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Willow Springs

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Crissa, beginning a new life in Willow Springs, finds herself caught between a local miner and a handsome Express rider. Laugh and cry with Crissa as she escapes her past to find true love.

228 pages, Paperback

First published August 1, 2014

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Carolyn Steele

2 books17 followers

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5 stars
20 (17%)
4 stars
34 (30%)
3 stars
42 (37%)
2 stars
10 (8%)
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6 (5%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 39 reviews
Profile Image for Katie (Hiding in the Pages).
2,875 reviews210 followers
October 31, 2014
I just had a family reunion and hearing the stories of my great-grandmother's life made me really appreciate how difficult it was for the immigrants coming to America in the 1800s. Crissa's family came from Sweden and due to a debt, she was placed in a position that she never would have dreamed herself in. She finds herself in Willow Springs, trying to get a new start in life, and lands right in the center of a lot of unwanted attention.

There were moments in the story where I almost felt lost--I kept thinking there was more to the story and characters, or even some back story that I was missing out on, but for the most part, things came together. There was a mystery element, on several different levels, that was fun and kept the storyline moving right along.

The characters were a lot of fun. I enjoyed the good friendships that Crissa made, wherever she went. I enjoyed the romance that blossomed and was heartbroken at the twist. In fact, there were a lot of twists and turns that really kept me on my toes and had me wondering about what could possibly happen next.

Content: no language; there are a few LDS references and general religious thoughts/scripture; mild-moderate violence (a lot of deaths, shootings, mention of rape and abuse--not graphic); mild romance (kissing). I would consider it a clean read for an older reader.

*I received a copy in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Tressa (Wishful Endings).
1,720 reviews183 followers
September 2, 2014
This book was a crazy, roller-coaster ride! I began reading Willow Springs thinking it was going to be a nice historical romance, with some twists and some tension, but all of it fairly tame. I was wrong. The twists were pretty big and the tension was pretty intense in places! There was also plenty of drama. I wasn't quite sure if everyone could make it to the end unscathed and if they even should after what happened.

Let me just get this off my chest... Drake and Crissa skirted around each other quite a bit even though it's clear they both are into each other. I just wanted them to communicate. It was so frustrating sometimes! Of course all of that added to the tension and some of the drama. Crissa definitely had her reasons for holding back with her past (the author did marvelously at letting her past slowly unravel as the story progressed, which helped drive the story as well). Drake on the other hand... Well, it's a good thing I still really liked him. :) He was a golden boy: hardworking, charming, respectful, kind, dependable... He also wasn't afraid to tease and help Crissa. Then there was Garth. I had a hate/love relationship with him. He had so much potential. Talk about a bittersweet love triangle!

This story had some great characters, including the villains. I liked that the villains weren't always apparent, nor were they all evil. There were some shades of gray there. One was a little senile and crazy, but very well written. These villains really drove the plot in places. Between them, not knowing what was going to happen and when, if Crissa would be safe, and who she would end up with (maybe with no one at all?), it was a really entertaining read!

Overall, Willow Springs was a surprisingly suspenseful story in places, but also sweet, full of friendship, heartache, danger, and romance. If you enjoy reading this genre or are looking for just a good, quick read, then I'd recommend grabbing a copy.

Source: I would like to thank Cedar Fort for my complimentary review copy, which did not affect my review in any way.
Profile Image for Melanie.
748 reviews23 followers
August 28, 2014
Crissa is trying to start a new life in Willow Springs. She's working at Henders Inn and has caught the attention of Garth Wight, a miner she's not interested in and views as harmless. A Pony Express rider, Drake Adams, comes to town and catches her eye. His father, Warren Adams, pretty much owns the town. Drake has decided to retire and is settling down about an hour away from Willow Springs. They are attracted to each other, but things get complicated when Crissa's past starts to catch up with her and Drake appears to be interested in someone else.

This book started out kind of slow to me and took a while for me to become invested in the characters and their lives. However, once it got going, it became hard to put down and the ending moved very quickly. The mystery unfolded slowly, which I love since it makes me keep reading. I also felt like I got enough information for it not to become frustrating.

Crissa is likable and learning about her past made me sad for all she'd gone through. She was trying to start over and has good reason to want to. She and Drake liked each other from the first time they met but there was plenty to keep them apart. I liked Drake but he did seem to send Crissa mixed signals so I understood her confusion. There were quite a few twists and turns and revelations and I wasn't sure what the ending would look like.

