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!

 

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!

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?

 

 

 

 

The Magic of Small-Town Romance

My childhood was spent on a farm and trips to town were not a frequent occurrence. Perhaps that is why, when we did venture into the nearest town (population 1,200) it was such an exciting adventure.

When I was a little girl, my hometown was thriving. There was a department store, three grocery stores, a leather shop that I loved to visit, several restaurants, and more. Summer was my favorite time of year because there were baskets of blooming flowers, the smell of greasy burgers hanging in the air near the Dairy Queen (doesn’t every small town have one?), and everyone seemed so happy and friendly.

I think the small-town charm I experienced as child translated into a certain magical wonder for sparsely populated towns and all the possibilities they hold, at least to my writer’s mind.

It’s so much fun to build a world full of quirky characters set in an equally off-the-wall community.  

When I began thinking about a new series, set in what many would consider the middle of nowhere in the eastern Oregon desert region, I incorporated elements from my hometown into what would become Summer Creek, Oregon, population 497. Summer Creek also takes inspiration from a tiny little town near our current home. And I tossed in a liberal helping of my over-active imagination to round out the vision of how Summer Creek would look, feel, smell, and sound.

Summer Creek is an old town, one that used to be a great place to live,  but it’s fallen on hard times and is just on the verge of falling down around the ears of the hardy (or maybe it’s stubborn) residents who live there. There are old buildings nearing the need for demolition if they aren’t repaired soon. There’s a handsome sheriff’s deputy who lives there. Summer Creek also boasts a meandering goat named Ethel that can be found eating plastic bags at the grocery store or stealing lunches from the children at Summer Creek School. Of course, there’s also a gang of blue-haired senior women who ride around in a powder-blue Lincoln, thinking about matchmaking possibilities while dishing about the history of the town.

One of my favorite things about Summer Creek is the sense of community. The residents of Summer Creek are a supportive bunch, for the most part. They survive because of the support and encouragement they receive from their neighbors and friends, knowing whatever happens to the town, they are all in it together.

Summer Creek, if it really existed, is in ranch country, with cattle ranches and farms around it. It’s also an hour’s drive into the mountains. Which makes it the perfect setting for a sweet romance.

The moment I began thinking of ideas for this series, I knew there had to be outsiders coming in to Summer Creek and falling in love with the community as much as the hero or heroine.

That is exactly what happens in Catching the Cowboy, book one in the Summer Creek series.

 

Summer Creek is one of those small towns—the kind brimming with quirky inhabitants, pets with personalities (like a meandering goat named Ethel), meddling matchmakers, tumbling-down old buildings, and dreams. So many dreams. These sweet, uplifting romances explore the ties that bind a community together when they unite for a common purpose and open their hearts to unexpected possibilities. Heart, humor, and hope weave through each story, touching the lives of those who call Summer Creek home. Readers who love Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove series and RaeAnne Thayne’s Haven Point series will enjoy coming home to Summer Creek.

The first three books in the series release this summer.

Catching the Cowboy (read more below)

Rescuing the Rancher

Protecting the Princess

ABOUT THE BOOK

Catching the Cowboy

“When I feel the need for inspiration and comfort I reach for a book by Shanna Hatfield.”

Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

 

She’s fresh out of jail . . .

He’s fresh out of luck.

Spoiled heiress Emery Brighton indulges in one mimosa too many, attempts to steal a horse, and winds up in jail. A sentence of community service leaves her at the mercy of strangers on a remote ranch near a small town in Oregon. Adjusting to country life is hard enough, but she has no idea how to handle her growing affection for a surly cowboy and his adorable daughter.

Steady and dependable as the day is long, rancher Hudson Cole just wants to raise his little girl and be left alone. When his grandmother invites a lawbreaker dressed in Louis Vuitton to Summer Creek Ranch, Hud is convinced Grammy has lost her ever-loving mind. Determined to detest Emery, he instead finds himself doing the one thing he vowed would never happen again: falling in love.

With one foot out the door, will love be enough to convince Emery to stay?

The book includes a Reader’s Guide, perfect for book club discussions.

For a limited time, the ebook is available at the discounted price of just $1.99.

