About the book
Can a brave mail-order bride solve all of the rejected cowboy’s problems?
Ellie finds herself in a predicament when she finds out she has to marry a man twice her age, a man she will never love. Rich and privileged, she never thought she'd have to make the decision to leave her family. But as her impending nuptials draw closer, she's left with no other choice. As a daring response, she accepts a Mail-Order Bride ad, with no idea what awaits her at the end of the road…
Jonathan is a man with secrets. With the constant attacks on his rach, he has promised himself never to marry and trap an innocent woman in a life of danger. But when his brother posts a mail-order bride ad without him knowing, it makes everything more difficult.
It all starts when Ellie steps foot on the ranch. Does her strange meeting have to do with Jonathan's past? Why does Jonathan have so many people out for his head? Will they both be able to fall into the arms of each other and finally find love?
Late Spring, 1882
Ellie Adams made herself as comfortable as she could on the hard train bench next to her father and smoothed out her skirts around her. As the train began to pull away from Copperlanding Station, she tried hard not to show her excitement. She had wanted to go on a business trip with her father, Arthur Adams, for as long as she could remember, but he always refused to take her. It wasn’t until last week when she had turned eighteen, that he finally agreed that she was old enough to travel with him. He managed one of the many banks in Copperlanding, Virginia, where they lived.
His company wanted him to travel to Widetrail, a small city in northeastern Arizona with a view to opening a bank there. He would also stop in three other cities on the way to Widetrail to check on some other banks that his company owned. Ellie had gone on other trips with her parents throughout her life, but most of them were to other cities in Virginia. Ever since she was a young girl, she’d had a desire to travel and see more of the country, but for some reason that she never totally understood, her mother never encouraged it.
“A young lady should be calm and collected at all times,” she would lecture Ellie. “Traveling for the fun of it is not fitting for our station. Let your father do the traveling. We are fine here in our nice home, safe and protected.”
But then Father had invited her to come with him and it was all she could do to keep from jumping up in joy to show her excitement. But she knew that if she had done so, Mother would have put an immediate stop to the plans. Instead, she had calmly accepted her father's invitation.
Ellie had done her best to act like a perfect companion for her Father as the train moved slowly across the country. At first, the cities the train stopped at were much like the one she grew up in. But after they had traveled beyond Topeka, Kansas, the landscape and scenery became different, and more interesting to look at.
Two weeks after they had left Copperlanding, they were now on their way to Widetrail, which would be their last stop before heading back east.
Once the train had picked up speed, Father pulled out a ledger and began to scribble in it. Ellie ignored what he was doing and turned her attention to the window, watching intently as the scenery passed by. Soot covered part of the outside window. She wished she could wipe it away so that it did not block out the beautiful view.
She marveled at the different changes that she saw in only a few minutes of traveling. She couldn’t help but compare what she could see with the large industrial city she had grown up in. Copperlanding was located about half a days’ train ride from Richmond. Her parents had taken her to Boston in Massachusetts a few years ago to visit some relatives, and that city had reminded her of Copperlanding. Buildings as far as the eye could see, dusty streets, mud puddles when it rained, and smoke rising constantly from the industrial businesses.
As the train moved towards Arizona, she began to see ranches, their lands dotted with cattle. She watched as a hawk circled lazily in the air before diving quickly to the ground. A moment later it flew again, with what looked like a small rodent in its talons. At one point, a small boy on a brown horse rode alongside the train as if he was trying to beat it, and she laughed softly at his antics.
She saw interesting trees with thin branches and no leaves. When she pointed them out to her father, he told her that they were called Joshua trees. She saw many varieties of cacti that grew in the brownish-red dirt. Mountains rose in the far distance. She found herself calming as the train moved along its tracks.
