A Father in the Making
Busy Texas farmer Quinn Tucker is used to raising crops, not children. So when four nieces and nephews are left in his care, it's not long before he realizes they need a mother. But his search for a wife leads to the least likely woman for illiterate Quinnschoolmarm Helen McKenna.
City girl Helen has been told she'll never have childrenand, it seems, a husband. So she jumps at the chance to be a mother to Quinn's little family. Though he is far from her image of an ideal husband, maybe a marriage in name will blossom into something more
Bachelor List Matches: A hand-picked bride for every bachelor in small-town Texas
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
October 1888 Peppin, Texas
Quinn Tucker was not a smart man.
If he was, he would have realized he needed to get married as soon he'd found out he was going to be a foster father to a group of orphans. Three whole weeks had passed since then. Three weeks in which he'd struggled to be both father and mother to four children he hadn't even known existed until they'd been dropped on his doorstep by a stranger named Jeffery Richardson. The man had said the children had belonged to his brother, Wade, who along with Quinn's father, had gone off to seek a fortune for their poverty-stricken family. Quinn had been eight years old at the time, so he'd been left behind to be raised by and eventually take care of his ailing grandmother. Nana had died when he was fourteen. Quinn had been on his own. Until now
Now, he was afraid to be on his own long enough to visit the outhouse for fear that one of the children would get hurt or wander off in his absence. Not that he regretted taking in his own kin. He didn't. Each of them had become real special to him during the short time that they'd lived with him. It was just that their entrance into his life had changed everything faster than he'd imagined possible.
He was still trying to get his bearings, which must have been why it had taken him seeing his friends Law-son Williams and Ellie O'Brien exchange vows yesterday for him to realize that he needed a wife. After all, a wife was supposed to be a helpmeet and he needed helpdesperately. There was only so much bathing, washing, mending, braiding, baking and cooking a man could handle on his own with a farm to run.
Maybe he ought to ask Ellie for some advice on finding a wife. The town's newest bride was also its most successful matchmaker. Even as busy as he'd been lately, Quinn hadn't been able to escape hearing all the ruckus she'd caused over the past two months by gradually compiling a list of the town's most eligible bachelors and the ladies Ellie saw as their matches. Her intent had merely been to find her own match through the process of elimination. However, it seemed everyone had been hankering to get a peek at what had been deemed the "Bachelor List" to find out who their match was.
Quinn needed to know if he had one, but he wasn't sure what qualified a man to be considered "eligible." If it was looks, education or riches, he didn't have a chance. Women never seemed to get silly or swoony over himat least not that he'd ever noticed.
Of course, that didn't mean one hadn't captured his attention.
Helen McKenna, the town's schoolmarm, caught him watching her from across the crowd of folks who'd gathered for a good old-fashioned shivaree at the ranch where the newlyweds lived. Her mahogany eyes seemed to sparkle in the lantern light as she tilted her head inquisitively and stared right back at him. A blush spread just below her high cheekbones, making him wonder just how long he'd been staring. He sent her a nod as if that's all he'd been trying to do in the first place, then glanced away.
He'd noticed her in church the first Sunday after she'd arrived in town, but hadn't met her until he'd enrolled his eldest nephew and niece in school. That first meeting had confirmed everything he'd feared about the schoolmarm. She was beautiful, refined, intelligent and far too good for him. Every time he looked at her, Nana's warnings rang in his ears. Chasing after more than you deserve will only get you hurt or dead.
Hadn't his pa and his brother proven her right? No need for Quinn to follow their example. He'd best stay far away from Miss McKennanot that he actually had a chance with her, anyway.
Staying away from her tonight would have been a sight easier if she hadn't hung back to talk to him. The rest of the group followed Sheriff Sean O'Brien, who was the bride's brother and Quinn's closest neighbor, toward the cabin where the newlyweds lived. Quinn's grip tightened on the neck of his banjo in his left hand as Helen's generous smile set his heart thumping in his chest. Not wanting her to stumble in the dark, uneven field they traipsed across, he dared to place a cautionary hand near the small of her back. She angled closer to his side and chanced a whisper.
"I wasn't expecting to see you tonight. Who's with the children?"
