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Mail-Order-Bride

REVIEW:  In Want of a Wife by Jo Goodman

REVIEW: In Want of a Wife by Jo Goodman

in-want-of-a-wife

SHE HAS NOWHERE LEFT TO TURN

Jane Middlebourne needs a way out. In 1891, life in New York is unforgiving for a young woman with no prospects, especially when her family wants nothing to do with her. So when Jane discovers an ad for a mail-order bride needed in Bitter Springs, Wyoming, she responds with a hopeful heart.

HE HAS EVERYTHING TO LOSE

Rancher Morgan Longstreet is in want of a wife who will be his partner at Morning Star, someone who will work beside him and stand by him. His first impression of the fair and fragile Jane is that she is not that woman. But when she sets out to prove him wrong, the secrets he cannot share put into jeopardy every happiness they hope to find….

Dear Ms. Goodman,

I know I say this a lot but you’re another author I’ve been meaning to try for quite a while. I’d read Jane’s reviews here and think, “Yep, gotta read a Goodman book one day.” Well, one day finally came when we were offered this book to try. It nicely coincided with my decision to read a Western and voila, a review was born.

Since I was a Goodman virgin, I decided not to go back and (re)read any past reviews either here or at other sites in order to approach the book with no preconceptions. I know it’s usual to start out talking about the hero and heroine but I’m just bursting with love for almost all the secondary characters here, especially the two brothers Finn and Rabbit – and with their given names I’d pick nicknames, too. I generally can take or leave child characters but these two jump off the pages and despite the fact that they’re harder to get rid of than a tick, they’re so much fun to read about that I enjoyed every scene they’re in. The fact that they bedevil the villains of the book is an added plus. Keep in mind that this is an eleven year old being held hostage by men with guns saying this.

Finn set his folded hands on the table with great aplomb and regarded the man who was charged with keeping them in the kitchen. “So,” he said gravely, “what sort of name is Dicks anyway? No villain should have a name that sounds like his man parts.”

Ida Mae Sterling is a treat too with the way she manages everyone and everything that comes within sound of her voice. The four ranch hands Morgan employs as well as the sheriff and his wife – do I correctly sense they had a book? – round out the good guys. Even the villains were cold, calculated menace, well that is when the boys weren’t aggravating them.

Now for the main event. “Wife” is told in what seems like two separate parts. It starts with mail order bride Jane arriving in the small Wyoming town of Bitter Springs to an uncertain welcome. The man waiting for her was expecting a much different woman, one he thought would be physically bigger, stronger and thus more suited to western ranch life. Jane immediately impressed me by taking charge of the situation, setting mutually agreeable terms to resolve the misunderstanding, letting Morgan know that she would be an equal party in the decision and telling him she wasn’t going back no matter if they married or not. She soon proves herself, regardless of the misconceptions she’s gained about the west from pulp fiction novels, and shows Morgan and his ranch hands that she’s the equal of anything that comes her way.

Morgan is the very model of the taciturn, quiet western hero. He says what he means, does what he says he will, takes care of his own and doesn’t allow anyone to mess with him. He has a hinted-at past, which is kept brief thus allowing the initial story to focus on his growing relationship with Jane, but has already spoken with the town sheriff and fears nothing. He is thrown a bit by Jane, though but soon comes to appreciate her practical nature, which is so much like his own. The two settle into a relationship of getting to know the other before the physical side of marriage is entered into. Readers looking for hot and steamy will have to wait a spell but once Morgan and Jane decide to share a bed, they scorch the sheets.

Morgan’s past finally catches up with him in the second half of the book. It’s also here where he and Jane confess to each other the dark secrets they’ve not revealed. Jane’s issue is the result of the ruse she used against a despised relative in order to get the money to go west and wasn’t a big surprise. Morgan’s childhood is heartbreaking. It’s here that I had an issue. What he tells Jane seems as if it would have shocked most 19th century, well brought up women but she immediately swings into an almost counselor mode and accepts it with little pearl clutching. Perhaps because they both grew up in dysfunctional families there’s a bond between them.

The tension in the latter part of the story is slowly heightened, the danger grows, the menace increases and I was on the edge of my seat to see how Jane and Morgan would not only survive but triumph over the villains. Suffice it to say it’s done in fine style and was immensely satisfying – especially what Jane does.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. There’s no melodrama, no histrionics, just two evenly matched main characters who have suffered, weren’t looking for a love match but to their astonishment, found one. Jane and Morgan may keep some secrets but if they’re talking, they’re telling the truth. It’s got an almost – and I hesitate to compare it to another author’s characters – “Conagher” feel to it. Will it be for everyone? Maybe not if they want shoot-em-up action straight from the start but if a reader is willing to sit back and enjoy a slowly building relationship that blossoms into deep love, I think they will be rewarded. B

~Jayne

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Guest Review: Northern Lights Trilogy by Cindy Gerard

Guest Review: Northern Lights Trilogy by Cindy Gerard

Book #1: The Bride Wore Blue

The cheesy title refers to the epilogue, but I’m glad I took the time to dive into The Bride Wore Blue.

