Grass Valley Brides

Years ago, a dear friend invited me to spend the weekend with her at her parents’ home in Sherman County, Oregon. I’d never been in that part of the state, but quickly fell in “awe” with the rolling hills of wheat and sky that stretched forever. A few years after that, I found myself driving through the area and when I entered the tiny town of Grass Valley, the idea for a book began hopping around in my head. By the time I got home, I could hardly wait to get started writing it.

 

And one book led to another, until there were six in the sweet, contemporary Grass Valley Cowboys series. The stories are all set in and around Grass Valley, focusing on the Thompson and Morgan families.

The cowboys in the stories are the kind of heroes that give you happy daydreams (and may even make you swoon). They can be tender, teasing, flirty, furious, mischievous, rascally, protective, and proud, and that’s all before breakfast!

I’ve often thought about how fun it would be to write about the first families who came to Grass Valley, at least the families connected to those in my stories. 

 

The settlement of Grass Valley began with the establishment of a few stock ranches. Settlers began to arrive in the area and were soon plowing the cattle-sustaining grass to plant wheat fields.  Dr. Charles R. Rollins, a physician from New Hampshire, is credited with establishing Grass Valley when he arrived in the area with a small party of pioneers.  Dr. Rollins had an easy time choosing a name for the location since the rye grass grew thick and tall in the alkaline soil. Rollins built a large two-story hotel, which included a clinic from which he prescribed and sold medicine.  The town of Grass Valley was officially established in 1878.

I knew train service didn’t arrive in the area until around 1900, so I started digging into more history.

If you look at the map above, you see the John Day River, the Columbia River, and the Deschutes River make up the boundaries of quite a large area. Reportedly, Dr. Rollins was the only physician “between the rivers” for a while as communities popped up around the county. 

Originally, I’d wanted to set the story in 1878, when Grass Valley was established, but getting my characters there was proving to be a challenge. So, I kicked the timeline up to 1884 when train service ran all the way across the country and made a stop in The Dalles. From there, it was simple enough to board the stagecoach that ran daily from The Dalles to Canyon City to the southeast. Just to reach Grass Valley took most of the day with stops at stations to switch out the teams for fresh horses. I could just picture a cast of characters bouncing along on that long ride, eager to reach Grass Valley.

When I was asked to participate in a new project with three other authors, I knew it was time to write the story of the first Thompson to arrive in Grass Valley. 

I’m so pleased and happy to be part of the Regional Romance Series with our own Kit Morgan, as well as Kari Trumbo and Peggy L. Henderson. What makes this series so fun and unique is that each of us is writing three connected stories that are bundled into one book. If you purchase all four books in the series, you actually get twelve (12!) brand new romances! 

My contribution to the series is Grass Valley Brides.

I can hardly wait for you to read these stories, because they were ridiculously delightful to write! Oh, boy, did I have a good time! Mostly because of Taggart Thompson.

He is a rascally, good-looking rancher who fancies himself to be quite the matchmaker. And the real matchmaker is ready to throttle him! 

What’s a matchmaker to do when the husband-to-be rejects the bride?

     Again . . .

Widowed as a young wife, Cara Cargill turned her head for business and love of romance into a successful mail-order bride enterprise. She’s never had a problem matching couples until one mule-headed man continues to refuse to wed the women she sends to meet him in Grass Valley, Oregon. In an effort to make a match he’ll keep and uphold her sterling reputation, Cara is desperate to find the perfect bride.

Daisy – When her fiancé leaves her at the altar, Daisy Bancroft knows it is far past time for a change. Her dearest friend, Cara, offers to send her to a newly established town in Oregon, where possibilities abound and the grass is rumored to be as tall as a man’s head. Daisy arrives with plans to wed Tagg Thompson, only to find the obstinate rancher has foisted her off on his best friend.

