With great pleasure, we can announce today that Hidden Truths by Jae will be available as a revised e-book version at the end of the month. The paperback will follow in February.
Hidden Truths is the sequel to Backwards to Oregon and takes the reader once again on an exciting journey with the Hamiltons.
“Luke” Hamilton has been living as a husband and father for the past seventeen years. No one but her wife, Nora, knows she is not the man she appears to be. They have raised their daughters to become honest and hard-working young women, but even with their loving foundation, Amy and Nattie are hiding their own secrets.
Just as Luke sets out on a dangerous trip to Fort Boise, a newcomer arrives on the ranch—Rika Aaldenberg, who traveled to Oregon as a mail-order bride, hiding that she’s not the woman in the letters.
When hidden truths are revealed, will their lives and their family fall apart or will love keep them together?
Today we want to build the anticipation with an excerpt (author’s choice):
Baker Prairie, Oregon
April 20, 1868
The stagecoach swayed to a halt, and Rika braced herself so she wouldn’t be thrown onto the laps of her fellow travelers.
She drew in a breath. This was it, her new home. The stage’s leather curtains were drawn shut to protect them from the mud flung up by the horses’ hooves, so she hadn’t yet caught a glimpse of the town. The two passengers opened the door and climbed down, but Rika was almost afraid to step outside and see what she had gotten herself into.
One of the men offered his hand to help her out of the stagecoach.
With one step, Rika sank ankle-deep into the mud on the main street. She shook out her wrinkled, sooty skirts and stepped onto the boardwalk.
A few dozen buildings dotted the rutted main street. Wooden signs announced the presence of a barbershop, a doctor’s office, a blacksmith, and a saddle maker’s shop in the little town. In front of the dry-goods store, a brown horse stood hitched to a buckboard.
One of Rika’s fellow travelers disappeared into the barbershop; the other climbed onto a buckboard, tipped his hat, and drove off. Now only Rika stood waiting on the boardwalk.
She scanned the faces of the townspeople milling about Main Street, going into and coming out of buildings. The man with the handlebar mustache, her future husband, was nowhere to be seen.
The stage had come in late. Had he gotten tired of waiting and left? What if he changed his mind and no longer wanted a wife? Rika clutched her carpetbag to her chest.
Her gaze darted up and down the street, but no wagon came to pick her up. People hurried across the boardwalk, trying to get out of the rain that had started falling again. Some threw curious glances her way, but no one talked to her. Shivering, she slung her arms more tightly around the carpetbag.
A few young men wandered over from the livery stable. One of them doffed his battered hat. “Can we help you, ma’am?”
“No, thank you.” Rika drew her bag against her chest. “I am waiting for Mr. Phineas Sharpe, my betrothed.”
“Ah, then you’re plumb out of luck, ma’am, ’cause Phin left to drive a few horses up to Fort Boise and won’t be back for two months.”
The blood rushed from her face, and she swayed. “Two months?”
“Or more.” The man shrugged.
Oh, Jo. Good thing her friend would never find out that her beloved Phineas didn’t intend to keep his promises. Riding off to Boise when he knew his betrothed was coming… She was stranded in an unfamiliar town, forsaken by a future husband who had apparently changed his mind. What now?
“I’m sorry I’m late,” someone said behind her.
A young woman stopped midstep.
Rika took in the woman’s mud-spattered bodice and the bonnet hanging off to one side, revealing disheveled fiery red hair. Under a skirt that was ripped up to midthigh, flashes of long drawers startled her. Behind the woman, a sweat-covered gray horse pranced around.
What did she do to the poor horse?
When the wild-looking woman reached for the carpetbag, Rika flinched away. “Who are you?”
“Oh.” A flush colored the stranger’s golden skin. She wiped her hand on her skirt, probably not getting it any cleaner. “I’m Amy Hamilton, a friend of Phin Sharpe’s. And who on God’s green earth are you?”
* * *
The young woman stared at her.
Amy stared back.
“I’m Johanna Bruggeman,” the stranger said.
Amy put her hands on her hips. “No, you’re not. I’ve seen the tintype. You’re not her.”
The fragile beauty of Phin’s bride had burned itself into her memory. The stranger, however, was neither fragile nor beautiful. While the tintype hadn’t provided colors, Amy could tell that Phin’s bride had fair hair. The stranger’s brown hair, though, shone with the same coppery gleam as the mahogany coat of Nattie’s mare. Her wide brown eyes reminded Amy of a spooked horse.
The woman’s gaze flitted around, and she hid behind her carpetbag as if it were a shield. But then she tilted her head and composed her stern features.
Like a mustang. Spooked but unbroken in spirit.
“Of course I am Johanna Bruggeman.” Her slight accent made the name sound exotic.
Right. She’s Dutch. So was she Phin’s bride after all? “Then how come you don’t look like the woman in the tintype?”
A muscle in the stranger’s face twitched. “Phineas showed you the tintype?”
Amy nodded and dug her teeth into her bottom lip. She hoped she wasn’t blushing. Why did she feel like a boy who’d been caught with the picture of a dance-hall girl? It wasn’t as if she had ogled the young woman’s picture. She raised her chin. “You still owe me an explanation.”
The stranger lowered her gaze. “I was too embarrassed to have my picture taken. I know men don’t find me all that appealing, so a friend allowed me to send her picture instead.”
Amy slid her gaze over her. She is a bit on the plain side. All the better. She had been afraid of how a woman who was every bit as beautiful as Hannah might make her react.
“I know it’s vain,” the young woman said. “But I hope you won’t judge me for it.”
“None of my business,” Amy said. Just to be on the safe side, she didn’t plan on having much to do with Phin’s bride. Easy to do, since she would be busy with the ranch. “All right, then let’s go. I’ll take you to the ranch. My family will take care of you until Phin returns.” She kept her movements gentle but firm, as if dealing with a young horse, and again reached for the carpetbag.
Finally, the woman handed over her baggage.
“Do you have any other bags?” Amy asked.
A flush stained the young woman’s pale skin. “No, just this one.”
As far as Amy was concerned, there was no shame in being poor. At least she wouldn’t have to drag half a dozen suitcases, bags, and hatboxes to the buckboard and could get back to the ranch sooner.
The ranch and Mama. No doubt Mama would have something interesting to say about Amy’s skirt and the mare.
* * *
Stay tuned for more information on Hidden Truths.
The Ylva team