The Christmas Brides: A McKettrick Christmas\A Creed Country Christmas Mass Market Paperback – Oct 26 2010
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About the Author
The daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is the author of more than 100 historical and contemporary novels. Now living in Spokane, Washington, the “First Lady of the West” hit a career high when all three of her 2011 Creed Cowboy books debuted at #1 on the New York Times list. In 2007, the Romance Writers of America presented her their Lifetime Achievement Award. She personally funds her Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women. Visit her at LindaLaelMiller.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
December 22, 1896
Lizzie McKettrick leaned slightly forward in her seat, as if to do so would make the train go faster. Home. She was going home, at long last, to the Triple M Ranch, to her large, rowdy family. After more than two years away, first attending Miss Ridgely's Institute of Deportment and Refinement for Young Women, then normal school, Lizzie was returning to the place and the people she lovedfor good. She would arrive a day before she was expected, too, and surprise them allher papa, her stepmother, Lorelei, her little brothers, John Henry, Gabriel, and Doss. She had presents for everyone, most sent ahead from San Francisco weeks ago, but a few especially precious ones secreted away in one of her three huge travel trunks.
Only her grandfather, Angus McKettrick, the patriarch of the sprawling clan, knew she'd be there that very evening. He'd be waiting, Lizzie thought happily, at the small train station in Indian Rock, probably at the reins of one of the big flat-bed sleighs used to carry feed to snowbound cattle on the range. She'd warned him, in her most recent letter, that she'd be bringing all her belongings with her, for this homecoming was permanentnot just a brief visit, like the last couple of Christmases.
Lizzie smiled a mischievous little smile. Even Angus, her closest confidant except for her parents, didn't know all the facts.
She glanced sideways at Whitley Carson, slumped against the sooty window in the seat next to hers, huddled under a blanket, sound asleep. His breath fogged the glass, and every so often, he stirred fitfully, grumbled something.
Alas, for all his sundry charms, Whitley was not an enthusiastic traveler. His complaints, over the three days since they'd boarded the first train in San Francisco, had been numerous.
The train was filthy.
There was no dining car.
The cigar smoke roiling overhead made him cough.
He was never going to be warm again.
And what in God's green earth had possessed the woman three rows behind them to undertake a journey of any significant distance with two rascally children and a fussy infant in tow?
Now the baby let out a pitiable squall.
Lizzie, used to babies because there were so many on the Triple M, was unruffled. Whitley's obvious annoyance troubled her. Although she planned to teach, married or not, she hoped for a houseful of children of her own somedayhealthy, noisy, rambunctious ones, raised to be confident adults and freethinkers.
It was hard, in the moment, to square the Whitley she was seeing now with the kind of father she had hoped he would be.
The man across the aisle from her laid down his newspaper, stood and stretched. He'd boarded the train several hours earlier, in Phoenix, carrying what looked like a doctor's bag, its leather sides cracked and scratched. His waistcoat was clean but threadbare, and he wore neither a hat nor a sidearmthe absence of both unusual in the still-wild Arizona Territory.
Although Lizzie expected Whitley to propose marriage once they were home with her family, she'd been stealing glances at the stranger ever since he entered the railroad car. There was something about him, beyond his patrician good looks, that constantly drew her attention.
His hair was dark, and rather too long, his eyes brown and intense, bespeaking formidable intelligence. Although he probably wasn't a great deal older than Lizzie, who would turn twenty on her next birthday, there was a maturity in his manner and countenance that intrigued her. It was as though he'd lived many other lives, in other times and places, and extracted wisdom from them all.
She heard him speak quietly to the harried mother, turned and felt a peculiar little clench in the secret regions of her heart when she saw him holding the child, bundled in a shabby patchwork quilt coming apart at the seams.
Whitley slumbered on, oblivious.
