Spirited Hearts: Book #1
When Ella Hastings is captured by the Blackfeet Indians at age nine, then adopted by the Lakota Indians, she is thrust into a new way of life and transformed into Little Brave, adopted daughter of their revered and peaceful chief, Grey Owl. Ten years later the white man returns. Their soldiers storm her tribe’s village and bring reminders of a world she’d almost forgotten. Suddenly, she is confronted by the question: To which world does she now belong? Her only hope in discovering who she really is lies with the enigmatic army scout, Beech Richoux.
Son of a French trapper and Lakota mother, Beech Richoux was raised in a white man’s world after his mother’s death. Acting as an army scout to raise money for his horse ranch, he’s unaware of the Army’s true intent to annihilate his mother’s people until it’s too late. And the white woman he finds living among the Lakota only adds to his desperation to save his people. Now the narrow path he has created to balance himself between these two worlds is tipped by the mysterious white woman known to the Lakota as Little Brave.
Can two people robbed of their own childhood learn to live together in such differing worlds? Can Little Brave and Beech forge a new path into a life where they both are finally set free?
Ella’s Choice Buy Links
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NVZFM7M
Amazon CA: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00NVZFM7M
Spirited Hearts Book #2
Six years ago, Lena Schuler fled Cheyenne to escape the man who brutally stole her innocence. Now, believing her attacker has left Cheyenne for good, she’s returned to build a life for her and her son.
Attorney Lucas Kline has established a new identity and is making his mark as a trial lawyer in the burgeoning rail town of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Fighting to escape the guilt from his past, he’s determined to help shape the emerging territory into a law-abiding state.
When Lena’s attacker threatens the security of her son and others in the community, will she find the courage to face him in order protect those she loves? Can she trust Lucas to defend her secret before a township filled with doubt? Or will the guilt from Lucas’ past blur the lines between justice and vigilantism?
Lena’s Courage Buy Links
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015QIMR9W
Spirited Hearts: Book #3
After attending finishing school and ministering to orphan children, Grace Chapman returns to her hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming to plan her wedding to Dr. Robert Walcott. Becoming the wife of the promising St. Louis doctor will grant her a level of propriety and respect she fears she lost two years earlier. However, when she goes to the aid of an injured woman she encounters the brusque but handsome new doctor of Cheyenne who sees her well-meaning help as little more than meddlesome.
After scraping his way out of the tenements of Denver and gritting his way through medical school, Dr. John Kittrick has relocated to Cheyenne to build his medical practice. All he wants is to apply the latest medical findings to help ailing folks and repay his hardworking, self-sacrificing ma with a life of leisure in her final years.
Sparks fly and feelings develop between Grace and John as they help the injured woman and her family of which a broken arm is the least of their troubles. When a danger arrives in Cheyenne that threatens the entire population, Grace and John are forced to confront not only their beliefs about the world, but their feelings for each other.
Spirited Hearts, Book 3
Grace’s Purpose Buy Links
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XXFSG1T
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B06XXFSG1T
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XXFSG1T
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B06XXFSG1T
Excerpt of Grace’s Purpose
Grace Chapman took in the bustling of Cheyenne’s main street—not quite as busy as the streets of St. Louis, but oh-so-achingly familiar. Farther down the boardwalk was Papa’s store, Chapman’s Mercantile, and next door to that sat Goodman’s Millinery. And here, on her right, was Schuler’s Bakery. She closed her eyes and inhaled the aroma of freshly baked pies, mingling with fresh air brought by the summer’s breeze. My, how good to be home after spending the last two years attending The Academy for the Finishing of Young Ladies in St. Louis.
“What’s on your mind, dearest?”
She opened her eyes and met the gaze of Dr. Robert Walcott. Another reason for her happiness. “I’m thinking how very fortunate I am.” Indeed, she was pinching herself.
“And how is that?”
“In spite of my past…” She dropped her gaze to the tips of her polished boots, which peeked from beneath her skirt in time with their steps. “…you’ve chosen me to be your wife.”
“You’ve risen above your circumstances, Grace.” He patted her hand. “There’s much to be admired in that.”