Birdie – Tired of waiting for her Mister Right to magically appear and whisk her away to a happily-ever-after, Bridget “Birdie” Byrne convinces her sister, a renowned matchmaker, to send her as the bride to Tagg Thompson. The man who greets her upon her arrival isn’t Tagg, but Birdie is certain she’s finally discovered the man she is meant to marry.  

Cara – Fed up with Tagg Thompson and his refusals of every bride she’s sent to Grass Valley for him to wed, Cara decides to meet the exasperating man in person. Her feet are barely on the ground in the rustic town before she’s nearly bowled over by a herd of stampeding cattle and swept into the brawny arms of a cowboy with the bluest eyes she’s ever seen.

Will true love find its home in the hearts of these Grass Valley Brides.

 

Dear Mrs. Cargill,

At the rate you’re finding me a wife, I may be too old to have any kids by the time I get married. Speaking of children, Sally Oliver, she was the first bride you sent, wanted me to pass on the news to you that she and her husband, Mr. Buster Martin, will be parents in March. Good thing you’ve got me to help find these women a happy home.

Are you sure you know what you’re doing? You came highly recommended as one of the top matchmakers in the country, but if you have this much trouble with everyone who engages your services, I don’t see how you stay in business.

Please let me know when you have another bride ready to send my way. I look forward to making her acquaintance, and can only pray she’ll be better suited as a ranch wife than the last four you sent.

Respectfully,

Mr. T. Thompson

Grass Valley, Oregon

 

What do you think? Will Cara find a bride to please Tagg?

 

 

 

 

A Brand New Look

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I hope that all of you, despite the need to self-quarantine, had a Happy and Blessed Easter. I missed having my big extended family around me, but with the storms pounding through the area it was probably just as well. We did have a Zoom meeting in the afternoon which was fun. Lots of conversation, wry observances and laughter. It was ALMOST like being in the same room together.

 

So, before I get to the reason for the title of today’s post, I want to discuss a bit of recent, personal history. Back last Fall, my writing life took an unexpected turn. In late September Grand Central Publishing offered me the opportunity to submit an Amish Romance series to them.  It was both exciting and scary. I’d read quite a bit in the Amish Romance genre and really enjoyed the books but I’d never tried my hand at writing one before. In fact, an editor at another house had told me once that she didn’t think that was the right genre for me, which made it all the more intimidating.

But it also strengthened my resolve and I was excited to accept the challenge. As it turns out the timing was fortuitous – I’d already made plans with a writer friend to meet up for 3 days the following week to do some planning, plotting and brainstorming. So within a week I had a fairly solid overview of the series I could send in, and though they asked for some tweaks, I did go on to sign a contract for a three book Amish Romance series featuring 3 sisters.

And though this is a departure for me, I am really enjoying what I’m doing.  Just a little over a week ago I turned in the manuscript for the first one, titled Her Amish Wedding Quilt, which features the middle sister Greta. This book will release in December of this year. I took a couple of days off to shovel out my house and take care of some other things I let slide while I was racing toward my deadline and I’m now ready to dive into the next one. This book will feature the youngest sister, Hannah, and will debut sometime in the fall of 2021.

Now, on to the title I put on this post. I’d been thinking for a while it was time to overhaul my website – my existing one hadn’t had a major revamp for a dozen years or more. So when I committed to write these Amish stories I figured it was time to stop procrastinating and get it done.

In case you’re new here, this is what my previous post header looked like, which was a cropped version of my website header. It reflected what I was writing at the time it went up – small town Americana, both historical and a sprinkling of contemporary.

 

Given that I have absolutely no intention of abandoning my historical western roots, when I talked to my website designer I asked her to design a site that would reflect both aspects of my writing. You can see a cropped version of that new look at the top of this post.  And if you’d like to see the website itself, you can find it HERE.

 

I’d love to hear what you think of the new site and especially what you like about it and what you think could be improved.  Leave a comment and you’ll get your name in the hat for an opportunity to select your choice of any book in my backlist.

