A Bride In Search of Hope (Preview)

Chapter One


Izzy laid carefully on her belly to reach under the bed for her mother’s medicine chest. She hadn’t needed to use it since Pa passed, but she knew there should be a bottle of glycerin within, which would stick to her throat like molasses. Just like the honey pot, the bottle was empty.

Darn it. 

Now she’d have to go and fetch honey because it was quicker than going to town. She’d seen a beehive just the other day as she picked morel mushrooms from under a stand of poplar trees. She’d been sure to remember the location of the hive because it was almost mid-May, and the morels would soon be gone if they weren’t already.

The hollow had been way above head height, but she’d hooked plenty of honeycombs in her time, so this should be no different. She spotted it just ahead and looked around the forest floor for a large enough stick with which to poke it.

Izzy bent down to pick up a likely candidate and started to cough again, her stomach muscles contracting painfully. Straightening, she held her stomach and gave into the hacking that had kept her awake from the early hours of the morning. She’d been taking honey to soothe her throat, in ever-increasing amounts, until she’d emptied the pot and needed to get more.

The same had happened when Pa got sick. The cough had been incessant, and he was doubled up in pain. But neither honey nor a cool cloth on his forehead nor whispered prayers could have saved him from the cholera that took him mid-winter, just a few months before in January. Her throat tightened, and she wondered if it would ever not hurt as much as it did now.

Now, girl, no tears.

Pa had told her that when he was dying, and she repeated it to herself any time she became aware of her thoughts heading backward instead of forward. Movement forward, away from loss, was slow progress at times, but concentrating on what she needed to do that day kept her thoughts focused. Right now, she needed to get more honey to ease her cough.

Scouring the ground, Izzy found a long branch that should more than reach the nest, broke off some of the smaller branches, and lifted it against her shoulder. She crossed to the base of the tree and looked upwards. The buzzing of the bees was different from the other day, it was louder, more urgent, and the bees flying around the hive were agitated, diving in and out rapidly.

That’s different.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, a memory of walking in the forest with Pa came to mind. He’d showed her a beehive hanging from a tree branch and told her to stop and listen. He explained that when the bees were loud, sounding angry, there was something wrong inside the hive. The queen might be sick, or she might have left.

If the queen was dead or gone, the worker bees would no longer be as productive. Izzy knew that meant less honey, but as she’d gone through a pot in just a few days, she was going to need as much as she could get. Lifting the branch, she tried to steady it enough to lay it against the tree trunk before she touched the hive. But it was longer than anticipated, and it waved around wildly in her hands, the bees bombarding it as they continued to buzz frantically.

I’m going to have to climb up.

Ma had always joked that Pa wanted a boy, that was why he’d taught Izzy to climb trees, and if she let him, he’d dress her in a shirt and overalls just like him. Izzy, as she looked for a suitable foothold in the tree, was glad to be wearing Pa’s old shirt and overalls, as it made the task ahead much easier.

She could also fish, hunt, build a fire, and make shelter. Izzy, in her childish mind, had wanted to make Pa love her more than any boy and had soaked up everything he showed her. Pleased with himself, Pa would tell Ma what a good boy Izzy made, but Ma made sure her daughter was equally skilled at using what nature provided to feed, treat, and care for herself.

Izzy smiled to herself as she climbed and perched on the branch just above the top of the nest. Ma would have a fit to see her so high, but Pa would be laughing and telling her not to worry, that he’d taught his girl well. Slipping the knife out of its pouch on the belt she wore around her waist, Izzy inched toward the trunk and looped one arm around it. She leaned forward carefully and slowly. She started to slide the blade around the edge of the hollow in the tree to loosen the honeycomb from the nest. The bees buzzed furiously around her hand and arm, but she ignored them and continued to work.

There was just the bottom bit to pry loose now, and Izzy hugged the branch with her thighs as she felt another coughing fit coming on.

Everything seemed so much harder when she felt poorly. 

Once it had passed, she loosened her hold on the trunk so that she could stretch just a little bit more. Her fingertips slipped across a patch of lichen, and as much as she squeezed her legs, the momentum of her body caused her to tip forward, heading straight for the ground.