"The groom's parents were kind enough to insist on watching them for me," he whispered back. "You can't get much better than the town doctor and Mrs. Lettie Williams for temporary caregivers. They even brought us supper."
Her lips tipped upward in a brief smile. "What about Reece? How is his black eye?"
"All right, I suppose, but it's turning an awful shade of green." Reece was Quinn's oldest nephew at nine years old and was the self-designated protector of the siblings. He hadn't taken kindly to one of the other schoolboys picking on his younger sister Clara. The seven-year-old was a true sweetheart and destined to be a heartbreaker with her rich brown curls and big blue eyes. "I'm not sure what to do. I don't want to encourage him to fight, but I don't want Clara to be bullied, either."
She nodded with understanding and concern written across her face in a frown. "I've already spoken to the other student's father about it. Hopefully, the teasing will stop. As for Reece, I'm sure he'll settle in soon."
"I hope so. He's been through a lot with his father and stepmother dying in that boating accident on their honeymoon only two years after his mother died in childbirth. Then he traveled thousands of miles to live with an uncle he'd never even met."
"It couldn't have been an easy transition for you, either." The empathy in her tone wrapped around him like a warm blanket.
"I manage well enough." At least, that's what he kept telling himself. Helen started to respond but someone shushed them, so she just nodded. He counted about twelve or thirteen people creeping along beside her to where a cozy cabin for two sat at the edge of the woods. Even the katydids stopped singing. A snicker sounded above the soft rustle of grass but was quickly drowned out by more shushes.
Sean lit the lantern he held and gave a single nod. A cacophony of sound shattered the stillness. Quinn's lightning-fast fingers picked an out-of-tune melody on his banjo. On his right, Helen banged an old frying pan with a mangled metal spoon while her good friend Isabelle Bradley rang the bell that usually sat on the Bradley Boardinghouse's front desk. On his left side, his best friend, Rhett Granger, played a jumbled assortment of chords on his harmonica before settling in on a single warbling note. Beside Rhett, Chris Johansen's fiddle screeched. Other folks added to the discordance by banging more pots and pans, whooping, hollering and whistling.
A cheer went up when the door opened a few seconds later. Lawson appeared, looking startled and drowsy but with a wide grin on his face. Ellie followed him out, laughing even as she covered her ears. In true shivaree fashion, the husband and wife were each made to sit in wheelbarrows. The ride ended on the banks of the farm's creek where the couple was finally allowed to stand. The noise and the music died down so that Sean's wife, Lorelei, could speak.
"Lawson and Ellie, this shivaree is to show you that your marriage has the full blessing of your family, friends and community." Lorelei gestured toward the creek. "As you take the plunge into married life, we take it with you."
Ellie eyed the creek then tilted her head and stared at her friends with calculating mischief. "Does that mean if we jump in, everyone else has to, as well?"
Quinn grinned at Ellie's exuberance. It was a pretty balmy night for mid-October. Of course, that didn't mean the creek would be anything but frigid.
Sean nodded. "That's the deal. Afterward, women will change in the cabin. Men will change in the barn."
Lawson gave a slow grin and winked. "Well, in that case."
Ellie didn't seem the least bit surprised when Law-son lifted her into his arms and barreled into the creek with what could only be described as a war cry. Pandemonium broke out as folks tossed their noisemakers on the ground and men started picking up whichever woman was handy to follow their leader into battle. Quinn spotted Helen backing away from the melee as he set his banjo in the cushioned wheelbarrow with the other instruments. He cut off Helen's escape, swept her off her feet and plunged into the creek.
Rushing water muted the sound of Helen's shriek and the rest of the hollering until Quinn resurfaced, gasping from the cold. Helen pushed away from him and immediately headed to the creek bank. A wave of water rushed over Quinn's head. He soon found himself embroiled in a water fight with Rhett and Chris. Once they'd had all they could stand of the cold, they staggered to the creek bank to follow the rest of the party in the rush toward warmth and dry clothes.
Quinn didn't make it very far along the path before he realized he hadn't seen Helen head for the trees. She was probably on the path ahead of him, but even with only three weeks of experience in the role, the parent in him already knew not to leave the creek without making sure she wasn't straggling behind the group. Quinn doubled back to the creek bank. Sure enough, she was staring at the ground as she walked back and forth along the bank of the creek. "Miss McKenna, what are you doing?"
