For the last year or so, I’ve been doing a series of blog posts (often interrupted for other stuff) about Pathfinders.

Daniel Boone, Kit Carson, John Coulter, John Mullen<< a cool guy not well known, James P Beckwourth, Sacagawea…oh I did a bunch of them.

What set me on my way researching these pathfinders was my current series. And dealing with a young man, 16 years old, who survives a wagon train massacre on a little used trail in the heart of the Rocky Mountains right as the snow begins to fall. (hello, Donner Party!!!)

He very simply gets lost. He finds a way to survive the winter and it wasn’t easy. Then he’s just so lost. He wandered for two long searching for a trail in the oncoming winter, now he can’t find his way–anywhere. In the end, he just stayed there. Stayed in the mountains. He doesn’t see another human being for about five years.

My question, what started my research was, could this really happen?

I tried to get a sense of scope of how big the Rockies are. How deep the snow. How hard it is to find a trail. We are so cut off from that kind of experience now, with paved roads and cell phones with GPS and (for heaven’s sakes) airplanes.

We barely need to know the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west. And even that is a fun fact, nothing we particularly use to find out way home.

So the book is here.

Trace Riley is here.

He’s been in the mountains a long time. He finally found another man who stayed and worked on Trace’s ‘sort of’ ranch. This man told Trace where a town was, so Trace went in and staked a claim to the land he’d been living on for years. He’s built up a small herd, so Trace hires another man and the three of them drive some cattle to market.

Now Trace knows where he is, how to get to a town. He rode all the way to the ocean after the cattle drive to Sacramento, and he’s coming home a happy man.

And then, like a monster rising out of his worst nightmares, he comes upon another wagon train massacre. And the signs as Trace reads them, and he’s gotten very very good, say this was done by the same men who attacked his wagon train and killed his father.

And then, out of the tall grass, a woman comes running, crying for help.

It’s like he hears his own voice and he can do nothing less than to be her guardian…and then someone else comes running, her sister, okay, now he’s going to take care of two women. And wait, what is she carrying? A baby? No, TWO babies.

Trace has a long cold ride to get home, he’s mostly out of food, he’s got one horse and a lot of potential riders.

He is, most definitely, an accidental guardian.

Today, leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for a signed copy of The Accidental Guardian, book #1 of the High Sierra Sweethearts trilogy.

And, because it’s MARCH and that is calf time!!! (sort of like half-time only with less football and more mooing)…here is a picture of a baby calf…I’m doing a parade of our new baby calves on Facebook, come and join the fun.

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Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series


  1. Oh Mary, you have me most definitely intrigued with this book. Wow that’s a powerful description of it. I’ve nrver read one of your books before, but this ones going on my list to get.
    Have a blessed day.

  2. Oh my goodness this book sounds like my kind of HWR! I’ve never read one of your books and winning a giveaway would be an awesome way to get to know your writings. A giveaway is one of the best ways to find an author to add to my go to authors list. Reading is my traveling and adventures because I home pretty much 24/7/365. I’m disabled so I rarely travel anymore except in my mind.

    • Stephanie, you’re in the drawing! If you don’t win, get one of my books at the library, if they don’t have it they can get it through interlibrary loan.
      Reading is the best, low cost, safe, FAST way to travel imho

    • Debra, researching these Pathfinders…it is fascinating. Once John C Fremont, with Kit Carson and a troop of men, was tasked with getting through the mountains south of the Oregon Trail IN THE WINTER. It took him THREE YEARS! The second year he had ten men die trying to get through. So it was NOT EASY.

  3. Okay, you have my attention, and I want to read this book. It sounds so good. I have lived in the Rockies of Wyoming, so can see thus happening.

  4. Love falling down the rabbit hole of research and discovering things.

    Your story sounds amazing! To go from lost and alone for years to finding civilization again, to having to be responsible for others in a blink of am eye!? Wow!! I’ve not read any of your books before, and this definitely has me intrigued!!

    Calves are so cute!! I love talking to the ones across the street from us. They’re so curious about my dogs (their size).

  5. Sounds like a great story, Mary. I’ve done a little research myself for my Oregon Trail series and yes, someone could survive in the mountains if they kept their wits about them and had some basic skills. Love the idea that it’s the same jerk who massacred the wagon train HE was on, that brings it all back home. Another winner, Mary.

