Excerpt from THE STOLEN BRIDE by Cynthia Woolf

stolen_brideThe music was lovely, the food scrumptious, and mostly, the company was engaging, but Isabella Latham was bored. Every week was the same, visiting the New York City hospitals, taking luncheon with her mother’s friends, followed by the only thing she enjoyed. Riding hell bent for leather on her hunter, Champion. He was temperamental and barely broken to the saddle, but she loved riding him. Every Saturday she took him out for two or three hours, as long as she could get away with. The outings were the only time she felt free.

Tonight was another of Ernst and Julia Latham’s balls. Isabella had a new dress made for it. The beautiful pale pink gown of the finest silk had three rows of ruffles on the under skirt and looked wonderful with her pale skin, brandy-brown eyes and hair. The over shirt was smooth and gathered in the back over the bustle, the gathering held with ribbons of satin anchored in a choker around her neck. She had to admit the design of the dress was what drew her because the satin ribbons attached to the collar made it look like she was being strangled, when she was not. The shock she saw on people faces when they saw her in the dress was worth the cost.

The bodice was perfectly fitted over her tightest corset and showed only a bit of décolletage from the off-shoulder design.

Beautiful as it was, she hadn’t looked forward to wearing it. Isabella couldn’t breathe in the dang thing and she swore the lack of air kept her brain from functioning correctly. Otherwise she wouldn’t have just heard her father say he was announcing her engagement. To whom?

“Ladies and gentlemen, friends and colleagues, I would like to take this opportunity to announce the engagement of my daughter, Isabella, to my business associate, Mr. Sydney Rockwell.”

Her father was rather red in the face. Perhaps he’d overindulged, and that was the reason for such an announcement. Surely, her mother would take him in hand and correct this outrageous situation. But, when she looked at her mother she saw fire in her mother’s emerald eyes and a rather pained smile on Julia’s normally lovely face.

Suddenly, Sydney Rockwell, a large, fat man, who was at least three inches shorter than Bella, was at her side.

“Come, my dear, smile. It’s your engagement party after all.”

He took her, none too gently, by the elbow and guided her to where her parents stood on the bandstand.

“Smile,” he whispered and squeezed her elbow painfully.

She obeyed.

He eased his grip but didn’t let her go completely.

“We are very happy,” said Sydney to the crowd of suddenly interested people. “And we will be married in two weeks’ time at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Of course, you are all invited and I hope you will attend.”

He smiled.

“Smile, my dear,” he said out of the side of his mouth while he kept what looked to her like a maniacal grin on his face.

He again squeezed her arm.

She smiled, grimaced was more like it, but the gesture soothed him and he released her.

Hours later, the party was finally over and all the guests were gone.

“Come to the library, Isabella.” Her father made the statement with some resignation.

She followed him and found her mother there waiting.

“I know this was somewhat of a surprise,” her father began as he seated himself in the large leather chair behind the massive mahogany desk. “But you must see this through. You see, I owe Rockwell a lot of money. Money I don’t have and won’t have any time soon.”

“So you what? Sold me to him instead?”

“He wanted you and said he would cancel the debt if you became his wife. So you will marry him.”

“Regardless of the fact  he’s old enough to be my father and I find the man totally repugnant?!” Isabella paced in front of her father’s desk. He hadn’t imbibed too much. This was what he had planned for her future—marriage to the most hideous man on the planet.

“Yes, and stop shouting.” Her father shouted back. Then he said in a calmer voice, “You will maintain a dignified tone when speaking to me, or you will not speak.”

Isabella closed her eyes and took as deep and calming a breath as her corset would allow her.  “So, my feelings in this matter mean nothing?”

He steepled his hands on top of the desk. “No. They do not. You will do as you are told.”

“May I leave now?”

“Yes.” Her father waved her away. “Go to your room.”

Her mother had said nothing during the exchange. Isabella looked over at her. But her mother didn’t look back. How could she let him do this? She knew her parents weren’t close. In fact, she was surprised they remained married but this, this complete betrayal by her mother surprised her.

“And you, Mother? You go along with this…atrocity?”

Her mother did not look at Isabella. “Yes. Go to your room. I’ll come help you remove your dress shortly.”

“Don’t bother. Lucy will help me.”

“I gave Lucy the night off. She’s visiting her sister in New York.”

Isabella nodded curtly and left the room. She managed to keep her back stick-straight until she closed the door to the library behind her. Then she sagged against it. How could her parents do this to her? Sell her, and to Sydney Rockwell, of all people.

She lifted her skirts and ran from the library all the way up the stairs to her room, where she threw herself face first on the bed and cried. Isabella had never felt so betrayed in her life.

A while later, she didn’t know how much time had passed, she heard the door open and then close with a click.

“Bella, my sweet darling. I’m sorry Ernst has done this. I couldn’t stop what happened tonight, but listen to me for I might have found a way out of this marriage. I won’t let you marry that evil man. It’s said he bought his wife at fourteen from her father and she committed suicide to escape him. Personally, I believe he murdered her. Either way, he’s a depraved man.”

Isabella, Bella to those who loved her, raised her head, her eyes gritty from crying and then sat up on the side of the bed.

“How? How can I get out of this?”

“Here, read this.”

Her mother handed over a clipping from the newspaper out of the envelope she carried, and sat next to her.

Bella looked at the piece of paper—an ad for mail-order brides.

Wanted. Upstanding women for marriage to like-minded men in the West. Ranchers, miners and other professional men in the Montana Territory await you. Apply to Matchmaker & Co., Mrs. Maggie Black at the Golden, Colorado office or Miss Susan Wyatt at the New York office.

She let the paper drop and turned toward her mother. “How will this help me?”

Excerpt from THE REPLACEMENT BRIDE by Cynthia Woolf

9781938887734CHAPTER 1

March 15, 1873

Jesse Donovan read the letter from his fiancée Rebecca Jane Flynn twice and still didn’t believe it. Finally he read it out loud.