The fall was brief, but as Izzy lay on her back, the air completely knocked from her body, the bees’ buzzing rose to a buzzing whine, filling her brain. Turning her head carefully to the side, Izzy realized the whole nest had come loose and lay right next to her head. The nest had broken apart, and who knew how many very angry bees were pouring out of it.

Ignoring her body’s urgent need to fill her lungs with air, Izzy closed her eyes and mouth and held her breath as she rolled quickly away from the swarm. The sharp stick of their pointed barbs on her face and neck was replaced by the pressure of the uneven forest floor as she moved from her back to her front, then her back, sharp stones and twigs digging into her already tender stomach and back.

Only when her lungs were burning from lack of oxygen did she stop her tumbling and lay on her front, gasping for air. Minutes passed, and from her resting place, she watched as the bees executed random paths in the air, disoriented and confused. Izzy knew how they felt. Their home, as they knew it, was no longer the same, their queen was gone, and everything changed. Her home, as she knew it, without Pa was no longer the same, his queen had gone years before, and Izzy remembered in his final fevered hours his calls for release.

Eventually, the swarm dissipated, and there were only solitary worker bees returning from their morning’s work collecting pollen, only to find the hive broken apart on the forest floor. A coughing fit overcame her, and as she sat up, she was reminded of the reason she was here, to get honey. Once she’d recovered sufficiently, Izzy stood and collected as much of the honeycomb as she could, wrapping it in a muslin square she pulled from the pocket of her overalls.

Reaching her cabin, Izzy scraped the surface sweetness into the pot and left the remainder to stand in a dish. She took several spoons of the honey and waited for it to do its work. The stings around her ears and under her chin were the most sore and taking a quick peek in her mother’s cracked vanity mirror, she winced at the swelling and angry crimson around each sting. Honey would do just as good a job of soothing her skin as her throat, she knew. However, as the sun moved across the sky, her body was racked with continual hacking, and she knew the honey wasn’t going to cut it.

As much as she tried to avoid it, she was going to have to go to town.


Several weeks had passed since Izzy last needed to go to town for supplies. As she’d been taught, she made do with what the land provided, what she could hunt in the woods, pick from the bushes, catch in the river or grow on the land and only purchasing what was absolutely necessary. And when it came to buying anything from the grocery or drugstore, she usually traded something she’d made. With Mr. Farber, the pharmacist, it was usually a measure or six of her father’s moonshine, so that was what she carried with her as she entered the store, coughing and spluttering.

She faced the door and was sure to cover her mouth with the back of her hand until she was able to get control of herself. She turned to see the distaste on their faces and wondered what was so horrible. She turned to see what had them so scared. But there was no one behind her, and she knew then it was her.

“Good morning, Mr. Farber.” Izzy slid her eyes from the gathered few to the proprietor.

“Mommy, what’s wrong with her face?” A child peered around her mother, his eyes wide.

Izzy smiled. The boy reminded Izzy of herself, asking questions without a filter. And he was quite right, too. She probably looked a fright with the red stings on her face. The air in the store was warm, and the stings on her neck were hot and itchy, but she tried not to scratch them.

Izzy wished she’d thought to cover up, but only her high-necked dress would have hidden the welts. It had been three months and two days since she last wore one at Pa’s funeral, and it hadn’t occurred to her she’d need to hide herself away. From their reaction, though, they clearly wished she was anywhere but here. Izzy wanted to be somewhere else too, but she’d come for a reason.

She was normally fighting fit, the picture of health, but she needed some glycerin from the store to make a tincture to soothe her cough. Izzy had a lot of books on the body, how it worked, and nature’s remedies, but occasionally she needed modern medicine.

“Mr. Farber, I need to have this bottle of glycerin refilled, please.”

Reaching into her old leather satchel that Ma had carried her books to school in, she pulled out first the empty bottle and held it out toward the pharmacist. He slowly came out from behind the counter and took it gingerly in his fingertips.

He made quick work of unstopping the empty bottle, sticking a metal funnel in its neck and topping it up from his stock. In the meantime, Izzy reached into the bag and pulled out one of the two other bottles she had brought, hoping that he would accept just the one for payment. Mr. Farber was a kind man and had sent a tincture when Pa was ill, but his nose wrinkled as if he smelled something unpleasant when he handed the now full bottle back to her.

