Ah, those wonderful love letters! Don’t we love reading them? I must admit I have an affinity for love letters because of the insights they give us into the past, and the people who lived then.
With Valentine’s Day just passed, and my 42nd wedding anniversary just celebrated on the 10th, love letters are something I’ve been thinking about a lot. Probably because of the time of year, but also because, as authors, we have to use letters and notes in our writing to “get the message” across that perhaps our characters might not be able to speak aloud.
My hubby is, like many men, not sentimental. He wouldn’t care if I never got him another Valentine’s Day or anniversary card, but they mean a lot to me—so we exchange them every year. (I do have to add that there might be hope, because he sent me a dozen red roses and a box of candy–along with a very sentimental note–for our anniversary!) I suspect that, through the years past right down to the present, most men didn’t and don’t make flowery love speeches from their hearts, or even write their innermost thoughts and feelings in cards and letters.
One of the most poignant love letters I know of is the famous letter written by Union Army Major Sullivan Ballou, just before the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861 where he died at the age of 32. Married only 6 years, he left behind two small sons and his wife, Sarah. The letter he wrote to Sarah days before he was killed is one that speaks poignantly of his guilt at having to choose between his duty to country and duty to family. Ken Burns used a shortened version of the letter in his series, The Civil War—and its contents are unforgettable, and so powerful it brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.
In part, it reads:
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
I had to come up with a love letter, of sorts, for my 2017 novel, Sabrina, part of the 4-book set entitled MAIL-ORDER BRIDES FOR SALE: THE REMINGTON SISTERS. Oh, nothing to beautiful as this letter penned by a soldier marching to his inevitable death, but a letter that had to convince Sabrina to leave her wealthy lifestyle in Philadelphia and come West to Indian Territory!
Sabrina and her three older sisters (Lola, written by Celia Yeary; Belle, written by Jacquie Rogers; Lizzy, written by Livia J. Washburn; and Sabrina, my character) have to have mail-order arrangements in order to get out of the fix they’re in with a step-father who plans to sell them to the highest bidder—and they don’t have much time to do it. When Sabrina receives two proposals on the same day, she counts her lucky stars that she’s able to compare the two letters and has a choice between the two men who have written her—something many women of the day did not have.
She’s safely with the man she’s chosen now, Cameron Fraser, but she’s remembering the day she received the letters and why she made the decision she did. Take a look:
She’d answered ads from both Cameron Fraser and David Mason. Ironically, she’d received offers from both men on the same day. That had been a blessing, as she was able to compare their responses immediately.
Mr. Mason had written one page, in sprawling wide script.
“I have need of a wife to help me raise my four children I was left with after my sainted Amelia passed on last year. Your help will be appreciated. And I will do right by you. I hope you are a willing worker and a good cook. Can you make good cornbread? That is a must in our home…”
She’d opened Mr. Mason’s letter first, and tucked it back into the envelope quickly. She’d hoped she’d managed to keep the revulsion from her face when her oldest sister, Lola, had come hurrying through the door. Lola was five years older, and Sabrina could never manage to keep a secret from her, no matter how she tried.
“Well?” Lola had asked, pinning Sabrina with “the look” that Sabrina dreaded.
“I haven’t read them,” Sabrina said defiantly.
“Bree. You know we have to get out of here—the sooner the better. We don’t have much time.”
Here’s the difference, and why she chose Cam. He wanted her for more than making cornbread!
Lola had turned and left the room, closing the door behind her. That’s how Sabrina knew her oldest sister was angry—or hurt. Maybe both.
She’d sighed, and begun to open the letter from Mr. Cameron Fraser. And before she’d read the entire first page of his two-page missive, she knew her decision was made.
Dear Miss Remington,
Thank you for your very kind response to the ad I placed for a bride. I felt out of place to do such a thing, but your answer made me glad I did so, after all.
I know that Indian Territory may seem uncivilized and wild to a well-bred lady such as yourself, who has grown up in the cultured, genteel society of the East, but I assure you, I will do everything in my power to welcome you. In no time at all, I hope you’ll come to think of the Territory as your home.
