After her parents are killed, eighteen-year-old Bessie is sold by her ruthless uncle to a saloon owner.
Tricked into believing she is there to sing, she is horrified to learn it is not her voice she is selling, but her body. As a soiled dove she is so desperate to escape, she risks fleeing with Thomas, one of her clients.
Is he as kind as he seems? Does he love her like he says, or has she jumped from one dire situation into another?
Hudson Falls, Montana, 1880.
Bessie Williams paced the room waiting to be called.
She glanced at her dress for the umpteenth time, ensuring it was not ruffled, and was appropriate for the occasion.
She had traveled to Hudson Falls, Montana by stage coach for many long days with the promise of an ongoing position.
She braced herself for what was ahead.
Entertaining was not her idea of the perfect position for a young lady, but in desperate times, choices were few.
She took one last look in the full-length mirror.
Her pale blue dress was a little dated, but it was respectful and appropriate. The square shaped collar was edged with handmade lace, and the bodice came in at the waist where it ruffled out and had layers of blue cotton alternated with wide lace.
Bessie sighed. What was she doing here?
Just a few weeks ago she was at a deportment school for young ladies. At the tender age of eighteen, she should be learning to be a wife, not singing for her livelihood.
Who could have predicted her parents would both be killed in a stage coach accident, and leave her destitute?
She straightened her shoulders and braced herself for the difficult task ahead.
* * *
Bessie stood up on the stage and gazed down at her audience.
The piano player began to pound out a tune, and Bessie started to sing. Despite being word-perfect, the words seemed to be incoherent over the top of the noise from the rowdy customers, most of whom were cowboys.
A few faces turned her way, but on the whole, they continued to guzzle their beer and flirt with the ladies as they walked in and around the crowd.
She watched as one customer slapped the behind of a woman walking past. Bessie balked. What kind of establishment had she got herself into?
The offer of free board and lodgings in return for a small stipend was very enticing, so her uncle had accepted on her behalf.
As the words rolled off her tongue, she watched the goings on in the saloon, wishing she was back home in her own bed. But of course, that would never happen again.
After her parents were killed, their home was seized by her uncle and sold out from under her. As a minor, and a female, she had no legal right to anything. She lost it all.
The music stopped and she took a deep breath. No applause was forthcoming. She blinked rapidly trying to stop the tears. This was no place for a refined young lady such as herself.
There was a brief break, then the music began again. She sang the words strong and clear, not that it really mattered. It was very apparent to her that no one was listening. All they were interested in was booze and women.
Bessie sang for the next hour, then left the stage. She wondered why she was even there. Obviously not for the entertainment, since as far as these patrons were concerned, it was non-existent.
When she’d sung back home, everyone stopped and listened. Here? They didn’t care if she even existed.
She made a beeline for her room, and that was where she would stay for the remainder of the night.
* * *
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I am a multi award-winning Australian author who has been published by traditionalpublishers since 2003.
I love to write women in jeopardy stories, and this often involves murders or stalking, or both. My female characters are always strong and feisty, and sometimes they save the men!
I also write contemporary and historical western romance, either with or without suspense elements.
I’ve taught writing for many years, and have written several non-fiction books about writing. I’ve worked as an editor for publishers, coached writers one-on-one, and have appeared at writer’s conferences in Australia and New Zealand.
I have been married to my own real-life hero for almost 43 years. We have two grown children and six grandchildren.
Our household would not be complete without our wonderful pets, which includes two elderly cats and our beautiful dog Bindy, who loves long, leisurely walks. We are also fostering a puppy, who will ultimately go to an Autism school.
My hobbies are tenpin bowling and papercrafts, and surprisingly, going to the gym.
To celebrate having Cheryl as my guest, I’m giving away an eBook from my backlist, winner’s choice. Comment for a ch