“Yes, so you’ve said.” She returned her gaze to her fiancé. She’d taken an enormous risk in disclosing her attempted rape by Frank Pierce, the resulting trial and his eventual hanging. How folks in Cheyenne had talked about the unpleasant events for months afterwards. So much so, she’d welcomed the opportunity to attend finishing school in St. Louis.
“Not one person has cast a disparaging look your way, nor made a derogatory remark since we’ve been here,” he said. “I’m quite pleased with that.”
“I’m most grateful that folks seem to have moved on.”
“Appearances are most important, Grace. Since the day I met you, you’ve handled yourself with dignity and decorum. Most fitting for a wife of a doctor, wouldn’t you agree?”
The principles drummed into her by Miss Rasmussen at The Academy for the Finishing of Young Ladies had her agreeing. However, another part of her—the part she’d buried after she’d hung her romantic notions on a man who’d turned out to be a rapist—whispered, What of love?
Grace squared her shoulders and lifted her chin, arguing with that internal voice. Robert and I are fond of one another and share mutual goals. There’s no better foundation upon which to build a solid and fruitful life together.
She’d been introduced to the accomplished and distinguished man beside her through her work at the orphanage in St. Louis. Work which had lit a fire to help those less fortunate than herself—a part of her she never knew existed until then, work which had restored a sense of self and given her a purpose. She’d never entertained thoughts of a match to the dedicated doctor, but his gentlemanly attentions toward her and thoughtful courting had convinced her otherwise.
Now, as they strolled, she introduced him to the sights of her hometown before he left for his surgical tour of some of the most prestigious hospitals on the eastern seaboard. His father, Dr. Thaddeus Walcott, a well-respected doctor in his own right, had arranged the tour and would be accompanying Robert. They aimed to bring the latest surgical techniques back to their shared practice in St. Louis.
Grace was proud—no, not proud—she shook her head as Miss Rasmussen’s words rang in her mind: “Pride doth not suit a proper wife.” She dipped her chin in silent acknowledgment and amended her sentiments. I’m most fortunate and grateful to have been chosen by such an upstanding and well-intentioned gentleman. Yes, much better. She must always remember her position to be a helpmeet to her husband. Such a wife neither drew attention to, nor sought attention for, herself.
“How much farther to your father’s store?”
Grace looked around, catching the painted letters on the storefront beside them. Already they were at Goodman’s Millinery? “Papa’s mercantile is the next store on our—Oh, my, how beautiful.” The words were out of her mouth before she realized she’d even uttered them, and due to her gawking, they’d come to a standstill before the display window of Goodman’s.
“Quite a fetching bonnet, dearest,” Robert said.
Grace could only nod as she admired the sky blue ribbon, which encircled the base of the brim. How the color would heighten the darker blue of her eyes. The ties, dangling well below the brim, would form a sumptuous bow beneath her chin. With the generous cutaway at the back, she could wear her hair up or down, in braids or curls for all to admire.
“You must have it, dearest.”
“Oh, no, I mustn’t.” By summer’s end she would be Mrs. Robert Walcott and have very little need for such a frivolous item. She shook her head, hoping to convince herself more than her fiancé. “Already, Mama and Papa are spending more than they should on our wedding.”
“I wasn’t suggesting they pay for it. I want to give it to you as a wedding present.”
“Oh…” Her hand flew to her mouth as she gazed at the man whose bespectacled eyes regarded her with solemn indulgence. He was such a dear man.
“Shall we?” He turned them toward the door of the shop.
In a matter of minutes they were back on the boardwalk, her old bonnet tucked into a hatbox and Robert’s generous gift covering her head. Grace couldn’t help but halt them once more in front of the display window. She dipped her chin to admire the way the bonnet framed her face then turned her head to imagine all the ways she could arrange her hair. Suddenly, a reflection flashed across the glass, marring her musings.
Behind her, she heard the cadence of frantic hoof beats then a woman’s scream. She shivered at the woman’s shrill cry and tightened her fingers in the crook of Robert’s elbow as he whirled them toward the street. A billow of dust greeted them, along with the sound of wheels grinding to a halt, men shouting and horses whinnying.
