American Mail-Order Brides, an unprecedented 50-book romance series written by 45 different authors. features mail-order bride stories from each state or territory in the U.S., circa 1890. The first book released Nov. 19, with books being released every day for fifty days thereafter. Over the next several weeks, we'll be featuring different books from this series and authors who've been involved (including yours truly), as well as running giveaways.
Today on Best of the West, I'll spotlight two books from author Ashley Merrick.
Beth, Bride of Massachusetts, Book 6 in the American Mail-Order Brides series, releasing today, and India, Bride of Indiana, Book 19, coming out Dec. 7.
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Circumstances dictate that Beth needs to become a mail-order bride, but it is with the understanding that her mother will join her.
eorge Montgomery, has no idea what he is
Here's an excerpt:
The day started like any other. Beth Mitchell woke late and rushed around to get ready to leave for her job at the Brown Textile Mill. Fortunately, she was a fast mover and once she was up, she was out the door and on her way soon after. It was a beautiful fall morning, and the air was crisp. A cool breeze blew through her hair as she walked along Canal Street which overlooked the Merrimack River. She and her roommates, Lottie, Leora, Alice, and Judith, all worked together at the mill and shared a small apartment just a few blocks away. The girls walked quickly and mostly silently as it was early and they were all tired. The hours at the mill were long and the work was tedious. They were seamstresses and though Beth was more than grateful for the job, she dreaded each day because sewing didn’t come naturally to her— unlike her sister, India, and her mother, who both had a natural gift for it. Not that those gifts were appreciated—speed was valued above all and was the reason why their mother had been let go a year ago. Her eyesight had worsened and she had to go more slowly. If she’d kept her pace but the quality of work had suffered, she would probably still be there.
Beth had the opposite problem. She tended to rush her work, wanting to get as much done as possible and to get it over with. Usually that was valued at the mill, but sometimes it caught up with her as her quality wasn’t stellar to begin with.
“Miss Mitchell, the stitching on this shawl is unacceptable! Do this one over and mind yourself. If this continues to happen, you’ll be the next in your family to lose your job.” Bob Brown, the mill owner, was a vile man and he seemed to take joy in terrorizing ‘his girls’, as he called them. He stood behind Beth with his arms folded across his chest and his brow furrowed.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Brown. It won’t happen again,” Beth said quickly.
“For your sake, it had best not.” He stayed watching for a few more moments. Her hands shook with a mixture of fear and fury as she quickly undid the stitching, lined the material up precisely and began to sew again, taking great care to make it as perfect as she was capable of. She breathed a sigh of relief when she heard Mr. Brown turn and walk off toward his next victim. Her eyes welled a bit as she lost her focus for a moment and almost ran her own finger over.
“Are you all right?” Alice whispered. She sat next to Beth and was her closest friend, besides her sister, India, of course.
“Yes. I’m fine. He’s just an awful man. I’d rather be anywhere but here.”
“Well, keep your voice down. You know he’d be only too happy to make that wish come true.”
“You’re right. I know you’re right. It wouldn’t be so bad if I actually was good at this. Like you.”
Alice chuckled. “I’ve been sewing for as long as I can remember. I know I’m lucky that I do enjoy the work.”
“Oh, no. Here he comes again. We best stop talking.” Both girls resumed their focus on their work. If they’d been caught talking, they would be in trouble. Mr. Brown didn’t allow for idle chit chatter as he called it. He said it slowed production. He was probably right about that. Beth had to agree, though it was a rule she broke as often as she could get away with. The days would have been intolerable, otherwise.
After a short lunch break, where the girls huddled outside against the side of the building and quickly ate their cold, leftover cabbage soup, they filed back inside and walked toward their work areas. As Beth passed by Roberta McDaniel’s office, she couldn’t help but notice that Roberta and Mr. Brown seemed to be having a heated discussion, perhaps even an argument. Robert was the mill manager and she was wonderful to work for, as long as Mr. Brown didn’t meddle—which he often did. Beth wondered what was going on. She knew that Mr. Brown was difficult to work for and imagined it was even worse for Roberta than it was for the girls. She had to deal with him more often and Beth didn’t envy that.
Once they were back at their stations, Beth didn’t give it another thought and the rest of the afternoon flew by—until they suddenly heard a loud crash and the sound of breaking glass. No one knew where it had come from. Roberta turned at the sound and went off to investigate. A few minutes later, Beth felt a shift in the air and a funny shiver ran up her spine as she caught a whiff of something unusual. She looked at Alice, who was oblivious to anything other than her sewing.
“Something’s going on. Do you smell anything?”
Alice looked up in confusion and then glanced around the room and her eyes widened.
“Look!” Beth followed her gaze and immediately stood up when she saw what had alarmed Alice. Just then, Roberta came running into the room.
“Everyone, exit the building as quickly as you can. There’s a fire!”
Next up: India, Bride of Indiana.
Ashley: I do. I always write to the Norah Jones station on Pandora. I love the soft, bluesy music in the background.