The Christmas Wish and a Giveaway

I can’t speak for all authors, but I think many of us get attached to our characters like they were members of our family.

For me, that is certainly the case with my Hardman Holidays series. 

Back in 2012 when I wrote The Christmas Bargain, the first book in the series, I had no intention of making it into a series. But I fell in love with the characters. I really did. Book nine, The Christmas Wish, will release in a few weeks! 

If you are unfamiliar with the series, the first book is about Luke (the town banker) and Filly (a woman he marries in lieu of payment on a loan). Readers have called it an Old West Cinderella story with a holiday twist. The second book is about Luke’s sister, Ginny, and Blake, the boy she once loved who is now a man who thinks she is frustrating, ridiculous, and entirely captivating. Book three is about Alex, a purveyor of prestidigitation, and Arlan, Luke’s straight-laced assistant at the bank. The fourth book is about Arlan’s brother, Adam, and Tia, the girl he planned to wed before she married an older man with deep pockets. The fifth book is about Tom Grove, a newspaper man, and Lila, Luke’s lovely cousin. Book six features Fred Drecker (once the town bad boy) and Elsa, a sweet woman who runs the town bakery. A recluse, Gray, and his adorable daughter, Maddie Mae, encounter a lively socialite, Claire (Fred’s aunt) in book seven while book eight features Trace, a telephone lineman and a Victoria, Gray’s sister. 

The Christmas Wish is about Percy Bruner. He’s made an appearance in every single book in the series. In The Christmas Bargain, we meet him as a six-year-old rascal who helps out in his parents’ mercantile. I knew the first time I envisioned his character, I wanted to write more about him. By the time I finished the second book in the series, I planned to one day tell Percy’s story. We get to watch him grow through each book and now he’s a man with a broken heart who hates the thought of returning to Hardman. But an urgent telegram from his mother beckons him to return to Hardman, a place he once loved, but hasn’t set foot in for almost five years. 

Percy discovers something when he returns to Hardman he never expected to find. I won’t give you any spoilers, but it involves a pretty girl who runs the bookstore, writes anonymous “wishes” letters to the people in town, adores a cat named Teddy, and has a grandfather in need of his own romance. 

Here’s a little excerpt from the book:

~*~

“Did you know Brynn Rutherford was helping with the children’s program?” Percy asked, tossing his mother an accusatory glare.

“I had no idea. Pastor Dodd just said he had one volunteer and needed a second.” Despite her nonchalant demeanor, Percy noticed the hint of a smug smile forming at the corners of her mouth. “Isn’t that nice of her to help?”

“Nice,” he muttered, convinced his mother wasn’t nearly as innocent as she pretended to be.

“That Brynn is such a nice girl,” Aleta said, glancing at Percy, then her husband.

His father nodded in agreement. “She’s got plenty of gumption, that’s a fact.”

“Not only that, but she’s thoughtful and fun, and so well-liked in the community.” Aleta blew on a bite of the hot stew. “I’m not sure Mr. Howland is a good match for our girl.”

There was that “our” business again. Percy wondered when his mother had decided to claim Brynn as part of the family but decided it best not to voice his question. By sheer determination, he ignored her comment about Christopher Howland. Percy had seen the strange man leaving the bookstore late one evening and could only assume he was there after hours to visit Brynn.

The thought of him, or any man, coming to call on her left Percy with a bad taste in his mouth. He took a long drink from the glass of milk sitting by his plate and then glanced down at his bowl of stew.

“This is good, Pop. Thanks for cooking for us.”

“I won’t say it was a pleasure, but it did feel good to do something productive,” George said, cutting a slice of cornbread and slathering it with butter and honey.

Later that evening, as Percy prepared to turn in for the night, he glanced across the street and saw a light burning in the room he was sure belonged to Brynn. He smiled, picturing her lost in a romance, growing swoony over a swashbuckling hero.

He climbed into bed and closed his eyes, wondering if any of her heroes ever had red hair.

~*~

 

The Christmas Wish releases December 3 but you can pre-order your copy today. 

Also, you can discover the visuals that have inspired the series on my Pinterest boards here.

What about you?  If you had the opportunity to make a wish for someone else, what would it be? 

Post your comment for a chance to win the Hardman Holidays ebook boxed set which includes the first three books in the series!

 

Yellowstone Calls in the Cavalry

By Regina Scott

             Regina Scott   http://www.reginascott.com

My father was a big John Wayne fan, so I grew up watching Westerns that featured the iconic actor. In them, the US Cavalry always rides to the rescue, no matter the odds. When I was researching for my second book in the American Wonders Collection, Nothing Short of Wondrous, I was delighted to learn that the Cavalry really did ride to the rescue of our first national park, Yellowstone.

