Generally, Christmas stories leave me cold; they seem too gushy and unrealistic. However, Linda Lael Miller hit the right note with this tale and I enjoyed it very much.
In the opening pages, Sawyer McKettrick is riding his horse into the town where his cousin Clay is marshal. Suddenly, he is shot and left for dead by an unknown person. Still on his horse, Sawyer gives the animal his head and hangs on for dear life. His horse, Cherokee, moves toward the only light he sees and stops. Sawyer falls off the horse and into deep mounds of snow.
Piper St. James, the new teacher this year, is huddled in a warm spot near the schoolrooms stove. However, she is getting low on wood and water and bundles up to face the woodshed, well and awful blizzard. As she trudges through winds and snow, she sees a saddled horse at the schools gate.
She trips over the snow-covered man and staggers to get him into the school before he freezes to death. She has to use the new quilts shes lovingly made for her hope chest. By dragging him and them through the snow and blood, the quilts are ruined.
As a schoolmarm, shes in a precarious position. The morals of teachers must be above reproach; having a man staying your room (even one near death) is definitely a no-no. By taking care of Sawyer through the blizzard, she has a tarnished name and reputation.
Realizing this, Sawyer asks Piper to marry him; she reluctantly agrees. It is the only solution for the embarrassing position shes in now. Thus, Miller begins her tale.
Teachers earned pitiful amounts for their work and Miller makes a point of showing how poor Piper is. I particularly liked the realism of the gifts given the children oranges and peppermint sticks. This Christmas story was low-keyed and realistic but with plenty of heart.
This is part of the McKettrick Family historical romance. Sawyer, upon heading into town to take over cousin Clay's job as the lawman, gets shot in a snowstorm and ends up unconcious in front of the school teacher's door. Piper could leave him or bring him in and try to save him at the expense of her reputation and her job. Of course, she saves him and the story goes on from there.
A sweet little tale. It doesn't have the usual Christmas miracle but I love Piper's character. I'm surprised she lasted as long as she did as the school teacher though given how she was.