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Jameson further defines the operation of the ideologeme with three examples: ressentiment, philanthropy, and melodrama. According to Nietzsche, it is because ressentiment became a creative force that morality took on the binary of good and evil in relation to the class dichotomy of the nobility and the peasantry.

A Nietzschean understanding of slavery concludes that the slaves, who were viewed with piteous disdain, took to blaming the nobles who denied suffering in order to release their suppressed resentment.

The philosophy of charity, then, for Nietzsche, is merely an enslaving mentality disguised as the Judeo-Christian tradition perpetuated by the slaves as a revenge on their masters. Thyrza is another example. Thyrza, a hat-trimmer who is initially engaged to her neighbor, the working-class Grail, meets and falls in love with Egremont, Oxford-educated and middle-class man, who offered Grail a better job.

Egremont, who possesses the characteristic of philanthropic altruism, has this characteristic read by Jameson as an unmasking of a hostile gesture concealed within a charitable impulse, a somewhat Nietzschean understanding of philanthropy It is also because Egremont, as the more Uy 9 favored one in life, being able to pluck away what is the sole possession of his fictional foil, Grail, that allows the philanthropic motif to be revealed as nothing more than an ideologeme.

Evident, then, is a reinforcement of the magnanimity of the hegemonic social class in both The Nether World and Thyrza. Clara aspired to rise above her class station by becoming an actress, alienated as she was by her low class status, only to have acid thrown in her face by a rival; while Thyrza is killed off because she attempted to marry Egremont, who was higher in class, better educated, and financially better off than herself, which Jameson reads as a message to the lower classes to stay in their place Thus, the solutions melodrama provides are symbolic at most, characteristic of how ideologemes function.

Ideologemes, of which melodrama is an example, thus prove to clearly resist historical revision; verifiable as one turns his attention to how melodrama, as a fundamental mode of expression since the time of Dickens in the 19th century, has again emerged, in a recycled, but distinctly, essentially identical form in a novel published in the 21st century. In order to gain a deeper appreciation of the ideologeme of melodrama, it is crucial to mention the work of Peter Brooks, author of The Melodramatic Imagination.

In other words, melodrama can be defined as an episode in the Nietzschean theory on slave rebellion precisely because melodrama features a form of moral erosion that overcomes the enslaver. Melodrama typically pits virtue and evil against each other, very explicitly defining each one, and after the initial articulation and recognition of evil, virtue will break free from its oppressed or repressed state Brooks Furthermore, having as its concern the imposition of basic ethical truths, melodrama employs a simplicity of classification: good and evil as moral feelings and emotion as lying in the jurisdiction of morality.

In addition to being in charge of manual labor, which saved their employers from doing more than pressing a buzzer, and as if to further solidify their disparity, the servants were shown to be squatting on the sidewalks as they Uy 11 gossip, while eating street food, such as balut and taho Soliven The Mango Bride, in accordance with the slave morality that informs ressentiment, champions the ostracization of those possessing the mentality of a master morality. Ressentiment conditions the class conflict in the novel by highlighting antagonistic class interactions through the invariable juxtaposition of Amparo and Beverly, as if to underscore the common anxieties and crises of their classes.

Despite being thrown into a more or less similar situation in America, which stands as the symbolic class equalizer in the novel, Amparo still comes off as the advantageous individual. Amparo, like Beverly, with no servants or parents to depend on, had to do her own household chores, such as cooking, washing dishes, cleaning, etc.

Similar to Beverly, Amparo was an outsider who was far away from home and family members, aside from her Tito Aldo, who was a fellow black sheep. Amparo also had friends, gained through Manong Del, who invited her to Filipino veteran gatherings and treated her with a paternal affection Soliven Beverly, on the other hand, was forbidden by Josiah to make friends, seen by how Josiah warned her to stay away from Hitomi, the closest person Beverly had to a friend in Oakland, and by how she refused to give Amparo her phone number because Josiah had prohibited it Soliven , Beverly and Clara, who are both characters that represent the lower class, can be read as part of melodrama in a narrative strategy created by a member of the upper class.

The penultimate rebuke, death, occurred to both, but not before they had been violated by the Uy 14 oppressive structures. For Clara, aside from being evicted from the vicinity of the Duarte clan, was forcibly separated from the father of her unborn child and bore an illegitimate child alone Soliven For Beverly, who thought she could escape the drudgery of her waitressing life in Manila by becoming a mail-order bride, not only had her illusions shattered by realizing that she still had to work, but also experienced a double oppression— once by the politico-economic class oppression and then again by the oppression of the patriarchy—before she died violently and tragically, much like her mother before her Soliven Claire, it can be argued, is the object of philanthropy, in that she received what had been denied of Clara and Beverly: a name and a place in the Duarte-Guerrero household.

