Enjoy two Old West romances from author Colleen L. Reece. Journey to Wyoming territory with Dr. Adam Birchfield who risks losing love in order to find his missing brother. But which identical twin sister did he really fall in love with back in West Virginia? Also includes the bonus story, Desert Rose, of a woman who falls in love with a man through his letters.
|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.19(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.88(d)|
About the Author
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.
Read an Excerpt
Includes Bonus Story of Desert Rose
By Colleen L. Reece
Barbour Publishing, IncCopyright © 1994 Colleen L. Reece
All rights reserved.
Red Cedars shimmered with light and laughter. Carefully hoarded candles flickered and danced. Lamps held high to guide guests through the early autumn darkness cast a welcoming glow. Flames leaped and whirled in fireplaces. Not since the firing on Fort Sumter in the spring of 1861 that resulted in the formation of West Virginia had such an affair been held.
During the Civil War Thomas and Sadie Brown's farm, tucked into a fold of the Allegheny Mountains near Shawnee and the Virginia border, had somehow escaped detection by destroying Yankee troops. Neither had Rebel forces discovered the farm. Grateful, Thomas and Sadie shared what had been spared with those who had little or nothing. When in 1865 the War Between the States, a war of brother against brother, was officially resolved, new trials emerged: despair, starvation, and the need to begin again. Yet the Browns and others like them refused to be beaten. They started over or went on from where they were. The same pioneering spirit that created a new state brought them through tragedy. New lines of sorrow etched themselves on sturdy faces but their souls remained unwrinkled.
Now the Browns' home, Red Cedars, was host to a well-deserved celebration. September 1, 1873, felt centuries away from past misery. Without apology families wore their mended, treasured best; bonnets turned and freshened by determined, nimble fingers nodded. No one noticed or cared that curtains and portieres, damask tablecloths and napkins bore as battle scares cobwebby patches of darning.
In a secluded corner of the front room, made larger by open, dividing doors, Mountain Laurel Brown quietly observed the excited crowd. Still as the cool evening air, she caught sight of her older, married sisters. Blue-eyed Gentian was proudly displaying her new baby; Black-eyed Susan was flirting with her brand-new husband. A smile twitched Laurel's curved lips. Neighbors never had understood why Sadie Brown chose such outlandish names for her girls! But Laurel knew that beneath Sadie's starched corset cover and petticoats lived a heart made glad by beauty. Sadie could no more resist choosing flower names — and how well they fit — than she could allow muddy boots in the house.
A pang went through her. Although her older sisters both lived nearby, new homes and responsibilities claimed them. Mama said it was right and natural but Laurel missed them deeply.
"Stop it," she whispered to herself. "One of these days it will be your turn." She could feel her color rise from the modest round neck of her blue gown, up her white throat, and into her face. For pity's sake, why did she lurk here in this corner? Wasn't this also her twentieth birthday party?
She raised herself to her full five-foot, six-inch height and stretched her slim body. She took one step toward the crowd and paused, gazing across the room at her uncanny mirror image.
Large, dark brown, glowing eyes met hers. Light brown curls caught up in back to cascade to her shoulders shone in the light. Laurel objectively examined her reflection. A wide mouth and an upturned nose might be considered charming but they weren't beautiful.
The thought brought a wry twist to her mouth but, surprisingly, her image's smile remained sparkling. Even more amazing was that her identical dress had miraculously changed from forget-me-not blue to rosy pink!
Pride mingled with envy. Would she ever catch up with Ivy Ann who had been born five minutes before her and, in spite of her clinging name, managed to lead in everything the two girls had ever done?
Who cares, Laurel demanded of herself, but the uneven beat of her heart said otherwise.
I wish that for just one day, one week, one month, I could trade places with Ivy Ann, Laurel confessed silently. How can two girls — no, women — look so much alike even Daddy and Mama mix us up yet be so different?
