Logging Backdrop for Historical Christmas Novellas
October 12, 2012
Too early to think about Christmas? Not according to Barbour Publishing! They've released two holiday collections on September first, and I've just finished reading A Cascade Christmas, a group of four novellas set in Washington state around the time it became a state.
Tumwater was a small logging town at the very southern tip of Puget Sound that boasted some very interesting residents and history. I learned a bit more about it from Wikipedia.
Western Washington state is certainly not known for deep snowy winters and cold weather. It doesn't seem like the type of setting one would first think of when putting together a Christmas collection of stories. Precipitation in the region is mostly unrelenting rain, and in that era (1889-1892), that meant a lot of mud. Still, the authors managed to imbue seasonal charm into their tales.
The first novella, "Home for the Holidays," was written by Mildred Colvin. Anna Wilkin is a tomboy and doesn't even wish to be perfect and pleasant and polite like her sister Katherine. Sure she's old enough to be interested in men, but not a man who wants her to be a perfect lady. So her first move upon meeting a new eligible bachelor is to challenge him to a fishing contest on Sunday afternoon. She's smart enough not to go unchaperoned-her best friend, Larkin, will accompany them. No wonder her mother wants to send her to finishing school in Chicago right after Christmas-and Anna's father agrees to the plan-the worst thing Anna can imagine!
Jeremiah Tucker sees in Anna the little sister he'd once had and lost. Her sister is a much better deal as wifely material. Less risky, for one thing. But why can't he get the younger sister out of his heart and mind?
"One Evergreen Night" is the second novella in the collection, by Debby Lee. Emma Pearson's only remaining relative is her brother, but when he begins training to do the most dangerous job in the logging industry, firing the engines to bring the train between the camp and the town, she's terrified, in part because of the current fireman's reputation. Frederick Corrigan blames himself for a terrible accident on the train in which a friend and fellow worker died on a tight curve now known as the Widow Maker. How can he prove to Emma that he's not the reckless man he once was when her brother insists on running the train at full tilt as though he knows what he's doing?
Gina Welborn wrote the third novella in the collection, "All Ye Faithful." Every week for two years, E.V. Ranier has met with the local brewery magnate and asked for the man's permission to court his daughter, Larkin. Every week the man told him no. Larkin Whitworth believes E.V. loves her, but if he does, why does he never declare himself to her? Why does he not court her and marry her? E.V. continues trying to secure enough sawmill contracts to make Mr. Whitworth believe he can provide for Larkin, but this puts him in the path of another man who holds the key to his increased business-and offers HIS daughter. When E.V. asks her to trust him, she has to agree, but will E.V. declare his love for her before her mama's secret threatens to dislodge the Whitworth family from its position at the top of Tumwater society?
The final novella in this collection is "A Carpenter Christmas" by Mary Davis. Natalie Bollen, the Tumwater minister's daughter, has finally reached her eighteenth birthday, the age in which she can begin courting. Only one man holds her interest, and she's sure carpenter Willum Tate feels the same about her. But now that Natalie is of age, Willum is getting cold feet. Left behind at the altar nearly four years earlier, a chance reaction of Natalie's causes him to fear she doesn't love him for better or for worse. He's been building a mansion in the middle of town for over a year and no one knows who ordered it. Suddenly Willum is willing to walk away from his project and his hopes. How can Natalie prove to him that she's the woman for him, and that she'll always be there for him?
One of the things I enjoyed about this collection is that we get to know the supporting cast throughout all the novellas. Various townspeople drift in and out of the tales, and the previous couples continue to grace later stories with cameo appearances. I've also lived in or near logging communities for much of my adult life, so seeing some of the history of this resource in nearby Washington state was interesting to me.
If you're in the mood for a little early Christmas (and by early I mean both early in the season and early in the history of the American west) check out A Cascade Christmas.