E.E. Burke's BEST OF THE WEST: Meet the American Mail-Order Brides from Tennessee and Illinois

Last week, I introduced you to the American Mail-Order Brides, an unprecedented 50-book romance series written by 45 different authors. The series features mail-order bride stories from each state or territory in the U.S., circa 1890-1891, and is tied together by a prequel, FREE from Amazon.

The fun begins Nov. 19, with books being released every day for fifty days, in the order the states were ratified into the Union (although there's not a particular order for reading). Over the next several weeks, I'll be featuring different books from this series and authors who've been involved (including yours truly), as well as running giveaways.

With no further ado, let's meet Lucie, Bride of Tennessee by Heidi Vanlandingham, released Dec. 4 and available now for preorder.

Preorder from Amazon
Overwhelmed with responsibilities…
Struggling for a decent life after the death of her parents, Lucie Croft takes a drastic step in order to provide for her twelve-year-old brother. Accepting a mail order bride contract, Lucie and Alex catch a train to Chattanooga, Tennessee. She arrives only to discover her intended groom has died. Left with little choice, Lucie does whatever is necessary to survive.
Overwhelmed with fatherhood…
Sebastian McCord owns a profitable hotel but has no idea how to be a father to his little girl. When his mother appears with the bedraggled Crofts in tow, his interest is piqued far more than it should be. Finally convinced he needs help raising his daughter, Sebastian agrees to marry Lucie.
Two people overwhelmed by life…
Will they find love and create a family where there was none, or will life conspire to keep them apart? 

Here's an excerpt:

They rounded the corner of another building and crossed the street. The McCord Hotel was impressive. The outside was covered in a dark wood, reminding Lucie of an old drawing room turned inside out. It, too, had bright yellow light pouring through two large windows onto the wooden sidewalk. As they walked through the front door, she glanced down, noticing two strange half-windows on either side that disappeared below the walkway.
Stepping inside, she was even more surprised. The same dark wood covered everything from the walls to the square tables filling the room, as well as the huge bar at the far end. The heady scent of cooked meat and fresh bread filled her nostrils. Her stomach promptly let out a loud growl.
“This is…beautiful.” Lucie said, her voice disappearing in the room’s noise. Most all of the tables were surrounded with people eating, and all but three of the barstools were also occupied. In the distance, she heard the tinny notes of a piano playing.
“Thank you,” Mr. McCord said. “I think so too.”
Running almost the entire width of the room, the wooden counter ended near the wide-mouthed opening of a large staircase. A thin male stood behind the counter, staring at them with a tight-lipped smile as they made their way across the room to one of the tables.
Lucie’s gaze moved from the sheriff’s to Mr. McCord’s then back with a slight frown. “Sheriff, you said you needed to discuss something with me about my intended?” She tried to control the shivers taking control of her body.
He gave her a short nod. “All right, ma’am. I came to tell you Mr. Crenshaw was found dead this morning. I would’ve been by the station sooner, but my deputy didn’t come across your letter until about an hour ago.”
She stared, unable to move. Her lungs refused to take in air as despair filled her heart. “What are we going to do now?” she whispered, grabbing for her brother’s hand. The room darkened; the men’s faces in front of her blurred. The small shivers turned to more pronounced shakes. She let out a small cry as she fell to the floor.

Meet Heidi 
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Heidi Vanlandingham writes young adult & adult paranormal as well as historical fiction. She lives in Oklahoma--a lone female in a house of males. Because her muse has a touch of OCD, when she’s not writing, devouring a book, or playing baseball mom, Heidi loves going to antique & vintage stores, taking long walks, and even longer road trips.


E.E.: What interesting fact about your state or bride would you like to share with our readers?
Heidi: Chattanooga, Tennessee suffered three major floods: 1867, 1875, and 1886. In 1867, the Tennessee River crested at 50’, which was 28’ above flood stage. Following this, the townspeople began raising a forty-block area of their town three to fifteen feet. The first stories became basements. Unfortunately, this has led to problems with structure safety, unknown locations of water pipes and powerlines, and even sewer problems.