Since Amparo had a permanently damaged cervix, and with Beverly gone, Amparo, almost conveniently, received the one thing that completed her life. Since a child stood for the only Uy 15 thing that Beverly had that Amparo did not, it can be contended that another fulfillment of the desires of the hegemonic class occurred at the expense of those below them.

Moreover, philanthropy characterizes the relationship of Manong Del and Amparo, who had had misgivings of the former upon their initial meeting because of his appearance, but grew to regard him as friend after he saved her from a mugger Soliven Made transparent, then, is the fact that the novel makes use of the transnational space of America to erase class by prioritizing a solidarity between those with the same nationalities.

Uy 16 Janus V. Nolasco examines the ineradicability of the powerful family, illustrated by how the Duarte-Guerrero clan does not come undone in the end, despite its oppressive role in the dichotomous class antagonism; but instead, how the novel maintains the long-standing tropes, such as being born into wealth, marrying rich, or even being adopted into it, that stand as symbolic resolutions to the unequal distribution of wealth in Philippine society.

Nolasco laments the fate of Beverly, someone twice oppressed—not only because she was denied her rightful place in the family, but because she was innocent of the circumstances that propelled her to suffer the only kind of life she has ever known in the first place. Class is not, as most social stratification theories would argue, a societal hierarchy of those with differing incomes, lifestyles, jobs, or statuses, which, Ebert points out, is merely a concealment of class antagonism because they do not embody class, but are, rather, effects and features of class itself The Work of Critique Ebert explains the paradoxically synchronous ubiquity and invisibility of class—that which shapes daily social life and yet is concealed through different cultural aspects—through the progressive and flexible adaptive Uy 17 ability of capitalism to conceal its inherent contradictions.

Moreover, Ebert cites the pro-life and pro-choice debate as another example of how cultural values enshroud capitalism. Ebert argues that both pro-life and pro-choice stances are rife with capitalist class contradictions, that whether predominantly adopted by low, middle, or upper classes, abortion or anti-abortion is always inevitably based on capitalism Class in Culture Contemporary feminism plays a role as well in the displacing of class in culture, which Ebert identifies as she turns a critical eye on Ludic feminism; as opposed to Red feminism, what Ebert proposes as the necessary response to the former.

Ludic feminism—in its localization of gender and sexuality from material conditions in the name of honoring differences and the specificities of oppression—becomes a feminism that disappears into an irrelevance of bourgeois caprice and humor interlaced with a defensive populism, and consequently, a Bahktinian carnival that prioritizes playfulness Ebert, Class in Culture The discursive analysis of Gibson-Graham also leads to a conclusion that exploitation is good for the woman, as it allows her to redefine traditional gender roles Ebert, Class in Culture Red feminism argues that capitalism does not need female, sexual, or racial oppression in order to survive—only cheap labor Ebert, Class in Culture Ludic feminism prioritizes theory-as-play, focusing on the cultural representations instead of the actual relations of production, mystifying wage-labor exchange through cultural difference—as opposed to theory as explanatory critique of social totality Ebert, Class in Culture Ludic feminism avoids the question of class, which is the only site of historical agency, by first declaring class as outmoded, and then by projecting multiple, isolated subjects as subjects of agency Ebert, Class in Culture While Red feminism agrees that sexuality, gender, and race are sites of social struggle, it acknowledges that these are social differences only because of the social divisions of labor, and that the wage-laborer is the only historical agent in a capitalist world Ebert, Class in Culture As opposed to Ludic feminism, which assumes that gender, race, and sexuality have their own logic, Red feminism sees that a thorough understanding of the exercise of power seen in oppression is to see power as a socio-political manifestation of the ownership of the means of production Ebert, Class in Culture Intersectionality is a mode of analyzing "the relationships among multiple dimensions and modalities of social relationships and subject formations" McCall.

By bypassing an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist perspective, they effectively ignored the imperialism that constituted the third leg of the original jeopardy motif.

Intersectionality, essentially, had become an advocate of the notion of class as lifestyle, job, or income; detached from the social relations of production and its aim for societal transformation.

