I’m pleased to say that ‘Mail Order Bride – Elise’s Journey (45k words)’ is now available.
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Welcome to the majestic mountains, and the small town of Eagle Creek where brave folk are busy making new lives and new connections. The land may be rugged, but it is beautiful and the men and women are determined to make their mark.
Elise Mitchell is no stranger to traveling huge distances to follow her heart, but this time she is making the move to take back control. Tragically widowed and with a young son to look out for, she finds herself beholden to her husband’s family and their grip is chafing. Having come from Scotland, she knows the mountains and the fresh air will be a tonic for her and her son, Bailey, but will the wilds of Montana be far enough away for her to be free of the Mitchell’s clutches?
Tom Greening loves his land, loves his cattle, and loves the single life. But, when his housekeeper decides to take matters into her own hands to find him a bride he finds himself intrigued, and even begins to think he might just be the marrying kind after all. But Tom has a secret, and it has haunted him for too long. Will it ruin everything and take from him the family he never knew he wanted?
Thunder roared, deep and loud, echoing out over the ocean. Most of the passengers on board ship had scurried to their cabins long before the storm had hit, but Elise and Wilson had stayed on deck, watching as the lightning cracked the sky, shuddering as the thunder rumbled overhead. They were young, in love, and every minute of their adventure was precious to them both, though it was clear that Elise was more excited about travelling aboard this vast ship than her new husband. Wilson had always taken sea voyages for granted. As an American he seemed to think the entire world was open. His family had a great deal of wealth and he came often to England and Scotland to take care of family business. As a young man, fresh from the very best schools and Universities he had been to Europe on a version of the Grand Tour and had seen the marvels of Greece and Spain. He rhapsodized constantly about the beauty and sophistication of Paris and had promised her that he would take her there too, and she prayed he had meant it.
Rain pasted Elise’s hair to her face. She shivered, and looked down at the new cream gown he had purchased for her in a flurry of post-wedding extravagance, from elegant stores she would never have dared to enter without him by her side. To be so spoiled, and to now possess so many beautiful things had made her feel overwhelmed, cherished and utterly bewildered in equal measure. The delicate silk molded itself to her slender curves, and she was sure she must look positively indecent, but she did not care. Nothing could ruin this moment, nor the wonderful future that lay ahead of her with Wilson. She turned to her new husband and grinned. “You, my dear wife, are quite mad,” Wilson exclaimed as she raised her arms as if to embrace the entire ocean. She had not had much joy in her short life, and these past weeks – spent with him – had been a blessing she could never have even imagined happening to her. He had swept her off her feet, made her feel cherished and adored, and then he had vowed that she would be his until death might part them.
“No my darling, I am not moonstruck” she assured him, “maybe more than a touch love-struck? I am just happier than I have ever been and it is thanks to you.” She leant towards him and kissed him passionately, taking his handsome face between her wet palms. He put his arms around her and pulled her tightly against his warm, strong body. “I have never been on a boat so big and so luxurious before. It is very exciting, and had anyone told me I would be doing so, even a week ago, I would never have believed them.” He grinned down at her.
“It was all a bit of a whirlwind romance was it not? I am still not sure I was quite myself when I asked you to be my bride. I think you must have hexed me or some such, I am clearly bewitched,” he teased.
“I am so very sorry I did not answer you for so long, but it was such a surprise” she admitted and blushed as she remembered the romance of that special evening; the elegant theatre and the wonderful play he had taken her to see, the delightful supper and his buying her champagne. Tipsy on the bubbles they had giggled and then suddenly Wilson had been on one knee, and asking for her hand.
“You might, maybe, have done something other than snort in derision at my proposal,” he said, his eyes sparkling. Her face fell a little and she felt abashed. He would never let her forget that the most romantic moment of her life had been ruined by her own reaction.
“I told you I did not mean to, the bubbles got up my nose and it was all so sudden. You would have snorted too,” she said indignantly.
