Sunday, June 22, 2014

Four Weddings and a Kiss: A Western Bride Collection © 2014 by Mary Connealy, Robin Lee Hatcher, Debra Clopton, and Margaret Brownley

Four Weddings and a Kiss
In 1885 five western preachers sit around a campfire talking about unlikely couples they've seen God bring together.
Brownley, Hatcher, Connealy, Clopton :
Prologue Spitfire Sweetheart ~*~ By Mary Connealy A Love Letter to the Editor ~*~ By Robin Lee Hatcher A Cowboy for Katie ~*~ By Debra Clopton Courting Trouble ~*~ By Margaret Brownley Epilogue

Author Mary Connealy is married to a Nebraska rancher. She has shared real life adventures of calving in the snow as her Cowboy braves the elements to save his herd. Bottle-feeding new calves, housing them in the basement upon arrival in a blizzard; Mary knows of what she speaks.

Saurita, New Mexico, 1879. In her novella, Spitfire Sweetheart, neighbor Maizy MacGregor is warned to stay off of Rylan Carstens' land among his Angus cattle. He is trying to protect her. She is venturing to her favorite rocky ledge just across the river dividing their properties. After all, she has been coming to her special place long before he bought the bordering spread. All of a sudden, in her solitude, she hears gunshots ~ mighty close, and... aimed just above her head! Goodness. What measures he uses to keep trespassers off his land.

Amid all the clamor, as he is saving her from a grizzly!, he falls and hits his head. Additionally with a broken leg, he requires care and Maizy's pa sends her over during the day ~ with the stipulation she will wear a dress and practice being a proper lady. Join them as they both decide whether wearing a dress is the sum of who she is. A romantically funny tale of outward appearance or the heart.

