Friday, April 4, 2014

The Preacher's Bride Claim by Laurie Kingery


For the Thorton brothers, the Oklahoma Land Rush is the perfect opportunity to finally put down some roots. A new start, a new community—what more could preacher Elijah Thornton need. Not a wife—not after losing his fiancée. But something draws him to the pretty nurse whose eyes are clouded by trouble.

Only by claiming her own homestead can Alice Hawthorne avoid an unwanted marriage. Even Oklahoma may not be far enough away from New York to escape her past. Yet with courage—and the handsome reverend's support—can she forge a loving future?

BRIDEGROOM BOTHERS—True love awaits three siblings in the Oklahoma Land Rush


April 1, 1889—Boomer Town, Oklahoma Territory

Alice Hawthorne sat down quietly on an empty bench in the back of the tent church. She'd waited until the little congregation was absorbed in singing "Shall We Gather at the River" so she could steal in unnoticed. There was a family of six on the long bench ahead of her, but none of them paid any attention to her arrival--except for the shortest of the four stair-step boys. He looked over his shoulder at her, his face full of freckles, a cowlick at the back of his shaggy thatch of hair. When he noticed Alice was watching, he gave her a cheerful, gap-toothed grin. Despite the anxiety constricting her heart like a coiled snake, it was such a comical sight that she couldn't help but smile back.
"You turn around this instant, Otis Beauregard LeMaster," his mother hissed at him, without looking to see what or who had distracted her youngest. The boy obediently did so, and Alice was once again alone.
That suited Alice just fine. She hoped to continue to be overlooked among the inhabitants of the tent city as much as possible until the day of the Land Run, after she had claimed a hundred and sixty acre-homestead for her very own--her own and her mother's, she reminded herself.
It was the first of April—just twenty-two more days until the Unassigned Lands, the lands not claimed by one of the many Indian tribes that now called the Oklahoma Territory home, were opened for settlement by the Indian Appropriations Act signed by President Cleveland. His successor, Benjamin Harrison, had designated noon on April twenty-second as the moment the settlers could rush in, plant their stakes at the claims of their choice, and become real homesteaders.
She'd be safe then, wouldn't she?
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust…She remembered the verse from childhood, and it comforted her now when she felt like a terrified little bird fleeing from a hunter. Her fear was the reason she had come to the chapel service, to be reminded of God's love and protection.
As the hymn ended, so did her comfortable solitude. With a rustle of skirts, two women plopped themselves down to her left. Alice kept her gaze aimed at the front and hoped they would leave her alone. She had not been an unsociable person before she'd fled New York, but now, she feared each introduction.
But the woman next to her didn't take the hint. "Hey, you're new here, ain't ya?" she asked, smiling in a friendly fashion, which revealed incisors that would have done a jackrabbit proud. "Don't believe we've met before. I'm Carrie Ferguson, and this here's my sister Cordelia."
If she hadn't said they were sisters, Alice would have guessed it, for the two women at her right were so similar-looking with their sun-weathered long faces and noses so sharp they could slice cheese, the same teeth.
"N-nice to meet you," Alice managed to say. "I'm—" She thought about using an assumed name, but how could she lie--especially in a church, even one of canvas? "I'm Alice Hawthorne." Hopefully the two women would forget the name--easy to do in a temporary city populated by hundreds of people, with more coming every day.
"Been in Boomer Town long?" Cordelia asked.
If only the service would start, Alice fretted. She didn't want to answer a bunch of questions. But now that the hymn had concluded, the tall man who seemed to be the preacher was talking to a middle-aged couple up front, and he seemed to be in no hurry.
Alice managed a small smile. "Just since yesterday."
"Where ya from? We hail from St. Louis."
"B-back east," Alice said, and prayed they would let it go at that. She wasn't looking to make friends. Each person she gave her name to was one more person who could help Maxwell Peterson find her. And if he did, it would mean the end of her dreams.
"Looks like you've tripled attendance in the week you've been here, Reverend," Keith Gilbert, his deacon, exulted as he nodded toward the nearly-full benches. "You must be doing something right."
"It's the Lord's doing," he told Gilbert. "I have such plans for the church we'll build in the territory. I hope many of the folks here will be able to settle near us."
"Well, we're certainly planning to stake a claim near enough to help you build it, once you decide which way you'll head," Gilbert said, and added, "Lord willing."
"Glad to hear it, Keith," Elijah murmured. "I'm counting on your help."
Only one thing marred Elijah's joy in the growth of his congregation—his brothers weren't here. Wanting a fresh start as much as he did, they had come to Oklahoma with him, but they wouldn't attend his chapel services. His middle brother, Gideon, wanted nothing more to do with God after he'd lost his wife and child in the influenza epidemic of '87, and since Elijah had also lost his fiancée, Marybelle Atkins, Gideon couldn't understand why Elijah didn't feel the same. And Clint, the youngest of the brothers and still a bachelor, was at odds with the Lord too after so many losses. They should be here, he thought, with that old familiar ache. Lord, please draw them back to You.
"The Lord has blessed our work," he told the Gilberts. "Or perhaps folks come to the chapel because they need divine reassurance at this time of such big changes in their lives."
The Gilberts nodded in approving agreement, but Elijah knew Gideon would have said something like, "Maybe they think the more they show up here in chapel, the more likely the Lord will grant them the one hundred sixty acres claim of their choice. Or they don't have anything else to do while they wait to claim their land."
Perhaps it was presumptuous to call the big tent that sheltered them from the blistering sun and spring rains a chapel, much less a church, but for now it was all the church they had, and he was grateful for it. Hadn't the Hebrews worshipped God in the open desert air, all those years they wandered in the wilderness?
He was about to greet the congregation when Mr. Gilberts said, "Did you see the pretty lady sitting in the back? The one in the dark bonnet? She came in during the hymn. Can't remember seeing her before."
Elijah followed the direction of Gilbert's nod. He couldn't see the woman's face at the moment, because her head was bowed and the bonnet she wore hid her features, but as if she felt the scrutiny, she raised her head just then. He saw sky-blue eyes set in a heart-shaped face with a peaches-and-cream quality to it—she must be scrupulous about wearing a hat under the hot western sun. Her hair, what little of it he could see, was auburn. Her petite frame was clothed in serviceable calico.
Her blue eyes looked troubled, and he wondered why. Who was she? He thought he'd met everyone who came to his daily services, if not all the inhabitants of this tent city. But newcomers were arriving daily in anticipation of the Land Rush, so she must be a new arrival. He'd have to make it a point to introduce himself after the service in case she was in need of assistance, as a woman alone very well might be. As the pastor of the freshly-sprung-up encampment, his ministry consisted of helping the would-be homesteaders with their needs as much as it did preaching. He was merely doing his duty.
Of course, she might not be alone after all, he reminded himself. Her husband might be buying supplies at one of the tent stores that had sprouted like weeds after a good rain, dealing with livestock, or like his brothers, not a believer.
"Yessir, she sure is a pretty gal," Gilbert murmured, as if afraid Elijah wouldn't see that for himself.
Elijah wondered what Mrs. Gilbert must think of her husband noticing other ladies, but he darted a glance at her, and Cassie was still smiling.
"We thought we ought to point her out to ya, Reverend," she said with a wink. "It isn't good for a man to be alone. You ought to go meet her, after the service."
Elijah sighed. At least they hadn't spoken loud enough for any of the other worshippers to hear. "The Lord calls some of us to singleness," he said. "I am one of them."

