“Good morning, Marsha. I finished the manuscript [to TRAIL OF STORMS] last night. It’s a very compelling story, that as I read, 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, and you told it very well.”
“TRAIL OF STORMS delivers a powerful saga that doesn’t water down the hardships of life in the untamed west. It covers a wide scope of feelings from drama to adventure to romance. Marsha Ward’s skill as a writer makes the reader’s skin crawl at the abduction and violation of a young woman, her family’s ultimate flight from their home, and trek across unknown wilderness.
“Ward makes her characters come alive with different personalities and ways of dealing with life, but when the odds stack against them, they pull even closer together to make it through. Ward’s endings are always satisfying, not always what you expect, but the way you instinctively know things ought to be.”
~Shirley Bahlmann, author of The Pioneers: A Course in Miracles
Shirley Bahlmann Biz Blog, April 21, 2009
“TRAIL OF STORMS by Marsha Ward is the third book in a western series featuring the Owen family that takes place during those first years following the conclusion of the US Civil War. Ward is recognized as an award winning western writer, the founder of the American Night Writers Association, and an authority on Southwestern history.
“This series chronicles the events, including a rape and several severe beatings, that send several families from the Shenandoah Valley west following the war, their journey westward, and their struggle to establish homes in the American Southwest. TRAIL OF STORMS takes up the story of the Bingham sisters who are roughed up by Yankee ruffians and the desperate measures that force them to flee from their home with their widowed mother, younger brother, and the oldest sister’s husband. Two men, neighbors who are in love with the other two sisters, are also forced to run even though one of the brothers is also a Yankee. They catch up to the Binghams and circumstances bring them in contact with another former neighbor, James Owen, whose wife has just been murdered.
“The love stories in all three volumes are similar, but the love stories are not the series’ strongest point. TRAIL OF STORMS is not a romance, but a nitty gritty Western. It is the historical details of Colorado and New Mexico and the writer’s understanding of both the American and Hispanic cultures of this place and time period that are superbly done and make all three novels worth reading. Their encounter with a Mormon wagon train and the hasty conversion of three members of their party feels a little rushed and when the small group of Southerners is stranded by a blizzard a few days later there is a feeling of incompleteness in not knowing how the Mormon group who were farther up the mountain fared.
“I found a few typos distracting, but quickly got back into the story. Ward doesn’t glamorize the West and some of her characters aren’t particularly likable, but they are realistic and she is true to the rough times of that settlement period. She handles well the will to survive of those early settlers. Though the series is not directed toward an LDS audience, TRAIL OF STORMS does bring in the Church and includes strong messages concerning baptism and eternal marriage. The author portrays vividly the lingering hatred that existed between Confederates and Yankees for years following the war, the bigotry between races, and the minimal rights of women. Historical and Western fans of either gender will enjoy this series from the compelling covers to the last word of this third volume. It’s a series I’m glad I had the opportunity to read.”
~Jennie Hansen, Reviewer, Meridian Magazine
“LDS Fiction for the Lazy Summer Days”, May, 2009
“At first, I was not thrilled when LDS Publisher asked me to review TRAIL OF STORMS by Marsha Ward. First off, historicals, particularly westerns, aren’t my thing. It’s not that I hate them, it’s just that I prefer my stories to be set in the future or alternate realities, rather than in the past. A second strike against it is it’s self-published through iUniverse. I admit, I’m a bit of a snob. I wasn’t expecting much from this book.
“So on a Sunday afternoon when I couldn’t find anything else to do, I resigned myself to reading the book. I read the whole thing in one sitting and I loved it! This is one well-crafted story.
“This is Marsha Ward’s third book about the Owen family but you don’t need to have read the previous two to enjoy this story. In fact, it wasn’t until I finished the book and read the liner notes that I realized this was a continuing story. Ward skillfully gives us plenty of information about the characters, their history and motivations without using any annoying info dumps of backstory.