Uy 21 Ebert further demonstrates the complicity of Ludic feminism in the operations of capitalism through its lack of intervention against existing labor relations and structures of exploitation; characterized in its avoidance of class, even in discussing labor Ebert, Class in Culture For Ludic feminism, labor is equated to income, which is a question of consumption, while class is a question of production, for which Red feminism argues as the sole basis of revolutionary action against capitalist exploitation Ebert, Class in Culture Features of a Ludic feminist-sponsored capitalism can be seen in popular forms, such as the romance novel, and even in its diversified genre, chick lit, which mystify and convert objective economic realities into cultural differences, writing off economic inequalities as merely variances in cultural aspects of style, prestige, breeding, and the like, in order to neutralize capitalist contradictions and prevent alienation from arising within the laborer Ebert, The Work of Critique More than focusing on consumption as the key to freedom and equality, which blurs class distinctions; there is also an elision of class differences when affective ideologies such as loyalty and friendship, that mask actual relations of production, are predominantly featured in these narratives Ebert, The Work of Critique Moreover, Ludic feminism, by centering contemporary gender theory with debates on essentialism and anti-essentialism—seeing any materialist theory that prioritizes labor over idea as essentialist—posits the global as a totalizing abstraction; and therefore, not only translates materialist understanding and the social struggle of surplus labor into mere epistemology, but also blurs class distinctions into fragmented and seemingly autonomous identities Ebert, Class in Culture By doing so, Ludic feminism marginalizes the real basis of human solidarity: collective labor practices Ebert, Class in Culture Ludic feminism emphasizes transnational globalization, which offers a legitimacy to a transnationality which has a consumption-centered culture as its basis, affirming a civil society of commodification Ebert, Class in Culture Globalization, as Ebert argues, is a strategy invented by capitalism to satiate its need to intensify labor exploitation to the degree of surpassing nation borders Ebert, The Work of Critique Globalization, predominantly only ever meaning cultural or historical subordination to the West, has made wage labor the universal regime of work in its various suspension of laws and rights to allow for a ready contingent of laborers The Work of Critique Ebert refutes cultural critique that argues for the globalized world as post class community based on consumption, lifestyle, aesthetic, or beliefs Ebert, The Work of Critique Transnational globalization, while creating some jobs for the unemployed, affects neither existing class relations nor social relations of production, and in fact, reinforces them by legitimizing exploitation of labor on a global scale, proving that bourgeoisie maintain their class position through the Uy 23 constant adaptation and transformation of the instruments of production Ebert, The Work of Critique In doing so, the elite writers delineated differences between bourgeois, transpacific Filipinas, and others.

Her work centers on an examination of writers who can be classified as privileged; namely, the university-educated, Manila resident who travels abroad and speaks and reads in English, and was absolutely a product of the American educational system Cruz The transpacific Filipina came to be a central figure in transpacific, national, and global relations, as well as a cornerstone of the definitions of the Filipina by those elites who were literate in English Cruz Cruz observes that the contemporary transpacific femininities have been recast in light of the icons of Imelda Marcos, who capitalized on the fascination with transpacific femininities by portraying the demure modesty of the popularly romanticized image of the Overseas Filipino Worker OFW as domestic caregiver, and the exotic appeal of the Oriental, erotic mail-order bride Lan states that unpaid household labor and waged domestic labor are both feminized, morally meritorious, as well as severely undervalued, monetary-wise In her study, Lan draws the conclusion that international marriages between Filipinas and Americans, among men from other economically prosperous countries, happen because of the traditional view that marriage is considered to be a track of social mobility for women Western men that are considered undesirable in their own country turned to Third World women, regaining their masculinity through a heroic rescuing of a poor female from an uncivilized country, as well as being able to fulfill the nostalgia of having an ideal domestic space upheld by an obsequious foreign bride—as opposed to Western or Westernized women, who were supposedly liberated from traditional gender roles Lan Lan infers from interviews that there seems to be more social recognition and moral value in being an unpaid, laboring housewife or mother than a paid, laboring helper, which might additionally explain the transnational globalist phenomenon of the mail-order bride Drawing from Ebert, abortion as a class issue in the novel was concealed; with an attribution instead of immorality from religious teachings and a fear of marred social reputation, in other words, abortion as centering on cultural values instead of class contradictions Soliven , Because of her abortion, Amparo was no longer determined according to the dimension of class, but of gender.

Feminism as class-concealing affect informs the ideology of friendship, which conditions the similar oppressive circumstances within which Amparo and Beverly find themselves separately in, a perpetuation of a female bond that insists on evading class distinction by a focus on patriarchal subjugation.

Moreover, it is worthwhile to note that there is a parallel between the friendships of Amparo and Ditas and Beverly and Lisa: both had been childhood friends, conditioned not merely by a particular shared affinity, but rather, a shared condition of the same class status. The minimal encounters Amparo and Beverly have with their respective friends mostly center around conversations that feature sex, a topic that converges on a sense of lost feminine innocence Soliven , Still fuming by the time she got home, Leslie had recounted the silly, annoying episode to Chase.

He'd put the situation back into perspective for her with one witty remark. She'd felt a thousand percent better.

Their relationship worked both ways too. Leslie knew she'd been able to brighten Chase's day at least as often as he'd provided a sympathetic ear for her. Before she sent off her message, Leslie took a moment to scan the return addresses on her incoming e-mail. Nothing from Chase. She hesitated. He didn't talk about his job, but she did know all about his current family troubles.

