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Janice Holt Giles books in order

Janice Holt Giles, born Janice Meredith Holt, was an American author of Western fiction, historical fiction, women’s fiction and non-fiction books.

Born in Franklin County, Arkansas, it wasn't until she was 41 years old that she read her first novel, and it took her four good years to complete it.

At the time that she made her debut in the writing world with The Enduring Hills (1950), the first book in the Piney Ridge Series, Janice was still working as a full-time secretary for Dr. Louis Sherrill, dean of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Janice was married twice in her lifetime, first to Otto Moore, whom she later divorced, before finally settling with Army sergeant Henry Giles.

Hailed as a keen observer and a good storyteller, many of her works were bestsellers which were not only reviewed in The New York Times, but also included in popular book clubs.

Janice died in 1979 due to congestive heart failure.

More about Janice Holt Giles

Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Western, Women's Fiction

Born: 1905 / Died: 1979

United States

Non Series

  • Harbin's Ridge (1951)
  • Hill Man (1954)
  • The Plum Thicket (1954)
  • Savannah (1972)
  • Shady Grove (1978)
  • Act of Contrition (2001)


  1. Wellspring (1975)


  1. 40 Acres and No Mule (1952)
  2. A Little Better than Plumb: The Biography of a House (1963)
  3. The Damned Engineers (1970)
  4. Around Our House (1971)
  5. The Kinta Years (1973)

Piney Ridge

  1. The Enduring Hills (1950)
  2. Miss Willie (1951)
  3. Tara's Healing (1951)

The Kentuckians Series

  1. The Kentuckians (1953)
  2. Hannah Fowler (1956)
  3. The Land Beyond the Mountains (1959)
  4. The Believers (1957)
  5. Johnny Osage (1960)
  6. Voyage to Santa Fe (1962)
  7. The Great Adventure (1966)
  8. Run Me a River (1964)
  9. Six-horse Hitch (1969)

Detailed book overview

Non Series

Harbin's Ridge

Set in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky during the late 1800s, this story follows the lives of the Harbin family, who have lived on the same land for generations. The patriarch, Preacher Harbin, is a respected figure in the community, but his son, Judd, is seen as reckless and irresponsible. When Judd falls in love with a young woman from a wealthy family, he must confront the class divide that separates them.

Meanwhile, tensions between the Harbins and their neighbors threaten to boil over, leading to a tragic and violent climax. Giles' vivid descriptions of the rural landscape and the characters' struggles to survive in a changing world make Harbin's Ridge a powerful and memorable work of historical fiction.

NB: Co-authored with Henry Giles.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1951
ISBN: 978-0395250204
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Hill Man

After writing Hill Man, Janice Holt Giles said, "I was struck by its strength. It is the most realistic ridge book we have written, completely honest and presenting the truest picture of most of the ridge men."

Giles originally published the book in paperback in 1954 under the pseudonym John Garth. Her usual publisher declined to issue the novel, arguing that it was too sexual and violent for a writer whose other books were popular family book club selections. Now one of the most sought-after novels in the Giles canon, Hill Man is desired as much for its rarity as for its compelling and unromanticized portrayal of poor, rural Kentuckians. This special edition marks the first time the book has ever been available in hardback.

The novel's hero is Rady Cromwell, a man with dangerous ways that make men admire him and women love him. Born the son of a preacher in the hills of Kentucky, Rady grows into a shrewd but likeable prankster and hell-raiser with a gift for separating people from their money. Beginning his adult life with nothing more than a gun, a dog, and a guitar, Rady becomes a backwoods entrepreneur, working diligently to climb the social and economic ladder.

Hill Man follows Rady from his poor beginnings through his conquests of various women and pieces of property. Bold, inventive, hard working, and good natured, Rady follows every opportunity that comes along and takes great pride in raising a herd of cattle or a successful crop of corn or tobacco. Yet he also delights in singing folk ballads around a fire, in the thrill of a foxhunt by moonlight, and in the refreshing waters of a stream after a long day in the fields.

NB: Originally written under the pseudonym John Garth.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1954
ISBN: 978-1948986465
Publisher: Commonwealth Book Company
The Plum Thicket

Janice Holt Giles had a life before her marriage and writing career in Kentucky. Born in Altus, Arkansas, Giles spent many childhood summers visiting her grandparents there. After the success of her historical novel The Kentuckians in 1953, she planned to write a second frontier romance. But a visit to Altus caused her imagination to drift from Kentucky in 1780 to western Arkansas in 1913.

