.. well, actually, it went out on kindle a short time ago, just before it was reviewed in the Daily Mail, no less, where it was described as ‘a vivid portrayal of 1880s mid-West America (which) is another sure hit to add to the burgeoning canon of Choc Lit’s highly readable popular fiction’.
So why the theme – a mail order bride – and why the location – Wyoming 1887?
Not long after The Road Back had been published, I was driving along to meet a friend for lunch, thinking about what I would enjoy writing next, when I heard the words ‘mail order brides’ on the radio. This is a concept that I’ve always found really romantic, and I promptly focused on the programme. It was a report about what was happening in Russia today. Yes, I thought in excitement – that’s my story line!! But not in Russia – Russia’s too cold. By the time I reached my destination, the location of my story-to-be was Wyoming.
And now the answer to ‘why Wyoming’. I knew that in the pioneering days of the American West it wasn’t uncommon for homesteaders and settlers in Wyoming and adjacent States to send for a mail order bride.
There was a man’s work and there was a woman’s work. Men worked on the homestead outside the house, rugged, gleaming and tanned – now stop that, Liz – providing food for the family and protecting them. Women worked in the house, looking after the children, sewing clothes, making preserves of the vegetables that they had tended in the vegetable garden, which was a part of a woman’s work, too.
A man, therefore, needed a wife.
Widower Conn Maguire was no exception. His eight-year old daughter, Bridget, was about to start school and he needed someone to help with the chores she’d been doing since her mother had died a year before. Enter Ellen O’Sullivan.
Widow Ellen O’Sullivan needed a home and a family, and quite by chance – these things do happen, you know – she read the advert placed in a Nebraskan newspaper by Conn Maguire.
Bingo! Conn had a wife. Ellen had husband. They could ride off into the sunset together.
But of course, they didn’t.