Wyoming Tryst




WYOMING TRYST by Charlene Whitman, Sweet Historical Western Romance, 360 pp., $15.95 (paperback) $3.99 (Kindle)



Title: WYOMING TRYST
Author: Charlene Whitman
Publisher: Ubiquitous Press
Pages: 360
Genre: Sweet Historical Western Romance


Two ranching tycoons. A decades-old feud. A sheriff bent on ridding the town of lawlessness . . .
In the midst of the trouble brewing in Laramie City in 1878, Julia Carson yearns to be free of her parents’ smothering and wonders whether she’ll ever find a man worthy to love in such a violent town rife with outlaws.
But when Robert Morrison sneaks onto her ranch the night of her sixteenth birthday party, Cupid shoots his arrows straight and true. Aware that their courtship would be anathema to their fathers, who are sworn enemies, Robert and Julia arrange a tryst.
Yet, their clandestine dalliance does not go unnoticed, and forces seek to destroy what little hope their romance has to bloom. The star-crossed lovers face heartache and danger as violence erupts. When all hope is lost, Joseph Tuttle, the new doctor at the penitentiary, is given a letter and a glass vial from Cheyenne medicine woman Sarah Banks.
The way of escape poses deadly dangers, but it is the only way for Robert and Julia to be together. It will take the greatest measure of faith and courage to come through unscathed, but love always conquers fear.



My Review


When I first picked up this book, I did not know it was from a series. Yet, I didn't have a problem with the fact that I had not read the prior five novels. To be honest, what drew me to this book was the location. Living in Colorado, I enjoy reading books that take place in my home state. Also, I am a fan of Westerns.

Julia and Robert were good. While, Robert is older, this didn't really play into their relationship as much as the rivalry. I understood Julia's mother wanting to protect her daughter but I felt like she wasn't really seeing Julia's side either.

While, I liked this story and the location as I mentioned; the characters didn't really come alive for me. Thus at times I was going through the motions of reading but not really comprehending what was happening in the story. This was kind of a hit and miss affect throughout this book. However, I would read another book from this author.

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Excerpt:


