Tessa O’Connor lives in a world of privilege and excess. Her doting parents want her to make a good match with a worthy gentleman and live a respectable life. She is beautiful and intelligent and she comes with a hefty dowry. There is no reason that she shouldn’t be able to find an eligible man and settle down.
Tessa herself is the reason. The men who are attempting to court her are, in her opinion, boring and conceited. Not only that, Tessa craves excitement and adventure, of which there is little in her social circles. By chance, she comes across an advertisement for a bride brokerage company seeking eligible women of good breeding to go west and find husbands.
One man on the list catches her eye and she begins corresponding with him, eventually agreeing to go to Montana to meet him. She can’t resist the possibility of finding someone different and even if she doesn’t, the adventure itself would be worth her time. Tessa makes a successful escape and sets out to make a new life in Montana.
Dean Samuels is a Montana rancher who is in over his head. His ranch is struggling and his two children are unruly and in need of a caretaker. It’s clear to his younger brother, Marcus, that he needs help. He tells Dean about a mail order bride service and convinces him that he should utilize it to find a wife.
After his wife, Sarah, had passed away, Dean never intended to marry again. His ranch and his children became his life. However, it becomes apparent that Sadie, his daughter, and his son, Jack, need stability and love. The demands of raising his children and keeping his head above water financially have taken a toll and Dean grudgingly gives in to Marcus’ idea.
Sarah had been the love of his life and Dean doesn’t intend to let any other woman into his heart. He’s locked those kinds of emotions deep inside, not wanting to take the chance of getting hurt like that again. Because Dean has trouble expressing his feelings in writing, his younger brother Marcus agrees to help write the letters to Tessa. Dean is happy to leave that part up to him.
When Dean and Tessa meet, sparks fly between the two strong willed people. Tessa is disappointed that Dean isn’t the romantic, sophisticated man she was lead to believe he was in the letters she received. Dean is aggravated that she isn’t a meek woman who is easily managed. Never mind the fact that she has no idea of how to take care of children and keep a home.
Dean and Tessa struggle to find common ground and make their marriage work. Will they each take the risk and open their hearts to one another? Can their marriage survive and will they find love and contentment in each other? Their future happiness hangs in the balance under the Montana skies.
Read an excerpt:
Maureen O’Connor watched her eldest daughter once again turn down a request to dance. She sighed resignedly. This was yet another night wasted on her headstrong girl. Theresa O’Connor was beautiful, witty, intelligent, and completely bored with their society. None of the would-be suitors were up to her high standards because they, in her estimation, were also boring.
She turned back to the conversation between her husband, Geoffrey, and his long-time friend, Alex Winters. They were discussing some matter of business that really didn’t interest her. Maureen knew her husband better than anyone and could tell Geoffrey had also noticed their daughter’s dismissal of the elegant young man. His handsome visage tightened imperceptibly and his deep brown eyes reflected his disapproval.
She laid a hand on his arm and smiled slightly.
He arched a brow at her and said, “Do you find this amusing?”
“I find it aggravating and amusing, dear. It’s aggravating because these events thrown in her honor seem not to be doing any good. It’s amusing because she reminds me so much of you. Always wants things her way,” Maureen responded.
Geoffrey tried to keep the smile from his face but it was a lost cause. He knew Maureen was right. Geoffrey was caught between pride that his oldest offspring was so much like him and annoyance because he couldn’t make her behave for the very same reason. “I’m glad you’re enjoying this so much.”
Maureen’s smile grew. “Oh, no, Geoff. Not I. I think it’s awful.” She broke off into laughter, not able to continue as Geoffrey’s look darkened.
Alex turned and watched their daughter sit with two of her friends and talk animatedly. “Tessa shot down another one, eh?”
Geoff grunted. “Yes. How does she ever expect to marry a good man if she doesn’t give anyone a chance?”
His best friend turned back to him. “She knows what she wants and none of the men you keep thrusting upon her are what she’s after, I’m afraid.”
Maureen cleared her throat. “Maybe she’s a little more like me in that respect. I, too, wanted something different and I got it,” she said, with a gentle squeeze of Geoffrey’s arm.
“As did I,” her husband responded.
Alex grinned as he remembered their courtship. “And what a splendid time it was, watching the two of you duke it out. At times, it was hard to tell who the hunter was, and who the prey was.”
“Some of both, as I recall,” Maureen said.
“Agreed,” Geoff said. “Well, wife, I suppose we should mingle and dazzle the masses with our charm and wit. Too bad dear Tessa hasn’t learned any of that from us.”
