Go West, young man!

We’re thrilled to have Becca Whitham with us today. In Becca’s own words, she’s an author, paper crafter, and Army wife who resides in South Carolina with her husband of more than 30 years and a 12-foot-long craft cabinet she thinks should count as a dependent. So far, neither the army nor the IRS are convinced. In between moves from one part of the country to the other, she writes stories combining faith and fiction that touch the heart. You can find her online at http://www.beccawhitham.com or on her paper crafting blog at http://www.becca-expressions.blogspot.com.

“Go West, young man!”

This was the solution to every disappointed hope of the mid-late 1800s. Did your crops fail? Go West. Were you too poor to own your own land? Go West. Had your life taken you in a direction you didn’t like? Go West!

This solution appealed to women as well as men because there’s a universality about thinking the grass will be greener, the situation better, and life easier if we could start somewhere fresh and leave all our mistakes behind.

But what if you gave up everything to make the journey only to discover that your situation is now worse?

In The Promised Bride, Emilia Stanek leaves the stench of Chicago for the wide-open space of Montana as a mail-order bride because she’s sure being the wife of Finn Collins—a man she’s fallen in love with through letters—will solve everything from her father’s ailing health to her brother’s involvement with a gang of boys she doesn’t like. Except, when she arrives in Helena expecting to meet her new husband, she’s greeted by the county sheriff instead and told that Finn was murdered the day before. Not only that, he left behind considerable debts which she’ll be responsible to pay if she files the paperwork formalizing her proxy marriage.

“This mail-order bride novel as it all – likeable characters, intriguing suspense, a dash of wry humor, and a swoon-worthy romance!”– RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars

With nothing left for her back home, Emilia stays. As you’ve probably guessed, she also falls in love with the gruff county sheriff, Mac McCall, over the course of the story. I know. Spoiler. But you don’t read a romance novel to find out how it ends, you read it to enjoy the journey.

When Gina Welborn and I first brainstormed this story, we wanted to use the past to speak into today. Mail-order brides of the 1800s were all too often greeted on the other end of their journey by pimps and madams who had tricked them into a life of sexual slavery—which is the same way predators use Facebook, Twitter, ShapChat, Craigslist, and other online sites to lure young girls, in particular, into sex trafficking. The problem is epidemic. According to wearethorn.org, 100,000 new ads for “escorts” are posted every day, and 63 percent of children rescued from sex trafficking report that they were approached via an online source.

As Mac says, anyone can be anything in a letter…or online.

Although there’s no mystery that Mac and Emilia end up together, there is one regarding Finn. Did he fool Emilia into a marriage that would have ended with her being sold into a brothel? Would she have been better off staying in Chicago and using her energy to find solutions there? We didn’t solve this mystery easily. We wanted readers to wrestle with Finn, his intentions, and Emilia’s decision to trust the written words of a man she’d never actually met.

Sometimes it is a good idea to go West—to start over and start fresh in a new place. But sometimes the best solution is to stay put and figure out how to make your life better where you are right now.

For a chance to win a copy of The Promise Bride, please leave a comment telling us a challenge you are currently facing or a way lessons from the past apply to today.

 

 

Guest Blogger

47 Comments

  1. two of my boys went to college (freshman and a senior), so now we’re down to one kid at home and fixing meals for a family of three. I’m not used to having leftovers and not running kids to sports 5-6 days a week. It’s an adjustment.

    1. It sure is! I have two children, my son being the oldest. When he left for college, I swear half my cooking and laundry duties went with him. Good luck with this change. It took me about four years to go from the craziness of full-on mom to empty-nester.

  2. I loved what you said, Becca: “But you don’t read a romance novel to find out how it ends, you read it to enjoy the journey.” “Journey” is one of my favorite words since there’s nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes) in novels or life. It’s all the journey, isn’t it?

    To answer your question, my challenge is my recovery from ten weeks in three hospitals and now trying to get my throat to work so I can eat food again instead of being reliant on tube feeding and to have my vocal chords recover their range and strength. Oh, and my hair is falling out from the seriousness of my illness which I’m taking harder than I should. (Maybe it’s a “safer” issue to mourn?)

    The lessons? Be grateful for life itself. Take it one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. Don’t give up or lose hope. Be grateful for the unexpected kindness of others on this journey.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve had such difficulty, Eliza. I know I take my health for granted all the time. May the Lord bless and keep you, and may you find reasons to hold on in hope.

  3. Hi Becca,

    Let’s see, I have a couple of challenges going on right now. First, dealing with MEGA changes at work…new coworker and a new manager coming on board soon. But my biggest challenge is a really difficult one for me. My Mom passed away seven months ago today, she lived next door so everything in her house was transplanted to my house and as I have time, I am going through things to decide what I want to do with them. Tomorrow is my day to wash up and pack up all of her Nortaki Bamboo etched crystal and then see if I can find a buyer. It takes up 2/3s of my hutch. My Mom was a wonderful mother and my best friend so all of this is an extreme challenge for me.