March 6, 1873

Dear Jesse,

I know we were planning on being married when I came out to Hope’s Crossing in a few weeks. But, I can’t. I simply cannot give up living in New York City for some tiny town in the middle of nowhere in the Montana Territory. Do stores exist there or do you have to grow your own food? Can you actually see me scratching around in the dirt trying to plant seeds?

I’ve decided to stay in New York and marry Simon Coleridge. He may not have as much money as you now do, but he can keep me in the style I want to be kept. I hope you’ll find some nice woman who won’t mind living in a little town and getting her hands dirty.

Perhaps you can get a mail-order bride. Several agencies here in New York provide that service. The best known one is Matchmaker & Co. I’ve included a clipping from the newspaper with their advertisement.

Good luck, and have a happy life.

Rebecca Jane

Jesse crumpled the paper in his hand and threw it across the room. Then he slumped down into his chair and covered his face with his hands. Anger pushed through. He stood up and kicked the chair. Love isn’t real. Didn’t Rebecca Jane just prove that? He loved her and she dumped him like so much trash. That would never happen again.

He looked down at the clipping that had fallen onto the table when he opened the letter. He still needed a wife and a hostess. A mail-order bride? Him? He wouldn’t have to worry about love and Sam Longworth, the sheriff, had done all right. Jo was a beautiful woman who could cook, clean and hunt with Sam, both people and animals. Jo was a bounty hunter before she married Sam but she didn’t tell him until she had to when one of her bounties escaped and came after her.

Seems, if he remembered correctly, Sam had used this same mail-order bride company but not the one out of New York. Guess he better go talk to Sam…or Jo. She might be the one to ask about the brides that these places have.

With a shake of his head, Jesse picked up and read the advertisement.

Are you lonely? Looking for a wife to help you and care for you. Someone to have your children and keep your home. Apply at Matchmaker & Co. 221 Baker Avenue, New York City, New York or 467 10th Street, Golden, Colorado. Send your inquiries to the attention of Mrs. Maggie Black.

The office in Golden was closer, so Jesse would write to that one…after he talked to Jo.

He walked down to Sam and Jo’s house, next to the jail. Jesse heard a commotion on the other side of the door and wondered if he should knock but he did anyway.

Moments later the door opened and Jo Longworth stood there with a crying baby in her arms.

“Oh, Jesse. Just the person I need.”

She thrust the crying baby at him then hurried into the kitchen.

Jesse jostled the infant to quiet his crying. “Shh, now you’re fine.”

The baby stared wide-eyed at him.

Jesse followed Jo to the kitchen. “Hello, Paul.” Jesse crooned to the baby. “What’s the matter? Is your mama being mean to you? Hmm?”

“No,” came the reply from the kitchen. “I’m not being mean to him. He needs changing, and I have to get the clothes off the line before he can have a clean diaper. Hold him for a bit, will you?”

“Sure. Holding him reminds me of caring for my baby sisters and brothers.”

Jesse sat at the table and held little Paul with his hands cupped around the baby’s head and the child’s feet at Jesse’s elbows, His body cradled and protected from the hard wood by Jesse’s arms.

Jo came back inside with a basket full of clean dry clothes. Her pretty blond hair in a bun at her nape, but wisps of hair escaped framing her face in long curls. She was tall and had pretty blue eyes. If he found someone as pretty as Jo, he’d be a lucky man.

“I’ll take him now. As soon as I change him you can have him back. He does seem to love you so.”

She pulled two diapers off the top, and laid a towel on the table. Then she came over to Jesse and Paul, picking up the baby and changing his diaper on the towel.

“I have a way with babies and small children.” But not with women.

“Indeed you do. But you didn’t come all this way to take care of Paul for me. What can I do for you? Would you like a cup of coffee?” She jutted her chin toward the stove.

Jo gave Paul back to Jesse and then tackled the folding of the clothes in the basket.

“Yes, coffee would be good.”

With the baby in his arms he angled his head and looked at Jo.

“Why did you become a mail-order bride? You’re a beautiful woman. You could have your choice of men.”

“I take it you think I’m not good enough,” said Sam as he entered from the living room.

“No, it’s not that.” He didn’t want to tell them but he decided he should. “You might as well know. Rebecca Jane has decided to marry someone else and stay in New York City. She didn’t want to come to the wilds of Montana and Hope’s Crossing.”

Jo came over and hugged him around the shoulders, while he sat holding her son. “You deserve better than some rich hoity-toity woman, but I’m so sorry anyway.”

Jesse shrugged. “Don’t be. I’ll just get a replacement.”

Sam, tall, with brown hair and mustache, raised his eyebrows. “A replacement…bride?”

“That’s right. I’m sending for a mail-order bride. Like Jo.”

“Like…Jo?” repeated Sam, glancing toward his wife.

“Yes.” Jesse noticed a disbelieving tone to Sam’s voice. “Is there something wrong?”

“You do realize how lucky I was to get Jo?” asked Sam.

“He can be just as lucky,” said Jo as she went back to folding her laundry. “Are you using the same company? Matchmaker & Co? Mrs. Black is very good and she’ll make sure you are who and what you say you are before she sends one of her ladies.”

Sam grinned. “She’s not as cautious with the girls.”

“Not true.” Jo shook her head. “She knew I was a bounty hunter, knew everything there was to know about me and accepted me anyway. She said I was exactly what you needed.”

“Sounds to me,” Jesse put the baby up on his shoulder and stood, “like this Mrs. Black knows more than what we tell her.”

“She sends a man to screen you before she accepts you as a client,” said Jo.