“Oh, I think she has it in spades. After all, she charms her way out of punishment enough,” Maureen said and followed her husband.
“Oh, and did you know that Melinda Wainwright was caught sneaking around with Scotty Monroe? He’s supposed to be courting Rachel Linden,” Roxanne Carter told the other two young women she was sitting with.
Johanna Dillinger sat forward, “No! Who told you that?”
“I’m not going to reveal my sources, Jo,” Roxanne said. “But, they are quite close to both of them. It’s going to be quite interesting when it comes out, don’t you think, Tessa?”
“Surely,” Tessa said with no enthusiasm.
Her blue eyes, so like her mother’s, scanned the ballroom of their family home for any sign of anything that might interest her. She’d had no luck so far.
“And wild monkeys flew down from the heavens and landed on unicorns that took them to the desert where they were eaten by naked old witches,” Roxanne said.
“Too bad I’m not one of them,” Tessa said.
Jo laughed behind a hand. “Which?”
“Either. It’s not every wild monkey who gets to fly and ride on unicorns and it’s not every witch who gets to sit around naked and eat monkeys,” Tessa answered, smiling brightly at Roxanne. “You thought I wasn’t listening. Fooled you.”
Roxanne frowned. “Don’t you want to know what’s happening in the world? You have to keep on top of things so you can make good decisions.”
Tessa gave a short laugh. “So knowing who’s fooling around with whom is helping you to make good decisions?”
“Yes, actually, it is. It’s helping me figure out what gentlemen are trustworthy and which aren’t. That way I can make a smart decision about who I will marry and who will become the father of my children,” Roxanne said reasonably
Tessa grew irritated. “That’s all well and good for you, but I don’t want to have that kind of future. None of this matters to me; the balls, the society rules, the endless parade of stuffy men. No, it’s not for me and yet, I have no way out. I’m such a disappointment to my parents.”
Jo laid a hand on Tessa’s in consolation. “Is our life really so bad? I mean, we could be starving and penniless.”
Tessa smiled, not wanting to distress her friends. “No, it’s not bad, just tedious. I know that you and Roxie are quite happy to gossip and fret over the people in our circles, but I want something more exciting.” Her eyes found her parents as they talked to another couple. Her father was proud and charismatic, and her mother, was almost delicately beautiful. They were a very popular pair. She’d heard whisperings of their tumultuous courtship and smiled now, remembering the stories.
There were times when she wished she could be more like her mother. She was respectable and always a lady. She had always been a wonderful mother and wife. Tessa knew she didn’t have her mother’s patience, however, when it came to dealing with society. She had trouble being dutiful and attending parties and brunches while appearing to enjoy them.
No, high society wasn’t the place she wanted to be, but there was nothing for it. Her father looked her way, so she smiled at him, hoping he would think she was having a good time. She loved her father and didn’t want to disappoint him, but also wondered how she could be true to herself at the same time.
Her father could always see through her smokescreens, though, and although he smiled back, it wasn’t a smile of real pleasure. It was so no one would guess he was displeased with her.
Tessa’s eyes dropped and she began teasing Roxie about all the horrible matches she could make to cover her feelings of inadequacy.
The following morning, Tessa sat at the dining room table with her mother and younger sisters. She read the daily paper, just as she always did. Geoffrey had already gone to his office for the day. He was an early riser and it was only on Sundays that he had breakfast with the family. However, he was always present for dinner unless something of urgency took place.
“Tessa, tell us about the party,” her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, asked. Her deep brown eyes were filled with excitement and her pretty little face eager.
Tessa’s eyes never left the paper as she answered Claire. “Tedious. Simply tedious.”
“Tessa!” her mother objected. “Do you know how much money we spend to throw these parties?”
“Mother, I keep telling you to stop throwing them because I’m not going to change my mind about them or suddenly start believing I’ll find my true love at one. I won’t,” Tessa said, putting down the paper and looking her mother in the eye. “I love you and Papa for all you’ve tried to do and your concern, but I’m fine as I am. Truly. You should be concentrating on Madeline’s coming out party.”
Maureen sighed and fixed her poached egg. “I don’t understand what it is you’re looking for.”
Madeline said, “Mama, if she doesn’t want the parties, I think she’s right. Throw them for me and for Claire when she comes of age.”
Madeline was a carbon copy of their mother. Her blonde waves cascaded over her shoulders and her lovely blue eyes had an entrancing quality, as many of the boys her age had found. Unbeknownst to their parents, Madeline was quite the little flirt.