Here’s a peek at Mary’s Story: 
Spitfire Sweetheart 

Saurita, New Mexico, 1879

MAIZY MACGREGOR LEANED HER HEAD BACK AGAINST the rocks, accidentally knocking her Stetson off. She grabbed it as it fell, then tossed it aside in disgust. She had on men’s clothes–the hat, britches, shirt, boots, even a six-gun she wore on her hip. It had never bothered her before Rylan Carstens.
   She wiped her eyes. It was sure enough bothering her now.
   The water roared beside her, cascading down in a rush. She came here when she needed to be alone. And she really needed that now.
   Tossing aside her buckskin gloves, she pulled her red handkerchief out of her hip pocket—no lace kerchief tucked up her sleeve for Maizy—and wiped her eyes again, then blew her nose in a completely unladylike way.
   How had she let herself get this upset? And over a man, of all things.
   Over the neighbor who she’d long ago accepted would never see her as anything but a child, and an unattractive, annoying child at that.
   She was used to it, and she ignored it mostly, but today it stung. He’d found her walking among his Angus cattle.
   Maizy looked to her left and watched the sleek black herd spread out along the downhill slope. Usually she didn't go near them. Instead, she’d just slipped into this spot. She’d been using it for a getaway since childhood. But this morning, not for the first time, she’d walked among his herd. They were gentle cattle, not a horn on a single one of them. They weren’t tame enough to touch—they gave way if she got too close. But they didn’t run for the hills one day, then attack the next like longhorns tended to do.
   She’d heard they were gentle, even the bulls. And she was savvy about cattle. She knew how to judge their tempers and stay clear of them when necessary. Her eyes rested on one especially young calf that might have been born just today, long after cows usually threw their calves.
   Maizy knew better than to go near a new mama, no matter how easygoing she’d been before her calf was born.
   She’d told Rylan all that and tried to make him see she was in no danger. He’d thrown her off his land anyway and even followed her home to complain to Pa, like she was a misbehaving child. He’d forbidden her to trespass ever again.
   But the minute she could get away, she came here, to her special place. The river was the border between his property and her pa’s, and it was true she was, right this minute, on the trespassing side. She barely had a toe over the line, and she was completely safe from his placid, fat cattle, so surely he wouldn’t complain about that.
   She took a little pleasure in defying him. And it was a harmless defiance, especially if he didn’t know she was here.
   Her horse was tied well across the river, on MacGregor land, cropping grass. She couldn’t see the brown-and-white pinto from here and neither could her neighbor.
   Hoping to get control of her hurt, she let herself soak in the peace of stone and water and air, loving the way this rocky ledge cut off the world. She couldn’t hear anything other than the rushing water. Her spot was curved into the rocks, and she could only see straight ahead and to the left. Water cascaded down from the mountain peaks on the right. Her almost-cave hid her from behind and overhead.
   She was in her own world, alone with her thoughts.
   Then a gunshot cut through the air, and she sat up straight and banged her head.
   Looking for the source of that gun, she turned and saw him.
   Rylan Carstens.
   And he was coming straight for her, galloping on his big chestnut stallion. Even at this distance she could tell he was looking right at her. How had he known she was in here?
   Another gunshot echoed from his Winchester.
   Rylan bent low over his horse, coming as fast as he could on the rocky ground that rose to this bluff along the river. Was he trying to kill her? If so, he was doing a poor job of it. The bullets were missing, going way over her head. But even on her worst day, she'd never done anything to make the man killing mad.
   And Maizy knew, even though Rylan seemed like a mighty cranky man, that he wasn't the type to shoot a young woman, especially not for just being annoying.
   He fired again and again, working the levered handle on his Winchester, and she finally realized he was firing warning shots. But warning who—about what?
   She scrambled out of the little overhang and took a few running steps to make sure he saw her and wouldn't fire in her direction.
   That's when she heard the growl ... and the bellow.
   Spinning around, she looked up. On the ledge that formed the roof of her little cave, standing on its hind legs, was the biggest grizzly she'd ever seen.
   Movement to her side forced her to look, though it was madness to turn away. The huge Angus bull that lorded over this part of Carstens's herd pawed the ground, and like all bulls, guarded his herd fiercely. There were only two things between that huge bear and that angry bull.
   The shining black calf, born out of season, still wobbly.
   And Maizy.
   The bull might be threatening the bear, but the bear only had eyes for Maizy. The rest of the cow herd, save the frantic mama, turned and stampeded away.
   The bull charged.
   The bear dropped to all fours and crouched to attack.
   Pound for pound there was no meaner animal on the face of the earth than a grizzly. Maizy had a Colt in her holster, but a bullet wasn't enough to bring one of these huge beasts down. Maybe a perfect shot right into the heart or brain would do it ... but mostly ... getting shot just made 'em mad.
   The bear's beady, bloodshot eyes were riveted on Maizy.
   The bull bellowed and turned the grizzly's attention.
   Maizy saw her chance and ran.