Once they arrived in Widetrail, her father quickly arranged for them to be taken to the fanciest hotel the city had, the Western Legacy. Ellie was quite astonished when she first laid eyes on the hotel, for it was nothing like the fancy ones in Copperlanding. She instantly liked what she saw. The outside had been built using a deep reddish brick and large windows sparkled in the sunlight. Inside the lobby, there was a casual theme that she wasn’t used to seeing in hotels. A large colorful Navajo rug covered the wood floor. Stuffed red chairs surrounded an unlit stone fireplace. Paintings depicting the surrounding desert hung on the walls.
A man showed them to their room on the second floor. It was smaller than her room at home but had two large beds along one wall. There was a small washroom and a closet. The room continued the casual theme with local paintings and another colorful rug. She began to unpack her belongings, while her father arranged for someone to come to their room and press her dresses. Then, with instructions to stay in the room and not leave until he returned, he headed out the door to attend his first meeting. Ellie was disappointed that he wasn’t going to take her with him, but she also wasn’t surprised. He had come to this Arizona city for business, not to entertain his daughter. She needed to be happy that at least she was here.
A few hours later dinner arrived on a silver cart. There were bowls of thick beef stew, large biscuits with butter and strawberry jam on the side, and an apple salad. It looked like there was enough for two people, so she carefully set aside enough for her father and ate the rest. After dinner she sat in a chair near a window.
She noticed that the people walked quite a bit slower than those who lived in Copperlanding. It was as if they enjoyed being where they were and weren’t in a hurry to get to their destination. She also saw many men who wore rough brown pants, well-made shirts, and black or brown hats with wide brims that shaded the sun from their faces, and the standard boots that looked to be military style.
Most of the women wore simple cotton dresses and she was sure some of them were handmade. She thought of the clothing she had brought and knew that she would be considered over-dressed. Her dresses were made of fine material and were designed by a French woman. Her attention turned to the stores that she could see from her hotel window; a millinery shop, a tailor store for men, what looked like two general stores, and a bookstore that made her eyes light up.
As the sun began to set in the west, she soon realized that her father was not going to return before she retired for the night. After putting on her nightgown, she slid into her bed, and then bit her lip to keep tears from falling. She really hoped that her father wasn’t expecting her to spend all of her time alone in this hotel room.
The next morning when she woke, her father was already up and dressed. He sat at the small table by the window and the food that she had left for him the night before had been replaced with a new tray full of breakfast foods.
“What is your schedule for today, Father?” she asked as she sat up and stretched.
He turned his attention from the newspaper he was reading and smiled kindly at her. “You do realize that I’m going to be busy all day today, but I promise tomorrow we will do some exploring of this town. All right?”
Ellie nodded, although she could tell by the tone of his voice that he didn’t really think much of Widetrail. “Is there any way that I can come with you? I don’t want to spend all my time in this room.”
When her father didn’t answer, she recognized that he was thinking about her request. She knew him well enough that he needed time to contemplate what he was going to say next, and if she pushed him to make a decision, he would insist she stay in the hotel room. She slipped on a robe and then walked over to the food picked up a plate and began to fill it with fluffy scrambled eggs, bacon, a large muffin, and some fruit.
“I think it will be fine if you come with me,” father finally said. “But you will need to bring something to entertain yourself and you will need to stay out of the way. Is that acceptable to you?”
“Oh yes, Father, thank you,” Ellie gushed, glad that he had agreed to let her accompany him.
She waited impatiently while her father filled his own plate, before he said a prayer over the food. Breakfast smelled wonderful, and her stomach growled in response. She covered it with her hand and glanced at her father, hoping that he hadn’t heard the very unladylike sound.
After breakfast, her father left the room so she could have privacy to get dressed. Less than an hour later she followed her father out of the hotel, a small leather satchel in her hand. She loved to read and so she had a new book she had received for her birthday, inside. She also carried a sketchbook and two pencils. She enjoyed drawing and hoped that she would be able to capture some fun scenes of wherever her father was taking her.
