Memories from Maple Street, U.S.A.: The Best Christmas Ever

Memories from Maple Street, U.S.A.: The Best Christmas Ever

What is Christmas all about? Wonderful memories! This collection of stories celebrates the very best and most poignant memories of the past, and is sure to have you laughing and crying right along with the authors who shared their stories in Memories from Maple Street, U.S.A.: The Best Christmas Ever.

Who can forget those special Santa gifts that brought such joy to us in our childhood? Those toys we fervently hoped ol’ Santa would bring for us if we were good? Livia J. Washburn, Cheryl Pierson, and Tanya Hanson write about some of those hopes and dreams for that certain gift with a special, personal twist to each story.

But Christmas memories also sometimes hold a special place in our hearts because of a person that was somehow important in our lives. Authors Sharon Cunningham, Beverly Wells, Carol Huff and Gigi Meyer weave that aspect of Christmas into their beautiful holiday tales, with remembrances of some very special people in their lives—and why Christmas means so much because of them.

Kathleen Rice Adams pens a sentimental story of a wonderful gift to her mother from her father, and Charlie Steel’s story of hunting for the perfect Christmas tree with his father is sure to make you smile. Jim Landwehr, Tina Holt, and Randy Lee Eickhoff all give us a backward glance at the love and traditions from the past that make Christmas what it is, while Christine Waldman tells a poignant tale of Santa looking for his lost reindeer in the snow.

This is one wonderful collection of heartfelt stories that you will not want to pass up—and it also makes a great gift for all ages—if you still believe in Santa.

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Excerpt

When I was a child, Christmas wasn’t Christmas without three things:

A Christmas Eve reading of Clement Clark Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

A massive tree-decorating fiasco.

New evidence my father was an incurable rascal.

I’m not certain, but I believe those three things were codified in some obscure federal law.

Back then, no one could’ve convinced me all kids didn’t tangle themselves in strings of lights, consequently becoming imprisoned with whichever sibling they were feuding with at the moment. No one could’ve convinced me living rooms weren’t supposed to lie beneath mountains of snarled tinsel.

No one could’ve convinced me a nasty war halfway around the world would curtail the annual reading of Moore’s venerated holiday classic.

The Christmas my father spent in Vietnam lacked much of the traditional joy. Even surrounded by seasonal music and decorations, plenty of cousins to help us foment rebellion, and grandparents who adored us (for reasons I’ve yet to figure out), something essential and very special was…missing. That year, four holy terrors realized no matter how hard we tried, we’d never be as good as my father at being a kid.

He confirmed our suspicion twelve months later.

 

A Mail-Order Christmas Bride

A Mail-Order Christmas Bride

What could be better during the holiday season than a warm fire, a cozy chair, and a heartwarming collection of mail-order bride Christmas stories? A Mail-Order Christmas Bride includes eight wonderful reads by some of your favorite authors.

Livia J Washburn kicks off the anthology with her story, “Kissing Until Christmas,” about a mail-order bride who isn’t exactly what she seems—but her unwilling groom hides a dangerous secret of his own.

It’s “A Long Way from St. Louis” in Kathleen Rice Adams‘s story, but can a handsome Irish alley-brawler and a former debutante rekindle their romance from a decade earlier now that circumstances have changed?

Ella’s cryptic letter brings her husband’s brother, Caleb, home for Christmas in “Store-Bought Ornaments” by Patti Sherry-Crews. Can they finally claim the love they’ve been denied for so long?

Secrets and surprises are in store when families meddle with a beautiful single mother and an outlaw-turned-respectable in Tanya Hanson’s story. Phoebe Pierce may have too many secrets of her own to keep “Her Holiday Husband.”

An earthquake lands a young woman backward in time in her great-great aunt’s southwestern home. Jesse J Elliot’s story of a “Timeless” love that will prevail, no matter what century, is one you won’t forget.

