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Plum Pudding Bride
By Anne Garboczi Evans
Pelican Ventures, LLCCopyright © 2015 Anne Garboczi Evans
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There she was, the girl he'd loved for seven years. And she was sorting preserve cases at his store, as she'd done for the last four years. She stood not six paces from him, and yet so far away.
Peter's fingers squeezed the ring box in his jacket. This time, he was going to go through with it, no matter if she pointedly changed the subject, or hastily found excuses to be elsewhere, or pushed other eligible young women at him. Dadburn it, today he'd have his answer, a "yay" or a "nay" instead of living in this wretched bog of uncertainty.
The store had already closed. He just needed to grate the key in the locks while Patience tidied the shelves. The falling winter sun made long shadows on the floor between them. Now she had put down the strawberry preserves and taken an inventory list. She moved towards the mercantile section.
His heavy boots clomped on the hardwood floor, but his heart clomped louder. His fingers tightened around the red velvet box. It was a white-gold ring and a miner's cut diamond. Size six, as he'd discovered four years ago when he'd stolen her glove.
Patience's brown hair twisted back around her ears. She always complained it lay too flat and said her younger sister teased her about having a mottled complexion. But he'd never seen hair shine like hers, and her soft skin set off brown eyes that possessed a luster no girl in Gilman could match. And her smile. Oh, her smile. She could turn Antarctica into the tropics by just curving her lips.
A head-high shelf of baking perishables hemmed them in on one side while bolts of fabric made up the other side of the narrow aisle.
"Patience Callahan, will you —" Peter slid the box out of his pocket and started to lower one knee to the ground.
Her gaze flicked to the ring box. "Why, Peter" — she stepped into him, blocking all attempts at kneeling — "I've been meaning to tell you my news."
Her long fingers were slender. Yet they could move lickety-split when sorting spools or organizing canned goods.
"I just received this." Patience tugged a newspaper clipping out of her pocket along with a small daguerreotype. "This is Arnie Dehaven. He's a Montana rancher. I've answered his mail-order-bride advertisement and I'm marrying him."
"What?" Peter's jaw gapped open as he stared at the black-and-white photo. It showed a hulk of a man who looked as if he hadn't shaved in a week. The man's brow sloped beneath a shabby coat.
"I'm marrying him." She smiled sweetly and from her other pocket produced a train ticket and a letter.
The opening line of the letter read: To my loveliest Paytience.
Peter scowled. "He misspelled your name."
"Because he was in such a hurry to write back. Only ten days after I sent my letter, I got his answer. I'm traveling out by train in two weeks. Arnie's twenty-five miles from town, so he'll drive in to get me. It takes a strong man to weather the Montana wilderness."
"Or a stupid one," Peter muttered under his breath. Yes, he'd never ranched or braved sub-zero temperatures with only a steed and a wool blanket. But he'd worked hard with his pa at the railroad throughout his youth and then been smart enough to start up a successful store that had flourished in the last six years. What was so wrong with that?
She stuffed the picture and letter into her apron pocket. Only Patience Callahan could make the thick duck cloth of the store's work aprons look dainty and overwhelmingly desirable.
"Why marry a stranger? There's plenty of men here in Gilman." Not that he'd want her marrying any of them. But with her wit and face she could capture any heart. "You wouldn't see your family for years at a time." Surely her pa hadn't agreed to this?
"That is where we are different." She said it as if she'd already made up her mind.
Who was he fooling? Of course, she'd made up her mind against him. Ever since her twenty-first birthday when she'd turned him down for the Fourth of July picnic for the third year running, he'd known it was a one-sided love. But women could change, right? He'd become more successful every year; all of the townsfolk respected him. He'd even ridden in the sheriff's posse a few times and was now a fair shot with a pistol after some lessons.
"I don't desire safety. I want adventures. Marrying a stranger, moving to a far-off land, well, state — it's the stuff of my dreams. I'd suffocate living in the same town I grew up in, going to my mother's monthly tea, sitting in the same church pew ..."
Suffocate marrying him, more like. But he was interesting, he really was. He read Shakespeare at night sometimes, between cataloguing the store receipts and drawing up order summaries, and he rode up to the mountain lakes at least once a season to see the sunrise. He could switch church pews too, even though he had sat on the exact same knothole since he was seventeen, if it would make her happy. If only she'd give him a chance.
