Hang on for a wild ride with the three Claxton brothers, Civil War veterans who take refuge in the untamed West, and the three stubborn women who challenge their ideas of justice and freedom. Cole meets Wynne as she is seeking revenge from his youngest brother. Beau is near death when nursed back to life by Charity. Cass is tricked into marrying Susanne. Each brother has met his match, but will they be too stubborn to recognize God’s hand in these unions? Includes: The Peacemaker, The Drifter, and The Maverick
|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
Lori Copeland is a popular bestselling author of both historical and contemporary fiction. Her books have been nominated for the prestigious Christy Award, and she received two Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Awards. Lori makes her home in Missouri with her husband, Lance, three sons, and ever growing family. Her hobbies include knitting prayer and friendship shawls and baking chocolate chip cookies.
Read an Excerpt
The Wild West Brides
By Lori Copeland
Barbour Publishing Inc.Copyright © 2015 Lori Copeland
All rights reserved.
Wynne Elliot coughed and daintily lifted a handkerchief to her nose as clouds of choking dust swept through the open stagecoach window. She flashed a weak smile for what seemed like the hundredth time at the gentlemen who sat across from her, and fervently wished the tiresome trip were over. She'd never dreamed it would take so long to travel from Georgia to Missouri.
Turning back to the scenery, she compared the harsh countryside to her own beloved Georgia. July, a time when flowers were blooming, when breezes were moist and balmy and moss draped through the trees like a bride's spidery veil.
Here the ground was hard, the grass dry from lack of moisture. While there was little evidence of the death and destruction her dear South had endured, there were still visible scars. Burned homesteads. Barren fields. The war had taken its toll here, too, but not with the terrible devastation she had witnessed farther south.
The farther the coach traveled, the more rugged the contour of the land. Ozark mountain country, she'd been told, was a place where people either survived or didn't, and given the landscape, she could well imagine why.
Low mountains with virtually untouched forests dotted the landscape, and the road they traveled twisted and snaked through gaps and valleys with endless walls of shale and limestone. On at least two occasions the coach had stopped and the driver and guard had removed fallen rocks from the way. Wynne had taken to watching the hillsides looking for rolling boulders, although if she saw any moving in their direction, it would already be too late to avoid impact.
She feared that at any turn in the road a band of outlaws would gallop from behind those massive boulders to waylay the coach. During the last rest stop, she'd heard mention of Alf Bolin and his men, an unsavory faction that waylaid unsuspecting travelers. And there was talk about Ozark vigilantes meting out their own bloody brand of justice. The men's casual conversation had given Wynne the willies.
It wasn't the first time she'd heard such shocking tales. Stage hands at the way stations delighted in relating such stories to shock and distress lady passengers.
But she had to admit that nothing she had been told had prepared her for Missouri's rugged beauty. And the land was beautiful. Great oaks and maples. By the size of the trees alone she guessed them to be hundreds of years old. Colonies of ferns spread a lacy carpet across the forest floor. Branches as big around as her waist reached out to form a canopy over the trail. Sturdy tree trunks sank deep roots into soil that was alternately black loam and rich red clay, but so stony that no plant could hope to survive. Still, natives of the area appeared to eke out an adequate living, and apparently in Springfield — a regular metropolis, she'd heard — businesses were thriving. Just yesterday she'd overheard that the railroad and more stores and hotels would locate there soon. If this was true, then Missouri would come out of the Great Conflict in better shape than her own beloved Georgia.
She sighed as the stagecoach tossed its passengers about. How much farther to River Run? Traveling by coach had not been easy — the jostling about, the dust, and the insufferable heat. How she longed for a bath — a long, hot bath with scented soap and shampoo. She sighed longingly. Revenge could indeed be tedious at times.
Absently, she rubbed the smooth, odd-colored stone she'd carried for over a year. He had given the token to her. Strange that she hadn't rid herself of this last painful reminder of him. She didn't need anything to remind her of Cass Claxton. His image was burned into her mind.
The worthless trinket worn smooth by the continual wash of river water had become her worry stone. Her thumb fit perfectly in the tiny hollow, which looked as though it could have been formed for such a purpose — but then, Wynne knew worrying was not of God. Nor was revenge, for that matter. She couldn't expect the Almighty to look with approval on the purpose of her journey, but her blood ran too hot, her anger too deep, to forgive and forget.
