Release Day! – His Bewildering Bride

Jan 30, 2016

It’s here! The day is finally here! Book 3 in The Brides of Paradise Ranch is now available, either as the spicy version, His Bewildering Bride, or the sweet version, Wendy: The Bewildering Bride. A big shock is in store for Haskell, Wyoming, but it could also be the beginning of something wonderful. And for this weekend only, both books are available for only $0.99! Grab them before they go to regular price! Here’s how it starts…

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Chapter One

Nashville, Tennessee – 1875

Hurst Home stood at the end of a long street in Nashville, near a bend in the Cumberland River. To the outside observer, it was nothing more than a plain, rather large house shaded by oaks. Its quiet front porch was sometimes occupied by modestly-dressed young ladies, but more often than not, it seemed to be nothing more than a serene, somewhat neglected dwelling. The only thing unusual about the house was the high, stone wall that surrounded it and the wrought-iron gate that discouraged casual visitors from stopping by.

To Wendy Weatherford, Hurst Home was a blessed oasis of relief in the middle of a life of turmoil. She checked over her shoulder as she approached the front gate, fumbling for the key in the brocade reticule she carried. No one was paying her any mind—the street where Hurst Home stood was dozy in the best of times—so she quickly unlocked the gate, shifted the basket on her arm that carried her sewing, and slipped through.

Once inside, she locked the gate behind her. She didn’t have anything—or rather, anyone—to fear, but more than a few of the young women she’d gotten to know since seeking refuge at the home were hiding from someone or another. For their sake, she was contentious about keeping the house safe and unnoticed. She hurried up the path to the front porch, unlocked the front door, and skipped inside.

The world inside of the secure walls of Hurst Home was as different as night to day from the outside.

“Has anyone seen my scissors?” Miriam Long shouted from halfway up the main staircase in the hall.

The burbling chatter of half a dozen ladies in the parlor to the left of the hall stopped, and one of the girls shouted back, “No. They’re not in here.”

From the wide dining room on the right, spritely red-head Talia Lambert popped out to say, “Are you sure you didn’t leave them in the kitchen when we were baking bread?”

Miriam huffed a dramatic sigh and struck a long-suffering pose—the back of her hand pressed against her forehead—as she leaned against the wall. The move showed off her perfect figure and the long waves of her blonde hair. “Will I never cease misplacing valuables?” she lamented.

Wendy cleared her throat. Miriam had come to Hurst Home straight from the theater, where she was in danger from an unscrupulous manager who thought he could sell more than just tickets to see Miriam perform. Wendy had only known the woman for three weeks, but that was enough to know that you could take Miriam off the stage, but you couldn’t take the stage off of Miriam.

“Here.” Wendy searched in her basket to find her second-best pair of scissors as she approached the stairs. “You can borrow mine.”

Miriam’s face lit up. “Oh, Wendy. You really are a darling.” She skipped down a few steps to meet Wendy as she came up. Wendy offered the scissors, Miriam took them, then kissed Wendy’s cheek. “I don’t care what they say about former slaves getting above themselves these days. You’re the most darling of women, no matter how you were born.”

Without the faintest idea that her words could be hurtful, Miriam skipped the rest of the way down the stairs, brandishing the borrowed scissors, and swung around the corner into the parlor with the others.

“I am ready to do battle with the quilt,” Miriam announced to the others, out of sight.

Wendy sighed, exchanging a glance with Talia, who continued to stand like a frail shadow in the doorway.

“She means well,” Talia whispered.

“I know.” Wendy managed a smile. “Unfortunately, she’s right about what people say.”

She turned to head up the stairs to take her work to her room, but Talia called after her, “I doubt that.”

Talia skittered away from the dining room doorway and followed Wendy upstairs. Wendy waited for her, and the two walked together up to the second floor and the room Wendy had been assigned when she came to Hurst Home.