“I guess I better write her then.” He handed little Paul back to his mother. “If I expect to get married any time soon.” Regardless of what I think of her process, it’s a necessary evil and she does get good results. He looked over at Sam and Jo. Sam was holding Paul now while Jo finished with the laundry. If only I could get as lucky, I’ll be a happy man. Won’t I? And what about Harry Smith? Is it fair to bring a wife here when Harry’s threatening to get even with me for firing him?

March 16, 1873

Dear Mrs. Black,

My name is Jesse Donovan. I’m six feet tall with brown hair, brown eyes and all my teeth. I’ve included a recent photograph. I am a miner who struck the big one and am now quite wealthy. I am in need of a wife who can serve as my hostess and give me children. My former fiancée decided to remain in New York and marry someone else, rather than venture to Hope’s Crossing. I’m looking for someone who will not be put off by living in a small town. I’ve built a new house, the nicest in town, and need someone to help me care for my home and fill it with children.

I’ve been referred to you by Jo Shafter, now Longworth. She said that you have the extraordinary ability to pick the right woman for each man, or perhaps I should say the perfect man for each of your ladies.

Yours Sincerely,

Jesse Donovan

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Replacement Bride by Cynthia Woolf

The Replacement Bride

by Cynthia Woolf

Giveaway ends April 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details
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Thorpe’s Mail-Order Bride

Last year I was privileged to be asked to write a book for Debra Holland’s Kindle World. Her world includes Sweetwater Springs and Morgan’s Crossing, both in Montana. My story for this world is Thorpe’s Mail-Order Bride. The following is an excerpt from that book.

getPart (2)BLURB:

Lena DuBois never knew her father until he suddenly reappeared in her life to tell her he’s arranged for her to marry one of his business partners. Lena flees, deciding to become a mail-order bride, where at least she’s the one doing the choosing. Her future husband, John Thorpe, has requested a woman of good moral character which Lena considers herself to be. The problem is her mother is the most celebrated madam in all New Orleans. What will happen if he discovers her secret?


Lena looked at her reflection in the small mirror over the wash stand. Patting her hair into place, she turned and gazed around the room. The furnishings were austere in the extreme. With the bit of furniture present the space was all but used. In addition to the washstand was a simple four-poster with a patchwork quilt and a bureau. Pegs fastened to the wall held various items of clothing.

A few minutes later, Mrs. Norton returned with a copper kettle, the handle of which was wrapped with a towel. She poured hot water into the basin and cooler water from the chipped rose-patterned pitcher from the bureau.

“The towels next to the ewer are clean. When you’ve finished washing, come meet your groom. I sent him next door to get my husband. We’ll get you two married shortly.”

“Married? I know we are supposed to marry right away but thought we might get to know each other for a few hours.”

“That won’t be possible. He has to return to his business in Morgan’s Crossing right away. Unless, of course, accompany him now and marry in a couple of weeks.” Mrs. Norton frowned. “But I don’t think you’d want to take that action. Your reputation, which you so diligently defended little more than an hour ago, would be ruined.”

Lena swallowed hard. A marriage and changing her name was the best way to stay hidden. “Well then,” She jutted her chin. “Let’s get this wedding started.”

She followed Mrs. Norton back to the parlor.

Dominating the room was the largest man Lena had ever seen. He was easily a foot taller than she was and very wide, though he did not appear to be fat. He wore a black suit, the same one as in the photograph he’d sent. His face was covered with a thick, well-trimmed beard and mustache, though his coal black hair was a little on the long side, as it curled over his collar, but his deep blue eyes caught her attention. They were not only a beautiful dark blue, but she saw kindness in them as well.

The man moved forward to greet her, and Lena was surprised at how graceful he was.

He extended his hand. “I’m John Thorpe.”

She grasped his hand, calloused from hard work. “Lena DuBois. Pleased to meet you.”

“And I you. I’m sorry I was late. The snow delayed me.”

Lena nodded. “Mrs. Norton said as much.”

“Would you like to get married now, Lena?”

“I’m ready. I understand you have to get back to your work.”

John worried the brim of his hat. “Yes, I do. I’m the only blacksmith in town and folks do depend on me. But we can sit and talk for a while before the ceremony if that would make you more comfortable.”

She shook her head. He was so sweet to make such an offer. “No, please, that’s fine. I’m ready to get married if you are. I didn’t come all this way to back out now.”

He smiled. “I’m very glad, Lena. Very glad indeed.”

“Sit down children.” Mrs. Norton pointed at the sofa.

Lena sat on one end and smoothed her skirts.

John sat on the other end. He held his hat in his hands between his knees.

“You are getting quite the feisty woman for your bride, John. I witnessed her defend her honor a short while ago when she was accosted by a drunk from the saloon.” Mrs. Norton then related everything she’d seen.

John grinned and arched an eyebrow. “Good for you Miss DuBois.”

Lena’s cheeks heated, and she dipped her head. “I was simply doing what any self-respecting young woman would have done.”

“No, that’s not true,” said John. “You saved yourself and didn’t wait to be saved by someone else. Not a lot of women would have beaten off their attacker with an umbrella.”

“That reminds me, John,” said Mrs. Norton. “You must buy her a new umbrella. She broke hers over that drunks head.”

Reverend Norton entered the living room.

“Ah, I see everyone is here. Are you two ready to get married?”

Lena and John looked at each other.

“Well?” asked John.

“I’m ready if you are,” responded Lena.

John stood and walked to the reverend.

The men shook hands.

“We are ready, Reverend.”

Mrs. Norton and Lena both stood as well.

“I think we can do the ceremony right here. Lena, you and John stand behind the sofa and the Reverend will stand in front of it. I’ll be over here just behind Lena.”

The couple did as Mrs. Norton instructed.

The reverend took out a small notebook and a pencil from his pocket. “Before we start, I need to know your full names.”

“Helena Marguerite DuBois.”

“John Wilfred Thorpe.”

“Wilfred?” Lena giggled.

John smiled and blushed. “It was my grandfather’s name.”

