Seekerville is the best place to celebrate! I had a blast partying on Unpubbed Island after recent Seeker sales! I’m sure Ruthy, Tina and Audra would agree that nothing in a writer’s career is more exciting than The Call.
But a very close, so close it’s not really second, is the release of a book. Today I’m celebrating that The Substitute Bride, Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical, releases tomorrow. I have yet to see the book in stores, but sightings have been reported. I will go looking Tuesday, just to hold that hot-off-the-press book in my equally hot little hands, to see Janet Dean on the cover, even at the top of each page. Seeing the book on the shelves is one of the ups in all the ups and downs of this wild, wonderful, wacky business of publication.
The Substitute Bride was a fun story to write—with a mail-order bride, disgruntled groom and a small town filled with quirky characters. Here’s a peek:
They Struck a Bargain for Marriage
Fleeing an arranged marriage, debutante Elizabeth Manning exchanges places with a mail-order bride bound for New Harmony, Iowa. Life on the frontier can’t be worse than forced wedlock to pay her father’s gambling debts. But Ted Logan’s rustic lifestyle and rambunctious children prove to be more of a challenge than Elizabeth expects. She doesn’t know how to be a mother or a wife. She doesn’t even know how to tell Ted the truth about her past—especially as her feelings for him grow. Little does she know, Ted’s hiding secrets of his own. When their pasts collide, there’s more than one heart at stake.
Why was Ted disgruntled?
When he and Elizabeth are about to speak their vows, the bride suggests one teeny change—the name on the marriage license. A clear sign trouble lies ahead for this couple.
As a homemaker and mother, Elizabeth Manning is definitely a "fish out of water." Poor Ted. Yet no matter how inept she is, Elizabeth perseveres. She manages to find unique ways to handle the children and her new and very challenging life on the farm. I admire her spirit and fortitude—the same attributes that enabled women to survive the challenges of the West.
Ted is a dreamboat with a Call of his own. And a past he fears will raise its ugly head. Elizabeth is carrying a secret too. Life is never dull in New Harmony, Iowa.
In my quest for information to write this story a friend suggested I read Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier. The book explained that throughout the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s a weekly newspaper, The Matrimonial News, printed in San Francisco, California and Kansas City, Missouri, facilitated matchmaking. Men and women seeking a mate placed advertisements, giving physical description, their financial situation and whom they sought.
Hearts West makes fascinating reading and I recommend it to anyone interested in mail-order bride stories. Author Chris Enss relates stories of men and women, who wed often sight unseen. My husband and I dated for 2½ years. After we married, it didn’t take long to discover we still had things to learn about one another. All good of course. LOL Can you imagine the surprises in store for couples who may have exchanged a few letters or a picture and often never met until the wedding day?
Why did these women leave behind everything and everyone they knew to take the amazing step of marrying a stranger? Some were motivated by the fear of spinster-hood. Others desperately needed life’s necessities and hoped marriage would give them a better life.
Arranged marriages may sound odd to us, but a high percentage of marriages are still arranged today, a norm for many cultures. Though I have no idea how many of these marriages occurred, the accounts of some in Hearts West prove these mail-order bride matches varied from wedded bliss to divorce. But for those that flourished, these wives not only made a home for their husbands and children—establishing families, but also founded institutions like churches, schools and libraries, which brought civilization to the frontier.
Elizabeth, my heroine in The Substitute Bride traveled only as far as Iowa but compared to her debutante life in Chicago, an Iowa farm was the frontier. Still she managed to add a touch of civilization of her own to the town of New Harmony.
To make up for going on and on about my release, I’ve brought Starbucks coffee and Earl Gray tea with all the fixings, along with pans of hot from the oven flaky, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle biscuits with honey. I’m serving biscuits today in honor of Elizabeth, a woman who never gave up until she got those biscuits right, and in memory of Lois, my husband’s mother, whose cookbook with the biscuit recipe somehow surfaced in Ted’s kitchen.
Captain Jack even agreed to make personalized omelets today. Let him know what you want, but ask nicely. He’s a bit surly this morning.
While we’re munching biscuits, please share any stories of your ancestors who married for convenience. Or perhaps you have a funny wedding incident you could relate. Or just say hello for a chance to win a copy of The Substitute Bride.