At one time beautiful Doris de Vris had it all; a wealthy and powerful father, the adoration of her fellow church members, and her choice of any young man in town. Everything seemed to be going perfectly until her relationship with another young woman in town went sour, setting events into motion that would turn her world upside down.
Now her father is a despondent drunk, the good people of town shun her, and even the lowliest of the town's young men consider her damaged goods. After begging her pastor to help her, she is introduced to Connor O'Neill, a widower with a dark past newly graduated from the seminary and on his way to Kansas to his future congregation.
Despite his better judgment, Connor tries to give Doris a second chance, just as Pastor Baldwin once gave him. Believing he is incapable of loving again, he offers to marry her anyway, agreeing to be a good and faithful husband if she will return in kind. Desperate to get out of town, Doris accepts the odd proposal, but her petty barbs and spoiled nature quickly resurface, testing his resolve until finally he is forced to treat his new bride as the spoilt child she insists on being, beginning with introducing her to the hickory stick.
From rude and insulting behavior, lying, reckless spending, and finally a final outrageous act of shameful rebellion, Doris proves to be a tempestuous force that pushes Connor to the edge of his endurance. As her backside continues to pay a heavy price for her willful disobedience, the ghosts of Connor's past return, torturing him with midnight reminders of his own shameful past, and causing him to question what right he has to discipline Doris. Only time will tell if they will find forgiveness and finally move beyond the guilt that threatens to destroy them both.
Continuation of the book, Evolution of Emma Adler
Doris hadn�t stepped foot in Pastor Baldwin�s office since she was a little girl, so she was comforted to see that nothing had changed, from the faded and frayed hand-braided rug on the knotty pine floor to the scuffed and battered desk that sprawled before her. The worn desktop played host to a framed photo of Pastor Baldwin�s wife and two children, the Sunday paper, and a handsome leather Bible with gilded lettering down its age-cracked spine.
If only the rest of the world were the same as it had always been.
It had been several months since the scandal that ruined her family�s name, and in that time her standing in the community had plunged from the darling of the town to slightly lower than a rabid dog with leprosy. The bank had quietly demanded her father�s resignation, and the formerly imposing, arrogant manager now hid away from the world in his well-appointed but increasingly foul smelling office, finding solace and comfort in an apparently bottomless liquor cabinet.
Doris could have lived with that, were it not for the fact his disgrace had dragged her down to the gutter as well. Ladies who would have waved and called �Hello!� only months before now feigned overwhelming interest in random flowers along the sidewalks or the shape of various clouds overhead rather than risk making eye contact with her.
Doris was more of a pariah now than Emma Adler had ever been.
Pastor Baldwin adjusted his wire-rimmed spectacles as he contemplated Doris�s situation. The poor girl had been horribly caught in the middle of her father�s sinful transgressions, and was certainly paying the unjust price for it.
�Please, you have to help me,� she begged. �If I stay here, I�ll die a grummy old maid with twenty cats and a houseful of mismatched tea cups. My life is ruined.�
Try as he might, he couldn�t think of anyone who might be willing help. His kind-hearted mother would have demanded to take the poor girl in, but she had gone home to Jesus nearly twenty years ago, as had his widowed aunt who might not have been quite as eager for the company but would have done it anyway. Suddenly a voice in his head suggested a name, one he had not thought of in several years and one he would not have ever considered otherwise. Blinking in surprise, he considered this unexpected suggestion.
Radical perhaps, he mused, but not without promise.
�Let me make a few inquiries, Miss Doris,� he said. �I just might have a solution.�
Two days later, Miss Evvie, the de Vris�s colored housekeeper and cook, knocked quietly on Doris�s bedroom door. It was midafternoon but Doris still lay curled in a heap under the mountain of covers on her imported four-poster bed. She couldn�t imagine going to the drug store for a malt or Madame Jenny�s dress shop to see if anything new had arrived now, knowing the sideways looks and behind the hand whispers that would follow no matter where she went.
Miss Evvie finally let herself into the distraught young lady�s room. Clucking her tongue with concern, she sat down on the edge of the bed and smoothed Doris�s silky golden hair.