“The characters were unique and individual, with distinct personalities that made them real and recognizable, and most importantly, believable. My heart ached over Hannah’s misfortune and her feelings of guilt and shame, as I sympathized with her husband Robert’s love and devotion to her. I grieved with James, over the death of his wife, yet still understood his attraction to Jessie, the love of his youth. I commiserated with Jessie over lingering feelings for James, applauded her determination to honor her word and make the safe choice with Ned—and then, just as willingly believed the various changes of her heart as time passed.
“There were times when my modern woman sensibilities were strained, such as the fast romances and quick spiritual conversions. But that is the way things happened back then. I’ve read journals of that time period and it was not at all unusual for a man and woman to meet and agree to marry quickly, nor was it unusual for people to become immediately convinced of truth when presented with very basic gospel principles. For the time and place of this story, it was believable.
“Although several of the key characters are converted and baptized when they meet up with Mormons, I didn’t feel that the book was overly preachy. The conversion is a very small part of the story and given the individual character’s histories, it was believable.
“As to the plot, it has an intense beginning and keeps going throughout the book. In a setting just after the Civil War, the story opens with an abduction, a rape, and a killing in self-defense—which propels the Brimhall/Fletcher family to flee their home in Mt. Jackson, Virginia and head out to Albuquerque, New Mexico. They are pursued by scoundrels seeking revenge, preyed upon by a shifty character, must face the outward challenges of traveling by wagon across the country, the loss of a horse, vicious storms, deep snow, all the while battling inner demons of guilt, shame, grief and fear. Oh, and then there are a couple of love stories thrown in as a bonus. My only caution is that this is definitely a book for adults.
“As to this being a self-published book, it’s certainly not because the writing isn’t good enough. The writing is fantastic. IMHO, it’s because the story falls into that crack between LDS publishers and mainstream publishers—a little too harsh and realistic for the one, and a little too tame and Mormon for the other.
“I really, really liked TRAIL OF STORMS and highly recommend it to readers who like historicals and westerns, and recommend that any reader who enjoys a good story give it a try. I plan to now read Marsha Ward’s first two books, THE MAN FROM SHENANDOAH and RIDE TO RATON. If they’re anything like this one, I’ll enjoy them too.
“I give TRAIL OF STORMS 4 1/2 stars.”
~”Erin,” Reviewer, LDS Fiction Review, May 17, 2009
“Marsha Ward’s new book TRAIL OF STORMS has recently been released and it is a page turner. I never read western novels, but boy, was I missing out. This one was full of adventure, romance and suspense. The story takes place after the civil war, when the south was occupied by Yankee soldiers.
“On the back cover it says, After her sister suffers a brutal attack, Jessie Bingham and her family flee post-Civil War Virginia and undertake a perilous trek to New Mexico Territory. When she learns her former sweetheart, James Owen, took a wife, Jessie accepts Ned Heizer’s marriage proposal, on the condition they wait until journey’s end to wed. But then Jessie encounters James again . . . and he isn’t married now!
“Marsha does an excellent job with her characters making them true to life. I actually felt like I was in the old west. She is also an expert at creating suspenseful situations. All in all, I loved TRAIL OF STORMS! I can’t wait to read Marsha’s other books based on the same family.”
~Kersten Campbell, author of Confessions of a Completely (In)Sane Mother
Life on the Funny Farm Blog, June 23, 2009
“A couple years ago—or maybe it was three—I listened to Marsha Ward read a chapter she had just finished for the third book in her saga about the Owen family. I hadn’t yet read [THE] MAN FROM SHENANDOAH or RIDE TO RATON, the first two books in the series, and so couldn’t appreciate the background. What I did appreciate was Marsha’s knowledge of life in the 19th century and how she was able to build tension with a few well placed words.
“I think TRAIL OF STORMS is Marsha Ward’s best book to date. The years she has spent honing her craft show as she has become a better writer with each book in the series. This book takes off like a scalded hound and never lets up, pulling the reader through one adventure after another as the Bingham family travels west after the Civil War. Jessie Bingham is the sweetheart James Owen, bowing to pressure from his father, left behind when his family went west.
