Friday, September 20, 2013

Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears

Bride for Keeps by Melissa JagearsBride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears. Bethany House, 2013. 336p. (9780764211683) Series: A Bride for Keeps, #1

A debut novel that I enjoyed but also didn’t quite like something about. Took me a quite a while to figure out what that was too. But I’m still looking forward to the author’s future work since just about everybody improves over time.

Goodreads Summary:
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 fiancé. 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?

My Review:
When I read the summary I wanted to read this because ever since reading the Love Comes Softly series I have loved mail-order bride and marriage of convenience stories. I was expecting this to be similar to many that I’ve read. Woman needs home, man needs help with home. 

What I wasn’t expecting was the intense physical attraction Everett felt for Julia. Guess it makes sense for someone who has had to wait eighteen years to finally marry and whose wife is quite beautiful. But while he managed to squelch those feelings and turn away (most of the time), I felt like it detracted from the story a bit. To me it didn’t feel like he was loving, just lusting, even though his actions were considerate and he kept his distance. But then, they were married and physical attraction is certainly a good thing in marriage.

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I guess what it boils down to is his incredibly terrible timing. I mean, kissing her on the roof? Really, how dangerous is that. Course that does lead to an important plot twist… But then there’s when he kisses her after she prays. I know, I know. You’re thinking ‘well what’s so wrong with that?’ Nothing really, except for his behavior towards her leading up to that point made it seem like he was taking advantage of the situation.

Even though he wasn’t exactly, his heart and attitude toward her had changed and become way more caring, forgiving and loving. I wish we could have gotten to watch the change during those weeks after the accident rather than be told about it in hindsight. And come to think of it he showed admirable restraint during that whole time.

On the flipside, I did like the storyline of Julia having to overcome her belief that the only reason any man and even God would want her is because of her good looks. (I know, I can’t really have it both ways can I.) Julia’s plucky spirit, determination to work hard and willingness to learn make her a very engaging character. It makes the reader root for her to overcome her past and for Everett to quit being such a quiet fool.

And I think I just figured out why I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I would (high expectations are a lousy thing). I wanted to like Everett more than I did. I wanted to love him. I loved Julia and all the other characters. I even like what the despicable neighbor contributed to the plot. Now mind you, I don’t like him, but he does add to the story.

But I just didn’t completely love Everett. You know he’s a good guy; funny, hard working, caring. And you also know that he’s had a rough time finding a bride and is a little distrustful (ok, that’s an understatement) of mail order brides. You know he’s good looking and is an excellent nurse. But for all that, I still only ended up liking him and not loving him.

So there you have it. I loved the girl and the cast, enjoyed the story, but only liked the guy. It’s an enjoyable read while still dealing with some heavy issues. A clean romance even though there are a few kisses and more is clearly desired. If you enjoy mail-order bride stories, fiction set on the 1870s Kansas prairie or stories about forgiveness and overcoming mistrust, then you just might like this one.

3.75 stars 

Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission.

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