There are also some great side characters. There's one that I disliked in the beginning but as I learned more about him, I changed my mind and wished things had turned out differently for him. There were plenty of character flaws in all of them and they seemed realistic to me. I had to wait until the end to determine how I felt about some of them. Willow Springs was full of lots of secrets! If you enjoy historical romance with some mystery included, this is a book for you!

I received a copy of this book to review. My opinion is 100% my own.

Mel's Shelves
2,320 reviews30 followers
September 11, 2014


Willow Springs is a western romance. It is exciting, full of drama, action, romance, and rich characters. You won't want to put the book down. You are never sure what is going to happen next.

Crissa Engleson has had some hard knocks in her young life. It only gets more exciting the more you read.
She has landed in Willow Springs, UT all by herself. She is on the run from her past. She has two men who want her. Crissa gets a job in the inn. Crissa makes good friends all the way. She is a from Sweden.

Drake Adams is a pony express rider. His father is a big mine owner.

Garth Wight is a miner. He is also a mean drunk.

Molly Henderson is a widow and mother of Will and Amy. She owns and runs the inn. I like Will and Amy.

Willow Springs does briefly mention Mormon church. Does not preach. It does deal with abuse of husbands and fathers, rape. Does not get into anything graphic. It is a clean read.

It is also full of nuggets of history, about, mining, crossing the west, and medicines. It adds to the richness of the story.

I wanted Crissa and Drake to end together but every time I thought would end up well for them something else would happen. Their are so many twists and turns in the story.

I was given this ebook to read for the purpose of giving a honest review and being part of Willow Springs blog tour.
Profile Image for Emmy.
134 reviews3 followers
July 18, 2014
Crissa is trying to make a new start in a new small town in rural Utah in the 1800's. The town is usually quiet mining town, except for when the miners come into town and stir up trouble. Crissa, an immigrant from Sweden, has been taken in by the Inn Keepers family and is enjoying working in the Inn's restaurant.
When she first sees Drake Adams it is love at first sight. But can the son of the richest man in the area really love a poor immigrant and if he does, will Crissa's dark past catch up with her, or will she have to run again?

This is a quick pace book with twists and turns and a plot that keeps getting thicker and more intriguing. When you begin the book it feels like it is going to be so cliche and almost simple, but as the twists keep coming the plot sucks you in more and more.

While the book does take place in Utah, there are very minimal references to the LDS religion and it is not a book about someone's faith or religious beliefs. The book does deal with some darker subjects, murder, death, rape, etc. but does so in a way free of vulgar language or graphic imagery. I really enjoyed the book.
Profile Image for Lisa  (Bookworm Lisa).
2,187 reviews170 followers
August 20, 2014
Crissa is a beautiful woman with a good heart. She loves her friends. She has a deep loyalty to the people she holds dear.

With all of the good things that Crissa has going for her, she has faced abuse from the people who are supposed to care for her. Her life story comes out piece by piece as the story progresses.

Two men want her attention and affection. The first is Garth, a miner. He is a drunk who tries to force her to have feelings for him. There are many layers to his story that add outrage and sympathy.

Drake is the son of fortune. His father owns most or the profitable ventures in Willow Springs, but Drake doesn't rely on his father. He is willing and able to provide for his own future. His attention and feelings are captured the moment he laid eyes on Crissa.

There is also a shadowy past. Secondary characters flit in and out, laying the groundwork to bring Crissa's past together.

Overall, I found this book to be interesting. The book has many plot twists. They keep interest, but at times seem a little overwhelming.

This book is a clean historical fiction.
Profile Image for Shauna.
975 reviews23 followers
August 18, 2014
The quote on the book cover IS SO TRUE!

"New love and old secrets collide on the Utah frontier"

The author creatively weaves you down the story on one path of thinking only to throw in a twist, or another secret, that expertly guides you down another path of thoughts...


Crissa has come to Willow Springs to escape the secrets of her past.

Caught between the love she has for Drake and the secrets that Garth uncovers she is forced to marry to keep her secrets from surfacing.

Only after she is married does she uncover other secrets of the town and the people she has kept her secrets from....

Does she run again or does she stay and protect her new friends?

"Laugh and cry with Crissa" in this splendid tale of love on the western frontier.

