He wishes for a woman to witness the beauty of his soul. She needs a man to cherish and protect her. Will they unveil what lies beneath the surface or will they let appearances deceive them?
With each passing day, she became more certain that her prince was waiting on the other side of the Wild West.
When her step-parents announce that she is to wed a man of their choosing, Louise decides to trust her fate in God’s hands. Dreaming of her soulmate, she becomes a mail-order bride and, with her red tabby cat in tow, travels toward an unknown future. When she meets Jacob though, his frightening appearance unsettles her. But how can her heart not soften when he seems so intimidated at the prospect of caring for the doorstep baby in his arms?
After the death of his father, Jacob, a gentle giant with a heart of gold, is completely lost. When his sweetheart abandons him as well, he swears off love and places a mail-order bride ad determined to marry for convenience. But Louise with her shining blond hair is unlike any other woman he has ever met. How can he remain unaffected when she cares so tenderly for the baby, and has transformed his house into a home?
Fate might have brought them together, but their love is new and fragile. When their family is threatened, will they protect each other, or will they shatter their only chance at happiness?
July 20th, 1887
Louise lifted her skirts, the wind tickling her ankles as she walked home through the Missouri cornfields. The afternoon sun highlighted the lush green farmland and she looked over acres of field as far as the eye could see. She was grateful for how at home she felt in the gentle rolling hills.
She wasn’t in a hurry to get back to the family farmhouse. She knew her adopted parents would be waiting for her with more chores than she could shake a stick at. She allowed her mind to drift back to the events from church that morning.
Her friend, Allie May, had been so excited to talk about the new Clinton Gazette that had just come out, with fresh requests for mail-order brides out west.
“Can’t you just see us now?” Allie May asked. “Imagine us on a grand adventure out west with handsome cowboys ready to whisk us away…”
Allie May’s fiery red curls swirled around her face as she danced around the inside of the small, single-room church. Louise’s heart was just aching for a grand adventure, a fairytale romance, or anything like that to whisk her away from this lonely place.
“I wouldn’t mind being whisked away by a cowboy,” Louise admitted with a giggle. “But I couldn’t go out west. It’s too dangerous!”
“Well, I’m gonna give you this newspaper clipping anyway,” said Allie Mae. “It’s worth a thought.”
As the warm breeze blew pale blonde hair over Louise’s eyes, she wondered if Allie May was right. Was there a princely cowboy waiting out west to whisk her away?
Ever since she’d been dropped on Edward and Annie Canker’s doorstep as a baby, her life had been filled with misery. Louise always had double her fair share of the chores and rarely received a kind word. She knew they resented having taken her in when they found her on their small porch.
At least she had Minnie the cat, her best friend and confidante. Walking in nature was one of her favorite past times and she was grateful for the opportunity to take in the fresh air and the small bit of freedom. She took her time as she ambled toward the Canker family farmhouse.
The plain house was covered in whitewashed planks. Every time Louise saw it, she remembered all the times she was forced to scrub or repaint it. What looked like a lovely home was a constant reminder that she was treated as more farmhand than daughter. She knew she wouldn’t receive a warm welcome at home, but she had no idea what lay in store.
“Hello dear!” Maw said with an unusually gentle hug when Louise walked through the door. Louise knew right away something was off.
“Hello… Maw,” Louie echoed back nervously.
Her adoptive mother, which was a strong word to use for the bitter woman who had raised her, had a short, stocky stature that made her appear deceivingly maternal. Louise knew she was never that happy in her tone and never that sweet unless it was set to impress somebody else.
Louise knew almost immediately who that somebody was. Mr. Johnson, the curmudgeonly old banker, sat across the narrow room. His portly frame wobbled as he walked, and his heavy breathing was proof of his struggle to get enough air into his ample frame. Paw poured him a fresh glass of brandy, his slight figure comical in contrast to the plump banker.
They were preparing to marry her off, she realized. She’d heard them whisper about it, but she didn’t think it would happen so soon.
Old Mr. Johnson, at least thirty years her senior, was looking at her like a wild hog who had spotted a fawn in the woods. The only thing to do with a wild hog, she thought to herself, was to either stay clear of it or put it down. From the smiles on the faces of everyone in the room, Louise gathered that Mr. Johnson had not been invited to be put down. She knew the only one about to be slaughtered for the common good was her.
