My Books

Thanks for stopping in today. To read the frist chapters of my books click on the book titles in the tabs above.

A Bride's Dilemma





A Bride's Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee
ISBN 978-1-61626-571-7


                                                     HEAVEN'S STOLEN HIS HEART



After witnessing the ravages of the Civil War, Travis Logan vowed to give up doctoring. But when fellow steamboat passenger Caleb Wharton collapses at his feet, Travis knows he must lend his aid. As the old man lies dying, he makes Travis promised to take care of his land and find heaven. Travis can't help but wonder what heaven has to do with the real place, so he heads to Caleb's farm to fulfill his promise.

Weeks of facing marauders and caring for her father's home have finally taken a toll on heaven Wharton. When an unknown young man charges the house, heaven attempts to fire a warning shot, but ends up shooting a man instead. Shocked, she and her sister, Angel, dragged a semi-conscious Travis to the house and nurse him back to health.

As Travis and heaven both struggle to control their destinies will they learn that only a heart it follows God can ever find peace on earth?

READ Chapter One!


Prologue

Travis Logan leaned over the deck railing and watched the river swirl and froth as the steamboat shoved its way through the muddy Mississippi. An older gentleman stood next to him. Travis hadn’t seen him on board before. “Nice out here on the water.”

“Better than down below.” The man swayed.

“Are you feeling okay, sir?” Travis reached over and steadied him while he grasped the railing.

“Must be the motion. It’s the first trip I’ve taken on a big ship.” The man’s knuckles were white.

The man did look a bit green. Some people couldn’t handle the rhythm of the ship. “The fresh air should help.” Travis relaxed. Other than suggesting a piece of ginger to settle the man’s stomach, there was little he could do for seasickness as a doctor. And he’d left that life behind. Now a horse claimed his thoughts and his future. He walked a few paces away and then stopped. He should offer the man some assistance, maybe collect a family member? He turned back to ask, “Can I get someone for you?”

The man released the rail and dropped to the steamboat deck with a thud.





Travis’s physician training kicked his future out of the way. He automatically knelt and felt for a pulse. It was there. Weak, but there.

“Sir, can you hear me?”

No response came from the man. Sweat beads swelled on his forehead and dripped down his neck. Either the man had succumbed to heatstroke, or worse, had some kind of fever. Pricks of fear stabbed Travis’s neck. He’d been at the bedside of too many men who succumbed to a fever during the War Between the States. And he couldn’t prevent their deaths. Feet shuffled around him as a small crowd of passengers gathered in a half circle to gawk and whisper. “Someone go after the ship’s doctor.” He didn’t mind giving that order. It would be best for the man and Travis.

“Doctor got off at the last stop in Cairo, Illinois. We’re picking up the new one in St. Louis,” a deckhand propping himself up with a mop called from behind the crowd.

Travis’s jaw tightened. “Anyone know this man’s name? Where his cabin is?” He searched faces for some indication of recognition and saw none.

There were mumbles as the man’s identity was discussed, but no clear response came other than he’d been seen boarding the ship in Memphis alone.

A flock of seagulls squawked as they flew overhead, casting shadows that flittered across the unconscious man’s face.

“Is there an infirmary at least? Perhaps the captain can look in on him.” Travis didn’t want to announce he was a doctor. If he did, he’d likely be pressed into service until St. Louis.

“There’s a room he used a few floors below deck.”

Let’s take him there then. I’ll help you get him there.” He hoped the captain would take charge of the patient, leaving Travis to go back to planning his life as a horse breeder.

The deckhand propped his mop between a brass spittoon and the rail. The wooden handle clunked against the brass.

Travis draped the older man’s arm around his shoulder and waited for the deckhand to do the same. then they lifted him.

“Where we going?” the man rallied for a moment. “I don’t feel so good.”

“We’re taking you to the infirmary, sir. What’s your name?” Travis hoped for details, but none came.

After a while, the man woke. During his short lucid periods, Travis learned his name was Caleb Wharton from Friendship, Tennessee. More importantly, before dying, Caleb Wharton had given Travis the deed to his land and offered him heaven.

