Please welcome Darlene Franklin to my blog this week. Darlene is doing two giveaways, The COMPLETE Christmas Collection and her devotional, so be sure to stop by Monday's, Wednesday's and Friday's posts and leave a comment for a better chance to win!
Angel Vale, Crook County, Wyoming Territory, June 1877
Get Your Personal Christmas Angel. Sign up with Matthew Thomas, Marriage Broker.
Jake Underwood looked at Matt across the packing crate he was unloading onto a shelf at his store in the small mining town. “What's this all about?”
Matt’s grin widened. “Why, I’ve figured how to make me some money, seeing as how my claim on the river didn’t make me enough money to earn a plug nickel. I thought I’d ask you to give it a look-see and tell me what you think.”
Jake frowned as he read the words again, wondering if he was misreading Matt’s sloppy handwriting. “Christmas Angels? Marriage broker? Are you setting up in the mail order bride business?” Matt had experimented with a lot of money-making schemes through the years, but this was his most outrageous idea yet.
“Yup.” Matt snapped his suspenders against his chest. “There’s plenty of men in Angel Vale ready to settle down. There’s the ranchers who were already here settling in before they found gold last year. Then there’s the miners who struck gold, the ones that didn’t spend it all away on gambling and fancy duds and such. And there’s not a bride to be had in all of Crook County, at least not one any god-fearing man would pick.” Matt winked. “There’s you, for instance. Why a fine man like yourself, with a good head for business and in good standing with the Lord, isn’t married yet is beyond me.”
Jake huffed. “You’ve got twenty years on me, and you’re not married.”
“Maybe I wasn’t ready until now.” Matt’s smile turned serious. “It’s time I stop drifting across the plains like tumbleweed. Gold or not, I want to stay put here in Angel Vale. Got to stay here, to keep you in line, don’t I?”
Jake simply smiled. “Do you really think men will pay money for this service?” He scratched his forehead. “I’ve seen some of those advertisements they put in the paper. Don’t cost that much. Why would they pay you to do it for them?”
“I’m aiming to bring a whole bevy of women, find a good match for everyone who’s interested. I’d like to see a bride for everyone who wants one, including you and me, if you want. I’ll find someone back east to help me out, choose the finest women while I weed through the men who are interested.” He picked up a lemon drop, placed a penny in the change jar by the register, and stuck the candy in his mouth. “You watch. The men’ll come out of the woodwork for the service I aim to provide.”
A wife. Matt didn’t know how often Jake’s mind had turned toward matrimony in recent days. He had always thought to marry when he reached thirty, but he had passed that milestone almost a year ago. No matrimonial prospects existed in the town of Angel Vale. It would take a host of Christmas angels to provide for the needs of the town’s single men.
“See what I have here,” Matt said. “I’ve found several circulars advertising for brides. I figure we can write letters to send to all of ‘em, and see what kind of response we get.”
“I have a better idea.” Jake pulled out his Bible. “When I was a young boy.” Before things turned sour with his father. “Pa made me promise on the Bible.” He lifted in the air. “That if I ever got ready to marry, he wanted me to find a bride from the town where he grew up, Merville, Maine. It’s right on the coast, the prettiest little place on God’s green earth to hear him tell it. It’s where he met my mother, before he dragged her to the California goldfields. After Ma died, Pa never did make it back home.” A sad smile played around Jake’s mouth.
“That’s a sad story, son, I know,” Matt said. “But sure, as long we’re looking for a passel of women willing to come west to marry, why not start with Merville?”
Jake talked through the idea. “I even know the name of the church. We can write to the church, explain the situation, and ask if any of the women might be interested.”
Matt snapped his fingers, like all was decided. “Let’s get going.” He held one of the circulars close to his heart. “What do the men need to say about themselves?”
“Things like our occupations, ages, how we expect to provide for a wife, whether or not we’re a believer, and maybe a little bit about our personality.” Jake took a pencil and sharpened it while he gave it some thought. “I could say, Jacob Underwood, thirty, Christian, merchant with good business, seeks a wife.” Narrowing his eyes, Jake thought about what qualities he wanted in a wife. “She must love the Lord, be kind and considerate, and have a sense of adventure.” Satisfied, he cleared his throat. “What do you want to say about yourself?”
Matt stomped his foot with glee. “I’ll figure it out. So, are you in?”
Excitement burbled inside Jake. Lord willing, Angel Vale would have a bevy of mail order angels by Christmas.
Best-selling author Darlene Franklin’s greatest claim to fame is that she writes full-time from a nursing home. She lives in Oklahoma, near her son and his family, and continues her interests in playing the piano and singing, books, good fellowship, and reality TV in addition to writing. She is an active member of Oklahoma City Christian Fiction Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Christian Authors Network. She has written over fifty books and more than 250 devotionals. Her historical fiction ranges from the Revolutionary War to World War II, from Texas to Vermont.