"I'm looking for something."
"Well, you aren't going to find it in the dark."
She sighed. "You're probably right."
"You should change before you catch cold. You must be freezing."
"I certainly am." Her gaze swept the creek bank one last time before she joined him at the edge of the woods. "Thanks to you."
His caught her elbow to escort her onto the path. "Aw, I just gave you a little help getting in the creek, that's all. You would have jumped in eventually."
"Yes, but not quite so enthusiastically." Her smile flashed in the darkness before she gave him a stern look she must have perfected on her students. "Is there a particular reason why you seemed to take such sheer pleasure in throwing me into that creek?"
He couldn't help but chuckle. "Maybe I don't like schoolteachers."
"What did they ever do to you?"
"Plenty." He tugged her onward, hoping his grim tone would put an end to her question. It seemed to have the opposite effect.
She stopped and looked up at him. "Now I'm intrigued."
The last thing he wanted was to delve into that, so he angled a grin her way as he helped her around a fallen branch. "Truthfully, I hoped you would come out looking as messy as the rest of us. Of course, you didn't. Look at you prim, proper and perfect as usual. Not a hair out of place. How'd you manage that?"
"Is that what you think I am?" She didn't seem to realize that she was leaning into him to share what little warmth their bodies produced. Or maybe she was just too cold to care. "Prim, proper and perfect?"
A rush of heat tinged his face. It was too late to take back his words, so he just shrugged. "It sure doesn't seem like you're the type to ever let down your hair."
They reached the edge of the woods, but she didn't rush toward the cabin. Instead, she lingered with a hand on her hip. "I jumped in the creek, didn't I?"
"I thought you said I threw you." He winked as she seemed to scramble for a defense. "I guess I was just wondering what you'd look like a little mussed up, is all."
"Is that so?" She lifted her chin along with her brow. "Well, I've been wondering what you'd look like with a haircut and a shave."
He ran a hand over his thick beard. "That'll happen the day you let down your hair and enjoy yourself."
"Deal." She released his arm and started fiddling with the fancy knot of hair on the back of her head.
Alarm prompted him to take a few cautious steps back. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Letting down my hair."
"That isn't what I meant."
"No, but it's what you said, so you can't go back on our deal." She shook her head until her hair tumbled from its style then slipped her hand into her thick dark hair and teased it into disarray. "Is that mussed enough for you?"
He stared at the dark waves of hair that framed her face and slid past her shoulders to stop at her waist. The only other woman he'd seen with her hair down had been his grandmother. She hadn't looked anything like Helen. The schoolmarm seemed to capture the sparkle of starlight in her mahogany eyes while the glow from the cabin caressed her delicate features and stained her hair with a subtle dusting of gold. His hand reached out of its own accord to slide through the thick locks that were slick and heavy from their recent soaking.
The sound of her breath catching in her throat brought him up short. Suddenly realizing just what he was doing and to whom, he extracted his hand from her hair and restored the distance he hadn't realized he'd covered. "I'm sorry, ma'am. I had no right to do that. Guess I just wasn't thinking."
She deftly twirled her hair and pinned it into a simple style. "You get that haircut and shave and we'll call it even."
"You must think I need them awful bad to go through all this."
Her expression turned innocent, though her eyes were full of mischief. "Well, you do remind me a bit of a bear."
"A bear, huh?" He glanced toward the cabin as the door opened and Lawson walked out with a bundle of clothes in his hand. Quinn urged Helen into the clearing. "You'd better go on inside before you catch a chill."
She complied, greeting the bridegroom as she passed him. Lawson lifted a skeptical brow as he met up with Quinn and they walked across the field toward the barn. "Did you two get lost back there or something?"
Quinn shrugged. "I caught her dawdling by the creek, so I rounded her up and brought her in."
"Well, don't let her hear you describe her that way."
Lawson's eyes started twinkling. "Like a cow."
"I guess it did sound kind of bad." Quinn grimaced as Lawson laughed and clasped him on the shoulder. How was he ever going to find a wife at this rate? Lolly-gagging with a woman he didn't have a chance with then talking about her like she was a heifer. It wasn't a good start. He needed more than just an expert on love like Ellie. He needed divine intervention.