In this tale by Meg Mims, will it be true love or a “Holiday Hoax” for these mail-order brides who are traveling together? When they “switch” grooms in Holliday, Nebraska, will things work out for the best, or will they end up ruining their futures?

Hec Murdock orders up two brides for himself and his brother, Zeke. But somehow, he neglects to let Zeke know what he’s done. “I Heard the Brides on Christmas Day” is classic Jacquie Rogers-style fun with a humorous, heartwarming ending.

Can a jaded lawman from Indian Territory and a debutante on the run manage to find their own happily-ever-after in “A Marriage of Convenience”? Cheryl Pierson’s tale pits a young woman against a monster, with only one man to protect her—a U.S. Deputy Marshal—who stands to lose his heart—or his life.

Prairie Rose Publications is proud to bring you another wonderful collection of Christmas tales for your reading pleasure. A Mail-Order Christmas Bride is sure to bring you hours of enjoyment.

 

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Excerpt

If the lazy beast lounging on a bench beside the depot’s doors were any indication, the west was neither wooly nor wild. As a porter took her hand to assist her from the railway car, Elizabeth Adair stared. The cowboy’s worn boots crossed at the ends of denim-clad legs slung way out in front of him. Chin resting on his chest, hat covering his face, the man presented the perfect picture of indolence.

Surely her husband-to-be employed a more industrious type of Texan.

Her gaze fixed on the cowboy’s peculiar hat. A broad brim surrounded a crown with a dent carved down the center. Sweat stains decorated the buff-colored felt. Splotches of drying mud decorated the rest of him.

Lazy and slovenly.

Pellets of ice sprinkled from the gray sky, melting the instant they touched her traveling cloak. Already she shivered. Another few minutes in this horrid weather, and the garment would be soaked through.

The porter raised his voice over the din of the bustling crowd. “Miss, let’s get you inside before you take a chill. I’ll bring your trunks right away.”

Taking her by the elbow, he hastened toward doors fitted with dozens of glass panes. Ragtag children darted among the passengers hurrying for shelter. Without overcoats, the urchins must be freezing.

She glanced around the platform. Where was her groom? She had assumed a wealthy rancher would meet his fiancée upon her arrival. Perhaps he waited within the depot’s presumed warmth. Her hope for a smattering of sophistication dwindled, but a woman in her circumstances could ill afford to be picky.

A group of ragamuffins gathered around the cowboy. As the porter hustled her past, the Texan reached into his sheepskin jacket and withdrew a handful of peppermint sticks. A whiff of the candy’s scent evoked the memory of a young man she once knew—a ne’er-do-well removed from St. Louis at her father’s insistence, and none too soon.

After depositing her beside a potbellied stove, the porter disappeared into the multitude. The tang of wood smoke drifted around her, so much more pleasant than the oily stench of coal. Peering through the throng, she slipped her hands from her muff and allowed the hand-warmer to settle against her waist on its long chain. She’d best reserve the accessory for special occasions. Judging by the people milling about the room, she doubted she’d find Persian lamb in Fort Worth unless she stooped to ordering from a mail-order catalog.

Mail-order. At least the marriage contract removed her from the whispered speculation, the piteous glances.

The shame heaped upon her by the parents she’d tried so hard to please.

Elizabeth put her back to the frigid gusts that swept in every time the doors opened, extending gloved palms toward the warmth cast by the stove.

Heavy steps tromped up behind her. Peppermint tickled her nose.

“Bets?”

A gasp leapt down her throat, colliding with her heart’s upward surge. Her palm flew to the base of her collar. Bets? Deep and smooth, the voice triggered a ten-year-old memory: If ye were aulder, little girl, I’d teach ye more than how to kiss.

She whirled to find the lazy cowboy, his stained hat dangling from one hand. Her gaze rose to a face weathered by the elements, but the blue eyes, the crooked nose…

Brendan Sheppard.

A Cowboy’s Touch

A Cowboy’s Touch

A cowboy’s touch can heal anything—including lost love, hard times, and angry moments. In these four full-length novels, emotion runs high with the tingle of danger and the heat of love. There’s some wonderful reading in this boxed set—and it all begins with a cowboy’s touch.

