Category Archives: Writing

Mail Order and Proxy Brides – Why?

As you hopefully know, I am writing in the Proxy Brides multi-author series. My fourth in that series just released. There are only so many reasons for becoming a mail-order or a proxy bride, or are there? I needed to do some research 🙂

Wives WantedOne of the most basic reasons that men tried to find spouses through the mail during the nineteenth century was because of an imbalance in the gender ratio. There were many factors that contributed to this imbalance, ranging from the California gold rush, to the American Civil War, to westward expansion. The first significant event to contribute to the unbalanced gender ratio was the discovery of gold in California in 1848. It inspired many a man – both domestic, and international – to head to the American West in an attempt to find his fortune.

Many pioneers were disappointed to discover that all of the easily-accessible gold had already been panned. After investing extensive time and money to travel by ship, wagon, or railway, however, they were not about to head back home. As the 19th century progressed, pioneers headed into the mid-West and West in search of gold, natural resources, open land, and a fresh start. Some were coming from the eastern portion of the United States, but others came from foreign countries. Between 1850 and 1890 approximately 7.5 million European immigrants traveled to the United States, a portion of them settling on farms in the western part of the country. Due to the demanding nature of farming, some men sought to marry and have children who could help them to establish and maintain a farm. For others it was particularly significant to marry and have children so as to carry on the family name.

There were plenty of other reasons that men of the West wanted to marry. Some men desired a spouse because they were lonely, some needed money, and still others hoped for someone who shared their cultural background. It is important to note that while there were not as many white women in the American West, there was not a total absence of women. Indigenous women were, of course, present in the American West, and some pioneers formed relationships with them. Statehood advocates feared that inter-racial marriages would not count as “civilized behavior” and therefore threaten the possibility of transitioning from territory to statehood. Many Americans expected that the presence of (white) women would help to civilize the Wild West by replacing alcohol, gambling, and prostitutes with schools, and churches.

Just as the West drew men with the promise of opportunity, fortune, adventure, and a new beginning, it also did for women. In many cases marriage provided a literal ticket for a woman to go West and seek a better life. Other women also found that the mail-order method of match-making allowed them to pursue ambitions of their own, such as greater personal autonomy.

Some western states made a deliberate effort to encourage the migration of women by promising them liberal women’s legislation. In 1849, for example, California legislators crafted a state constitution that defied the tradition of coverture law. That is, the Constitution allowed women to retain ownership of their property upon marriage. Henry Halleck helped craft the Constitution, and he explained the end of coverture as a means of attracting single women to settle out west. Here’s what he said: “I do not think that we can offer a greater inducement for women of fortune to come to California. It is the very best provision to get us wives that we can introduce into the Constitution.” Kansas (1855), Oregon (1857), and Nevada (1864) also eliminated coverture laws with the intention of drawing women to their states. Since western legislation promised women autonomy, and western men offered marriage, independent women could achieve the former by agreeing to the latter as mail-order brides.

In addition to its favorable property laws for women, California offered women the legal right to initiate divorce. Presuming that women outside of California were aware of this law, it made marriage to a man met through the mail a slightly less risky proposition – if the marriage turned sour, women had legal rights to leave it.

States also wooed women to traverse the country with the promise of suffrage. In 1869 Wyoming became the first state to allow women the right to vote. Utah (1870), Washington (1883), Montana (1887), Colorado (1893), and Idaho (1896) followed suit, all promising women suffrage prior to their East Coast counterparts.

Some women became mail-order brides not to advance their position or pursue their own goals, but simply to survive. Women often depended upon men in their lives to provide for them economically. Losing a husband to death introduced an economic vulnerability. Having to provide for children after the death of the breadwinner only exacerbated economic woes.

The death of men in the Civil War only compounded the gender ratio imbalance that the resource rush to the West had begun. Between 1861 and 1865, nearly three million men fought in the War. One in five would die. Many others survived but came home grievously injured. The death count alone, though, was equivalent to approximately two-and-a-half percent of the general American populace. Although this might not sound significant enough to threaten women’s marriage prospects, the average age of a Union soldier was 25.8 years old – prime for marriage, therefore the one in five was concentrated among eligible men. As such, many women feared that with the new scarcity of men, they would end up spinsters.

So, as you can see, there are many reasons why women would marry a stranger, one they may not have met or maybe only by mail. If you haven’t read all of my Proxy Bride books, now might be a good time to check them out 😉

The Westbound Surge

I’ll be writing in another multi-author project next year which will be set in the 1880s. This is very “modern” for me and the research has been fascinating. Up until now, all my books have been either set in Regency era England (1805) or the American Midwest from 1855-1865. With the 1880s comes more technology, more developed towns and cities in the West, as well as opening up the possibility of setting some stories in Canada (where I’m from).

The rapid development of technology spurred the population growth of North America as well as the westward movement of people. The ability to more easily communicate made the expansion of business also possible. And “rapid” transportation meant you could travel all across the continent in less than ten days. In fact, in 1876, the Transcontinental Express from New York to San Francisco made the trip in 83 relaxing, comfortable hours. Imagine! Three and a half days! That really shrank the world for people of that time. Of course, the poor, penniless, mail order bride couldn’t afford that ticket, but even she could reach her new life in a week or less, depending on her destination.

The consolidation and reorganization of the railroads in the late 19th century lead to rapid industrial growth in many areas including the opening of hundreds of millions of acres of very good farm land ready for mechanization, lower costs for food and all goods, and a huge national sales market. Of course, all this growth and prosperity didn’t benefit everyone. While the average annual wage for an industrial worker rose by 48% between 1860 and 1890 (from $380 to $564), there was still abject poverty and inequality leading to contentious social issues. And the ability to travel broadened people’s knowledge and perspective, making them more involved in these various struggles and triumphs.

