This book definitely satisfies my Western historical romance craving. While slow-building and with a lot more narrative than action, it was a book tha...moreThis book definitely satisfies my Western historical romance craving. While slow-building and with a lot more narrative than action, it was a book that captivated me with lead characters whose stories I wanted to know. It definitely helps that Morgan is a redhead. I have a not-so secret fondness for red-headed heroes! I loved the manner in which Goodman conveys the loving intimacy that a marriage can cultivate between two people.
We often have ideas of what we want in life, but they aren’t necessarily what we need. Such was the case with Michael Bowen. He asked the Lord to send...moreWe often have ideas of what we want in life, but they aren’t necessarily what we need. Such was the case with Michael Bowen. He asked the Lord to send him a bride, a genteel, elegant Southern lady. The Lord sent him Selina instead. Of course, he took one look at the rough and tumble, trouser-wearing , but very beautiful young woman, and thought he’d been cheated. It turns out that Selina had her friend write those letters, unaware of the embellishments her friends had made. Nevertheless, Michael was a man who took his vows seriously, and he’d married her, even if she wasn’t the woman he’d fallen in love with via the letters they had exchanged. He would make the best of this marriage, but he didn’t believe he’d ever love her. He was afraid to love the wrong kind of woman after what his eldest brother went through with his first wife.
Selina fell in love with Michael via the letters he’d sent her. She came to Idaho from Kentucky in good faith, determined to be a good wife to her new husband. She was perfectly happy with him, with his good looks, and his honorable personality, and she was happy to have a safe home and plenty of food, and an accepting family of in-laws. However, it was heart breaking knowing that she wasn’t enough for her husband, what he wanted. That he didn’t love her for who she was. Regardless, she too had made vows and she’d keep them. They both prayed that God would make the best of their marriage, and give them the hearts for being a good husband and wife to each other.
Debra Ullrick charmed me with this novel. Her writing is crisp and lively. Her prose nicely descriptive and full of imagery. I found Selina utterly delightful. She is comfortable in her own skin. She’s a giving, generous person who is highly capable of many things, even if that list doesn’t include reading and writing, speaking genteelly, and wearing dresses. She wants to improve things about her that need improving, but she doesn’t want to fit into anyone’s box for her. She believes that God made everyone and everything unique, and that’s the way she wants to stay. I like that she stands up for herself with Michael when he tries to do the bossy husband bit. Like her, I don’t believe being a good wife means being a doormat to one’s husband. She’s perfectly willing to honor and cherish her husband, but she’s not going to let him control her. I loved how she inspired Michael to look at the small things one typically takes for granted, the ever-present beauty of the world around him. To stop and smell the roses. She continually surprised him, and showed him that God knew exactly what he needed in a wife. I loved Selina because she was easy to love. I wanted Michael to feel the same. It took him a while, but ultimately he realized just what a good woman God had brought him. Michael was a good man. I didn’t like some of his tendencies to be narrow-minded about what he thought his life and his wife should be. I liked that he was a man of faith who truly wanted to do what was right. He was afraid that he couldn’t love his wife, but his actions showed love in that he treated her with respect, took care of her, stood up for her, and opened his life to Selina. He honored his vows, and he showed what he didn’t believe he could feel. Love is about what you do, not what you say. And I could see love in Michael’s actions towards Selina, long before he owned up or acknowledged it.
I am so glad that I read this book, because I enjoyed the story and the messages about the Christian walk in it. Along with a beautiful romance, it made for a very fulfilling read. I liked that even though this is a clean romance, Ms. Ullrick did a good job of conveying the chemistry between Selina and Michael, through their thoughts, their interactions, and their kisses, both gentle and passionate. There’s no question that they have a true love match.
The only reason I didn’t give this five stars is because Michael’s fixation on not being able to love Selina, and her efforts to change herself to make herself worthy of his life, along with the aspects about God giving him the power to love her seemed a bit unromantic. I do believe God shows us what love is, and I think that a Christian marriage should definitely involve God in the process of relating to one’s spouse, but I wanted Michael to realize that he loves Selina out of his own heart. He did come to this conclusion eventually, and realized how he wasn’t doing right by Selina trying to make her something she wasn’t. So that was good.
That issue aside, this was an infectiously readable, wonderful book. I would recommend The Unlikely Wife to any historical romance readers open to a book with an obvious Christian message. I will be reading more by this author.
