In the midst of writing a sci-fi futuristic romance called, The Ordinaries, I had a sudden inclination to start another project, a Western Romance. However, unlike the Kisses series, this is a period story set in the late 1800s. I've always found the practice of finding your spouse through "mail order" during that era to be quite fascinating. Of course, this storyline has been written numerous times, but that fact has not quenched my desire to write about Abby and Brant Samson, characters that keep popping into my mind.
My heroine is Abigail Mary Vaughn, a thirty-eight year old school teacher, who finds herself alone in the world after the death of her parents. Since her heart's desire has always been to have a family of her own, but life's circumstances have kept her from fulfilling that dream, she is now considered an old maid. Nowadays, her subsequent actions would be termed a midlife crises, but boredom and loneliness motivate her to do something absolutely, unbelievably crazy--answer an ad by a rancher seeking a wife and mother for his three children.
In writing this story, I am attempting to convey the loneliness and despair of not only Abigail, but the rancher and his children. These are sad souls trying to find happiness again. I'm also trying to create funny situations that a city girl could be thrust into on a farm. Having never lived on a farm, I have my research cut out for me. Mostly, I want to explore the relationship between Brant and his three children as they grow in their relationship with Abby and each other.
Here is an excerpt from Chapter One (could be changed as the story progresses):
Abigail picked up the newspaper advertisement for the hundredth time, read it again, reread it, and tossed it back on the desk in her library. Smoothing her hand over the sides of her auburn hair and the bun at the nape of her neck, she pushed her chair back and walked from the library to the parlor. Pacing the length of the lovely room, she stopped occasionally to straighten a vase or lift a family photo, all the while contemplating something so crazy it made her heart pound.
After an hour, she squared her shoulders, returned to the library, sat at her desk, slipped a piece of stationary from the drawer, reached for her ink quill, and wrote:
March 18, 1870
Dear Mr. Samson,
I am writing to introduce myself. My name is Abigail Mary Vaughn and I read your classified advertisement in the Philadelphia Gazette seeking a wife to help raise your three children. I would like to apply. By trade, I am a teacher and that would benefit your children.
I have never been married and I am thirty-eight years old. I have lived in Philadelphia all my life and taught school for the past eighteen years. I am an only child and my parents died a year ago. I have no responsibilities keeping me here. I have always desired my own family, but circumstances of caring for my elderly parents prevented that.
I do not believe in withholding information, so I have been candid in my response to your advertisement. I hope to hear from you.
--Miss Abigail Mary Vaughn
Before she could react and change her mind, Abigail enclosed it in an envelope and asked, Harry, her old servant, to walk it to the post office not far from her home built near the city's center.
* * *
Brant removed his cowboy hat and ran a hand through hair as black as coal. The town needed a spring rain to clear the air. He stood in front of the blacksmith's where he'd just gotten his horse shod and heard his daughter calling from the entrance to Clyde Jenkins General Store across the street. Clyde was also the postmaster for the dusty town of Two Rivers. She held her baby brother in one arm and waved letters in the other. "Hey Pa, you got more mail. Maybe you'll find us a Ma in this bunch."
Brant paused while a buckboard pulled by a swayback horse rambled past. He waved at old Mr. and Mrs. Snodgrass and then crossed to the warped planks that ran in front of a dozen businesses. "Jenny, did you give Mr. Jenkins that list of staples so we can pick them up next trip to town?"
"Sure did." She shifted two year old Ty to her other hip. "One of the letters came all the way from Philadelphia."
"I'll read them tonight. Where's Luke?"
"He's still talking to Mr. Jenkins about ordering some more dime novels."
Brant bent and kissed his baby's forehead. "Well, run in and tell him it's time to go while I bring the buckboard around. We've got chores to finish up."
Several minutes after Brant had the wagon in front of the store, his fourteen year old son sauntered out. Inhaling a calming breath, Brant said, "It's nice you could join us, Luke. I'd sure like to get home before nightfall. If not, you'll be mucking the barn in the dark."
With a sullen look, Luke hopped onto the back of the wagon and sat on a sack of grain. Jenny snickered and Ty scrambled to sit on his big brother's lap. Brant flicked the reins. "Giddy-up."
After a long evening of chores, Brant finally collapsed into his favorite chair and propped his feet on the hearth. He could hear Jenny telling Ty a bedtime story in the room she shared with her baby brother. No doubt Luke was in the loft devouring another cheap novel.
Leaning his head back, he surveyed his cabin. Besides his bedroom and Jenny's room, there was an additional bedroom that his mail order bride would stay in until they got to know each other. His plan to marry scared the bejesus out of him, but he was dead set to find a ma for his children. He closed his eyes and saw Molly's laughing face. God, he missed her. How he'd loved her. His eyes stung and he opened them again, glancing around the large combined living, dining, and cooking area that still held her touch in the faded curtains and small knickknacks. Although modest, the cabin was sturdily built from the labor of his own hands.
Unable to put it off any longer, he unfolded his lanky frame and reached for the letters he'd tossed on the mantel. Sighing, he read more responses to his advertisement. Damn, but the thought of marrying someone he'd meet through a newspaper ad irked him. However, his children needed a mother. Jenny did the best she could caring for Ty, but she was only ten years old. Guilt plagued him at the responsibility that had been forced on her. As for Luke, Brant hadn't been able to bond with his son since Molly's death, and now the boy lost himself in dime store novels. And Ty, his baby, God help him, needed a mother's care.
Brant fingered the letter from Philadelphia. He'd placed ads in newspapers, local and cross country, and wondered if the call of the West would provoke responses from city girls. He'd received a few, but from the tone of the letters, they'd seemed to high and mighty to live in a simple cabin on a small ranch. He slipped a thumb under the envelope flap and ripped it open. The letter was short and written on quality stationary in neat printing. He read it a couple of times.
Going to his room, he retrieved a paper and his quill, and returned to the dining table. Tapping his jaw, he thought about his response.
May 1, 1970
Dear Miss Vaughn,
Thank you for your letter and also your forthrightness. Please tell me more about yourself and why you would want to marry someone you have never met and mother children that are not your own.
As for myself, I will also be forthcoming. I am solely seeking a mother for my children. If you have romantic notions, I am not the husband for you. My wife died two years ago after complications from childbirth. I have two sons, a fourteen year old and a two year old, and a ten year old daughter. My ranch is small, as is my cabin, so if you are looking for anything else, I suggest you not respond to this letter.
As for your qualifications, they are excellent. My eldest son loves reading. I can hardly get him to complete his chores without a book in hand. My daughter is very smart and an avid learner. Both my elder children attend school whenever there is a teacher available and I am the son of a teacher.
Two Rivers is a small town that does not have much in the way of diversion to keep folks interested.
So, as you can see, I have not painted a pretty picture. I have written the truth so as to not waste my time or yours.