Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Spinster's Folly by Marsha Ward

Marie Owen yearns for a loving husband, but Colorado Territory is long on rough characters and short on fitting suitors, so a future of spinsterhood seems more likely than wedded bliss. Her best friend says cowboy Bill Henry is a likely candidate, but Marie knows her class-conscious father would not allow such a pairing. When she challenges her father to find her a suitable husband before she becomes a spinster, he arranges a match with a neighbor's son. Then Marie discovers Tom Morgan would be an unloving, abusive mate and his mother holds a grudge against the Owen family. Marie's mounting despair at the prospect of being trapped in such a dismal marriage drives her into the arms of a sweet-talking predator, landing her in unimaginable dangers.
This fourth book in the Owen Family Saga is infused with potent heart and intense grit.

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About the Author
Marsha Ward was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and currently lives in a pine forest in central Arizona. She is an award-winning poet, freelance writer and editor whose published work includes four novels, two collaborative non-fiction books on writing, a collection of prose and poetry, and over 900 articles, columns, poems and short stories. Her novels, The Man from Shenandoah, Ride to Raton, Trail of Storms, and the brand-new Spinster’s Folly have received rave reviews from both readers and reviewers.

To learn more about Marsha and her books, check her out online.
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Check out a sample scene from Spinster's Folly and then order today! I congratulate Marsha on another excellent novel!

Marie turned and stalked off toward the plank tables set out under the oak trees nearby. When Ma had found out Carl was rising from his bed to get married, she had bustled about—with the aid of Rulon’s Mary—and put together a special wedding dinner. Well, special, if you count honey drizzled on corn cakes as special. Add the meat pulled from the bones of a few roasted chickens, gallons of milk, cold from sitting in stone crocks in the spring, and the meal could pass as special.

No matter what irritating things Julianna may say, Marie couldn’t take the time to tussle with her. There was aplenty of work to do today. Even so, she felt burgeoning anger consuming her good sense as she eyed a washtub full of tableware sitting on the grass beside the table. Which of her brothers had left the dishes on the ground instead of putting them on the table? Inconsiderate clod! She bent over, pulled a stack of tin plates from the tub, and slammed them onto the table. Her ears rang with the cacophonous sound. She retrieved a second bunch of plates, dropped them onto the first pile, then grabbed a double handful of tin cups, which she banged down on the planks, not caring if she dented them.

After a few moments of rebellion, reveling in the clinks and clanks of the tinware, she straightened up, put her hands at her waist and stretched her back. Then she blew an escaping lock of hair out of her eyes and twisted the kinks out of her neck. Remembering that—despite Carl and Ellen’s hasty withdrawal—there were still plenty of folks to feed, served to pull her out of her misery and helped her transform back into sensible, responsible Marie.

The Spanish priest robed in brown was the first to enter the shade under the oak trees, wiping sweat from his forehead with his sleeve. The Texas cowboys followed, discussing the possibility of a shiveree that night. Mr. and Mrs. Bates came along with Ma. Pa was nowhere to be seen, but the rest of the family pressed forward, intent upon taking nourishment after the arduous work of getting Carl wed.

Marie hurried to get behind the food-laden table to serve as her younger brothers pushed and shoved to position themselves at the head of the line in order to grab generous portions. Marie smacked the backs of their hands with the bowl of the honey spoon.

“Ow!” howled Albert. “There’s no call to beat me.”

“Guests first,” she replied, pointing with the spoon. “Get yourselves to the back of the line.”

Clay licked honey off the back of his hand and glared at Marie, but obeyed without a word.

Mr. Bates escorted the priest to the head of the now-orderly line, accompanied by many polite gestures on the part of both men. Marie smiled at the priest, racking her brain for something to say, then, as she heaped his plate, remembered a Spanish word she’d heard recently. “Señor,” she said, and made a bobbing sort of curtsey.

Muchas gracias, muy amable,” he said, smiling back at her and making little crosses in the air over the food table.

“Muchas grachius,” she parroted back, wondering what she’d just said as the priest moved on.

By and by, everyone who had crowded around the table had their plates full, and all were engaged in seeking places to sit to devour the comestibles. After consolidating the leftovers, Marie picked up a plate and fork.

Just then, an excited voice called from the woods, “Hey, James is riding the mustang!” The Owen brothers and the cowboys abandoned their plates and cups on the grass and hurried off to see the spectacle.

