The Erie Canal Brides Collection: 7 Romances Develop Along Manmade Waterways of New York and Ohio

The Erie Canal Brides Collection: 7 Romances Develop Along Manmade Waterways of New York and Ohio


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Seven romance stories take you back to the building of the Erie Canal and the opening of the Midwest to greater development.

Completed in 1825, the Erie Canal connected the Great Lakes to the Hudson River, and soon other states like Ohio created canals linking Lake Erie to the Ohio River. Suddenly the Midwest was open to migration, the harvesting of resources, and even tourism. Join seven couples who live through the rise of the canals and the problems the waterways brought to each community, including land grabs, disease, tourists, racism, and competition. Can these couples hang on to their faith and develop love during times of intense change?

The Way of a Child by Lauralee Bliss
Little Falls, New York 1817
Widower David Marshall has no interest in selling his farm to the Erie Canal project presented by agent Ray O’Neil and his daughter Melanie. But his sons Matthew and Luke have taken a peculiar liking to Melanie. What the children reveal paves the way to a surprising future.    
Wedding of the Waters by Rita Gerlach
Goshen Creek, New York. 1819
Charlotte Verger, a physician’s niece, is unexpectedly reunited with her first and only love, Blaine McKenna.  When word comes that the Erie Canal builders at the Montezuma Swamp, where Blaine is working as a surveyor, are stricken with malaria, Charlotte risks a journey to reach him.
Digging for Love by Ramona K. Cecil
Rochester, New York 1822
For budding artist Emily Nichols, the coming Erie Canal brings dreams of leaving Rochester for the art markets of New York City. As he builds the canal, Irish laborer Seamus O’Grady is building his American dream in Rochester. When hearts meld, divergent dreams and old prejudices threaten burgeoning love.
Return to Sweetwater Cove by Christina Miller
Sweetwater Cove, New York, 1825
Reverend Josiah Wells travels to his hometown to pastor the church and make restitution for his youthful sins. Betsy Bennett wants to honor her late husband’s memory and make sure Sweetwater Cove never discovers the secret she shares with Josiah. Can they leave behind the past and find love beside still waters?

Journey of the Heart by Johnnie Alexander
Circleville, Ohio, early 1852
Charity Sinclair secretly writes abolitionist pamphlets while thwarting architect Tavish Dunbar’s effort to redesign her father’s post office, a hidden stop on the Underground Railroad. When a slave-hunter captures a runaway, Charity vows to rescue the fugitive. But can she trust Tavish with her secret. . .and with her heart?
Pressing On by Rose Allen McCauley
Zoar, Ohio, 1856
As a child, Amanda Mack loved her life in Zoar, Ohio, where she was born to Separatists. Now an adult, she starts to chafe at its many restrictions. After meeting riverboat captain Daniel Jeremiah, they both must make decisions about their futures. Can she leave or will he convert or…?

The Bridge Between Usby Sherri Wilson Johnson
Albion, New York, 1859
John Hawkins steps back into Susannah Higley’s life just in time to save it. Despite her father’s longstanding disdain for John’s family, can Susannah and John settle the family feud and save her father’s struggling sawmill—and their chance for love? Or will the feud continue? 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781683228677
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 03/01/2019
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 792,757
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Johnnie Alexander creates characters you want to meet and imagines stories you won't forget in a variety of genres. An award-winning, best-selling novelist, she serves on the executive boards of Serious Writer, Inc. and the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference, co-hosts Writers Chat, and interviews other inspirational authors for Novelists Unwind. Johnnie lives in Oklahoma with Griff, her happy-go-lucky collie, and Rugby, her raccoon-treeing papillon. Connect with her at and other social media sites via

LAURALEE BLISS has always liked to dream big dreams. Part of that dream was writing, and after several years of hard work, her dream of publishing was realized in 1997 with the publication of her first romance novel, Mountaintop, through Barbour Publishing. Since then she’s had twenty books published, both historical and contemporary. Lauralee is also an avid hiker, completing the entire length of the Appalachian Trail both north and south. Lauralee makes her home in Virginia in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her family. Visit her website at and find her on Twitter and Facebook Readers of Author Lauralee Bliss.