Purchase today on

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Apple | Kobo

Add to Goodreads

   

EXCERPT

When she bent closer to study the bruise, her hair brushed across his neck. A soft, floral fragrance ensnared his senses while the warmth of her breath fanning his skin made him teeter on the edge of combusting. He glanced heavenward, praying for divine intervention before he lost the tenuous hold he had on his self-control.

“I knew we should have taken you into the clinic. Is anything broken?” Emery asked, taking a step back and carefully placing the ice pack on his shoulder. At least it helped cool the fire created by her touch.

“Nah. It’s not even dislocated.” Hud made light of the injury, even if he knew he’d be stiff and sore for several days. “No big deal.”

“It looks like a big deal to me.” Although Emery backed away another step, her gaze melded to his.

The hypnotic, electric sizzle he’d done his best to ignore danced between them. Awed by the sheer strength of it, he wouldn’t have been surprised if whatever snapped between them illuminated the entire kitchen.

He wanted to take Emery in his arms, hold her close, and kiss her until he forgot about everything but loving a beautiful woman.

Instead, he gulped from the glass of milk in front of him.

“See you in the morning,” Emery said, then quietly left the room.

Hud released his breath and rubbed the throbbing pain that suddenly began pounding in his temples. The longer Emery stayed at Summer Creek Ranch, the harder it was to overlook the feelings, undeniable, deep feelings, he held for her.

And that was something he flat-out refused to allow.

 

 

TOUR GIVEAWAY

One (1) winner will receive a $50 Amazon Gift Card and a digital copy of Catching the Cowboy

For a chance to win, fill out this form.

The giveaway will run through June 25, 2020. The winner will be notified within two weeks of the giveaway ending and 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.

 

 

Catching the Cowboy

 

The past few months, I’ve been working on a brand-new sweet western romance series set in a modern-day town that only exists in my head. 

I can’t speak for other authors, but I have the absolute best time dreaming up towns, businesses, and oddball characters. 

I first started thinking about a series set near Burns, Oregon, years ago. At that time, I jotted down a few notes, tucked them away, and thought about the characters and stories I wanted to write but just never had time to work into my schedule. Last summer, I began thinking of ideas for another ranch series, one with Summer in the title (inspired by a ranch sign I saw on the way to church one Sunday when I ventured along a back road). Finally, I landed on the idea of combining the two series into one and naming it Summer Creek. Of course, I came up with that idea ten minutes into a three-hour road trip with Captain Cavedweller. So the entire trip he was trapped in the pickup with me as I brainstormed ideas. Lucky for me, he’s great at brainstorming and tossing around “what ifs” so it was quite a trip! 

By the time we got home, I had the basics outlined for the first three books with oodles of notes for more in the series. 

I like to have a cover in finished before I start writing the book, or at least something in mind. And I knew I wanted the covers for this series to be different — original. After searching for hours (days!) online, I ended up asking a local photographer if she’d sell me three images from engagement sessions. She specializes in western photography and I fell in love with this image.

It was so incredibly perfect for the story I wanted to write and in fact, I wrote this image into the last scene of the book. 

I had such a great time creating not just the characters and story, but the town of Summer Creek. It’s an old town that’s been around for more than a century, but it’s fallen on hard times and when the heroine arrives, she boosts the population up to 497. Did I mention it’s a really small town? One where a goat named Ethel roams around eating grocery bags and tube socks. Where the mayor is also the barber and locksmith, and… you get the idea. 

Catching the Cowboy is the first book in the series and it will release June 9. I can hardly wait to share it with everyone. 

 

She’s fresh out of jail . . .

  He’s fresh out of luck.

 Spoiled heiress Emery Brighton indulges in one mimosa too many, attempts to steal a horse, and winds up in jail. A sentence of community service leaves her at the mercy of strangers on a remote ranch near a small town in Oregon. Adjusting to country life is hard enough, but she has no idea how to handle her growing affection for a surly cowboy and his adorable daughter.

 Steady and dependable as the day is long, rancher Hudson Cole just wants to raise his little girl and be left alone. When his grandmother invites a lawbreaker dressed in Louis Vuitton to Summer Creek Ranch, Hud is convinced Grammy has lost her ever-loving mind. Determined to detest Emery, he instead finds himself doing the one thing he vowed would never happen again: falling in love.  