Marie watched them go, then forked up a bit of chicken, put a corn cake on her plate, and drenched it with honey. She found a place to sit by herself on the grass, and bit into the sweetened breadstuff. The bland corn cake reminded her of all such dry mouthfuls she’d endured in the years since Lincoln’s Northern soldiers had come marching into Virginia. As she chewed, she wished she’d thought to get a cupful of milk. Eventually, the honey helped ease the ground corn down her throat. She dearly hoped Pa would trade a beef cow or two for part of Mr. Bates’s wheat crop after harvest time. Wheat bread would be such a welcome change.

Young Roddy, Rulon’s boy, came galloping under the oaks astride a stick Pa had fitted with a stuffed horse head made of burlap. “The horsie bucked,” he announced in a high, shrill voice. “Unca James fell off.” He pranced around his mother. “Mama, he said bad words.”

Marie didn’t fight the chortle the boy’s comment brought upon her. I reckon he did, she thought, covering her mouth. James don’t like blemishes on his reputation as a horseman. She watched Mary bend over and exhort her son about sticking close to her. That baby’s growin’ up. Good thing Mary’s got a new wee one to dote on.

Her good humor faded as her heart constricted. She had empty arms and no prospects for a man to help her fill them with a babe of her own. She wondered if Julianna’s words about her being an old maid had any truth. She was eighteen years old, after all. She closed her eyes and felt a chill move up her spine.

Rulon had taken Mary to wife years ago, just before he went to the war. Roddy had come along in the due course of time. Now Carl had wed Ellen. When was her time to marry and have a family? Had it passed her by when Virginia got tangled up in that cursed fight? Marie shivered as the chill enveloped the rest of her body. So many young men had gone for soldiers. So many hadn’t returned home once the fighting was done. Now she was way out here in Colorado Territory. Her chances for finding a suitor weren’t showing any more promise than they had during the Unpleasantness.

Marie opened her eyes as she heard a murmur of male voices and a few laughs. Evidently the show at the corral was over. The cowboys drifted back to the serving table and piled their plates a second time.

She shook off her somber thoughts and wondered if she should take Carl and Ellen a bite of dinner. Surely, with Carl so sorely wounded, the two of them wouldn’t be in a romantic frame of mind.

But what if they were? She wouldn’t dare interrupt their honeymoon.

“Oh claptrap,” she muttered. “If Carl’s hungry, Ellen will fetch something to feed him.”

“I reckon that’s so,” a male voice said. “May I refill your plate, Miss Marie?”

Drawing in a gasp of air and jerking to attention, Marie almost spilled the food remaining on her plate to the ground. Bill Henry!

It took her a moment to recover from her surprise at his overture, but she eventually replied, “I . . . reckon I have plenty to eat here, thank you, Mr. Henry. You’re most obliging to ask.”

“Not even a cup of milk?”

“No. No, I’m real content.” She smoothed her woolen skirt, brushing at a wrinkle.

“Well then, would it be amiss if I joined you here while I ate?”

“Ma might need me,” she said, trying unsuccessfully to figure out how to get to her feet in a ladylike manner.

“I reckon she’s otherwise occupied, bidding folks good-bye,” Mr. Henry said, looking in Mrs. Owen’s direction. She stood near a cluster of horses, talking to Mrs. Bates.

“Suit yourself,” Marie murmured, wishing she didn’t feel so flustered. Bill Henry was a mighty good-looking man, with those deep blue eyes sparkling in his broad, tanned face. But if he had courtship in mind, he was wasting his time talking her. Pa wasn’t likely to give his consent to a match of his daughter with a cowhand. Except it’s very likely Pa hasn’t given me much thought at all. He has always worried first about setting his boys up in life. Be that as it may, all the world knew that sooner or later, Mr. Henry was heading back to Texas. Marie’s stomach began to ache.

Now he sat beside her in one smooth movement and tucked into his food. After chewing up a bite of dark chicken meat, he swallowed and looked at her. “Surprising doin’s today.” He gestured in the direction of Carl’s cabin. “Your brother’s got pluck to stand up on that leg and get married.”

