Copyright © 2005, Carolyn
Reviews For MEADOWLARK by Carolyn Lampman
Meadowlark is a story of heartache and longing, honour and respect. The huge Norwegian, Garrick is so full of love for the young woman that he saved from death, that he holds back, afraid of hurting her. He is even willing to hang, to preserve her self-respect. Having no education and very little life-experience, Becky does not question any of Garrick’s noble actions. She does not see how much he adores her, because he leaves each time his emotions threaten to overwhelm his control. The plot is quite comprehensive, and readers will be taken by surprise many times. Carolyn Lampman develops both main and secondary characters a layer at a time, until readers become involved in the emotional conflicts. Even though these are simple people, this story is sure to be one that readers will remember fondly for its emotional impact. Their love is tender and true, with romantic imagery able to be visualised by the reader, not depicted in graphic detail. The conclusion is heart-wrenching, and had this reader bawling! Meadowlark has a sequel, Silver Springs, and both are definite keepers. I strongly urge readers who enjoy Western Historicals not to miss these two books.
Reviewed by: Naomi 5 Angels
Sample Chapter For MEADOWLARK by Carolyn Lampman
South Pass City, Wyoming Territory, 1870
Becky was out of options and she knew it. With the last of her money gone, it was only a matter of time until hunger drove her down to Beer Garden Gulch in search of a job in one of the saloons. It was stupid to wait any longer hoping for a miracle. Cameron wasn’t coming back.
She kicked a small rock into the creek and glanced down the street. There was already music and raucous laughter com-ing from the saloons. It wasn’t even dark out and business was booming. Obviously the owners would be too busy to talk to her now. Morning would surely be better.
With a relieved sigh, Becky sat down on a pile of sluice box tailings. There was no guarantee anybody down there would hire her anyway. No one else in town had. Too young, they said, or not enough experience. She’d heard some of the hurdy gurdy girls were almost as young as she was. Maybe it wouldn’t matter that she was tall and gangly with too much hair and not enough chest like her father always said.
Cameron hadn’t minded. In fact he’d made her feel beau-tiful and loved right up until he walked out of her life. Becky’s father said Cameron Price played her for a fool, taking what he wanted and never giving her another thought after he rode away. As the months passed and no word came, it began to look as though her father was right.
“Oh, Cameron,” she whispered into the twilight, “Would it have made any difference if you’d known about your son?”
Her hands moved over her softly rounding stomach. Within a month she wouldn’t be able to hide it any more and they wouldn’t even let her work in a brothel. Becky’s lips twisted, too young to work, but old enough to have a baby.
Maybe her father wasn’t far wrong when he called her a stupid little slut. His words and the hard slaps that followed were etched indelibly into her mind. Afterwards he had gone to work his shift in the mine and had never returned.
Becky closed her eyes and tried to conjure some regret for her father’s death. There was none. It had been over a month and she still couldn’t mourn him.
Her stomach rumbled painfully. Another night without food. She was almost used to it by now. With a deep sigh, Becky opened her eyes and watched the brilliant reds and golds of the sunset fade into cool, concealing darkness as the sun dipped below the hill.
The cold dampness of the ground beneath her began to soak through her skirt, but she ignored the discomfort as she savored the spring evening. The moist pungency of rich soil and the smell of wood smoke covered the other, less pleasant odors of man. Crickets chirped in the nearby grass, and an owl called to its mate over the roar of the swollen creek.
At last, some of the lights began to wink out. It was late and people were staggering home to bed. Though the saloons and bawdy houses would keep going until dawn, there was al-most total silence in the city of tents that made up a good por-tion of South Pass City. It was time to find a place to sleep.
Becky rose from the ground and walked to the edge of the creek. The spring run-off was at its highest. The placer miners had been watching it for days, anticipating the new gold it would wash out of the hills. She looked down at the normally insignificant stream that now roared by with awesome power. An entire tree rolled by, bobbing in the turbulent waters.
Suddenly, the ground crumbled under her feet and she slid down into the icy stream. The water choked off Becky’s scream as it closed over her face. Then her head collided with a solid object, and her thoughts sank into blessed darkness as she surrendered to the flood.
* * * *
With a sigh, Garrick turned back to the bar, slid a few coins across its shiny surface to Sam, and picked up the bottle. As he pulled the cork out with his teeth and poured the deep amber liquid into a glass, he thought how aghast his mother would be to see him doing such a thing. The thought of Min-nesota brought the usual pang of homesickness, and he lifted the glass to his lips in irritation. He gulped down the raw whiskey and grimaced as the fiery brew burned its way to his stomach. It tasted worse than usual and did nothing to relieve his loneliness.
“Hello, Swede.” A husky feminine voice cut into his thoughts. “Aren’t you going to give my dealers a chance to win back some of that money you walked out of here with last night?”
Garrick glanced down at the brassy redhead and smiled. “Not tonight, Angel. I have a feeling the cards wouldn’t fall my way.”
