Overview: April Heatherton, history teacher and volunteer firefighter, is determined to protect the land she holds dear, particularly the grave of an unknown pioneer woman who once trekked the Oregon Trail. Proposed logging operations are encroaching, and April soon finds herself organizing a local task force to try to stop them. Yet when April meets handsome Matt Spencer, son of the owner of Johnson Brothers Logging Company, she much reckon with her escalating attraction to him. Matt, one of a growing breed of displaced loggers, is also determined to fight for his beliefs - the right to make an honest living harvesting the timber. Can April and Matt overcome their differences? Or will their convictions forever keep them apart?
Reviewed by Ellen Hogan for Readers Favorite
April is a high school history teacher. She lives in the country by a forest and enjoys walking in the forest for relaxation. There is a pioneer woman's grave in the forest that April calls her special spot. She goes there to think, read poetry and just commune with nature. One day she is visiting the grave when she hears Matt and his father talking about trying to win a contract to cut down the timber in the forest. April tries to make Matt see that the grave should be preserved no matter what. But, Matt only sees that their workers have been without work and need the job to take care of their families. Both April and Matt work to stop a forest fire, April as a firefighter and Matt driving a Cat to make breaks. Just when they realize they are falling in love each feels there is too much conflict between them for them to have a lasting relationship.
Matt and April are both interested in preservation in their own way. Matt's solution shows the love he has for April and what is important to her. A tender love story about two very different people who seem so right for each other.
Scene One from Chapter One
With loving strokes, April Heatherton brushed aside sun-parched fir needles from the old grave stone. Then she placed on it a bouquet of velvety pealed gold-brown daisies. Her mason jar made a perfect vase.
She stared down at the flat, three-cornered rock surrounded by white stakes and a simple cross made of mossy sticks. Dappled sunlight flickered through the towering Douglas firs as the July breeze whispered overhead.
Suddenly the rustling of footsteps close by startled her.
“Man alive! Look at those firs. They’ll give us at least twice the board feet we got up north,” a husky voice proclaimed.
Heather’s stomach dropped. Loggers...undoubtedly the ones from the neighboring town of Silton Pass nestled deep in the foothills of western Oregon. Most everyone in Wolf Hollow had heard the loggers would soon be clear-cutting the entire forest that blanketed North Creek Hill. The pit in her stomach grew deeper as realization took hold: her beloved hideaway—the unmarked pioneer grave—was alarmingly at risk. Why, in possibly only a matter of mere weeks, one more tract of forest would lay in shambles, downed timber scattered like pickup sticks, the hillside carelessly gouged and barren!
Instinctively she drew back into the shadows, hoping the undergrowth would hide her. She would confront the loggers, but not yet, not until she’d had a chance to hear more of what they were saying.
Orion, her Golden retriever, emitted a low throaty growl.
“No, boy!” she commanded in a hoarse whisper, gripping the dog’s leather collar in an effort to keep him close by her side. Though the aging dog was nearly deaf, he hadn’t lost his keen sense of smell.
April peered cautiously around the side of a stump, scarcely daring to breath. She caught sight of two men squinting up at the mammoth evergreens.
The younger man, in his late twenties, she guessed, ran his hand through wheat- colored hair, pushing back an unruly lock from his forehead. He was clean shaven. His black T-shirt, cuffed at the sleeves, exposed his taunt, masculine biceps. “Yeah, what a loggin’ show,” he was saying. His voice was mellow, not at all gruff like his partner’s.
“It’s a cinch we’ll get that contract,” the older man put in. About mid-fifties or so, he had dark stubble of beard, wore a red checked shirt, denim jeans and boots that came just below his knees. “Jake Thornburg told me most of the other companies were already backing out,” he went on. “They’re too small to hack the county’s new land management requirements.”
The first man turned to meet the other’s gaze and broke into the most engaging grin April had ever seen. Even white teeth flashed against tanned skin. “I heard Thornburg say he planned to check out this hillside in the whirlybird today. I bet he’ll like what he sees.”
With that the two turned and began sauntering away.
“Wait! Stop! Destroying the forests is wrong!” April couldn’t contain herself any longer. Her voice was filled with desperation as she quickly clipped Orion’s leash to his collar, then started running after the men.
“What the—” The younger man stopped mid-stride and tossed a look over his shoulder. “Well, looks as if we’ve got company,” he drawled, his face splitting into a smile once again. His blue eyes flashed mischievously, his chin dimpled. “A bunny-hugger, no less. A good-looking one too!”
April flinched at the sound of the all-too-familiar term, a name many of the locals had tagged the environmentalists. Orion growled again.
“Don’t call me a bunny-hugger!” she said hotly, new determination fueling her on. “I’m merely taking a stand! The timber here on North Creek Hill is one of the last old-growth forests in the entire coast range. In no time our ancient forests will be gone. And most of all, there’s the. . .” She broke off abruptly, her sentence remained unfinished as she gestured helplessly back at the grave site, well out of view. How could she make them understand? They’d only accuse her of exaggerated female sentiment.
“We’ve heard all the arguments,” the older logger said. “Salvage the dwindling salmon, protect the spotted owl . . . the list goes on and on.” He hitched his thumbs into his belt loops. “But you gotta know, lady, we’re talkin’ jobs here. Logging’s been our bread and butter forever. And many of us, we’ve got wives and young ‘uns to feed.”
“Yes, but it’s high time to start thinking about our future and our vanishing natural resources!” She drew in a ragged breath. The issues were complicated and double-sided, and April knew there were no easy answers. After all, the loggers were only doing what many of their fathers had done, and perhaps their father’s fathers.
“See ya later,” the younger guy said, obviously eager to let the entire issue drop. He smiled again and winked. “And try not to tangle with too many bunnies. That goes for your dog also.”
She felt her cheeks flush with indignation as she turned to leave. Bunny-huggers indeed! Who had ever come up with such a stupid comparison? Well, one thing she knew for sure. She must—no matter what—protect the unmarked grave of the pioneer woman and the beauty of the surrounding woodland.
These 100 acres of Ramult County forest bordered the land where her grandparents had built a home and planted a filbert orchard nearly a half century earlier. After April’s parents were killed in a motorcycle accident when she was two, her grandparents raised her. Years later, April came to inherit the two-story clapboard house and surrounding property.
Ever since she’d been a small child, April loved to steal away farther into the woods on North Creek Hill to her own special retreat, a place where she was free to day-dream, write poetry, and muse about nothing in particular.
Some of her friends had had their tree houses. Others found their special places in musty old attics. But every chance possible, April always returned to the pioneer woman’s grave.
In summertime, she’d bring bouquets of wild flowers from the neighboring meadow. In early autumn, she would gather succulent golden chanterelle mushrooms that grew in the cool, mossy shade. Come winter, usually empty-handed, she’d brush away the brown parched leaves from the grave site, much as she’d just whisked away the sweetly scented fir needles.
Often Grandmother would accompany April there and tell her stories about the forests and animals, plus the settlers who had journeyed on the Oregon Trail. Gram had always held fast to a solemn reverence for the natural earth and her belief in a simple way of life.
Author's Website with Blog Link: www.sydellvoeller.com
Buy Links: Amazon: amzn.to/SQ8qXT
Barnes & Noble bit.ly/THocCQ