt. At twenty-one she suddenly was not ready for the changes she had thought were so romantic only days ago. The whirlwind courtship, the huge wedding, all the gifts and well wishers had been replaced with silence, and she felt more alone than she ever had in her life with her new husband sitting only a few feet away.

"Clifton Creek," she whispered trying to become familiar with the words. But they felt foreign on her tongue, as alien as everything around her.

She smiled slightly, her mood shifting for a moment when she remembered something her mother said once. "When all are strangers around you, you are the one in the wrong place. You are the foreigner."

Anna had wanted to come to America slowly, by boat, with the horses Davis had brought from her father's ranch. But Carlo, her brother, had traveled with the fine animals while Anna had flown alone with her new husband. Rocketed into a world she did not understand beside a man she hardly knew.

The change had been too abrupt. She felt like a freshwater fish splashing down in the ocean and expected to survive. She could not breathe.

Anna slipped into the car and reached for her husband's hand, but he only brushed her fingers away as he turned a page of the local paper. "Don't worry." He gave her a quick glance. "You'll get used to it here. Before long you'll love it. This place settles in your blood."

Anna wanted to scream. No, this place would never be a part of her. When she had agreed to marry Davis, she thought she would be flying away to freedom. She had no idea freedom would look this desolate.


Excerpted from The Widows Of Wichita County by Jodi Thomas Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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.

Meet the Author

New York Times bestselling author Jodi Thomas is a fifth-generation Texan who sets many of her stories in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. She is a certified marriage and family counselor, a Texas Tech graduate and writer-in-residence at West Texas A&M University. She lives with her husband in Amarillo, Texas.

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The Widows of Wichita County 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Had a hard time putting this book down! Loved the characters! A great read!
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Clifton Creek, Texas, the oil rig explosion on the Davis ranch leaves four men dead and one individual in critical condition fighting for his life. Because of the charring of the corpses and the severe burns of the survivor no one knows who lived. Five women huddle together in the County memorial Hospital waiting to know whether their spouses are alive or not.

Widower Helena Whitworth married J.D. and in spite of their adult children from previous marriages they have been happy together. Italian Anna Montano is the wife of rancher Davis, but he is aloof towards her treating her like an outsider while being nice to her brother. Bar girl Crystal loves her spouse Shelby Howard though he treats her as his trophy wife. Randi had planned to leave her husband Shelby¿s nephew Jimmy to try to make in the country music world. School teacher Meredith Allen had wondered when her spouse, Kevin, a former high school football hero, will realize that his life did not end at eighteen.

Though this is a strong tale, THE WIDOWS OF WICHITA COUNTY will feel a bit disappointing because readers learn rather quickly who survived. Guilt, shock, and ¿wishes¿ are not fully explored though the story line looks deeply at grief and survival following one person making a life for herself and her ailing husband with the help of the widows. Jodi Thomas furbishes a powerful character study that will hook fans of women¿s fiction, but though the novel will be well received, readers will feel it could have more.

Harriet Klausner

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, in fact ,read it twice a few years apart. I wish Jodi Thomas wrote more books like this
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A memorible story. And one of my Favorites.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rosedale More than 1 year ago
This book did not drag any -- was very well written with a different theme and tasteful romance -- some suspense. A very all around type novel when you just need to step out of the ordinary. I do not like totally romance type novesl but this one offered everything in one package. OK Jodi -- more of this type novel please!?!?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I slipped into a depression several years ago and became disintrested in reading. I picked this book up yesterday evening and am almost finished. Not only is it the only book I have read in years without getting bored, I found myself intwined in the lives of the widows and their sacred bond. It pulled me in from the first page and led me through comletely to the point that I could not put it down... I only had a problem keeping the characters staright for about the first 50 pages. As soon as Thomas pulled me into their individual lives I placed names to faces and got it staright. An excellent read for any woman who has ever had any feelings of lonliness, love, pain, regection, or fear. These women stand the test of death, and Jodi Thomas stands the test of 'Bestselling Author, USA Today'. I cant wait to grab up another book and begin my reading again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The oil fields of Texas are the lifeblood of the state, but they are filled with danger that equals their rewards. Just being on them can cost one's life, or leave you hurt. .......... This point is brought home to a group of diverse women when they are summoned to the hospital after a tragic accident that kills all involved, save one man. Unfortunately, the man has been burned beyond recognition, and no one can tell which of the women is not a widow. Even if they are able to do so, the woman will surely soon be one, or at best be left with a husband facing a very long and painfilled recovery that might leave him better off dead. .......... Each of the women comes to the waiting room with different things in her heart, one even hopes that she is a widow, while for one, the hope of her husband's survival is paramount. The others love their husbands as well, but only one can leave with a living husband. As they wait and pray, the women form a unique friendship that will see them through the dark days of putting their broken lives back together. As the months and weeks pass, they face emotional and financial crises that will put them to the test, and each of them tries to learn how to love again. ......... ***** The STEEL MAGNOLIAS meets THE ENGLISH PATIENT might be an alternative title for this book. Ms. Thomas' debut modern literature has a warmth and realism that has characterized her past writing, making it accessible to a new audience without abandoning her loyal following. Tears and laughter alike await the reader.