She examined her twin's face and figure. Nothing there to separate them. Her gaze traveled to Ivy's head, cocked to one side while she listened to the praise heaped on her. High color made her especially lovely and again Laurel felt the familiar surge of pleasure that such an enchanting creature was a special part of herself.
"Laurel, what are you doing standing over here by yourself?" Thomas Brown's hearty voice boomed into her hideout. "Everyone's asking for you. Come on." With a large, work-worn hand he caught Laurel's small but sturdy one and led his daughter across the room.
"Where have you been?" Ivy Ann reproached. Vain, selfish, and thriving on admiration, the love she had for her twin matched Laurel's.
"What a pair!" someone called.
"Only problem is, how do you ever know which twin is which?" a young man muttered. A shout of laughter followed. Eligible suitors knew only too well how one could never be sure that Laurel and Ivy Ann weren't playing tricks.
Suddenly Laurel felt tired of it all. The wish to be herself and not just half of Ivy Ann almost choked her. Only her strong training received from determined parents kept her from bolting. Instead, she forced a smile and suffered herself to follow the wave of gaiety that lasted through supper and into the morning hours.
Even when she escaped she found no relief. The twins had shared a large room since babyhood. Laurel slowly removed her birthday present dress, brushed her hair, and climbed into bed. But Ivy Ann had been too tightly wound to run down yet.
"I am so glad Mama and Daddy encouraged us not to marry young," was her amazing remark once she emerged from the soft pink gown and slid into a ruffled nightdress.
Laurel couldn't help laughing. Trust Ivy Ann to come up with such a comment right on the heels of her splendid success at their party. "What made you think of that?"
"Oh, I don't know." She turned toward her twin. White teeth gleamed and the eyes that became provocative when a handsome neighbor appeared opened wide. "Gentian's baby is precious and Susan's husband is almost as wonderful as she thinks he is but I don't want to get married for ages and ages." Her smile melted some of Laurel's resistance. "I know we're considered old maids, but who cares?" She stretched white arms and yawned. "As long as there are men around to choose from, why marry? Are you willing to stay single until we're really old — twenty-five, maybe?"
"Mercy!" Laurel stared. "No man wants a wife that old."
A little frown marred Ivy Ann's forehead. "You're probably right, but my goodness, with all the nice young men coming to call, how can we ever make up our minds?"
Laurel refrained from reminding her twin how often those young men, even those who liked her, soon flitted from the quieter twin to the more daring, vivacious girl.
"Laurel, promise me that no matter who we marry or how far apart we may be, you won't ever let anything come between us."
Laurel sat up straight. Such serious conversation from Ivy Ann usually heralded some startling announcement. "Why would you want such a promise? What could come between us?"
"I don't know." Some of Ivy Ann's good mood had vanished. With troubled eyes, she stared at Laurel. "Sometimes I get the feeling we aren't as close as we used to be. Remember when we were small and always dressed exactly alike?" Nostalgia softened her face. "We don't now."
Laurel bit her lip. One of her small cries for freedom had brought about the change. "I like blue best and you like pink."
"I know, but somehow ..." Ivy Ann's voice trailed and then died. "We don't like the same books or music either." Genuine sadness flickered in her eyes. "I just wish nothing had to change."
Understanding flooded Laurel. "You miss Gentian and Susan, don't you?"
"A lot more than I ever thought I would," she confessed with a quirk of her beautifully arched eyebrows. A deep dimple that had its counterpart in her sister's right cheek became obvious. "I thought I'd be glad when they left, they always bossed us around so. Especially Susan after Gentian married."
"Mama says she felt left out because we couldn't be separated."
Ivy Ann yawned and covered her mouth with her hand. "Perhaps. Anyway, now that we're women instead of girls we don't have younger sisters to boss! Too bad we don't have a brother." Her eyes gleamed. "They're mighty useful at bringing home young gentlemen."
"You are totally incorrigible," Laurel told her. "Goodnight."
