Posted in excerpt, romance, Spotlight, Western on August 24, 2014


Title: One Last Letter
Author: Pema Donyo
Genre: Historical romance, Western
Pages: 171


A romantic hardened by reality… 

Evelyn Lancaster turned her back on her love for ranch hand Jesse Greenwood when she was sixteen to pursue a career and marry into wealth that could save her father’s struggling ranch. Now twenty-three, she works hard to keep the property afloat, but no suitor has stirred her heart the way Jesse did. After her father falls ill, she needs all the help she can get to keep the ranch running.

A cowboy returning to what he left behind… 

After making his fortune, a newly wealthy Jesse has returned home to see his younger sister married. Still smarting from Evelyn’s rejection, he finds the tables have turned, and now only his investment could save the ranch that he vowed to never step foot on again.

When he agrees to help her salvage her family legacy, they must overcome their pride and painful past to work together. As long-held emotions rekindle, Jesse pretends indifference, only to admit his true feelings in an unsigned letter left on Evelyn’s porch.

Evelyn finds the missive and writes back, beginning a furtive correspondence. She dares to hope her mystery admirer is Jesse, but then another man comes forward to claim the letters as his own. Will one last letter give them the courage to say yes to love on the wild Texas plains?

Deleted Prologue



“You have to promise me.”

“I promise.”

“No! Say it like you mean it.”

“How else am I to say two words?”

“With emotion! With passion!”

“Reckon I don’t need words for that.” Jesse flipped Evelyn over on the pasture and pressed his lips against hers. She arched her body toward him as his hands fell to her hips.

“Not so fast.” He grabbed her wrist in a light hold, and she laughed. He pulled her tighter to his chest, and after an exaggerated huff of breath, she settled beside him.

She caught herself smiling as she nestled next to his body on the green grass. A slight breeze blew through his hair, ruffling the brown locks that fell forward into his face a bit. Jesse’s sharp cheekbones had always seemed aristocratic to her. The angular planes of his face didn’t belong on a cowboy, they belonged on a prince.

Evelyn brushed her fingertips over his clean-shaven jaw. “Still. Promise me.”

He pulled her against him until she was sitting on his lap. “I promise you.”

“Say it! Say the promise.”

He sighed. “All right, fine. I promise you, Evelyn Lancaster, Eve, the crazy one…”


She felt a lock of her hair pull as he wrapped one of her wavy tendrils around his finger. His voice was low. “I promise I will never stop writing to you while you’re away in the Old States.”

Her heart thudded in her chest at the reminder. The East Coast seemed so far away. She leaned her forehead against his. A desperate plea tugged at her lips. “You cannot make me go to that female seminary. Why must one travel so far for school?” The tears she’d managed to hold back threatened to surface. “I cannot leave you. I cannot leave the ranch.”

“The year will be over before you know it.” Jesse’s thumb brushed over her cheek. She grabbed his hand and kissed it, then leaned forward to peck him on the lips.

He tilted up her chin between his thumb and forefinger. “Now Elle, you have to promise me something.”


“You won’t forget me.”

As if she could! She leaned closer against him, burying her face against her shoulder. His shirt fabric felt rough against her cheek, but all the dust and dirt of the ranch could have covered his clothes and she still would have embraced him. “Forget you? Never.”


“I promise you, Jesse Greenwood, that I will never stop loving you.”

He averted his eyes, as if working up the courage to say something. “What if we just eloped? Run off to California and never come back?” He kept his tone light, but Evelyn thought she could spot a hint of sincerity in his eyes.

She laughed. Surely he’d been teasing. She tried to cup his cheeks with her hands, but he inclined his head away and she dropped her hold.

When he spoke again, his voice sounded bitter. “No doubt your father will pressure you to find someone else. Someone who owns land, no doubt.”

“There is no one else! I want you.”

“I don’t belong in your world.” His tone chilled her heart like a winter night. “Your father knows you could make a better match than with a ranch hand.”

She shook her head with resolve. “You and me, forever.”


Evelyn Lancaster wanted to run away as fast as possible.

It was a mistake. It was one colossal, gargantuan mistake. Worse than Athens ordering the death of Socrates. Worse than Persephone being kidnapped by Hades. What did she think she was going to do? Seconds ticked by as she found herself unable to say anything more. Her mouth felt dry. What was she supposed to say?

He’d changed, more than she would have ever imagined possible. The boyish frame was filled out, and extra years working on the ranch had defined the muscles in his arms under his coarse brown shirt. He’d even grown taller—past six feet, she guessed. His shoulders were broader, and his cheekbones seemed more pronounced than before. His face carried even more of an aristocratic air, but his body seemed undeniably more masculine.

Yet the expression was the same. Jesse Greenwood’s same reticent, admiring expression hadn’t changed as he continued to stare at her like she was hand-blown glass. His brown hair still flopped lightly in front of his eyes, causing him to brush it away.

“Hey, Eve.”

She winced. She hadn’t heard that nickname since she’d left Hamilton, Texas, for the female seminary in Massachusetts. No one there ever called her Eve. During classes she’d been “Miss Evelyn” and “Miss Lancaster.”

She cleared her throat. She’d anticipated the awkwardness but not the simple difficulty in forming words. “I returned home a few hours ago. I thought I should stop by and say hello. Is Preston here? Are any of the other ranch hands here?”

Jesse blinked. He didn’t respond for a few seconds. The adoring expression morphed to one of disbelief. “Eve, did you get my letters?”

She bit her lip. “I did.” Evelyn resisted the urge to embrace him. Doing so would only make it harder to answer his questions with a lie. Instead, she stood rooted to the spot. She wouldn’t move a muscle; there was too much she could regret. “They were nice letters. Thank you. But I burned them.”

His eyes became cool steel, all traces of admiration in his eyes melting away. “Burned them? But you . . .” His jaw was set. “Eve, why didn’t you write me back?”

“I was busy.” She tore her eyes away from Jesse’s searing gaze and tried to look behind his shoulder. The sinking feeling in her chest was surely no more than an echo of the past. She needed to leave before all rationality left her. “Just let all the other ranch hands know I stopped by.”

“Stop. Eve, I said stop.” Strong hands grabbed both of her shoulders, and she looked up in alarm toward his furrowed brow and confused expression. His voice was so much deeper than she’d remembered. “That’s all? You couldn’t once respond to me?”

She struggled to push against him, but he held her in place. His tone was rough. It increased in volume, rising with each word that tumbled out of his mouth.

“What about the promise I made to you? When you told me that you wanted to marry—”

“Enough!” Evelyn yanked herself out of his hold and glared. She breathed deeply, as if the extra air would give her the courage she couldn’t truly conjure up. “I remember what you are referring to. I did receive your letters. I thank you for them. But I did not respond to you because whatever we had before I left for school . . .” She gulped. The polite tone of indifference faded. “This has to end.”


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About the Author

PemaDonyoPema Donyo is a coffee-fueled college student by day and a creative writer by night. She currently lives in sunny Southern California, where people wear flip-flops instead of Stetsons and ride in cars instead of carriages. As a rising sophomore at Claremont McKenna, she’s still working on mastering that delicate balance between finishing homework, meeting publisher deadlines, and… college. Black coffee, period dramas, faded book covers, and peanut butter continue to be the driving forces in her life.

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