Her fingers endlessly smoothed the rock in silent litany:
I'll get him. ... I'll get him if it's the last thing I do. ... I'll get that man.
The journey to Missouri had been long and tiresome, and it wasn't over yet. She tried to bolster her wilting spirits by reminding herself that it wouldn't be much longer. As soon as she caught that deceiver ... she would go home. Home to baths and warm food, a comfortable bed and people who loved her. Home to Moss Oak, the plantation where she had been born and raised. The only home she'd ever known.
Wynne wiped ineffectually at the small trickle of perspiration that escaped from beneath her hairline, and then adjusted her hat. It was hard to stay presentable, but she wanted to look her best. When she finally ran Cass to the ground, she wanted him to see what he had walked away from.
Her attention settled on the flamboyant young woman dressed in red sitting next to her. Now here was a fascinating example of womanhood. One that she had never expected to find in her circle of acquaintances.
Miss Penelope Pettibone was on her way to a new job at Hattie's Place. According to Penelope, Hattie's Place was a drinking establishment where a man could go for a hand of cards and "other gentlemanly pursuits." At the mention of "other gentlemanly pursuits," Wynne's eyes had widened knowingly, and she had felt her cheeks burn. She had never met one of "those" women before, and she found she had a certain adverse fascination with Miss Pettibone. Penelope smiled and winked at the man sitting opposite her, and Wynne fanned herself quickly and turned back to the Missouri countryside. A lady never winked, or if she did, she should have something in her eye.
Only that scoundrel, that disgraceful, deplorable, unforgivable Cass Claxton, occupied her thoughts now. The mere thought of that rogue left her breathless with anger. Not only had he left her standing at the altar in complete disgrace, but he'd also managed to walk away with every penny she had except the small pittance she kept in a tin box under her mattress for extreme emergencies.
True, she'd been foolish to fall in love with a man she knew so little about, and even more imprudent to offer financial assistance to a business venture he was about to embark upon, but she had always been one to put her whole heart into everything — especially in matters of love. Of course, she'd not had all that much experience with matters of love, but after studying at Miss Marelda Fielding's Finishing School for Young Ladies, she considered herself a sophisticated woman of the world. That's why it hurt so much that she had let Cass Claxton take advantage of her.
If it hadn't been for the war and her suspicion that Cass had enlisted the day they were meant to marry, she would have tracked him down like a rabid skunk and put a hunk of lead straight through his thieving heart for sullying her trust — not to mention her character. But surely it would have been considered treason to shoot a Confederate soldier, a defender of the homeland, no matter how much he had it coming. However, the fighting had ended, and now she felt free to wreak her vengeance on the lout who had taken advantage of her in such a shameful way.
Her temper still boiled when she thought how gullible she'd been. Well, she was no longer gullible. Quite by chance she'd been told by a close acquaintance of Cass that he had indeed enlisted, survived, and had been seen in Kansas City a few weeks ago. The friend had said Cass was en route to his home in River Run and should arrive any day now. She intended to be there to meet him.
Wynne clenched her fan in her hand; her eyes narrowed pensively. It had been a long time coming, but Mr. Cass Claxton would soon pay for his sins. She smiled in satisfaction. Very soon Cass would rue the day he'd ever heard of Wynne Elliot.
She'd learned a valuable lesson: no man could be trusted. She wasn't necessarily permanently soured on men — Papa had been a man of sterling reputation, but Papa had been an exception. She would never allow herself to be fooled by a man again. Not even one as good-looking as Cass Claxton.
The coach lurched along. Wynne studied the two male passengers dozing in the seat across from her. Undoubtedly they were scoundrels, she speculated. After all, they were men. She could rest her case. Argument closed.
She had to admit she liked to watch the way stuffy Mr. Rutcliff's fat little jowls jiggled every time the stage hit a rut in the road, but when it came to females, she'd bet he was just as fickle as all men, even if he was nearly seventy years old. She guessed age didn't make much difference where men were concerned.
Covering her mouth with her handkerchief, she'd managed to keep from laughing out loud a couple of times when a bump had nearly unseated the small man. He'd snorted himself awake and angrily glanced around as if to ask who the culprit had been that had dared interrupt his napping. After a moment his eyes had closed, and soon he could be heard snoring again. Fat little jowls ajiggle.
