The Owen Family Saga
The Owen Family Saga, Marsha Ward’s acclaimed series of adventurous, romantic, historical Western stories set in 19th Century America consists of one novella and five novels: That Tender Light, Gone for a Soldier, The Man from Shenandoah, Spinster’s Folly, Ride to Raton, and Trail of Storms.
Many authors write novels out of order, if one considers the release date. One notable example is Louis L’Amour, who wrote at least five early Sackett Family novels after he had nearly completed the series. What’s important for the best reading experience is the chronology. To make that clear, the novella, That Tender Light, is unnumbered and tagged as “An Owen Family Novella,” but should be read first. Gone for a Soldier is Book 1 and is followed by Book 2, The Man from Shenandoah. Spinster’s Folly is now Book 3, followed by Book 4, Ride to Raton and Book 5, Trail of Storms. That is the best reading order.
(You might elect to read Scandalous: An Owen Family Story, after Spinster’s Folly.)
The initial scenes in both Spinster’s Folly and Ride to Raton begin with the same event: a wedding. Spinster’s Folly takes off from there in the viewpoint of a sister in the family, while Ride to Raton follows the aftermath from the point of view of a brother. Trail of Storms is best read after Ride to Raton. There is action, adventure and romance in all of the novels. Be warned that you may need a box of tissues as you read Ride to Raton. It is not a romance, but a poignant love story.
Here’s the thing about Marsha Ward’s Owen Family stories: they are realistic, dealing with big life issues for members of the Owen family, at the same time as they pull at your heartstrings because you might be coming to love the characters. Now it’s time to get to know Rod and Julia Owen and their children: Rulon, Ben, Peter, Carl, James, Marie, Clay, Albert, and Julianna. They don’t live in a vacuum, so you’ll meet a passel of neighbors from the Shenandoah Valley, too. Enjoy reading, while Marsha writes more adventures.
Future novels and stories about members of the Owen family will not be put in the “Owen Family Saga” series. Each work will be designated as “An Owen Family Novel, Novella, or Story,” with guidelines for where in the Owen Universe’s timeline it falls.
That Tender Light
How did the Owen Family Saga begin?
With a love story, of course, the most romantic love story of all: when Rod and Julia met.
God must have conspired with the angels to put Roderick Owen of Shenandoah County, Virginia, and Julia Helm, of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, in the same place on one magical day in Spring, 1840. All nature paused, as though holding its breath, waiting to see what would happen.
In this short novella, author Marsha Ward tells the story of the Owen Family origins, describing in her delicate language the tender feelings of two people who need to find each other in a very small window of time.
Debra Erfert, author of Snowdrift, says:
I love the way Marsha Ward turns an eloquent phrase. I always wondered how Rod and Julia met. Rod had promised his dying mother to find a Christian wife, and that’s what he did, and Julia being able to make a delicious apple pie was icing on the cake. This is a sweet story about love at first sight–which I totally believe in.
Jan M. Martin, author of Heir of Deceit, says:
Rod and Julia meet and are married days later. Though this is a sweet romance, there is plenty of heat between the two sweethearts. Marsha Ward’s vivid writing makes every scene come to life.
Gone for a Soldier
Rulon Owen loves two things more than life—his country and Mary Hilbrands.
When Virginia secedes from the Union, Rulon enlists, and finds himself fighting foes both in battle and in his own camp. He struggles to stay alive against all odds, with a knife-wielding tent-mate and a Union army that seems impossible to defeat. It will take every ounce of vigilance he has to survive and, with a little luck, he might make it home to his wife and the son he’s never seen.
Forced to live with her parents for the duration, Mary faces a battle for independence. With a mother whispering that her husband won’t come home to her and a son who needs her to be both father and mother, Mary has to dig deep for strength to overcome her overwhelming loneliness and the unknown future ahead.
Separated by war and circumstance, Rulon and Mary discover that not all enemies wear the Union blue.
C.K. Crigger, author of the China Bohannan adventures says:
Marsha Ward has succeeded once again in drawing the reader deep into lives of the Owen family. The Civil War years and its effect on the family are accurately depicted; the romance is real and true. Strong family ties bind this series together and is sure to hold you enthralled.