Lena nodded. “Marguerite was my grandmother’s name. It would appear we have the same traditions, at least as far as naming children.”

The reverend opened the good book and began the ceremony.

“Please join hands. Dearly beloved we are gathered here…”

Soon Lena’s turn to take her vows arrived.

“Do you Helena Marguerite DuBois, take John Wilfred Thorpe, to be thy wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do you part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto pledge to forsake all others?”

Excitement ran through her like a lightning bolt. “I do.” She put the ring she’d bought in Denver on John’s finger. The circle of gold went up to the second knuckle and stopped. Eyes wide, she looked up at him. “Oh, my.” Quickly she took the ring off his third finger and slid it on his little finger. It fit. “That will have to do until we can get is sized correctly.”

The reverend repeated the vows for John who answered “I do.” He put on the plain gold band he had for her and it was too big.

She took it off and put it on her middle finger which fit the ring perfectly. “That will do, don’t you think?” asked Lena with a smile.

John grinned. “I believe it will.”

Reverend Norton smiled. “You may now kiss your bride.”

John’s grin disappeared and he studied her face. He bent until his face was next to hers and then touched his lips to hers in a sweet, gentle kiss.

Her first kiss.

When he pulled back he winked.

Amazon Buy Link:  http://amzn.com/B01BL0HKL4


Cynthia Woolf is the award winning and best-selling author of nineteen historical western romance books and two short stories with more books on the way. She was born in Denver, Colorado and raised in the mountains west of Golden. She spent her early years running wild around the mountain side with her friends.
Their closest neighbor was about one quarter of a mile away, so her little brother was her playmate and her best friend. That fierce friendship lasted until his death in 2006.
Cynthia loves writing and reading romance. Her first western romance Tame A Wild Heart, was inspired by the story her mother told her of meeting Cynthia’s father on a ranch in Creede, Colorado. Although Tame A Wild Heart takes place in Creede that is the only similarity between the stories. Her father was a cowboy not a bounty hunter and her mother was a nursemaid (called a nanny now) not the ranch owner.

Cynthia credits her wonderfully supportive husband Jim and the great friends she’s made at CRW for saving her sanity and allowing her to explore her creativity.


GENEVIEVE: Bride of Nevada, American Mail-Order Brides Series

THE HUNTER BRIDE – Hope’s Crossing, Book 1

GIDEON – The Surprise Brides

MAIL ORDER OUTLAW – The Brides of Tombstone, Book 1

MAIL ORDER DOCTOR – The Brides of Tombstone, Book 2

MAIL ORDER BARON – The Brides of Tombstone, Book 3

NELLIE – The Brides of San Francisco 1

ANNIE – The Brides of San Francisco 2

CORA – The Brides of San Francisco 3

JAKE (Book 1, Destiny in Deadwood series)

LIAM (Book 2, Destiny in Deadwood series)

ZACH (Book 3, Destiny in Deadwood series)

CAPITAL BRIDE (Book 1, Matchmaker & Co. series)

HEIRESS BRIDE (Book 2, Matchmaker & Co. series)

FIERY BRIDE (Book 3, Matchmaker & Co. series)

TAME A WILD HEART (Book 1, Tame series)

TAME A WILD WIND (Book 2, Tame series)

TAME A WILD BRIDE (Book 3, Tame series)

TAME A SUMMER HEART (short story, Tame series)

TAME A HONEYMOON HEART (novella, Tame series)



WEBSITE – www.cynthiawoolf.com


NEWSLETTER – http://bit.ly/1qBWhFQ


tame_a_wild_heart_5x8TAME A WILD HEART is FREE!! I hope you’ll pick up your copy today!

Catherine Evans fell in love when she was three years old, head-over-heels, forever kind of love.  The very first moment she saw twelve-year-old Duncan McKenzie, she told God and her pony that she was going to marry that boy.  He was handsome.  He was kind.  He was strong and smart and all the good things a boy should be.  For thirteen years she loved him with every beat of her heart.  And on her sixteenth birthday he walked away from her father’s ranch, and from her.  He didn’t look back over his shoulder.  Not even once.  And from that day forward, Catherine Evans swore off all men.  Her heart turned to stone, her will to iron, and her vow to God changed.  She’d run her father’s ranch.  She’d succeed.  She’d survive.  And she would never, ever love another man as long as she lived.

Duncan McKenzie left the ranch ten years ago, desperate to escape temptation in the form of a budding young lady too innocent to claim for his own.  But Catherine’s frightened father summons him home.  The ranch is under attack and the old man’s stubborn daughter refuses to seek help.  Duncan left a sweet young girl behind a decade ago.  He returns to a defiant siren, a woman whose heart is as wild as the land she would sacrifice her life to protect.  When Catherine’s father coerces her into marrying Duncan, the fire in her eyes spells trouble, but it’s the kind of trouble Duncan has no desire to resist.  Marriage is the only way he can protect her.  Especially when Duncan’s own past comes calling in the form of one extremely dangerous and vengeful outlaw, Catherine’s cowardly enemies want the ranch badly enough to kill for it, and his reluctant bride is very much in their way.


mail_order_outlaw 400x600Be sure and leave a comment for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card.



Ed Talbot isn’t husband material. He’s an outlaw, was forced into his father’s gang at the age of thirteen, and is wanted Dead or Alive in more than one territory. But now his father is dead, he hates the life, the blood, and his brother’s rages. When a stagecoach robbery goes awry, Ed ends up with a satchel full of charming letters from an enticing young miss. Unfortunately for Miss Lizzie Cobb, her betrothed is now dead, and Ed Talbot sees a way out. Impersonating a fine, upstanding young man shouldn’t be too difficult. Despite the risks, falling in love with her proves to be all too easy.

