Sheila Littlefield had been wedged between her Mother Myra and Father George on the way to the railway station in South Boston. The ride from the Littlefield family home had been about an hour. They took the wagon, and a few of her brothers went along for the ride. Theodore was eight, George twelve, and Wesley, nineteen. The boys had a keen interest in all things related to trains. Boston was building an enormous train station further south, which two of her brothers longed to see complete. It had been a pile of bricks and stone that was slowly taking form, and the boys had been twice to see the progress, which was heaven to them.
“Of all the Littlefields, why is it that you get to ride on a train first?” Theodore ranted. “A girl shouldn’t be the first.”
“Oh, but, I am the oldest, and therefore, I get to do a lot of things first.” Sheila made sense of her opportunity, but he had still probably thought it unfair. She had come to know that’s how it went with little brothers, except for Wesley. He was special.
“Don’t worry, with Sheila gone, we’ll have more room and extra food at dinner,” Jonah declared.
Sheila had no interest in trains or stations. She had only been thinking of arriving at her destination, which was Ragland, Texas. Nick Sloane was going to be her husband, and she had planned to be his mail-order-bride. It had been the biggest risk Sheila had taken in her twenty-two years of being alive. Traveling to Texas to marry a stranger had been the last thing on her mind until unpleasantness had come crashing into her life.
Sheila remembered the day her life had begun to unravel. The day had been going along without incident. She and her mother had walked back from doing laundry at a nearby stream. A cool spring breeze was blowing, and they had intended to hang the clean clothes on the line to dry. When they climbed the hill in the Arlington neighborhood, George Littlefield had been standing on the front lawn.
“What are you doing up here? I’m sure there’s plenty more work to be done on the docks,” Myra said. “Oh heavens, did you lose your job?”
Sheila had smelled the briny odor of her father that day. He had always jumped in the stream on his way home to get rid of the smell before he saw Myra. George Littlefield had shown up in a hurry to tell either good or bad news. He wasn’t smiling.
His eyes focused on Sheila. “John O’Hare was out on the Daisy when it sank. Eleven crew members perished, and one man survived by the grace of God. John’s body will likely never be found.”
Sheila had only remembered her father’s words because everything had turned grey and blurry. She had dropped the basket of wet clothes on the grass. Sheila’s body had followed, and she laid in a catatonic state and stared at the circling blackbirds in the sky. Her mother and father kneeled beside her and had tried to console her, but their words meant nothing. The only man she had ever loved had died, and life as she knew it was over.
“The survivor said the seas were choppy, but nothing the Daisy couldn’t handle. It was a rogue wave that came that no one saw coming. John didn’t suffer, that I know,” George noted.
“We’ll deal with this shocking tragedy,” Myra assured her daughter. “Let’s get you inside where we can try and make sense of this.”
Sheila hadn’t remembered anything else her parents had said. Her sisters Cathy and Myriam were kicked out of the room they shared, and Sheila didn’t get out of bed for a week. Cathy had been particularly sweet to her while she was mourning the loss of her fiancé. It had been a surprise that at sixteen-years-old, Cathy said and did everything right. She didn’t rush Sheila through her grief and listened to whatever her sister wanted to say. The questions she asked about John brought back happy memories, so she recalled the best times and not the horrible way it all ended.
“Tell me how you and John met?” Cathy inquired. She had brought Sheila tea and biscuits and pulled a chair up to her bedside. “You’ve told the story before, but I love a romantic tale.”
“I brought lunch to Father while he was working on the wharf. I was walking home, and there was a woman unloading cargo who looked as if she were ready to give birth. She was helping unload the pots from a lobster boat. It was raining, and in her condition, she shouldn’t have been made to work,” Sheila recalled. “I gave her the coat off my back and unloaded the pots. The boat owner didn’t like my interfering, and I was about to give him a piece of my mind. However, I didn’t have to because John O’Hare came to my defense. He was self-assured, handsome, and I fell in love with the fisherman on that very day.”
