A Baron's Bartered Bride
In 1815, Isabella Marston, a refined English young lady, is eager to escape her carping mother and constantly quarreling older sisters. Seeing a newspaper advertisement seeking a “lady wife” for a wealthy North American lumberman, she sends a letter and receives a marriage proposal in response. With her maid, her horse, and her dog, she crosses the Atlantic with high expectations, only to receive a heart-wrenching shock on her arrival in the colony of Riverhaven, New Brunswick.
Exhibiting the manners of a barbarian, her prospective groom is brawny, bearded, long-haired, and clad in buckskins. His foreman, Fletcher Atkin, wrote the ad and the letters to Isabella, and he draws her unwilling attention despite his reputation as a gambler, drunkard, and lothario. He at least treats her as a gentleman should, and she wonders about his hidden background.
As the summer progresses, love blooms in duplicate despite a charging bear, a kidnapping, and a brewing war between lumber barons.
“Well, at least ya’ve brought something of value.” Culloden MacPherson muttered as he headed the horses along a trail that led out of the village and upriver through the trees. He gestured with his hands holding the reins toward the little dog in her arms. “I dunnae know a lot about pigs but I vow, I’ve never seen such a one as this.”
“Perceval most definitely isn’t a pig!” Her drenched cloak clinging to her, Isabella clutched her pet closer, shielding him from the driving sleet. From beneath the water dripping from the hood of her cloak, she glared over at her companion on the driver’s seat. “He’s a Pug dog and one of the finest of the breed.”
“Whit?” He stared at her through drifting rain and sleet. “Niver! With a face like that! I saw its tail stickin’ out from under yer cloak. Curled as tight as one on the best porker I’ve ever come across.”
“He’s my devoted friend and companion and I’ll thank you to treat him as such, Mr. MacPherson.”
A chuckle from Fletcher Atkin sitting with Lucinda and Horace in the cargo space behind them made her turn sharply on him. The wagon lurched in a rut. She and her dog might have been thrown from the seat if Fletcher hadn’t caught her arm to steady her.
“You must forgive Mr. MacPherson his ignorance of your dog’s fine pedigree,” he said and she saw not only humor, but a kindly concern reflected in the man’s features. Even through her distress and the misery of the weather, she realized he was a handsome man.