Contract to Wed
by Holly Bush
1891 . . . Jolene Crawford Crenshaw, heiress and Boston socialite, went from her family home directly to Landonmore upon her marriage, the mansion she shared with her handsome and charismatic husband. She’d never in her life worried in the slightest over anything as crass as the dollars required to maintain that home or the lifestyle she’d been born to. Her extensive yearly wardrobe, the stables and the prime horseflesh within it, even the solid silver forks and knifes that graced her table, were expected and required to maintain the social standing that she’d cultivated over the years. But suddenly she was a widow with little money and just her pride and her secrets to keep her upright.
Max Shelby made his fortune in oil wells and cattle, but lost the love of his life the day his wife died. Now, his happy, carefree daughter needs instruction and guidance as she grows into a young lady and his dream of becoming a Senator from his adopted state of Texas seems out of reach with few political or social connections. The right wife would solve both problems. As it happens, his sister knows of a woman, a recent widow, charming, beautiful and socially astute, but in reduced circumstances, who may want to begin again. Max signed the wedding contract sight unseen.
Will Jolene be able to shed her sorrows, anger and fears to begin anew away from the censure and hidden tragedy that marred her life? Is her new husband, confident, strong and capable Max Shelby, the man, the only man, to see past her masks to find the woman beneath?
Read an excerpt:
“Settle down, everybody,” Zeb shouted over the din. “The boss has an announcement to make.”
Max looked around the room at his staff, more than forty of them, without the men working straight through at the wells. Most were like family to him, and many had sons or brothers or wives working here as well. The room quieted.
“I know most of you are aching to get to the dining room and see what Maria is serving us today,” Max said. “But I wanted to let you know that I have gotten married. My bride . . .”
The room erupted in shouts and yahoos. The women stood to hug him and kiss his cheek, and the men lined up to shake his hand.
“When is the wedding meal to be held?” Maria asked. “I’ve got much to prepare for.”
Max asked for quiet. “This isn’t exactly that type of marriage. Let me tell you . . .”
“What do you mean?” Pete, the head ranch hand, asked. “I didn’t know there were different kinds of marriage! Hey, Maria, what type of marriage do we have?”
“The kind where you do as I tell you to, si amor,” she replied with a saucy swish of her skirts.
Max waited till the laughter died down. “My bride is from Boston. She’ll be arriving this Monday on the train and bringing her maid.”
“How’d you meet her, Boss?” someone asked.
“Boston?” someone else said.
Zeb came up behind him and whispered. “Maybe we didn’t think this all through to the end.”
“When did you go to Boston, Boss?”
“I didn’t go to Boston,” he said.
“Then how’d you meet her?”
Max pulled off his hat and scratched his head. “Well,” he started
Zeb stepped in front of him. “Doesn’t matter how Mr. Shelby met her, and it’s nobody else’s business. Mrs. Shelby is coming here Monday, and, no doubt, this will be a big change for her. Make sure you’re on your best behavior for her arrival,” Zeb said and turned to Maria. “Let’s you and I have a talk about what needs to be done to accommodate both women.” He looked back across the silent room of workers. “Okay. Let’s eat.”
Holly Bush writes historical romance set on the American Prairie, in Victorian England, and recently released her first Women’s Fiction title. Her books are described as emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance. She makes her home with her husband in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Connect with Holly at www.hollybushbooks.com and on Twitter @hollybushbooks and on Facebook at Holly Bush.
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