If I was to list the Grande Old Dames of Historical Romance, I'd definitely have LaVyrle Spencer on my list. It's a shame that she has retired from wr...moreIf I was to list the Grande Old Dames of Historical Romance, I'd definitely have LaVyrle Spencer on my list. It's a shame that she has retired from writing, but at least she leaves a legacy behind in her excellent books she has written.
The Endearment is one of her books I managed to overlook for some reason. Initially, I thought it was one of the many that I read growing up, and forgot the details about. But I'm pretty sure I haven't read this before. I will admit that I made a note to reread (or perhaps read for the first time) it when I saw that it was listed on the All About Romance Virgin Hero List, which is a theme I can't resist. Of course, I tend to obtain copies of books, and they languish in my tbr pile until I get the urge to read (or have the time to read). I pulled this one out of the pile and added it to my PRIMAVERA challenge, and that is why I have read this book and I am reviewing it now. After that lengthy segueway, I will actually write my thoughts on this book.
As far as frontier romance, you cannot go wrong here. In this book, Karl Lindstrom is an earnest, decent, hardworking Swede who has come to Minnesota to set up his own homestead. In the two years since he arrived, he has ached with loneliness (since he left his big family behind in Sweden and is unmarried), with only his goat Nanna and his team of Percheron horses, Bill and Belle, to keep him company (in the most innocent of ways, mind you). He decided to seek a mail order bride, and ends up corresponding with Anna Reardon, who tells him a never-ending stream of big fat ones that make her seem like the ideal bride candidate. He sends her money to come out to Minnesota from Boston to marry him and be his wife.
When Anna arrives, Karl is struck by her beauty, even if she is thin and much younger than she said (he wanted an older bride-twenty-five, and she's seventeen). It turns out she didn't come alone. She brought her thirteen-year-old brother James with her. Karl isn't very happy about that. He's worried about having another mouth to feed and not having time alone with his new bride. He agrees to marry her, but tells her ‘no more lies.’ Anna means it when she says she won’t lie to him, but there’s still a big whopper between them that she can’t put into words. He’ll find out the hard way. And until then, she can only hope for the best between them.
At first, Karl seems like the perfect hero. However, he’s rather rigid about his moral view of the world, and has trouble forgiving. My sympathies shifted as I read this story. At first, I was annoyed that Anna and her brother were pulling a whole bunch of fast ones on Karl. Then, I realized that the lies that Anna and James told were a matter of survival. Lying is wrong, but it’s a lot easier not to lie when you always have food on the table, have a loving family, and security in the world. Anna and James have never had any of those. And Anna’s chance at being Karl’s bride is the closest both of them will come.
That’s Ms. Spenser’s talent. To tell a story where there are many sides, and much growing for the characters to do. As I read this story, I hoped that Karl could get past the huge lie that Anna told, and understand why she did it. I wanted the burgeoning love between them to be enough to make their marriage bond unbreakable.
I loved the descriptions of the natural world, and the everyday life in the Minnesota wilderness. Karl was a tried and true woodsman, and a very skilled carpenter. There wasn’t a type of wood he didn’t know intimately. I learned about which wood makes the best type of furniture, what is suitable for building houses, or even making an axe handle. I loved his patience with greenhorns Anna and James. How he opened his house and his heart to them, and not without reservations or sacrifice. Even though Karl was a good man, he had his shares of flaws. That made him even the better as a hero, because he was accessible. And the joy was in seeing him come to realize that although Anna wasn’t quite the perfect wife he envisioned, she was the wife he treasured and loved, and she made his home truly a home. As for Anna, my heart went out to her and James for their troubled childhood, and for the sacrifice she made for her brother, that could have destroyed her future with Karl. She wanted to do the right thing, but always seemed to fall short. And it must have been tough being married to a ‘saint’ and failing to measure up to his perfect image of womanhood.
Karl and Anna have some first-married growing pains to get through, but love does conquer all, at least in the romantic world, which I am always happy about. With a little help along the way from sage friends like the priest who married them, and Kristen, the daughter of a Swedish family that establishes their homestead nearby. James is a great secondary character, an earnest young man who becomes like a son to Karl, and a loyal loving brother to his sister.
For me, The Endearment was a treasured reading experience. It warmed my heart, gave me a good story, and taught me a few lessons about forgiveness, understanding, and committing to what is important to you, even when it seems as though it isn’t exactly what you dreamed of. It can be even better in the end, because it’s real life, the best kind of dream come true.