   A shout and another blast of gunfire sent Maizy running straight down the grassy slope for Rylan. Her eyes locked with his and she saw horror. She thought he'd seen her, but she could tell he'd been out here riding herd and seen the grizzly.
   A thud from behind told her the bear was off the ledge. Another growl seemed to blow hot breath on the back of Maizy's neck. Or maybe that was just the hair on the back of her neck standing up in pure terror.
   The bull charged, putting itself between the bear and the calf, then stopped to paw the earth with its front feet.
   Rylan fired again and again.
   Sprinting to get out of the middle, Maizy heard the thundering hooves ahead, the scratching claws of the grizzly right behind, and the deep-throated threats from the bull.
   The calf bawled piteously. The anxious mama cow rushed to her baby and began leading it away as fast as its unsteady legs would carry it.
   Judging from the growling behind her, Maizy knew the grizzly was more interested in her than a belligerent Angus.
   Running, hoping the bear would give up, she raced straight for Rylan.
   She saw his eyes take in the danger, then go to his bull, then come back to her. He kept firing and racing forward.
   Sprinting flat out, her boots thumped out a desperate beat.
   He jammed his rifle back into its scabbard on the saddle and drew his six-gun. He couldn't shoot the bear—Maizy was right in the way—but he kept up the gunfire, probably hoping he'd scare the grizzly into breaking off the attack.
   It wasn't working worth a hoot.
   "Maizy," Rylan shouted as they closed the gap, "grab my hand."
   He kicked his foot out of one stirrup to give Maizy a place to land. He holstered his pistol and took a firm hold of his pommel. Their eyes locked. He nodded at her. She tightened her jaw in grim determination and nodded back.
   His hand extended. She slapped her hand into his and he caught her. The grip slid. He clamped onto her wrist with the other hand, leaving the horse without a hand on the reins. He swung her up and she aimed to end up behind him. In the rush, she didn't get a good swing, and Rylan made a desperate heave to keep her from falling to the ground. She landed facedown in front of him, her belly right on the pommel of his saddle. She was glad to be wearing britches.
   Rylan pulled hard to bring his horse to a stop, and he unloaded his gun on the bear. The horse tried to rear and tossed its head in fear. The iron bit jingled as the horse fought Rylan's control.
   Maizy turned to her left to watch the bear wheel to face the bull. The bull must've thought better of fighting now that his herd was out of the way. He turned and ran.
   The bullets were little more than stinging wasps to the bear and only served to turn its attention back to Rylan.
   The powerful red horse pivoted, and on its first stride leapt into a full gallop.
   Grizzly bears, huge as they were, were mighty fast. Maizy knew that from growing up in the mountains of New Mexico and meeting up with a few, though never this close. But their speed was short-lived—or so she'd heard.
   She sure as shootin' hoped that proved to be true. If the horse could outrun the monster for a few yards, they'd make it.
   Maizy, head down, clung to Rylan's right leg. The pommel cut into her gut, and her own legs dangled off the other side. She wanted to search for that empty stirrup but was mindful not to jar Rylan or distract him from getting the most out of his thoroughbred.
   Those thundering front hooves kicked up nearly to Maizy's face. She lifted her head enough to peek around Rylan's boot and saw the bear gaining on them. Its jaws gaped open. It closed in on the horse even with the stallion going at full speed.
   "Hang on." Rylan kicked his horse and the valiant chestnut, already wild with fear, dug deep and found more speed. The bear lunged forward and a huge paw, claws bared, took a swipe and snagged the horse's tail. That swipe broke the bear's charge.
   Finally they were stretching out the distance between them as the bear slowed. It dropped to a trot, then a walk, then stood up on two legs, front paws extended in the air, and sent them on their way with an ugly chain of growling threats.
   Maizy's belly was being stabbed good and hard. She hadn't paid it much mind until now. The horse was safely away, and Maizy saw the grizzly turn and jog back the way it'd come. "It's stopped," Maizy shouted.
   "Hang on!" Rylan's ordered shout brought Maizy's head around, and she saw that the ground was broken ahead. This was Rylan's land, but Maizy had lived here all her life. She knew this was a bad stretch, littered with boulders and cut by water running off the mountain to the river.
   The horse was running away, terrorized. Rylan was easing the horse up, but they weren't going slow enough to navigate the dangerous patch. No horse racing full speed could hope to get through it unharmed.
   The horse tossed its head and fought the reins, but finally began to respond. Maizy recognized the expert handling of the reins as Rylan tried to gain control of the panicked horse.
   They reached the first line of scattered rocks.
   Rylan picked his moment and yelled, "Whoa!"
   He pulled back hard and the horse skidded until it nearly sat down on its haunches. As they came to a stop, the horse neighed and reared, straight up, higher and higher. Maizy felt the stallion going over backward.
   Rylan shoved her so she fell off feetfirst and he dove to the other side. Maizy rolled over and over, afraid of where the horse might land, until she came up hard against a massive stone. She whirled to see Rylan being dragged, one foot stuck in the stirrup. Leaping to her feet, Maizy drew her gun to shoot the horse that had saved their lives, just as Rylan fell free and rolled hard against a boulder.