There were few other passengers in the car. A wan and painfully thin soldier in a blue army uniform, recuperating from some dire illness or injury, by the looks of him. A portly salesman who held what must have
been his sample case on his lap, one hand clasping the handle, the other a smoldering cigar. He seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of the things, and he'd been puffing on them right along. An older couple, gray-haired and companionable, though they seldom spoke, accompanied by an exotic white bird in a splendid brass cage. Glorious blue feathers adorned its head, and when the cage wasn't covered in its red velvet drape, the bird chattered.
All of them, except for Whitley, of course, were strangers. And seeing Whitley in this new and disconcerting light made him seem like a stranger, too.
A fresh wave of homesickness washed over Lizzie. She longed to be among people she knew. Lorelei, her stepmother, would be baking incessantly these days, hiding packages and keeping secrets. Her father, Holt, would be locked away in his wood shop between ranch chores, building sleds and toy buckboards and doll-houses, some of which would be gifts to Lizzie's brothers and various cousins, though the majority were sure to find their way onto some of the poorer homesteads surrounding the Triple M.
There were always a lot of presents tucked into the branches of the family's tree and piled beneath it, and an abundance of savory food, too, but a McKettrick Christmas centered on giving to folks who didn't have so much. Lorelei, Lizzie herself, and all the aunts made rag dolls and cloth animals with stuffing inside, to be distributed at the community celebration at the church on Christmas Eve.
The stranger walked the aisle with the baby, bringing Lizzie's mind back to the here and now. He glanced down into her upturned face as he passed. He didn't actually smileas little as she knew about him, she had figured out that he was both solemn and taciturn by naturebut something moved in his eyes.
Lizzie felt a flash of shame. She should have offered to spell the anxious mother three rows back. Already the child was settling down a little, cooing and drooling on the man's once-white shirt. If he minded that, he gave no indication of it.
Beyond the train windows, heavy flakes of snow swirled in the gathering twilight, and while Lizzie willed the train to pick up speed, it seemed to be slowing down instead.
She was just about to speak to the man, reach out for the baby, when a horrific roar, like a thousand separate thunderheads suddenly clashing together, erupted from every direction and from no direction at all. The car jerked violently, stopped with a shudder fit to fling the entire train off the tracks, tilted wildly to one side, then came right again with a sickening jolt.
The bird squawked in terror, wings making a frantic slapping sound.
Lizzie, nearly thrown from her seat, felt the clasp of a firm hand on her shoulder, looked up to see the stranger, still upright, the baby safe in the curve of his right arm. He'd managed somehow to stay on his feet, retain his hold on the child and keep Lizzie from slamming into the seat in front of her.
"Wh-what ?" she murmured, bewildered by shock.
"An avalanche, probably," the man replied calmly, as though a massive snowslide was no more than he would have expected of a train ride through the rugged high country of the northern Arizona Territory.
Whitley, shaken awake, was as frightened as the bird. "Are we derailed?" he demanded.
The stranger ignored him. "Is anyone hurt?" he asked, of the company in general, patting the baby's back and bouncing it a little against his shoulder.
"My arm," the woman in back whimpered. "My arm"
"Nobody panic," the man in the aisle said, shoving the baby into Lizzie's arms and turning to take the medical kit from the rack above his seat. He spoke quietly to the elderly couple; Lizzie saw them nod their heads. They were all right, then.
"Nobody panic!" the bird cawed. "Nobody panic!"
Despite the gravity of the situation, Lizzie had to smile at that.
Whitley rubbed his neck, eyeing the medical bag, after tossing a brief, disgruntled glare at the bird. "I think I'm hurt," he said. "You're a doctor, aren't you? I need laudanum."
"Laudanum!" the bird demanded.
"Hush, Woodrow," the old lady said. Her husband put the velvet drapery in place, covering the cage, and Woodrow quieted instantly.
The doctor's answer to Whitley was a clipped nod and, "Yes, I'm a physician. My name is Morgan Shane. I'll look you over once I've seen to Mrs. Halifax's arm."