RAMONA K. CECIL is a wife, mother, grandmother, freelance poet, and award-winning inspirational romance writer. Now empty nesters, she and her husband make their home in Indiana. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers and American Christian Fiction Writers Indiana Chapter, her work has won awards in a number of inspirational writing contests. Over eighty of her inspirational verses have been published on a wide array of items for the Christian gift market. She enjoys a speaking ministry, sharing her journey to publication while encouraging aspiring writers. When not writing, her hobbies include reading, gardening, and visiting places of historical interest.

RITA GERLACH lives in central Maryland with her husband and two sons. She is a best-selling author of eight inspirational historical novels including the Daughters of the Potomac series of which Romantic Times Book Review Magazine said, "Creating characters with intense realism and compassion is one of Gerlach’s gifts."


Rose Allen McCauley has been writing since she retired from teaching school and joined American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). She is thrilled for this to be her third collection with Barbour. She and her spouse just celebrated their golden anniversary with their three children and spouses and now six grandchildren! She loves to hear from her readers. You can reach her through her website or twitter @RoseAMcCauley and on Facebook under Rose Allen McCauley.

Read an Excerpt


1817 Little Falls, New York

Melanie O'Neil paced about the bedroom with her thoughts flying from one to the next. Her dress of pale green with an empire waist and tied with a moss-green ribbon swept the wooden floor, stirring up dust. How she wished she could calm the prickles dashing down her back or stop her fingers from twisting a handkerchief into a large knot. The day had finally come. If she chose to go, he would be waiting for her at the crossroads, the wagon loaded with possessions and provisions, ready to find the reverend and begin a new life in a strange land.

Sam told her how Ohio was ripe for farming, far away from this place that had seen many troubles, from poor weather to enemy invasion. The area still bore the scars of war in scattered piles of rubble. The village of Little Falls had to be rebuilt when renegade tribes decimated it twenty years previous. Yet her heart remained fixed in this place. She had grown up here. Buried her mother here. Worked beside Father in his business dealings. Inwardly she hoped Sam would have a change of heart. That he would arrive on his handsome bay horse, ready to say he'd been too hasty in his decision to abandon everything for a new place. He would acknowledge that Little Falls was his home too.

Melanie looked out the window, envisioning him riding up with a new desire to remain here. They would have a simple ceremony overlooking the river where she often went to pray, serenaded by the rushing sound of water over the rocks. They would build a home adjacent to the land owned by his family. And she would learn how to be a wife and then a mother. It seemed perfect.

But no. Sam wanted adventure and a new life. Ohio was calling his name.

A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts. Her hands shook, nearly dropping the handkerchief. The door creaked open and a familiar voice greeted her. "Are you all right, daughter?" her father, Raymond O'Neil, gently asked. He appeared strong and immaculate, dressed in tailored breeches and leather boots, a waistcoat fastened by brass buttons overlaying the broadcloth shirt. His reddish-brown hair that Melanie inherited reflected the sunlight streaming through the window.

"Sam is leaving today," she announced.

He stepped back as though the words had delivered some unseen blow. "I didn't know it would be so soon."

"We visited yesterday while you were away on business with Mr. Mader. He said if I agreed to leave, to meet him at noon at the crossroads. We will find the reverend to marry us and then make our way to Ohio."

Father's eyes widened and began to glimmer. Were those tears in his eyes? She prayed not. "He told me of his intent a few days ago," he said grimly. "Though he did not ask my permission, nor did he tell me it would be so soon." He straightened, his head held high, hands clasped behind his back in a picture of authority. Would Father now ask that she forsake Sam's proposal? "And what did you say?"

