Immerse yourself in the discomfiture of five couples who are virtual strangers when they agree to wed for practical reasons. Emily marry Steven for the sake of his children. Regina’s family has arranged for Diedrich to come from Germany as her groom. Chiquita is bartered in marriage to Eduardo to cover her father’s debts. Pearl accepts Jason’s hasty proposal to help him run his family’s farm. Sarah Jane is forced to marry Painted Hands, a trail scout, for propriety’s sake. Can romance develop despite awkward beginnings?
|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.19(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.60(d)|
About the Author
RAMONA K. CECIL is a wife, mother, grandmother, freelance poet, and award-winning inspirational romance writer. Now empty nesters, she and her husband make their home in Indiana. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers and American Christian Fiction Writers Indiana Chapter, her work has won awards in a number of inspirational writing contests. Over eighty of her inspirational verses have been published on a wide array of items for the Christian gift market. She enjoys a speaking ministry, sharing her journey to publication while encouraging aspiring writers. When not writing, her hobbies include reading, gardening, and visiting places of historical interest.
Nancy J. Farrier is an award winning author who lives in Southern California in the Mojave Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. Nancy and her husband have five children and two grandsons. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needle craft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Karen Ball of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.
JoAnn lives on the Minnesota prairie which is a setting for many of her stories. Once a full-time CPA, JoAnn now spends most of her time researching and writing. JoAnn has published historical nonfiction books for children and several novels with Barbour Publishing in the Heartsong Presents line as well as the American Adventure and Sisters in Time series for children. Several of her novellas are included in CBA bestselling anthologies by Barbour Publishing. JoAnn’s love of history developed when she worked at an historical restoration in North Carolina for five years. She enjoys researching and weaving her fictional characters’ lives into historical backgrounds and events. JoAnn believes that readers can receive a message of salvation and encouragement from well-crafted fiction. She captures and addresses the deeper meaning between life and faith.
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2015 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope & Love chapter; and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.
Read an Excerpt
A Bride's Agreement
Five Romances Develop Out of Convenient Marriages
By DiAnn Mills, Elaine Bonner, Ramona K. Cecil, Nancy J. Farrier, JoAnn A. Grote
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Barbour Publishing
All rights reserved.
He glanced around as he tied his horse to the hitching rail. Steven Barnes had looked down this dusty little street many times in the past few years. There was the feed store with the wagons out front waiting to be loaded with seed and grain. Across the street stood Hall's General Mercantile and as usual Mr. Hall was standing at the door leaning on his broom visiting with a customer. The bank, the café, every building in town was like a familiar friend to him.
The Coffee Cup Café had been painted white many years ago but the sand storms of west Texas had taken their toll. The steps creaked as Steven's boots made contact, and the wooden porch seemed to groan under the weight of a lone man walking across its weathered surface. Steven removed his cowboy hat and slapped it against the leg of his jeans sending sand flying in every direction before he opened the door of the café.
The little bell above the door of the Coffee Cup Café tinkled, and Emily Johnson looked up to see who her next customer would be. Steven Barnes was a familiar sight. He had come into the café many times over the past five years, but something about him was different this time. Emily could sense something was wrong. He rode his horse into town from the Bar Eight Ranch a couple of times a month, and he'd always been willing to pass the time of day with her before. She didn't know a lot about him except that he was married and had some children. For some reason, he had left them back in east Texas. He never talked about them much and would change the subject quickly if anyone mentioned them.
Occasionally, he would sit at one of the tables and read what appeared to be a letter. Emily couldn't help noticing the faraway look that would come over him at those times.
Today, as he seated himself on one of the stools at the counter, Steven Barnes was definitely preoccupied. Although she didn't know a lot about his personal life, he was always friendly, and she had always been fond of his sense of humor. But today there was no laughter in him. She poured him a cup of coffee and asked, "How are you today, Steven? Sure is a beautiful day, don't you think?"
"I'm okay, and the weather's fine I guess," he responded as he picked up his cup and took a sip.