At age forty-eight―the same age as Giles at the writing of the novel―the heroine Katie Rogers recalls her first visit alone to her grandparent's home in Stanwick, Arkansas. Eight-year-old Katie spends her summer climbing the huge mulberry tree and walking with her wise grandfather, a veteran of bloody Shiloh. She is fascinated, not frightened, by the grave of an unknown child in the nearby plum thicket. 

Throughout the visit Katie helps Aunt Maggie plan her wedding and looks forward to the three-day Confederate Reunion. But the Reunion―and the summer―end violently, as guilt, repression, and miscegenation are unearthed. "That summer was the end of a whole way of life," Katie realizes, for she can never again dwell in the paradise of childhood.

In Katie Rogers, Giles voiced her own lament for "the beautiful and the unrecoverable past." To her publisher Giles wrote, "Out of my forty-odd years of living, much of whatever wisdom I have acquired has been distilled into this book." This new edition of The Plum Thicket gives Giles's many fans a powerful, moving glimpse into the mind and heart of this beloved author.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1954
ISBN: 978-0813108599
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky

The novel revolves around the life of Savannah Banning, a young woman from a wealthy family who is forced to flee her home when her father is falsely accused of treason. 

Along with her family, Savannah finds refuge in the untamed wilderness of Georgia, where she must learn to survive and adapt to a new way of life. As she struggles to come to terms with the harsh realities of the frontier, Savannah also finds love and romance with a man named Clay Tygart. 

Giles' rich descriptions of the landscape and characters make Savannah a compelling and engaging read for fans of historical fiction.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1972
ISBN: 978-9997512888
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Shady Grove

Broke Neck, Kentucky, lies deep in Appalachia. Its people are descendants of the men and women who settled the country during the Revolutionary War, and their ways have not changed much in the past two hundred years.

Shady Grove chronicles the riotous adventures and misadventures of Broke Neck's Fowler clan, among them Frony, the feisty and articulate widow who narrates the tale, and Sudley, the thrice-married farmer and quintessential "ridge man." Sudley, who wields considerable political influence among his kin and community, isn't happy when a new preacher from "outside" comes in from his city-based denomination with ideas about what's wrong in Broke Neck. What follows is a compelling example of the tension between urban viewpoints and rural traditions, a central conflict in Appalachia.

The town's delicate balance is disturbed when other outsiders―federal revenue officials and four suitors responding to a personal ad―converge in an unlikely climax that is both comic and telling. In her last book of fiction about her adopted Kentucky homeland, Janice Holt Giles cleverly dispels the common stereotypes of rural peoples by creating honest, believable characters who cherish their soil, churches, songs, and lines of kin. Shady Grove is a novel that makes us laugh and touches our hearts.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1978
ISBN: 978-0813190235
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Act of Contrition

Act of Contrition focuses on the intimate relationship between Regina, a widow, and Michael, a young doctor whose wife left him for another man. Having found happiness in one another, they desire nothing more than to be together. Yet in the eyes of the Catholic Church, Michael is not free to divorce his wife and marry Regina. In an emotional climax Regina must decide if she loves Michael enough to give him up or if she'll force him to choose between her and God.

By modern standards, Giles's love scenes are tasteful, and the general atmosphere of ecumenism within today's Catholic Church renders moot many of the tensions in the novel. Yet in 1957 Giles's agent and publisher feared the work would cause "irreparable harm" to her reputation. As late as 1972 Giles was revising in the hopes of seeing the novel published. Finally her wish is fulfilled.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 2001
ISBN: 978-0813191492
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky



The nineteen selections bring together Giles's fiction, nonfiction, autobiography, and fictionalized autobiography to reveal a behind-the-scenes look at her life, her family, her love for her adopted state of Kentucky and its people, her politics, her favorite authors, her thoughts on writing, and her views of her own work. Wellspring is available again for old and new readers of Janice Holt Giles.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1975
ISBN: 978-0813190259
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky


40 Acres and No Mule

In the late 1940s, Janice and Henry Giles moved from Louisville, Kentucky, back to the Appalachian hill country where Henry had grown up and where his family had lived since the time of the Revolution. With their savings, the couple bought a ramshackle house and forty acres of land on a ridge top and set out to be farmers like Henry's forebears.