With one foot out the door, will love be enough to convince Emery to stay?

 This sweet romance offers a funny, delightful happily ever after adventure in a quirky small town. Discover a meandering goat named Ethel, meddling matchmakers, and a community that feels like home in a story filled with heart, humor, and hope.

 

Here’s an excerpt:

“Sit by me,” Cricket said, snagging Emery’s hand and pulling on it.

Jossy feigned a pout. “I’ve been displaced as the favored seatmate.”

Emery glanced from Jossy to Hud. “I don’t want to steal anyone’s seat.”

“You’re fine,” Jossy said, giving Emery a warm smile then settling into the chair on the other side of Hud. “This looks and smells fantastic, Grammy. Thank you for making my muffins.”

“Of course, sweetie. It’s a treat to have you join us,” Nell said, lifting Jossy’s and Cricket’s hand in hers. “Let’s hold hands while I offer a word of thanks for this food and beautiful day.”

Hud would rather pet a rabid porcupine than hold Emery’s hand in his, but to appease his grandmother, he reached out and clasped it. Unprepared for the wild jolt of electricity that zipped from the point of contact up his arm, he would have dropped her hand and left the room if it wouldn’t have created a flurry of questions from his grandmother and Jossy.

Instead, he forced himself to sit still and listen to his grandmother say grace. As soon as he uttered “amen,” he released Emery’s hand, although his skin continued to tingle. He picked up the mug of coffee in front of him and took a long, bracing drink. He did his best to ignore the way it burned all the way down his throat as he picked up the platter of sausages. When he held it for Emery before passing it on to Jossy, he caught the woman eyeing him, as though she was equally disturbed by the unsettling, unexpected feeling that continued to linger in the air.

This …  whatever this energy was that pulsated between them, was not something he wanted to explore or even acknowledge. He’d vowed years ago he would never be stupid enough to let another woman into his heart and life, and he intended to stick with that decision.

 

You can pre-order Catching the Cowboy for just $1.99. After it releases, the price will increase to $5.99 for digital copies. It will also be available in paperback. 

To find out more, please visit my website, or order your copy today.

 

Secrets of My Heart and Book Giveaway

Secrets of My Heart comes out March first and is part of the Willamette Brides series (a sequel to the Heart of the Frontier series which came out several years ago).  The story deals with three women who are caught up in the racial conflicts of 1879 Oregon. As I researched for this story, I kept finding a lot of issues that reminded me of problems we’re continuing to deal with today.

For instance, did you know that early in Oregon’s history, exclusion laws went into place that made it illegal for African Americans to even take up residency in Oregon Country.  Wagon train masters signed agreements to not allow blacks in their trains. In one of the museums I visited they had a display that told the story of former slave Rose Jackson who was forced to hide in a specially made wagon box all day, every day, as the wagon train came west. She was only able to come out at night after everyone had gone to bed.

Freed slave in Oregon.

There were three exclusion acts – Peter Burnett’s Lash Law was one of these that called for African Americans to be expelled from Oregon, and if they refused to go, they were to be lashed. The law was rescinded in 1845 when it was determined lashing too harsh. The next exclusion law was made in 1849 and stated, it was unlawful for any “negro or mulatto” to enter or reside in Oregon Territory.  It was rescinded in 1854.  The third and final exclusion act was passed in 1857 and actually written into Oregon’s Bill of Rights. The clause prohibited African American from being in the state, owning property, and making contracts. Oregon became the only free state admitted to the Union with an exclusion clause in its constitution. It wasn’t repealed by voters until 1926, with final racist language not removed until 2002.

While the exclusion laws were generally not enforced, they hung as a threat over the heads of African Americans who feared that at any given moment new laws might be passed to strip away their possessions and force them from the state.  This was especially driven home when the Fourteenth Amendment issue came up.

