Monday, February 25, 2019

Matchmaking Old West Style

It's true many men and women found marriage partners through ads in newspapers in the mid to late 1800s. Men in the old west outnumbered the women significantly. Many women needed help after the Civil War since their families often had lost businesses and bread winners to the war. Some of them were desperate enough to leave their families and homes to marry men they hoped would take care of them.

There have always been people who could see opportunity in most any situation. Some of those people found mail order brides headed west to meet husbands to be the perfect opportunity to help men and women in need while making a business out of it. Matchmakers did exist and they made the process of finding a husband or wife easier and cut out answering ads and letter writing.

Matchmakers took at least some of the risk out of finding a spouse. The mail order bride process was filled with uncertainty for each party. Neither knew if they were being scammed until they actually met and sometimes falsehoods weren't found out until much later. When a matchmaker introduced a couple, each party had been at least somewhat vetted.

In my Colorado Matchmaker series, Susannah Jessup took pride in bringing women from the east to Colorado and matching them up with men who wanted a good wife. She prided herself on her intuition about which couples would fall in love and marry for more than need. As a mail order bride herself, she knew the pitfalls of the process and she understood the worries and concerns of the women traveling west. Giving the women a place to stay while they learned how to properly run a home in the west, she worked tirelessly to find the perfect match for each woman who sought her services.

Susannah plays a role in each story, but each couple she puts together has their own story that needs to be told. The love story of Delilah Waterford and Ethan Townsend is found in Book Eight of the series and was just released in mid-February. Here's an excerpt where Susannah has set up the perfect situation for Delilah and Ethan to meet.


“Hello?” Susannah called out as she reached the large barn. The doors were open, but it was difficult to tell if anyone was in the big building or not. 

Almost immediately a young gentleman stepped out from the shadows. He had a soft grin as he fixed his rolled-up sleeves. His pants were covered in hay and there was something splattered on his shoulder but she didn’t want to think about what that might be. But no matter how quickly he had grown up, Susannah would know Judge Townsend’s son anywhere. “Good afternoon,” he offered politely. “How might we be of service?”

She beamed at his manners. “You might not remember me. I’m Mrs. Jessup, the sheriff’s wife. Why, I haven’t seen you in years, young man. I could hardly believe it when the pastor told me you had returned home already. It looks as though you’re finished with school.”

“Yes,” he nodded. “Indeed, I’m finished,” his eyes already beginning to wander. But not far, she noticed. Lemondrop was breathing on her back which meant Delilah had to be close by. Ethan’s eyes drifted from hers to her left shoulder, where Delilah must be standing. Or hiding, as she tended to do when she was feeling shy. “And I think I remember you. But…”

Lemondrop snorted and Susannah jumped, her stomach tightening. She laughed it off immediately and moved out of the way, further from Lemondrop and to allow Ethan to see who Delilah was. The lovely young woman clung to Lemondrop’s bridle tightly with both hands with a lowered gaze. Though she was getting better at being less shy, Susannah hoped she was just doing this because Ethan was so handsome. 

Turning to Delilah’s other side, away from the horse, the woman nudged her lightly. “My apologies,” she began graciously. “How rude of me for not introducing the two of you. Mr. Ethan Townsend, this is Miss Delilah Waterford. She is a guest at my home and has been for the last few months, having come all the way from Philadelphia. Delilah, this is Mr. Townsend. His father is the judge, so he works closely with my husband. I knew Ethan before he left for school in New Orleans. Now, it would appear, we have two veterinarians in Rocky Ridge.”

Her ward and the young man offered shy and brief greetings before Susannah turned the attention to the horse. Lemondrop was more than happy for the attention. 

“So what’s the problem with your horse, Mrs. Jessup?” Ethan spoke to Susannah, but looked over at Delilah as he waited for her response.

“Well, she seems to have trouble chewing. I don’t see it all the time, but sometimes she seems to move her mouth funny. I know that sounds odd, but I just want to make sure this isn’t a warning of something bigger.” Susannah blinked quickly and took a deep breath hoping she’d be able to keep her ruse going long enough.

“Let me take a look.” Ethan leaned in and pulled back Lemondrop’s upper lip on one side and then the other. The horse snorted lightly at the intrusion, but she kept her feet still. “Hmm. I’d expect to see something wrong with her teeth or some sign of an injury, but there’s nothing there.”

Susannah smiled and nodded, expecting to hear this assessment. “Well, that’s good news, then. Do you think she’ll be fine, then?”

“Yes, ma’am. It’s likely nothing since she doesn’t appear to be not eating.” Ethan looked at Susannah and then back at Delilah.

Realizing his interest was piqued by the girl, she did her best to bring Delilah into the conversation. “Delilah, here, is crazy about this horse. And of course, Lemondrop loves her, too. You’ve enjoyed learning to ride, haven’t you, Delilah?” 

Poor thing, she was still so reserved and shy. While Delilah had made leaps and bounds in the way of being social, introductions to a new person always took a while to take root. Her cheeks stained bright pink, she nodded.

“It’s nice to know you enjoy riding, Miss Waterford.” Ethan smiled at Delilah, seeming happy to have an opportunity to speak to her. “Riding is one of my favorite pastimes. Especially with the mountains as a backdrop.”

“I imagine so. It is quite lovely here.” Delilah’s voice only trembled with her first few words. That was a small triumph.

Susannah watched the interaction thoughtfully, thinking these two just might fancy each other if they were to meet often enough. Ethan certainly seemed taken with her and that was half the battle. Realizing they needed to be on their way back home, she wrapped her shawl tighter as she turned to leave.

“Thank you for stopping in. I think your Lemondrop is just fine and she’s a lovely horse. And farewell, Miss Waterford!” He added just loud enough to be heard.

It made Susannah smile. She glanced over at Delilah surreptitiously and winked as the girl’s cheeks began to flush again. “He’s a good man,” she offered lightly, trying not to sound pushy or like there was already a plan in place to bring the two of them together. “He’s always been very kind, and I was told he was very smart. I’m good friends with his mother, after all.” It would only work, of course, if both parties were interested. 

“Are you?” Delilah responded softly as though she was trying not to sound too interested.

“I am,” she nodded and decided to leave it at that. Leaving the young girl to her thoughts, Susannah ran over the conversation in her mind and tried to review what had happened. If her instincts were correct—and they usually were—Ethan was definitely intrigued by the light blonde-haired girl. And she dearly hoped that she was right about Delilah as well. There had been something there, she was certain of it.

If you'd like to read the complete story, you can find Delilah and Ethan on Amazon.


Annie Boone writes sweet western historical romance with a happy ending guaranteed in every single story. Inspiration comes in many forms and Annie finds more than one way to make her stories entertain and inspire.

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