“You’re the most talented seamstress I’ve ever seen,” Talia went on. “I know it, Miriam knows it, everyone in the house knows it, and soon all of Nashville will know it too. It…it doesn’t matter what you look like.” She lowered her eyes, a bright flush coming to her cheeks, betraying that she didn’t fully believe what she said.

Wendy opened her door, set her basket on the chair just past the doorway, then turned to fold Talia in a friendly hug. “Would that the world was filled with more kind hearts like you,” she said. “But I fear it will take more than the end of slavery and the passage of a few laws before my people will have the opportunities they deserve.”

“But things are better now, aren’t they?” Talia asked, sitting on Wendy’s bed and glancing up at her with big, innocent eyes. “Your people are free. You can go to school, engage in a profession, own land, vote.”

Wendy nodded as she sank to sit on the bed with Talia. “For now, yes. But laws that harm can be passed as easily as laws that help. And there are still many who look at me and see the evidence of their own defeat instead of my skill or my heart.”

“I don’t understand.” Talia’s face fell. “I’ll never understand.”

Wendy reached out to hug her dear friend. As she did, creaking came from the stairs. A moment later, Elspeth Leonard—another of her housemates, a somber, proper Englishwoman who was slightly older than the rest of the women in the house—appeared in the door. She smiled kindly at the sight of Wendy and Talia.

“Wendy, I was told you had returned.” Elspeth had a voice and an accent that soothed and charmed. Of all the women in the house, Wendy felt as though she could carry on the most stimulating conversations with Elspeth. But there was no time for conversation today. “Mrs. Breashears told me to alert you that she wishes to see you as soon as you have a moment.”

Brow raised, Wendy exchanged a look with Talia. She stood. “I’m ready now if she is.”

Elspeth smiled. “She’s in her office.”

Wendy crossed out to the hall, Talia following her. The three women headed back down the stairs to the first floor. The noise from the parlor had grown tenfold since Miriam joined the women there. They were all laughing and talking over each other, and someone had sat down at the piano and was banging out Stephen Foster tunes.

“Thank heavens they’re not allowed to make that much noise all night,” Elspeth whispered as they turned the corner and headed to the back of the house. “None of us would ever get any sleep.”

Talia giggled, and Wendy shook her head, smiling over the truth of it.

They reached the door to Mrs. Breashears’ office, and as Wendy knocked, her two friends waved goodbye and went on their way. At Mrs. Breashears’ call of “Come in,” Wendy slipped into the room, shutting the door behind her.

“Ah, Wendy. I’m glad you’re home. Please, come, sit.” Mrs. Breashears jumped straight to business, gesturing for Wendy to take a seat in one of the chairs across from her desk. As soon as Wendy was seated, she went on with, “You know that we have an association with a frontier town in Wyoming, correct?”

“Yes.” Wendy’s heart sped up. She’d heard all about Haskell, Wyoming from the minute she set foot through the door of Hurst Home. It was all the girls could talk about once their imaginations turned to the opposite sex. “Two of Hurst Home’s women have been sent to Haskell as mail-order brides.”

“Precisely.” Mrs. Breashears nodded, folding her hands and resting them on her desk. “And when you first came here, one of the questions on the information sheet I asked you to fill out was in regards to whether you would be open to considering marriage to one of the ranchers or frontiersmen in Haskell, should the opportunity arise.”

“Yes.” Wendy scooted to the edge of her seat. “But I didn’t think it was all that likely that you would be able to find a match for me.” She had heard of some former slaves seeking their fortunes out West, where there were more opportunities and where common folk looked the other way in regards to skin color. From all she’d heard, the West was so desperate for new settlers that they didn’t care what a person looked like or what their background was. That was why so many foreigners were coming from Europe to make new lives.

“You’re in luck,” Mrs. Breashears announced, interrupting her thoughts. “For I think I’ve found exactly the young man for you.”

“Really?” Wendy couldn’t keep the smile off her face. This was it. This was what she’d wished and dreamed of for so long—a husband, a family of her own, and a future filled with possibility.

“Yes, his name is Cody Montrose, and he works as a ranch hand on Paradise Ranch,” Mrs. Breashears explained, picking up a telegraph and reading through it.