The baby began to shriek in Lizzie's embrace, straining for its mother.
"Make him shut up," Whitley said. "I'm in pain." "Shut up!" Woodrow mimicked, his call muted by the drapery. "I'm in pain!"
Lizzie paid Whitley no mind, got to her feet. "Dr. Shane?"
He was crouched in the aisle now, next to the baby's mother, gently examining her right arm. "Yes?" he said, a little snappishly, not looking away from what he was doing. The older children, a boy and a girl, huddled together in the inside seat, clinging to each other.
"The babythe way he's cryingdo you think he could be injured?"
"My baby is a girl," the woman said, between groans.
"She's just had a bad scare," Dr. Shane told Lizzie, speaking more charitably this time. "Like the rest of us."
"I think we's buried," the soldier exclaimed. "Buried!" Woodrow agreed, with a rustle of feathers.
Sure enough, solid snow, laced with tree branches, dislodged stones and other debris, pressed against all the windows on one side of the car. On the other, Lizzie knew from previous journeys aboard the same train, a steep grade plummeted deep into the red rocks of the valley below.
"Just a bad sprain," Dr. Shane told Mrs. Halifax matter-of-factly. "I'll make you a sling, and if the pain gets to be too bad, I can give you a little medicine, but I'd rather not. You're nursing the baby, aren't you?"
Mrs. Halifax nodded, biting her lower lip. Lizzie realized with a start that the woman was probably close to
her own age, perhaps even a year or two younger. She was thin to the point of emaciation, and her clothes were worn, faded from much washing, and although the children wore coats, frayed at the cuffs and hems and long since outgrown, she had none.
Lizzie thought with chagrin of the contents of her trunks. Woolen dresses. Shawls. The warm black coat with the royal blue velvet collar Lorelei had sent in honor of her graduation from normal school, so she'd be both comfortable and stylish on the trip home. She'd elected to save the costly garment for Sunday best.
She went back up the aisle, still carrying the baby, to where Whitley sat. "We need that blanket," she said.
Whitley scowled and hunched deeper into the soft folds. "I'm injured," he said. "I could be in shock."
Exasperated, Lizzie tapped one foot. "You are not injured," she replied. "But Mrs. Halifax is. Whitley, give me that blanket."
Whitley only tightened his two-handed grasp, so that his knuckles went white, and shook his head stubbornly, and in that moment of stark and painful clarity, Lizzie knew she'd never marry Whitley Carson. Not even if he begged on bended knee, which was not very likely, but a satisfying fantasy, nonetheless.
"Here's mine, ma'am," the soldier called out from the back, offering a faded quilt ferreted from his oversize haversack.
The peddler, his cigar apparently snubbed out during the crash, but still in his mouth, opened his sample case. "I've got some dish towels, here," he told Dr. Shane. "Finest Egyptian cotton, hand-woven. One of them ought to do for a sling."
The doctor nodded, thanked the peddler, took the quilt from the soldier.
"If I could just get to my trunks," Lizzie fretted, settling the slightly quieter baby girl on a practiced hip. Between her younger brothers and her numerous cousins, she'd had a lot of practice looking after small children.
Dr. Shane, in the process of fashioning the fine Egyptian dish towel into a sling for Mrs. Halifax's arm, favored her with a disgusted glance. "This is no time to be worrying about your wardrobe," he said.
Stung, Lizzie flushed. She opened her mouth to explain why she wanted access to her baggagefor truly altruistic reasonsbut pride stopped her.
"I'm in pain here!" Whitley complained, from the front of the car.
"I'm in pain here," Woodrow muttered, but he was settling down.
"Perhaps you should see to your husband," Dr. Shane said tersely, leveling a look at Lizzie as he straightened in the aisle.
More heat suffused Lizzie's cheeks. It was cold now, and getting colder; she could see her breath. "Whitley Carson," she said, "is most certainly not my husband."