Profile Image for Jeanette.
Author 1 book7 followers
September 2, 2014
If you are looking for a good clean romance, with unexpected twists, you should read this! I had to sneak away to finish it during a family reunion over Labor Day.
Profile Image for Brenda.
1,147 reviews15 followers
October 26, 2014
he cover of Willow Springs certainly captured my eye, it's beautiful, and the historical setting had me anxious to read Willow Springs. Well I will say I was pleasantly surprised by the caliber of this book. The writing was very descriptive, creating strong characters, some good others bad, and some were a bit of both if that makes sense. The plot grabbed me from the beginning with plenty of twists, a bit of suspense and while I knew there would be a romance, I will say the story was far from predictable. I really found myself liking the character of Crissa. Instead of learning about her past in the beginning it is slowly revealed which kept me riveted but also made me want everything to work out for her. The relationship that I hoped would develop with Drake kept me guessing, and of course with another man interested in her added another layer to the story.
Well drawn characters and a fast paced plot with plenty of twists along with a great blending of suspense and tension made this a book that I couldn't put down once I started reading it. I will say the author touches on a few tough subjects such as rape and prostitution but handles them very well, while maintaining a good clean read. Anyone who enjoys historical romance really should give Willow Springs a try.
Profile Image for Beth Pearson.
527 reviews
November 26, 2014
Wow! I would normally be giving this story 4 stars for the content, but I have to give this book 5 stars cause it really sucked me in and I had to stay up to 2 in the morning to finish it. You expect you know what is going to happen in this story...Young, beautiful woman comes to live in small town mining town in Utah and all the local miners are rude, lewd and trying to go to bed with her. Of course, the rich man's son is gorgeous and fabulous and against her friend's advice about a poor immigrant being able to marry the rich guy, she falls in love with him anyways.

Because I thought I knew what was going to happen, it took me 4 or 5 chapters to really care much about the story. But then, things started happening quickly and there were lots of surprises as the story jumped onto different paths. Carolyn Steele obviously knows that while a romance novel has a predictable ending, it is the how, why, where, journey that the characters take that makes it a good read.

Romance, light entertainment, and a fun book.
Profile Image for Tausha.
254 reviews
April 7, 2015
I can't decide how to rate this one. I really liked it yet there were many things that just bugged me for some reason. Crissa was such a strong leading lady yet there were many times she didn't act in character. That sounds confusing but without giving things away I just felt her actions often conflicted with her thoughts. In one situation she was strong and stood up for herself with courage and then the next situation she cowered and allowed herself to be bullied. All though I totally understood where her fear was coming from. She has been through so much in her young life it seemed as though it was never going to come to an end. But, I am happy to say she does find her Happily Ever After! Drake was a great Hero, but his actions also led me to confusion on occasion. He loves her but his way of showing it is a little off. All in all it was a great, quick, clean, suspenseful read.
Profile Image for Margie Vickers.
100 reviews35 followers
October 18, 2015
Drake and Crissa, a love story with twists and turns.

Crissa leaves the east because she is accused of a crime she didn't commit. She ends up in Utah working in a boarding house. She thinks she has left her troubles behind, but finds new trouble. She also falls in love with a pony express rider, but another man kidnaps her and blackmailed her about her former life. New author to me but one I will follow now. I would recommend to any western reader.
71 reviews
September 28, 2014
Very impressed with debut novel. I had no idea Willow Springs actually existed, but I love the fact that Carolyn weaved the history of this town and the challenges of living in the old west into this love story. I can't wait to see what she writes next.
Profile Image for Dorry Lou.
748 reviews
November 22, 2014
Crissa Engleson a Swedish immigrant comes to Willow Springs in Utah hoping to forget her past and start anew. Lots of twists and turns, some surprises and suspense. I really enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone that likes historical romance.
1 review
September 13, 2014
Loved it!!!
The story and characters are captivating. I couldn't put it down.
Profile Image for Heather .
571 reviews99 followers
August 20, 2014
Where to begin? Wow, this a whirlwind of a book! So much plot packed into a small amount of time. Lots of drama, twists and turns. Carolyn Steele's Willow Springs reminded me a lot of Carla Kelly's romance novels, also by the same publisher. If you a re fan of the Wild, and I mean, Wild West, books set in the 1800's, you will like this one. Crissa is a Swedish immigrant who leaves her homeland bound for America. Once arrived, her life is about as complicated and cursed as they come. Luckily she has some great people to take care of her when sinister plots unfold.