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.
    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

    1. I was sitting with a friend yesterday talking about packing up a loved ones things. Such a heart-wrenching task. I pray you are able to cry cleansing tears and find a buyer who will cherish your mother’s beautiful crystal.

  4. Oh my stars, I love both these women! Becca and Gina rock with whatever they do!

    Becca, this book sounds wonderful and adding in the dangers surrounding mail order and internet brides… A great addition.

    Why can’t people just be nice?????????

    Great to see you here!

    1. Love you, too, Ruth!!

      (And I don’t know why people can’t just be nice. If we figured that out, we could bottle it and get rich selling it.)

  5. Good morning Becca- we are always facing challenges. My big challenge happened right out of college. I left Texas all my family and loved ones and moved NW to Southwest Kansas. Scared, broke, and nothing but a degree and the clothes on my back. But I’ve never been one to fail or back down. So I put my best smile on and went to work at new job. Why oh why did I move to this flat desert land where you can see 40 miles in any direction??
    Well fast forward 23, years and I’m still here, happily married and now call this place beautiful (in its On way) and home. It was not love at 1st site, but the flatness will draw you in and you’ll begin to appreciate the beauty. Especially when you’re able to see those tornadic storms from miles away. So I can somehow relate to what these Mail Order Brides go through being plunked from one part of the country into a whole new strange world.
    Your book sounds wonderful and very interesting. Thanks for visiting the P & P and happy Labor Day to you and your family. Thank you and your family for your service to our country. God Bless!!

    1. Not to mention you escaped the humidity!

    2. What a great story, Tonya! I love happily-ever-after stories…obviously. 🙂 We lived in Oklahoma for a few years, and I began to appreciate the flatness a bit. And those storms??? Wowza! Weather on the plains doesn’t believe in half-measures, does it? Glad you found home after taking such a big leap.

  6. My husband passed away 2 years ago. Learning to live without him has been a challenge.
    Married right out of high school and after 55 years I am alone.

    1. Oh, Estella…I’m so very sorry. Such a huge hole. May you find unexpected joy and friendships in the coming year.

  7. I’d like to say I couldn’t relate to a mail-order bride but in a way I can. A few years back I fell in love, or so I thought, via Facebook and phone calls. We did have several mutual friends because he was from a small town close to where I call home. The relationship latest less than a year because it didn’t take long for him to be communicating more than he should with other woman on fb. It seemed to me he was looking for greener pastures. Not to mention this happened when I was in the hospital and he was talking to my friends about my condition. I let him move on to the other pasture and he did learn the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence. He’s in yet another pasture as we speak but I only wish them the best.

    1. I’m glad you were able to let go of this “grazer” with such grace. That takes courage and smarts! I hope you’ve found someone who appreciates you!!

  8. I face so many challenges. I have a daughter in the Peace Corps, another just had a baby an she wants me to babysit and Ih ae another daughter marrying soon and I am just not sure.

    1. Wow…lots on your plate, Debra. I pray you find peace within your uncertainty and courage to do what you know is right.

  9. We never know what life brings. My mother had hip surgery last year after a fall. The anesthesia played havoc with her mind. She was never able to return home and is now in a memory care facility. It has been difficult on all of us.

    1. I’m so sorry, Melanie! My mother-in-law died of Alzheimer’s five years ago and my father-in-law, who passed a year ago, had dementia. The decision to entrust them to a memory care facility was one of the hardest my husband and I ever made. Watching them deteriorate was even harder. Praying peace over you and your family.

  10. My challenge right now is that my husband lost his job of 15 years and can’t seem to find another one. So making ends meet on uneployment is very hard. I have had a hip replacement and back surgery so I haven’t work for several years and not sure how I would do at a job.

    1. So difficult!! What kind of work does your husband do?

  11. My children are all adults now and I’ve been learning to trust God with their relationship with Him. I’m slowly learning that even though I can’t see Him working in their lives I have to trust that He is.

    1. I remember the first time I saw God chip away at my eldest child after he left home. I realized God loves that boy than I do. It was both sobering and a great comfort.

  12. We recently put my 95 yr. old mom into an assisted living facility. So besides a part-time job (thank goodness it’s not full time) I spend most of my spare time visiting and also with my sister, emptying out her house to put up for sale. But to counter that, my daughter is about to deliver my first grandchild any day!

    1. Congratulations on the soon-to-come grandbaby! What a roller coaster of emotions in your “sandwich generation.” Blessings to you.

  13. Just found out I have retina detachment. Hoping it will improve on its own.

    1. Oh, dear! We have a friend who has been through multiple surgeries with an eye issue. Very distressing. Praying it heals soon!

