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Thursday, February 27, 2020

New Release — Innocent Minds (The Innocents Mystery Series) by C. A. Asbrey

After suffering a horrific loss, Nat and Abi must try to piece their lives together, build a future, and repair the past. But before they can figure out their own complicated relationship, they must unite to help Jake find his children—no easy task, since their mother has disappeared, and they’ve been left with a priest who is bent on giving them away!
In a maelstrom of grief, anger, and legal complications, one of Abi’s friends, Dr. Vida Cadwallader, also a female Pinkerton, steps up to help. As Vida tries to help The Innocents make sense of what’s happening, she soon becomes embroiled in mysterious happenings within the brutal insane asylum where she consults part-time. When one of her colleagues is murdered, Vida quickly becomes a suspect.
With no time to lose, Vida, Abi, Jake, and Nat band together to free one of the asylum’s unwilling patients who may hold the key to all their unanswered questions—if she only lives long enough to survive the escape.  Now, with an unknown murderer on the loose as well, time is running short for them to find the children, solve the crime, and spirit the patient away to safety. Can they keep their necks out of the noose and buy enough time to solve the mystery shrouding their lives? Can anyone make sense of this world of shadows, darkness, and madness?


Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 1871

     “Hey, you bitch.” He raised a handgun. “Maggie King was my mother. You know her. The woman from the train who you got hanged.”
     She froze. That man had sat beside her at the docks when she first arrived in Victoria. The picture was still clear in her mind’s eye. He had sat there at the docks. He talked to her. He asked if she was traveling alone. That same man now pointed a handgun right at her.
     The man’s face twisted into a sneer. “She warned you. You hurt us, we hurt you.”
     He fired—quicker than Abigail or anyone else could move.
     “Murder. Bloody murder!
     The screaming started. 

        Kindle Link        Trade Paperback Link


Wednesday, February 26, 2020


In researching the history of women voting in America, most references identify the beginning of the movement to fight for “woman suffrage,” as it was called by the suffragists, as the 1848 Women’s Rights convention in Seneca, New York. Consequently, I was surprised to learn that the first legally recorded woman’s vote occurred nearly twenty years before the Declaration of Independence.

So, what happened?

On October 30, 1756, Lydia Taft’s vote was recorded in the official records of the Uxbridge Town Meeting. This was an open meeting of the village of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, and the first record of an official vote by a woman in America.

While the colonies remained independent entities, each was free to handle decisions regarding enfranchisement on its own. This all changed in July, 1776, with the Declaration of Independence.

After the formal break from England, each colony wrote a new, formal constitution. Many of them attempted to reform their voting procedures, with moves to enfranchising all free, adult taxpaying males. Vermont even granted suffrage to all adult males. Some eliminated religious tests. And those who had originally given women the right to vote withdrew it one by one.

In 1777, women lost the right to vote in New York.

In 1784, women lost the right to vote in New Hampshire.

In 1787, the U.S. Constitutional Convention places voting qualifications in the hands of the states. After that, women lost the right to vote in all states except New Jersey.

New Jersey’s new 1776 state constitution granted the right to vote to "all inhabitants” of legal age (21 years) who had lived in their county for at least one year and owned at least 50 English pounds worth of property. This enfranchisement of women was apparently accidental, although the state’s constitutional convention was held in secret so no one outside the participants knew for sure. New Jersey voters (presumably only men) ratified their constitution.

It is not clear how many, if any, women voted under this constitution, but a state election law passed in 1790 referred to voters in terms of “he or she.” There was little, if any, controversy over ‘woman suffrage’ in New Jersey until 1797. Then a political contest intervened and for the first time in the United States, a large number of women voted in an election.

In a bitter battle over a seat in the state legislature, William Crane from Elizabeth, New Jersey, ran against John Condict from Newark. Condict was a Jeffersonian Republican. Crane was a Federalist. Even though the Federalists turned out a large number of women to vote for Crane, Condict won by a narrow margin.

This ignited a fiery controversy over women’s suffrage and whether or not the New Jersey Constitution really intended for women to vote. One newspaper sarcastically referred to “government in petticoats.” Some contended that slaves, children and foreigners weren’t included, so women shouldn’t be either. Others argued that single women and widows who owned the required amount of property should be enfranchised. Since all property in a marriage was considered to be owned by the husband, married women were automatically excluded.