There are definitely darker elements to this one as rape, prostitution, murder and violence are addressed. I think for my taste, it was a bit TMI in some parts. I'm not sure I would categorize it as completely clean. Though sex is not described in detail, it is a prevalent theme of the story.

I always enjoy historical elements in romance. And the main hero Drake was wonderful. The cover--gorgeous! There were a few editing issues, but since we received an e arc, I'm hoping those are fixed in the final copy. Lots of action, some fun references to the early Mormon church and an intriguing enough read that I finished in one day.

Not a bad debut! Thanks so much to the author for her kindness and to Cedar Fort for having us as a part of the blog tour.
Profile Image for Aimee (Getting Your Read On).
2,951 reviews244 followers
August 28, 2014
Crissa is hiding something. You know from the beginning of the book that she holds secrets and as the story progresses you find out bits and pieces. Crissa is a kind soul, I think. She is gentle and has a lot of love to give. She is also strong. Living through painful and hard things makes you strong. Fortunately Crissa doesn't allow the hard things to make her hard or bitter.

I enjoyed this book. It held my interest and I wondered how it would all work out in the end. This is a book of secrets. Every character in this book seems to hold secrets that come out eventually, intertwining and blending together. The supporting cast of characters were definable and added a lot to the overall feel of the book.

This is a romantic and clean historical fiction book.
796 reviews
May 15, 2015
I liked “Willow Springs”. Carolyn Steele is a new author for me and I think she did a good job keeping my attention by creating a tangled web of conflicts. If nothing else, I had to finish the book because I couldn’t figure out how this tangled web was going to play out.

Crissa Engleson, a Swedish immigrant, left Boston to escape major family problems. Blending into life out west in the small gold mining town of Willow Springs, Utah seemed to be just the escape Crissa sought. As life unfolds for the lovely Crissa so do the secrets that haunt her. Local Pony Express rider Drake Adams becomes her stalwart supporter, and of course loves blossoms.

It’s not a book I will keep to read again, but it was fine.
1,233 reviews19 followers
September 1, 2014
Good clean western romance. Carissa, a immigrant from Sweden finds herself in willow springs trying to hide from the past that follows her and make a fresh start. As the story progresses you learn more of her abused past by those who should have lived her and her devotion to those that really loved her.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
193 reviews
January 22, 2015
This book for me was a very average romance. I did however enjoy it enough with the various twist and turns. It did take many events for the characters to end up together and for me that was realistic. This book dealt with some issues that immigrants face. For those who like a happily ever after there is that as well.
Profile Image for Patricia.
2,909 reviews13 followers
June 17, 2015
There were a lot of plot events going on in this story--almost too many for me. Not that I couldn't keep them straight but that I thought it might have been laid on a bit thick. This was a nice story, though.
Profile Image for Heather Green.
Author 8 books11 followers
December 4, 2016
I was excited to read this book because the cover was eye catching and I enjoy books from the 1800's, but this was a major disappointment. The history of Utah Territory was interesting, but the book was poorly executed. The MC's were already claiming love for each other 27 pages in. They'd spoken, what, twice? Crissa was very emotionally immature where relationships were concerned. Molly telling Crissa to leave town after the altercation with Garth seemed a bit drastic and extreme. Crissa was always trying to run from her problems. Couple attempted rapes. Lots of innuendo. I didn't get the whole wedding prank thing when Crissa married Garth. That whole section was plain confusing. The shivaree should have been explained at that point in the reading instead of at the end of the book. And how could she marry Garth when she was already married? I didn't get that at all. Another thing I didn't understand-Crissa hated Garth the whole time they were married, then when he died, she suddenly had nice feelings for him. They had only been married two days at the most when everything turned crazy. When did she have time to develop nice feelings for him? There was some confusion in setting placement of characters. It said at the beginning of the book that the miners only came into town once a month, yet Garth was around every corner wreaking havoc? The man in the grey suit just stepped out of a stage and suddenly was riding a horse? Crissa and Drake stepped out of the inn and Drake was suddenly at the livery saddling a horse? I almost stopped reading this book so many times, but I kept reading in hopes it would get better. It had it's good moments, but they were very few and far between. I would not read this book again. It was frustrating and irritating.
Profile Image for Mikkayla.
287 reviews8 followers
May 20, 2020
This was my first book by this author.
If you’re looking for drama and a lot happening to keep you in your toes. This is a good book.

