Just in time for Black Friday…steal away to when times were easier. Or maybe not.
On her own for the first time, tomboyish Libbie Van Eycken accepts a mail-order proposal and travels across country to find a place to call her own. Arizona rancher Dell Stirling needs a wife but didn’t count on the eccentric creature that brings chaos in her wake.
Can they overcome cultural clashes and unrealistic expectations to create a real marriage?
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“I placed an ad in a newsletter called the Grooms’ Gazette. Months ago on a business trip, I saw a similar publication in Phoenix.” Plus he’d overheard a recent conversation at the Cabinet Saloon about a rancher out in Chino Valley who was quite happy with the wife he’d acquired this way.
Maida’s sigh lasted a couple of seconds. “So, she’s a mail-order bride.”
Just like his sister to go all dewy-eyed. He guessed mail-order was the appropriate term, but he didn’t like it much. Dell unfolded the telegraph office stationery that by now had well-worn creases. Hoping to make her words flow better, he omitted the ‘stops’ at the end of each sentence.
“Dear Mr. Stirling, Your ad in the Grooms’ Gazette caught my eye above all the others.”
He paused and glanced up to see if anyone would comment on that statement. This first line was his very favorite.
“I, too, have an affinity for animals. In fact, I’ve spent a good portion of my life on my family’s Australian cattle stations.”
“Australia? I thought you said she’s from Boston.” Skip pointed an accusing finger.
“I’m reading what the lady in question wrote.” Dell shook the paper. “Let me finish.” Then he glanced down to find his place.
“I’ve helped with branding, herding, and calving. I sling a mean loop, and my boomerang-throwing skill is proficient.”
He rested a finger on the foreign word and looked up. “I’m not sure what she means here.”
“At twenty-one years old, I’m not a stranger to hard work. I enjoy all types of music and feel most at home in natural settings, especially warmer climates. My circumstances have become unsettled, and I will relocate immediately. Miss Libbie Van Eycken.”
Aware of tightness invading his shoulders, Dell flexed them before lowering the paper to the table and waited.
“Now, I’ll get the pie and coffee.” Hazel reached for Skip’s plate and stacked it on top of hers as she stood. Her lips pinched tight, and she studied Dell for a long moment before turning away.
“Mama, I’ll help.” Maida shot to her feet, cleared Dell’s plate, and reached for the bowl of carrots. “No one says another word until we return.” Then she scurried toward the kitchen.
Good. Dell needed time to think. He knew while the women were absent, none of the men would exchange a single word. As he’d read Libbie’s words aloud, he suddenly realized how very few details she’d included. In his ad, he’d requested an experienced cook and housekeeper, but Libbie mentioned neither of those skills. Nor had she described what about her circumstances had changed. Why hadn’t he noticed these omissions before? Since hers was the only response he’d received, he’d counted himself lucky that she understood a rancher’s life. Maybe he’d been too hasty.