Henry McPherson, the second gentleman traveler, was younger than Mr. Rutcliff and boringly polite. He constantly tipped his hat and said, "Yes, ma'am" and "No, ma'am" in response to any comment either she or Penelope ventured.
Wynne had the impression the two men had been scared to death of Penelope since they'd overheard her discussing her destination with Wynne. She doubted they'd be dropping into Hattie's Place for any "gentlemanly pursuits." But then, who could tell? They were, after all, men, and therefore could not be trusted. Miss Marelda had definitely been correct on that score.
Miss Marelda had never married, claiming the natural cupidity of men as the reason, but Wynne wondered if maybe the biggest reason was that she'd never been asked. Wynne's conscience smote her. She needed to ask God to forgive her for such unkind thoughts, although to tell the truth, since she'd set out to bring Cass Claxton to justice, she hadn't been on comfortable terms with God. How could she ask Him to bless her plans when she knew He would want no part of them?
The coach picked up speed, and Wynne glanced out the window at the scenery now rushing by. "Does it seem to you we're going faster?" she asked of no one in particular. A frown creased her forehead. Surely such excessive speed on this rough road couldn't be safe.
"We can't go fast enough for me," Penelope said with an exasperated sigh. "I can't wait for this trip to be over." She made a useless effort to knock the layer of dust off her dress and grimaced in distaste when it only settled back on the light material. "I really expected the journey to be more genteel." She flashed a glance from under her eyelids at Mr. McPherson, who blushed and looked away.
Puzzled by the increasing momentum of the coach, Wynne peered out the window. Her mouth dropped open, and she immediately jerked her head back in. "My stars! I think we're about to be robbed!" she blurted in disbelief.
Both men's eyes flew open. Mr. Rutcliff craned his neck out the window to verify her statement. "Oh my! I do believe you're right!"
Penelope sent up an instant wail, fluttering her fan and looking like she was about to break out in tears. "I knew it! I knew it! We'll all be killed!"
Wynne shot the young woman an impatient glance. Over the past few days she'd noticed that optimism did not seem to be the girl's strong point. "Penelope, really! I'm sure we are well protected." The guard, the driver, and two male passengers: there was no cause for immediate alarm. The team could probably outrun the outlaws without the slightest problem. At least she hoped her assessment of the situation was accurate.
A few minutes later her optimism sagged. Her heart beat wildly as gunshots filled the air. Another glance out the window showed the riders drawing steadily closer.
Wynne cast a worried glance at the gentlemen seated across from her, noticing that neither man looked overly confident. She doubted either one would be much help in case of a holdup. They didn't even appear to be armed.
"Shouldn't we do something?" she asked, clutching the worry stone in her fist. The two men peered out the coach window apprehensively. Neither one seemed to be inclined to action. Penelope looked like she might faint at any moment. Wynne dismissed them all as useless in the present situation.
"There's nothing to do but pray," Mr. Rutcliff murmured in a barely audible voice.
Pray? Wynne blinked back hot tears. When was the last time she'd prayed — asked God for anything other than bodily harm toward Cass? What was the use of continuing to try to fool herself? She couldn't ask God for anything except forgiveness for what she had planned, and in order to do that, she'd have to change those plans. She wasn't ready to consider doing that. But she sure hoped God would be patient enough with her to spare them injury or worse at the hands of these outlaws. She'd heard Missouri was filled with violent men who weren't afraid to break the law. Apparently those rumors were correct. She dropped to the floor when the masked riders slowly but surely gained ground on the wildly swaying coach.
Wynne tried to pray, but the words stuck in her throat. She couldn't even think clearly. It looked like she was on her own this time.
* * *
The noonday sun bore down on the two dusty riders like a flatiron on a hot stove. Cole and Beau Claxton rested their horses on a small rise overlooking a field of withered corn. A faint, teasing wisp of a breeze grazed the horses' manes. The heat was so intense it was hard to catch a deep breath. July in the Ozarks. You could stand still and sweat.
"Look at it, Beau. Home." Cole, the older of the two brothers, spoke first, his deep baritone husky with emotion. He'd dreamed about this view: thought of it at night around the campfires and on waking in the morning. Nothing he'd seen in the time he'd been gone could rival the Ozarks for pure natural beauty. It was God's country, and he was so glad to be back he could shout for the pure pleasure of hearing the surrounding hills throw back an echo.
