The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same

My favorite time period to write about is between 1880 and 1890. In many ways, the cowboys of yesteryear struggled with some of the same issues we currently face and that’s what makes the time period so fascinating to me.

They aren’t paying attention to each other. They’re too intent on the wireless.

For example, technology in the way of telephones and electricity changed the way people lived in the 19th century, just as new technology does today.  The Victorians even had their own Internet.  It was called the telegraph, and this opened-up a whole new world to them.

What, for that matter, is a text message but a telegram, the high cost of which forced people in the past to be brief and to the point?

In the past, our ancestors worried about losing their jobs to machinery.  Today, there’s a real possibility that robots will make us obsolete.

Sears and Roebuck was the Amazon of the Gilded Age. The catalogue featured a wide selection of products at clearly marked prices. No more haggling.  Customers were drawn to the easy-to-read, warm, friendly language used to describe goods, and the catalogue proved an instant success. Our ancestors could even order a house through the catalog and that’s something we can’t do on Amazon.

The Victorians worried about books like we worry about iPhones. We worry about screen time damaging the eyes.  Victorians were certain that the mass rise of books due to printing presses would make everyone blind. 

Then as now, women fought for equal rights.  Our early sisters fought for property ownership, employment opportunities and the right to vote. Women have come a long way since those early days, but challenges still exist, especially in matters of economics and power.

Nothing has changed much in the area of courting

Almost every single I know subscribes to at least one dating site.  These are very similar to the Mail-Order Bride catalogs of yesteryear.

Did our Victorian ancestors worry about climate change?  You bet they did! The Florida Agriculturist published an article addressing the problem in 1890. The article stated: “Most all the states of the union in succession of their settlement have experienced a falling off in their average temperatures of several degrees.  A change from an evenly tempered climate has resulted in long droughts, sudden floods, heavy frost and suffocating heat.”

Nothing much has changed in the world of politics. Today, the Republicans and Democrats are still battling it out, just as they did in the nineteenth century. We still haven’t elected a female president, though Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood tried to change that when she ran in 1884 and again, in 1888.

What about environmental concerns? Today we’re concerned that plastic bags and straws are harming our oceans.  Our Victorian ancestors worried about tomato cans. That’s because a German scientist told the New York Times in 1881 that the careless deposit of tin cans was “bringing the earth closer to the sun and hastening the day of the final and fatal collision.”

During the 1800s, horses were taken to task for messing up the streets.  (Oddly, enough, it was once thought that automobiles were good for the environment.)  Today, cattle are under fire for the methane in their you-know-whats. Oh, boy, I can only imagine how that would have gone over with those old-time ranch owners.

We have Coronavirus, but that’s nothing compared to what our ancestors battled.  The 1894 Hong Kong plague was a major outbreak and became the third pandemic in the world. The rapid outbreak and spread of the plague was caused by infected fleas. Repressive government actions to control the plague led the Pune nationalists to criticize the Chinese publicly. Sound familiar?  The plague killed more than 10 million people in India, alone. 

As the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Reading how people in the past survived and, yes, even prospered during tough times inspires me and gives me hope for the future.  I hope it does the same to my readers.

This list is nowhere near complete, but what did you find the most surprising?

Attorney Ben Heywood didn’t expect to get shot on his wedding day–and certainly not by his mail order bride.—Pistol-Packin’ Bride/Mail Order Standoff collection.

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The Mail Order Bride Standoff

 

I have a new book out, just in time for Valentine’s.  The anthology is titled Mail Order Standoff.  If you like mail-order bride stories, then this one is for you. The stories all have a fun twist when the brides get cold feet.  Here’s a short preview of my story:

Pistol-Packin’ Bride

Attorney Wade Bronson didn’t expect to get shot on his wedding day–

and certainly not by his mail order bride…

Elizabeth Colton stares anxiously out the window of the stagecoach.  Fresh from Boston, never could she imagine a more desolate place. Every scary story ever heard about attacking Indians and highwaymen comes back to haunt her.

