Taking a Chance—a Big Chance—on Love & Book Giveaway

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“Did you ever wonder why we use the word engagement
to describe both a promise of marriage and a war battle?”-Undercover Bride

My June release Undercover Bride is a mail order bride story with a twist. Maggie Michaels is a Pinkerton detective working undercover to nab the Whistle-Stop Bandit. To do this she is posing as his mail order bride. The clock is ticking; if she doesn’t find the proof she needs to put him in jail, she could end up as his wife!

My heroine has a good reason for doing what she’s doing, but what about the thousands of other women during the 1800s who left family and friends to travel west and into the arms of strangers?

Shortage of Men

mailThe original mail order bride business grew out of necessity. The lack of marriageable women in the west was partly responsible, but so was the Civil War. The war created thousands of widows and a shortage of men.

As a result, marriage brokers and “Heart and Hand” catalogues popped up all around the country. Ads averaged five to fifteen cents and letters were exchanged along with photographs. It took ten days for a letter to travel by Pony Express and often the wax seals would melt in the desert heat, causing letters to be thrown away before reaching their destinations.

According to an article in the Toledo Blade a lonely men even wrote to the Sears catalogue company asking for brides (the latest such letter received was from a lonely Marine during the Vietnam War).

                                      Cultural Attitudes

wife

Marriage was thought to be the only path to female respectability. Anyone not conforming to society’s expectations was often subjected to public scorn. Women who had reached the “age” of spinsterhood with no promising prospects were more likely to take a chance on answering a mail order bride ad than younger women.

Not Always Love at First Sight

For some mail-order couples, it was love (or lust) at first sight. In 1886, one man and his mail order bride were so enamored with each other they scandalized fellow passengers on the Union Pacific Railroad during their honeymoon.

Not every bride was so lucky. In her book Hearts West, Christ Enss tells the story of mail order bride Eleanor Berry. En route to her wedding her stage was held up at gunpoint by four masked men. Shortly after saying “I do,” and while signing the marriage license, she suddenly realized that her husband was one of the outlaws who had robbed her. The marriage lasted less than an hour.

Men: Do Not Be Deceivedmail2

Women weren’t the only ones who could be duped. Ads popped up warning men not to be seduced by artificial bosoms, bolstered hips, padded limbs, cosmetic paints and false hair.

Despite occasional pitfalls, historians say that most matches were successful. That’s because the ads were generally honest, painfully so in some cases. If a woman was fat and ugly she often said so. If not, photographs didn’t lie (at least not before Photoshop came along).

There may have been another reason for so much married bliss. A groom often signed a paper in front of three upstanding citizens promising not to abuse or mistreat his bride. She in turn promised not to nag or try to change him.

No one seems to know how many mail order brides there were during the 1800s, but the most successful matchmaker of all appears to be Fred Harvey who, by the turn of the century, had married off 5000 Harvey girls.

Okay, since it’s almost June and I’ve got brides on my mind how about sharing a wedding memory, either your own or someone else’s?  It can be funny, sweet, nightmarish or just plain special.  Fair warning: anything you say could be used in a book!  If all else fails just stop by and say hello and I’ll put your name in the old Stetson.

undercovertiny

Wild West Guns and Grins or How the West Was Fun

 Another Pinkerton Lady Detective is on the case. This time the female operative masquerades as a mail-order bride. Pretty funny overall plot to begin with, so expect some fun reading while the detective team attempts to unmask a pair of train robbers and murderers. That’s how Margaret Brownley writes. Western mystery with humor rolling throughout, like tumbleweeds on Main Street.

                                                           -Harold Wolf on Amazon

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Margaret Brownley
Margaret has published more than 40 books and is a N.Y. Times Bestselling author and two-time Romance Writers of America Rita Finalist. She writes historical novels set--where else?--in the Old West! She has written for a day time soap and is currently working on a new series. Not bad for someone who flunked 8th grade English. Just don't ask her to diagram a sentence.

51 Comments

  1. Hi, very interesting article. As for wedding memories…I went to one where the bride’s dad actually preformed the ceremony, it was very sweet.

  2. Hi Ashley, I never heard of a bride’s father performing the ceremony, but that really is sweet. Thank you for sharing!