Louise felt panic start to build up in her chest as Ella, Maw and Paw’s birth daughter, poked her head into the narrow sitting room. The walls of the cramped, windowless room seemed to close in on Louise as old boards creaked under Ella’s feet.
Her presence was a reminder, as always, that Louise wasn’t the favored daughter, and her heart sank at the contrast in how they were treated. She was the only one allowed to call Paw Daddy, and she did so whenever they were cruel to Louise.
“Hiya, Daddy!” she said with a kiss on Paw’s cheek. The ample-waisted girl with flowing raven locks looked like a younger caricature of Maw with the ruby red lips of youth.
Ella smirked wickedly at Louise, clearly enjoying her “sister’s” torture, and then left as quickly as she appeared.
Maw’s hand on Louise’s back, once friendly, became more forceful as she smiled tightly and pushed her to the center of the room.
“Come on now, dear!” she said. “Mr. Johnson’s come a right long way from town to discuss your future.”
Louise froze in fear, and she didn’t think she could move. An awkward silence hung in the air until her adoptive father broke it with a forced laugh. Paw, as he preferred to be called, had a deeply gruff voice that always sounded funny coming out of such a skinny frame.
“Oh Louise, you don’t need to be shy around Mr. Johnson. We know how deeply you admire him.”
“Oh my, but how she does,” Maw chimed in. Her voice was coated with a slick sweetness, but Louise knew it covered up a deep pit of misery.
“She’s always saying how she looks up to you and how impressed she is with all you’ve done for the town by bringing in the bank.”
Louise couldn’t speak. All she could feel was fear and a fierce, white heat flowing throughout her body. Her eyes darted around the narrow room, looking for an escape. Then, the wild hog stepped up to have his say.
“Well now, Louise, I’ve gotten to see you grow from a young rosebud to a right lovely rose in full bloom, clearly ready to be plucked, and well, I’m here to pluck you before you wither. What do ya say?”
Heat flashed through her again, this time in Louise’s face. It crept all the way down to her toes. Her breath sped up and the air around her suddenly felt thick. Before she knew it, she was gasping for air and running to her room, just to find somewhere to breathe.
She heard the portly hog gasp in offense while Maw and Paw tried to reassure him in desperate tones, but Louise’s only thought was figuring out how to breathe again.
“What are they thinking, Minnie!” she exclaimed to her cat, once safely tucked inside her little room. The tears she’d been holding back fell freely as she collapsed to her bed.
“I can’t marry that miserable old man! What do I do, God?” she pleaded desperately.
Her heart wrenched in two as she realized finally that she meant nothing to Maw and Paw. A lifetime of little parental love hit its breaking point and she wept like a small child who just realized they were an orphan.
When the tears finally stopped flowing, Louise grabbed her Bible to search out some comfort. As it opened, the newspaper clipping Allie May had given her fell onto her lap, still wet with her tears.
Was Allie May right? Should Louise tempt fate and travel out west as a mail-order bride? Would she even reach the Wild West with the desert wasteland in between?
Louise stared at the newspaper clipping. It read: “Loving Christian wife wanted for rancher in Austin, Nevada.” The name at the bottom said Jacob Montgomery.
“Who are you, Jacob Montgomery?” she asked.
When she said his name, a sudden warmth rushed through her, and she imagined what her future might be. She envisioned a handsome man, tall and strong—someone with charm to spare and love to give. Could it be true?
“Well, Minnie,” she said to her furry friend curled up in her lap. “Let’s find out.”
Louise picked up a pen and started scratching away. With every stroke, she felt Missouri drift away and the wide, blue skies of Nevada open before her.
September 30th, 1887
“Hush, Minnie!” Louise urged as she hurried around her little room, packing her bags. “If they hear us and wake up, we are done for!”
Louise looked down at the little tabby cat who continued to meow and rub up against her skirts, begging to be picked up.
“Sure, it’s fine for you if we don’t escape tonight,” Louise continued. “But if they catch us tryin’ to run away, I’m liable to catch a beating.”
Louise sighed and reached down to lift the persistent kitty. Her gentle purring and soft, tickly fur were a welcome comfort.
Louise walked over to her tiny window, eager for a breath of cool air. Her escape was coming along as planned, but she was nervous thinking about what the night might hold. The gentle breeze soothed her and reminded her of her favorite verse in Psalms, chapter forty-six: “Be still and know that I am God.”
