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Mail-Order Christmas Brides: Her Christmas Family\Christmas Stars for Dry Creek (Love Inspired Historical) Mass Market Paperback – November 29, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jillian Hart grew up on the original homestead where her family still lives, went to high school where Twin Peaks was filmed, earned an English degree, and has travelled extensively. When Jillian’s not writing her stories, she reads, stops for café mochas, and hikes through the pine forests near her home in Washington State.

Janet Tronstad grew up on her family’s farm in central Montana and now lives in Pasadena, California where she is always at work on her next book. She has written over thirty books, many of them set in the fictitious town of Dry Creek, Montana where the men spend the winters gathered around the potbellied stove in the hardware store and the women make jelly in the fall.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Montana Territory, December 1884

Tate Winters tipped the brim of his Stetson to cut the glare of the sun, watching as the westbound train squealed to a noisy stop along the depot's platform. The great metal beast spewed steam, smoke and uniformed men who ran to set brakes, open doors and toss out luggage. He braced his shoulders, preparing for the worst.

Who knew what sort of woman was going to step off that train? She could be homely, she could be desperate, she could be so bitter and sharp-tongued that no man who'd ever met her would have her. The way he saw it, he had to be ready for just about any type of horror a woman could bring a man.

"Pa, do you see her?" Gertie clutched his hand, her fingers so small and slight within his own. "Do you see my new ma?"

"Hard to say, since I don't know what she looks like." He didn't care how ugly the woman was. He'd promised to marry her and he would. His life might be in shambles and there wasn't a thing of his heart left, but he hadn't been able to say no to his daughter's wish. Gertie, eight years old, wanted a mother. After everything she had lost, everything his mistakes had cost her, he could not deny her the one thing she wanted most. Regardless of how disagreeable, quarrelsome or shrewish Miss Felicity Sawyer was, as long as she would devote herself to his little girl, he would put a ring on her finger.

"Ooh, look at the pretty lady." Gertie breathed the words in awe and jabbed one finger. "Is that her?"

Tate took in the cheerful woman in a bright yellow dress with a daisy—yes, a daisy—mounted on her bonnet. What kind of woman wore a hat like that in winter? Slender, graceful, lovely. No way would such a beauty need to resort to answering a marriage advertisement in the territorial newspaper. No way would that woman be desperate enough to marry a stranger.

"She's like a princess." Gertie looked captivated, blue eyes wide, button face hopeful. "Like some of the stories in my books, Pa."

"She isn't for us. Let's find the woman who is." He leaned heavily on his cane and took a careful step. The pain wasn't as bad these days but it was still enough to make him grit down on his molars when he transferred weight onto his left leg. He ignored the glance of disdain a few townswomen threw his way as they bustled by. He'd gotten used to that pain, too.

"But, Pa, the pretty lady is all alone." Gertie went up on tiptoe straining to see through the milling crowd. "No one's comin' to greet her."

"I told you. Leave it be. She's not who we're looking for." Relief shot through him when he spotted a squat, rotund looking woman with a pointy nose and an unhappy pinch to her rather homely face. "There she is. That's your Miss Sawyer."

"I don't think so." Curls bounced as she shook her head. "Felicity said in her letters she had blond hair just like me. That lady there has brown hair. She can't be my new ma."

He knew what it was like, that sinking feeling of realizing what you got in life was far short of what you wanted. He hated that his daughter might be disappointed, but hadn't he warned her? Hadn't he tried to keep her from getting her hopes set too high?

"The brown-haired lady looks mighty sensible to me." He limped forward, shoulders straight, trying not to look like the cripple that injustice had made him. "That's what a little girl needs in a mother. Someone practical, someone who knows what life is about. You go on up to meet her now."

"Pa, I told you. It's not her. Look."

Sure enough, some tall, rail-thin fellow strolled up to the stout woman and offered her his arm. With contented smiles, the pair whisked off, leaving him gaping in shock like a fish out of water. Fine, so that wasn't his bride. Miss Sawyer had to be around here somewhere. "Best check toward the other end of the train."

"Pa, the pretty lady is just standing by herself. No one has come for her." Excitement rang like music in his daughter's voice. She tugged his hand, holding on so hard. He could feel her hopes rising, soaring like prayers toward the sky. He grimaced, wondering what was best to say to keep her from getting hurt.

Up ahead the beautiful lady had her back to them, exchanging words with a baggage handler. A battered-looking trunk stood between them. Her melodious "thank you" lifted into the air as sweetly as church music.