"... have Mrs. Clinton needlepoint the exact same gown she makes for all the babies of Gilman," Patience finished with disdain.
Babies, what inspired that thought? Surely she wasn't planning on having babies with the unshaven lummox in the picture? Wait, she was. His legs went heavy, and for the briefest of seconds he lost the ability to move. He couldn't let this happen. He couldn't.
What did she know about this Arnie? He was probably an ignorant clod who'd failed in civilized parts, so built some soddy in the wilderness where he chewed tobacco and beat wives to death. Did he read? Did he write? Obviously not. He couldn't even spell his future bride's name.
"Don't look so downcast, Peter." Patience smiled at him, that lovely smile that made his world spin. "I found the perfect girl for you."
"What?" Peter frowned.
She acted as if she knew he'd meant to propose.
"My little sister, Kitty, has taken a bit of a fancy to you. She's a lovely girl. Young, beautiful, maybe not highly intelligent, but she's got common sense and would make you a stunning bride."
Young? Yes, seventeen, a mere child. And he didn't care for the rosy-cheeked, blonde-haired, milk-colored-skin look. Kitty'd laugh at anything. Anything, even Reverend Gray's puns.
"I've another two weeks before I leave, and I'd be delighted to chaperone if you court Kitty."
Court Kitty! As if he'd even consider the idea when Patience was in his world. Beautiful, knowledgeable, wonderful Patience.
"What do you say?" She'd taken out the daguerreotype of Arnie again and pressed it to her heart.
He wanted to be sick right there on his thrice-scrubbed general-store hardwood.
As she tilted the picture to look at it, she smiled prettily, lending color to her perfectly molded cheeks. Even the curve of her elbow, just visible through brown calico, could melt his heart into a puddle. And he wasn't letting any Arnie Dehaven press his hand to that perfectly molded elbow.
"All right, I'll ask Kitty out." He had a plan, and he'd court Kitty Callahan or worse, if that's what it took, before he'd see the sweetest, most intelligent, loveliest woman in the world married to some Montana swindler. And he'd known Kitty since she was in short skirts. Foolish fancying or no, he'd wager he could talk her into helping him.
* * *
After waving a greeting in the yard to Pa Callahan and being offered buckwheat pancakes by Ma Callahan, Peter found his way back to the sitting room. Patience was working at his store. He knew that because he'd scheduled her to work.
With a rustle of starched skirts, Kitty entered the room. She looked a little older and her gold hair was caught up in a bun rather than pigtails. But courting her was still a ridiculous prospect.
"Mr. Foote, please tell me you aren't here because of my sister's meddling. The idea that I could ever suit a man like you —"
"Please take a seat." Peter gestured to the settee and sat on a wood chest. "I am here because of your sister's meddling. But I'm here to meddle in your sister's meddling."
"Oh?" Kitty bounced onto the settee's arm.
"As you know, Patience is the sweetest, loveliest, kindest, most astute —"
Perhaps he was laying on the adjectives a bit strong. Peter shifted back to lean on the peach wallpaper. "Anyway, I've loved her since I was ten, so I can't just let her marry this Montana stranger. I thought maybe if we agreed to this silly courtship and had Patience chaperone — I don't know. Maybe she'll see something in me she hasn't before?" As he laid out the plan, it sounded too good to be true.
Patience had known him for half a decade or more. Why would a few weeks make a difference?
Kitty crossed her ankles. "You know my sister isn't perfect, Mr. Foote?"
"What?" Peter blinked.
"You've got some dream in your head as if she's an angel and you're presumptuous to even think she'd look on a mere mortal. To be honest, I think she's laboring under the same delusion."
"What are you saying?"
"She's twenty-five, which is practically a spinster. I know you are entranced by the mere lock of her hair blowing in the wind, but objectively speaking, she's not incredibly pretty. She's real book smart, but she swears she'll never teach school because all those teeming young'uns drive her loony. Don't know how that bodes for childrearing. She took care of a kitten once, loved the wrinkled little thing. Until it died because she'd just got her hands on a copy of some ennui-inspiring French novel, Victor Hugo somebody, and she forgot to feed it. Oh, and she's a terrible cook. Can barely make edible gruel."