When Yellowstone was first created, there was no National Park Service. No one had any idea how to manage the millions of acres that encompass the park and range from snow-capped mountains to steaming hot pools.

Congress appointed a superintendent, but some of the first tried to manage things from Washington, D.C.! Others that followed moved out to the park, at least when it wasn’t covered by snow, but even they struggled to protect the natural wonders and the species who called Yellowstone home.

By 1886, Yellowstone was in real danger. Commercial interests were lobbying to build railroads into the park, erect businesses, even log and mine. The number of visitors was swelling, and many had no idea how to behave.

   Albert Bierstadt Painting of Old Faithful

They carved their names into the geological formations, chipped off chunks to take home as souvenirs, and even plugged up the geysers to see how high the debris would shoot.

Postcard #157 – The Buffalo Herd;
Frank J Haynes

Worse, poachers traveled brazenly through the park, picking off game. The buffalo herd, the last truly wild herd in the country, dwindled to less than 30.

Captain Moses Harris

Something had to be done. Congress used a clause in an earlier law to send the Army to manage the park. Captain Moses Harris and Troop M of the 1st Cavalry rode into Yellowstone on August 20, 1886, to take control.

     Troop M of the 1st Cavalry in Yellowstone

Their first task? To fight the wildfires that were raging throughout the park, at least some set by poachers intent on driving the game onto unprotected lands for slaughter. There was no fire wagon, no hoses, and no money to allocate for them. But they fought the fires nonetheless. They also stationed detachments at all the major tourist attractions to safeguard the park.

The men expected their work in the park to be temporary, until Congress could determine a better way to manage Yellowstone, but the Cavalry remained in charge for 32 years. Their zeal to protect the land and its animals lay the foundation for the conservation mindset still prevalent in the National Park Service today.

What else would you expect from those trained to ride to the rescue?

Have you ever been to Yellowstone? Which attraction was your favorite? If you haven’t been, which have you heard about you’re longing to see? Comment below for a chance to win an autographed print copy of Nothing Short of Wondrous, a set of vintage-style postcards, and huckleberry lip balm straight from Montana.

                      Click to Buy

Regina Scott is the award-winning author of more than fifty works of warm, witty historical romance. She and her husband live in the Puget Sound area of Washington State on the way to Mt. Rainier. Her fascination with history has led her to dress as a Regency dandy, drive a carriage four-in-hand, learn to fence, and sail on a tall ship, all in the name of research. You can learn more about her at http://www.reginascott.com or connect with her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/authorreginascott) or Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/reginascottpins).

LORDS AND OUTLAWS: THE PARKS OF COLORADO

Andrea Downing

In my recent release, Shot through the Heart, my hero, Shiloh Coltrane, goes in search of outlaws in the Colorado Rocky Mts. through both Estes Park and Brown’s Hole (later named Park). This mountain area was once called the ‘Switzerland of America’ because of its beauty, and within its domain at around 8,000 ft. are several “parks”:  North Park, Middle Park, South Park, Winter Park and, of course, Estes Park. Why are they called “Park”?  Apparently, it’s Colorado-speak for an upland valley—and I have to say sounds rather nicer than ‘Hole,’ which is another western take on valleys, as in Brown’s Hole.

  Estes Park was renowned for its beauty but was also an abundant hunting ground. It was brimming with wildlife that attracted numerous overseas visitors in the 19th century, notably wealthy men who came to hunt creatures they wouldn’t encounter back home. The Earl of Dunraven, an Anglo-Irish peer, was so enamored of this area, which he first viewed in 1872, that he set out to make it his own.

 

Why Dunraven favored Estes Park came down to several details, as varied as the beautiful sunsets, the dry air, and the fact nearby Denver was a station for no less than five railroad lines. He loved the area so much that he paid Albert Bierstadt $15,000 for a painting of Estes Park. The way Dunraven set about obtaining ownership to six thousand acres was a modus operandi that would be employed by numerous ranchers throughout the west in the coming years. Exercising his vast resources, he had his agents bribe various American citizens to make use of both the Pre-emption Act and Homestead Act to either buy or prove up 160 acres each. By choosing the sites wisely, Dunraven enclosed more acreage without access to water. Thirty-one claims were filed for his use.