To this personal account of the trials of a city woman trying to learn the ways of the country and of her neighbors, Janice Holt Giles brings the same warmth, humor, and powers of observation that characterize her novels. Enlightening and evocative, personal and universally pertinent, this description of a year of "backaches, fun, low ebbs, and high tides, and above all a year of eminent satisfaction" will be welcomed by Janice Holt Giles's many readers, old and new.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1952
ISBN: 978-0813108094
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
A Little Better than Plumb: The Biography of a House

The novel follows the life of the Craig family, who live on a small farm and struggle to make ends meet. The patriarch, Jed, is a hardworking man who takes pride in his ability to provide for his family, but his strong-willed wife, Melissa, is determined to rise above their humble beginnings.

When their son, Davie, is injured in a farming accident, the family must pull together to overcome their difficulties and keep their farm afloat. Giles' vivid portrayal of the struggles and triumphs of rural life make.

NB: Co-authored with Henry Giles.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1963
ISBN: 978-0813108339
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
The Damned Engineers

The history of the 291st Engineer Combat Battalion in World War II, and in particular about its involvement in the Battle of the Bulge. The 291st was a small unit but it played a pivotal role in stemming the German counter-offensive in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. 

This history is no mere accounting of events, causes, and results, but rather it conveys the real experiences of ordinary men who, when placed in extraordinary circumstances, displayed the courage and fortitude to get the job done. And, as Janice Holt Giles wrote, the 291st Engineers not only got the job done, but they “gave a damned good account of themselves.”

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1970
ISBN: 978-1948986090
Publisher: Commonwealth Book Company
Around Our House

Story of Henry & Janice Holt Giles lives from the years from 1954 to 1970, and their adventures.

NB: Co-authored with Henry Giles.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1971
ISBN: 978-0395126820
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
The Kinta Years

In this book, the author reminisces about her childhood days spent in Kinta, Oklahoma, where her father served as a school principal for six years. This memoir which goes back a piece this time -- in fact the earliest possible rivulet in this biography fleuve, namely remembering (more than you could think possible) the family's move to Kinta, Oklahoma, when she was four. 

She writes of her forebears, several generations back; another (interesting one) on the Choctaw Indians who were forced to move to this part of the world in a harsh exodus; and then she settles down to personal, things -- her recognition (still at four) that Kinta was the \"\"hub of the earthly world.... and the sky\"\"; a ride in a railroad caboose; a Confederate Reunion in Charleston; a less comfortable train trip when she locked herself in the rest room; etc.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1973
ISBN: 978-0395140116
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Piney Ridge

The Enduring Hills

Hod Pierce, a boy not unlike Henry Giles, who grows up on Piney Ridge, where generations of Pierces have made a living from the stubborn soil. Hod loves his people and the land but longs also for wider horizons, for more education, and for the freedom he imagines can be found in the outside world. 

It takes World War II to carry Hod away from the Ridge and out into the great world, and it is a long time before he comes back. After the war is over, Hod settles into marriage and a factory job in the city. Finally it is Mary, his city-bred wife, who sees at last that to Hod, Piney Ridge will always be home.

In her preface to the second edition, Mrs. Giles wrote, "I believe [the story] is timeless and as the hands of the clock have turned and turned, people are turning back to the earth, knowing now that saving this earth is the most important work in the world, that we must all become, as Hod and Mary Pierce did, a man and woman with faith in the earth."

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1950
ISBN: 978-0813101859
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Miss Willie

This book tells the story of an earnest teacher who moves to the hills of Kentucky to teach in a one-room schoolhouse. Zealously, she tries to change the ways of the stubborn and proud Appalachian people, but to no avail. They listen to her ideas about sanitation and other foolishness because to argue would be rude. But in the end they quietly go about their accustomed ways.

