Get lost in a new Christmas read: Santa's Mail-Order Bride

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Maggie has an unexpected suitor—in a red suit. 

Schoolteacher Maggie O’Brien comes home for Christmas on a mission: to gather toys for orphans living on poor farms in southeastern Kansas. She's made her list, but there's no Santa in sight. Not until a local shopkeeper volunteers his services.

Gordon Sumner sets his mind on winning the black-haired Irish beauty, but Maggie’s brother is his fiercest competitor and O’Brien’s loyal sister gives him the cold shoulder. Undaunted, he comes up with a clever plan.

Maggie sees through the fake Santa’s ploy; but with Christmas just around the corner, she’s running out of time to make the holiday happy for needy children. She accepts his help—with a plan of her own. She’ll play matchmaker and find her persistent suitor the perfect bride.

Here's an exclusive excerpt... 

In the face of Sum's persistent wooing, Maggie hatches a plan to help him advertise for a bride...

She fished out a folded sheet of paper and a pencil from a serviceable leather bag she’d placed on the counter. “I took the liberty of working on the advertisement…”
Sum poured tea into two cups. He unbuttoned the front of his tweed coat and took the neighboring stool. Seeing as she wouldn’t be dissuaded, he would play along. “Can’t wait to hear what you’ve come up with.”
Maggie’s attention remained on the paper. She smoothed it out on the counter and studied it, almost too intently. Annoying, how she refused to look at him. He could make her notice.
With his forefinger, he smoothed a silken strand away from her face. The touch drew a reprimanding look, which softened at his smile.
“You take too many liberties.” She scolded in a voice too soft for her to be put out.
“Do I?” He considered taking more, such as drawing her to him and kissing her thoroughly. But then she would accuse him of violating his promise and that would give her a convenient way out. No, he had to remain patient. Seduce her by inches, not yards.
Without apology, he picked up his cup and took a drink. He’d work with her on this silly advertisement and in the process make her admit she was his perfect match. At least, that was the plan. His biggest worry—his plans, like his father’s, had a way of going awry. He wouldn’t allow that to happen this time. “Read what you’ve written so far.”
“Successful merchant in fast-growing Western community seeks educated young woman with exemplary reputation for purposes of marriage. Applicant must be willing to work long days and will need patience—”
He laughed, nearly spitting his tea, and set down the cup. “Patience? Am I that trying?
“You didn’t let me finish. Will need patience with children.” She glanced at him with a wry smile. “I assume you’ll want children, and your wife will need patience if you expect her to work in a store and look after them.”
Her assumption would’ve been wrong a mere few weeks ago. “Children? When did I start wanting those?”
“I don’t know.” Maggie searched his eyes, as if she’d find an answer there. She would if she looked very hard. “Have you been married before? Did you have other children?”
“Never married. No children.” None that he knew of, and he’d been careful.
“Was it after you agreed to play Santa?”
“That decision had nothing to do with children, entirely selfish; I wanted to wear the red robe.” He loved the little flutter and eye roll she did when he made a joke.
“Maybe it was after you met Fannie?”
“Your niece’s bluntness endeared her to me, but no, it had to be after I met you.”
“Ah, because I’m a schoolteacher.” Maggie sidestepped his blatant admission with admirable dexterity. She must be practicing at home.
Undaunted, Sum gazed into her eyes. This close, he could see they weren’t black, but a deep, rich brown, the way he liked his coffee. “What about how she looks?”
Maggie’s lips parted like she might say something, but forgot what it was. She jerked her attention to the sheet of paper on the counter. “You mean to say, you want an attractive bride. We can add that. Remember, the personal advertisements run forty words. It’ll cost you extra for every word thereafter.”
“We’re not to forty words yet.” Didn’t matter, at any rate. By the time he finished listing his requirements, there would be no question in her mind as to which bride he wanted.
She sighed, and picked up the pencil. “I haven’t even gotten to the part about you.”
“I like what you wrote about me being a successful merchant.” That’s what he wanted her to believe, and it would be so, once he’d cleared his debts. He saw no reason to enlighten her as to his current financial instability. She might let something slip. Not to hurt him, but because she seemed to think her brother would qualify as a saint.
She bent over the paper and scribbled something. “The difficulty in writing a personal advertisement is effectively selling yourself while remaining completely honest.”
Sum leaned in and inhaled her scent. “Honest, yes… You smell of peppermint.”
Maggie glanced at him with alarm and slanted away. She reached into a pocket on her jacket. “I forgot I had these in here. Would you like one?”
He plucked a red and white candy out of her palm. “Thank you. I love peppermints.”
“You do? They’re my favorite.”
“Mine, too.” They’d become his favorite ever since he’d started associating the smell with Maggie. Who knew candy could be so provocative? He would keep a jar in their bedroom. “Include that in the advertisement. Favorite candy must be peppermint.”