In the next sixteen years, Dunraven was able to make the seventeen-day journey from Liverpool annually or more often. But as time went on, with squatters moving in, a grand jury investigating his claims, and his own increased involvement in HM Queen Victoria’s government, he was unable to visit after 1882 and eventually sold his land.

Most people who have visited the national park will have travelled at least part of Trail Ridge Road. Peaking at 12,000 ft., it twists and turns on the backbone of the Rockies through some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. If you continue on this road on a rather circuitous manner, you will eventually reach Steamboat Springs. And from there if you head north, you touch upon Brown’s Hole, or Brown’s Park, nestled near the borders of CO, UT, and WY. You can see in the photos how the landscape changes from the greens of Estes Park to the red rock country and canyons of Brown’s Park.

Brown’s Park had a long history of being visited by Native Americans and trappers.  Its harsh landscape was not particularly welcoming but a few settlers did move in, and there was a trading post. But the main visitors in the late 1800s were rustlers and other outlaws, and it became part of the outlaw’s trail, which included Robber’s Roost (UT) and Hole-in the-Wall (WY). Men such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Elzy Lay, and Tom Horn, as well as the Queen of Cattle Rustlers, Ann Bassett, had hide-outs or homes in Brown’s Park. Today part of it is the Brown’s Park National Wildlife Refuge, and its landscape, which eventually leads into Flaming Gorge in WY, remains fairly isolated and remote. Strict regulations are in place for the hiker, camper or other visitor, and warnings such as lack of cell phone reception and bringing enough water abound. For the outlaw on the run it remains a perfect hide-out.

To find out whether or not Shiloh gets his man and returns home to his beloved, you’ll have to read Shot through the Heart.  I’m happy to let one lucky reader find out for free by commenting below. The prize will be a signed paperback if the winner is in the US or, for an overseas winner, any version of an eBook they prefer.

 

Gunslinger Shiloh Coltrane has returned home to work the family’s Wyoming ranch, only to find there’s still violence ahead. His sister and nephew have been murdered, and the killers are at large.
Dr. Sydney Cantrell has come west to start her medical practice, aiming to treat the people of a small town. As she tries to help and heal, she finds disapproval and cruelty the payment in kind.
When the two meet, it’s an attraction of opposites. As Shiloh seeks revenge, Sydney seeks to do what’s right. Each wants a new life, but will trouble or love find them first?

Click to Find Andrea Downing online 

 

THE BOOK IS OUT!!!

I probably talked about this last time I did a post for Petticoats and Pistols. 

But THIS TIME it’s official.

Her Secret Song

Book #3 of the Brides of Hope Mountain Series is in bookstores now. Shipping now!

Click Here to Buy on Amazon

A woman who’s afraid of everything is falling for the scariest man in the world.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG???

After a rough winter spent alone, Ursula Nordegren realizes she must overcome her fears of the outside world and begins a trek down Hope Mountain. Along the way she finds a badly wounded stranger and realizes God may have used her decision to leave as a way of saving the man. 

Wax Mosby was climbing Hope Mountain in part to atone for his terrible choices. He was hired to drive out the Warden family and now knows he was duped. But when he’s wounded during the climb, the last person he expects to rescue him is a beautiful blond woman with the voice of an angel. 

As both Ursula and Wax weigh the costs of living new lives, the two find an unlikely bond. And they’re joined by Ursula’s sisters and the Warden family as the final showdown over the family ranch looms with the coming of spring. 

The Back Cover

He hunts down outlaws.
She hides away from everyone.
When a long winter alone has each rethinking their lives,
Will they be ready to spring for unexpected second chances?

With both her sisters gone and married, Ursula Nordegren is the only one left clinging to their grandma’s fears about the outside world. But after a winter spent in isolation, even she is rethinking those warnings. She bravely starts to venture down Hope Mountain, only to stumble upon a badly wounded stranger and realize God may have had an extra special purpose behind sending her out.

Wax Mosby thought he was a skilled hired gun with principles. But that identity was upended the day he realized he’d been duped into wrongfully driving out the Wardens. He’s spent the winter planning to climb Hope Mountain to find the family and atone for his deeds. But when he’s wounded during the climb, the last person he expects to rescue him is a beautiful blond woman with the voice of an angel.

As both Ursula and Wax weigh the costs of leading new lives, the two find an unlikely bond. And they’re joined by Ursula’s sisters and the Warden family as the final showdown over the Wardens’ ranch looms with the coming of spring.