   Maizy heard the crack as Rylan's head struck stone.
   She raced on shaking legs to where he lay flat on his back. Out cold. His face white as ash.
   Maizy crawled to his side, terrified that he was dead. His chest rose and fell steadily. He was alive! Looking around, she saw that his horse was nowhere in sight. A lump was already rising on his forehead, and seconds later she saw blood soaking through his tattered pants. Drawing her knife, she slit the leg of his britches. His knee was bleeding and his leg already showed some swelling.
   It had to be broken.
   Maizy looked around. She was miles from anywhere. His horse was long gone. Rylan was too heavy to lift.
   A wild cry far overhead drew her eyes up to a soaring eagle. The isolation of this place tightened like a vise around her throat.
   Praying frantically for wisdom, she remembered her pinto on the far side of the river. There was a ford. She could get the mare here ... if the grizzly hadn't scared her into breaking her reins and racing for home.
   Maizy would have to go for the horse. Besides that grizzly, there were rattlesnakes. Buzzards might scent blood, with Rylan unconscious—Maizy shuddered to think of that. There were even wolves and cougars in the area. To get the mare, Maizy would have to leave Rylan utterly defenseless.
   She looked at his handsome face. He'd risked his life to save her. He'd abandoned a bull that cost a fortune and used every ounce of his strength to get her to safety.
   And now she needed to do as much for him. And to do that, she had to leave him lying here.
   No alternative came to her, so she jumped to her feet and ran.
* * *
Maizy hurried to her mare in double time. She had worked with her pa plenty, and she knew how to treat a beat-up cowboy, although she'd never seen one quite this beaten before.
   When she got back to his side, Rylan lay still as death. His leg was almost certainly broken. Should she cut the boot off? The swelling had gotten so bad she was afraid he had no circulation, yet how much damage might she do removing the boot? Praying for wisdom beyond what she possessed, she decided to leave it, at least for now.
   She'd been thinking the whole time she fetched her horse. Now she tethered her horse and rushed toward the nearest slope, covered with quaking aspens.
   Feeling the minutes tick by and knowing that boot was strangling Rylan's leg, she hacked down slender saplings with her sturdy, razor-sharp knife and returned to make a travois. Pa had taught her the way of it years before.
   She used the lasso on her pommel to weave a triangular net between two trees. Once she was satisfied it would hold, she moved the contraption so the ends of the young trees were on either side of his head. Then, with a remaining stretch of rope, she tied a loop under Rylan's arms, hooked him to her horse, and hoping he stayed unconscious, she pulled Rylan up the length of the travois with aching slowness. He was slim but tall with broad shoulders, made of solid muscle that made him heavy. It took some finagling to get him in place, but finally he lay fully on top of the makeshift travois.
   Then she lifted each side of the front ends of the travois and used a pigging string to hitch the ends to her stirrups.
   As she lashed the second aspen pole in place, Rylan groaned.
   Maizy rushed to his side.
   His blue eyes flickered open, but he stared through her, still dazed. She rested one hand on his shoulder.
   "Lie very still. I'm taking you home."
   "Maizy." Rylan spoke that one word, then passed out again.
   Because she was praying so hard when she felt a twist of fear about his leg, she decided it was God putting the notion in her head. She'd get the boot off while Rylan was unconscious.
   She slit the tough leather to the ankle until it was loose enough to be safe. She left it on to act as a splint. She swung astride her pinto and clucked to the well-trained horse. They set out slowly, crossing the boulder-strewn ground, trying to avoid bumps. Maizy turned on her saddle and watched Rylan nearly every second, only glancing ahead to check the terrain.
   He never stirred.
   Rylan had come to Pa's house several times in the year since he moved in. There were no other ranches for miles and even their places were far apart. He'd never been friendly—to her. Though she had caught him looking at her a few times when he'd come by.
   Except for those occasional looks, she'd always had the impression he was avoiding her. And the fact that he was so attractive pinched hard.
   She'd done her best to ignore him, but she'd taken a liking to his herd of shining black Angus cattle. In fact she liked them a whole lot more than him.
   When he'd followed her home earlier that day and told her pa the bulls were dangerous, Rylan had looked at her in the eyes for the first time, forbidding Maizy from riding on his land. He'd also said a few words about a woman dressing in britches and running around the country alone. Said it was dangerous. But Maizy had worked hard alongside her pa on the ranch since she could sit a saddle. She could take care of herself.
   She was tough, but the handsome cowboy made her doubt herself. She liked not wearing dresses and fussing with her hair. She could cook well enough and she did chores in the house. But they rarely went to town since they lived over an hour away. When they did, she wore a dress, but she grumbled the whole time.
Excerpted from Four Weddings and a Kiss by Margaret Brownley, Robin Lee Hatcher, Mary Connealy, Debra Clopton. Copyright © 2014 Mary Connealy, Robin Lee Hatcher, Debra Clopton, and Margaret Brownley. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. 
Robin Lee Hatcher
Robin Lee Hatcher has penned another winner in her Love Letter to the Editor novella.

