Tag Archives: paradise ranch

Release Day! – Carbon Dating

May 12, 2017

You guys! You have no idea how happy I am that Carbon Dating is finally out there! I worked SO hard on this book, and I’m thrilled to bring it to you at last. But don’t take my word for it, get started reading now! Buy links are at the bottom of the excerpt:

Chapter One

 

“So if you would raise a glass with me, let’s all wish Scott and Casey every kind of happiness as they start their new life together. To the happy couple.”

Ted Flint raised his glass, saluting his sister and soon-to-be brother-in-law as the rest of the room echoed, “To the happy couple.” A clink of glasses and swell of applause followed. Ted turned to smile at Casey and Scott, who blushed and beamed at the well-wishes. A warm knot formed in his chest. It was such a relief to see Casey happy after everything they’d been through in the past few years.

As the toasting crowd dispersed, returning to their conversation and sipping champagne, Ted stepped over to give his sister a hug and said, “Mom would be so proud of you.”

Casey squeezed him tight before stepping back, teary-eyed, and saying, “I know.”

“Thanks, man.” Scott thumped Ted on the shoulder, filled with emotion himself, but holding it in.

“It’s the least I could do.” Ted grinned at both of them. “It’s not every day your favorite sister gets engaged.”

“Ha! I’m your only sister.” Casey cuffed him on the arm. “And when are you going to find a girl and settle down anyhow?”

Ted rolled his eyes. He would have preferred the tears brought on by thoughts of their mother to the teasing glint in Casey’s eyes. Almost. He shrugged. “I haven’t found the right girl.”

“That’s what I used to say,” Scott laughed.

“There are plenty of girls here,” Casey added, nodding to the crowded ballroom of the Cattleman Hotel. They’d booked one of the smaller ballrooms for the engagement party, figuring only friends and family would come, but the event was so well-attended that guests spilled out into the hallways. The Cattleman’s staff had even opened the Haskell history gallery across the hall and moved some of the refreshments in there.

As much as Ted felt like he should make some sort of flippant comment about meeting someone, for a change, what came out of his mouth was, “Yeah, I’ll look around and see if the future Mrs. Ted Flint is in the room.”

Casey giggled. But then, everything seemed to make her giggle these days. Ted wasn’t going to complain about that. Casey and Scott were sidetracked by a couple of their friends coming up to give their congratulations, but Ted’s Dad, Roscoe, who had been standing silently to the side of the action, as usual, walked a few paces across the room by Ted’s side.

“Your sister is right, you know,” Roscoe said, adding a fond smile. “I’d love to see you find someone and settle down like she has. So would Mom. She’d nag you something fierce, if she were here.”

“I know, Dad.” Ted looped an arm around his dad’s shoulders and gave him a man-hug. “To tell you the truth, now that things have started to settle down with the ranch and with Casey, the idea of dating has crossed my mind.”

“Good boy.” Roscoe nodded.

“Don’t start planning a second wedding yet or anything.” Ted went on as they reached the door leading to the hallway. “All I want to do is date for now.”

“I didn’t say anything about another wedding.” Roscoe winked. “But now that the ranch’s mortgage is paid off, thanks to Scott, and we own the place outright, I’d love to see what a good woman could bring to the table.”

“Dad.” Ted rolled his eyes and chuckled. “This isn’t the nineteenth century, you know. We don’t marry women for their dowries anymore.”

“Just joshing.” Roscoe snorted. He pointed down the hall toward the restrooms, then sauntered off.

Ted hadn’t seen his dad so happy in…well, since his mom died a year and a half ago. He stood where he was in the hall, watching his dad walk away with a rare spring in his step. The whole world felt as though it were in the right place. Maybe it was time for him to think seriously about women. Heaven knew he’d thought not-seriously about them since he was in high school. He’d dated plenty of girls, even got halfway serious with a few. But he hadn’t met the one. And damned if he didn’t suddenly want to.

He headed across the hall into the Haskell history gallery. He’d visited the long room with its display cases of photographs, artifacts, and newspaper clippings dozens of times before, starting when he was a kid on a class trip. What interested him now were the tables of food laid out along one wall. Standish Catering had outdone themselves yet again. He grabbed a plate and started piling it high with fresh homemade salsa, chips, cocktail shrimp and sauce, and a single broccoli floret in tribute to all the times his mom told him to eat his veggies. He avoided the fancier puff pastries and pates. Who knew what they contained. He’d stick to the things he knew.

