About the Book
One bullet is all it takes to rid twenty-six-year-old Ruby Fortune of her no-good husband--and the innkeeper and mother of four boys walks free. Set against the breathtaking backdrop of Arizona's Sonoran Desert in the early 20th Century, Hardland
serves up a tough protagonist who fights to survive in one of the toughest towns in the American West.
Book Synopsis "One of the top standalone Westerns in 2022."
--True West magazine
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.
"Gritty and fierce...Hardland
is a powerful tale."
--Chris Enss, Cowgirl Magazine Book Editor and New York Times award-winning author
"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."
"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."
"Sweeney's stunning portrayal of this tough-minded woman is both compelling and memorable. The fast-paced and intense narrative reaches far beyond the classic Western genre for a wide range of readers who value survival, honesty, and love."
--Historical Novels Review
"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
"Ruby's story is a testimonial to human endurance, resilience, and love. She embodies the tough spirit of millions of women who have found their voices giving them the courage to speak up about abusive relationships and making them stronger . . . a perfect choice for a book club."
"From the first sentence, Ruby Fortune leaps from the page, fully realized and vital, raw and unpolished, lusty and strong."
--The Literate Quilter
"Highly recommended and thoroughly absorbing."
--Midwest Book Review
"Gritty, raw, and insanely good! I haven't read such a captivating, turn-of-the-century western novel in a long time and I can't recommend this one highly enough."
--David L. Morgan Book Reviews
Past Praise for the Author
For Answer Creek
2021 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Historical Fiction, Other
2021 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY Awards): Gold Winner in West Mountain - Best Regional Fiction
2021 Next Generation Indies Book: Winner for Best Second Novel
2020 Arizona Authors Association Literary Award: Winner, Fiction
2021 Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award: Finalist, Best Novel
2020 WILLA Literary Award: Finalist, Historical Fiction
"Ada is every pioneer woman who accomplished more than she ever thought possible."--Booklist
"Ada is an impressive heroine who thinks for herself and exhibits moral courage in dire straits . . . [the novel] succeeds at capturing the endurance of the human spirit."--Publishers Weekly
"The author is a master of vivid descriptions, dragging readers along every wretched mile of the trail, sharing every dashed hope and every dramatic confrontation, with Ada as their guide. Ada is a marvelous creation, twice orphaned and both hopeful and fearful about a new life in California, the promised land . . . A vivid westward migration tale with an arresting mixture of history and fiction."--Kirkus Reviews
" . . . this book captivated me. With its rich sensory details and the varied humanity of its characters, this book is a must-read for fans of historical fiction, and for anyone looking for insight into a period that carved and honed people down to their core."--Seattle Book Review
" . . . a gripping story of loss, survival, and female strength. Sweeney does such a masterful job of evoking the journey, from the shifting challenges of the landscape the emigrants move through to the emotional complications of being dependent for survival on people who were strangers months or even just weeks before. The epic sweep, the vast scale, of the trek is vividly felt, but so are the smallest of details."--Society Nineteen Journal, 5/5 stars
" . . . .a fascinating historical novel, aimed at anyone interested in the struggles of pioneers, especially the Donner-Reed Party. I will certainly look for more novels by this author."--Reader's Favorite
"Sweeney immerses the reader in the time and place, giving a brilliant picture of daily trail life, particularly from a woman's perspective....Stronger still is Ada's character development. Always scrappy and resourceful, Ada develops a grit and determination on the trail that serves her well....Sweeney deftly gives readers a feel for the horrible choices some members of the Donner Party had to make and is careful to preserve the humanity that is too often removed from histories...."--Historical Novels Review
"So well researched, one can almost feel the cold of winter and the stifling pain inflicted upon the heart and soul of these courageous pioneers." --K.S. Jones, award-winning author of Shadow of the Hawk
"With faultlessly authentic period detail and relentless, riveting twists of fate, Answer Cree
k puts the reader right on the Oregon-California Trail in every sensory and emotional aspect imaginable. This compassionate but utterly realistic telling of the story gently crushes the sensationalized versions and releases something that feels much closer to truth. Ada is hope personified--it takes wing, soars, crashes--and survives." --Ellen Notbohm, award-winning author of The River by Starlight
"If there can be beauty in horror, Sweeney has managed it in the writing of this book. Doom hovers on every page--in the sunsets of the western sky, in emaciated cattle, in boots worn down to shreds--yet the human spirit radiantly perseveres in the form of young Ada Weeks, who is determined to find love despite an avalanche of losses and sorrows. Her harrowing physical and psychological journey grips the reader in a tightly woven web of suspense. Impeccably researched, Answer Creek is a triumphant re-telling of a mythic American tragedy."
--Laurel Davis Huber, author of The Velveteen Daughter, winner of the Langum Prize for American Historical FictionFor Eliza Waite: For Eliza Waite
2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award
2017 The WILLA Literary Award Finalist in Historical Fiction
2017 International Book Awards Finalist in Fiction: Historical
2016 Best Book Award Finalist in Fiction: Historical
2015-2016 Sarton Women's Book Award Shortlist in Historical Fiction
"Cast off by her family and living in the shadow of unthinkable tragedy, Eliza Waite finds the courage to leave her remote island home to join the sea of miners, fortune hunters, con men, and prostitutes in the Klondike during the spring of 1898. Ashley Sweeney's exquisite descriptions, electrifying plot twists, and hardy yet vulnerable characters will captivate historical fiction fans and leave them yearning for more. Eliza Waite
is a stunning debut!"--Kristen Harnisch, award-winning author of The Vintner's Daughter and The California Wife
"Meticulously researched, Eliza Waite
transports us to the Klondike Gold Rush, where a resourceful young widow searches a more elusive prize: happiness in a re-forged life."--Pamela Schoenewaldt, USAToday best-selling author of When We Were Strangers
"This book hooked me from the first page. Just beautiful."--For the Love of Books
"Sweeney's debut novel is a beautifully written work of historical fiction tracing one woman's life in the wilds of nineteenth-century America. Readers will be immersed in Eliza's world, which Sweeney has so authentically and skillfully rendered."--Booklist
"I can confidently say that Eliza Waite
will easily be in my top 10 books of the year for 2016. The writing is so stark and beautiful, the story so compelling. I couldn't put this book down, and I couldn't stop thinking about it when I finished reading."--A Southern Girl Reads blog
is carefully crafted, beautifully edited, and masterfully formatted. And all of the old-school baking recipes are an unexpected plus. I highly recommend this story, especially for women. It truly helps give a context for the suffering and struggles of women throughout our American history. Five stars."--Reader's Favorite
"Sweeney has written a brilliant piece of historical fiction whose lead female character has it all. She is a woman who refused to bow to the cruelties of a misogynistic society, only less damnable than her own family. This is a woman who reached down inside and found herself. She is a character who deserves, no, is due the right of having a book named after her. And so it is."--The Anchorage Press