Mail Order Mystery by Cynthia Woolf

Here is an excerpt from my latest book, Mail Order Mystery, Brides of Seattle, Book 1


Meals were eaten in shifts. There was enough room in the mess to accommodate twenty-five at a time. After everyone had eaten, she decided to approach him. Rachel watched Jason Talbot for weeks before finally getting the courage to speak to him. As they sailed south along the coast of South America, she decided it was now or never.

“Mr. Talbot.”

“Yes, Miss Sawyer. How can I assist you?”

“I know I’m being terribly forward,” she felt herself blush. She couldn’t control the reaction even when she wanted to. “But I wondered if you, um, knew anything about astronomy. The stars seem especially bright tonight.”

He smiled. “I do know a little bit about the sky, would you care to join me on deck and I’ll tell you what little I know.”

She headed up to the deck, and he followed because the narrow passageways were barely wider than one person.

And so it began.


Rachel waited by the rail, staring out into the calm, blue ocean. She was sure Jason would be there soon, even though she hadn’t asked him to come again, she knew he watched her leave the ship’s mess. They ate at the same time, though not at the same table.

He sat with his brothers, the captain and the first mate.

She sat with Lucy and several of the other women, including Karen Martell and her two children, six-year-old Larry and three-year-old Patty. The children were very well behaved considering the confinement of the ship, but Karen kept them occupied with games and projects. She never let either of them go topside without her and another bride. The deck was just too dangerous.

Even though most of the brides turned out to be good sailors, there were a few who simply could not go topside, for the vastness of the sea around them made them ill.

Those that did go outside learned to sway with the rolling of the ship over the ocean waves. Most very easily and quickly.

Rachel was one of those. She loved the ocean. The smell of the sea after a storm was amazing. She’d sneaked up to the deck during their first storm and had been mesmerized by the lightning striking in the distance.

She found out later that what she’d done was very dangerous. Lightning and wooden ships do not mix. It was not uncommon for the lightning to strike the main mast of a ship, causing it to shiver or long splinters to be blown from it, occasionally injuring a sailor or knocking him off the deck, which in a stormy ocean usually meant death. The sails also sometimes caught fire, but the captain and crew smothered the fire with the help of the rain and wind.

Knowing those things did not stop her from going up to the deck to watch the storm from the top stair before actually going on the deck. Jason knew he could find her there and she often was just waiting for him so they could spend time together.

One night she watched Jason stand behind Clancy who was at the wheel. Jason had his hands on his hips, and the wind blew through his hair making it curl all over. He stood there like the world was his for the taking. To her, he looked magnificent.

They only met at night which made her sad, but she would rather have him some of the time than not at all. He wasn’t ready, maybe never would be ready, to meet her during the day when his brothers might see.

She didn’t blame him. Rachel was the same way with Lucy. She didn’t want to hear her lectures about falling too soon for a man who is obviously unavailable.

“Jason, why won’t you meet me during the day? Are you ashamed of me?”

He closed his eyes and put his arms around her.

“No, I’m not ashamed of you. Never. You are the kindest, smartest and most beautiful woman I know, but I’m not a free man.”

She pulled away and turned her back to him. “You’re married?”

Jason placed an arm around her shoulders and tugged her back against his chest. “I was. Cassie died birthing our son, Billy. He’s nearly ten now.”

“If your wife died ten years ago, how does that make you not a free man?”

“I loved Cassie. I still do. I wouldn’t be able to give you what you need.”

Rachel turned in his arms, put hers around his waist and glared up at him. “You don’t know what I need. You are what I need…for now. So just kiss me, Jason, and let me make my own decisions.”

She was grasping for whatever happiness she could get. Even if her contentment was fleeting and would end soon, Rachel would take it and try like Hell to figure out a way to make him understand that he could care for her, too.

Lord, how do you fight a ghost?


Civil war devastated the country and left Rachel Sawyer stranded in a dead-end job as a seamstress with no prospects for marriage. Men are thin on the ground in Massachusetts, so Rachel and her best friend travel west, to Seattle, with the handsome Talbot brothers.  Jason Talbot, the eldest brother and wealthy owner of a lumber company, is so far beyond her reach that falling in love with him is the most non-sensical thing she could do. So, of course, she does. But after one sensual midnight encounter, Jason pushes her away.

Jason Talbot and his brothers are desperate to keep their lumberjack crews happy. And if that means traveling across the country to escort a hundred women to Seattle as mail-order brides, that’s what he’ll do. The brides are for other men. After losing his wife ten years ago, he’s not interested in risking another devastating blow to his heart. When Rachel catches his eye, his head and his heart are at war, and he’s not sure which side will win.

But when a thief springs up in their midst, and Rachel’s determination to solve the mystery leads to murder, Jason realizes he’ll do anything, not just to protect her from a killer, but to win her heart.




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