“Connealy concludes her Brides of Hope Mountain series with this charming tale. . . . Lush descriptions of the Colorado frontier and exciting gun battles make this a standout. Connealy’s fans will be pleased to see the series go out on a high note.” —Publishers Weekly

 

Roping Christmas

Picture yourself as the owner of a small business (you and one employee). You’re struggling to compete with bigger, more established businesses. Then, you suddenly find a goose laying golden eggs (okay, so it’s not a goose but a billionaire who is interested in hiring you – but close enough to a goose with golden eggs!). All you have to do is prove yourself and your business savvy to that ol’ goose.

Unbeknownst to you, part of earning his business is going to involve a quest to learn things you never dreamed you’d known how to do. 


That’s the basis for my new sweet holiday romance, Roping Christmas. And it releases tomorrow! 

There is still time to pre-order it today (just $3.99!). When you do, you can enter your purchase info into this form, and you’ll get a free Bonus Bundle that includes a short story that leads into the book, a recipe, rodeo photographs, and a set of printable, unique, western gift tags! 

 

A focused cowboy, a distracted executive, and a hilarious quest make for an unforgettable holiday . . .

Wyatt Nash is a professional tie-down roper, a good ranch hand, and not too shabby when it comes to attracting women. But according to his five-year-old niece, he needs to work on both his roping skills and his dating game. His sister thinks he needs to settle down. And don’t get him started on the advice he gets from well-meaning friends. When his rodeo sponsor, billionaire Jon Sinclair, asks for his assistance in tutoring a clueless city girl about Sinclair Industries, Wyatt doesn’t feel like he can say no. Then he discovers he’ll be teaching none other than the one woman on the planet who wants nothing to do with him.

Ashley Jarrett would do almost anything to turn her small publicity firm into a huge success. When Jon Sinclair expresses interest in working with her, she readily agrees to his crazy idea to have her learn about his company through hands-on projects. Not only is she forced far outside her comfort zone, but the man documenting every bumbling misstep she takes is an infuriating cowboy she’s determined to ignore.

Packed with small-town charm and the wonder of falling in love, Roping Christmas is a sweet holiday romance sure to bring laughter and infuse hearts Christmas cheer.

Available on Amazon

Add to Goodreads

Also, I want to invite you to an upcoming celebration! 

You’re invited to join in a celebration to officially kick of the Read a Book, Help a Cowboy campaign. The fun gets underway November 12 at 10 a.m. (Pacific Time) on Facebook in the Wholesome Hearts Events group with guest authors, giveaways, and more!

 

For a chance to win, fill out this form. The prize includes a beautiful Coldwater Creek fleece throw, an autographed copy of Roping Christmas, a box of delicious holiday tea, Godiva chocolates, a tube of body cream from Bath & Body Works, a boot Christmas ornament, and a swag bag to carry all the goodies.

The giveaway runs through October 30, 2020. The winner will be notified by November 15, 2020, and will be given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. Void where prohibited by law or logistics. The giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

Just for fun, I’d love to know what you’d do if you were in Ashley’s shoes? Would you prove yourself to the billionaire, or would you look for a less demanding goose? 

 

Protecting the Princess

Despite my tomboy tendencies as a child, I’ve always been a hopeless romantic. Always. It’s true!

I loved fairy tale stories with happily ever afters. And like most little girls, I dreamed of being a princess. 

Not much has changed. I still adore fairy tales and happily ever afters. And once in a while, I might even dream about an elaborate ball gown. 

That’s what made it so, so wonderful to write Protecting the Princess, my latest sweet small-town romance that releases next week. 

The story is about an outdoorsy guy who finds an injured woman alone in the mountains. He rescues her, falls in love, then finds out she’s a princess. 

Part of the story takes place at the castle where the princess grew up. I had to create a fake country, then envision what it would look like. What type of industry it might have. Did it have four seasons? What was the population? 

Honestly, I had a blast making up the country of Briden, a tiny European country that exports salt in a variety of forms. The capital city is Zaldovia. The population of the entire country is around 80,000. 

I spent hours drooling over photographs of castles, taking virtual tours and adding several to my bucket list. I narrowed it down to three castles I liked best, all located in France, to use as the inspiration for castle in the story.

 

The one I ended up choosing was Chateau Chamborigaud.  Located in the south of France, this graceful, fairy tale chateau that would look great in a Disney movie has three gorgeous towers with turrets. Chateau Chamborigaud is in the midst of a five-acre park in the Cevennes mountains and a river flows along its boundaries. Built in 1575, it is now open as a “castle for rent” with ten bedrooms and seven bathrooms. 

As I envisioned the castle where Poppy (the princess) grew up, I drew a lot of inspiration from this outstanding French castle.  In my mind’s eye, it was so easy to picture her there – then to picture her there with Parker (our hero). 

