Author: Rachel Fordham
About the Book
Alone in a strange town, can she find healing for her new home . . . and herself?
Ada, Mich.—Between 1854 and 1929, the orphan train movement relocated over 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children from the eastern United States to rural areas throughout the country, focusing primarily in the Midwest. Since that time, this movement has captured the attention and curiosity of readers. In The Hope of Azure Springs, debut author Rachel Fordham masterfully blends history and romance in her well-crafted tale of a former “train rider.”
Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em 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.
Sheriff Caleb Reynolds is determined to solve the case and secure justice for Em. But what he doesn’t expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.
Historical romance readers will be charmed by the town of Azure Springs as they journey with Em to face her past, embrace her future, and rescue what she’s lost.
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Em’s eyes darted around, and her breathing sounded more labored. Abigail put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s all right, Em. Just one thing at a time.” Turning to the sheriff, she said, “Perhaps one question at a time. She’s been through so much already. I think we need to take it slow.”
He fought the urge to remind them that he’d already waited two days.
Em took several slow breaths while Abigail wiped her perspiring brow. “Shhh,” she soothed. “It’s all going to be all right. We’ll keep you safe, and Sheriff Reynolds will find whoever did this.”
Em turned toward him. “I never saw them before, but I did get a good look at them. I’d know them if I ever saw them again. I don’t know what they were after, but if you could take me back there, I might have an idea where to find it.”
“Where to find what?” he asked, his voice rising. She was only further confusing him. What he needed were answers, not more questions.
“I said I don’t know. What I do know is whenever George came back from one of his trapping trips, he always went to a certain spot, tucked away on our land. Like he was checking on something. I never thought much of it. He was a quiet man, and this was not his only strange habit. But I’m guessing whatever they were looking for is there.”
Caleb nodded and reached for his hat, relieved that this
would have an easy solution. A quick ride to an old homestead and—
“I see what you’re thinking, Sheriff Reynolds, but she can’t go anywhere—not yet. Doctor said she’s to take it easy for a couple weeks.” Abigail’s eyebrows pulled together, and her eyes did not leave his until he set his hat back down. For being a kind woman, Abigail Howell could be intimidating.
“I’m not staying in bed for a couple weeks,” Em said. “I can’t stay here. I’ve already been here too long.” As she sat up higher in bed, the blanket fell away from her arm. Caleb was surprised to see wrinkled, discolored skin all along its surface. He was no doctor, but he was fairly certain the grim marks were from an old burn.
Abigail again put a reassuring hand on Em’s shoulder. “Hush, dear. We were happy to take you in. We volunteered and haven’t regretted it for a moment. The doctor says you have a bit of a recovery ahead, and I’m not about to cross the doctor.” Abigail pursed her lips into a tight line and waited.
Caleb hoped that Em knew when to admit defeat. Despite Abigail’s resolute look, he saw the good woman’s tenderness and concern.
Abigail Howell was as near a saint as there was in Azure Springs. This girl in her sorry shape could not have landed in a better home.
“I second what Abby said. You’re welcome here,” Abraham said, crossing his arms over his pudgy belly. Abraham Howell always stood by his wife. “Now, if you will excuse me, I have work to do. Good day to you, Sheriff, ladies.” He stood deliberately, nodded, and then turned and left.
“I’m not one to put things off that need to be done. But
I’ll follow the doctor’s orders and wait to take you back out there,” Caleb said.
“Her recovery will be much quicker if she takes it easy,” Abigail said.
“I’ll trust her to your care. But I can’t just sit around here waiting. I’ll head out there myself and see what I can find. Those men might have left clues. There’s no reason for me to wait.”
“If you head out there, you could bring back her clothes and some of her essentials.” Abigail turned to Em. “Are there any personal items you would like the sheriff to bring?”
“Won’t find much by way of essentials,” Em said. “The dress I was wearing is my only dress. I know it’s not much to look at, but it’s the only one I have. If you do head that way, there’s something I could use your help with.” Avoiding eye contact, she turned her head toward the wall, her hand fiddling with the edge of the quilt. “Would you bury George? I hadn’t meant to leave him, but I knew I had to get away.”
“George? You mentioned him before. Who is he?” Caleb’s voice again rose as he spoke. He had not expected to hear that someone else had been shot. Someone killed. Why hadn’t she told him that first? Caleb rubbed the dark stubble on his chin, giving himself a moment to calm down. “Tell me about George.”
Em’s voice was softer now, barely above a whisper. “George is the owner of the homestead. I lived with him—in a way.”
Caleb looked from Em to Abigail, hoping to understand. “You lived with him? Was he your brother, father?”
“I think we should slow down. These have been a taxing few days.” Abigail came to the rescue again. “I’m sure Em can explain it all. But you must give her time.”
Em spoke up. “It’s all right, Abigail. I’ll tell what I can. I suppose you could say I worked there. Though I wasn’t paid. And yes, he’s dead. They shot him more than once in the chest before they shot me. I checked before I left and he was dead. I wouldn’t have left him if he hadn’t been. He needs someone to bury him. It’s not right, him rotting aboveground. I’d do it myself if I could, and I will if you won’t.”
Caleb pictured those frail limbs digging a grave and dragging a grown man into it. He doubted she possessed the strength, and even if she did, it would be a daunting task. It wouldn’t be a pleasant job for him—dealing with death never was—but he’d had years of good meals to run on and he did not want for muscle.
“I’ll bury him, don’t worry yourself about that. But this is more serious than I thought. Depending on what these men were after, they may be back.” He scratched at the back of his neck, then stood and paced the room. “When they return, if they return, they’ll know you’re still alive and may come looking for you. Seeing as you are a witness to George’s death, they might want you dead. I’ve been sheriff long enough to know there’s a breed of men who hates a witness.”
He felt Abigail’s and Em’s eyes trailing him as he walked back and forth. They said nothing.
“Judging by the wound in your side, they’re not afraid of pulling the trigger. If they’re smart, they’ll know you may be able to identify them.” He ran his hands through his hair. He hadn’t anticipated anyone coming after this pitiful girl. For two days he’d assumed that she was merely the victim of some senseless crime. Never had it crossed his mind that this might have been a planned attack. The longer he talked to her, the more he was convinced this was not just a matter
of her being in the wrong place at the wrong time. These men were after something.
“I don’t even know where I am. How will they know?” Em asked. “I took a horse when I left. I rode it a long way before I fell off.”
“Even if there’s no trail of blood, there aren’t many towns around. If someone wants to find you, they will. It’d be best for all of us to be cautious. We don’t know what lengths they’ll go to in order to find you. I don’t want you leaving this house, not yet anyway. Not until those men are behind bars. I’ll enlist some men to help me keep a watch around this home, and we’ll spread the word to others to be careful.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Credit: Kylee Ann Maughan
Rachel Fordham started writing when her children began begging her for stories at night. She'd pull a book from the shelf, but they'd insist she make one up. Finally she put her love of good stories with her love of writing and she hasn't stopped since. She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.
The publisher has graciously offered (3) winners each a copy of The Hope of Azure Springs and special Revell swag!
Giveaway will begin at midnight July 9, 2018 and last through 11:59 PM EST on July 17, 2018. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. Complete prize open to US mailing addresses only. For our giveaway rules and policy, click HERE.
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