“How much of Pa’s moonshine would you take for payment, sir?”

“The cheek of the girl,” one of the women gasped. “I do hope you’re going to make her pay with money, Mr. Farber. The notice on your door clearly says no trade, no barter, no credit.”

Mr. Farber’s face paled before coloring up so red that he looked like he was going to burst. The man’s nostrils flared as his eyes flicked from Izzy and her bottle of moonshine, to which he was quite partial usually he’d once confided in Pa, to his other customers. Izzy recognized he was angry, but she couldn’t think what had made him so. Pa had traded it with him for medicine, when necessary, for many years.

Izzy looked over her shoulder and the women, who at least now were focusing their disdain on someone else.

“Now then, young lady,” Mr. Farber came back around the counter to take Izzy by the back of her overalls, speaking loudly.

Once they were outside, with the door firmly closed, Izzy turned to face the chemist. She’d never paid any attention to the notice on the door before.

“I can’t have one rule for you and insist everyone else pay in cash.”

Izzy straightened her back. “It’s how my family has always done business with you, sir.”

“Well, things change. You, of all people, should know that. I will trade, but this will be the last time.”

He reached out to take the bottle of moonshine from her.

“Consider your credit closed, Izzy,” he called over his shoulder before he disappeared back into the drugstore, the door firmly closed.

Credit closed?

Pa had been a well-respected member of the community, and the townsfolk had always been pleased to pass the time of day with him, shake his hand, and enquire after his family. As he lay dying, he promised her the town would take care of her because they were kind and caring.

That wasn’t what Izzy had experienced at all since he had passed. Pa’s promise had been broken, and she was starting to realize maybe Pa wasn’t as well thought of as he’d believed.


Izzy needed to find strength if she was going to continue to live there. There was always a way around any problem if you worked hard and had faith. She stopped by the church on her way out of town to say a prayer and light a candle, and possibly seek reassurance from the pastor. She needed to know that she was still a welcome member of the congregation, still a child of God and equal in His eyes, even if other doors were being firmly closed to her.

The small stone-built church was empty of other worshippers and the pastor, so she knelt quickly at the altar to give her praise. As she was lighting a candle, the doors opened, and Izzy heard female voices already in conversation. Still wary after her experience in the drugstore and aware that her appearance might not be appropriate in the House of the Lord, she ducked behind a stone pillar before she was seen.

Izzy knew that eavesdroppers would never hear good of themselves, but to find herself the subject of robust gossip was completely unexpected. She recognized the strident voice of the pastor’s wife as she spoke.

“The Jones girl is just about feral, so Mrs. Leahy just informed me. Just the other week, she tried to pay her debts in the grocery store with wild mushrooms. Today, she turned up at the drugstore, demanding free drugs from poor Mr. Farber and looking like she’d been dragged through a hedge backward, in men’s clothes, spreading germs everywhere, swigging from a bottle of moonshine. Drinking to forget her problems.”

Izzy felt as if she’d been slapped about the face, her cheeks warm as the blood coursed through her veins.

What problems? The only problem she had was with the way people were talking about her.

“Her father would be turning in his grave,” another voice chimed in.

“If only it were marked,” replied the pastor’s wife, reverently lowering her voice just a little as if recognizing it was cruel to speak ill of the dead. “It was a blessing he was taken by cholera and had to be cremated. Imagine a pauper’s funeral instead.”

How dare they? 

Izzy peered around the pillar, ready to challenge the woman, when she saw who was with the pastor’s wife, apart from a few members of the church committee. Paul, the pastor’s son, and Izzy’s lifelong friend, nodded along with everyone else. A tickle started in Izzy’s throat, and rather than give herself away, she pressed her lips together in an attempt to keep the barking inside. The conversation turned to church matters, but the cough built so much that Izzy had no choice but to let it out.

The conversation stopped, and Izzy heard the pastor’s wife call out.

“Who’s there?”

Izzy looked for a way to escape and disappeared through the partly open door to the sacristy and out of the church before she was discovered.