Cody Montrose. Wendy repeated the name to herself, pressing her hands to her stomach. Wendy Montrose, Mrs. Cody Montrose.

Mrs. Breashears cleared her throat and went on. “As I understand it, Mr. Montrose is a bit on the lively side. I’m assured he’s a good man,” Mrs. Breashears pushed on. “I wouldn’t consent to match any of you girls up with a man that fell short of my high standards. I have been given to understand that he needs a little settling, though.”

Wendy shrugged, her smile growing. “I don’t mind. Just because I’m not a hummingbird doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy their company.” Like Miriam, for example. She could never keep up with the girl’s antics, but she enjoyed her company nonetheless.

Mrs. Breashears seemed relieved. “I’m glad to hear it. We are looking for a woman who can be a steadying influence. And if it helps, each of the young men from Paradise Ranch who are willing to take a bride are having homes constructed for them. So even if Mr. Montrose does prove to be a handful, you’ll have your very own house to maintain while he goes off to work on the ranch every day.”

Wendy smiled at the thought. “A woman could put up with a lot to have her own house.”

“Indeed.” Mrs. Breashears winked. “Though as I said before, I am assured that Mr. Montrose is a good man.”

Wendy shifted forward. “Does Haskell have a dress shop or a tailor or any establishment that could use my sewing skills?” Sewing may have been her job and her means of putting food on her and her mother’s table for years, but she still loved it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Mrs. Breashears tilted her head to the side. “To tell you the truth, I’m not sure. Certainly there must be something.” She fussed with the papers on her desk for a moment. “Oh dear. I really should educate myself more about the town before I rush about making promises.”

“It’s all right.” Wendy reached across Mrs. Breashears’ desk to touch the older woman’s arm in support. “I’m so grateful that you were able to find a man that suits me that I would live in a remote shack if I had to.” Anything to get away from the sadness and misfortune that had marked her life so far. It wasn’t as if she had any family left in Nashville, or even Memphis now, to miss her.

“I’m so glad.” Mrs. Breashears sighed in relief. “So shall I telegraph them, letting them know it’s a match?”

“Yes, please.” Wendy beamed.

 

Ready to read more? Both His Bewildering Bride and Wendy: The Bewildering Bride are available now! And they’re $0.99 for this weekend only! So grab them while they’re on sale.

Click here to purchase Wendy: The Bewildering Bride, exclusively on Amazon

Click here to purchase His Bewildering Bride on Amazon. Or click here for iBooks. Or here for Barnes & Noble.

Weekend Excerpt – His Bewildering Bride

Jan 23, 2016

The third book in The Brides of Paradise Ranch series is almost here! His Bewildering Bride (spicy version) aka Wendy: The Bewildering Bride (sweet version) was delayed as I wrestled with some vicious cold germs earlier in January, but it should be released by next weekend! But here you go, you can get a sneak peek now….

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With a smile on her face, feigning confidence, telling herself she was ready to meet her new life head-on, Wendy took a step forward—

—and was immediately cut off as a man in a dusty suit stepped into the aisle in front of her. His movements were deliberate, and he paid Wendy no regard whatsoever as he turned to reach for his bag. His bulky form blocked her without apology.

“Excuse me, sir.” Wendy fought to keep her impatience in check. “May I walk around you?”

The man took one look at her over his shoulder, curled his lip in a sneer, and barked, “You’ll wait your turn, you uppity darkie.”

Indignation snapped like a whip down Wendy’s spine. She held her back straight and kept her chin up. “Common courtesy would dictate that a gentleman stand aside to let a lady pass.”

The man snorted and yanked his bag from the rack above his seat. “I don’t see any ladies, only a pretentious—”

Wendy’s jaw dropped at the word he called her. The heat of anger flushed her face, but the man had already moved on, charging down the aisle to the train’s door. Wendy waited until the man had stepped down from the car to move. Fury made her dizzy, and disappointment turned her stomach. She’d had such high hopes that things in Haskell, Wyoming would be different.

