Soda Springs by Carolyn Steele

I was fortunate to review a copy of Soda Springs, by author Carolyn Steele.  I am appreciative that I took the time to review this book, for I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. I had been eyeing the book for some time, drawn in by the lovely cover.  Below is my review.

Thirteen-year old, Tessa Darrow, lives a partially spoiled life on her family’s homestead in North Carolina. Her father has been off fighting in the Civil War, but when he returns, Tessa catches him burning his uniform. He quickly announces that they are taking the Oregon Trail to start a new life out west. In the rush to leave, disaster happens and Tessa quickly loses her childhood dreams. I was surprised that this was more of a western tale than a Civil War story.

The Oregon Trail is not easy on the Darrow family and tragedy strikes, leaving Tessa fighting for survival. Her father is gravely ill and they stop at the outpost of Morristown.  A kindly woman of faith, Mrs. Holt, does what she can to treat Mr. Darrow’s illness. Mrs. Holt is an ex-member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and a brief history is given of a group known as the Morrisites, who split off from the church.

I did not feel that this book was preachy or pushy in any way toward a religion. I will admit that I was nervous about how much of the LDS story would be addressed.  A brief history of a religious group was covered, but enough that it helped gain insight into a religion that I am not all that familiar with. The Darrows are not of the LDS faith and struggle with what is revealed to them.

Tessa is presented with several romantic interests.  She faces challenges that many of us face. Does she follow love? Is she willing to settle for marriage?  This book does a superb job of laying out the internal emotions that we go through as one grows and matures.  The book draws the reader in and introduces characters that you can relate to, as well as paints a detailed picture of the Soda Springs area. The enjoyment in this book is in the details, and I found myself closing my eyes at times to imagine the scenes expertly described by the author.

Soda Springs is an enjoyable historical romance. There is little violence and brief kissing. Polygamy practices are discussed in conversation but not followed in the story. Tragic situations happen and trials are experienced in the characters’ lives.

This book sells for $6.99 as an ebook. I do want to point out that it is a 284-page book and is much more lengthy and detailed than a typical ebook that you might see in the historical western genre.  I recommend that readers give it a try and I do not believe that you will be disappointed.

Amazon Blurb:

“Father, what are you doing?” Tessa whispered as loudly as she dared, fearful of waking the rest of her family. “Stop!”

“Go back inside,” he hissed at her.

She gasped in horror. “Your uniform!” Flames consumed the gray woolen coat and trousers. “Why?”

When Tessa Darrow discovers her father burning his Confederate uniform, she has no idea that his secret will take them to the wild West. But life in the West doesn’t mean forsaking the gentility of her Southern upbringing, not with the likes of William Bates and Peter Sundstrom competing for Tessa’s affections . . . This sweeping story illuminates an oft-forgotten era in LDS Church history. Filled with drama, humor, and enduring love, it’s a thrilling read for history buffs and romantics alike.

Soda Springs can be found on the Pioneer Hearts Books store in Amazon.  You can also enjoy a book trailer on YouTube.

Author Carolyn Steele enjoys ferreting out obscure history and weaving it through her tales. With a career rooted in business writing, she loves researching details of her novels to ensure their historical accuracy. Carolyn works full-time writing communications for physicians then spends evenings indulging her passion for writing historical romance. Her first novel, Willow Springs, was published in 2014; her second, Soda Springs, was published in 2015. When not at the computer, Carolyn loves traveling with her husband and visiting with her children and grandchildren. In her spare moments, she traipses about with a camera in hand, and occasionally muddles through a round of golf. She dreams of one day traveling the world, photographing all of those mystical lands that beg to be backdrops for her novels.

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The Importance of Leaving Reviews

Why should a reader leave a review? Leaving a review comes down to the generosity on the part of a reader toward the author. Reviewing books you’ve read has more value than simply boosting — or crushing — the author’s ego. Sure, reviews are a great way to keep track of your personal library, but they also have the power to help other readers find books they might like.

Authors appreciate that you’ve bought the book, so the reader doesn’t ‘owe’ the author anything more. However, readers have an author’s sincere thanks when they leave a review. Reviews aren’t just about helping authors; they’re about readers helping other readers. I’m sure all of us have bought a book at one point or another based on the reviews left by other readers. As a reader, I truly appreciate each review and I can honestly say it makes a difference in whether or not I spend my money on that book.

