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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Secrets About A CHRISTMAS VISITOR by Sarah J. McNeal

A CHRISTMAS VISITOR just released earlier this month. I loved writing this Christmas story and it has a couple elements in it that may surprise you.

Although it does not have a Wilding in it, it DOES have a Thoroughgood and the Thoroughgoods took part in the Wildings series. See? I snuck that right in there.
In Banjo’s story he mentions Penelope Thoroughgood, a widow who taught him about love. I wrote Penelope Thoroughgood’s story in another Christmas story, WHEN LOVE COMES KNOCKING with Gil Thoroughgood, Penelope’s brother-in-law, as the hero. Gil Thoroughgood, a descendant of Sterling Thoroughgood in A CHRISTMAS VISITOR, was also a woodworker who liked to make whirligigs.
Gil and Penelope have a daughter who falls in love with Hank Wilding in the story, HOME FOR THE HEART.

In A CHRISTMAS VISITOR, Sterling has gone to a place called Hazard, Wyoming to build a ranch worthy enough to allow him to ask for Matilda Barton’s hand in marriage. The fictional town of Hazard is where all the Wilding stories take place.

So now I’ve told my all my secrets. A CHRISTMAS VISITOR is actually a part of the Wildings series. For those of you who have read some Wildings stories, maybe you caught the connection between Sterling Thoroughgood and the Thoroughgoods in the Wildings series. You probably see how crazy attached I became to the Hazard Wildings and their friends. In any case I truly enjoyed writing this Christmas story about Sterling and Matilda and the puzzle box that contains Sterling’s last hope to win Matilda’s heart.

A Puzzle Box With Two Doves Much Like Sterling's Box

If you haven’t read a Wilding story, I hope you’ll follow the link to my Wildings page at Prairie Rose Publications and check them out.  Here’s the link: The Wildings

In the meantime, here is the buy link for A CHRISTMAS VISITOR:
Amazon Kindle: A Christmas Visitor

Matilda Barton’s broken heart may never heal. The love of her life, Sterling Thoroughgood, has been gone three years with no word. Is he dead or alive? Why should it matter to her? She’s spent the past three years trying to save her father, her ranch, and her dignity—but her heart has taken the worst battering of all. Now that her father has died, the livestock has been sold off, and the ranch is in disrepair, her life is empty. When Sterling Thoroughgood rides up to her house on Christmas Eve, is it any wonder she greets him with a shotgun instead of a kiss?
Sterling Throughgood has worked hard to build a ranch in Hazard, Wyoming. Admittedly, it took longer than he thought, but he had to have a good start for Matilda, the woman he’s always loved. Arriving at her house on Christmas Eve, he discovers a lot has changed in three years. Her father, his mentor, has passed away—and Matilda has become bitter because of what she felt were empty promises Sterling made in the past. But Sterling is not a quitter, and he will pit his determination against Matilda’s iron-clad will any day of the week—even on Christmas Eve.
He hopes that the puzzle box he made for her with his special gift inside will prove to her his ever-constant love, but is it too late for that? Can Matilda understand his three-year absence amidst all the loss she’s gone through? Is their love lost forever, or does the peculiar puzzle box hold the key to happiness for both of them? Can Sterling be more than just A CHRISTMAS VISITOR…

            “Don’t you even think about stepping up on this porch, Sterling Alexander Thoroughgood, or I’ll shoot a hole in you big enough for a team of horses to jump through.” The woman wearing a faded blue calico dress aimed the shotgun straight at his heart…and sometimes his liver since she wasn’t holding the shotgun all that steady.
Sterling raised his hands in the air. His bare hands were practically numb from the cold. He glanced up at the slate gray sky. Snow’s comin’. Then he grinned at the woman holding the shotgun. “Merry Christmas to you, too, Matilda.”

She dipped the shotgun for just a moment, but raised it again as if on a second thought. “What do you want here after being gone for three years? Did you break some hearts up in Wyoming? Maybe you have some fathers and brothers gunning for you and you thought you’d come running back here to hide.”