Chapter 1

With a short piece of cinder, eighteen-year-old Heaven Wharton scratched another vertical line between the logs across the rough chinking. According to the marks, Pa had been gone now for almost ninety days. She set the cinder on the protruding edge of the log just over the marks and out of reach of her little sister, Angel’s, hands. “Angel, it’s time to get up.” Quiet from her parents’ bedroom seeped into the kitchen.

Gathering the hem of her work apron, she wiped the cinder from her fingertips. She let the smudged fabric fall and settle against her black skirt. She hadn’t heard from Pa since he left. their supplies were running low, and it was four weeks until Christmas. If he didn’t send for them soon, she’d have to go into town. She hated going there without Pa. She didn’t have his friendly way about her when it came to Angel. He could make a stranger change his tune about treating Angel like a broken doll. And the stranger would be friends with Pa before he moved on. Heaven just got mad, and angry words sparked from her tongue in defense of her sister. No, she didn’t look forward to going into town without Pa. Soft footsteps shuffled behind her. She felt her face tighten. This wasn’t the life she’d been brought up to live. “Go back and put on your shoes, please.” Her sister’s stockings would be filthy.

“I’m sorry. I forgot.” Footsteps thudded against the plank floor as Angel went back for her shoes.

Heaven’s fingers gripped into fists. That was Angel’s last clean pair of socks. they'dy’d have to wash this morning, even though it wasn’t wash day, so she would have dry ones by tonight.

Angel returned with her feet covered. “Do you think we’ll hear from Pa today?” Her eleven-year-old sister had asked that question every day since their father had left.

“I hope so, Angel. We’ll keep praying for him, just like we do every night before bedtime.” Pa had left them behind in Tennessee and gone to look for work at the new Union Stock Yard and Transit Company in Chicago. He promised to send money so they could join him. So far he hadn’t even sent a letter.

“I wish Ma were still alive. Then we wouldn’t be by ourselves.” Angel’s blond curls were a tangled mess, and her unfocused blue eyes still held the sleepy morning look.

Heaven stooped and gathered the small girl into her arms, attempting to hug her own sadness away with Angel’s. “Me, too. But she’s not, so we’re going to be strong, right? the Wharton women are capable, that’s what Pa says, and that’s what we are—Wharton women.” Heaven wished for the same confidence she’d used in her tone. Instead, her stomach looped into a knot and pulled tight. If Pa didn’t come home soon, she wasn’t quite sure what she would do. Thankfully, it wasn’t spring, so she didn’t have to worry about plowing, and her great-uncle seemed to have had an affinity for green beans. There had to be a hundred jars of them in the cellar, but without Pa around, they hadn’t been able to get fresh meat. She’d tried shooting rabbits, but she always missed. There were a few pieces of smoked beef and ham in the spring cellar that would take them through another month. After that, Heaven realized she’d have to leave Angel in the cabin while she went out to hunt something bigger and slower.

And what will I do when I kill it?

Her parents had sold their beautiful home and moved into this little two-room cabin in Friendship because Pa had been fearful the battle might reach Nashville. At least that was the story they told their daughters, but Heaven found out it was because her pa had lost the house in a game of cards. Turned out moving from Nashville kept them from being killed in the war. And Heaven and Angel were safe, but not her mother. Her parents should have taken the offer of Heaven’s friend, Annabelle. Annabelle’s father offered to let them live in their carriage house. Her father was too proud to do that, Ma said. At least there she knew what to do and suspected she would still have her ma.

Now Heaven had been left in charge without the knowledge she needed to run a home without help. They had been to the only church in town a few times, not often enough to make any friends, at least not any close friends like she had in Nashville. In Nashville they had floors that gleamed from wax. Here the floor was made of rough wood planks, and crawling creatures had made their way into the cabin all summer. Now that it was cold, it was the mice they had to worry about.

In Nashville, before the war, she only had to worry about small things. Would she be able to get to the Sunday social if it rained? Would Jake like her new hair ribbon? At the thought of Jake, molasses-thick sadness filled her soul. Things would have been different if he’d returned from the war. But that was before. She had to remember that life

was over because of that awful war, and she had to set it behind her. Now they were farmers. “We are starting a new life,” Ma had said as they packed a wagon a year ago with the belongings they hadn’t sold. “Be thankful your great-uncle Neal left us his farm when he died, and we have a place to live.”

“If Wharton women are strong, how come Ma died from typhoid last spring?” Angel tugged her fingers through her tangled curls.

