By Caroline Clemmons
Writers love each of our books—but not equally. Occasionally, we create a character that becomes a favorite. Such is the case with Amanda in AMANDA’S RANCHER from my Loving A Rancher Series. Of course, she starts out as Mara O’Sullivan before she takes the identity of Amanda Eppes. She is someone I would like to have as a friend, someone who remains fixed in my mind, and someone I admire. If you haven’t read this story, I hope you’ll take this opportunity to grab the book at a bargain price.
AMANDA’S RANCHER is a sweet western historical romance. Here’s a description:
One desperate young woman.
A chance meeting.
A life-changing outcome.
Mara O'Sullivan has remained kind-hearted, virtuous, and gracious—but she’s battled public disdain and contempt because she grew up in a brothel where her mother worked. After testifying against vicious bank robbers, Mara’s life is threatened and she must find sanctuary far from everything she knows.
One train ride changes her life as she fatefully meets a half-sister and a niece she never knew existed. But when circumstances end her sister's life, Mara makes a promise that she'll raise her niece as her own and take her sister Amanda's place as Preston Kincaid's mail-order-bride. As Mara (now calling herself Amanda) and Preston grow closer, their marriage no longer seems like a ruse, but a relationship of love, passion, and desire.
Mara's past comes back to haunt her and she finds herself in danger—will her new husband forgive Mara's deceit and protect her as his own?
AMANDA’S RANCHER is on sale in e-book, but is also available in paper. It’s enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.
Enjoy an excerpt:
They reached the church and Preston jumped down from the wagon and came around to help her alight. With a smile, he lifted Iris high over his head before he set her on the ground. Her giggle brought tears to Amanda’s eyes.
That was the first time she’d ever heard her daughter make the girlish sound. Iris had smiled, spoken, but never laughed until she met Preston Kincaid. For that alone, Amanda would be the best wife she knew how to be.
Inside the church, Mrs. Moore handed Amanda a bouquet of daisies secured with a white ribbon. The interior was plain with wooden benches and an altar raised one step above the rest of the floor. Although there were several windows, none had stained-glass as did the churches she’d seen in Georgia.
The minister was waiting at the front of the church and wore a black frock coat and matching string tie. His brown hair and beard were thickly streaked with gray. He stood at a simple lectern with what looked like a Bible in one hand while he conversed with another man.
Amanda was surprised only one other person besides Reverend and Mrs. Norton were in the sanctuary. She’d supposed Preston had many friends in the area and thought at least his ranch hands would attend. The second man turned and proved to be an older version of her groom who came forward to greet her.
Preston cupped her elbow. “Amanda and Iris, this is my father. Most folks call him Tom, but I call him Papa.”
Amanda smiled at the handsome man who must be around fifty. He was tall, but maybe an inch shorter than his son. Silver sprinkled the same dark hair. “May I call you Papa, too?”
He beamed his pleasure and his blue eyes crinkled at the corners. “I’d be honored. And in the absence of your father, may I walk you down the aisle?”
“Would you? I’d be ever so grateful.” She laid her hand on his arm. Nerves had set in and she needed his support or her knees might give way.
Preston said, “Iris, why don’t you stand with me while my papa walks Mama to meet us?”
Iris shook her head. “Mommy, not my old mama?”
Preston frowned. “Old mama?”
Panic sent bile into her throat that threatened to choke her. Don’t throw up on your wedding dress. “Perhaps you remember my mother recently died.”
Sympathy shone from his blue eyes. “Of course.” He took Iris’ hand in his and strode to the front.
Mrs. Moore began playing the piano. She nodded toward Amanda. Papa Kincaid gently led her up the aisle.
Walking toward her husband, Amanda was conscious of Preston’s stare, as if he could see into her mind and knew her for an impostor. Although he held Iris’ hand, the intensity of his blue gaze unnerved her. She wondered if he was disappointed or if he were as numb as she.
Thankful for the presence of her future father-in-law beside her, she tightened her hold on Mr. Kincaid’s arm.
In response, he patted her hand her where it laid on his sleeve. Without looking at her, he whispered. “Steady as you go. We’re almost there.”
Iris gave a tiny wave and Amanda couldn’t resist smiling at the child. The little girl truly was a blessing. Focusing on Iris gave Amanda a target she could face.
When they reached the front, Mrs. Moore ceased playing. Preston took the bouquet from Amanda’s hands. “Iris, would you hold this for Mommy so she and I can be married?”
Iris looked at him adoringly and reached to receive the flowers. Reverend Moore opened his Bible and began the ceremony. Preston took Amanda’s hands in his. She was conscious of his calluses, but also of the size and strength of his palms dwarfing hers.
When the minister indicated, Preston slipped a ring onto her finger. This new one belongs to me, even if my groom doesn’t know my true name.
After the ceremony, Preston brushed his lips gently against hers.
Iris clapped a hand across her mouth in surprise then said, “Mommy? That man kissed you.”
Preston knelt eye-to-eye with her. “I’m your new Daddy, remember? Mommy and I were just married and now I can kiss her whenever she says it’s okay. Do you think you can call me Daddy?”
Iris nodded. “Are you gonna kiss me too?”
He smiled broadly. “I certainly am.” He leaned forward and gave her a loud smack on the cheek.
The child giggled. Twice in one day this kind man had made Iris happy. Amanda owed Preston all her wifely devotion.