Love Never Fails: Romance in the 1800s, Part One

(Congratulations to our winner from last week’s post, Hannah Brown! Hannah, please email your mailing address to me, Amy, at so I can send you a copy of Rebellious Heart. I loved reading all of your thoughts about the best aspects of life and love during the Revolutionary War.)

Now we move from the era of tea taxes and revolution to the frontier of America in the 1800s. The rules for love and romance have changed a bit, adding interesting features like mail-order brides and women who have to put in long, hard hours of labor on farms and ranches. It’s Valentine’s Day, the perfect time to see what our sisters from a century or so in the past thought about love and romance.

The first to represent the West, Mary Connealy shares some perspective on finding love in Texas in the late 1800s.

Match Made in Texas

Book Title and Setting: Meeting Her Match, from the A Match Made in Texas novella collection, 1893 Texas

My Question:
What was an interesting courtship tradition of this time?

Mary’s Answer:
One of the things I found most interesting was that as the school marm at that time, to have any scandal attached to her name meant being fired immediately. Even if everyone in town was quite sure you were innocent, it was just unthinkable that even a hint of wrongdoing could swirl around the teacher—that’s how high her moral standards had to be. And once that bit of scandal was attached to my heroine, Hannah, she was forced to marry.

The flip side of that was that no married woman was allowed to teach school. There might have been exceptions, but they were rare. It was considered an insult to the husband for his wife to work, as if saying he wasn’t able to take care of her.

Hannah and Mark

My Question:
What about the relationship in your story was typical of the time period, and what was atypical?

Mary’s Answer:
The thing that was not typical between Hannah and Marcus was their ages. Hannah was over twenty. In her mind she was firmly a spinster at that terribly old age. The chance for marriage had passed her by. Today if a twenty-year-old gets married, we are all very nervous because they are so young. It was also far less typical that Hannah was a working woman; most women lived at home until they married.

Connealy_MaryConnect with Mary on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

Next, Regina Jennings, one of the other novella contributors, describes an entirely different scenario between her two characters.

Book Title and Setting: An Unforeseen Match, from the A Match Made in Texas novella collection, 1893 Texas

My Question:
Describe your main characters’ relationship.

Regina’s Answer:
Because she’s going blind, Grace is forced away from her responsibilities as a school teacher and from society in general. Clayton realizes how much she values her independence, and he wants to help her maintain it, although he’d prefer that she’d learn to trust him instead. He’s torn between showing her that he can take care of her and teaching her how to take care of herself.

Palo Duro Canyon, the book's setting, via the A Match Made in Texas Pinterest Board.

Palo Duro Canyon, the book’s setting, via the A Match Made in Texas Pinterest Board.

My Question:
What about the relationship in your book was typical of the time period and what was not typical?

Regina’s Answer:
In the West it wasn’t unheard of for a single woman who owned a homestead to have a hired hand. There was plenty of work to go around, and the role was clearly defined. In An Unforeseen Match, however, Grace’s blindness blurs the lines. Clayton shouldn’t come inside the house, but who is going to cook? How can he guide her around the ranch without touching her? They constantly find themselves in unconventional situations.

Jennings, ReginaConnect with Regina on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

In Tracie Peterson’s new book, the heroine doesn’t meet her intended husband until their wedding day, something quite different from dating and marriage today.

A Sensible Arrangement

Book Title and Setting: A Sensible Arrangement, 1893 Texas and Colorado

My Question:
Describe your main characters’ relationship:

Tracie’s Answer:
Marty Dandridge Olson—originally from the LAND OF THE LONE STAR series is a widow who wants to get out of Texas and answers a newspaper advertisement for a Lone Star Bride. Jake Wythe is originally from the STRIKING A MATCH series. When his Colorado banking job insists he have a wife, he looks for a platonic mate with whom he doesn’t have to risk his heart.

My Question:
What about the relationship in your book was typical of the time period and what was not typical?