My family owns a fairly large cattle ranch in Indian Territory. I wanted to assure you that, although the ranch itself is somewhat isolated, we are close enough to Briartown to travel there frequently for supplies.
You will be safe here, Miss Remington, and cherished. You will be well-treated, and I promise you here and now, I will never raise a hand to you.
If it is your will, and I hope it will be, I am willing to be a good and loving father to any children we may have—and a good and loving husband to you.
The sky here is the bluest you’ve ever seen. The water is the freshest and coldest. And I hope you will come to love the open range as much as we Frasers do.
I await your arrival in Ft. Smith. I will meet you there, where we’ll be legally married in a civil ceremony before we travel together to the ranch. Enclosed, you will find a financial draft for your passage and travel expenses.
Cameron James Fraser
Something about the underlying feeling of the words Cam had written spoke to Sabrina. That he’d taken time to describe—even briefly—how he felt about his ranch made her know that he cared about her feelings—not just about what skills she might bring to the marriage table.
I see it, too, don’t you? He loves the land and his life, and wants her to share it with him. I wonder if women who were forced to take this route looked for these types of things—I know I would. And Sabrina is a bit of an adventurer, so going to Indian Territory would not hold her back. Adventure awaited!
Have you ever received a love letter that meant the world to you? I’ve had a few in my lifetime, and they’re tucked away in my desk and my heart! If you would like to share, we’d love to hear about your love letters—it’s that time of the year—love is in the air!
Here’s the blurb for MAIL ORDER BRIDES FOR SALE: THE REMINGTON SISTERS–buy link below!
Boxed set of four full-length mail order bride novels.
Brought up in the wealth and comfort of Eastern “old money” in staid and proper Philadelphia, the Remington sisters are forced to scatter to the four winds and become mail-order brides. In order to gain a fortune, their sinister step-father, Josiah Bloodworth, has made plans to marry them off in loveless marriages. Time is running out, and no matter what lies ahead in their uncertain futures, it has to be better than the evil they’re running from…
LIZZY: Livia J. Washburn
Elizabeth Remington’s world is turned upside down when she is forced to become a mail-order bride. With her cat, Fulton, Lizzy flees to Alaska—only to discover the man she’s to marry is not who she thought he was! Now, she must protect herself from the biggest danger of all—her own heart. Handsome Flint McKinnon has signed his soul away to her step-father, hasn’t he? He’s chased Lizzy across the continent, but can she believe him when he says he loves her?
BELLE: Jacquie Rogers
Belle Remington must marry someone before the dangerous Neville Fenster catches up with her. She hightails it out of Philadelphia to the wilds of Idaho Territory to become a bootmaker’s bride, but when she arrives in Oreana, she discovers her groom has been murdered! Now, handsome, inebriated rancher Cord Callahan insists on fulfilling the marriage contract himself. Belle is beautiful and smart as a whip. But she has a secret. When Fenster shows up, can Cord protect the woman he wants to love forever?
SABRINA: Cheryl Pierson
Impulsive Sabrina Remington, the youngest, weds a man she knows her family would disapprove of. Though Cameron Fraser’s family owns a ranch in lawless Indian Territory, he’s made his way in the world with a gun, living barely on the right side of the law. With everything on the line as Bloodworth and his henchmen close in, will Cam be able to protect Sabrina from the desperate man who means to kidnap her for his own wicked purposes?
LOLA: Celia Yeary
Sensible Lola Remington, the eldest of the four sisters, must be certain the others are on their way to safety before she can think of fleeing Philadelphia herself. With the help of a local bridal agency, Lola finds the perfect husband for herself—in the wild countryside of Texas. Jack Rains owns a ranch and he’s in need of a bride—and children, of course! But just when Lola starts to believe there might be a future for them, she discovers a hidden letter from another woman…Jack’s first wife.
Mail Order Brides for Sale: The Remington Sisters is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon. At only .99 for the Kindle edition, this is a STEAL! Here’s the link!
PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS WEBSITE: http://www.prairierosepublications.com