featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Debra Holland wears several hats as both a psychotherapist and an author of nonfiction and fiction, including historial western romance, contemporary romance, fantasy romance, and science fiction. Learn more about Debra and her books at her website. 

Appreciating Conveniences

In our modern lives, the tasks of feeding and clothing a family and keeping a home consume a great deal of a woman’s time, and women today often receive help with cooking and housework from their husbands (if they are married.) But historically women labored from dawn until dark to grow or gather food for their families, take care of livestock such as chickens, can and preserve fruits and vegetables, cook on a wood burning stove or a fireplace, make clothes by hand, wash the family’s laundry using a tub and scrub board, and press clothes with heavy irons heated on the stove. For all but the rich, life was an unending round of chores.

In my Montana Sky Series, the stories are set in the small rural town of Sweetwater Springs, Montana in the 1880s and 1890s. In the books, I like to focus on a few tasks which highlight the difficulties of life in a previous age—for example, the labor involved in taking a bath—hauling the water from a well, spring, or stream, heating it on the stove, pouring it into a washtub, heating more water for rinsing, using the same bathwater for the whole family, then emptying the tub. Imagine doing this in winter, having to bathe right next to the stove. No wonder families only took baths on Saturdays, so they’d be clean for Sunday church service!

In Mail-Order Brides of the West: Prudence, my heroine Prudence Crawford is an unlikable woman from a well-to-do family fallen upon hard times. With her parents dead, and a reputation for being difficult, Prudence knows her only choice for survival is to become a mail-order bride and marry a man who doesn’t know her. The only problem is that Prudence doesn’t want just any man. She wants a husband with money and status.

At the Mail-Order Brides of the West Agency, the potential brides must be skilled in cooking and housekeeping before they are matched with suitors. The women who lack this knowledge must undergo cooking and housekeeping lessons. Prudence hates her lessons, dislikes the other brides, and generally makes everyone around her miserable. Even though she learns to cook and bake, her efforts can never match her rivals, and one day the failure of her best attempt results in a temper tantrum where she throws a tray of biscuits across the kitchen.

When Prudence accepts a match from Michael Morgan, the owner of a mine near Sweetwater Springs, she believes her groom fits her requirements. But Michael hasn’t been entirely honest about himself, and when Prudence discovers the truth about her new husband, the fighting begins. Both of them will need to change to make their marriage work, and Prudence’s skill in baking will turn out to be important.

Old-Fashioned Biscuits

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon soda
2 tablespoons shortening
1/4 cup sour milk

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and soda. Blend in shortening. Add sour mild and work lightly. Toss on floured board and roll lightly to 1" thickness. Shape with biscuit cutters. Bake at 425 degrees on well greased pan 12-15 minutes or until golden.

Mail-Order Brides of the West: Prudence: A Montana Sky Novel

Shrewish Prudence Crawford is the last woman left at the Mail-Order Brides of the West Agency because she’s rejected every match offered to her as not good enough. One-by-one, she’s watched her fellow brides leave for their new lives and has heard tales of their happiness, and she wants that for herself—but not just any man. She will only take a husband who offers wealth and status.

Michael Morgan struck it rich in mining, or at least richer than anyone else in the tiny town of Morgan’s Crossing, Montana. He’s built himself the nicest house in town, which isn’t saying much when there are only ten homes in the whole place. He’s elected himself mayor of the population of 61 inhabitants and keeps his kingdom under tight control. When he hears stories of the mail-order brides arriving in nearby Sweetwater Springs, he decided to send for a wife, even if he has to exaggerate a mite to attract one.

A wealthy mine owner who’s the mayor of a town named after him and has a mansion sounds perfect to Prudence, even if the place is too close to the other mail-order brides whom she dislikes. But when Michael and his circumstances are not what Prudence dreamed, tempers flare and the fighting begins.

Can Michael tame the shrew, or are they destined to have a miserable marriage?


Angela Adams said...

Those biscuits remind me of my grandmother (which is a good memory) and winter. During the winter, whenever my grandmother made soup, she served the bowl with a plate of hot biscuits! Thanks for the post!!

Dr. Debra Holland said...

You're welcome, Angela. I have lovely memories of my grandmother, too. We were lucky to have special grandmothers. :)