Angel snorted. “Well, that’d be a first. Never seen any-body with luck like yours.” She gave him an appraising look. “What’s eatin’ you anyway. That scowl would curdle milk.”
“Bored I guess. Care for a drink?”
Angel glanced at the bottle in front of him and made a face. “No thanks. Rotgut whiskey isn’t my idea of a good time. Don’t remember it being yours either.”
“Not usually, but we ran short of black powder so I don’t have to work tomorrow.”
“You planning on getting drunk?”
“I was, but if you won’t join me...”
She laughed and patted his arm. “If it’s company you want, I may have just the ticket. A new girl came in on the stage today. Calls herself Collette, though she ain’t any more French than Sam.” Angel nodded toward a sultry dark-haired beauty at the end of the bar. “Be glad to introduce you.”
Garrick let his gaze roam over the curvaceous brunette, wondering how he’d managed to miss her before. Almost as if she felt his gaze, Collette glanced up, wet her lips, and smiled seductively.
“Well, what do you think, Swede? Want to see if she can wipe that frown off your face?”
He shrugged. “Might as well.” Maybe Collette was what he needed.
“Hello,” he said when she sidled up to him.
“Hello yourself.” Collette ran her hand up his arm. “I just love big men.”
“Well, I let you two get to know each other,” Angel said, walking away. “Take good care of Swede, Collette, he’s one of my best customers.”
“Don’t you worry, Miss Angel. I’ll take excellent care of this one.” Collette let her fingers wander down the massive chest. “Tell me, Swede, are you big all over?”
He let a slow smile cross his face. “Only one way to find out.”
Three quarters of an hour later Garrick buttoned his coat against the chill outside and collected his bottle of whiskey. Collette had been all he could wish for, and yet, if anything, he felt worse than he had before.
He went outside and took a deep breath of the crisp mountain air. There was a tang of spring on the breeze to-night, almost like home. Garrick turned his steps toward the creek. Maybe a walk would clear his head and chase away the blue devils that plagued him.
From the corner of his eye he caught a movement far up the bank. Peering through the darkness, he saw the shadowy figure walk toward the edge of the creek, apparently contem-plating the rushing water as he was. Whoever it was, he hoped their thoughts were more pleasant than his.
As he watched, Garrick was startled to see the stranger stop on the very edge of the bank.
Didn’t they know how dangerous the creek was this time of year? Garrick was beginning to wonder if he should call out a warning when, to his utter horror, the other person went down and was swallowed up by the flood. Shock held him immobilized for a blink of an eye. Then he was shrugging out of his coat and pulling off his boots, as he scanned the stream for some sign of the stranger.
At last, he spotted a flash of white up-stream. Quickly judging where the current would carry its burden, he stepped into the frigid water. Garrick’s breath seemed to catch in his lungs as the icy wetness struck his legs.
It took all of his strength to withstand the force of the wa-ter as it sucked and pulled at him like a living thing. Searching frantically for another glimmer of white, Garrick wished his eyes could pierce the blackness of the water. But he could see nothing as he battled his way to the middle of the stream.
All at once, something hit him, and he went down. Some instinct made him reach out and his hands encountered the un-expected texture of cloth. As he grabbed the body inside the clothing, he let himself be taken downstream until he had firm hold. By the time his head broke the surface the third time, he had the other person locked against his body with one arm.
Pulling great draughts of air into tortured lungs, he struck out for the edge of the stream. Though Garrick was a strong swimmer, his skills were nearly useless in the rush of water that swept them along.
Instead of fighting the current, he moved with it, working steadily closer to the bank. At last his knee struck solid ground, and he scrambled up the muddy bank where he col-lapsed on the shore. Panting for air, he lay there for a moment holding the unmoving body of the stranger against his chest, as he fought the blackness that threatened to overwhelm him.
Gradually, Garrick’s vision cleared, and he gently rolled his burden to the ground. As he blinked the water out of his eyes, he glanced down at the thin body and long skirt and his eyes widened in surprise. A woman!
He felt for a pulse along the delicate neck. A slight flut-tering against his fingers reassured him. Garrick leaned down and put his cheek next to her nose. There was no movement against his skin, no stirring of air. She wasn’t breathing.
With a sense of urgency, he turned the woman to her stomach and straddled her hips. Alternately pushing on her upper back and pulling on her elbows, he attempted to force the water from her lungs. Push... Pull...Push...Pull. Garrick kept repeating the motions, over and over, never admitting the possibility that his efforts might be wasted. At long last she choked as the strangling water came rushing from her mouth.
Relief rolled through him. Garrick moved
to the side as she coughed and gasped, trying to catch her breath. At
last the spasms stopped, and he pulled her into his arms. “It’s
all right, little one,” he murmured as a whimper escaped her lips.
A deep voice like melted honey flowed over Becky. She opened her eyes and looked up into the kind face of an angel. Never had she seen such hair, so pale it seemed to glow in the moonlight. She reached up and tried to touch it.
“Where do you belong?” he asked.
“With angels?” she whispered hopefully, then sank into sweet dark oblivion.