E.E.: Is this book connected to other books in the series? In what way?
Heidi: The only connection is through the Prequel. Lucie worked at the mill when it burned down and needed a way to take care of her little brother, so she accepted a mail-order bride letter.

E.E.: If you were given a chance to travel to the past where would you go and why?
Heidi: I would go to Scotland before the clearances. My mother’s family comes from Scotland. I listen to bagpipes and my soul answers. I think of home. Another cool tidbit is that Robert the Bruce is a direct ancestor. Woohoo! Royalty!

E.E.: What is your favorite tradition from your childhood that you would love to pass on or did pass on to your children?
Heidi: Christmas morning has been special to me since I was a little girl (and my three younger sisters feel the same way). My father’s family comes from Germany (I’m 3rd generation American). Christmas morning, after opening presents of course, we eat a massive breakfast of coffeebread and cinnamon rolls (my great grandmother’s recipe). The coffeebread is my favorite with a thick layer of butter spread on each slice then dunked in hot, homemade cocoa. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

Today, Heidi will give away an ebook copy of her historical romance novel Trail of Hope. Just enter the drawing below and leave a comment.


Let's meet the next bride, Lilly, Bride of Illinois by Linda Hubalek, which releases Dec. 9, and is available for preorder

     Lilly Lind was forced to emigrate from Sweden two years ago, due to circumstances beyond her control. She finds a job as a garment maker in the Brown Textile Mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts, finally feeling as though she is settling in her new country. Then a suspicious fire burns the mill, making Lilly seek another way to survive. She answers a mail–order bride ad in the Grooms’ Gazette and sets off for Chicago, believing she will be a business owner’s wife.
      Kansas rancher Seth Reagan travels to the Union Stockyards in Chicago to attend the 1890 American Fat Stock Show, the American Horse Show, and to purchase horseflesh to augment his herd. When arriving at the train station, he overhears a conversation between a young woman and a shady–looking man. Seth becomes concerned for the mail–order bride who is whisked away to a saloon, not to her new husband’s home.
     When Seth goes to the saloon to check on the young woman, he finds her in trouble and offers to help her escape. While buying horses and arranging their return travel to Kansas, Seth realizes he would like to bring Lilly home with him, too, but she is still being hunted by the saloon owner’s thugs. Lilly’s good fortune in meeting Seth makes her want to start a life with this man, but he came to Illinois for horses, not a bride. Would he want her after he learns of her secrets?

Here's an excerpt:

“Miss Lind? Miss Lilly Lind?”
Seth Reagan heard the woman’s name being called over and over as a man walked through the noisy crowd departing from the west bound train just arrived at the Chicago depot. The man wore a gray top coat over his suit, and a dark gray fedora hat, and held a small sign over his head which must have had the woman’s name printed on it. The ends of his maroon wool scarf flipped in the chilly November air as he turned one way then another trying to catch the woman’s attention.
Seth stood about fifteen feet away from the man. He had arrived on the east bound train a few minutes ago, and was trying to getting his bearings. People were streaming past him some in a hurry to leave the depot, others waiting for a particular person to descend the steps of one of the many cars unloading at this busy station. There were more people within seeing distance here than the population of Clear Creek, Kansas, his hometown.
He was in Chicago on behalf of his employer, to attend two livestock shows and a horse sale. The shows were to be held in the Exhibition Hall at the Union Stockyards. He had reservations to stay in Hough Hall Hotel near the Yards, so he needed to determine where the hotel was located and how to get there.
“Miss Lilly Lind?”
“Yes, hello, I am Miss Lind,” a young woman walked up to the man holding the sign and identified herself in a clear, strong voice. She was tall with wisps of strawberry blonde hair escaping out of her brown woolen cap. Seth saw her tan wool cloak had a smear of dried mud on the side of it when the crowds dispersed enough for him to get a good look at the woman. It was hard to keep one’s clothes clean when traveling, so he didn’t think anything of it. She looked nervous, but she held her head high and looked the man in the eye.
“Miss, are you an American? I hear an accent in your voice,” the man said before even saying hello.
“Hmm, yes, I came from Sweden two years ago, but I’m an American now. Are you Mr. Hardesty, my fiancé?” Miss Lind nervously asked.
“No, miss. I’m picking you up for my boss, but he’s not going to be happy you’re an immigrant,” the man rudely stated.
The woman appeared shocked at his statement and looked around her, as if seeking an escape route should she need to bolt. Her eye was caught by Seth’s dark brown cowboy hat, and then she looked directly in his hazel eyes. She stared at him a bit, looked away, and then back at him again. Then Miss Lind took a deep breath before turning back to the man and asking, “And you are, sir?”
“The man who’s going to be in trouble for bringing an immigrant back to the saloon. Got a trunk we need to pick up?”
“Ah, no, I just have my carpet bag,” she stammered.
Seth looked at the confused woman and wondered what her story was, and why she came to Chicago. She asked the man if he was her fiancé. The man impatiently said no, and he was taking her to a saloon. Did the Swedish woman understand where she was being taken?
“Okay then, let’s go. The boss will want you in house and in your costume by the evening’s opening time.”
The woman stood her ground when the man took hold of her arm. “Wait, I think you have the wrong person. I’m here to wed Mr. Wilber Hardesty. He’s a well–known businessman in Chicago.”
“Yes, that’s him. Mr. Hardesty owns the Stockyard Emporium and you’re supposed to be his new saloon singer, if he can get past the fact you’re an immigrant,” the man in distaste.
“No! I’m to be his wife, not a saloon singer!” she panicked and tried to pull away, as the man grabbed her bag away from her.
“That’s what all his ‘mail–order brides’ say, Miss Lind,” the man chuckled as he pulled her into the crowd.

Meet Linda

While growing up, Linda Hubalek had always planned to be a farmer, like her ancestors who homesteaded the Kansas prairie. But marrying an engineer changed her plans—and state of residence for a few decades. To ease the homesickness for soil and family until they could move back home, Linda wrote books about her pioneer ancestors.

Linda’s passion for the frontier has also drawn her into writing western romance featuring Kansas’ cattle town days and the women who lived in those times.


E.E.: Why did you pick your state?
Linda: My ancestors immigrated from Sweden, and most of my historical fiction and romance books feature a Swedish woman as the main character. Because so many immigrants went to Illinois, there was a lot of state history to tie into the book.

E.E.: What has been the most challenging part of this unprecedented effort?
Linda: Making Lilly be the best book I’ve written (so far) because of the top-quality authors I was featured with in this huge series. Oh, and keeping up reading all the comments on our secret Facebook page.

E.E.: How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Linda: I wanted a Swedish woman as the heroine, so I named her, Lilly Lind, after Jenny Lind who was a famous Swedish singer in the mid-1800s. Lilly answers a mail-order bride advertisement from a man who wants a good singer.

Then for the hero, I wanted to tie him into my Brides with Grit series, set in Clear Creek, Kansas. Pastor Reagan, a side character in the series, has six sons, so I have one of his sons, Seth Reagan, be the man who comes to Lilly’s rescue. 

During research, I found out the American Horse Show was held in Chicago on Nov. 1-8, 1890. It was perfect timing for the story line so I have the main characters meet at the Union Stockyards where the event was held.

E.E.: How often do you get lost in a story?
Every day I write! I get so zoned in the time and place of the story that my husband will walk in my office, and I’m surprised to see a modern man.

E.E.: What’s your favorite kind of story to get lost in?
A western romance filled with good descriptions, so I’m experiencing all five senses. I want to see the sun dropping below the horizon, hear the shout of warning, taste the meat cooked over a campfire, touch the buffalo robe I’m lying on and smell the smoke from the prairie fire. I want to feel the emotions of the characters so I become them, crying, laughing or exhausted.