"I ate her apple pie. It was tasty." He didn't know how to coherently defend the starved kitten or the spinster part. Though he still thought even if she lived to be eighty, she'd have dozens of suitors vying for her hand. Her mere presence filled a room with warmth like the sparks of an oak fire.
"If you like the soggy, half-baked taste. She actually can cook decent if she puts her mind to it, but she's always got her nose in The Three Musketeers or some other unendingly long work of literature. Which is where she gets these impossible notions about husbands. If you want her, you'll have to become more Spanish buccaneer-like."
Peter crossed his arms. They were strong from years of moving crates and loading merchandise. "What do you want me to do?" He swept out his shop every day and wore a work apron when he cleaned up iced-cream spills. Scarcely Spanish-buccaneer material.
"Be confident. That's what she likes about this impossible Arnie Dimwit and her unpronounceable French heroes. Arnie bought her a train ticket before they'd even exchanged a second letter."
"I'm not confident." Not particularly, or he would have gotten his proposal out six years ago. As things stood, he still hadn't properly proposed, even though he was fairly certain Patience knew what he'd intended. "Wait, you think he's impossible too?"
"Of course. He's a stranger with oversized biceps who can't spell. He might be a wifebeater, for all we know." Kitty tossed a lock of hair back over her ear.
"Exactly what I was thinking." Peter half stood. "Now if you could just help me tell Patience this —"
"No." Kitty brought her creamy white fist down on the wood chest with a resounding bang. "There will be no cajoling, no begging, and absolutely no mentioning your superior steadiness. Patience does what she wants. What you have to do is make her want you."
"But isn't steadiness in a man a good thing? I mean, especially for a woman. A woman's vulnerable with being the weaker vessel, and childbearing, and mothering. Surely a woman needs a steady man, who will —"
"You know this. I know this. Patience, unfortunately, does not." Kitty cut him off again. She was starting to remind him of her older sister.
A sigh escaped Peter's lips. Trust Patience to discover the virtue of steadiness when she was freezing in a soddy, expecting her third child while her husband drank at the saloon.
"So, first things first. We need to arrange a desperate situation where you can rescue her. That's what happens in all her novels. I think I'll hire a drunk from the saloon to drive my pa's wagon careening down the east road while we're walking, and then you can jump in front of the wagon and drag Patience to safety. She'll find it very romantic." Kitty smiled, a much more cheerful smile than the brush with death she described should inspire.
"What if I'm not quick enough?" A speeding wagon could kill Patience.
"Don't be such a wet blanket. No wonder Patience finds you dull. Oh, and do you know how to flirt?" Kitty poised one hand on her left hip and jutted her shoulder a little out, showcasing what bosom the seventeen-year-old had.
"Sure." He'd flirted before. Four years ago, he'd once told a girl — well, Patience — that her eyes were the color of plum pudding. Considering it was her favorite dessert, he'd expected her to be more pleased by that compliment.
"Good, because I'll flirt outrageously with you on our outing. Jealousy's always a good stimulant."
Seated on the wooden chest, he scratched the back of his neck and eyed the animated girl. He wasn't half sure this was a good idea. But what else was he to do — sit back and let the Montana lummox steal his girl?
"Oh, and can you get up a minute? You're sitting on her hope chest and I promised I'd tat some lace for the wedding unmentionables she just finished."
He jumped up as fast as if the chest lid had turned to red-hot iron. This plan had better work.CHAPTER 2
Arm in arm with Kitty, Peter strolled down the abandoned bit of road outside town that she'd selected. The December day had an unseasonable warmth.
A few paces behind, Patience followed along, head bent over her latest literary acquisition.
He craned his neck wistfully.
With a whack, Kitty brought her fan down on his arm. "Confidence, remember?" She twisted around herself. "Gotten any letters from Arnie Dimwit recently, sister?"
At that, Patience did look up. "It's Dehaven, Kitty. Dehaven."
"Oh, my mistake." Kitty fluttered her eyelashes prettily, like a young woman does when she wants attention.
Peter wished Patience would want his attention. Would she flutter her eyelashes like that at Arnie? Not if he could help it. Confidence. Confidence. Peter crossed his arms. Clearing his throat, he sped up the pace a little. "So, Kitty, tell me how your studies are progressing." That sounded confident, right?