Did I mention there’s a ball in the story? There is! So I got to look at dozens of ball gowns to choose just the one for Poppy. And I may have studied some handsome tuxedo images (or maybe it was the men wearing the tux’s), too. 

At any rate, this book was such a joy to write. I hope it will be pure pleasure for readers to enjoy!

He wants to protect her.

   She needs him to love her . . .

 Parker Princeton is a man’s man. The kind who leads expeditions into the wilderness, can start a campfire with nothing but determination, and has survived on a steady diet of beef jerky and Dr Pepper. When he discovers a female in the woods, alone and injured, his first instinct is to protect her, the second to claim her as his own.  Although she can barely remember her name, he’s falling head over heels in love with the beautiful, mysterious woman.

Growing up as a pampered princess from a small European kingdom, all Poppy Granville wants is to experience a normal life. After finishing a year of studies in New York, Poppy decides to explore America before she returns home to face the responsibilities of her title. She ditches her cell phone, buys an old rust bucket car, and sets out on an adventure. After an injury leaves her stranded in the middle of nowhere, a rugged outdoorsman seems to be her only hope of surviving, even if she has to pretend to have amnesia to keep her identity a secret.

Will telling him the truth set her free, or lose him forever?

Laughter, love, and a fairy tale ending await in this funny, sweet romance packed with small-town charm.

Pre-order now at the special price of $2.99. Amazon | Barnes & Noble |  AppleKobo

You can see more of what inspired me as I wrote the story on my Pinterest board.

If you could be a princess,
where would you live, and what would your castle look like? What would you wear to a ball?
Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of Protecting the Princess!

Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer

Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer is a museum in Nebraska…not really near me because let’s face it, Nebraska is HUGE.

But it’s near enough that I’ve gotten there a couple of times.

It’s absolutely fascinating. A laid-out circle of buildings that have been brought it, that date to the 1800s.

I may write five blogs about it because there is SO MUCH. I could spend days there and just look and read and look and read.

But today I’m writing about the recreated Earthen Lodge built there.

In the early 1800s the Pawnee lived mainly in only a few towns. Six or seven.

In each town were 40 to 200 of these earthen lodges.

Each lodge held around 20 Pawnee and each village could contain from 800 to 3500 tribal members.

These were big towns.

The smallest one is larger than my hometown.

 

This first picture is a diagram of the lodge. It’s laid out to respect the power the Native people gave to the earth. It was called The Circle of Life. Both symbolic and literally the source of their family, their safety, their food, their shelter. Truly a circle of life for them.

For me, museums are most fun when there are lots of words. This picture above is for the Pawnee History that is celebrated with this earthen lodge. I hope you can read it. I spend more time READING in museums than looking at the objects contained there.

This is the side view of the lodge from outside. It’s exactly as you’d think it would be. A hole dug into a hill. Remember this is Nebraska. It gets cold! The insulation from dirt is excellent, though it still seems like it’s be a little cold to me. 

Here it is from the front, this is the entrance. It’s full size and we were able to go inside.

This is the inside edge of the lodge. You can see there is a layer of grassy seating off the ground. The Pawnee would sit here, around the fire, and could sleep here at night. A single lodge could house dozens of tribal members.

Here you can see the tree trunks that support the ceiling, even though it’s inside an earthen mount it is hollowed out and they need to keep the ceiling up. Note the opening in the ceiling. A fire was built in the center of the lodge and it would warm everyone, the smoke would rise up through the hole, they could cook over it and heat water to wash.

Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. A fascinating slice of history in Minden Nebraska in the heart of the Nebraska prairie.

Mary Connealy

 

Grass Valley Brides

Years ago, a dear friend invited me to spend the weekend with her at her parents’ home in Sherman County, Oregon. I’d never been in that part of the state, but quickly fell in “awe” with the rolling hills of wheat and sky that stretched forever. A few years after that, I found myself driving through the area and when I entered the tiny town of Grass Valley, the idea for a book began hopping around in my head. By the time I got home, I could hardly wait to get started writing it.

 

And one book led to another, until there were six in the sweet, contemporary Grass Valley Cowboys series. The stories are all set in and around Grass Valley, focusing on the Thompson and Morgan families.

The cowboys in the stories are the kind of heroes that give you happy daydreams (and may even make you swoon). They can be tender, teasing, flirty, furious, mischievous, rascally, protective, and proud, and that’s all before breakfast!

I’ve often thought about how fun it would be to write about the first families who came to Grass Valley, at least the families connected to those in my stories. 