He reached the end of the table and was about to go back to the main room when he spotted a woman with long, dark hair staring intently at one of the cases. Laura Kincade. He knew her by sight, but that was about it. She worked on Scott’s team at Paradise Space Flight, and had become friends with his sister in the past few months. They’d gotten close enough that Casey had asked Laura to be a bridesmaid. But that was where his knowledge of her ended.

Laura Kincade. Hmm. Why not?

Plate in one hand, flute of champagne from the toast still in the other, he ambled over to Laura, doing his best to exude cool.

“You know, the first manager of this hotel was a spy in two different wars,” he began.

Laura blinked at the card she’d been reading inside the display—one about the area’s prehistoric origins—then slowly straightened. She took one look at Ted and blinked even more. “What?”

Ted put on his most charming smile. “Yeah. Theophilus Gunn. He worked as a valet for an English gentleman in the 1850s. The two went off to fight in the Crimean War, where the gentleman was killed. They were both spies. And then, when he came back to America, he was a spy for the Union in the Civil War.”

“Oh.” Laura continued to blink. “That’s interesting.”

“I’ve always thought so.” Ted’s suave smile started to slip. He wasn’t sure he was playing this right. Usually girls went giddy over the story of Theophilus Gunn, international spy and man of mystery. “Someone wrote a book about him a couple years back, The Secret Life of Theophilus Gunn.”

“Neat.” She stood there, bristling with awkwardness.

Yep, Ted had definitely lost his mojo. Or else Laura wasn’t the kind of girl those sorts of stories worked on. Which was interesting. She was different. He shifted his weight and studied her.

“I was just reading about the Lower Paleolithic Era in this area.” She gestured to the case with her thumb. “Trying to figure out if there’ve been any big fossil finds nearby, like there have been up in Montana. I’m sort of a dinosaur nut.” She spoke fast, ending by clamping her mouth shut.

Ted caught himself grinning even before he was aware of how fun her comment was. “Really? I haven’t met a lot of women who like dinosaurs.”

“Oh, I love them.” She was still nervous, but her eyes lit up with excitement. Blue eyes. They were a pretty contrast to her dark hair. “Last year, before coming to Haskell to take the job at PSF, I traveled to South Africa to help with an excavation being led by Dr. Heinrich Heller. We managed to find the hindquarters and skull of a Massospondylus too, although it may or may not be some other species. A lot of times fossils end up reclassified after analysis and…and I’m boring you. Sorry.” She laughed. An attractive pink blush came to her cheeks.

“You’re not boring me at all,” Ted said, in spite of the fact that he only had half a clue what she’d said. She was pretty. He wondered why he hadn’t noticed before. Granted, there was nothing special in the way she dressed. She wore a simple green knit dress that came to her knees and boots with it. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and she wasn’t wearing makeup. The only word Ted could think of to describe the impact she made on him was “charming.”

 

Want more? Carbon Dating is rolling out across eBook retailers:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/2q5nw3p

B&N – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/carbon-dating-merry-farmer/1126384325

iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/carbon-dating/id1235371000

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/carbon-dating-1

Writing Spicy and Sweet

Sep 20, 2016

sweet-spicyA lot of people who have read my Brides of Paradise Ranch series have been intrigued by the fact that I’ve been doing both a sweet and a spicy version of each book. People love the idea of being able to choose which heat-level they’d like to read, but I’m often asked “How do you do that? How do you write two versions?” 

The first and most important part of the answer to that question is that I start out knowing that I’m going to be writing two versions all the way in the conceptualization phase.  

But let me back up a little bit further to answer the question of why I started doing this in the first place.  

I generally write spicy. I like to write spicy. I like to read spicy. Not erotica, mind you, but sizzling. When I first started reading romance novels all those years ago, I read spicy pirate romance novels. That level of spice just seems natural to me. But as I started writing historical westerns (and I never intended to write historical westerns when I started out, it happened by accident—but that’s a whole other blog post), I came to see that a lot of readers preferred the sweet stuff. And I’ll confess, I looked at the success of my sweet historical western-writing friends and thought, “Well, I’m trying to make a living off of this, and I’ve got to pay the bills somehow.” 