Railroads were the major growth industry, with the factory system, mining, and finance increasing in importance. Immigration from Europe, and the eastern states, led to the rapid growth of the West, based on farming, ranching, and mining. The rapid economic growth in America also fueled this influx of millions of European immigrants, especially due to the wage increases making the opportunities seem so very attractive to these new comers.

I’m thrilled with the research I’ve been able to do and am overwhelmed with story ideas for this exciting time period in history.

Stay tuned for more book news. In the meantime, have you read my other westerns?

Orphan Train series Inspiration

Sophie Cover ImageThe Orphan Train series was inspired by some real life events.

When friends of mine were adopting a beautiful little boy from another country, I decided to research the history of adoption. I found out some dreadful things, sadly, but I also found out about Mr. Charles Brace (a founder of the Children’s Aid Society) and the Orphan Trains from New York.

I’m sure there were some terrible experiences through the many years that the orphan trains were traveling, but there were far more success stories. At least one of the orphans went on to become President of the United States.

While reading  up on it, I began to imagine the lives impacted, not only of the children, but also of the adults involved. Thus was born the idea for three young women who accompanied a trainload of orphans on their journey out West.

The prequel sets up the story. The heroine of Book 2 wasn’t supposed to be on the train. She is taking the place of the heroine of Book 1. The heroines of Books 3 & 4 fully intended to leave their New York lives behind and set up a shop in their new town. Follow along on their journeys in the Orphan Train series!

Start with Sophie, the Prequel: $0.99 for Kindle:  https://amzn.to/2MUwCJ9

Debutante Bride – Guest Blog Interview

I recently visited the blog of a fellow author, talking about my most recent Regency release. Here’s what we talked about:

  • What was the inspiration for The Debutante Bride?

This story explo Deb Bride Ebook Coverres the roller-coaster of emotions that could ensue if an arranged marriage starts off on the wrong foot. I’m always fascinated by the possibilities when a couple is forced together by circumstances. It wasn’t so uncommon throughout history. But what if there are too many factors tearing them apart? In this story, I wanted to explore how love could conquer the external and internal pressures society and we ourselves put upon relationships, but in the complicated context of the Regency era.

  • Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be when you were a child?

I did go through a phase as a child when I wanted to be a writer but I thought it was too fantastical of an idea. Then I wanted to be a vet until I realized how allergic I am to cats. Then I didn’t really know what I wanted to do except that I knew I wanted to work in an office in a brand new building in my home town – it was so big and shiny. I took a couple side trips as an executive assistant and an insurance broker before returning to my first love – the written word.

  • When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

After I wrote my first book 🙂 I wrote my first book more as fulfilling a dare from my husband. I never really considered that it could be a serious pursuit. Then I fell in love with writing and the rest is history.

  • What part of the writing process do you dread?

Editing is my least favorite. By the time I’ve gone through the manuscript 35 times I’m ready to throw it across the room. But the discovery of first draft writing is the joy that keeps me returning story after story.

  • What are you currently reading?

A non-fiction book on marketing. There’s always something more to learn.

  • What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

I don’t listen to music while I’m writing. I think it would be distracting. I find music to be very inspiring. But I don’t want to run after new ideas while I’m working on my current WIP.

  • Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?

Whenever the words are flowing is my favorite time of day 🙂 But I’m a morning person so first thing in the morning is usually my most productive time. I have my computer set up in one room, so that’s where most of my writing takes place. But I carry a notebook with me wherever I go so that I can jot down any notes that come to me when I’m not in front of my computer.

  • How long does it take you to write a book?

It really varies for me from book to book, depending on what else is happening with LIFE while I’m writing. So anywhere from two months to two years has been my experience. I have written the first draft of a full-length book in as short of time as two weeks. But then there are the edits


What do you think? Have you read The Debutante Bride? I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

Proxy Brides – my new series

According to Merriam-Webster:

proxy

1: the agency, function, or office of a deputy who acts as a substitute for another

2a: authority or power to act for another

b: a document giving such authority

And according to Wikipedia:

Beginning in the Middle Ages, European monarchs and nobility sometimes married by proxy. Examples include the marriage of Mary, Queen of Hungary to Louis I, Duke of OrlĂ©ans in 1385, the wedding at Eltham on 3 April, 1402 between Henry IV and Joan, the daughter of Charles II, King of Navarre, that of Catherine of Aragon to Prince Arthur in 1499, while a famous 17th-century painting by Peter Paul Rubens depicts the proxy marriage of Marie de’ Medici in 1600. Charles I of England married Henrietta Maria of France by proxy on 1 May 1625, and a well-known example more recently involved the marriage of Napoleon I of France and the Austrian Archduchess Marie Louisein 1810. By the end of the 19th century the practice had largely died out.

As of 2015, various Internet sites offer to arrange proxy and double-proxy marriages for a fee, although the service can generally be set up by any lawyer in a jurisdiction that offers proxy marriage. Video conferencing allows couples to experience the ceremony together. A unique “space wedding” took place on August 10, 2003 when Ekaterina Dmitriev married Yuri Malenchenko, a cosmonaut orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station, by proxy in Texas, US.

So that’s the history 🙂 Now on to what it has to do with me:

I was invited to join a multi-author project several months ago. We’re ten authors all writing in the same series. The premise is everyone is writing about a couple who, for various reasons, need to marry by proxy. It’s like mail-order brides but taken to a bit of an extreme – they haven’t even written to each other for the most part. Someone else stands in as the groom for the legalities. I’m fascinated by the different stories the other authors have come up with.

The books are releasing every two weeks. My first one comes out this Thursday!! I can’t wait to hear what you think of it. And tell me, can you even imagine marrying someone like this?