 Before they reach town, her worst fear is realized. A horseman flags them down and yanks open the door to the coach.  Certain he is about to rob her—or worse—she pulls out her derringer.  Much to her shock, the gun goes off and the man falls to the ground.

Attorney Wade Bronson is lucky to be alive.  Fortunately, the bullet missed his heart—barely. All he did was stop the stage to tell his mail-order bride he’d been called out of town on urgent business and had to postpone their wedding. God forgive him for not feeling especially charitable toward the blue-eyed beauty who shot him, but now he’s bed-ridden with a shoulder-wound and his gun-toting bride-to-be is in jail.

It seems everyone in the small town has an opinion on the brash young woman who traveled west to become his wife—and none of it good.  Orphaned at a young age, Wade was raised by the town and is Prickly Pine’s favorite son—literally—and the local girls know better than to get involved with him. Things looked bad until his three worried “mothers” took it upon themselves to place an ad in Matrimonial News for a “nice Christian girl from the east.” Now they refuse to believe the pistol packin’ bride is the right woman for him. At first, even Wade has trouble visualizing the two of them wed.

But in matters of the heart sometimes a wrong really does make a right.  Now he doesn’t know which task will be hardest; convincing his reluctant fiancée that marriage to a man with three sets of well-meaning “parents” won’t be so bad (maybe).  Or proving to the town that Elizabeth really is the girl of his dreams. 

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Courting Candles

Courting in your ancestors’ days was entirely different from now. Suitors first called on the girl’s father and got his permission and a time was set. There was no pulling up in front of the house and honking the horn. Nope. There were rules to be obeyed.

At the appointed time of the young man’s arrival, the father would get out a courting candle—a metal contraption that consisted of a heavy coil. He’d set a taper in it and adjust it by turning the candle to whatever height he saw fit. It was purely at his discretion. He’d then place it either in the parlor or on the porch.

If he liked the suitor, he might set the candle high so it would burn for a while.

If he didn’t approve of the boy, he’d set the candle low.

But whether high or low, when the candle burned down to the top of the coil, time was up and the father would show the young man to the door. If the suitor argued about it, the dad might show him the toe of his boot! I’m sure many a one left that way.

On rare occasions when the suitor met with joyous approval, the father might let a second candle burn after the first was all the way down.

These courting candles were used by rich and poor families alike and set boundaries that must be adhered to. They provided a quiet yet firm reminder that the girl’s father was boss and his word was final.

I sort of like this old tradition where no words needed to be said. The candle spoke loud and clear.

The most recent courting scene that I wrote was in Catch a Texas Star when Roan Penny courted Marley Rose McClain. Duel didn’t much want them to see each other because Roan was a drifter. Roan didn’t like it a lot when Duel told him he’d have to prove he’d stick around. Which he did.

Longing for a Cowboy Christmas is out and I’m so happy. My story, The Christmas Wedding, is about Rebel and Travis from the outlaw town of Hope’s Crossing. To take her mind off the fact that Travis has been captured by a bounty hunter and she hasn’t seen him in months, she and the other women decide to celebrate the Advent and make the entire town the calendar.

Do you have a courting story to share or maybe one in a scene from a book? I’ll give away a copy of Longing for a Cowboy Christmas and will draw the winner on Saturday.

 

Cowboy Charm School & Giveaway!

When buying a horse don’t consult a pedestrian;

When courting a woman don’t ask advice of a bachelor.

                                               -Cowboy Charm School

I’m excited that my next book Cowboy Charm School will be published September 4th (but can be ordered now.) I played with the idea for four or five years before I actually got around to writing the book.  Book ideas generally come to me in scenes.  I’ll suddenly visualize someone atop a runaway stagecoach or scrambling over a roof and then have to figure out who, what, and why.

The scene that popped into my head for Cowboy Charm School was a wedding scene with a handsome stranger running down the church aisle yelling, “Stop the Wedding!” 