“He was a man of honor. You were lucky for the time you had with him,” Cathy said.
“Yes, I was,” Sheila agreed. “Someday, I’ll turn the page and begin a new chapter in my life. I can only hope I fall in love with such a man again.”
“I’m not pleased that Nick Sloane had you come so quickly,” Myra complained. “At least he paid your way and reserved a Pullman car for the long journey.”
“I know you and Father are against my moving to Texas and marrying a man I don’t know, but please stop with the criticism. Nick is ready for a bride, and I feel the same about taking a husband. I was forced to change plans when John died, and I hope you will wish me well when my train leaves the station,” Sheila said. “I don’t want to part on bad terms.”
“We love you too much for that to happen. Your mother and I were caught by surprise when you shared your plans,” Mr. Littlefield confessed. “You’ll understand how we feel when you’re a mother yourself.”
Mrs. Littlefield had begun to cry when she thought of grandchildren that she’d never see. The smell of soot and ash had filled the air, which signaled their arrival at the train depot. Sheila had looked back and had seen George and Theodore, who had been fascinated by seeing the train up close.
“Can we hop out and get nearer to the action?” George asked.
“As long as you boys remain an arm’s length from me. I won’t have the two of you sneak onto the train, so don’t get any ideas,” Mr. Littlefield warned.
With Mr. and Mrs. Littlefield busy with the boys, Sheila took a moment with her dearest brother Wesley.
Sheila had remembered the day her parents had come home from the hospital when Wesley was six and she was nine. Her mother’s face had been stained with tears, and her father’s voice had trembled. Sheila had never seen her father in such a state. She had remained out of sight while they spoke in the kitchen.
“I knew from when he was in my belly that something was terribly wrong with Wesley,” Myrna spoke through tears.
“Calm down. We need our wits about us to decide. The doctor cautioned us against bringing Wesley home because he was afraid we would further bond with the child,” Mr. Littlefield said.
Mrs. Littlefield had thrown something across the room, but Sheila hadn’t seen what it was. She had never witnessed her mother so upset. “Were we not supposed to have formed a bond with our son already? For all his education, the doctor knows nothing about being a parent.”
Wesley had been in the kitchen while her parents discussed him. Sheila was about to run from hiding but had decided to listen a bit longer.
“The doctor says Wesley should be committed to an asylum in Lowell, Massachusetts. They say his legs will never work right and that with his speech, he’ll never function like a normal person,” Mr. Littlefield stated quietly.
Sheila had no idea what her parents had going through their minds.
“As long as I draw breath, I will not send away my son because it would be a sin. I love Wesley as much as any of my children, and in God’s eyes, he’s just as precious,” Myra pledged.
“I couldn’t agree with you more. Wesley has differences, and we can do more for him than any asylum, and do it with love,” Mr. Littlefield said.
It had been from that day forward that Sheila’s parents became her heroes. She had realized Wesley was different, and he had been destined to be that way forever. Sheila also knew that despite what people had seen on the outside, Wesley had a huge heart and had been smarter than anyone else she knew.
Sheila jumped down from the wagon and scurried around back. She had reached under the bed of the wagon and pulled out a ramp that her father built with John’s help. Wesley smiled and slid down in his wheelchair. It was also built by George and a blacksmith friend of his.
“Saying goodbye to you is by far the most difficult,” Sheila said. She had kneeled so they could have eye-contact, which she had always done when Wesley was in his chair. “You’re my best friend, and I’ll never meet anyone as wise as you, no matter how long I live. If you had asked me to stay, I would have.”
Wesley’s voice was difficult for some to understand, but Sheila had understood him as if he had no difficulties with speech. “I love you too much to hold you back. You go out into the world and live life for both of us. You’re carrying me along in spirit.”
“I’ll write and let you know all about life in Texas and Nick Sloane,” Sheila promised.
