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In Need of a Good Wife

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  1,062 ratings  ·  193 reviews
Richly detailed, vivid, and unforgettable, this is an extraordinary novel about three women challenging the American West—and unpredictable fate—for a future only the most daring can secure…

For Clara Bixby, brokering mail-order brides is a golden business opportunity—and a desperately needed chance to start again. If she can help New York women find husbands in a far-off
Paperback, 387 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Berkley Books
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3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,062 ratings  ·  193 reviews

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Rebecca Brothers
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you are looking for a completely compelling, lovely read, this book is it. The story follows several women on a particularly daring journey west. It is just after the Civil War and many women in Manhattan City are left widowed or at a serious loss for eligible men. One enterprising young woman has decided to take matters into her own hands by arranging long-distance courtships between these women and the eager men in the frontier town of Destination, Nebraska. What follows is a tale impossibl ...more
Sep 30, 2012 rated it liked it
I just won this book! Thank you Goodreads!

Clara Bixby is looking for a way out of post-civil war Manhattan City and comes up with a plan to broker mail-order brides to the men of Destination, Nebraska. Each woman (to-be bride) has her own reason for leaving New York. They each correspond with their soon-to-be husband and expectations are high as are the risks.

This was a fun book to adventure to the wild wild west. I thought the writing was very vivid, imaginative, and at times humorou
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
I’d give this book 2 stars. If I could it would have been 2.5. One for a good storyline, one for being technically well-written.

Storyline: The setting and premise of the book is intriguing and unique. The author does an excellent job of describing the urban squalor of New York as well as the desolation of a frontier town in the Plains.

Characters: The characters are written with great detail, but I just could not connect with them.

The ‘good’ characters are archetypically good; the virtuous (an
Kelly Hager
Nov 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Clara Bixby's life is getting worse by the minute. Her husband left her for another woman and she's just lost her job. Her prospects aren't looking very good. Then she reads an article about a small town comprised almost entirely of men in Nebraska and has the best idea ever: what if she were to become a matchmaker? That town needs women and surely she can manage to find wives for those that want them.

The story is told from the perspectives of Clara, Rowena (a young widow whose husband was kille
Kaira Rouda
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In Need of a Good Wife is a wonderful re-entry into the world of the past wild, wild west. The three female characters are strong, the writing vibrant and the setting desperately beautiful. I really enjoyed this novel.
nomadreader (Carrie D-L)
Sep 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to nomadreader (Carrie D-L) by: Publisher's Weekly
(originally published at

The basics: Shortly after the Civil War, Clara Bixby, whose husband ran off with another woman, reads about Destination, Nebraska in the newspaper, and she realizes it's the perfect business venture for her after she loses her job at a tavern in Manhattan City, New York. Clara writes to Destination's mayor and strikes a deal: she'll provide widows and single women willing to move to Destination to get married if the men will pay for their
Romancing the Book
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Reviewed by: Angie
Book provided by: Publisher
Review originally posted at Romancing the Book

In Need of a Good Wife follows three characters; Clara, who has suffered the loss of a child and her husband who ran away with a laundress. Rowena, whose father went mad and husband went off to war and died, leaving her virtually penniless and alone. And Elsa, a plump laundress whose faith sustains her through everything.

Clara is a strong woman used to dealing with the hardships of life. I can’t say I over
Erika Robuck
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In post-Civil War New York, three women are imprisoned by their lives or pasts. From heartbreak and loss, to the alienation of being a poor immigrant, they find that they have nothing left to lose, so why not embark upon an adventure to the west?

The primary protagonist, Clara Bixby, works in the bar her father used to own, and is abandoned by her philandering husband. Elsa is a kind, lonely immigrant who is tired of working for the upper class, with no life or freedom of her own. Rowena is a fei
Jun 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I am ambivalent about this book. I liked the premise of it but the narrative was very fractured - I think the author tried to use way too many points of view; it would have been stronger if she had chosen one protaginist to focus on for the entirety of the story. The three main women McNees focuses on are approachable, representing various points on a morality scale and quite black and white which makes them interesting, but not intriguing. The religious undertones are clear but not overwhelming ...more
Lori Spielman
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and rich in detail. In Need of A Good Wife drew me in and kept me reading into the wee hours of the night.
Jane Donovan
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book - nothing too exciting - but a good little story.
Sheryl Sorrentino
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable and fast-paced story; I could hardly put it down. I really liked the historical fiction aspect illustrating how the West was settled—how the shortage of women made life especially difficult and the lengths people went to forge a new personal destiny.