Isolated on her mother’s ranch just outside of Tombstone, Miss Lizzie Cobb doesn’t have the time or the means to find a respectable husband. As a half Apache woman in the Arizona Territory, being a mail order bride seems like the only solution to her problem until she realizes that San Francisco is too far away, and she’ll have to leave her vulnerable mother and baby brother behind. Her solution? Call off the wedding.

When her groom shows up on her doorstep, she’s shocked. He’s handsome, strong, and has traveled hundreds of miles to claim her. His kisses inflame her body and his presence soothes her soul. Falling for the rugged man is beyond her control. But the past has a way of catching up to outlaws, and facing the truth is going to be hard…for both of them.



Tombstone, Arizona Territory, March 5, 1882

Lizzie finished her letter to Maggie Black, owner of Matchmaker & Co. in Golden, Colorado.

Dear Mrs. Black,

I have changed my mind about becoming a mail order bride to Mr. Malcom Brandon. I cannot leave my ranch. It is my first love and if I must remain an unmarried woman in order to keep it, so I shall.

Please extend my apologies to Mr. Brandon. I will refund any fees associated with this change in the arrangement.


Elizabeth Cobb

She read it over again. Pleased with the document, she prepared it for posting in next mail run.

She still needed a husband, but being half Apache didn’t make it easy to find one. Lizzie couldn’t leave the ranch though, not even for the sake of a husband. For the ranch work she could make do with ranch hands and foremen. It would mean no children for her, ever, but this was the decision she had to make. Keeping the ranch for Jamie was more important than her own dreams.


Outside Tucson, Arizona Territory, May 12, 1882

Ed Talbot adjusted his bandana to cover the lower half of his face. The stagecoach his father had targeted for his latest robbery was about to crest the hill. When it did Ed and his half-brother, Harvey, would be waiting. His father, Josiah Talbot, would fall in behind the vehicle until it came to a halt.

Josiah rode with Harry and Joe, closing in behind.

Ed and his brother waited and the coach was slowing as it was supposed to. Suddenly the shotgun rider started firing his rifle at the men closing in behind.

Ed and Harvey rode toward the coach. Harvey fired his pistol and killed the shotgun rider, but not before they saw Josiah fall. The stage came to a halt and Ed kept his gun on the driver, while Harvey rode past the coach to where their father lay on the ground.

“Nooo.” A howl like Ed had never heard came out of Harvey. Ed knew then that their father was dead, but he didn’t grieve. The man Ed had hated for most of his life was dead. He rejoiced.

Harvey walked forward, reloading his gun as he came. As soon as he got had a full cylinder, he aimed at the driver and shot him dead.

Ed saw what was going to happen and jumped off his horse and ran toward his brother. He grabbed his brother’s arm. “Harvey. What the hell do you think you’re doin’?”

“He killed Pa. He deserved to die. The driver and this man are a witnesses and have to die…” Harvey’s eyebrows came together and he narrowed his eyes. “Or you do and then he dies anyway. Now you got a problem with that?”

That was no choice and Ed was about to say so, when Harvey raised his pistol and fired. The man who’d done nothing but be a passenger on the wrong stage, was dead.

“Couldn’t let you say something you might regret, little brother.” Harvey holstered his gun. “Gather up all the stuff including the luggage and then search all three men,” he instructed Harry and Joe.

Ed noticed a valise in the coach that he assumed belonged to the man. He took it and tied it to his saddle bags.

“Let’s go,” said Harvey. “Take the coach horses, we’ll sell them in town and set the coach on fire.”

Joe gathered up sage brush, so prevalent in this part of the desert near Tucson and piled it inside the coach. Then he took a stick match out of his pocket, struck it against a rock and started the kindling on fire. Within minutes the stagecoach was burning and black smoke billowed into the sky. If they hung around, they’d be found by the sheriff’s posse.

“All right let’s get out of here.” Harvey turned and rode his horse the way they’d come, back to their hideout in the Mule Mountains.

Not having any choice, Ed followed his brother. Harvey would kill him in a heartbeat rather than let him go. Their father had been the same way. Fifteen years ago, when Ed’s mother died, Josiah had taken him into the gang. Ed was thirteen. He learned how to rob stages, trains and banks. He learned how to kill people but he never actually killed anyone. He’d managed to avoid that particular deed. His father and brother thought him a coward, but Ed had no taste for killing a living soul or the outlaw life in general.

When they got to camp, Ed took the valise and went to his bedroll. He opened the piece of luggage. In his search for valuables he shoved aside a couple of suits, ties, shirts, and underdrawers. In the bottom he found a packet of letters tied together with a thin strip of leather. They were addressed to Malcolm Brandon of San Francisco. That must have been the man’s name.

Gripped by curiosity, Ed untied the bundle and opened the first letter. It was from a woman named Elizabeth Cobb in Tombstone.

Tombstone, Arizona Territory, March 8, 1881

Dear Mr. Brandon:

My name is Elizabeth Cobb, but I go by Lizzie. Thank you for responding to my letter desiring to become a mail order bride to the right man. My only requirement is that the man be over six feet tall as I am nearly six feet myself. I understand from Mrs. Black that you fit the bill by being six feet two inches yourself.

I run a cattle ranch outside of Tombstone in the Arizona territory. Up until two years ago, I ran the ranch with my father. Now it’s just Mama, Jamie and me. Jamie is the actual owner of the ranch but he’s only ten years old and I need to run it until he can take over, if he wants to. He’s a very studious boy and may decide to go to college and study a subject other than ranching. He doesn’t love it like I do.

Mrs. Black informed me that you own a thriving dry goods business in San Francisco. Why are you looking for a mail order bride? Aren’t there any women there for you to marry?

I don’t know what all to say. Please write me back with questions that you may have.


Lizzie Cobb

Ed wondered about Lizzie Cobb. Why was she willing to be a mail order bride? Was she ugly? She was very tall for a woman, maybe that was why. What would she do with the ranch when she got married, leave it for her mother to run with the little brother? Was she planning on taking the old lady with her and selling the ranch?