Killdeer, Wyoming, 1879. Molly Everton's father owns the local newspaper. A college graduate and right~hand~woman, she is bypassed as the new editor, her father says because she is too outspoken and he needs unbiased input with his advertisers. The new editor of the Sentinel is arriving this afternoon? Unknown that he is coming into a set aside dream, Molly sets out to displace Jack Ludgrove before he gets a good start. Not to be hindered, Jack sets out to place Molly in clear view and matters of the heart. 

Here’s a peek at Robin’s Story:
A Love Letter to the Editor  ~ A Novella from FOUR WEDDINGS AND A KISS

Dear Editor:
      Do you think there are men in this world who
can value a well-educated woman with a mind of her
own and the courage to speak it? Is it possible for a
man and a woman to have an equal partnership in
marriage, seeing each other as God intended them to
be? After thirty-five years on this earth, I have begun
to doubt it.
                                              Wishful in Wyoming


Killdeer, Wyoming, August 1879

MOLLY EVERTON FLUNG OPEN THE DOOR TO HER FATHER'S office in the Killdeer Sentinel, not caring that it hit the wall with a loud crack. "Is it true, Father?"
   Roland Everton looked up from the papers on his desk. "Is what true?"
   "You know good and well what I mean. Have you hired someone else as editor of the paper?"
   Her father removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. A familiar delaying tactic. She'd seen it many times in her thirty-five years.
   Molly closed the door and then stepped closer to his desk, trying to check her temper. "It isn't fair. You know it isn't fair."
   "My dear, you should know by now that many things in life are not fair. Far from it."
   "Why did you send me to college if you didn't want me to put the knowledge I gained to good use? I have all of the qualifications needed to serve as the paper's editor. I have worked beside you. I know what needs done."
   Her father released a sigh. "Oh, Molly. Speaking your mind freely has its consequences. We must do business with the merchants here in town. We can't afford to offend them or their wives. I need someone in charge of the paper who understands the delicate balance required."
   Molly's anger evaporated, leaving behind a desire to weep.
   "Sit down, Molly."
   She obeyed.
   "I was wrong not to tell you sooner," her father said, his voice gentle. "I suppose it was this precise scene I was hoping to avoid. It seems all I did was delay it a little."
   Molly stared at her hands, clasped tightly in her lap. "What is his name?"
   "The new editor? Jack Ludgrove."
   "Where is he from?"
   "And when does he arrive?"
   Her father didn't answer at once.
   Molly lifted her gaze to meet his.
   "This afternoon. I expect him on today's stagecoach."
   She sat a little straighter. "He'll be here today?"
   There was no hope then. No hope of changing her father's mind. No hope of helping him see that this was her turn, her right.
   "No. Don't say anything more, Father. Not now." She rose to her feet. "You have made your decision." She moved to the door and opened it, slowly this time. "I will see you at supper." She left her father's office and moved toward the front door of the newspaper, holding her head high.
   She stopped on the boardwalk and looked to her right, down Main Street toward the Wells, Fargo office. The stagecoach from Green River usually came through Killdeer at about four o'clock in the afternoon. That was a good two hours from now.
   Molly turned in the opposite direction and walked toward home. She nodded to a couple of women she passed on the boardwalk outside of the mercantile. She waved at Reverend Lynch, standing at the top of the church steps at the corner of Main and Elm.
   Offend the advertisers, her father had said. Whom had she offended? It wasn't fair of Father to say that without giving her any specifics.
   Fair. There was that word again. And her father was right about life not being fair. Especially for a woman. Especially for a woman who valued independence and learning above men and marriage.
   Not that she had any objection to the institution of marriage itself. There were numerous examples of good marriages right here in her own town. Her parents, for one. But few men seemed to want a wife with the courage to speak her mind openly. At least, no men she'd met. Even her father preferred that she keep most of her opinions to herself.
   When she'd turned thirty-five earlier this year, she'd accepted that she was––and would remain––an old maid. Being unmarried wasn't the worst fate in the world. But she did want to be useful. She would like to feel as if the work she did was valued by others.
   What would she do when her father sold the newspaper? Something he'd begun to talk about more and more often. Would a new owner employ a woman reporter? Or a female editor? Her father wouldn't even make her the editor. Why would someone else?
   But if she was already the editor when her father chose to sell the Sentinel, that might make a difference to the new owner. If she could prove herself capable. More than capable, invaluable. If she could do that, then she might be able to stay on.
   Only Mr. Ludgrove stood in her way.
   She stopped walking. Mr. Ludgrove might not like living in Killdeer. He might not stay. And if he didn't…
