Marriage by Mail

(6 customer reviews)

Widowed at a young age, Molly is introduced to widower, Derek, by her fun-loving cousin, Philip. Their courtship by mail results in matrimony – on the very day they meet each other face to face for the first time!

Molly adores her new husband and wants nothing more than to make him happy. But sometimes, his rules just get in her way. He wouldn’t really take her in hand, would he? He’s just joking, teasing her. Right?

He’d been right about the rustlers, though. After a very tough night, they were caught, and now, surely, Derek could loosen up those rules. Besides, what he never finds out won’t hurt, will it?

Publisher’s Note: This sweet Old West romance contains elements of power exchange.

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Sample Chapter

Derek McBride sat in one of the chairs in front of the stagecoach office. He’d waited for his new bride-to-be for several months, and now the big day had arrived. Molly would arrive today, about fifteen minutes from now if the stage was on time. Derek tried to quell the last-minute insecurities that were popping up in his head out of nowhere. Why did I think I could be happy with a woman I’ve never met in person? What if she doesn’t like me? What if she doesn’t even show up? Why did I even think I should ever get married again after losing Charlotte? I never want to feel that kind of pain again.

Yet here he was, a thirty-one-year-old widower, waiting for a stagecoach to deliver his new wife to be—Molly Jane Hickam Brewer, a twenty-four-year-old widow. He reflected on how they both seemed young to have tragically lost spouses. His own Charlotte had died in childbirth nearly four years ago, and try though he might, the doctor hadn’t been able to save their daughter, either. Char and the babe were buried together on the longest, saddest day of Derek’s life. It had taken a couple of years for him to drag himself out of his grief and decide to start over. He knew he couldn’t give up on life at his age. It would have been the last thing Char would have wanted.

Walter Brewer, Molly’s late husband, had died of influenza. He had been a bit older than Molly and had been able to provide for her fairly well. She sold the feed and grain store Walter left her and the house they lived in behind the store for a tidy enough sum for a twenty-four-year-old widow. Theirs hadn’t been a real love match, but they were comfortable together and happy enough.

Derek pulled a folded paper out of his wallet and opened it. It was a penciled portrait of Molly that an artist friend of hers had drawn for her to send to him. He couldn’t imagine a prettier woman—even his own Charlotte. He wondered just how true to the image she would be when he saw her in the flesh.

Flesh. Just that word provoked unbidden thoughts. What would Molly be like, in the flesh? Would she be giving and loving toward him, or would she be withdrawn and shrink from his touch? They were set to be married today. Should he try to have relations with her tonight or wait until she got to know him better? They’d been exchanging letters for months, but that’s not the same as getting to know someone in person. Is it? Would it be like his wedding night with Charlotte, whom he’d known for years before their marriage? Or would it be like wedding a stranger?

He was lost in those thoughts and didn’t hear the stage approach until it was almost right in front of him.

* * *

Molly had been beside herself since the coach driver had yelled down that Big Rock was just about a half an hour away. Mr. and Mrs. Benson and their daughter, Bethie, had been doing their best to calm and encourage her. They’d been traveling together since Molly boarded their train this side of Baltimore, and Bethie and Molly had immediately warmed to each other. They’d spent the night at a way station in Cooper’s Gap the night before. That station had never seen so much excitement. When the wife and daughters of the station master learned that Molly would be married that day, they insisted on getting her up extra early that morning. They prepared a bath for her with lots of rosewater and lavender, washed and curled her hair and pinned it up, and made sure she was as ready for a wedding as one could possibly be when you still have to travel by dusty stage for four or five more hours before getting there.

The stagecoach could only go two or three hours at a time without stopping at a way station to get fresh horses. There was such a station, although a rustic one, during the ride from Cooper’s Gap to Big Rock, but Molly didn’t get a chance to wash up to try to keep feeling fresh. The only comfort to be had was a little private time behind some bushes, while the other ladies kept watch a few discreet feet away to give a semblance of privacy.

