The Crawford Family series begins with Train Station Bride, the story of the middle Crawford daughter, Julia. Hoping to escape her mother’s ridicule and her sister’s perfections, Julia leaves her Boston home and travels by train to South Dakota to meet and marry a man she has corresponded with for more than a year. A mix-up at the train station has Julia marrying a different man than the one she planned to marry, but will it be a mistake or the very best of errors?
Contract to Wed is the second book in the series and we find the oldest Crawford daughter, Jolene Crawford Crenshaw, graveside as her husband is being buried. His death will leave her in reduced circumstances and prompts her to accept an offer to wed a Texas oil man, a widower, and help him in his pursuit of a United States Senate seat.
A novella, The Maid’s Quarters, follows and is the story of Alice Porterman, Jolene Crawford Crenshaw’s maid, who travels with her mistress to Texas, and home again to Boston to help her mother care for her sickly brother. But on her return she finds her mother and brother homeless, and confronts the landlord for such a heartless deed.
I am in the midst of writing Jennifer’s story, the youngest Crawford daughter. Jane Crawford, the matriarch, is consumed with her family’s social standing and is pushing Jennifer to marry a well-connected man of Jane’s choosing. Jennifer finds herself in dangerous circumstances as she unravels a plot involving her fiance to bilk The Crawford Bank. Read below the first few pages of Jennifer’s story.
“What do you mean you are planning to travel again? You have just returned,” Jane Crawford said to her daughter. “No more traveling. Mr. Rothchild won’t like it. Will you, Jeffrey?”
Jennifer Crawford watched as her mother leaned forward from her place at the table in the family dining room at Willow Tree to cover Jeffrey’s hand with her own, purse her lips, and wink at him. It made Jennifer ill to think that if she were to spend her life with Jeffrey, as he and her mother had already planned, that she would be subject to her mother’s ridiculous flirting and fawning over her husband, and in turn his obsequious and affected gratitude and flattering towards her mother.
“Jolene has asked me to come and help her in her new home in Washington D.C. when Max takes his seat in the U.S. Senate. She will be very busy and Melinda will need attention. I have already told her I will come,” Jennifer said.
Jeffrey looked at her over his wine glass after having taken a sip. “The Morgans are expecting us at their gala. I’m sure you don’t want to disappoint them.”
“I do not,” she said. “But you will have to make my excuses. Certainly, they understand what a momentous occasion this is for our family.”
“There is nothing momentous about the occasion at all! This person your sister has married is nothing! His family barely touches any good Boston society. And anyway, politicians are inevitably low-born and crass,” Jane Crawford declared. “He is nothing to us and your sisters are dead to me.”
“Jane,” her father, William Crawford, said to his wife plaintively.
“It is true!” Jane said. “After everything I have done for Jolene and Julia? For them to turn their backs on their own mother?”
“Mother, please. Mr. Rothchild does not want to hear any of this.”
Jane Crawford demurred with a shrug. “He is nearly family.”
Jennifer continued to eat, eyes down to her plate so she did not have to view her mother’s smug smile. But when she looked up, Jeffrey’s eyes were on her.
“I have already replied to the Morgans for both of us,” he said.
“I’m sure they will not miss one lone person from the hundreds they invite.”
“This is business, Jennifer,” he said. “The bank has a relationship with them and if not for Harry Morgan’s introductions we would have missed out on having some very important clients. I’m sure you understand that.”
“Wouldn’t having a family member that is a U.S. Senator be good for gaining new clients?” she asked.
Her mother harrumphed.
“Jennifer,” Jeffrey admonished. “It has already been decided. We are going to the Morgan’s.”
Jeffrey’s lips were a hard line and his eyes were cold as he spoke. She recognized that look and didn’t challenge him or say more. In fact, no one at the table conversed, and she was feeling embarrassed by the set-down. She continued to eat and sipped her wine, willing herself to be patient, until it was time to make her escape to her rooms. But what would she do when they were married? How would she escape him?
Dessert had just been served when her father cleared his throat and every head turned to him. “If Jolene has asked for your help, then you should attend her. I will make your excuses to Harry Morgan.”
Jennifer was shocked and stared at her father, not daring to witness Jeffrey’s or her mother’s reaction, as he rarely exerted himself on her, or her sister’s behalf. Jennifer didn’t believe he didn’t care, in fact, she felt he cared very deeply about all of them, and was mortally depressed when Jillian went to live with Julia. But he’d always stayed clear of the family machinations, believing that was his wife’s purview, Jennifer thought. And, if truth be told, she felt Julia was correct when she said in her letters that Father wanted to avoid the living hell that his wife would make of his life if he interfered. She also thought that her father was a bit frightened of Jane Crawford and her moods and maneuvers, just as everyone else in the household was.