The Fourteenth Amendment which grants citizenship to all people born or naturalized in the United States, including former slaves, was ratified by a very narrow margin in 1866.  Oregon then rescinded that ratification in 1868.  The Fourteenth Amendment in Oregon was not re-ratified until 1973. They also refused to ratify the 15th Amendment which allows African American men the right to vote. That law wasn’t ratified in Oregon until 1959.  For more information go to:

https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/exclusion_laws/#.XRf4A-tTmpo

https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/14th_amendment/#.XRfyZetTmpo

https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/15th_amendment/#.XRfxxutTmpo

Of course, along with these laws, were laws against the Native Americans. Including making it illegal for whites to marry a person who was at least half Native American or even a quarter black, Chinese or Pacific Islander. This law wasn’t rescinded until 1951.

Learning about these laws and the problems they caused was quite fascinating and reminded me that as Solomon said in the Bible there truly is nothing new under the sun.  It also reminded me that as Christians we should love others as Jesus loved us and when we do that, it allows for no prejudice or negativity based on the color of our skin. 

I hope you’ll enjoy the series.

Soli Deo Gloria

 

What do you think would be the hardest part of traveling the Oregon trail in a covered wagon?

Tracie is giving away a print copy of Secrets of My Heart to one person who comments today.

Amazon

Tracie had an unexpected travel engagement arise today and will not be available to respond to comments here today, but she welcomes readers to contacted her directly at tjpbooks@aol.com or through her website http://www.traciepeterson.com.

Baker City Mining

 

Admittedly, the history of mining isn’t something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about or researching. And then I happened to include a setting of mines in not one but two stories and dove into researching hard rock mining in the Baker City, Oregon, area at the end of the 1800s.

I knew before I started that there were many, many mines in the area from the 1880s through the 1890s and on into the new century. Dozens of little mining towns popped up on the horizon and just as quickly faded one the mines closed. 

From 1880 through 1899, Oregon produced more than $26 million dollars in gold and silver with more than $18 million of it coming from Baker, Grant and Union county (which are all in the Baker City region). 

To say mining was a big deal at the time is something of an understatement. It was a huge business.

Thankfully, the Baker County Library has an incredible digital library of thousands of old images. I found many that illustrated the mining business and aided my research more than I can even say. 

As a visual person, it was fantastic to look at these images, read the descriptions and picture how things would look at my fictional mines. 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

This advertisement was such a help to me because the illustration lets you look inside the various levels of the mill and see how they were built into the hills. 

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

This is an image of the Eureka & Excelsior Mine mill building in the Cracker Creek District, Oregon. You can see how it’s built into the hill, quite similar to the illustration in the advertisement. 

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

This image shows the vanner room at the Bonanaza Mine, which was one of the top producing mines during the mining heyday in the Baker City region. It was located four miles from Greenhorn City which straddled both the Baker and Grant county lines.

Vanning is a process of separating the material of value from that which is worthless. Typically, a powdered sample of orestuff is swirled with water on the blade of a shovel and then given a series of upward flicking motions. The heavier ore is tossed up through the water and appears as a crescent shaped patch at the top of the charge with the lighter material that is unusable below.  In the 19th century, the process was automated and used to separate ore on an industrial scale. The Frue Vanner was a widely-adopted machine, invented in 1874 by W.B. Frue in Canada. 

With a Frue vanner, a continuous rubber belt (usually 4 feet wide and about 27.5 feet long, shown in the center of this photo) passed over rollers to from the surface of an inclined plane. The orestuff was concentrate on in the belt and the belt traveled uphill from three to twelve feet per minute while being shaken anywhere from 180-200 times. Crushed orestuff from the stamps fed onto the belt. As it traveled uphill, it met small jets of water which gradually washed the gangue (the commercially valueless material in which ore is found) off the bottom of the belt. The heavier ore adhered to the belt as it went over the top roller and passed into a box containing water where the ore was deposited. To make this work, anywhere from three to six gallons of water per minute was required. One machine could treat approximately six tons per twenty-four hours of orestuff.

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

 

This is a photo of the stamping room at the Golden Gate mine, also located near Greenhorn City. There are ten stamps shown here. The stamp is a large mechanical device used to crush ore and extract minerals. Repeatedly, the stamps and raised and dropped onto ore that is fed into the mill, until the coarse ore is reduced to a finer material that can be further processed. The number of stamps used depended on the size of the mill and the amount of ore being taken out of the mine.