Crissa has had an extremely difficult life. (I don’t want to give away to much, as that was a large part of the book.)She is an immigrant from Sweden, and she attracts a lot of attention. But mostly the unwanted kind. Trying to escape her past, she moves to Willow Springs, a small little town where hopefully no one would think to look for her. She just wants to keep her head down, work and live a simple life.
Then she meets Drake.

10% into the book she is in love with him. I thought this was a little fast. Then again, she’s lived a pretty tough life, that can make a person more aware of what they need, but on the other hand, it can make a person vulnerable.

I do wish we saw more of her relationship with Drake. He is gone for a good amount of the book, and while there is good reason, I’d have like to seen more of them together.

This book had romance, murder, blackmail, haunting secrets, love, and so much more. I wasn’t bored for a second with this story. I definitely recommend it if your looking for an intriguing, fast paced story.

I would like to note that there is some sensitive content, like sexual abuse. While not directly mentioned, it is alluded to. I did not find it crude or inappropriate.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for NaDell.
1,137 reviews10 followers
July 6, 2020
Very exciting book about a Swedish immigrant who moves to a small town in Utah to start over when she needs a place to recover from her past in the 1800's.
She finds employment at an inn waiting tables and cleaning up. She's not interested in looking for a husband after her past experiences, but men keep thinking she is. Trouble seems to find her. She escapes it, but then is left to figure out why things happened and if they're connected.
This is a mix of western, romance, mystery, and has a little religion in it too. I enjoyed the story and kept hoping for the mystery to be solved so things would settle down for Crissa.
August 20, 2018
Great book!!

I really enjoyed getting to know the characters from this book and a little bit more about Willow Springs. Thanks for sharing this story with me.
Profile Image for Miranda A. Uyeh.
Author 1 book17 followers
August 23, 2014
First of all, that “blurb” is NOT a blurb. It’s a premise … of some sort.

This is one of those books where everything you thought would happen, didn’t, and everything you thought wouldn’t, did. It was engaging in the sense that you followed through because you wanted to know what would happen, and more interestingly, HOW it would happen. For a small, uneventful town, Willow Springs was the setting of a quite dramatic set of people, sometimes even, too dramatic for their own good, so that they ended up making irrational decisions/choices without considering the consequences. Also, they were the kind to make trouble out of nothing, and make trouble itself seem like nothing [out of the ordinary].

Some parts of the plot were quite disappointing, and the characters not developed to the point where you would [want to] relate, sympathize, or even empathize with them. Crissa, the heroine, particularly, was this way. She was a conglomerate of every kind of emotion [you can think of], and in a bipolar sort of way, too. There were other times the characters seemed pretty immature. Reading some of their monologue/dialogue gave me the impression I was peeking into the minds of children. There were moments I wasn’t sure I even liked the story/characters. Also, there were some morality issues with the characters that concerned me. Honestly, it is my opinion that they weren’t really morally conscious. They simply threw in the name of God when it was convenient. And, finally, it seemed that in the bid for the author to write a suspenseful/intriguing plot, she created a situation where she was forced to spin the final scenes in a way that looked like they were thrown together to make the romance story work. This made Crissa look like an angel/agent of death/justice. If you were mean and evil, and made her your victim, for her to get away and have a happily ever after, something terrible would DEFINITELY happen to you …???
Profile Image for Jinky.
538 reviews8 followers
August 27, 2014
If you're into the 1800s, Western frontier kind of setting then this is right up your alley. It's got Pony Express, guns, outlaws, bodices, the prairie, secrets, and even wild romance. Pretty exciting stuff but this novel was tamer of it's time so I believe it may have been its shortcoming. True to the era, rape, sex, and violence was exposed but the account was too domesticated that from time-to-time it didn't feel authentic to me. I wasn't sure if I was in the American frontier or a modern suburb. There wasn't enough angst or fire for my taste. However, the story was captivating. I wanted to see the love triangle through and find out the full story of Crissa's past. I was rewarded with a thrilling twist and interesting supporting characters by book's end. I'm not sure I like the spelling out of the complete story in the end. It felt redundant. Overall, this was a decent romance novel debut.

**Actual edition read: electronic advance review copy; provided by publicist in exchange for an honest review.
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