To read the full book click here:

Caught in the Christmas Blizzard of Love

Snowbound in a remote cabin with her enemy—this was not the Christmas gift she had in mind.

In the snowy embrace of their ranch, Isabella stands tall amidst a longstanding rivalry with the Morgans. Amidst a swirling winter storm, she finds shelter in a remote cabin but never expects her enemy to take the same refuge.

Caleb, burdened by his late father’s expectations, carries the heavy mantle of the Morgan legacy. Forced into close quarters with Isabella until the snow stops makes him wonder what this season of wonders has in store for him.

Beneath the bickering, shared dreams and vulnerabilities emerge, setting the stage for an intricate dance of emotions amidst the enchanting backdrop of the holiday season.

Written by:

Western Historical Romance Author


Broken Bow, OK, September 1875

“Go, Pa!” Izzy Dunn perched on the slats of the hastily constructed wooden fence that penned in the rodeo arena. Bracing her knees for balance, she lifted both hands to wave encouraging fists in the air as her father, James Dunn, participated in the tie-down roping event.

Izzy’s pa was the best tie-down roper anywhere near Broken Bow, Oklahoma, where they lived and operated a ranch, and tie-down roping was the most important event in a rodeo. That meant that, as far as Izzy was concerned, her pa was the best rancher in the area, and anybody who said otherwise had best not say it where Izzy could hear.

The crowd cheered as James, looking almost leisurely despite the speed of his movements, twirled his lasso above his head and let it fly, neatly catching around the neck of the bucking calf. It was a perfect toss, like always, Izzy noted with satisfaction. James halted his horse, a steady, surefooted gelding named Pennywhistle, and lashed the lasso to his saddle. James hurried over to the struggling calf, murmuring soothing words to it as he threw it to the ground in the part of the competition known as “flanking.”

Izzy couldn’t hear her father’s low words over the excitement of the spectators, but she’d seen her father flank cattle on their ranch enough times to know what he would be saying.

Easy now, I ain’t gonna hurt ya. Settle in. There’s a good girl. See now, that wasn’t so bad.

In a flash, James had three of the calf’s legs bound. He stood, raising his hands and tipping his hat to the judges to indicate that he was finished. When the judges gave him a nod of response, James put his hat back on and retuned to Pennywhistle, mounting up and urging the horse forward to loosen the tension on the rope that still encircled the calf’s neck. An expectant hush fell over the crowd as they waited for James’ ranking to be announced.

Izzy bounced excitedly on fence post, the wood creaking slightly beneath her. Her pa had to win. He had to.

A roar went up when the judges hung James’ name at the very top of the scoreboard. He was in first place. Izzy screamed and hollered with excitement, waving her arms until she saw her pa look over at her with a big, happy grin. Good, he had heard her even though, this year, Izzy was cheering for him by herself.

The thought made her throat thicken with sadness, but she raised her voice anyway, making sure she showed how proud she was of her pa not only to him, but to everyone who had come out to see the rodeo. She wanted them all to know that it was her pa who was the best.

Last year, James’ success had been celebrated with hugs and whoops as her mother and brothers had jumped and cheered along with her. The rodeo was the one instance in which Celia Dunn, normally a proper lady despite the rough-and-tumble lifestyle that came with being a rancher’s wife, let herself be as rowdy and raucous as she wished. Last year, Izzy’s brother, Jamie, who was twelve at the time, had tossed her into the air, his excitement making him even stronger than usual.

This year, Izzy’s mama was gone, and so was Jamie and her younger brother, George, who had only been six. Last winter, smallpox had swept through the town, taking too many people with it. Izzy didn’t understand why she had been spared, why she’d barely gotten sick at all, when her mother and brothers had been fine one day and grievously ill the next—and then gone only a few days after that. She wasn’t like her pa, who had survived smallpox as a child, and so already had the immunity that Izzy, too, now carried. She wasn’t stronger than Jamie, named for their father, or even little George.

And yet, somehow, she had survived, and they hadn’t. It was just her and her pa now.

Izzy pushed back the sadness of her family’s loss, just for today. Today, she wanted to be excited for her father, who was better than all the other ranchers every day, but on rodeo day got to prove it.

“That’s my pa!” she called, though everyone within earshot was a Broken Bow resident and already knew. Izzy, brimming with pride, didn’t care.

