Welcome Guest Barbara Ankrum & Gift Card Giveaway

Barbara Ankrum
Barbara Ankrum

Barbara Ankrum

Where Love, Adventure and Happily Ever After Meet

Often, as I research a historical book, I run across some little factoid that sets my imagination going. It sometimes has nothing to do with the story I’m researching, and I must store it away from a future book. That’s what happened to me a couple of years ago with what ultimately ended up being the basis for my latest historical, THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS.

I happened upon a story about the Industrial Schools for Indian Children that popped up in the late 19th century just as the Native Americans were forced onto reservations. I was quite stunned to discover that the government had systematically taken the Native American children from their families and sent them to what amounted to military-like boarding schools where they were stripped of their language, their culture, their long hair and even their names. These schools were often church run, and operated on the necessity of saving the souls of heathen children, but that wasn’t their only goal.

The government cloaked the education of these children in the American culture, forcing them to lose their connection to the tribes they left behind, while offering them little in the way of a future. Many children in these schools never made it out. Sickness and abuse was rampant and, despite BIA involvement, there was little government oversight. Ostensibly, the government believed that this cultural genocide—yes, I said it!—was necessary to help the children integrate into the white world. But it would appear they had no such ambition for them. Once the children had achieved a modicum of ‘education’ and they were mostly turned loose or returned to a culture they no longer felt part of, a wave of helplessness and despair swept over them.

Many turned to alcohol once back on the poverty-stricken reservation, a major problem that is still rampant today. What had once made the Native Americans strong was stripped from them piece by piece. Shortly after these schools came into being, the famous Ghost Dance began among the Indian nations, the last gasp hope that Native Americans might, somehow, miraculously, regain their culture, heritage and freedom. Sadly, that was not to be.

Indian Boarding SchoolI was even more shocked to learn that these boarding schools existed right up until the 1980’s-90’s, when they were finally closed, following protests and legislation reform. The backlash of the boarding school experience is still visible on reservations today; a fact conveniently omitted from our school history books, along with much else that was done to that amazing culture. In many tribes, their native language is all but forgotten. If you’re interested in hearing more about Indian Boarding Schools, there’s an amazing and heartbreaking documentary about it called “Our Spirits Don’t Speak English.”

In my book, THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS, Essie is a woman who has lost everything and finds work teaching at one of these schools in the rough world of Montana Territory. The job was not what she expected. My hero, a half-breed Cheyenne who’s come in the dead of night to steal away/rescue one of the children, ends up stealing Essie instead, when the boy is nowhere to be found. The book follows their journey together as they run into the mountains to escape the men pursuing them and to find the boy. But in the end, this is a story of forgiveness and the choices these two very different people make between them and how Essie discovers her own power and finds herself. Is she ruined in the end? You’ll have to read it to find out. I can only say that I fell madly in love with both of them as I wrote this book, not only for their courage, but for their hearts. And besides, can’t all of us stand a little ruination now and then?

I hope you enjoy this book. THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS will be available for pre-sale soon. This is Book Two in my new Wild Western Rogues series, and if you’ve already read THE LADY TAKES A GUNSLINGER, (and I hope you have!) you’ll be happy to know you’ll run into my H&H from that book, Reese and Grace, in this one, too.


I’m giving away a $10 AMAZON GIFT CARD to one lucky commenter.

Just tell me what it is about Historical Western romance in particular you love? 

Happy Reading!

Essie SparksComing soon!

Check out Barbara’s other books here:



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67 thoughts on “Welcome Guest Barbara Ankrum & Gift Card Giveaway”

  1. Wow, I had no idea! Thanks, so glad there are people, like you, who love doing the research and sharing with the rest of us.

    • Thanks, Geralyn. I had no clue either about it, but the idea haunted me for a long time. It’s a dark topic, but Essie’s story is a hopeful adventure that I hope you’ll enjoy!

  2. I remember a similar school in my hometown of Riverside, CA. It was a high school called Sherman Institute and I believe it is still operating today.

    Cindy W.

    • Cindy,
      Yes, I guess some f these schools still exist, but in different forms. Thankfully there are protections in place now that weren’t there back then.
      best Barbara

  3. You new book sounds really good. I think what the government did to those children was very unacceptable. If they were church run, what kind of Christians were they to treat the kids the way they did?