In The Half-Breed’s Woman by Cheryl Pierson, U.S. Deputy Marshal Jaxson McCall goes after a young fugitive he’s been hired to track down, debutante Callista Buchanan. Heading into Indian Territory with a killer hot on their trail, Jax recognizes his old nemesis. Callie’s been set up to die—but Jax is not about to let that happen.

Kathleen Rice Adams’s novel in Prodigal Gun was a finalist for the prestigious Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award—the only western historical romance ever nominated in a novel category. With a timeless love that is rekindled after sixteen years apart, a notorious hired gun will take any risk to protect his brother’s widow Jessie and her daughter.

Kit Prate’s Wild Texas Winds pits vengeance against love between Kate Latham and Dru Beltrain when a series of mysterious murders begins. No matter what, Kate is determined to help her father build a railroad spur—and neither murder nor her love for Dru will get in the way.

Spirit Catcher by Livia J. Washburn has a young woman finding the man of her dreams—a century too late. How can spitfire Dallas James manage to hold onto Boone Cantrell in her own time when he died more than a hundred years ago?

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Robbing Banks, Stealing Hearts

Robbing Banks, Stealing Hearts

Everyone should have career at which they excel. At failing to commit crimes, nobody is better than Laredo and Tombstone Hawkins. Maybe they can bumble their way into love.

The Worst Outlaw in the West

Laredo Hawkins has one ambition: to redeem his family’s honor by pulling the first successful bank robbery in the Hawkins clan’s long, disappointing history. Spinster Prudence Barrett is desperate to save her family’s bank from her brother’s reckless investments. A chance encounter between the dime-novel bandit and the old maid may set the pair on a path to infamy…if either can find a map.

Family Tradition

Haunted by his kin’s tradition of spectacular failure, bank robber Tombstone Hawkins is honor-bound to prove his family tree produced at least one bad apple. When carnival fortuneteller Pansy Gilchrist tries to help, she accidentally summons a pair of dishonest-to-goodness ghosts. Getting into the spirit of a crime is one thing…but how do you get the spirits out?

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Excerpt from The Worst Outlaw in the West

Prudence Barrett slammed the ledger before she acted on an urge to rip every page from the spine, wad up the pieces, and light a bonfire right there on Peter’s desk.

A second set of books. She should have known her brother would lie. Again.

Leather creaked as Pru leaned back in the chair, hands clasped at her lips, gaze glued to Peter’s betrayal. With the state auditor due in less than a month, how would they explain the missing funds?

Fifty years of trust in the Barrett Bank, everything her father had built, gone in an instant if word got out. Walter Maxwell Barrett, the man who once held Granite City’s future in his hands, deserved better.

Peter, on the other hand, deserved to go to jail. Now there was a scandal the gossips would relish, bigger even than last week’s hasty departure of the town marshal and both of his deputies.

Her brother had to be stopped.

As though she had summoned him, the office door opened and Peter’s too-smooth baritone barged into the room. “I am always at your service, Mrs. Whitworth. Have a good evening.” He ducked inside, cheeks puffing around a gust of relief. “Lord, save me from simpering women. If her husband weren’t—”

His gaze fell on Pru, and his eyes narrowed. “What are you doing behind my desk?”

She slammed a hand on the cluttered desktop and pushed to her feet, brandishing the shadow ledger. “What are you doing?”

Peter crossed the lush carpet in three long strides and made a grab for the book. Clutching the evidence to her bosom, Pru ducked out of reach.

Her brother cocked a blond brow. “Snooping are we? Is nothing beneath you?”

“I could ask the same of you. Peter, you promised—”

“That I’d fix the problem. And I will.”

“By making more bad investments?”

He stalked her across the room until her bustle met the wall. “I’ll not tolerate sass, Prudence. It’s unbecoming.” Lips pinched in a thin line, he tore the ledger from her grasp. “Mind your own business and leave mine to me.”