Tessa knew but wasn’t about to tell on her sibling. She found it amusing as long as flirting was all that happened. She had been present during Madeline’s sweet-sixteen party and had kept close tabs on her sister without anyone realizing she was doing it. Now, at eighteen, Madeline was developing a very womanly figure and would bear close watching. Her coming out party was only two months away.
Maureen said, “I will take this up with your father.” Her tone was resigned and frustrated. “I think you are right and I think you are old enough to know your own mind, even if it is against what we want for you and what you should want for yourself.”
Tessa’s temper flared. “I fail to see that it’s right for anyone to say what I should and shouldn’t want for my life! Just because I don’t want what society says I should want, why does that make me wrong? These people don’t know me, they don’t know what I think, what I feel. They don’t care, either. Quite frankly, I don’t care what they think of me.”
Claire interjected, “But, Tessa, Mama and Papa have to live with these people. Think of Father’s business. It’s crucial that we don’t embarrass them because it’s Papa’s business that keeps us living in the style we do.”
Though young, Claire was highly intelligent and most likely a genius. She had a strong interest in Geoffrey’s shipping business and his other ventures, and understood much of the operations even at her age. Geoffrey often took her to his office on Saturdays and unlike many men of that time, he was very proud that his youngest daughter was interested in the family business and had an aptitude for it.
Tessa sat back in her chair and considered what Claire had said. Sometimes, Tessa felt as if Claire had more sense than anyone she knew outside of her parents. She saw the wisdom in her little sister’s remark. “I think you’re right, Claire. I need to consider their feelings, too. It’s only respectful to do so.” She turned to Maureen. “Mother, I apologize for my quick words. If you insist upon throwing parties for me, I’ll do my duty, but no more. I should be grateful for you and Papa taking care of me so well and I certainly do not want to cause you any shame.”
Maureen smiled. “Although I thank you for that, I truly don’t think these parties are doing any good. I think continuing them is futile. However, we will require you to go to a certain number of parties to which you are invited. Especially Roxanne and Johanna’s parties. Oh, and you must continue the dinner parties we throw for your father’s business associates. Is that acceptable to you?”
“Yes!” Tessa’s smile was luminous. “I think those are very reasonable terms. Do you think Papa will agree?”
Maureen smiled sweetly. “Oh, I think I’ll be able to convince him.”
“Excellent!” Tessa said and went back to her paper.
Geoffrey kissed his wife and rolled over. His breath was slightly ragged and he was perfectly content to lie still for a few moments. Maureen was in a similar state. Their lovemaking was always active and passionate and extremely satisfying. She rolled over and snuggled against her handsome husband and ran a hand over his muscular chest.
She planted a kiss there and Geoff put an arm around her and held her close. “Well, you were particularly frisky tonight,” he said.
Maureen giggled against his side. “You just bring that side of me out, husband. It’s not as if you weren’t frisky yourself.”
Geoff laughed. “Touché.”
Maureen turned serious. “We need to discuss Tessa.”
“Oh, no. What’s she done now?”
“It’s not what she’s done; it’s what she isn’t going to do. These parties are not doing anything but making her more dissatisfied. I don’t think we should bother with them. Maddie is the one who wants them and she is so excited about her coming out. I think we should focus on that and give Tessa some breathing room. However, she should go to some parties she’s invited to and also continue with our business dinners,” Maureen said in a rush.
Geoffrey’s response was to laugh and roll Maureen back over. “You are a conniver, Maureen O’Connor. Did she agree to that?”
Maureen arched a delicate brow at him. “A conniver I may be, but only for a good cause. Yes, she did. I thought they were decent terms. You’ve always said that in any good agreement, there’s give and take.”
“So I have.” Geoffrey weighed the subject and saw that the deal was a good one. “Very well. I agree with you.”
Maureen laughed and hugged Geoffrey. “You are the best husband and father!” She wiggled under Geoff.
He grinned and kissed her neck. “Really? So how about we seal the deal?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Maureen said.
Their lovemaking was slower and tenderer this time and Maureen did indeed show Geoff what a wonderful husband he was to her.
Linda Bridey lives in New Mexico with her three dogs; a German shepherd, chocolate Labrador retriever, and a black Pug. She became fascinated with Montana and decided to combine that fascination with her fictional romance writing. Linda chose to write about mail-order-brides because of the bravery of these women who left everything and everyone to take a trek into the unknown. The Westward series books are her first publications.