According to the Constitutional Rights Foundation:
In 1806, Newark and Elizabeth again faced off at the polls, this time over the site of a new county courthouse. During three days of voting, partisans from both towns used every legal and illegal device to gather the most votes. Men and boys, white and black, citizens and aliens, residents and non-residents, voted (often many times). Women and girls, married and single, with and without property, joined the election frenzy. Finally, males dressed up as females and voted one more time.
Newark, with 1,600 qualified voters, counted over 5,000 votes; Elizabeth, with 1,000 legal voters, counted more than 2,200 votes. Although Newark claimed victory, the voting was so blatantly fraudulent that the state legislature canceled the election.

In 1807, women lost the right to vote in New Jersey. At that point in history, women could no longer vote in any of the United States.

This series will be continued in my March blog.

If you missed the first blog of this series, find it here:
Voting in Colonial America:

Ann Markim

    Buy Links:      Paperback at Amazon    Amazon Kindle

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Inspired by Fairy Tales

I’ve always loved fairy tales: African fairy stories, Old Peter’s Russian tales, Grimm’s fairy tales and the western classics – Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, The Goose Girl, The Frog Prince. The themes of love, sacrifice, keeping promises (the theme of the Frog prince) transformation (in The Goose Girl and Cinderella) justice (again in Cinderella) are epic to me and timeless, worthy of exploration in romances and modern stories.

Cinderella, the story of selfless devotion rewarded, is a popular theme for many romance stories, with the ‘prince’ often an Italian or Arab billionaire who sweeps in to transform the heroine’s drab, oppressed life. I’m sure there are romances to be written about the ugly sisters, too – positive stories where they grow from their petty spitefulness and obsession over balls and dances into generous, complete women, who also find love. That element of the happily ever after and the unexpected is strong in both fairy tales and in romance and both appeal to me greatly.

Fairy tales can also be epic, dealing with issues of life and death. Look at Gerda and her determination to win her brother out of enchantment in The Snow Queen. Look at Sleeping Beauty, where the prince rescues the princess from the ‘death’ of endless sleep.

Recently I did my own ‘take’ on Cinderella in my ‘Mistress Angel’. I made it a story of transformation for both my heroine, Isabella, and the handsome armorer Stephen, who starts as a man haunted by loss. Although Isabella has little power, trapped in widowhood with a dreadful family,I didn’t want her to be passive, simply waiting to be rescued from her situation, so she is active in the story, scouring the streets of medieval London, determined to find and recover her son Matthew. I also added more urgency by making it a ticking clock story – Stephen and Isabella must find her son before her vile in-laws can keep him from his mother forever.

The story of Beauty and the Beast has thrilled me since I was a child, with its dark and menacing beginning, the terrifying beast and Beauty’s courage and love for her father and ultimately for the beast. I was inspired by these basic tenets to write my own medieval version of Beauty and the Beast in my ‘The Snow Bride’ and its sequel 'A Summer Bewitchment'. Magnus, the hero, has been hideously scarred by war and looks like a beast. He considers himself unworthy of love. Elfrida, my heroine, is also an outsider since she is a white witch, but she willingly sacrifices herself (as Beauty does in the fairy story) because of love, in her case her love for her younger sister, Christina, for whom she feels responsible. When she and Magnus encounter each other, I made it that they could not understand each other at first, to add to the mystery and dread – is Magnus as ugly in soul as in body? They must learn to trust each other, despite appearances, and come to love (just as in the original fairy tale).

I also added other fairy tale elements to ‘The Snow Bride’: magic, darkness, the idea of three (a common motif in fairy tales) spirits in the forest and more. Perhaps in the darker elements of my forest I was inspired by that other old fairy story – Red Riding Hood.

How about you? What inspires you in your reading or writing?

Lindsay Townsend

Thursday, February 20, 2020

New Release -- The Gunslinger's Redemption: A Six Guns and Prairie Roses Novel by Shastina Gray