Bill Markley, Civil War reenactor and author of Deadwood Dead Men, says:
Gone for a Soldier tells the fate of members of three families living in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley during the onslaught of the Civil War. Marsha Ward brings to life characters whose hopes and dreams, and everyday cares are overshadowed by war-torn events spinning their lives out of control and changing them forever. Gone for a Soldier will make you laugh, and bring a lump to your throat.
Read an Excerpt
The Man from Shenandoah
Carl Owen doesn’t intend to lose anything—not his land, not his cattle, and certainly not his girl—ever again!
The young cavalryman returns from the Civil War to find the family farm destroyed, his favorite brother dead, food scarce, and his father determined to leave the Shenandoah Valley to build a cattle empire in Colorado Territory. Crossing the continent, Carl falls in love with his brother’s fiancée while set to wed another girl, but he might lose everything if the murderous thug Berto Acosta has his way. Carl battles a band of outlaws, a prairie fire, blizzards, a trackless waterless desert, and his own brother—all for the hand of feisty Ellen Bates.
Review from Western Writer’s Newsletter: This is a book to prize, and not only for its gritty realism, exciting action, and compelling characters. The story further engages us by examining the ties that hold family and community together. Not many Westerns do that. Heartily recommended! – C.K. Crigger
Review from Midwest Book Review Reviewer’s Bookwatch: Whatever happened to good, old fashioned westerns? If you’ve ever gazed over the shelves wondering this, then Ms. Ward has a book for you. The setting is very well done, capturing the flavor of pioneering. The many setbacks the group have, including one where the very cattle meant to sustain them are killed by an unexpectedly bad winter, make the triumphs they share all the more uplifting. This book is a pleasant journey indeed. – Cindy Lynn
Marie Owen yearns for a loving husband, but Colorado Territory is long on rough characters and short on fitting suitors, so a future of spinsterhood seems more likely for her than wedded bliss.
Her best friend says cowboy Bill Henry is a likely candidate, but Marie knows her class-conscious father would not allow such a pairing. When she challenges her father to find her a suitable husband before she becomes a spinster, he arranges a match with a neighbor’s son. Then Marie discovers Tom Morgan would be an unloving, abusive mate and his mother holds a grudge against the Owen family. Marie’s mounting despair at the prospect of being trapped in such a dismal marriage drives her into the arms of a sweet-talking predator, landing her in unimaginable dangers.
Endorsement by Irene Bennett Brown, award-winning author of Before the Lark; the “Women of Paragon Springs” series and “Celia Landrey” mysteries: The harrowing experiences in early-day Colorado of 18-year-old spinster, Marie Owen, the result of her simple wish for a husband, held me spellbound from start to finish. I couldn’t put the book down. An incredible story, SPINSTER’S FOLLY is one of the best women’s novels of the west I’ve had the pleasure to read. Ever!
Endorsement by Rod Miller, Spur Award-winning author: From family drama to neighborhood conflicts, cruel abuse and budding romance, a runaway bride and the suspenseful pursuit of a craven criminal, SPINSTER’S FOLLY is a wide-ranging novel of the Old West. Author Marsha Ward populates the story with characters both likeable and despicable, and follows them through situations both dramatic and revealing. We feel the harsh sting of a nasty slap, the softness of a feathery kiss, the pain of a shattered heart, and the dueling passions of decorum and desire. You’ll chase through the pages of SPINSTER’S FOLLY with all the speed and intensity of a determined cowboy in hot pursuit of stolen love.
Read an Excerpt
Ride to Raton
Thinking he’s been treated unjustly by his father, James Owen leaves the family homestead to make a new life for himself.
The turbulent world of post-Civil War Colorado Territory is a dangerous place for an ex-Confederate soldier. The prejudice he encounters increases his bitter loneliness. Then he’s shot, and winds up in the debt of a man whose family has already caused him grief. After James recovers enough to work off his debt and leave town, he comes upon another wayfarer, young Amparo Garcés, who has journeyed from Santa Fe to Colorado to marry a stranger. Through a twist of fate, their futures are changed forever when their lives are merged in a marriage of convenience. James and Amparo undertake a hazardous horseback trek over Raton Pass to Santa Fe, battling their personal demons, a challenging language barrier, and winter’s raging storms.