Chapter 1

November 5, 1878
“I don’t care what it costs—get it done! Stop lollygagging, and make Morrison sign that paper. Rohrbach has other offers, and he knows I’m chomping at the bit—”
Julia Carson cringed at the sound of something heavy smashing against the wall adjoining the sewing room, but a glance at her mother showed that Lester Carson’s histrionics ruffled her not at all. When did they ever? But Julia knew that was the only way her mother could successfully navigate around her husband’s outbursts.
Her mother, with her lustrous back hair piled atop her head in perfect fashion, pulled another straight pin from between her teeth and said, “Stop wiggling, Julia. How will I ever get this hem pinned if you keep swiveling about?”
Julia sighed, feeling the familiar constriction and barely telltale rattle in her chest. But thank the heavens autumn was here. A glance out the wide windows showed a bright, crisp morning, though menacing clouds were gathering in the distance. She wouldn’t be surprised if the first snow fell later that day.
This summer had been the worst yet, and twice her parents had flown into a panic when Julia had awoken in the middle of the night unable to breathe. The tonics the doctor had given her did little else but make her woozy, and though Reverend Charnel urged her to give her burden to the Good Lord, it seemed He wasn’t all that keen on lifting it from her shoulders. Predictions over the years said she’d never make it to her sixteenth birthday, but yet, here she was.
“—Get out! Just git!”
Her father’s boorish directive followed on the heels of two short, fastidious men in three-piece suits making a hasty exit from her father’s study. Upon noticing Julia standing on the round dais and her mother squatting with pins in her mouth, the solicitors nodded brusquely from the hallway and muttered their farewells, their hats clenched in hand.
Julia’s mother muttered, “Heavens, your father is putting those poor men through the wringer.” She shook her head and finished pinning the last section of hem of the elegant white satin party dress. Then she took a step back, her petticoats swishing under her toile skirt, and admired her handiwork.
Though her mother could easily afford to hire the finest dressmaker in Wyoming Territory, she made all of Julia’s dresses and blouses, spending her quiet evenings, especially in the winter months when snow piled up the windows, bent over her tiny stitches. The sewing room in which they stood overflowed with bolts of lace and strings of seed pearls that her mother painstakingly added in beautiful detail to Julia’s party dresses.
And this dress would be the most magnificent yet, for, as her mother kept reminding Julia, “No one must outshine you on your sixteenth birthday.”
But there was more in her mother’s eyes than admiration for her handiwork and pride in her only child—her only living child, Julia noted. Because, wasn’t that at the heart of this celebration? That Julia was the only child of Danielle and Lester Carson to have survived into adulthood.
And that was what Julia read in her mother’s eyes. Pain and loss. Three stillborn babies lay in the nearby family graveyard. Alongside the small coffin containing Julia’s older brother, who’d succumbed to the influenza when he was four—two months before Julia was born.
Julia could never be free of her mother’s loss, never be absolved. Her parents stifled and smothered her with love and protection and worry because, as her mother often lamented, “We couldn’t ever bear to lose you. It would kill us both.” Though her father never voiced such sentiments aloud.
And it was hard to interpret his heavy hand and unfair restrictions as fear of loss. No, her father’s actions seemed anything but fearful, and his protection anything but loving and concerned.
But no matter. She would soon find a man to wed, and though she’d been so sheltered, hardly even permitted to say hello to any unhitched young man, even at church, she secretly hoped she’d get her chance at her party. A party that would make the high-society columns in papers all the way to the Mississippi, if her mother had her way. Her parents were sparing no expense for an event that would no doubt be hailed as the most extravagant gala Laramie City had ever seen.
Julia’s throat tightened at the attention that would be heaped upon her that night, for crowds of people made her terribly claustrophobic, often exacerbating her asthma. Her rigorous protests for a small family gathering had been lost on unresponsive ears. Though, why was she surprised? This party really wasn’t about her, or for her, for that matter. It was, in essence, a way for her father to show off his opulence and success as Laramie’s foremost cattle rancher. And to flaunt that success before the Morrisons, who, as a matter of course, were not invited and never would be.
“Oh, you are such a beauty,” her mother crooned. “Spin around and show me.”
Julia dutifully spun, the layers of eyelet-lace-edge skirts whirling and fluttering like snowflakes on a breeze. Wearing such a gorgeous dress made Julia feel beautiful indeed. But she wondered if any dress could negate her flaws. Her pale complexion that freckled terribly in the sun. Her long lifeless hair the color of bark that constantly slipped out of her pins. And worst of all—her height. She stood over her mother by four inches. What man would want to look up to his wife? At five feet eight, she was taller than most of the ranch hands on the farm. Except Ty, her much-older cousin, who was like a brother to her. And, of course, her father, who towered a head above every man in town. The Carson men had always stood out prominently in a crowd—due to both height and propensity for bluster. But, unlike Julia’s uncles, Lester Carson was more the quiet but intense type who believed in an economy of words. Except when someone sparked his anger.
Julia stepped down from the dais and turned so her mother could fuss with the button loop at Julia’s neck. The spacious sewing room with its floor-to-ceiling windows spilled warm light across the thickly varnished oak floorboards that shone like glass. Dust motes danced on the air.