"I — I told him I would go if that's what he wanted." Father's hands slowly tightened and the veins began to bulge in his neck. She avoided the look on his face and turned to the view out the window, beyond the lay of the village and the river below, to the long mountain framing the valley. She must settle the anxiousness in the air. "He is desperate to head west. He's read all the tales of adventure, of Daniel Boone and stories of frontier life. He's grown weary of this place." She heard a shuffling across the wooden floor and then the aroma of tobacco mixed with the scent of the study where Father spent many long hours at his desk. She turned to face him. No longer did he portray a picture of anxiety, with the lines now softening on his face and large blue eyes that spoke compassion. There had only been the two of them since Mother's passing from the influenza many years ago. Maybe that's why hesitation also gripped her this morn with the thought of leaving him alone, possibly never to see him again.

"It's difficult to make such a change," he said. "I won't keep you here against your will, you understand. But I would be uttering a falsehood if I said I wouldn't miss you or that I didn't need your help in our work."

The work entrusted to Father's good hands was negotiating with the farms in the valley to purchase lands for constructing the Grand Canal. The project would allow an all-water route to transport goods and livestock and people from the Hudson River to the western regions. It was good for commerce and for Father's reputation, to be a part of securing the land so the canal could become a reality. But for Melanie, consumed by her affairs, she wondered if any of her involvement mattered. Especially when it came to her happiness.

Melanie inhaled a deep breath to gaze once more at the scenery. The view of the distant river meandering over the rocks proved comforting. She did love this place. The thought of leaving it for some wild territory she knew nothing about frightened her in many ways. She had tried to relay her fears to Sam — the difficult journey, finding a place to call home, the strangeness of it all. He only brushed it aside with tales of adventure and excitement.

Finally she turned from the window, moving to the large satchel to inspect the contents she packed in haste. Father looked on, saying nothing as she noted her other good dress neatly folded, a linen petticoat, night clothing and undergarments, some stockings, and then her dark blue pelisse for those chilly days.

"I will ready the carriage," he said softly. "I hope you will allow me to accompany you and bear witness to the marriage."

Melanie glanced at him. "Of course. I'm sorry, Father. I know you want me to stay. But I can't help but think this may be my only opportunity to marry and have a life. There are sure to be children too. You would love a grandchild."

Father said nothing, but from the way his lips twisted and his shoulders began to curve inward, it was as if the storm clouds once more descended. She tried to shake the thought away, instead thinking on scripture and how one plans his way but God wisely directs the path. While there appeared to be obstacles of the heart in place, if this was not meant to be, God would surely show her the way.

Melanie glanced around the room once more for anything to slip into the satchel. Sam had been firm that she not take much. She tucked in her Bible, a mirror that once belonged to Mother, and a shawl Grandmother knitted during the long journey from Ireland. The room began to shimmer under the flow of tears as she thought of her life here — of picnics and merriment by the pretty falls that gave the village its name, of Father's hearty laughter and the seriousness of the business as they traveled the valley, greeting the farmers and talking about the new canal. Now uncertainty and fear took over.

Father fetched her bag to load into the buggy. Puffiness encircled his shiny, red eyes. She tried to stem her own emotions, wishing now he had remarried after Mother passed on, to fill the void in his heart. But Melanie must consider her future and Sam's wish. Despite Father's sadness, it was her duty to marry and have a family. Even if it meant living far away in a strange new land.

They said little as the carriage pulled away from the humble home for the last time. She tried not to look at anything in particular for the emotion of having to bid farewell to a place she had known all her life. They crossed the narrow bridge spanning the river that flowed over rocks large and small. Along the shore were many fine places to romp on a hot summer afternoon and have Sunday picnics. She caught sight of a boat moving slowly through the old lock built around this rocky part of the river. It reminded her of Father's work and the Grand Canal project that would see a new and larger canal bypass the area.

"At least you will have many things to do," she offered.

He shrugged. "The commission's work has always been our work, and it is nearly finished."

Melanie winced. "Father, this is your work. I am but the lowly daughter, and ..."

"Lowly indeed. You are my only child, my daughter, and my joy. Because of that, I will not keep you here against your will. I give you my blessing, even if my heart breaks for missing you."

