Somewhere in Illinois ~ Spring 1848
Maryanne Price looked out the window of the train car as it rolled past the bleak landscape. Somewhere, out there was her new life. A new life with a new husband, a man she had never met.
When she had first decided to answer the ad for a mail-order bride, it had been a decision made out of fear. Fear of being married off to a fifty-eight year-old cotton magnate with yellow teeth and three children her own age.
At sixteen she’d become an heiress to her grandfather's fortune of fifteen thousand dollars, making her one of the most eligible young ladies of Boston society, and her parents pawn.
They had spent the last two years using her fortune to make connections with some of the most powerful families in Boston in hopes of improving their own standing.
Three months ago they had informed her that she was to be married to Wilford Cabot, a man she had only met in company. Even in those brief encounters Maryanne had disliked him, finding him arrogant and dismissive.
The night they’d told her she’d begged them to break the engagement off, but they’d refused. When she’d told them she wouldn’t marry that disgusting old man, her father had beaten her relentlessly with his belt, leaving her bruised and bloody locked in her bedroom.
Laying on her floor, she’d sobbed until the pain finally gave way to a brilliant idea. If she were to marry someone else, anyone else, she couldn’t be forced Wilford.
But where could she find someone to marry? Her social circle was controlled by her parents and none of the men she’d been paraded around were any better than the man they’d actually picked.
Sitting up slowly, her violet eyes fell on a latest penny novel she’d borrowed from her maid.
It had been a silly story about life on the frontier, but in the back there had been advertisements for mail order brides.
On hands and knees, she crawled over and pulled the novel from its hiding place under her mattress.
Leaning carefully against the bed, she flipped through the pages until she found what she was looking for.
Pushing a loose strand of her ebony hair out of her face she read:
A Minnesota Territory gentleman, 25 years of age, formerly Major in the United States army, desires to correspond with a young lady between the age of 18 and 20, with a view to matrimony. Intelligence and refinement indispensable. Address with editor.
Reading and rereading the advertisement, Maryanne made up her mind.
Climbing to her feet, she limped to her writing desk. Opening her inkwell, she dipped her nib into deep ebony liquid and set her pen to paper.
I am eighteen years old, of good breeding and skilled in all wifely duties. I am seeking husband of good moral character. I am hard working and willing to learn how to make you happy. Reply general delivery M.P. general delivery South Boston.
Sealing and addressing the letter, she secreted it with the novel until she could give to her maid to mail it for her.
Having done something that brought hope back into her heart, Maryanne crawled into her bed, her body giving in to the trauma her father had inflicted.