   I'll make him want to leave. A smile played across her lips. It can't be that hard to make him want to go back to where he came from.
   "True hope is swift and flies with swallow's wings," she whispered, quoting Shakespeare. "Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings."
   Feeling a great deal better than she had moments before, Molly hurried on toward home.
 Jack Ludgrove stepped down from the coach. After moving aside for two other passengers to disembark, he stopped and looked down the main street of Killdeer, Wyoming.
   By George! Wyoming Territory! He was here at last.
   Ever since he was a boy, Jack had longed for adventures in the West. Stories of fur trappers. Tales of the Oregon Trail. Accounts of the California gold rush. They'd all fueled his childhood imagination.
   He might have come west right out of college, if not for four bloody years of civil war. He'd joined the Union Army at the age of twenty-one, soon after the hostilities began. He fought for his country and survived unscathed to the bitter end. But those years exacted a heavy toll on his family. His two brothers died in the conflict. Then his father seemed to give out from the grief. Jack was needed to stay in Iowa to care for him, so that was what he did. But his heart had never stopped yearning for the West of his dreams, and with his father's passing had come his freedom.
   Jack Ludgrove, managing editor of the Killdeer Sentinel, Killdeer, Wyoming. Sounded good to him.
   He took up his bags that had been removed from the rear of the coach, then started walking.
   Killdeer was laid out in a square on the high desert land. Beyond it to the north rose the rugged Rocky Mountains. As soon as he owned a horse and had the time, he meant to ride up closer to those mountains and do some exploring.
   Roland Everton, the owner and publisher of the Sentinel, had written in his letter that their offices were in the center of town on Main Street. It couldn't be hard to find. Killdeer was not exactly a thriving metropolis. However, it looked exactly as Jack had hoped it would. Whitewashed buildings. False storefronts. At least one church. A large livery stables. Wide, dusty streets. Horses hitched to posts. Cowboys in wide-brimmed hats standing in the shade.
   He could smell the adventure.
   At his age, he supposed he shouldn't find it all as exciting as he did. By thirtynine, most men were settled. Job. Home. Wife. Children. Most men knew what their future looked like. The same as their pasts.
   Jack saw the newspaper then. Killdeer Sentinel was painted across the large plate glass window. The name was also on a sign up high on the storefront. He crossed the street and opened the front door. Newspaper smells greeted him.
   A man appeared from the back of the building. He had a bad leg and leaned heavily on the cane in his left hand as he approached. "Mr. Ludgrove?"
   Jack nodded. "Yes, sir."
   "Welcome to Killdeer. I'm Mr. Everton."
   "Pleased to meet you, sir."
   They shook hands.
   Roland Everton motioned toward a door off to the right. "Let's go into my office." He moved in that direction. "I apologize for not meeting the stage, but as you can see, walking is a bit difficult for me. Especially the constant on and off of the boardwalks."
   "Don't give it a thought. I liked getting a look at the town."
   The publisher's office was small––and made smaller by the books and stacks of paper and newsprint on every available surface. Roland Everton went around to sit in his own chair. Jack took the one opposite him.
   "Mr. Ludgrove, I have arranged for a room for you at Mrs. Simpson's boardinghouse. It's clean and reasonably priced, and I'm told she is a very fine cook."
   "Sounds good. I imagine I'll spend much of my time at the newspaper, so I don't need anything fancy."
   "I thought you should have a few days to get your bearings. You can begin work here on Monday."
  "That's very generous of you, sir, but I am willing to begin at once if I am needed."
   Roland waved away the comment. "Not necessary, Mr. Ludgrove. Monday will be soon enough."
   Jack nodded.
   "As I'm sure I told you in my letters, the running of the Sentinel has been mostly a family affair these past ten years. My daughter, Molly, writes a regular column, and she usually chooses what letters to the editor are published, depending upon topic and what space is available. She's a capable reporter as well."
   Oh, great. Jack hadn't known about the daughter. That was the last thing he needed to deal with. Nepotism in the newspaper business seldom served the best interests of the readership. That must be as true for a small town's weekly as it was for a city's daily.
   "And, of course," Roland continued, "I have served as the managing editor from the beginning. Hank Morrison is our typesetter. He's fast and efficient. You will see that for yourself."
   Jack nodded, thinking it best not to say much about the staff until he'd met them. He would judge their qualifications by his own standards.
   Roland got to his feet. "If you'll come with me, I will take you to the boardinghouse. Though my wife is expecting you to be our guest for supper your first night in Killdeer."
   "I wouldn't want to put her out, Mr. Everton." Jack stood.
   "Nonsense. She would never forgive me if we didn't show you the proper hospitality. First impressions are important, and we want your impression of Killdeer to be a positive one. Now come along."