It took me awhile to figure out that the man was Texas Ranger Brett Tucker,  who thinks he’s saving the bride, Kate Denver, from marrying an outlaw. He’s mistaken, of course, but the groom jealously jumps to all the wrong conclusions and the couple breaks-up. 

Brett feels terrible for what’s he’s done and is determined to set things right. Since the hapless groom hasn’t a clue as to how to win Kate back, it’s up to Brett to give him a few pointers–and that’s when the real trouble begins. 

For a chance to win a copy of the book, tell us the best or worse advice anyone ever gave you.  (Contest guidelines apply.)

“This tale charms.” -Publishers Weekly

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Finding the Perfect Match

 

EHarmony… FarmersOnly … Zoosk… Match…  Today, there seems to be a niche for every type of person out there to find their perfect match through the internet.

In this modern day of internet meet-ups, I have several friends and acquaintances who have met online and then gone on to marry and live their happily-ever after. Often these online dating sights have the new participant answer a list of questions to pinpoint their own character and what type of person would make a suitable match.

It is this idea of an interview that I used for The Prairie Doctor’s Bride.

In the Oak Grove Series, the Betterment Committee has been established to bring women to the town in order to “grow” the town. Doc Graham missed out on the first trainload of five women that arrived in 1879. Now the second arrival of women has him all set to make a match. He needs a wife — or — actually a nurse to help in his office.

Doc Graham, although smart in other matters, is quite clueless when it comes to matters of the heart. He has made a list of desirable qualities that he expects in a woman and is in the process of interviewing each new arrival, blind to the fact that he has already met his perfect match in a young woman who lives across the river.

A few months ago, I shared an excerpt of his date with Katie O’Rourke. Below is an excerpt of another woman — Penelope Pratt. (I had a lot of fun with these interviews!)

* * * * * * * * *

Miss Pratt didn’t say a word as they walked past a dog and a few children playing in the school yard. The silence between them grew awkward. He hadn’t expected this. Weren’t most women prone to talking?

“Please. I urge you to speak freely. The one month that the Betterment Committee allows you to decide on a husband and a man to decide on a bride makes it crucial that we find out if we are compatible. That cannot happen unless we talk.”

She came to a swift stop and pressed her lips together in a thin line. “That is a blunt way to put this highly uncomfortable situation.”

He hadn’t thought so. He’d simply been honest. “I tend to be direct.”

He took the moment to assess her appearance. Green eyes, just like his, his height, and a long, slightly curved nose. Egads! She could be his sister!

“Now what?” she asked, stiffening. “You look as though you swallowed your tobacco.”

“I don’t chew.”

“I’m glad to hear that. I find the habit disgusting. Then what did that look mean?”

“I was noticing our…similarities.”

“Oh, that.” She raised her chin. “I noticed them immediately.”

“Then should this move into a state of matrimony and should we have children—”

Her eyes widened.

“—their looks would be a foregone conclusion.” It was an interesting possibility.

She frowned. “Perhaps as you suggest, it is best to be frank and let you know my thoughts on the matter of propagating. Your education may even allow you to comprehend what I am about to say better than the other men I have encountered here.”

He wasn’t sure what to make of that.

“I want to marry. Truly I do. I have no close family. I want a companion with whom to share my life.” She took a deep breath and blew it out as if to steady herself. “However, I am not interested in the part of a marriage that happens behind the bedroom door.”

If he had been walking, he would have stumbled.

“You are shocked.”

“No…no…” Yes, yes he was!

“Come now. I can see it on your face.”

He swallowed—an attempt to absorb her statement politely and give himself time to gather his thoughts. “I have never heard a woman speak so plainly about such things.”

“I will remind you that you asked me to speak freely.”

He huffed out a breath. Could it be that he’d come across a woman who not only looked like him but who spoke and acted like him? “Perhaps I shall choose my words more carefully.”

She bestowed a slight smile.

“Are you ready to continue with our stroll? We’ve only walked through half the town.”

“As long as we understand each other.”

They continued on their way.

It was disconcerting that Miss Pratt could be as blunt as he. Would such a trait be smart to have as a nurse?