Many questions buzzed through his mind. Tombstone was about seventy miles south, two days hard ride through the desert. Riding hard wasn’t a good idea. He could kill his horse and then he’d be dead himself. There was nothing but sage brush and cactus as far as the eye could see. No water. The going wasn’t easy. There was a swing station where the stagecoach changed horses and passengers could rest and get a meal. Sometimes the stage stayed overnight depending on what time of day they arrived. Apaches roamed the desert and stages, stations, and settlements were often attacked. Bandits were known to come from Mexico and rob the stages as well as gangs like our gang. It was Harvey’s gang now that Josiah was dead.

The stage drivers and those who rode shotgun didn’t want to get caught out after dark if they could help it. Ed understood the reasoning. He’d faced the Apaches himself while living in the desert.

He read more of the letters; there were eight in all. With each letter he became more interested in Lizzie Cobb. She sounded like one hell of a woman. Running a large cattle ranch after her father died. Caring for her mother and younger brother.

From what she’d shared he knew Lizzie was twenty-four years old, six feet tall with dark brown hair and brown eyes. She didn’t sound like a woman who could be missed or mistaken for anyone else.

As he read a plan formed. His only worries were how much Lizzie knew about Malcolm Brandon. The dead man signed his later letters ‘Mal’ so Ed would go by that name. He was only a little taller than the man had been so his clothes would pretty much fit, might be a little tight.

Could he do it? Could he become Mal Brandon?










mail_order_outlawThe first book in my new series, The Brides of Tombstone, is now available. Mail Order Outlaw tells the story of Lizzie Cobb and Ed Talbot. Their romance is anything but ordinary.

Here is the blurb.

Ed Talbot isn’t husband material. He’s an outlaw, was forced into his father’s gang at the age of thirteen, and is wanted Dead or Alive in more than one territory. But now his father is dead, he hates the life, the blood, and his brother’s rages. When a stagecoach robbery goes awry, Ed ends up with a satchel full of charming letters from an enticing young miss. Unfortunately for Miss Lizzie Cobb, her betrothed is now dead, and Ed Talbot sees a way out. Impersonating a fine, upstanding young man shouldn’t be too difficult. Despite the risks, falling in love with her proves to be all too easy.

Isolated on her mother’s ranch just outside of Tombstone, Miss Lizzie Cobb doesn’t have the time or the means to find a respectable husband. As a half Apache woman in the Arizona Territory, being a mail order bride seems like the only solution to her problem until she realizes that San Francisco is too far away, and she’ll have to leave her vulnerable mother and baby brother behind. Her solution? Call off the wedding.

When her groom shows up on her doorstep, she’s shocked. He’s handsome, strong, and has traveled hundreds of miles to claim her. His kisses inflame her body and his presence soothes her soul. Falling for the rugged man is beyond her control. But the past has a way of catching up to outlaws, and facing the truth is going to be hard…for both of them.

Available at:

Amazon:  http://amzn.com/B00XEKFLIE

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mail-order-outlaw-cynthia-woolf/1121894192?ean=2940151415125

Apple:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/mail-order-outlaw/id993479746?ls=1&mt=11

Kobo:  https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/mail-order-outlaw

Google Play:  https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Cynthia_Woolf_Mail_Order_Outlaw?id=U74kCQAAQBAJ


As he read a plan formed. His only worries were how much Lizzie knew about Malcolm Brandon. The dead man signed his later letters ‘Mal’ so Ed would go by that name. He was only a little taller than the man had been so his clothes would pretty much fit, might be a little tight.

Could he do it? Could he become Mal Brandon?

The more Ed thought about it, the more he liked the idea. He’d have to sneak away in the middle of the night. If his brother knew of his plan to leave the gang, Harvey’d stop him; maybe even kill him if he had to. Especially if he knew about the money Ed had found in the lining of the valise, a lot of money. Enough for a fresh start.

Ed didn’t want to be in the gang anymore. He’d never wanted to be in it to begin with. His mother had wanted him to go to school and become a teacher. Ed had wanted that, too or at least to do something…legal.

As a kid he’d never really known Josiah. He was just the man who stopped by and spent the night every couple of months when Ed was growing up. Then when his mother died, Ed had been by himself for a few weeks before Josiah showed up. A few glorious weeks where he could mourn his mother, Becky Brody in peace. When Josiah found out Ed’s mother had died, he took Ed with him. Ed had been in Josiah’s gang ever since. The only things he had left of his mother were her green eyes.

He did have some things he was thankful to his father for. Josiah had taught him to use a gun and to ride like the wind. He could speak Spanish as well as anyone, because Josiah’s mother had been Mexican and he made sure both his sons could speak it. He was big; six-foot-four and muscular.

Only Harvey had been bigger.

Harvey was also meaner. He had no problem killing people.

Ed thought he actually liked it.

Harvey used and abused women, as well. He liked that, too.

Ed hated to see and hear the abuse, when there was nothing he could do. Once he’d tried stopping Harvey and nearly died for his efforts. Now he just stayed away from camp whenever Harvey brought a woman there, which thankfully wasn’t often.

Unless it was Belle. For some reason Belle James could give as much as she took and Harvey liked her best. Maybe loved her, if he was even capable of that emotion.

Ed didn’t have women very often. He’d fallen in love once.

When Harvey found out, he had taken the woman, raped her and left her for dead. There was no way he or Josiah, either one, would let Ed leave the gang for any reason.

Ed watched Joe stoke the fire and add wood to it. It was cold in the mountains and on the desert at night. It shouldn’t have been considering how blistering hot they were during the day, but at night the temperature dropped to uncomfortably cold.

Ed didn’t want to be responsible for that happening to any other woman, so he stayed away from them. He visited the occasional brothel. He was a twenty-eight year old man, after all and had needs just like any other man. But other than those visits, and he never saw the same girl twice, he stayed away from women.

