Title: Dearest Darling
Author: Andrea Downing
Genre: Western Historical Romance
Stuck in a life of servitude to her penny-pinching brother, Emily Darling longs for a more exciting existence. When a packet with travel tickets, meant for one Ethel Darton, accidentally lands on her doormat, Emily sees a chance for escape. Having turned down the dreary suitors that have come her way, is it possible a new existence also offers a different kind of man?
Daniel Saunders has carved out a life for himself in Wyoming—a life missing one thing: a wife. Having scrimped and saved to bring his mail-order bride from New York, he is outraged to find in her stead a runaway fraud. Even worse, the impostor is the sister of his old enemy.
But people are not always as they seem, and sometimes the heart knows more than the head.
She liked the sound of his voice, low but not husky, a slight twang he had cultivated but not pretentiously so. When he spoke she envisaged melting caramel, something delicious, the way it could be so appealing as she stirred, with a shine and slow drip from the spoon, before it gradually solidified. Soothing. A liquid velvet. But he hadn’t spoken today. Not since he’d told her to get ready, first thing. Not through breakfast or as he helped clear, got her into the wagon.
“You haven’t seen her. You didn’t see her picture, did you?”
Emily straightened, alert. “No. No, I didn’t.” Would I understand better? Is that what he meant?
“I keep it with me. Would you like to see it?”
“No. No, you keep it, please. It won’t change anything. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for reading the letters; I should never have done that. It’s not like me. But you…well, you understand it seems.”
“I’m thinking…you’re probably wondering what I see in her. Or what she sees in me. As for that, what she sees in me, I have no idea. Maybe, like you, she wishes to get away.”
Overhead, clouds scudded, scoured the sky, leached the blue, threatened.
“Did you ever ask her?”
“I did. She never answered. I’m thinking what she sees in me is husband material. I guess. She tells me about her day, the people she knows, what she does. As you read.”
“She just seems so…so outgoing, so…so very social to ever want this life. I found it difficult to believe.”
He slapped the reins on the horse’s back. “I don’t know. I never asked her if she knew what she was getting into. I described it. I assumed if she wanted to stop the correspondence there, she would have. I was pretty durn amazed and happy she’d wanted to come, written back even though I described the cabin to her, the isolation.”
“And you think she’ll make you a perfect wife, do you? Be happy living there, cook your meals, mend your clothes, keep your cabin, have your babies?”
His head snapped around to stare at her. “She’s been writing. She hasn’t stopped.”
“Someone who goes to the opera and dines at Delmonico’s?”
“I know what she says. I read the letters, remember?”
He caught her look, no doubt. She couldn’t hide the annoyance.
“If she accepted my proposal, I have to believe her. I gave her my word, she gave me hers.” They rode a spell in silence. “I wish you could understand.”
“I do understand, Mr.Saunders.”
“For heavens’ sake. You can call me Daniel. You best call me Daniel, anyway, in town. If we’re to make out we are cousins.”
“Daniel then.” She didn’t look at him. “I understand you have given your word to this woman and I have done something wrong, something rather terrible in taking the ticket and coming here in her place. I understand you have fallen in love with her, and she with you, and I am nothing to you, something you must dispose of. But since you are…are kind—and good—you are trying to make the best of a bad situation and see I am taken care of. But also do what you must to get your money to bring her here.” She sat up straighter. “You know, it strikes me, if she dines at these fancy restaurants and goes about as wealthy people do, why hasn’t she her own money to come here? Why is that?”
His mouth gaped open for a moment. “Well. It isn’t her place to pay her own way. If I’m to marry her, I must pay her way. Of course.”
“But you have no…” It struck her then. The book. The book with Collegiate School’s bookplate. “You attended a private school, didn’t you?”
His look burnt into her, his eyes piercing her very being. “I was a charity student. Scholarship. Why? How did you know?”
“You have a book from the same school Wilfred attended. Collegiate. It struck me.”
He said nothing, gave no explanation, but his eyes narrowed and his mouth was twisted into a scowl. “Boy, you sure musta spent a great deal of time going through my things,” he said at last. “Anything else you wish to know? Anything at all?”
Ashamed, Emily sank against the backrest. She couldn’t ask. “No.”
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This multi-award-winning novella puts several twists and turns on the mail order bride trope.
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Downing currently divides her time between the canyons of city streets and the wide-open spaces of Wyoming. Her background in publishing and English Language teaching has transferred into fiction writing, and her love of horses, ranches, rodeo, and just about anything else western, is reflected in her award-winning historical and contemporary western romances. Dearest Darling, a novella, part of The Wild Rose Press Love Letters series, won Favorite Hero as well as several honorable mentions in the Maple Leaf Awards. It has also won the Golden Quill Award for Best Novella and been a finalist in the Chanticleer Short Story and Novella section.
Social Media Links:
WEBSITE AND BLOG: http://andreadowning.com
Twitter: @andidowning https://twitter.com/AndiDowning
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/Andrea-Downing/e/B008MQ0NXS/