Ahead, a man with a bushy moustache sent her a sympathetic look as she approached the door. “Sorry, miss,” he mumbled. “We’re not all like that in Haskell.”

“Oh?” Wendy cursed the waver in her voice.

“Nope.” The man held out his hand. “Herb Waters is the name. I own the livery in town. Well, for now. My sister in Denver…” He stopped abruptly and laughed at himself. “My sister tells me I talk too much. I’ll let you get on with things.”

Mr. Waters gestured for Wendy to walk ahead of him down the aisle. If there was one kind man in Haskell, there could be others. Wendy paused before the train car’s door, closed her eyes, and took in a breath. Her mother’s words—said so many times before she passed away—settled over her. “There are good people in this world and bad people. What they look like has nothing to do with it, it’s how they treat their fellow men that means everything.”

She opened her eyes and forced a smile. One rude man was not going to ruin the happiness that waited for her on the platform right outside the train. If her hands were free, she would have smoothed any stray hairs away from her face, checked to be sure her stylish, plumed hat was in place, and adjusted her skirts. As it was, she could only clear her throat and step down onto the train platform.

Uncertainty hit her as soon as her heels clicked on the boards. Haskell was small, but the platform was busy. Mr. Waters zipped out from behind her and rushed off on his own business. Porters and a man in a stationmaster’s uniform worked unloading baggage from the last car on the train. Wagons were parked around the platform, and the passengers that had already disembarked were hugging and greeting friends or family. The rude man who had insulted her was being fawned over by four young ladies in dresses that were fashionable, yet somehow inappropriate for the dusty street. Wendy winced at the sight. Those young ladies would have be ideal customers if she was in a position to continue sewing. Then again, if the man—who, judging by age and the girls’ reactions to him, must have been their father—held the opinion of her that Wendy assumed he did, there was a fair chance they wouldn’t patronize her anyhow.

There were other people scattered about the platform, waiting for passengers or perhaps cargo, but not one of them looked like he could be Cody Montrose. There was a small circle chatting and staring expectantly at the train that consisted of an older woman, a fine gentleman just past his prime, and two young men dressed for work. They squinted at the train’s windows as if looking for something. Wendy wished them well in their search, but kept scanning the platform and the street right below it for her fiancé.

Relief flooded her when she saw him—or at least the only man in sight that looked like he could be for her. He strolled deliberately across the street in front of the platform—a fine, chocolate-skinned man in a suit that must have been purchased from San Francisco. He was clean-shaven and had somehow managed to avoid getting dust on his shoes. As he walked, he took out a gold pocket-watch to check the time. From a distance, Wendy could see how fine the piece was.

“Excuse me,” she called to him, walking quickly to the edge of the platform.

The regal man stopped, searching around him with a confused frown to see who had spoken.

Wendy put on her brightest smile, heart swelling with satisfaction at her future husband. “Excuse me, I’m right here.”

The man turned to her, his expression softening to politeness. “Yes. You are.”

Wendy blinked. Her heart began to shudder in her chest. The man didn’t seem to have an idea who she was. “I’m your bride,” she explained. “From Nashville. Wendy Weatherford.”

The man continued to stare at her. He shrugged and shook his head. “I didn’t send for any brides. I did send for the latest editions of The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. I don’t suppose you have those with you?” His grin was charming, amusing even, but it carried no recognition.

Behind her, she thought she heard someone say, “Wendy Weatherford?”

But before she could react, she was already asking the finely-dressed gentleman, “Aren’t you Cody Montrose?”

The man in front of her burst into laughter so quickly that prickles formed across Wendy’s face, and her hands and feet went numb.

“I’ve been called any number of names in my time, but Cody Montrose has never been one of them.” He continued to chuckle, coming closer to her to offer his hand. “The name’s Solomon Templesmith,” he introduced himself. “And you are?”

She had barely recovered her composure, let alone gathered herself enough to give him an answer, when a man’s voice behind her said, “You’re Wendy Weatherford?”