The Bride Wore Blue by Cindy GerardJD “Blue” Hazzard fell in love with Maggie “Stretch” Adams when they were teenagers, and his unrequited love has remained for fifteen years. He followed her career (she is an internationally known model), and when he happens to be flying his plane over the  lake where Maggie spent that one summer and spots a bombshell out in a bathing suit he has to land for a better look. What he finds is the woman of his dreams, is back in the Northern lakes remote wilderness and he is determined to win her love.

I didn’t think it was cute that the hero disabled his plane so that he had to stay over at her place after speaking with her for the first time in 15 years. Rather the opposite – much of the characters motivations and reactions bothered me. I did find some of the dialogue and scenes to be both fun and descriptive enough to have me right there in the northern wilderness of Minnesota. One of my favorite moments was when he stole a kiss:

“What?” He moved closer, even though he’d heard every word. “I can’t hear you. The noise,” he yelled, angling a thumb back toward the plane as he lowered his head until his ear was a whisper away from her mouth.

“I said, I think I’ll leave that to you!” she shouted.

“Aw, Stretch.” He cupped her shoulders in his hands and gave her his most soulful look. “I don’t want to leave you either!”

She shook her head vehemently. “No. That’s not what I said!”

“You’d feel bad if I was dead?”

She rolled her eyes. “I don’t believe this.”

“A kiss? Jeez, Stretch. I thought you’d never ask.”

She hadn’t any more than opened her mouth to adamantly correct him when he lowered his head to hers.

There was something to be said for surprise attacks. Something to be said for a shocked, pliant woman and the sneak-up-on-you chill of a slow, creeping sunset that drew heat to heat, heartbeat to heartbeat.

When I read this book I could see glimmers of the Cindy Gerard I know and love as an author. She manages to draw me in, make me care about the characters, and as cliché as this is – has such a way with words.

The heroine drove me absolutely nuts. “Most beautiful woman alive” type characters are hard enough to like without adding in some bonehead moves and an overall poor outlook on life. Maggie was raised in a lot of different foster homes growing up, and eventually found herself in New York (becoming famous) and in a relationship that now haunts her. She has the hunted delicate animal, won’t some big strong man save me and love me, and overall “poor me I’m a victim” attitude down pat. She can’t open up, love isn’t an option… it doesn’t tug at my heartstrings but instead made me want to slap her. When she finally opens up about the details of her hard life it’s too little too late for me. I found myself playing a sad song on a tiny violin for Maggie the rich, beautiful super model.

There was a little bit of plot with her ex (which was wholly unsatisfying) as well as a side plot regarding bear poachers that seemed to be a part of the book to explain why the hero was flying his plane around her cabin and to set us up with more info about the hero who will be featured in the next book (A bride for Abel Greene). Other than that, not much happened and the story was a dud.

Grade: C+

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Book #2:  A Bride for Abel Greene

A Bride for Abel Greene by Cindy GerardMackenzie Kincaid walks herself up to Abel Greene’s cabin in Northern Minnesota in the dead of winter, her fifteen year old trouble making bad boy brother in tow. After attacking him and his dog, she realizes this is the man that she came to see. This giant of a man is in fact the one who advertised for a bride, he is the one she came to marry.

This story is a lot of emotions and conversation, very little action. The bulk takes place inside Abel’s cabin (the one he built himself), and issues of trust and love between Abel, Mackenzie, and the troubled fifteen year old brother she has brought with her to the wilderness. She is very open about the fact that she is broke, desperate, and in want of a man to take care of her and her brother.

 Only the bottom line kept her from giving it up, begging him to forget the whole thing and hightailing it back to L.A. They couldn’t go back. She needed Abel Greene. He didn’t know it yet, but he was going to be their savior. This place was going to be their sanctuary…

Oh yes, this would-be bride who responded to an ad that Abel wished he had never placed is not the most forward thinking female. Never does searching for work, or her helping financially enter the picture she is just going to be his wife. While I admire that she was working and caring for her brother back in Los Angeles, she was so totally unprepared for the wilderness and so lacking in common sense it definitely hurt my enjoyment of the book. When she first walks up to Abel’s cabin she encounters a wolf and decides to fling her bag at it and run. After that brilliant move, she decides to attack Abel (aka hulking stranger on the cabin steps), and even after realizing that this is her potential husband she decides to punch the man:

 She was out of control and she knew it. All her fears, all her failures, erupted as reckless, righteous outrage.

