A Mail-Order Christmas Bride

A Mail-Order Christmas Bride

What could be better during the holiday season than a warm fire, a cozy chair, and a heartwarming collection of mail-order bride Christmas stories? A Mail-Order Christmas Bride includes eight wonderful reads by some of your favorite authors.

Livia J Washburn kicks off the anthology with her story, “Kissing Until Christmas,” about a mail-order bride who isn’t exactly what she seems—but her unwilling groom hides a dangerous secret of his own.

It’s “A Long Way from St. Louis” in Kathleen Rice Adams‘s story, but can a handsome Irish alley-brawler and a former debutante rekindle their romance from a decade earlier now that circumstances have changed?

Ella’s cryptic letter brings her husband’s brother, Caleb, home for Christmas in “Store-Bought Ornaments” by Patti Sherry-Crews. Can they finally claim the love they’ve been denied for so long?

Secrets and surprises are in store when families meddle with a beautiful single mother and an outlaw-turned-respectable in Tanya Hanson’s story. Phoebe Pierce may have too many secrets of her own to keep “Her Holiday Husband.”

An earthquake lands a young woman backward in time in her great-great aunt’s southwestern home. Jesse J Elliot’s story of a “Timeless” love that will prevail, no matter what century, is one you won’t forget.

In this tale by Meg Mims, will it be true love or a “Holiday Hoax” for these mail-order brides who are traveling together? When they “switch” grooms in Holliday, Nebraska, will things work out for the best, or will they end up ruining their futures?

Hec Murdock orders up two brides for himself and his brother, Zeke. But somehow, he neglects to let Zeke know what he’s done. “I Heard the Brides on Christmas Day” is classic Jacquie Rogers-style fun with a humorous, heartwarming ending.

Can a jaded lawman from Indian Territory and a debutante on the run manage to find their own happily-ever-after in “A Marriage of Convenience”? Cheryl Pierson’s tale pits a young woman against a monster, with only one man to protect her—a U.S. Deputy Marshal—who stands to lose his heart—or his life.

Prairie Rose Publications is proud to bring you another wonderful collection of Christmas tales for your reading pleasure. A Mail-Order Christmas Bride is sure to bring you hours of enjoyment.

 

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Excerpt

If the lazy beast lounging on a bench beside the depot’s doors were any indication, the west was neither wooly nor wild. As a porter took her hand to assist her from the railway car, Elizabeth Adair stared. The cowboy’s worn boots crossed at the ends of denim-clad legs slung way out in front of him. Chin resting on his chest, hat covering his face, the man presented the perfect picture of indolence.

Surely her husband-to-be employed a more industrious type of Texan.

Her gaze fixed on the cowboy’s peculiar hat. A broad brim surrounded a crown with a dent carved down the center. Sweat stains decorated the buff-colored felt. Splotches of drying mud decorated the rest of him.

Lazy and slovenly.

Pellets of ice sprinkled from the gray sky, melting the instant they touched her traveling cloak. Already she shivered. Another few minutes in this horrid weather, and the garment would be soaked through.

The porter raised his voice over the din of the bustling crowd. “Miss, let’s get you inside before you take a chill. I’ll bring your trunks right away.”

Taking her by the elbow, he hastened toward doors fitted with dozens of glass panes. Ragtag children darted among the passengers hurrying for shelter. Without overcoats, the urchins must be freezing.

She glanced around the platform. Where was her groom? She had assumed a wealthy rancher would meet his fiancée upon her arrival. Perhaps he waited within the depot’s presumed warmth. Her hope for a smattering of sophistication dwindled, but a woman in her circumstances could ill afford to be picky.

A group of ragamuffins gathered around the cowboy. As the porter hustled her past, the Texan reached into his sheepskin jacket and withdrew a handful of peppermint sticks. A whiff of the candy’s scent evoked the memory of a young man she once knew—a ne’er-do-well removed from St. Louis at her father’s insistence, and none too soon.