So I decided to give sweet a try…without sacrificing the spice. Because anyone who knows me knows that the spicy side is a huge part of who I am. =D 

Back to how I do it… HisHeartbrokenBride_Libby

Like I said, I know going into a spicy/sweet novel that it’s going to have two versions. I thought about going back and rewriting some of my older books in sweet versions, but it didn’t take long to realize that it wouldn’t work. In so many of those books, major elements of the plot and the characters’ journeys center around what happens in the bedroom. It’s impossible to take that out without changing the focus of the plot entirely. 

So keeping that in mind, when I set out to write books with both sweet and spicy versions, I knew I had to include the spice in such a way that it wasn’t the pivot point of the plot. The major thrust of the action (no pun intended) had to focus around something that could still be told without following the characters into the bedroom. In other words, the tension of the plot needed to be something other than “will they or won’t they.” 

I think that plotting this way has actually made me a better writer. In the past, I’ve always considered external plots to be the weak point in my writing. Well, here I was writing stories that needed to depend on external plot rather than just the relationship between the hero and heroine. At the same time, that relationship has to play a major role in the story. After all, the spicy version wouldn’t work if the schmexy scenes felt tacked on or superfluous. 

That leaves me with a complex dilemma for each book. How do I write one version in which sensual scenes play a major part in character development without the entire plot hanging on them? And how can I remove those scenes and still maintain an intimacy between the characters while keeping the story sweet? 

HisTemptingBride_Miriam_2coversI think the answer lies in my process of writing. When I draft each of the Paradise Ranch books, I draft the spicy version. The first draft is spicy. Actually, the second and third drafts are too. Once I have everything just the way I want it, I send it off to my editor. And then I go back and start working on the sweet version while she works on the spicy one. 

The sweet version is all about subtracting and adding. I go through and take out everything non-sweet. Gone are the schmexy scenes, gone are any swear words or even references to alcohol. I have a kind of silly list of words that I do a search for when I’m writing that sweet version. But of course, most of the time if you take something out, you leave holes. That’s when I go back through and add many more Christian references and rewrite any sensual scenes to be emotionally powerful, fully-clothed, upright scenes. 

This is another area where preplanning is key. When I’m writing the schmexy scenes in the first draft, I always have a point where the action will veer off into the sweet scene in later drafts. I build that jumping off point into the draft to save myself the work of rewriting tons and tons of words later. I keep both versions in mind even as I’m spicing it up. 

Once the spicy draft comes back from my editor, I go through and make all the changes she suggests in both versions. After that, they go off to various proof-readers and beta-readers I have, depending on which draft they prefer. Once those come back, I make final changes and corrections, and voila! Two versions. 

I’ve had a lot of positive response from readers about the fact that two versions are available, even though they prefer one or the other. And I also get a lot of questions about whether I will be going back and writing sweet versions of my older books. The answer to that is no, it would be way too much work, and I’d rather focus on writing new books.  

HisBewilderingBride_Wendy_2coversThe second question I get is “Will you be doing sweet and spicy versions of new books/series?” That’s a much harder question to answer. Harder not because I have to think about my answer, but I’m afraid my answer will disappoint people. Because the answer is no. No, this series has taught me that I really do prefer writing spicy. It comes more naturally to me, and so I’ll be sticking with just the spicy in all new series. BUT, I’m going to continue to write both sweet and spicy versions of the Paradise Ranch series, and that has many, many, MANY more books to come! 

I want to add one final note before ending, though, based on a few private comments I’ve had from readers. I do not think sex is dirty. That’s why I will never refer to a sweet novel as “clean.” I take offense to that term. I don’t think sex is shocking or scandalous or evil, and especially not dirty. It’s a natural part of human relationships and intimacy. I don’t think it should be treated as an unmentionable topic, because I believe that that way lies dysfunction and fear. So all those 1-star reviews that say “This book has too much sex in it?” Those are like 6-star reviews to me! For those who like to leave those reviews, just know that those kinds of reviews sell more books than the best of the best 5-star reviews.

Check out all of the books in The Brides of Paradise Ranch series on my “Other Works by Merry Farmer” page!

Release Day! – His Forbidden Bride/Honoria:The Forbidden Bride

Sep 02, 2016

Release Day is here at last for His Forbidden Bride (spicy version)/Honoria: The Forbidden Bride (sweet version)! And I know a lot of you have been looking forward to Honoria and Solomon’s story for a long, long time. Well, here it is! So who am I to stand in your way? Get started reading Chapter One right now….