Outside, Izzy struggled to control the cough, letting it out only in small bursts as she crossed the graveyard to the far side, where she stopped before a rough-hewn cross. Only her mother’s name was carved into the stone, and tears pricked her eyes as she remembered those words.

“If only it were marked.”

Izzy looked at the surrounding gravestones, some with quotes from the Bible, some with sentimental messages, and then at her parents’. When Ma died, Pa could only afford to have thirteen characters chiseled—B Jones 1847-79.

Not enough money to tell the world Ma’s full name was Beth Ann Jones, that she was a beloved wife and mother, nor that God had taken her to be his Angel.

When Pa had died, Izzy had bartered and traded everything she could just to get her father given a Christian burial, and that was only ashes left from the pyre way out of town where cholera victims were burned. There was no recognition of Pa’s life lived, no mark of his passing either. She had enough memories to last her lifetime and beyond, forever in her heart.

She took a deep, slow breath so as not to trigger a cough, when she heard someone clear their throat behind her. Stiffening, she spun around, coming face to face with Paul. He looked so tall and strong now. He was a man, no longer a boy. His dark curls had been cut short and were controlled by oil. She could see the shine. His eyes were as bright a blue as she’d ever seen, and his fine features gave him an air of elegance.

Had he come looking for her? But the way he looked warily over his shoulder, as if he might be seen with her, told her that wasn’t the case.

Why didn’t he stand up for me? Why didn’t he defend me?

Izzy would normally feel relaxed in his presence. They knew each other well or had at least up until Pa got sick. Paul had offered her a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear, but where before he might have put his arm around her, he held himself aloof as if things had changed. She wished she knew what that was.

In her heart of hearts, she had secretly hoped he would one day pluck up the courage to ask her father for her hand in marriage. She’d even talked about it to her mother when she came to visit her grave. Of course, it was only a dream. And, of course, Paul didn’t know that. He hadn’t done so before Pa died, and now this distance between them was wider than ever. She remembered he’d been in the church and heard exactly what his mother and her friends had said.

As Izzy held his gaze, Paul’s cheeks colored, and his eyes slid away.

“Are we still friends, Paul?” The question fell from her lips, determined to know even if it hurt to hear the answer. She wanted to know if he cared for her at all.

Looking miserable, his head dropped, and his words were addressed to the ground.

“Mother told me to stay away from you.”

“Why are you here then?” Paul was a good boy, and he always did what his mother told him to do, but she still didn’t understand what had changed.

He finally lifted his chin and met her eyes. “I’m leaving, Izzy.”

Izzy sucked in a breath as her stomach sank. “Where are you going?”

“To the seminary school in San Francisco. The semester doesn’t start until September, but I can work with the local churches there and help.”

While Izzy had kept her dream to herself, Paul had never stopped talking about his desire to follow in his father’s footsteps. It was no secret that he would go to seminary school and then raise his own congregation somewhere.

Izzy’s right hand went to the base of her throat, her fingers sliding the tiny cross along the fine silver chain. It felt like the earth beneath her feet was shifting, things were changing again, and another person she cared for would be gone from her life. Her other dream of being as happy as Ma and Pa was slipping through her fingers.

“When will you be back?” she asked, knowing from their previous discussions that it would be at least three years.

“I don’t know, Izzy.” Paul’s fingers twisted over each other as he held his hands in front of him. “Romney, West Virginia is too small for me, Izzy. If I come back here, I’d forever be in my father’s shadow. I’ll finish school and look for a church out West.”

Izzy’s throat tickled, and as much as she wanted it to be a cough this time, she feared it was the prickle of tears, and she lowered her gaze a little. Her future seemed to be unraveling before it had been written, and the thought of losing Paul scared her.

“You should think about leaving too. There’s nothing here for you anymore.”

In spite of everything that had happened today, Izzy’s heart rose in hope. Paul might still ask her to go with him, to move to California. She met his earnest gaze and waited for him to speak those words, but they never came.

And there was no way she was going to ask him to take her.

“Goodbye, Izzy.” Paul smiled, and Izzy couldn’t place if it was a smile full of sadness at leaving or pity that she was staying.