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

The Red Boy Mine (also located near Greenhorn City) boasted it’s own laboratory, at least in this 1902 photo. On-site labs were considered to be a strategic value to a mine. Among the work done there was testing and sampling to derive critical operational, metallurgical, and environmental data needed to make the most of mining and mineral processing production.

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

This amazing photo (undated) was taken at the Bonanza Mine.  Five men are working in a tunnel wielding four-pound hammers that were called “single jacks” and steel drills. Note the candles on a wire stuck in cracks in the walls to provide light.  Total production at this mine from 1899-1904 was just shy of a million dollars. It was mostly a gold mine, although they did find some silver. Reports show total production from the mine totaled $1.75 million dollars. 

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

And this awesome image is taken inside the superintendent’s cabin at the St. Anthony Mine in 1901.  One might assume the woman in the photo is the superintendent’s wife. Many of the mines refused to allow women in the camp and were called a “boar’s nest.” 

If you’d like to read more about mining in this region of Oregon, there’s a lot of detail in this digital report

And if you’d like to read about the adventures of my characters at the fictional mines that exist only in my head, you’ll find Graydon (Grady) Gaffney at the Lucky Larkspur Mine in Gift of Hope.

 

When his affections are spurned by the girl he plans to wed, Graydon Gaffney rides off in the swirling snow, determined to stay far away from fickle females. Then a voice in the storm draws him to a woman and her two sweet children. Despite his intentions to guard his emotions, all three members of the DeVille family threaten to capture his heart.

Giavanna DeVille holds the last frayed edges of her composure in a tenuous grasp. In a moment of desperation, she leaves her sleeping children in her cabin and ventures out into a storm to release her pent-up frustrations where no one can hear her cries. Much to her surprise, a man appears through the blinding snow. He gives her a shoulder to cry on and something even more precious. . . hope.

Can the two of them move beyond past heartaches to accept the gift of hope for their future?

You’ll also find the characters of my latest book Dumplings and Dynamite (releasing tomorrow!) at the Crescent Creek Mine, up in the hills out of Baker City. 

Widow Hollin Hughes doesn’t care how long it takes or the depths of deception required to discover how her husband really died. She’s determined to unearth the truth and unravel the mystery surrounding his death. Then a new dynamite man arrives at the mine and throws all her plans off kilter.

With a smile that makes females of any age swoon, Deputy Seth Harter can charm his way into or out of almost anything. When he’s sent undercover to Crescent Creek Mine, even the cranky cook seems entirely immune to his rugged appeal, making him wonder if he’s losing his touch. Eager to get to the bottom of a series of unexplained deaths, Seth counts on catching the criminals. He just didn’t anticipate a tempestuous woman claiming his heart in the process.

Brimming with humor, tidbits from history, and a sweet, unexpected love, don’t miss out on a heartwarming romance packed with adventure.

And here’s a little excerpt from the story:

A flash of pity swept through him for the baby’s mother who lost her husband and was now working for the contemptible Eustace Gilford. He had no doubt the woman had to rise in the wee hours of the morning to be able to cook a big breakfast for a camp full of miners. It had to be challenging to cook and care for such a newly-born child.

Mrs. Parrish hurried back into the kitchen, saw him holding the baby, and her pale skin blanched white.

“What are you doing?” she asked in a harsh, quiet tone. She moved across the room and took the baby from him with such haste, he had no idea how she’d managed to reach him in so few steps. He couldn’t be certain, but he thought maybe she’d forgotten about her limp.

“I hoped if I held her, she’d stop crying. It worked,” he said, shoving his hands in his pockets, although he moved a step closer to the widow. “What’s her name?”

“Keeva.”

“I’ve never met anyone named Keeva. Is it a family name?” he asked.

The woman merely nodded. “It was her great-grandmother’s name.”

“Then I’m sure she’d be proud to have a beautiful little granddaughter to share it with.”

The woman looked at him over her shoulder with an uncertain glare, as though she couldn’t quite figure him out, before she turned back to the baby. “Breakfast is on the table. The men will be in soon. If you want something to eat, you best get out there. If Mr. Gilford didn’t mention it, the men pack their own lunches from the food on the tables near the door.”