After depositing her beside a potbellied stove, the porter disappeared into the multitude. The tang of wood smoke drifted around her, so much more pleasant than the oily stench of coal. Peering through the throng, she slipped her hands from her muff and allowed the hand-warmer to settle against her waist on its long chain. She’d best reserve the accessory for special occasions. Judging by the people milling about the room, she doubted she’d find Persian lamb in Fort Worth unless she stooped to ordering from a mail-order catalog.

Mail-order. At least the marriage contract removed her from the whispered speculation, the piteous glances.

The shame heaped upon her by the parents she’d tried so hard to please.

Elizabeth put her back to the frigid gusts that swept in every time the doors opened, extending gloved palms toward the warmth cast by the stove.

Heavy steps tromped up behind her. Peppermint tickled her nose.

“Bets?”

A gasp leapt down her throat, colliding with her heart’s upward surge. Her palm flew to the base of her collar. Bets? Deep and smooth, the voice triggered a ten-year-old memory: If ye were aulder, little girl, I’d teach ye more than how to kiss.

She whirled to find the lazy cowboy, his stained hat dangling from one hand. Her gaze rose to a face weathered by the elements, but the blue eyes, the crooked nose…

Brendan Sheppard.

A Cowboy’s Touch

A Cowboy’s Touch

A cowboy’s touch can heal anything—including lost love, hard times, and angry moments. In these four full-length novels, emotion runs high with the tingle of danger and the heat of love. There’s some wonderful reading in this boxed set—and it all begins with a cowboy’s touch.

In The Half-Breed’s Woman by Cheryl Pierson, U.S. Deputy Marshal Jaxson McCall goes after a young fugitive he’s been hired to track down, debutante Callista Buchanan. Heading into Indian Territory with a killer hot on their trail, Jax recognizes his old nemesis. Callie’s been set up to die—but Jax is not about to let that happen.

Kathleen Rice Adams’s novel in Prodigal Gun was a finalist for the prestigious Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award—the only western historical romance ever nominated in a novel category. With a timeless love that is rekindled after sixteen years apart, a notorious hired gun will take any risk to protect his brother’s widow Jessie and her daughter.

Kit Prate’s Wild Texas Winds pits vengeance against love between Kate Latham and Dru Beltrain when a series of mysterious murders begins. No matter what, Kate is determined to help her father build a railroad spur—and neither murder nor her love for Dru will get in the way.

Spirit Catcher by Livia J. Washburn has a young woman finding the man of her dreams—a century too late. How can spitfire Dallas James manage to hold onto Boone Cantrell in her own time when he died more than a hundred years ago?

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Robbing Banks, Stealing Hearts

Robbing Banks, Stealing Hearts

Everyone should have career at which they excel. At failing to commit crimes, nobody is better than Laredo and Tombstone Hawkins. Maybe they can bumble their way into love.

The Worst Outlaw in the West

Laredo Hawkins has one ambition: to redeem his family’s honor by pulling the first successful bank robbery in the Hawkins clan’s long, disappointing history. Spinster Prudence Barrett is desperate to save her family’s bank from her brother’s reckless investments. A chance encounter between the dime-novel bandit and the old maid may set the pair on a path to infamy…if either can find a map.

Family Tradition

Haunted by his kin’s tradition of spectacular failure, bank robber Tombstone Hawkins is honor-bound to prove his family tree produced at least one bad apple. When carnival fortuneteller Pansy Gilchrist tries to help, she accidentally summons a pair of dishonest-to-goodness ghosts. Getting into the spirit of a crime is one thing…but how do you get the spirits out?

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Excerpt from The Worst Outlaw in the West

Prudence Barrett slammed the ledger before she acted on an urge to rip every page from the spine, wad up the pieces, and light a bonfire right there on Peter’s desk.

A second set of books. She should have known her brother would lie. Again.

Leather creaked as Pru leaned back in the chair, hands clasped at her lips, gaze glued to Peter’s betrayal. With the state auditor due in less than a month, how would they explain the missing funds?

