Monday, June 24, 2019


by Marisa Masterson

Before there was a gold rush in California or free land for Civil War veterans, lumber made the fortunate of men from the east, especially from New York. It created a push westward. Wisconsin Rapids, the town I chose as the setting of my latest novel, is a town that exists because of this push.
Growing up in Wisconsin, I was convinced that farming drew whites to the state. When I began my research for A Shadowed Groom for Christmas, I was surprised by the important role lumber played in settling the state. Lumber barons like Jeremiah Witter made a fortunate from the white pine and established towns at the same time. In only eighteen years, the town of Grand Rapids—which later became Wisconsin Rapids after combining with the town of Centralia--already had a bank, courthouse, and a high school, among other businesses.

South Wood County Historical Museum--an early photo of a business on Second Street

After deciding that I wanted to set the novel in historic Wisconsin Rapids, I needed to find something significant that happened around the time period. Flooding solved that. There was a historic iron bridge in the town. According to a short history on the McMillan Library website, “Two years later the county built the first iron bridge, a very high and cheap structure, which, however, served until the flood of 1888, which tore off its western span.” Flooding seemed to be a repeated problem for this town. That made it perfect for me to develop conflicts for my novel that included the flooded Wisconsin River. In fact, here’s an excerpt from the novel so readers can see how I worked the idea into the book.

Without even bothering to shut the door behind her, the older woman pulled Kitty down the sidewalk to her buggy. She half-pushed, half-flung her into it and then shoved Kitty over before rocking the buggy by settling her own bulk into it. Snapping the reins, she hustled the horses toward Cranberry Street and the bridge they had to cross to get to Kit’s factory.
Soon after getting the horses started, the woman began to talk. Gone was the sweet little girl voice. A mature and much lower voice issued from her frowning mouth now. “I hear you were poking around the factory yesterday. You and that Phineas can’t be allowed to ruin things for my husband. When he told me about seeing you there, I knew what had to be done.”
They approached the bridge. Already on edge by the menace she heard in the woman’s voice as well as the implied threats, Kitty dreaded crossing the river that swirled and foamed after last night’s heavy rain. When they had made it about half-way across the bridge, Mrs. Forrest gasped. “Did you see that child in the water?”
Hurriedly setting the brake, the woman bolted from the buggy. Kitty raced after her and leaned over the bridge to look down into the dark water below. “I don’t see any…”
The hands at her back pushed hard. Then Kitty felt her legs being lifted before she hurtled through the air toward the raging torrent below.
Wisconsin Historical Society--view after flooding in 1880, Grand Rapids, WI
Wisconsin River at Wisconsin Rapids with the second iron bridge in the background
In addition to information about flooding, I also researched the lay out of the town. I wanted the street names--such as Eighth as well as the main street that paralleled the town--and the location of businesses in the town to be as accurate as possible. What really surprised me from my reading was that the town so quickly established schools and even a high school. As a retired teacher, I loved that view of Second Street
To learn more about how quickly settlers grew a town as well as the early lumber industry, check out
About the Book-- 

Alone! Kitty Donaldson’s marred face keeps her isolated from others. When offered the opportunity to be a mail-order bride to a stranger who refuses to leave his home, Kitty gladly accepts. After all, she’s always lived without friend.

Kit Randolph has been hideously scarred in a mysterious fire. Did someone purposefully burn down his home? His cousin Phineas suspects someone near to Kit is a murderer. How can he prove it?
Married to a man in a mask, Kitty begins to wonder about her husband. Who or what lies under the hood he wears? Why is she constantly shadowed by a companion? Worse yet, why is she equally drawn to her scarred husband and his handsome cousin.
What will Kitty find when her husband’s mask is removed? With a murderer on the loose, will she live to see his face?

Available now as an ebook and on Kindle Unlimited.

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About Marisa Masterson

Marisa Masterson and her husband of thirty years reside in Saginaw, Michigan. They have two grown children, one son-in-law, a grandchild on the way, and one old and lazy dog.

She is a retired high school English teacher and oversaw a high school writing center in partnership with the local university. In addition, she is a National Writing Project fellow.

Focusing on her home state of Wisconsin, she writes sweet historical romance. Growing up, she loved hearing stories about her family pioneering in that state. Those stories, in part, are what inspired her to begin writing.


  1. I often overlook lumber in the draw to the West. Thanks for the reminder, Marisa. I enjoyed learning about your research. Most readers don't realize how much research is required for our writing. Even if most of it doesn't make its way into our book, there are things WE must know for the story to ring true.

  2. Welcome to SOTW, Marisa. So often the West is taken to leaving out states like WI but you have "submerged" us nicely!! Bad pun intended....


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