“Stay here, Grace, while I see if anyone’s hurt.”
Her hand slipped free as Robert moved away. She followed him, the woman’s scream still echoing in her head. What of the woman? Was she severely hurt? Did Grace know her? She lifted her skirts and stepped down into the dusty road, keeping her gaze on Robert’s back. When he pushed through a throng of men, horses and wagons, Grace hurried to keep him in sight.
With the dust clearing, Grace could see a feminine form lying on the ground, her face hidden by a faded calico bonnet.
As Robert approached the woman, he spoke to the man squatting on the other side of her. “I’m a doctor. Where is she hurt?”
“I’m a doctor, myself,” the man said.
She’d never heard such a deep voice. Its timbre vibrated through her body, right to the ends of her fingers and the tips of her toes.
The deep-voiced doctor bent over the woman and tilted his head so his ear hovered over her face.
The woman appeared to be as still as the dead to Grace.
“She’s breathing,” he said.
Grace clapped a hand over her leaping heart. “Oh, thank our gracious Lord.”
The man glanced up at Grace, but his hat shadowed his face and soon his attention was back on the woman before him.
“Kittrick? John Kittrick, is that you?” Robert squatted next to the woman.
Grace moved closer, hoping to see the woman’s face.
“Kittrick’s the name.” Although his answer was gruff, Dr. Kittrick’s hands moved gently and expertly over the woman’s neck and shoulder.
“Walcott. Robert Walcott. We attended medical school together.” Robert similarly examined the woman on his side as he spoke.
“I remember,” said Dr. Kittrick.
Taking another step forward, Grace dropped a hand to Robert’s shoulder. “Oh, Robert, is she hurt very badly?”
“I don’t know yet, dearest.”
“Oh, how awful if she were seriously hurt. Please, don’t let her be hurt.” Grace squeezed Robert’s shoulder with a force mirroring her concern.
The woman moaned as Dr. Kittrick palpitated her upper arm.
“Did you hear that?” Grace patted Robert’s shoulder in time to her words. “She’s coming to. I’m so thankful she’s coming to.”
Then the woman yelped as Dr. Kittrick touched her forearm.
“Oh, no, she is hurt. How badly, Robert, how badly is she...? Oh, how awful to have this happen on your first visit to Cheyenne.”
“Settle your woman, Walcott.”
Dr. Kittrick’s voice cracked like a whip, and Grace flinched.
“She’s distraction enough without the blathering,” he added.
Distraction? Grace glanced at the men crowded around them, but their attentions were not on her. As for blathering…yes, she tended to ramble when nervous or worried, but—
Robert’s strident tone broke her gallivanting thoughts. She gazed down at him in surprise for he’d never spoken to her in such a manner.
“Dearest, why don’t you go wait in your father’s store?” he said.
She was comforted that he now spoke more like the dear man she knew, but the sunlight reflecting off his glasses prevented her from knowing how much she’d affronted him. She’d not acted in the most becoming and ladylike way. “Yes, perhaps that would be best.” She patted his shoulder, assuring him of her agreement then turned to make her way back to the boardwalk.
“Her arm is broken,” said Dr. Kittrick. “I need to move her to my office.”
“Oh, no, a broken arm.” Grace turned back. “Is she hurt anywhere else? Perhaps she’s conscious enough you can ask her?” She couldn’t help but bend over the woman. “Ma’am, ma’am. Can you hear me? Do you know your name? Do you know where you are?” She peered into the woman’s dazed eyes.
Slowly, the woman shook her head then squeezed her eyes shut and moaned. “My head.” She went to lift her arm, the one Dr. Kittrick had pronounced broken, then yelped.
Dr. Kittrick hunkered closer. “Don’t move. Your arm is broken.” He thumbed back his hat and looked up at Grace.
Grace gasped at the accusation on his face. As if she’d played some part in causing the woman’s pain. The afternoon breeze kicked up, twirling her bonnet ties. She caught the wayward ribbons and pressed them against her chest.