I would have given In Need of a Good Wife five stars except for one of the characters (Rowena), whom I found puzzling and inconsistent. I "get" that she was supposed to be complex and "human," but somehow, she just didn't work for me,
Miriam Downey
Jan 07, 2013 rated it liked it
You can find my full review here: http://mimi-cyberlibrarian.blogspot.c...

The years following the Civil War continue to provide fodder for books of every sort—from novels to histories—and about every conceivable type of situation. Among the most poignant are the stories of women left husbandless after the war, either because of the death of a husband or because of the dearth of men left in the community. Other stories tell of homesteaders and ranchers without wives in a “lawless” West. Historic
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
I had this book on my "to read" shelf for a number of years and I think it sort of left me a bit disappointed. I don't really blame the flawed characters for what happened and really I think Clara's instant hate for one of the girls caused this whole mess. Strangely, that girl is seen as the baddie, when really they are all deeply flawed.

ALSO if so many of these men had their wives take off in the first place - HOW CAN THEY REMARRY? Divorce was not the thing during this era. Are they all bigamis
May 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
First sentence: "The oak planks in the floor of Rathbone's basement tavern, Clara knew, were lined with invisible cracks."

Clara Bixby is a Manhattan barmaid trying to maintain her independence and escape the ghosts of the past. Rowena Moore is a war widow (Civil War that is) struggling to make ends meet with an invalid father. Elsa Traugot is a Bavarian immigrant who has known nothing but servitude and hard work since coming to America as a child. These three women want desperately to begin aga
After the Civil War, thousands of unmarried women were left to fend for themselves, thanks to a dearth of eligible men, in a society that still did not foster that type of independence. Enter Clara, a woman reeling from her own loss, who hits upon a way to help out a small town in Nebraska and earn her the independence she so desperately craves. Against all odds, she creates her band of brides-to-be who all have their own reasons for seeking a new life. Beset by unfortunate and unforeseen circum ...more
Chelsey Wolford
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This story is told from the viewpoints of three very different women who are all heading out west after the Civil War. The three women are as different as night and day. One is a war widow that took me a little while to warm up to, the next is a truly humble housekeeper and immigrant, and then we have Clara who hopes to earn a living arranging marriages out west and is leaving the great state of New York behind in the process. It truly was remarkable to see and hear the Wild, Wild West from the ...more
Ashley Arthur
Jan 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won a copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway listed by the author.

In the years following the Civil War, Clara Bixby hatches a plan for a new beginning – she organizes a matchmaking service to provide New York brides for men in the frontier town of Destination, Nebraska. Clara knows the process won’t be foolproof, and both the women and the men may have to adjust their expectations, but she is surprised by just how many snags she hits on the journey to get her group of ladies out West.

Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013-reads
I enjoyed the first part of this book as Clara Bixby decides to help herself get out of post-Civil War Manhattan and start anew. Her plan involved finding wives for the men of Destination, Nebraska after reading that their town has no women for the men. Learning about Clara (and two of the other women, Elsa and Rowena) was interesting as we learn what the motivation is for picking up an heading to the unknown.

After a promising first section, I was looking forward to the rest of the book as these
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Clara Bixby wants out of New York City. Her baby has died in infancy and her no good cheating husband has abandoned her. To get the money to start over she hatches a crazy plan. She is going to shepherd other ladies looking for their own escape out of the city and on to new husbands in Destination, Nebraska. The mail order brides will find new lives in a prairie town lacking in women. Among the ladies looking to head out west is middle aged Elsa, an immigrant wanting to break free from the laund ...more
I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction--I think I overdosed on it in my tween and teen years. But there are a few writers working these days that I do pay attention to, and Kelly O'Connor McNees is one of them. I so loved her first book, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, I could hardly wait for this new one. It entails mail order brides coming from New York City to the nearly womanless town of Destination, Nebraska in 1866. Clara Bixby, heartbroken over her baby's death and her husband lea ...more
Renee Rosen
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This wonderful second novel by author Kelley O'Connor McNees left me completely enamored! I can honestly say it was one of the best books I've read this year. McNees captures it all--great characters, engrossing story and beautiful writing. She weaves a mesmerizing tale of three very different women who leave New York City for American West.