Widow Martha McKenzie and her young son, Eddy, live in the shadow of California’s beautiful Mount Shasta. Martha helps in her father’s bakery, and still grieves the loss of her husband ten years earlier, cut down by a murderer’s bullet.
Wealthy mine owner Horace Slade promises to fulfill all Martha’s dreams of a life of luxury in San Francisco—if she’ll only marry him. But something holds her back, despite Horace’s repeated attempts to get a ring on her finger.
Jake Gideon is a bounty hunter, a gunslinger hired by Wells Fargo to catch stagecoach robber Black Bart. When the trail leads him to Yreka, Jake is taken with Martha—but she wants nothing to do with a hired gunman—especially the one she suspects might have been responsible for her husband’s death ten years earlier!
Even if Jake decided to settle down and give her his heart, how could Martha ever be sure he’s telling her the truth? When a dark specter appears, it may be too late to give Jake a chance to prove himself. In a winner-take-all game, will Martha’s life be forfeit?
     Stewart used a technique called placer mining. As he had explained it to her, in this area, gold deposits were found in the sediments of local creeks and streams. A miner used a wide shallow pan to dip into the dirt. He then submerged the pan into the water and shook it. If gold existed, the heavy metal would settle at the bottom of the pan.
     Martha knew Stewart shared her dream of living in San Francisco. He had told her he envisioned opening a shop where he could sell his inventions. He had said he would start by building clocks. Moving to San Francisco was the reason he panned for gold. He had found a little gold nugget his last trip out. However, it was not big enough for them to leave Yreka.
     Martha completed her chores inside the cabin and went to the wood pile to gather up enough fuel to light a campfire. She was mighty thirsty, and thought a cup of coffee would do her good.
     The sun streamed through the boughs of towering fir and cedar trees. She breathed deeply of the fragrant cedar-scented air. The only sound to reach her ears was the high-pitched hum of the forest dwelling insects.
     Crack! The stillness was shattered with the sound of a gun blast. Nearby birds fluttered from the trees and escaped to the sky. Martha gazed in horror as Stewart thudded to the ground.

Trade paperback coming soon.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Where Do You Find Inspiration?

Most authors get asked this question quite a bit. And I’m sure most of us have as many different answers as there are books out there. When I began my writing journey, I drew on my own family dynamics for my stories. One of my early published works was about three sisters who had a troubled past with each other. My three sisters spent months trying to guess which of the characters was molded after them. It was a great deal of fun hearing them give their reasons why they thought Anne, or Charlotte, or Emily was molded after them. I never told them who was correct.

As I progressed through my career, my inspiration grew from observing people in public places, overhearing little snippets of conversation and wondering what the story was before those words were spoken and what would come after. Often, a few lines from a song or something I’d read stayed with me for months or years. 

When I was living in a crowded suburb of DC, I needed an escape from civilization as much as possible, so I bought some land in the West Virginia mountains and had a one room log cabin built on it. It was only about a two-hour drive from my home during the week, so I’d head out there every weekend I could. My dog and cat took the trip with me and my cat never failed to get car sick as we wove our way through the mountain roads. 

Out in the sticks of West Virginia, there was only one radio station I could pick up, and it was country. My dad liked country music, so the tunes that were played reminded me of my childhood, and even though I hadn’t been paying much attention (after all, it was the dawn of rock and roll), some of the music I was now forced to listen to had sunk in, since what I was now hearing was very familiar. I grew my list of favorite singers, and Reba McIntire
headed my list, along with some country hunks like Rodney Crowell and Marty Stuart. Reba had just released an album containing the song “Fancy,” a tragic tale of a young girl whose mother was out of options and sent her daughter into a life of prostitution. Her advice to her daughter was “Just be nice to the gentlemen and they’ll be nice to you.”

That song stuck with me over the years, and every time I’d hear it on a Flashback Friday, I’d sing along at the top of my voice. When I began writing a story about a British courtesan who traveled to America during the Revolutionary War period to escape her past, that song floated to the surface of my mind, and my heroine, Fancy Booker, was born. I hope Reba will approve of the way I tell my heroine’s tale in the second book in my Revolutionary War Trilogy. Take a listen to the song here: 

Becky Lower's new Revolutionary War series begins in 1777, not even a year after the Declaration of Independence was signed. The battle for our country's freedom had been simmering for years and was about to boil over. It was not a good time for young British ladies to be making their way to the country unescorted, but our country needed their grit and fortitude. And it's made for three wonderful heroines. Can't wait to share them with you. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020


Bitty the Historian (and me) making silly faces
As some of you may know, my sweet husband and I have six children. This past weekend, our eight-year-old, Bitty, informed us that he spent all morning researching "history" on his phone. Then, proceeded to teach us all he learned . . . that Hitler's first name was Adolph (which was obviously short for Dolphin). Then, he moved on to the Civil War. The places the soldiers fought in this war were battlegrounds!

As Bitty was giving us a very inspired history lesson, his ten-year-old brother Dawson chimed in. "History is boring," he said. "Why does it matter what happened in the past? We are never going backwards, we are going forwards. We need a class that looks into the future."

This same sentiment was echoed in several of my classes when I taught history to middle schoolers. Why bother looking backwards?

Dawson, the Future-torian
I sat my boys down and shared a piece of my heart with them. "Looking to the past is the best way to look to the future. It's especially fun (yes, I actually said fun) to look to the past and look at other people's mistakes and what happened because of them. That way, us in the future, don't make those same mistakes. We can do better than they did."