So why don’t more readers leave reviews? Possibly because readers think reviews don’t matter. Or their busy lives get in the way. Or maybe, just maybe, a reader is intimidated at the idea of putting pen to paper — or, in this case, fingers to keyboard — and having anyone in the world read their words. If you relate to that, here are a few tips to help you craft quick, honest and helpful reviews.


1. DON’T post spoilers! The first rule of reviews is to never ever ever leave spoilers, such as “I can’t believe the hero died in the end!” Be vague about twists in stories, as those are meant to be a surprise. “I loved the twist at the end” is good; “I loved that the heroine turned out to be an alien at the end” is not. Even if you indicate ‘spoiler alert’, please don’t write it. Readers can’t help but be curious and it changes their reading experience.

2. DO relax! Imagine you’re talking to your best friend. What would you tell her about this book in a few sentences?

3. DO: Keep it short. Three to five sentences is plenty of space to share your feelings on just about any book read. Readers have most likely checked out the blurb for the book already; there’s no need to restate it in your review. What was your opinion of the story? How did it make you feel?

4. DO: Remember, when reviewing on Amazon, you have five whole stars to choose from. One stars should be reserved for books that are completely unreadable. If you enjoyed a book, even a little, start at two stars and work your way up from there.

5. DO BE CONSIDERATE. If you feel compelled to leave a negative review, imagine the author is standing in front of you asking for your honest opinion. Don’t insult her (“I hope this author dies in a fiery car crash!”); be constructive (“The characters lacked depth”). A lot of people seem to take joy in being unnecessarily cruel. It’s fine if you don’t like a book, but tell potential readers why the writing affected you.

Finally, if a book has errors, take the time to email the author or send a Facebook message. Most authors truly appreciate hearing from you and want to correct the errors. Even with an editor, proofreader, and beta readers, errors slip through the cracks and are missed. Each one of us is human and compassion goes a long way. Give the author the opportunity to correct the mistake and their gratitude will go a long way. Be a friend, even if you don’t know the author personally. It’s how each one of us would want to be treated.

In the end, a simple “This book really touched me because I could relate to the heroine” works just fine. Reviews don’t need to be Pulitzer-worthy to not only help others find the right books for them, but to hopefully make an author’s day. Every person deserves to hear ‘job well done’ by those that support their talents. A review is an electronic smile and pat on the back that each reader can give if we only take the time.

* A special thank you to the authors who contributed to this article. You know who you are.

Two Amazing Series by Callie Hutton

Marriage Mart Mayhem Series – Book 6: The Highlander’s  Accidental Marriage

She never intended to take a husband

Scotland, 1817

The Duke of Manchester’s sister, Lady Sarah Lacey, always abides by the rules of etiquette. Fate, however, has no such confines. On a journey to the Scottish Highlands, Lady Sarah is set upon by misfortune-leaving her without carriage or chaperone, and left to the mercy of a kind and handsome gentleman. Whom (in order to secure a room at an inn) she announces is her husband.

When she proclaims they’re married in public, Professor Braeden McKinnon can’t bring himself to correct the lovely Lady Sarah. After all, her reputation would be ruined. Nor can he tell her that her proclamation is not only legally binding in Scotland, but sharing a room is considered to be an act of consummation…
Now they are bound together until death do they part-even if Sarah has no intention of becoming any man’s wife.

The Highlander’s Accidental Marriage is the sixth book in the Marriage Mart Mayhem series. The books in reading order are:

  • The Elusive Wife
  • The Duke’s Quandary
  • The Lady’s Disgrace
  • The Barons’ Betrayal
  • The Highlander’s Choice
  • The Highlander’s Accidental Marriage
  • The Earl’s Return (coming in 2016)

Oklahoma Lovers Series – Book 6: A Dogtown Christmas

Guthrie, Oklahoma, 1912. Priscilla Cochran intends to prove to the world she is a grown up woman, able to take care of herself. She accepts a job as a teacher in Dogtown, Colorado where the man who hired her thinks she is a woman of ‘mature years.’

Mitch Beaumont is tired of young women who come to Dogtown and leave in tears because it is not a built up city with entertainment a young woman would want. He has finally secured a teacher for the town who has assured him she is a middle aged spinster, and will be able to last through the hard winters.