“This is my business.” She stomped after him to the ornate roll-top desk. No wonder Peter had replaced Father’s simple table with the gaudy beast. Her brother could hide all manner of skeletons in the monster’s compartments and cubbyholes. “If you’re planning another risky scheme, I swear I’ll—”

“Do what? Tell someone?” His chuckle pulled a chill up her spine. “Now let’s think about that. Half of Granite City has never noticed you exist, and the other half doesn’t care. Lest we forget…” He swept her with a look of undisguised disdain. “There’s a reason you’re unmarried at your age. When a banker’s daughter can’t make a suitable match—” he cocked his head “—even to save her family from ruin…”

Pru snapped her arms akimbo beneath her bosom and sharpened her glare. “You snake. I shouldn’t have to save this family. I didn’t make the mess.”

“Oh? Tell that to the people who’ll storm the bank if you go blabbing.” His lips curled in a humorless smirk. “And who do you think they’ll blame? Me?” He waggled the ledger. “Or the unbalanced spinster who keeps the books?”

 

Excerpt from Family Tradition

Swiping the air to dissipate the dust, Tombstone Hawkins focused a glare on the backs of three riders hightailing it south. Now if that didn’t beat all. Robbed at gunpoint for six dollars and eight-five cents.

Helluva thing when a man couldn’t trust his own gang.

“Enjoy the wealth, you sorry sons of—” Yelling wouldn’t do any good, but it made him feel better.

Stone hiked his saddle onto a shoulder. Even Jack had galloped off with the ungrateful cusses. Damn fickle cayuse. Good riddance.

Now what? He couldn’t very well rob a bank all by his lonesome. His brother had tried, and look what happened to him: Married up with some banker lady and wearing a tin star.

Disgusted disbelief shook loose a grunt. “Never thought I’d see a Hawkins sink that low.” True, his relatives didn’t have the most impressive reputation along the Outlaw Trail—in fact, they’d been asked to take another road more than once—but a lawman in the family was downright humiliating.

If Pop hadn’t gone over the jump a few years back, the news would’ve sent him heading for the Pearly Gates on a fast horse.

The wind kicked up, shoving mean-looking clouds across the sky. The wheezing bray of a calliope wove through the gusts. Shameful waste of a traveling show. The off-key racket would have made the perfect cover for dynamiting a safe. Even if the robbery had conformed to the Hawkins tradition of spectacular failure, he might at least have outlawed his way into a jail cell.

What good was a name like Tombstone if the moniker never showed up on a wanted poster?

 

Lady Killers: Ellen Etheridge

Lady Killers: Ellen Etheridge

During the first year after her 1912 marriage to a millionaire farmer, 47-year-old Ellen Etheridge poisoned four of his eight children. She attempted to kill a fifth child by forcing him to drink lye, but the 13-year-old boy escaped and ran for help.

A minister’s daughter, Etheridge confessed to the killings and the attempted murder, laying the blame on what she saw as her husband’s betrayal: He had married her not for love, but to provide an unpaid servant for his offspring, upon whom he lavished both his affection and his money.

In 1913, a Bosque County, Texas, jury sentenced her to life in prison. She died in her sixties at the Goree State Farm for Women in Huntsville, Texas, where by all accounts she was a model prisoner.

(Image: Bosque County Courthouse in Meridian, Texas, as it looks today. Erected in 1886, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.)

Wild West Feuds: Brooks vs. McFarland, 1896-1902

Wild West Feuds: Brooks vs. McFarland, 1896-1902

Although most of the violence took place on Oklahoma land belonging the Creek Nation, an attempt to rob a former Texas Ranger started the fight. After the former Ranger killed would-be robber Thomas Brooks, family patriarch Willis Brooks accused neighbor Jim McFarland of planning the unsuccessful crime and then tipping off the Ranger.

Not disposed to sit idly by and watch the family name besmirched, the McFarlands lined up behind Jim and faced off with the Brooks clan. Both sides vowed to shoot members of the other on sight.

