Dreams of Finding Mr. Right Go Wrong in the Old West The Bride’s Dilemma by Susan Page Davis Wyoming, 1883 Eve Martin arrives in Cheyenne to learn that man she came to marry is in jail, accused of a violent murder. Should she get on the next eastbound train, or has God brought her here to help save Caleb Blair’s life? Romancing the Rancher by Linda Ford Montana, 1886 Amelia expects a safe home for herself and her niece as mail-order bride to Zach Taggerty. Only Zach has never heard of her, and the last thing he needs is more complications in his life. The Marriage Sham by Vickie McDonough Texas, 1888 Mail-order bride Zola Bryant is devastated. Her newlywed husband is dead. But even worse, they were never truly married because the man who wed them was an outlaw not a preacher. What will she do now that her life and reputation are in tatters? The Galway Girl by Erica Vetsch Kansas, 1875 A mail-order mix-up sends Irish lass Maeve O’Reilly to the Swedish community of Lindsborg, Kansas. Will Kaspar Sandberg consider it a happy accident or a disaster to be rectified as soon as possible?
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|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
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About the Author
Susan Page Davis is the author of more than seventy Christian novels and novellas, which have sold more than 1.5 million copies. Her historical novels have won numerous awards, including the Carol Award, the Will Rogers Medallion for Western Fiction, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest. She has also been a finalist in the More than Magic Contest and Willa Literary Awards. She lives in western Kentucky with her husband. She’s the mother of six and grandmother of ten. Visit her website at: www.susanpagedavis.com.
LINDA FORD draws on her own experiences living in the Canadian prairie and Rockies to paint wonderful adventures in romance and faith. She lives in Alberta, Canada, with her family, and she writes as much as her full-time job of taking care of a paraplegic and four kids, who are still at home, will allow. Linda says, "I thank God that He has given me a full, productive life and that I'm not bored. I thank Him for placing a little bit of the creative energy revealed in His creation into me, and I pray I might use my writing for His honor and glory."
Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of nearly 50 published books and novellas, with over 1.5 million copies sold. A bestselling author, Vickie grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams penning romance stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West. Her novels include End of the Trail, winner of the OWFI 2013 Booksellers Best Fiction Novel Award. Whispers on the Prairie was a Romantic Times Recommended Inspirational Book for July 2013. Song of the Prairie won the 2015 Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award. Gabriel’s Atonement, book 1 in the Land Rush Dreams series, placed second in the 2016 Will Rogers Medallion Award. Vickie has recently stepped into independent publishing. Vickie has been married over forty years to Robert. They have four grown sons, one daughter-in-law, and a precocious granddaughter. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, doing stained glass, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website at www.vickiemcdonough.com.
Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves books and history, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical romances. Whenever she’s not following flights of fancy in her fictional world, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, an avid museum patron, and wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul mate. Erica loves to hear from readers. You can sign up for her quarterly newsletter at www.ericavetsch.com You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her on her author Facebook page.
Read an Excerpt
Cheyenne, Wyoming, 1883
With his mail-order bride arriving tomorrow, Caleb didn't need any distractions, least of all a fight. But as he passed the open stable door, a yelp jerked him out of his reverie.
"You lazy whelp!"
Crack, followed by another yelp. It sounded like a woman — or a kid. That was it, the boy who worked for the stable owner was crying out, and from the sounds of things, Buck Tinan was thrashing him.
Without stopping to consider the consequences, Caleb dashed inside. Sure enough, the big stable owner loomed over the cowering boy. Willy, his name was. An orphan, unless Caleb was mistaken, about twelve years old.
"I oughta strip your hide off," Buck roared. He raised his hand with a whip in it, but when he flicked the lash back over his shoulder in preparation for another blow, Caleb caught the end and jerked it. Buck stumbled backward.
"Wha —" He whirled to face Caleb. "Blair! What's the meaning of this?"
"You're whipping that boy," Caleb said. "What's the meaning of that?"
Buck glared at him. "Yon Willy needs a lesson in hard work."
"Well, that's no way to teach him. If your help doesn't know how to do the job right, it's because you didn't teach him. He doesn't deserve a whipping."
"That's up to me," Buck said. "You've got no right coming in here and telling me what to do." He lunged forward, raising the whip.
Before Buck could use the lash on him, Caleb dove forward, butting his head into Buck's midsection. They both sprawled on the floor. Buck gasped in a breath, and Caleb seized the whip and tossed it across the dirt floor between the stalls. Several horses snorted and shifted. Caleb balled his fist and shook it in Buck's face.
"You want more?"
"Get off me!"
