Fiction Fest: Another bite of Carolyn Steele’s ‘Willow Springs’

Willow Springs 2x3 WEBCarolyn Steele’s “Willow Springs” is the first in our new Pure Romance line of clean romance novels and is available in bookstores and from online retailers.

The Deseret News had this to say about “Willow Springs”:

“Steele’s book is woven with lovely threads from the past, and her storytelling is a notch above the usual. Her ability to create authentically motivated characters and to keep them moving through an intriguing plot is wonderful.”

Here’s a sample of the book to make do until you can get your hands on a copy. Legally, of course.


From the author: In this excerpt, Crissa meets the primary antagonist, Garth Wight, and is reminded of one of many reasons she is hiding in Willow Springs.


Smiling uneasily, Crissa wound her way through the crowded dining room to the center table, balancing an enormous round tray laden with plates and mugs. Hard liquor was no longer served at Henders Inn, not since Hank Henderson died, but that only meant many of the miners would get thoroughly soused before they came in for dinner. It was no small feat for an attractive woman to negotiate her way untarnished past countless filthy, grabbing hands, leering grins, and ribald comments.

Payday came only once a month for miners at the Gold Hill camp. For a day or two afterward, the few shopkeepers in Willow Springs eagerly jostled for their business. The women at Henders, however, were not as eager to have their inn overrun by a bunch of men looking for a good time.

A group of men were laughing raucously, and as Crissa approached, a renewed wave of jeers erupted. Edging between their chairs, she grimaced inwardly each time she bumped one of their shoulders or elbows. “There you go, gentlemen. Enjoy your supper.” Crissa tried to make as little conversation as possible while doling out the steaming platters.

“Supper?” Garth Wight bellowed, shoving his platter of pot roast and mashed potatoes away from him. “You call this pig swill supper?”

Crissa stood her ground, glaring. “Is there something that does not please you, Mr. Wight?”

“You bet there is,” he said, locking a massive arm around her delicate waist. “Got a wild hankering for a juicy bit of rump roast.” He pulled her in snugly. “What d’ya say?” Appreciative guffaws burst from the three other men at the table.

Crissa struggled, unable to loose herself, keenly aware of the gawking eyes focused on her throughout the room.

“Calm down there, darlin’.” Garth smirked, turning her from side to side to get a better look at her. He turned to his friends, who were grinning at Crissa. “Too much fight fills a woman with gristle. Ain’t that right, fellas?”

Frantic, Crissa flipped the searing plate of food onto Garth’s chest. Springing to his feet, spewing filth as easily as spittle, he brushed hot potatoes and gravy off his scalded chest. As Crissa turned to flee, Garth grabbed her by the wrist, twisting her arm behind her, and drew her body close to his.

Crissa fought back the retching sensation welling up from her stomach while Garth pinned her to him. She tilted her head back to glare at him. His clear amber eyes, hooded with heavy brown brows, sent a streak of fear from her throat to her knees. “Are threats the only way you can woo a woman? You träsk hund.”

Tangling his fingers in the tousle of curls on top of her head, Garth pulled Crissa’s head back even further until she feared her neck would snap. “Don’t get uppity with me, Crissa Engleson. You’re a foreigner here, and you’ll never be anything better. You’re not likely to get a better offer, and you know it.” His breath stank of stale whiskey.

The putrid odor brought a flash of confused remembrance to her mind, breaking through her fright. She was a little girl in Sweden, sitting at the table in her family’s small cottage. The rickety door slammed open and her father stood in the doorway, framed by the darkness. Crissa cried out in alarm as he crossed the room and jerked her mother from the chair beside the fire. He was yelling and laughing, dragging her mother behind the curtain to their bedchamber. Crissa couldn’t remember the words her father spoke, only his smell. Liquor and vomit and urine.

“No!” Crissa spit in Garth’s face. With all her might, she stomped on his foot. As he loosened his grip, she struck the heel of her hand into the bridge above his crooked nose, heaving herself away from him. Garth rubbed his brow with the back of his hand, laughing heartily. Crissa stumbled against the next table and fled back to the kitchen.

Her first instinct was to pack her few belongings and leave on the next stagecoach. I will not go through this again, she told herself. But where can I go with no money? She was lucky to have found this position, but she knew that she might not find another job so easily. At least I am not married to him, she thought. I’ll just stay well away from him. Recalling the blow she had landed on his nose, she almost laughed out loud. Maybe it is he who should be afraid of me!