He'd given up on God, but if he still thought the Lord listened, then he would have asked for help for his Gertie. The crowd surrounding them was thinning, save for a few farewell wishers waving to loved ones who had just boarded the train. Doors closed, men called out, the engine idled harder until the entire train shook like a wild animal about to bolt.

No other woman was left on the platform. Miss Sawyer was a no-show. She had changed her mind without sending word and abandoned Gertie. The girl was going to be shattered.

"C'mon." No tender notes sounded in his voice. He had no tenderness left to give. Couldn't remember the last time he did. He wished he had some, even the smallest trace, so he could offer it as comfort to his daughter. "She didn't show."

"No. Felicity wouldn't leave me."

"Let's head home." He knew about being stubborn, about wanting something so badly you couldn't let go of it even when all chance was gone. "No tears now. You got your hopes up too high."

"I know, Pa." Her chin sank down and she gave a little sniff. Her hand tucked in his went slack. Her shoes dragged along the platform.

Blast that Sawyer woman. His cane thumped loudly on the platform. Anger licked through him. He should have figured this would happen. Women didn't keep promises, and if they did it was only because it was to their benefit. His girl didn't deserve this, she'd had too many disappointments in her short life.

"Gertie?" A woman's voice called out, a sweet melodic sound. "Is that you?"

"Felicity?" The child spun around so fast, he lost his balance. Her hand slipped out of his, leaving him lurching against his cane as she took off at a dead run toward the smiling blonde. "I knew you would come. I knew it."

"I would never break a promise to you, my very own little girl." To his horror the stunning woman opened her arms wide to wrap his daughter in a motherly hug, the silk daisy on her hat bobbing.

That woman was Miss Sawyer? She was going to be his new wife? His knees buckled. Air whooshed out of his lungs. His heart forgot to beat, of course there were some who said he didn't have a heart. He blinked, but the woman was still there, bending down to chatter excitedly with Gertie.

He swallowed hard, nearly choking. What cruel joke was this? He shook his head, not wanting to believe what was right before his eyes. He squinted, looking at the woman, really looking at her. She was gorgeous—slender and petite, her locks of gold done up just so, her face as finely carved as a china doll's.

Big blueberry eyes, a rosebud mouth and the daintiest chin he'd ever seen made him blow out a breath and stumble forward.

This simply couldn't be right. His cane's grip felt numb in his hand. All of him felt numb. Every step he took brought him closer to her. Easier to see the details now, the sunny smile, the pearls at her collar, the life sparkling out of her. She wasn't what he'd bargained for, not even close to what he wanted. She was not going to fit into his life. She was not going to work into his plans. She was going to have to turn around, climb aboard that train and go anywhere, somewhere else, even back where she came from. She wasn't going to stay with him.

"Felicity, you've gotta meet Pa." Gertie dragged the woman by one hand in his direction. "He's a real good pa, especially now that we're back together again."

Too late to head the other way. Hiking off into the mountains and staying put sounded like a good option. Too late to figure out a way to get her back on the train. The great iron beast roared, the whistle blew and the contraption took off, shaking the platform like a blizzard hitting. At least the train's departure postponed the moment when he had to exchange pleasantries with the woman.

He kept his eyes glued to the boards at his feet, letting her get a good long look at him. Let her see the cane. Let her see the failure he wore like a shabby coat, notice he wasn't wearing a wealthy man's duds. He was a simple working man, these days not doing much better than living paycheck to paycheck. Reckoned she was wishing herself back on that train about now, realizing that his best days were behind him. He'd been forced to settle for a mailorder wife because no one who knew him would have him.

"Tate?" Warmth softened her dulcet alto, tempting him to look up and meet her gaze, but he had to resist. He squared his shoulders, drew himself up straight and clamped his jaw tight. Prepared, her disappointment in him would hurt less.

"It's awkward, isn't it?" She rustled closer, fine shoes tapping on the plank platform, her hand tucked tightly around Gertie's. "What do you say to a stranger you are about to marry? I've pondered it the entire trip and I just could never think of the exact right thing."

"Me, neither." The words came out gruffly. He shifted his cane as if he didn't know what to say next.

"I figured you for the shy sort, since you let Gertie answer my first letter." She stopped before him, petticoats swishing. A cold wind gusted hard, blowing a piece of rattling paper across the platform like a leaf in the wind, and she shivered. "My youngest sister was shy, too, so I understand completely. I will try not to be too exuberant. It's a fault of mine."

"I see." He didn...