Her father strode down the street in long steps. Ellie did her best to keep up with him, but her skirts kept getting in the way, twisting around her legs. He had to stop and wait for her a few times and she could tell that he was getting impatient, but she wanted to look at the shops they passed. She had to content herself with the fact that he had promised they would explore this booming city the next day.
The morning went by quickly, and true to her word she kept herself busy in the corner of the room while her father and five other men droned on about business subjects. At lunchtime he took her to a nearby café, where he informed her that they were going to be spending the afternoon in another business. This office was even further away than the sone that she’d spent the morning in. There were more people on the streets by then and definitely more things to divert her attention. Her father darted around a group of five men that were standing in the middle of the boardwalk. When Ellie tried to do the same, the group of men began to move slowly forward, effectively blocking her way as they continued their conversation, not realizing that Ellie wanted to walk around them.
“Excuse me,” she called out timidly, and then tried again much louder. But it took a full minute before they finally heard her and moved aside.
“Sorry, Miss,” one of them muttered as she hurried past them.
Her heart fell as she realized she had lost sight of her father. Hoping that he would realize that she wasn’t behind him, she kept walking down the street. It only took her a few minutes before she realized that he was long gone. She stopped outside a store, tucked her satchel more firmly against her side, and tried to think of the business her father was heading towards, but she couldn’t remember. She wasn’t sure what she should do now. Should she wait where she was and hope that her father came back for her, or should she continue looking for him? She finally decided that it would not hurt to keep walking.
As she moved ahead, she couldn’t stop herself from gazing in the windows of the stores that she passed. There were just so many wonderful things to see. Widetrail was definitely much smaller than Copperlanding, but it did have a variety of businesses.
After an hour of looking for her father, as well as browsing in store windows, she finally admitted to herself that she was lost. She not only didn’t know where her father was, but she also did not know where the hotel was located. She sat down on a nearby wooden bench and tried to think of what to do next.
“Can I help you find something?”
Ellie looked up and then realized she had to look way, way up. There was a young man standing before her. He was absolutely the most handsome man she had ever seen. He was dressed in cowboy clothing and looked to be at least a few years older than her. He was about six inches taller than her. His brown eyes looked intently at her and his face was tanned from being in the sun all day. His hair was dark brown and curled slightly against his neck. Suddenly the training that her mother had given her about not to talk to strange men kicked in.
“I’m fine, thank you,” she said as confidently as she could. She knew that she should stand up and walk away, but there was something in his gaze that made her stay where she was.
She could see amusement in his eyes. “I can tell that you are looking for something. By the way you have been walking. I know Widetrail very well. Maybe I can help you find what you are looking for.”
She studied him for a moment and instinctively knew that she could trust him. “I am trying to find my hotel, but it seems that I have gotten turned around.”
“Does the name of the hotel happen to be the Western Legacy?”
Ellie looked at him in amazement. Yes. How did you know?”
“Because we have only three hotels in Widetrail and Western Legacy is the nicest one.” He took a step back as his gaze swept over her. She knew that he had instantly assessed from her well-made dress that she came from money. “If you will follow me, I will take you there.”
Again, Ellie hesitated, but then she decided that she didn’t have anything to lose. She figured that she could trust this young man, especially since there were so many people around. She stood up and moved to his side.
“It’s this way,” the young man said, pointing in the opposite direction of where she had been heading.
They walked silently for a moment and then he stopped her. “We might as well introduce ourselves. Since I’m acting as your knight in shining armor.”
She tried not to giggle at his words. “I’m Ellie,” she responded, being careful not to say her last name.
“And I’m Jonathan.”
They continued walking.
“What brings you to Widetrail?”
“My father has business meetings, and I came along to keep him company,” Ellie explained. “Where do you live?”
“I own a ranch just outside of town with my brother and sister,” he responded.