Maybe something hit home. I know it did with Bitty and most all of my middle schoolers through the years. However it got me to thinking about people lost to history. The ones who did not make the headlines, but who lived remarkable lives and had heroic tales nonetheless.

A Heart on Hold, my debut novel and book one of four, is one such tale. It follows the life of Confederate Captain E.A. Adams from Arkansas. As I was researching him, I couldn't find anything about him after his wartime days cameA Heart on Hold, book one of my Everlasting Heart Series!
to an end, even in his hometown newspapers, or any mention of family that lived after him. However, his story lives on in

Monday, February 17, 2020

Talking with Mary Sheeran

 Mary Sheeran and I have known each other since the mid-1990s, and over the years have sung in several different choirs and ensembles together.  Since I've gotten more serious about my writing, we've also been meeting regularly for moral support and cheerleading.  So it only made sense to celebrate her Prairie Rose debut, A Dangerous Liberty, by interviewing her.

Although you’ve also lived in the Midwest, you’ve been a Northeasterner for a long while.  And yet you describe the far West with such passion and immediacy. Can you tell us about how that came about?

Until I got out of college, I hadn't made it past Indiana.

I was interested in Virginia City because of the TV show Bonanza. I loved those stock shots of pine trees, desert, and Lake Tahoe. (I also loved Pernell Roberts!) I did considerable reading about the history of that area in college, and after I graduated, I went there. I got a cab from the Reno airport up to Virginia City.  Live and in person, that country just took me over. The desert amazed me with its colors, just as it amazed Elisabeth. I didn't know it was so alive. I didn't know then that the Paiute tribe had been finding food in that desert for centuries. The immensity of the sky, the desert, the mountains beyond were both spectacular and terrifying.

One of the nights I was in Virginia City (I went back several times), I woke myself up at four in the morning to watch the sunrise over the desert, a kaleidoscope of deep purples and blues fading to bright red and then to white, the stars vanishing over the mountains. It was like a miracle, the best show on earth. We are so fortunate to have this land, and we should work to protect it. 

When I went to San Francisco, I took trip to Yosemite.  When the bus climbed up the Sierras to the Yosemite entrance, there it was, brilliant sunlight on the granite formations, the pine trees soaring above us all. My jaw literally, and I mean that literally, dropped wide open. The Japanese tourists around me were snapping pictures, but I don't think you can capture the beauty of that sight. Two days was not enough. So every spring, for the next ten years, I spent a week in Yosemite, in a cabin - just four walls - and walked in the meadows and into the forests and hiked up to Vernal Falls and sat by the rushing Merced River where a coyote sat next to me, watching along, too, and the roaring of Yosemite Falls drowned out everything. The expanse of that country, the power of it, the scent of pine constantly in the air was enthralling. My life was incredibly busy then - work, school, church - and going to Yosemite was a great joy, a gift, a place to learn how to breathe again.

The West always seems like home to me when I write about it, when I visit it, when I'm thinking about it. It's my special place, and yet it's still a stranger. I have so much to learn about it. It’s a strange romance we have, the West and me. I could probably never live out in the wild. I love New York and all it offers. But I have these images in my mind and heart.

By the way, if you look at Livia's cover for the book, the open window looks out on the desert with the Sierra Nevada range just beyond. I love how that cover turned out. 

You’ve been singing and performing most of your life.  Are there aspects of your own experiences as a musician that you used in writing about Elisabeth?

I've sung all sorts of music, a ton of classical, opera, church music, and the American Songbook. If I'd made Elisabeth a singer, it would have been about my point of view, and this way, I had to imagine it for Elisabeth. I used my singing but through a piano, if that makes sense. I imagined a pianist's frame of mind. I imagined and read about pianos and pianists in that time. I listened to a lot of the piano literature of the time. Concerts were different then; the kind of concerts and recitals we have now were still being figured out in the mid-nineteenth century.  

Women as pianists were considered a bit of an anomaly in Elisabeth’s time. Women played the piano at home, but performing on stage was a different matter. Clara Schumann was admired, playing her concerts, composing, wearing black, all her music memorized. There was this emotional response to Schumann, the assumption she was playing in memory of her dead husband, so people could think of her as the widow, even if she was a brilliant musician - It was still about a man. Elisabeth has the same problem as Schumann, as her own music is perceived as an expression of her father's oratory, especially when it’s powerful and dramatic.