Tracie’s Answer:
Advertising in the newspaper for a wife wasn’t all that unusual in the 1800s, but in truth it was probably done less in the later years of the century. However, for my rural ranch characters who lost mates and have no desire to fall in love again, a platonic, arranged sort of mail-order marriage works well. Today we have the Internet, but in the 1800s it was newspapers if you wanted to advertise for a wife or husband.

Peterson, TracieConnect with Tracie on Facebook and her website.

More giveaway fun for you, readers! This time, you have a chance to win A Match Made in Texas. To enter, just comment on the blog with an answer to this question: if you were writing an advertisement for a spouse who you would marry sight unseen, what three characteristics would be most important to you? (If you’re already married, pretend you’re writing the advertisement for your son or daughter.) The winner will be announced in next Friday’s post!

Love Never Fails: Romance in the 1700s

Part of the fun of historical fiction is stepping into another era . . . both the good and the bad. Beautiful gowns—yes, please! Wearing tightly-laced corsets under those gowns—maybe not. A simpler life with less technology might be appealing, but the lack of indoor plumbing certainly isn’t.

One of the best things about reading is that it can take us into the past while still keeping us firmly in the present. At the same time, there are customs of the past that we would love to see brought back into style today. For many of us, that includes some of the traditions of romance in years gone by.

I interviewed several of our historical fiction authors about the difference between romance and courtship today and in the time period they write about. Every Friday this month, I’ll post a different time period . . . with a fun giveaway at the end of each post!

Join me as we go back several centuries and talk with Jody Hedlund about love and marriage in the 1700s.

When Susanna’s heart for the poor and Ben’s disillusionment with British rule cross paths, the two find themselves bound in a dangerous fight for justice.

Book Title and Setting: Rebellious Heart, 1763 Boston

My Question:
How was courtship different in the era of your novel compared to now?

Jody’s Answer:
First, courtship in the 1700s was a family affair. Parents often had a hand in choosing potential suitors and steered children toward appropriate matches. While such involvement may have had an overbearing quality to it, young adults of today could save themselves later heartache by obtaining family input on potential marriage partners. Continue reading

January Character Profiles: Gage McKenna

(The fourth in a series of posts highlighting some fictional characters who I want to be more like during the new year. Check out past spotlights on Charlotte Graham, Brandy Phillip, and Poppy Martin.)

Gage McKenna
From Dani Pettrey’s Stranded

“Sometimes there is nothing you can do, no matter how earnestly you ache to. Not even if you’re willing to give your life in place of theirs . . . I know how it feels to be helpless, to want to save someone so badly you’d die to do so and it still doesn’t make a difference.”


Character Description: Gage McKenna is a man with a broken heart. He lost his son mere days after birth and the boy’s mother mere days later. The first woman to kindle his heart in nearly a decade is Darcy St. James, but she’s working a case that may get her killed. Fortunately for her, Gage is passionate about everything he does, whether it’s protecting the woman he loves from danger, honoring his son’s memory, being there for his family, or simply extreme kayaking. Every endeavor he pursues, he pursues with passion and his whole heart.

Noteable Character Quality: Passionate

Dani’s Reaction: I long to be more like Gage—to do everything with passion, including loving my God. Psalm 42:1-2 says, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” and Isaiah 26:9 says, “My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you.” What these verses have in common is that they are cries from a heart that is passionate for God. That describes Gage when he comes to know the Lord. I pray that describes me as well.

Amy’s Reaction: In some ways, I identified with Gage—like him, I went through a time where I asked some difficult questions about God and his justice in letting bad things happen.  In other ways, I was challenged by Gage, especially when it came to his passionate faith. It can be easy to let my belief in God be passive and lukewarm . . . but this generation needs believers like Gage who have been changed by God’s love and are passionate about sharing it with others.

Related Scripture:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” —Revelation 3:15 (NIV)

About the Author:

Pettrey_DaniDani Pettrey is a wife, homeschooling mom, and author. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves–the thrill of adventure, nail biting suspense, the deepening of her characters’ faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in Maryland with their two teenage daughters. Visit her website at

Is there someone you know who could be described as passionate about his or her relationship with God? Tell us about that person.

