Hearts and Hands
Long before internet dating, people had hearts and hands catalogs.
The premise between them is the same, two people are looking for someone to share their lives with but, for whatever reason, they haven’t found their mate. Today, people are busy, cities are crowded—it’s hard to meet that special someone. So you write a post, maybe add a profile picture, answer a few questions and wait for interested parties to contact you.
On the American frontier, there were far fewer people—women in particular. And that posed its own challenges, as the men moved west looking for gold, adventure or a better future. Women back east found their prospects for marriage had dwindled, and the casualties of the Civil War only added to that. But, maybe more importantly, the men had almost no prospects.
Why were the men more important? Because in my opinion, the women of the 1800s would never have started clubs to find spouses, and if I could go back in time, I would love to meet the first brave woman who decided to answer an advertisement posted by a stranger looking for a wife.
Ads could be found in a variety of places, including newspapers, but hearts and hands catalogs, sometimes called hearts and hands magazines, are far more fascinating to me. Men would subscribe, which eventually translated into women subscribing, of course. It wouldn’t have worked otherwise.
People formed clubs for the sole purpose of finding a spouse. They posted their ad, sometimes a bare sentence long, considering the cost per word, and hoped someone would reply. If someone did, they would begin a correspondence that might have included a photograph, and details about exactly what they were looking for, their economic situations and their appearances.
What caught my attention, however, was that men would often post outside their general location. Some of this was simple logistics—after all, why advertise in an area you already know is lacking in women? But I also found several accounts that seemed to suggest many men were embarrassed to be so publicly looking for a wife.
But, looking outside your general vicinity for a spouse also allowed a person to be less than honest about a variety of topics. Generally, people were straightforward about who they were and what they wanted, but enough people misrepresented themselves that history suggests legal action could be taken.
So…embarrassment and misrepresentation. What if a prideful man had been the butt of the town’s jokes for his mail-order bride advertisement and the woman who responded hadn’t been totally honest about her appearance? Well, in my new novel, Outrageous Offer, the bride was rejected but there is a lack of women in the town and she doesn’t have to wait long for a new man to show interest.
Indecent interest, tied to an outrageous offer that doesn’t involve marriage…
This is book one in the The Double O Saga series.
She has a choice to make—work in the saloon or accept an outrageous offer of being one man’s unpaid mistress.
Hyacinth Woodley is a desperate woman. Officially deemed a spinster with no marriage prospects in sight, alone after the death of her parents and out of money, she answers an ad for a mail-order bride, only to be rejected by her groom upon her arrival in Creek Bend.
Offer O’Neal is the new, less-than-proud owner of the Double O Ranch. After sinking every cent he had into the property, he’s left staking his dreams of success on stud fees from his horse, the only thing of real value he’s got. He can’t afford a wife, but a willing woman in his bed is an appealing prospect, and Hyacinth’s got nowhere else to go.
Just as Offer starts thinking of Hyacinth as the one bright spot in his otherwise stressful and unlucky life, the bridegroom who rejected her returns, demanding repayment for his investment. Ernest Horsham feels he’s spent a lot of money on getting the woman to Creek Bend under false pretenses, and the judge is on his side. But it’s only when Hyacinth is arrested as a thief and a fraud that Offer realizes how much he values her company.
Ernest’s eyes narrowed. “I agreed to marry you under false pretenses.”
“You most certainly did not.” Hyacinth jolted forward, nearly tripping over the dogs.
“Whoa!” Offer held up a hand, stopping Hyacinth in her tracks. “Horsham, the lady was willing to marry you, but you threw her away. The fault is yours.”
Ernest shook his head. “Are going to pay for her, O’Neal?”
“Isn’t she your woman, now?” Ernest threw a look over his shoulder at Offer that conveyed his disgust more than his words ever could. “You were willing to take in a deformed hag to be your whore, so maybe I should figure on you footing the bill.”
Offer crossed his arms over his chest and rocked back on his heels. “You left her in the middle of town, Horsham. You had a choice, and the one you made cost you money. That’s your mistake, and I suggest you be a man about it.”
“Two hundred dollars is too much to let go of, O’Neal. I aim to get my money from one of you.”
“Go home,” Offer ordered. “Get off my property. This turnip don’t bleed.”
Ernest’s gaze jerked back to Hyacinth. She lifted her shoulders and strove to look bored. “I don’t have any money. I spent it all to get here, where you abandoned me to fend for myself after causing such a scene that no one would offer me any assistance.”
“He took you in.” Ernest jerked a thumb in Offer’s direction. “You weren’t as helpless as you make it seem.”
Offer worked his jaw. “You didn’t leave her any choice. Neither one of us is giving you a dime.”
Ernest’s lip lifted, his eyes raked over Hyacinth’s body. “I know he’s got to be fucking you. Is he paying you?”
“How dare you?” She clutched her skirts tighter. “You are disgusting.”
“Me?” Ernest’s expression darkened into pure revulsion. “You’re the bitch spreading her legs for a low-down fuck-up like Offer O’Neal. Scraping the bottom of the barrel, sweetheart, because nobody better wants you.”
Like the sound of Outrageous Offer? Buy it here.
I’ve always been a storyteller, just as I’ve always been an avid reader. I love stories that twist reality at its edges, and adore new takes on old myths and legends. I’ve travelled extensively, which has given me the opportunity to hear many legends from many cultures and I make use of these in my stories as often as possible.