Always another turn of the page, Izzy. 

Ma had read one chapter of a story to her at a time as a child, and Izzy always wanted to know what was next. Paul had just finished his part in her story, and she was scared that if she turned the page now, it would be blank.

With Paul gone, there was nobody else she could count on, especially as people had turned against her. He was right, there was nothing here for her, and very soon, if she was unable to barter or trade anymore, she wouldn’t be able to survive. And now that she had seen how cold people could be, how cruel their words and actions, Izzy didn’t want to be a part of it.

The future she had imagined was never going to be. It was time to rewrite her life.

Always another turn of the page.

Chapter Two


Mrs. James Bowson.

Or would Olivia Howden become Mrs. Bo Bowson, seeing as that’s what everybody called him?

Bo tried the title out in his head as he approached the two women already seated at the dining table. Olivia sat with her back toward him, but her mother’s eyes widened at his approach, and she nodded her head slightly to the left as if to indicate to her daughter that he was coming. Mrs. Howden smoothed her hair and smiled warmly as Bo stopped at the side of the table, and nodded first to her and then to Olivia, who glanced up at him from beneath slightly lowered eyelids.

Mrs. Olivia Bowson.

“Mrs. Howden, it is my sincere pleasure to welcome you to Missoula and to see you both in good health.” The older woman held out her gloved hand, and Bo wondered fleetingly if she was expecting him to kiss it or shake it.

He settled on shaking, and he turned to Olivia, who similarly held out her hand. He had no hesitation in taking her hand and pressing a kiss to the back.

“Miss Howden.”

Olivia smiled sweetly but did not speak, and Bo wondered if she was shy. He didn’t remember that about her when they first met some months ago, in the Howden’s hometown of San Francisco. He’d been sent there on business by his father and had spent several afternoons in the two women’s company. Then, she’d been talkative, confident, and full of life.

“May I?” Bo nodded his head toward the empty place setting at the table, and a waiter appeared to pull the chair out for him. “The food here is excellent, although we don’t have quite the choice of fresh fish and seafood that you have in San Francisco.”

They spent a few minutes making small talk about the journey, and Bo remembered his earlier conversation with his best friend, Devon. He’d asked why the Howdens happened to come to Missoula. After all, nobody came to Missoula on anything other than business, and that Bo should enquire as to what ‘business’ Mother Howden had in mind.

Bo had dismissed Devon’s comment with a laugh and told his friend that the family was clearly of independent means, having traveled widely across the southern states. In fact, he had been excited to learn that Olivia would be in town. It was his first chance to forge a relationship with someone outside of his parents’ control. If there was a connection there, then Bo would know Olivia had free choice.

But now, in a restaurant full of wealthy locals and men discussing nothing but business proceedings, he felt obliged to ask.

“What brings you to Montana?” Bo smiled, looking from one woman to the other, and he intercepted a look between them, after which it was almost like Olivia transformed from shy and quiet to the lively girl he’d encountered.

“Mama’s recovering from a particular bad chill, Mr. Bowson. I remember you telling us how clear the mountain air was in Montana. We just had to come and see it for ourselves.” Bo watched the young lady carefully and enjoyed the sparkle in her eyes. This was the girl he remembered.

“I hope Montana agrees with you, Mrs. Howden, and you find yourself fully recovered after your trip. What’s your next destination after Missoula?”

“We thought we’d base ourselves here, get to know the area, take some outings. Can you recommend a reputable guide?” Olivia asked and fixed Bo with the most direct look, and an alarm went off in the back of his mind.

This was behavior he recognized; he’d been on the end of it before from the young ladies in his social circle. There was an intensity to their gazes, which asked a question and demanded an answer all at once. He knew now what kind of ‘business’ both Mrs. and Miss Howden had in mind, the marrying kind.

Before he started to paint Olivia with the same brush that he applied liberally to girls of marrying age in his acquaintance, he admitted that he had been thinking exactly the same thing as he approached the dining table.

But now that Devon had put the suspicion in his mind that they had come all this way in the hope of a fiscally beneficial marriage, the idea of marrying Olivia no longer held the excitement it had earlier. This was just a different version of his parents trying to fix him up with girls, thinking they knew what was best for him, only this time, it was Olivia’s mother.

