A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears
Bethany House Publishers, 1st Oct 2013

A Tender Tale of Love on the Prairie Perfect for CBA Readers

Although Everett Cline can hardly keep up with the demands of his homestead, he won’t humiliate himself by looking for a helpmate ever again–not after being jilted by three mail-order brides. When a well-meaning neighbor goes behind his back to bring yet another mail-order bride to town, he has good reason to doubt it will work, especially after getting a glimpse at the woman in question. She’s the prettiest woman he’s ever seen, and it’s just not possible she’s there to marry a simple homesteader like him.

Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. Having finally worked up the courage to leave her life in Massachusetts, she’s determined to find a place where people will value her for more than her looks. Having run out of all other options, Julia resorts to a mail-order marriage in far-away Kansas.

Everett is skeptical a cultured woman like Julia could be happy in a life on the plains, while Julia, deeply wounded by a past relationship, is skittish at the idea of marriage at all. When, despite their hesitations, they agree to a marriage in name only, neither one is prepared for the feelings that soon arise to complicate their arrangement. Can two people accustomed to keeping their distance let the barricades around their hearts down long enough to fall in love?

Straight off the bat this book was not what I thought it was going to be. It was not a typical, mail-order-bride book, where the loveless marriage overcomes hardship and they fall in love. That did happen but not in the way one expects. It might look like something similar has crossed your reader path before but this is a little different. The main reason for that is the two main characters – Everett and Julia.

These two have secrets they feel they need to keep and thus aren’t terribly interested in a marriage based on friendship, or even love. It’s more like a mutual agreement to live silently together, going through the motions of life. Which is what these two do. They don’t treat each other well, they don’t communicate well (if at all) and they don’t know how to love  each other well (even as friends). Everett has had a bad history with mail order brides, so when his friend offers him one without telling him, he begrudgingly accepts it but he doesn’t want to like her (even if she is really pretty). Julia is interested in starting a new life, far away from the horror she left back East, but she’s not interested in a real marriage. These two are stubborn and it takes them a long time to figure themselves out and each other. They are mostly likebale, but it can get a bit tedious watching them silently live together day after day.

I did think that Everett was a little preoccupied with Julia’s looks and trying to keep his distance from her was hard as they were married but not in love and I get it – I know guys are visual people, but I’m not sure they thought about sex that much 150 years ago (especially if they were a God fearing man – which Everett was).

Overall I did enjoy this book because it was just that little bit different from the norm in this genre.

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.