�Miss Doris,, it ain�t right you hidin� way like dis. You got to get up and get on with things,� she murmured kindly. �Ain�t nothin� you got to be ashamed of girl, that�s all yo daddy�s doins.�
Doris sat up and threw her arms around the heavyset woman, dramatically bursting into tears for the millionth time that month.
�Everyone hates me!� she wailed. �Oh if you saw how they looked at me, I could just die, Evvie!�
�I know, girl, I know, but they�s just small people with small minds. You got to walk out there with yo shoulders back and head held high and let them know Miss Doris de Vris ain�t gonna listen to NONE of they ugly talk.�
Miss Evvie held Doris tightly for several minutes, then grasped her slight shoulders and pushed her back. Pulling a crumpled letter from her apron pocket, she placed it firmly in Doris�s tiny hand.
�Pastor Baldwin ain�t turned his back on you, Miss Doris. I saw him this morning and he told me to give this to you. He said to tell you to be strong, cause things gonna� be lookin� up for you real soon.�
Doris ripped the letter open and quickly scanned across the neat handwriting as Evvie gathered up the dirty clothes from the floor and left her alone with her letter. By the time she reached the end, a smile had returned to her face for the first time since the scandal.
I feel I have been guided to introduce you to an old and dear friend of mine. I believe this may be a chance for you to start anew with someone who would guide and protect you. My wife and I request you join us for supper this evening at six o�clock, and we will make the appropriate introductions at that time.
In God�s mercy,
Pastor William Baldwin
She read the letter over and over, and the tears that had stained her cheeks for so long now turned to tears of joy. Glancing over at the ornate clock on her dressing table, she saw with horror that supper was only a few hours away, and in her depression she had not bathed or even brushed her hair in nearly two days. Doris lunged out of bed, dragging the silk sheets and quilts to the floor as she raced to ready herself for what she hoped would be the start of a promising new future.
Parked in front of Pastor Baldwin�s tidy white frame home was a blue, four-door Hudson. Doris took a surreptitious peek inside as she passed. The back seat was filled with boxes, mostly containing books from what she could see, and a small suitcase lay crammed on the floorboard behind the driver�s seat. Unable to determine anything beyond the owner appeared to have a penchant for reading, she continued to the front door.
Pastor Baldwin quickly ushered her into the neat and orderly little home, which was filled with the tantalizing aroma of baked ham and fresh yeast rolls. Doris�s mouth watered and she realized that in her misery she hadn�t eaten all day. Hunger surged through her and without realizing it, she licked her lips in eager anticipation of supper.
�Doris, I�d like you to meet Connor O�Neill. Excuse me, I guess it�s Pastor O�Neill now,� he said, laughing warmly. He gently tugged Doris�s arm to pull her attention away from the kitchen. �I�ve known Connor for almost ten years now, from back when I served down in Corpus Christi. He�s just graduated from Abilene Christian and on his way to Kansas to accept a position with a church up in Garden City.�
Doris looked around to see a tall, broad shouldered man with neatly trimmed, golden streaked brown hair holding a hand out to her. This was not the spinster maiden aunt or elderly widow she�d expected and she found herself at a complete loss for words as she took in the impossibly good-looking man before her. Her heart fluttered to her throat as she slipped her delicate hand into his large, calloused one, and suddenly she found herself second-guessing everything, her dress, her hairstyle, and the shoes on her feet. If she�d had any idea, any at all, but she hadn�t and now she was shaking hands with the sweetest looking swell she�d ever laid eyes on, with absolutely nothing clever to say.
�Miss Doris,� he said, his voice soft but surprisingly deep. A bemused smile played at his lips as he studied her face, his pale blue eyes searching hers in a way that felt almost indecent. Flustered, she withdrew her hand and Doris realized she�d been holding her breath the entire time.
An awkward silence fell over the room. Connor seemed content to silently observe her, and Doris was rendered speechless at the sight of his powerful shoulders bulging against the striped fabric of his slightly wrinkled button up. He looked like no pastor she�d ever seen, and as she stared in shocked awe and admiration, Pastor Baldwin was left to fidget nervously and concoct aimless small talk.
