Mesquite Springs, Book 2
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction / Romance / Stand-alone
Publication Date: March 2, 2021
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He’s bound and determined to find peace . . . but she’s about to stir things up.
Dorothy Clark dreams of writing something that will challenge people as much as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin seems to have. But in 1850s Mesquite Springs, there are few opportunities for writers–until newspaperman Brandon Holloway arrives, that is.
Brandon Holloway has seen firsthand the disastrous effects of challenging others. He has no intention of repeating that mistake. Instead of following his dreams, he’s committed to making a new–and completely uncontroversial–start in the Hill Country.
As Dorothy’s involvement in the fledgling newspaper grows from convenient to essential, the same change seems to be happening in Brandon’s heart. But before romance can bloom, Dorothy and Brandon must work together to discover who’s determined to divide the town and destroy Brandon’s livelihood.
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CHAPTER ONE, PART ONE FROM
BY AMANDA CABOT
November 10, 1856
“You’re the luckiest person I know.”
She’s wrong. Totally and absolutely wrong. Dorothy Clark tightened her grip on the fork as she continued to beat egg whites for today’s raisin pie. She was not lucky, and this was not the life she wanted. Not even having her best friend back in Mesquite Springs could compensate for the boredom and the knowledge that this was not how she was meant to spend her life. Running a restaurant might fill people’s bellies, but it did nothing to challenge their minds.
She doubted Laura would agree, so rather than rail at her, Dorothy answered as calmly as she could. “What makes you think I’m lucky?”
The pretty brunette who’d been her friend for as long as Dorothy could remember shrugged as if the answer were obvious. “Your mother lets you live here all by yourself. My mother would never agree to that.”
Dorothy wouldn’t dispute that. While she hadn’t found it easy to convince Ma to let her leave the ranch and live in town, even temporarily, Mrs. Downey was more protective of her only child than Ma. Dorothy had been surprised—shocked might have been a better word—when the Downeys had sent Laura to an exclusive girls’ school back East. Admittedly, Laura had not lived alone the way Dorothy now did, but she’d been more than a thousand miles from home.
“There’s a simple reason Ma agreed,” Dorothy told her friend. “We would have had to close Polly’s Place otherwise. I may be over twenty, but Ma still doesn’t want me riding by myself when it’s dark outside.”
Dorothy was the one who fired up the restaurant’s ovens well before the sun rose and started preparing the midday meals she and Laura would serve customers. While she would never be a gifted chef like her sister-in-law Evelyn or as accomplished as Laura was now that she’d attended that fancy finishing school, Dorothy could get everything set out and ready before Laura arrived to prepare the more difficult dishes.
“Once Wyatt and Evelyn return,” Dorothy continued, “I’ll have to move back to the ranch.” Unless she could find a reason to stay here. Having her own home, even if it was only a small apartment over her sister-in-law’s restaurant, was wonderful. Though she loved Ma and hated to think of her being alone on the Circle C, Dorothy had discovered that she relished her independence. Here she was no longer Ma’s daughter or Wyatt’s younger sister. She was simply Dorothy, and that was good.
Laura looked up from the pastry she was fitting into the pie plates, a conspiratorial smile turning her face from pretty to almost beautiful. The intricate hairstyles Laura had learned in Charleston highlighted her hair, making the most of the blonde streaks in otherwise ordinary brown tresses, and drew attention to the eyes that Dorothy had always envied. Hazel was so much more interesting than her own plain brown. Her dark brown hair and brown eyes were just as boring as the rest of her life.
Dorothy lifted a forkful of egg whites, checking their consistency, as Laura said, “Maybe you’ll be married or at least courting before they’re home again.”
Marriage. Laura was convinced that was the answer to every question, the solution to every problem. Once again, she was wrong.
“That’ll never happen.” Dorothy knew that as surely as she knew the sun did not rise in the west. She set the now-stiff egg whites aside and began beating the butter and sugar together.
At the other side of the long table, Laura frowned. “I don’t think I’ll ever understand you. Every woman wants marriage and children.” Her normally sweet voice had turned steely with determination, and as she began fluting the edges of the first piecrust, her lips pursed as if she’d bitten into a lemon. “I wish I’d met the man of my dreams when I was back East. You know that’s why Mother and Father sent me to the finishing school, don’t you? They wanted me to find a husband.”
Unspoken was the fact that while Laura had fancied herself in love with Wyatt, he had viewed her as nothing more than his sister’s friend. Dorothy had suspected that the Downeys had sent Laura East to keep her from pining over Wyatt.
“But you didn’t.” Though the letters Laura had written during her year at school had been filled with stories of the men she’d met, each one had mentioned a different man, and each had made it clear that the man in question had serious flaws. One was too tall, the next too short. One’s moustache made Laura laugh; the next one’s smoothly shaven face made him look like a boy rather than a grown man. The litany of the men’s shortcomings would have been amusing if Dorothy hadn’t sensed Laura’s growing desperation.
Laura shook her head. “None of them made my heart beat faster. I know I disappointed my parents, but I couldn’t marry a man who didn’t excite me.” She set the pie plate aside and began to fashion the crust for the next one. “There’s a man who’s meant for me. I just need to find him.”
If she hadn’t found the right man in a city the size of Charleston, Dorothy wondered what hope there was for Laura here, but she wouldn’t say that. Instead, she sought to encourage her friend. “Mesquite Springs is growing. Perhaps the man of your dreams is already on his way here.”
That seemed to brighten Laura’s spirits, for she smiled. “I hope so, but what about you? If you don’t marry, what will you do?” Her smile turned into a frown. “You don’t still want to be a writer, do you? I thought that was a passing fancy.”
“It’s more than that, Laura. It’s my dream. The problem is, I don’t know how to make that dream come true.” The article she’d written earlier this year had excited her, and for a few days, Dorothy had felt as if she had accomplished something worthwhile, but now when she looked into the future that had once seemed clear, all she saw was a wall of impenetrable smoke.
“The one thing I do know,” Dorothy told her friend, “is that I won’t marry.” The risk was too high.
Click to read Chapter One, Part Two on Forgotten Winds blog,
Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of Out of the Embers, as well as the Cimarron Creek Trilogy and the Texas Crossroads, Texas Dreams, and Westward Winds series. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers’ Best. She lives in Wyoming.
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|3/2/21||Character Interview||Book Bustle|
|3/2/21||BONUS Promo||LSBBT Blog|
|3/3/21||Review||Reading by Moonlight|
|3/3/21||BONUS Promo||Hall Ways Blog|
|3/4/21||Author Interview||Chapter Break Book Blog|
|3/6/21||Excerpt||That’s What She’s Reading|
|3/8/21||Review||Carpe Diem Chronicles|
|3/9/21||Deleted Scene||All the Ups and Downs|
|3/10/21||Review||The Adventures of a Travelers Wife|
|3/11/21||BONUS Review||Missus Gonzo|