 

The settlement of Grass Valley began with the establishment of a few stock ranches. Settlers began to arrive in the area and were soon plowing the cattle-sustaining grass to plant wheat fields.  Dr. Charles R. Rollins, a physician from New Hampshire, is credited with establishing Grass Valley when he arrived in the area with a small party of pioneers.  Dr. Rollins had an easy time choosing a name for the location since the rye grass grew thick and tall in the alkaline soil. Rollins built a large two-story hotel, which included a clinic from which he prescribed and sold medicine.  The town of Grass Valley was officially established in 1878.

I knew train service didn’t arrive in the area until around 1900, so I started digging into more history.

If you look at the map above, you see the John Day River, the Columbia River, and the Deschutes River make up the boundaries of quite a large area. Reportedly, Dr. Rollins was the only physician “between the rivers” for a while as communities popped up around the county. 

Originally, I’d wanted to set the story in 1878, when Grass Valley was established, but getting my characters there was proving to be a challenge. So, I kicked the timeline up to 1884 when train service ran all the way across the country and made a stop in The Dalles. From there, it was simple enough to board the stagecoach that ran daily from The Dalles to Canyon City to the southeast. Just to reach Grass Valley took most of the day with stops at stations to switch out the teams for fresh horses. I could just picture a cast of characters bouncing along on that long ride, eager to reach Grass Valley.

When I was asked to participate in a new project with three other authors, I knew it was time to write the story of the first Thompson to arrive in Grass Valley. 

I’m so pleased and happy to be part of the Regional Romance Series with our own Kit Morgan, as well as Kari Trumbo and Peggy L. Henderson. What makes this series so fun and unique is that each of us is writing three connected stories that are bundled into one book. If you purchase all four books in the series, you actually get twelve (12!) brand new romances! 

My contribution to the series is Grass Valley Brides.

I can hardly wait for you to read these stories, because they were ridiculously delightful to write! Oh, boy, did I have a good time! Mostly because of Taggart Thompson.

He is a rascally, good-looking rancher who fancies himself to be quite the matchmaker. And the real matchmaker is ready to throttle him! 

What’s a matchmaker to do when the husband-to-be rejects the bride?

     Again . . .

Widowed as a young wife, Cara Cargill turned her head for business and love of romance into a successful mail-order bride enterprise. She’s never had a problem matching couples until one mule-headed man continues to refuse to wed the women she sends to meet him in Grass Valley, Oregon. In an effort to make a match he’ll keep and uphold her sterling reputation, Cara is desperate to find the perfect bride.

Daisy – When her fiancé leaves her at the altar, Daisy Bancroft knows it is far past time for a change. Her dearest friend, Cara, offers to send her to a newly established town in Oregon, where possibilities abound and the grass is rumored to be as tall as a man’s head. Daisy arrives with plans to wed Tagg Thompson, only to find the obstinate rancher has foisted her off on his best friend.

Birdie – Tired of waiting for her Mister Right to magically appear and whisk her away to a happily-ever-after, Bridget “Birdie” Byrne convinces her sister, a renowned matchmaker, to send her as the bride to Tagg Thompson. The man who greets her upon her arrival isn’t Tagg, but Birdie is certain she’s finally discovered the man she is meant to marry.  

Cara – Fed up with Tagg Thompson and his refusals of every bride she’s sent to Grass Valley for him to wed, Cara decides to meet the exasperating man in person. Her feet are barely on the ground in the rustic town before she’s nearly bowled over by a herd of stampeding cattle and swept into the brawny arms of a cowboy with the bluest eyes she’s ever seen.

Will true love find its home in the hearts of these Grass Valley Brides.

 

Dear Mrs. Cargill,

At the rate you’re finding me a wife, I may be too old to have any kids by the time I get married. Speaking of children, Sally Oliver, she was the first bride you sent, wanted me to pass on the news to you that she and her husband, Mr. Buster Martin, will be parents in March. Good thing you’ve got me to help find these women a happy home.

Are you sure you know what you’re doing? You came highly recommended as one of the top matchmakers in the country, but if you have this much trouble with everyone who engages your services, I don’t see how you stay in business.

Please let me know when you have another bride ready to send my way. I look forward to making her acquaintance, and can only pray she’ll be better suited as a ranch wife than the last four you sent.

Respectfully,

Mr. T. Thompson

Grass Valley, Oregon

 

What do you think? Will Cara find a bride to please Tagg?