“You’ve said the same thing to other bachelors?” he asked. He didn’t want the entire town to be aware of any arrangements they might have that were of a private nature.

“No. The men I have met have all been much more forward than you. Each one found a way to take my arm or assist me in some way that required touching. When they did that I immediately checked them off my list. I’ve spoken to no one else about marriage except you.”

She kept a list? Another disconcerting thought. Their similarities were growing. “That is encouraging. But—am I so unlike them?” He wasn’t sure he wanted to be all that different from the others.

She arched her thin brow. “As I said—you are most direct. The others were still mentioning the weather while your conversation has already jumped beyond that to marriage. You are a gentleman. Your Eastern breeding is apparent in the way you speak and carry yourself. I would hope that means you keep this conversation we are having just between us.”

She hadn’t answered his question. Mayor Melbourne was a gentleman too, as well as Sheriff Baniff. And he could name several others who deserved that title. All were very different from each other, but he thought of them all as gentlemen.

“While we are on the subject, are there any other expectations you have of marriage?”

She shook her head. “No. I do find it interesting that you haven’t taken me back to the hotel.

You must still be considering me as a possibility, which is a pleasant surprise in light of what I just said.”

More likely, it was because he was still in shock. He’d taken it as a bygone conclusion that if he married, he would have children. He wanted several. That was one of the benefits of wedded bliss. That, and the fact that he had vowed to be a better father than his own.

The distance from the boardwalk down to the road in front of Miller’s Cabinetry Shop was particularly high. Considering what she had just said, he refrained from taking her elbow to assist her. He did offer his arm, but she didn’t take it. He nodded toward the livery and began walking in that direction.

“I had expected children at some point,” he admitted. “I will have to give your condition some consideration. I also desire a companion in marriage, but equal to that, or perhaps more so, I desire a nurse in my work.” He glanced sideways at her. His announcement hadn’t shaken her nearly as much as hers had him.

“Go on,” she said.

“I would like someone who will work beside me and help me run my office. This would entail having fresh bandages cut up, washed and rolled at all times. Watching over the patients that are in my office if I am called away on an emergency. Helping to make up medication, salves and tonics. All this would be in addition to cooking and cleaning and the general duties that wives do for their husbands.”

She drew her brows together. “And what would you be doing while I did all this?”

He thought that was obvious. “Seeing to my patients.”

“And in your free time?”

“I’ll use my free time to keep abreast of the changes in the medical field. Reading, writing articles and taking an annual trip to Denver to meet with my colleagues.”

“During which time, I would be required to remain here and keep the office in a state of tidiness?”

“I haven’t thought that far into it, but that is the general idea. I suppose some years my wife might accompany me to see the sights of the city.”

They walked silently past the livery to the railroad station where she stopped once more.

“You have given me a lot to think about.”

“As have you.” More than you know!

“I have no doubt that I could perform the duties you have mentioned.”

“In return, you would have a roof over your head and a respected standing in the community and a lifelong companion.” But he’d never considered that there wouldn’t be touching, caressing, or even a kiss now and then. His first words to her about what their children would look like sounded foolish now. Yet, perhaps, if he was honest with himself, it made sense. He certainly didn’t know how to be a father. His had never been around much. The only hugs he’d received from his mother had been stiff and awkward. He had never seen his parents so much as hold hands. The marriage that Miss Pratt and he had just described to each other sounded a lot like his own parents’ marriage.

The entire thing sounded like a business proposition. His initial excitement at the thought of abiding harmoniously had been squashed with pragmatism.

Well, isn’t that what he had originally intended? Josephine had made it clear he was not suitable marriage material. She’d called him cold. Nose in a book. Cared more for his patients than he did for her. He had hoped to move beyond that defining moment when she’d called off the courtship. He’d hoped for more warmth in a lifelong companion.

“I’ll walk you back,” he said, disheartened. “I think we both have a lot to consider.”

