REVIEW: The Borrowed Bride by Elizabeth Lane
Dear Ms. Lane,
Whenever I see a non-Regency Harlequin Historical, I make sure to check it out. Since I enjoyed your last book, “On the Wings of Love,” I also had high hopes for “The Borrowed Bride.” Though it doesn’t break any ground as far as the setting or the plot, it hit the spot, providing me with a well told story of two unlikely people falling in love.
Hannah Gustavson and Quint Seavers have been an item in tiny Dutchman’s Creek, Colorado for years. Everyone’s just been waiting for them to get married. And so Hannah can’t believe that Quint is actually going to leave even as she stands on the train platform with Quint and his sour old mother. Edna Seavers has never made any effort to hide the fact that she doesn’t think Hannah, a daughter of the poor but hardworking Gustavson clan, is good enough for her second, and favorite, son. As soon as Judd, the eldest son, disembarks from the incoming train, Quint will be off to make his fortune in the Klondike gold fields.
But Hannah’s not the only person he’s leaving. In an effort to keep him from going, she gave in and allowed him liberties she’d sworn to her mother she’d never do. Now she’s pregnant and no one has heard from Quint for three months. It’s up to poor Judd to do the honorable thing and marry his brother’s abandoned woman thereby giving the child the Seavers name. With his nightmares and black depression gained during the infamous charge of the Rough Riders in Cuba, Judd doubts he’ll ever marry anyway and this might be the only grandchild his mother will ever have.
And so begins a marriage not made in heaven but based purely on practical grounds. Will Quint ever be heard from again? And what will be the consequences if Judd and Hannah finally give into the love that’s slowly been growing over the months?
When the book starts, Hannah seems to me a rather immature young woman despite the fact that she’s the eldest of seven children and has been doing hard chores her entire life. But she’s only 19 and is now faced with social ruin, not only for herself but also for her family. Usually I hate martyr heroines. “Oh, I must get married so that my younger brother may attend Eton and my younger sisters have a Season!” For Hannah, it’s much worse. Her family is poor and so the thought of another mouth to feed is a real economic hardship for them. Her younger sisters would be tainted with the brush of Hannah’s disgrace, something that isn’t to be sneered at in such a small town. When she bucks up and makes the decision to accept Judd’s proposal, I could see signs of a strong woman within.
Judd is such a decent, upright guy. He and his best friend basically dared each other to join the Army so they could get out of town and have some adventures. What happened to them was far from the glamorous newspaper reports of charging up San Juan Hill, as Judd tells Hannah on their way back from seeing Quint off. His body still hasn’t totally healed from the bullet wounds added to the fact that he picked up malaria – though this is rarely mentioned again in the book. He’s got the ranch to run and his physically debilitated mother to look after when Mrs. Gustavson arrives and drops the baby bombshell.
I was impressed that he doesn’t hesitate to do the right thing and even makes sure that if and when Quint ever comes home, that the marriage will stay in name only and be able to be annulled. Hannah also grows and matures, taking on more responsibilities when Judd heads off to Alaska to search for his brother. The feelings that develop between them didn’t strike me as either rushed or dragged out. Neither were they based solely on physical attraction. Each sees the other under the best and worst conditions and they manage to still behave honorably until they’re almost sure Quint isn’t coming back.
I do have to mention that there were a lot of “worst conditions” in the book. Judd, bless his heart, gets banged up rather regularly both physically and emotionally. I suppose his favorite horse’s fate was needed to deal with his mental scars but I couldn’t help thinking, “Oh noes, not that on top of everything else!” Judd is made to earn his HEA. I was also impressed that Hannah is strong enough to state what she wants when the fit hits the shan and doesn’t twitter about waiting on someone else to decide the situation.
At first, Edna Seavers and her caretaker seemed forbidding characters. And while I never warmed to Edna, you do give her a history that would explain her coldness and preference for her younger son. Even Quint’s absence and seeming abandonment of his young lover are accounted for. I’ll be honest and state that I skipped the epilogue, though.
In a world filled with Dukes and noblemen spies (now I sound like a movie preview!), it’s a nice change to settle down with a good, old fashioned Western now and then. I’ve said it before but I’ll repeat it again, thanks Harlequin. B