Then twenty year old Priscilla steps off the mail coach and falls at his feet in the mud.

A Dogtown Christmas is the sixth book in the Oklahoma Lovers series. The books in reading order are:

  • A Run For Love – Book One (Tori & Jesse)
  • A Prescription for Love – Book Two (Michael & Heidi)
  • A Chance to Love Again – Book Three (Rachel & Rusty)
  • A Wife By Christmas – Book Four (Ellie & Max)
  • Anyplace But Here – Book Five (Hunter & Emily)
  • A Dogtown Christmas – Book Six (Priscilla & Mitch)

Callie Hutton is a USA Today best-selling author, who writes both Western Historical and Regency romance, with “historic elements and sensory details” (The Romance Reviews). She also pens an occasional contemporary or two. Callie lives in Oklahoma with several rescue dogs, two adult children, and daughter-in-law (thankfully all not in the same house), and her top cheerleader husband of thirty-eight years. She also was blessed in August of 2014 with two beautiful twin grandsons.

Callie’s books can be found on the Pioneer Hearts Books store through Amazon.

Callie loves to hear from readers, and would welcome you as a “friend” on Facebook. You can contact her through her website: or write her directly at  Follow Callie on Amazon to learn of new releases, or sign up for her newsletter below.

What’s Next after American Mail-Order Brides?

Today is the day that the American Mail-Order Bride Series released book #50, Kitty: Bride of Hawaii, the last book in the series. Readers of historical western romance wonder, what is next? Now that a daily book is not being released, what will we read?

Never fear! Did you know that many of our favorite authors from the Pioneer Hearts Facebook group have been releasing other new titles during the American Mail-Order Bride release period.  In case you’ve missed these great reads, I’ve attempted to create a list for readers below so you can access any stories that you might have missed.  If you’re a super reader and you’ve read all these titles as well, don’t forget to check out the Pioneer Hearts Book Store on Amazon for a comprehensive list of all our favorite historical western romance authors!


Christmas Caring: A Christmas Charity Short Story Anthology – multiple authors
Too Old for Christmas – Zina Abbott
The Circuit Rider’s Bride – Ray Anselmo
Mistletoe Mayhem: Clean Historical Western Cowboy Romance Novel (Dawson Chronicles Book 1) – Linda Bridey
Santa’s Mail Order Bride — E.E. Burke
Cowboys Don’t Lie – Susan Leigh Carlton
Laurie (Second Chance Mail Order Brides: Book 2) – Susan Leigh Carlton
His Perfect Bride (Spicy) or Corva: The Perfect Bride (Sweet) – Merry Farmer
Under a Falling Star (A Prairie Hearts Novel) – Caroline Fyffe
The Bartered Bride – Lena Goldfinch
Teton: Season of Joy – Peggy L. Henderson
Chantilly Lace – Susan Horsnell
A Dogtown Christmas – Callie Hutton
Mail Order Bride: Rescuing Cassie – April Jensen
Mail Order Bride: Treasuring Polly (A Christmas Novelette) – April Jensen
The Cheyenne Mail Order Bride Dreams of a Rich Life – Iris Kelly
Penelope (Nevada Brides Series Book 5) — Clara Kincaid
Where They Belong: A Sweet Cheyenne Christmas Novella – Caroline Lee
A Heart of Gold – Evelyn MacQuaid
Coming Home – Evelyn MacQuaid
A Rebel in Jericho (The Jericho Resistance) – Mimi Milan
Sarah Jane – Kirsten Osbourne
Christmas in Trace Hollow – CJ Samuels
The Sherriff’s Outcast Bride – Margaret Tanner
Love Waits: Book 4 – Rain Trueax
Secrets on the Western Trail – Heidi Vanlandingham
Crystabelle: A Mail Order Bride on the Oregon Trail (Bride of the Rockies Book 6) – Carre White
Western Bear Hearts – Tessa Wilder
Adam (Devils on Horseback: Generations) – Beth Williamson
The Hunter Bride – Cynthia Woolf


A Treasure of Gold – Piper Huguley
The Representative’s Revolt – Piper Huguley
The Highlander’s Accidental Marriage — Callie Hutton
Blushing in Boston – Kirsten Osbourne

I hope you enjoy the other books that these wonderful authors have to offer and don’t forget, all their offerings can also be found on the Pioneer Hearts Book Store on Amazon.