Date Published: April 1, 2014
Can an angel survive Hell on Wheels? When KIT CALHOUN leaves New York City with a train car full of orphans from the Immigrant Children’s Home, she has no clue she might end up as adoptive mother to four children in rip-roaring Cheyenne, Wyoming. At twenty-two, Kit has spent most of her life in the Children’s Home. Now she acts as one of America’s first social workers, serving as liaison between the home, the courts, and the children of the streets.
Kit has little doubt she is easing the plight of the homeless children, until the transcontinental railroad begins to span the country and she is chosen to accompany orphan trains to distribute city children as fast as the rails are laid and farms are carved out of former Indian lands. Eastern cities are overrun with homeless children, their parents sick with consumption or dead of accidents and disease. The farmers who take in the children are required to sign a pledge to clothe, feed, and educate them in return for their labor. Is this distribution of urban children to rural environs beneficial, as the churches that sponsor the dissemination insist? Kit begins to have misgivings.
Family ties are deliberately broken so that single children will have a better chance of being placed. Even so, Kit swears an oath to a dying woman that she will keep her son and daughter together. But when their train passes beyond the last settlements in Nebraska, Kit is left with no other choice. HANNAH and HELMUT, and teenagers CONNIE and THOMAS, become Kit’s sole responsibility.
The first time handsome PATRICK KELLEY lays eyes on Kit inside the Casement Brothers store where he works in Julesburg, Colorado Territory, he wants her for his own. But circumstances, and a spectral-looking demented gambler as well as Kit’s certainty no one in his right mind would want her cobbled-together family, conspire to keep them apart. When Patrick and Kit and her brood ride Hell on Wheels into Cheyenne, they’re all forced to leave behind everything they knew and find ways to survive and thrive in the raw new American West.
Cheyenne, Dakota Territory, January 1868
Panic bloomed, threatening to choke Kit as she gasped for breath. Where could she be, the small girl brought all the way out to the wilds of Wyoming from New York City? So certain she could make the best decisions for the little golden-haired girl, Kit had gone against her own upbringing as well as the stern advice of those older and wiser in order to make this journey west. Now here was her little family plunked down in the raw boomtown of Cheyenne, and she had lost not only her own direction but also the child entrusted to her care.
Where could Hannah be? Where?
The streets slimy with melting snow and horse manure, Kit struggled to keep her footing as she ran frantically up one and down another, screaming Hannah’s name. Unable to think where to look next, at last she stood helplessly wringing her hands. Tears made slow, cold tracks down her face.
A door opened behind her, and a voice full of concern said, “Kit. As luck would have it, I was just coming to look for you.”
And wouldn’t you know it? The voice of the very man who seemed to turn up at every instance of her bad luck. Indeed, he might be the root cause of her ill luck ever since she left New York City. And to think he had once promised to be her salvation, did Patrick Kelley of the dancing Irish green eyes.
But what were his true intentions as he took hold of her arm? To save her? Or to be her final ruination, as she suspected?
“Let me go.” She tried to wrench her arm away. “Hannah is missing. She’s lost. I must find her!”
“Ah, leannán, don’t take on so,” he said in a soft, cajoling voice. “Hannah is safe and sound. I have her.”
Kit’s bones suddenly felt soft, as if they had turned to mush, and her knees started to sag. Ah, God, and wasn’t her luck running true? Patrick Kelley, the very man! Of all the places in Cheyenne that Hannah might take refuge, of course it would turn out to be with saloon-keeper, and the means of the erosion of many a young woman’s morals, Patrick Kelley.
“Come inside, please, Kit,” he insisted, tugging her arm. Her feet were frozen inside boots soaked with street muck. She felt herself weakening toward him, the warmth and light of him, and of the place behind him, beckoning seductively to her.
She had come so far, all the while thinking she knew what she was doing. Most of a year had passed since setting out. She had followed a path on a journey of more than two thousand miles, a path of righteousness that she thought would answer all eventualities.
And then her path, and the paths of the children, crossed Patrick Kelley’s.
Now once more she must break down and choose between her lofty principles and a future tied to Patrick Kelley. And she found, to her utter consternation as she stared into eyes the color of shamrocks, she…still…couldn’t… decide.
A copy received from Reading Addiction Virtual Tour for an honest review
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Alethea Williams: Western history has been the great interest of my adult life. I've lived in Wyoming, Colorado, and Oregon. Although an amateur historian, I am happiest researching different times and places in the historical West. And while staying true to history, I try not to let the facts overwhelm my stories. Story always comes first in my novels, and plot arises from the relationships between my characters. I'm always open to reader response to my writing.
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Alethea-Williams/e/B0077CD2HW/
The Romance Reviews author page: http://www.theromancereviews.com/ActuallyAlethea
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/walls-for-the-wind-alethea-williams/1119074637
Other: Whiskey Creek Press: http://www.whiskeycreekpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1207&zenid=a9be6d68b403863f2e460d3c22456162