Just then Ellie saw the hotel ahead of them, and she was surprisingly disappointed that her short time with this young handsome cowboy was going to end. Her heart dropped when she saw her father in front of the hotel, pacing back and forth. He looked very concerned, and she felt bad that she had made him worry, but there was a small part of her that was frustrated with him too. None of this would have happened if he had walked slower so she could keep up with him. His eyes brightened with relief when Ellie made her way to where he was standing. He pulled her into his arms for a quick hug and then released her.
“Where have you been?” he demanded, worry in his voice. “I’m assuming that you decided to explore Widetrail on your own. What have I told you about…?” He paused as he realized that Ellie was not alone. “Who is this?” he asked, his voice dripping with suspicion.
“You were walking so fast, that I couldn’t keep up with you, and then I got turned around,” Ellie explained quickly. She gestured towards the handsome cowboy. “This is Jonathan. He helped me find the hotel.”
“Arthur Adams,” her father said, extending his hand to Jonathan and offering a brief handshake and a word of thanks.
She could tell that he was expecting him to immediately leave. Jonathan looked at her, touched the brim of his hat, and gave her a wink. “Have a good afternoon and I hope that you enjoy your stay in Widetrail.”
Her heart skipped a beat at his wink and she involuntarily took a step towards him. Her father grasped her arm to keep her at his side, and Jonathan moved off down the street. Ellie wished desperately that it was socially acceptable to call out and invite him to have dinner with them that evening. She watched sadly as he moved away and out of her life. She knew that she would never see him again.
But a girl could dream, couldn’t she?
Late Spring, 1887, 5 Years Later
“Look at this drawing of the wedding dress that I want,” Hannah said as she thrust a catalog into Ellie’s hands.
Ellie took the tattered book and looked at what her cousin was pointing at. It had layers of lace, long full sleeves, and a high neckline. The catalog also showed a drawing of the back of the dress with pearl buttons. It was a beautiful dress but not one that she would’ve chosen, although this did not surprise her.
She was very close with Hannah and they spent a lot of time together, but their tastes in clothes were very different. Hannah liked fancy clothing, while Ellie preferred more simple styles.
“It looks pretty. Are you going to have Madam Dupont make it?” Ellie asked, speaking of the woman who made all of their dresses.
Hannah nodded vigorously. “I’m so excited to be getting married to Peter. I can’t believe that Father finally allowed him to ask for my hand.”
I’m very happy for you,” Ellie said as she gave the book back to Hannah. She tried not to feel a bit envious inside, especially as she thought about the news that her parents had given her the day before. She turned her head away from her cousin, and she did her best to not break down in tears.
“Is something wrong?” Hannah asked with concern, her hand reaching out to touch Ellie’s sleeve.
Ellie hesitated. She always told her cousin everything. They had grown up together and shared their childhood. Their mothers were sisters. She felt like Hannah was more a sister than a cousin. There were no secrets between them, but she wasn’t sure if it would be a good idea to tell Hannah her news, at least not right then. She did not want to take away the happiness from Hannah’s eyes.
“I can tell that something is wrong.” Hannah set the catalog on Ellie’s desk. “Just tell me.”
Ellie took a deep breath. “Father told me last night that he is making arrangements for me to marry Mr. Harold Marshall.”
Hannah gasped, shock all over her face. “But he’s old!”
“I know, sixteen years older than me, to be exact.”
“He’s also had two wives in the last ten years. And he has three hellion boys. Why would Uncle Arthur want you to marry him?”
“He says that he is concerned I’m not married yet and that he just wants the best for me. Besides, Mr. Marshall is one of his business associates, so I’m sure that that has something to do with it.” As Ellie tried to explain her father’s actions, she wanted to crumble inside.
“Marriage shouldn’t be made as a business transaction,” Hannah grumbled. “What does Aunt Pauline say?”
“You know Mother. She agrees to anything Father wants.”
“If there was someone you could choose, who would you marry?” Hannah asked curiously.