Sighing, she deleted what she'd just typed without sending it. This was not the time to plague him with her problems. As she logged off, Dewey suddenly jumped onto her lap, and she cuddled his fat, furry body. Chase Forster had become a very big part of her life.

Was she alone too much? More to the point, had she somehow managed to fall for a man she'd never met? No, of course not. What a preposterous idea! She and Chase were just good buddies. If she was at times fascinated by what he wrote to her, intrigued by the workings of his mind, why those were perfectly normal results of friendship.

Weren't they? He said good-bye to his parents, cradled the telephone, then stood frowning down at it, idly stroking the dark brown strands of his mustache while he thought things through. His folks were in their seventies and retired.

They didn't want to go through the hassles of parenthood again. No surprise there. Considering they hadn't done too well at it the first time around, he ought to be feeling relieved at their decision.

Too restless to stay still, Chase paced the confines of his small, neatly kept apartment. Now he couldn't imagine living any other way. He paused in front of the window that overlooked the main street of Fallstown. At this hour on a warm mid-August evening the street was virtually deserted. This time of year the natives closed their shops early and went home to enjoy the long evenings with their families.

Interesting concepts, but he wasn't sure he knew much about. The house he was about to move into with his nephew and niece, fifteen-year-old Jeremy and fourteen-year-old Calico, was the same one in which he and his late brother had grown up. It held a mixture of memories. Some were good. Many were very bad. Shaking his head, he left the window and wandered over to a table that held two computers, the portable assigned to him by the state for use in his work as a probation officer, and the PC he'd downloadd shortly before the department of corrections closed most of the local probation offices and put the caseloads into a database.

These days Chase worked from home, or out of his car, when he wasn't conducting business in various courtrooms and jails. The personal computer drew him. He had never been a parent and wasn't sure how to go about becoming a good one, but he did have one special person with whom he could share anything, including his concern about his suitability to raise two teens. It had become automatic for him to use Leslie as a sounding board.

She was a woman with a lot of common sense, enlivened with a quick and quirky intelligence. Within a few minutes he'd composed a lengthy e-mail to her, though he didn't have to repeat the basics. Leslie already knew that Jeremy and Calico's father had died in a car crash two years back and that their mother, Gwen, was serving time in the state correctional facility at Windham. Ten days 11 E-Mail Order Bride by Kathy Lynn Emerson earlier, right after she'd been taken into custody to begin a four-year sentence for writing bad checks, the kids had been sent off to Florida to visit their grandparents.

He was a good kid at heart. Chase was sure he could reach him, teach him all the things he himself had been obliged to learn the hard way. It was good to have Leslie to talk to, he thought, if only electronically.

He smiled to himself. He didn't think he'd ever had a more intense relationship with a woman, and they hadn't even met face-to-face. He was going to have to remedy that one of these days soon. His curiosity had been piqued early in their correspondence. They seemed to have a great deal in common.

The nature of e-mail made it possible to be candid, to share real communication instead of engaging in the polite social fictions that went along with traditional dating. Periodically, he checked to see if there was any new email.

Finally, there was one. From Leslie. She commiserated with him over his concerns about his imminent fatherhood. He suspected Leslie wasn't kidding when she implied that the idea of instant motherhood held a certain appeal for her.

He'd read between the lines of her e-mail when she'd written about her relationship with her sister's children. She'd like nothing better than to have kids of her own to take care of. She'd make a darned good mother too, he thought. An idea popped into his head. He tried to shake it, but it stuck, and the feeling built that he should yield to any impulse that was so strong.

In the end, he gave in and sent the message. Then he couldn't log back on to the Internet. All the lines were busy. By the time he got through again, Leslie's answer was waiting for him. He hesitated, his fingers hovering over the keyboard.

Now that the subject had been broached, now that his initial shock at even considering it had worn off, marriage sounded like a damned fine idea. A two-parent household would provide greater stability for the kids. And he and Leslie seemed to be compatible. He knew she wasn't altogether happy with her job. That probably meant she wouldn't mind giving it up to move to Fallstown.

Chase abruptly pushed away from the desk. Was he crazy? He didn't even know the sound of her voice or what she looked like. They might be wildly incompatible on a physical level.

He tried to tell himself that appearance shouldn't matter, but he knew damned well it did. They might not be talking about falling in love, but if he was going to marry someone, he sure intended to enjoy all the benefits of being a husband. That meant they needed to meet before they decided anything, even if this would be a—what? A marriage of convenience?

