Sarah Collins leaves on a wagon train, bound for California. She sells most her belongings to buy a wagon and team then hires a driver. Unfortunately, before the train has gotten half way, a war party attacks and kills everyone except Sarah and her new friend, Molly. Despite Sarah's ministrations, Molly doesn't make it, and Sarah is left alone, somewhere along the Oregon Trail, facing a long trek back to civilization. Halted by a snake bite, she wonders why God spared her in the first place. Her rescuer becomes someone with half the blood of those who tried to kill her, and traveling with him, she learns what it's like to be on the receiving end of prejudice and hate. Despite growing feelings for one another, they both realize there is no future for them, but can Sarah left Wolf go when they finally reach their destination?
Author, Ginger Simpson
Setting the Scene: Sarah's life has been saved by half-breed, Wolf, and she has secured a teaching position. Of course, there is a definite attraction but neither have acted on it. This scene is where Wolf brings a young Indian lad to school and encounters her having trouble with a school bully.
Sarah took a deep breath and sagged in relief. “Wolf, I’m so glad to see you.” He wore buckskins, with his long hair pulled back and secured at the nape of his neck. Her gaze rested on the pulsing spot in the hollow his throat; her heart immediately matched his rhythm. She fought the urge to run into his arms.
“Looks like I got here at the right time. This one been giving you trouble?” He nodded toward Horace.
Sarah composed herself and glanced down. The bully cowered on the ground like a mistreated puppy, and for a moment, she almost felt sorry for him. “This is the second time, but…” She raised her gaze to Wolf.
“It’ll be the last.” He yanked Horace up by his arm. “What’s your name?”
“Hor... Horace.” The man-sized boy quivered. His eyes looked wide as saucers.
“Well, Horace. I think you owe Miss Sarah an apology. You might be almost grown, but a real man never threatens a lady. I plan to keep watch on you, and if you as much as think of putting your hands on her again, you’ll answer to me. Understand?”
Horace stared at the floor. “Sorry, Miss Collins,” he muttered in a tone not at all convincing.
“Apology accepted, Horace. Please take your seat… and the rest of you children, too.” While Horace lumbered over and slumped down next to his brother, the other children skittered to their tables. She doubted Horace’s sincerity but hoped the scare had cured his bad behavior. At least for the moment, she felt safe.
Sarah turned her attention to Wolf, and her heart warmed at the sight of him. For the first time she noticed he had someone with him. “Who’s this young man?”
She hoped her cheeks didn’t display the heat she felt at having him and the other children witness her in such a helpless situation.
“Seems I found myself a companion while scouting. Little Bear’s family died during one tribe’s raid on another, and since he and I seem to be on our own, I invited him to come live with me.”
Sarah’s jaw dropped, but she managed to smile at the Indian boy who looked to be no older than eleven or twelve. “It’s very nice to meet you, Little Bear.”
The youngster flashed a quick grin before his lips stretched into a thin line again.
Wolf put his arm around the lad. “Little Bear speaks pretty good English and I wondered if you might have room for him in your class.”
“Of course. I’d be pleased to have him join the rest of the children.” She pointed to an empty chair. “There’s an unoccupied space right there.”
Little Bear looked first to Wolf and then to Sarah. Although he stood straight with shoulders squared, fear shone in his ebony eyes. Sarah took his arm and escorted him to his desk. “Children, please welcome your new classmate.”
“Hello, Little Bear.” A chorus of voices blended into a greeting.
“We don’t want no redskins in our class.” Horace’s voice spoiled the warmth. “I ain’t sharin’ space with no heathens.” He grabbed his brother’s arm, yanked him from his chair and dragged him from the room. The sad look on Henry’s face tore at Sarah’s heart but she didn’t try to stop them.
She glanced at Little Bear and shook her head. “I assure you your other classmates don’t share Horace’s sentiment.” She turned and whispered to Wolf. “I hope those two don’t come back. It’s clear to me Horace only wants to cause trouble.”
“I doubt he’ll threaten you again.” Wolf’s hand merely grazed her shoulder, but it flamed a path of fire that traveled down her arm.
Didn’t he know the affect of his touch?
She cleared the catch in her throat. “Thank you for coming to my rescue, again.” As much as she wanted to tarry and feast on his attractive face, enjoy the timbre of his voice, she had children to teach. She walked back to her desk, turned and smiled at Wolf. “Class is over at three o’clock if you plan to pick up Little Bear.”