Ultimately, Miss Willie realizes that the hill customs have a beauty and dignity of their own and that some of her efforts to reform them were ill-conceived. Her warmth, generosity, and humor help her bridge the gap and find fulfillment in Piney Ridge. This is a story of reconciliation and the coming together of two different ways of life. Above all, it is a story of people and of the land to which they belong.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1951
ISBN: 978-0813108315
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Tara's Healing

This is the story of Tara Cochrane, who had been Hod's captain during World War II. Tara had returned from Europe to study medicine and start a practice, only to collapse with a severe nervous breakdown. Hod finds him in the hospital, scarcely recognizable as the tough commander who had slogged it out beside his men through France, Germany, and Austria. When the time comes for Hod to leave the hospital, he persuades Tara to go with him in the hope that the peace of the hill country will effect a cure where medicine has failed.

On Piney Ridge, Tara meets Jory, a minister of the Church of the Brethren of Christ, a sect popularly know as the White Caps because of the little caps worn by the women members. Jory's selfless love for humanity helps Tara to rise above his despair and even accept the hopelessness of his love for Mary Pierce. Tara accompanies the young lay preacher as he goes among the hill people, ministering to the sick and helping with simple neighborly chores. This work opens a path to a life of fulfillment and serenity. Healed himself, Tara can now go on to heal others.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1951
ISBN: 978-0813108322
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky

The Kentuckians Series

The Kentuckians

The Kentuckians of Janice Holt Giles's title were that hardy band of angels who straggled through Cumberland Gap in the 1770s and carved their farms from the wilderness of Virginia's westernmost country. In her historical novel, first published in 1953, Giles invited the reader to experience the danger and beauty of life on the American frontier.

Many of the frontiersmen were hunters in search of escape from an ever-advancing civilization, seeking freedom and space. Such a man was David Cooper, who had hunted the Kentucky wilderness with Daniel Boone before the first settlers crossed the Appalachians. No love of land or home or woman had been strong enough to hold David―until he met Bethia. It was for her that he cleared his patch of forest, planted crops, and built a cabin. Too late, he learned that the girl he had dreamed of marrying was the wife of his enemy.

David and Bethia belonged to a generation that never knew or expected security, and the background of their story is one of turmoil: Outnumbered and ill-equipped, early settlers were hard put to defend their forts; and, although united in war against the British and their Indian allies, they were often at odds among themselves. Many, including Boone, held land grants from Judge Henderson's Transylvania Company. Others, like David, based their claims on the authority of Virginia. Few today realize how close the British came to winning out.

In her research, Giles studied the journals of the early Kentuckians and has retold their story in their own easy-flowing, cadenced prose. Only the three central characters are fictional. All subsidiary characters and historical events are authentic, set against the background of a country the author knows and loves.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1953
ISBN: 978-0813101774
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Hannah Fowler

Samuel Moore and his daughter Hannah set out for the border country with a party led by George Rogers Clark but left to follow the Kentucky River to Boones' Fort. As the story opens, Hannah is nursing her father, injured when an axe slips and cuts his leg. By the time Tice Fowler, on his way to Logan's Fort, stumbles upon them alone in the wilderness, Samuel is dying from blood poisoning.

When Samuel dies, Tice takes Hannah to the fort, where women are scarce, and Hannah finds herself besieged by suitors. Only with Tice, as silent and downright as herself, does Hannah feel at ease. Finally, she turns to the bashful Tice and asks him to marry her and take her away from the crowded fort. Together, they take their claim to land, build a cabin, and start a family. They endure the harsh frontier life, the threat of hungry wolves, a killing blizzard, and Indian raids.

Hannah is an unforgettable character―tall, physically and psychologically strong, the epitome of frontier womanhood―brought to life by a woman who knew and loved the Kentucky people and setting about which she wrote.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1956
ISBN: 978-0813108100
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
The Land Beyond the Mountains

In this novel of the Kentucky frontier, Giles combines her fascination for the past with her gift for storytelling.

Had it not been for the loyalty of men like Giles's fictional hero, Major Cassius Cartwright, General James Wilkinson's 1783 attempt to create a Spanish empire in the West might have succeeded. Interwoven with the Spanish Conspiracy are tales of struggles with Indians, of the birth of a Green River Valley town, and of the two women Cass loves: Rachel, a gentle Quaker, and Tattie, a fiery waif he rescues from Philadelphia slums.

Like Giles's earlier historical novels, The Land Beyond the Mountains is an engaging story of adventure and romance.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1959
ISBN: 978-0813108483
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
The Believers

Rebecca Fowler is only seventeen when she marries Richard Cooper. She cannot remember a time when she has not loved and trusted him and followed where he led. At first the marriage is happy; it is only after their child is stillborn that Richard shows preliminary signs of religious fanaticism in his insistence that this is God's punishment visited upon them. The Shaker missionaries newly arrived in Kentucky find him an easy convert.