From E.E. Burke

Santa's Mail-Order Bride follows characters introduced in Victoria, Bride of Kansas, released yesterday. I'm one of those readers who wants to finish a book one day and buy the sequel the next. I figured other readers might be like that, too, so I'm releasing these books back-to-back.

Where did Santa originate? When did he acquire a bride? These were questions I wondered about as I was writing this story.  

I did some research on Santa's evolution in America, and what I learned was very interesting. 

Santa Claus made the transition from saint to jolly old St. Nick over a relatively short period. Actually, he started out as a real person (born in the 3rd century in what is modern-day Turkey). 

Nicholas spent his fortune helping the needy, especially children, and he became a saint. Saint Nicholas Day was actually Dec. 6 and was celebrated for centuries all over Europe. 

It appears he immigrated to America during the late 18th century as Sinterklauss, and soon became Santa Claus. He established more familiar habits during the 19th century, thanks to a poem--An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" (or The Night Before Christmas, as we know it), written by a clergyman for his daughter. The poem refers to Santa's sleigh and reindeer and his curious habit of chimney hopping. 

Artist Thomas Nast drew more than 33 images of Santa for Harper's Weekly

Nast established Santa's residence (North Pole), his more familiar red suit, his elves and his workshop. Along the way, Santa picked up a wife, although she wasn't nearly as well known.

By the time the 20th century rolled around, the jolly old elf had grown into a larger-than-life, sack-toting gift-giver whose love for children was the stuff of legend. 

In 1922, Santa posed for Norman Rockwell and appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening PostBy the 1930s, Santa was advertising for Coca-Cola. His place in American culture was firmly established. 

More images and inspiration for Santa's Mail-Order Bride can be found on my Pinterest page.

For my story, which is set in 1893, I peered into the annuals of history and found that Christmas parades had already become popular by this time.

In fact, department store Santas purportedly started at Macy's in New York in the early 1860s. Other merchants across the country were quick to follow in this successful storeowner's footsteps and Santa Claus was soon spotted on Main Streets across America.

Santa's Cookies!

Last cookie recipe. You'll notice I'm posting recipes the way I received them. Some are handwritten, like this one, with notes on the side. I'm sure you've gotten a few that way. 

Every year, our daughters go to Grandma's house for a day of baking. We treasure these times. Maybe you can start a new tradition, or add to an old one. 
My mother-in-law learned to bake using a wood-burning stove. She learned by watching her mother. Over the years, she's written down family recipes, or gotten recipes from friends (like this one), which came from a lady who has since passed away. This makes the best sugar cookies for decorating. You just roll out the dough and cut with your favorite cookie cutters. 

These are so pretty when you decorate them. Santa will be sure to appreciate them!

Through Dec. 25, I'm holding a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card, or an eBook set of my two Christmas stories. Just leave a comment and enter the drawing below. You'll earn extra chances by signing up for my newsletter, tweeting about the giveaway and liking my Facebook page.

Find other books by E.E. Burke

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We all have familiar images in our mind of Santa Clause. Which of these images is most familiar (and beloved) to you, and why?

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  1. I knew that we got some of the American Santa legend from A Visit from St. Nicholas but I was not aware of how much Thomas Nast contributed. Fascinating! The book sounds delightful!

    1. I was really surprised by some of the history when I started researching it. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  2. I loved very much Gordon and Maggie's sweet and romantic story! Excited to read your future stories.
    Merry Christmas!

    1. Interesting to see the evolution of St Nicholas through the ages!

    2. I'm glad you enjoyed my two sweet romances for the season. I'm working on another series, more mail-order brides...with a twist. Info to follow early next year.

  3. A fabulous post thank you & such a stunning cover.