Except for the valise Ed had, there was only a strong box on the stage. The box was locked and Harvey let the boys use it for target practice until the safe was opened. There was a small payroll inside. Only a thousand dollars, but that was enough to keep the men in liquor and women for a couple of weeks and then they’d plan another robbery of a stage or train or bank. Probably a stage because it was easiest and Harvey was all about easy.

Plans made, he waited for two weeks knowing the men would eventually go into Tucson to let off some steam. They never lasted longer than a couple of weeks after a score. By then the liquor ran out and so did the ammunition from the target practice and the money they’d gotten was burning a hole in their pockets.

This time, he’d leave. He had the knowledge and ability to take over another man’s life. His brother wouldn’t know where he’d gone and there was no one in the gang who could track worth beans.

Finally Ed could begin a new life. A good life as a good man and leave the gang and all those memories behind.

He was ready.

Harvey came over to him as usual. Ed was playing solitaire on one of the blankets.  “Come on, little brother. Let’s go into town. Have a few drinks and screw some women.”

“Ya’ll go on. I’m staying in camp.”

“You need to let off some steam, just like the rest of us.” Harvey laid his hand on Ed’s shoulder and squeezed. “Come on. Let’s go.”

Ed shrugged off his hand. “I don’t want to. Leave me be.”

Harvey looked at him, gaze narrowed.

Sweat beaded under his collar. Ed wondered if he would force him to go. But finally Harvey shrugged. “If that’s what you want, so be it. Let’s go men. We’ve got drinkin’ to do and women to fuck.”

Ed waited for two hours after his brother and the other men rode out before he took the valise and headed the opposite direction from Tucson. South seventy miles to Tombstone. Toward a new life. One he couldn’t wait to start.

The ride took him three days, taking care to go easy on his horse across the mountains and desert. He skirted the way stations, not wanting anyone to see him. He did stop at several smaller watering holes along the way that were off the beaten path. When he got outside of Tombstone, he made camp, changed into the clothes out of the valise and shaved off his beard. The clothes were small and a little short, but not enough to make a difference…he hoped. He was trying his best to put a new foot forward and put Ed Talbot behind him in another life.


NEW RELEASE!!! CORA, The Brides of San Francisco, Book 3

cora1Cora Jones has a dilemma. She was engaged to be married but her fiancé Asa Woods was killed in the Civil War. She’d never been madly in love with Asa, but she did care for him deeply and grieved his loss. When she stopped grieving she decided she wanted to put everything behind her and became a mail order bride for Harry Belcher.

Cora sailed to San Francisco to meet Harry. She’s checking into her hotel when she hears a voice from the past say her name. No, it can’t be. She turned to find Asa Woods behind her, just as Harry comes up to her, too.

What’s a girl to do when one fiancé returns from the dead and she has another one calling to her from across the lobby? Cora decides to have both men court her in order to make up her mind.

Who will she choose—the man back from the dead who wants her for his wife or the man who sent for her to be his bride?

Cora is available at all retailers:

Amazon  http://amzn.com/B00VBVE7NS

Apple  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/cora/id975603805?mt=11

Barnes & Noble  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1121640891?ean=2940151608367

Kobo  https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/cora-6

Google Play  https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Cynthia_Woolf_Cora?id=4MiyBwAAQBAJ&hl=en



Enter the WE LOVE OUR BOOK BOYFRIENDS GIVEAWAY with 25 Bestselling Authors – One Mega Giveaway! Barbara Freethy, Carly Fall, Carly Phillips, Cassie Hayes, Chris Keniston, Coreene Callahan, Cynthia Friberg, Cindy Woolf, Eileen Dreyer, Eve Langlais, Heather Graham Pozzessere, Jennifer Zane, Joni Hahn, Karen Docter, Kristan Higgins, M.K Eidem, Maggie Mae Gallagher, Mary Buckham, Melissa McClone, Michele Callahan, Michelle Howard, Nancy Naigle, SE Smith, Sylvia McDaniel, Vanessa Vale

Prizes: Kindle Fire HDX, 3 $50 Amazon Gift Cards, 25 Free Digital Books, One Reader Luncheon Ticket at RomCon® 2015 http://goo.gl/B9Y09y

Enter the WE LOVE OUR BOOK BOYFRIENDS GIVEAWAY with 25 Bestselling Authors - One Mega Giveaway! Barbara Freethy, Carly Fall, Carly Phillips, Cassie Hayes, Chris Keniston, Coreene Callahan, Cynthia Friberg, Cindy Woolf, Eileen Dreyer, Eve Langlais, Heather Graham Pozzessere, Jennifer Zane, Joni Hahn, Karen Docter, Kristan Higgins, M.K Eidem, Maggie Mae Gallagher, Mary Buckham, Melissa McClone, Michele Callahan, Michelle Howard, Nancy Naigle, SE Smith, Sylvia McDaniel, Vanessa Vale

Prizes: Kindle Fire HDX, 3 $50 Amazon Gift Cards, 25 Free Digital Books, One Reader Luncheon Ticket at RomCon® 2015 http://goo.gl/B9Y09y

NEW RELEASE – ANNIE, The Brides of San Francisco, Book 2

annie 400x600BLURB:

Annie Markum grew up with a bible in one hand, and a disapproving father holding the other. At twenty-two, she dared to dream of a different life and risked everything to become a mail order bride. One year later, she finds herself on a friend’s doorstep, penniless, pregnant, and a widow. Her husband was an honorable, church-going man, and she believes her father will allow her to come home. To get back to her father in New York will take money she doesn’t have. She’s got no choice but to accept work as a cook in a local saloon. Her father would never approve, but Annie is determined to earn enough for safe passage for herself and her beautiful new baby girl.

