Dear Mrs. Osborne,
Some of your other novels have made my “Best of” lists. You wrote westerns and stuck with the genre even when it fell out of favor. You never tried to incorporate the latest “trend” in your books but wrote about basically decent, honest people working hard and trying to make a living. “The Bride of Willow Creek” has many of these elements in it but suffers from the plot set up and the story resolution.
Angie Bertoli and Sam Holland fell in love as teenagers, eloped then were separated by Angie’s father who felt that Sam would never amount to anything. Sam headed west and for ten years they were married but not married. Now, Angie’s parents are dead, she has a man who wants to marry her and all she needs is a divorce. Her problem is that she has no money. So she shows up expecting Sam to have struck it rich in the mines of Colorado and be able to 1) pay for the divorce and 2) support her in a separate household for a year until the divorce comes through. Does she write to him ahead of time and spell this out? No. She just shows up in the small CO town in which Sam is now living.
Sam is appalled when Angie lays out the situation. He lives in a small three room house, works all day in construction as a carpenter then spends hours each evening working his gold claim. Oh, and in the ten intervening years he’s lived with another woman and has two daughters. The other women’s parents are fighting for custody of the girls, one of whom needs surgery for a clubfoot, and Sam has less than six months to save an enormous sum of money to have this done or lose custody. So, with no other options, Angie moves in with Sam and takes over household duties. By living together day after day, each begins to realize that blame for their early break up can be evenly spread, that each is a fine, hardworking person, that not all is as it initially seems and that perhaps their love has never really died.
There is a lot to like about this book. The children act like children instead of either wise little lisping sages or spawns of hell. We see what life was like in a western mining town instead of just being told. Sam and Angie open up and learn about each other. And yet…there are problems. I can’t believe that Angie was so passive for ten years. She fumes about having lost ten years of her life yet did she ever write Sam and ask, “WTF, dude, are you going to initiate divorce proceedings or what?” No, not once. Sam claims the Noble card and says that a man doesn’t shame his wife by filing for divorce, yet in all the times he wrote her to let her know his new address in case she wanted to get the ball rolling, did he ever once ask her why she was just sitting there? Again, no. Sam is angry that he couldn’t offer his second love a wedding band but as noble as he is, he didn’t have a problem living in sin with her in a time when living in sin was still a mind boggling no-no. Then, after most of the book was over and I thought both had learned something from past mistakes, they almost do the same damn thing again. The whole “if he/she loves me, he/she should tell me so and fight for me” misunderstanding. Tack on a sugary sweet epilogue and this one ends on a down note.
I’m sorry that one of my last hoarded unread books turned out to be less than I’d hoped. Still, there’s always the past winners I can go back to. C+ for this one.