Only after she heard her twin's soft breathing did Laurel remember she hadn't promised what Ivy Ann asked. Why should a strange feeling of relief fill her?
* * *
A week after the Browns' celebration Laurel sat mending on the wide front porch. The never-ending basket of household linens and clothing rested next to her rocking chair and her quick fingers stitched and wove until a second pile formed. Accustomed to the work, she could keep sewing and still enjoy the stately red cedars from which her home took its name. September continued to be beautiful. Only a faint touch of frost had come and leaves that in some years had cascaded in golden showers from hardwoods remained green.
From her viewpoint, Laurel could look down the sloped hillsides to the river below or up steeper hills to distant mountains. Daddy said when God created West Virginia he forgot to put in any flat land. She secretly rejoiced. How could people live where the country lay straight as a table top? Distant figures scrambling up and down ladders into laden apple trees foretold canning and cider making. Her fingers stilled. As much as she loved Red Cedars, an undefined longing deep inside touched her in quiet moments. Perhaps Ivy's foolish chatter about not marrying until they were twenty-five had triggered her melancholy. Or the look on Susan's face when her tall husband snatched her up and lifted her over the stile. The feeling that went through her when she held Gentian's baby or intercepted the flash of love between her sisters and their husbands was still very real.
"Please, God, I want to belong to someone. "Her barely audible prayer shocked her. Proper young women didn't talk to God about such things, did they?
Why not? a small voice whispered in her heart. Every girl and young woman's dreams are important to God; anything that touches His creation interests Him.
A rush of skirts interrupted her new and thrilling reverie. "Out here mending and talking to yourself?" a lively voice demanded.
Laurel whipped around toward Ivy Ann and felt herself redden. "I thought you were making beds."
Sadie Brown believed every girl must be head of her own household and know everything about housekeeping there was to know. "It's disgraceful how many Southern girls can't do anything but flirt," she indignantly maintained, and churned faster one day when Ivy Ann complained about the work. "I'd be disgraced to have my daughters so helpless." Her lightning glance at Ivy brought a flush of shame to her cheeks.
"The day is long past when southern women have nothing to do but be petted and admired. If the South is ever to rise and regain her strength, it will take every man, woman, and child working together."
"I thought you were for the Union," Laurel teased.
Sadie's sharp eyes softened. "I am and always will be but that doesn't mean I'm not also a Southern woman, just as my daughters will be if I have any say in the matter."
When Gentian and Susan went to their own homes, they possessed every housekeeping skill known to their mother. Their husbands rejoiced and gave thanks, especially after hearing stories from friends who had married helpless southern belles!
"I made the beds." Ivy Ann flounced into a chair. "And dusted. And prepared a dessert for supper. All while you're out here enjoying the sunshine."
"Want to trade jobs?" Ivy barely restrained a shudder. "Never. You know I hate mending." She broke off a late bloom from the fragrant rosebush that climbed up and over the porch roof. "Mmmmm. Smells good. That reminds me. We must have enough rose petals saved to scent our clothes."
Laurel's needle flashed silver in the sun. In and out, in and out, weaving together frayed edges. "There will also be enough to put in the soap." When Ivy Ann didn't answer, she glanced up. Her gaze followed her twin's down the road and up the hill that led to Shawnee. "What are you looking at?
Laurel dropped the needle. "Our what?" She looked at the empty lane then back at her sister, whose dreamy eyes were half-closed.
"Our fate. Can't you just see it? One of these days —" She dropped her voice to a mysterious tone. "Just when we least expect it, our fate will come riding down that hill and up the road. I wonder if we'll be ready for it."
"Are you stark, staring mad?" Laurel asked. "Whatever are you talking about?" Her pulse quickened in spite of her protest.
Ivy Ann dropped her indolent pose. Her eyes sparkled like dark molasses nuggets. She clapped her hands. "There is absolutely no romance in you, Mountain Laurel Brown! You should see as plainly as I that the most perfect young man God ever created is somewhere just waiting. When the time is right he will come riding, riding."
