Louise M. Gouge shares a romantic excerpt from her latest Historical Romance, Finding Her Frontier Family. Comment or answer the question in this post to enter the drawing. U.S. only. Deadline: June 18th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Louise:
Excerpt Finding Her Frontier Family – Chapter One by Louise M. Gouge:
Riverton, New Mexico
No. No. Not that man, please, Lord.
Standing on the train platform, Viola Brinson clutched the hand of her tiny charge and searched the crowd for the rancher who was to meet her. Only one man stared at her. Dusty from the crown of his battered, wide-brimmed hat to the poorly mended shirt and trousers to the toes of his badly scuffed boots, he looked like an outlaw, not a successful rancher. Beside him stood a young boy, just as unkempt.
Thumb stuck in her mouth, eyes round with fear, four-year-old Lavinia tried to lose herself in Viola’s skirt.
“Shh. It’s all right.” The words stuck in her throat, but she forced them out. “That’s your papa.” Viola stared at the man who held Lavinia’s future in his hands.
Beside her, Lavinia shivered.
Removing his hat, the man strode toward her. The boy copied the gesture and followed. The gentlemanly act inspired an improved opinion of him.
“Viola Brinson?” He spoke her name like an accusation. Her good opinion vanished.
Closer now, she could see his startling blue eyes set in a deeply tanned—and dirty—face. His strong jaw appeared clenched. In fact, anger seemed to radiate from every inch of his person. Worse, the smell of sweat and cattle permeated his clothing, even the air around him, and nearly knocked her over. Could he not have bathed before meeting his daughter?
She stiffened her spine, determined not to let him see her waver. “I am she. Are you Mr. Robert Mattson?”
He nodded toward the carpetbag she held. “Where’s the rest of your luggage?”
She narrowed her eyes. “I said, are you Mr. Robert Mattson?”
“Lady, I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t.” He slapped his hat back on his head, took a step closer and loomed over her. “Now where’s your luggage?”
Viola refused to cringe. “I believe our trunks are in the baggage car. Perhaps the porters…”
He strode away toward the back of the train, and like a faithful puppy, the boy trotted after him.
A soft whimper came from Lavinia, and she clung to Viola’s hand.
How well Viola understood the child’s fear. At twenty-five, she had no security in her own life and had become her family’s redundant woman. Unmarried, unnecessary, unwanted.
Stop it. No time for self-pity when she had an important responsibility to make sure Lavinia had a safe, secure home before returning back East, where no responsibilities awaited her at all.
Determination struck her. If Robert Mattson would not provide safety and security for his daughter, Viola would find a way to do it herself, even if it meant taking the child back to Charleston and scrubbing floors to provide for both of them.
Mr. Mattson strode back their way, her trunk on his back as if it were as light as her carpetbag. Viola’s heart skittered about inside her. Goodness, the man was as strong as the biblical Samson. Behind him, his son helped a porter carry Lavinia’s baggage. They delivered it to the back of a nearby surrey. Then father and son climbed into the front seat of the conveyance. As if she and Lavinia were an afterthought, Mr. Mattson looked their way.
How rude! He hadn’t even offered to help them into the carriage. She lifted Lavinia into the surrey, then climbed aboard, barely settling before the man slapped the reins on the horses’ haunches. “Hyah!” The horses set off at a brisk canter.
With one hand, Viola grabbed the post supporting the fringed canopy. With the other, she held Lavinia to keep her from bouncing out onto the dusty roadway.
The road ran beside a winding river she supposed was the Rio Grande, but for the life of her, she would not ask Mr. Mattson if that was true.
They reached a turnoff and drove under an archway, then up a long hilly driveway that led to a two-story white clapboard house set on a rocky bluff above the river. Behind the house stood a large red barn with a network of corrals attached. Dust and the stink of burning leather filled the air, along with the shouts of men and the bawling of countless cattle.
Mr. Mattson drove to the back of the house, jumped down from the driver’s bench, and unloaded the trunks. “Robbie, take care of the horses, then go help your grandpa.” He strode away toward the barn.
“Yessir.” The boy grabbed the lead rope.
“Mr. Mattson!” Viola called.
He spun around, fists at his waist. “What?”
Viola clambered down from the surrey and lifted Lavinia to the ground. Taking the child by the hand, she stalked toward him, stopping short of meeting him nose to nose. “Mr. Mattson, may I introduce your daughter, Lavinia Maybelle Mattson?” She narrowed her eyes, silently daring him not to respond.
He blinked. Then looked at the child as if she were some strange creature.
Lavinia once again sucked her thumb and tried to hide in Viola’s skirt.
“A simple hello would suffice.”
The slightest softening crossed his face. “Hello.” He turned away.
“Mr. Mattson.” She could not let him go.
He spun back around. “Six men here go by that name. My father is Mr. Mattson. I am Robert. And I have cattle to brand.” He strode away.
This time, she did not call him back.
About Louise: Florida author Louise M. Gouge writes contemporary and historical romance fiction, winning the prestigious IRCA in 2005 and placing as a finalist in 2011, 2015, 2016, and 2017. She also placed in the Laurel Wreath contest in 2012. A former college English and humanities professor, Louise is a member of the Christian PEN and has been copyediting for well-known authors for fifteen years. Learn more & connect:
About the book – Finding Her Frontier Family:
Tasked with escorting her late cousin’s daughter to New Mexico Territory, spinster Viola Brinson intends to bring Lavinia to her father’s ranch and immediately return to the city. But after one look at the living conditions, she’s hesitant to leave the little girl with Robert Mattson. When Viola settles in to clean the place and make sure he can safely care for his daughter, Robert is determined to keep his distance. His heart was broken by a society woman once before—and he won’t make the same mistake twice. But Viola surprises him at every turn. Might she be exactly what his family needs?
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