“You had better, and I want the honest truth. If I hear everything is perfect, I’ll know you’re lying because we both know that’s just a silly fantasy. Life isn’t flawless, and neither are people because imperfections exist. However, if you look hard enough, you’ll find the beauty behind those scars and sadness.” Wesley handed Sheila a sack containing books. “These are some of my favorites that I want you to have. You’ll learn a lot about Nick when you find out if he has an interest in books. A curious mind is a good thing.”
“These are some of your most cherished,” Sheila remarked as she went through the books. “Your Nathaniel Hawthorne books are here; your favorites.”
“Books are to be enjoyed, and if you have the chance, should be passed along to someone who can enjoy them too. Why would I want to hoard my knowledge?” Wesley asked rhetorically. “Not a whole lot I can do with it with my body the way it is.”
“Oh, how I wish the rest of the world could see you the way I do. Cathy is good at writing down words as you speak them. Don’t give up on your dream to someday write a book because your hands don’t work but your head does.” Sheila wiped away tears as the whistle blew.
Theodore and George handed off her trunk to the porter, who heaved it into the train. A film of soot and grime had already started to form on Sheila’s skin. It was clear that the ride ahead was going to be full of filth. The train looked like a metal pipe with windows sitting on rails. Smoke spewed from the locomotive, and it was awfully noisy. Sheila felt like a real pioneer because she was the first Littlefield to travel by train. They had said to expect the trip to take two weeks, which had been half as much as it took twenty years prior. Delays had been anticipated due to poor track, a lack of switchmen, and explosions. Sheila had no idea what would explode; hopefully, it wasn’t her.
“This is the worst part,” Sheila lamented when it came to bidding farewell to her parents. “I’ll write and know that I’ll love you always. Not a night will go by without including you in my prayers.”
Sheila had started her goodbyes as the last whistle sounded and the train began to lurch forward.
Mr. Littlefield pressed an envelope into her hand. “We love you, and you’re always welcome back if things don’t meet your expectations in Texas.”
Mrs. Littlefield had been overcome with tears as she watched her oldest child disappear.
Sheila had taken a deep breath, picked up her bags, and walked towards the beginning of the rest of her life.
The train had been nothing like Sheila expected. It had been smelly and loud, which she thought she had been prepared for after spending time on the wharf. The docks, where her father worked, were filled with chatter and the movement of wheelbarrows over the uneven slats. The smell of fish had not only gotten into clothes but skin too. In the oddest sense, that fishy smell was clean, and she came not to mind it. The stench on the train was putrid. Sheila couldn’t imagine how she’d smell and look by the time she made it to Texas. She always wished her thick brown hair were blonde, but she realized everyone would have brown hair after journeying on the train.
Sheila had run into a man checking tickets. “Excuse me. I’m looking for my Pullman car, which was reserved for me.”
The man laughed. “I’d show you the way if we had such a thing on this train. Better get in quick and hope you don’t sit next to an unsavory character. I’ve heard of female travelers being violated in the worst way on the train. Ticket, please.”
“Oh, yes.” She handed him the ticket, and he scrawled something on it with a wax pen.
Fortunately, Sheila had spied a motherly-looking woman with a free space next to her. Her greying hair had been piled atop her head, and her cheeks were red and rosy. As she had sat with no one next to her, she had a smile on her face, which signaled that she wasn’t one of those unsavory characters she had been warned about.
“Would you mind terribly if I took the spot next to you?” Sheila inquired before sitting down her carpetbag. “I have some divine fruitcake that we can share.”
“Yes, of course. I saw the twinkle in your hazel eyes when you walked on the train. I hoped you’d choose the empty spot next to me. I’m Madge Jankowski.” She had cleared the spot next to her to made room for Sheila. “I don’t require anything in return, but the offer of fruitcake won’t be turned down.” She tittered.
Sheila collapsed on the bench next to Madge. “I’m going clear to Midland, Texas, to marry a man I’ve never met.” Sheila had trusted Madge based on her welcoming smile. She had no qualms about telling her life story to the matronly woman.
“Oh, the possibilities. Thoughts of true love must be racing through your head. I experienced love, and it’s the most wonderful thing.” Madge paused. “I feel one of my chatty episodes coming on; please let me know if I talk too much.”
