I was sent a free copy of Hardland by Ashley Sweeney. All opinions are my own.
Arizona Territory, 1899. Ruby Fortune faces an untenable choice: murder her abusive husband or continue to live with bruises that never heal. One bullet is all it takes. Once known as “Girl Wonder” on the Wild West circuit, Ruby is now a single mother of four boys in her hometown of Jericho, an end-of-the-world mining town north of Tucson. Here, Ruby opens a roadside inn to make ends meet.
Drifters, grifters, con men, and prostitutes plow through the hotel’s doors, and their escapades pepper the local newspaper like buckshot. An affair with an African American miner puts Ruby’s life and livelihood at risk, but she can’t let him go.
Not until a trio of disparate characters—her dead husband’s sister, a vindictive shopkeeper, and the local mine owner she once swindled—threaten to ruin her does Ruby face the consequences of her choices; but as usual, she does what she needs to in order to provide for herself and her sons.
Set against the breathtaking beauty of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and bursting with Wild West imagery, history, suspense, and adventure, Hardland serves up a tough, fast-talking, shoot-from-the-hip heroine who goes to every length to survive and carve out a life for herself and her sons in one of the harshest places in the American West.
About the Author:
Ashley E. Sweeney is the award-winning author of Eliza Waite and Answer Creek, both winning multiple awards including the Nancy Pearl Book Award and the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. Hardland is her third novel.
A native New Yorker and graduate of Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, she now spends winters in Tucson, Arizona and summers in the Pacific Northwest.
She is at work on her fourth novel, based on the life of her Irish great-grandmother who lived in the American West in the 1880s and 1890s. Sweeney is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, Pacific Northwest Authors Association, Arizona Authors Association, Historical Novel Society, and Story Circle Network.
You can reach her at https://ashleysweeneyauthor.com
“A stunner .. . . The well-crafted story is firmly grounded in the past, but its powerful messages still resonate today.”
—True West magazine
“A vividly rendered story of survival in the Arizona Territory.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Open the pages of Ashley Sweeney’s wonderful new book, Hardland, and you’ll find yourself in an 1899 Arizona Territory town so authentic you can smell the dust and feel the hot wind that brings it. As Sweeney’s charismatic and resilient character, Ruby Fortune, says, you ‘have to grow scales to survive here.’ Ruby is as vivid and unforgettable as characters come, and you’ll find yourself turning page after page as her life unfolds—because in Sweeney’s hands, Ruby’s life becomes as real as your own.”
—Susan Lang, WILLA Literary Award-winning author of Small Rocks Rising
“A powerful and gripping tale of survival and triumph over abuse, misogyny, and economic challenges. It rings as true in the 21st century as it did in the time frame in which it is set. A must-read!”
—Jim Jones, award-winning author of The Lights of Cimarrón
“Ashley E. Sweeney minces few words as she unravels Ruby Fortune’s fate on the early Arizona frontier. Wild west performer, drug addict, ardent lover, mother, and murderer, Ruby’s story is gritty and unabashedly raw. She quickly learns she is sometimes no match for the trials that come her way, but she survives as only she knows how—with her strength, her wit, and her gun. Spellbinding from beginning to end.”
—Jan Cleere, Arizona-New Mexico Book Award winner of Military Wives of Arizona “A well-written, bold, steely novel. Everyone needs to know a woman like Ruby Fortune.”
—Books and Pens on Green Gables
“In Hardland, Ashley Sweeney makes Arizona a character.”—Booklist
“Ruby’s is a thrilling ride across the hard land of Arizona in the early 1900s as one woman takes on and tames the West. Sweeney’s third novel is a courageous stunner.”
—Gretchen Cherington, author of Poetic License
“. . . a Western that goes beyond most in depicting a strong female character whose changing perspectives and experiences make her a formidable survivor in an alien land. Libraries looking for Westerns that are high-octane in their action and female presence will welcome the opportunity to add both facets to their collections via the highly recommended, thoroughly absorbing Hardland.”
—D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
“Smart, savage, and bold as brass, Ruby Fortune’s strength and sense of survival explode from the pages of this portrait painted by master storyteller, Ashley E. Sweeney, using the harsh, historical Arizona Territory as her palette. Through captivating and unsettling events, Ruby’s independent spirit, ingenuity, and sheer guts held me hostage from the first vivid page to the last.”
—Laurie Buchanan, award-winning author of the Sean McPherson novels
“Ruby is a difficult woman, in the best way possible. She shoots, she kills, she enjoys lustful sex. She survives. She protects her children and the people she loves. Literature is filled with men like this. But there are very few Rubies. Reading her story, I reveled in her life-force. She is a newly described American archetype.”
—Shelley Blanton-Stroud, award-winning author of Copy Boy
“Ruby Fortune doesn’t harden her heart or break apart at the cruel hands of domestic abuse, but gains compassion and strength in her ultimate journey to wholeness by fighting for dignity and self-worth, loving fiercely those close and deserving, and by welcoming all to her table and more. A bright and resilient gem of a woman in an unforgiving land.”
—Debra Thomas, award-winning author of Luz
“Gritty, honest, and real. Sure to be on everyone’s TBR list.“
—Nancy E. Turner, award-winning author of Light Changes Everything
“Ruby Fortune defines grit and grace—she is the heroine we need in these times. Riveting and beautifully told.“
—Susan Tweit, award-winning author of Bless the Birds
“It’s 1899 in Arizona Territory and life for Ruby Fortune, Girl Wonder on the Wild West circuit is like riding an eight-minute bull in a one-woman rodeo. One minute she’s hanging on and riding high; the next, life punches her in the gut and throws her to the ground, leaving her bloodied with more questions than answers. Knowing the gifted writing Ashley E. Sweeney has offered in her past works, this gripping and fast-paced novel is one of her best.“
—Deborah Swenson Book Reviews
“Highly recommended and thoroughly absorbing.”
—Midwest Book Review
Hardland is my third novel by Ashley Sweeney. I have previously read her Answer Creek and Eliza Waite. Let’s just say I cannot wait for her next book. All three have been excellent reads. Each tale unique in scope but each one featuring a strong female protagonist.
Here Ruby Fortune (gotta love that name) lives her life in Jericho, Arizona, a small but hopefully up and coming town. Her life is not what she hoped it would be – by a long shot. And she is a very good shot as her abusive husband finds out.
Ruby runs an inn where she manages to maintain her relationships (ahem) and provide a place for her grown sons to call home. Nothing in her life is fairy tale but she is content. But forces are gathering that threaten all she holds dear.
As with Ms. Sweeney’s previous books, Hardland is very compelling and fronted by a strong, female protagonist. No one is going to mess with Ruby Fortune and survive to tell the tale. She is not perfect and she has been hurt but she is a survivor.
I have loved every single one of Ms. Sweeney’s books and this one is no exception. You are drawn in from the start and it’s hard to put down once you begin. I cannot wait for the next one to come out.
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You can purchase Hardland on Amazon.com