Today is release day! I am excited. Not only because Redeemed is probably my favorite of the novellas, but also because I get to share in today with all of you. 🙂 Be sure to check out all the reviews and fun posts for the blog tour. You can find the schedule at this web page. And don’t forget to check out the giveaway.
To help celebrate release day, I’ve got two excerpts for you. They are both from Amazing Grace, my third novel. This novel is what got the novellas started. The first scene contains the mail order bride advertisements used in all three of the novellas. The second one is the one where I fell in love with Cole and knew I had to write more about him. This post will be a little long, but I hope you enjoy the two excerpts.
Caleb tapped his fingers on the arm of the chair, staring out the dark window. There had to be something to do. Anna was in her room reading her Bible again. Or maybe she was scheming to marry him off to some simpering young female from church. He grimaced. He’d seen them enough to know none of those women were for him. All the women in town and on nearby farms were either too young, already married, or had too many children. He knew he was being picky, but he wanted a woman his own age with one or two children at the most. He wasn’t much of a family man and didn’t intend to change his mind. He wasn’t sure he wanted to get married.
With a shake of his head, Caleb picked up the newspaper Anna had brought from town and absently read the headlines. Nothing interesting there. Since he had nothing else to do, he decided to flip through the advertisements. Horses dominated the page, but way toward the bottom there was a different set of advertisements.
“Mail Order bride seeks wealthy Western man. Write Mona Sommers, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”
“Hi, I’m Abigail Simmons. I’m 19 and there aren’t any young men here due to the War. I am looking for a God-fearing husband who will care for me just as I am. I am not plain, but I do limp from a childhood fall. I would also be bringing my little sister, 5, with me since my parents are dead. If interested, please write to me in Richmond, Virginia.”
The next, and last ad, caught his attention. He wasn’t sure if it was because of the age of the woman, the daughter she mentioned, or the fact the woman made her situation sound almost desperate.
“Widow seeking God-fearing husband. 30 with daughter, 10. Write Maggie McDougall, Wheeling, OH.”
Caleb leaned back in the chair, letting the paper fall limp in his hands. He stared into space for a long time. When the candle sputtered, he shook himself and took the advertisement section out from the rest of the paper. He put the paper back where it had been before and carried the advertisement sheet to his room. He would decide what to do in the morning.
As he climbed the stairs, he thought through all the reasons not to get married. He was old. Well, not terribly old, but old enough. He believed in God, but not like Anna did. He knew God would never accept him into heaven. The things he’d done or caused to happen in the past wouldn’t allow for it. He didn’t particularly like children and wasn’t good with them. With the way he’d been raised, he didn’t have a good example to go by.
His father was a drunk and he didn’t want to expose anybody to that, especially if he became violent again. And there was always the possibility he could turn out the same as his da. After what happened to Jed, he didn’t want to risk putting any children through that, especially not his own.
With a sigh, Caleb fell into his bed. “God, if You’re out there, I could use a little help.”
He bent his legs and pulled the blankets over himself. With a deep breath, he closed his eyes and tried not to let his mind think about anything while he drifted into a restless sleep.
Cole Baxter had escaped to town for the first time in over a week and was in no hurry to get back to the ranch. Ever since taking his sister’s children in, moments of silence had been rare in the house—usually at night when everybody, including himself, slept.
“Mr. Baxter,” a sugary voice spoke near him as he neared the post office, “where are you going in such an all-fired hurry?”
“The post office,” he answered shortly. One quick glance at the gussied-up woman had told him all he needed to know. She was one of those young, pretty things who wanted to marry him for his money. Yes, he needed a wife and fast, but he didn’t want a wife who only wanted his money. What was her name again? Ah yes, Laura Pearson. He nodded to the girl. “Good day, Miss Pearson,” he said. Her name fit her quite well since her voice had a piercing quality to it.
He stepped into the post office, leaving a disappointed Laura Pearson behind with her mouth curled in a frozen smile.
“Ah, Mr. Baxter,” the postmistress said with a smile as he entered the building, “you will no doubt be wanting your mail today?”
Cole leaned his elbows on the counter and grinned. “Actually, yes, I would. Isn’t that what people do when they come in here?”
Miss Giles put a hand to her severe bun in mock vanity. “Of course not. Some people actually come simply to speak with me. Didn’t you know that?” She fluttered her eyelashes.
“Miss Giles!” Cole said in mock amazement. “Are you flirting with me?”
Rhoda straightened her back and smoothed out her wrinkle-free gray skirt. “Certainly not,” she sniffed. “That would be unthinkable for a woman my age, especially one like me.” She cocked an eyebrow as if daring him to contradict her.
