Here it is! The book cover I've waited my whole life to see! Special thanks to my beautiful cousin Emma for being the perfect model, and the talented cover designer Les for bringing my vision to life. ♥
I'm still making some finishing touches on the manuscript before hitting publish, but the big day is coming up soon, likely sometime in August. So to celebrate this milestone of inching closer to becoming a published author, I've decided to share the first half of the first chapter of my little novella. Give it a read below, let me know what you think, and sign up for the newsletter so you don't miss the big announcement! :)
Lydia Howell slumped her shoulders in disappointment, trying to accept the fact that she would not be getting married today. Looking out the carriage window, all she saw was the bright full moon peeking over patches of clouds, barely enough to light the valley below. It was too late now.
She wished she could ask the driver of the jumbling stagecoach just how much longer it would be, but Lydia didn’t want to shout. The woman who sat beside her, Carol Bowman, was now asleep after hours of travel. She was a sweet older woman, and had helped Lydia after she got lost at the end of the railway in Ogden. However, Mrs. Carol later revealed symptoms of severe nausea from all the bumping around in the stagecoach, and it was all Lydia could do to console her. Now that Mrs. Carol rested peacefully, Lydia was grateful for a moment’s respite before arriving. So she leaned back in her seat and pressed herself for more patience.
Reaching into her coat pocket, Lydia pulled out and read again the letter from the man she had agreed to marry. Responding to an advertisement for a mail-order bride was something Lydia never would have imagined for herself, but it was her only option. Her new stepmother had made that perfectly clear. Though her tender-hearted father was hesitant to have her leave, Lydia knew she couldn’t stay and continue to be a burden as another mouth to feed. So she had kissed her five younger siblings goodbye, buried her sadness, and turned her face toward adventure in the wild, untamed west.
Though she was loathe to leave them, Lydia knew it was needed. She had longed for romance, but there was no time for it while raising her siblings after her mother’s death. Now at the age of nineteen, it was time to search out a love of her own. Her prospects in their small farming town were slim, and from his letters, Mr. Fitzgerald seemed to be a kind gentleman, just rather lonely. His advertisement had read: Thirty year old miner with a promising silver claim seeking a young Catholic woman to be a wife and companion. She considered it the best offer she might receive, or so said her stepmother, so she left with hope in her heart. Pocketing the letter again, Lydia straightened her shoulders. The start of her trip had not been promising, but the deed was done, and she wasn’t going back.
The stagecoach began to shake as it slowed, and the driver called out, “Little Creek, Utah. End of the road!”
Mrs. Carol stirred, snorting as she woke. “What’s that now?” she asked.
Lydia smiled but had to swallow first, her heart pounding in anticipation, before responding. “I believe we’ve finally arrived.”
“Oh, thank goodness,” Mrs. Carol said, straightening in her seat. “You know, I’ve been to see my sister many times, but this ride never gets any shorter.”
The driver opened the door, and offered a hand to help them down. Lydia was grateful to stand and stretch her legs, but she still wished they had arrived sooner so she could catch a glimpse of her new home. The moonlight did nothing to illuminate what appeared to be an empty dusty town at the foot of the mountains.
“Thank you kindly, Mr. Jensen,” said Mrs. Carol. “If you’ll bring my bags over to the General Store, I’m sure my sister is waiting up for me.”
Mr. Jensen nodded. “I’ll be back to help you with your things, ma’am,” he said to Lydia, who nodded in response.
“Best of luck, Miss Lydia.” Mrs. Carol waved with a smile, though her eyes were still quite droopy with sleep. “I hope you’ll come visit soon, when it’s not so late in the evening.”
Lydia waved goodbye with a smile, but grew uneasy. It was indeed late. She looked up and down the dark streets, but there was no sign of him. Hadn’t Mr. Fitzgerald stated in his letter he would be present to receive her when the stagecoach arrived? She had no indication of where he lived within the town, and there did not appear to be any housing nearby. Should she find herself a place to stay, hoping the sparse change in her pocket was enough for a night with a roof over her head? Worry wound her tightly, but she pursed her lips to calm herself.
“There now, where to, ma’am?” Mr. Jensen asked when he returned.
“Would you happen to know where the miner’s housing is?”
Mr. Jensen raised an eyebrow. “That’s a good hour or two up the mountain canyon. Are you sure that’s where you’re headed?”
Oh, what a predicament! She couldn’t stay with Mr. Fitzgerald as an unmarried woman, but she didn’t know where else to go. She could have followed Mrs. Carol, but she didn’t want to impose with her still recovering. Lydia took a deep breath. “There was supposed to be a man waiting for me. A miner… I suppose he’s given up due to the late hour.”
“My apologies for that, ma’am,” Mr. Jensen said. “Those mountain ranges are the devil to get through sometimes, so it delayed us quite a bit.”
“I understand. It just appears I am without a place to stay. Would you happen to know anyone in town?”
He shook his head in the darkness. “I usually stay a night at the saloon, but that’s no place for a lady like yourself.”
Lydia nodded. “Would you mind asking around to see if anyone knows of the man I’m looking for?”
“Of course, ma’am,” he said, picking up her luggage. “This way.”
Lydia fell into step behind him, hoping Mr. Jensen was trustworthy. What other choice did she have? There wasn’t another soul on the street. The town lay dark and still, windows shuttered and doors closed. The only sign of life came from the saloon. Dim light leaked onto the street, the sounds of off-key music and coarse laughter meeting Lydia’s ears. Her chest tightened, and she wrung her fingers in knots.
Mr. Jensen stopped a few feet from the saloon doors and put her bag down. “Who’s the man?”
“His name is Jack Fitzgerald.”
There you go! I hope you've enjoyed this little intro to Lydia, and I can't wait for you to meet Oliver! ;) Stay tuned for more news coming soon!