Caleb stood. Buck fumbled until he grasped the edge of a stall divider and pulled himself up.
"You can't do that, Blair."
"I just did." Caleb shook his head. "Tinan, you bought three horses off me last month. If I came by and saw you lighting into one of them like you were that boy, I'd wallop you just as hard. You're supposed to train that kid to be a decent citizen, able to support himself and not be a burden on society. You're not supposed to abuse him."
"Why, you —"
The train whistle cut through the warm afternoon air, reminding Caleb that Miss Martin would be on tomorrow's train, and he hadn't done his shopping yet.
"I got to go," Caleb said. "You keep your hands off that kid and treat him right, or I'll report you to the sheriff."
Buck's lip curled. "Just do that. I'm sure the sheriff will tell you the same thing I am. Mind your own business."
The whistle wailed again. Caleb hesitated. The boy had crept into an empty stall, but Caleb could see him crouching behind the divider. He was wearing a scarlet plaid shirt, and bits of color showed in the cracks between the boards of the dividing wall.
"You all right, Willy?" he called.
Buck stiffened, clenching his fists, but the boy replied softly, "Yes, sir."
"All right, then." Caleb nodded at Buck. "You'd best explain to him what you want done, and I mean with words, not with that whip."
"Get out of here," Buck yelled, stepping toward him.
Caleb didn't like to leave, but where did he draw the line? He turned on his heel and walked out. Maybe he ought to pause long enough to alert the sheriff to Tinan's behavior before going to the store. Or maybe he should have brought the boy along with him. He could take Willy to his ranch and give him chores there in exchange for his bed and board. Yes, that might be best. After he settled his bill at the store, he could stop back by the stable and ask Willy if he wanted to work on the Blair ranch instead of at the stable in town. The boy would probably jump at the chance, though Buck wouldn't be happy.
He squared his shoulders and focused on thoughts of the woman he was to meet. Eve Martin, soon to be Mrs. Blair. How would she feel about finding he'd taken on a boy? No, he told himself. His mission today was to stock up on staples for the kitchen and maybe a few new incidentals — new dish towels, for instance. What would she like to find in her new kitchen? That was today's question.
He stopped outside the store and swiveled his head to the left. The sheriff's office was only a couple of doors down. With a sigh, he turned toward it.
Sheriff Nichols, a fiftyish, no-nonsense man who carried about forty pounds more than Caleb did, looked up as he opened the door.
"Help you, Blair?"
"Yeah." Caleb walked in and shut the door behind him. "I was wondering about that boy, Willy, over at the stable."
The sheriff grunted. "What about him?"
"I was thinking he might be better off with somebody else."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, when I come by there just now, Buck Tinan was going at him with a whip."
Nichols pushed his chair back, got up, and walked over to the small woodstove in the corner. He picked up the coffeepot, shook it gently, then poured himself a cup. When he turned around, he arched his eyebrows.
"Well, he can't just beat the boy like that."
"What did you do?"
Nichols took a sip of his coffee then walked slowly over to his desk and sat down. He may have experience and some respect in town, Caleb thought, but he was getting too old and too slow for this job.
"Is the boy all right?" Nichols asked at last.
"He said he was."
"And how's Buck taking it?"
"You realize you may have caused the boy more trouble in the future?"
Caleb squared his shoulders. "Which is why I'd like to take him out to my ranch. I wouldn't hit him, Sheriff. I'd treat him good, and I'd look out for him."
Nichols sipped his coffee again and made a face, then set down the mug. "Tinan signed papers on that boy."
"He's adopted him?"
"He's his legal guardian. I can't change that, and neither can you."
Caleb frowned and stepped closer to the desk. "Even if we make a complaint saying he mistreats the boy? Can't you remove the kid from Tinan's care?"
Nichols shook his head. "That's only done in extreme cases. And I've got no proof."
"I'll bet you would have if you checked that boy over for bruises and scars. He's no doubt got fresh welts under his shirt right now, and maybe cuts."
"Do you want to sign a formal complaint, accusing Tinan of assaulting the boy?"
Caleb thought about that for only a second. "Sure. I'll do that."
"And then he'll press charges on you for assaulting him."
"I was protecting the boy."
"Your word against his."
Caleb brought his fist down on the desk. "You've got to do something. You gonna wait until he kills that kid?"
"Easy," Nichols said. "Looks like your temper's a bit jumpy too. Why should I put a child in your care, out on a ranch three miles from town? It would be harder to check on him there than it is at Tinan's."
