Bride of the Western Dawn (Preview)


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Chapter One

May, 1896

Boston, Massachusetts

Ellie Carson folded her arms across her chest and glared at her parents. “Tell me again why I have to do this.”

Her mother sighed, and turned her head to look out of the carriage window. She’d clearly had enough of Ellie complaining, and wasn’t going to rise to the bait. Her father, however, was a lawyer who loved a good debate.

“We’ve told you, Ellie,” he said, gently but firmly. “It’s a good opportunity for you.”

Ellie shook her head. “Yes, that’s what tiny farming towns in Oregon are known for, their opportunities.”

“Don’t be sarcastic with your father,” her mother snapped.

“It’s alright, Julia,” her father said. “Ellie has the right to be upset. We are forcing her to uproot her life and move very far away from us. It’s natural that she would have concerns. Especially considering the circumstances.” He looked away, his expression becoming strained.

Ellie sniffed back tears of her own. The loss was still so fresh it felt like it happened yesterday and not three months ago. She could still see it, the accident which had changed the Carson family forever.

Silence, solemn and heavy, slid into the carriage and it took all of Ellie’s self-control not to begin crying again. The loss of her older sister Molly still weighed her down like it was a millstone around her neck. If only they had stayed home that day. If only they hadn’t gone into town to buy lace for the dress Molly was going to wear on her wedding day, she would still be with them. It would be Molly heading out to Oregon.

“Look,” her father said, leaning forward and gently taking Ellie’s hands in his. “I know you don’t like this, but Jasper McCallister is an old friend of mine. He assures me that his son Jesse is a good man. I’m sure you’ll grow to love one another.”

“How can you be so sure?” Ellie asked. “I don’t know anything about his man, except that you and his father grew up together in some small town, and then went your separate ways. What has he been up to for all those years? And why do you have to supply him with a suitable candidate for his son to marry?”

“Ellie, please,” her mother said, looking at her so beseechingly that Ellie found it difficult to continue disagreeing. Instead, she sighed and looked out of the window.

She had always loved Boston in May. The days were generally warm when it wasn’t raining, and the oppressive heat of summer hadn’t reared its uncomfortable head. Flowers bloomed, people smiled, and it was a lovely town to live in then.

Of course, Ellie knew the reason for her being shipped off to Oregon. The real reason.

Her parents were in financial trouble, and she was an extra mouth to feed. Despite being a successful lawyer, her father was not very good with money. He had made a few questionable investments which had now put the family in dire straits.

Both she and her sister Molly were to be shipped off to separate ends of the earth to fend for themselves among strangers. It was only the accident that had saved Molly from that fate, and put Ellie squarely in its path.

Not that she was a layabout. Not by any means.

Ellie had begun her own businesses. She was a decent baker and made birthday cakes on request. Although she was paid quite handsomely for them, there wasn’t enough demand for it to be a viable full-time occupation. That suited her just fine. Ellie wasn’t the kind of person who could do that same thing day in and day out without being bored.

So, when she wasn’t baking cakes, she offered a tailoring service, altering and mending clothes for people. This was a bit more in demand. Finding someone who could sew buttons into shirts, alter hems in trousers and skirts, patch holes, darn socks and generally make one’s clothing last longer, for a reasonable price, was difficult in such a bustling and busy city.

Ellie had put up notices on just about every noticeboard she had access to and brought in a good number of clients each month. Still, that wasn’t enough to keep their finances afloat and she had to do more.

Using the pen name of Maurice Rousseau, she wrote a series of adventure tales for men that had been published in the paper. This had taken some serious conniving on her part to achieve as the editor had wanted to meet Maurice. Ellie had been forced to fabricate an injury for her alter ego, so that he could be excused from ever setting foot in the newspaper’s offices and she could with happiness cash his cheques on his behalf. It was not lucrative, but every penny she brought in made a difference and she was rightly proud of that. She had even thought it might keep her parents from arranging a marriage for her. However, it seemed that her folks didn’t think her contributions outweighed the burden she presented.

“What will you do without my money every month?” Ellie asked, breaking the new silence that had settled between them. “Surely, you need my contributions?”

This time it was her mother who answered. After the failed investments, the financial reins had been handed to her mother to control.

“We will manage fine,” her mother said. “We will sell the house and move into an apartment. It will be closer to the office and will save your father time traveling to and from it. Also, with the nest egg from the sale of the house, we will be able to live just fine in far more modest accommodation than we have now. We can’t help it, Ellie, there simply isn’t another alternative, with or without the money you make. I’m sorry, my darling, but this is how things currently stand.” She looked at her husband and sighed.

“Perhaps if your father didn’t have such a big heart, and did less pro bono work, we might be in a better situation, but we aren’t,” her mother continued. “We all have to do our part.”

Ellie disliked the fact that her part was to be shipped off and married to a complete stranger, but no amount of complaining, disagreeing or even shouting and fighting, had caused her parents to change their minds. She was heading to the train station now; she would board the train and she would go to Oregon. Anything else would be letting them down, and would be unacceptable.

Despite the current hiccup in their relationship, Ellie loved her parents deeply. She didn’t want to upset them by disobeying their wishes. And where would she go anyway? Her only other family lived right there in Boston; her Aunt Anna, and her cousin, Daisy. But they were in financial trouble themselves, and not able to help either. It was just a terrible situation that she had no control over. The only thing she could do was go to Oregon.

Defeat wasn’t something Ellie liked enduring, but she knew when she was beaten. And she was currently without a leg to stand on. Her future, for better or worse, lay across the country in a state she knew next to nothing about, in a town where she knew no one.

As the looming hulk that was the North Boston Union Station filled her window, Ellie knew that the time for protests was over. It was time to admit defeat and accept that this was her lot in life. Her only recourse was that if she couldn’t stomach marrying this Jesse person, then she would make a life for herself on her own. She had some savings in her purse, and it would be enough, if she was frugal on the train, to set herself up should she need to.

After all, she had skills and she never shied away from a challenge. Ellie would find a way forward, come what may.

Thinking those thoughts made her feel better, more secure, less like she was stepping out of the light and into an impenetrable darkness that might swallow her whole. She wished her sister Molly was with her. Her older sister had always been there, cheering Ellie on, even when their folks didn’t approve of something Ellie was determined to do. How she missed her big sister.

“Now, make sure to write,” her mother said, her eyes filling with tears. “I know we’re going to be terribly far apart, but you know we love you. Don’t you? We would never ask this of you if there was any other way.”

Ellie nodded. “I know, Mother. Don’t worry. I’ll make the best of it. You know I will. I just had to give it one last try, to see if you would change your mind about sending me out to the wilderness.”

“It’s hardly the wilderness,” her mother said with a stern look in her eyes. “Your father would never do that to you.”

“At most it will be a lot more rural than you’re used to,” her father said, handing her the valise that held her books. The rest of her things were in a steamer trunk which she would have to trundle along on its little wheels.

“Rural, got it,” Ellie said.

“We’ll walk you in,” her mother said.

“Of course,” her father agreed, and they set off through the arched doorway.

The station had been newly built just three years previously, and it consolidated the operations of four different railway companies in one large building. This led to Ellie and her folks first getting lost and going to the wrong platform.

“Well, this is a mess, isn’t it?” her father muttered in frustration. “This train doesn’t go anywhere near where you’re heading.”

“Perhaps it was one of the other platforms,” her mother suggested.

Ellie didn’t mind getting lost. It meant a few more minutes more with her folks, before she had to embark on a journey that, although she had accepted its inevitability in her life, she still wasn’t keen to make.

Her father, red faced and ruffling his strawberry blonde hair that was a shade lighter than Ellie’s own, finally managed to find a porter who was able to point them in the right direction.