* * * * * * * * * *

The Prairie Doctor’s Bride
Copyright by Harlequin Books & Kathryn Albright
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

I hope you enjoyed this look into “dating” in Oak Grove. Poor Doctor Graham. He has a lot to learn about love, but when he does open his eyes and experience it for the first time, it is a wondrous thing to behold.

What about you? If you had the opportunity, would you ever consider
meeting a possible future spouse via the internet?

Comment for a chance to win a copy of the Prairie Doctor’s Bride!
(See our Giveaway Guidelines above.)

the Prairie Doctor's Bride 2

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Winner of Charlene’s Twins Blog is:

 

Emma!  Congrats and thanks for blogging with us!  Simply send me the email address you’d like to have your Kindle or Nook ebook of Bachelor for Hire delivered to:  charlenesands@hotmail.com   or let me know if you’d prefer a print book from last year’s backlist.

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The Outlaw Kathleen Rice Adams Confesses

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Why do so many women named Kathleen become romance authors? They’re everywhere.

Filly Fun 2016Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Kathleen Kane, Kathleen O’Brien, Kathleen Baldwin, Kathleen Eagle, Kathleen Kellow, Kathleen Maxwell, Kathleen Bittner Roth, Kathleen M. Rodgers, Kathleen Ball, Kathleen Y’Barbo, Kathleen Winsor… They’re all somewhat celebrated, and some are still writing today.

Then there’s that other Kathleen—the one who finds humor in the most inappropriate places at the worst possible times. The Kathleen whose wardrobe consists primarily of egg on her face and the taste of shoe leather on her tongue. The Kathleen who encourages fictional characters to cuss and steal and murder and commit all manner of other dastardly deeds because they can get away with it and she can’t.

The troublemaking one. The one who reveres sarcasm as high art. The one who should be rich and famous by now if for no other reason than name association.

The Hideout
My current hideout. Forget you saw it.

To tell you the truth, I find it more satisfying to be poor and infamous—which is a good thing, since I’m a pro at both pursuits.

Here are a few more truths:

1)  I’m the eldest of four siblings: two girls and two boys. (Yes, four middle-aged hooligans with similar DNA remain at large. Be afraid.) Three of us are overachievers: My sister is a retired judge, the eldest of the boys is literally a rocket scientist, and the baby of the family is a computer systems engineer. And then there’s me.

2) My sister, brothers, and I played cowboys and Indians a lot when we were kids. I was always the outlaw. Why no one saw that as a warning remains a mystery.

3) I retired from the U.S. Air Force at the ripe old age of 22. No, I was not mustered out on a Section 8, although that would’ve surprised no one.

4) I still have my wisdom teeth, my appendix, and my tonsils. My mind, on the other hand, hasn’t been seen in years.

Hole in the Web Gang
The Hole in the Web Gang, clockwise from top left: Dog, age 12; Underdog, 7; Little Ol’ Biddy, 15; Mr. Ed, 4.

5) As a journalist, I’ve worked the scene of a major airline disaster, covered political scandals, written columns about poltergeist-infested commodes and human kindness, won awards…and found myself staring at the wrong end of a gun—twice. Thankfully, I’ve yet to be ventilated. (A more astute individual might have realized it’s unwise to antagonize crazy people.)

6) My author bio says I come from “a long line of ranchers, preachers, and teachers on one side and horse thieves and moonshiners on the other.” I did not make any of that up. Some of my relatives still ranch, preach, and teach. The horse thieves and moonshiners found other lines of work.

7) My paternal grandmother’s mother was American Indian. Grandma never knew what tribe; consequently, neither do I. In the late 1800s, Kentucky hillbillies considered marrying an Indian shameful, so no one talked about great-grandma’s heritage. My grandmother never met her mother’s relatives. (My dad, who as a child helped his father run moonshine, was the first in his family’s history to earn a college degree. He referred to himself as a “hillwilliam.”)