There was a ready supply of girls who would gladly become Mrs. James Bowson. After all, his family was one of the richest and most prominent in Missoula. Who wouldn’t want to marry him? He was attractive, he was rich, and he stood to inherit a thriving business once his father retired. He was a catch.

His parents thought it was their job to arrange for him to be married suitably. After all, they had an image to uphold, their place in the town’s hierarchy to maintain. They stepped in to stop any romantic attachments Bo might want to form. It was like they didn’t think he was capable of making the right decision when really the only decision should be about love.

“Shall we order?” Bo pulled his thoughts back to his dinner guests and answered the ladies’ questions on what he recommended from the menu.

The waiter took their orders, and suddenly Bo found himself short of words. What did one talk about that wasn’t business-related? He didn’t know Olivia well enough to ask anything personal, and besides, her mother was with them. They had no shared history other than a few hours taking tea and walking through the most popular parts of San Francisco.

As if sensing some tension, Mrs. Howden prompted her daughter into another generic conversation and a well-aimed kick of her foot. Unfortunately, she kicked Bo instead, and he was too polite to say anything. Olivia, not receiving the signal from her mother, returned to her taciturn self, and they sat in silence, waiting for their starter to arrive.

Was Olivia being forced into this by her mother?

Bo looked around the room and exchanged a nod and a smile with some of the other dinner guests that he knew, and then he saw who had just arrived. His parents. Of course, they were dining here, it was the best restaurant in town, but he hadn’t thought that far ahead when he’d made the reservation for three. He had already made excuses for not being able to join them for dinner that evening. His father said it was business, but Bo knew it was probably just another attempt to try and fix him up with someone else’s daughter. Bo had told them he was going out with Devon to a long-standing appointment, and he was about to be caught on the spot if he didn’t think of a way to get out of this.

He knew his father would make a point of stopping by as many tables on the way to his own to make nice with the locals, and if his father had booked their usual table in one of the private dining rooms, his parents were going to walk right by him.

Bo slipped a little lower in his chair in an attempt to hide behind Mrs. Howden, who wore a very large and very attention-grabbing hat at the table. Olivia had told him when they met in San Francisco that her mother was a milliner by trade and loved to showcase her talents, for want of a better phrase.

His father was already scanning the room to see who he would grace with his presence first, and Bo saw him frown as if he’d seen something he was displeased with. Bo knew his behavior looked bizarre, and indeed, Olivia leaned toward him slightly and asked in an undertone if he was unwell.

Bo leaned closer to Olivia and encouraged her to move closer so that he could talk to her quietly. It provided a little more cover, even if it did give the young woman and her mother the wrong impression; he wasn’t that interested in her, but it would seem that he was.

Over his shoulder, he saw his parents heading their way, and he waited until the very last moment to accidentally knock his fork off the table and then practically dove out of his seat to retrieve it, hoping his parents would walk right by.

“Son?” Bo felt something knock the back of his chair, and he could only assume his father had placed his hand somewhat heavily on its back. “What are you doing?”

Straightening, Bo took in Olivia and Mrs. Howden, preening slightly and clearly waiting to be formally introduced, and a look of puzzlement on his mother’s face and a frown on his father’s.

“Good evening, Mother, Father.”

Taking in Bo’s company with a sweeping look, his father put his usual smile back in place and addressed Mrs. Howden directly.

“You’ll forgive me, Mrs.—” His father paused, and Bo gave the name. “Mrs. Howden and Miss Howden?”

Mrs. Howden nodded, and he continued.

“Would you be so kind as to spare my son? An associate has come to town unexpectedly and invited us to discuss business, and I need James’ acumen to close the deal. I apologize for any disappointment this may cause.” He bowed low, and both women simpered. “Son.”

His father was already pulling the chair out from beneath him, and Bo had no choice but to stand up. He dared not make a fuss in front of the diners, even though he was angry. His father always disregarded Bo’s plans and decisions, his wants and wishes, and believed as his father, that his way was the right way, the only way.

