Title: ELLA (Prairie Roses Collection, Book 12)
Author: Nancy Fraser
Genre: Sweet/Inspirational Western Historical Romance
To get away from her late husband’s questionable deeds, Ella Winslow takes her three children and heads west to the unsettled Washington Territory to claim land she believes she’s inherited from her father.
Tucker McAlister was fired from his position as deputy marshal for arresting the mayor’s brother-in-law for spousal abuse. His mentor has found him another job, first escorting the wagon train going west, and then as the new marshal in the growing town of Tacoma, Washington Territory.
The trail is long and hard, yet Ella is more than up to the task. Still, Tuck feels the need to watch over her and her children, whether she wants him to or not. It isn’t until they arrive in Washington that he realizes his protection will now need to extend even further than the wagon train itself.
Will Ella’s faith allow her to trust again and make a safe home for her family, while welcoming Tuck into her heart?
Ella half expected Tuck to return for supper, as he often did after checking on the others in their group. She had to admit a moment of disappointment when the handsome marshal didn’t show.
It was just as well, she supposed. It wouldn’t do for her traveling companions to think she and the marshal were close. Intimate. Not that there was any possibility of anything more than a glance, a swift touch, given they were constantly surrounded by a handful of people.
Another sudden flash of disappointment set her heart racing. She had no time for a man in her life, no desire to—
“Mama,” Callie called out. “I can’t find my doll. I think I might have left her down by the stream when I went with Thomas to wash up after supper.”
“It’s getting too dark for you to go looking now. We’ll walk down there in the morning after we dispense with our necessities.”
“But I can’t sleep without Pricilla,” Callie insisted. “She keeps the wild animals away.”
Ella staunched a laugh. “I’m pretty sure it’s the half dozen campfires that do that, Callie-girl. However, if it’s so important to you, I’ll go take a quick look.”
“Thank you,” Callie responded. The sweet smile she offered up made Ella’s heart melt.
“You’re welcome. While I’m gone, you should get into your flannel nightdress and brush your hair.” Reaching for the lantern hanging on a ground peg beside the tent, Ella assured her daughter, “I’ll be back before you know it.”
The pathway leading away from the camp and down to the narrow stream was fairly flat. Between the lantern and the half-dozen or so trips she’d made since they’d camped earlier that evening, Ella felt certain of her footing. Yet, not quite as certain about her ability to find the missing doll.
A sound off to her left had her spinning around. “Who’s there?” she called. “Is that you, marshal?”
The bushes rustled, and twigs broke beneath heavy footfalls, the sound going away from the circled wagons, rather than toward it. Ella swung her lantern toward the sound in time to see a large, burly figure disappear into the trees.
Her heart pounding, she made a quick cursory search for the doll, but then rushed back to the security of the campfire.
“Mama,” Callie called out when Ella came into the clearing. “I found her! Pricilla was hiding under the wagon all along.”
Ella bent over, her breath coming in short, quick bursts of air. “Good, Callie-girl. I’m glad.”
“Are you okay, mother?” Thomas asked, coming to her side.
“Yes, sweetheart, I’m fine.” Turning to survey the area around her wagon, she ordered, “Thomas, please see to your brother and sister. Make sure they’ve turned down their beds. I need to speak to the marshal and Mister Trainor for a moment.” She started to step away, but drew to a halt to add, “Do not leave this campsite for any reason. Understood?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Thomas confirmed. “Come on you too,” he coaxed. “Up into the wagon so we can get your beds ready.”
She made her way across the narrow circle of wagons. Clute Trainor was sitting in his usual spot in front of his campfire, a thick cigar clutched between his fingers. A tin cup of what was likely whiskey rested on the ground at his side.
“Mister Trainor,” Ella called out as she approached. “Is the marshal here?”
“Don’t think so, ma’am. He wandered off a few minutes ago toward the reverend’s wagon. Did you need something?”
“I just came back from the stream. While I was down there, I could have sworn I saw someone hiding among the trees.”
“Could have been someone doing their... uh... business,” Trainor suggested.
“I called out, but rather than answer—as you told us to do so we’re not interrupted—whoever it was took off farther into the tree line. All I saw was a man’s broad back.”
“Perhaps it was one of the other gentlemen, and they just didn’t answer because they were embarrassed at nearly being disturbed.”
“I suppose,” she conceded. “Although, this man looked huge. Taller than the marshal, and much broader than either of the Temple brothers or Mister Stephens.”
“I can go down there and check if it will set your mind at ease,” Trainor offered.
“If you wouldn’t mind, I’d appreciate it.”
The wagon master pushed himself to his feet and crossed to his wagon, withdrawing a rifle from beneath the front seat. “Don’t you worry none, Missus Winslow. The marshal and me will keep you and your family safe.”
She returned to her wagon, climbing aboard to make a quick check of her two younger children. Jacob had already fallen asleep. Callie wasn’t far behind, her soft whispers to her favored doll weakening with every word.
Ella wrapped herself in a heavy cloak and climbed back down to her own bed beneath the wagon. She’d barely settled in when the sound of someone moving around the site just beyond the open fire had her rolling over to see who was there.
Tucker McAlister was in the process of spreading out his bedroll on the opposite side of the campfire. Far enough away for propriety. Close enough for comfort.
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09SH3ZWQ8
If money were no object, where would you go for a Spring Break vacation and why?
Early this month I mentioned taking my grandchildren to Disney World for a vacation, now this one is for me. Las Vegas, hands down. I love the lights, the shows, and the slot machines (although not necessarily in that order). It’s like the grown-up Disney World.
Why is your featured book a must-read this spring?
The hard times of traveling the Oregon Trail were filled with adventure. Yet, that same sense of adventure can also be romantic. Especially if you’ve got a handsome marshal along for the journey. Ella’s story is one of perseverance in the face of adversity and she proves she’s more than up to the task. This collection of books that make up the Prairie Roses is in it’s fourth year, and it’s all about celebrating Mother’s Day by honoring the women from our past.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon US or Canada gift card
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon CA account to win.
Runs April 1 – 30
Drawing will be held on May 2.
Nancy Fraser is a best-selling and award-winning author who happily jumps across multiple romance genres with gleeful abandon.
She's also the granddaughter of a Methodist minister known for his fire-and-brimstone approach to his faith. Nancy has brought some of his spirit into her Christian romances. And, her own off-beat sense of humor to her clean & wholesome books.
When not writing (which is almost never), Nancy dotes on her five wonderful grandchildren and looks forward to traveling and reading when time permits. Nancy lives in Atlantic Canada where she enjoys the relaxed pace and colorful people.
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