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Today Darlene Franklin is back on Wednesday Writers to talk about the origin of her inspy historical romance novella To Riches Again. She is also sharing an excerpt from the book. Welcome, Darlene!


Thanks, Catherine.

 Like most of my books, To Riches Again grew from several sources.

It started with a Bible verse. When I read Isaiah 32:18-20 in The Message, I thought, “Here’s a story. Someone cut off from prosperity, who seeks a new life in the country.”

My people will live in a peaceful neighborhood— in safe houses, in quiet gardens. The forest of your pride will be clear-cut, the city showing off your power leveled. But you will enjoy a blessed life, planting well-watered fields and gardens, with your farm animals grazing freely. (Isaiah 32:18-20)

Before I developed the idea further, my editor (Cynthia Hickey at Forget Me Not Romance) came up with a series idea: Spinster brides and the orphan trains. The rest of the story came to my mind at that point. A rich socialite lost everything in the stock market crash of 1929 and traveled west with a group of orphans, looking for a new life for herself as well as them.

The trains weren’t actually called “orphan trains” at the time of their operation, and not all of the children were literal orphans. However, for the sake of simplicity I made Ian and Bridget orphans. In a novella, I also shied away from the hard years facing Kansas farmers in the 1930s. (The Wards survive the Dust Bowl poorer but intact. That much I know.)

The story fits into what is known historically. The orphan trains which began operation 1854 drew to a close in 1929. Agreements which had allowed continued placement of orphan children in several western states expired and weren’t renewed. Instead, local communities increased their support to allow poverty-stricken families to remain together.

I couldn’t identify the actual date of the last orphan train, but I did locate a suggestion that it traveled as far as Kansas in 1930. To the best of my knowledge, Elyssa’s story is plausible.



by Darlene Franklin


Elyssa’s new yellow dress

A year ago, life was full of promise.

Elyssa Philbin partied with the rest of New York’s elite, not worrying about anything beyond her newest dress.

Ian and Bridge McDonnell, although part of a poverty-stricken family, lived secure in their parents’ love.

Bill Ward looked forward to a prosperous crop, a new baby, and his loving wife.

Everything changed before the calendar turned to 1930.

To Riches Again chronicles Elyssa and Bill’s return to wholeness after they have both lost everything—thanks in part to two orphan children.


Elyssa Philbin straightened the bow tie around eight-year-old Ian McDonnell’s neck and freshened his sister Bridget’s braids.

Ian took his little sister’s hand. “Do you think Mr. Ward will still want us when he meets us?”

Elyssa’s heart quickened. “I’m sure he will.” Although how a single man planned to raise two children on his own baffled her. “God has just the right home waiting for you.” She had prayed for each child since they’d left New York two weeks ago.

The dozen children still on the train were the last of the hundred who’d left New York with her to be placed out of their homes. Not because the good people of that city had provided homes for all its needy children, but because of changing political and economic times. The organization which for seventy-five years had provided thousands of orphans with new lives via trains west was shutting down.

That made the parents and children brought together by this final train doubly blessed. She would have to trust Ian and Bridget’s future to the Lord—and to Mr. Ward. She worried about them, though. Had their very Irish names warned him of their red hair and pale skin which would burn easily? Would he spook at the sight of Ian’s spindly arms? Would he see Bridget’s intelligence and sweetness beneath her grimy exterior?

And what about Mr. Ward? Elyssa hated to see children growing up without two parents. And if—when, surely—Mr. Ward married, would newborn babies take Ian and Bridget’s places in his heart? Would his wife reject them?


Want to read more? You can find To Riches Again here.


About the Author:

Best-selling hybrid author Darlene Franklin’s greatest claim to fame is that she writes full-time from a nursing home. This year she expects to reach fifty unique titles in print and she’s also contributed to more than twenty nonfiction titles. Her column, “The View Through my Door,” appears monthly in Bookfun Magazine. Her most recent titles are The Pony Express Romance Collection, Love’s Compass, and To Riches Again.


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