Title: WHISPERS IN THE CANYON
Author: Gifford MacShane
Genre: Historical Fiction/Western/Romance
When Jesse Travers' father dies, he leaves her with a bankrupt ranch and a deep well of distrust.
Shunned by the village for her outlaw brother's deeds, Jesse Travers is not sorry to hear he's been killed while robbing a bank. Strangely enough it’s Adam Donovan, the man who shot him, who brings her the news.
Traumatized by years of abuse, Jesse doubts she can trust any man—especially this Irish immigrant with his volatile temper and gunfighter’s reputation. But now she’s alone, and he’s offered to help put her bankrupt ranch back on solid footing. A profound love for her canyon home is stronger than her trepidation, and she accepts his assistance.
As they work together to improve her ranch, Jesse begins to see that Adam’s true nature is far removed from his notoriety. She feels the first stirrings of love―an emotion she's never known before.
Then, as if to tell her she is unworthy of happiness, her past rises up with a vengeance and she is left with a terrible choice: retreat to a life of solitude and shame, or trust her heart and reveal her tragic secret, in the hope that Adam is the man she believes him to be.
Chapter 1: Spring 1885
The trail split the canyon walls, walls that loomed tall and close and only gradually fell away, clearing the gloom from midday. The rider lifted his hat and drew a sleeve across his brow.
It was much too hot for April. Too quiet. No breeze stirred the aspen leaves. No birds trilled, no squirrels scampered. Even the brook ran silently. His horse’s hooves, muffled by dust, sent up gray ghosts that hung in the air for an instant, then drifted back to earth. If he hadn’t known better, he’d have assumed this ranch was abandoned.
The walls continued to recede until they were close to a mile apart, and the ribbon of trail wound between meadows newly sprouted and already sere. Willows hid the brook from view here, and the aspens and sycamores grew thickly. But where were the cattle, the horses? Corrals or pens? He’d never seen a more desolate place.
Round the edge of a cottonwood grove, a ramshackle cabin came into view. And there, from the shadow of the sagging porch, the barrel of a rifle pointed straight at his chest.
Pulling the appaloosa up, he lifted his hands to show they held nothing but the reins. A girl stepped out, gripping an old Whitworth rifle. Schooling his features to hide his surprise at her diminutive size, he said nothing, and made no move toward the dark gun that hung low on his left hip.
“Donovan.” It was more accusation than query.
“What is it you want here?”
His gaze wandered from the dilapidated cabin to the weedy yard, the broken-down fence, the shed that served for a barn―everything bleached to gray by the Arizona sun. Only the new leaves on the trees rescued it from deadly monotony.
“Well?” she challenged, heat rising to her cheeks as his eyes met hers again.
“I’ve brought some news from town.”
“About Russell? I didn’t think it was a neighborly visit.” Her voice, soft and scented with the bluebells of Texas, bit out the words. “Are you going to say what you have to say? Or just sit on that horse all day?”
Donovan gestured at the rifle. “You won’t need that.”
“Maybe not, but it stays with me. Tell me what you want.”
“Is your father here?”
“How is he?”
She blinked back the tears that jumped to her eyes. “He’s never very good anymore.”
The rifle drooped. The rider waited, motionless and silent, until she focused on him again.
“May I get down?”
“Do it slowly. Now, take off your gun and hang it on your saddle.”
“Yes, ma’am.” There was the slightest tone of mockery in his voice as he hung both his gunbelt and hat over the pommel. He cleared his throat, stifling the urge to laugh at the picture she made, holding a rifle almost as long as she was tall. But the morning’s events pushed themselves forward in his mind, and when he spoke, his voice was solemn.
“Jesse, we should move away from the house.”
“It’s that bad?”
Again he said nothing, but let the slight tilt of his head answer. Jesse turned and walked several yards away from the house, stopping at the broken fence to stare out over a tiny vegetable patch.
As he followed, Adam Donovan was struck by the inconsistencies in her. She was so petite, she could have been taken for a schoolgirl, while to his reckoning she was eighteen or nineteen years old. Her words had been bitter, but her voice soft and low. Her black riding suit and boots were worn, even shabby, but her white shirt was spotless and her tawny hair shone bright in the sun. And though she hadn’t let go of the rifle, she wasn’t protecting herself from an attack from behind; his strength would have easily overwhelmed hers.
Even more puzzling was her reputation for violence―at odds with her vulnerability. And the ancient rifle hanging loose now from her hand―would it even fire? That filthy weapon might just be a greater menace than the girl who held it.
“Well?” The rancor in her voice had been replaced with resignation.
“The White’s Station bank was robbed this morning. Lany Mills, the old clerk there, was shot. He may die.”
“We heard the shots, my brother and I. We were coming into town.” His hand reached for her of its own volition, but he drew it back. “I didn’t want to kill him.”
As her shoulders began to shake, he reached out again. She jumped away as if he’d burned her, spinning around, her face white, her green eyes spitting fire.
“Don’t touch me! How dare you touch me!” She flung the rifle into the dirt, covered her face with both hands, and sank to the ground sobbing.
He stood there stolidly as she cried at his feet. The Donovan comfort was holding, touching. He did not know what else to offer her. He crouched down beside her but made no move toward her.
Though her sobs subsided, her body continued to tremble. When he spoke her name, she raised her face, her cheeks wet with tears, her lips quivering. What he’d taken for a shadow on her jaw, he could now see was a fading bruise. She was so small. So young. He longed to stroke her bright hair, wipe the dampness from her face, hold her as he’d hold his little sister Irene when some vast grief would overcome her.
“I’m sorry, Jesse. More than I can tell you.”
Buy Links(including Goodreads and BookBub):
Barnes & Noble:
Books2Read (all sale links can be found here):
What makes your featured book a must-read?
Deceptively simple and poetic, this heartfelt western historical romance will tug at your emotions, make you laugh, cry, and even get a little angry, as it handles difficult topics with a sensitive touch.
Enter to win a $40 Amazon US or Amazon Canada gift card
Open Internationally. You must have an active Amazon US or CA account to win.
Runs April 19 – April 28, 2022.
Winner will be drawn on April 29, 2022.
Gifford MacShane is the author of historical fiction that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit. Her novels feature a family of Irish immigrants who settle in the Arizona Territory in the late 1800s. With an accessible literary style, MacShane draws out her characters' hidden flaws and strengths as they grapple with both physical and emotional conflicts. Singing almost before she could talk, MacShane has always loved folk music, whether it be Irish, Appalachian, spirituals, or the songs of the cowboys. Her love of the Old West goes back to childhood, when her father introduced her to the works of Zane Grey. Later she became interested in the Irish diaspora, having realized her father's family must have lived through An Gorta Mor, the Great Irish Potato Famine of the mid-1800s. Writing allows her to combine her three great interests into a series of family stories, each including romance, traditional song lyrics, and a dash of Celtic mysticism. Having grown up in a large & often boisterous Irish-American family, she is intimately acquainted with the workings of such a clan and uses those experiences to good purpose (though no names will be named!) MacShane is a member of the Historical Novel Society. A self-professed grammar nerd who still loves diagramming sentences, Giff currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband Richard, the Pied Piper of stray cats.
Social Media Links: