The truest treasure is found deep in the heart.
1864. Back in her beloved Virginia, Shannon Adair nursed injured soldiers back to health. But in Grand Coeur, Idaho—the rough-and-tumble place where her father has been called to lead the church—she's not sure where she fits in. Then a critically ill woman arrives, and Shannon knows her place at last: to care for this dear woman and ease her pain.
Matthew Dubois is the fastest and most reliable stagecoach driver on Wells Fargo’s payroll. But his widowed sister is dying and he’s about to inherit his young nephew. So he takes a job at the Wells Fargo express office in Grand Coeur until he can find the one thing he needs to get back to driving: a wife to care for the boy.
What neither of them knows is that God is at work behind the scenes—and is lovingly bringing them together to discover the true desires of their hearts.
“Robin Lee Hatcher has done it again! Heart of Gold is an incredible story of deep conviction and spiritual growth, all blended with romance and a touch of sassy heroine thrown in for good measure. I could hardly put it down and found myself longing for more when the story drew to an end.” —Tracie Peterson, bestselling author of the Song of Alaska and Striking a Match series
- Historical romance with inspirational elements
- Full-length stand-alone novel
- Includes a reading group guide for book clubs
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Sold by:||HarperCollins Publishing|
|File size:||1 MB|
About the Author
Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of over 80 novels and novellas with over five million copies of her books in print. She is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. Her numerous awards include the RITA Award, the Carol Award, the Christy Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Reader’s Choice Award, and the Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award. Robin is also the recipient of prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards from both American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. When not writing, she enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, Bible art journaling, reading books that make her cry, watching romantic movies, and decorative planning. Robin makes her home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with a demanding Papillon dog and a persnickety tuxedo cat.
Read an Excerpt
HEART OF GOLD
By Robin Lee Hatcher
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Robin Lee Hatcher
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMay 1864
Shannon Adair leaned close to the door as the stagecoach slowed, trying to catch her first glimpse of Grand Coeur, wanting it to be more than she had any right to hope it would be. She'd said good-bye to everything and everyone she loved in order to come with her father to the Idaho Territory. She was both scared and excited now that the dirty, bone-jarring, difficult, and sometimes treacherous journey was at an end.
The coach jerked to a stop, and the driver called down, "Grand Coeur, folks."
Shannon glanced toward her father, seated across from her.
The good reverend gave her a weary smile. "We are here at last."
"So it would seem."
The door opened, and the driver offered his hand. "Let me help you down, miss."
"Thank you." Shannon placed her gloved fingers in the palm of his hand. "You are ever so kind."
The driver bent the brim of his dust-covered hat with his free hand, acknowledging her comment.
Once out of the coach, she turned a slow circle, taking in her surroundings. Her stomach plummeted. This was Grand Coeur? Merciful heavens! It was not better than she'd hoped. It was worse than she'd feared.
The street they were on was lined on both sides by unpainted wooden buildings of various shapes and sizes. The boardwalks in front of the buildings were uneven, sometimes nonexistent. And the hillsides that surrounded the valley had been stripped clean of trees, undoubtedly for the wood used to throw up this ugly, sprawling goldmining town of more than five thousand souls.
"Oh, Father," she whispered. "Whatever shall we do here?"
"Don't look so despairing, Shannon."
She turned to find her father had disembarked from the coach and now stood nearby.
"We knew it would be different from home," he said. "And we are needed here."
More than they'd been needed in the war-torn South, where he'd ministered to his flock and she'd been able to help nurse the injured?
As if he'd heard her unspoken question, he said, "I have always tried to answer God's call, even when I don't understand it completely. Would you have me do differently now?"
The lie tasted bitter on her tongue. She would have him do differently. She would have him decide to go back to Virginia, to recognize that God wanted him to be there to help rebuild when the war was over. When the South no longer had to fight for its existence, the Confederacy would need men like her father. He was a natural leader with a head for governing and a heart for the kingdom of heaven. He was strong in his faith and able to forgive and show others the grace of God.