Peaches by Kathleen Rice Adams8) My short story “Peaches” was based on my maternal grandparents’ courtship. Granny, a young widow who taught in a one-room Texas schoolhouse and had her hands full with three rowdy boys, took a peach pie to a church social. The man who was to become my grandfather, a bachelor rancher in his 50s, won the accidentally over-seasoned pie at auction. He nearly choked to death on the first bite. His response? “I s’pose I ought to marry that little woman ‘fore she kills somebody.”

9) My house celebrated its 100th birthday last year. Compared to some of the other homes on Galveston Island, it’s a youg’un. The Capt. H.H. Hadley House (yes, it has a name) was completed in August 1915…two weeks before a deadly Category 4 hurricane struck. More than three dozen big blows later, it’s still standing.

The Dumont Brand by Kathleen Rice Adams10) Four Chihuahuas ranging in age from four to fifteen live in this house. Whatever they’ve told you about the intractability of their servant, don’t believe them. If they didn’t want to be deviled by a spoiled-rotten delinquent, they shouldn’t have rescued me.

There. Now you know all of my deep, dark secrets. Before you decide to pursue blackmail, read “The Ransom of Red Chief.”

To compensate for the loss of financial opportunity, I’ll give away a copy of The Dumont Brand, which contains the first two stories in a series about a Texas ranching dynasty with more skeletons in its closets than there are in a graveyard. “The Trouble with Honey,” a new story in the series, will be published this summer.

To enter the drawing, leave a comment revealing something about you. Oh, c’mon. It’ll be fun! Your life can’t be any more embarrassing than mine.  😉

 

Presidential Love Stories and a Giveaway!

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Hi everyone- Winnie Griggs here.

Within the next week we’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day, President’s Day and my birthday (that is a national holiday, isn’t it?). So in my post today I thought I’d find a way to give a nod to all three.

And what better way to do that than to talk about the love stories of two American presidents and then to hand out a birthday present by throwing in a giveaway at the end?

So here goes.

First Ladies have always played important roles for their husbands and American politics at large. They are personal confidants, philanthropists, and even trusted political advisors, and many become celebrated career women independent of their presidential husbands. One almost forgets that beyond the politics and the public image, the President and the First Lady are husband and wife: two people in love, bound by matrimony.

R&A Jackson

It doesn’t get much more heart-wrenching than the tragic love story between Andrew Jackson and his beloved wife Rachel, who technically never was a First Lady. Rachel was mid-divorce when they met and fell in love. Her first husband was cruel and manipulative, and dragged his feet on finalizing their divorce. Before it was official, she and Andrew eloped and started a life together, and Rachel’s family and community readily accepted her new husband. Her first husband, however, used this against her, and had her charged with adultery. To fight this in court, Rachel would have had to further delay the divorce. She accepted the black mark on her reputation in the name of love. The divorce was finalized, and Rachel and Andrew remarried for good.

By all accounts, they adored each other, and as Andrew’s political career progressed, she kept him humble and soothed his anxieties. They were in their sixties by the time he ran for president, and had lived many blissful years together as decent, respectable people, still as in love as they were in their youth.

The tragedy is that during Andrew’s presidential campaign, his enemies dug up the court documents on Rachel’s first marriage and the adultery charge, and she was viciously attacked by the press. Both of them- already elderly for the times and in poor health- took this very hard, and when Andrew won, there was no vindication for Rachel. The stress of the campaign had worn on her, and mere days before her beloved husband left for Washington to take office, she died of an apparent heart attack.

A&J Adams

But I won’t leave you with that sad tale. John and Abigail Adams had a famous romance for an entirely different and very literary reason: their courtship and fifty year marriage is beautifully documented in the thousand-plus detailed letters they wrote to each other. John’s political career often kept them apart for long stretches of time, and their relationship was built and strengthened and maintained through their letters.

Abigail Adams is remembered as a highly intelligent, compassionate, and influential First Lady, and her husband John considered her an intellectual equal in all areas of life. She was his wife, the manager of his home and family, and his closest political advisor. Though she didn’t have a formal education, she was a voracious reader. Growing up around the finest libraries in her home state of Massachusetts, she read and read, on all subjects, and had an impressively broad knowledge base.