And just for fun, here is a teaser in the form of a blurb for HER AMISH WEDDING QUILT

 

Spirited, forthright, impulsive — everyone told Greta Eicher she’d have to change her ways if she ever hoped to marry. Then her best friend Calvin, the man she thought she would wed, chooses another woman. Now Greta’s wondering if the others were right all along. Her dreams dashed, she pours her energy into crafting beautiful quilts at her shop and helping widower Noah Stoll care for his adorable young children.

 

Noah knows it’s time to think about finding a wife. When Greta offers to play matchmaker on his behalf, Noah eagerly accepts. After all, no one knows his children better. But none of the women she suggests seems quite right because, unexpectedly, his feelings of respect and friendship for Greta have grown into something even deeper and richer. But will he have enough faith to overcome the pain of his past and give love another chance? 

 

 

 

 

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. 

To Order:

B&N

 

Taking a Chance–A Big Chance–On Love

Wanted a Wife

I am looking for a lady to make her my wife

as I am heartily tired of bachelor life.

I’ve always loved mail-order bride stories and am delighted to be currently writing one.  My heroine has a good reason for taking a a chance on love, but what about the thousands of other women who’d left family and friends to travel west and into the arms of strangers?

Shortage of Men—and Women

The original mail-order bride business grew out of necessity.  The lack of women in the west was partly responsible, but so was the Civil War.  The war not only created thousands of widows and grieving girlfriends, but a shortage of men, especially in the south.

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.

According to an article in the Toledo Blade 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

Marriage was thought to be the only path to female respectability. Anyone not conforming to society’s expectations was often subjected to public scorn.  Also, many women needed marriage just for survival.  Single women had a hard time making it alone in the East. This was especially true of widows with young children to support.

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

Courtesy of the Smithsonian Postal Museum

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.

The mail-order business was not without deception.  Lonely people sometimes found themselves victims of dishonest marriage brokers, who took their money and ran.

Some ads were exaggerated or misleading. Men had a tendency to overstate their financial means. Women, on the other hand, were more likely to embellish their looks. The Matrimonial News in the 1870s printed warnings by Judge Arbuckle that any man deceived by false hair, cosmetic paints, artificial bosoms, bolstered hips, or padded limbs could have his marriage nulled, if he so desired.   

Despite all the things that could and sometimes did go wrong, historians say that most matches were successful.

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. He wasn’t in the mail-order bride business, but, by the turn of the century, five thousand Harvey Girls had found husbands while working in his restaurants.   

Under what circumstances might you have considered becoming a mail order bride in the Old West? 

Meet the Brides of Haywire, Texas!

Amazon

B&N

iTunes

Coming in May!

Amazon

B&N

iTunes

 

 

The Holiday Courtship Excerpt and A Giveaway

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Hello everyone.  Winnie Griggs here. I have a new book coming up next month that I’m really excited about. It’s the seventh book in my Texas Grooms series set in Turnabout Texas. This one features Janell Whitman, one of the town’s schoolteachers – she’s been in nearly every book since the first one. Her hero is Hank Chandler who owns the town’s sawmill.  There are also two very special little children who I hope you’ll fall in love with just the way I did as I was writing their story.

For today’s post I wanted to give you a taste of this story by sharing an excerpt. And I’m also planning to give away a copy of the book to one (or more?) of the folks who leave a comment today. Read on to find out how to enter.

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“I wonder if you’d mind giving me your opinion on some potential candidates,” Mr. Chandler asked.

“You want my opinion on who would make you a good wife?” Janell couldn’t believe she’d heard him correctly. Did he really see nothing incongruous about asking the woman he’d just proposed to help him pick a wife?

He frowned as if insulted. “Not a wife. A mother for the children. There’s a difference. What I need from you is an opinion on how the lady under consideration and the children would get on.”

“I see.” The man really didn’t have an ounce of romance in him.