“I’ll be here.” Wolf patted his charge on the top of his head and walked to the door, where he paused.
“Emily, please pass out the primers to those using them, and the rest of you please take out your slates and practice writing your letters.” Sarah tried not to notice his lingering as she spread out papers from the previous week to review. Her shoulders slumped when she heard the door open and shut.
Sarah wondered if she’d ever get used to him leaving. Each time he did she sensed a hollow feeling in the pit of her stomach. She watched him disappear beyond the door then followed his path until she no longer saw him through the window. With a deep breath, she turned and gazed into all the faces peering up at her.
Love and Loss in the Old West
I had the good fortune to critique this wonderful novel. Ms. Simpson's writing will put you into the shoes of Sarah Collins, her struggles as a pioneer, starting over in a hostile land, fighting her forbidden attraction to a Native American man she almost leaves to die.
Ms. Simpson's knowledge of western history, Native Americans, and more is beyond impressive.
Her character's emotions are so palpable you will struggle and triumph along with them. I didn't want the story to end.
Diane Scott Lewis - Author
Ginger Simpson, Great Lady, Great Author
When it comes to authors, one would have to search long and hard to find a better one than Miss Simpson. I've now had the honor of reading several of this brilliant author's work, but Sarah's Journey is the best of the best. Miss Simpson paints a picture of hardship for the heroine that's so real, one can taste the prairie dust, smell the smoke of the burning wagons, grieve for Sarah's loss and share her fears. In a time where romance and love is a forbidden thing between a white woman and a Native American, you'll feel the attraction this hero and heroine share and must fight. I promise when you close the last page on this book, you'll do so with a sigh and maybe a tear, but you'll love Sarah's Journey from start to finish...Five stars for this lovely tale and when's your next book coming out, Miss Simpson? I can hardly wait for it...Tabitha Shay, Author
A Heartfelt Native American Romance
1850. Somewhere on the Santa Fe Trail...
Sarah Collins awakens to a scene of utter carnage. Everyone in her wagon train headed for California has been slaughtered during a savage Indian raid. Weak and dazed, Sarah finds one survivor, her best friend, and sets about trying to revive her. But the poor woman's arrow wound is mortal. She dies. Sarah is now completely alone in the world---homeless, penniless and stranded. In scene after scene of arresting pragmatism, we come to know Sarah not by her misfortunes, but through the resourceful ways in which she deals with them. This is a woman of her time, an upstanding, God-fearing daughter of pioneers, and she is going to survive.
Soon after starting her journey back to civilization, Sarah happens on the body of a (seemingly) dying Indian. Irony rears its head and bites her---in the form of a rattlesnake---when she tries to take his horse and ends up in his care. He slowly nurses her back to health. Against all odds, on the road to Independence, an unspoken attraction develops between the two. His name is Grey Wolf. He is a handsome man of mixed blood---his father was white, his mother was Indian---who sees the world through eyes every bit as pragmatic as Sarah's. Will their true feelings for each other win out? What will happen when they reach Independence?
Sarah's Journey is a heartfelt Western romance that doesn't merely settle for being a romance. Its themes of intolerance and defining one's own identity are prevalent throughout. The protagonist is a sensitive yet uncompromisingly moral woman, a spinster on the verge of love. She is by turns abrasive and adorable, and particularly in the final third of the story, adorably abrasive. For Sarah, equality is not an ideal but an absolute. Woe betide anyone who suggests otherwise. Yet for all her forthrightness, the biggest obstacle she faces is in her own heart---forbidden love.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Simpson's recreation of Western life. The word that kept coming to mind as I read this story was uncompromising. Little is omitted, whether it be gruesome wounds, the preparation of herbs and food, Sarah's body language, or the precise terms for the different noises made by a horse. I loved seeing all this research come to life. The author's passion for the period and particularly for her characters shone throughout. This was clearly a labour of love. The only quibble I had was with the ending. I suspect many will lap it up, but I found the concept more compelling than the execution. I was hoping for a more bittersweet denouement. Nevertheless, it took a brave writer to end her novel that way. And having never read a woman's western before, I can say unequivocally that Ms. Simpson, like her heroine, has real gumption.
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