No, today was for happiness, for enjoying the crisp autumn air that promised that the farmers would have a bountiful harvest before the chill of winter set in. But today wasn’t for working, either. Rodeo day was for celebrating, for cheering until you lost your voice, for smelling the coffee, roasting apples, and fried cakes that were being sold at the stall where some of the ladies of the town had set up a makeshift griddle. It was for clutching the penny that Izzy kept in her pocket, filling herself up on dreaming about food, until her stomach had other ideas and she made a decision. She liked to pretend she might try something different even if, every year, she ended up choosing the piping hot cornbread, which would be drizzled liberally with honey.

“Your pa ain’t gonna win.”

Izzy stiffened. If today wasn’t for sadness or work, that meant today certainly wasn’t for Caleb Morgan. It took a lot of work not to lose her temper with him, and though he made her more mad than sad, she didn’t want to feel that on rodeo day, either.

Izzy stepped down from the fence post and turned, hands on her hips.

“‘Ain’t’ isn’t proper English,” she scolded.

Izzy’s mama had come from the East before she’d come to Oklahoma to marry Izzy’s pa. She’d grown up in New York—not the big city, but rather the pretty countryside, which she’d often described to Izzy and her brothers as a bedtime story.

Still, that had meant that Celia had known all kinds of things about being proper, and had impressed upon her children the importance of speaking the right way. Izzy’s pa, who was Oklahoma born and bred and spoke with a broad cowboy accent, would always laugh at this and say that he’d done all right for himself, even with his “busted up way of talkin’.” Izzy’s mama would roll her eyes and accept a cheek kiss from her husband who would then, in a teasing false whisper, say to his children, “You’d all best listen to your ma, though. She knows everything.”

Izzy liked the way her pa talked, found his grumbly vowels and soft consonants soothing. She wasn’t about to tell Caleb Morgan that, though. Caleb Morgan was nothing more than a nuisance.

The eleven-year-old looked at her with open scorn. “Proper English isn’t going to be what makes my pa beat yours,” he scoffed, though Izzy noted smugly that he didn’t say “ain’t” again. “You only think your pa’s gonna win because you’re a dumb little girl.”

“Am not!” Izzy shot back, annoyed that she didn’t have a better comeback.

Caleb looked pointedly at her trousers. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe you’re no girl after all. Still leaves you little and dumb, though.”

Ooh, Izzy hated him. She really, really hated him.

Caleb Morgan was the worst boy in Broken Bow, which made sense, because he was descended from the worst family in Broken Bow. The Morgans, Izzy knew, were a bunch of no-good cheats, as her pa always said. And Izzy knew it was really, really true, because even her mama, who almost never had a bad word to say about anybody, on account of how it was un-Christian, wouldn’t even correct her pa when he said that. She would just purse her lips, sigh, and say “Oh, James. Not in front of the children,” which was not the same as saying something wasn’t true.

“You don’t know anything, Caleb Morgan,” she snapped.

He gave her a lazy smile that made her blood boil. “I know that my pa is gonna beat yours—first at tie-down roping, then at all the other events. He’s gonna beat your pa so bad that folks won’t even remember his name. They’ll say, ‘Who was that boring ugly man who lost at the rodeo? The one with the ugly little boy with the ugly red hair.’”

Izzy tried to take a deep breath, tried to remember that her mama would have wanted her to keep her temper and be the better person. Her mama had always been cautioning Izzy about sinking to the level of others’ bad behavior, and Izzy wanted to be exactly like her mama—except for the bit about wearing skirts and dresses every day. That was just plain uncomfortable. But Caleb riled her up like nobody’s business.

She was littler than him, though. At the end of the day, he was eleven and a boy, while she was only nine, and a girl, no matter what stupid, not-funny jokes Caleb wanted to make about her trousers. If they got to fighting, he would definitely win—not to mention that Izzy would end up the only one in trouble, most likely, as the no-good Morgans probably thought violence was a great way to solve problems.

If she was littler and weaker, she had to be smarter.

“I think,” she said snidely, taking a step forward, even if it meant she had to tip up her head to look Caleb in the eye, “that you’re just afraid.”

Caleb’s smirk dropped into a scowl. “Afraid? Of you? Not hardly.”

Izzy nodded and took another step forward. “I think you’re afraid because you know that I can beat you at just about anything, even if I am a girl.”

Caleb scoffed but stood his ground. “Yeah, at sewing or cooking, maybe.”

Izzy tried not to let her face reveal that she actually probably couldn’t beat him at sewing or cooking; she wasn’t very good at either. She cocked an eyebrow instead. “Like I said, afraid.”

“I’m not afraid,” Caleb gritted out.