No, that wasn't right. More like one of those mail-order deals. He started to send a simple dinner invitation, thinking they could meet on neutral ground, but once more Chase found himself yielding to impulse. As he typed he couldn't control his grin any more than he could edit the wording that popped 14 E-Mail Order Bride by Kathy Lynn Emerson into his head and came out through his fingertips.

Before he could change his mind, he transmitted the message. The die was cast. His fate was in her hands. Unable to sit still, he stood and started to pace. They'd meet. If they liked each other in person, and Leslie agreed to marry him, they could tie the knot right away. All it took was a few minutes in front of a notary. They could start working together to redecorate the house. He figured they'd have at least a couple of days alone together before Jeremy and Calico were due to return and move in with them.

Stopping stock-still in the middle of the room, Chase shook his head to try to clear it. Maybe he was crazy. Even assuming Leslie agreed, that was no way to start a marriage. But this wouldn't be a traditional marriage, he argued with himself. And besides, Leslie might turn him down. Chase glanced at the computer. Maybe he'd jumped the gun a little, proposing like that. Maybe he shouldn't have tried to be cute with that e-mailorder stuff, even though he thought she appreciated his sense of humor, just as he got a kick out of hers.

He should have asked to meet her first. Hell, he should have run a background check on her. The more he thought about it, the more he realized how little their correspondence had dealt in vital statistics. They'd revealed opinions, feelings, emotions.

In many ways he thought he knew this woman very well. In others he was completely in the dark. That meant, she'd once told him, that she rarely had anything to do with the public. She knew what he did for a living, too, though not many of the details. A lot of what he did on the job was confidential. Although they hadn't exchanged ages, he was pretty certain from references she'd made that she was in her midthirties, as he was, but he could be completely wrong.

For all he knew, she could be twice his age. Or only in her early twenties. And he knew almost nothing about her family. She'd said her parents were deceased and that she had an older sister. Mostly she'd talked about her niece and nephew, as he had about his. Chase threw himself back into the desk chair and stared at the computer screen.

Absently, he tugged on his mustache. Asking a stranger to marry him, he thought, was certainly an uncharacteristic move for cop-turned-probation-officer. Ordinarily he'd have been more suspicious. Asked for more information. But with Leslie he'd let down his guard. They'd clicked right from the first and he'd never stopped to question why.

Think positive, he told himself. After all, he'd been contemplating asking Leslie to meet him in person for some time now, and had only hesitated because he'd been reluctant to pressure her or invade her privacy in any way. He supposed he'd been waiting for some kind of indication from her that she'd like to get together. She'd have had time to reply to his outrageous proposal by now.

This time his connection went through on the first try, and he downloaded the latest e-mail from Leslie. He hit the key to display her answer. Relief, he told himself. Now it was time to get down to the nitty-gritty. He quickly e-mailed back with his phone number, asking her to call him collect as soon as she received it.

Ten minutes later his phone rang. Slick with sweat, her right hand clutched the phone while the other left a damp patch on the leg of her pale blue sweatpants. Her heart was racing double time. Her throat felt dry as sandpaper left out in the desert sun. The voice was wonderful, deep and steady and warm as a cozy comforter on a cold day. She swallowed hard and waited. She was surprised but grateful when her own voice worked. When and where would you like to meet? Would you mind coming here?

I mean, it only makes sense that you should visit Fallstown and take a look at the house we'll be living in if It also made her very nervous. She hesitated so long that he spoke again. Have you got a pen and paper? You call and ask them anything you want about me. And have them verify the address I'm going to give you. It's the house I grew up in, the house I'm moving back into. Her hand shook the whole while. You wouldn't have given me those numbers if you had anything to hide.

But call them, Leslie. For your own protection and for my peace of mind. Of course. That had to be why she was crazy enough to agree to become Chase Forster's e-mail-order bride. Which was why she was considering this mad scheme at all. She felt as if she knew Chase very well indeed. Oh, there were things they hadn't discussed. Some of them were probably important. But she didn't think she'd ever known a man she'd dated in the usual way as well as she knew Chase. And Chase knew her most deeply held beliefs as well as her pet peeves.

Careful, she warned herself. Until she met Chase in person she had no way of telling if he'd been as truthful with her as she'd been with him. He might have been spinning her a web of lies all these months. But she didn't think so. How about you? Why did you say yes? Very carefully, she untangled them. And they should have something to say, too, don't you think? It was almost as painless as communicating by e-mail. When do you want me to come to Fallstown?

How about one in the afternoon? That had been easy, she thought. Too easy. Suddenly she started to shake so hard, she had to sit down. Was she out of her mind? She removed her glasses and furiously cleaned the lenses with her sweatshirt. The room was fuzzy until she put them back on. Then she had to wonder, with considerable irony, if she was really seeing any more clearly than before. After a moment she sat up straight and squared her shoulders. This was no time to doubt herself. Every instinct she possessed told her that if she didn't go and meet Chase, she'd regret it for the rest of her life.