It took them only a few minutes to reach the right part of the station. The great big black steam engine stood on the rails waiting for those she would carry to climb into her depths.

“Well, this is it,” Ellie said, turning to her mother and father.

Now that it was almost time to leave, she didn’t know if she could actually go through with it. She didn’t want to be a rancher’s wife. She didn’t care who his father was, or how much this would help the family, Ellie didn’t want to go. She felt in her bones that her folks needed her to stay home and look after them. Deserting them now, as they approached their twilight years was not something she had ever thought she would do.

Ellie had always envisioned herself buying a house near the house she and Molly had grown up in. They would live close by so that when she or Molly got married and had children of their own, the children would grow up knowing their grandparents. They would know their cousins and aunts and uncles. The Carson horde would be one big and happy family. She had never considered that a cruel twist of fate would rob her of all of that in a few seconds.

“They’re calling for passengers to board,” her father said. “We will miss you terribly, Ellie.” He drew her into a hug.

Wrapping her arms around her father, Ellie tried not to cry. She had to be brave, but as he let her go, she saw that his cheeks were wet. No matter what, her folks did love her.

“Remember that we love you, and write to us with all your news,” her mother insisted. “Here is our new address.” She slipped a piece of paper into Ellie’s hand and closed her fingers over it. “We will miss you.”

Her mother was crying now, and Ellie hugged her tightly, not wanting to ever let go.

“Final boarding!” a male voice called out loudly. “Train departing in five minutes.”

“You’d better go and get yourself settled,” her mother said.

They separated and Ellie trundled her trunk to her compartment door. It seemed that Jesse and his father had money because they had booked her a sleeper compartment for the two weeks’ journey it would take for her to reach them.

Closing and locking the door, she opened the window and stuck her head out. Her folks were still there, on the platform. They had stepped back from the train and were smiling at her, tears in their eyes.

Ellie couldn’t be brave any longer. She broke down and began to cry as the train slowly chugged its way out of the station. She watched the platform disappear behind her. The last image she had, before the train turned a corner, was of her folks, her father’s arm around her mother’s shoulders, both with their free hands up and waving at her.

Closing the window, Ellie had no idea what to do. She felt so lost and alone. The compartment was nice enough with a bed, a wash basin, and a closet for her things. She put her trunk next to the closet and only put the valise, unopened, on the floor of the closet.

Then she threw herself on the bed and collapsed in morbid depression. How was she going to survive this journey? This new life she was being forced into. What if Jesse smelled of onions, or horse manure from working on the ranch all day? What if he had terrible habits like he drank or smoked, two things that Ellie didn’t like at all? What if he was a dullard and had the intellect of a spoon?

For a long time, she lay on the narrow bed and stared at the ceiling, feeling the train move under her. It had a soothing rhythm and soon Ellie found her mood improving. There was no point in wondering about Jesse McCallister. He was an unknown that she would soon meet and then know possibly all too well.

What she could do, while she was on the train, was work out a plan for if everything went sideways, and she had to make a go of it on her own. She didn’t know anything about Oregon, or this town of Grandville. What kind of a name was that anyway? “Grandville, it’s a grand place.”

She chuckled. “Oh, I’ll bet it’s grand alright,” she said. “Two stores and a hitching post.” She sighed.

Well, if that was the case then there would a lot of opportunity to start a business, or to find a service that was needed and supply it. There was likely a call for cakes, or tailoring, or knitting or something. Ellie was a resourceful, bright woman, but she needed information about the place she was heading to.

How could she get such information on a moving train?

Ah, of course, from the other passengers. Perhaps it was time to leave her compartment and see who was around in the dining car. It was likely that some people had been there before and would be able to tell her something about the place she would be forced to call home soon. Her folks had either not wanted to share their knowledge of the place or didn’t know anything much about it.