Caleb's head whirled. Was Nichols checking on the boy here in town? He sincerely doubted it. He got the impression the sheriff was protecting Buck Tinan. A thought occurred to him, and he raised his chin. "Sheriff, I'm getting married. My fiancée is arriving on the westbound train tomorrow, and we expect to tie the knot right quick. We'd make a good home for the boy, a real family."
Nichols studied him through slits of eyes. "Does the future Mrs. Blair agree to that?"
"Well, I ... truth is, I haven't had a chance to discuss it with her yet. This just happened, and she's traveling ..."
"That's what I thought." Nichols stood, signaling their chat was over. "Look, about all I can do is talk to Buck Tinan. If I see marks on the boy, I'll tell Judge Curtis I have a complaint that the boy is being overly disciplined."
"Whipped," Caleb said. "Tinan was flogging him with a horsewhip."
Nichols nodded. "All right, fair enough. You write that down and sign it. Bring it to me tomorrow, and I'll see the judge gets it. He's off on his circuit right now, but he should be back next week."
"Next week?" That was far too long for Willy to stay in his situation.
"You heard me," Nichols said. "Now go on. And congratulations. Bring Mrs. Blair by after the nuptials if she's agreeable, and we'll look into you taking the boy. Otherwise, I don't see any point in pursuing it."
Caleb wanted to tear out his hair, but that would be pointless too.
"Fine." He turned on his heel and went out, shutting the door none too softly. He walked toward the general store, trying to stop thinking about Willy. He needed to concentrate on Eve Martin. What would Eve like to see in her kitchen? And would she agree to take in a boy? But first, and more importantly, once she got here and heard all about this, would she still want to marry him? At least he didn't have a black eye from his encounter with Buck. If he did, she might take one look and get right back on the train.
* * *
Eve Martin stared out the window of the railway carriage. The plains were so different from her home back in Pennsylvania. Grasslands spread out on both sides of the tracks, with hardly a tree in sight. Until this journey, she'd been used to forests and gently rolling hills covered with pastures and farmers' tilled fields. This untamed land frightened her a little.
She'd seen such wonders since leaving home, and she'd had several moments when her heart raced and she fleetingly considered turning back. Like the ride across the bridge over the broad Mississippi River. It was over a mile long, and all she could see was murky, swirling water and a few barges and a steamboat puttering along. She'd feared they would never reach the other side — that the bridge would collapse and they would plunge into the roiling, muddy current.
But they'd all survived, and once she was on the Missouri side of the river, she hadn't much heart for crossing it again. So she'd gone on, and the sights that had rewarded her — why, she could scarcely believe half of it. The vast emptiness that was the West awed her. Some of the places they'd stopped had no town at all, just a water tower and sometimes a shoddy little station cobbled together out of poor lumber, with seemingly endless land spreading out in all directions around it.
Was Cheyenne a proper town or just a handful of buildings? She'd seen a few big towns on the way, but settlers hadn't been living out here for more than thirty years or so. There couldn't possibly be a city out here, could there? Forts, perhaps, and little communities where wagon train people had stopped and settled, but she had it in her mind that there were no cities between here and San Francisco. As they drew closer to her destination, she grew more anxious.
What if Caleb wasn't there to meet her? What if Indians crowded about the depot?
She turned to the man sitting beside her. He looked genteel, like a middle-aged banker with graying hair, and he had spoken politely to her after he boarded the train earlier in the day but had not bothered her during their four hours as seatmates.
"Have you ever been to Cheyenne?" she asked.
He smiled. "I've lived there for three years, young lady. Is this your first visit?"
"Yes. We won't see the mountains, will we?"
"Not the Rockies, no, ma'am. The Laramie Mountains aren't far, though, nor the Medicine Bow range, but they're not as big or as splendid as the Rockies."
"I see." Eve thought about that. "I live near the Poconos."
She smiled. "That's right. They're impressive, but from what I'm told, the western mountains far outstrip them."
"To be sure. Have you had a pleasant journey so far?"
She wasn't certain how to answer that. "Well, the part where we crossed the Mississippi was frightening."
He chuckled. "Did you cross on the Eads Bridge?"
"Yes, and from all the tales my father told before I left home, I fully expected the bridge to give way and the train to fall into the river."
"Oh no. It's a sturdy bridge. All steel construction."
"So I've heard." Eve sighed. "My father was not convinced."
"Well, it's considered a great engineering feat. Have you heard about how the builders had a circus man take an elephant over it before they allowed people on the bridge?"
"Yes, and I know a lot of trains have passed safely over by now. I think my father was trying to discourage me from making the journey."
"Other than that, I admit I've seen some amazing sights. But I haven't seen any Indians, nor any buffalo."
