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Coming Up Roses [Mass Market Paperback]

Catherine Anderson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kate Blakely is trying to hold together a farm in Oregon near the turn of the century after her husband's reported drowning. Kate wishes she could erase the memory of his abusive behavior towards both herself and her traumatized four-year-old daughter, Miranda. His equally rough brother, Ryan, insists that Kate marry him, and threatens to take Miranda away. Meanwhile, Kate's handsome new neighbor, Zachariah McGovern, withstands rattlesnake bites to rescue Miranda from a well, and Kate takes him into her home to nurse him back to health. After Zachariah accidentally discovers why Kate's rose garden flourishes while the rest of her land produces little, the two make a marriage of convenience so that Zachariah can adopt Miranda and keep her from Ryan's clutches. Anderson ( Comanche Heart ) has a talent for drawing characters. Kate is portrayed sympathetically as a self-protective woman who has suffered, but the historical setting is less convincing. It seems unlikely, for instance, that a late 19th-century farmer could intuit modern psychiatric techniques, as Zachariah appears to do when he employs doll play to get Miranda to tell him about past abuse.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“A major voice in the romance genre.”—Publishers Weekly

“Catherine Anderson is an extraordinary talent. She has a voice that is gritty and tender, realistic and romantic, and always unique.”--Elizabeth Lowell

About the Author

Catherine Anderson lives in the pristine woodlands of Central Oregon. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Sid, and is the author of more than thirty bestselling and award-winning historical and contemporary romances.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

Oregon, 1890

Compliments of an overcast sky, a shaft of anemic afternoon sunshine came through the window of the otherwise cheerless kitchen. Even on fair-weather days, the unpainted plank walls, floor, and ceiling made the room seem bleak.

Leaning sideways to avoid getting smoke in her eyes, Kate Blakely shoved another chunk of laurel into the fire and settled the range lid back into place. Strings of pitch ignited, sizzling and snapping inside the belly of the stove. The merry crackling had always brightened Kate’s mood, and, despite everything, she still loved the sound.

As she walked back across the kitchen, Kate craned her neck to look out the window at the old willow in the yard. The tree’s dense canopy of trailing branches swayed in the light breeze, an indication that it would probably be dark before the storm blew in. From the looks of the clouds hovering over the mountains, they would bring thunder and lightning, too, unless the wind picked up. A real sky ripper.

The thought made the back of Kate’s throat prickle.

She forced the tension from her shoulders. There was nothing to do but put a bright face on it and pretend the darkening sky didn’t worry her. Her little girl, Miranda, became agitated enough during thunderstorms without Kate adding spice to the stew.

Darned weather, anyway. Southwestern Oregon always got a lot of rain, but this year beat all. Here it was mid-June already.

She glanced at the lantern that hung from a ceiling beam above her. During the storm tonight, she would have to light the lamps to keep Miranda calm, and that would deplete their weekly ration of fuel. If she expected to save enough from her egg and milk money to make Miranda some school dresses and buy paint for the kitchen, she couldn’t use a lamp every time the mood struck.

With a sigh, Kate picked up the dog-eared journal and carried it to the trickle of feeble sunlight over the sink. As she circled the slop bucket, used to collect food scraps for the hogs, the swirl of her black cotton twill skirt disturbed a fly. The insect, sluggish from the unseasonably chill weather, buzzed around her head and then swooped down to land on the open pages.

“Confound it.”

She waved the fly away and leaned into the light but still couldn’t tell how many tablespoons of rolled sugar the recipe called for. By all rights, she should know the recipe for her grandma’s crullers by heart, but her husband had never allowed her to make them. Joseph claimed sweets were as addicting and bad for the moral character as alcohol, especially for females who were feebleminded and more easily led astray than men.

Since Joseph’s death, the one luxury Kate spent money on was sugar. Other children had sweets several times a week, and Kate was determined Miranda’s childhood, from here on out, was going to be as normal as she could make it. As far as Kate could tell, neither she nor Miranda had been led astray by their frequent consumption of sugar, or suffered any other ill effects. Unless, of course, one counted the weight each of them had gained. Kate didn’t. Miranda needed meat on her bones, and her own figure was no longer of great importance. If her waist became too thick to be spanned by a man’s hands, so be it. The only time a man would have call to grasp her waist would be to help her out of her wagon when she went to town, and not then if she could avoid it.

“Ma, you’re squintin’ again. If you don’t stop, we’ll need another milk cow to keep you stocked with wrinkle remedy.”

“The devil take wrinkles. What worries me is that I must need spectacles.” Kate held the journal out as far as her arm would reach. “If I don’t stop reading by candlelight, I’ll be blind as a mole before I’m thirty.”

Just the thought of having to give up her nightly reading time made Kate feel anxious. For five endless years, her husband Joseph had never allowed her to open a book, save the Bible, and now that she could read whenever she wished, she couldn’t get enough of it. Two-month-old newspapers. Outdated catalogs. Yellowed issues of Harper’s Bazaar.