Dread twisted in Wendy’s gut as she turned to find the older man and woman and the two young working men approaching. It was impossible to tell which one of them had spoken, but it hardly seemed to matter. They all wore variations of the same bewildered stare.

“Yes.” She turned fully toward them, trying to smile but failing in her shock. “I am Wendy Weatherford. And you are?”

All four of them stood stock still, eyes wide.

At last, the woman sighed and said, “I think Mrs. Breashears left out one tiny detail in the description she sent.” More silence, then the woman shook her head and gestured as if she were brushing a fly away from her face. “I’m Mrs. Josephine Evans,” she explained, hand outstretched to take hers.

Wendy half lifted her hand to shake Mrs. Evans’s before realizing both hands were full.

“Here.” The older of of the two younger men hopped forward, his expression serious, though not unkind. “I’ll take those.”

His eyes met hers for a moment as she handed her carpetbag and sewing kit over. A spark of attraction swirled through Wendy’s already fluttering stomach. He had gentle, hazel eyes, and right then they seemed to brim with compassion for her situation. She swayed toward him for a heartbeat, as if he was the lifeline being thrown to her. The older woman still had her hand raised, though, and as soon as her bags were with the kind-eyed man, Wendy took it. She smiled as serenely as she could.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Evans,” she said. Inch by inch, she recovered her composure and held herself with as much grace as she could in the situation.

Mrs. Evans peeked at her companions, then cleared her throat. “This is Mr. Charlie Garrett.” She introduced the older man.

“Miss Weatherford.” Mr. Garrett bowed as he shook her hand.

“This is Mr. Travis Montrose.” Mrs. Evans gestured to the man who now held Wendy’s things. Her face pinched, her shoulders twitched, and she turned to the other young man. “And this is Mr. Cody Montrose.”

Wendy smiled and faced her fiancé, back straight, hand outstretched in greeting. “Mr. Montrose.”

Cody Montrose stared back at her. His were the only set of eyes that were still rounded in shock and, Wendy was loathe to admit, horror. He’d gone pale, except for bright splotches of red on his cheeks and his mouth hung open. He didn’t take her offered hand.

“Nuh-uh,” he said at last, shaking his head. “I can’t marry her.”

Tension sizzled in the air around them. Wendy’s chest and throat squeezed.

“But,” Mrs. Evans started, hands fidgeting in front of her. “But you sent for her.”

“I didn’t send for her,” Cody said. He gestured to Wendy, sweeping her with a look from head to toe.

Wendy felt as exposed as if he’d shouted for everyone in Haskell to come take a look at her. “I’m sorry if I’m not what you were expecting.” She could only manage a whisper. “You are not what I expected either.”

She twisted to see if Mr. Solomon Templesmith was still witnessing the scene, but that gentleman had moved on and was now talking to Herb Waters, like the two of them were good friends. A shiver of panic curled through Wendy. She was on her own in the middle of nowhere, about to be abandoned.

 

Oh no! Poor Wendy! What’s going to happen to her? Find out very soon!

Rest In Peace

Jan 14, 2016

brandonI just heard the news that Alan Rickman has died of cancer. Four days after David Bowie passed away from the same cause. It sucked to hear that Bowie was gone, but when I went to lunch with a good friend on Monday, I foolishly remarked that as sad as it was to lose an icon, I couldn’t think of any celebrities whose death would really crush me. Then Alan Rickman. It was like the universe was sucker-punching me to prove I was wrong. I am deeply sad that Rickman’s light has moved from the earth to the heavens.

So why does it bother us so much when beloved celebrities die? It’s not like they were close personal friends. The likelihood of any of us meeting and hanging out with a star is infinitesimal. And yet, when they leave us, it’s like out next door neighbor—the one who got invited to the Christmas party and shared barbeque in the summer and was always there when the baby needed to go to the hospital but someone needed to stay and watch the kids—has died. Why is that?