On their first meeting, John was not especially impressed. However, a romance soon blossomed. In one early, flirtatious correspondence, John addresses her, “Miss Adorable.” As the relationship progressed, their letters reflected a deep love and a powerful mental connection. They even wrote, in their letters, how much they enjoyed exchanging their thoughts in writing, how much peace it brought them when they could not be together. John and Abigail’s letters paint a vivid picture of two people in love: they quarrel, they wax poetic, they discuss political issues, and they ponder their lives. After John lost the election of 1800, the letters stopped. After nearly forty years of letter correspondence, they finally settled down for good in Massachusetts, together, with no more need for letters.

Just think, these rich stories come from only two of the past presidents of this country. How many other amazing love stories are hidden behind the politics and formality?

Here’s wishing you an early Happy Valentine’s Day, and on an unlikely related note, an early happy Presidents’ Day, too!

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And now for the giveaway.

Anyone who leaves a comment today, giving your thoughts on the stories above, or sharing your own romantic love story, will be entered in a drawing where the winner gets his or her choice of any book from my backlist.  (click here to view a complete list of my books)

Happy early birthday to me 🙂

(click here to view our giveaway guidelines)

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For Ever and Ever…Tanya Hanson

Wedding-Week-sepiaDon’t forget to leave a comment today! I’m giving away one of my backlist books because…it’s about a Bride, and it’s Wedding Week here in Wildflower Junction!  PLEASE check the comments later tonight for my “winner” as I don’t want to intrude on tomorrow’s filly…

The picture below is me and my posse in July 1974 at my bridal shower. (I’m seated on the right.) This womanly gathering owes its roots to a Dutch maiden three hundred years ago whose wealthy papa pooh-poohed her marital choice of a lowly miller. He refused her a  dowry, so her friends and neighbors “showered” her with enough household goods to start life with her true love.

In the 1890’s, gifts for the bride were actually placed into a Japanese parasol which was later opened over her head. Hopefully there wasn’t a cast iron frying pan or meat cleaver knife in there.

my bridal shower

The honored roll of Bridesmaid got its start during the bride-stealing days of the Anglo-Saxons. A gaggle of lovelies usually dressed identical to the bride even to their veils to confuse marauders and act as decoys. Later, the flock of bridesmaids was believed to ward off evil spirits who might curse the happy couple.

In those good old days of bride-stealing and kidnapping, the groom of course had to surround himself with pals ready to assist in abducting his woman. Sometimes the “groomsmen” snatched brides of their own from the herd of bridesmaids. Romantic? Can’t decide if there’s a historical romance plot in there somewhere. Or if it’s just downright inappropriate behavior no matter what century you’re in…

Anyway, here are some helpful proverbs for any superstitious brides out there.

  1. If you find a spider on your wedding gown, you’ll come into money. 
  2. If you see a flock of birds, your marriage will be blessed with fertility. 
  3. If it snows on your wedding day, you’ll be wealthy.
  4. If the sun is out, you’ll be happy.
  5. If you marry as the hands of the clock move up (after the half hour), you’ll have good fortune. 
  6. If you drop the ring during the ceremony, it’s best to start the whole thing over. 
  7. If you look in the mirror before walking down the aisle, you’ll leave a part of yourself behind. 
  8. If you cry on your wedding day, especially before the kiss, you’ll prevent tears during the marriage. 

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Above is an heirloom photo of my grandparents. The one below is my niece. As for Hubs and me…we’re still going strong after 41 years even though it did not snow on our wedding day. The sun shined bright, though, so that adage works.While we’re never been wealthy, we’ve never been in want. And of course I looked in the mirror. If any part of me got left behind, I haven’t missed it!Ethereal!

So…what’s the best bridal shower gift you ever got or gave? I’ll draw one name from the commenters  for a copy of MARRYING MINDA, my tale of a mail-order-bride who heads West and marries…the wrong man. (U.S. Residents only for print; others e-copy)MarryingMinda_w2706_680

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

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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.

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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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