  3. My bridesmaids and I picked wildflowers for my wedding the morning of, filling the car with tubs of day lilies and black-eyed susans. Two of us were in the back seat with the majority of the flowers, when suddenly my seatmate shrieked and jumped into my lap (as best one is able in a stuffed Oldsmobile 88) because she’d seen a spider. Of course, then the black spider got lost among the black-eyed susans, which proved that not knowing where the spider was was infinitely worse than knowing. Thus we rode in abject terror to the church, where, in a mad rush to put together the bouquets, we promptly forgot about it. Thanks for the giveaway!

    1. Hi Rachael, laughing at the thought of a car full of women riding to the church in abject terror–and all because of a spider.

      Thank you for sharing.

  4. My favorite wedding memory is from the wedding I most recently attended. About six years earlier, the bride gave a heart shaped necklace to her father, signifying her commitment to give her heart to her father until she was engaged. During the ceremony, her father gave the necklace to the groom saying how he hadn’t realized it at the time the bride gave him the necklace just how precious that commitment had been. I don’t know if there was a dry eye in the sanctuary.

    1. Faith,
      Oh, boy, where’s the tissue.

      Rachael made me laugh and now you made me cry. I’m having an emotional day! What a beautiful relationship the bride and her father must have. How lucky that the wedding guests got to witness such a touching exchange.

      Thank you for sharing!

      1. They did have a beautiful relationship. You’re welcome!

  5. The only wedding I was ever to was a friend who go married a few weeks before christmas. There was an indoor sleigh, Tree decorated for christmas. I don’t remember what the theme of the wedding was though.

    1. Kim, you reminded me of a Christmas wedding I attended years ago. The bridesmaids wore red and carried white fur hand muffs.

      I recently had to explain to my granddaughter what a hand muff was.

      Thank you for sharing!

  6. Hi Margaret….I always love your blogs. They make me laugh. Great premise for your newest book! LOL Posing as a mail order bride could land a woman in big trouble!

    My daughter’s February wedding was a nightmare. Nothing went right and it started with a 6 inch unexpected snowfall. It was supposed to be warm and sunny. I almost didn’t get there. The bride had no flowers, the groom no tux, the beautiful wedding cake my daughter had ordered four months in advance didn’t show up. In flurried last minute shopping, we found plastic flowers and a bundt cake. The wedding was beautiful though. Afterward, my granddaughter who, with her sister, was the bridesmaid collapsed at the reception and they had to rush her to Dallas where she had surgery. It’s definitely one to remember.

    Wishing you much success and happiness!

    1. Hi Linda, yep working undercover as a mail order bride could land a woman in all kinds of trouble.

      Your daughter’s wedding does sound like a nightmare but trust me one day it’ll give you all something to laugh about. I know this for a fact because my daughter’s wedding (which occurred just after a major earthquake) was equally disastrous. Fortunately, we’ve all survived long enough to see the humor. It only took what? Twenty years.

      Hugs!

  7. My husband and I were kneeling at the prayer alter and h suddenly realized he left the marriage license at his house. Of course, being gidy already it made us chuckle. Our attendants didn’t see it as a chuckle, though, and presumed we were crying. We we turned around most the the church were wiping away tears.

    1. Hi Tonya,
      That’s funny. Sounds like you and your husband have a great sense of humor.

      Thanks for sharing!

  8. We went to a rustic wedding that was held in a field outside a barn. At the part “Speak now or forever hold your peace” a donkey brayed very loudly. It cracked the whole crowd up! The visibly nervous groom laughed, too, and then completely relaxed. It was a great moment.

    1. Cheryl, that’s too funny. How much did the donkey charge to bray on cue?

      Reminds me of a service at my church. The pastor was preaching a sermon on doubting Thomas when right on cue, the rooster next door crowed three times. Fun stuff.

      Thank you for sharing.

  9. My husband worked as a security guard for the temple where we were married, so we were able to go up on the roof for a wedding picture that nobody else has. I was so happy that I twirled around in joy up there. If you Google San Diego LDS Temple you’ll see how beautiful it is 🙂

    1. Hi Heidi, you know I’ve seen that temple. It IS beautiful. When I first saw it reminded me of a wedding cake or one of those ice palaces we used to read about in fairy tales. What a great picture that must be–a real treasure.

      Thank you for sharing.

