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Violet Keating is thrilled to be a mail-order bride—until she arrives in North Dakota and discovers she has a runaway groom!
Feeling protective of her, confirmed bachelor Daniel Lund vows to help this jilted beauty find another husband—until he realizes he’d like to change his own status from “confirmed” to “eligible.” Can a man who’s given up on love and a jilted mail-order bride find magic under the northern lights?
Here's an excerpt:
To the woman of my dreams...
I am searching for my soul mate, a woman with whom to share my life. Though I am but twenty-three, I have ample funds to take on the support and care of a wife. I am currently preparing my home more to the liking of the refined woman I seek. I want someone who can serve as hostess to my parties, who reads and likes to discuss interesting topics, and who is pleasing to the eye (I hope it will ease your mind somewhat that I have been told on numerous occasions that I am the proverbial tall, dark, and handsome.). I have not been married before nor do I have any children, yet I am ready now to begin a family of my own—of our own. I look forward to meeting you.
Nathaniel James Evans of Minot, North Dakota
(Advertisement placed in the Grooms’ Gazette on September 5, 1890)
October 11, 1890
“LOOK—THEY’RE LOADING YOUR BAG!”
Violet Keating watched as the sum total of her possessions was tossed into the baggage car of the train. Having worked as a seamstress for the past three years, she’d made the bag as pretty as she could, with a floral pattern of blues and greens and purples that evoked optimism to her. And it seemed quite pathetic that everything she owned fit into one lonely bag, even if that bag was a brightly colored one.
“There could only be two like it in the world.” She’d made one for Rachel West, too, of the same material. She turned back to her dear friend.
They had other friends, mostly coworkers at the now-burned-out Brown Textile Mill. Laurel, Cora, and Darby had already left on their own frightening, exciting adventures. She worried especially for Darby, for her groom specifically requested no Scotswomen, and Darby’s Scottish brogue tended to escape when her temper flared—a fairly frequent occurrence.
It had been hard enough to say goodbye to the others, but Rachel was not only her roommate, she had become Violet’s family. How could she possibly say farewell to her and be alone in the world again? Who knew how long it would be before they would see each other again. Blinking back tears, she promised, “I’ll write you often and tell you all about my new life—and my new husband.”
“And I will write you back.” Her dearest friend pulled her into a fierce hug. “Are you sure about this, Violet? North Dakota is so far away—much farther than New Hampshire.”
Violet clung to her friend. “I’m no more sure than you are. But we both have to move on with our lives. We already know this is the best decision.” The fire at the factory where they’d worked had left them with very few choices, but now she was scared to take the next step. “New Hampshire will be as foreign to you as North Dakota is to me. And we both have wonderful men waiting for us.”
They released each other and smiled. It was a bittersweet moment she would remember forever.
Rachel said, “I’m still amazed I let you talk me into it.”
“It surprised me, as well.” A surge of excitement flowed through Violet. “In mere days, you’ll meet your Thomas and I’ll meet my James. And our new lives will begin.”
Rachel shrugged. “You are such a romantic. I still would prefer a job to a marriage—but it can’t be helped.”
“Surely you will fall in love once you arrive in New Hampshire. And I do not believe he will be angry with you for long simply because you are so beautiful and he asked for a homely bride.”
“Look at my unruly red hair, and my freckles, and my skinny frame,” Rachel’s tone teased. “I am nothing if not homely. Thomas and I will get along swimmingly.”
“I know you will.” Violet sighed. “I will miss you, Rachel. You are truly my sister.”
“And I will miss you, dear friend.”
The train whistle blew, and Violet’s heart tapped against her chest quickly.
Rachel touched her arm. “It is time for you to take flight.”
“I think flight is more frightening when it comes time to actually flap your wings and leap off the branch.” She sighed. “Just think. The next time we meet—when we exchange our first letters even—we will both be wed.” Violet smiled and held out her left hand. “All our dreams will have come true.”
Rachel drew in a short breath and nodded.
The train whistle sounded again, insistently, and the conductor called out, “All aboard!”
She hugged Rachel once again. “I really must go.”
“We will see each other again,” Rachel assured her.
Violet wasn’t sure it was true. Her friend was simply acting like a mama bird, encouraging her, pushing her from the nest into the big world outside.
She wondered if baby birds were as scared as she was at this moment, perched on the edge of the nest, their little feet clinging to the only safety they’d ever known.
And then, struck with anxiety, wondering if she was doing the right thing, her breathing quickening, she forced herself to draw in a deep breath to calm herself and climbed aboard the train, turning to wave to her friend once more before stepping inside and finding her seat.