Bo wished he had the guts to stand up to him, to tell him that he had already made plans, but that would embarrass his father, make him look bad, and that wasn’t how it worked.

“My sincere apologies, Mrs. Howden, Olivia. I will pay for dinner, naturally. and I hope to be able to spend time with you while you’re here in Missoula.” Bo stood and kissed both of their hands but looked directly at his father just to subtly push home the message that he could make his own choices, but not long enough to earn any more of his disapproval.

Bo followed his parents across the room to the private dining room, hidden from the other dinners by heavy velvet curtains. He made the mistake of glancing back at their table before the curtain fell, and disappointingly, Olivia wasn’t looking after him with sad eyes. She was deep in animated discussion with her mother. He watched just a few moments longer to see if he could catch her eye, but the only eye she caught was that of the waiter, who took down additional requests on his order pad.

“Do your duty, Bo,” his father held him back by the arm as his wife stepped toward the table. “Don’t let your head be turned. There are plenty of rich men in San Francisco for that beautiful young woman and her money-grabbing mother to choose from.”

How the devil did his father know that much about the Howdens? He acted like he didn’t even know their name.

Bo wasn’t surprised. His father knew pretty much everyone in the town and paid very close attention to everything that happened inside and outside their family. That was how he was able to control every aspect of his life, from work to pleasure. There was no doubt his father warned him off the Howdens because, like Devon, he thought Missoula a strange town to visit in Montana when there were many other more suitable tourist destinations. He thought, again like Devon, that they were only after his money.

He pulled the chair out for his mother, who then patted the seat next to her. If it meant not having to sit next to his father, he’d happily do as he was bid.

“Bo, straighten your collar. We’re dining with the Browns, and we need to make a good impression.”

She didn’t elaborate, but Bo soon found out why. The Browns, as it turned out, were the newest and richest family about to make the move from New Orleans to Missoula. And the eldest of their three extremely pretty daughters, Tanya, was very keen to make a good impression on him.

“Mother insisted we all joined Father on this trip, seeing how we’re all moving here, not just him,” Tanya spoke quietly so as not to be overheard by her father. “I told her it wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t all get to see what our new home was going to be like. Don’t you agree, Mr. Bowson?”

“Indeed. Imagine moving all this way, only to find you weren’t happy with the city or its inhabitants.”

The Southern belle gave Bo her best guileless smile and tossed her golden ringlets. Bo, for the second time that evening, drew a direct comparison between Miss Brown and Miss Howden and the young women of his acquaintance in Missoula. It must be something that is taught to a daughter by her mother, on how best to capture a man’s attention with the smallest of movements, the briefest of looks. It didn’t seem to matter where in the country a young lady hailed from, be that Missoula, New Orleans, or San Francisco.

“I think I already like the inhabitants of Missoula,” Tanya cooed.

It was clear that Miss Brown wanted for nothing. She wore expensive clothes, wore gold jewelry, and thought nothing of ordering the most expensive items on the menu. Despite her incessant flirting, he found her New Orleans accent enchanting.

If he were being matched, it clearly wasn’t for money. Bo passed a very pleasant evening, with no difficult silences or strained conversation, and was delighted to be invited to join the family for afternoon tea in a few weeks’ time when the move had been completed, and the family was situated in Missoula.

Mr. Brown wished Bo and his parents a good evening and quietened his daughters’ and his wife’s requests to be allowed to stay out a little longer.

“We are leaving bright and early, girls, and I know morning is not your most favorite time of day. However, the train will wait for no one. Not even for you, my dear.” He lifted his wife’s hand to his lips and pressed a kiss there before turning to address Bo and his family.

“I look forward to doing business together, Bowson. Ma’am. James.”

The two men shook hands, and as they waited outside for a cab, Mr. Bowson said, “Dammit, I’ve left my wallet at the house. Bo, do you have enough to cover the fare? You know how much your mother hates to walk.”

Bo handed his father some money and kissed his mother goodnight but declined to ride home with them. It was still relatively early, and he wanted to find Devon, to talk over the events of the evening. Luckily, his friend was a reliable sort and frequented the same men’s club regularly, so he wasn’t hard to find.