“Mother, why has Father been meeting with his lawyers so often? And what is he so crotchety about?”
Her mother’s sigh blew warmth onto Julia’s neck, making a shiver run down her spine. “It’s nothing to concern yourself with. Another land deal. He wants to acquire the thousand-acre parcel to the northwest.”
Julia shook her head. “But why? Doesn’t he own enough land? Aren’t fifty thousand acres sufficient for his purposes?”
“It’s the water access. You know in late summer Dead Man’s Creek is the only source of water for the cattle. That property has the only year-round spring for miles around.”
“So? Father has always moved the herds north in the fall.”
“And it appears he doesn’t want to be bothered to do so any longer.”
Julia fell silent. Once her father got a hankering in his craw, there was no pulling it free. But this was something different than his normal dealings. He’d been downright perturbed these last months, working himself into a frenzy, more apt to snap at Cousin Ty and Sheldon McManus, his ranch foreman, than ever before.
“Is . . . Father ill?”
Her mother turned Julia to face her. Julia saw close up the tired lines etching her mother’s still-beautiful face. Dark splotches sagged under her eyes, and her mouth drew into a tight line.
“No,” she said, then hesitated. “Though, I daresay if he keeps up like this”—she gestured to the now-closed door to the study, where Lester Carson was tromping across the floorboards so loudly, Julia feared he might bust through them—“his heart just might succumb from the aggravation.”
But there was something her mother wasn’t telling her. Something—Julia knew—whose source went way back, before Julia was born. Something neither parent ever mentioned, but on occasion Julia caught a whiff of, like the scent of a moldering dead carcass carried on the wind. In the late hours Julia sometimes heard terse words spoken behind closed doors. Words that often included the name Morrison.
Her father hated Stephen Morrison. That was a fact everyone in Wyoming Territory knew well. And Morrison hated Julia’s father. But no one seemed to know what had started the feud that had been going on between the two men—and that had dragged both families through the mud of hate and threats—for decades. Ty had once let slip words that hinted at a card game and someone cheating, but for all Julia knew, his words were little more than grist for the rumor mill in town.
And she’d heard her father tell his lawyers to make Morrison sign the papers. Did Stephen Morrison own that land her father coveted? If so, he had to know Morrison would never sell—not on his life.
Oh, all this land wrangling and vying for power made Julia more than weary. She felt like a prisoner in her own home. Her upcoming party was the only bright glimmer of hope on the horizon. If only it held the promise of escape. Would she ever be free of her father’s heavy hand?
The door to the courtyard swung open, and Ty came in, a grin on his sun-baked face, his unruly wheat-straw hair splaying out from under his floppy hat. He touched the brim and said, “Ladies,” then knocked on the door to the study. As Julia’s mother gathered up her scissors and pins and spools of thread, Julia felt a sudden urge to change out of her fancy dress, throw on a riding skirt and blouse, and race across the range on Little Bit. The house seemed to be closing in on her, and the glorious late-autumn day was passing her by.
Her father opened the door and exchanged quiet but terse words with Ty. Then, without another word or a glance at his wife or daughter, he strode past the open doors of the sewing room and down the hallway, his footfalls echoing loudly.
Ty turned to Julia and her mother, his soft gray-green eyes thoughtful and intense. “I’m headin’ to town with the wagon to pick up supplies at Harold’s. Need anything at the mercantile?”
“Milkman Mary should have our order ready for pickup,” her mother said. “I’d be obliged if you stopped in and picked up the milk and cream.”
“May I go with you?” Julia asked. She’d rather stroll the shop windows than saddle up her mare and ride, alone, with no one to talk with. And Ty, always so funny and cheerful, was just the company she needed right now.
“Dressed like that?” He pointed at her. “You’d ’bout give every fella apoplexy if’n they saw you saunterin’ down the street.” He sashayed around the room, making Julia laugh, as he stroked the wiry goatee on his chin.
Though Ty was her cousin and fourteen years her senior, he had come under the wings of her parents when he was twelve due to a mudslide that had left him orphaned. The two of them had been raised like siblings, and Julia couldn’t imagine having more affection for Ty if he’d been her brother. Or Ty having a fiercer sense of protectiveness for his younger relation.
“There’ll be no town visit today,” her mother said sternly.
“Why not—?” Julia tried to keep the whine out of her voice. It wasn’t fair.
“Because I said so.”
Ty frowned. “I’d keep her safe, ma’am—you know that—”
“No, Ty. It would be highly imprudent . . . at this time. This discussion is over.”
Ty promptly shut his mouth, as he was wont to do when her mother spoke in that tone.
Her mother hastily stuffed the remaining notions into her sewing box and latched the cover. She looked over at Julia. “Have Edna help you out of that dress, and hang it up in my parlor so I can hem it.” Her tone brooked no argument or even a reply.
“Yes, Mother,” Julia said anyway, keeping her tone even and respectful, though she held back what she really wanted to say. I’m a grown woman. I can take care of myself. I’m not your sick little baby anymore. How will I ever live in the world if I’m sheltered from it?
Ty stood and watched as Julia’s mother exited the room, then turned to Julia, kneading his hat in his hands.
“She’s only bein’ protective.”
Julia scoffed. “I know Laramie’s a rough town, but surely—”
“You didn’t hear the news? What happened last night?”