HisForbiddenBride_Honoria

Haskell, Wyoming – 1876

 

Honoria Bonneville was about to go mad. The clock on the mantel of Dr. Abernathy’s office ticked with such deep foreboding that it pulled every nerve in her body taut. She wrung her white handkerchief in her hands as she sat hunched in a spindly chair on the other side of the waiting room from the clock. Her lungs burned, but she fought the urge to cough—fought it and fought it and fought it until she couldn’t hold out anymore.

She burst into a spell of coughing that wracked her from head to toe and made the pale, middle-aged woman sitting across from her start. That woman quickly fell into coughing too, as if Honoria’s outburst were contagious. A third patient—an older man—frowned and hugged himself tightly, as if summoning the willpower to not be made sick by the women. Honoria squeezed her eyes shut, praying for her lungs to be still.

Heaven knew she had enough practice holding her breath and keeping the things that were inside of her from coming out. She’d been biting her tongue and swallowing all of the things she had wanted to say for the past twenty-five years of incessant bullying by her sisters, Vivian and Melinda. She’d even endured snide comments and a turned-up nose from her younger sister, Bebe.

Once upon a time, she’d tried to speak out, to fight back against the unfairness that was heaped on her. It had been easier when she was a small girl and her mother was still alive. Ariana Bonneville had been the one light of hope in young Honoria’s life. She had been the single stabilizing influence in Rex Bonneville’s life—though he’d never appreciated her for it. She’d been the center of Honoria’s world, and when she’d died in childbirth—along with Rex Bonneville’s only son—when Honoria was seven, the light had gone out of her world. And the sense had gone out of the Bonneville family.

Grief that had never healed spilled through Honoria, and she dissolved into another round of wracking coughs that brought tears to her eyes. It was the coughing that made her cry, she insisted to herself, not grief, not pity for her lot in life. As her mother lay dying, her final words to Honoria had been, “Always remember who you are, Honoria. Your honor is your shining light. Hold your head up high, face your trials bravely, and be honest in all things.” There had been words of love and sorrow too, but in every day that passed since then, Honoria had obeyed her mother, behaved with quiet honor, and born the brutality of her sisters and the neglect of her father with as much courage and strength as she could muster…for Mother’s sake.

Now that strength was failing her. She coughed again, in unison with the other woman waiting to see Dr. Abernathy. She’d been strong as long as she could, but for months now Honoria had felt the unmistakable sensation of the Universe holding its breath. Something was about to change.

The door to Dr. Abernathy’s examination room swung open, and Dr. Abernathy himself popped his head into the waiting room. He held a small stack of files that he looked at several times between staring at Honoria, the old man, and the other woman. He shuffled through the papers in the file, cleared his throat, then focused on Honoria.

“With a cough like that, I’d better see you first.”

An unexpected tremor of fear passed through Honoria as she stood and slipped across the waiting room to the examination room. Dr. Abernathy stood back so she could go before him. Once she was inside, hovering anxiously beside a short table, Dr. Abernathy shut the door.

“Let’s see now.” Dr. Abernathy shuffled through the files, mumbling to himself. He set one down on the table, then scowled as he thumbed through the other two. “What an utter nuisance.”

“I’m sorry?” Honoria asked in a small voice.

Dr. Abernathy made a disapproving noise. “Why does Dr. Meyers keep insisting on seeing patients when he is constantly being called out to that blasted Indian reservation?”

Honoria blinked, unsure if she was supposed to answer the question. “I saw Dr. Meyers about my cough this morning.” She opted to explain.

“Yes, and I’m sure your father will have something to say about that,” Dr. Abernathy grumbled. “I’ve been your family doctor for years.”

There was no point in explaining that that was the exact reason she’d seen someone else about her concerns. “Dr. Meyers had just finished examining me—listening to my lungs, testing my sputum with some chemicals he has—when the army officer came to take him to the Cheyenne camp. I…I understand it was an emergency.”

Dr. Abernathy continued to mutter, “Damned inconvenient, if you ask me. Causing me extra work. Those savages don’t deserve it.”

A sudden snap of dislike caught Honoria off-guard, sending her into another coughing fit.