Along with writing, Debra Clopton helps her husband teach the youth at their local Cowboy Church of Leon County, Texas.

Attributes to draw from for her A Cowboy for Katie novella?

Debra Clopton Midway, Texas, 1871. Katie Pearl's pa was killed in a tornado that passed through three weeks earlier, leaving her on her own. Coming to town for supplies, she sees a cowboy set his saddle down and easy to tell that he had been walking a few days.

Treb Rayburn has arrived in town, sans horse, and needs a job to buy another one to continue his travels, or so he thinks. Entering Crandon's General Store, Katie overhears Treb asking the proprietor where he might find work. Given another ranch name, Katie tells him she will hire him to help rebuild her house recently lost in a tornado. She will include a horse? That's too good to be true... it usually is... ~*~ happenstance isn't always happenstance. 

Here’s a peek at Debra’s Story:
A Cowboy for Katie

SHE MIGHT BE AS CRAZY AS THEY SAID BUT KATIE Pearl had learned that most men were light between the ears. She wondered which one of them she was gonna have to shoot today.
   It wasn’t as if she wanted to, but if they came snoopin' around , she was willin’ to oblige them.
   “There ain’t no sense pretending you like this, Katie Pearl, no sense at all,” Katie told herself. From her perch on the wagon seat she could see the dusty buildings of town. And as Myrtle May pulled the wagon round the bend in the road Katie’s insides tensed up.
   “You’re a good horse, Myrtle May. Yes you are.” She was glad to have the comfort of her old horse with her as the fire in the pit of her stomach informed her trouble was near.
   Town was trouble and there was no getting around it.
   Most folks in town crossed the street and walked on the other side these days when they saw her. At least if they were smart they did.
   Especially if it was any of them sodbusters who’d recently come callin’ for her hand in marriage. “No siree, Katie Pearl,” she spoke aloud again, her words reassuring to her. “Them sorry no goods have seen your fingers itchin’ on the pearl handles of your Colt and some seen the end of the barrel pointing at them too.” It was true, fools. “You don’t take kindly to none of the hogwash they’ve been trying to sell you.”
   Sighing long and hard she shook her head. “No, I don’t. Ain’t that so, Myrtle May?”
   Myrtle didn’t answer, which didn’t surprise Katie. Her horse was a little on the quiet side. And that was okay. Katie didn’t mind the quiet—though she sure missed conversations with her pa.
   She just plain missed her pa. It was just her now. And though things were fuzzy in her head since the tornado, she was making it. If only she didn’t have to go to town for supplies.
   She tugged her pa’s hat low over her eyes and gritted her jaw down tight.
   “You can do this, Katie Pearl. Yes you can,” she assured herself, then mumbled, “Long as you don’t have to shoot somebody you’ll be just fine.”
Debra and Margaret

Margaret Brownley brings love and laughter in the Old West alive. Happily married to her real-life hero, Margaret and her husband live in Southern California. Her novella Courting Trouble, brings an interesting defense case to Brock Daniels, Esq. that appears open-and-shut case ... at first glance.

Lone Pine, Colorado, 1882. Brock Daniels has his work cut out for him. Newly ensconced in his two-room office in Lone Pine, the Rocky Mountains is far from his big-city Pennsylvania moorings. Asked to work on a highly publicized case will advance additional talking about his "sticking his nose in." The Lone Pine Herald paper would attest to that.

Billy-Joe Davenport, former saddle-shop owner/miner
Harry, former school teacher
Geoffrey Morris, former ?

The Black Widow trial began ~ held in the saloon since there was no courthouse in Lone Pine's jurisdiction. The accused? Grace Davenport, former wife ~ at separate times ~ of  Billy-Joe, Harry, and Geoffrey; three husbands and their untimely deaths.

Certain of her innocence, Grace's young son Jesse brings forth a testimony. It's the little things that matter; the inconspicuous, incidentals of life brought into the open.

