MINER IN PETTICOATS
Shouldering the burdens of his family and the mining community, Ethan Halsey devotes himself to providing for his brothers' growing families.
However, Aileen Miller, a widow, also looking out for her family’s interests, refuses to part with the land he needs. As they battle- one to push his dream to reality and the other to prove no man will hurt her again- their lives become enmeshed and their hearts collide.
I read Miner in Petticoats in the course of a weekend as I couldn’t put it down once I had started, I enjoyed it that much. The Miller and Halsey families are full of strong, interesting characters and the interaction between them really drew me into their world. The setting was vivid and it is evident that a lot of thought and effort went into getting the characters’ surroundings just right, rewarding the reader with a wonderful journey back in time. Aileen’s dialog and vocabulary didn’t overshadow my enjoyment as her accent only added to the atmosphere. I found myself understanding the lingo and getting into the spirit of the time straight away. I adored the chemistry between Aileen and Ethan and I would describe their relationship as finger tingling, it affected me that much. Their growing intimacy was powerfully and realistically portrayed. I also feel the need to mention how well Aileen’s son Colin was characterized as he has seen a lot of tragedy in his short life and I could almost feel the weight of his responsibility toward his mother and sister. Colin is instrumental in an exciting, unpredictable plot that had me well and truly hooked. I understand this is part of a series of books relating to the Halsey clan and I really look forward to reading more. Rose
~ LWR Book Reviews
Paty Jager pens an exceptional tale of the old west. Set in a mining community, this romance is multi faceted. Aileen and Ethan are both driven by their goals. The attraction they feel may always be just a fire wanting to burn but fizzling under the weight of secrets from the past and needs of those around them. Shayla, Aileen's precocious four year old daughter, seems to be the one character who knows what she wants. Her joie de vivre is contagious. Problems seem to be miniscule when faced with the easy acceptance of a child. If only the adults could find it as easy to see through hurts caused by life and the machinations of evil people!
This third in the series is another excellent tale of the old west, values worth living, and dastardly villains who are often wolves in sheeps' clothing. Ms. Jager keeps a level of suspense throughout that has us holding our breath, almost afraid to find out what may happen. The reader will probably hate to put the book down until each problem is solved, some in a surprising and unique way. This is a great read.
~The Romance Studio
Ethan Halsey is a Beta male in Alpha’s clothing. Around Aileen, that is. But only after her four-year-old daughter Shayla captures his heart and warms him to the idea of a family beyond the one he inherited when his and his brothers’ parents were killed by Indians when he was twelve.
This heartwarming story has some nice twists, including a heroine who’s more experienced in bed than the hero (and in a historically accurate way!), a tortured teen, a murderer (or two?) and more than a few head injuries. Jager keeps you reading until the very end by keeping you on your toes and wondering what’s going to happen next.
My only concern is the “spicy” rating; though there are a few between-the-sheet scenes, they are more sensual than spicy, which may disappoint some readers expecting some hot, hot action. One scene in particular appears more clinical than sexy. However, the relationship between Ethan and Aileen is so loving (though neither of them want it to be), the reader is emotionally sated instead of sexually aroused—and it’s a good thing. This story is perfect just the way it is.
“Have you lost what little sense you had?”
Ethan Halsey focused his gaze from the map spread across the table to his younger brother. “I’ve had more sense than you for a long time, Clay.”
“Not if you think you can just walk up to that husband-killer and kindly ask to purchase her land!” Clay shot out of the chair, knocking it over, pacing two steps and back again.
“Why are you calling the Widow Miller a husband killer? That’s not too neighborly of you, especially when we want to purchase some of her land.” His grown brother acting like a boy who saw a ghost was too good not to tease. Ethan let loose a rib-shattering, belly laugh. He hadn’t seen Clay so worked up in a long time.
“Knock it off. This ain’t something to laugh about. I heard Judd Loudeman tell how they found Mr. Miller with his head bashed in layin’ in front of his mine. And how the wife and boy weren’t seen for weeks after.”