January Character Profiles: Poppy Martin

(The third in a series of posts highlighting some fictional characters who I want to be more like during the new year. Check out past spotlights on Gage McKenna and Brandy Phillip.)

Poppy Martin
from Todd M. Johnson’s Critical Reaction

“Look, son,” his father said to Poppy before she could take him away. “When you reach my age, you sit here waiting for the Lord to take you, and you look back on your life. It’s all you’ve still got—and you count yourself lucky if you can do that
. . . . Don’t let ‘em make you do something you’ll sit here and regret.”

Critical Reaction
Character Description: Hanford security guard Patrick “Poppy” Martin is a man of modest size but solid stature. He is “grounded,” both in faith and personality; the kind of man who puts principle and truth ahead of expediency. It is a quality in people, men or women, that quietly but naturally garners love and respect. In the book, that respect and affection are evident in Poppy’s relationship with his children, his wife, his colleagues on the job and in the union, and eventually the lawyers who come to represent him.

Notable Character Quality: Integrity

Todd’s Reaction: Poppy was particularly patterned after a man with whom I worked on a street crew during the summers when in college. He was universally liked and respected for the “Poppy” qualities he brought to the job every day, including serving as a mentor for an orphaned worker who was under him.

Amy’s Reaction: I absolutely loved the character of Poppy. He’s an average working-class guy who would rather just go about his life in a familiar routine . . . but when that doesn’t happen, he certainly rises to the occasion. Without going into much detail and spoiling the plot, I will say that I actually cheered out loud for him during the final chapters. I’d love to be more like him, especially in his stubborn refusal to compromise his principles.

Related Scripture:
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”
1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV)

About the Author:

Johnson_ToddTodd M. Johnson has practiced as an attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he also taught for two years as adjunct professor of International Law and served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong. He lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter. Visit his website at

Who is (or was) an older person in your life who served as a mentor or an example of who you wanted to be someday?

January Character Profiles: Brandy Phillip

(The second in a series of posts highlighting some fictional characters who I want to be more like during the new year. Check out last week’s spotlight on Charlotte Graham.)

Brandy Phillip
From Kathryn Cushman’s Chasing Hope

This was the type of training where, in the past, Brandy had been most prone to cheat. Push not quite as hard as she could during the first half, try to save a little something for later. . . . Not today. Today she was going to give everything she had. Maybe if she endured enough pain she could at some point forgive herself, at some point quit kicking herself for throwing away the closest thing she’d had to a friend in a long time.

Chasing Hope

Character Description: Brandy is a troublemaking teenager from the get-go. She also has an absurd natural talent for running . . . and a childhood that no one would envy. She makes mistakes over and over, and yet she keeps getting up off the ground and trying again.

Notable Character Quality: Perseverance

Kathryn’s Reaction: I admire Brandy because she has some compelling excuses to quit, and although she plans to quit on several occasions, she never does. In spite of the fact that “life has been completely unfair,” she’s still pressing forward. She makes some wrong decisions, and she has unknowingly let bitterness take root deep inside her, but she perseveres. She inspires me to keep going—even after I’ve blown it. Again. And again. And again.

Amy’s Reaction: Even though Brandy started out in the story as a tough girl who couldn’t care less what anyone thought of her, I liked her from the start. I could see that she was a fighter coming from a difficult background, and that what she really needed was someone to look up to. And it made me wonder: how many people around me are like Brandy? How many people do I judge by appearances without really getting to know them?

Related Scripture:
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” —Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)

About the Author:

Cushman_Katie1Kathryn Cushman is a graduate of Samford University with a degree in pharmacy. She is the author of five novels, including Leaving Yesterday and A Promise to Remember, which were both finalists for the Carol Award in Women’s Fiction. She is also the co-author of Angel Song with Sheila Walsh. Kathryn and her family currently live in Santa Barbara, California. Visit her website at

Who comes to mind first when you think of someone who you’d like to imitate in the coming year (fictional, historical, or someone you know personally)?