Dr. Kittrick’s eyes flashed.
Walcott’s woman stared at him. Trifling petticoat. But, he did his fair bit of staring, too. Eyes this side of twilight, hair as golden as a sun-ripened wheat field—
He snapped his attention back to the woman on the ground as she moaned her question. Kittrick touched her shoulder. “We’ll figure that later. Right now, I need—”
“Did anyone see what happened?” Walcott’s woman straightened and glanced around the crowd.
Men shuffled and mumbled amongst themselves.
“Surely, one of you saw something.”
Kittrick heard the plaintive note of Walcott’s woman, but men weren’t inclined to speak up to a female about to lose her grace. “Tell what you know, or I’ll get the sheriff over here,” he said.
She looked at him gratefully, but he hadn’t been aiming for her thanks. He wanted her silence. No call to cause a ruckus that didn’t need to happen.
A rough-looking sort stepped forward. “It was my wagon she darted in front of…” He swept his hat off his head and fisted the brim. “But I didn’t have a gnat’s hair chance of swerving, let alone stopping.”
Another man nodded. “I was standing just yonder in front of Mueller’s Leatherworks,” he said. “It happened as ol’ Festus here said. She ran right in front of his rig.”
“Perhaps your horse reared and kick her arm, Mr. uh…Festus?”
That’d be Walcott’s woman again. Kittrick sliced a glance at Walcott, who’d risen and now polished his spectacles with a spotless handkerchief.
“No, ma’am,” Festus said. “She just seemed to fall to the ground when she seen me coming.”
“Maybe she fainted from the shock of seeing you barreling down on her.” Walcott’s woman took a step in Festus’ direction.
“With all due respect, ma’am, I weren’t barreling.” Festus clenched his jaw and crushed his hat in his hands.
“Grace, dearest, run along to the mercantile while Dr. Kittrick and I tend to this woman.” Walcott slipped his spectacles back on then put a hand to her lower back.
Thank tarnation that Walcott took his woman in hand, because a directive the meddlesome filly wouldn’t have been able to mistake had been hovering on Kittrick’s tongue. Kittrick turned his attention back to his patient. “Now, Miss…”
Given what he suspected was the cause of her injury, learning she was attached didn’t make him feel a damn bit better, but he’d see to that matter later. “I’ll pick you up, but first I have to move your arm.”
She dipped her chin in acknowledgment.
He noticed her eyes weren’t as dazed as before. No doubt her shock was waning, and she’d be feeling the pain soon. “You let me know the second something hurts.”
Nodding, she bit her lip.
He carefully rested her broken arm across her stomach then eased one of his arms beneath her neck and the other beneath her knees. Before he made a move to stand, he lifted her and brought her close to his body, hoping to absorb any jostling. She weighed no more than a sack of feathers and, once he was upright, he could feel her bones against his arms and body. Probably didn’t get enough to eat, which would make it all the easier for someone to intentionally break her arm. He clenched his jaw. No need to get hung up on that notion now.
“Where to, Kittrick?” Walcott was next to him.
“To my office. Clear a path that way.” Kittrick hitched his chin over his shoulder.
Behind him, he heard Walcott parting the crowd. He glanced around for any man who wore a guilty expression or wouldn’t meet his eyes. His gaze snagged on Walcott’s woman standing on the boardwalk in front of Chapman’s Mercantile.
Go wait in your father’s store.
That’s what Walcott had said to his woman. Kittrick had been in town just a few weeks, but he’d heard in a roundabout manner that Henry Chapman had a daughter. So, he hadn’t pegged the fetching slip of calico wrong. Being the daughter of the mercantile’s proprietor meant a life with far more creature comforts than most women. Most likely, she had more time on her hands, too. In his experience, both of those things tended to breed more sensibility than common sense.
Even now, she stood, gripping the railing in front of Chapman’s Mercantile, and watched the crowd instead of hightailing it into her pa’s store like Walcott had told her to.
Her gaze shifted to him and her lips tightened.
No doubt she was thinking of him in less-than-friendly terms. No matter. His remarks had been necessary. A man couldn’t tend to business with a woman around spouting off and riling folks.