Molly was a little fearful, a little anxious, and a lot curious about what was to come when she finally arrived in Big Rock. She’d sent Derek a drawing of her, but all she knew about his looks was what her cousin had told her. He was tall and had dark hair and blue eyes. They’d exchanged several letters, some which had gotten personal enough to make her blush a little, but she’d never asked for any more details about his looks. He might think her shallow and vain, and she didn’t want that. Walter hadn’t been a handsome man, but he was a good one and companionable. I hope Derek’s handsome. Oh! I shouldn’t think that! Okay, I just hope he’s as pleasant and good-natured as his letters sound. Maybe a little handsome. Enough to make me swoon? I’ve never swooned. Do women really swoon, or is that just in books? I’d like to swoon. Oh, could he please be that handsome? No! I shouldn’t wish that. It’s shallow to hope that. Well, dammit, I hope he’s that handsome anyway.

It was her cousin who had introduced her to Derek, in a most unusual way. Philip and Molly had grown up very close to each other and had played together in the summers as children when visiting their grandparents. Even though he was four years older, he was always closer to Molly than he was to the other cousins. Her naïve charm and keen sense of humor were irresistible. As Philip grew up, he became interested in raising horses and cattle and went into business for himself as a horse and cattle broker. It was in this capacity, he had the chance to meet and do business with Derek McBride. They’d become fast friends, albeit mostly from a distance. They met up whenever business brought Philip into fair proximity to Big Rock. He’d even stayed on Derek’s ranch when he visited. When Philip learned that Walter had passed away of sickness, his heart went out to his favorite cousin. But he immediately remembered that Derek had also lost a spouse. Wouldn’t it be a hoot if he could bring them together?

Philip had written identical letters to each of them as an introduction and then sat back and waited for curiosity to take its course. He knew, if nothing else, Molly would surely write to Derek just to profess a little embarrassment that Philip would be so bold and insist she had nothing to do with that introduction. Molly had been only mildly surprised that her cousin would do that, and after thinking about it, was more than a little curious as to what the outcome might be. She and Philip had always been the mischievous ones. So, she waited, and sure enough, Derek had written. She was overjoyed to receive his letter. Thus, began their odd courtship. She grew to be very fond of him from his letters. She knew about his late wife and his struggle to overcome his grief. She knew of his background, that he grew up around the same town where he lived now. His letters told of everyday things on the ranch, and he could make even mundane things sound interesting or funny. He shared some of his innermost thoughts and beliefs, and they matched hers. Her favorite passages were the ones that made her stomach flutter and hinted at more intimate things.

And now she was about to meet him! Her heart was beating so quickly and she could hardly breathe. Thank goodness her corset wasn’t that tight. She hated the things, but they were expected of decent ladies. What if he doesn’t like me? What if I’m not pretty enough, or he doesn’t find me attractive? Will he swoon? Wait, do men swoon? What if he’s not there waiting for me? What’ll I do? What if I swoon? The Bensons are going on to the next town over, so I can’t stay with them. I don’t know anybody here.  What if I’m all alone? What if he sees me and leaves? What if he’s ugly? Oh, no! What if I don’t find him attractive? I hadn’t even though of that. What if he’s tall, dark, and blue eyed ugly? I can’t breathe. I need air.

Mrs. Benson spoke up. “Molly, dear, you do look so pretty. Here, let me brush this dust away—how can so much dust get in these coaches, anyway? You’ll make a lovely bride.”

She’d come to think dearly of the Bensons; she was touched at the sweet and motherly words. Bethie carried on her chatter about being so excited to see Molly’s new husband—and how she couldn’t imagine meeting and marrying someone in the same day! Her words didn’t do much to settle the butterflies in Molly’s stomach. She couldn’t imagine it, either, and here she was living it.

The stagecoach slowed to a crawl then to a stop in front of a wide wooden sidewalk. A man ran from inside the station house and climbed to the top of the coach to begin untying suitcases and trunks. Another official looking man scrambled to open the door of the stage to let the people out. Then he stepped around to the back of the stage to grab the cases handed down to him. Mr. Benson was first, then he helped his wife step down, then Bethie. Molly would be the last one to disembark.