Neither of the Gilberts looked convinced, but he was thankful when they didn't press him on the point.  He hadn't told anyone in the tent city about his lost fiancée, nor did he intend to. And in any case, there was no time to discuss it further.  

About Laurie:

Laurie Kingery is a central Ohio author and veteran E.R. RN who has written twenty-five historical romances, first as Laurie Grant and now writing Christian historicals under her own name for Love Inspired Historicals. She won the Reader's Choice for short historicals in 1994 and was a finalist in the 2010 Carol Awards in short historicals by the American Christian Fiction Writers for THE OUTLAW'S LADY. Her website is Her April 2014 release will be the first book in Love Inspired Historicals' "Bridegroom Brothers" continuity, set in the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889. Her next installment in the "Brides of Simpson Creek" series, also from Love Inspired Historicals is A HERO IN THE MAKING, July 2014.

To purchase her book:

Laurie Kingery is giving away a copy of The Preacher's Bride Claim. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You may enter the book giveaway twice -- once on each spotlight post. (It's not too late to go back and leave a comment on yesterday's post.)

Off to read another great book!
Sandra M. Hart


Wendy Newcomb said...

I'm really looking forward to reading Laurie's newest book. Thank you for the chance to win it.


Charity Lyman said...

Please enter me!! I love Laurie's books and this one looks so interesting. Thanks!!


Emma said...

THE PREACHER'S BRIDE CLAIM sounds wonderful.Please enter me in contest.Thank you for the opportunity to win.Have a wonderful weekend.

Laurie Kingery said...

Wendy, Charity, and Emma, thanks for commenting! I appreciate it, and hope you will enjoy the book. Have a great weekend.
Blessings, Laurie Kingery

Susan P said...

I have always been intrigued by land claiming in those days. This sounds good!

Susan P said...

And email: lattebooks at hotmail dot com

Abbi Hart said...

Can't wait to read this!
Thanks for the chance to win!

Laurie Kingery said...

Susan P., thanks for commenting. It was an exciting concept, a homestead of 164 acres for free .even single women had a chance to be landholders then.
Blessings, Laurie

PriviesAndPrims said...

Historical fiction is my favorite!


Bonnie Traher said...

Really want to read this one.

Anonymous said...

Would love a chance to win this book. :)

Laurie Kingery said...

Bonnie and Anonymous, good luck on winning the book. Thank you for commenting.
Blessings, Laurie Kingery

sm said...

My husband is a preacher, so this is an interesting topic for me. sharon wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

Linda Marie Finn said...

Oh this sounds like such a wonderful book, can't wait to read this.
Linda Finn
Faithful Acres Books

Anonymous said...

Laurie, so you have books out as two different names. I should have made me a list of all of the other names my authors had written under so if I saw a book I would know who really wrote it. These people not only had to claim this land, but also so had to work hard to improve it to keep it. I would love to win this book. sounds like a good stories to a good series. Thanks to you and BDBL ladies for this give-away. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

Patty said...

Thanks for sharing about The Preacher's Bride Claim. I look forward to reading it!


Unknown said...

Would love to win your book

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