The ride became enshrouded in silence, except for the sound of the wheels on the hard-packed earth and the snort of the horse, Hagan, prancing along. Soon they came to the crossroads where Sam said he would be waiting with his wagon and team. Father brought the gig to a rest at the junction and pulled out his timepiece. "When did your Sam say he would arrive?" "Noon."

"Then it should be soon." He sighed as his gaze swept the clear blue sky without a hint of clouds. "It's certainly a lovely day to wed and begin a journey to Ohio."

The words held hope, though Melanie wondered at his sincerity. She shared in the view of the rolling countryside with farms scattered among the hills. Irish and English farmers had settled these parts, with large holdings for raising cattle. She considered what life in Ohio held. What would she see? What kind of people lived there? Would she be homesick?

Time passed slowly. After a while she shifted in her seat and gazed about, only to see another wagon rolling along the road. Hope stirred until she recognized the wagon's markings. "It's Mr. Thomas, Father. Sam's neighbor. Maybe he has seen Sam."

When the wagon came to a stop beside them, Father tipped his hat in a greeting. "Good day. Have you seen Mr. Winston on his way here?"

"Sam? Why he left at sunup just as I was headed to do some chores. Said he was going to Ohio. Gave me some nice things too, things he didn't want to take with him. Said the wagon was already full."

Melanie's mouth fell open. "I'm sure he didn't mean it."

The man shrugged. "I can only tell you what I saw. Then he left."

Melanie shook her head. "I don't understand. Sam said he would meet me here at noon. I'm certain of it. What time is it now, Father?" Father looked at his pocket watch. "Nearly one o'clock, daughter."

Melanie tried to steady the beating of her heart and wiped her damp palms across her skirt. Just a few days ago they sat beside the river where Sam had taken her hand in his and told her his plans. Perhaps something had delayed him. Like gathering provisions or completing whatever errands needed to be done. "We will wait a bit longer," she said, though anxiety began to creep in. "He — he may be buying supplies for the journey. Or ... or he is delayed for some other reason." She couldn't help the wavering of her voice that betrayed the escalating anguish.

They continued to wait quietly with private thoughts consuming each. She sensed Father's concern but didn't know what to do. Until suddenly Father flicked the reins and turned the gig about.

"Father?" Melanie began questioningly, trying to stem the flow of tears welling up in her eyes as they headed back down the road. The scenery around her blurred.

"I'm sorry, dear one. Sam has had a change of heart. The neighbor said as much."

"No! Perhaps his errands took him longer than expected." Or maybe he no longer wants to go to Ohio, she thought, suddenly excited at the possibility. Hadn't that been her prayer — for a change of heart? They could still marry by the backdrop of the river where she had lived all her life. They could set up their home, raise a family, and live in God's goodness and mercy. "I'm sure there's an explanation why he isn't here." She sat up straighter. "He may be home even now. We should go right away, Father." Hope brought the tears to a standstill and quieted her heart as they made their way toward the place where Sam grew up. As they drew nearer, she thought she recognized his horse behind the fencing. "See? There's his horse."

Father offered his hand to help her alight from the buggy. She lifted her skirt and walked up to the door, just as it opened. Sam's mother stood in the doorway, wearing a frown.

"Please, Mrs. Winston. If you may, I must speak to Sam."

"He's gone," she said shortly, without emotion.

"I see his horse is here. We were to meet at the crossroads at noon, but it's long since passed." Melanie glanced beyond the woman, hoping to see the man's sheepish face, his hands thrust inside the pockets of his breeches, an apology waiting on his lips.

Father strode up behind her, removed his hat, and bowed. Sam's mother obliged by opening the door wider. "What happened to your son?" Father asked weightily.

The woman stepped back and looked at the ground. "I beg your forgiveness, Mr. O'Neil, but Sam felt it unwise to take Miss O'Neil to such rough territory. I must agree with him. It is far too dangerous for a young woman, with enemies roaming about and danger underfoot. Maybe once he has settled and then returns for a visit, which he plans to do come the New Year ..."