Laurel's heart filled with mischief. "'Oh, young Lochinvar is come out of the west. Through all the wide Border, his steed was the best. ...' "She rocked back and forth. "No Sir Walter Scott knight for me."
"Why not?" Laurel forgot her mending and concentrated on Ivy Ann. Not for a long time had the twins looked so alike with their teasing faces and hair loosened from good honest work. A vagrant breeze shook perfume from the roses and cooled the warm afternoon.
"Think I want to be carried off to who knows where, away from my family?" Ivy shook her head until her curls bounced. Some of the joy fled from her expressive face. "Could you stand having to live in some God-forsaken place, even with a husband?" "You know what I mean." Ivy Ann impatiently brushed aside the remark. A brooding look replaced her fun. "I never did care much for Ruth in the Bible."
"Ivy Ann, are you criticizing the Bible?" Laurel gasped.
"Don't be a ninny. I just don't see how she could promise to leave everything and go off down the road. Especially when it wasn't even with a husband, just a mother-in-law. A former mother-in-law, at that!" She glared at Laurel. "Don't tell me you could or would leave this and — and me."
Laurel silently considered it, while the breeze increased, rustled leaves, and flirted with the rosebush. Could she? Would she? Yet the Bible said husband and wife were to cleave to each other and never be parted in this life. She slowly said, "That's what the Bible tells us. God created man and woman to be so closely entwined they could face whatever hardships might come."
"Pooh! It's all very well to quote from the Bible but when it came right down to it, you couldn't leave Red Cedars except to settle real close, now could you?" Ivy Ann's eyes darkened until they looked almost black.
Laurel hedged. "You mean if you really and truly met a man you felt God wanted you to marry, you'd say no — even if you loved him and he loved you — unless he agreed to live in West Virginia?"
"Yes!" But an impish look crept over her face. "I just bet any man would be glad to stay around here if it meant marrying me." She leaned back in her chair and daintily crossed her soft white shoes.
"But what if his work were somewhere else?" Laurel couldn't drop the subject that had somehow become strangely significant to her. "What if he had to live elsewhere?"
"He'd have to make other arrangements," said Ivy Ann nonchalantly, dismissing the imaginary situation with a wave of her hand. "You still haven't answered my question." For some reason she turned a little pale. "Would or would you not be a nineteenth-century Ruth?" Her clear voice hung in the ripening September air.
"I would." Laurel spoke from her innermost being. Why did she feel the words committed her, like a solemn vow to something that would never happen? "I would follow my husband wherever God called him to go." Her gaze never left Ivy's.
"Good for you!" Loud clapping followed the approving statement.
Laurel and Ivy Ann turned, torn from complete absorption in their discussion by the deep, masculine voice. A stranger stood on the bottom step, still applauding. Dark, interested eyes surveyed the twins. One fine hand held the reins of a spirited filly. Tall, straight, dark-haired and strong....
Excerpted from Wildflower Harvest by Colleen L. Reece. Copyright © 1994 Colleen L. Reece. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Two uplifting Christian romances set in the late 1800's! This is a tender tale of twin sisters who are coming of age in 1873 West Virginia. They are identical in appearance, but very different underneath. Their differences finally cause a rift that makes one do something drastic, affecting the whole family. A good picture of redemption, forgiveness and reconciliation in this story. A squeaky clean romance with faith elements. 3.5 stars The second story is a fun one, set twenty years later in Wyoming, with a family connection to the first. The cousins have a good brother-sister relationship, leading to a dare and subsequent events that bring big changes in their lives. I really enjoyed this story of adventure, danger, and a gentle romance begun through letters. Building on the first story also made it feel more like a complete novel. Plenty of faith discussions put this firmly in the inspirational fiction genre. Very uplifting! Recommend! 4 stars (These stories were previously released in 1994 under the same titles.) (An e-book was provided by NetGalley and Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review.)