Mail-order brides who came west to marry suitors whom they had only corresponded with on paper are a popular subject among Western-themed blogs like this one, and among readers of Western romance. Why are we so fascinated with them? Perhaps because of the mystery and drama that must have ensued when a union was formed of such different means than our own? Or perhaps because this trope naturally makes a good romance because of the many aspects of marriage that will have to be sorted out between both parties?
If you look on Amazon, you will find almost as many mail-order bride stories as billionaire stories. So even though we as readers gravitate toward the same types of stories over and over, there’s still an element of intrigue that keeps drawing us to them.
As an author, I was wondering how to take this popular (and, let’s face it, overused) trope and turn it into something fresh, something that would stay in the readers’ minds a little longer than the average mail-order bride story. I was planning to write two stories about a widow and her grown daughter, both of whom had lost their significant others in the Civil War, and were moving west to start a new life. Then I was asked to write another story for the multi-author series, The Belles of Wyoming, after contributing three previous books. The fourth book, Daring to Love Again, proved to be more difficult than the others as I built a mystery around a sawmill owner and his family. The “bad guys” in this story had been terrorizing people in the surrounding area. When the law finally caught up to them, two of them were captured and hung. The third criminal committed suicide.
Melissa Burgess and her mother, Susannah Eversoll, were married to two of these men. After becoming widowed, Susannah decided to leave her husband’s memory behind and start over. She also decided to find a new husband for Melissa—without Melissa’s knowledge. And there is the fresh spin on this traditional trope—one that readers still love after reading hundreds of others like it. A Glimmer of Hope, Book 1 in the Brides of Hope Hollow series, is Melissa’s story, and Hope Springs Eternal, Book 2, is Susannah’s. Not every story in this series will be a mail-order bride story, however. I’ve taken care to build these stories around a town that cares for its own in southern Oregon (near modern-day Grant’s Pass and Medford). Book 3, Her Only Hope, has another fun twist in that the town blacksmith needs an assistant while recovering from an injury. What he doesn’t know is that the person who comes to his aid is a woman disguised as a man! I’ve been researching blacksmithing and even interviewed a farrier and watched him shoe his horse. It was a neat experience for a greenhorn like me. I can hardly wait to share book 3 with you. Thankfully, it won’t be too much longer. It’s slated to release on August 28, 2020. If you haven’t visited the town of Hope Hollow, Oregon yet, I hope you will soon. It’s a place that I wish I could visit for real.
As mentioned earlier, Susannah’s first husband was a rapscallion, and even though she married David shortly after becoming a widow, she is still trying to come to terms with who her first husband really was and the way he died. I’ve had a similar tragedy happen in my life, and so I’ve taken every precaution to tell this story in a sensitive manner and convey a message of hope and healing.
***Today I’m offering a signed paperback of Hope Springs Eternal, Susannah and David’s story. Are you a person of faith and been tested in some way? Or has your life turned out exactly as you planned?
Here is the blurb for Hope Springs Eternal:
Carving out a new life in Oregon isn’t for the faint of heart. Neither is becoming a mail-order bride.
For 36-year-old Susannah Eversoll, starting over after her husband’s suicide, not to mention betrayal, is what she feels the need to do. So she arranges for herself and her grown daughter, Melissa, to become mail-order brides farther west in the town of Hope Hollow, Oregon. But Susannah will be starting over in more ways than she planned. Although he is kind and caring, David didn’t tell her that his children are young and exhaustingly unruly. And when pushed to her breaking point, a freak accident wipes away her memory. Who is she? Who are these people? Where does she belong?
David Stratton’s hopes for the future died along with his wife two years ago. Now he’s doing the best he can to raise his rambunctious and sometimes quarrelsome children, but he needs help. More than that, though, he’s lonely. Now that he’s found Susannah, he isn’t about to let her go. When Susannah loses her memory in a skating accident, a traveling medicine man decides that he can help her. But is his interest in Susannah’s well-being genuine or does something sinister lie beneath? Can David unravel the mystery that shrouds his wife? Will Susannah regain her memory in time to save their marriage? Or will the love that began to blossom between them shrivel up and die in the wintry storms ahead?
Book 2 in the popular new series, Brides of Hope Hollow, is a story of hope and redemption, and a renewal of faith.
Julia Ridgmont grew up in the American West, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she knows how to ride a horse. What it does mean, however, is that she loves to weave the country’s rich history into riveting tales full of romance and intrigue.
When she’s not writing, Julia enjoys cooking, sewing costumes for her children, spending time with her husband, and watching her children perform in sports or plays—or, if she’s really bored or stuck on a plot twist, cleaning the house.