“Sometimes things don’t make sense.” Like now. Heaven, at eighteen, should be married to Jake and living in her own home, maybe with a baby on the way and one on her knee.

Instead, the war had taken her intended, the fever had taken her ma, and now it looked like Chicago had taken her pa. Her hand fluttered to her neck and she caressed the lorgnette her mother used to wear. “Did you fold up your nightdress and put it under the pillow?” Angel shook her head no.

“Please see to it then.”

While Angel did as asked, Heaven stood in front of the cookstove, thankful to her great-uncle that she didn’t have to cook over an open fire, and gave their breakfast a quick stir. It would be ready soon. She gave the spoon a sharp tap on the edge of the pan to clean it and then set it to the side on a small plate that rested on the warming shelf.

“All done. I don’t know why we have to be so neat about things.” Angel plopped her hands on her hips. “We don’t have any visitors.”

“It wouldn’t do to have a messy house. Proper ladies keep their houses in order in case someone should drop by for a visit.” She plucked Angel’s cap off the branch their mother had hung on the wall next to the stove to hold their hats and wet things. “We need to gather the eggs, and when we come back in, the porridge will be ready.” She placed the scratchy, black wool cap in her sister’s hand.

With a sigh, Angel set it on top of her head and yanked on the sides. “I could do the chickens myself, you know.”

“Soon.”

“You say that every day.” Angel’s lips drew into a pout.

“And I mean it.” Heaven helped her sister with her coat and wrapped a black knitted scarf around her throat. She wouldn’t take a chance that Angel would get ill. then she slipped on her own coat and looped the egg basket over her arm. the cold end-of-November rain that threatened earlier when Heaven went to milk their cow made good on its promise. Big plops of water pelted them as the girls stepped off the porch.

Angel stretched out her hand and waited for Heaven to grasp it. The chicken coop wasn’t far, but there was still enough distance for the rain to trickle down Heaven’s neck and make a trail between her shoulder blades. She shivered and wished she’d wound a scarf around her own neck even if it was that awful black. She loved her ma, but she was tired of wearing mourning clothes.

Reaching the slanted door of the chicken coop, Heaven let go of Angel’s hand to yank the metal handle on the ill-fitting door. the wood, swollen from the rain, held tight to its frame. It took several strong pulls before it gave way. Inside, the small structure held little heat, and the missing chinking between some of the logs let in the only light. the wind blew rain through the doorway. A few of the chickens were on their nests clucking, still getting ready to lay eggs. The rain intensified, pinging against the tin roof. The chickens that weren’t laying scurried around Heaven’s feet, pecking at her ankles, reminding her they wanted to be fed.

Angel felt along the side walls where the chickens roosted on shelves. As her hand touched fluffed feathers, a loud squawk sounded.

“I’d say she has an egg for us today. Be quick or she’ll peck you.” Heaven tossed dried corn kernels onto the straw-covered floor. the chickens pecked and bickered with each other as they searched for the grain. the black rooster flapped his wings and crowed and pushed aside a hen to collect his breakfast.

Her sister slid her hand under a speckled hen, pulled out an egg without getting pecked, and held it up. “Is it a golden egg?” “Not on the outside. It’s a brown one.”

“Do you think we’ll ever find a golden egg?”

Heaven winced. If only it were possible for that to happen. “I don’t think so, Angel. Our riches come from God, remember?” Heaven nudged the handwoven gathering basket

into Angel’s arm. “Then I’m going to ask him to send us a golden egg so we can get our steamboat tickets and go where Pa is.” Angel’s mouth twisted while she worked her free hand through the air, finding the rim of the basket. She traced the edge then nestled the egg inside before turning back to search for more eggs.

“I don’t like November. Do you, Heaven?”

“Hadn’t thought about it much. I guess it’s not my favorite month since the sky always seems gray and the leaves have dropped to the ground. I like October when the sun hits the leaves and they look like they’re on fire.”

“Ouch!” Angel’s hand came away from the hen with the egg. “Got it anyway, you old meanie. Jake said your hair looks like that when the sunshine sometimes lands on it.”

“You remember that?” Heaven touched her strawberry blond waves, remembering how, when the sun brought out the red, Jake would call it his special fire that warmed his heart.