“There’s no shortness of pluck amongst my brothers, Mr. Henry,” Marie said, measuring her words. “Every single one of them is stuffed full of it. You’d think it would run out their ears, they’re so plucky.” The last word almost exploded from her lips. Exasperation unexpectedly rose up like gall in her throat. “Pa built it into them from the time they were in short pants.”

“Whoa there.” Mr. Henry held up his hands. “What did I say to cause you hurt, miss?”

She picked at a stem of grass beside her skirt, pulling it to pieces, playing for time to settle her voice into more suitable tones. She glanced up, saw that the Bates family was riding off with the Spanish preacher in tow. “Nothing, sir,” she finally said after taking a deep breath. “I’m right pleased to see my brother wed. Nothing gives me more joy than the happiness of Miss Ellen, my good friend.” She knew she was enunciating her words carefully, but she couldn’t help the brusque note that had crept into her voice. Somehow, it went well with her stomachache.

“Is it your brothers’ pluck or your pa’s heavy-handedness that has you in a dither, miss?” Mr. Henry softened his critical words with a quick smile that briefly lifted the corners of his moustache.

“My pa? Heavy-handed? Oh, yes,” she said, her voice sounding sarcastic to her ears. She gave a little shudder, and tried to remember herself, tried to beat back the great ache cramping her midsection. She finally managed a more moderate tone, saying, “I’m speaking out of turn, Mr. Henry. My pa is an honorable man.”

“He is that,” he agreed. “He’s also a commandin’ figure of a man who wants every soul to do his will.”

She didn’t reply. There was nothing to debate in his words.

“Aside from that,” he said, a muffled snort escaping his throat, “he’s my boss, so I reckon I’m speakin’ out of turn, as well.” He lifted his hat and smoothed back his light brown hair before he carefully replaced the hat. “Beggin’ your pardon, miss, I’d best get back to my work.”

Marie looked around. The cowboys had drifted away and the glade was empty of guests. Only Albert remained, still stuffing food into his apparently bottomless maw. “It appears our weddin’ party has come to an end,” she said, rearranging the utensils on her plate. “I reckon it’s time for me to gather the dishes and such.”

He helped her to her feet without further comment, and walked her over to the tables. “I’m grateful for our talk, Miss Marie, even if I am a fair lummox at conversatin’.”

“You have no fault in speaking,” she said, a bit too forcefully. She looked downward. “I must beg your pardon for putting you ill at ease. I haven’t been the best company.” She looked up again, right into soft blue eyes that seemed to see into her soul. “I fear I’ve been a bit, um, cranky.”

He bent his head, accepting her apology. “Next time, I’ll not come up and surprise you, miss.”

She nodded, and he went away, leaving his plate behind on the table. She picked it up and ran her fingers slowly around the smooth rim as she watched him go, her attention fixed on the power in his easy stride. When she realized what her fingers were doing, she hastily set down the plate, pulled her attention back to her chore and made piles of the remains of the meal. Her thoughts buzzed in disarray, crossing one upon the other as she worked.

That Bill Henry! Is he toying with me? Jule thinks I’m ugly. Am I, truly? All the county boys said I was pretty. Why didn’t Pa set me up with a husband when he arranged matches for the boys? I was plenty old enough to get wed. There’s hardly anybody out here. Why did Mr. Henry come to sit with me? He is surely going back to Texas. Is Jule right and I’m ripe for the shelf? Why did the county boys go to war? They left me behind to wither away. What does a handsome devil like Mr. Henry want with a homely spinster? He likely left a sweetheart waiting for him. Who is there left to hold his nose and marry me? A Mexican? Tom Morgan? He never played up to me. Tom always hankered after Ellen more than James did. I’ll wager Bill kissed a pretty young thing farewell when Pa hired him on. Why didn’t Pa think of me?

Afraid she might dissolve into tears and betray her fragile state of mind to her brother, Marie dumped the dirty dishes into the washtub and fled with it toward the house.



  1. Yay, Marsha!!! This is a great series:-)

  2. Thank, Jewel! I'm having fun writing it.

    Thank you, Steve, for posting about my new novel. I appreciate your time and effort.

  3. Thank you for posting this excerpt from Spinster's Folly. I'm looking forward to reading another Marsha Ward western.

    1. Wonderful! I hope you enjoyed Spinster's Folly.

  4. Tussle! Inconsiderate clod! Muchas grachious! Your brother's got pluck! You've transported me to the past again, Marsha!