I once had a voice teacher who summed it up nicely. When someone becomes famous, they gain a sort of magic. That magic is highly attractive to us. We crave it, and we consume it, and it becomes part of us. We need that magic to expand our world and to make it shine. It’s not the celebrity themselves who we come to adore and hold close and think of as part of ourselves, it’s their magic. And it hurts when we feel as though that magic is ripped from us.

labyrinthBoth David Bowie and Alan Rickman played pivotal roles in my development as a human being. Yep, I, like so many other tweens watching Labyrinth in the 80s, can pinpoint the moment of my sexual awakening by David Bowie’s pants in his role as Jareth, the Goblin King. We giggle about that bulge, but no, seriously, it was a defining moment in my young adolescent life. That’s the kind of power that celebrities have. They are perfect projections for those crucial moments of human development that we all go through. It’s part of their magic, the thing they unknowingly sign on for when they reach for the stars.

Similar to David Bowie, the moment Alan Rickman walked on screen in Sense and Sensibility, listening to Marianne playing the pianoforte and singing, stepping into a beam of light and falling in love…in that moment, I knew what true romance was. And I knew that I loved older men. Not only that, Rickman was a major bonding point between me and one of my best friends from high school. Our shared love of his magic drew us together and cemented us as buddies in one of the most difficult times of my entire life. Without the slightest clue who I was, Rickman was there for me when I needed him. He continued to be there through good times and bad.

The loss that we mourn when celebrities who have touched our lives pass on is not so much about the death of a person, it’s the loss and fear of the beautiful and important moments of our lives that they have touched leaving us. It’s the loss of an innocent crush and the fear that we will never recapture the fleeting moments of our own life. I hate to say it, but I experienced the same piercing, bitter sense of fear and loss when the Bill Cosby scandal broke, because he too played an incredibly important role in my early life. His magic was ripped away, but the man himself lives on. For all intents and purposes, he died too, or at least the part of him that mattered to me.

The good news as we mourn is that magic never dies. All of the good and noble and sexy and wonderful things that these stars inspired in us lives on in their legacy and their body of work. And new stars are being born all the time. We will always feel the hole that people like Bowie and Rickman have left in us because we can never go back and reclaim those crucial moments of our own human development that they became the face of. Childhood is gone. But life goes on, love endures, and the world is just waiting for us to add to the brightness of magic.

 

(screencaps of Sense and Sensibility and Labyrinth used under Fair Use to represent the films being discussed)

Western Wednesday – War, War on the Range

Jan 13, 2016

640px-Bloomfield_IIThe range wars that took place in Wyoming and other places in the Old West where the cattle industry formed the heart of the economy make for great stories. They’ve been depicted in every format, from books to television to movies. In all of these cases, the drama is high, the stakes are personal, and the action is furious. This is really the stuff of legend. But what really happened back then, and was it as dramatic as the media has made it out to be?

There were several conflicts that could be classified as range wars throughout the 1870s, 80s, and 90s—from the Mason County War in Texas in 1875 to the Colfax County War in New Mexico in the 70s and 80s. Most of these conflicts were simply the result of new, entrepreneurial settlers trying to cut in on the business of ranchers and landowners who were already established in any given area. They turned violent due to lack of law enforcement to stop intimidation and retaliation before it got out of hand. But the big war, the one that gets the most press and that the movies, shows, and books are all based on, is the Johnson County War in Wyoming from around 1889 to 1893.

Although a lot of the media out there likes to paint the Johnson County War as a class war where the little guy was just standing up for his rights against the big, bad cattle barons, it’s so not that simple. The origins of the conflict were the same as any other range war—newbies trying to carve out a piece of the pie for themselves against the long-standing, well-organized ranchers who had come before them.

One theory about the instigating factor of the war is the weather. Yup. The cattle industry in Wyoming was booming in the 1870s and early 80s, and there was enough business to go around. But in the winter of 1886-87, Wyoming saw several blizzards and temperatures that dropped to 40-50 below zero. That was then followed by an unusually hot and dry summer. It decimated the herds. And while you might think that this would be great for ranchers because there would be a higher demand for fewer heads of cattle, the fact was that with cattle still grazing out on the open range—and fewer of them at that—rustling became a major problem.