Mercifully, Mrs. Baldwin came to fetch them before they reached critical silence and someone was forced to comment on the weather. Staring quizzically at the flustered threesome who seemed unable to carry on a normal conversation, she threw her hands up in the air and returned to the kitchen, calling them to dinner as she went.
At the table Mrs. Baldwin saved the day, asking pertinent questions about the seminary classes and the job that awaited him in Kansas, and generally kept the atmosphere afloat, but it wasn�t until Doris asked how the two men had met that Mr. O�Neill finally seemed comfortable speaking.
�He married us, my wife and I,� he said wistfully. �Almost ten years ago. Sometimes it seems like yesterday.�
�Has she already gone ahead to Kansas?� Doris interrupted, instantly regretting the question when she saw the pained look wash over his face.
Mrs. Baldwin spoke for him. �The poor dear had terrible trouble in childbirth, Doris. She and the babe are with Jesus now.�
�As it says in John 10:27-28,� Pastor Baldwin assured them, �My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.�
A low chorus of �amens� went around the table, and although Doris wasn�t sure what the passage had to do with dying in childbirth, she nodded and amen�d with the rest of them. The pastor stabbed another slice of ham with his fork as he continued.
�Pastor O�Neill went through troubled times when the Lord called Isabelle and their child home. Very troubled times. Mrs. Baldwin and I eventually convinced him to come home with us, and with the Lord�s help he finally gathered his strength and moved forward with his life.�
Mrs. Baldwin reached over and clasped Connor�s hand as she smiled proudly at him.
�Isabelle would be so proud. Just look at you! A degree from a fine seminary and a good job waiting.�
Seeing the man�s brows knit together at that, she thought he didn�t seem too proud of himself. She�d lost her mother, but was too young to remember and so had not felt the pain of the loss, but she did know a bit about losing one�s place in the world. If the haunted look in Connor O�Neill�s eyes were any indication, such a thing took many years to get past and her heart ached at the sight of his lingering pain.
After dinner, Mrs. Baldwin pulled Doris into the kitchen to help with the cleanup, a task Doris held no interest in, but she recognized the look Pastor Baldwin shot his wife, and took it to mean he wanted some privacy. Idly wondering what the difference was between reverends and pastors and preachers and ministers, Doris reluctantly retired to the kitchen, leaving the men alone in the parlor.
�I really can�t believe you�re asking me to do this, Bill,� Connor sighed. �Yes, she�s beautiful, and I�ll admit her innocence is charming. However, she�s little more than a child, and I�ve got a sneaking suspicion she�s as conceited as a barber�s cat.�
�I�m not asking you to do anything, merely to consider the idea and seek God�s advice,� Pastor Baldwin demurred. �She is indeed spoilt but she�s got a good heart underneath it.�
Connor leaned against the wall, staring thoughtfully out the multi-paned window. The elderly minister pressed on.
�Connor, it�s been seven years. I know you loved Isabelle, but it�s time to move on. She wouldn�t want you to shut yourself off from others in this way.�
�Plenty of preachers stay single,� he protested, knowing it wasn�t much of an argument.
�Oh, is that why you chose this calling then? So you could avoid love? Never risk loss again?�
Connor shot a hard glare at his old friend, but there was no real malice behind it. He knew the old preacher had only the best intentions, for both the young girl and for him.
�Give her a chance, get to know her better,� Pastor Baldwin pleaded. �Spend a few weeks here with us. You said yourself you�re not due in Garden City for a month. Use that time to court her properly, and listen to your heart. If, at the end of two weeks you feel nothing for the girl, then go on your way and no hard feelings from anyone. Just give her a chance, Connor, because I promise you after what her daddy did, no one from this town ever will.�
Though the words remained unspoken, Connor heard them as plain as if they�d been shouted from the rooftops. Give her a chance, as we once gave you.
�Fine,� he relented, rubbing his eyes in disbelief at what he considering. �But you set it up. I�m not going to go in there, hat in hand, begging her to have dinner with me or some nonsense. This is your idea. You arrange it and just tell me the time and I�ll be there.�
Shaking his head in disbelief, he quickly made his reluctant goodbyes and took off in the blue Hudson.