“I welcome the conversation, as long as it’s pleasant and I have a feeling with you, it will be,” Sheila guessed. She had always been a good judge of character. Wesley always told her not to judge people from the outside, but she believed it was alright to do as long as it was positive.
Maude had started by explaining that she had been married for over thirty gears when her beloved husband Gustave died. She and Sheila discussed how devastating the grief was over losing a man they loved. Maude found a new purpose in life when her eight children had children. Half had moved to Chicago, and half lived in Boston. Train travel had allowed her to travel between the two cities and be a grandmother to all.
“Do you mind the travel because I find the whole experience jarring? There are so many new people, and I have no idea who to trust,” Sheila admitted.
“You don’t take me as the untrusting kind because you’re willing to marry a man you’ve never met,” Madge pointed out. “I suppose I’ve gotten used to the ash and jostling about, and I have a sense of who not to trust. Also, I have the opportunity to chat with nice people like you.”
“Well, yes, I do trust Nick Sloane, and I hope my instincts about him are correct. He was funny in his letter, and I enjoy a person with a sense of humor. It helps in times of peril,” Sheila explained.
Maude had gone on about her children and told how the tragic death of two of her sons had been near impossible to get through, but the rest of the family pulled together to lift each other up.
“I was lucky, and with any luck, your Nick will be the same way. Gustave’s support of me never wavered, and I was always the most important person in his life. Even after all the children came along, when the romance between us could have been lost, he found a way to make me remember. He’d tell me what I wore the day we met,” Maude recalled with a wistful smile on her face. “Look at me, I’m nothing special, but Gustave made me feel like I was the most beautiful woman in the world.”
Sheila patted her tears dry. “Your story is beautiful. I assure you these are tears of joy. I’m certain you had plenty to add to the marriage and together worked to make your love story come true.”
“I was lucky, but I was also careful. There are plenty of folks out there who are wolves in sheep’s’ clothing.” Madge turned serious. “I can see the way your eyes sparkle and the ease with which you smile. Don’t ever lose that kindness but don’t let anyone take advantage of your good nature. There are wolves out there, don’t let them gobble you up because that would be a terrible shame.”
“I know when to fight back. When someone threatens someone I hold dear, there’s nothing I won’t do to protect that person,” Sheila declared.
“Be sure to hold yourself, dear, above all else. Those wolves will think you’re easy prey,” Madge warned before her broad smile returned. “Now, what is it you said about fruit cake?”
Sheila had been pleased that she had chosen to sit next to Madge Jankowski. She appreciated anyone who had taken the time to share their wisdom. Listening to what other people had been through and what they had learned helped Sheila find her way. In many ways, her life had just begun, and thanks to people like Madge and Wesley, she had been well-prepared.
As their journey continued, Madge and Sheila had shared stories of love and loss. However, what they had shared most was laughter. Sheila had been sad when she was forced to bid farewell to a friend she had just made. Madge was off to be a grandmother to a band of fortunate children.
When the train had switched tracks and began to leave Chicago, Sheila noticed no one had been sitting next to her. She had taken advantage of the extra room to stretch out and get some rest, which she hadn’t had since leaving Boston. It would be just as good as a Pullman, which she heard were like laying in a casket. Sheila would never have met Madge if she had a Pullman, so it turned out that not having one was a good thing. She’d never forget the woman with smiling eyes and wonderful advice. She collected words of wisdom like some people had collected trinkets and knew her collection was priceless.
Sheila had been about to close her eyes when she spied a man who looked remarkably like her father, George. His hair peeked from under his black wool cap, and his hands were calloused. The man likely worked hard like her father. The sight had warmed her heart, and if she were closer, would have reached out and touched him. Sheila recalled asking her father why he worked so hard. It was during one of the many times she escorted him home from work, which was the only time she had had with her father, George Littlefield.