What on earth made him believe the Lord wanted him in such a place as this?
"Reverend Adair?" a voice called.
Shannon and her father turned in unison to see a rotund man in a black suit hastening toward them.
"Are you Delaney Adair?"
"Yes, sir. I am."
The man stopped in front of them and thrust out his hand. When her father took it, the man gave it a hearty shake. "We've been watching for you on every stage for the past week. Welcome. Welcome. We're glad you've come. I'm Henry Rutherford."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Rutherford. May I introduce my daughter, Miss Shannon Adair."
"How do you do, miss?" Henry bowed in her direction.
She decided a simple smile and nod of her head would need to suffice. If she opened her mouth, she was certain she would say something disparaging about Grand Coeur.
"My wife's got the parsonage all ready for you. 'Course, it probably isn't what you're used to. Kinda small and plain. But we hope you'll be comfortable there, you and your daughter."
"I'm sure we will be," her father replied.
Shannon wasn't at all sure.
"I've got some men with me to help with your luggage." Henry turned and waved his helpers forward. The three men were a rough-looking bunch, with scruffy beards and weathered faces. Their trousers, held up by suspenders, were well-worn, as were the dirt-encrusted boots on their feet. The sleeves of their loose-fitting shirts had been rolled up to their elbows, revealing dark skin on their arms. Miners, she supposed, who spent every hour of daylight panning for gold in the streams and rivers somewhere nearby. At least that's how she'd been told it was done.
Shannon's father identified their trunks and one small crate, then he took hold of her arm at the elbow and the two of them followed Henry Rutherford down a narrow side street.
She saw the church first. Built on the hillside, its steeple piercing the blue sky, the house of worship had white clapboard siding, giving it an air of elegance in comparison to the mostly unpainted buildings in the town. There was even a round stained-glass window over the entrance.
Perhaps Grand Coeur was not completely uncivilized if the citizens had taken the time to build such a church.
Her moment of hope crumbled the instant Mr. Rutherford pointed out the parsonage. It was little more than a shack. Crude, cramped, and completely unsuitable.
Oh, Father. You cannot mean for us to live here.
* * *
Matthew Dubois opened the door of the Wells, Fargo & Company express office and stepped inside. At the far end of the spacious room, William Washburn looked up from the open ledger on the desk. The instant he recognized Matthew, he grinned.
"Well, I'll be hanged. Is that you, Matt?"
"It's me, Bill."
"You're not the new agent they sent?"
William rose and came to meet him in the center of the office, giving his hand a hearty shake. "You tellin' me you're givin' up drivin' for the company?"
William cocked an eyebrow.
"My sister's ailing and needs a place to stay—Alice and her son—until she's back on her feet. They don't have any family but me. She lost her husband in the first year of the war."
"Sorry to hear that. Right sorry."
Matthew acknowledged William's sympathy with a nod.
"Can't say Grand Coeur is the best place to bring a woman and young boy, but I reckon you already knew that."
Matthew nodded a second time. Over the years, he'd seen the ugly underbelly of more than one mining town between San Francisco and the Canadian border. He'd known Grand Coeur would be no better. But this was where his employer had sent him, so this was where he and his sister and nephew would live.
"Alice with you?"
"No. I don't expect her and the boy until the end of the week."
"The company told me they wanted a house for the new agent. Couldn't figure out why the spare room upstairs wouldn't do, but I guess it's 'cause of the family."
The comment needed no response from Matthew.
"Might as well show you the place." William turned toward the door leading into a back room. "Ray?"
A few moments later, a young clerk appeared in the doorway. "Yessir?"
"Mind things. I'll be back directly."
"Come on, Matt. I'll show you where you'll be living."
The two men went outside. The Wells, Fargo coach was no longer in sight. Matthew's replacement driver had already taken it to the station to harness fresh horses for the journey back down to Boise City.
William motioned toward the east. "We'll go thisaway."
