REVIEW: The Patchwork Bride by Sandra Dallas
From the best-selling author of A Quilt for Christmas comes the irrepressible story of a runaway bride.
Ellen is putting the finishing touches on a wedding quilt made from scraps of old dresses when the bride-to-be—her granddaughter June—unexpectedly arrives and announces she’s calling off the marriage. With the tending of June’s uncertain heart in mind, Ellen tells her the story of Nell, a Kansas-born woman who goes to the High Plains of New Mexico Territory in 1898 in search of a husband.
Working as a biscuit-shooter, Nell falls for a cowboy named Buddy. She sees a future together, but she can’t help wondering if his feelings for her are true. When Buddy breaks her heart, she runs away.
In her search for a soul mate, Nell will run away from marriage twice more before finding the love of her life. It’s a tale filled with excitement, heartbreak, disappointment, and self-discovery—as well as with hard-earned life lessons about love. Another stunning, emotional novel from a master storyteller.
Dear Ms. Dallas,
Ever since I read “The Diary of Mattie Spencer,” I’ve meant to come back and try one of your other books. Well here I am to find out what Ellen tells her granddaughter about cowboys, love and weddings. The story is mainly about the past but the timeline is clearly defined.
I was most engaged by the first part of Ellen’s story told to June. Nell is worried about becoming an old maid – at age 22! – and leaves her small Kansas town to head out to New Mexico territory to be an assistant cook at a ranch where her aunt lives. Nell soon learns that cowboys love to play practical jokes – nothing major, just harmless fun. They appreciate a woman who can laugh and then sling it right back at them. Soon Nell is handling them like a pro – all except Buddy who just happens to be the only man who remotely interests her romantically. But Buddy holds his cards close to his chest and Nell isn’t sure what he feels for a long time. Even after they confess their love, both are stubborn and unwilling to back down on certain issues. Finally one fight is one too many and Nell storms back home.
After moping a little, Nell sets out to find a man in Denver. She thinks she has but one person warns her that James just doesn’t seem right. Nell disagrees as James seems perfect. He’s polite, well read, courteous and helps Nell help a friend. Why doesn’t she marry him? Well, that takes some telling but her decision is a fair one. Finally she tries closer to home and takes the advice of her grandparents. Wade is a bit older but a steady man, one who has also loved and lost. Nell’s interactions with him are tangled up with those of her roommate. But Wade is not the man either – as we know from the blurb.
So who does Nell marry? The answer was fairly obvious to me but the clues were small and tucked carefully into the story. It’s mainly a feeling I had and I was delighted to discover I was right. But all of this is to help June who faces similar doubts that Nell did almost a half century before. How to know if this man is the one. How to tell if what you have will be enough to last a lifetime of ups and downs. June thinks her grandparents have the perfect marriage but Ellen sets June straight about all the fights they had and how they kept going. Marriage is hard work; Ellen and Ben had to struggle just as June and her fiancé are.
Will Ellen’s marriage and her story of Nell’s long ago courtships help June and Dave find their way? This was the part of the story I wasn’t sure about but I’m satisfied that they’re working things out. As I said, I liked the first section best. It came to life and made this world real to me. The next parts felt as if I was marking time as I already knew Nell would run from these men and that she wasn’t as at ease in these other places. Things sort of dragged a bit. I would have enjoyed seeing Nell and her ultimate choice reconcile in real time but Ellen’s story was almost as good. B-