    • Thanks Janine. I ask the same question. Native Americans were very spiritual people and greatly misunderstood. I think a lot of fear was involved, which is at the root of most that goes wrong in the world…
      Best Barbara

  4. Hi Barbara…..A big welcome back to P&P! We’re thrilled to have you visit again. I had read about this utterly shameful practice back then. I can’t imagine how horrible the children felt to give up their families, their heritage and their very souls. It’s little wonder they turned to alcohol to forget.

    Congrats on the new book! I love that cover. Very beautiful and romantic.

  5. I’ve always loved historicals but Westerns hold a special place since they are set in our country. I think we would have been a lot better off accepting the values of the Native Americans as opposed to the Puritans.

    • catslady, I often think the same thing. I love learning more about Native American spirituality. A beautiful and balanced way of looking at the world.

  6. I have heard that history before – about the Indian children. It is so sad. I love the rugged toughness of everyone who lived in the wild west and thus the western romances appeal to me!

  7. Sadly, I had heard of this.

    I think I’m fascinated with the western historical romances because, as a little girl, I watched Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, westerns, etc… They made it look fun and carefree in addition to the hard work we all know it had to have been.

    • I watched all those shows, too, Denise. I think that’s what hooked me on the west. That and the film “How the West Was Won.” It just sparked my imagination and made me admire the bravery of all those people leaving behind everything they knew for the west.

  8. very interesting ,,I thought I had read some on this many years ago,didnt know it was happening for so long,,i had always wished that I had lived back then,where things weren’t so techy,,,i miss people writing letters and actual phone calls not emails or text,our kids today do not know how to acutally talk,,its really sad

    • Vickie, Isn’t it weird to realize that we sort of did grow up in an untechy world, and how fast it’s changed into what it is now. I love reading old letters by 19th century people. So literate and poetic. I have a whole collection of letters from a relative in the Civil War who was a Union soldier taken prisoner in the south. Someday, that will be a book! 🙂

  9. I toured one An Indian boarding school near my home town here in Nebraska. Perhaps the pictures lied but I saw many pictures of comfortably dressed Native American nurses training for jobs, blacksmiths, farmers working the fields, the hospital where their medical needs were met and kitchens, and comfortable dorms. It was a town within a town and many of the buildings still stand today. I am sure there were many horror stories from this place but found it very interesting. Can’t remember when it closed. Sad what we whites did to a beautiful people.

    I love the rugged life of historical romances.

    • Connie, that must have been a fascinating tour. The abuse in these schools was rampant, but I’m sure there were exceptions, just as in everything. I would like to think there were good people trying to make things better for the children that were taken, but my point was, those children and their parents really never had a choice. And their culture was taken away.
      I love historical romances, too, especially when it’s a bit of history wrapped up in a story. Somehow, the whole event becomes more personal that way. You know? At least for me, as a writer.

  10. I love Historical Romances… they are what got me hooked on reading! I love stepping back in time and going along a journey with the characters… dashing knights, handsome rogues, sexy warriors and more! 😉

  11. WHat I love about it is it’s interesting how people survived back then. My grandfather in the middle 20 century worked on the reservations and would not talk about the schools.

    • Wow, Kim. I feel like the children that survived these schools are like war vets who suffered PTSD and find the whole thing impossible to talk about. I can imagine being witness to it, for someone who was caring, must have been very painful. That’s where my Essie evolved from. You can find the documentary “Our Spirits Don’t Speak English” on youtube.com

  12. I heard about this on Native American history lessons I took in the university when I was an exchange student in the States for a while. Our teacher told us some truly horrible things and some of them were not from the distant past, either.

    • Minna, I was shocked to hear that they were still going in the 80’s and 90’s. But I’m glad you learned about it in school. At least they’re talking about it in universities. It’s a dark secret that needs some light.

  13. Historical Western romances are unique and captivating. The era and the characters strive to live a life filled with trials and tribulations.

  14. Western historical romance novels give me a great deal to think about as the individuals had to deal with difficulties and make their lives better.

  15. Watching the Westerns in the 1950’s was wonderful. I was enthralled with their lives and the cowboys integrity and principles.

  16. Interesting post. I love historical western, its my favorite read. I love learnig about the old west. My father always read a lot of westerns and I think that is where I get it from. I may read a something different just for a change but always go back to my western.