Follow Julia as she unveils heroes whose strength and courage are only surpassed by their tenderness, and heroines who hide their lonely hearts with a cover of steel. It will take overcoming insurmountable odds and an iron will for them to find a love that lasts forever. Luckily, they have Julia to help them along.
Not sure if you want to use these social media links, but here they are in case:
He may be a Texas Ranger, but he only has eyes for the outlaw’s beautiful daughter…
I’m happy to announce that my new book has just been released! This is book three in my Haywire Brides series, but each book stands alone.
I’m giving away a book today to one of you. So be sure to leave a comment!
Texas Ranger Matt Taggert is on the trail of a wanted man. He has good reason to believe that Ellie-May’s late husband was involved in a stagecoach robbery, and he’s here to see justice done. But when he arrives in town, he discovers the thief has become a local hero…and his beautiful young widow isn’t too happy to see some lawman out to tarnish her family’s newly spotless reputation.
Ellie-May’s shaken by her encounter with the Ranger. Having grown up an outlaw’s daughter, she’ll do anything to keep her children safe—and if that means hardening her heart against the handsome lawman’s smiles, then so be it. Because she knows Matt isn’t about to give up his search. He’s out to redeem himself and find proof that Ellie-May’s husband wasn’t the saint everyone claims…even if it means losing the love neither expected to discover along the way.
Ellie-May has lived all her life in the shadow of her outlaw father. Do you think a parent’s reputation has the same impact today as it did in the 1800s?
Have you ever had a nemesis? Someone who challenged you, brought out your best and worst in the heat of battle? That’s what Cassie Callahan is dealing with in my latest sweet romance, MONTANA HOMECOMING, which is being released in July. Here’s a quick sneak peek:
NEVER GIVE THE opening bid.
Cassie Callahan gripped her auction paddle, determined to keep it on her lap until the proper moment. She was, after all, the queen of self-control. The embodiment of coolness under fire. As an assistant school district superintendent, she dealt with unpredictable school boards, principals, teachers and students by calmly addressing facts, laying out pros and cons, refusing to budge unless a decent compromise presented itself. And then she became a master negotiator. She loved it—or at least she used to love it. Lately she’d had the nagging feeling that she was putting more into her job than she was getting out of it.
Burnout, pure and simple, so it made sense that if she had something to occupy her time when she wasn’t on the job, she’d once again feel the thrill of battle as she headed out to work each morning. Thus, the auction paddle.
“Sold!” the auctioneer bawled as a nice palomino gelding was led out of the auction ring, and Cassie shifted in her seat. Showtime.
The palomino had sold for a lower price than Cassie had expected, as had the two horses before. Maybe she’d be able to buy McHenry’s Gold for a reasonable price; maybe the people attending the semiannual Gavin, Montana, horse auction didn’t understand the bloodlines the mare represented. Or perhaps they didn’t care.
Unlikely. McHenry horses were legendary, but that wasn’t why Cassie was bidding. This particular McHenry mare was a daughter of the mare that had seen her through her turbulent teen years. The last daughter. The mother, McHenry’s Rebel, had died the previous year.
“The next mare up is something of a gem, folks.”
No. Don’t make her look good. Just start the bidding.
Cassie clenched her teeth together, then instantly relaxed her jaw. No more of that. She’d promised her dentist.
The auctioneer continued singing the praises of McHenry’s Gold and Cassie had to fight to not stand up and tell him to just shut up and get on with the bidding.
Of course, she didn’t, because that was what old Cassie would have done, back before she’d had a couple thousand classes in management and psychology. Back before she realized that direct confrontation didn’t always work.
“We’ll open the bidding at ten thousand. Do I hear ten? Ten? Ten?”
Ten? The last horse had opened at three.
The ring steward led the mare in a circle. She had excellent conformation but wasn’t flashy otherwise. A bay with a broad white blaze and one white hind foot—a carbon copy of her mother, and Cassie wanted her. She practically had to sit on her paddle.
The auctioneer continued his patter. The guy in front of Cassie leaned forward as if to get a better view of the mare. His paddle hand twitched when the auctioneer lowered the opening bid to five thousand dollars and suddenly Cassie’s paddle was in the air.
The spotter pointed at her. “I have five,” the auctioneer announced. “Do I hear six? Six?”
No six. No six.
“Five and a half? Five and a—I have five and a half.”
Cassie leaned forward as she searched the crowd on the opposite side of the sale ring to see who had the temerity to bid against her. She couldn’t see who’d bid in the sea of cowboy hats. Well, she’d spot him next time if he dared do it again. She raised her paddle for a bid of six thousand, then narrowed her eyes as she spotted the man who bid six and a half.