Fifty years of trust in the Barrett Bank, everything her father had built, gone in an instant if word got out. Walter Maxwell Barrett, the man who once held Granite City’s future in his hands, deserved better.

Peter, on the other hand, deserved to go to jail. Now there was a scandal the gossips would relish, bigger even than last week’s hasty departure of the town marshal and both of his deputies.

Her brother had to be stopped.

As though she had summoned him, the office door opened and Peter’s too-smooth baritone barged into the room. “I am always at your service, Mrs. Whitworth. Have a good evening.” He ducked inside, cheeks puffing around a gust of relief. “Lord, save me from simpering women. If her husband weren’t—”

His gaze fell on Pru, and his eyes narrowed. “What are you doing behind my desk?”

She slammed a hand on the cluttered desktop and pushed to her feet, brandishing the shadow ledger. “What are you doing?”

Peter crossed the lush carpet in three long strides and made a grab for the book. Clutching the evidence to her bosom, Pru ducked out of reach.

Her brother cocked a blond brow. “Snooping are we? Is nothing beneath you?”

“I could ask the same of you. Peter, you promised—”

“That I’d fix the problem. And I will.”

“By making more bad investments?”

He stalked her across the room until her bustle met the wall. “I’ll not tolerate sass, Prudence. It’s unbecoming.” Lips pinched in a thin line, he tore the ledger from her grasp. “Mind your own business and leave mine to me.”

“This is my business.” She stomped after him to the ornate roll-top desk. No wonder Peter had replaced Father’s simple table with the gaudy beast. Her brother could hide all manner of skeletons in the monster’s compartments and cubbyholes. “If you’re planning another risky scheme, I swear I’ll—”

“Do what? Tell someone?” His chuckle pulled a chill up her spine. “Now let’s think about that. Half of Granite City has never noticed you exist, and the other half doesn’t care. Lest we forget…” He swept her with a look of undisguised disdain. “There’s a reason you’re unmarried at your age. When a banker’s daughter can’t make a suitable match—” he cocked his head “—even to save her family from ruin…”

Pru snapped her arms akimbo beneath her bosom and sharpened her glare. “You snake. I shouldn’t have to save this family. I didn’t make the mess.”

“Oh? Tell that to the people who’ll storm the bank if you go blabbing.” His lips curled in a humorless smirk. “And who do you think they’ll blame? Me?” He waggled the ledger. “Or the unbalanced spinster who keeps the books?”

 

Excerpt from Family Tradition

Swiping the air to dissipate the dust, Tombstone Hawkins focused a glare on the backs of three riders hightailing it south. Now if that didn’t beat all. Robbed at gunpoint for six dollars and eight-five cents.

Helluva thing when a man couldn’t trust his own gang.

“Enjoy the wealth, you sorry sons of—” Yelling wouldn’t do any good, but it made him feel better.

Stone hiked his saddle onto a shoulder. Even Jack had galloped off with the ungrateful cusses. Damn fickle cayuse. Good riddance.

Now what? He couldn’t very well rob a bank all by his lonesome. His brother had tried, and look what happened to him: Married up with some banker lady and wearing a tin star.

Disgusted disbelief shook loose a grunt. “Never thought I’d see a Hawkins sink that low.” True, his relatives didn’t have the most impressive reputation along the Outlaw Trail—in fact, they’d been asked to take another road more than once—but a lawman in the family was downright humiliating.

If Pop hadn’t gone over the jump a few years back, the news would’ve sent him heading for the Pearly Gates on a fast horse.

The wind kicked up, shoving mean-looking clouds across the sky. The wheezing bray of a calliope wove through the gusts. Shameful waste of a traveling show. The off-key racket would have made the perfect cover for dynamiting a safe. Even if the robbery had conformed to the Hawkins tradition of spectacular failure, he might at least have outlawed his way into a jail cell.

What good was a name like Tombstone if the moniker never showed up on a wanted poster?