Cole pushed away from the counter and stared at his friend. In all their months—years, really—of friendship and mock flirtations she had never reacted to his words this way before. What brought it out now? And more importantly, why?
Cole watched as Rhoda turned her tall, thin back on him and reached above her head for his mail slot. He could have sworn a brief shudder traveled all the way from the top of her bun, down her spine, to the tips of her toes.
“Are you okay, Rhoda?”
“I’m fine,” she said without turning around.
Cole wasn’t convinced. First, it shouldn’t take her this long to retrieve one letter. Second, her voice sounded sadder than usual.
His mind started to work hard and fast and he barely registered Rhoda’s words as she turned around and handed him the letter.
“Here’s the letter from your mail order bride.” Once the letter was in his hands, Rhoda turned back to the mail slots and went back to sorting the mail.
Cole absently took a step backwards and let his body fall onto the bench. His mind puzzled about Rhoda’s odd behavior while he read the reply from Maggie.
He read the letter twice: the first time with Rhoda occupying his mind and the second time he mostly concentrated on Maggie’s words. Maggie wanted to wait a few months. He sighed. As much as he understood—and agreed with—her reasoning, the children needed a mother and soon, not in a few months.
Somewhere in his subconscious, he worked on Rhoda’s reaction and a sudden train of thoughts came to mind, finally connecting multiple events and conversations they had had the last few years.
Cole looked up at Rhoda’s back. “Are you jealous of Maggie?”
Rhoda spun around. “Who?”
Cole lifted the letter out of his lap and held it up.
Rhoda sniffed in derision. “Why would I be jealous of a woman I don’t know?”
Cole stood up, keeping eye contact with her. “Because you’ve always wanted to be married, but for some reason I haven’t figured out, no one would marry you. Because you’ve always wanted children, either to teach or take care of. But the school board didn’t think you were qualified and nobody needs a nanny.” Cole paused. “Well, except for me, but the children need more stability than a nanny could give them.”
He took a step forward, leaned his elbows on the counter, and whispered loudly, “And/or because you’ve been in love with me for a while, but you’ve never had the gumption to tell me, even after I wrote to Maggie.”
Rhoda Giles backed up as far as she could, with a scared, vulnerable look in her eyes.
“Am I right, or not, Miss Giles?” Cole asked. “No, wait, don’t answer the question yet. Do you have some paper and a pencil? I have a letter to write a reply to.”
Unable to speak, Rhoda pointed to the counter where a stack of plain stationery and pencil stubs sat. Cole reached for them and scrawled a quick note on one of the pages.
I must apologize, but I have decided this will not work out. I need someone sooner than a few months and I believe I had a young woman sitting right here under my nose all along, but I never opened my eyes long enough to truly see her. If you see an announcement of a marriage between Cole Baxter and Rhoda Giles in the near future, that’s us.
God bless and I pray you find a husband soon,
As he crossed the “t” in his signature, Cole looked up at Rhoda, determination in his eyes. “Do you have an envelope and a stamp?”
Rhoda nodded and without looking away from him once, pulled out an envelope and a stamp from a cubby under the desktop. “Here.”
“Thank you.” Cole took the items from her, stuffed the note in the envelope, licked it closed, licked the stamp, and placed it in the top right hand corner. Then he took the pencil and wrote in Maggie’s address. “Mail this please?”
“What’s it say?” Rhoda asked, holding it gingerly.
“It says I found another woman closer to home.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Who?” The haunted look in her eyes almost unnerved him. Why did she look as if braced to be hurt again?
“You. If you’ll have me and help me take care of the children?”
“Are you…are you proposing to me?” she asked, her voice breathy and quiet.
Cole looked around and, seeing no one, knelt on one knee in front of the counter. “Miss Giles, will you marry me? I have loved you since before we started our mock flirting, but I didn’t think you loved me back, so I never said anything. Then I got the children and I knew nobody in their right mind would really want to marry me. I don’t have a ring for you right now, but I’ll go buy one as soon as you say yes.”
Rhoda fought a smile as she listened to his bumbling proposal. “Yes…yes, Cole Baxter, I will marry you and love those four wild children as if they were my own.”
Cole jumped up and gave Rhoda’s lips a light kiss. “Hold that thought. I have a ring to buy.”
Rhoda laughed as she watched Cole run out of the office and down to the general store to buy a ring if they had any in stock he liked. “Thank you, Lord, for finally bringing both of us to our senses.”
(To read this scene from Rhoda’s point of view, go pick up your free copy of I Love Thee)