“Father, you work harder than anyone I know. I watch sometimes, and you haul more barrels off the boats than anyone else. Your pace is faster than everyone else, too. I imagine the lazy dock workers get the same wage, so why don’t you slow down?” Sheila inquired.
“God didn’t put us on this earth to be lazy.” Mr. Littlefield chuckled. “At least that’s what I tell myself when I want to quit. I work hard because I have eight people at home whom I love more than the moon and stars. You and the rest of the family need food, clothing, and shelter. If I were to be lazy, I’d be the first one to be sacked. That would send your mother and you children to the food lines. I’m too proud to allow that to happen.”
“We’d be okay with less if you need a rest,” Sheila said.
Her father had just patted her on the head and smiled. “You think that because your mother has learned to do a lot with a little. There’s so much love in our home that you children assume we’re rich, and in all the ways that matter, we are.”
“I wish all we needed was love,” Sheila pondered.
“We need money too but never forget that love is the most important thing of all,” Mr. Littlefield said.
“I love you, Father.” Sheila took his hand, and they continued up the hill to their home filled with love.
Sheila had awoken to a tapping on her shoulder. She was stunned and sat up quickly as she wiped the sleep out of her eyes. He was tall, slender, and had dirt under his fingernails. Sheila had a good look at his hands because they had remained only inches from her face.
“Name is Silas, and I couldn’t help notice the empty seat beside you. May I?” he asked pointing to the seat.
Sheila looked around and saw other empty seats, and she had wished he’d chosen another, but that hadn’t been the case. “Of course. I’m Sheila, and you’re welcome to have a seat after I gather my things.” She had used it as extra space to sit her bag of books that Wesley had given her. “I won’t be too talkative because I have quite a bit of sleep to catch up. My friend Madge and I talked for three days straight.”
“A young, innocent girl like yourself should be careful traveling alone,” Silas warned. “You’re lucky I came along because you’ll need a man like me, especially since you’re going to Midland.”
Sheila’s hairs on the back of her neck had stood up. She had felt the opposite of how she felt when Madge came into view. Her instincts were kicking in, and Silas appeared to be a smooth-talking chap about whom her mother had warned her. “How do you know I’m traveling alone, and how do you know I’m going all the way to Texas?”
“I too got on in Boston, and I heard you talking to your family. I thought you’d need a friend on the train and would have introduced myself sooner, but the old biddy got in the way.” Silas spat when he spoke.
“Madge was a friend, and I won’t have you use derogatory terms to describe her,” Sheila shot back.
“I didn’t mean to offend, I just know what a gal like you needs, and it’s a good thing I came along,” Silas said.
“I’m meeting my husband Nick in Midland, and then we are going home to Ragland. He wouldn’t like someone else assuming they know what I need. All I need is Nick,” she insisted.
Smooth-talking Silas was a sheep in wolves’ clothing if ever she saw one. Sheila had thought he underestimated her, but she had to admit that he held the upper hand.
“I’ll leave, Sheila, but only after you pay me. You must pay me, or I’ll sully your reputation. It won’t be hard to find Nick in Ragland, and I’ll tell him all sorts of lies about you. Isn’t paying me easier?” Silas asked in a sinister tone. His smile showed a gap where his front teeth used to be.
Sheila had been flustered, and unbeknownst to her, Silas’s dirty fingers were already on the bills Mr. Littlefield had placed in her pocket.
Out of nowhere, a head had popped up from the seat in front of hers. It was a woman with curly blonde hair and a tartan cap. “Get your hand off the money. I heard everything and see you trying to steal. My brother is a porter on this train, and he’s twice your size. He’ll throw you off the train at the next stop if you don’t git. Go to the back of the train and never show your face up here again. If you try this on any other passenger, I’ll call my brother. I’ve got my eye on you.”
Silas had scurried away faster than lightning.
The blonde-haired woman sat next to Sheila and offered her hand. “I’m Clarice, and you’re welcome!” She smiled broadly.
Clarice had explained that her mother abandoned her when she was young, and she had grown up in an orphanage. She explained the horrible conditions and how she had learned to get rid of lousy characters like Silas.