 

My Debut Novel… Well, Debuts

My Debut Novel… Well, Debuts

My debut novel, Prodigal Gun, bowed today. I am just tickled as all-get-out about that. Thanks to Livia Washburn Reasoner and Cheryl Pierson for taking a chance on an unknown author and for doing an outstanding job of putting the book together. Livia’s cover captures the characters, the setting, and the essence of the story beautifully, and Cheryl is an editing goddess (except for the occasional comma fight, but we both emerged unscarred).

Folks who know me will tell you I’m hardly ever serious (except about those dang commas), but I want to break with tradition for just a moment.

For twenty-three years, I was privileged to share life with a loving, generous man. Lee was so proud of all the anthologies with my name on the cover, and I think he was more excited than I about the publication of my first novel.

Sadly, he didn’t live to see the dream fulfilled. Lee died in June.

To honor Lee’s memory, all royalties from the sale of Prodigal Gun will go to charity. He would have liked that.

All right—enough of the seriousness. On to details about the book.

Prodigal Gun

A dangerous man. A desperate woman. A love no war could kill.

Widowed rancher Jessie Caine buried her heart with the childhood sweetheart Yankees killed on a distant battlefield. Sixteen years later, as a Texas range war looms and hired guns arrive to pursue a wealthy carpetbagger’s agenda, Jessie discovers the only man she ever loved isn’t dead.

At least not yet.

Embittered by a brother’s betrayal, notorious gunman Calhoun is a dangerous man, come home to do an unsavory job. A bushwhacker’s bullet nearly takes his life on Jessie’s land, trapping him in a standoff between the past he tried to bury and the infamy he never will. One taste of the only woman he ever loved puts more than his life and her ranch in the crossfire.

With a price on his head, a debt to a wealthy employer around his neck, and a defiant woman tugging at his heart, Calhoun’s guns may not be enough to keep him from the grave. Caught between his enemies and hers, Jessie faces an agonizing choice: Which of her dreams will die?

Excerpt:

April 1877

A red-tailed hawk circled in the cloudless sky, dipping one wing in a silent salute before plunging to the earth like a bullet. Twenty feet from the gelding’s hooves, a jackrabbit barely had time to shriek.

The horse tossed his head and danced a few steps. Calhoun pressed his knees against the saddle and drew the slack from the reins. “Easy, fella.” He patted the chestnut’s neck. “You’re too big for him to carry off.”

Tugging the brim of his Stetson closer to his eyes to block the afternoon glare, Calhoun settled into a lazy slouch. Texas hadn’t changed—still big and open and empty. A man could ride for days with no company but his own.

He scanned the surrounding terrain. Rocks and scrub littered the sand on both sides of the dry wash. Occasional stands of oak and mesquite interrupted the grama grass and prickly pear toward the skyline, but nothing moved. No insects or reptiles. No birds. Not even a breeze. Only the gelding’s hooves thudding against parched dirt and the creak of saddle leather violated the silence.

Too still. Too quiet. Too…empty. Unease had dogged him for the past six months, ever since the trouble in Kansas. Now, deep in the Texas Hill Country, an army of ants crawled the fringes of his nerves.

Someone hunted the hunter. Who? His gaze darted from sand to scrub to rock. “Show yourself, you son of a bitch.”

The horse’s ears swiveled to catch the mutter. Good God, you’re talkin’ to yourself.

Rubbing eyes dried by heat and fatigue, he sucked a lungful of scalding air. Two weeks of hard travel could prey on a man’s mind. Both he and the horse could use a brief rest. If memory served, a watering hole and some blessed shade lay just over the next rise.

A familiar rancor swelled in his chest. Some memories persisted despite a man’s best effort to forget.

Boggs better have a damn good reason for yanking him away from the high-dollar comfort of Miss Lavinia’s in Silver City. A wry twist pinched one corner of Calhoun’s lips. Now there was a memory to savor. The heat in New Mexico Territory could burn a man clear to his bones without leaving a mark.

Wildfire in Texas left scars.