Book Review: Undercover Bride by Margaret Brownley

I freely admit that I love to read Historical Fiction involving mail order brides. Now I think I might have a definite liking for tales of Pinkerton detectives as well, especially female Pinkerton detectives.

undercoverbride_brownley_barbourpubUndercover Bride involves both.  Maggie Taylor is a Pinkerton operative, undercover as a mail order bride for a suspected “Whistle Stop Bandit,” Garrett Thomas.  Maggie doesn’t make the best first impression on arriving, and the hotel is somehow full, so she stays in Garrett’s home despite his misgivings about her suitability.  Expecting a psychopath, instead she finds a handsome, doting father of two.

Garret is a tinker and a survivor of the Battle of Gettysburg and the horrors of Andersonville Prison, a time he prefers not to speak of.  Maggie has a past that she prefers not to speak of as well, even if it wouldn’t blow her cover as an innocent farm girl from a good family.  But it goes a long way to explain her motivation to be a successful detective.

Is Garrett a train robber, why are hundred dollar bills from the robbery suddenly appearing around town, and was his wife’s death an accident?  As Maggie investigates, the reader is treated to an interesting cast of characters, including Maggie’s master-of-disguise partner.  Garrett’s children are catalysts for some important pieces of the plot, and his hypochondriac Aunt Hetty (who reminded me of my grandmother) helps increase the stakes as she pushes the wedding planning along.

Undercover Bride succeeds both as a romance and a light mystery story.  There is enough tension and suspense to keep the readers interest.  Maggie’s difficulties in keeping to her role and staying professionally unattracted to the subject of her investigation, were well done as were the dropping in of small, but important, bits of information along the way.  As the mystery is slowly unraveled, the pieces fall into place for the reader.

There is a sweetness to the scenes where Maggie teaches the children to pray, and great humor when she takes them to church.  But Maggie as the person of greater faith did not add up in my mind.  It made sense that Garrett’s distaste for religion stemmed from his experiences at Andersonville, but the roots of Maggie’s faith weren’t evident (or I missed them) and this didn’t seem to mesh with her background in my mind.  This, and Maggie somehow being able to cook wonderful meals based on just a few lessons and one cookbook, were the only things that gave me pause in my reading.

This is the second book in Margaret Brownley’s Undercover Ladies series, and I enjoyed it enough that I am going to read the first book, Petticoat Detective soon.  More Pinkerton lady detectives?  Yes, please!  I just hope that I enjoy it as much, since Margaret Brownley’s books have been rather hit or miss for me in the past (and the covers of the ones I’ve read, unfortunately, do not do her books any favors).

Recommended for fans of clean historical romance and mysteries set in 1880’s Arizona Territory, mischievous boys, handsome Civil War veterans, mail order brides and Pinkerton detectives.  Or if you just want to learn why everyone (according to 5 year old Elise) who eats cornbread dies.  3.5/5 stars

My thanks to the publisher for providing the ebook for free, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Undercover Bride by Margaret Brownley, Shiloh Run Press (Barbour Publishing Inc.), June 1, 2015, 320 pgs (paperback) ISBN: 9781628366273


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