Ella Averell, early victim of the Johnson County War

Ella Averell, early victim of the Johnson County War

A lot of the rustling (taking cattle off the open range and claiming they’re yours when clearly, according to the brand, they’re not) was blamed on the smaller, newer ranchers. Some of that was justified. Some of the rustling was done by independent gangs of criminals. The larger ranchers weren’t going to take this lying down, though, and it just so happened that they were organized.

I’ve had fun mentioning in my Brides of Paradise Ranch series that both of the cattle barons in Haskell, Wyoming—Howard Haskell and Rex Bonneville—belong to the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. No single organization was as important or powerful in Wyoming in the late 19th century as the WSGA…and that includes the government. When the problems started, the WSGA took action. Not only were there powerful cattlemen in their ranks, there were also politicians, independent enforcers, and detectives.

When the rustling got bad, the WSGA sent out teams of detectives and hired guns to find out what was going on. Their conclusion in many cases was that the smaller ranchers were to blame for the rustling. To make a long story short, they took action.

Perhaps one reason why the Johnson County War spun out of control so fast was because of the first people who were killed. A range detective out investigating rustling came to the conclusion that a man named Jim Averell was guilty. So he and his team lynched him in July of 1889. They also lynched his wife, Ella. It’s one of the few times that a woman was lynched in the Old West, and it caused an outrage. Not only an outrage, it prompted revenge. A few months later, some of the men who had been involved in the lynching were murdered in retaliation.

That spark ignited a firestorm. The WSGA responded by hiring guns from Texas—who were reported to be ruthless killers—and sent more detectives out to “investigate.” One of the reasons the war earned its place in history is because they also sent out journalists to record what was going on and to send word—or rather, copy that would sell papers—back East. The smaller ranchers refused to be put down. They attempted to organize and fight back. Like, literally fight back.

640px-Indian_sheep_loose_herding_on_open_range._-_NARA_-_295220Over the next few years, there were a series of sieges and armed conflicts. More often than not, they involved smaller ranchers and their allies attacking the cattle barons, and then the WSGA retaliating by sieging ranches and killing the participants. The small ranchers saw themselves as fighters for the cause of the little guy. The cattle barons saw them as vigilantes disrupting the economy. They saw themselves as protectors of the economic interests of the state and of their own businesses by whatever means necessary. Both sides thought they were right, and both were willing to fight to the death to win.

So what ended up ending the Johnson County War? How could a conflict with two sides who were so convinced they were right and who were willing to do whatever it took to protect their interests stop?

Well, the answer is that President Benjamin Harrison himself had had enough of it. In 1892, he charged the Secretary of War with ending the conflict. The U.S. Army moved in to Wyoming and slapped some serious down. The men from the WSGA who were responsible for the killings of the smaller ranchers and vigilantes were charged with crimes…but never actually prosecuted or convicted of anything.

The end result was that the cattle barons kept their power and the smaller ranchers lost theirs. Unfair? Eh, maybe. We like to hear about the little guys winning, but in a way, the little guys just lost in their attempt to move in on territory that was already claimed by men who had been in business longer than them. Before long, there were other problems taking up the cattle baron’s time and attention—changes in the market, shifting demand for beef, and new laws that changed the way ranches were organized. The war might be the thing that captures our imagination, but as is the case so often in life, it was ultimately the slow-moving glacier of economic change and development that shaped the new Old West.

(all images are public domain, courtesy of WikiCommons)

Release Day! His Dangerous Bride/Eden: The Dangerous Bride

Jan 10, 2016

It’s time! It’s here! Although technically tomorrow is release day, I’ll let you in on a secret… The books are live on most platforms right now! And, you guessed it, both are available for an introductory price of 99 cents for a VERY limited time only! Grab ’em cheap while you can! So are you ready for some adventure with Luke and Eden? Here’s a taste of His Dangerous Bride (spicy version) aka Eden: The Dangerous Bride (sweet version):

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“Miss Eden Gardner?”