Ellie knew that her cousin was thinking of the many young men that they had grown up with in Copperlanding. But her mind drifted to the young man she had briefly met five years ago. “I would like to marry Jonathan, or a man like him.”
Hannah laughed. Her cousin was very aware of her continued fascination with the handsome cowboy and of her desire to move out of Copperlanding and away from the industrial life. Ever since her trip to Arizona, she had fallen in love with the West. She still remembered every detail of her few minutes with Jonathan. He had been incredibly helpful as he easily led her around crowds of people on the streets, keeping his stride even with hers. He seemed interested in what she had said.
After he left her with her father, she had explained to him what had happened, and how she had gotten lost. He had apologized to her, realizing that he should have slowed down. The next day he had kept his promise and they had gone into many of the stores. He had taken her to the bookstore that she had seen from their hotel window. Even though she had received a new book for her birthday, her father had allowed her to purchase two more. She had spent quite a bit of time browsing the many shelves before choosing one book on the life of a western cowboy and another that was full of drawings of birds by John James Audubon. She began to spend many hours copying the birds into her own sketchbooks.
After that trip, Ellie began to use part of her monthly allowance to purchase books about the Wild West, and she now had at least twenty of them that she had read over and over. Some of them also had drawings in them which she had learned how to sketch. She had multiple sketchbooks of animals, plants, and even landscapes of mountains, rivers, and winter scenes.
“I don’t think that you should have to marry a man you don’t love just to satisfy your father’s wishes,” Hannah broke into her thoughts.
“I don’t know what to do,” Ellie confessed. “I don’t want to marry Mr. Marshall. He scares me. All I can think about is his two previous wives and what could have happened to them.”
“I know his first wife died in childbirth,” Hannah reflected. “I think his second wife died from a sickness, but I can’t be sure. I don’t think he killed them if that’s what you mean.”
Ellie shook her head. “No, but don’t you think it is bad luck to marry a man who has already lost two wives?”
“I think you should go talk to Uncle Arthur right now. Tell him how you feel,” Hannah advised with a decisive nod, her blonde curls bouncing against her face.
Ellie thought for a moment, and then decided that it would be a good idea to talk to her parents. Since it was Sunday, both of them were home. She knew that if she waited, it could be over a week before she was able to talk to them again. By then plans for the marriage might have already started to be put in place. “All right, I’ll go find them. Will you be okay here in my room until I get back?”
Hannah nodded. “Of course. I’ll just make a list of things that need to be done for my wedding.”
As Ellie left the room, her gaze fell on her bookshelf. She had received the large oak shelves a few years ago for Christmas so she had a nice place to store her books. The top two shelves were full of her western books and the rest were full of novels. She stopped for a moment and touched the first book she had purchased about western cowboys. It somehow filled her with determination. She wasn’t going to allow her parents to push her into a loveless marriage.
As she walked down the stairs to the front parlor where she knew both her parents would be, she contemplated as to why she was so interested in anything that had to do with the western territories. Was it because of Jonathan, a man that she would never see again, or was it something more?
When she reached the parlor, she stopped at the entrance and studied her parents for a moment. Her mother was sitting on her favorite sofa with embroidery in her lap. Her father held the daily newspaper in his hands. He was reading an article out loud to her mother who nodded her head in agreement with what he read. Thoughts of what she knew of their courtship flooded her mind.
Both of her parents had grown up in well-to-do homes. One of Ellie’s favorite stories was about how they met. Her mother’s father had introduced them, and in her words, it had been love at first sight. They had married less than six months later. Throughout her childhood, she had never doubted her parents' love for each other. It was something that confused her.
Why were they insisting that she marry someone like Mr. Marshall? Wouldn’t it be important to them that she marry also for love? Mother suddenly noticed her and gave a welcoming smile.
“Ellie, come on in. Where’s Hannah?”
“She is still up in my room,” Ellie responded as she stepped into the parlor and sat down next to her mother.