January Character Profiles: Charlotte Graham

(The first in a series of posts highlighting some fictional characters who I want to be more like during the new year. Check back every Wednesday of this month for more!)

Charlotte Graham
From Dee Henderson’s Unspoken

“That’s the problem. God is too good. He’s too willing to forgive. He would have forgiven the men who hurt me.”

Character Description:  Charlotte Graham is confident in business but extremely cautious when it comes to people—and she has every reason to be. As a teenager, Charlotte was the victim of one of the most famous kidnappings in Chicago history. She’s changed her name and built a new life for herself since then, but she’s never fully recovered from what happened. The one thing she’s sure of is that she’s single for life. When she’s left a sizable family legacy, however, the quiet life she’s built for herself is about to be turned upside down.

Notable Character Quality: Trust

Dee’s Reaction: Charlotte Graham hit a personal chord with me. God was reaching down to help her put the pieces of her life together and used Bryce to glue some of those pieces back in place. This is a relationship you want to see thrive. I listened to their story and I could see God’s hand at work. A woman with a dark past. And a man who loves her—who loves her so deeply and well she can heal.

Amy’s Reaction: Like so many of us, Charlotte found it easy to give and hard to take. She cared about using her money to help others, but didn’t want to be helped, because opening herself up to love meant she would have to risk being hurt. That’s a fear that all of us have, to different degrees, deep down, and one that made Charlotte’s character very relatable to me. Just as she has to learn to trust Bryce, she has to learn to trust God as well . . . and so do I.

Related Scripture:
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” —Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

About the Author:
Dee Henderson is the author of eighteen novels, including Jennifer: An O’Malley Love Story, New York Times bestseller Full Disclosure, the acclaimed O’Malley series, and the Uncommon Heroes series. Her books have won or been nominated for several prestigious industry awards, such as the RITA Award, the Christy Award, and the ECPA Gold Medallion. Dee is a lifelong resident of Illinois. Learn more at or

What verse has been meaningful to you in hard times?


Welcome to Bethany House’s fiction blog! We’re getting ready to launch our Christmas Countdown. Starting on Friday, November 29, the day after Thanksgiving, our authors will be posting on the blog to share their Christmas memories and traditions with you.

I’m Amy Green, fiction publicist here at Bethany House.


Much easier to attach bows to garland when you don’t have to carry them around.

You can read more about me here, but the most important thing for you to know is that I’m a reader who loves the fact that, thanks to social media, readers can interact with writers.

Come back and visit—there will be a new post every day until Christmas. We’d love to hear from you, so comment often. Share a post on Facebook or send it to a friend who needs encouragement. Maybe even buy a few books as last-minute Christmas presents. (I’m not the only one who gets excited when I feel the distinct shape of a book under holiday wrapping paper, am I?)


We decorated Bethany House for Christmas today.

Now, one more note: I am one of those strict, no-exception defenders of keeping Christmas things in the Christmas season.  (The suspicious question: “Is that…a Christmas carol you’re playing/singing/humming?” is pretty typical of me all throughout November.) So I was a little hesitant to announce this Christmas blog series today, as it might take some of the focus away from Thanksgiving.

And yet, this year, I’ve learned to see the connection between Christmas and Thanksgiving.


The Bethany House tree-trimmers

This year, I’m thankful for stories, and the ability we have to share them with one another. I’m not ashamed to admit that reading a few of our authors’ Christmas posts had me crying in my office, while others put a smile on my face that just wouldn’t leave.

I’m thankful for the extra focus that the holiday season gives us on what really matters. It’s the only time of the year where everyone, Christian or not, will talk about gratitude, peace, and joy. (We need to work on slowing down to appreciate those things…but they’re still there!)

And, of course, I’m thankful for the birth of Jesus. Reading these posts—yes, even reading them earlier in the season than I might have wanted—has reminded me to be grateful for the simple, yet completely unexpected gift of Emmanuel, God with us. I hope and pray that it will do the same for you.


What’s something you’re thankful for this year?