Friday, May 29, 2020

Pretending to Wed by Melissa Jagears #BookReview


Book Description

It’s a match made in heaven…as long as they don’t fall in love!

The ranch Nolan Key has spent decades working for, even lost a leg for, is now his—or at least it should be. But an absurd clause in his father’s will means he’s in danger of losing the place to his lazy, undeserving cousin. Nolan finds himself scrambling to save his home—by proposing marriage to the town laundress.

Corinne Stillwater’s hands have betrayed her. Numb from hours of doing the same work over and over, her hands will only heal, according to the town doctor, if she gives up the laundry and marries. But she’s been stung repeatedly by love before, so that is one remedy she can’t swallow.

When Nolan offers Corinne a marriage in name only, how can she refuse? Such a partnership could give them the security they seek, but what if the ranch isn't as secure as they believe, and their lives—and dreams—aren't quite as compatible as they thought?

My Thoughts

In Pretending to Wed, we revisit our friends Jacob and Annie, Spencer, Celia, Leah, and other townspeople from the first Frontier Vows story, Romancing the Bride. If you read my review of ROB, you'll remember I loved these characters!

I enjoyed getting to know Nolan, the amputee rancher hero this time around, and Corinne, the laundress and inventor incognito.

This is a fun, quirky marriage of convenience story that looks at its own trope with a bit of a smirk, hence the first lines:
“This couldn’t be happening. Not unless he’d stumbled into one of those silly romance novels his aunt used to read.”
A very cute lampshade in my opinion.

The characters begin the story convinced they’re doing their future spouse a favor by staying single. When circumstances press them into desperate situations, they agree to marry one another as a business-only partnership to achieve their career goals. But when unexpected romance blossoms, past hurts, physical disabilities, and fears of failure hinder their growth in their relationship to the Lord and to each other. Through the story, they learn to overcome the spiritual, physical, and emotional handicaps that keep them from becoming who God wants them to be.

Like all of Jagears’ books, this story carries a message that will resonate with readers. In a world that interchanges the phrase “diamond ring” with “miracle happy pill,” this book shows us that marriage takes work, communication, commitment, resilience, faith, sacrifice, lots of gratitude, and good counsel.

While our generation says, “Physical intimacy now, marriage later…maybe…and if we don’t like that, we’ll split,” this book gives us a carefully handled illustration that reminds us “trying out” intimacy before marriage doesn’t guarantee compatibility. Without the commitment of marriage, how many would stick around and work through the hard things that cause dissatisfaction in relationships?

If you like to be warned about romance-y stuff: there’s romance-y stuff. This is a Christian romance novel. But this story isn't sappy, it's the opposite of sappy. It's smart, and serious, and straightforward and real, but at the same time, fun. For those who would prefer to know, the story takes on discreet conversations about complications with married intimacy. But Jagears handles the subject matter very delicately and closes the door before any real-time scene treads into the more private aspects of marriage. Kristi Ann Hunter's story, An Uncommon Courtship, approaches a slightly similar topic, but not the same, and the stories are vastly different.

With almost every Jagears book I review, I mention how much her writing reminds me of Lori Wick, the writer that got me hooked on Christian fiction. This story, in some ways, put me in mind of Megan and Bracken's relationship from Wick's book The Knight and the Dove. Melissa’s characters, dialogue, spiritual insight, and delightful “living room” voice keep me coming back for more of her stories. I look forward to reading more from her Frontier Vows series.

To Purchase or Preview Pretending to Wed, click HERE.

I dabble in graphic design for fun, and here are a few memes I created with my favorite quotes from the book. Feel free to share around any you like...

Friday, May 15, 2020

At Love's Command by Karen Witemeyer #BookReview

Book Description:

Haunted by the horrors of war, ex-cavalry officer Matthew Hanger leads a band of mercenaries known as Hanger's Horsemen who have become legends in 1890s Texas. They defend the innocent and obtain justice for the oppressed. But when a rustler's bullet leaves one of them at death's door, they're the ones in need of saving.

Dr. Josephine Burkett is used to men taking one look at her skirts and discounting her medical skills. What she's not used to is having a man change his mind in a heartbeat and offer to assist her in surgery. Matthew Hanger's dedication to his friend during recovery earns Josephine's respect, and when she hears of her brother's abduction, he becomes her only hope for rescue.

Matt has stared down ruthless outlaws, betrayal, and injury, but when a bossy lady doctor crawls under his skin, his heart is tempted to surrender. And when she is caught in the crossfire, he may have to sacrifice everything—even his team—to save her.

My Thoughts:
I grew up watching westerns and frontier movies like McClintock!, Rio Bravo, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Escape from Fort Bravo, Unconquered, The Searchers, The Proud Rebel, and Red River. In At Love’s Command, Karen revives the world of 1800s Texas, full of outlaws, cavalrymen, and heroes and heroines with backbone. Reading this story took me back into that western story arena I love.

The Characters:
Matthew’s character lived through a heartbreaking childhood and the Battle of Wounded Knee, both of which formed him into the compassionate-but-aloof, take-charge character he is. Josephine has attained her dream of becoming a doctor but, at 28, is an “old maid” by the society standards of her time. I related a lot to her desire for a family and wondering what the future holds. Karen creates a fun brotherhood between Matthew, Mark, Luke (“Preach”), and Jonah. Watching them interact on the page brought back fun memories of watching "compadre" westerns like The Sons of Katie Elder, High Chaparral, Open Range, and El Dorado.

The Romance:
With Matthew’s tough background, he’s reluctant to allow anyone close—anyone but his “brothers,” who survived battle alongside him. But when he finally admits he’s not getting Josephine off his mind anytime soon, he woos her with a gentle, honest pursuit. I love to see this in stories. Ladies admire men who have the tenacity to initiate a conversation, a friendship, then a relationship. Even if a couple finds they aren’t suited, a true lady will admire his courage to be intentional in finding out if they are a match. This is one trait that makes Matthew a heart-melting, stand-out storybook hero. But their relationship isn’t without its struggle. Josephine has reservations about involving herself with a man who makes his living with his guns. She’s dedicated her life to making the sick and injured well. There’s also the little matter of her brother, whose circumstances of being kidnapped by outlaws endanger Josephine and Matthew and everyone they love.

In the beginning, we’re concerned about Matthew’s gunshot friend, then the romance develops rather quickly between Josephine and Matthew. They are both adults past the normal marrying age, and with Matthew being in a line of work where time isn’t guaranteed, once he opens up to the idea of a woman in his life, he wastes no time making his interest known. Emotional and romantic development make up the second quarter of the book, but the pages still turn fast all the way through until the ending. Action-wise, the story starts off with a bang, then really picks up again around the midpoint.  

Spiritual Thread:
The characters struggle between keeping a tight rein on their circumstances or surrendering control to God. A theme that echoes in the heart of every Christian.

Celebrity Comparisons:
Matthew, I envisioned as a bearded Eion Bailey. Josephine, a no-makeup Evangeline Lily. You can see Karen’s own photo inspiration (hers are great, too!) for the couple in this post from her Posse Facebook page.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I have stated my honest opinion in this review.

What are some of your favorite westerns?

Have you seen all the western movies mentioned in this post?

What are some more Christian historical romances that remind you of great western movies?