I’m so excited to share my inspiration for Virgil and Marigold in The Prospector’s Only Prospect.
Virgil was easy. I knew I wanted the tone of the book to be light and one of my favorite Old West romcoms is Support Your Local Sheriff. I love how James Garner uses humor to get through conflict. He’s always the quickest wit in the room.
Virgil thinks he’s taking delivery of a mail-order bride who will solve his childcare problem so he can keep up with his gold-mining operation, but along comes Marigold.
I knew Marigold was going to be the wrong mail-order bride. She takes her sister’s place, but why?
I happened to be talking with my daughter and she mentioned reading about how hard it was to divorce in old-timey times. I immediately knew Marigold was divorced. Divorce is rarely easy for anyone, but in the 1850’s it was a horrible scandal. Pamphlets were printed of court proceedings and sold, much like the clickbait gossip of today.
Worse, someone had to be found at fault. In Marigold’s case, her husband had cheated, but he convinced the judge that she was unfaithful. Her husband took the townhouse and left her reputation in tatters.
Marigold went to Kansas with her sister and uncle, hoping for a fresh start. When their house burns down, her sister and uncle are taken in, but no one wants a divorced suffragette who supports abolishing slavery. Marigold is nothing but trouble.
So she uses the ticket Virgil sent for her sister and shows up in Denver, which is little more than a green field with a lot of tents and rustic shacks. Here’s part of their first conversation:
“Why take your sister’s place? Does no man in Topeka want you because you’re a troublemaker? And divorced?”
Take what little pride she had left, why didn’t he?
“No. They don’t. I’m curious, Mr. Gardner. Did many women reply to your ad? I ask because when my sister saw it, the paper was several weeks old. She was surprised to hear back that you were still looking. Are you having poor luck finding a bride?”
His shoulders hardened and his face set. “I’m being selective.”
“Right. ‘An educated woman willing to homestead and care for three children’ isn’t panned out of any old stream, is she?” A woman with the scantest degree of education would hesitate to jump on an express ticket to Hell, hoping for the best with a stranger. Only someone as idealistic as Pearl would think it was a good idea.
Or someone who had no other choices.
Marigold lifted her brows in a silent check. “May I be frank?”
“Use whatever name you like. It seems to be your habit.”
“Haha. My sister is not the hardy, frontier type, Mr. Gardner. She struggles in Topeka, and we have amenities, and steamboats, and large trains of wagons coming through half the year. She’s warm and lovely but far too soft for the life you offer. She answered your ad because she was worried for your motherless children.”
“And you’re not? I’m shocked.”
“Pearl and I both suffered when we were orphaned,” she assured him coldly.
He visibly swallowed, but he didn’t apologize.
“As the elder, I’ve always done my best to protect her. I lobbied for her to refuse the Express ticket before you went to the trouble of sending it, but Pearl imagined this as a romantic adventure. She was convinced you two would fall in love.”
His lip curled as he said mockingly, “You’ve come all this way to save me from her fanciful notions? How charitable.”
“I’m saving myself. If you don’t want me, I’ll take myself around the corner and ask if any of those men want a practical woman who is currently in debt one hundred twenty-five dollars and fifty cents.”
“I’ll do it! I’ll marry you!” The muted voice came from behind her and was accompanied by a number of knocks and thumps on wood.
Marigold turned to see the outhouse door burst open. A heavyset man stumbled out, buttoning his baggy trousers.
“Ain’t no women here to marry, but I want a wife,” the stranger said with a bobbling nod. “I’ll be good to you. Swear. I can make payments on the debt, too,” he added to Mr. Gardner. “I got a claim up on—”
“You were in there the whole time? Listening?” Marigold cried with disbelief.
“It sounded personal.” The man finished pulling his suspenders into place. “I didn’t want to interrupt.”
“Hell.” Mr. Gardner grabbed her carpetbag. “This is going to be all over town before dusk.”
I hope you’ll take a trip to the Old West and watch Virgil and Marigold fall in love. Publisher’s Weekly gave The Prospector’s Only Prospect a starred review, saying:
“Collins mines the setting for both danger and humor, providing the perfect backdrop to this sensuous romance. Readers won’t want to put this down.”
After eight days in a cramped stagecoach, divorcée Marigold Davis already regrets her decision to come to Denver City to marry. She certainly didn’t realize she’d signed up for mosquitoes, mud, and scores of rough men eyeing her like a hot meal on a cold day. But with her life in Kansas all but incinerated, Marigold needs a husband. Even if she’s not the bride that gold prospector Virgil Gardner is expecting…
Virgil Gardner has a reputation as a grumpy hard-ass, and he’s fine with it. He’s also no fool—this is not the woman he agreed to marry. It takes a tough-as-nails woman to survive the harshness of a Rocky Mountain gold claim, and this whiskey-eyed, gentle beauty is certainly not the type. Now it’s just a matter of how quickly she’ll quit so he can find a wife who will stick. Someone who can care for the only thing he values even more than gold–his children.
But Marigold isn’t about to give in. Cramped in a one-room shack. Berry picking turned into a bear escape. Or cooking for an entire crew of bottomless pits. She’s got more grit than most. And just when Virgil starts to realize his replacement bride might be the treasure he’s been looking for, an unannounced guest arrives…to change everything.
Award-winning and USA Today Bestselling author Dani Collins thrives on giving readers emotional, compelling, heart-soaring romance with laughter and heat thrown in, just like real life. Mostly she writes contemporary romance, but her backlist includes erotic romance and now, western historical romantic comedy. When she’s not writing—just kidding, she’s always writing. Dani lives in Southern BC, Canada with her high school sweetheart husband. Learn more about her and her books at danicollins.com. Follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, or join her newsletter for free excerpts and all the latest gossip on her writing life.
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