The latter was the most likely option. She had sneaked a look at the letters this Jasper McCallister had sent to her father to set this whole barbaric arranged marriage up in the first place. He hadn’t given many details except to say that the ranch was in the rolling hills and that it was prosperous and on good financial footing.

Nothing mentioned about the town though, which concerned Ellie. If she had to leave the ranch, how far was it to town? She decided to head to the dining car and make a couple of friends who might be able to tell her all she wanted to know.

Chapter Two

May, 1896

Grandville, Oregon

Two weeks later

“Why do I have to marry her?” Jesse McCallister asked his father for the hundredth time. “Why are you so set on me having a family now? Surely, marrying for love is far better than for whatever this is.”

His father stared back at him with his dark, unreadable eyes.

“She’s a good woman,” Jasper said. “Now pull that rope tight. This fence isn’t going to fix itself.”

Jesse sighed and pulled his end. The rope, which was wound around the two poles, pulled tight and fixed them in place. His father nodded, which was high praise from a man who seldom spoke much.

“Father,” Jesse tried again. “Surely, it’s a sign from fate or God or something that this isn’t meant to be. I mean, the one sister gets knocked over by a cart and killed, and you just swap her out for the other one, as though it doesn’t matter. Is that even right? Shouldn’t we have called this whole thing off?”

His father looked up from his work and shook his head. “I’m only saying this once more, Jesse, so make sure you listen this time. If you want this ranch and your inheritance, you will get married and settled down. You will be the upstanding man I know you are, and you will be it for all to see.”

“How is that important?” Jesse asked.

“Those are my terms,” his father said and that was the end of it.

They finished fixing the fence which had come down in a storm, and went back to the house. The day was wearing on, and Jesse would have to leave soon if he wanted to meet this Ellie Carson he was supposed to marry—and spend the rest of this life with—at the train station. It would take an hour to get to Grandville with the cart.

As Jesse made himself and his father sandwiches for lunch, he wondered what Ellie Carson would be like. She’d probably be soft as all city folks were. With his luck she would be dull, without a brain in her head. She would probably twitter on, like the birds in the trees, about dresses and recipes and other things that Jesse had heard the women in town natter on about.

It was dull.

Would she know the first thing about life on a ranch? He doubted it. Would she be able to keep up with the demanding lifestyle? Up before dawn, in bed late at night? Would she be able to do all the work around the house, or would he and his father be forever resigned to floors, laundry, cooking, and the inevitable and wholly despised dish washing? Would she be an asset, or just another mouth to feed?

“If you put any more butter on that bread, it’s likely to slide off the other half of the sandwich,” his father said. “Where is your head at?”

Not wanting to have the same fight with his father as he’d been having for the last couple of months, Jesse just shook his head. “Just thinking of all the things we need. I should head into town now and stock up on groceries.”

“Not a bad idea,” his father said. He smiled. “Maybe Miss Carson will be a good cook. It would be nice to have a proper meal again.”

“I don’t think we do so badly,” Jesse said.

“Beans and sausage are a fine dinner, but it gets a bit monotonous,” his father said with a chuckle.

Was he trying to make up for snapping at him earlier? Jesse couldn’t be sure. He scraped some of the butter off the bread and added the ham, cheese, lettuce, and tomato before closing up the sandwich and handing it to his father on a plate. For himself he wrapped his food in brown wax paper and packed it into his bag.

“I’ll be on my way then,” he said.

His father nodded, chewing with every sign of enjoyment.

Jesse left him there and went to hitch the horse to the cart. Soon he was on his way. The day was overcast and turning cold. Sometimes winter had a hard time letting go of the area and allowing spring to come. Still the grass was green and there were little flowers poking through the turf. The trees were budding with leaves and the world was ready for the warm summer months to come.

The ranch had about twenty heifers who were almost ready to give birth. That meant the ranch was about to get really busy. There was nothing like birthing season to get a body up at all hours to help with the delivery. Most of the time the heifers managed just fine on their own, but each was special and sometimes they needed help.

