Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em finally arrived at a new home in Iowa after riding the orphan train. But secrets from her past haunt her, and her new life in the Western wilderness is a rough one. When her guardian is shot and killed, Em, now nineteen, finally has the chance to search for her long-lost sister, but she won’t be able to do it alone.
For Azure Springs Sheriff Caleb Reynolds, securing justice for the waifish and injured Em is just part of his job. He’s determined to solve every case put before him in order to impress his parents and make a name for himself. Caleb expects to succeed. What he doesn’t expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.
Welcome to the charming town of Azure Springs, Iowa, where people care deeply for one another and, sometimes, even fall in love.
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PRAISE FOR THE HOPE OF AZURE SPRINGS: “In her promising first novel, Fordham assembles an endearing cast of characters in the rugged Midwest plains for a tale about surviving and thriving. Fordham depicts heartbreaking emotional and physical suffering, while beautifully illustrating the power in simple acts of kindness to foster healing, hope, and happiness.”
EXCERPT: PROLOGUE FROM THE HOPE OF AZURE SPRINGS
Em heard a man’s voice from somewhere above her. A strange thumping pulsed through her with each word he spoke. Her throat burned, screaming for water, but she could not cry out.
“There’s life in her. Not much of it though,” a second, raspier voice answered. She felt a hand press against her throat and then move over her body, gently probing. “She’s bleeding pretty bad.”
“Gunshot?” the first voice asked.
If only her eyes would open, and she could see them. Straining, she struggled to pull her heavy eyelids open. Finally, bits of light darted in front of her eyes, but she could not focus. The faces above her were fuzzy and indiscernible.
Fear swept through her, suddenly waking her battered body. Afraid the men from before had returned, she opened her eyes wide, finding strength that only moments before she had lacked. With thrashing arms, she flailed at the men. Her arms flopped about but offered little defense—she was too weak from blood loss. And then they moved no longer, subdued by large, strong hands.
“Easy, girl. We aren’t going to hurt you. We just want to help. Take you into town, that’s all. There’s a good doctor there.” The man’s deep voice sounded gentle, but still she did not trust him. Voices could be deceiving. Arms could hurt as well as help. She knew these things well.
Soon she felt her body being raised above the ground, and moments later the hard planks of a wagon became the resting place for her injured frame. Too weak to move, she lay looking at the sky, wishing there were a way to end the agony, but knowing that for Lucy she would fight on.
Once the wagon lurched forward, she lost track of everything again. The wheels bouncing over ruts made her pain so intense that everything closed around her and then faded to black.