My new story, The Lost Sheenan’s Bride, is about a young teacher taking a long term substitute job at one room school house in Montana’s Paradise Valley. As a former teacher, I love writing about teachers, and history and I’ve passionate about one room school houses.
Historians estimate that there were once 2,600 rural schools in Montana, and those rural schools served a multitude of purposes for each community, from education to social gatherings. Today only 62 operational one room school houses exist in Montana and on a recent flight from Seattle to Kalispell I sat next to a woman who is the school clerk for the one room school in Salmon Prairie, Montana. I told the clerk about the story I was just finishing and she answered all my questions about the school in Salmon Prairie and I loved hearing how the teacher is able to individualize lessons for his students: morning nature walks, visits to local parks (Glacier National Forest, Yellowstone, lessons in hunting and fishing. (I found a story on the school in Salmon Prairie online: Photographers document Montana’s disappearing one-room schools)
Since I’m a former teacher myself, and come from a long line of educators (my father was a history and political science professor, my brother Thom is a business professor at UNC Wilmington, and my great grandfather was a professor of refrigeration engineering at Purdue University), I am really passionate about education, and I love how these historic one room schools become the heart of rural communities from the annual Christmas play to the end of the year 8th grade graduation picnics.
One of my favorite books I bought in Montana several years ago, that probably also helped inspire my new story was Visions and Voices: Montana’s One-Room Schoolhouses.
If you flip through the book, or watch a rerun of Little House on the Prairie, you’ll see that the one-room schools were very much the same:
- Schoolhouses had only a few windows and one door.
- The teacher’s desk was located at the front of the room and the teacher wrote the lessons on a large slate board.
- There was no bathroom or running water. Students used an outhouse.
- The children sat at narrow wooden desks with boys sat on one side and girls on the other.
- Schoolhouses were heated by one stove with the older students responsible for keeping the fire going.
Some of my favorite schoolhouses are the ones I’ve visited personally, including these two in Montana’s Paradise Valley. The little red school is the one that inspired my current story, and we’ll see it again in my Christmas release, Away in Montana.
To celebrate the release of my new book, The Lost Sheenan’s Bride, featuring Jet Diekerhof, the teacher of a one room schoolhouse in Paradise Valley, Montana, I’m giving away an e-copy of the story plus fun reader swag. Interested? Tell me if you’ve ever visited a one-room school, or if you think you’d enjoy attending one.
Trying to get over a broken heart, twenty-four year old teacher Jet Diekerhof takes a gap year to travel and have an adventure. Her practical farming family is horrified until Jet’s older sister Harley gets her a long term sub position at a one room school house in Montana’s Paradise Valley. Jet’s grateful it’s 775 miles from her overly involved family—and the guy who broke her heart. She’s also sworn off men until meeting darkly handsome Shane Swan changes everything…
Thirty-four year old Shane Swan has been an outsider since birth. Raised by his maternal grandmother near Flathead Lake, Montana, until her death when he was four, meant he ended up in foster care. But ever smart, determined, and ambitious, Shane has become one of the most successful writers in America. Yet none of his success has answered the burning question: why was he the one given away, and his brothers kept? Now Shane has moved to Marietta to unravel the secrets and lies and what it means to be a Sheenan, and nobody is closer to the Sheenans than Brock’s young sister-in-law, Jet.
Normally Shane would never use a woman, but if Jet can connect him with the keys to his past, he doesn’t seem to have choice. Until he begins to fall for her. Can two strangers, who were never meant to be, believe in love again?
Get your copy of The Lost Sheenan’s Bride now!