  10. mine is a bit different i was married for 30yrs to a very physically and mentally abusive man,,i left after the last child turned 18 and graduated from high school,,i happen to have met my 2nd husband on line in a 40s chat group,,then in person at a chat meet in North Carolina with lots of chaparones around,,we long distance dated for 2 yrs..he lived in NH and me in TN.we traveled back and forth and was married 2 yrs to the date we met in person,,at the same place with all our chat buddies there ,and my family,they were so happy for us,,and still are,,married 12yrs this sept.he has never laid a hand on me or called me one bad name or belittled me whatoever,,we have 14 grandchildren and adore them all,and are still madly in love with each other,,so my internet marriage worked for us

    1. Vickie, how wonderful that you found true love the second time around. Your husband sounds like a winner. God bless you both!

  11. That was so interesting! I had know idea.
    So as soon as my Husband and I were getting ready to leave our wedding I had the fear of what our wedding party was had done to our car. Ok to give you a clear picture at the time my husband and my first car was an old tan grandma car. So it wasn’t something to pretty to begin with hahha. Oh also it was packed to the roof inside because my husband and I were moving to California for the summer for a internship. Ok on with the story. We come out to the parking lot and see our car is coved in fake rose petals that were stuck with butter! I couldn’t believe it! Let’s just say it looked like a red spotted Dalmatian car.

    so we go to get in the car and I realize I don’t know where my birth control is! That was kind of important for our first night haha. So then our wedding party to my embarrassment had to help dig into our car and unpack it till we found it! And of course it was at they very bottom. After all this we drove to our very luxurious hotel (with this car) I was a little embarrassed but thought oh well let’s just get inside as fas as we can. Oh and of course because it was such a nice hotel they had to have valet parking. So we pull up and get out of the car and valet man gets the biggest smile on his face and says, ” allright the love mobile” whatever embarrassment I had vanished. All we could do to all the way to our room was laugh.

    1. Hi Cori, what a great story. It’s all about perspective, right? Hope you got pictures of your “love mobile.” Lol.

  12. What an awesome post, Margaret. I have had several mail-order bride stories. I love the concept–because I can ensure they get happy endings LOL. I love weddings, wedding gowns, all year long. I even got hooked on Pinterest with a board “Brides in Training” and scope out pictures of massive bridal gown trains. As for wedding memories, hmmmm.
    It would have to be the fist time I was a bridesmaid…college roommate, blistering hot July afternoon in Arkansas..hadn’t eaten all day and keeled over during the wedding. Ah, memories LOL. xox

    1. Hi Tanya, I love the mail order concept, too. Lots of room for conflict, uncertainties and of course, that happy ending.

      You keeled over at your friend’s wedding? Isn’t that the bridegroom’s job? Does your roommate still talk to you? LOL

      Hugs!

  13. I just finished Petticoat Detective and really enjoyed it.I love that your books often allow me to laugh out loud. I am anxious to read Undercover Bride.

    My husband is a church custodian and I do bridal alterations so we get to peak in on a lot of weddings. Several years ago two pastors officiated at their own childrens’ wedding. The service was quite normal until they got to the “you may kiss your bride” part. The two pastors began an “argument” as to whether or not this couple was suited for each other. The bride and groom were mortified. After a few minutes, both pastors said, “You may NOW kiss your bride.” followed by “Gottcha!”

    1. Hi Rosie, so glad you enjoyed Petticoat Detective. I love making people laugh. Hey, life is short.

      Loved the wedding memory you shared. I would love to have seen the look on the bride’s and groom’s faces! I just finished writing a book where an actual fight takes place during the wedding. Had a lot of fun with that scene!

      Thank you for sharing!

  14. The only wedding I have been to was my sister’s and they were married by a Judge… nothing interesting happened… very low key. Enjoyed your post today… thanks for sharing! 🙂

  15. Colleen, thanks for stopping by. Unfortunately, interesting things that happen at a wedding are usually disasters, so it sounds like your sister lucked out.

    Adding your name to the ole Stetson.

  16. We went to a wedding once that we knew would turn out to be a disaster, marriage wise sadly. It seems like the brides mom pushed her into the marriage and wedding. The bride arrived in a horse drawn carriage that stopped traffic in the town around the wedding venue. During the whole ceremony the bride was crying and they were not tears of happiness. They drove away in a monster truck to the reception. I heard that the bride got divorced but now she is happily married and has a grown daughter. I am sure God gave her another chance on her own terms and not her mothers.