Here’s a peek at Margaret’s Story:
Courting Trouble

Lone Pine, Colorado, 1882

BROCK DANIELS SCOWLED AT THE LEGAL BRIEF HE'D BEEN studying for more than an hour. Obstreperous conduct? It took thirty-two pages to list a complaint that added up to little more than one shop owner calling another a name generally reserved for crooked politicians and stubborn mules.
   Hardly a week went by that a similar freewheeling lawsuit didn’t cross his desk. No wonder Lone Pine was on litigation overload. They sure didn’t do things here in Colorado like they did back in Philadelphia.
   Tossing the brief down, he reached for his fountain pen. No sooner had he dipped the nib in the ink well and started to write than a slight sound made him lift his gaze. A boy about eleven or twelve stood in front of his desk, staring at him with big rounded eyes.
   It wasn’t the first time someone had sneaked up on him while he was working at his desk. The two-room office had been his for six months, and he still hadn’t gotten around to attaching a bell to the front door.
   Brock stuck the pen in its holder and reached into his vest pocket for his watch. The gold case opened with a flip of his thumb. It was nearly ten p.m. Too late for someone so young to be roaming the streets. He snapped the watch shut.
   “May I help you?”
   Instead of answering, the lad placed four coins on the desk with such care that the money had to have been hard earned. The coins added up to fifty-six cents.
   “I want to hire you,” the boy said.
   There wasn’t enough money there to hire a mule, but the boy’s youth demanded special consideration.
   Brock slid his watch back into his pocket. “What’s your name, son?”
   “Jesse Morris.”
   Brock was pretty sure he’d not seen the boy before. Certainly he’d never seen a more sorrowful pair of trousers. Innocent of anything resembling the original fabric, they were patched so thoroughly that they resembled shingles on a roof. The child’s shirt didn’t fare much better. The thin cotton was more suited to hot summer days than cool spring nights.
   “What kind of trouble you in?”
   “No trouble,” Jesse said. “It’s my ma.”
   Brock’s eyebrows shot up. “Your ma’s in trouble?”
   Jessed nodded. “She’s in jail.”
   Far as Brock knew, the only woman in jail was the one they called the Black Widow. From what little he’d heard, it sounded like an open-and-shut murder case. What he hadn’t known was that she had a son. More’s the pity.
   The boy twisted his porkpie hat in his hands. Reddish brown hair reached his shoulders and curled around his neck and ears. “The sheriff said she killed her husband and that ain’t true.”
   Husband, not father. Brock pinched his forehead. It was late and he was tired.
   “I’m sure the judge has appointed your mother’s legal counsel.”
   The boy nodded. “Her lawyer’s name is Mr. Spencer.”
   David Spencer was one of three lawyers in town. Far as Brock knew, the man had no formal education in law. But neither did the others, which explained why the Lone Pine legal system was such a mess and, in some cases, a joke. The closest any of them had been to “passing the bar,” which consisted of a simple oral exam, was to walk past a saloon.
   “If your mother has a lawyer, why do you want to hire me?”
   Jesse set his hat on the corner of the desk and pulled a piece of paper from his trouser pocket. With as much care as he’d afforded the coins, he unfolded it and straightened out the creases.
   “Mr. Spencer loses most of his cases,” he said. He placed the paper on the desk and pointed to the names carefully printed beneath a hand-drawn gallows. “Those are the men he let hang last year.”

I enjoyed the "...and a Kiss" story begun in the Prologue and melding the stories together in the Epilogue. A fun grouping of stories by these four authors! Their first compilation together was their novellas in A Bride for all Seasons: The Mail Order Bride Collection.

***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for this novella collection ~*~ Four Weddings and a Kiss: A Western Bride Collection by authors Margaret Brownley, Debra Clopton, Mary Connealy, and Robin Lee Hatcher. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

FOUR WEDDINGS AND A KISS – Win an iPad Mini & rip-roarin’ Facebook Party!

Four best-­selling romance novelists bring tales of feisty heroines, stubborn heroes, and unlikely love in the Wild West in Four Weddings and a Kiss. Don't miss the latest from the Western Brides Collection from Margaret Brownley, Robin Lee Hatcher, Mary Connealy, and Debra Clopton.

The authors are celebrating with a "Sweet on Love" iPad Mini Giveaway and rip-roarin' Facebook party.
  One winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini
  • A Bride for All Seasons and Four Weddings and a Kiss 
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 8th. Winner will be announced at the Four Weddings and a Kiss Facebook Author Chat Party. Connect with Western Brides Collection authors Margaret Brownley, Robin Lee Hatcher, Mary Connealy, and Debra Clopton for an evening of fun book chat, western-themed trivia, and prizes. The authors will also be answering audience questions and giving an exclusive look at the next book in the collection!

So grab your copy of Four Weddings and a Kiss and join the authors on the evening of July 8th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 8th!

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