 

 

 

 

SETTING is a Character ~ by Tracy Garrett

It’s always a special day when one of our fillies return to the corral!  We’re so happy to have you with us again, Tracy!

=================================================================

Have you ever noticed how the setting of a book is an essential part of a story? There may be exceptions, but I don’t think you can pick up a story and drop it into another place—state, landscape, town versus farm. It just wouldn’t work well.

 

When I started writing JAMES, I decide to set it in Nebraska for several reasons. First, I needed the town of King’s Ford to be close enough to a mining area that my heroine could make the trip, but far enough away that it would be dangerous for her. Since there was gold mining in the Black Hills of the Dakota territory, I grabbed my atlas (yes, I still have one) and looked for the path she would have to take. It led me to a place near Chadron, Nebraska, a real town in the northwestern corner of the state.

 

The location gave me a wagon route to Cheyenne, Wyoming, that a wagon train might take, and a grassland that would support a yearly cattle drive to the railhead in North Platte. Perfect, I thought.

 

Trout Ranch near Chadron, NE
Chadron, NE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, I’d been through Nebraska once while on a tour with my college choir. We sang in Lincoln, then lit out for Colorado. All I really remember is that I could see the Rocky Mountains coming for hours and hours—it felt like days!

Eastern NE is flat!

So, my memory of Nebraska is flat. Research, however, made me realize that wasn’t the case for the area I’d chosen. Back to editing.

 

JAMES is set in the rolling hills of northwestern Nebraska. And those hills come into play in the story. So does the weather, but that’s another blog.

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? Do you care where a story is set or does it not really matter to you?

Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win one of two electronic copies of JAMES.

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JAMES by Tracy Garrett

After five years leading the Lord’s flock in King’s Ford, Nebraska, The Reverend James Hathaway is used to the demands on his time. But nothing could prepare him to find a baby in a basket on his front step. He always expected to marry before becoming a father. Then a young widow agrees to help him learn to care for the child and he wonders if he hasn’t found his future.

 

Widow Esther Travers is still reeling over the loss of her newborn baby girl when she’s asked to help care for another baby. Vowing to get the little one off to a good start, she doesn’t plan to fall for the very handsome preacher, too.

EXCERPT

“Reverend! Reverend Hathaway!”

James heard Tad shouting long before he reached the cabin at the north end of King’s Ford, the town he’d called home for nearly five years now. The seven-year-old ran errands for many folks in town, though most often it was for the doctor. If Doctor Finney was sending for a preacher this early in the morning, it couldn’t be good news. James buttoned his vest and pulled on his frock coat then glanced in the small mirror hung beside the front door to be sure his collar was tucked in properly, then studied his face.

He looked tired. A wagon had creaked and rumbled past his home well before dawn and the noise had dragged him from a sound sleep. He’d been sitting at the table since then, trying to write his Sunday sermon, but inspiration hadn’t gotten out of bed with him. Ah, well. It was only Tuesday.

James glanced around his small home. The parsonage, if you could call the drafty, poorly lit cabin by so lofty a title, sat at the far north end of town. The church sat to the south of the parsonage, which meant the larger building did nothing to block the winter winds that howled down from the Dakota hills thirty or so miles away.

Deciding he wouldn’t scandalize any parishioner he passed, he lifted his hat from the small table under the mirror and opened the door. He was so focused on Tad that he nearly tripped over a basket left on his stoop.

“What on earth?”

“A basket.”

“Yes, Tad, I see that. Who left it here?” He immediately thought of the wagon that had awoken him. “Why didn’t they knock? I’ve been home since nightfall.”

Tad crept closer, lifted a corner of the cloth covering the contents, and jumped back like there was a snake inside. “Baby!” Tad yelled.

“Don’t play games, Tad. Tell me what’s…” James didn’t jump away, though he wanted to. “Merciful heavens, there’s a baby in here.”

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Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

Tracy

The Hoover Dam

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

I subscribe to the This Day In History calendar. It’s always fun to read about all those little nuggets that pop into my inbox from this site every day. One day last week the construction of the Hoover Dam popped up. The entry reminded me of a trip we took several years back. My mom had always wanted to visit Las Vegas so for her 80th birthday me and all of my siblings, along with various spouses and other extended family members took her for a multi-day trip there.

Those of us who weren’t much into what the casinos had to offer took a day trip out to the Hoover Dam.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have to admit I was blown away by the size and scope of the structure. So today I thought I’d share some history and fun facts about the dam along with some of the photos from that trip.