Emily busied herself wiping tables for a few moments, then walked back behind the counter and tried again to engage Steven in conversation. "I noticed the big annual barbecue for the Bar Eight is next Saturday." She wiped her hands on the white apron covering her blue gingham dress as she continued. "I guess things are pretty busy out your way. Must be a lot of hustle and bustle to get ready for an event like that."
"I reckon there is," he replied without enthusiasm. "I don't get involved in that sorta thing too often. Chances are I won't be here next Saturday anyhow."
"You planning a little trip out of town, Steven?" Emily asked.
"Not just a trip," he confided. "I'm leaving for good."
A look of surprise flashed on her face as she inquired, "I don't mean to be nosy, but I know you have family in east Texas. Are you going home?"
His face turned pale. "Well, I'm going back to east Texas. I don't know if I can call it home anymore. Maybe I don't have a right to call it home." Steven's voice became shaky, and Emily could see his hands were trembling as he continued. "At any rate, I got word that my wife passed away a few weeks ago. A friend wrote me. He said that if I didn't get in touch with the county judge soon, my kids would become wards of the county. Seems a neighbor lady is helping take care of them now, but I've got to get back."
"Steven, I'm so sorry to hear about your loss," Emily said sincerely. "It must be very hard for you being so far away at a time like this. How many children do you have?"
"Five," he replied. "Four boys and a girl."
Emily could not tell by looking at his face what he was feeling, but she was hearing something in the sound of his voice. She thought it sounded like sheer terror. He must be scared stiff to think about going home to five children he hadn't seen for at least five years, having to take the sole responsibility for raising them.
"Have you ever been married, Emily?" Steven asked, drawing her out of her thoughts.
"Yeah, I was once," she answered. "My husband was killed right after the turn of the century in an accident. I guess that makes it about eight years ago now." It didn't seem like that long, and yet, in some ways, it seemed like a lifetime. "That's when I started working here." Emily paused and refilled Steven's cup.
"Thanks," he said, then looked at Emily as he asked, "Have you ever thought about getting married again?"
"Sure I have. But I guess I'm just too picky. And besides, the pickings aren't so good here," Emily answered.
On the outside she was smiling when she answered him. But the truth of the matter was Emily was so lonesome sometimes that she could hardly stand it. She had no children and no family, and she ached for a man in her life. She had loved her husband very much, and after his death, she had thought she would never be able to love again. But for quite some time, she had felt she was ready to welcome someone into her life. The trouble was, no one was beating down her door. The only so-called proposal she'd had was from a man twice her age. He lived in a shack on the edge of town and was looking for someone to take care of him in his old age. He was probably the only person in town worse off than she was. At the age of thirty, Emily was beginning to give up hope of ever finding anyone. She was trying to accept her lonely heart and learn to live with it.
"Do you like kids, Emily?" Steven asked.
"Yeah, I like kids," she replied. "My husband came from a big family. I loved to help care for his nieces and nephews before we moved out here."
Emily was saddened once again, thinking about Jim's family. She had completely lost touch with them after his death. They seemed to just forget all about her. Maybe she was a sad reminder of the son they had lost.
Again Steven's voice brought her back to the present. "Emily, I have a proposition for you," he stated matter-of-factly. "I need someone to help me care for my children and take care of the house. Would you consider marrying me and coming to east Texas with me?" Steven stared into his coffee cup as he continued. "Now this would be a marriage in name only. I wouldn't expect you to be a wife to me, just a mother to my children."
Emily dropped the cup she was holding, shattering it into pieces. The breaking glass startled the two older gentlemen seated at the table in the corner, the only other people in the room. One of them called out, "Hey Emily, Lon'll dock your pay for that." Emily forced a smile back at the old fellow, but she couldn't speak. She looked at Steven. "What did you say?"
"I offered you a job and asked you if you'd be willing to marry me," he responded. There was no emotion in his voice and his face was void of all expression.
This certainly was not the proposal she had hoped for. There was no soft moonlight and certainly no bells ringing. Just a straightforward business deal. She knew Steven didn't love her, and she had known from the start he was a married man, so she had never thought of him in such a way.
"Of course I'd provide for you," Steven said. "I have a pretty good farm, and with a lot of work I think it could pay off. You'd get your room and board and whatever else you needed. I'd provide for you like a wife. I just wouldn't exercise my husbandly rights."