How else could she decide, in a rational manner, whether to marry him or not? She was reaching for the phone, about to do as Chase had asked and check up on him, when Dewey butted her arm with his head. He was awake and hungry and making it very clear that she'd better drop everything and follow him to the kitchen.

Dewey was indifferent to everything but the food in his bowl. She might as well eat, too, Leslie decided, and fixed herself a light, early supper. She took her time eating the turkey sandwich and a dish of Cherry Garcia ice cream. Throughout the meal, her thoughts remained fixed on Chase Forster.

She ran through all the pros and cons, over and over again. She kept coming to the same conclusion. It would be a partnership between friends, the very best basis for marriage.

They were two like-minded people joining together for mutual benefit. Mutual love was not a prerequisite. Chase had requested that she make two calls, Leslie reminded herself when she'd finished washing the few dishes and returned to the living room.

She had a feeling he'd be disappointed in her, maybe even question her common sense, if he found out she hadn't done as he'd asked. Besides, now that she'd all but made her decision, she was curious to see what more she could find out about him. Curled up on her comfortable sofa once again, with Dewey snuggling in her lap, Leslie reached for the phone.

Of the three corrections officers on a shift, one drew dispatching duties, one was stationed inside the cell block, and the third handled the intake of new prisoners and other paperwork.

This evening Penny Lassiter was the dispatcher and sat at the radio console. The door closed behind him with a solid thunk. He'd timed his visit well, during the evening lull that followed feeding time for the prisoners. Even working around any urgent radio transmissions and emergency phone calls, he should have ample opportunity to ask Penny, very casually, if Leslie Baynton had called the sheriff's office to check up on him.

One of the numbers he'd given her was a line feeding into Penny's workstation. She smothered a yawn and raked her fingers through short, straight hair the color of spring mud. Help yourself. She felt too much like his kid sister. It wasn't surprising, then, that he blurted out the reason for his visit before he'd even finished pouring coffee into a mug decorated with the logo of a local ski area.

Should I have? He watched Penny grab it, heard her erase every trace of a smile from her voice. Officer Lassiter. Penny's broad grin quickly clued him in as she tipped back in her chair. Although she gave brief, unenlightening answers to Leslie's questions, amusement glinted in her eyes.

As in date? Give, Chase. What's going on? We haven't exactly been having a crime wave around here lately. Even though his sister-in-law had been arrested in another county, the law-enforcement community 24 E-Mail Order Bride by Kathy Lynn Emerson in Maine was small enough that nothing stayed private long.

It was no secret, either, that both Gwen and Chase's late brother Jake had been involved in more than one small-time scam over the years. Jake had skated close to arrest several times before his death. Aside from the fact that Mom and Dad aren't up to raising a couple of teenagers, there's a rule in the retirement community where they live. No permanent residents under the age of fifty-five. So I'm taking them.

E-Mail Order Bride

Details, Chase. Tomorrow we're going to meet in person for the first time. All the while his still-active cop instincts were telling him he ought to be 25 E-Mail Order Bride by Kathy Lynn Emerson worrying more than he was. Something was probably wrong with a woman willing to go along with a scheme like this one. Just as he put down his empty coffee mug, Penny tore off a printout and skimmed its contents.

The betraying twinkle in her eyes tipped him off. Belatedly, he realized that during the time they'd been chatting, Penny had run Leslie's name through the Department of Motor Vehicles computer.

If Penny was amused, then Leslie had a valid driver's license, kept her car registration up to date, and hadn't violated any traffic laws. Those facts didn't rule out a criminal record, but they sure made it less likely. Only six months.

And she's a nice height for you. It tended to bother them more than it did him. Penny made a tsking sound and handed over the evidence. How come you didn't check up on her yourself? I've got things to do.

What did it matter what she wore to meet Chase Forster? If he didn't accept her for herself, regardless of her nearly nonexistent clothes sense, then she didn't want to marry him anyway. Resolutely, she selected a pair of pale blue linen slacks and a matching unstructured jacket. Compromise, she thought with a faint smile.

Better than baggy jeans and a loose sweatshirt, her normal at-home attire, and a definite improvement over the bright red power suit she'd bought at Carole's insistence and worn only once. Surely Chase already knew she was the casual type. She thought he was too. As she dressed she found herself remembering bits and pieces of the e-mail correspondence she'd spent half the previous night rereading, after she discovered she was too wound up to sleep.

She hadn't read it all. Printed out, there'd probably be six hundred pages of their correspondence. Worse, someone mistook me for a lawyer. Leslie stared at the shoe rack that ran up one side of her closet. Chase had said he was of medium height, but what did that mean? Her imagination veered away from how tall he was to contemplate physique.