At last, Dr. Abernathy set one of the two files he held aside and his expression lightened. “Ah! Here we are. Just as I suspected.” His countenance turned grave. He stared at her over the top of his glasses. Honoria began to shake, too afraid to ask what he suspected. She didn’t have to ask. “It’s obvious, really,” he went on. “Consumption.”

Honoria’s breath caught in her throat, and the room went dark for a moment. Her legs turned to jelly, and if she hadn’t reached out to grab the examination table, she was certain she would have fallen over. She’d known it. In her heart, she’d known all along. And she knew what consumption was.

It was a death sentence.

“Looks like it’s fairly advanced, going by Dr. Meyers’s notes,” Dr. Abernathy went on, as if describing how a garden wall was built. “The coughing will continue, as will instances of coughing up blood. Yes, yes.” He scanned the rest of the file. “I wouldn’t plan on lasting more than six months to a year.”

“That’s it?” Honoria squeaked, clutching her handkerchief to her chest.

Dr. Abernathy shrugged. “Could be less, could be more.” He cleared his throat and closed the file, tossing it on the table with the others. “If I were you, young woman, I would get my affairs in order.”

The tears that had stung Honoria’s eyes earlier burned hotter. That was it? Twenty-five years and her life was over? She shook her head, her shoulders sinking. Twenty-five years of life and what did she have to show for it? A battered spirit and an empty heart.

What a waste. What a terrible, terrible waste.

Dr. Abernathy cleared his throat. “I have other patients to see. More than usual, thanks to Dr. Meyers.”

Honoria blinked up at him through her shock and grief. That was all he had to say? Censure for Dr. Meyers? After giving her a death sentence? The urge to run filled her.

“Thank you for your time, sir.” She managed to push out the words with a hoarse breath.

Dr. Abernathy grunted, then pivoted to hold the door open for her. Clutching her handkerchief to her chest, Honoria hurried out the door. She tried to hold her head high—like she always did—as she made her way through the waiting room, but as soon as she was out in the hot, July sun of Haskell, she burst into bitter, wrenching tears.

 

Oh no! That doesn’t sound good at all! But is Honoria really dying? Find out by reading either His Forbidden Bride (spicy version) or Honoria: The Forbidden Bride (sweet version) now!

His Forbidden Bride is available at AmazoniBooksBarnes & Noble, and will be available for Kobo soon.

Honoria: The Forbidden Bride is available exclusively at Amazon and for Kindle Unlimited.

 

 

Excerpt Wednesday – His Perfect Bride/Corva – Trouble Brewing

Dec 09, 2015

It’s Wednesday! Are you feeling naughty or nice? Lucky for you, with this next series of mine, you can pick. I’ll be releasing both a spicy version – His Perfect Bride – and a sweet version – Corva: The Perfect Bride – so you won’t have to worry about reading too much of the bedroom stuff…or not enough. Either way, there’s trouble brewing for Franklin and Corva almost right from the start. Take a look! Both books release on December 28th….

HisPerfectBride_Corva_2Covers

His explanation was cut off by a high-pitched, female shout. Corva had to search for a second before she spotted a short woman in a flouncy purple dress with honey-brown hair waving her arms at him. The woman had jumped up from a circle of three other young women, all of whom bore a distinct resemblance. The woman who had called out hopped down from one of the higher benches and charged across the field. The only hint Corva had of Franklin’s feelings about the woman was a quick, heavy sigh.

“Franklin, what a treat to see you in town today. I wish you had told me you were coming in. I would have invited you to come watch the boys practice with us. We’re having such a jolly time.” The flouncy woman finally puffed to a stop when she was mere feet from Franklin.

“Vivian.” Franklin managed a tense pinch of his mouth, which may have been an attempt at a smile.

“You’re looking dashing today,” Vivian went on. “Is that a new suit? It looks expensive. Did it come in on the train just now? I simply love it when you or your family send away for fancy things that come in on the train.”

A hitch formed in Corva’s chest, not of jealousy—which part of her thought she should be feeling, considering how beautiful and fine the woman in front of her was—but of embarrassment for the woman’s sake. She was well aware that men came west looking for gold, but apparently women did too.

“This isn’t a new suit,” Franklin said. He cleared his throat. “I did meet the train, however. I came to town to greet Corva when she arrived.” He glanced to Corva.

