I had great fun living the life of a mail-order bride. Vicariously, that is, through the harrowing, humorous, and heart-warming experiences of Kat Sinclair and her sister Nell. Two sisters, two missing misters, and a shocking welcome to the Wild West.
What pulls you and I toward such an outrageous scenario as a woman leaving what she knows to step into the unknown with a man she doesn’t know?
Mail-order brides represent a stalwart breed of women who exude courage, strength, and a sense of adventure. They are women seeking a new beginning, opportunities, and financial security. We gravitate toward these stories because we like meeting a gutsy woman, young or old, who has a need to be married, but doesn’t have any promising prospects in her current circumstances. Their moxie might inspire us, but we’d happily do without the desperation that drives many of them west.
Usually, the heroine is connected to a possible mate through a response to some sort of advertisement.
Wanted: A single woman who is willing to walk away from the life she knows to travel across the country or even around the world and marry a stranger. She must be willing to bear his children and take care of their home, all while causing him to grow in his affection for her.
The mail-order bride plot line is typically one in which a man living in a western country, most commonly out west in the United States, marries a woman from a depressed or oppressed country or from the male-deprived eastern United States, sight unseen. Personal advertisements for matrimony served as the link between mail-order brides and the men who sent for them.
The fellow placing the ad or responding to an ad may end up being the one the heroine marries, but what if he isn’t? What if he isn’t who he is purported to be? Or maybe it’s the heroine who wears a façade. If so, why? And where does the misleading and misgivings take the characters? I loved finding that out in Stephen Bly’s Code of the West book, It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own. .
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan is one of the most popular examples using the mail-order bride scenarios in fiction. Papa lost his wife and placed an ad in the newspaper. Easterner Sarah Elizabeth Wheaton responded, setting her adventure in the west with the widower and his two children in motion. The classic tale began as a children’s novel and emerged as a popular Hallmark television movie.
While the mail-order bride storyline is most commonly seen in historical fiction, the 1993 movie, “Sleepless in Seattle,” offered a contemporary twist on the classic story form. A motherless boy desperate to help his father find a new wife called into a radio show and told his father’s story of loss and loneliness. Letters flooded his father’s mailbox opening the door to a compelling and heart-warming romance.
In Two Brides Too Many, two of four Sinclair sisters travel west and arrive at the depot in Cripple Creek, Colorado expecting to meet the men with whom they’d corresponded. But when the ladies disembark at the train depot, neither fiance’ awaits them. The well-bred Sinclair sisters find themselves alone in the wild, frontier town—a place where fire threatens to reduce the buildings to rubble, the working women strut the streets, rogues will gamble for the shoes on one’s feet, and grace is found among the most unlikely of folks.
If you share my delight in mail-order bride stories with a twist, I hope you’ll ask your favorite bookseller for a copy of Two Brides Too Many.