“I’m sure she is so excited about her wedding. I’m very pleased that she is to marry Peter. He is a good man and will provide well for her. I know that Aunt Betty is very happy that she is finally getting married.”
Ellie tried not to groan at her mother’s words. She was very aware that her mother thought that at twenty-three years old, she was getting close to being an old maid. She had to admit that most of her school friends were already married. In fact, quite a few of them already had a child or two. While Ellie wanted to get married, eventually, she was content to wait until she found someone she could love and who loved her in return. She wasn’t willing to settle for less.
“Maybe the two of you can plan your weddings together,” her mother continued. With those words Ellie knew that she needed to put a stop to this marriage that her parents had arranged, before her mother had everything planned out for her.
“That is something that I want to talk to you about,” she said and then hesitated, hoping that she would properly word what she felt inside of her, praying that her parents would understand what she was trying to say.
“What is that dear?” her father asked as he set aside the newspaper he had been reading.
“I don’t want to marry Mr. Marshall,” she blurted out. She could tell by the frowns on her parents' faces that she had said the wrong thing, but she suddenly didn’t care. “He is too old. He’s already been married twice, and I don’t want to be a mother to his children.”
Her parents exchanged a long glance before Father spoke. “Now Ellie, you know that we just want what is best for you. Over the last few years, we have been encouraging you to accept the attention of some of the other young men that we know, and you keep turning them away.”
“That is because none of them interest me. They all care about money and prestige,” she retorted angrily. They don’t care about what is important.
“That is natural at their age. After all, they need to be able to work so that they can provide for their families,” her father explained, something that Ellie had heard many times before from him.
She turned to her mother. “I’ll do anything. If it is because it’s becoming hard to support me financially, I’ll see if I can find a way to earn some money. Please don’t make me marry him.”
She could see understanding in her mother’s eyes, and for a moment she hoped that her mother would finally stand up to her father, especially since she was sure it was his idea to arrange the marriage to Mr. Marshall to begin with.
“Your father is right, Ellie,” mother said quietly after a long pause. “It is time for you to start a family of your own, and since you haven’t shown interest in anyone else, your father knows that it is in your best interest that he makes arrangements for you.”
When Ellie returned to her room, Hannah knew that she hadn’t been successful because of the tears that ran down her cheeks. Ellie wanted to throw herself on her bed and sob like she would’ve done when she was a young girl. Instead, she collapsed in a chair, doing her best to prevent the tears from falling on her dress.
“I’m so sorry,” Hannah whispered as she leaned over and gave Ellie a hug. “I wish there was something I could do to help you.”
“I don’t know what to do. Can Father really force me to marry someone I don’t want to?” Ellie asked as she accepted a handkerchief that Hannah offered her.
Hannah did not respond, her way of saying that she did not think that there was any way to put a stop to it. “We’ll think of something.” Then her face brightened. “Are you sure that you don’t know another young man that you would want to marry? Maybe if your father knew that you are interested in someone else, he wouldn’t make you marry Mr. Marshall.”
Ellie shook her head fiercely. “I would be in the same position, marrying someone that I don’t love.” Her eyes fell on a newspaper sat on the corner of her desk. After her father had read the daily newspapers, she always took them. Most of what was in the newspapers didn’t interest her, but sometimes she found articles that talked about the west. “Maybe I should find a job.”
Hannah looked at her in surprise. “What do you mean?”
If I can find a way to support myself, then I can move out on my own. I am of age, and my parents can’t force me to stay here, even though they think they can force me to marry someone I don’t want to.”
“Where would you live?” Hannah asked, concern in her voice.
“One of the boarding houses near the edge of Copperlanding.”
“I don’t know if that is a good idea,” Hannah protested. “Think of the type of people who actually live in those houses.”
Ellie ignored her, knowing that Hannah didn’t think the boarding houses were safe places to live in. They were located near the industrial part of the city where most of the factories were located. Most of the people who lived in that area were poor and could barely make ends meet. Crime was also high there. A twinge of fear flooded her heart at that thought.