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Product Details

  • Series: Love Inspired Historical
  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Love Inspired (November 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0373828950
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373828951
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #940,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Joy on November 26, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
2 sweet Christmas mail-order bride stories. :)

Her Christmas Family by Jillian Hart
I love Jillian's stories, and this one does not disappoint. Felicity Sawyer has agreed to marry Tate Winters so his adorable daughter Gertie would have a mother. Felicity immediately fell in love with Gertie from the letters they exchanged, but Tate has a painful past and he doesn't know if he has any love left to give. He just tugged at my heartstrings.

Christmas Stars for Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad
I am ashamed to say this is my first Dry Creek story. It will not be my last. Eleanor, Adam, and Hannah just captured my heart. I was anxious to see if Adam's cranky mother would ever change her heart towards her future daughter-in-law. I also enjoyed the roles the kitten and sheep played.

Thank you, Jillian and Janet, for these precious stories.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Nancy M. Hammons on December 3, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't usually read Christmas stories, they are too sappy for me, but after I read the excerpt for "Her Christmas Family" I was excited about reading it. As a general rule my Kindle is for away from home reading, but when I downloaded "Mail-Order Chrismas Brides" I just sat here and read both stories.

The first story "Her Christmas Family" was a little sad at first, but both Tate and Felicity were bruised by life. Felicity was just what Gertie needed. I kind of cried a little at the end. That was a great story.

The second story "Christmas Stars for Dry Creek" was just as good as the first story. Eleanor McBride went to an empty cabin to wait for Adam Martin, what suprised me was that she didn't leave, she waited two weeks before Adam got there. I didn't care too much for Adam's mother, she was just a little mean to Eleanor.

In both stories love won. I liked these two stories so much that I ordered the book so I could have a hard copy, I mean I've already read it twice on my Kindle.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 14, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
In both these books I can't critisize the writing skill since it was very good but the stories themselves left much to be desired in my opinion. I was expecting two somewhat upbeat stories since they revolved around Christmas. What I got was two depressing and sad stories instead. I wished I would have gotten this as a free download than I wouldn't feel as if I paid to become saddened. Yep....I'm one of those that basically likes the la la land syndrome when reading a good romance I want upbeat happy scenerios and strong HEA endings. So if you are like me skip this one spend it on something a bit more Christmassy.

Her Christmas Family by Jillian Hart
Felicity Sawyer an adult orphin all alone in the world was such a pitiful character all you wanted to do is hug her. Tate Winters unfairly went through soooo much that you just wanted to cry for him. Gertie such a sweet innocent made you feel just plain heartache. On top of all that these people were dirt poor and struggling and it didn't make for a happy ending IMHO.

Christmas Stars for Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad
Although a stronger character than Felicity in the other story Eleanor was alone in the world with literally nowhere to go with no real possibilities.Adam a very broken ex-soldier had an overbearing mother and injured daughter to contend with and just wanted some happiness since his past was somewhat dismal.Hannah an injured child needed to heal both mentally and physically after losing her mother in a fire and being raised by her loving yet overbearing pushy grandmother.The grandmother well, I just wanted to push her out the door and send her on her way back where she came from....not a very christian response but it is what I felt.

I hope you enjoy it more than I did if you do take a chance on this one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amanda on December 7, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you're anything like me, you don't have a whole lot of time to read. These two stories fit the bill perfectly. Beside Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, this is the third Christmas-themed book I've read. I enjoyed my cozy time, the hot chocolate sat close by, and they were short so I didn't have to remember where I was at when interrupted. Like A Christmas Carol, I will be reading these again - for pure enjoyment.

Her Christmas Family by Jillian Hart
What would you do if you had promised to marry someone you didn't know and he wanted nothing to do with you? Meet Felicity Sawyer, orphan in search of a very special Christmas present that will never leave - a family to call her own. Felicity has a lot to offer Tate Winters, but he's just not buying into her happily-ever-after ideas! Will Felicity's dreams come true and she find a husband that loves her as well as a daughter to call her own, or will this be a marriage of convenience that she will regret?

Christmas Stars for Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad
Families are forever...even difficult mother-in-law to be! When Eleanor McBride meets her intended, she's swept away and confused. Adam could have any woman he wanted - why would he even look her way? Yes, things are a little too good to be true, and she meets her mother-in-law in a head on collision when she's forced to acknowledge her own shortcomings to this pompous woman. Finding it better to be kind than rude, even though it was more than deserved, Eleanor rises to the tasks set before her and proves her worth.
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