How squeamish would this Ellie be? Ranch life was busy and hard. There was no space for someone who would faint away at the first sight of something unappealing. Jesse took his work at the ranch seriously. From the moment his father had bought the land and the cattle, Jesse had been in love.

Every day he got up with a smile on his face and took his work of looking after the cattle very seriously. He loved nothing more than to walk among them, stroking their hides, receiving their wobbly nosed kisses with their oddly rough tongues.

He loved the way they smelled like fermented grass, and he was meticulous about caring for them; checking their hooves and legs for thorns or any sign of a problem. Jesse had even taken out a subscription to several journals that dealt with raising cattle and he was always referring back to them to make sure that he wasn’t missing something that could potentially cause a beast pain or harm.

He had hoped that he would find a woman who was as interested in the animals and living a simple life, as he was. Would Ellie Carson be that kind of woman? He had no way of knowing. He hadn’t even known her sister, Molly, any better either. Still, at least they had exchanged letters for a month or two before agreeing to the match. He at least had an idea of who Molly was.

Molly had come across in her letters as kind, thoughtful, honest, caring, and enthusiastic to learn about life on the ranch. What she hadn’t done, was write about her sister, except to mention that she had one. Ellie was a completely unknown entity, and Jesse didn’t like surprises. He had a feeling that she would be a big surprise.

What really bothered Jesse about this situation was his father’s insistence that he get married. Didn’t his father think that he could manage to find a wife on his own?

The town of Grandville was really not that grand. It was named after the founder, Julius Grand, who had seen this little patch of land, nestled between some foothills, and had proclaimed it the fairest there ever was. He had thought this would make an excellent place to mine for gold. Little did Mr. Grand know at the time, but there was absolutely no gold in the surrounding hills. There was nothing worth mining anywhere near Grandville and so, after giving up his dream of being a mining tycoon, he had gone back to his humble roots and built a farm.

Luckily, he did, because this land was made for farming and raising cattle. The pasture was always good, the crops always plentiful. There weren’t many natural disasters that went beyond a yearly flood or a few horrible thunderstorms, and that was it. There were droughts from time to time, but that happened everywhere. It truly was a little slice of paradise and Jesse loved the whole place.

He drove the cart up to the general store and tied the horse, Alfie, to the post. Then he went inside and joined the line of shoppers.

“Didn’t you buy half the store a fortnight ago?” a voice asked.

Turning, Jesse saw a large man with brown hair, a smirking smile and green eyes watching him.

“Ben! You old dog,” Jesse said, shaking his friend’s outstretched hand. “I was hoping to run into you.”

“Well, you’re in luck,” Ben said. “I happen to have some time. What’s on your mind?”

“Let me get the groceries and I’ll buy you a beer,” Jesse said.

“Now you’re definitely keeping my attention,” Ben said.

Reaching the front of the line, Jesse handed over his list and waited while the clerk got all the things they needed together. They were tallied up and Jesse paid. Then while Ben was busy, he carried his purchases out to the cart. He bought things like candles, soap flakes, rice, flour, beans, and a few other odds and ends.

Ben came out with his purchases stashed in his satchel, and together they led Ben’s horse along with Alfie and the cart to the saloon, and tied them up there. The horses instantly buried their noses in the water and food troughs and were perfectly content.

Jesse and Ben went up to the Pickled Baron, and pushed the batwing doors open. The place smelled familiar and comforting. They went to the bar and ordered a tankard of beer each. There was still an hour or so before the train carrying Ellie Carson was due to arrive. Jesse could have a beer and hopefully talk to Ben about his problem.

Ben worked as a carter and so had odd days off between runs. He would often do the run between Grandville and Portland moving the produce the farmers and ranchers needed sold.

“So,” Ben said, wiping the foam from the beer off his top lip with the back of his hand. “What’s eating you?”

“You know that arranged marriage problem I had a couple of months ago?” Jesse asked.