Only then did Vivian blink and glance to Corva, noticing her existence. “Who’s she?”

Franklin took his time answering. “Vivian, I’d like you to meet Miss Corva Collier.” He stopped, nodded to himself, then said, “I mean, Mrs. Corva Haskell.”

A warm flush filled Corva’s body. That was her name now, wasn’t it? Not just in her imagination. “How do you do?” She held out a hand to Vivian.

Vivian stared at her, then at Franklin. Ever so slowly, her lip curled. “Mrs. What?”

Franklin blew out a breath. Corva had the impression that if he wasn’t holding her arm with one of his and his cane in his other hand, he would have rubbed his face, possibly to hide.

“Corva and I have just been married,” he said, offering no other explanation.

Vivian’s transformation was quick and alarming. Her pretty smile evaporated into a sour grimace, which morphed into a bitter pout. “But Franklin,” she choked. “I wanted to marry you.”

The comment was so bold and had so much insistence behind it that Corva’s brow shot up and her heart pounded against her ribs. Clearly, Vivian was a force to be reckoned with. Corva wanted to let Franklin’s arm go and step away, possibly even running back to the train station, although the train had moved on.

“Vivian, you know what I’ve said about that in the past.” Franklin kept his voice low and his eyes fixed on Vivian, almost as if he was scolding her.

“You said you would never marry anyone, that no one deserved a cripple for a husband,” Vivian pouted.

Corva snuck a sideways glance to Franklin, who looked a little like a moth that had been skewered with a pin in a case. The same feeling of heartache that she’d felt the moment she saw him returned.

Vivian turned her vicious stare on Corva and went on with her outburst. “I see now that you lied.” Her chin and nose shot up. “I had no idea you were such a liar, Franklin Haskell. Papa will be furious.”

“I’m sorry if you had the wrong idea about things.” Franklin did his best to placate her. “I thought I had made my intentions clear from the first.”

Vivian sniffed. “You didn’t know what you were talking about. You were supposed to come around…eventually.”

“You know that wasn’t—” He stopped, pressing his lips together and squeezing his eyes shut.

It dawned on Corva that her new husband was a patient man. That thought made her smile, in spite of the confrontation they were mired in.

At last, Franklin took a breath, hugging his arm, and with it, Corva’s hand, closer to his body. “I’m sorry if you are disappointed, Vivian, but with so many single men in these parts, I’m sure you’ll find a husband in no time.”

 

Stay tuned for more! And if you’d like a reminder when His Perfect Bride and Corva: The Perfect Bride come out on December 28th, please sign up for my newsletter!

Excerpt Wednesday – His Perfect Bride: A First Look

Dec 03, 2015

I know, I know, it’s Thursday again, not Wednesday. But I have an exciting new excerpt for you anyhow! It’s from the first book of a super exciting new series, The Brides of Paradise Ranch! Here’s the twist, though. For each book in this series, I will be releasing a Spicy version and a Sweet version. They’ll be the same story with the same plot, same characters, same everything, but one version will contain those sexy, spicy scenes that some of you love, and the other will be fresh and clean as a daisy. Each version will have a different cover and a slightly different title.

Today, I bring you a snippet of the first book in the series, His Perfect Bride (spicy version) aka Corva: The Perfect Bride (sweet version). Many apologies about not having covers yet, but here’s a bit of Chapter One that, well, that more or less sets up the entire series….

 

He took a breath, settled back in his chair, and rolled his shoulders. “The other night, Olivia and I were going over some business regarding my dear, old friend and mentor, Josiah Hurst’s, estate. You know that among many of the other charitable institutions he left behind when he passed on, one of them is a home for women who have been battered or abused or otherwise escaped from dangerous situations.”

“Hurst Home.” Josephine nodded. “You are truly a saint for setting up such a wonderful, safe place for those women.”

“Well, it was Olivia’s idea as much as mine,” Charlie insisted.

“Either way, it warms my heart to know that there’s a safe place for those poor women to go in troubled times,” Virginia added.

“Exactly,” Charlie continued. “That’s what set Olivia to thinking the other night. Some of the stories of the women currently living at Hurst Home would break your heart. They’ve endured so much, and even though the home is a safe place for them, Olivia had the idea that it would be even safer for some of them to start new lives far, far away from the troubles of their pasts.”

