E.E. Burke's BEST OF THE WEST: Meet Two American Mail-Order Brides and Author Ashley Merrick

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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Feisty Beth Mitchell lives in the Boston area, and is used to being in charge and taking care of people, especially her beloved mother, so when the factory in Lawrence, MA where she, her sister, India, and her mother used to work, burns down in a suspicious fire, they find themselves in dire straits. Circumstances dictate that Beth needs to become a mail-order bride, but it is with the understanding that her mother will join her. 

Business owner, George Montgomery, has no idea what he is in for. They both have secrets--he's filthy rich and needs to find a wife ASAP, because his sister and husband just died from the flu and he now has two small children to take care of. He wants to make sure he's not getting a gold digger, but someone who really is good with kids. 
He places an ad for a mild-mannered woman who loves children. Beth applies to every ad, hoping that someone will agree to take her and her mother. George is the only one who agrees, but she has a secret too--she's not exactly who she said she was. Beth has no experience with children, the very thought of it makes her twitchy and she's far from timid. In fact, she is determined to get to the bottom of who burned down the factory, and why.

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. 

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Inspired by the classic fairytale, Beauty and the Beast--with a holiday twist. 

Widower Richard Blake was badly burned trying to save his wife in a terrible fire. For the sake of his two small children, he sends for a mail-order bride. He can't imagine anyone could ever be interested in him though. 

Will India Mitchell see beyond his scars?

Meet Ashley Merrick

Ashley grew up on Cape Cod, MA and now lives in a seaside town half-way between Boston and the Cape. Her first paid writing work was in college when she wrote the obituaries and birth announcements for a local paper. That led to more creative writing--radio commercials and in recent years, some food blogging and writing for a Cape Cod newspaper. She loves all things food related and has always been an avid reader, across many genres, romance, mystery, suspense, paranormal and of course, historical. 

Find Ashley:

See all the books in the American Mail-Order Brides series, http://www.newwesternromance.com


E.E. Why did you pick your states?
Ashley: I am actually doing two stories, Beth releases on November 24, and is set in Massachusetts. I picked that state because it’s where I live and there’s so much great history here. My other state, for India, is Indiana and I picked that one because I don’t know as much about it and thought it would be really fun to learn! India releases on December 7.

E.E.: How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Ashley: For Beth, I had just finished Maeve, which is book 6 in my Mail-Order Brides Club series and it had a mystery element to it which was really fun. So, I was still in mystery mode when I started writing Beth and had the idea that she was determined to figure out who burned the factory and why. I also added a twist that one requirement she would have for her groom was that he would agree to take her mother along as well. She knew that would limit her options, but her mother was a widow and she wanted to make sure that she would be taken care of as they are very close. The hero, George Montgomery is a businessman who is also suddenly a father of two young girls when his sister and her husband died from influenza. So, he is fine with getting a potential mother and grandmother figure for them. Beth isn’t completely honest though in how she presents her personality, so that is a bit of a surprise to him.

E.E.: How often to you get lost in a story?
Ashley: As often as I can! There’s nothing better than getting lost in a good story.

E.E.: What’s your favorite fairy tale?
Ashley: Beauty and the Beast. And that fairy tale inspired my second book in this series, India’s story. India is Beth’s sister and she answers an ad in the Grooms' Gazette from Richard Blake, who lives in South Bend, Indiana. She is intrigued by this man who is a widower—Richard lost his wife in a terrible fire and was badly scarred on one side of his body, including his face. He sees himself as a monster that no one could ever truly love again and he feels guilty for not saving his wife, even though he tried his best. He has two young children. Sam is only three and Julia is five and they are both missing their mother. He reluctantly agrees to send for a mail-order bride, but with the understanding that she will be a mother and not a true wife. India gladly agrees to this, but when she meets Richard and gets to know the beautiful man inside him, she surprises both of them by wanting more.

E.E.: What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Ashley: When Harry Met Sally. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it. Friends to lovers is probably my favorite trope. For holiday movies, It’s a Wonderful Life is a favorite.

E.E.: Do you write while listening to music? If so what kind?
Ashley: I do. I always write to the Norah Jones station on Pandora. I love the soft, bluesy music in the background.

Today, Ashley is giving away an ebook, her latest novel, Maeve, to one lucky commenter. 

Also, she's celebrating her new release Beth today on the American Mail Order Brides Facebook page, so if you go over there afterwards and comment, you'll get a chance to win a pack of mini-cupcakes from BakedByMelissa and a $10 Amazon gift card.


  1. Great information, Ashley! Your books are always spectacular, although I can't imagine the stress of choosing two states so close together for writing purposes. Every state I've read so far has been truly enjoyable and I know that your books will be just as good. Best luck for continued success with your newest releases!

  2. Great interview! I love this AMOB series. What a great idea and is so exciting to read about the different women and different states. Look forward to reading them all.

  3. I have been picking up more Mail Order Bride books lately... yours sound like ones I would enjoy... thanks for sharing! :) greenshamrock at cox dot net :)

  4. nice interview

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  5. Welcome to GLIAS, Ashley ! Love this bride series !

  6. So great hearing more about your stories, Pamela! What fun this project was.

  7. I do love stories with mail order brides. Such beautiful covers too.