Ben nodded. “Yes, I seem to recall you saying she was hit by a cart or something and died. Terrible tragedy.” He shook his head sadly. “She seemed nice enough in her letters, but I thought all of that was over.”

Jesse realized that he hadn’t seen Ben in over five weeks. A lot had changed in that time. “It turns out she has a sister. A younger sister, and the father is keen for her to come in Molly’s place.”

Ben raised his bushy brows. “You’re kidding?”

“Nope,” Jesse said with a halfhearted grin. “She’s arriving today on the train. I think I’m a little nervous. This whole thing being arranged by our parents makes it feel strange.”

Silence slid between them as Ben tried to wrap his head around this information.

“So, I don’t see you for a few weeks and the whole world goes crazy. Is that about right?” Ben asked. “Did the father seriously send his other daughter, just like that?”

Jesse nodded. “Not just like that. Apparently he and my father wrote several letters to each other, and they agreed that she and I would do well together.” He didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t the kind of situation that he had any experience dealing with.

“Alright,” Ben said. “I have one question. Why didn’t you tell your father to take this idea and stuff it in his hat?”

“I thought about it,” Jesse said, “But he’s holding the ranch hostage. He wants me to inherit it early. I think he wants to retire. The only thing is, he won’t sign anything until he’s made sure that I am settled and married. It’s his one stipulation and I haven’t been able to make him budge so much as an inch on it.”

“Why?” Ben asked.

Jesse shrugged. “I don’t know. You know how he is, doesn’t talk much. He said that he needs to get the ranch in my name but that he won’t give it to me unless–.”

“Unless there’s a Mrs. Jesse McCallister,” Ben said. He considered this. “So, he found you a bride?”

“It would seem so,” Jesse said. “We can agree I didn’t really try to find one on my own. I guess he thinks he’ll grow old and die without grandchildren if he leaves it up to me. I’ve just never seen the urgency.”

“Me either,” Ben said, nodding. “Love should come naturally, that’s my motto.”

“It was mine,” Jesse said. “And now I’m being forced to sing another tune. I think that’s what’s eating me more than the marriage itself. It’s being forced into it.”

“How did your father get this other man to agree to send his daughter out here?” Ben asked. “Does he not love her?

It’s just I wouldn’t send my daughter, if I had one, off to the other side of the country to marry you.” And here Ben smiled broadly and chuckled. It was a joke, but Jesse suspected it was also kind of serious. He wouldn’t do this to his daughter, if he had one, either.

Jesse chuckled. “I’m sure he does. Like I said, I don’t know the details because once again, my father isn’t talking much.”

“You really have to do something about that,” Ben said.

Jesse sighed. “If you figure out what that is, let me know.”

“Bride of the Western Dawn” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

In 1896 Oregon, Ellie’s life is poised to change forever… As a free-spirited woman with dreams of adventure, she discovers herself trapped by her parents’ choice to marry her off to a wealthy rancher she’s never met. Bearing not only the grief of her sister’s loss but also the weight of her family’s expectations, Ellie embarks on her journey westward.

Will this path lead her to the love and life she yearns for or will it be another chain in a life of imposed choices?

Jesse McCallister, a man with the heart of a cowboy, faces his own crossroads. Required to marry to inherit the ranch he loves, he prepares to fulfill his father’s wishes. However, meeting Ellie sparks an unexpected connection, revealing a shared passion for life and adventure. As they navigate their arranged marriage, can Jesse and Ellie find true love in each other’s company?

Or will his union remain a mere business arrangement?

In the midst of their growing bond, a stranger arrives, unveiling a startling truth about Jesse’s heritage. As Ellie stands by him, they face the judgments and whispers of their community. Can their love survive the revelation of Jesse’s true lineage, and will they be able to forge their own legacy amidst the shadows of a somber past?

“Bride of the Western Dawn” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!


Grab my new series, "Brave Hearts of the Frontier", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!

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