A semblance of a smile danced in Dr. Shane's dark eyes, but never quite touched his mouth. "Well, then," he drawled, "you have more sense than I would have given you credit for, Miss ?"
"McKettrick," Lizzie said, begrudging him even her name, but unable to stop herself from giving it, just the same. "Lizzie McKettrick."
About to turn to the soldier, who might or might not have been hurt, Dr. Shane paused, raised his eyebrows. He recognized the McKettrick name, she realized. He was bound for Indian Rock, the last stop on the route, or he would not have been on that particular train, and he might even have some business with her family.
A horrible thought struck her. Was someone sick? Her papa? Lorelei? Her grandfather? During her time away from home, letters had flown back and forthLizzie corresponded with most of her extended family, as well as Lorelei and her fatherbut maybe they'd been keeping something from her, waiting to break the bad news in person..
Dr. Shane frowned, reading her face, which must have drained of all color. He even took a step toward her, perhaps fearing she might drop the infant girl, now resting her small head on Lizzie's shoulder. The child's body trembled with small, residual hiccoughs from the weeping. "Are you all right, Miss McKettrick?"
Lizzie consciously stiffened her backbone, a trick her grandfather had taught her. Keep your back straight and your shoulders, too, Lizzie-girl, especially when you're scared.
"I'm fine," she said, stalwart. Dr. Shane gave a ghost of a grin. "Good, because we're in for a rough patch, and I'm going to need help."
As the shock subsided, the seriousness of the situation struck Lizzie like a second avalanche.
"I have to check on the engineer and the conductor," Dr. Shane told her, stepping up close now, in order to pass her in the narrow aisle.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Lizzy McKettrick is excited to go home to her family. She brings along her beau, who believes will propose to her. The train carrying Lizzy home is buried under an avalanche and she and the other passengers are stuck in the cold. Dr. Morgan Shane immediately springs into action, helping to care for the passengers that were hurt in the accident. Lizzy admires Morgan's compassion and his strength. She works alongside him to aid him with his medical attention and finds herself falling for him.
I liked this story but the bulk of the story was spent on Lizzy and Morgan helping the passengers. Though I felt a connection between the two of them, I wanted more of a focus on them. The story shifts towards them towards the end.
A Creed Country Christmas
Lincoln Creed needs a governess for his young daughter Gracie. Her mother died leaving him a widow with a little girl that he can't take care of alone. His luck is turning around when he helps a young schoolteacher and her small Indian school children out. Juliana Mitchell is left stranded with the last few of her pupils when the Indian school is closed down. Her brother refuses to send her any money because she had refused to marry the man of his choice. She is stuck out wild when Lincoln takes her and the students to his home while she tries to work out a plan. She never plans to fall for him or his daughter but she finds his warm spirit hard to resist.
Lincoln finds is hard to let go with Juliana because his heart still belongs to his dead wife. They slowly build a friendship that leads to a romance. This story is more emotional because of the young children involved and the emotional background from the main characters. Overall this is a great story with a nice happy ending.
A McKettrick Christmas is the story of Lizzie. She's traveling to meet her family for Christmas when an avalanche strand her train. She's not scared and not alone, since she's traveling with Whitley Carson, her probably future husband. But when they and a couple of more passengers are in real danger, it is the handsome Dr. Morgan Shane who takes charge. Lizzie is a McKettrick, and she's going to help Dr. Shane and the rest of the passengers to survive, even if Morgan doesn't want her.
Most of the story is about Lizzie and Dr. Shane dealing with the passengers of the train. Lizzie is young and sweet, but I liked her attitude. Morgan is strong and responsible, and liked Lizzie from the beginning. Their story is sweet and extremely romantic. It was obvious they were made to each other, but Lizzie have dreams and Morgan is afraid he isn't going to give her what she deserves.