She clasped his arm, bringing her pretty blonde head right up to his shoulder and sort of smushing her cheek on the cloth of his jacket arm. "I finished school two years ago, Mr. Foote. All grown up now. Ready to marry." She drew out a meaningful sigh, tipping her chin up to him as she stared dizzily into his eyes.
Peter fought the urge to disentangle his arm and run. This was a disaster. They wouldn't fool the town drunk with their fake courting, let alone the keenest mind in Gilman, Patience Callahan.
The pounding of hooves came from behind. A horse and wagon rounded the bend at an alarming rate.
With a little hop on tiptoes, Kitty pressed her mouth to his ear. "It's time."
A few feet behind, Patience ambled along, nose still stuck in the yellowed pages of her novel.
The wagon was coming fast, too fast. If he got them all run over by a runaway wagon by agreeing to a little girl's plan, Patience would have been better off with Arnie.
"Get off the road, Kitty, quick." Bounding backwards, Peter grabbed Patience's arm.
* * *
At Peter's touch, Patience blinked and looked up from the pages of The Three Musketeers.
Outnumbered ten to one, d'Artagnan had just raised his sword. What did Peter want now? She had a vague recollection of him walking arm-in-arm with Kitty while making insipid conversation. She hoped Kitty did fall for him. He'd make the flighty girl a steady, doting husband, if not a particularly exciting one.
"Get off the road." Peter's arm went around her waist as he dragged her to the dead weeds by the side of the road.
Excerpted from Plum Pudding Bride by Anne Garboczi Evans. Copyright © 2015 Anne Garboczi Evans. Excerpted by permission of Pelican Ventures, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Plum Pudding Bride by Anne Garboczi Evans is an awesome short story that is perfect to read during the winter time or even during the fall wanting it to be winter. It’s a quick little read that will leave you wanting more. Or at least it did for me. Ms. Evans is a fantastic writer that will bring you into her books just by the first page which is an awesome ability to do. Especially for a novella like this one. I have to say that it has been a year since I first accepted this request which might have lead me into forgetting that it was going to be a novella set during the Christmas time which is evident in the title of the book. What I liked about this book. There is quite a bit that I like about this book, besides it being a novella which are sometimes the best reads anyone might find, is that it captivates you right away with wondering about this beau of Patience’s that she agreed to marry from a newspaper ad for a mail-order bride. Another thing that captivated me about this book is that the characters are all three dimensional and makes you wonder with how long they have been growing in the author’s mind. Especially the two main characters in the story. I also liked how one doesn’t know who the antagonist of the story is until it gets toward that point of the story that the antagonist reveals themselves which was really great in mind. The main character is Peter Foote who is the general store owner and has been in love with Patience Callahan for seven years but won’t return his affections. He and another character decide to try and get Patience jealous and call off her wedding with her beau from Montana that wanted a mail-order bride. Of course, it kind of works in their favor and kind of doesn’t since it just makes her want to be with her beau even more until she learns the truth and with Peter kind of changing the way he is makes her want him even more. The other main character is Patience Callahan who is a twenty-five-year-old woman who would rather be spent reading than really looking for a husband or learning how to cook. It also doesn’t help that she works at Peter Foote’s general store and thinks that Peter isn’t that interesting or heroic like the characters in her books. Instead she would rather answer a newspaper ad for a mail-order bride for a man that she doesn’t know instead of marrying someone in her small town that she has known for the past seven years. Except when her beau does show up the day before Christmas Eve and isn’t who she pictured or excepted she is at a loss for words but doesn’t want to let any of the small-town folk know that she knows that she made a mistake with answering that ad. I’m not normally one for Historical books as I have tried to read some before starting this blog and I didn’t think that they were for me. It mostly depends on the plot, the author, and the way that the book is. If I have to look up something while I’m reading the book because I didn’t get with what the author meant more than once than the book isn’t for me. Especially if the way some characters talk is really hard to understand for something they would say way back when the book is supposed to be around then I can’t finish it as it takes me out of the book and makes it harder for me to want to come back to the book to read it some more. Thankfully this book wasn’t like that which is why I am grateful to have read this book. To read more of this review please visit my site: baronessbooktrove.com
Patience Callahan has disregarded her friends affection for her for years. She knows what she wants. And its not to stay in the same town that she was born in or to wind up with a boring man like the shopkeeper that has been pinning for and trying to marry her for years. She wants an adventurous man, a manly man, and someone who will never want to be considered boring. Peter Foote has been wanting to be with Patience for 7 years but after having his proposal shot down for the 4th time he is at a loss of what to do. Especially since Patience has decided to shock him with the information that she is to become a bride to a man that she has never met but that meets her requirement for a "manly man". The big kicker? Patience want's Peter to try and court her sister. This blatant disregard for him or their friendship sends Peter on a mission. He court the sister. But only as a way to get Patience to see him as a man worthy of herself. This was a great short (extremely short) novelette that has an extreme amount packed into very few but amazingly written pages. There is danger, romance, complications, and medaling friends/sisters. I would highly recommend this cute short romance. ~ A Book Obsessed Chicks Review Team Selection.