Women were not allowed to study composition at the Paris Conservatory until 1870. In this country, Clara Bauer founded the Cincinnati Conservatory in 1867. Elisabeth is right on the cusp of a time when women were starting to make their presence known in the concert world. And conducting! Good grief, no woman did that. Stand with her back to the audience and conduct an orchestra of men? Women do conduct orchestras now, but even the other day, it was a big deal that a woman conducted the orchestra at the Oscars. 

Elisabeth finds herself in the midst of a great deal of political change:  abolitionism, voting rights, and the rights of women more generally. How do you think these issues affect her?

As an expatriate, Elisabeth felt the United States had lost the dream. It was over, finished. She'd seen her father killed, she'd seen Lincoln killed. Reconstruction was crumbling.  When she finally returns, she wants to skip right over the country and get to St. Petersburg. And yet, her love of country, affection I think she calls it in chapter one, tugs at her. To her surprise, she dives into politics. It was in her blood, to her surprise, and it was a way she could keep her father alive. You're not going to kill him off. I'm still here. The country wasn't abandoning the dream. People were fighting for it. But in joining the fight, Elisabeth increased the risk to her own life.

That part of the book gave me a chance to include what some women felt about not getting voting rights. "I have all the rights I need" is the big one, or "My husband will protect my rights." It shows how frightened some women were to declare that they were human beings, equal to men. It was a big deal when the California legislature passed, with some lobbying by Elisabeth and her friends, an act that entitled women to their property if they were divorced. 

Elisabeth made friends with interesting women, a reporter, a poet - whom she hired as a lyricist. Some wealthy women were politically active. Being back in her home country affected Elisabeth strongly. Perhaps she thought she was keeping her father's voice alive, but she was finding hers.

One of the great joys of writing historical fiction is delving into the past.  Do you have one or two favorite pieces of research that you’ve found over the years, whether or not it’s fit into a story?

My thesis in college, now lost, was about the theater on the Comstock Lode. "From Bear Fights to Shakespeare" is, I think, what I called it. It’s so indicative of the time and place. The opera house (that’s what they called the theater) really did have a bear fight one day and Hamlet the next. Some evenings were specially advertised as appropriate for ladies and children. It was also an arena where several women were heralded as artists.

There is more research being done about women in mining communities now, simply because there are more women studying and writing about that history. I keep discovering things. Women of all nationalities ran boarding houses, restaurants, shops. One woman, Mary Mathews was a contemporary woman in Virginia City, in the 1870s, and she wrote a book called Ten Years in Nevada. I would love to explore a character like her. Alas, she reveals herself as a bigot; she is quite outspoken about the prejudices of her time. She was not rich, she was struggling to get along and would take any job that she could grab, she was politically active, belonged to a lodge, and did charity work. She was one stubborn, tough woman, no delicate flower. History doesn’t seem to stop.

Who are some of your favorite fiction writers?

The trouble with spending a lot of time writing historical fiction is that I don't get to read much in the way of fiction, although I push myself. I've probably read more plays than fiction, too. 

I broke into Edith Wharton's house many years ago, so I'd better read her books. I love House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. Ethan Frome is on my bookshelf but I haven't read that since senior year in high school. 

Every so often I pick up Willa Cather's A Lost Lady. The story haunts me.

Sam Clemens became Mark Twain on the Comstock; Roughing It is amusing, but Huckleberry Finn gets better every time I read it. I don’t know how he does it.

Philip Roth! I loved American Pastoral and The Plot Against America. 

But the biggie was the Angelique series by Sergeanne Golon. I found them at Hess’s Department Store in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I was in high school, and I wanted to read something with sex in it! I picked one up because the back of book copy called her “the most ravished and ravishing heroine in fiction.” She’s much more than that (and the sex was fairly discreet).  The first five books are incredible, the first one, Angelique, is not only entertaining and my God romantic, it is packed with history, yet everything is in character and the tone is marvelous. The series set in Louis XIV's time, one book is entirely in his court, with amazing detail, and a great love flames through the whole series. Sergeanne Golon was a husband/wife team;. Serge Golon died sometime after the sixth book, and the series does a downward spiral after that. I try to read them every couple of years.

And the dread final question:  What’s your next project?

I'm jealous of you, already at work on your next one. I put out two books right in a row. Banished From Memory took six years of reading, watching movies, and writing. And then there's the whole page proof business and so forth. I wrote A Dangerous Liberty years ago, but Prairie Rose took it this past year, and it was just published at the end of last month, when I'd barely gotten over Banished. So there were those page proofs and thinking about it, getting back into that world.