He nodded, apparently warming to the idea. “With your insights, you can save me from wasting time talking to someone who’s obviously not the right fit.”

Janell resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “Assuming you find the right woman, may I ask how you intend to approach her?”

His eyebrow shot up at that.

“If you’re wondering if I intend to go a’courtin—” his tone had a sarcastic bite to it “—the answer is a very definite no, at least not in the usual way. Like I said, I will make it clear right up front what my intentions are. I don’t want to deceive anyone into thinking this will be more than a marriage of convenience.”

“Your intentions are admirable, I suppose, but I would advise you not to just baldly lay out your intentions, and propose.”

“Well, I—”

She didn’t let him finish. “I understand why you wouldn’t want to go through a conventional courtship or mislead the lady as to your feelings. But don’t you think you and your prospective bride should get to know each other before you propose? I mean, you must take the time to decide if she’s the right one to share your home, and the right one to share the responsibility for the children.”

He drew himself up. “I consider myself a good judge of character. It won’t take me long to figure out if she’s a good candidate or not.”

She held his gaze, hoping to make her disapproval obvious.

Apparently, it worked. “I assume you’d handle it differently.”

“I would.”

“Care to elaborate?”

Was she really about to give him pointers on how to find a wife? Janell swallowed a sigh—It seemed she was. “I’d recruit a third party to act as a go-between.” She leaned forward, trying to emphasize her point. “It should be someone you can count on to have your and the children’s best interest in mind, someone whose judgment you trust.”

“And what would this go-between do, exactly?”

“Go to the candidate on your behalf, of course. He or she would let the lady in question know the situation in general terms without extending any offers or promises, and ascertain said lady’s interest in such a match.”

“So you agree that a businesslike approach is best, just that I should go about it from a distance.”

“It could save a great deal of awkwardness and misunderstanding if you did so.”

“Assuming I go along with this plan of yours to use a go-between, and they acted on my behalf, then what?”

“Well, if the lady appears interested, he could ask a few discreet questions that would allow him to form an opinion of how good a fit she would be for you and the children. Then he would report back to you, and the two of you could discuss whether to pursue her or move on to another candidate.”

“In other words, you think I need a matchmaker.”

“You could look at it that way, I suppose. But you do want to approach this in a very businesslike manner, don’t you?”

He nodded. “I have to admit, it sounds like a good approach.”

Happy that he’d seen the wisdom of her advice, she moved to the next logical step. “Is there someone you could trust to take on this job of go-between?”

He rubbed his jaw, deep in thought. Finally he looked up. “How about you?”

“Me?” She raised a hand to her chest, surprised. “Surely you have some close friend—”

“You’re already intimately acquainted with our situation. I have complete confidence that you’d be looking out for the children’s best interests. And this was your idea in the first place so I don’t have to do a lot of explaining . In other words, you’re the perfect candidate.”

“Still, I would think you’d want someone you know better—”

“It also occurred to me that this is a role that would benefit from a woman’s touch.”

He had a point there.  Why not? “Well then, if you’re sure you trust my judgment, I would be glad to assist you in finding a wife.”

As soon as the words left her mouth, Janell wondered what she’d just gotten herself into. Was she really going to take on the role of matchmaker for Hank?

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He Wanted A Wife by Christmas… 

As Christmas approaches, Hank Chandler is determined to find a wife to mother his sister’s orphaned children. When schoolteacher Janell Whitman offers to help him with his niece and nephew, she seems to be the perfect match—but she won’t accept his proposal. Instead, she insists she’ll find him another bride before the holidays. 

Janell moved to Turnabout, Texas, to put her past behind her and focus on her future—one that doesn’t include marriage. But while she plays matchmaker and cares for Hank’s children, she loses her heart to the two youngsters…and their adoptive father. If Janell reveals her secrets to Hank, will he still want her to be his Christmas bride?

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Leave a comment about what it is you like (or don’t like) about Christmas books and I’ll throw your name in the hat for the giveaway!

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