“I remember lots of things.”

Heaven knew her sister would soon want to talk about memories too painful to discuss if she didn’t change the direction of the conversation. “What’s your favorite month, Angel? I bet it’s a summer one, because you like to get in the creek with a bar of fancy soap.”

No, it’s not. It’s December. I know that’s when baby Jesus was born, but I like it ’cause we always get a stick of candy and a little gift.” Angel’s brow furrowed. “Is that bad, Heaven? Would Ma be mad at me for saying that?”

Heaven bent over and kissed the top of her sister’s head, inhaling the scent of the woodstove that snuggled in her hair. “No, I think Ma would understand.” She handed the egg basket to Angel to carry back. “This is your chore, remember?”

“I know.”

The wind whistled through the cracks in the coop. Heaven shivered. Winter was pressing down on them. “I think we should go to town today. It’s only going to get colder, and we need to stock up on a few things just in case Pa isn’t able to send for us before Christmas.”

“I like going into Friendship. Are we going to take the wagon?”

Heaven laughed. “No, I don’t think we will be purchasing that much today. We’ll take our basket and walk.”

“We can’t even ride Charlie into town? Even though it’s raining?” Angel begged. “Please?”

Heaven sucked in a breath. What had she been thinking? It was raining, and Angel could catch a cold, which could lead to something more serious. “Maybe we should wait until tomorrow when the sun might be out, and it would be a more pleasant journey.”

No! Let’s go today. We can take Charlie, and it’s not raining that hard. We can drape Great-Uncle Neal’s old overcoat on top of us to stay dry. Please, Heaven.” Angel folded her hands into prayer hands, her fingertips touching her chin. “It’s been forever since we’ve seen a single person besides ourselves.”

“What if we stayed home and baked a cake instead?” Heaven was sure that bribe would work. they hadn’t made a cake in a long time, and now that she’d offered to do it, she regretted it. there probably wasn’t enough flour to make one since the mice had discovered it.

“I want to go to town. Please, can we go? Please!”

Heaven wished she hadn’t suggested it, but once you let a horse out of a barn without a lead, it is hard to rein back inside. “We’ll leave after breakfast unless—” She paused. “Unless it starts raining hard.”

Angel jumped up and down with her hands clasped tight to the basket. Her blond hair floated like a cloud around her head while the eggs clacked against each other in the basket.

“Angel! the eggs!”

The spring went out of her legs. “I can’t wait! I’m going to eat really fast.” The small girl stepped out of the chicken coop, not waiting for her sister.

“Wait for me, Angel Claire. Remember, there is a hole in the path to the cabin. You don’t want to smash those eggs. They almost didn’t survive your excitement about going into town.”

Angel stopped. “Are you ever going to put the rope up so I can come out here by myself?”

Heaven’s body tensed. She had to let her sister do things for herself, she knew that, but it didn’t mean she couldn’t watch Angel’s every step.

“Do you think there will be enough to make me a jump rope, too?”

“There might be a piece left. I’ll string it later today. If it stops raining.”

“It’s a good day. I get a rope line, a jump rope, and we get to go to town!”

Heaven didn’t share her sister’s excitement. Too many things could go wrong. Still, she needed to go to Friendship, and if she went today, she wouldn’t have to think about making the trip again.

Unless Pa didn’t send for them soon.


Travis Logan passed another swamp where bald cypress trees stretched out the bottom of their trunks and dug in their roots to make their homes. He slowed his horse, Pride and Joy, to a gentle walk to cool him as he approached the town of Friendship, Tennessee. Early in the morning it drizzled, leaving the last leg of his journey damp and uncomfortable for both him and his horse. He was in search of Caleb Wharton’s place and knew he was close. Still, he considered it right smart to head into the general store for clearer directions before going any further, maybe even warm up a bit.

Friendship appeared to be a good-sized town. He passed a general store, post office, and livery stable. A man wouldn’t have to go far to get what he needed. Right in the middle of the main street sat a public well. With a quick pull on the reins, he halted his horse and dismounted. He looped the leather reins around the saddle horn. His boots squished in the muddy street as he led his companion to the water-filled troughs to drink. The town was quiet, only a few people on the sidewalks. He figured the earlier rain may have kept some folks home. A stagecoach pulled away from the hotel, its wheels sucking mud. the driver tipped his hat at Travis then flipped the reins to increase the speed of his team of horses.