“Perhaps I might. Well, I can certainly tell you that my family will be more than surprised that I am returning home to Augusta, with a beautiful Scottish wife. I was only supposed to be in Edinburgh to tie up the loose ends of my Great Uncle’s estate after all, and to check on the family’s woolen mills. I very much doubt that my letter will have reached them before we ourselves do, in truth I hope it has not.” His voice took on a note of caution, and Elise tried not to read too much into his obvious concerns. She knew that, as the daughter of the mill foreman, she was no marital catch for a man like him, but he had assured her that his parents would only want his happiness and that without her he would never be content again. She tried every day to remember his certainty.
“No matter,” she assured him, though her thoughts ran quite opposite to her words. She was petrified of meeting his family, was sure they would despise her for trapping their golden boy. She tried to make her voice light, as if she didn’t give a fig for his family’s good opinion. “I am sure they will find every reason to find fault with me, if your description of your Mama is anything close to the truth. She sounds a terrible snob, and quite the harridan to boot,” Elise said teasing him gently, trying to make light of her gravest concerns. She stroked her fingers down his cheek, down his neck and then let them linger in the glistening curls at his collar.
“Mama is all of that, and more,” he drawled lazily, almost purring under her gentle caresses, but his eyes were still gazing out to sea, fear still evident in their grey depths. “She will hate me for marrying a woman without money or title, for wedding without her permission, and that you are Scots. Despite my Father’s origins being in the Highlands, I think she thinks all Scotsmen are barbarians and savages. If Uncle Cameron hadn’t left the family his entire fortune and four very lucrative woolen mills I doubt she would ever have considered letting me come here at all.”
“Then maybe I should work on losing my accent in the weeks before we reach New York,” Elise joked, but the hope in his eyes told her he didn’t think it such a foolish idea.
“Do you think you might manage to?” he asked eagerly.
“I can try,” she assured him. “But, that only solves a small part of our predicament. The other part – that I have no dowry, no name and am the daughter of a foreman – I cannot do much about.”
“The first two can be ignored because of your immense beauty,” he said flattering her vanity. “But it might be best if we don’t mention the latter.”
“You are ashamed of me,” she said pulling away from him. She placed her hands upon the railing, and gazed back out over the black water and watched the waves that rippled out around the prow as it cut its way through the night.
“Not one bit, but she will be. Papa won’t care one jot. He will say that you are a damn fine filly and will look forward to teaching his first grandson to ride and shoot.”
“What about his first granddaughter?” Elise asked, a smile playing about her lips.
“She will be indoors, learning how to sew and play the pianoforte of course,” he said laughing.
“And to speak French fluently, of course,” she added.
“That goes without saying.”
“And she will grow up and make a wonderful marriage with a fine young gentleman with name and fortune,” Elise said allowing him to pull her close once more, their shared joke making her forget her fears.
“And she will make up for her Mama’s low birth in every way, because she will raise the family to heights hitherto unthought of!” Wilson kissed her forehead tenderly. “I am not, and I will never be ashamed of you, my love.”
His words warmed Elise, but they did not quell the anxiety she felt – an anxiety that grew with every passing day they spent on their voyage to America. Every mile of endless sky and sea brought the moment she dreaded closer, and Wilson’s assurances did less and less to reassure her that all would be well. She prayed over and over that the two of them had not made a terrible mistake, that his belief in his family’s ultimate acceptance was founded in truth. But in her secret heart she prepared herself for the worst. She hoped that Wilson had considered it too, that they just might cast him out for his actions. She wondered if he would continue to profess his undying love for her when they were forced to make their own way in the world. She was used to poverty, to having to earn every penny she could to contribute to the family coffers in order to make ends meet – he was not. He had grown up with every blessing this world could provide. No matter how much he professed his love for her each and every day, she doubted he would think she had been worth losing everything he had known, should it come to that.