He sat leaning forward, resting his elbow on the saddle horn and looking out over the rolling hills of their southwest Missouri home, just savoring the moment, which had been a long time coming. "Looks good, doesn't it?" Cole asked.
"It sure does," Beau answered.
Cole let his reins go slack as he slumped wearily in the saddle, his eyes hungrily drinking in the familiar sight spread before him. There had been times he hadn't expected to see it again. A lot of good men wouldn't be coming home from the war. He had much to be thankful for.
The gently sloping terrain was no longer the lush, fertile green that would have met their eyes if it had been spring. The blazing summer sun had taken its toll on the land and crops, burning them to dry cinder. But it was still a long-awaited, welcome sight to one who had seen nothing but death and destruction for the last few years.
Four years. Four years of not knowing if he would ever see home again. Four years of watching men die by the thousands and wondering if he would be next, living with the unspeakable horrors of war day after day after day. Through it all, he'd grown closer to God. War had that effect on a man. Every day you didn't die was like a personal gift. He didn't know why he and Beau had been spared when so many others hadn't. Seemed like God might have had a purpose for letting them live, but he didn't know what it could be — unless it was Ma's and Willa's prayers. Whatever the reason, he was grateful. Mighty grateful.
Home. The word held a new and more sacred meaning. He breathed silent thanks to his Maker for bringing him intact through the carnage and destruction.
"There were times when I thought I'd never see this again," Beau confessed.
"I had those times, too."
Beau echoed his thoughts. "We were lucky, you know. There are so many who won't come home —"
Excerpted from The Wild West Brides by Lori Copeland. Copyright © 2015 Lori Copeland. 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reminds me of the sacket brothers i love this author i laugh outloud while reading at night crazy uh
Sweet and surprisingly feisty… I love romance and am happy to give almost every sub-genre a try. Almost. I admit to still shying away from the zombies (*shudder*). If I choose based on pre-conceived ideas though I may miss out on a good read (zombies excluded, of course). And this time out, I would have missed out on three exceptionally fun romances. This is a bundle of three historical, Christian romances set in the post-civil war era of the old American west. The horror of war, the aftermath that followed and the atmosphere of a country still in its infancy was an eloquent backdrop to the Claxton brother’s stories. Cole, Beau and Cass are heading home from war and their paths are going to lead them all to love… There is deception, bravery, humour, danger and, above all else, love in these stories of overcoming physical hardships and the challenges of life that exist in any time period. I loved the characters who were all different but shared so many likable traits. Wynne and Cole’s story was the funniest of the three with their romance rife with slapstick moments (a mule is all it takes) and humour galore. Beau and Charity have a more dangerous time of it as a life-threatening situation soon has them falling in love with each other (reluctantly) and a cute little baby… Suzanne is a new, better woman when she meets up with Cass again but he is not easy to convince. Maybe one last blackmail attempt will do the trick! I loved the writing style and three unique stories with couples that had me laughing one moment and misty the next. Old-fashioned for sure, with faith a huge part of their lives and their romance, it was a step back in time that felt just right. I’ll be looking for more of this author’s stories. Perhaps the Claxton brothers have cousins? Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher. I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
Wild West Brides is a great series that follows the Claxton brothers. Cole, Beau, and Cass all went off to war, and now that they are back God has big plans for their lives. Before Cole and Beau can even get home, Beau ropes Cole into helping a stranded group of travelers. Beau’s big heart often gets Cole into trouble, and this time it’s in the form of a spitfire named Winnie. Winnie is traveling to the town of River Run to get revenge on a man who left her at the altar. You will read about their story in book 1, The Peacemaker. The second story in the book, The Drifter, is about Beau and Charity. I can’t say much with out giving it away, but it’s a wild ride. The last story, The Maverick, is about Cass and Susanne. They have a history, and neither of them are proud of their past behavior. Can God draw these spitfire girls and stubborn guys together for His glory? I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. This book is full of twist and turns. Tragedy that breaks your heart, and love that mends it back together. The suspense made it impossible to put the book down until I knew what was going to happen. The brothers have a strong bond, and life in the west isn’t easy, or always fair. They all survived the war, but will they survive meeting their match? I received a copy of this book from Shiloh Run Press, a division of Barbour Publishing and Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions expressed are my own.
Wild West Brides is a fabulous read! I loved all 3 Old West Romances! They were great. I look forward to more by this author. 5 stars.