Her dentist would have hated what she did to her teeth when Travis McGuire met her gaze across the distance that separated them, looking very much the smug know-it-all she knew him to be.
She was in trouble, because when Travis wore that expression, it meant game on. She searched her memory, trying to remember who had won their last confrontation years ago.
Maybe it had been a draw.
This one would not be a draw. Or a loss.
No one appeared interested in bidding higher than six thousand five hundred. The auctioneer worked the crowd, then began intoning, “Seven? Seven? Six and three-quarters… No? Going…going…”
Cassie thrust her paddle in the air just after the second going. She didn’t look at Travis, because she told herself she was beyond their old rivalry. She’d thought he would be, too. They were never going to be friends, but after so many years, surely they could be civil?
“I have a bid of six and three-quarters,” the auctioneer announced.
Cassie could go to seven. That was her limit. But when Travis raised his paddle at seven thousand, she knew that she was going over budget. She wanted that horse.
“Seven and a half? Anyone? Sev—”
Up went her paddle.
“Eight?” He pointed at Travis, who sat motionless, giving Cassie a flicker of hope. “Seven and three quarters?”
Travis nodded and Cassie’s stomach fell.
The auctioneer pointed at Cassie. “Eight?”
She hesitated, then lifted the paddle. After that things became a blur as Travis continued to meet every bid and her blood pressure continued to rise. The seesaw continued until the auctioneer reached ten thousand five hundred. He pointed at Travis, who grimly shook his head. Cassie’s chest swelled. Unless someone had been waiting in the wings for just this moment…
“Sold to number 325.”
Only then, when the heat of battle began to ebb, did she fully process what she’d just done. Ten thousand five hundred dollars. Three thousand five hundred more than she’d allotted. She never got carried away like that. Her gaze strayed across the auction ring to where Travis sat with his forearms resting on his thighs, staring at the ground between his boots. She hadn’t seen the man in over five years, and he still had the power to bring out the worst in her.
And there you have it, the beginning of a new challenge for both Travis and Cassie as she temporarily returns to her home ranch before beginning a sabbatical. I wonder what’s going to happen with Travis and Cass?
Don’t you just love Western historical romance? We love the heroes and heroines and how they dressed. We also love reading tidbits about how they lived, their customs of the day, social events, and the simplicity of the time. But there’s one thing most historical authors only touch upon in their novels. Probably because if they went into great detail, it would take up far more words than they want and slow down their story. I’m talking about laundry.
Back in the day doing the laundry wasn’t a matter of tossing your clothes into a washing machine, putting in some detergent, closing the lid, and pushing a button. It was a much more arduous task, one that could take 2 to 3 days depending on the size of one’s family.
We’ve come a long way since the twin tub and the drum washing machine. But before them, of course, was the simple washtub. Before hot and cold running water you had to haul water from a nearby well, creek, or river. To get the job done in a timely manner, you had to enlist the help of everyone in the family to fetch and carry bucket after bucket, because you needed water for both washing and rinsing. Then you had to heat the wash water in an iron kettle or a large metal washtub. This took time and somebody had to tend the fire. While that was going on someone else sorted the clothes into whites, colors, and that special pile of the extremely dirty. You washed the clothes in that order. White’s first of course. Who wants to wash their whites in disgusting dirty laundry water?
Once put into the hot water, someone had to stir the clothes with a long stick then remove and scrub them on a
washboard with homemade soap. This could take up quite a bit of time in and of itself. For those unlucky enough not to have a washboard, a good-sized rock was the answer.
Washboards were placed vertically in the washtub after the clothes were removed from the tub and set aside. Then one at a time, each piece of clothing was rubbed briskly on the metal ridges and plunged back into the water regularly. When the water became too dirty they had to heat another batch. Then they rinsed their clothes in cold water to remove the soap, rung the clothes out by hand or used a ringer if they had one. If not, they slapped each piece of clothing against a trusty rock. Then they hung them up to dry. For large families, is it any wonder this took so long? Aren’t you glad for your Maytag?
Though many of us enjoy our washers and dryers, there are also a lot of folks who like to line dry their clothes and bedding. I’m one of them. I love to dry clothes on the line in the summer and get that fresh air scent. What other conveniences are you happy we have now? Has anyone ever cooked on a cookstove? Have you ever used a tub washer? Did you grow up with one?
I’ll pick a random person from the comments below to receive a copy of my upcoming e-book, dear Mr. Tindle, which will be out on May 31.