While Pride and Joy drank his fill, Travis scratched the black’s neck and looked over the other half of town. There was a second general store doing business at the end of the street. If you couldn’t get what you needed at one place, you could probably get it at the other. Gathering the lead line in one hand, he walked the horse to the front of the Peacock & Co. General Store and then tethered him to the hitching post. He adjusted his black hat with a finger, raising the brim so he could see better.

Across the street, stood a boarding house with a sign swinging from a post in the yard, Miss EDNA’s PLACE Of REST. Sounded like a funeral parlor. Might be cheaper to stay a week there than at the hotel if he couldn’t move into Caleb’s place right away. He didn’t know if Caleb had left it vacant or hired a caretaker. He didn’t intend to show up unannounced and take over the farm. A person needed time to pack up his belongings and find another place to stay. Not too much time though. He wanted to get started making the place his own. His mare would be arriving in Dryersville next month. The horse bumped his velvety muzzle against Travis’s shoulder. the blue eyes, signifying the horse was a true black, seemed to question him. Travis reached up and scratched Pride and Joy’s forehead. “Won’t be in there long, buddy.”

Three wide, worn wooden steps led to the covered sidewalk under the Peacock & Co. sign. Travis noted the toy wagon and kitchenware display in the front glass windows. He paused long enough to wonder if he’d ever have a wife and child to treat some Christmas. Maybe Friendship had a woman who would steal his heart the way his mother had stolen his father’s. He wanted a marriage like theirs, built on trust and companionship. It had taken him awhile, but now he knew Mary couldn’t be the one to give him that.

The wood and glass door yawned onto the porch, spilling out a blond-headed woman holding on to a younger girl’s hand. At that moment, the sunlight decided to break apart the clouds, and with its touch, turned the woman’s hair the color of gold and fire.

An older woman with a gray bonnet tied tightly around her plump chin blew through the door after them. “Now, don’t forget we’d like to see you in church on Sunday.”

“We’ll keep that in mind, Mrs. Reynolds.” The golden-haired beauty didn’t stop. It looked more as if she sped up her pace trying to get free of Mrs. Reynolds. “Don’t imagine with the winter weather we’ll make it too often.”

“We will look forward to seeing you when you do come.” Mrs. Reynolds turned back to enter the store and stopped the moment she spotted him. Her eyes leaped from his to the scar on his cheek.

He tipped his hat to her.

She offered a “Welcome to town, stranger,” smile and then stepped back into the store.

The rustle of the pretty woman’s skirt brought his attention back to her. Travis couldn’t remove his eyes from the two females. Was the golden-fire-haired one married? Since she wore black, she might be a widow. The younger one was most likely a sister, too old to be the woman’s child. Something didn’t seem right about the younger girl. The woman had a tight grasp on the child’s hand even though she was old enough to navigate the stairs on her own. He listened as she said “now” each time they stepped down.

Golden Fire Hair carried a woven basket on her arm, which she removed and placed in the younger girl’s hand. She untied the horse on the opposite side of the stairs where he’d tied Pride and Joy. It was a nice-looking gelding. He was appraising its value and mentally measuring how many hands the horse stood when he realized the woman had noticed him staring. He tipped his hat, “Howdy, ma’am. Nice horse you have there.”

Her face flushed, and her thank-you came out more like a warning growl.

“His name is Charlie,” the younger girl said.

“Shh. Don’t say anything.” the woman turned back to face him, despite the scowl she wore. He sensed the hedge of protection she placed around the child. “We must be going.”

He removed his hat and held it low, shielding his chest. “Be seein’ you.” He watched her help the child onto the horse, climb on behind her, and ride away before turning the knob and entering the store.

The warmth from the box stove sitting in the middle of the store sucked him in like a bug to a flame. The heat seeped through his damp overcoat into his skin and melted the tightness from his ride out of his shoulders and back. He felt bad for Pride and Joy having ridden in the same cold rain. He’d order extra oats tonight if he stayed in town.