“He did say something about that. Thank you, Mrs. Parrish.” Seth tipped his head to her then made his way to the dining room where men began trickling inside.

Eustace directed Seth to a chair at the far end of the long table. When everyone was seated, he pointed to Seth. “Meet our newest employee, Seth Harter. He’ll be drilling and blasting.”

Mrs. Parrish nearly dropped the pot of coffee she carried at this announcement but quickly recovered. Seth wondered how hard he’d have to work to charm the truth out of her. In spite of her appearance, something about her made him look forward to trying.

Although Dumplings and Dynamite releases tomorrow, you can pre-order it today!

If you were a miner back in the 1800s, what kind of mineral would you have been searching for? Gold? Silver? Quartz? Copper? Lead? Something with a little more sparkle? 

Jingle Jangle Spurs – Cinnamon Rolls

I hope you had an amazing, beautiful, memorable, sweet Christmas! 

Are you out hitting the after-Christmas sales today? Or maybe taking it easy, lingering over a leftover piece of pie and cup of spicy tea? 

I’ve been thinking about these days that fall between Christmas and New Years. They were always such fun during my growing up years (and not just because I didn’t have to go to school!). 
Both of my parents came from good-sized families and we were often the house that hosted one side or the other for Christmas Day.
Often, relatives who didn’t come for that year’s Christmas dinner would trickle in over the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, bringing fun surprises and joining in our outdoor fun of sledding or ice skating.

In particular, I remember a year when we hosted my mom’s side of the family for Christmas but all of Dad’s family came on New Year’s Day bringing a bounty of delicious treats and filling the house with laughter. My mom made a huge pot of chili and batches of gooey cinnamon rolls that were quickly devoured.
However you spend these last days of 2019, saying goodbye to the year and preparing to welcome in a new one, I hope they bring you great joy and a bounty of hope, grace, and love! 

Cinnamon Rolls

Dough

2 cups milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup sugar

1 package active dry yeast

4 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/3 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tbsp. salt

Filling

1 cup melted butter

¼ cup cinnamon

1 cup sugar

Icing

4 cups powdered sugar

¼ cup milk

3 tbsp. melted butter

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Scald the milk, oil and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat (bring heat to nearly a boil, but don’t let it boil!). Set aside and cool to lukewarm (think temperature of a baby’s bottle). Sprinkle yeast on top of milk and let rest for one minute.

Add four cups of the flour and stir until just combined. It is going to be sticky. Cover with a tea towel and set in a warm place for an hour.

Remove the towel and add baking powder, baking soda, salt and final 1/2 cup of flour. Stir to combine.

On a floured surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, somewhere in the proximity of 10 inches by 30 inches.

Pour melted butter over dough. Use your fingers or a knife to spread evenly. Sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar. You can also mix cinnamon and sugar into the butter before pouring over dough. Either way works fine.

Beginning at the long end farthest from you, roll the rectangle tightly toward you. Use both hands and work slowly, keeping the roll nice and tight. Some filling may ooze out and that is OK (and give you something to snitch later.)

When you have the roll finished, pinch the outside edge of the roll to create a seam. You should now have a long log. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 1 1/2 inch slices. You should get about 25 rolls.

Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray and place rolls in the pan. I like to use smaller pans and freeze them. If you want to give cinnamon rolls as a holiday gift, put them in disposable aluminum pans, then they are ready for gift giving!

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover the pans with a tea towel and set aside for about 20 minutes. Remove towel and bake for about 15 minutes or until rolls are golden brown. Do not overcook! While the rolls are baking, whip up the icing.

Mix the powdered sugar, butter, cream cheese, milk and vanilla in a bowl. Icing should be thick but pourable.

When the rolls come out of the oven, pour on the icing. Make sure you cover every last bit of roll. This step is vitally important for the overall happiness of your taste buds.

Put one on a plate, take a deep breath inhaling that decadent cinnamon aroma, and enjoy!


Today is the release day for the third book in my Gifts of Christmas series. If you’re looking for something new to read, I hope you’ll take a look at this sweet historical romance that can stand alone.