Izzy smirked. “Prove it.”

She saw his internal struggle. If he accepted her challenge and won, he wouldn’t even feel like he’d accomplished anything, since she was ‘just a girl.’ If he accepted her challenge and lost, he’d have to admit that a girl who was younger than him could beat him. But if he refused her challenge, he would look like he was scared to go up against her, younger and female though she was.

She smirked, knowing she had him on the hook.

He heaved an angry breath. “Fine,” he spat. “I’ll even let you pick what we do,” he added, clearly trying to regain power by pretending to be generous. Morgans were slippery like that.

Izzy glanced around, thinking. She had to pick something where being smaller would help instead of hurt. Then it came to her.

“We’re at a rodeo,” she said like she pitied Caleb for not thinking of it first. “We have to see who can ride the fastest.”

She saw the flash of triumph in Caleb’s expression before he hid it. Clearly, he thought this was a challenge where he was guaranteed to win. Good. That meant he would be overconfident.

“Fine,” he sneered. “But I’m not going to ride sidesaddle or anything.”

She ignored him. They would see who was laughing when she left him behind in her dust.

Nobody paid the two children any mind as they headed toward the hitching posts where spectators had tied up their mounts. They agreed to meet at a tree that was out of the way of the hustle and bustle of the crowd but still within sight of the fenced-in arena, because Caleb wanted to make sure he heard when his pa’s name was called. Despite herself, Izzy did, too—she wanted to see it with her own eyes when Caleb’s pa proved slower and clumsier than her own.

When Caleb turned his back toward his horse, Izzy turned to hurry to her own secret weapon—her mount, Nickel. The gray mare was only three years old, but Izzy’s pa had trained her well, and she was a splendid horse. Her name was a joke between Izzy and her pa about how much Izzy loved Nickel; if James’ horse was a Pennywhistle, then obviously Izzy’s horse was worth at least five times as much.

Importantly, though, Nickel was fast and always eager for a ride, and Izzy knew that after several hours of being hitched up, Nickel would be raring to show off her speed.

“All right, girl?” Izzy asked, petting her horse’s nose before mounting up. Once she was astride, the reins in her hand, the position familiar with a lifetime’s practice, Izzy felt even more confident. On Nickel’s back, she felt like she was on top of the world.

Caleb was already waiting when Izzy arrived at the designated point, his blue eyes squinting at her mockingly. “I hope that isn’t a sign about how slow you’re going to ride in this race,” he sniped. “It isn’t even fun to win if it’s too easy.”

His horse was a big brown and white mustang. Too big for him, Izzy thought, eyeing the horse’s broad back against Caleb’s height. Either the horse belonged to his father or uncle, or he had begun riding it in anticipation of getting taller as he aged. Either way, it wouldn’t help him now.

“I just wanted to give you a chance to see what winning feels like before I beat you,” Izzy shot back.

Caleb just grunted his reply. Such a boy, Izzy thought.

They lined up at their starting point. The course was set: they would race down to a tree that was about seventy yards away, go around the tree, and come back to the starting point. The first to cross the line, which Caleb dismounted to carve into the dirt with the heel of his boot, would be the winner.

They waited at their starting point for the gunshot that marked the next competitor’s start in the rodeo arena—not Caleb’s pa. Caleb’s horse shifted restlessly, reacting to the anticipation in the air, but Nickel was patient. Izzy would have bet anything that Caleb thought this meant Nickel would be slow.

The shot rang out and the riders took off, as fast as the bullet from the gun.

For the first few seconds, Izzy felt nothing but triumph. Nickel was the most responsive horse she had ever ridden, and her mount had leapt to take off as soon as Izzy indicated that she should. Izzy felt the rush of wind, her braid—which was strawberry-blonde, not red, no matter what stupid Caleb Morgan said; Izzy’s mama had told her so—flapping behind her as she crouched low over Nickel’s head. But then the pounding of hooves made her realize that, despite her quick start, Caleb was right beside her, his oversized horse pulling neck-and-neck with Nickel.

Izzy narrowed her eyes and bent even lower, keeping her posture low and loose to accommodate for the rippling movement of Nickel’s strong muscles. It didn’t matter that Caleb had caught up. Izzy was going to win. She had to.

Izzy was a rancher’s daughter; she knew that when it came to moving quickly on a horse, agility counted as much as speed. Nickel was smaller and nimbler than Caleb’s horse. If Izzy could just cut him off, make him go around her when they rounded the tree, she could make up that crucial bit of space that could guarantee her victory.