Oh, Lord, please let him be here. I don’t care what he looks like, just let him be here.

Mr. Benson began reaching up and said, “Here you go, Miss Molly, let me help you down.”

“Sir, I’d like that honor, if you don’t mind. I’d like to welcome my bride-to-be.” It was the deepest, smoothest, silkiest voice either of them had ever heard. Both Molly and Mr. Benson looked up into Derek’s bright blue smiling eyes, but his eyes were only for her.

“Why, of course, young man, let me step out of your way.” He was as eager as the women were to see them meet each other for the first time.

Derek didn’t just help her step down. He put his hands around her waist and slowly lifted her up from the coach floor then just as slowly put her down directly in front of him, thinking how the drawing of her didn’t even begin to show how beautiful she was.

Molly’s body was one big blush. Oh, my Lord. Oh, my Lord. Oh, my Lord. He’s the handsomest man I ever saw. He’s perfect. His voice must be what molten lava sounds like. I can’t repay Philip enough. This can’t be right. I’m going to marry this man? He wants me? Oh, my Lord. I can’t breathe. Say something. I can’t talk. Can’t. Talk.

“I’m glad you’re finally here,” he said through a warm and welcoming smile. At this moment, he was a very happy man. She was still a little in shock. Thank you, Sweet Jesus.

The Bensons introduced themselves to Derek. There were pleasantries and small talk, and the women gave leave to avail themselves of the comfort of a privy. While they were away, Derek thanked Mr. Benson for befriending Molly during her travels. He was grateful she hadn’t had to feel alone on the long trip. “Why, the pleasure was ours, young man. Once Bethie and Miss Molly met each other, there was no dragging them apart! You’d have thought they’d known each other since birth. I’m quite sure their friendship eased the discomfort of travel for all of us. I believe you’re getting yourself a fine young woman, Mr. McBride.”

“Yes, sir, I believe I am, too.”

The Bensons had to go on and eat lunch before reboarding the stage; they only broke long enough to change the team of horses and get a quick bite to eat. There were goodbyes and handshakes all around, and Molly and Bethie hugged for the longest time. “I’ll write to you very soon, Mrs. Almost McBride.”

The Bensons watched Derek and the porter load Molly’s trunks and travel cases into the wagon, then they watched Derek lift Molly up onto the seat. As Derek urged the horses into a trot, Molly looked back at Bethie one last time and waved.

Their first stop was the mercantile where he introduced Molly to the owner, Clint Keller. Clint was happy to show them his wedding bands and even happier when he found out Derek wanted a matching set, a ring for each of them. Clint didn’t sell that many sets. In his experience, most of the grooms in Big Rock could only afford a ring for the bride, if they could afford any at all.

The wedding was blessedly short and sweet. The stage didn’t stop long enough for the Bensons to be able to attend it, so the only people there were the preacher and his wife and young daughter. Both Derek and Molly were inwardly grateful for the small number of people in attendance. They were still new to each other and hadn’t begun to learn to be comfortable together.

When the minister told Derek that he could now kiss the bride, Molly panicked for about half a second, until she saw the look on Derek’s face as he turned and bent down toward her. He looked very pleased to be able to finally kiss her. Just that thought made her blush. His kiss was tender, warm, and neither rushed nor lingering. It was perfect.  They both thought so.

When they left the little white church building, Derek took her hand and helped her back into the wagon. “I thought we’d eat a late lunch at my favorite restaurant. Well, the only one, actually. The food’s always good there. Not fancy, but always tasty. Well, there is the Tea Room at the hotel, but all they have are tea, cakes, and these tiny little butter sandwiches.” He scrunched his face as he held out his thumb and forefinger to indicate a small size. “So, I’m thinking Mama Mary’s Restaurant. Is that all right with you?”

“Oh, of course! I am hungry.” She laughed.  “I guess there’s nothing like four and a half hours in a stagecoach and gettin’ hitched to work up a gal’s appetite!”

