The history behind His Forgotten Fiancée

Alfred Jacob Miller - Breaking up Camp at Sunrise - Walters 371940142
History can be boring when it deals with economic issues and large, sweeping movements that usually deal with -isms. But history can be fascinating if you look at individual people, the problems they faced and the choices they made.

The Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 stated that a white man could own 320 acres of land in Oregon basically just by asking for it. If he were married, he could claim 640 acres, a square mile. The other 320 acres were considered to be his wife’s claim. The wife could not have claimed the land on her own, however, any more than a single woman could. The only way the wife got control of the land was if her husband died. Good fodder for a mystery novel, perhaps, but not a romance.

Where I saw possibilities for a romance novel was in the part of the act that stated that any single man could claim the additional 320 acres, so long as he got married before December of 1851.

Apparently, there were a lot of marriages that year.

I’ve read secondary sources who claim some men married girls who were too young to be wives; these girls stayed with their parents until they were old enough to live with their husbands.

His Forgotten Fiancée

My First Ever Book!

I set my story in the fall of 1851 because I wanted Liza to face pressure to get married. As a young, unmarried woman in the Oregon Territory, she encountered a lot of single men who wanted to marry her. I liked the conflict it set up for Matthew: he did not want to marry a woman he couldn’t remember proposing to, but at the same time it bothered him to think of her marrying someone else. The poor man wasn’t being very logical. But if I’d had every memory of my past stripped from me, I might not be very logical either.

Adventures in cat training

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After much discussion, I have persuaded NotMyCat to come inside to eat, since leaving food outside meant also feeding every other cat in the neighborhood, as well as NotMyWasp and NotMyRaccoon and, on one memorable occasion, NotMySkunk. She doesn’t linger, just comes in to eat and then wants to be let outside again immediately. I’d thought it was safe enough to leave a bowl of cat food on the floor in the kitchen. Until yesterday.

Last winter, mice had found a way to get into the laundry room. Ack! I made sure the dryer vent was closed and for that matter closed the laundry room door so they couldn’t get into the house. I hadn’t seen or heard any sign of them in months, so I had forgotten all about it.

The other afternoon, I came into the laundry room and saw something dark moving along the baseboard. It could have been a fast-moving shadow from the trees outside the window. It was windy; the boughs were going up and down. But I was suspicious.

cropped-img_1194.jpgI lured NotMyCat indoors with food bribes. Then I picked her up and carried her to the laundry room. I talked at great length about her hunting prowess and how much I appreciated what a mighty huntress she was and by the way if she felt like doing some hunting I wouldn’t mind in the least.

When I set her down, she showed no interest in her surroundings. She merely trotted to the door and asked to be let out.

Ten minute later, I heard a muffled meowing at the sliding glass door. Her voice was muffled because she was holding a bird in her mouth. She was standing there expecting praise.

Luckily, the cat’s idea of bird hunting is catch-and-release. I slipped outside before I started to praise her extravagantly, which gave the bird the opportunity to fly away. But I have learned to be much more specific when I ask NotMyCat to do me a favor.

Cat training is not for the faint of heart. In His Forgotten Fiancée the heroine, Liza, is fiercely determined to keep mice from eating all the grain. The hero, Matthew, gets her a kitten and tries to teach the little one to hunt mice. It’s uphill work:

Liza left Pa sharpening the scythe and went to find Matthew. He wasn’t washing up down by the creek or anywhere in sight. She heard the rumble of his deep voice coming from the barn. Curious, she went to investigate.

“Still hungry, even after all that milk? I really do not understand how you expect to get anywhere if you just crouch by that empty dish and cry. Go out there and find some mice! No, don’t look at me with those sad eyes. I am impervious to such maudlin sentiment.” A heavy sigh from inside the barn. “Here, look, I’ll show you. It’s simple. Pretend my hand is a mouse. You’re hungry. I’m right here. What do you do? You pounce. Yes! Just like that. Let your instinct guide you. No, my hand is not, in actual fact, edible.” Another sigh. “Oh, all right. I seem to have saved a bit of salmon from breakfast this morning. I will share it with you.”

Slowly, she peeked in around the door. Matthew was crouched down, lecturing the kitten as seriously as if it were an entire jury. “This is not setting a precedent, do you understand? You need to learn how to hunt.”

His Forgotten Fiancée