The problem was that Caleb seemed to have the same idea. She veered left to force him out of her space even as he came in toward the right, their horses so close together that she could have reached out and touched the leg of his blue homespun trousers, if she’d been so inclined. But Izzy wasn’t focused on Caleb. She was focused on her seat, on the tree, on the goal, on triumph.

That was, she wasn’t focused on Caleb until something—and later, Izzy wouldn’t know what it was, whether it had been her movement or Caleb’s or some slight irregularity in the ground or whatever else could have caused the mishap—caused their horses to get just the tiniest bit too close to one another. Caleb’s mount balked slightly, but it was enough. Caleb lost his seat on that too-big horse and dropped gracelessly to the ground.

In the weeks to come, Izzy would struggle to forget the grunt of pain that escaped Caleb when his head struck the packed dirt. It wasn’t necessarily a loud or terrible sound, but something about the way it seemed to have been pressed out of him as he was compressed between gravity and the hard ground seemed exceptionally brutal anyway. But Caleb didn’t scream. No, the scream that echoed out, when she saw the blood already beginning to seep out of the cut just above his left eye, was Izzy’s.

People came running quickly after that, the scene of revelry rapidly turning into one of chaos. Someone’s strong arms yanked Izzy away from Caleb’s side—when had she dismounted?—and she was deposited into the comforting embrace of the minister’s wife until her pa arrived, tears streaming down her cheeks—when had she started to cry?

“Isabella!” called her father, voice distressed as she shoved his way through the gathering throng. He dropped to one knee and Izzy threw herself into his arms. “Are you all right? What happened?” Anxious hands traveled over her shoulders and down her arms, checking her for injury.

“I’m fine, Pa,” Izzy hiccupped, wishing she were being braver. “It’s—Caleb fell, Caleb Morgan. We were racing and he fell.”

“What?” her father said, looking over his shoulder. He had a streak of dirt along his collar from his participation in the rodeo.

As she followed her father’s gaze, Izzy saw that, fortunately, Caleb was sitting up, someone’s wadded-up shirt pressed to his face. He looked angry and unsteady, but definitely alive and likely to stay that way. Izzy heaved out a sigh of relief—and then wished she could take it back when she saw Caleb’s pa standing behind his son, his expression thunderous.

“Dunn!” he called out furiously. The crowd parted like the Red Sea, not willing to get between the known rivals. Mr. Morgan reached up and helped Caleb to his feet. “Your girl did this!”

Izzy wanted to be strong and stand alongside her pa, but in the face of Mr. Morgan’s anger, she instinctively ducked behind her pa’s strong, steady form.

“They were racing, Morgan,” her father returned, voice firm and calm—but Izzy knew him well enough to hear the ire beneath. “It was an accident.”

“Your girl started it!” Mr. Morgan insisted. “This is her fault. She could have blinded my boy.”

Izzy wasn’t sure if she should apologize or if that would be construed as weakness in the face of her family’s enemy. She gripped a fist into her pa’s shirt.

James ignored the father and turned to the son. “You all right, there, Caleb?” he asked, voice gentler.

Caleb started to nod, then glanced up at his father and pasted on a scowl. “No thanks to Izzy,” he spat.

Izzy could feel the tension in her pa’s muscles.

“Seems like he ain’t blind,” he said to Mr. Morgan. “It was an accident. So instead of hurling accusations, I suggest you get that boy home and cleaned up.”

Mr. Morgan sneered as he placed a hand on Caleb’s shoulder. “You keep that girl of yours away from my boy, you hear me, Dunn?” And then, before Izzy’s father could reply, he led Caleb away, the pair disappearing into the crowd.

The townsfolk dispersed, heading back to watch the remainder of the rodeo, but Izzy and her father went home after the incident. It wasn’t until the next day that they learned that James Dunn had won the tie-roping competition—and that Theodore Morgan, who resented his rival’s receipt of the title, had never gotten to compete.

Caleb Morgan recovered, but the Morgans never forgot that the enmity they held for the Dunns was now written in blood.

Next chapter ...

You just read the first chapters of "Caught in the Christmas Blizzard of Love"!

Are you ready, for an emotional roller-coaster, filled with drama and excitement?

If yes, just click this button to find how the story ends!

Share this book with those who'll enjoy it:

    • I’m thrilled to hear you’re excited! Izzy and Calab’s journey is indeed full of twists and turns. I hope you enjoy the entire story Celia! 😊

  • >