If her eyes failed, she’d have to give up those moments she set aside for herself every evening. She didn’t know why, but over the last few months, she had come to need that solitary time even more than she needed sleep, which was saying something.

Selfish, selfish. What if she truly did need spectacles? She had more important uses for her eyes than reading. Sewing, for instance. She couldn’t afford to dress Miranda in ready-made. She shifted her gaze to the crockery bowl on the icebox where she kept her meager savings. Nearly every penny in the bowl was targeted for other expenditures, and she had hoped to save those that weren’t to buy prune trees to start a small orchard next year. Prunes were proving to be a very profitable crop in the Umpqua valley, and since they didn’t require the back muscle that so many other crops did, Kate felt she could raise them.

If she had to buy spectacles, how much would they cost? Unless she missed her guess, they were frightfully expensive. It was yet another worry to add to her list. Feeling overwhelmed, Kate forced her mind back to the moment. Without a husband to provide the necessities, getting by had become enough of a struggle without thinking ahead to disasters that hadn’t even happened yet. Besides, she had to think of Miranda. The child had seen long faces aplenty in her short lifetime.

Giving up on the recipe, she laid down the journal and narrowed an eye at her daughter, who sat atop a stack of books on a chair at the table. It took her a moment to recall what Miranda had been talking about. No small wonder. The child chattered like a squirrel gathering winter nuts. “Where did you hear that milk was a remedy for wrinkles?”

too short to see into the array of green baking canisters before her, Miranda was engaged in a touch-and taste exploration of the ingredients Kate had set out on the table. Having just sampled the sugar, the child licked her finger again, stuck it in the baking soda, tasted, and shuddered. Kate hadn’t the heart to scold. Not long ago, Miranda wouldn’t have dared do such a thing. The change in her was nothing short of a miracle.

Her small face still contorted with distaste, Miranda shuddered again before she answered Kate’s question. “When we was in the general store, I heard Mrs. Raimer talkin’. She says Abigail snipes, the dairyman’s wife, has the purdiest confection in town ’cause her man has so many cows.”

“Complexion, not confection,” Kate corrected. “And keep your fingers out of that saleratus. I don’t mind you sneaking sugar, but the saleratus isn’t to eat.”

“Pa ate it.”

“Only for indigestion.” feeling a little apprehensive at the mention of Joseph because she was never quite sure how Miranda might handle the memories, Kate approached the table with a brisk step and added eight tablespoons of sugar to the ingredients in her bowl. “The recipe be hanged. The sweeter, the better, right?” flicking her daughter a teasing glance, she added, “and I’ll remind you not to contradict your elders, young lady. You’re only four years old, and I guess I know better than you if saleratus is good to eat.”

Miranda swiped at a streak of flour on her cheek. “Do birthdays make people smarter?”

“So they say, which means I’m seventeen birthdays smarter than you, so mind what I say.”

With a dubious glance at the baking soda tin, Miranda said, “I’m not so sure your birthdays made you too smart, ma. If saleratus ain’t to eat and it tastes so powerful bad, how come are ya puttin’ it in our crullers?”

Kate smothered a laugh. “If you don’t like them, the more for me.”

“If our crullers taste like that saleratus, I don’t want none anyhow. It’s nastier than hog slop.”

“You been dipping in the hog slop again? I declare, Miranda Elspeth Blakely, first thing I know you’ll be stealing the chickens’ worms. And it’s isn’t, not ain’t. If you don’t learn to speak properly, what’ll you do next year when school starts?”

“I ain’t—” Miranda broke off and wrinkled her delicate nose. “I isn’t been eatin’ slop, ma. I was just imaginin’.”

Kate chuckled. “If you isn’t been eating slop, then you aren’t sure how it tastes, are you? And in answer to your question, saleratus is added to sweet doughs for rising.” She gave the ingredients in the bowl a stir. “Without just a dash of it our crullers would be flat as dollars and twice as hard.”

Miranda watched the rotations of Kate’s wooden spoon. “Will I like school, ma?” Kate missed a beat. “Of course you will. I loved school when I was a girl.”

“Will you come with me?”

Kate’s mouth went dry. “You’ll be a big girl by then, sweetness, and you won’t want me with you.” Miranda cast a glance downward. “Jeffrey Mullins says I ain’t no bigger than a speck of grasshopper spit.”

Despite the seriousness of the moment and her fears that Miranda might not fare well when she was forced to attend school, Kate had to laugh “Grasshopper spit? What an awful comparison.” She gave her daughter a conspiratorial wink. “You just wait until he sees you in your new dresses. He’ll be so surprised, his freckles will pop right off his nose.”

At the mention of new dresses, Miranda’s eyes danced. Looking adorable even in her patched a...

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