 

  • You may have heard the dam also referred to as the Boulder Dam. That’s because back in the early day’s of the dam’s history there was some controversy over what it would be called. The original plans called for it to be built at Boulder Canyon so the project was dubbed the Boulder Canyon Dam Project and it was still called by that name when the proposed location was moved the Black Canyon. But at a ceremony in Sept 1930 the Secretary of the Interior announced the dam would be named for newly elected president Herbert Hoover. However, when Franklin Roosevelt assumed office in 1933 the new Secretary of the Interior announced the structure would return to its original name, the Boulder Dam. In the ensuing years the names Hoover Dam and Boulder Dam were used interchangeably, the choice often depending on the political leanings of the speaker. It wasn’t until 1947 that the name was officially declared through a congressional resolution to be the Hoover Dam.
  • It took tens of millions of pounds of steel and approximately 4.3 million cubic yards of concrete to build the dam, including the power plant and other features. According to the Bureau of Reclamation this is enough concrete to pave a road that’s 8 inches thick and 16 feet wide from New York to San Francisco.
  • There were 112 fatalities associated with the construction of the dam, including three suicides. Strangely, the first official recorded death occurred on December 20,1922 and the final fatality occurred exactly 13 years after on December 20, 1935.
  • More than 582 miles of one inch thick steel pipes were embedded within the concrete. The reason these pipes were included was rather ingenious.  Normally it would take over 100 YEARS for this much concrete to cure properly. But by circulating ice water through the pipes, they were able to dissipate the chemical heat the concrete generated as it set. Once they had done their job, the pipes were later filled with concrete to provide added strength to the dam.
  • Workers, called high scalers, were suspended at heights up to 800 feet over the canyon floor armed with 44 pound jackhammers and metal poles to clear the canyon walls of unwanted and loose material. As you can imagine, this resulted in quite a number of casualties from falls and from being hit by falling equipment and rocks.
  • The dam is situated in a spot where the Colorado River forms the boundary between Arizona and Nevada, states which happen to be in two different time zones. So by simply stepping across this boundary at the top of the wall you can almost instantaneously go forward or backward in time.
  • Statistics:
    • The Hoover Dam is 726.4 feet tall – as tall as a 60 story building. It is 1244 feet long or almost a quarter mile.
    • The top of the Hoover Dam is 45 feet thick, comparable to the width of a 4 lane highway. But the base is wider still – at 60 feet it’s wider than the length of a pair of football fields placed end to end.
    • It has an installed capacity of 2080 megawatts and as of 2018 generates about 4 BILLION kilowatt hours of hydroelectric power annually.
    • Lake Mead, the reservoir formed by the damning of the Colorado River encompasses 248 square miles and has a capacity of about 28.9 million acre-feet or more than 9 TRILLION gallons. That’s enough water to cover the state of Connecticut with a sheet of water ten feet deep. That also makes it the largest reservoir in the U.S.

 

And now for the promised photos.

The first set below were taken from the road that leads into the actual dam area – this access road is actually much higher than the dam itself.

 

 

 

These next photos were taken standing on top of the dam itself

 

And this last photo is taken at the spot that marks the state line – my hubby is standing in Nevada and I’m in Arizona. (as you can no doubt tell, it was quite a windy day!)

 

We also had the opportunity to look around the inside of the dam but unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of that portion of our tour.

So what about you? Have you had the opportunity to see this marvelous engineering feat in person? Or perhaps you’ve seen other national treasures like Mt. Rushmore or Seattle’s Space Needle or the Golden Gate Bridge or the Empire State Building or any one of dozens of other man made marvels to be found in this country. Share in the comments and you’ll be entered in a drawing for your choice of any book in my backlist, including the newly re-released titles Handpicked Husband and The Bride Next Door in a single volume.

 

Handpicked Husband (Texas Grooms Book 1)
Regina Nash must marry one of the men her grandfather has chosen for her or lose custody of her nephew. But Reggie knows marriage is not for her, so she must persuade them—and Adam Barr, her grandfather’s envoy—that she’d make a thoroughly unsuitable wife. Adam is drawn to the free-spirited photographer, but his job was to make sure Regina chose from the men he escorted to Texas—not marry her himself!

The Bride Next Door (Texas Grooms Book 2)
Daisy Johnson is ready to settle in Turnabout, Texas, open a restaurant and perhaps find a husband. Of course, she’d envisioned a man who actually likes her, not someone who offers a marriage of convenience to avoid scandal. Newspaper reporter Everett Fulton may find himself suddenly married, but his dreams of leaving haven’t changed. What Daisy wants—home, family, tenderness—he can’t provide… 

 

Click on cover image for information on how to order