“I learned early on in the orphanage that I had to think smart to survive and make a better life for myself. At first, I had to live long enough to be able to care for myself. I threw some punches and wouldn’t let anyone near me unless I trusted them, and trust was hard to come by. People were scared of me by the time I left the home,” Clarice explained as she ate a piece of fruit cake Sheila offered. “Mr. and Mrs. Pringle saw me on the streets, and they owned a dress shop. I was put to work cleaning the place, and they welcomed me to be a part of the family. I learned manners and knew what it was like to feel safe. Mrs. Pringle came up with the idea of being a mail-order-bride, which might mean leaving for the Wild West. She wasn’t trying to get rid of me by any means; she said moving west would allow me to broaden my horizons. I didn’t really know I had horizons, but I agreed to give it a try.”
“You sure do have an interesting story to tell. Is that why you’re on this train?” Sheila asked.
“Sure is, and I’m going to Midland, Texas, too,” Clarice declared. “When I heard you tell Silas of your plans, I thought, what are the chances? I just found myself a traveling companion. I should ask if you even want to spend time talking to another complete stranger. I don’t blame you if you want to be alone after the Silas problem.”
Sheila laughed. “I’d like nothing more than to have you to talk to all the way to Midland. I’m sure we have more in common than sets us apart. I don’t know Nick, even though I told Silas he is my husband. I’m a mail-order bride too, and I’ve never met Nick Sloane, so I lied a bit.”
Clarice took off her cap, and her blonde curls had sprung free. “It’s alright because I’ve never met Butch, but I call him my husband. We’re going to the courthouse first thing to make it a legal marriage, although it doesn’t matter because I already call myself Clarice Harrington. Tell me what you do know about Nick.”
“Not much. I’m afraid that he seems to have the perfect balance of being carefree and hard working. He is willing to take a chance on a mail-order bride, but hard work and running the ranch are important to him. He has three sisters, and he mentioned a brother once. I’m hoping Nick Sloane wants a big family because that’s my dream. I’m the oldest of seven, so I know how much work it takes because I helped raise the youngins. It sounds like the ranch has struggled over the years but sounds like it’s doing fine now. There was some kind of disease problem that ran through the herd, but that’s been handled. Seems like he’s good enough to look at, according to his description, but beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose,” Sheila joked.
“You made him pretty special in your mind; I hope you’re not disappointed. We’re both taking a chance, but at least we’ll know each other in Midland if something goes wrong,” Clarice pointed out.
Sheila shook her head. “I won’t be in Midland. Nick’s ranch is in Ragland, which is a half-day away. However, we’ll be close enough if a friend is needed. Nick’s three sisters are nearby in Ragland, and I hope they become friends. I miss my sister Cathy back home, and I hope at least one of the Sloane women become my confidant. They’ll be suspicious at first, and I imagine they’re somewhat protective of their brother because sisters can be that way. I’m sure they’re curious about the wife their brother is bringing home. Tell me what you know about Butch.”
Clarice’s face lit up as she spoke of Butch. Sheila had been happy to know that she wasn’t the only one who was smitten with a person she had never met. The whole experience had been odd, and it had been reassuring to have a like-minded friend to talk openly about being a mail-order bride. Sheila maintained that any woman must have had romantic notions when the process started. Who hadn’t hoped for some love in their lives?
“Butch Harrington is twenty-six years old, and he’s on his own without much family to speak of. His family lives in Wyoming, and he struck out on his own when he was eighteen. He’s a rodeo cowboy, and I’m not real clear what that means. It sounds dangerous, which makes Butch brave. See, I made him really special in my mind as you did with Nick.” Clarice laughed. “For all I know, he might be scared of the dark.”
“I doubt it. I think for a man to take a chance on a mail-order-bride, they must be somewhat brave.” Sheila chuckled.
