Book Review: Brides of the Old West

bridesoftheoldwest_barbourpubBrides of the Old West: Five Romantic Adventures of the American Frontier
consists of previously published stories by various authors, all set in the American West of the 1800’s. Each story features a woman who is determined to survive with God’s help, either with or in spite of help from a man. No fainting couches for these ladies.

Morning Mountain by Suzanne Walters

With their ranch hand gone, her father injured, and their money almost gone, it is up to Suzanne Waters to do all of the work to keep their Colorado horse ranch going. Then a horse rides in with an unconscious and bleeding rider.

Luke Thomason was shot in the back after a poker game, and doesn’t trust that anyone does anything without an ulterior motive, even those who selflessly care for him when he is injured. But Suzanne’s stubborn faith and resolve to do whatever is necessary to afford heart medication for her father, and help Luke find his own father, may have him changing his mind.

This was an average story, but enjoyable. Suzanne’s strength is the main draw.

A Bride’s Rogue in Roma, Texas by Darlene Franklin

A man she has never seen before attends the funeral of Blanche Lamar’s mother. Her parents had been estranged, and Blanche never knew her father. But Ike Gallagher brings the news that her father was a riverboat captain and Blanche is his heir. Though riverboats on the Rio Grande have an evil reputation, Blanche agrees to travel on the river to see her father’s lawyer. Along the way, she learns the river from the pilot Old Obie.

Darlene Franklin is the reason I wanted to read this collection, as I want to give more of her writing a try, but I’m afraid this story was a bit of a disappointment. Ike’s eventual step into faith seems too abrupt and doesn’t ring true. Parts of this story demonstrate what is probably meant when Christian fiction is said to be “preachy.” I’m still holding out hope, however, that her contributions to the “Texas Trails” series will live up to the standard set by the second book of the series which I previously reviewed here.

Valiant Heart by Sally Laity

Amanda Shelby and her 17 year old sister, Sarah, are stranded when their father dies before their wagon train can head out on the Oregon Trail. Against the advice of the trail guide, Seth Holloway, they decide to go west to fulfill their father’s dream and open a sewing business.

When trusting in God is used as an excuse for foolish choices, and characters are being too stupid for words, I have trouble continuing to read (and not physically tossing the book down, because it would hurt my kindle). In this case, if your tolerance for stupidity is as low as mine, I recommend you skim over the stupidity rather than skipping the story as it does improve and then ends too cute for words.

Lessons in Love by Nancy Lavo

Deborah and seven year old Case are orphans who have travelled to Texas to claim the house left by their Uncle Cyrus. Expecting a mansion, they find a rundown house and barn fit only for the drifters who have clearly made use of it. Not that this will stop Deborah from making it a home, even if a handsome half-breed tries to get in her way – or tries to help.

This is easily the best of the five stories, in my opinion, with a beginning full of tension and excitement. It is the most fun of the stories, and I enjoyed the way faith was shown in it, though the Case’s sharing of the gospel came across as much too mature for the character. The development of the relationship between Deborah and Luke was also my favorite of the collection.

To See His Way by Kathleen Paul

Tildie Harris wants nothing more than to avoid an arranged marriage and care for her three young cousins.   After a deadly wagon accident, Tildie carefully avoids the amorous pursuit of one of their Arapaho rescuers only to be mistakenly handed off, along with the children, to a large Swedish missionary – as his wife and family.

This was an enjoyable story with variety in setting and characters and the most believable villains. While not the strongest of the lot, the more epic scale of the story makes it feel larger than the approximately 140 pages it takes to unfold.

Overall, a collection of stories with strong heroines that tend to have the feel of typical secular romances, though they are clearly in the “inspirational” category.

Each of these stories is also available as an e-book or as a print copy, though most appear to be out of print. So it is very handy that Barbour Books has chosen to gather them together in one volume, saving readers the shipping costs on those one cent used books.  I’d take this collection over the individual books just because the cover is so much better.  Though a modern photograph, when paired with the title it is quite evocative of the frontier encountered in these types of stories.

This review refers to an e-book copy, read for free in exchange for an honest review, courtesy of the publisher through Net Galley.

Brides of the Old West is a publication of Barbour Books, a division of Barbour Publishing, Inc. The anticipated publication date is June 1, 2015.