“Here’s a part of what I heard Marsha read that summer three years ago:
From behind, noise pounded on the prairie like another roll of thunder. Heppie looked over her shoulder. What new danger was upon them? A horse approached with Ned bent low over its neck, driving forward to catch up to the runaway wagon. He passed Heppie. Clods of earth fell around her, stirred up by the horse’s hooves. A small chunk of sod hit her cheek, sticking in place, and she batted it as if it were a bug. She had to see what was happening to George.
She realized she was running, half falling over the furrows of churned-up earth left behind by hooves and wheels. Her throat felt raw, filled with her high, keening cry. Her lungs burned as she filled them with air that seemed to have been singed by the lightning. The wagon was so far away!
Another horse blew by, whipping up a dust cloud, pressing the thick yellow air against her. Mr. Fletcher. Luke sprinted by, his arms pumping with effort. She squinted her eyes, trying to find the wagon. Trying to see George.
At last she broke out of the dust. Ahead of her, the wagon lay on its side at the end of a plowed-up rut in the earth, one wheel smashed, the other spinning crazily. Ned Heizer and Robert Fletcher were off their mounts, struggling with horses thrashing on the ground. Luke ran towards them. Where was George?
Raindrops began to pelt her—needles on her flesh—but she kept running. Was George under the wagon? Her head seemed to reel as the storm grew in ferocity. Someone was screaming, “George!” over and over. She finally recognized her own voice.
“See what I mean? I held my breath as I read through that passage.
“Though this book begins with the story of Jessie Bingham and her family, when they meet up with James Owen, it becomes his story. That was okay with me, because I knew him from RIDE TO RATON, but I think it would be all right for someone who hadn’t read Marsha’s other books, too, because she gives the reader necessary tidbits of the back story as she goes. Also, though each book in the series may highlight one person, it’s actually about the family and the adventures they go through.
“There are lots of adventures for the Bingham family in this book. It begins with the rape of Jessie’s sister by a Union soldier, which precipitates the decision to leave the South. Jessie, thinking she would never see James Owen again, accepts the marriage proposal of another man. When she does meet with her former sweetheart, she finds he is lost in grief for the wife he just buried. There’s more: pursuit by some ex-Union soldiers, a child born en route, a meeting with a group of Mormons on their way to Zion, rescue from a snowstorm by a Spanish Don.
“Marsha Ward does a great job of putting you in the place and time and making you care about the families you’re reading about. That’s storytelling at its best.”
~Liz Adair, author of Counting the Cost
Liz Sez Blog, June 24, 2009
“TRAIL OF STORMS, written by award-winning author, Marsha Ward, is her third novel about the Owen family in her post-Civil War series. Marshaling adept storytelling with an intimate understanding of her subject matter, Ward delivers loyal fans an exciting continuation of the series, while new readers will rate TRAIL OF STORMS a satisfying stand-alone read that will send them back for more.
“Prepare to be transported to another time . . . another place. Ward’s grasp of western dialect and culture is like a set of old leather reins in her skilled hands, driving her story’s authenticity. The book opens with Jesse Bingham and her sisters on a tense Virginia day, under the brutal occupation of Yankee forces. High drama begins on page three and you’re already invested up to your elbows.
“TRAIL OF STORMS is not a ‘pretty story’, because these were not pretty times, and Marsha Ward does an excellent job stripping away any preconceived notions about a united, post-Civil War America. Still vastly divided and angry, prejudice continues to abound, and not just between races, but between geographies—north and south—and choices—Yankee vs. Rebs. The Binghams and the Heizers are two families torn by these elements until a merciless attack on one of their own distills each person’s core loyalties. No longer safe in Virginia, our characters lay aside differences, unite and head west.