Was he skinny? She was alarmed to realize she had never conceived any clear physical image of him. It was his mind she'd been falling for. His body shouldn't matter.

She knew that intellectually. But they were contemplating marriage. Not skinny, she decided. Not with that deep voice. The opposite image popped into her head, straight off the cover of a romance penned by a former male model. Now there was a scary thought. Given the choice, she'd prefer even overweight to muscle-bound. Those bodybuilder types seemed to think too highly of themselves. It was fruitless to speculate. She'd see for herself what Chase looked like soon enough.

She selected a pair of shoes with one-inch heels and set to work on her hair, not that there was much she could do with it. For years she'd opted to keep it styled in a straight, simple cut that didn't need much maintenance. She didn't always wear it, but a little something seemed called for today. While she carefully applied a small 28 E-Mail Order Bride by Kathy Lynn Emerson amount of blush and eye shadow, her mind went back to the yearlong correspondence with Chase.

They'd shared all kinds of things in their e-mail. He'd once confessed a weakness for Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. But the guy who took me to see H. Pinafore when I was a teenager was both macho and cool. Sheriff of this county, as a matter of fact. He took his whole family to see Gilbert and Sullivan live every chance he got, and for a couple of years he always invited me to go along too. Probably wanted to civilize me. It worked. I've been going on my own ever since, though it's damned hard to find productions these days.

She'd have hesitated to get involved with a conservative law-and-order type who never departed from the stereotype of small-town There were still plenty of both left in rural Maine. Fortunately, Chase Forster didn't seem to be one of them.

Leslie smiled at her reflection as she sprayed on a light mist of perfume. There were signs in their correspondence that they thought alike on many issues. Once, when he'd been feeling down, she sent him a list of unintentionally comic headlines she'd found on the Internet. It turned out that they both loved puns and bloopers.

In the months since, they'd sent many such humorous lists back and forth. CO2 is cold water. Oh, dear. Leslie put the perfume bottle down with a thump. Did that mean anything? She'd thought those examples were hilarious at the time and said so. Would he expect her to be more worldly than she was? Stop it, she ordered herself. The exchange had been harmless.

So what if she and Chase now both knew that in Ames, Iowa, a man was not allowed to take more than three gulps of beer while lying in bed with his wife?

Of course, there was that other one If she'd been face-to-face with someone, Leslie suspected she'd have been six shades of red at hearing something like that. Long-distance it hadn't embarrassed her in the least. Forcing her thoughts back to more immediate matters, she gave her image in the mirror a long hard stare. No sense wishing she looked any different. This was as good as it got. Time to grab her purse and head out. Unfortunately, the drive to Fallstown gave her more time to think, and the contents of one particular e-mail quickly came to mind.

She'd completely forgotten until that moment that she'd made a confession of her own to Chase. Remembering the details of the e-mail, Leslie couldn't believe she'd been so open with him. She'd told him something she'd never have shared with anyone else, the fact that she'd watched an X-rated movie on the pay-per-view television in her hotel room.

Out of curiosity. The opportunity to see what all the fuss was about had never presented itself before. Did he remember that exchange? What must he have thought of her? Focus on the positive, she lectured herself.

Chase wouldn't have proposed if he thought she was immoral. He cared too much about his family. She would become part of his family if she married him, she realized. That meant he would care about her. But as she continued to drive and contemplate the correspondence she'd so recently reviewed, her self-doubt returned. The truth was that she did not know all that much about Chase's family. He'd told her surface details. She'd gotten a strong sense that he was deeply concerned about Jeremy and Calico, but not a feeling that the Forsters had ever been close-knit.

She found she remembered it word for word, having read it several times during the wee hours of the morning.

Most of the time I don't think about family. My brother's dead. None of the rest are here in Fallstown any longer. Their choice. I do miss my nephew, Jeremy, sometimes, but not the others. He was cute as a little kid. Into everything. Now I only visit him once in a blue moon and the last time wasn't very encouraging. He's into that teenage stage where kids seem to lose their vocabulary. You know how it goes: Where have you been?

What did you do? That was funny when I was his age. It's a bit more troubling now. She had no idea if he'd been seeing someone during the year they'd emailed back and forth. He probably had. Men had it so much easier when it came to finding people to socialize with.

She wondered why he hadn't asked one of those women to marry him. Maybe he had. Maybe she'd turned him down. Maybe more than one had and he was getting desperate. That was silly.

It was abundantly clear Chase had proposed on impulse. She'd just missed her turnoff on the main north-south highway she'd been following. Before she got any farther past Fallstown, she pulled into a gas station, intending to check the directions Chase had given her 32 E-Mail Order Bride by Kathy Lynn Emerson over the phone. She dug into her purse for the slip of paper she'd written them on, then sat staring at it. Did she really want to go through with this? It wasn't too late to change her mind.