Matthew fell into step beside him.
"Your sister and nephew ought to be comfortable. The house is away from the center of the town. Up there on the hillside." He pointed as they turned a corner. "Bit quieter in the evenings, if you know what I mean."
He knew. The saloons did great business at night in a place like Grand Coeur, and the center of town could get rowdy. Better to keep his sister—an attractive widow in ill health—away from the eyes of men starved for female attention.
The street they were on carried them up the steep hillside. Up ahead and to his left, he saw a white church complete with steeple. Off to the right were a half dozen two-story homes. Doubtless the residences of the town's more prosperous citizens. And, surprisingly, it was to one of these houses that William took him.
"Bill, you don't mean this for us."
"I do, indeed." He took a key from his pocket.
"I won't be able to afford the rent."
"Yes, you will. The fellow who built it was killed 'fore he could move in. Company got the house, furnishings and all, for next to nothin'. Not sure how or why. Only know they're rentin' it to you for a song. Now I know who they sent, I reckon I know why they're doin' it. They don't want to lose you when the time comes for you to start drivin' again."
Matthew took pride in the job he did. He was one of the top drivers in the country. Maybe the top driver. If a freight company wanted their stage to get where it was going and get there on time with the cargo safe and secure, Matthew Dubois was their man. He could only hope he wouldn't be gone from the job so long that Wells, Fargo forgot they felt that way about him.
William opened the door and the two men entered the house. It wasn't unusually large. Nothing like the palatial homes of many of those who'd made their fortunes in gold and silver around the West. But it was more spacious than any place he'd lived before.
The downstairs had a front parlor, a small dining room, and a kitchen with cupboards, a butler's pantry, and a large stove. Upstairs there were three bedrooms and an honest-to-goodness plunger closet. He'd heard about such things. Just never thought he'd live to see one.
It ought to please Alice.
It would be nice to please his sister. He hadn't done much of that when they were younger. He'd been too stubborn and selfish back then, too determined to have a life of his own that didn't include watching after his baby sister.
If their mother was looking down from heaven, she had to be mighty disappointed by the choices he'd made in the years since her death. Maybe looking after Alice and her son, Todd, would make up for some of those poor choices.
Besides, he supposed a few months living in this house and working in the Wells, Fargo office wouldn't be too bad. He wasn't much for being in one place for long. He preferred wide-open spaces to towns with people packed in like cookies in a tin. But Alice would be strong and healthy before long. Then he'd be back on a coach, holding the reins of a team of horses racing along a narrow road, dust flying up behind him in a cloud.
* * *
The parsonage was clean. Shannon could say that for it. Mrs. Rutherford and the other respectable women of Grand Coeur had done their part to welcome the new minister in this way. And the house wasn't quite the shack she'd thought at first, although everything inside was most assuredly rustic and plain. The wooden floors had no rugs. The sofa and beds—donations from members of the congregation, no doubt—were lumpy. And the stove? Oh, mercy! The stove. How was she to prepare a proper meal on it? She was not the most accomplished cook, and until they found a servant who could—
Tears welled in her eyes, and she blinked hard to keep them from falling.
"Shannon, we must thank God for providing for us."
"Yes, Father." She took his hand, bowed her head, and closed her eyes.
"Almighty God, we thank Thee for delivering us safely to our new home ..."
How would she survive in this horrible place? The people she'd met along the way were mostly uneducated, often dirty and unfamiliar with the basics of good hygiene, all too often gruff and rude. And the way they spoke. My lands! Their voices grated on her ears. She longed for the genteel sounds of her native Virginia. She longed for the gallant young men who had once courted her, riding their fine horses and wearing their fine clothes. But they were all gone now, off to fight in that dreadful war, so many of them dead on the battlefields, never to return. Even her Benjamin.
"... and may we be a blessing to the people we meet, O God. Help us to be Thy servants and to think of others before we think of ourselves. In the name of Thy Son, Jesus, we pray. Amen."
