Ellis River

a novel by Nicki Ehrlich

The Civil War scattered her family and now, along with her beloved horse, a young woman must travel across a war-torn country to collect what’s left of her life.

For fifteen-year-old Ellis Cady, life has gone quiet on her western Tennessee homestead. Her father and older brother left to sell horses to the army two years earlier and never returned. She watched her mother’s health decline, finally succumbing to a broken heart. Her twin brother left in search of their father, and while he was gone neighbors moved out of their Quaker community, searching for peace ahead of the final sweep of war.

Ellis is left with nothing but the company of the remaining horses and the letters and journals she continues to write, trying to make sense of a desolate world. A small band of soldiers rides through to claim the last of the herd, and hope for the return of life as she knew it, evaporates like the mist on the river.

When the head-strong mare, Billie, returns, having escaped from the soldiers, Ellis takes it as a sign to leave. Disguised as a boy, for safety and comfort, she rides off to find her twin. Though war refuses to fade, Ellis stumbles upon an unlikely group of rescuers who teach her family is more than blood, and love has no limits.

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Praise for Ellis River

“Ehrlich’s… sure-handed period language…brings life to perspectives too often unexplored in narratives of the era, with empathy, insight, [and] a touch of romance…” — Publishers Weekly Booklife

“…Ehrlich’s story… is engaging and makes for a quick, heartfelt read. An earnest and poignant bildungsroman.” — Kirkus Review

“Loved it! …[the] novel…will capture your attention from the very beginning…a great adventure.”

“Great for fans of Robin Oliveira [My Name is Mary Sutter] & Charles Frazier [Cold Mountain]”

“Nicki is an artist of words. [The] story pulled me in, investing my mind and heart…This story has action, grit, hope and perseverance.”

The Author

Nicki Ehrlich grew up in Southern Illinois before attending college at the University of Denver and later, Idaho State University, where she graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy/English. After living ten “horse-rich” years in Idaho, she moved on to Oregon, and later Washington, where she realized she had unwittingly traveled the Oregon Trail. 

While living in the Pacific Northwest, Nicki continued to write fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her debut novel, Ellis River, won the Independent Book Publishers Association’s Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book – fiction. The novel was also a finalist for the Eric Hoffer First Horizons Award, received an Honorable Mention for the Eric Hoffer Grand Prize, and was a semi-finalist for the Publishers Weekly Booklife Prize. Nicki has won additional awards for her poetry and creative writing, including the Writer’s Digest Annual Poetry Awards and the Ray Fabrizio Memorial Award. Nicki holds a Certificate in Creative Writing from Monterey Peninsula College and is a member of the Central Coast branch of the California Writers Club. She is also a proud member of the Independent Book Publishers Association. She currently lives on California’s inspiring central coast where she is at work on the sequel to Ellis River.


Benjamin Franklin Award
The Eric Hoffer Award - Honorable Mention
First Horizon Award Finalist

Ellis River Semi-finalist, Booklife Prize

Ray Fabrizio Memorial Award
for Creative Writing

In the News

December 10, 2023 – Holiday Event

Join me and nine other local authors at River House Books in Carmel, California! We’ll be there to sign books and chat (nothing we like more than talking about the writing process!) from 12:00 to 3:00. Books make wonderful Holiday gifts! Hope to see you there!

Thank you, Julie Tully, River House Books, and staff! What a delightful afternoon spent with fellow local authors! And thank you to those who stopped by to chat and purchase books for yourselves and for those last-minute Holiday gifts!

November 4, 2023 – Book Signing

If you’re in the area, I’ll be signing books at Barnes & Noble in Gilroy, CA, on Saturday, November 4th, from 12 noon to 5 pm. Hope to see you there!

A great big THANK YOU! to the staff of B&N and to all of you who stopped by yesterday, said hello, and bought a book! It was a joy to spend my afternoon in a beautiful bookstore, and to watch so many people of all ages delighting in books and reading!

Ellis River now an Audiobook!

For those of you who’d rather listen than look, you will now find Ellis River available on your favorite audiobook platform. Voices are adeptly brought to life by the talented voice actor, Madeleine Norton. Enjoy!

Ellis River Wins IBPA’s Benjamin Franklin Award!

What an exciting night! Ellis River and Bay Feather Books were honored with the GOLD for IBPA’s Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book – fiction. Thank you, IBPA, and congratulations to all the nominees and winners!

Eric Hoffer Awards!

Thrilled to be a Finalist for the Eric Hoffer “First Horizon” Award, and received Honorable Mention for the Eric Hoffer Grand Prize! Feeling grateful!

Local authors: Exploring the unraveling of deepest connections

Hers is the story of a girl who grew up loving horses. Grooming them, riding them, reading and watching westerns. Her book is also about a girl and her beloved horse. Yet, unlike her contemporary author, she is a teen, abandoned by a scattered family toward the end of the Civil War who, armored by her disguise as a boy, travels with her horse across a war-torn country in search of what remains of her kin. Read more >>

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