Clara, a down-on-her-luck woman with hopes for a better future, embarks on a mail order bride business. When she and her young brides journey to Destination
Oct 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
It is so hard to find a GOOD book anymore. This is one. After six decades of voracious reading, I am a tough audience though I understand how hard it must be to come up with something new, fresh, different. However, I will say to writers, "Sorry, but that's your job!".

Though this is an old, old story written over and over, I have always loved the idea of 'order-up brides' and read them again and again. This writer really came up with something new, different and some dialogue that made me laugh
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Clara Bixby's husband walked out on her after the death of their infant son. She is desperate to start over in life when she reads an article about a town in Nebraska. The town is made up of mostly men who are looking for good women to join them. Clara decides to try to fill this need with woman who are looking for a new life. The story focuses mostly on three women. There is Elsa, an older immigrant who has spent most of her life as a laundress, Rowena, a strong willed and spoiled (poor) heress ...more
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads
Clara Bixby is a “single” woman barely making a living at a tavern in Manhattan. She sees an ad for a land claim out west and decided to start a business venture of finding wives for lonely men in the small town. Two of her recruits are Elsa Trougett a spinster laundress and Rowena Moore a Civil War widow. Clara deals with many trials before departing and during departure and we get to know some of the lives of her belles she brings along.
Lisa Bauer
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In Need of a Good Wife is the story of three women that unfolds beautifully, smoothly and eloquently. The three women find themselves in circumstances they could never have imagined making decisions equally difficult to fathom. Set in the 1800s from New York City to Nebraska, McNess sets a sweeping backdrop of the culture, physical difficulties and grand beauty of the times. The story is told through the three main characters, which lends a richness and diverse viewpoint of life. It was a diffic ...more
Holly Weiss
An easy read about little unexamined practice of post-Civil War single women moving west to marry single men who are in need of a wife. The author focuses on three of the women and tells an interesting tale. The endurance of the women and the way the author portrayed the realities of soddy houses and a remote town in Nebraska is impressive.
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: firstreads
This book was pretty good. It follows three different post-Civil War women, who each has her own reason to leave New York - becoming or setting up mail-order brides - and settle in Destination, Nebraska. There is a Christian theme, but it fits and isn't overpowering at all. It's actually a soothing, well-paced read. I received my copy via the First Reads program.
Jessica Howard
Aug 28, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a story of mail order brides in 1867 Nebraska. I didn't really like it. So I was going to give it 2 stars. And yet...I couldn't stop reading it. I just had to know what was going to happen to the characters. So I guess 2.5, or 3? I'm ambivalent.

The problem was that the story was told from the alternating viewpoints of 3 different characters, and I only liked 1 of them.
Melissa Levine
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
LOVED THIS!!!! This was such a fast read for me because I didn't want to put it down. I like how the author switched between the 3 main ladies to tell the story. I really enjoy these types of stories involving guys wanting a bride, someone they've never met, very interesting. Will definitely be on the look out for more books by this author.
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 3 Dec 18, 2014 09:56AM  
Beyond Mr. Darcy:...: March 2013 Group Read: In Need of a Good Wife 8 18 Mar 23, 2013 07:47PM  
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Kelly O’Connor McNees grew up in Lansing, Michigan, and holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Michigan and a master’s in English education from DePaul University. A former seventh-grade teacher and editorial assistant, Kelly runs a busy editorial business called Word Bird Editorial Services, through which she helps authors of all stripes improve their craft and pre ...more
“The urge to draw near to the female silhouette resided deep in the ancient center of a man...” 2 likes
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