“New lives?” Josephine exchanged a glance with Ellen…who was more interested in the cup of fruit at Josephine’s place than the conversation. “How so?”

Charlie leaned forward. “Olivia was reading a newspaper that her mother sent her from back home in Ohio. Among its pages, she noticed an advertisement by a miner over in Colorado, looking for a wife.”

“Ah, mail-order brides.” Virginia nodded. “I hear that quite a few men who have settled out here are sending back East for wives these days.”

“Which brings me to my point.” Charlie smiled. “Olivia and I feel as though it would benefit a great deal of people if we could find a way to bring some of the women from Hurst Home out here, to Haskell, to be brides for the young men working at Paradise Ranch, or in town, or on any of the other ranches in the area.”

Josephine and Virginia hummed and exchanged looks of surprise and interest.

“Well, it would certainly stop so many of them from patronizing Bonnie’s all the time,” Josephine said.

“Very true.” Virginia nodded slowly. “I’m not saying Bonnie Horner wasn’t smart to open a whorehouse in Haskell.”

“She certainly did cut down on the amount of mischief all those virile, young ranch hands got into,” Josephine added with a wry drawl.

“Mmm.” Virginia arched an eyebrow. “Several of those boys are far more grown up now than they were when Bonnie opened her doors. It’s about time they settled down and started families.”

“The only way for Haskell to grow is by welcoming families and inviting them to put down roots,” Josephine agreed.

The two women turned to Charlie once more.

“I see we’re in agreement.” Charlie winked. “And I think Bonnie would agree with us too, at heart.”

“She’s got other irons in the fire, that Bonnie,” Virginia said, exchanging a knowing look with Josephine.

“So are we agreed?” Charlie asked. “Should we send a telegraph to Mrs. Breashears at Hurst Home asking how she feels about the plan?”

“Absolutely,” Josephine said.

“The sooner the better,” Virginia agreed.

“Excellent.” Charlie smiled and tapped the table to seal the deal. “Now all we have to do is figure out which lucky man should be our trial groom.” He twisted to wave across the hotel dining room, catching the eye of the stately, white-haired man standing ramrod straight near the doorway to the lobby.

The white-haired man nodded and glided across the room to the table. “Can I help you, Mr. Garrett?”

“Yes, Gunn. Breakfast for my two sweet angels.” He winked across the table to Ellen, and reached to his side to ruffle Allen’s hair. “And anything else that Mrs. Piedmont and Mrs. Evans want.”

“Right away, sir.” Mr. Gunn bowed and moved off.

“What about Theophilus Gunn?” Josephine asked. “He’s getting up in years and could use a wife.”

Charlie shook his head and chuckled.

Virginia laughed outright. “Mr. Gunn is far too long in the tooth for any of the young ladies of Hurst Home. Besides, to hear Charlie tell it, he’s married to his job.”

“Best hotel manager Wyoming has ever seen,” Charlie agreed. “And Virginia is right. We need to think younger. What young man in Haskell do we know who needs a bride?”

“And who is mature and kind enough to treat a woman who has been through the wringer well,” Josephine added.

The three of them sat back in silence, mulling over the question. Charlie rubbed his chin, studying his babies. They were too young by ages to even thing about marriage, as were his two older children, but he still put himself in the position of the father of a daughter in need of a mate. Which young men in town would he most trust with a tender heart?

One of Mr. Gunn’s waitresses returned with a breakfast tray, laying all manner of delicacies out for them. Children and grown-ups alike dove in. It was easier to think on a full stomach.

“You know who I have wanted to find a good woman and settle down for years,” Virginia began as the last of the cream tarts and bacon was devoured.

“Who?” Charlie dabbed his mouth, then put his napkin down, ready for business.

Virginia hesitated before saying, “My nephew, Franklin.”

A wave of uncertain excitement swept over the table. Franklin Haskell. Yes. He was Howard Haskell’s son, not to mention Howard’s right-hand man on the ranch. Franklin more or less ran things, now that Howard was more interested in building a unique town and helping it to thrive. But all Charlie really knew about Franklin was that he was quiet, serious, and a cripple.

 

Excited? Ready to read more? His Perfect Bride/Corva: The Perfect Bride releases on Monday, December 28th, right after Christmas, and just in time for you to use the Amazon gift cards that I know you’re going to get! Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to be notified when they release and for future releases!