Eden spun as her name was called. Right away, she spotted a distinguished gentlemen in an expensive suit, a gold watch fob glistening across his waistcoat, and an attractive older woman in sensible but stylish cotton.

“Miss Eden Gardner,” the woman said, a statement this time instead of a question. She picked up her pace, coming forward with outstretched hands. “I’m Mrs. Josephine Evans, and you have no idea how overjoyed I am to welcome you to Haskell.”

“She took the words right out of my mouth,” the gentleman said. He came to a stop in front of her and touched the brim of his hat before taking her hand in a firm shake. “Charlie Garrett, at your service.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet both of you.” She wasn’t even lying at that. Her shoulders relaxed and her back stopped aching. It was because of these two, and Mrs. Piedmont, that she was getting this one-in-a-million chance to start over.

As soon as she let go of Mr. Garrett’s hand, she searched behind him, scanning the area around the station. “Where’s my husband?”

Mrs. Evans’s brow shot up. Mr. Garrett sputtered, then burst into a hearty laugh. “No beating around the bush with you, I guess.”

Eden crossed her arms and smiled at him. Handsome, tail end of his prime. Confident, competent, and likely able to take her down before she knew what was happening. Yes, she liked Charlie Garrett at first sight.

“I never saw much point in beating around any bushes,” she told him and Mrs. Evans. “It’s a waste of time when seconds matter.”

“Is that so?” Mr. Garrett’s lips twitched as he worked to get his grin under control. His eyes held experience, understanding, knowing. She’d have to watch out for him.

A slow but equally satisfied grin spread across Mrs. Evans’s face. “Oh yes,” she said, rubbing her hands together as though relishing a prize. “She’ll be perfect. Luke won’t know what hit him.”

Damn. By the sound of things, Eden would get along with Mrs. Evans like they were two peas in a pod. And if what Mrs. Breashears had said was right, Mrs. Evans was Luke Chance’s adopted mother, which meant she’d be Eden’s mother-in-law. Haskell was growing on her already.

“I’m here, I’m here!” a call came from the row of hitching posts to one side of the train. “Sorry I’m late.”

Mr. Garrett and Mrs. Evans turned, and Eden leaned to the side, arms still crossed, to get a look at the man who was climbing down from a handsome chestnut gelding. He moved with the horse as though the two of them had one mind, looping the reins around the post with hardly a glance. When he turned in Eden’s direction, her heart stuttered in her chest.

“Well, hello,” she hummed.

The man strode forward with wide, sure steps. Cocky steps. The kind of steps that said he could handle any situation and keep smiling while doing so. His shoulders were broad, his arms strong under sleeves rolled up past his elbow. A hint of dark blond hair was visible under the brim of his worn hat, and straight, white teeth flashed as he smiled. He hopped up onto the platform with ease. Eden had half a mind to ask him to turn around so she could get a look at his backside.

“Are you Eden Gardner?” he asked, striding to a stop between Mr. Garrett and Mrs. Evans. He raked her from head to toe with a fiery gaze that said he liked what he saw.

Hot damn.

“That’s me.” She stepped toward him, holding out a hand.

He took it, his grip firm and warm. “Luke Chance. Pleased to meet you.”

His confidence, his strength, that hint of mischief in his eyes as he smiled at her—yep, she could have done much worse in a man. Now all she needed to do was make sure he sealed the deal before he saw right through her and called it all off.

“All right.” She looked at Mr. Garrett, then Mrs. Evans. “He seems like he’s got all the right parts in all the right places. I’ll marry him.” She nodded. The faster the better.

 

Like I said, His Dangerous Bride and Eden: The Dangerous Bride are live on most retailer platforms right now. And remember, they’re only 99 cents for a VERY limited time!

Click here to be taken to Eden: The Dangerous Bride on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

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Nook link coming soon.

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