Louise repeated the verse out loud as she took a long, deep breath in, and then slowly let it out again.
“I know You have a plan, Lord,” she prayed. “Please help me to trust You and not fear.”
Putting off her marriage to the wild hog of a banker, or as he preferred to be called, Mr. Johnson, had been no easy task. She’d managed to convince him that waiting a month to marry would allow her time to prepare her heart for the ceremony of it all. He’d conceded but reminded her daily that come October, he would have himself a bride.
Only the thought of Jacob’s letters filled her with hope. With each passing day, she became more certain that her prince was waiting on the other side of the Wild West. When she first replied to his ad for a mail-order bride, she didn’t yet know what to expect or say, so she was simply honest. Her first letter had read:
I’m writing you regarding the ad you placed for a wife. While there were plenty of ads to choose from, I was taken by your request for a loving wife. It struck me that you were hoping to find love and not just someone to raise children.
More importantly, I was encouraged by your search for a Christian woman, because that’s what I am. It matters deeply to me that whoever I wed must be someone who knows the love of God, for I’m fully convinced that’s necessary for him to love me.
For the sake of full transparency, I am additionally in need of a plan soon, lest I be married off to an old man very much against my will. If all this seems like something you’d be interested in, I would very much like to hear from you.
It had felt like an age waiting to hear back from Jacob. She’d checked the mail every day, eager to find any letters before Maw set eyes on them, as she would’ve had questions. Each day, when a letter didn’t arrive, Louise wondered if it was perhaps Maw taking and destroying them instead.
It was a full month later when, to her shock, she received his reply at last. She was even more surprised that she was able to get to the letter before Maw saw it, and she took that as a sign that perhaps it was meant to be.
I must confess I am a bit taken aback by your honesty. I find it refreshing and full of the warmth that having a wife would bring, for indeed I do hope to find love with my wife.
I’m glad to hear you are a Christian, as I am, too, and I can think of no better way to raise children but in the love and fear of the Lord.
I feel the need to confess to you that placing the ad was not my idea, but rather, the advice of a trusted friend. In truth, I was wary of placing the ad, but when I received your letter, I knew I had done the right thing.
As to the matter of the unwanted older gentleman, please take this letter as a means of betrothal on my part, if proof is needed, that you are already promised to another. I have enclosed twenty dollars for anything you might need on your journey, and I invite you to come at your earliest convenience.
Louise held the letter to her heart and took another deep breath. Her prince did exist! Not only was he a Godly man looking for a true love match, but he knew how to smoothly use words with the simple stroke of a pen.
Just a few days after his first letter, another letter arrived—this letter more unexpected than the first.
It has been nearly three weeks since I sent my first letter. I am not sure if the absence of your reply is due to your previously pending nuptials or simply the fault of the pony express. There is a third option of course—that perhaps I was too forward in my previous letter and scared you away.
If that is the case, please accept my sincere apologies for being an uncouth mountain man. I know that love takes time, and I want to assure you that getting on a train to come to Nevada will not indebt you to me, nor any man.
Should you arrive and no longer desire to marry me, I promise to give you a safe home while you find another husband or a suitable position in town. But I must admit, I look forward to courting you. I look forward to earning the right to take vows with you. I look forward to calling you mine, but the choice is yours.
While she was flattered that Jacob had penned a second letter, it was his gentleness and humility that touched her the most. She wrote back to him as fast as her excited fingers could move.
What is there to say except that the slowness of the mail must have been a blessing from above because it allowed me to receive your second letter just days after your first. While your first letter assured me of your passion and purpose, your second letter assured me of your character.
I plan to leave on a west-bound train next Thursday, on the first of October. My train is due to arrive in two days’ time from then, on Saturday the third. Look for me at the train station in a yellow dress. I’ll be holding a blue carpet bag and the hopes of a future bride.
The old grandfather clock in the sitting room struck midnight, and Louise snapped back to her senses.
“It’s time to go, Minnie,” she whispered. “It’s now or never.”
She tucked her precious friend into the top of her carpet bag. She laughed softly when Minnie poked her head up and snuck a paw out through the opening.
“You’re as stubbornly determined as I am, aren’t you? That’s okay because we’re gonna need some determination where we’re going. I’ve probably lost my mind bringing a cat with me, but you’re my only true friend. Come on, Minnie. It’s time to head west.”
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