However, her brow creased and her eyes softened when her gaze dropped to the woman in his arms. Her hands flew to her chest and pressed against her heart.
She appeared to be feeling mighty worried about the battered woman. He shook his head as he turned. Once he had the patient out of her sight and the crowd had cleared, he figured Walcott’s woman would find something else to occupy her sensibilities.
Back in his examining room, Kittrick realized what little time he’d spent around Robert Walcott during medical school, or anyone else for that matter; he’d been too busy working to pay tuition and expenses when he wasn’t studying or in classes. Thankfully, Walcott turned out to be an able physician. The man certainly knew his way around chloroform. The anesthesia required greater skill to administer than ether. Too much, and the patient could stop breathing altogether. With another trained doctor to administer the chloroform and monitor Mrs. Perkins, Kittrick set and cast her arm in record time.
“Fine job, Kittrick.” Walcott gazed at Mrs. Perkins, who remained unconscious. “You must set a number of broken bones.”
After assuring himself Mrs. Perkins’ chest rose steady and strong with each breath, Kittrick turned toward the washbasin to hide his grimace. He’d been setting bones since he was nine, starting with his own ma. “Appreciate the help, Walcott,” Kittrick called over his shoulder.
“She should be waking soon,” Walcott said.
“I hazard she’s got a few more winks left in her.” He reached for the towel to dry his hands.
“Father and I use chloroform regularly in our practice. Our patients begin regaining consciousness the moment we stop administering the anesthesia.”
With healthy, well-fed patients, Kittrick would agree, but Mrs. Perkins was malnourished, and he’d guess she also carried a mountain of worry on her shoulders. At the accident site, he’d figured her to be somewhere in her late thirties. Now, with her slumbering under the effects of the anesthesia, he realized he’d pegged her age wrong. Couldn’t be more than thirty. That’s what a tough life would do to you. Age you well beyond your years.
“Coffee’s done brewing, John.” Ma had her good eye up to the crack in the door, which led from the exam room into the living quarters.
Kittrick looked to Walcott with a lift of his eyebrows.
“I could use a cup.” Walcott pulled off his glasses and pressed a finger and thumb against his eyes. He reseated his spectacles and moved over to the washbasin to clean up.
“Two cups, Ma, but I’ll fetch ’em.” Speaking of aging beyond one’s years. He hadn’t brought Alma Kittrick here from Denver for her to be waiting on him. Not after the hard life she’d led. He went through the connecting door into the kitchen.
She turned from the stove, a steaming cup in each hand. “I could have carried them in, you know.”
“I know, but you go sit and tend to your lap work.” He took the cups then leaned in and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “Go on, now.” He waited until she limped over to her chair by the window where the light was the best this time of day before heading back.
Upon returning to the exam room, Kittrick handed Walcott his cup of coffee. “What brings you to Cheyenne?” Vaguely, he recalled Walcott coming from a long line of doctors in St. Louis.
“My fiancée’s family is here. We’re to be married at the end of the summer.”
“The woman with you today?” Kittrick figured as much, but it never hurt to be sure.
“Yes. Miss Chapman. Circumstances didn’t allow a formal introduction earlier today.”
Kittrick shrugged. He didn’t sit on ceremony. More often than not, formalness just muddied the waters. “You got yourself a handful there with Miss Chapman.”
“What do you mean?”
Walcott’s eyes became downright owlish behind his spectacles as peevishness torqued his lips, but Kittrick spoke things as he saw them. “She’s got notions and isn’t against airing them.”
“That can be an admirable quality, Kittrick.”
Kittrick gave Walcott marks for knowing an admirable quality. “Can be…in a man, particularly if he puts actions behind his words. But, in a woman—”
“I presume you’re referring to Miss Chapman’s speaking on behalf of Mrs. Perkins today?”
That wasn’t exactly how he’d label Miss Chapman’s outspokenness, but he’d let that dispute go for the moment. “That, and her hard headedness to return to her father’s store when you asked.” Kittrick took another swig of coffee and leaned against the work counter behind him. “Twice. You asked her twice.”