She picked up the newspaper and turned to the advertisement section. Maybe she would be able to find a job where she wouldn’t have to live in that area of Copperlanding. But it didn’t take her long to figure out that there were no jobs to be had for young women with few skills except in the factories, and she wasn’t willing to try to get one of those jobs, at least not yet. Then an interesting advertisement caught her eye.
Wanted, a young woman between the ages of 18 and 25, to be a wife to a rancher in Arizona. Must be churchgoing and desire to start a family. Must want to make a difference.
She read the words three times and her heart began to soar each time. “Look at this,” Ellie said excitedly as she pointed to the advertisement. “Maybe this is the answer I’ve been looking for.”
“Are you crazy?” Hannah asked with disbelief. “You just said that you wanted to marry for love, yet you are considering marrying someone you don’t even know or have never met?”
Ellie was already aware of these types of advertisements. From what she understood, there were many men who lived in small towns or cities around the western part of the United States who wanted to start families, but there were few women to choose from. To solve their problem, they placed advertisements in newspapers in large cities to try to entice young women to marry them. She had heard them called mail-order brides.
When she first had heard of this, she had scoffed, certain that the women who actually answered them were desperate and were willing to marry whoever wanted them, no matter what kind of men they were.
But now that she was in a similar position, she didn’t feel that answering this advertisement meant she was desperate. She only wanted to have the freedom to make her own choices for her future.
At least this way would be my choice, my decision. Besides, love can come.
“What if this man is a drunk, or beats women, or isn’t who he says he is?” Hannah asked, frustration in her voice.
“I’ll make sure that I write to him enough times so I can figure that out,” Ellie said. “And I won’t agree to marry him until I’ve actually met him.”
One of the traits Ellie felt that she was born with was that she was a good judge of character. Whenever she was introduced to someone new, she could always sense what type of person they were, almost from the moment they met. She was sure that she would be able to tell if the person who had placed this advertisement was an honest man once they had exchanged letters, as well as when she met him, if it got to that point.
Hannah spent the next half hour trying to talk Ellie out of his crazy plan. But Ellie wouldn’t listen to her. Finally giving up, Hannah turned her attention to the catalog while Ellie tore a page out of one of her sketchbooks and wrote in response to the advertisement and then folded another sheet of paper into an envelope. She quickly scribbled the address onto the envelope.
“You offered a few minutes ago to help me, so I’m going to take you up on it,” Ellie said as she held out the envelope to her cousin. “Would you be willing to mail this for me? I put your address inside the letter, so if I receive a response, it will be sent to you. That way my parents won’t find out about this.”
She could tell that Hannah wanted to refuse her request, but she finally took the envelope and tucked it in between the pages of her catalog. After promising to return in a few days, Hannah left. Ellie picked up her sketchbook and began to page through it, looking at the many drawings of the west: birds, a squirrel, the variety of flowers and trees.
Hannah’s face flashed through her mind, full of concern. Ellie knew that her cousin had a right to be worried about her decision to be a mail-order bride. But she had felt a calming peace when she first read that advertisement, and she knew that she needed to at least try this avenue. She would do anything to get out of marrying Mr. Marshall.
Ellie waited impatiently for an answer to her letter. When it finally arrived a week later, along with another visit from Hannah, Ellie did her best to act like she was going to accept her parents’ wishes and allowed her mother to begin to start plans for the wedding. However, she was determined that she was not going to marry Mr. Marshall. If being a mail-order bride didn’t work out, she would come up with another plan.
The letter was full of information that intrigued her. She found it interesting that the man who was writing to her was named Jonathan. She was sure it couldn’t be the same man that she had met on the streets of Widetrail five years ago, but she took this as a sign that she had made the right decision.
He talked about his ranch and how he raised cattle, as well as a few horses. He made sure that she understood that she would need to cook and clean if they both agreed to go forward with the marriage since he didn’t have the extra funds to hire help. But he also stressed that he did not want women to just be his housekeeper.