A Creed Country Christmas is the story of Lincoln Creed and Juliana. Juliana just lost her teaching job and she's taking care of a couple of native kids. She loves them very much, but she's having bad times. They don't have anywhere to live, until Lincoln Creed met them and invited them to his home.
He has been alone since his beloved wife died, and his daughter Gracie need a teacher and a mother. Could Juliana be that person? He doesn't want a wife, but Juliana seems pretty and perfect for the role.
Their story is sweet but was more intensive than the first one. Lincoln can't accept to love another women, and Juliana is poor and needs a place to stay. But they begin to fall in love, without really wanting to. Juliana is strong and her heart is big enough to love every kid she meets. Lincoln also has a big heart, and underneath his problems, he's a good man.
I loved both stories. Both were heart-warming and perfect to get into the Christmas feeling. I specially liked that their families where included, because I fell in love with the McKettricks and the Creeds. Looking for more books from this author, I discovered her McKettrick and Creed families' series and I'm assuming The Christmas Brides are part of this families.
Overall, The Christmas Brides is a very well written enjoyable read, and if you like sweet romantic stories (and a little bit naughty) you should read them.
Both of these stories are totally delightful, each in its own way! The first one features the indomitable Lizzie McKettrick, future schoolteacher, who is bringing her boyfriend home to meet her family. It's December 22, 1896, and they're both on a train bound for Indian Rock, a town near The Triple M Ranch, where the McKettrick clan lives. Also on the train are several interesting characters -- Mrs. Halifax, with her three children, one of which is an infant, the Thaddingses, with their talking bird, Woodrow, John Brennan, a soldier, going home to be reunited with his family, a peddler named Nicholas Christian, and....the very handsome Dr. Morgan Shane, who feels an immediate attraction to Lizzie.
A sudden avalanche brings all of these characters into close contact with each other, as they are unexpectedly confronted with the need to survive. During the next three days, they pull together, and their true personalities are revealed. Lizzie realizes that she really didn't know her boyfriend, Whitley Carson, as well as she thought she did. Instead of trying to make the best of the situation, and help his fellow travelers, he does nothing but complain, thinking only of himself. The author contrasts him with Dr. Shane, who does his best to make the other train passengers more comfortable, with Lizzie's help.
It's wonderful to see how these people still try to have some sort of Christmas, in spite of the circumstances. Christian even manages to find a small tree, and shares from his own belongings so that the children can have presents.
Once rescued by the McKettrick men, all of the passengers arrive in Indian Rock, and it's there that the romance between Lizzie and Morgan begins to bloom, after she has had a talk with Whitley. He had been planning to propose, but Lizzie tells him that she cannot marry him.
Both of these novellas are definitely character-driven, and what wonderful characters Miller has created! Each is unique, and very real. The love between Lizzie's father and stepmother is very touching. So is the love between her grandparents. There's such a strong sense of family ties in the McKettrick clan, a feeling that, if one of them is in need, the others will make sure to help out, no matter what the need is. As for the train passengers, all are welcomed and helped to settle in Indian Rock, by the McKettricks themselves.
There's an extra ingredient that makes this a very special story -- it seems that there was an angel on that train...
I enjoyed this novella so much, I'd love to read it again, perhaps during this year's Christmas season. It has all the warmth and joy associated with Christmas, the beauty of love in romantic as well as family relationships. While reading it, I felt that I was somehow part of it all, that I really knew these people. I know it's a cliché, but I have to use it, anyway: I was sorry to see the story come to an end, because I wanted more...
The second novella tells the tale of another schoolteacher, Juliana Mitchell. The date is December 20, 1910, and the place is Stillwater Springs, Montana. Miss Mitchell is standing at the counter of Milland's Mercantile, having opened a letter from her brother, Clay. She had requested money from him, to pay for train tickets for herself and four of her students from the Indian School, which is no longer government property. Juliana's brother, who disapproves of her choice of a teaching career, is also her guardian. He has denied her request. She and the children have nowhere to go, since Juliana herself has no money.