    1. Maryann, that is so sad. Thank God she found the strength to follow her heart rather than her mother’s wishes.

      Thank you for sharing.

  17. Margaret! I never thought about the men getting deceived by “enhancements”. That’s a twist. Love it and the title of your book is great.
    Thanks for a fun blog!

    1. Charlene, I have to admit the “enhancement” bit surprised me, too. I didn’t even know they had bolstered hips and artificial bosoms back then. Those demure Victorians were pretty sneaky.

  18. I don’t have a lot of wedding memories my was a very small wedding in a little country church with just family and a few friends.

    1. Hi Quilt Lady, your wedding sounds like mine–small and intimate–the best kind, right?

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    Posted by Margaret Brownley on Sunday, May 17, 2015 at 8:38 am. 1 Comment. Edit this entry.

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    Laurel Cagle says:

    One of my favorite wedding memory is when my mother played a couple of my favorite songs on the flute. I really like flute music and my mother is an excellent flutist. It was so special I had tears in my eyes as I was getting ready to walk down the aisle. It’s a memory I will always cherish.

    Posted on May 28, 2015 at 4:20 pm. (Reply) (Edit)

    1. Hi Laurel, that is such a lovely memory. Thank you for sharing.

  20. I don’t have any funny wedding stories to tell. Over 20 years ago when my sister in law was getting married she had wedding gifts of over $600 cash stolen out of her car .
    My birthday is in June but no great or funny stories for you.
    Would love to read your new book.

    1. Hi Deanne,
      That’s too bad about what happened to your sister-in-law. Thank you for stopping by.

      Happy Birthday!

  21. A wedding memory that I had no idea about until after the wedding was that during our wedding my husband was so nervous that he said his knees actually knocked!!! He said that has certainly never happened to him again but it sure did that night. We will celebrate our 40th anniversary in October!

    1. Melanie, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt my knees knock. That must have been something. Congratulations on your 40th.

  22. We were young when we got married and it was a small wedding ceremony before the local Justice of the Peace. My husband (to be) was nervous and forgot to take off his sunglasses. The JP never turned off his television set, so the accompaniment to our wedding was Gunsmoke. We liked to say Matt Dillon came to our wedding ;-). (still married, 46 years next month)

    1. Sally, that’s funny. Not many people can say Matt Dillon came to their wedding. Congratulations on 46 years. Matt would be so proud…

  23. What a fun post. Most informative too.

  24. Hi Mary, thanks! Have a great day.

  25. A Nephew’s wedding at the Lake was beautiful.

    1. Hi Deanna, a lakeside wedding sounds like a dream. Thanks for sharing.

  26. My mom’s parents were from Sicily who had arranged marriages. My grandmother’s father actually gave her a choice of two men and she took accepted my grandfather because he was going to American. They were married for over 60 years!

    1. Hi Catslady, your grandmother was a wise woman! So glad it worked out for her.

      Thank you for sharing.

  27. When it was time for the vows, my husband to be could not speak. He was too overcome with emotion. He took so long to get it together that it was getting awkward. He finally was able to talk and we went on with the service. It was all captured on video.

    1. Hi Pam, that’s so sweet. I’m glad he finally got the words out.

  28. What a delightful theme for a novel. I can hardly wait to read it. My wedding memories are of the chocolate fountain that got to pumping too hard. The chocolate overflowed its basin before someone caught it and turned it off. The bride loved chocolate, and she certainly had plenty of it to celebrate the event.

    Best wishes on your book.

  29. My own wedding wasn’t a original one. Back in 1972 it was his sister the reason we got married. Her and her husband was going to Niagara Falls for vacation. She said to us why don’t you guys get married and make Niagara Falls your honeymoon. Well we got married and all of us went. After Niagara Falls we went up into Canada After we traveled all day we found this motel, it was just sitting in no mans land. We got rooms that joined and later in the evening we got a knock on our doors. There was a prison break which was near by(we didn’t know that of course) and there ways two men in the vicinity they were hunting. The State Troopers told us to stay in our rooms, lock the doors and if we see them to call. The roadblock was right there by our motel. Put it this way all four of us slept in one bed.(remember I was on my honeymoon)I have another story to tell about our honeymoon were we all lend up in the bed together, this one was a haunted place where we stay before this one. I think we talked about our trip for more than 20 years.

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