Review from Romance Junkies: I was enthralled, and sitting on the edge of my chair, as I read RIDE TO RATON. This is an exciting, quick paced, heartwarming, and heartrending story! James and Amparo are wonderfully “real” characters, with the emotions and interactions between them touching my heart. The secondary characters were fantastic: from mean and drunk, to kind and generous, they added extra life—and spice—to the story. The first one of Marsha Ward’s books I’ve read, I am highly impressed. A western in the true sense of the word, yet with plenty of romance, this one is definitely worth your time if you are a lover of westerns or romances, or both. – Teresa Henson
Review from Roundtable Reviews: RIDE TO RATON is a pure western, complete with bad guys and broken hearts and even a dog. The sequel to THE MAN FROM SHENANDOAH features James Owen, the younger brother. Marsha Ward writes a fantastic romance against a vivid southwestern backdrop. James begins this book as a hurt, young man, but by the end of the book, I really could see him grow up and become a man. Made tougher by circumstances he has no control over, James realizes that the love he thought he had lost was nothing compared to what Amparo shows him. Amparo is a young Mexican lady, forced to leave her home in Santa Fe to marry a stranger in Colorado. She bravely faces her uncertain future, relying on her faith to get her through. She is sweet, loving and she provides a great contrast to James’s rough exterior. With an ending that surprised even me, RIDE TO RATON is not your usual romance. However, I do recommend it for western lovers—even the cover is wonderful! Marsha Ward once again shows us her gift for old fashioned storytelling! – Jen Hill
Trail of Storms
Jessie Bingham put heartbreak away to tend to her sister’s needs, but when she settled for second best in love, she didn’t foresee that James Owen would come back into her life.
The aftermath of the Civil War creates cruel circumstances for the Bingham family. A brutal attack on Jessie’s sister, Hannah Fletcher, drives the extended family to flee to the West. They are soon joined by Heppie Bingham’s beau George and his brother, Ned, who bring news that the Binghams are being pursued by cronies of Hannah’s attacker. Even after they fight off that onslaught, poverty, bad weather, and Hannah’s frightful secret plague their journey. Nursing her battered heart when she hears James Owen took a wife, Jessie accepts Ned’s offer of marriage. But a stop on the trail holds surprises that launch Jessie into a bewildering tangle of values, emotions, and high adventure.
Review by Shirley Bahlmann, author of the “Odds” pioneer series: Marsha Ward has the uncanny ability to transport readers back in time. You feel the characters’ sorrows, hate the villains, cheer the heroes, and sit on the edge of your seat as one adventure after another unfolds. What a satisfying story this is, with real, believable trials and heart-warming conclusions. I recommend it to everyone, from history buffs to adventure lovers to romance readers.
Comment from Dan Olsen, owner of The Write Impression: I finished [reading] the manuscript to TRAIL OF STORMS last night. It’s a very compelling story: as I read it, I didn’t want to put it down. The characters come alive on the pages and I have a good sense of who they are, internally and externally. Great story, told very well.
The Box Set with all five novels together is available in print and ebook formats at the following online retail outlets:
Just as Louis L’Amour did not write his novels about the Sackett family in chronological order, Marsha Ward did not write the novels of The Owen Family Saga from first to last, according to the actual timeline of events. However, there is definitely an optimal reading order, and here it is in one grand box set collection, as The Complete Owen Family Saga.
The Owen family is headed by Rod Owen, with his wife Julia at his side to hand him a daily dose of love and humility. The sons and daughters are fun-loving and a bit rowdy, but intensely loyal to God, Virginia, and family. Not even the Civil War and its hardships can quell their spirits, but in quiet times, the losses seem overwhelming. Journey with them and their neighbors to Colorado Territory and beyond for action, adventure, and romance.