“All that tells me is they were scared and hiding.” Ethan rolled up the map. “I traipsed over the ridges and canyons in a five mile section. The slope with Cracker Creek running at a good clip in that corner of their property is where we’re going to build a stamp mill.” He stood, placed the map on the front window ledge, and faced his brother. “I made a promise when Ma and Pa died to make sure you and the others are taken care of.” And Lord, he would never take on the responsibility of another family again. “I also promised the miners around here we could provide a way for them to squeeze more gold out of their claims.” He crossed his arms and stared at Clay. “Have you known me to ever squelch on my word?”
“No, but I’m telling you, that widow ain’t none too friendly.” Clay filled a cup for himself and clanked the coffee pot down on the potbellied stove.
Ethan raised an eyebrow at his brother’s unnatural selfishness. He strode across the small cabin and poured himself a cup. “You seem to know a lot about this woman. Maybe you should be the one to make her the offer?”
Clay spewed coffee across the room, missing Ethan by all but two drops. “I’m not setting foot on her land. Miles said she’s marked by the devil.”
“Since when have you given a dime about anything that no-account Miles Osborne had to say?” Ethan was fed up with all the bad-mouthing of a woman neither one of them had met. Miles had been making up stories to get attention since they were boys.
“He said her bonnet blew off one time when she was in town, and her face has dark markings. He said it was the devil’s mark.”
“I say again, since when was anything Miles had to say worth listening to? And how would he know the devil’s markings? He been keeping time with the fellow?” Ethan sat at the table and pointed to the chair across from him.
“Clay, you’re four years younger than me. I would say that makes you a mite old to be going around believing everything you hear. You’re also old enough to know better than to badmouth someone you haven’t met.” Ethan took a sip of coffee, never taking his eyes off his brother. It was something he learned twelve years ago, when the sudden death of his parents left him in charge of four younger brothers. Always look them in the eyes and never back down. Of course being the tallest at six-five and the broadest helped too, but eye contact always made them buckle under to his way of thinking.
His brother bowed his head and stared into his coffee cup. “Yeah, I guess I shouldn’t let what other people think influence me.” He looked up. “Kind of like Maeve. From all the mush Zeke always spouted, I expected some soft, doe-eyed schoolmarm. Instead, she’s a prickly, sharpshooter with more spit than polish.” He laughed at the picture he painted of his new sister-in-law. Ethan joined the laughter.
“Zeke definitely met his match in that one.” Ethan cocked his head listening to the approaching horses. “That should be Hank with the miners who’ll profit from our stamp mill.”
Clay smiled. “This is one time, big brother, when I think you finally found a way for Pa’s claim to make a handsome profit.”
“That’s the plan. Come on, let’s talk to them outside where there’s more room.” It would be impossible to discuss the stamp mill in the one room cabin. Clay, Hank, and himself barely had room to turn around when all three were inside.
Clay headed out the door. Ethan took one more sip of coffee, grabbed the map off the window sill, and headed out to see how many of their neighbors were willing to pitch in some money and labor to make the Cracker Creek Stamp Mill a reality.
Aileen Miller plucked the oversized straw hat from her head and wiped the sleeve of her shirt across her brow. She’d dug at the side of the mine since breakfast. All she had to show for it was a couple buckets of rubble. Fresh air and the gurgle of the stream beckoned. She leaned the pick against the side of the cave and reached down to catch the rope handles of the buckets in her hands.
“Momma! Momma! Colin won’t he’p me!”
“Stay put, lassie. Ah’m comin’ oot.” Aileen called to her four-year-old daughter and gem of her heart. “Nae need fur ye tae come in this bloody tunnel.”
She ducked and stepped out of the cave opening. The sunshine warmed her face as she took a deep breath of the clean air. Small arms wrapped around her legs. She looked down, taking in the angelic face of her darlin’ Shayla.
“Where be the laddie?” she asked, scanning the area for her twelve-year-old son. Where Shayla was her gem, Colin was her soul. He came from the seed of a man she loved with her whole being. She nearly died the evening her father came and told her he’d been killed. There were times when she and the laddie communicated without speaking. The morning had begun that way, with Colin quietly taking the pick and heading for the mine without her so much as saying: “Today, we’ll work in the mine.” When the area became too small for the two to work, he’d just as quietly left the confines.