Walcott’s eyes narrowed as his face reddened. “I can assure you, Miss Chapman’s behavior was a momentary lapse in judgment due to her youth and her excitement over being home after two years away.”
“I’ll have to take your word on that.” Kittrick didn’t cotton to having a long discussion on the matter. He was merely being neighborly by bringing it to Walcott’s attention.
Mrs. Perkins murmured and stirred.
“I trust you can handle the patient from here, Dr. Kittrick.”
Walcott’s stiff countenance and clipped words as he gathered his coat and hat weren’t lost on Kittrick. “I can manage.”
“I’m leaving tomorrow, so I won’t be around for consultation.” Walcott shrugged into his suit coat.
Consultation! Kittrick tightened his grip on his cup. As if I’m not capable—
“Nice catching up with you, Dr. Kittrick.” Walcott’s lips tipped up into a half smile as he dropped his hat on his head.
Reckon I had that coming. He’d spoken plainly about the woman Walcott was to spend all eternity with. All in all, the man had taken his words rather well. Kittrick relaxed his grip and lifted his cup to his fellow doctor. “Safe travels, Walcott.”
Thank you for reading.
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Copyright © 2017 Ruby Merritt
All rights reserved.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
fan fiction for that ship. Gah! That seems so long ago now.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
The book I just released in March, Grace’s Purpose is the third book in my Spirited Hearts series. The series is set in 1870’s Cheyenne Wyoming and focuses on the romance of a different couple in each book. The books don’t necessarily have to be read in order, but some central events span the series which makes understanding each story easier if they are read in order.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
That my first book, Ella’s Choice has "lots of feelings but not much substance. Plenty of emotional conflicts but it's forced and predictable.” I didn’t quite know what to do with that review, but I’ve since learned that it’s only one among many positive reviews.
What has been the best compliment?
That the reader was right there on the journey with my character because if anything I want my stories to be immersive—that you can’t put the book down.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to deliver what my readers want in that the story is a romance with a happily ever after, but I try to deliver a weighty story in that the characters are well developed and the plot is plausible and tight. I dislike reading a romance where the conflict is merely a misunderstanding that could be resolved by the couple simply talking to one another.
What did you do with your first advance?
LOL! Well, I’ve never been traditionally published so I’ve never had the pleasure of receiving an advance, but if I did, I would most likely buy stuff for my horse.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Oh… at least 4 or 5 with ideas for a few more.
What was your hardest scene to write?
The hardest scenes for me to write are the final scenes of the book where the conflict is resolved and everyone is happy. I know readers want that last glimpse of the couple as they begin their happily ever after together, but I always struggle with showing all that pure, unadulterated joy. LOL!
Who was your favorite character to write about?
Hmmm…I don’t know if I have a favorite overall. I tend to be ‘into’ whichever couple I’m writing about at the moment. I have a very special place in my heart for my first couple, Beech and Ella, and they appear in every Spirited Heart book since Ella’s Choice, but I loved exploring the German culture through Lena and Lucas’ eyes during the writing of Lena’s Courage, and with this latest book, I adored writing the funny moments between John and Grace.
What are you currently reading?
The Promises To Keep series by Shayne Parkinson. It’s set in late 1800’s, early 1900’s New Zealand and spans generations. I’m up to the 4th book which I won’t buy until I have time to sit and read straight through because I devour Shayne Parkinson’s books.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t get hung up reviews and sales. Always focus on writing the story brewing in your head and lodged in your heart. There will always be someone out there who wants to read that story. Whether it’s one someone or a 1000 someones isn’t important.
Ruby Merritt writes historical western romance. Her passion for imagining life and love on the High Plains stems from reading and rereading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books as a child.
Although Ruby doesn't call the High Plains her home, she resides in an equally beautiful and rustic locale, The Gateway to the Texas Hill Country.
When Ruby's not reading or writing, she can be found riding her horse or homeschooling her children who are avid horsewomen and readers as well.
Ruby Merritt Social Media Links
Facebook Group: www.facebook.com/groups/SpiritedHearts