Welcome to Wednesday Writers. Today’s guest is author Lena Nelson Dooley, who will be talking about her historical novel, A Heart’s Gift and the historical events she’s included in the book. Welcome. Lena!
I like to include actual events and places in my historical novels. A Heart’s Gift is set in what is now Summit County in Colorado, not far from Breckenridge. I’ve visited Summit County and wanted to set a story there. The Rocky Mountains provides a beautiful setting for this one. In 1890, when the story took place, forested mountainsides contained many gold and silver mines, and valleys with lush grass in the summer were homes of several ranches. The hero owns one such ranch which provided beeves, shipped by rail from Frisco, Colorado, to one of the slaughter houses in Chicago.
At the beginning of the story, the heroine is married to a man who owned one of the smaller gold mines and the timber for acres around their log house. All of this is historically accurate. My characters and their story is all that is fiction. I researched Summit County at that time, and most of the store names I used in Breckenridge were actually there. I used the actual schoolhouse-community center building for the wedding, and I found recipes for much of the food in the book. The mine that was closest to town was an actually there.
One of the most interesting pieces of information I found was an actual photograph. One year, when they had an enormous amount of snow, they tunneled through the snow making walkways to cross the streets and along the sidewalks near buildings. This photo showed a man and a woman, dressed up in really nice warm clothing crossing the street in a tunnel. She wore an elaborate hat and a full-length fur coat. Since most of my story took place from spring through fall, I wasn’t able to use that in the story.
A Heart’s Gift
By Lena Nelson Dooley
Franklin Vine has worked hard to build the ranch he inherited into one of the most successful in the majestic Colorado mountains. If only he had an heir to one day inherit the legacy he’s building. But he was burned once in the worst way, and he doesn’t plan to open his heart to another woman. Even if that means he’ll eventually have to divide up his spread among the most loyal of his hired hands.
When Lorinda Sullivan is finally out from under the control of men who made all the decisions in her life, she promises herself she’ll never allow a man to make choices for her again. But without a home in the midst of a hard Rocky Mountain winter, she has to do something to provide for her infant son.
A marriage of convenience seems like the perfect arrangement, yet the stakes quickly become much higher than either of them ever planned. When hearts become entangled, the increasing danger may change their lives forever.
Franklin Vine glanced up from the trail when he heard the door hinges on the cabin emit a loud squeal. A tiny woman with hair the color of sunshine stepped through the open doorway, then shut the portal against the cold air. The flinty expression on her face and the rifle on her arm showed she didn’t welcome the intrusion.
He glanced toward the man on the other horse. “Did you know a woman lived up here?”
His foreman’s gaze traveled from the woman to his boss. “I never seen her before, and I don’t remember Mike ever saying anything about having a woman up here.”
Franklin didn’t look forward to sharing the news of Sullivan’s death with this woman, whoever she was. All they’d planned to do was give the man a decent burial on his own property. This woman was a complication he didn’t want … or need.
“Stop right where you are!” Harsh words rang across the frozen landscape. Surprisingly strong from such a small woman.
Now she held the rifle to her shoulder and had taken a bead on his chest. Evidently, she knew how to use the weapon. She held the rifle still, and her hands didn’t quiver. He didn’t want to find out how good her aim was.
He stopped his horse and raised his hands with the reins dangling from one of them. “We’re not going to hurt you.”
Still holding the lead to the pack animal, Thomas stopped his horse beside Franklin’s.
“State your business and be quick about it.” Her words pierced the icy air like bullets from a six-shooter, aiming straight at them.
“I’m Franklin Vine.”
At his words, a flicker of something lit her eyes, but quickly disappeared, replaced by the former hard stare. “The rancher?”
He gave a slow nod. He didn’t want to do anything to spook her. Not with her finger so close to the trigger.
“I’ve heard Mike mention you a time or two.” She relaxed her stance a little but didn’t lower the rifle. “I’ve already asked what you want.” The words held more than a hint of steel.
Franklin slowly rested his hands on his saddle horn. “Might I ask who you are?”
“Who am I? Mike’s wife.” She must have noticed the puzzled expression on his face. “Didn’t you know he was married?”
“We only talked about business.” Franklin didn’t want to rile her any more than she was already.
Her shoulders lifted and stiffened again. “So why are you here?”
Franklin gazed over the pristine whiteness toward the rocky peaks across the large valley then back toward the woman. “I promise I’m not going to hurt you, but I’m going to dismount now. Please don’t shoot.” He swung his leg over the back of the horse and started toward her, taking a few slow, deliberate steps while he surreptitiously watched her from under the brim of his Stetson.
Mrs. Sullivan kept her eyes on him, only giving a quick glance toward Thomas when he shifted and his saddle squeaked. As she looked back toward Franklin, he raised his hands again.
“I need to talk to you, Mrs. Sullivan.” He handed the reins to his foreman and walked the rest of the way up toward the house, stopping a few feet in front of the woman.
While she studied him up and down, the woman had a weary look about her. Finally, she lowered the rifle, but kept holding it with both hands, probably so she could quickly raise it again if needed. “So, talk.”
He rubbed the back of his neck which felt stiff from all the tension coiled inside. This wasn’t going to be easy. “Mrs. Sullivan, this is my foreman, Thomas Walker.” Franklin flipped his gloved hand toward Thomas. “He actually knew your husband better than I did.”
For a moment her eyes widened, and he could read the fear in them.
“Thomas found Sullivan’s …” Franklin stopped and cleared his throat. “… your husband’s body at the edge of the Rocking V today. We brought him home to bury him on his own land.”
As if punctuating his statement, the woman crumpled to the ground, and her rifle pitched into the snow, the barrel tunneled into the few inches of the white stuff.
About the Author:
Lena Nelson Dooley is a best-selling, award-winning author who loves to give her readers stories with characters who grip their hearts. She also loves mentoring other authors and helping them get published. She lives with the love of her life in Texas. Her favorite activity of any day is spending time with their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.