Monday, December 21, 2015

Get lost in an groundbreaking Historical Romance series...

Mail-order brides have long been a staple for historical romance. But if you've been keeping up with my posts this past month, you've might've heard about a unique group of brides...the American Mail-Order Brides. This unprecedented series features the stories of 50 mail-order brides across America.

Tomorrow marks the release of the 34th book, which happens to be my book, Victoria, Bride of Kansas, about a jilted socialite who leaves behind a world of wealth and privilege and travels a thousand miles in search of love. 

First, let me provide a quick recap about the series, then I'll tell you how I became involved and how the story of Victoria came to be. Finally, I'll share an excerpt. 

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The interconnected romance series written by 45 authors features stories about 50 mail-order brides, one for each state (or territory) in the union circa 1890. The stories are interconnected through a prequel about an event that launches these women into their adventures. All 50 books in the series are being released over 50 days between Nov. 19 and Jan. 7, in the order the states were ratified. 

How did I get involved in this series?

Earlier this year, Kirsten Osbourne asked if I was interested in participating. I loved the concept and jumped at the chance to work with Kirsten and other talented authors in a publishing first. No way I'd say anything but yes! 

What has impressed me most about working on this project is how professional everyone has been throughout the whole process. We worked within established parameters such as rating (sweet), word count (30K to 40K), and cover template; agreed on pricing, distribution, release schedule, promotions and a host of other things. I'd say everyone's professionalism and our immense respect for Kirsten made this project go much smoother than you'd imagine with so many personalities.

The idea of 50 brides in 50 states came from Kirsten, as did the prequel, which sets up the factory fire that ties the books together. Each author selected a state/territory, heroines' names and story lines. Most authors wrote about the factory girls. I took a slightly different twist and wrote about the rich daughter of one of the factory owners who gets to know these girls when she reaches out to help. 

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Readers have asked me, do the books feature other characters in the series? 

Many authors formed "correspondence groups" to tie their books more closely together through connections and friendships. Thus, Victoria, Bride of Kansas includes connections with characters in Roberta, Bride of Wisconsin by Kirsten Osbourne, Sarah, Bride of Minnesota by Katie Crabapple, Poppy, Bride of Alaska by Cassie Hayes and Gabrielle, Bride of Vermont by Emily Claire.

Kansas is the 34th state in the union, ratified January 29, 1861, and so Victoria is the 34th book in the series. 

You know why I picked Kansas, right? My "adopted" state has a fascinating history. Beyond that, Victoria has ties to my debut novel, Her Bodyguard (the first book in the series Steam! Romance and Rails).

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The hero in Her Bodyguard, Buck O'Connor, makes an appearance in Victoria. You might remember Buck as a rough-around-the-edges dangerous outlaw. Jump forward 20 years later in Fort Scott (the setting for both new books) and you'll find Buck a respectable business owner and family man who acts as landlord and mentor for Victoria's betrothed, shopkeeper David O'Brien.

This excerpt comes from an exchange between the two men prior to David's wedding, which has become the talk of the town:

     David laid an envelope on the desk. “Here’s the rent for this month. I apologize it’s a day late. I’ll have the money for the building next door by the first of the year.”
“See that you do, and don’t be using a bride as your excuse for being late next month.” O’Connor’s craggy face didn’t crack. Not even a hint of a smile. His pale eyes, however, gleamed with amusement.
“I take it you’ve been talking to Phineas Gregg.” 
“His wife posted a public notice in the Gulf depot,” O’Connor said with a deadpan expression. He stood, a towering figure at well over six feet, and came around the desk. The man had to be over fifty, but he still moved with youthful energy. His fair hair, mostly white now, was as thick and unruly as David’s, and also brushed his collar. He frequently went around with his shirtsleeves rolled up over ropy forearms, and preferred leather vests to three-piece suits. He also wore a gun.
David had never seen him use the firearm, but he’d heard talk of a checkered past. Confederate guerrilla, outlaw, spy for the Settlers’ Land League—those were only a few of Mr. O’Connor’s previous occupations. He’d settled down twenty years ago with a wealthy widow, who was a fascinating character in her own right, having lost and made several fortunes. The couple lived in a grand manor on the rich side of town.
“Congratulations.” The taller man gripped David’s shoulder and put out his hand.
David grasped a calloused palm in a firm shake. “Thank you, sir.”
“When’s the big day?”
“Christmas Eve.”
O’Connor stepped back and arched a sandy eyebrow. “You don’t look too happy.”
David didn’t know how to respond. He’d been very content for a short time yesterday, when he’d kissed Victoria. Before everything went to hell. “It’s complicated.”
His mentor gave a sharp laugh. “Don’t know of a marriage that isn’t. Mine didn’t start out simple. Would’ve been a sight easier if we both weren’t so bull headed. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though. Amy, she’s my…” He seemed to search for the right word.
David offered a favorite maxim. “Your better half?”
The older man’s attention sharpened. “Better than what? She sure as hell didn’t have much to work with, but she took me on anyway. Amy gave me a heart. She gave me back my life. There’s no half to it. Without her, I wouldn’t be whole.” His lips twisted in wry smile. “That doesn’t mean it can’t get complicated from time to time.”
The poignant tribute from a rough-around-the-edges wisecracker came as a surprise.
“I never took you for a poet.”
“Poet?” O’Connor chuckled. “I can’t rub two words together that rhyme.”
“That may be, but if I’d come up with something as inspiring as that little speech, Victoria might not be on the fence.”
“She’s having second thoughts?”
“Second, third, maybe more…” David wandered over to the bookcase, not really looking for anything. He wasn’t sure how much he wanted to share, even with his mentor. “I haven’t handled things well. But in my defense, I didn’t even know there was a bride on the way until yesterday morning when she arrived." 
     “Boyo, that does sound complicated.” O’Connor settled his hip on the corner of the desk and crossed his arms. “Think you better have a seat and let’s talk.”

Poor David has his hands full trying to juggle Victoria's misconceptions and his sister's well-meaning meddling, not to mention his daughter's self-imposed silence. Learn more about Victoria tomorrow and find out how she copes with the one of the challenges she faces--helping David's troubled young daughter.

Have a Christmas cookie!

Victoria arrives in town not knowing much about cooking. When I first married, I knew how to cook, but I didn't know a great deal about baking. My mother-in-law came to the rescue. Here's a recipe we make every year at Christmas from a cookbook she received sixty years ago as a wedding gift. 

The secret to spritz cookies, I've learned, is the temperature of the dough. Has to be cold, but not too cold. After we make it, we chill it for about 15 minutes. If it gets too gooey, we stick it back in to cool off again. You'll have to invest in a cookie press if you don't have one. We use one she's had for sixty years. My daughters intend to keep using it for another sixty years.

If you were to go back in time, what might entice you to become a mail-order bride? Where would you want to live?

Leave a comment, and don't forget to enter the drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card or eBooks of my two new releases.

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  1. I'm looking forward to diving into this series. Just amazing.

    1. Thanks for coming by Mary, and for signing up for my newsletter. Hope you enjoy the books!

  2. I would try to find a way to become something other than a mail-order bride. Trying to survive might prompt me to become one if I was from a place where I was living a horrible life. That said, a lot of mail-order brides found themselves in even worse circumstances. As for the place to live? I'm honestly not sure.

    1. I read a book about real mail-order brides. The stories were funny, touching, some sad. Yes, some of those women didn't have HEAs, but others forged wonderful marriages that lasted throughout their entire lives. It's a fascinating period in our history, at any rate. Thanks for stopping by, Bertha!