"Not many buffalo left," he said with a sad tinge to his voice.
Eve hesitated then confessed, "This last part has frankly been boring."
She watched the uneven land, like unfenced pasture as far as she could see, whip past for a minute, then turned back to her companion.
"What's Cheyenne like? Is it a good-sized town?"
He laughed. "Oh yes."
"I thought maybe it was a little hamlet, or a fort."
"Why, miss, it's the temporary capital. Cheyenne is a regular city."
"Really?" Eve wasn't sure if that was good or bad.
"There's a fort," he went on, "but the railroad is the heart of things. It draws in all sorts."
"So there are stores and ...?"
"Land, yes. Hotels, banks, churches, freight companies, all sorts of businesses. Not as big as St. Louis, mind you, but a healthy, growing city."
"Oh." She eyed him carefully. "And what do you do, sir?"
He grinned at her. "I own two saloons."
Eve swallowed hard. He looked so respectable.
"And what brings you to Cheyenne?" he asked.
Eve felt her cheeks heat. "I'm getting married. My fiancé owns a ranch outside Cheyenne."
"Good for you!" He nodded, his eyes twinkling at her. "Best wishes."
"My name's Downing," he said. "If you ever need assistance, call on me. You can always find me at either the White Pony or the Willow Tree."
Eve nodded soberly.
Mr. Downing chuckled. "Perhaps you'd best not come to the Pony. It's not the place for ladies. The Willow Tree is quieter, and we serve meals there during the day. Local folks come in for breakfast or dinner. By suppertime it's a rowdier crowd, though, so come early if you want to inquire for me. If you can't find me there, leave a message. It will reach me without delay."
"Thank you. That's kind of you." She doubted she would ever call upon a saloon owner for assistance, but even so, he seemed a thoughtful man, and so far he had treated her with respect.
The train's whistle keened, and Eve jumped. "Where are we now?"
"Just a small place, an outpost really, with water and fuel for the train. We may sit here awhile." He reached inside his jacket. "Allow me to buy you a drink, Miss ..."
"Martin. But no, thank you." Eve clasped the handle of her pocketbook tightly. Let it never be said that she had allowed a saloon keeper to buy her liquid refreshment.
She turned back to the window. Outside, a few yards away, three mounted men whooped as they drove a herd of about two dozen cattle past the train. Dust wafted in through the open windows, and passengers hurried to close them. Eve pulled hers shut, but not before she sneezed. She rummaged in her pocket for a handkerchief.
"They're bringing those cattle from the holding pens yonder. Probably going to load them on the train right now." Downing rose. "Well, excuse me. I think I'll find something to drink. All this dust, along with the smoke from the engine, makes my throat dry."
She could almost sympathize. If only she'd thought he would bring her water, she would have accepted his offer.
Instead, she sank back in the corner of the seat and watched out the window as the horsemen urged the cattle onward. The herd must be boarding several cars back. She could hear plenty of yelling and lowing as the stockmen did their work. Even with the window shut, she made out a string of curses.
She took a deep breath in an effort to calm herself. Would life be this rough on Caleb's ranch? She had imagined it as a peaceful haven for the two of them, but now she realized he might have some hired men to help him. He raised horses, and one man couldn't do it all alone, could he? He hadn't mentioned any employees in his letters. He had written that he had a quarter section, which she'd learned was a hundred and sixty acres. That seemed like a lot, but maybe he needed that much grassland.
A cowpuncher trotted past on a spotted horse and met Eve's gaze as she stared at him through the glass. He grinned at her, and his expression turned to a leer. He shifted in his saddle so he could watch her a moment longer.
Eve shuddered and forced herself to look away.
Beyond her ability to stand up to the harsher life out here, one thing bothered her. In her letters she had dared to hint at a family skeleton. She was reluctant to put the matter on paper but told Caleb she would if he wanted a full explanation before they were married. In Caleb's reply, he had assured her that he wouldn't judge her on something her kinfolk had done. That relieved Eve's mind greatly, and she had said no more, but now her thoughts began to nag her once again. When he knew what had happened years ago, would he change his mind?
"Next stop Cheyenne!"
She must tell him everything before she married him. If she didn't, she knew it would always haunt her. As desperate as she was to begin a new life, and as fiercely as she wished to become the wife of this upstanding, seemingly kind and forgiving man, she would rather know his reaction now than have him learn about the past later and regret tying himself to her.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Mail-Order Mishaps"
Copyright © 2019 Susan Page Davis.
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.
Table of Contents
The Bride's Dilemma,
Romancing the Rancher,
The Marriage Sham,
The Galway Girl,