As Bo entered, Devon saw him and hailed him heartily across the room, calling for the bartender to bring a fresh bottle of whisky.

“How were Mother Howden and her delightful daughter? Do I need to buy a new hat for a summer wedding?”

Bo sat down and gladly accepted the drink Devon poured. Bo recounted the embarrassment he felt at being pulled away from Olivia and her mother, only to be thrust into another marital setup with a wealthy family from the South.

“My father had just finished telling me to be wary of Olivia and, in the same breath, introduced me to a young woman who he was clearly keen to fix me up with.” Bo downed his drink and pushed his glass across the table for Devon to fill it up again.

“Poor Bo. Oh, to be so popular.” Devon grinned at his friend and raised a toast. “To Bo Bowson, the most eligible bachelor in town.”

“It’s not funny.” Bo hated it when he was teased. “Why can’t they just let me fall in love with whomever I choose to, rather than parading girl after girl in front of me?”

“Was the latest offering not to your liking?”

“On the contrary, Miss Tanya is very pretty, and she was most amiable. It was a pleasant evening.”

“Then what do you have to complain about, Bo? If it bothers you so much, just tell them no.” Devon eyed him over the top of his glass, and Bo heard a rare gravity to his friend’s voice, almost bitter. “You’re a romantic fool, James Bowson. Your father sees your marriage as a business deal, just like any other, and it’s served him well thus far, has it not? He’s worked hard for his wealth, success, and respect. Why should your marriage be any different?”

It was all right for Devon, with no parents to answer to, no care in the world, and financially independent with no need to work. He did what he wanted, when and with whom, and everyone else be damned.

“That’s easy for you to say, my friend.”

“No, no, it’s not.” Devon drained his glass and put it rather forcefully on the table. “You’re a grown man, after all. You should be free to choose who you want to spend your life with. If you want to marry whomever you please, take a stand.”

“I agree,” Bo said. “And I would, but I live in his house, I work for his business. I want for nothing, and I respect both my parents for giving me the best in life.”

As he spoke, Bo knew he was spoiled, and if he had only the fact that his parents wanted to find him a worthy wife to complain about, then he was doing pretty well.

“You can’t have it both ways, Bo. Either stand up to them or take the opportunities provided. As you say, I’m sure they’ve only got your best interests at heart, the same for Freya.” The mention of his younger sister piqued Bo’s interest, but only for a moment, before his thoughts turned back to his parents and what expectations they had for him and Miss Tanya Brown.

The Browns were to return home to New Orleans in the morning to pack up their life before moving to Missoula. Bo looked forward to seeing Tanya again and getting to know her better. Funny how life changed so quickly in the course of an evening. Miss Olivia Howden and her mother were just a distant memory, and Bo reflected on his future.

Mrs. Tanya Bowson.

“A Bride In Search of Hope” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

In the wake of losing her beloved father, Izzy Jones feels unwanted and alone in her hometown in West Virginia. In order to find a new place to call home and maybe even fall in love, she decides to travel across the country to become a mail-order bride. Yet, she quickly discovers that nothing is as she expected, and even worse, her soon-to-be husband seems to have no interest in her at all…

What is Izzy to do when the biggest decision of her life starts looking like the biggest mistake?

James ‘Bo’ Bowson has it all; a well-respected family, a luxurious house, and a job at the family firm. Even though his parents intend on marrying him off to a rich heiress, he is determined to follow his own path in life. Thus, when he first meets a beautiful woman to whom he appears to have been promised behind his back, his heart grows colder than ever. For once, Bo feels responsible for someone else’s happiness, and he is way out of his depth…

Little did he know that taking charge of his own life would make him doubt all he ever took for granted…

Bo and Izzy face a bumpy journey as they untangle their complicated feelings for each other. While Izzy is in search of family and acceptance, Bo hopes to finally break free from his parents’ control. With their fate relying on others overcoming their prejudices, can Izzy and Bo ever get the happy ending they deserve?

“A Bride In Search of Hope” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

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3 thoughts on “A Bride In Search of Hope (Preview)”

  1. Loved the story so far cannot wait to read the rest of the story too see what happens Izzy deserves someone very nice and will look after her.

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