Drawing a deep, ragged breath, she tried to settle herself down. She tried to gather her composure. She even tried to smile—but when his scowl only deepened, she did the one thing she couldn’t have stopped if the earth had tilted and stopped turning.

With all the force of her one hundred five pounds—and emotions tried beyond all limits—she hauled back and slugged Abel Greene in his jutting jaw.

She got a grunt of surprise for her efforts…and possibly a broken knuckle.

Past shock, beyond fear, she stared, as above the thick collar of his wool jacket, the veins on his neck expanded, full and pulsing. Beneath the edge of his black stocking cap, another vein bulged at his temple. And over the roar of blood rushing through her ears, she heard yet one more distinct, crude oath that in English or any other language could never be mistaken for “Glad you could make it.”

 

The woman also screamed when she got up onto a horse, in addition to assaulting Abel for no good reason and making me so very glad for more modern and self-reliant heroines.

Abel has his own secrets and past – including that he is former CIA and freelance mercenary. Abel Greene has so much in common with the heroes that Cindy Gerard has become known for, and everything from his scowls to his tender big marshmallow heart melted this reader. He is so very lonely, and so wants to find love and companionship but is afraid to reach out for it.

Despite the lack of much in the way of a story, and the utter cringe-worthy ness of this shrieking ninny of a heroine, I really liked how the characters and romance progressed and how their conflicts resolved, even if things felt cut short and neatly wrapped up at the end.

Grade: C

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Book #3:  A Bride for Crimson Falls

A Bride for Crimson Falls by Cindy GerardThe third in this trilogy, we go to the Crimson Falls Hotel which is run by Scarlet and her teenage daughter Casey. The hotel is in bad repair, and while her friends (aka the leads of the previous novels) are concerned and want to help she will not accept charity. Instead, she has a raffle that raises $40,000 and gives the winner partial ownership in the hotel. As the story opens Colin Slater (the winner of the raffle) is arriving at the hotel to spend a few relaxing weeks at the insistence of his friends.

I was looking forward to this book because I have liked Scarlet and her daughter when they appeared in the previous books. I was not disappointed – I really liked these characters. I could clearly understand the motivations, and I really liked the supporting cast of characters as much as the leads. Scarlet was no weak miss hoping for a man to swoop in and save her. She’s hard working, independent, smart, and I wish I’d had more time to see her improve her business and get things going the way she wanted.

Her unprecedented reaction to him had done more than rattle her. It had made her forget who she was and what she stood for. She didn’t lie. She didn’t posture. And she sure as the world didn’t call a shovel a teaspoon. It was time for some honesty.

“The bald truth, Mr. Slater, is that I’m preoccupied because of you. I lied when I said it wasn’t a problem for you to be here. I lied when I said I understand that you want to check out your investment. The fact of the matter is—”

“You resent my presence? You don’t want me meddling?” he suggested, walking up beside her.

Her chin went up a notch. She shrugged apologetically. “I’m sorry, but yes. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that—”

Again he supplied the words she hadn’t quite worked up the candor to voice. “You needed my money, not my advice.”

Because his conclusions were so dead-on accurate, she averted her gaze from eyes that had gone soft with understanding. She fussed at a stain on the countertop.

“You know, you’re making it awfully hard to dislike you.”

“Good. Because you’re going to have to trust me on this one. There’s no need. I’m not here because I’m interested in my investment.”

Her head came up. She eyed him with doubt of the hopeful variety. “No?”

“No.”

He sounded sincere.

Our hero is a wealthy businessman who does large scale renovation projects, but he also sees no profit or gain from this particular hotel. In fact, he wants nothing to do with it or nature. While he realizes that his life is nothing but work (and maybe he doesn’t like that) I can appreciate at the same time that he doesn’t decide to see the hotel as a lucrative venture when it’s so clearly not one. It is an old historic building in need of a lot of repair and work.

This novel was by far the strongest of the three, finding a nice balance between a budding romance, characters with a past, a strong supporting cast of characters (including a prostitute’s ghost) and finding a place of happily ever after. My complaint with this one was the way the poor country heroine, rich city hero situation worked out. His motives felt true, but it bothered me never the less.

Grade: B+

From May F., Confessions of a Chocoholic

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If you want to write a guest review of a newly digitized backlist title, please send them to jane @ dearauthor.com