  14. I never really associated mail-order brides who end up in less than ideal situations with our modern day trolling for young girls/women for reasons other than love matches! I suppose that did happen in those days and it was just as tragic as it is in today’s society. I love mail-order bride stories and in fiction there’s always a happily-ever-after ending. It’s one reason I love romantic fiction 🙂

    I can’t really say I’m facing any challenges right now. I can say that over the years, the lessons I’ve learned is that no matter what happens in my life and when things go the opposite way I think they should, I have God who knows what He’s doing and I can fully trust He’s working things out for the good for me. It’s always worked out better than I think, if I rely on Him. Trust has been a big issue in my life (in other people), but God has shown me that He’s the only one who I can really trust. He’s never let me down 🙂 I love that assurance!

    Thank you for the book giveaway! It sounds just like the kind of story I love 🙂

    1. Emilia and Mac, our main characters in The Promise Bride, both have trust issues! I hope you enjoy how Gina and I worked on theirs in the story. 🙂

  15. Hi Becca…..Welcome to P&P! We’re so glad to have you visit. I love your blog. You know, the West held such opportunity and promise. It was hard for people (especially those who struggled) to reject the allure of all that land just free for the taking or at very little cost. Some made it and some only found failure. The same with mail order brides. They took a great risk in those marriages.

    I adore the cover of your book! That woman is gorgeous and the backdrop of the town adds to the beauty. Wishing you much success with it.

    1. Thanks, Linda! I got a little teary-eyed today when I went to Walmart to purchase a copy. My author copies got sent to Alaska. I’m in South Carolina. Yeah… 🙁

  16. I am helping my daughter raise her 3 1/2 year old daughter because her husband is incarcerated because of an addiction to drugs. We are God-fearing, God-loving Christians and this is beyond any problem that we have ever faced. Our granddaughter was a surprise and I am an older grandmother but God is blessing me with strength and good health and he has given me a blessing with this sweet little girl.

    1. Drugs are such a terrible and pervasive problem. I hope your son-in-law is able to get help while incarcerated. My husband’s first position coming out of seminary was with a prison ministry, so I know it’s possible for someone to not only survive but heal during their time. May the blessing of your sweet granddaughter bring you abundant joy.

  17. Given the rise in racial hate crimes over the past few months, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s plea for peace, acceptance, and love no matter the color of skin applies so poignantly today.

    On a separate note, I do love the statement in the blog that we don’t read romance to find out how it ends but read it for the journey.

    1. I agree, MH! Dr. King’s words never fail to move me.

  18. Back then that was the answer – go west! Today I think too many people just give up and “go west” when they should be trying to stay and tough it out. A great thinking post!

  19. Age and health problems tend to go together. Yes, I know young people with health issues and people in their 80’s that are incredibly healthy and active. Unfortunately this past year has not been king to our household. We bought a small RV and were planning a 3 to 4 month trip to Alaska and whatever else we could see coming and going. Then my husband had knee surgery. The Monday after Thanksgiving I developed a detached retina and am fighting to get my vision back. In addition, back problems have cut into my mobility and make hiking a bit difficult. It is more than a bit frustrating. The less you can do, the more sedentary you become, and the less you can do. I am working on breaking that cycle. We were at a conference this past week focused on hiking, canoeing, and outdoor activities. There was a moderate 2+ mile hike. We did the hike and loved it. Had to push a bit harder than we used to, but we managed. We are energized and are planning to try adding a bit more activity to our lives. My eye is a factor, but it is slowly getting better. All is good and we WILL be going to Alaska next year.

    1. We just moved from Alaska!! It’s a beautiful state. I sure hope you do get to go next year. I’m glad to hear that your health is slowly improving. You’re right, the sedentary cycle is tough to beat.

  20. My youngest daughter had bone cancer at 8 years old and spent eleven & a half months hospitalized. Had right shoulder and scapula replaced in 9 hour surgery. At the time I was actually breathless, scared to death and knew nothing. Of course I stayed with her the whole time and that’s when I realized my daughter was handling this better then me. I prayed God would give me the faith she had it would all turn out right. My late Mom told me that I just had to get through each day as it came . She was the baby of my seven children and it’s a year I’ll never forget. I thank God every day for the last 20 years she’s been in remission or cured. 🙂

    1. Wow! What a story, Carol!! And you’re mother was very wise…just get through each day as it comes is the best advice any of us can give (or get). I pray she remains in remission or is cured.

  21. Five years of difficulty with serious medical issues. Breast cancer diagnosis 2012, chemo, radiation and then trying to recover. % other surgeries and now RA.

    1. Oy! That’s a lot to deal with, Sharon. May this coming year bring you healing.

  22. Trying to get my strength back and take care of the little ones is tiring but I will persist and help out as much as possible. At my age it is more tiring but rewarding too.

    1. Taking care of little ones is exhausting no matter what your age. I’m glad you are finding it so rewarding.

  23. After being healthy and strong all my life there have been setbacks which I have dealt with by myself. Strength and fortitude which I have are necessary. In the meantime I look after my son’s children, give them love, babysit and show how much I care.

    1. It’s very difficult to lose the ability to do things you’ve always been able to do. I’m glad to hear strength and fortitude are in your character. Praying this year brings healing in all areas of your life.

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