Elisabeth and Will are still hanging around, and I don't know if that is going to last; there's so many things I didn't touch on. I'm curious about the people around Elisabeth, especially wonderful Mai Lan. Virginia City and the Comstock are always on my imaginative doorstep. When I was on a writer’s retreat, I started a book about an actress there, but I haven’t worked on it in a while. I think I should do something closer to home and me, but “should” is a deadly word.

 This is a long way of saying I don't know yet. But stuff is spinning around in my head. 

Very out of focus selfie of us at a favorite cafe.

You can buy A Dangerous Liberty here:

And if you want to read more love stories featuring independent women, there's my Courting Anna:

Friday, February 14, 2020


HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY EVERYONE! This is a re-run of a previous blog from years past, but I "love" love letters, and I am so proud of Mail Order Brides for Sale: The Remington Sisters I just had to give it another shout out!

Ah, those wonderful love letters! Don’t we love reading them? I must admit I have an affinity for love letters because of the insights they give us into the past, and the people who lived then.

With Valentine’s Day almost here and my 39th wedding anniversary just celebrated on the 10th, love letters are something I’ve been thinking about a lot. Probably because of the time of year, but also because, as authors, we have to use letters and notes in our writing to “get the message” across that perhaps our characters might not be able to speak aloud.

My hubby is, like many men, not sentimental. He wouldn’t care if I never got him another Valentine’s Day or anniversary card, but they mean a lot to me—so we exchange them every year. I suspect that, through the years past right down to the present, most men didn’t and don’t make flowery love speeches from their hearts, or even write their innermost thoughts and feelings in cards and letters.

One of the most poignant love letters I know of is the famous letter written by Union Army Major Sullivan Ballou, just before the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861 where he died at the age of 32. Married only 6 years, he left behind two small sons and his wife, Sarah. The letter he wrote to Sarah days before he was killed is one that speaks poignantly of his guilt at having to choose between his duty to country and duty to family. Ken Burns used a shortened version of the letter in his series, The Civil War—and its contents are unforgettable, and so powerful it brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.

In part, it reads:

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

I had to come up with a love letter, of sorts, for my latest novel, Sabrina, part of the 4-book set entitled MAIL ORDER BRIDES FOR SALE: THE REMINGTON SISTERS. Oh, nothing to beautiful as this letter penned by a soldier marching to his inevitable death, but a letter that had to convince Sabrina to leave her wealthy lifestyle in Philadelphia and come West to Indian Territory!

Sabrina and her three older sisters have to have mail-order arrangements in order to get out of the fix they’re in with a step-father who plans to sell them to the highest bidder—and they don’t have much time to do it. When Sabrina receives two proposals on the same day, she counts her lucky stars that she’s able to compare the two letters and has a choice between the two men who have written her—something many women of the day did not have.

She’s safely with the man she’s chosen now, Cameron Fraser, but she’s remembering the day she received the letters and why she made the decision she did. Take a look:

She’d answered ads from both Cameron Fraser and David Mason. Ironically, she’d received offers from both men on the same day. That had been a blessing, as she was able to compare their responses immediately.
Mr. Mason had written one page, in sprawling wide script.

“I have need of a wife to help me raise my four children I was left with after my sainted Amelia passed on last year. Your help will be appreciated. And I will do right by you. I hope you are a willing worker and a good cook. Can you make good cornbread? That is a must in our home…”

She’d opened Mr. Mason’s letter first, and tucked it back into the envelope quickly. She’d hoped she’d managed to keep the revulsion from her face when her oldest sister, Lola, had come hurrying through the door. Lola was five years older, and Sabrina could never manage to keep a secret from her, no matter how she tried.

“Well?” Lola had asked, pinning Sabrina with “the look” that Sabrina dreaded.

“I haven’t read them,” Sabrina said defiantly.

“Bree. You know we have to get out of here—the sooner the better. We don’t have much time.”

Here’s the difference, and why she chose Cam. He wanted her for more than making cornbread!

Lola had turned and left the room, closing the door behind her. That’s how Sabrina knew her oldest sister was angry—or hurt. Maybe both.

She’d sighed, and begun to open the letter from Mr. Cameron Fraser. And before she’d read the entire first page of his two-page missive, she knew her decision was made.

Dear Miss Remington,

Thank you for your very kind response to the ad I placed for a bride. I felt out of place to do such a thing, but your answer made me glad I did so, after all.

I know that Indian Territory may seem uncivilized and wild to a well-bred lady such as yourself, who has grown up in the cultured, genteel society of the East, but I assure you, I will do everything in my power to welcome you. In no time at all, I hope you’ll come to think of the Territory as your home.