As she debates what to do, a stranger enters the store. His name is Lincoln Creed, and he has a ranch near town. On being informed of her predicament, he immediately offers to take her and the children to his ranch. Although this was just too coincidental and predictable for my liking, I went along with the story, out of pure curiosity, since I was already interested in the characters. I'm so glad I did, too, because the rest of the story was beautiful and touching.
Juliana, it turns out, is an orphan. Lincoln is a widower still mourning his wife, whom he greatly loved. He has a wonderful little girl, Gracie, who is a great character. The four Indian kids are adorable, especially the two little ones, Daisy and Billy-Moses. Joseph, the older Indian boy, immediately finds a hero in Tom Dancingstar, one of Lincoln's ranch hands, and a very engaging character in his own right, since he serves as Lincoln's advisor and "conscience", as well.
Lincoln had been looking for a housekeeper, as well as a governess for his daughter. Failing those, he was willing to "settle" for a wife. He was sure that, if he found one, he would never come to care for her as much as he did for his first wife. Of course, he offers marriage to Juliana, who is hesitant to accept because they don't love each other. So this is not an "instant love" type of romance. Instead, it portrays a more realistic type of relationship, as both protagonists slowly come to appreciate just how wonderful the other is...
As compared to the first novella, this one is a deeper, more melancholy tale, yet one that nevertheless is full of the beauty and joy of the Christmas season. Miller takes a very simple plot and weaves psychological insights into it, crafting a tale that, although at first sight a bit contrived, is rich with spiritual meaning.
This wonderful holiday collection is sure to delight and inspire those who are fans of Christmas romances! This fan highly recommends it!!
culled from her McKettrick and Creed series, "First Lady of the West" Linda Lael Miller presents a 2 in one reissue of her bestselling novels of historical Americana.
* in A McKettrick Christmas, Elizabeth McKettrick looks forward to spending the holidays with her family. her traveling companion is spoiled Whitley Carson whom she plans to introduce to her kith and kin. along the way, a massive avalanche occurs and their train is stranded. with the rest of the helpless passengers, Lizzie faces the cold and darkness of a winter blizzard. she puts on a brave front and assists the handsome doctor Morgan Shane in taking care of those who were injured. using her wits and hoping against hope, she is resolute that she and the survivors may still be home in time for Christmas.
* young schoolteacher Juliana Mitchell finds herself and her four Indian wards homeless and penniless in A Creed Country Christmas. her brother Clay has denied her again of her inheritance money. she encounters the widower Lincoln Creed who brings her and the children home to his ranch. there, she meets his seven year-old daughter Gracie and the rest of the ranch hands. with Christmas just a few days away and amidst the threat of the Bureau of Indian Affairs at her heels, Juliana learns that all may not be lost for her and her wards.
Lizzie's family reminds me so much of my own. i come from a big one too and Christmas is always the perfect season and reason for everyone to be reunited. it is also a time for christenings and weddings. if they had the time and the resources, my relatives who lived abroad would come home and spend the holidays with us. Juliana's concern for her wards also brings to mind my favorite grade school teachers. their patience and devotion to their profession are truly admirable. looking back now, my childhood Christmases were certainly memorable. they were times of wonder, expectation and delight over lots of gifts, plentiful food and love from family and friends.
Linda Lael Miller writes with such simplicity that reading her books is pure enjoyment. she paints vivid images that brings the reader right into the story. she populates her pages with ordinary men and women who lived in a different era yet their lives, their emotions and the predicaments they face translate well into the present time.
The Christmas Brides is a great book to read not only for this holiday season but also for the rest of the year.
Disclosure of Material Connection: i received a copy of The Christmas Brides from Harlequin through NetGalley.com i did not receive any payment in exchange for this review nor was i obligated to write a positive one. all opinions expressed here are entirely my own and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book's publisher and publicist or the readers of this review. this disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.