Being the last one into the tack room gave Quinn a moment alone to do what needed to be done. He bowed his head to whisper a prayer. "Lord, I might not be much and I may not deserve the finer things in life that other folks have, but I'm not asking for me. I'm asking for my children. All right, and maybe a little for me, too. Please send me a mother for them. Someone to be a helpmeet. That's all I ask, Lord."
"Quinn, everyone else has gone ahead," Rhett called through the door. "I'm going to head to the cabin. You'd better get your banjo out the wheelbarrow and come on."
"I'm coming." Quinn finished dressing, then left the tack room. Rhett waited at the barn door jumping up and down to get warm while looking longingly across the field toward the cabin. Quinn found his banjo resting right where he'd placed it. Whoever had been in charge of gathering the noisemakers from the creek bank hadn't been particularly careful in their treatment of his instrument. It had all manner of things piled on top of and around it. He pulled the instrument out only to find a stray piece of paper entwined in its string.
"Quinn, hurry up, will you? Lawson said Ellie was making some hot cider."
"Aw, stop your caterwauling. I've said I'm coming." Quinn tucked the folded paper into his pocket before joining Rhett. They ribbed each other all the way to the cabin, but Quinn's gaze kept rising to the starry sky that stretched above him. He could only hope that God had heard the pleadings of his heart and see fit to answer.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I hate to say it but this biik is terrible. I cant even bear to finish reading it. Its all thoughts in their heads and very little real talking ir actiin. I am so dissapointed.
“The Texan's Inherited Family” by Noelle Marchand is the first book in her 'Bachelor List Matches' which is a spin off from her book “A Texas-Made Match”. It is not important to read that book or the other books in the same series with that book, for this is a book that sets off something really amazing. I am really looking forward to the rest of the books in this series and frankly I wonder if I already see one couple being matched and if I am right about the couple that should be a pretty explosive relationship. Here is a story that is all about overcoming misconceptions. Misconceptions of what one believes about oneself. Misconceptions of what one is told to be the truth. Misconceptions of what others think of oneself. Overcoming these misconceptions are not always easy and certainly not simple for the most part. In order for things to come together at the end a lot of things have to fall into place if people are willing to take that step. It seems as if both Quinn and Helen have secrets that they don't want to come out even as they join forces for the sake of Quinn's nieces and nephews. Life is certainly not easy as they learn about family life that is for sure while protecting themselves from what they are so sure they know what is going to happen. Then things take a twist that oh boy did I never see coming that is for sure. When I say that I didn't see what was coming I have to say that with complete emotion for WOW that was a shocker that is for sure. I have to say that there are quite a few things going on at one time throughout the story and is all written in such a way that really they all seem to blend perfectly with each other. There are the issues with secrets, issues with the kids, issues with job and issues with the past, yet it never seemed as if there was too much going on at one time so that there wasn't a moment when things seemed to be slow in the slightest. I truly hope that all who read this book enjoys it as much as I did.
This story will stay with me for a long time! Even when I wasn't readying the book, I kept thinking of it! The characters were so real to me and I couldn't stop thinking of them. I had to finish the book so I just put aside things I needed to do and finished it in 2 days! It touched something in my soul. The main character, Quinn, "inherits" his brothers 4 children when his brother and his new wife supposedly died on their honeymoon. Quinn is a single farmer and was raised by a grandmother who wasn't very good at certain things herself so Quinn really doesn't have a clue at how to raise kids! He has a lot of love for them though and realizes, after having them awhile that the best things would be to marry a woman so they could have a mother. So many times I wanted to jump into the book and hug Quinn! He's such an adorable and lovable character! However, due to the way he's been raised, he doesn't know a lot of things about God's love and thinks he has to EARN privileges. He promises God if he just gets a wife, he'll work every day to be worthy of her but he wont ask for anything else, including her love! A marriage in name only! He marries Helen, the schoolteacher, who happens to be a wealthy & beautiful woman from a big city --- but she's hiding a big secret and she marries Quinn for her own reason. She, on the other hand, is hoping for love to come out of this marriage some day. These two wounded souls have some of the most touching, heartbreaking experiences together, but also some of the most amazing. As I said, I couldn't put it down! I loved the book, as I have previous books by this author! Can't wait for more books now!