My family owns a fairly large cattle ranch in Indian Territory. I wanted to assure you that, although the ranch itself is somewhat isolated, we are close enough to Briartown to travel there frequently for supplies.

You will be safe here, Miss Remington, and cherished. You will be well-treated, and I promise you here and now, I will never raise a hand to you.

If it is your will, and I hope it will be, I am willing to be a good and loving father to any children we may have—and a good and loving husband to you.

The sky here is the bluest you’ve ever seen. The water is the freshest and coldest. And I hope you will come to love the open range as much as we Frasers do.

I await your arrival in Ft. Smith. I will meet you there, where we’ll be legally married in a civil ceremony before we travel together to the ranch. Enclosed, you will find a financial draft for your passage and travel expenses.


Cameron James Fraser

Something about the underlying feeling of the words Cam had written spoke to Sabrina. That he’d taken time to describe—even briefly—how he felt about his ranch made her know that he cared about her feelings—not just about what skills she might bring to the marriage table.

I see it, too, don’t you? He loves the land and his life, and wants her to share it with him. I wonder if women who were forced to take this route looked for these types of things—I know I would. And Sabrina is a bit of an adventurer, so going to Indian Territory would not hold her back. Adventure awaited!

Have you ever received a love letter that meant the world to you? I’ve had a few in my lifetime, and they’re tucked away in my desk and my heart! If you would like to share, we’d love to hear about your love letters—it’s that time of the year—love is in the air!

Here’s the blurb for MAIL ORDER BRIDES FOR SALE: THE REMINGTON SISTERS–buy link below!

Boxed set of four full length mail order bride novels.

Brought up in the wealth and comfort of Eastern “old money” in staid and proper Philadelphia, the Remington sisters are forced to scatter to the four winds and become mail-order brides. In order to gain a fortune, their sinister step-father, Josiah Bloodworth, has made plans to marry them off in loveless marriages. Time is running out, and no matter what lies ahead in their uncertain futures, it has to be better than the evil they’re running from…

LIZZY: Livia J. Washburn

Elizabeth Remington’s world is turned upside down when she is forced to become a mail-order bride. With her cat, Fulton, Lizzy flees to Alaska—only to discover the man she’s to marry is not who she thought he was! Now, she must protect herself from the biggest danger of all—her own heart. Handsome Flint McKinnon has signed his soul away to her step-father, hasn’t he? He’s chased Lizzy across the continent, but can she believe him when he says he loves her?

BELLE: Jacquie Rogers

Belle Remington must marry someone before the dangerous Neville Fenster catches up with her. She hightails it out of Philadelphia to the wilds of Idaho Territory to become a bootmaker’s bride, but when she arrives in Oreana, she discovers her groom has been murdered! Now, handsome, inebriated rancher Cord Callahan insists on fulfilling the marriage contract himself. Belle is beautiful and smart as a whip. But she has a secret. When Fenster shows up, can Cord protect the woman he wants to love forever?

SABRINA: Cheryl Pierson

Impulsive Sabrina Remington, the youngest, weds a man she knows her family would disapprove of. Though Cameron Fraser’s family owns a ranch in lawless Indian Territory, he’s made his way in the world with a gun, living barely on the right side of the law. With everything on the line as Bloodworth and his henchmen close in, will Cam be able to protect Sabrina from the desperate man who means to kidnap her for his own wicked purposes?

LOLA: Celia Yeary

Sensible Lola Remington, the eldest of the four sisters, must be certain the others are on their way to safety before she can think of fleeing Philadelphia herself. With the help of a local bridal agency, Lola finds the perfect husband for herself—in the wild countryside of Texas. Jack Rains owns a ranch and he’s in need of a bride—and children, of course! But just when Lola starts to believe there might be a future for them, she discovers a hidden letter from another woman…Jack’s first wife.

Mail Order Brides for Sale: The Remington Sisters is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon. Here’s the link!

Mail Order Brides for Sale: The Remington Sisters is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon. Here’s the link!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Sewing Patterns, Scarlett O’Hara, Little Town on the Prairie, and a Valentine’s Day-themed story by Kaye Spencer #sewing #prairierosepubs #valentinesday #westernromance

I’ve been browsing the Internet for long denim skirts without success. Skirts that struck my fancy had their own special issues: exorbitant prices, outrageous shipping costs, not the right material, not my size, not long enough…

I loathe shopping under any circumstances, and I avoid actually going into stores to try on clothes, but I still wanted a long denim skirt. Other than hiring a seamstress (not a viable option), I was going to have to make a skirt myself.