“Anyway, he said if it doesn’t work out, he’ll do just about anything to take care of family, which is only me for now. Butch is looking forward to having a passel of nippers, and I want that too. I described myself, and he said when he read that I had blonde curls and a body made for birthing a lot of children, he knew I was the one. Butch said he doesn’t want a woman too skinny that he might break. He’s the one, and I know it,” Clarice declared.
“I’m relieved that I no longer have to worry about being a spinster. When my fiancé John died, I thought for sure that I’d grow old alone,” Sheila mused.
“You were engaged to be married?” Clarice asked incredulously. “You’re stronger than you appear because I don’t know that I could recover from such a loss.”
“Thank you for the compliment. I loved John with all my heart, and I kept the good memories as I worked through the grief. John and I met when I was sixteen, and we were waiting to get married until he saved enough money to buy a stake in a fishing boat. He wanted me to live with no financial worries. He died trying to create a better life for me. I would have been happy to be poor as long as John were by my side; I wish he realized that. I carry him with me, and he would want me to continue living. He died and not me, so I have no choice but to move on,” Sheila said.
“I know you and I are going to be good friends. I like having someone like you on my side because I trust you, and I hope you know you can feel the same about me.” Clarice smiled and hugged Sheila.
The smelly conditions on the train hadn’t been something Sheila got used to as the days went by. There had been folks like her that had been on board for over one week. Even if they had not smelled at the beginning of the journey, they sure as heck had after time had passed. Windows were small, and Sheila was fortunate to have had one next to her. She had made the mistake of opening it once, which only made conditions worse. The smoke from the rear of the train had bellowed inside, making her cough intensely. If any of the passengers were carrying sickness, it would have made everyone sick. Sheila had pulled her coat over her face when she slept. She had planned to write Wesley about the horrific conditions.
Having had spent her whole life in Boston, Sheila had wondered at the changing landscape as it had rolled out before her. The window had been soot-covered, but she still saw enough to cause her jaw to drop. The crossing of the rivers had been unexpected, and she feared the bridges would collapse right under her. In Boston, there had been buildings built on top of each other, or it seemed like it because they were so close. From the time the train departed Chicago, there wasn’t a building for days. It had been fields, some planted with crops, and others covered with trees or long grass. There were also cows, more than she knew existed, that looked like black dots in the field.
The weather had started to warm-up as they made their way south, which had been a relief. Sheila had loved summers in Boston, especially when the family made a trip to the seashore. She had great memories of sand between her toes and the chilly water that had splashed up her legs. She had fallen asleep with the beach in her mind and had even been able to smell the salt air, which was a break from smelling grease, ash, and pipe smoke.
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Sheila Littlefield’s life has been turned upside down since the day her fiancé met a tragic death at sea. All her dreams were cruelly shattered, leaving her struggling through her grief. In time, she accepts there’s more life still to live and decides to set off to be a mail-order-bride. Little does she know though that her new beginning out West may prove to be her greatest challenge yet. Finding herself facing hostile relatives and unexpected intrigue, her only glimmer of hope lies in the eyes of her betrothed. She immediately feels an undeniable connection to this kind-hearted man. Despite the unforeseen obstacles standing in her way, could this be her one chance to reclaim the happiness that was stolen from her in the past?
Nick Sloane is on a mission to save his family’s ranch after learning how fragile life can be in the most heartbreaking way. He is still carrying deep scars from the loss of a loved one when Sheila enters his world, and he knows at once that nothing will ever be the same again. From the moment he sets eyes on her, something about her shy laughter makes him want to take a leap of faith and open his heart again. Yet what Nick doesn’t realize is that his meddling family has other plans for him that could undermine the future he’s now longing for. How far will he be willing to go to stand up to them in order to follow the true calling of his heart?
As the blossoming romance between Sheila and Nick grows, so does his family’s desperation to tear them apart. With the scheming against their love threatening to destroy everything, Sheila resolves to do anything for the man she loves. Could this mean walking away from the promising future she and Nick are dreaming of and breaking both their hearts? Will Nick and Sheila get their happily ever after, or will outside forces ruin their precious chance at happiness?
“His Unexpected Twist of Fate” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.