The car was only two-thirds full, so the seat next to hers was empty.
Soon enough, the train had lurched a few times and then began to pick up speed. She watched her friend and the station until they were out of sight.
Fear nipped at her, and she opened her beaded reticule and pulled out the letter that had changed her life. Perhaps if she read his letter again, she could remind herself why she was on this train and she would calm down.
She unfolded the paper, smoothing it carefully. And read it again in full, from “Dear Miss Keating, I was delighted to receive your correspondence. I believe in true love and—though I have received many responses to my advertisement—I did not feel the stirrings of it until I read your sweet letter” to the sweet ending of “So you will become Mrs. James Evans. Yours faithfully and forever, James Evans.”
Violet Evans—that had a nice sound to it. And Mrs. James Evans sounded even better.
The man was twenty-three, handsome, wealthy—and thrilled to be marrying her. What more could a woman want?
The thought sent shivers up her spine.
By this time next Wednesday—four long days from today—she would indeed be Mrs. James Evans. She hoped he was as honorable of a man as his words made him sound.
Heather Horrocks is the USA Today and Amazon bestselling author of numerous books (Who-Dun-Him Inn mysteries, Chick Flick Clique and Christmas Street romantic comedies, the unprecedented American Mail-Order Bride series and Women Who Knew inspirational books). Raised overseas for her first seventeen years, she hid under the bed with her mother during a South American coup, waterskied through an oil slick in the Persian Gulf, partied with a Kuwaiti princess classmate, flew in and out of the blacked-out Cairo airport mere moments before it was bombed during the Six Day War, rode a camel (and ate a camel steak), crossed the finish line first at Utah's Miller Motorsports Park—and walked on hot coals—without getting burned—at a firewalk workshop! She loves anyone who can make her laugh, which explains why she adores her witty husband, her funny friends and sisters, Anne George mysteries, and her cute little dog Gus. She loves to cook for friends, siblings, and especially her children and their families. She and her husband reside in Utah.
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E.E.: How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Heather: After I came up with my heroine’s name (Violet) and the cover artist picked the picture of a woman who could be a “Shrinking Violet” I knew she wanted very much to get married. And, since all my books are based on a situation that can be inherently funny, I thought it would be funny (well, not for her—but for us) for Violet to arrive in Minot, North Dakota, and have no one waiting for her. Especially since her future (runaway) groom painted such a wonderful picture of how he would meet her and drive her around town and then to the pastor’s home to be wed. Then I have her see a man come onto the platform and think he’s perfect! Only he’s not her groom. (Yet.) I loved seeing these two get together.
E.E.: Where do you read and how often?
Heather: An easier question would be when do I not read! I read ebooks on my Kindle and listen to Audible audiobooks while I fix dinner, drive to the office, or walk my dog around the block. I slip in reading whenever I can—and force myself to leave other people’s books and worlds to write in my own!
E.E.: What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Heather: Just one? I owned a video store during the ‘80s and watch a gazillion movies. Though I love many, many movies (Return to Me, Murphy’s Romance, Steel Magnolias, Galaxy Quest), my favorite of all romance has to be While You Were Sleeping. She’s just such a nice character, trying to do the right thing, caught in a situation where she doesn’t dare speak up because she could kill Grandma if she does. And he’s such a good guy who, on the stairs when she asks him “Is there any reason I shouldn’t marry your brother?” you can see his angst before he says, “I can’t.” And Joe Jr. is great as the obnoxious guy next door. I love books and movies with happy endings, where the good guys/gals win and the bad guys/gals lose.
E.E.: What is your hero’s “kryptonite”—What will bring him instantly to his knees?
Heather: My hero, Daniel, is a confirmed bachelor. My heroine, Violet, is his kryptonite. He is immediately über-protective of her, determined to help her find another, better husband out of the men in Minot. He never considers himself as an appropriate choice for her—but she has him from the first moment he sees her, all alone, on that train platform.
E.E.: What drew you to write in the genre(s) you do?
Heather: I write funny books because I love to laugh and to make other people laugh. I write romantic comedies because I love happily-ever-afters and putting two people together and seeing them spark off of each other. I write funny cozy mysteries because I love to kill off obnoxious people (those who “deserve” it). (So don’t tick me off! Just kidding.)
Today, Heather is graciously giving away three copies of her new release. Just leave a comment and enter the drawing.
What do you think would be the three most difficult things about becoming a mail-order bride?