“Jesse Bingham is still heartbroken over having been abandoned by James Owen when his family headed west. With no other marriage prospects, she concedes to accept the proposal of Ned Heizer, an older-brother figure made controversial because of his service in the northern army during the war. Along the trail, they meet up with James Owens, and the tension over loyalties ignites anew.
“Complex elements abound in the book, but Ms. Ward handles them honestly, contrasting the innocence and ignorance of nineteenth century decorum against the grit that era required of its men and women, particularly as they endeavored to survive a westward trek.
“The Binghams and Heizers leave Virginia with little more than a wagon load of troubles and pure determination. James Owen is suffering as well—over the recent loss of his bride. Life is hard for this group, which adds to the sweetness of their interaction with a group of Mormon pioneers who briefly cross their path. It did feel rushed, but I actually enjoyed the hit-and-run feel of this exchange, and considering the threat of winter on the trail, it’s likely an accurate account of how groups met, shared a few hours, and hurried quickly on. In TRAIL OF STORMS, these few shared hours provide a sweet distraction to both parties while imbuing a spiritual element of hope into a few of the more troubled Virginians.
“Much of the story moves like the gait of the wagon trains along the prairie—steady action accentuated with heart-thumping chapters. This back-and-forth pace works very well for this book. The reader experiences the unsettling travail of trail life, as well as the daily, life-and-death struggle it presents. Loaded with interpersonal drama and raw western action, TRAIL OF STORMS crosses genders, delivering an appealing, engaging read men and women will both enjoy.
~Laurie (L.C.) Lewis, author of Dawn’s Early Light
A View from the Other Side of the Hill Blog, June 30, 2009
WARD, MARSHA. Trail of Storms. iUniverse. Trade paperback, 255 pps., $16.95. ISBN 978-1-4401-2604-8.
“TRAIL OF STORMS picks up where RIDE TO RATON left off. The Bingham family, after Hannah Bingham Fletcher is brutally attacked and raped by a soldier of the Union occupation, must flee Virginia. The Binghams are joined by the Heizer brothers, George and Ned, and together the party makes its way toward New Mexico Territory. But along the way, Jessie Bingham and James Owen meet again, and Jessie discovers, to her shock, that James had been married to a ‘brown-skinned Mexican’ woman, who has been murdered. Jessie can’t come to terms with this, and in a fit of pique, accepts Ned’s proposal. But the course of love never runs true, especially when Ned meets a Mormon miss for whom he immediately falls. When complications such as blizzards and attacks by the same trio of now ex-soldiers who abused Hannah crop up, there is plenty of hardship to endure, and heartache to cure.
“Ward has written another of her gritty, fact-filled family sagas. Peopled with folks harboring complex emotions and striving always to do right within the confines of their values, her characters’ lives tend to get real messy. How they solve their many problems is always an education in story-telling, and Ward excels in doing that.”
~Uncredited review written by Eppie Award winner and double Spur Award finalist C.K. Crigger, author of Letter of the Law and One Foot on the Edge
Western Writers of America’s Roundup Magazine, August 2009, Volume XVI, Number 6, page 21.
“I found a few scenes in the beginning of this book a little disturbing, and the romance between James and Jessie felt a little too rushed for me towards the end, but I’m giving this book 5 stars because the overall storytelling and writing were so superior to many other books I’ve read this year. No overdose on adjectives or annoying eye rollings or head bobbings when a simple ‘she nodded her head’ would do. Marsha Ward knows how to write smoothly and well in a style that enhances, rather than detracts from the story she is trying to tell. The reader is completely caught up in the story and never jerked out of the world she’s created by awkward or repetitive phrases. She spins an authentic yarn of a good ol’ Western tale. Despite my personal quibbles in a few instances, I highly recommend ALL of Marsha Ward’s books!
Note: This book is self-published, but in my opinion, contains higher quality writing and plotting than several traditionally published books I’ve read. Moral? Don’t judge a book by the publisher. You may be disappointed on the one hand and missing out on a gem on the other!”
~Joyce DiPastena, author of Illuminations of the Heart
Goodreads, October 4, 2009