It’s never good to lust after another man’s wife. Saloon owner, Nick Cartwright, learned that lesson the hard way. He took one look at Annie Markum and fell hard for his friend’s mail order bride. A year later, she’s back in his life, a widow with a precious daughter to protect. Nick will do anything to convince Annie to give him a chance, except the one thing she demands…sell his saloon. Annie has lived a sheltered life, and her innocence is one thing Nick wants to preserve. Life is rough, and Annie is soft, sweet, and all too kissable. He wants to keep her and her little girl, but Annie is determined to raise her daughter as far away from the saloon as possible.

Annie fights her growing attraction to Nick. She might even be in love with him, but with Nick comes the saloon. And the whiskey. The gambling and the women. One of them will have to sacrifice everything to make a relationship work, and neither wants to budge. When it turns out that Annie’s dead husband actually left her a fortune, her future seems set. Until someone decides to take both Nick and her new found freedom away from her. And Annie realizes that sometimes, in life and in love, you have to fight dirty to win.



May 1868

Annie Markum White set her valise beside her on the porch of the huge white stone mansion. It weighed heavy in her hand after her long walk along the streets of San Francisco. Dog tired, her feet and ankles so swollen she wondered how she’d get off her half boots. She rested a moment, leaning against the side of the house, before knocking. Having endured the censoring looks, pretending she didn’t care, Annie rubbed her hand over the reason for those looks, and for her long journey, her swollen belly, covered by her black gown. She was doing what she’d told herself she wouldn’t do, she was asking for help.

“It’s all right little one. Mama won’t let anything bad happen to us, no matter what.” She took a deep breath, smoothed her hair as much as possible. A hunger pang hit her, this time her back hurt as well, but she ignored it as she had done all day. She lifted the door knocker on the massive entrance to the mansion, letting it fall back to the door and then did it again. She heard the sound echo through the house.

The door opened on a butler wearing a black suit, white shirt, cravat and gloves.

“Good day, madam. How may I assist you?”

“I’m here to see Mrs. Malone.”

“Who my I tell her is calling?”

“Annie White. Annie Markum White. I’m a friend of Mrs. Malone’s.”

“Yes, madam. Please come in.”

With a nod, Annie bent to pick up her bag.

“No, madam, please. I’ll get your valise.”

The man stepped out, picked up her bag then led her inside.

“If you’ll wait here in the foyer, I will inform Mrs. Malone of your arrival.”

A few minutes after the butler disappeared, she spotted Nellie hurrying down the hall toward her. She was a little heavier and moving a little slower than Annie remembered. Her hair, still the beautiful blond color, was pulled back by combs on the sides of her head. As she came closer, Annie saw circles under Nellie’s bright emerald eyes.

“Annie! How are you? Are you alone?” she called as she approached.

“Nellie.” Annie’s hand automatically rested atop her stomach.

“Oh my,” her friend said. Coming to a halt, her eyes widened. “I can see how you are.”

Annie burst into tears, much to her embarrassment.

Nellie wrapped her arms around her. “Shh, everything will be fine.” She waved a hand at the butler. “James, please bring tea, some sandwiches and cookies to the parlor.

“Yes, madam. Right away.”

By the time they reached the parlor, Annie had calmed down and stopped crying.

“Annie, what’s wrong?”

“William died. He was in debt over his head and everything we had is gone. I have nothing except what is in the bag out in the foyer.” She swallowed over a tight throat. “I need someplace to stay, Nellie.”

Nellie took Annie’s hand and patted it. “Of course, you’ll stay here. I wouldn’t have it any other way. For as long as you need or want. When is the baby due? Have you seen a doctor?”

“I’m past due now. The doctor said I was due the end of April and it’s mid May, but she’s dropped, I can feel that she’s about to come.”

“I want the doctor to look at you immediately.” Nellie got up and pulled the cord by the door.

The butler appeared.

“James, send someone to Dr. Walsh. Tell him I want to see him as soon as he is available.”

“Yes, madam.” After a brief nod, he turned and left.

Annie’s stomach rumbled and she secretly hoped her friend hadn’t heard.

“How long since you’ve eaten?”

“Breakfast yesterday. I admit I’m famished.”

“Why didn’t you come to me sooner? Never mind. You’re here now and everything will be fine.”

The door opened and Blake Malone, tall and handsome with dark brown hair and gray eyes, entered. He’d grown a mustache since Annie had seen him last. Following him was his partner and friend Nicholas Cartwright.

“Annie, so nice to see you. James said you were here,” said Blake.

“Hello, Blake. Mr. Cartwright.” She was hard-pressed not to stare at Nick Cartwright. His handsome face was the same as she remembered, the same one she dreamed about. His was the face that had kept her sane throughout her marriage.

Blake came forward, took Annie’s hand in his and kissed the top. “You look beautiful. How are you?”

“You’re being kind. I look like a cow.”

“Nonsense,” said Nick. “Blake is correct. You look lovely.” He too, raised her hand, but he turned it and placed a delicate kiss on the inside of her wrist.

Annie raised an eyebrow then inhaled sharply. Shivers ran up and down her spine. There was no doubt now that her attraction to Nick Cartwright was still there, in full force, perhaps even stronger now. With her pregnancy all of her emotions seemed more intense.

“Thank you, both. You’re sweet.” She looked at Nick. He was still as attractive as he been at Nellie and Blake’s wedding a year ago. Had it really been so long?

Nick stood there, his thick brown hair shimmering with streaks of gold, his brown eyes twinkling with what she would swear was mischief.

He cocked an eyebrow. “I’m anything but sweet, Miss Markum.”

Buy Links

Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00SRS0BSI

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/annie-cynthia-woolf/1121114612?ean=2940149922468

Apple: Available Soon!

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/annie-19

All Romance eBooks:  https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-annie-1732800-158.html

Paperback:  http://amzn.com/1938887522