Well, there it was. He’d hurt her when he left and she wasn’t about to let him forget it. “I came to see Allister. I told him I’d be coming back soon as I got my place up and running. We had an agreement about him selling me some cattle and maybe a bull to get a good, diverse herd started of my own.” He reached out his hand to press down on the barrel of her shotgun pointing it toward the broken down boards of the porch. “So, if you could see yourself clear to let me speak to your daddy, I’d be obliged.”

Matilda placed a hand on her hip while the other held tight to that shotgun. “Seems you’re a little too late, Mr. Thoroughgood. Pa died last year from pneumonia. He’d been sick a while and I had to sell off all of the livestock except for the mule and a few chickens to pay for the doctor and his medicine. I guess you’ll be leaving here empty handed.”

“Tilly, darlin’, I’m so sorry to hear the news that Allister has passed away. He was a good man and a good friend to me.” He stretched out a hand to touch her arm, but she stepped back just out of reach.

“Don’t you dare call me sweet names or my nickname, you snake. You’ve been gone three years and not a single word from you in all that time. All that sweet talk means nothing to me now.” She opened the door and stepped back to wave him into the house.

“I need to get my horses settled in the barn first, but I’d be obliged if I could come in for some coffee after that. It’s been a long trip from Wyoming.” He tipped his hat and turned to step off the porch. Once he had hold of the reigns of both horses, he glanced back up at Matilda who still stood with her hand on the door wearing a strange expression on her face.

“Don’t be surprised at the condition of the barn. Part of the roof has a hole in it. You might want to put the horses in the stalls on the left to keep ‘em warm and dry. There’s a little hay in the loft still.” Her voice seemed less determined and ornery. Sterling liked it better when she cussed him than when she pretended to be obliging.

“Thank you, Matilda. I brought some feed with me. Do you have some stock you need me to feed or have anything I need to bring in for you?”

Her throat worked for a moment and her eyes took a watery sheen. Please don’t cry, darlin’. His heart hurt for her. Things must have been tough for her over the past year. Finally, she managed to speak and her voice had its defiant edge to it again. “Hector, the mule, could use some hay and there are a few chickens needing to be fed some dried corn, if you don’t mind a little work.”

Sterling chuckled relieved she had regained her starch. “No trouble at all. I’ll see to things in the barn. You best get on in the house out of the cold. You reckon we could have a cup of coffee and talk when I get back from the barn? I’ve been riding for days in the cold to get here and could use something hot to get me percolating again.”

“Ran out of coffee three days ago. Hot water might have to do.”

“I brought provisions with me and some things I thought Allister and you might need. I need to see to my horse first, so I’ll just get on out and get those chores done. You take it easy for a while and I’ll fix us up a fine pot of coffee as soon as I get back from the barn.”

Matilda nodded her head as an answer, took up her shotgun and walked into the house shutting the door with a decided bang behind her.

Diverse stories filled with heart


  1. This was such a good story. I worried. I couldn't figure out how in the world it was all going to work out, but you made it happen! LOL Great job, as always. I love the idea of that puzzle box, too, Sarah. That was really unique. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

    1. Thank you for all your kind words, Cheryl. I really appreciate them and you.
      I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours.

  2. OHHH! I love getting to see these inside secrets and how it all ties together (I was wondering if it was more than just the reference to Hazard, and boy was it!). This was such a charming book and I'm still excited to get to the rest of the Wildings stories (if I didn't need to sleep or work that would help out a ton! lol)

  3. Michelle, you really cheer me up. I love that you have read some of my work and that you might be interested in reading some more Wildings. Writers work alone and often in silence, but we care about what we write and we want so much for others to enjoy our stories. It's so delightful to get some feedback once in a while. Thank you!
    I wish you and yours and a Merry Christmas and a positive and loving New Year!

  4. Oh, the puzzle box is intriguing and the excerpt is wonderful. I love a feisty heroine.

    1. C.A. I love puzzle boxes. Years ago I bought one at an international store named 10,000 Villages that sells items handmade by artists in impoverished countries. Mine is two fish swimming in opposite directions (the sign for Pisces).It was my inspiration for this story and one other story in my fantasy trilogy, Legends of Winatuke which is in revisions at present. I love these puzzle boxes.

      Thank you for your kind words about my excerpt for A CHRISTMAS VISITOR.

      I hope you have a joyful Christmas and peace in the New Year.