"Steven, you can't be serious. We don't know each other well enough to get married," Emily finally choked out.
"Like I said, I'm not asking you to be my wife. This is strictly a business deal. I'm really just offering you a job. I'm just offering to marry you to make it look respectable."
Stunned by his blunt reply, Emily muttered, "Steven, I don't know what to say. An offer like this needs some thought. Can you give me a little time?"
"I'm leaving early Friday morning. I need to know soon enough to arrange things with the preacher. I'll be back in town Wednesday morning. Can you decide by then?"
"I'll have my answer for you Wednesday."
Emily watched as Steven left the café, got on his horse, and rode off. She couldn't believe she had asked for time to think about his proposal. Why hadn't she just given him an answer then and told him no. What a ridiculous proposition! How could she even consider it?
Sure she wanted to get married, but she was hoping for a better deal than this. Steven wasn't even actually proposing marriage; he just wanted a mother for his children. After being alone all these years, she couldn't see herself raising five children. Wednesday she would just have to say thanks but no.
After the supper crowd was gone and the café cleaned and ready for breakfast the next morning, Emily locked up and went to the boardinghouse. Although Mrs. Jenson, the owner, invited her to play a game of cards, Emily politely refused, saying she was too tired.
She entered her lonely room, which had been her home for almost eight years. It wasn't fancy, but it was clean and comfortable. She had an iron bed frame with a soft mattress. The table by her bed held a white glass lamp with pink roses on the base; beside the lamp sat a picture of her and Jim on their wedding day. She sat on the bed as she picked up the small frame.
Staring at the picture and touching Jim's face, she said in a soft voice, "Oh, if only you hadn't left me. We had such a perfect love. I want that same feeling again. I ache to be loved like you loved me. To know that someone cares about me." Tears began streaming down her face, and with a trembling voice, she continued to speak to the picture. "Jim, I don't want to spend the rest of my life alone. What do I do? I know Steven doesn't love me, and I'm not in love with him, but what if this is my last chance? I don't want to spend the rest of my life alone and lonely. What should I do?"
She was tired and began to get ready for bed, but her mind kept racing. Steven and his unique proposal dominated her thoughts. As she lay in bed, she asked the Lord for guidance. This afternoon as she had stood in the café and watched Steven ride away, she had made up her mind to tell him no. But as she lay in the darkness talking with Jesus, she started to get confused. Surely God couldn't want her to marry a man she barely knew and didn't love.
She lay awake most of the night. This is crazy, she thought. I've got to work tomorrow. I have to get some rest.
The ache of loneliness continued to fill Emily's being. There were many questions to consider. She and Steven didn't love each other, and that was no basis for a marriage. Emily didn't even know if Steven believed in God. How could she even consider his proposal? Loneliness was the only reason she could come up with to leave Abilene and marry a man with whom she shared no love.
Of course, she wasn't real sure of her future here. Lon Blackstone had mentioned several times lately that he was getting too old to keep running the café. What if he closed it; then what would Emily do? Maybe if she thought of Steven's offer as just a job, she could make a better decision. After all, Steven had made it very clear that it was a job, not a marriage he was offering her.
Emily didn't know what time it was when she finally drifted off to sleep. She was abruptly awakened by a loud knock on her door and a voice yelling, "Emily, are you sick? You're late for work."
Startled, Emily answered, "No, I'm fine, Mrs. Jenson. I just overslept. I'll be down in a minute."
Jumping from the bed, Emily splashed some water on her face and hurriedly dressed. She pulled her hair up in a quick bun and ran out the door. As she walked into the café, Mr. Blackstone, the proprietor, was already frying bacon, and a customer was seated at the counter.
"You're late," Mr. Blackstone smiled. This was the first time in the seven and a half years Emily had worked for him that she hadn't been on time. "Did you have a late date last night?" he asked.
"You know me, always out on the town," she laughed. "I'm sorry I'm late. For some reason I couldn't get to sleep last night."
"Have a lot on your mind, do you?" he questioned.
"Oh, something like that," she answered, turning to the customer seated at the counter. "Can I get you a refill on that coffee, Pete?"
