When Emily Darling intentionally reads a letter left on her doorstep, but addressed to Ethel Darton, it becomes more than a mistake in postal service. It becomes a chance of escape from her over-bearing brother. The letter, starting with the greeting “Dearest Darling” captivates her heart and hopes. What kind of man would write such an endearing and tender letter? He is obviously in need of companionship, living in the wilds of Wyoming, and is making travel arrangements for his mail-order bride. But wait, there’s more: a train ticket to Cheyenne with instructions to take a stagecoach to Jackson Hole where he will meet her.
From the letter she learns these two have never met, but that Ethel Darton has sent a picture of herself in an earlier letter.
When Daniel Saunders meets the stagecoach on the appointed day, he meets an imposter, someone who has taken advantage of a free train ticket. He’s outraged. But what is he going to do? He can’t leave her in town, alone, with no means of supporting herself. He needs time to sort this out.
A novella, Dearest Darling is a delightful read, cleverly paced with seemingly insurmountable complications, and realistic, convincing dialog. Details of Wyoming ranch land enhance the story, giving the reader an exciting view of yesteryear’s west.
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When Susan Cameron arrives in Sweetwater Valley, Wyoming, she is full of hope for her new life. At last, she will answer to no one but herself–she is free to pursue her dream of owning her own land and making her own choices. She gets off to a rocky start, but undaunted, doggedly follows her plan to file for her own section of land. Along the way, she meets Michael O’Brien who shows a romantic interest in her. Susan, however, meets Michael’s every effort with frosty response. This is her time to prove herself and nothing, no one, will deter her.
Early on, Susan has the good fortune to meet her generous and helpful neighboring homesteaders, Ella and her husband Jim. Susan soon learns that cattlemen are actively making life miserable for homesteaders. The free grazing land cattlemen have used for years is being “ruined” by homesteaders’ houses, fences and crops, tying up precious water resources. The lawlessness and tragedy that follow is a bleak part of western history.
This excellent historical novel, No Escape: The Sweetwater Tragedy, by Jean Henry Mead, is based on an actual 1889 Wyoming incident involving the vigilante hangings of Ellen “Ella” Watson-Averell and her husband, James. The homesteaders were falsely accused of running a “brawdy” house” in exchange for rustled cattle. To carry the story, the author has drawn a fictitious character, a composite of thousands of single women who attempted to prove up on homesteads, some successfully, some not.
Versatile author Jean Henry Mead’s impeccable research is evident in this gripping fast-paced tale.
No Escape: The Sweetwater Tragedy by Jean Henry Mead is available in e-book and print formats.