Melanie shook her head as the tears came once more. "Why didn't he tell me? Why did he leave without saying goodbye?" Her questions remained unanswered as Father slowly took her arm and gently guided her back to the carriage.

Melanie's hands fell limp in her lap, her shoulders heaving as tears slowly dripped down her face. "Why?" she blurted. To be left at a crossroad, with no sign of the one she loved and whom she presumed loved her. How could this be?

Father shrugged. "I don't know, daughter. But it's for the better. God is guiding your steps."

Melanie tried to believe that, even as doubt bubbled up within. "Is the Lord truly guiding me?"

He looked over at her and patted her hand. "Our blessed Lord does not waver in His care for us. He did not want you to be alone in some forsaken place. Or in danger. I held little peace for this situation. I must admit, I'm glad."

You may be glad, but my heart is broken. Melanie began to gasp.

Father shook his head. "Do not fuss so, daughter. There is a time to weep."

Melanie bit down hard on her lip, forcing the emotion of her breaking heart inside. When they arrived home and Father left the gig, she remained in the seat and picked up the reins. "Do not unhitch Hagan, Father. I must go for a drive."

He looked at her. "Do not go after him."

"I have no such intention. Sam left without saying goodbye. He broke his promise to me. I must seek God to find out what to do next. And to forgive him. It's all I can do." Her voice trailed off. With a click of her tongue, Melanie ushered the horse onward along the dusty road. She cared little where the gig took her as she passed the junction where she was to meet Sam, find the reverend to marry them, then journey on to a new land. A thick lump formed in her throat.

Melanie tried to concentrate on the peaceful fields despite the sorrow. She continued to ride along until she spied two small figures trudging down the road. "Whoa, Hagan," she said, bringing the buggy to a stop before two small boys, barefoot in the dirt. Dust covered their young faces as they peered up at her. Their books, bound by a leather strap, were tossed over their small shoulders. "Where are you off to, young ones?"

"Goin' home," said one.

"Are you a queen?" inquired the other, staring up at her with large brown eyes as his small lips parted in awe.

Melanie laughed. "Certainly not. I'm out for a ride. Have you finished your lessons so soon? It's very early."

"Teacher was sick."

"Well then, come ride with me. I would like the company."

"Hooray!" the boys said in unison and climbed aboard, nestling in the cushion seat beside her. It didn't bother her in the least that the boys left dirty markings on the cushion and on her new skirt. The gown was to be her wedding garment, but no longer. She focused on the gleaming smiles on their dirty faces and the joy in their voices that eased her sadness.

"What's his name?" one of the boys asked, pointing to the horse.

"Hagan. It means young one. He loves to run. He's quite swift. What are your names?"

"I'm Matthew. I'm the oldest. I don't know why. We have the same birthday. But that's what Papa says. This is Luke."

"Ah. So are you a good older brother then, Matthew? Protecting Luke from strangers?"

"Ha ha. You're a stranger."

"No she isn't," Luke protested. "She's a queen. You can tell."

Both boys stared at the simple carriage that bore them up, which to Melanie appeared no different than any other cart. Though it did have some nice trimmings, like wood carvings and a padded seat cushion made of fine velvet. Father liked the rig as it was quick on the road yet elegant when calling on people. As they rode along, Melanie recognized the farm and property they passed as belonging to a client of Father's. They had recently called on the owner there with regard to acquiring property to build the Grand Canal. In fact, the man had been most agreeable to the compensation offered and even liked the new water route for transporting goods. "Isn't that the Mader farm?"

"Yes," Matthew acknowledged. "Papa's farm isn't far from here."

"You both have such a long walk to town."

"Papa usually takes us. But he had to wait for the calf to be born." Matthew suddenly jostled her arm. "Go down that road!"


Excerpted from "The Erie Canal Brides Collection"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Lauralee Bliss.
Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

The Way of a Child,
Wedding of the Waters,
Digging for Love,
Return to Sweetwater Cove,
Journey of the Heart,
Pressing On,
The Bridge Between Us,

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