What if she hadn't explained herself well? Had misled him in some way? It was easy to misinterpret words. What false expectations might he have, especially after she'd come right out and told him that her own sister thought she fit the stereotype of an old-maid librarian? Did he anticipate meeting a mousy little woman, her hair in a bun and the word shhhh permanently on her lips?

Shaking herself, Leslie mentally ran through the content of other e-mails, searching for one that would give her the confidence she so badly needed at that moment.

The only thing she could remember was an exchange on the subject of real-life cop shows on television. She'd asked if he watched them, thinking that since he'd once been in police work as a deputy sheriff, he'd find them interesting. He'd written back that he avoided them like the plague. When I want to relax, give me pure escapism every time. Why do you think I like reading mystery fiction?

Unlike real life the bad guys always get what they deserve by the end of the novel. Order is restored. The virtuous triumph. Would the virtuous triumph today?

Would this story have a happy ending? Leslie smiled grimly and looked at the directions in her hand. There was only one way to find out. A short time later, she parked her dark blue Dodge Neon in front of Carrier Street and peered up at the house. The 33 E-Mail Order Bride by Kathy Lynn Emerson Forster place was a white clapboard structure with two floors and an attic, fronted by a terraced lawn. Tall spruce trees flanked the porch. And someone was framed by a picture window on the first floor, a dark, solid shape watching the street.

Panic threatened, then receded. She'd come this far. She wasn't going to chicken out now. Drawing in a deep breath, Leslie got out of the car. There were two flights of steps to negotiate, three counting those connected to the porch, and her legs felt wobbly before she even started.

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Just the heels, she told herself. In spite of her lack of height, she usually wore flats or went barefoot. She grasped the iron railing firmly as she climbed. She did not look at the window again, afraid her nerve would fail her.

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The second flight of stone steps ended at the foot of the wide front porch. Fighting the urge to turn and run, Leslie lifted her head to take her first good look at the man who'd just opened the front door to greet her. Her breath caught. The jolt of physical awareness was unexpected. She ascended the porch steps on autopilot. Medium height and brown hair and eyes.

That was all Chase had given her by way of self-description. He hadn't mentioned a thick mustache accentuating sensual lips. He'd given her no advance warning of his intimidating build. That was the only word to describe him. Romantic nonsense. Forcing the too vivid image from her mind, though she could not control the rush of color into her cheeks, Leslie fought back a wave of shyness and stuck out her right hand.

They were contemplating entering a partnership here, she reminded herself.

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Fulfilling her fantasies was not part of the deal. He was too busy staring back at her. Then he took her hand, and his was hard, warm, and slightly callused. The feel of it sent a tingle up Leslie's arm.

She swallowed hard, determined not to be reduced to tongue-tied silence.

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This was Chase, she reminded herself. She strove for the light-hearted tone that had so often infused their correspondence. A slow, appealing smile softened otherwise hard features.

Leslie found that simple change in expression immensely comforting. To her own amazement, Leslie began to relax. She didn't understand why she didn't stay more nervous around him, especially when she was so aware of him as a man.

She smiled back in pleasure and relief. She'd been right to follow her instincts. Chase Forster was as nice a man in person as he'd seemed on-line and over the telephone. This was also the house they'd be living in if they went through with the marriage. To her left, stairs climbed straight up, then made a sharp turn to the right. Not plantation-house style by a long shot, yet the image from Gone With the Wind flitted through her head once more. She reached out to stroke the wide, smooth railing, gazing upward.

Behind her, Chase chuckled, a rich, deep sound. One living room. They were friends. That was an excellent basis for marriage. She mustn't go developing romantic expectations. If she didn't yearn for undying devotion or grand passion, then she couldn't be disappointed. It would be stupidly naive to count on having more. Slow, deep breaths settled a sudden return of nerves. She made herself focus on the mundane. A large thermos, the cap off, stood on a scarred oak end table next to an easy chair that had seen better days.

My folks took their dishes and cutlery with them to Florida.

Most of the furniture too. The gesture carried with it the hint of a toast. Unsure why she did so, except that it felt right, Leslie deliberately put her lips on the exact spot his had touched.Quality of life declines in big and growing cities. Relief, he told himself. She savored the gentle pressure of his hand as it skimmed down her back and came to rest at her waist, leaving a trail of tingling awareness in its wake. By the time he got through again, Leslie's answer was waiting for him.

It was abundantly clear Chase had proposed on impulse. To my teammates and friends, for your kind support and words of encouragement.

Aronowitz, Alexis A. Throughout the meal, her thoughts remained fixed on Chase Forster. As a result, a statue of Manas was erected in Bishkek in

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