Julia shook her head as a chill settled on her neck. She’d seen the Daily Sentinel lying on the credenza in the dining room, but she hadn’t glanced at the headlines. Fights and trouble plagued the streets of Laramie, always had. Most people—decent folk—knew to stay away from Front Street at night, where the brothels stretched for blocks and drunken men poured out of saloons to fight, cheered on by equally drunken crowds. And no decent woman would wander the streets of downtown past dark unchaperoned.
“Two fellas were shot, right in the middle of Grand Street. One o’ the fellas had a woman on his arm, and in the brawl that ensued, she was . . . trampled to death.”
Julia felt the blood leave her face. “Was . . . she someone I knew?” She swallowed at the reticence evident on Ty’s face.
“Lola Peterson—”
“Mrs. Peterson? The school marm?” The young woman who’d taught Julia her letters and read her first primers with her had recently wed. Oh, Lord, it couldn’t be . . .
Ty nodded. “Your ma hadn’t told you.” It was a statement, an observation. His lips quirked in an expression of empathy. “I’m so sorry. I know how much ya liked her. I did too.”
Julia had a flash of memory—of Ty putting a frog on their tutor’s chair and guffawing when she squealed in shock. A rock lodged painfully in her throat.
“And her husband?” Julia brought to mind the sweet-faced man with the thick black hair and beard who had a little gap between his front teeth—a grocer by trade.
Ty shook his head slowly. Julia’s throat clenched, and she struggled to draw air into her stubborn lungs.
“Why doesn’t that blasted sheriff bring order to this town? He and his hooligan deputies don’t seem to do anything but drink and cause their own kind of trouble.”
Ty’s severe expression said it all.
If there was someone her father hated even more than Stephen Morrison—if that were possible—it was Sheriff Thomas Jefferson Carr. And it seemed the feeling was mutual. Julia had only met the beefy unpleasant sheriff on a couple of occasions, at public affairs that she’d been allowed to attend, such as the Christmas concert at the Grange Hall and the Fourth of July picnics in the park, where all the politicians and public figures made their appearances—especially on election years.
When Sheriff Carr was elected, he said he would “put fear in the hearts of evildoers,” and he’d certainly made true on his claim. But from what Julia gleaned from overhearing the men on the ranch, the sheriff was a scoundrel and as corrupt as they came, always flanked by his posse of Irish thugs. Which contributed to Laramie’s reputation as the most lawless town in the West.
Julia’s heart weighed heavy as her thoughts drifted back to Mrs. Peterson. The news sucked out her restlessness and filled her with melancholy. Now she just wanted to run up to her room and bury her face in her pillow.
“I reckon I should git goin’,” Ty said quietly.
Julia nodded, glancing down at her white satin gown with the lyrical waves of shiny pearls and layers of lace. It felt so wrong to be standing there, wearing something so pristine and pretty, when the news couldn’t be more gloomy and dark. She couldn’t wait to get out of the dress. Maybe a long gallop across the prairie would do her some good. Maybe being unmarried wasn’t so deplorable a condition.
How horrible to finally find a man to love and wed, only to lose him—and your own life—to such senseless violence. Like many women, Mrs. Peterson had come to Wyoming, and Laramie specifically, because of its radical views of equality for women. Not ten years ago, Laramie became the first town in the West—maybe in the whole country—to let women serve on a jury and vote in elections and hold jobs as court bailiffs and other county positions.
But, judging by the way Julia’s father smothered his daughter with his overbearing protectiveness, you’d never know she lived in such a progressive community. Oh, she was so tired of being kept in a box.
“I’ll bring ya back a licorice stick,” Ty said with a wink, then slipped out the courtyard door, leaving Julia alone, silence filling in the space around her. She could hear the beating of her heart as she stood and looked out over the Front Range through the windows. A few flakes of snow swirled around the glass.
Someone had named Laramie “The Gem City of the Plains” because at night, when a person gazed down from atop the Black Hills to the east, the lights of the town looked like precious stones nestled in a black velvet jewel box.
Julia wondered if that person had ever walked the streets of Laramie at night, when the whoring and shooting and drunken brawls erupted. She doubted the person who penned that sublime description would be inclined to give her town such an appellation then.
Thinking about her lawless town made her thoughts settle back on her father and the never-ending feud between the Carsons and the Morrisons—a feud Julia neither wanted nor understood. Yet here she was, in the midst of it, her party just one more piece of wood to throw on the fire of contention. She hoped it wouldn’t add to the blaze and worried that rather than enjoy her sixteenth year celebration, she would suffer the heat of her father’s ire for Stephen Morrison, and it would leave her scorched.





 






The author of “heart-thumping” Western romance, Charlene Whitman spent many years living on Colorado’s Front Range. She grew up riding and raising horses, and loves to read, write, and hike the mountains. She attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins as an English major. She has two daughters and is married to George “Dix” Whitman, her love of thirty years.

The Front Range series of sweet historical Western romance novels (set in the 1870s) includes Wild Horses, Wild Hearts, set in Laporte and Greeley. Colorado Promise, set in Greeley, Colorado; Colorado Hope, set in Fort Collins; Wild Secret, Wild Longing, which takes readers up into the Rockies, Colorado Dream (Greeley), and Wyoming Tryst, set in Laramie, WY.

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