"You need someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on, Emily?" Lon asked seriously.
"Maybe later." She went to wait on the two gentlemen who had just entered the café.
Emily knew if there was one person in the world she could talk to and count on it was Lon Blackstone. He had been almost like a father to her over the past few years. She knew she could tell him her dilemma, and he would be straightforward and honest with his opinions.
The little café had a very busy day, and Lon stayed until three o'clock, instead of leaving as usual at two. Before he left, he poured two cups of coffee and turned to Emily. "Girl, let's sit down and rest a minute. We deserve it."
After they seated themselves at a table, he looked at Emily and asked, "Care to tell me what's going on?"
"Someone asked me to marry him yesterday." That was the first time she had said it out loud, and it sounded strange.
"That's wonderful! But who is it? I didn't know you were seeing anyone special."
Emily sat quietly without responding to his questions.
"If you don't mind me saying so, you don't seem as excited as a girl should be when she gets a proposal of marriage," Lon observed.
She looked at Lon. "Let me tell you the whole story and please don't say anything until I'm finished."
Lon nodded and Emily cleared her throat as she began. "Steven Barnes came in here yesterday and told me he had just found out his wife had died. He said he has to go back to east Texas to take care of his children. Seems they will become wards of the county if he doesn't get back there soon. Well, he asked me to marry him. Actually, he offered me a job. He wants me to help him raise his children. He said we would get married for appearances only. It would be a marriage in name only."
Lon listened patiently as she finished the story. "What are you going to do?" he asked.
"Right after he left I thought, 'how stupid, why didn't I just tell him no.' I decided right then and there that I would tell him no thanks when he comes back for his answer. But, for some reason I couldn't stop thinking about his proposition. That's why I didn't get any sleep last night."
Lon, a dedicated Christian, asked the question she expected: "Have you prayed about this?"
"Yes, I have," she answered. "And the more I pray, the more confused I become. I have thought about getting married again for a long time. But silly me, I always thought in terms of marrying someone I was in love with. I thought God promoted that idea. One thing I do know for sure, Steven Barnes is not in love with me. I have never thought of him in terms of marriage either. The thought of five children really scares me, too."
Lon looked thoughtful. "God does want there to be love in a marriage. But you said Steven made it very clear that this would be a marriage in name only, that he was really offering you a job. I have known a few couples whose love came after marriage. They got married for some good reason or another without being in love, but the love grew with time."
"So are you saying that if I marry Steven just to help him raise his children, that eventually we might fall in love?"
"That could be a possibility. You know some folks start out in marriage just being friends. As a matter of fact you have to be friends with the person you marry for a marriage to last. Do you like Steven? Are you friends?" Lon asked.
"I like him," Emily responded. "I don't know if you could say we're friends. The only place I've ever seen him is here."
"When do you have to give him your answer?"
"Tomorrow," she replied. "You sound as though you think I should accept."
"Not at all," he stated. "But I do think you should consider all sides. Since you didn't give him an immediate no, then the proposition must not have sounded all bad to you. You said the more you pray about it the more confused you become. Maybe God knows something you don't. Just make the decision you think is right for you, and I'll stand by you all the way. There is something for you to consider — do you know if Steven is a fellow believer?"
Excerpted from A Bride's Agreement by DiAnn Mills, Elaine Bonner, Ramona K. Cecil, Nancy J. Farrier, JoAnn A. Grote. Copyright © 2009 Barbour Publishing. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Five women end up married to men that they hardly know. But with a little faith, a little trust, and a whole lot of love, they can turn the marriages into a romance to last a life time. Each story combines a touch of drama, romance, faith, and family. I can't remember ever enjoying a collection of novellas as much as I enjoyed this one. I'd read one story previously and liked it, so didn't mind reading it again. The stories were only connected by the theme, but each one was sweet and filled with romance. The authors did a great job of conveying the importance of trust in God and your marriage partner while creating an entertaining and sweet story. The characters were well defined and the settings vividly described. Three of the authors were new to me, so I'll be checking out what other titles they've written. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Christian fiction or Christian romance. I received this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review.