The last few years have been difficult for me, and I have decided that it will be a good idea for me to start a family. I am not expecting love at first, but I hope we can have at least respect and companionship.
Ellie marveled that Jonathan had expressed what was in her own heart. She immediately wrote back to him. Over the next month they exchanged three more letters with each other. She enjoyed each one and was even more determined to take this route for her future. If Jonathan suddenly decided to not write to her anymore, she would answer another advertisement. She was beginning to realize that not only would becoming a mail-order bride help her get out of marrying Mr. Marshall, but she would also be able to leave Copperlanding. She could live in a smaller city or town where there were wide-open spaces. She recognized that she was beginning to feel stifled and almost claustrophobic in Copperlanding.
Then the day came where the letter that she had been waiting for, arrived. Jonathan sent her an official marriage proposal with instructions on how to get to his ranch. Her eyes widened when she read the travel plans. She had informed Jonathan in her second letter to him that she lived in Copperlanding but had just assumed he lived in a small Wild West town, as depicted in the books she’d purchased.
All she had known was that he lived in Arizona. But Jonathan now informed her that he would pick her up at the Widetrail Train Station. She wondered how far away his ranch was from Widetrail, and she was glad that he lived near a town that she was already familiar with. He requested that she send him a telegram when her travel arrangements were made.
The only question Jonathan didn’t address was when they would be getting married. She wondered if they would go straight to a church upon her arrival, or would they wait for a few days. If so, where would she stay? She almost sent him another letter, but finally decided that those questions would be answered when she arrived.
Knowing that she couldn’t take most of her belongings with her, she secretly packed a small trunk with three of her dresses that would be more appropriate to wear on a ranch. She added underclothing, shoes, and a knitted shawl that her grandmother had given her when she had turned sixteen, just before her death. Ellie wished that she would have room in the trunk to put some of her books in. She hated the idea of leaving even one of them behind. She was able to find room along the edge of the trunk for three books. She also included some of her sketching supplies, including extra pencils, charcoal, and a tin of watercolor paints.
The next day both of her parents happened to be out. She rented a buggy, and with Hannah’s help, they drove to the train station where she arranged for her trunk to be stored. She purchased a ticket to Widetrail for the next day. She also sent the requested telegram to Jonathan, informing him that she would be arriving by late afternoon, three days later.
She could tell that Hannah didn’t like the idea of what she was doing, but she was grateful for her cousin’s help. She knew that she would not be able to leave so easily without it.
She dropped Hannah off at her house, and her cousin gave her a long hug goodbye.
“I wish that you were going to be here for my wedding,” Hannah sniffed as she wiped her eyes.
“I know, but I don’t think that will be a possibility, although I can promise to try,” Ellie responded and then smiled at her cousin. “Maybe Jonathan will come with me and you can meet him.”
Leaving Hannah behind was the only thing that Ellie regretted doing. She was going to desperately miss her cousin. After promising Hannah that she would keep in touch and write as often as possible, and a couple of long goodbye hugs, she went to return the rented buggy.
Once she was home, she breathed a sigh of relief when their housekeeper announced that neither of her parents would be home until late that evening. She spent the evening packing a carpetbag that included a book to read and another sketchbook. She also wrapped a few slices of bread and cheese in a cloth for her lunch, though she knew it would only last the first day of her journey.
The last thing she did was write her parents a letter. She had a sudden longing to give them a hug, one last time, but she knew that she needed to continue to act like all was well. In her letter, she told them why she was leaving and that she would send a letter when she was settled. She hoped that they wouldn’t worry about her too much, and especially that they wouldn’t blame Hannah for what she was doing.
Did you like this preview? Please, don't forget to leave me a comment below!
Want to read how the story ends?
A Fearless Bride for the Shunned Rancher is now live on Amazon!