I am so excited to be featuring Rachel Fordham's debut book, The Hope of Azure Springs! This book sounds so sweet and the perfect book to read with some tea and cookies!
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.
Info About The Book:
- ISBN: 9780800734732
- Ebook ISBN: 9781493414222
- 320 pages, paperback
- Published: July 3rd, 2018
- Publisher: Revell
Abigail jumped into the conversation again. “In another day or two we’ll give her a real bath. I’ll find her some of Eliza’s clothes to wear. A little freshening up will change her appearance. I’m certain that will help. Already she’s improving.”
Caleb took in Em’s disheveled and ragged appearance—her hair caked with dirt and oil, a layer of filth covering her skin. Never had he seen a face so thin. The bones in her cheeks looked harsh and sharp, the skin pulled tight around them. No man would look twice at her for her beauty. But if a man were looking for the plainest, thinnest waif of a girl, she would not be hard to pick from a crowd.
“A good bath and clean clothes couldn’t hurt, but it still won’t be hard to track her down. Half the town saw her come in on the back of that wagon. All those men would have to do is ask a few questions around Main Street and she’d be found. I’ll spread word to everyone I see, but it’s best if she stays put, away from people. Guarding one house will be easier than watching the whole of Azure Springs. I’ll get to the bottom of this and then she’ll be free to go.”
Turning his attention from Abigail and back to Em, he said, “I know you can’t talk long today, but can you give me descriptions of the men and tell me where your place is?”
Em’s eyes were looking weary, but she nodded. In a tired voice, she gave him details. Specifics most people would overlook came pouring out of her. He wished everyone he interviewed remembered the little things the way she did.
“One man had a scar running along his left cheek,” she said. “It was red, like it was new. Another had red hair, deep red, and he was missing a front tooth. The third man had fair hair and bushy eyebrows. He didn’t talk much—just followed orders.”
The images of all three of the men came alive, the details vivid, as Caleb scrambled to keep up with her, frantically writing notes.
“I don’t know where I am now, but I know George’s place is next to Hollow Creek, about a mile south of where it meets the Eagle River. It’s tucked in the back of a little clearing. It’s not much to look at, but I think you’ll be able to find it.”
Clutching his notes, he stood. “Thank you, Em. I’ll let you rest now. I’ll be back soon to talk. Please think hard about what these men could have been after.”
He made his way through the house and was reaching for the handle of the front door when Abigail said, “Sheriff?”
Caleb turned around to see her standing in the front room. “Yes, ma’am?”
“I’ve heard of a man living back along that creek. I remember the preacher saying he’d tried visiting before, but the man had sent him away without letting him in. And I think the Walkers have mentioned a strange man back there. They live out that way. It’s pretty secluded, but you know Ruth Walker, she likes knowing what’s going on. But I’ve never heard of a girl back there, not from Ruth or the preacher or anyone. And this man, George, no one really knows him.” Creased worry lines formed on Abigail’s face.
Caleb wished he could ease her mind somehow. “I’ve never heard of anyone living on Hollow Creek. I try to know everyone, but I’ve never heard a single mention of George. I’ll head out there as soon as I can. I don’t know how the pieces will come together, but they always do. Let me know if she tells you anything else.”
“I will.” Abigail took a few steps toward Em’s room before turning back. “I hardly know the girl. It’s strange, but already I care for her. Please stop these men. I want Em to be safe. I know she’s frightened. She hasn’t said she is, but I can sense an uneasiness. You have to stop these men. She deserves a chance.” With that she stepped back into the sickroom.
Caleb put his hat on and left. James, the town’s land agent, would have a detailed map of the area and any land deeds. With his long arms swinging at his sides, Caleb made his way toward the land office, his mind working like the gears in a clock. Who was George and what kind of arrangement did the girl have with him? The few ideas he conjured up sickened him. He hoped for a simple, untainted explanation.
Em was plain looking, with her stringy, straw-colored hair, freckled nose, and thin frame—no denying that. But she was quick and alert. The details she’d provided told him she had a keen mind. What’s her story? Who would shoot a girl like that? What reason could they have? Lost in thought, he was startled to hear his own name.
“Sheriff Reynolds. Pleasure running into you.” Eliza Howell approached from the side. He stopped. Skirts swaying, she moved closer until she stood very near, smiling up at him through long lashes. He found himself staring at her perfectly rosy cheeks. He couldn’t help admiring her curled blond hair with just a hint of red. The land office did not seem so urgent now.
Caleb stepped out of the way as several men passed by. He watched as the men’s eyes drifted to Eliza and lingered on her. Everything about Eliza turned heads, including his.
“Miss Eliza. What has you out and about in Azure Springs?” Caleb asked the local beauty.
“I walked in to meet Olivia. She wanted to visit Miss Caroline because she was expecting a new order of lace today. Olivia’s still looking. I think she might stay all day trying to decide which she likes best. I saw you passing by and thought a quick hello would break up the monotony of my day. Besides, Miss Caroline has already talked my ear off long enough about Mr. Norbert. Poor old maid, someday she’ll realize no one is interested in a spinster.” Eliza reached up and brushed at the shoulder of his jacket. “Seems you picked up some dust from these dry roads.”
He offered his arm and walked her along the street toward the dress shop. “I’m glad you stopped me,” he said. “I was just over at your place. I met Em. It’s a puzzling case.” He felt the pull of his conscience at the mention of Em. “I won’t be able to visit long. I need to do some digging around and see what I can learn about her.”
“That horrible, dirty girl is in my bed and I’m upstairs with Mae and Millicent. Have you ever seen a dirtier creature in all your life? It’s rather disgusting.” She scrunched up her nose. “I’ll have to boil the entire bed to get the smell out. Even then I’m afraid I’ll catch something she left in it. Let’s talk of other things. I’m so tired of everyone talking about Em and worrying over her.”
Caleb stared a moment, surprised such ugly words could come from someone so beautiful. Odds were she hadn’t meant to sound so harsh. “She was a sight. I don’t think she’s had enough to eat in a long time. Gets me wondering what kind of life she was leading.” Drawn back into his reverie, he wiped his brow absently and looked off into the distance. “Whatever her story is, it’s my duty to help her. If I don’t, those men could hurt others. You, even.”
“We all rest easier knowing you’re the sheriff. Always our valiant man in arms.” Eliza’s voice was playful, but he liked the image she painted of him. He’d been too young to fight in the war. Sheriff was the closest he could come to being a hero.
About The Author:
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 paired 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.
Connect With Rachel:
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 the close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of the prize. Complete prize open to US mailing addresses only. For our giveaway rules and policy, click HERE.
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NOTE: I was sent a copy of the book to feature on my blog - from the publisher Revell. I was not compensated.