  6. Congratulations Mary!
    This sounds like a great new series. I love your calf pictures on Facebook!

  7. Congrats on your new book and it sounds fantastic. I would love to read it. I have been seeing your new born calfs on facebook and it must be amazing seeing them born. If it was me I would have to try and name them. I would say you would have a lot of great names for them from your books.

  8. Mary, I am LOVING your calf pictures on Facebook!! Seeing new life reminds me of my own new life in Christ. 🙂 And those calves are just so cute!!

    This story is already on my must-read list and now that I know the inspiration behind it, I’m even more excited for it. Getting to know Trace is going to be fun! Which, by the way, I love his name.

  9. I adore calf time!! I cannot imagine getting so lost that you have to survive and not see another human for 5 years. Granted, in that time it was totally plausible since, as you stated, it wasn’t over populated and helpful with GPS, phones, etc, as in today. But seriously, holy cow! I’m an introvert but even that might be too much for me. Cannot wait to read this story!

  10. Mary!! Great post. Great story! I love Trace Riley. You can feel his aloneness, and then the women and kids show up. Love how he just jumps right in. Love your pictures! The long horn looks like he’s posing, and the calves are so cute.

  11. Cannot wait to read this book!! Love reading your other books and have not disappointed!! Thank you for opportunity to win a free copy.

  12. Omg this book sounds amazing definitely one I will want to read. I love the Western Historical and this book of yours sounds exactly like my kind of book

  13. Oh, so much delicious tension already in the story! I have often wondered if a person was lost in the mountains, could they survive. You hear stories of people getting lost now, and we don’t have the knowledge of how to survive like people used to, and it’s a miracle they survive a few days…weeks…and yet you have a character who has survived for five years! I’m going to love this one, Mary!

  14. Mullan Road goes through our county and I-90 goes through Mullan Pass on the Idaho-Montana border. I should do some research, too , because I really don’t know anything about the man they are named for. The book cover is beautiful and your description of the story has me hooked. I’ll have to read it.

    • Alice I’d love to learn more about Mullan. According to what I read, he was tasked with tearing a path through the Rockies, where the Oregon Trail would be, because at that time there was no trail that a wagon could get through. They had to lower wagons down cliffs and things like that to make it through. So it was his job to build a road where there was none. I’d just like to know more about what it was like, when the wagons started coming, did any of the Oregon Trail traffic start through before that road got built. Wbat was the trail like before Mullan and after him. Oh, just lots of things.

  15. Cannot wait to read this one. I started reading your books when our library got a number of your digital books at one time. I kept glancing at them and then passing them over. I decided to try one (I think I’ve read that one 3 times now) and I was hooked. Waiting impatiently for your newest. Thanks for the great laughs.

  16. I love your books and I also love your sense of humor. This new book sounds just wonderful (which is no surprise at all coming from you!)!

  17. Hi Mary, your new book sounds fascinating and I love your picture! I used to have a lot of those babies to take care. They were mostly black & white because we milked Holstein cows and I often ended caring for the calves. We later switched to beef cows so I wasn’t so hands on with them. Please include me in your Giveaway.
    Thank you & Blessings!

  18. Can’t wait to read this book!!! You were the first Christian fiction author I ever read!! You are the reason I’m still reading it today!

  19. I love your books! I’ve read all of them over and over and over! I can’t wait for this one!

  20. Having lived in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, the foothills of the Rockies, and now the Blueridge MountainsThey all have vast areas that are vast, remote, and still wild. The Rockies certainly have the most extreme weather overall. If someone was well versed in survival techniques and had the basic necessities (knife, gun, ammo, warm clothing, etc.) they could survive. He would have had supplies from the wagon train. His second winter he would have had time to build a shelter/house and store supplies. It certainly would not have been an easy task to survive but it was doable.
    I look forward to reading his story and those of the others in this series.
    I am enjoying your yearly calf showcase. I have been watching them drop in the pastures in this area. There was a nursery group in the field the other morning. 6 babies and one cow watching over them. The moms were probably getting a well deserved break.

  21. I absolutely love your books. The Accidental Guardian sounds like it just may be the best yet. The cover is certainly exceptional. Thanks for the giveaway.

  22. This book sounds interesting. I really enjoy your books especially Sophia and daughters. I still smile when I think of the husband tree. I like your tough ladies that are real ladies.

  23. This sounds like a great book. I love the cover. Thank you for the chance to win a copy.
    Your calf is so cute. Mama looks like she is not sure she wants its picture taken.

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