Patience has decided to answer a call for a mail order bride and get married to a stranger. Peter has loved her for years and sees this as a horrible thing. Kitty, the younger sister of Patience, and Peter work together to push Patience in the path of Peter. When the man she is supposed to marry shows up in town the worst happens. Will Patience stick with her stranger beau or will Peter finally win her over? One word that came to my mind while reading this was FUN. This story is very lighthearted and fun to read. The antics that these people go through to get to Patience are just so cute and funny. I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick, well written, and light read. I would definitely recommend this to others....Stormi
Plum Pudding Bride is a little cute festive story, perfect for this time of year. Patience Callahan is Twenty Five years old and longs for a husband, despite local shop owner Peter Foote, having been in love with her for seven years and declaring his undying love for her and asking for her hand in marriage. Patience however wants a hero, an action man, someone full of adventure and she isn’t going to find that in boring Peter Foote. Peter wont give up, and one day with a ring in his hand and one knee dropped to the floor, Patience blurts out that she is to become a mail order bride to a stranger from Montana on Christmas Day. With the help of Kitty, Patience’s sister, they have only Two weeks to change her mind and stop her making a big mistake. Peter knows he is the man for her and sets out to prove it. At only 69 pages long this is only a short book, though I enjoyed this quick read. It did feel like it all ended a little too quickly, but it was still packed with detail and excitement. There were times when I wanted to shake Patience and tell her to wake up and smell the coffee about her intended husband, but I really enjoyed the story and felt it all came together well in the end.
Plum Pudding Bride by Anne Evans. It's a cute romantic comedy set around Christmas time. You can't help but love Patience. She is a book lover and has decided that she wants adventure in her life like the ones that she reads in her books. She's been working with Peter at the general store for seven years. He's in love with her but she wants more adventure and signs up to be a mail order bride. She tries to convince Peter to date her sister. So Peter decides to team up with her sister to find a way for Patience to want to marry him. Her sister definitely knows how to get to Patience and it was pretty comical. .clean. You can see my full review at More Than a Review dot com where I rate the level of sex, violence, language and drug/alcohol use in books.
Plum Pudding Bride is the tale of if you are stubborn enough, you will get what you want! Patience Callahan is 25 and longs to find somebody handsome, full of action and willing to do anything for her, just like the books she reads. Peter Foote is a general store owner and has been in love with Patience for the past 7 years but Patience doesn't want to have anything to do with Peter. It takes Patience to pull out advertisements for a mail-ordered bride and two weeks for Peter to up his game to win her over. As Peter along with Patience's sister Kitty, tries everything to get Patience to change her mind, her soon to be husband shows up in town with a plan of his own. With the truth of everything coming out about Patience's fiance and why he is really there, Patience makes the decision that will change everything for everyone! I really enjoyed this book but the only problem I have with this book, is that it ended way too quick for me! There were times when I just wanted to go slap Patience on her head to wake her up to what is in front of her but the way that it all worked out in the end, was perfect for both Patience and Peter! If you want to read a feel-good story with that holiday feeling, I would highly recommend this book! Thank You to Anne Garboczi Evans for writing such a good story that made me become a fan of yours from now on!! I received this book from the Author in exchange for a honest review.