In my “Lawmen and Outlaws” Christmas Anthology novella, Christmas for Ransom, available both in print and e-book, schoolmarm Eliza Willows falls in love with an outlaw when the handsome stranger hires her to teach him to read. Of course she’s unaware he’s the bad guy who thieved her granny’s prized Morgan horses smack dab during Thanksgiving dinner. Even when Eliza finds out his true identity, her heart has already been stolen…and Canyon Jack Ransom’s grown a conscience. He vows to become respectable and does all the right things to stay in her heart.
Today I’ll be giving away a signed copy (U.S.A.) or an e-copy (international) after drawing a name from today’s commenters.
Well, today let’s look at a real life good girl who fell for a bad guy. Schoolteacher Anna Ralston, daughter of a wealthy Independence MO businessman, held a Bachelor of Arts degree in Science and Literature from Missouri State College. Truth is, she was one of its first female graduates.
“Annie” is the woman who snared Alexander Franklin James, aka Frank James, and eloped with him in July 1875. When she pretended to visit her brother-in-law in Kansas City, Frank waited for her on the train, the elopement already arranged.
No one ever knew how or when the couple met. But it is known Frank wasn’t only a rough and tumble baddie. As a youth, he’d devoured the books in his father’s library and even as an outlaw, quoted Shakespeare at will. His father, a farmer and Baptist minister, co-founded the William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. So maybe it’s not all that surprising that Frank chose an educator who loved literature. And with him described by the Kansas City Times as a “notable knight of the road” and “dashing and daring,” perhaps it’s not surprising Annie fell for him.
Two days after her departure for Kansas City, her parents received a brief note from her that said, “Dear Mother: I am married and going West. Annie Reynolds”
Not recognizing the name Reynolds, they figured she’d run off with a gambler they’d heard about. Putting their sons on her trail, her parents eventually learned of Annie’s marriage to the outlaw. Her father advised the family to treat the matter philosophically. Nothing could be done now, he said, and the less said about it the better.
Annie and Frank had one son, Robert Franklin James, born February 6, 1878. Four years later, after brother Jesse’s murder, Frank gave himself up, wanting peace after being hunted for twenty-one years.
Found not guilty for two robberies/murders (the juries cited lack of evidence), Frank became respectable for the last thirty years of his life. He gave lecture tours with his old crony Cole Younger and worked for the telegraph before returning to the James Farm in Kearney, Missouri to give tours. He died an honorable man on February 18, 1915. Fearing his grave would be desecrated for souvenirs, he decreed his ashes would be kept hidden until he and Annie could be buried together.
Annie remained with her mother in law at the James farm for many years, After her death at age 91, she and Frank were buried next to each other at Hill Park Cemetery in Independence.
(Excerpt from Chapter Two, Christmas for Ransom:
Pinching herself, Eliza lost interest in everything except seeing what the stranger looked like in the lantern light. Brawny stalwart men were nothing new in a railroad town or on the ranch, but she never minded a good view.
Her breath caught so hard her sore rib tweaked. He was magnificent. The big-brimmed hat and flowing duster reckoned him a wrangler of some sort coming in from the range. Although he needed a bath and truly looked the worse for wear, she didn’t mind one single bit. The scruffy cheeks, the long rag-taggle coat, even the scent of masculine sweat were far more her style than the slick-haired dandies and overdressed fops she’d met at Boston cotillions.
“This here’s Ransom,” the blacksmith said helpfully.
As the stranger moved closer, he removed his hat and tucked it under his arm with a polite half-nod. For a long luscious moment, eyes the color of manly liquor covered her with a mouth-watering gaze. Golden-brown hair touched the mountains of his shoulders like sunlight at dawn across the Guadalupe Mountains.
Air left her lungs. A slow burn started at the top of her spine, her flesh desperate for the days’ worth of roughness adorning cheekbones carved like crags and valleys. She had to hold her hand still to keep her fingers from caressing the deep etches of his face.
Eliza couldn’t move as she stared up at him, aching and eager.
Now, for a Christmas story about a real GOOD man, my latest release, Right to Bragg, is a short, sweet holiday read.