“He’s pannin’.” Shayla tugged on the bucket Aileen had yet to set down. As the child spoke, she spotted her red-haired son.
“Aye, so he is. And why are ye pesterin’ him?” She packed the buckets down to the sluice box and dumped the contents into the top level of the wooden boxes. Shayla followed alongside, dragging her feet.
“I’m hungry. I asked him to he’p make a sammich.” The dark-haired angel extended her lower lip and placed her hands behind her back.
Aileen laughed and patted Shayla’s dark curls. “Let’s find a bite fur yer wee tummy.” She held out her hand and clasped the small fingers in hers. “Colin! Come laddie, a body cannae work on an empty stomach!”
He nodded, and stopped sloshing water over the side of the pan. He placed the pan on the ground careful to not lose any of the trailings. When he stood, her heart lurched. Each day he became more and more like his da— a man who voiced his concerns and worked to better his and his neighbor’s plight. Aye, Patrick, if only ye could see yer bonnie laddie.
Tears burned the back of her eyes. Aileen tugged on Shayla and headed to the cabin. Colin had a way of knowing when she felt lonely or sad. She didn’t want to spoil his day with her longing for something that would never be again.
“’Tis a good thing we baked bread yesterday or yer belly would be whinin’ as much as ye,” Aileen tweaked her daughter’s nose and patted her backside. “Wash yer hands and fetch a jar o’ preserves from the lean-to.”
When Shayla finished washing, Aileen leaned down, submersing her hands and arms into the bucket. She scrubbed the sweat and dirt from her skin. It had been a month since she’d had a good soaking. Her body carried the stench of her labors. If they planned to get supplies at the store tomorrow, today would be a good day to take a bar of soap down to the creek and clean up.
Colin stopped beside her, waiting for his turn to wash. “There’s my laddie.” She kissed the top of his head and wrinkled her nose. “We’ll all hike doon the creek this evenin’ and give us a wash.”
His green eyes narrowed slightly. “This mean we’re going to town tomorrow?” The disinterest in his voice didn’t fool Aileen. Colin disliked going to town, yet refused to let she and Shayla go alone.
“We need supplies. I ken ye didnae like tae go, but we need tae eat, and there’s gold that needs tae be exchanged.”
“I know. I just don’t like what the people say about us.” He shoved his fists into the water, sloshing the contents down his legs and over his boots.
She ruffled his hair and gave his shoulder a squeeze. “Ye are so much like yer da. Ye go against what ye feel tae do what is right. If only that day he wudnae have gone with his feelings and no’ been goaded…” Tears burned her eyes, and she ducked into the cabin. If only Patrick hadn’t felt the need to stand up to the English, he’d be beside her today.
The one window allowed only a small amount of light through. She left the door open for more light and air. No matter how much she cleaned the house, she couldn’t get rid of the stench of her second husband. He’d lived in the cabin before the marriage and peed in a corner when he drank, which happened to be every day.
They fought over the drinking and the habit. She eventually won, but the house reeked, and the reminder of him made it hard to sleep most nights. She preferred the outdoors and did only the necessary indoor living. Even in the bitter cold of winter, they all preferred to work in the mine to being shut in the house with all its reminders.
She grabbed the bread, knife, a board to cut on, and carried the lot out to the small, covered porch. They spent most meals gazing at the babbling creek and staring up the other side of the tree-covered canyon.
Colin took the board and knife, placing them on a log they used as a table. Since they spent this time of year on the porch, their chairs already waited for them. Shayla returned with the preserves and her usual smile.
Aileen sliced the bread and spread the preserves, handing a slice to each child.
“Ma, ain’t you gonna eat?” Colin asked his eyes rebuking her even if his words didn’t.
“In a minute, someone’s coming doon the brae.” She tugged the floppy straw hat down to her ears to hide her face, and stood. The slow approach of the horse and rider felt like a bomb ticking. They had few visitors and never anyone alone. Not since the death of Mr. Miller.