Gift of Faith

When their faith is tested

Will Christmas bring a miracle?

Handsome and engaging, Marc Rawlings could have his choice of girls, but he only has eyes for gentle Amy Madsen. Ready to begin a future with her, he instead asks her to wait for him while he heads off to war. Bound by his duty to his country, Marc leaves his heart with her, counting on the day they’ll be reunited.

Amy Madsen spends her days working in her family’s bakery and her nights gazing up at the sky, hoping her fiancé knows she’s thinking of him. When tragic news arrives, Amy refuses to believe it, clinging to her promises to Marc and her faith that he’ll return to her.

It will take a miracle and a unique gift of faith to bring a happy holiday during a wartime Christmas in 1942.

Gift of Faith is the third book in the Gifts of Christmas series, a collection of heartwarming, wholesome historical romances, featuring precious gifts given straight from the heart.

~*~

Happy Holidays!

Gifts of Christmas

I love the holiday season.

The scents, the sounds, the twinkling lights, glistening snow, the yummy treats. 

Truly, I love it all.

But I also love the gifts that don’t come from the store, but from the heart. The gifts that lift our spirits, warm our hearts, and wrap us up in a cozy blanket of love. 

It was thoughts of those gifts that inspired my newest series and collection of sweet holiday romances.

There are three books in the series: Gift of Grace, Gift of Hope, Gift of Faith.

Although each book can be read as a stand-alone, a fun little detail is that each story ties to one of my other series, too!

Tomorrow is the release day for Gift of Grace, book one in the series. Today, you can pre-order the book for just 99 cents!

Sometimes the best gifts

Are those freely given from the heart . . .

Ready to begin a new life far away from the sad memories of the Civil War, J.B. and Nora Nash head west on the Oregon Trail. They settle into the small community of Pendleton, Oregon, on a piece of land where they’re excited to build a future and their dreams together.

A devastating tragedy leaves them both reeling as they draw further and further apart. Nora blames J.B. for her unhappiness while he struggles through his own challenges. Only a miracle can bring them through their trials and reunite them for Christmas.

Together, will they discover the gift of grace in this sweet holiday romance brimming with hope, history, and abiding love?

Gift of Grace is the first book in the Gifts of Christmas series, a collection of heartwarming, wholesome romances, featuring precious gifts given straight from the heart.

Much to her dismay and surprise, J.B. stepped onto the bed with his damp boots and picked her up, holding her tight against his chest. Without missing a step, he walked off the other side and toward the bedroom door.

Nora clenched her hands into fists and pounded on his shoulders as he carried her into the kitchen.

The big galvanized tub they used for taking baths sat near the stove and she could see steam rising from the water. She had no idea what J.B. intended to do, but whatever it was she would fight him until her last breath.

“Put me down, you brute!” she demanded, shoving against his solid chest.

“Whatever you say, Nora,” J.B. said, dropping her into the tub.

Water splashed over the sides onto the floor and stung Nora’s eyes. She spluttered, pushing hair out of her face then rubbed her eyes.

Before she could stand and step out of the tub, J.B. reached down and ripped off her nightgown, sending buttons flying into the air. Appalled, she watched in horror as he wadded the ruined cloth into a ball and tossed it into a basket with dirty clothing sitting on the floor near the stove.

He glowered at her, pinning her in place with an unrelenting gaze. “You stink and your hair looks like you rubbed bear grease over your head. Take a bath and wash your hair. Maybe by the time you finish, you’ll feel better. At the very least, you’ll smell better than something left to rot on the side of the road.”

Shocked speechless by his actions, she remained as still as stone as he went into the bedroom and returned with the tray of tea and toast he’d prepared.

“When you get out of there, you eat that toast and drink the tea,” he ordered. “If you don’t, I swear I’ll force-feed you.”

Defiantly, Nora lifted her chin. “I’ll eat when I feel like it.”

J.B. picked up a bar of perfumed soap and a wash cloth then bent down until his nose nearly touched hers. “Either you start scrubbing or I’ll do it for you.”

Nora grabbed the soap and cloth from him. If looks could have killed, James Benjamin Nash would have inhaled his very last breath in that moment.


What about you? What is your favorite gift of the season?