"Amen," Shannon whispered, hoping her father wouldn't guess how far her attention had strayed during his prayer.
He gave her hand a squeeze before releasing it. "Well." He turned in a slow circle. "We had better make a list of things we'll need to buy at the store. From what Mr. Rutherford said, we can expect prices to be high, so we will need to be careful with our funds."
As if that hadn't been the way of things for the past three years. Once the war began between the North and the South, if one could find what one wanted to buy—which all too often one could not—it had come at a premium. But Shannon sensed the deprivation would seem worse in this horrid town in the mountains of Idaho Territory.
Why, oh why had God seen fit to punish her in this way?
Chapter TwoMatthew pushed open the restaurant door and was immediately assaulted with the smell of fried foods, tobacco smoke, and the noise of utensils clattering against plates. William had told him Polly's was the best restaurant in all of Grand Coeur, and judging by the crowded dining room early on a weekday morning, he had to be right.
A slender youth approached. The boy was about fourteen, give or take a year, and had a white apron tied around his waist. "You mind sharing a table?" he asked. "We're pretty full up."
"No. Don't mind at all."
"Over here, then."
Matthew followed the boy through the collection of tables to one near the far wall. He recognized the two occupants immediately. The young woman's vibrant red hair—if not her pale beauty—made her unforgettable.
"Want coffee?" the boy asked.
As he pulled out the lone empty chair, the young woman looked up, her green eyes wide.
"Sorry, Miss Adair. Apparently it's the only place for me."
He could see she was even more surprised that he knew her name; her expression said she had no idea who he was or where they'd met. And why would she remember him? She hadn't given Matthew more than a passing glance when she and her father boarded the coach in Boise City yesterday morning, and it had been just as fleeting when he'd helped her disembark upon their arrival in Grand Coeur.
He looked at her father. "Reverend Adair, hope you don't mind."
"Not at all, sir. Glad to have your company. Mr. . . . ?"
Matthew removed his hat. "Matthew Dubois."
"I'm surprised you're still in town, Mr. Dubois," the reverend said. "I thought the stage returned to Boise yesterday."
"It did. Just not with me driving it."
"I'm going to be working in the Wells, Fargo office in Grand Coeur for a while. And what about you, Reverend Adair?"
"Saint Stephen's Presbyterian Church was in need of its first minister, and I was called to fill the role."
Matthew nodded. "I figured as much." His gaze shifted to the reverend's daughter and back again. "You've come a long way?"
As he'd suspected, given the man's accent. "Things as bad back there as they say?"
"I should think they are much worse than they say."
"And you, sir." Miss Adair's voice was soft and as smooth as honey, but her words held a challenge in them. "Who do you support in this War of Northern Aggression?"
"I don't know that it rightly matters to me who wins, as long as they get things settled soon."
She reacted as if he'd slapped her; her eyes flashed with anger. "How can it not matter to you? Everyone in this country must place their loyalty with one side or the other."
"I've lived most of my life far west of the Mississippi. I figure it's none of my concern what's made folks back there mad enough to kill one another. They'll have to fight it for themselves. I'll take care of me and mine right where I live."
"That is a fool's way to think."
"Shannon!" the reverend said sharply.
She lowered her eyes. "I'm sorry, Father."
"My daughter is tired from our journey, Mr. Dubois. Please accept our apologies."
"No offense taken."
A glance in Shannon Adair's direction convinced Matthew that she wasn't the least bit repentant for her words—and he couldn't help but like her for it. A woman should know her own mind. Leastwise one who lived in a rough-and-tumble gold town.
But even with a mind of her own, he doubted Shannon Adair—or her father—would last long in Grand Coeur. If he were a gambling man, he'd wager the Adairs were from money and had a pedigree as long as his arm. Not the usual kind of folks drawn to this rugged territory.
Excerpted from HEART OF GOLD by Robin Lee Hatcher Copyright © 2012 by Robin Lee Hatcher. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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