Authors: Katie Wyatt
Copyright © Katie Wyatt 2015
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the publisher.
The characters and events in this book are fictitious, and any simulators to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
This book is dedicated to YOU, the reader.
Thank you so much for downloading this book.
Thank you for your emails, your support, your reviews.
Thank you for reading, and for joining me on this mail order bride journey.
Would you like to be first to be notified about new books in this series?
I have a FREE book for you
The heat was unbearable. She coughed. Smoke choked her lungs. The crackling and roar of the flames jarred her out of slumber. She laid on her back in the bed for several seconds, confused, staring at the undulating shapes of reddish orange patterns that lingered across her ceiling and the walls. What was it? What was happening? Her heart pounded so hard she could feel the throbbing pulse in her neck. Her instinct kicked in.
She bolted from the bed, her heavy nightgown a hindrance as she padded across the wood floor toward the bedroom door. The floor was warm beneath her feet, and when she touched the metal doorknob she jerked her hand back with a hiss.
Fire! She coughed, cried out, but heard nothing from the other side. Her parents! Her younger brother and sisters! She tried to scream, but instead she choked, doubled over in a fit of coughing. She had to get out, but the only way out was her bedroom window on the second floor of their modest home on the outskirts of Boston. In the distance she heard the cries of neighbors, men’s voices shouting for water buckets. A crashing sound from below sounded like a beam falling from the roof into the sitting room beneath her parents’ bedroom.
Tears from the acrid smoke filled her eyes. Choking back a sob and tamping down her rising panic, she could only hope and pray that they were already out of the house. She scrambled and reached for her sitting stool, heaving it with all her strength out her bedroom window. Glass shattered, and in the next instant, Minnie stood at the window frame, gazing down in wide-eyed horror into her front yard.
“Jump, Minnie, jump!”
The urging of several people within the crowd jolted her out of her moment of indecision. She heard another crashing sound behind her, followed by another burst of heat as her bedroom door blew open. Casting a terrified glance over her shoulder, she saw the flames licking at the door frame, seeking fresh fuel, making their way up the walls and curling and roiling along the ceiling.
She quickly snatched her night robe from the base of the bed, an arm’s length away, and bundled it over the bottom of the window frame so that she wouldn’t cut herself climbing through. She didn’t have any time to waste. The short overhang of the porch directly below her window provided questionable footing, but she climbed through anyway, tentatively placing one of bare foot, then the other, on the porch roof. She sat down, quickly scooching herself toward the edge.
Several men stood below, arms upraised.
“Jump, Minnie! We’ll catch you!” a middle-aged man with a handlebar mustache urged. He wore obviously quickly donned overalls over white long johns, gesturing for her to jump. Only one strap was fastened.
Where was her family? What had happened? How did the fire start? All these questions and a hundred more raced through her mind as she balanced on the edge of the porch roof. Dangling her legs over the side and hovering as close to the edge as she could, she pushed herself off, placing her trust not only in the men below, but in God to save her.
“My family! My family—”
Minnie jolted awake from the nightmare, one that had replayed in her mind every night since that horrible tragedy had taken her parents and her siblings. Her family was gone, the family home burned down with them. While she tried to recover, deal with their grief, the bank had coldly informed her that the land would need to be sold to pay off her family’s debts. In the end she was left penniless.
It appeared that all her dreams for her future had shattered that night. As an educated eighteen-year-old, her only desire had been to meet a wonderful man, get married, have no less than three boys, and live happily ever after. Those dreams had disappeared in the billowing smoke and ashes of what was left of her life though.
In the two weeks since the fire, she had relied on the kindness of friends to provide her with daily sustenance and a roof over her head. Her friends had shared their clothes, their tables, and their beds with her, but she knew she couldn’t do this forever.
She had no relatives in America. Her parents had come from England when she was but a babe and the only relatives that she knew of over there were her mother’s sister and her husband. Unfortunately, the pair had a reputation, according to her mother’s not-so-kind assessment, of being rather unpleasant individuals. Her aunt was a bitter, angry woman living with a drunkard of a ne’er-do-well husband.
Minnie had despaired over what to do, when finally, the week after the fire and following the funeral of her family at the local cemetery, an old friend of the family approached her. She looked to him as a grandfather, though a distant one at that; the rich man was rather eccentric and sometimes prone to violent outbursts of temper. To her surprise… no,
, he had made a rather unusual proposal to her. Because she no longer had any assets, no dowry, and no skills to earn a living, he suggested that she marry him.
At the proposal, her stomach had turned. My goodness, he was in his sixties! She had always thought that his assessing gaze and friendly smiles portrayed a kind, old gentleman, but now she wasn’t quite so sure. Neither of her two choices, the ne’er-do-well relatives in England, or the old man pressuring her to marry him, were something that Minnie was willing to consider.
