My first full-length historical, a book that I absolutely love, set on the Western frontier and chock full of the sweetness of Little House on the Prairie, the romance of When Calls the Heart and the yearning of Love Comes Softly…
But with the Ruthy-twist of tongue-in-cheek humor, women’s rights and the rise of women not as helpers in settling the West, but as full-fledged partners who came to win rights to vote, hold property and bear the rights and privileges of the time long after they should have.
Settling the frontier wasn’t easy. The lure of free land brought a lot of people west. First in wagons, following the Oregon trail and sometimes veering off and seeking settlements along the way.
It was not for the faint of heart and if you had the misfortune to die in a rocky area, well… you got buried under rocks because there was no way to dig rock, right? 🙁 But there were other parts of the country that were more inviting and user-friendly.
This story parallels the settling of eastern South Dakota, in the area of DeSmet where the Ingalls family settled when Pa worked for the railroad and helped bring the railroad to the area.
Western settlement was rugged. A host of things blocked people from comfortably making a living off their free land. Blizzards, dugouts, soddies, wooden claim shacks (the coldest of the three!!!), droughts, grasshoppers, fires, thick sod grass, unreliable railroad, lack of food, lack of supplies… You were required to live on the claim for six months of the year and develop the land annually.
Some folks thought that once the railroad came through, things would get easier.
Well, they could have but it wasn’t as if the railroad was able to run 12 months of the year and getting supplies into the west through impassable rails meant people went without. On top of that, there was little to provide fuel on the prairie…. it was fairly treeless except in creek bottoms where cottonwoods stretched long, leggy roots to drain excess water. Buffalo chips provided some fuel, but the bison herds didn’t last long. 🙁
Hay twists burned quickly without much heat.
When the railroad brought coal to the west, people cheered. Finally a commodity that allowed them to stay warm through the brutal months of a South Dakota winter!
Except when the trains couldn’t get through, there was no fuel. No goods. Nothing to stock the shelves of the claim shack or the mercantile.
So the train brought a false sense of security and a lesson: To thy own self be true.
Take care of yourself.
Blaze a path.
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
And use fuel sparingly. Better a sweater in November than frostbite in March. Use it up, wear it out, make it last.
This story winds its way around your heart. In a very Darcy-like fashion, Seb Ward finds a five-year-old boy on his doorstep, a gift from his father and now the thirty-something proud and private businessman must figure out what to do with his illegitimate brother… The secret must be kept, too many people in South Dakota know Ward’s lumber family in Minnesota and Seb wants to spare his mother and sisters the embarrassment of his father’s misdeeds. But the sudden appearance of a child raises eyebrows, suspicions and gets tongues wagging, doesn’t it? And when the man in question stays close-mouthed but begins arranging for a house and schooling and ordering little boy clothing, well– it’s pretty clear that there’s been some monkey business going on somewhere.
Rachel Eichas’s father was a stern, dispassionate man who raised his four children in a similar home. He drained the joy out of two women, and he’d have done the same to his kids except he died…. Oh, dear! … and now Levi, Rachel, Miriam and Esther have a chance to embrace a different kind of life. Different thoughts. Different modes!
And to be part of the town their father eschewed… except for the money-making wagon business he developed with Levi.
This is a time of discovery for the Eichas women. A time of venture, a time of challenge and choice and when Rachel is offered the job of schoolmistress after a rather rough school year, many doubt her capabilities.
She knows she was born to teach. Called to teach. But when she’s attracted to the good-looking lumber man who suddenly has a little boy who looks just like him, she regrets her lack of experience around men.
And when her attraction threatens the job she’s longed for, can she see beyond the obvious to the heart and soul of the people she loves?
Small towns do love to talk, but every now and again, that same small town would do well to sit back and listen…. and maybe they’ll do just that in Second Chance, South Dakota!
Gossip and loose talk are dangerous entities…. have you had a bad experience with either? Leave a comment below and I’ll tuck your name into the prairie pot for a Kindle version of this beautiful new story!