She saw how his eyes sparkled and shone when he broke into a laugh. “Well, let’s get going, then!” I could watch him forever. Why isn’t this man married already? I am without doubt one lucky woman. Her heart thrilled. He was so tall, she had to tilt her head to look up at him. He had his arm protectively about her shoulder, and she felt wonderfully safe. It felt as natural as could be. It wasn’t a feeling she remembered having with Walter. Derek’s body language and demeanor spoke volumes. He seemed to treasure her and wanted to show her off. She felt ready to be treasured.

They walked inside and seated themselves at a small table near the big picture window. A short, round, feisty woman walked up to take their orders. Derek grinned and took the woman’s hand in his. “Molly Jane, I’d like to introduce you to Mama Mary. Mary is probably the best cook in these parts, at least that’s what she tells everybody. Mary, I’d like you to meet my wife, Molly Jane.”

Mary pulled her hand away from Derek, and then suddenly Molly was engulfed in a big double armed hug from the little round woman. She squealed and hugged back, and both were smiling. “Why, Molly, I’m so happy to meet you! Derek has been a wreck waiting for you to arrive. I’ll tell you what, you’ve got a good man here. Not a better one anywhere, except for maybe my Henry. I’m here to tell you, he’ll make you a fine husband. Yes, ma’am, a fine one. Oh! I’m gonna go fix up some special plates for you two, and I’ll send some food home with you, too. It’ll be my wedding present!” She was gone back to the kitchen as fast as short, stout legs can possibly move.

Molly was still smiling. “Is she always like that?”

“Pretty much. One of the sweetest ladies around, though. Stood by me and helped me come back to life when I was in a pretty dark place. She and Henry have been steadfast friends of mine. I’d do anything for them.”

Molly smiled and felt emboldened enough to put her hand on Derek’s. “Then I’m sure I’ll love them, too.”

He turned his hand to encase hers and used his other one to touch the top of her hand, her wrist, then traced her fingers with his own.  She didn’t know what to say in the silence. Say something.

“So, Derek, tell me about the town. How far away are we from the ranch?”

“By wagon, we’re under two hours away in dry weather. Wet weather and muddy roads will take longer. A horse and rider can make better time, though. It’s not too hard to find. The town has grown a lot in the last few years. We’ve got the church that doubles as a school now. Got a telegraph office, a sheriff’s office, a doctor, a general store and mercantile, a hotel, you know, the one with a Tea Room, a bank—all the things a booming town needs. A couple of saloons, a dressmaker, a barber who’s also the undertaker. You know, just about everything you might need.”

She cocked her head and grinned at him. “Do you need a saloon?”

His eyes twinkled, and his smirk made them crinkle. “I have, a time or two.”

Mama Mary rushed back out with large glasses of sweet tea, napkins, silverware, yeast rolls and cornbread, and a little bowl that held a lot of butter. “You two get started on that, and I’ll have your plates out in just a minute.”

Lunch was completed with happy and friendly conversation, shy yet teasing looks, and slowly mounting tension, each unsure how the day would unfold.  He first asked about her trip and her traveling companions. She explained that Mr. Benson was being sent by his employer, a large bank back east, to scout out a building for a new bank in the territory. They still had another day by coach to their destination. She asked Derek if he thought it was close enough that she could invite Bethie to come visit in the future, or if he thought it would be proper for a young unmarried lady to make the trip by herself. He reasoned it was only a day’s ride by coach and they could be waiting for her at the station, so he didn’t see why not. She looked happy and a little relieved. He wondered if maybe she’d been afraid he’d say no and wouldn’t allow her friend to visit.

When they were through eating, they said their thanks and goodbyes to Mary. She didn’t let them pay for their meal and had boxed up enough food for several more meals. They found room in the wagon to put the box of food and crawled back up to the seat again.

“I wasn’t sure what you’d prefer to do, so I’ll let you pick. We can stay the night at the hotel if you’d like to, or we can still make it to the ranch before dark.”

“Oh, Derek, that’s so considerate of you to give me a choice. I think I’d like to spend my wedding night in my new home.” She lowered her eyes. “In our bed.”

“Yes, ma’am. Then we shall do that.” He clicked the horses into action and took off down the road, headed home. She said “in our bed”. I hope that means what I think she means. Dear Lord, please, please let it mean what I think it means.