Today, Linda will give away an ebook copy of Cate Corrals a Cattleman, Book 6 in the Brides with Grit series.  Just enter the drawing and leave a comment.

What’s the one item you’d hate to lose if you lived in the 1800s?

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  1. I do believe I could put up with not having most things so long as I could bathe - daily. Not this once a year business.

    1. We didn't have running water in our farm house until 1960, so I remember the days of bringing in the tin tub to bathe on Saturday nights. Other days you did a "spit bath". Back then we didn't know of hot water showers, so we didn't miss them.

  2. Anything related to modern hygiene. Thinking flush toilets!

  3. A/C was the first thing that came to mind...

    1. Hi Colleen! After indoor plumbing, air conditioning was my second thought.

  4. Since it is getting cold outside I would have to say heating/AC

    1. Can you imagine a crude log cabin during a blizzard, where most of the house was cold, except right around the fire place? Yea for central heat and insulation to keep our homes warm!

    2. Can you imagine having to walk to the outhouse in knee-deep snow then trying to get warm afterward? I'd have a permanent spot in front of the fire.

  5. Books first, then cooking utensils! Having used an outhouse before, and growing up fishing, I wouldn't necessarily miss modern items. However, if I were to be forced to leave any book, especially the Bible, would break my heart. Again, I could LEARN to do without it but cooking is necessary. You can't cook without some type of utensil. I would miss my friends and family; but, of course, you can make a new family and new friends.

    1. We'd adapt, just like the pioneer women had to do.

    2. You could stir with small branches and even chisel a small fork and spoon. I've done it before.

  6. I would miss general anesthetic. I don't like to think of operations without it.

    1. My first thought was modern medicine too, be it medicines or surgery. I can't imagine relying on a bottle of whiskey to get through surgery and (hopefully) recovery.

    2. Didn't think of that--what about medicine? Without my thyroid meds, I'd be toast. I'm thinking about changing my original answer now. Maybe I can deal with a snake biting my butt...

  7. modern plumbing and showers come to mind....

  8. Oh my, good question. I'd hate to lose hot running water. I'd hate hauling water in and heating it for baths, laundry, and washing dishes.

  9. My washer and dryer. I can't imagine washing clothes by hand. Especially for a family.

    1. I bet everyone would wear their clothes more than one time before you washed them.

    2. Probably three or four. I can remember my great grandmother (who my heroine is named after) telling me that she'd have to wear the same dress for a week.

  10. My washer and dryer. I can't imagine washing clothes by hand. Especially for a family.

  11. There is so much I'd hate to lose. Most of it is around communications (telephone, mail delivery, trains/busses/airplanes). I can't imagine leaving my family behind and having little contact with them. Although I'd also miss hot water, showers, toilet paper, my kindle, indoor plumbing, modern medicine, etc.

    1. There are so many things we'd miss, but generations of people have managed before without modern items, so I guess we'd adapt as we needed to. Thanks for stopping by to post!

  12. I can't think of a single thing I'd miss. My husband often tells me I live in the wrong time period. I've been featuring the ladies on my blog as well and am looking forward to this fabulous series.

    1. I've often thought the same thing about my littlest sister. I think she's living off the grid now. I so totally don't understand it either. I'm looking forward to reading the other stories as well. Thanks for commenting!

  13. Electricity, is what I woudl miss. There are a lot of other things also like running water and things like that. Although in my early childhood we didn't have running water.

    1. I can't imagine no water. It puts into perspective how spoiled our society is today with just the things we use each day.

  14. Electricity, is what I woudl miss. There are a lot of other things also like running water and things like that. Although in my early childhood we didn't have running water.

  15. Indoor plumbing I guess... I don't I would like running outside every time I need to go to the bathroom (which is often). :)

    1. And going to the outhouse in all kind of weather...unless we used a chamber pot!