When Richard joins the Shaker community, Rebecca goes with him, as a dutiful wife should, hoping that her love will ultimately win him back to her and to the larger world. She becomes part of a strange world in which men and women―even husbands and wives―live apart, coming together only for meals and for worship. As time passes and she sees Richard's affection recede, only her stubborn honesty gives her the strength to deny lip service to a doctrine she cannot truly accept and, at the last, courage to follow the dictates of her heart.

In this novel, Mrs. Giles gives us a unique picture of everyday life in a Shaker village, one of the experiments in utopian communal living that are a part of American history. Realistically but with understanding, she shows us a society animated not only by saintliness but by bigotry and ordinary human frailties.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1957
ISBN: 978-0813101897
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Johnny Osage

Johnny Osage" is the son of Hannah Fowler and the brother of Rebecca of The Believers. He comes by his name because of his close friendship with the Osage Indians. His story is told against the background of the old Osage homeland, the present state of Oklahoma, for by 1821 the frontier had moved westward and Johnny, a restless man who preferred the wilderness unspoiled by civilization, moved with it and became a partner in his brother-in-law's trading post.

To such a man, the arrival of the group of missionaries to "improve" the Osages is far from welcome. And to Judith Lowell, the young teacher dedicated to educating Osage children according to the laws of God and the White Man, Johnny's openly expressed admiration for Osage ways is shocking and inexplicable. But both of them are honest and brave enough to dare to open their minds and hearts to convictions other than their own.

The touching love story of Johnny and Judith is set against a dark and bloody background of raids and massacres in the bitter feud between Osages and Cherokees - a feud in which the U.S. Government plays the role of uneasy arbiter.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1960
ISBN: 978-0380018109
Publisher: Avon
Voyage to Santa Fe


She was Judith Fowler, and she was driving a team of mules hitched to a light wagon which was to be her tome on the road for she knew not how long. Her eyes fled to the man on the horse and something torn and lovely cried to him, husband--Johnny!

Across the great green grassland sea, from the settled Arkansas Territory to the heroic mountains of Santa Fe, Johnny Fowler's wagon train made its determined way. At his side was his wife, Judith, twenty-two and the only woman on the train. And sharing her Johnny's hardships and dangers, she had no fear but one - that some day he would make her a stranger with thoughts he never shared. For already she felt that her mind did not know, would never know, the mind of "Johnny Osage."

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1962
ISBN: 978-0446658751
Publisher: Paperback Library
The Great Adventure

There was beaver out there, beaver galore, and the prettiest pelts a man could hope to handle. Everybody talked beaver and going west. And the one memory of Joe Fowler's boyhood that was an unchanging, undeviating constant was the waiting till he was big enough and old enough to start. It was the beginning of a legend." — By 29 he was an old-timer among the Mountain Men-the full-blooded traders and trappers who dared the vast wilderness of the Rockies long before the settlers followed. Joe had come to find freedom in the perfect solitude of forests and rivers, to test himself against the hostile redskins and the savage forces of nature. But another test awaited Joe, the unexpected test of love-in the arms of a beautiful, courageous Indian woman.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1966
ISBN: 978-0380007271
Publisher: Avon
Run Me a River

The rich history of river life in Kentucky permeates Janice Holt Giles's novel Run Me a River. Set in 1861, at the beginning of Kentucky's reluctant entry into the Civil War, the novel tells the story of a five-day adventure on the Green River. Aboard the Rambler, a ramshackle steamboat, Captain Bohannon Cartwright and his crew journey 184 miles and pick up two extra passengers along the way.

The boatmenrescue "Sir Henry" Cole, a former Shakespearean actor, and his granddaughter Phoebe from their skiff when it overruns in a squall. As romance blossoms between Phoebe and Captain Bo, a conflict escalates between Confederate and Union forces fighting for control of the river.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1964
ISBN: 978-0813190709
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Six-horse Hitch

The thunderous tale of America's overland stage... a robust chronicle of king sized adventure and epic love by one of America's great west writers.

Author: Janice Holt Giles
First Release: 1969
ISBN: 978-0380515325
Publisher: Avon