Standing at the window, Pastor Baldwin watched his old friend leave. �Someday, I think you�ll thank me, Connor,� he thought as he watched plumes of dust billow out in the wake of the rapidly disappearing auto.
* * * * *
Doris readied herself that Friday night with a mixture of giddy excitement and nervous concern. It was the first time anyone had shown interest in appearing in public with her since the scandal, and the chance to go out on the town with a handsome stranger had her practically dancing about the room as she tried on and cast off dress after dress after dress. She suspected the date was more Pastor Baldwin�s idea than Connor O�Neill�s, however, and that had her on edge. As much as she wanted to plop down at the soda counter with him on her arm, the idea that her entire future potentially hinged on this one date scared the dickens out of her.
The knock on the door came at exactly five o�clock. Three sharp raps, and her racing heart felt as if it would fly straight up and out the top of her head, as she opened the door to greet him. His cautious, carefully assessing gaze did little to ease her fears, and as they walked down Main towards the drug store she found his silence ruined her usually unflappable ability to talk endlessly about nothing. The sidelong glances and curious looks from the Main Street regulars, which lately had been harsh enough to send Doris scurrying for home, were suddenly preferable to the mildly disinterested look Connor wore.
They slipped into one of the red vinyl booths at the back of the drug store, next to the long, L-shaped soda counter, and without asking what she wanted he quickly ordered hamburgers for both of them plus a soda for him and a chocolate malted for her. Doris was miffed that he didn�t bother to ask what she wanted, but since his choice was exactly what she would have asked for, she decided to let it slide for now.
The waitress brought their food and drinks over, and Doris cringed when she saw it was Ruth Jackson, her former friend who now refused to have anything to do with her. Ruth ignored her completely; her attention focused on Connor�s handsome profile as she carefully set his meal and soda down. Without taking her eyes away from his, she slung Doris�s plate sideways across the table, paying no attention to where it wound up. Almost before Doris could catch the plate, Ruth sent the chocolate malted whizzing across the table as well, and it would have dumped into Doris�s lap had it not been for Connor�s hand whipping out to catch it before it could reach the edge. Carefully drawing it back a safe distance from the edge, he shot Ruth a withering glare, holding her eyes disdainfully until she dropped her head and slunk back behind the counter.
�Thank you,� Doris said in a small voice.
For the first time since the supper at the Baldwin�s house, he looked directly at her and Doris felt as if she were being carefully assessed. His eyes were surprisingly warm and curious, and genuine concern shown through.
�Friend of yours?� he asked, a slight smile playing at the corner of his mouth, and as embarrassed as she�d been to have Ruth Jackson, who hee-hawed like a big eared donkey when she laughed, try to drop an entire chocolate malted in her lap right in front of Connor O�Neill and everyone else in the drug store, Doris couldn�t help but smile back.
�Once upon a long time ago,� she admitted, and he nodded knowingly.
�She probably would have done that to just about any woman sitting in your seat, you know,� he advised. �Sometimes women can be like a bag of wet cats when they see a new man in town.�
He started to open up after that, asking her about music and movies, and what books she enjoyed reading, her opinion on the current politics and economy. With the exception of movies, she had little knowledge or understanding of any of the subjects he was versed in. Likewise, she quickly discovered, he had only a passing familiarity with the things she held most dear. Parisian fashion and New York swells and Dallas debutante balls held no interest for him, leaving her with precious little to talk about. Finally he asked a more serious question.
�What about you, Doris? Where do you see yourself a year from now?�
Her mouth opened, then shut, then popped open again like a fish in a bowl. Confused, she stared blankly as he waited expectantly for an answer.
�Come on, don�t you have any plans or goals for your life?� he prompted, and she took a hefty bite of her burger in order to buy some time to think. She�d just always assumed she would get married to some boy who would come to work for her father and she would live happily ever after. Then one thing led to another, turning the entire town against her father, and she�d been adrift ever since.
