08 August 2014

Fiction Fest: Sneak peek at Carolyn Steele’s ‘Willow Springs’

Willow Springs
by Carolyn Steele.
Audience/Genre: Historical Fiction, Clean Romance.
Publication: August 12th 2014 by Cedar Fort Publishing & Media.
Crissa Engleson comes to the town of Willow Springs to start a new life when she attracts the unwanted attention of a miner—and falls in love with a handsome Express rider. Laugh and cry with Crissa as she escapes her past to find love and helps the townspeople along the way.


From the author: In this excerpt, the reader is introduced to the town of Willow Springs, the lead character—Crissa Engelson, and the notorious group of gold miners who will be in the middle of a major conflict as the story unfolds.

“Would you look’a there,” Myrtle Thompson said, nodding toward the door as a young man raced past on horseback.

“That’s not!” Ethel gasped.

“Oh, yes it is,” Agnes chimed in. “That’s the Bateman boy.” Agnes clucked her tongue. “And with his wife still in confinement.”

“He’s up to no good, I tell you,” Doris said. “It’s shameful.”

Ruth and Mary bobbed their heads in agreement. “Indeed. Shameful.”

Cringing at the cackles coming from the dining room, Crissa peered through the kitchen doors to where the Thompson sisters dominated the near corner of the room. That table was their table—on the last Thursday of every month, anyway. There wasn’t anything special about this table except that it sat in the corner between the kitchen and the stairway and had a direct view to the front door on the opposite wall. Any comings and goings, and eatings for that matter, were thoroughly scrutinized by the ladies of this table. The unused bar was also within their line of sight, and gentlemen of proper upbringing made sure not to duck behind the bar to refill their flasks if “the sisters” were present.

“Wicked gossips,” Marida whispered. Her simple English was laced with a thick Italian accent. “They usually gone by now. Must be waiting for miners come in.”

For Crissa’s two weeks in Willow Springs, Henders Inn had been mostly quiet, save for the few bachelor shopkeepers who took their meals here. The stagecoach had come in earlier in the evening, depositing four guests for an overnight stay. In the middle of trying to situate the travelers, the Thompson sisters had arrived for their monthly gossip fest, and to give Crissa a collective looking over. The potatoes weren’t quite as fluffy as usual, it seemed. The corn bread was too gritty, the meat loaf drier than they had remembered it—even the green beans were stringy until Molly informed the sisters that Marida had done all of the cooking, same as usual.

It didn’t seem to matter that Crissa smiled extra friendly or spoke extra politely. She was met with frowns and turned up noses from “the sisters’ table.”

“Don’a you worry,” Marida tried to reassure Crissa. “They see you not after their husbands, they like you fine.”

Husbands. Crissa had to suppress a shudder at the thought. If I had wanted a husband, I would have stayed in Boston. The last thing she wanted was to get involved with any of the men in the town. Indeed, Crissa considered Willow Springs to be the nearest thing to her idea of purgatory. It was dry and desolate—nothing like the bustling city of Boston or the rich farmland of Uppsala. She certainly did not plan to stay here long.

“Miners?” Crissa asked. “Why will the miners be coming?”

“Is payday. They come for dinner on way to Ely.” Marida gave Crissa an exaggerated wink. “Are sporting women in Ely.”

“How many will be coming?” The thought of more strange faces to watch made Crissa edgy.

“Depends on if miners more hungry or more . . .” Marida winked again.

Gasping at Marida’s boldness, Crissa turned back to study the guests in the dining room. “We do not have many tables left tonight.”

“No worry,” Marida informed her. “When miners come, many these people will leave.”

“Why? Do they not like the miners?”

Laying her finger alongside her nose, Marida gave Crissa a sidelong glance. “Today payday at mine. You watch out for them. They no gentlemen.”

“But, Marida, surely—”

“You listen. You watch out.”

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