    • Quilt Lady, I inherited a complete collection of Westerns by Louis L’Amour from my father. He and I rode horses together, watched western movies and dreamed of moving to the west. Which we actually did one day. I’ve always called him my city cowboy, but he definitely instilled a love for all things western in me, too.

  17. I watched all the 50’s westerns, Ellie, and when I go back to watch them now, I think they’re a little cheesy, (Except Little Joe. Nothing cheesy about him!) but what was at their core was that thing that we still love about westerns: loyalty, honor, and men like Little Joe and Ben and Rowdy Yates!

  18. I grew up reading the Little House on the Prairie books, then read all my dad’s Louis L’amour books as a teen (my favorites were the ones with a little romance in them) 😉 I think what draws me to this genre is seeing how people survived and lived and loved in such a harsh time that required so much strength and sacrifice.

  19. I love reading about history. That’s why I love historicals. I’ve known a bit about these schools from reading different articles. Also since I moved to Minnesota, where a lot of this happened, I’ve been encouraged by the progress many of the tribes have made to reteach their native languages. I look forward to reading this book of yours Barbara.

    • Thanks Eileen! Yes, there’s an awesome Cheyenne/English dictionary online and I found it interesting that it was aimed really at non-speaking Cheyennes. Awesome movies like Dances with Wolves Cast real Sioux native Americans and had to teach them the language through one of the few speakers left. I can’t remember her name, Doris something. That inspired me!

  20. I love history. I really enjoy the books that show the bad as well as the good parts of history. Western historical are a favorite because I feel more connected to the characters than I do in many other genres.

  21. Part of the appeal of Western Historicals is its being a place where people sought and often found second chances. A new place away from your past and an opportunity to start over, hopefully correcting the mistakes of the past. It was a place that brought out the best, and the worst, of those who came.
    I was familiar with the indian schools and the sadly successful efforts to make indian children “white.” The succeeded in destroying the cultural and cultural identity of several generations leaving them with nothing substantial in its place. The Native Americans lost their lands, their freedom, and their souls. They do not have control over reservation land or the contract selling their mineral and oil resources which are sold far below market value. Is it any wonder that poverty and despair leading to alcohol abuse are so prevalent?
    I look forward to reading THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS. Best wishes for a successful release.

    • You’re so right, Patricia. Very sad. And I love what you said about second chances, one of the things I love most about Westerns! Hope you enjoy it!

  22. I read of the schools for Indians & the terrible genocide of the Indian culture some years ago. While visiting La Purisima Mission in LomPoc CA, a beautiful historical place, yet sobering in the reality of it’s existence. Indian families were basically enslaved to do all the labor while at the same time the children were held hostage to make sure that the parents did the work. Families separated, cultures disappeared, people had & have a big hole in their lives.
    Your new book THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS sounds like a good read! Looking forward to it. 🙂

  23. Western books usually feature the struggle to survive whether it’s against people, weather or disease. Adversity brings out the best in people showcasing perseverance, integrity, and dedication to a strong work ethic and family ties.

  24. Near Hartshorne, ok we still have Jones Academy, which take in Native American kids, for various reasons. It’s nothing like the olden days though, our tribes take good care of their own. My husband is one, though his white woman wife isnt!

  25. I live in Phoenix where there was a school for Indians on Indian School road. I think they integrated to other schools in the 70’s.
    Your book sounds really interesting. I am always looking for new authors to read.

  26. Wow Barbara. Its so powerful reading the history and what had been done to them back then. I learn so much reading historical romance and often look up to find more info. Thanks, looking forward to reading both. A favorite Western historical romances with it being a time travel are favorites too. I love reading how the character deals with living in the past! Some are humorous like Kathleen Kane (Maureen Child) THIS TIME FOR KEEPS and then too one with a deaf heroine and civil War TBI hero of Kristen Hannah, ONCE IN EVERY LIFE, both older books but haven’t heard of any recent time travels, especially those going back in time to the west. Sorry for the long post! Cathid

    • Caffe, I love time travels too and actually wrote one under a pseudonym Carrie Hudson called ONCE A GAMBLER, set in the west part of a series with author Debra Rawlins- just in case you want to check it out, set in the old west! So glad you enjoyed the blog post!

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