I still sew an occasional crafty project or help a granddaughter with a book report doll,

but I haven’t sewn clothing for myself or anyone else in years. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that my patience for sewing rivals this child’s patience.

Another reason I wasn’t keen on the idea of sewing a skirt is that it meant a search through my storage trailer for the tote with my patterns, which brought to my tangential mind the scene in Gone with the Wind when Scarlett decides to cut up the draperies to make herself a new dress.

In case you’re not familiar with that scene in the book and the movie, I’ll warn you they aren’t the same. Here is the draperies clip from the movie.

For the curious among you, the scene in the book is on pages 382-384. I referenced my copy, which is the 1964 edition published by The Macmillan Company, New York.

Back to my skirt… I located  my box of patterns, ordered a medium weight denim, cut the pattern, and sewed.

No surprise that I don’t like the result. The denim is too heavy. I don’t like the drape. I’m going to give it one more try, though. I’ve ordered a lighter weight denim.

Yes, this is me modeling the unhemmed denim skirt.

I’m headless, because my hair rivaled Medusa’s at that moment and, coincidentally, I was making this exact face.

If you’ve stayed with me this far, you’re probably wondering what sewing a denim skirt has to do with a Valentine’s Day western romance, Little Town on the Prairie, and Scarlett O’Hara’s curtains dress.

The connection is sewing patterns.

According to this Wikipedia article HERE, it wasn’t until the 1860s (in America) that ready-made patterns came about. A magazine called The Mirror Of Fashion, published by William Jennings Demorest and Ellen Louise Demorest, offered one-size patterns of the latest fashions. The patterns “were of unprinted paper, cut to shape, and could be purchased ‘flat’ (folded)…”

Ebenezer Butterick, James McCall, Vogue Pattern Service, and Simplicity Pattern Co., Inc. soon followed with their own sewing patterns. It would be years before pattern layouts, identification of pattern pieces (meaning which was the collar, cuff, etc.), and more than the briefest of instructions were included.

Back then, whether you purchased a catalog sewing pattern or, more likely, made your own, you took great care to preserve every pattern for the priceless treasure it was as a time-saver when so many sewing projects were completely done by hand and each new dress, shirt, coat, etc. had to be designed, fitted, and a ‘trial run’ made with inexpensive material to see how the real item would fit and where it needed tweaking. It was a tedious process.

This excerpt from Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder illustrated how difficult and time-consuming it was Laura’s mother, Caroline, to make a dress for Mary (page 90 of Little Town on the Prairie, A Harper Trophy Book, 1971).

Ma was nervous about this best dress. She had made the summer dresses first, for practice with the patterns. She had cut the patterns from newspaper, using her dressmaker’s chart of thin cardboard as a guide. Lines and figures for all different sizes were printed on it. The trouble was that nobody was exactly any of the sizes on the chart. After Ma had measured Mary, and figured and marked the size of every sleeve and skirt and bodice piece on the chart, and cut the patterns, and cut and basted the dress lining, then when she tried the lining on Mary she had to make changes all along the seams.

In my short story, Mail-Order Mix Up in the Lariats, Letters, and Lace Valentine’s Day-themed anthology of western romance stories (Prairie Rose Publications, 2016), seamstress Irene Mason, widowed after 24 years of marriage to a no-account ‘traveling salesman’, answers a mail-order bride advertisement. In preparation of leaving, she sells almost everything she owns to pay the debts her dead husband left her with. In this excerpt, she’s talking to her lawyer.


“Let’s take care of business. Now that the creditors are paid, is there anything left?”

Arthur removed an envelope from an inside coat pocket. “Just over three hundred dollars.”

Dear Lord. She looked the envelope a long time before she took it. Despite her determination to bear with equal dignity whatever the amount—much or little—her shoulders slumped with crestfallen disappointment. This piddling amount was hard to take. The money, along with a few personal keepsakes and sentimental pieces of furniture, clothing, sewing machine, box of patterns [emphasis mine], and sewing basket represented the sum total of her life. Not much to show for a woman her age. When it came down to it, though, she had no reason and no right to ride the pity wagon. Much as she was tempted, neither could she place al the blame at the no-account’s feet. She had some culpability in getting where she was today, and there was no use whitewashing the truth of why she’d married him.

Okay, maybe using sewing patterns as the thread (pun intended) that holds this blog article together is iffy. I hope you found something of interest or, at the very least, something that made you smile.

Lariats, Letters, and Lace

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

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