The quietness of the store settled on the back of his neck. Sure enough, he drew stares from the woman named Mrs. Reynolds and another woman holding a bolt of checked fabric. Their chatter halted as he walked past, and his hand went to the white line on his face. His scarred cheek gave him the appearance of a man with a reputation—one not well earned. He ignored the women. Walking past the barrel set up for a game of checkers, he headed straight for the counter. Once those in the store seemed to deem him no threat, several quiet conversations began behind him.

“Name’s Henry. Looks like you were caught in the rain this morning.” “Travis Logan. Yes, it was a miserable ride.”

“Haven’t seen you in here before. Are you here to stay or just passing through?” Henry stroked his graying black whiskers with his rough hand.

“I’m looking for directions to Caleb Wharton’s place.” He placed his hand on the glass counter next to a jar holding stick candy and wondered about the little girl he’d just seen. Did her sister buy her one of these for the trip home? He hoped so. As a kid, he’d liked the peppermint ones.

“What do you need with Caleb?” Henry stood straighter as he lowered his hands under the counter, a move Travis knew would make it easy to draw out a rifle in case of trouble.

He withdrew his hands from the counter and took a half step back. “Caleb’s passed on and left his farm to me. I thought I’d take a look to see if it will work as a place to raise horses.”

“Horses?” the clerk dragged the stool next to him closer and perched. “That right? What happened to Caleb?”

“Caught something that couldn’t be cured on the Mississippi.”

“And he left you his place?” Henry smoothed his rough linen work apron at the chest with his hairy hand.

“Yes sir. Made me promise to come here. Said it was heaven and I’d love it.”

“Sounds like Caleb.” Henry tugged on his earlobe then spat in the spittoon behind the counter. “Well, ain’t that something. Heaven, huh? You’re not far, about a mile down the road you rode in on. There’s a broken wheel half buried on the corner of his land. The lane’s growed up a bit, but you can see it if you look for it. You’ll find the cabin around the bend.”

“I’ll need a few supplies. I imagine I’ll be back in town later for more, once I know what I need.”

“I’ll be glad to help you, but I imagine you won’t be needing much as there is a. . .” Henry coughed. “Caleb’s had someone looking after the place.” He reached in his apron pocket and withdrew a pad of paper. He set it on the counter and pulled a pencil from behind his ear, ready to take Travis’s order. “Caleb brought the missus and his family here in early spring. The place was in pretty good shape. It belonged to his wife’s uncle— odd old coot, he was. Surprised us when Caleb decided to head north to look for work, but he wasn’t quite the same after his wife died.”

“He didn’t say much about that. All he talked about was this place, so he might have changed his mind about working up north.” Tension that had been riding his shoulder blades left. This must be a sign that giving up doctoring was the right thing to do. He could use a break, and a homestead in good shape with milking cows, chickens, and a nice barn seemed to be in his future. “Then I guess I’ll just head out that way now, since it sounds like all I need is already there, just like Caleb said.”

As Travis walked out the door, Henry laughed, and Travis thought he heard him say, “I hope he has a gun.”

Purchase A Brides' Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Christian Book Distributors





Endorsements

Oh, what a fun read! Come sit a spell with sparkling characters, an engaging plot and a touch of humor that will charm you all the way to Friendship, Tennessee. Diana Brandmeyer weaves a delightful love story that will have you settling in and never wanting to leave.
-- Julie Lessman, award-winning author of The Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change series. 


Diana Lesire Brandmeyer has created a delightful tale in A Bride’s Dilemma In Friendship, Tennessee! Divine providence gives Heaven and Angel a shot at happily ever after that they never saw coming. Whether you’re cheering at Travis’s attempts at courting, laughing at Angel’s direct way of speaking, cringing as they continue to live on mainly green beans, snickering at Heaven trying to become a marksman, or squeezing your eyes shut at Jake trying to win her back, there is an emotion for every page of this book! Cudos to Brandmeyer
        ~Bonnie S. Calhoun – Publisher of Christian Fiction Online Magazine,
                             author of Cooking The Books, A Sloane Templeton Mystery~

A captivating story! I loved the true-to-life depiction of the relationship between Heaven and her sister. The plot moves at heart-racing speed toward a wonderfully satisfying conclusion. Plan to be enthralled by A Bride's Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee."
 Ann Shorey
Yesterday's women--Today's issues.
Where Wildflowers Bloom, Book 1
http://annshorey.blogspot.com/