The conflict came to a head in a Spokogee, Oklahoma, gunfight in September 1902, when Willis Brooks and his son Clifton were killed along with a McFarland family ally. The survivors were arrested, but allowing them to make bail may have been a mistake: One month later, Jim McFarland died in an ambush at his home.

McFarland’s death put an end to the feud.

Image: Days on the Range (“Hands Up!”) by Frederic Remington, ca. 1900

‘Remember Goliad!’

‘Remember Goliad!’

La_Bahia_Presidio_Chapel
Presidio la Bahía chapel, date unknown. Fannin was executed in the courtyard.

Though the most infamous by far, the Alamo wasn’t the only massacre during the Texas Revolution.

On March 19 and 20, 1836, two weeks after the Alamo fell, Col. James Fannin and a garrison of about 300 Texians engaged a Mexican force more than three times as large on the banks of Coleto Creek outside Goliad, Texas. Without food or water and running low on ammunition, unwilling to flee and leave the roughly one-third of of their comrades who were wounded or dead, Fannin and his troops surrendered.

Led to believe they were prisoners of war and would be allowed to return to their homes within a couple of weeks, the Texians were marched back to Goliad, where they were imprisoned in their former fortress, Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto de la Bahía, which they had christened Fort Defiance. Unbeknownst to the Texians, on December 30 of the previous year, the Mexican congress had decreed any armed insurgents who were captured were to be executed as pirates.

Fort_Defiance_(Goliad)_1836
Diagram of Fort Defiance by Joseph M. Chadwick, March 1836. Tents mark the location where various companies camped. Chadwick was among those executed. The U.S. federal government reprinted the map in 1856 with the locations of Fannin’s and Chadwick’s executions marked.

On Palm Sunday, March 27, acting on orders from Mexican President Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, Col. José Nicolás de la Portilla separated into three columns the 303 Texians who were well enough to walk. Sandwiched between two rows of Mexican soldiers, the men were marched out of Fort Defiance along three roads. There, they were shot point-blank. Any who survived the fusillade were clubbed or stabbed to death. Twenty-eight feigned death and escaped.

Inside the fort, the 67 who were wounded too badly to march, including Fannin, were executed by firing squad.

Fannin, 32, was the last to die, after watching the executions of the men who served under him. As the commandant of the garrison, he was allowed a last request. He asked three things: that his possessions be given to his family; that he be shot in the heart, not the head; and that he be given a Christian burial.

The soldiers took his possessions, shot him in the face, and burned his body along with the bodies of the other 341 executed prisoners.

The Goliad massacre further galvanized the Texians. Three weeks later, on April 21 — shouting the battle cry “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” — the ragtag Texian army, under the command of Gen. Sam Houston, captured Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. Disorganized, demoralized, and leaderless, the Mexican army retreated.

Urged to execute Santa Anna as revenge for the depredations at the Alamo and Goliad, Houston decided to let el presidente live. On May 14, Santa Anna ceded Texas to the Texians in the Treaties of Velasco.

This Monument marks the common grave where the charred remains of the 342 Texians massacred at Goliad are buried
This Monument marks the common grave where the charred remains of the 342 Texians massacred at Goliad are buried.

Though Goliad was one of the seminal events of the Texas Revolution, more than 100 years would pass before the State of Texas erected a monument to the men who died. In 1936, as part of the Texas Centennial celebration, the state earmarked funds for a memorial. The monument was built over the mass grave of Fannin and his men, and dedicated in 1938. The pink granite marker, inscribed with the names of the executed Texians and their comrades who died during the Battle of Coleto, bears the sculpted image of the Goddess of Liberty lifting a fallen soldier in chains.

Though “Remember the Alamo!” is famous around the world, those with the blood of Texas in their veins still recite, with reverence, the whole battle cry: “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!”

 

(Top image: Presidio la Bahía today. In 1836, the Texians who died there called it Fort Defiance.)