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6 reviews for Marriage by Mail

  1. Hope W

    What a great read back in time! Molly doesn’t know quite what to expect as she sets out on this new journey as a mail order bride. However, when she meets Derik the chemistry is there right where her new life and love take hold. Little did she know that the wild ride was just beginning. Learning to shoot guns, deal with rustlers, and handle a man that believes in domestic discipline could be challenging. Will Molly be able to handle this life? When you add in Bethie and her cousin Phillip everything becomes complete. Come read and enjoy this journey of love, laughs, friendship, family, danger and excitement from the outside, spankings, and many heartfelt moments. It will lead not only Molly and Derik where they belong, but also the reader on a 5 star journey filled with excitement! I voluntarily received an arc copy of this book.

    I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

  2. Rjr

    Molly is a young widow whose best friend is her cousin Philip. Through his business ventures, Philip meets a young widower, Derek. He puts Derek and Molly in touch, and after becoming acquainted via letters, they decide to marry. Their love story is sweet, funny and passionate. Derek teaches Molly all about ranch life including the dangers. Derek is a fair man, but has rules for Molly’s safety that he intends to enforce and Molly will face consequences if she breaks those rules. I loved the relationships of all the main characters including Derek and Molly, their workers, friends, and Philip. There is a mystery to solve that brings danger, but mostly it is a story of love and growth in several relationships. I found the book to be very well written and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There is some spanking, a lot of steam, and some sexy encounters as well. Throughout all, there is a humorous and playful thread to much of the story that I really liked. This author is new to me and I look forward to reading more from her. I hope you will enjoy this book as much as I did!

  3. Redrabbitt

    I enjoyed this first book in the Big Rock Romance series by a new author, Ms. Nora Nolan. Both Derek McBride and Molly Hickam Brewer will find themselves widowed young and get a second chance at happiness. With the help of Molly’s cousin, Philip Hickman, he will introduce her to his friend, Derek McBride via letters and the correspondence begins.

    The plot will have Molly selling the business and her home she shared with her late husband, Walter, and moving to Big Rock to marry widower, Derek McBride. During the stagecoach travels, she will become acquainted with Bethie Benson and her parents. It will be a friendship that last and even brings Bethie for an extended visit.

    Philip Hickam will come to Big Rock, and from the time he meets Lizbeth “Bethie” Benson, he knows she is the one for him. It will include the courtship and relationship of these two. These two are drawn to each other and have lively and colorful conversations.

    The story has some mystery-suspense with the troubles of horse rustlers, the men trying to keep the women safe, and also teaching them how to use firearms. It will have the newness of two couples and their relationships, along with friendships. The story also has sweet romance, mildly explicit sex scenes, and several spankings. There is great chemistry between the couples and plenty of page-turning scenes.

  4. Ronald

    Molly is a young widow who has agreed to a mail order marriage with Derek, a young widower who owns a horse ranch. She arrives after a long trip from the east coast – is met by her husband and marries him the same day. The story is about the development of a strong bond between them, and the various difficulties and joys they experience along the way – including some spankings when she gets out of line. Both are strong, loving people and the story moves quickly – with another love story to spice things up between her cousin and a friend, and problems with cattle rustlers. All in all, an enjoyable story.

  5. Toni

    This is the first I’ve read from this author & I’m really pleased to say that I was not disappointed. I loved this story of Derek & Molly finding their HEA. In an age of online dating it’s almost unimaginable to read of a couple courting completely via mail, meeting for the first time on their wedding day. This story was full of charm and fun & was long enough to really fill the story without if being rushed & I enjoyed every page. Hoping to read more from this author in the future.

  6. Margaret

    I enjoyed reading this book and I will watch out for other stories by this author. She has a brillant alent for writing very realistic and well rounded characters. I loved this interaction between Molly and Derek. and the other couple. It’s honest. There is plenty in this story to hold the readers interest, some spankings and lots of loving.I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy of this book and I highly recommend it. For a long story it reads like a short one. Very enjoyable and entertaining.

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