She had prayed for guidance, prayed for an answer to the situation she found herself in.
had this happened? She was a good girl, faithful, always doing her best to be helpful and compassionate to everyone. Why had God allowed this to happen to her?
She woke from her nightmare, her cheeks stained with tears. She slept in the small guestroom of her best friend Florence Elmer’s house, where she had stayed for the past few days.
She tried to fight back the grief, to swallow her anger, resentment, and guilt for surviving when no one else in the family had. She thought of her parents and choked back a sob. Her younger brother and two younger twin sisters… gone.
Why? Why had she alone survived?
Minnie stared at herself in the mirror, stretching her five-foot-three-inch frame up as tall as she could. Maybe if she stood straighter people would take her more seriously. Her moderately curly, chestnut hair complemented her deep brown eyes as they stared back at her. Her friends had always told her she was beautiful, but all she saw reflected in the mirror was a frightened young woman who had no idea what to do. She wore a black mourning dress that Florence’s mother had quickly adapted to her small frame.
When Minnie had told Florence about the old man’s proposition, she had stared at her with wide eyes, clasping a startled hand over her mouth. After Florence then telling her mother of the proposition, they had insisted that she come stay with them. As it turned out, she learned that the old man had gone through three wives in his lifetime and had a reputation of being emotionally and physically abusive. Minnie was horrified to discover the truth about him, and knew that her parents had never known or they wouldn’t have had such close associations with him.
She didn’t accept the old man’s proposal, so it seemed that her only option was to return to England to relatives she had heard nothing good about, and who would likely make her life a living hell for placing an additional, and unwanted, financial burden on them.
“No more of that.”
Minnie looked away from the mirror to find Florence watching her from the doorway, a gentle and commiserating smile on her face. She swallowed and blinked back her tears, forcing a smile of her own. Florence was the only person who seem to understand her and her habit of sometimes wringing her hands in indecision and confusion when faced with pressure. She was so grateful, and thanked God for such a good friend.
“I have something to show you,” Florence said, stepping into the room. She sat down on the bed and patted it, gesturing for Minnie to join her.
With a sigh, Minnie turned from the mirror and sat down on the bed next to her friend, noticing that she held the classified section of one of Boston’s several newspapers folded in her lap.
“What do you have there?” Minnie asked. “Did you find a job for me?” She had looked for a job as soon as she had recovered from the initial shock of the fire. Sadly, she had no specific skills on which to rely. Not only that, but she was indecisive, and always had trouble making important decisions. Since her family had died so tragically, and with such unbearable decisions in front of her, she had lost some of her trust in God.
“Not exactly,” Florence admitted.
“To be honest, Flo, I don’t have many things in my favor. I love to sew, but I’m certainly not a professional at it. I’ve never worked a day in my life. I don’t particularly like to be around animals, especially horses as you know, because they scare me. I can’t even earn a living as a nanny because most families have animals.” Tears once more burned in her eyes. “What am I going to do?”
Before now, her family had always made decisions for her. Now that they were gone, she would have to learn how to stand on her own two feet. Somehow she would need to gain more self-confidence, be more self-assured, and make her own decisions. But how would she know she was making the right ones?
“Have you ever heard of mail order brides?”
Minnie stared at Flo. A mail-order bride? “You mean agree to marry someone who placed an ad in the newspaper for a bride?” she asked, her voice heavy with shock.
Flo nodded. “It’s something to consider, Minnie,” she said. “After all, your only other choices, in my opinion, are much worse.”
Minnie could only agree. A mail-order bride… she adjusted to the idea and realized that it just might —
— be a solution to her current problems. The thought of marrying someone she didn’t know was frightening, but was this the path God wanted her to take? She definitely knew that she didn’t want to travel to England. Her relatives didn’t want her. The old man? Why shouldn’t she grab at the only sure thing and marry the rich old man? She immediately shook her head. She’d rather die an old spinster living off the goodwill of strangers before she would agree to marry such a horrible person.
“What do you think, Flo?”
Flo shrugged. “I think you should consider it. I’ve circled a few of the more favorable ads. There’s an interesting one from a man living in Golden, Colorado.”
“Colorado!?” That was so far. So far away from Boston, her few friends, the cemetery where her beloved family was buried.
“Read this here,” Flo said, pointing to one of the circled ads.
Minnie found it and began to read. “
James Thorton, seeking a wife. Consider myself clever and creative, an inventor, and not too hard on the eyes. I love chocolate, especially chocolate from Europe
—” Minnie glanced up with a small smile on her lips. “I love Belgian chocolates,” she told her friend.