Finally she admitted as much, realizing that the truth, bad as it was, was probably better than playing the giddy dame with this blue-eyed devil. He had more than ten years on her, and she suspected he had little trouble seeing through her carefully honed social subterfuge.
He nodded as she explained.
�Sometimes life throws us a curve that just strips the road we spent so much time building clean out from under our feet,� he agreed, and she heard an old pain resurface in his voice as he spoke. �It can be tough getting back up, believe me I know, but you�re young, and beautiful. You�ll be okay.� A reassuring smile surfaced momentarily, and for a moment Doris saw the boy he once was, with sparkling blue eyes and an easy confidence and a grin that could likely charm the birds from the trees as easily as it set fire to her heart.
He called me beautiful, she marveled as she drank in his rugged features, visually tracing the defined jawline and slight creases that spread out from the corners of his serious eyes. Strangely breathless, she imagined what the tanned skin along the hollow of his cheek would feel like under her fingertips. He smelled like soft leather and fresh soap, only faintly noticeable amid the more potent aroma of hamburgers on the grill just across from them, but now that she�d inhaled it she wondered how she�d ever missed it before. He kept up the conversation through the rest of their dinner, but all she heard in her mind, over and over, was the word beautiful tumbling from his slightly chapped lips in his deep, smooth rumble of a voice.
They took their time strolling back to her house on the end of the block, and as they drew near, she felt the dizzy butterflies in her belly trade out for more familiar, less pleasant flutterings. The time she�d spent with him had been a blessed respite from the dreary and dark house where her father brooded in his office and she had naught but the walls and her old dolls for company, and she sent up a silent prayer of thanks for Father Baldwin�s introduction to this handsome, intoxicating man.
As they took the front porch steps, he asked if she would accompany him to a church picnic the following day, and she eagerly agreed. Recovering a bit of her old sass, she leaned over to try for a kiss, but he turned away before she even had time to touch his arm, heading first for the Hudson and then for Main before finally disappearing from her sight.
I didn't read the first book so I was a little lost at first. However I was able to pick up the pieces and enjoy this story. Not your typical love story but in the end it was very sweet. Connor sees that Doris is a bit on the spoiled side and sets out to remedy the problem.
This book tells the story of how Doris is made to suffer the consequences of her actions in the first book The Evolution of Emma Adler. I highly recommend you read the books in order so that you understand the impact of Doris's actions. I really enjoyed the book and it was nice to see Doris grow into a mature wife accepting the consequences of her actions.
Very sweet story. Not your usual fall in love instantly. It was more realistic about real struggles and hurts and learning how to love and trust..great romance
I think it would help to read book one first in order to understand her history, but the budding romance in this forced marriage was tender. The discipline was cold, but became more touching by the end.
I really liked this story I love the way she realizes how she is wrong and comes to accept his correction and how he forgives himself and moves forward to love her Hope there is more to come
This is a good stroy about Doris and how she gets away from twon but has to marry a very strict man who wields a hickory switch with a heavy but fair hand when needed. Doris sure has a lot of growing up to do.
Very good sequel and an excellent story where you get to see Doris meet her match in Connor. He is a great character but does not let Doris get away with anything. Very fun stroy to read.
I loved this story! The characters were believable, lovable, and I could really relate to them. My dad was a preacher, so I grew up in a small church community - this story brought up memories I had forgotten. It is not a preachy story, though, for those who are not interested in that. It is all about his relationship with his wife. I think this is one of the sweetest stories I've read here!
This was a great story. Doris had me laughing and Connor really had his hands full. I appreciated the romance that grew from the sadness they both had to overcome. Great read.
Cute story filled with lots of romance
I really enjoyed this book. Connor is a sweet, loving character with a compassionate heart. Although, he carries around a lot og guilt from the accident that took the life of his first wife and child.
Doris is a little on the spoiled side when the two get married. Still, you feel sorry for her because her life has not been easy.
Connor marries her in order to help her and get her away from. The town where the people are so cruel to her. The weeks that follow are full of much needed lessons and punishment... Done with a hated hickory stick, of course.
Loved the characters, liked the storyline, enjoyed the bit of humor the author adds, and that it was well written. I will read books by her again.