While most of the novella collections I’ve read from Barbour Books have a central theme to link the five to nine stories, with occasional cross-over of characters, this collection features the seven Hart brothers of Texas. Ordered by their father (in the prologue by Erica Vetsch) to marry within the year 1874, each Hart brother must find a bride in order to inherit their share of the family’s vast spread.
The youngest of these brothers all named for famous Texans, John Coffee Hays Hart is eager to prove himself by finding a bride before his brothers in First Comes Love by Gabrielle Meyer. As he is putting up the posters advertising his search, a certain new teacher and pastor’s daughter lets him know just how tasteless his approach is. Soon, Hays decides that Emma is “the one” and he puts all of his efforts into convincing her to remain in Hartville as his wife.
Caro Cordova is working as a cook at the Walking Diamond Ranch when a Texas Ranger, Chisholm Hart, rides in with his partner to investigate cattle rustling in Lorna Sielstad’s The Heart of Texas. At first I thought the storyline of proud and fiesty Mexican beauty with a chip on her shoulder over men choosing their duty over family pushed together with chiseled lawman who lives for duty would be an eye-rolling cliché, but the push/pull of their budding relationship was so much fun that this became one of my favorite novellas of the collection.
A second chance at love is the storyline in Amanda Barrett’s The Truest Heart. Their romance ended years ago, but when Travis Hart and Annie Lawrence are reunited it isn’t long before this doctor and midwife are learning to let go of their hurt and fears in order to make a family with Annie’s young son. Keli Gwyn gives another take on second chances with her story of storekeeper Sam Houston (Huey) Hart and Coralee Culpepper, the woman who turned him down twelve years before, in A Love Returned.
Susan Page Davis, who never disappoints, brings us the story of Crockett Hart and the neighbor’s daughter he’s had a crush on for years. Jane Haymaker has a crush on the cowboy in the flashy shirts as well, though neither has ever told the other. Crocket finally has the opportunity to be a hero for Jane as he saves her family’s barn from burning and helps in the house raising that follows a fire. But there is a mystery to be solved, and her drunken father to contend with on the way to happily ever after.
In what might be the cutest story of the lot, oldest brother Stephen Austin Hart takes the practical approach but is surprised to learn his intended is a twin as he greets the stagecoach in Mail Order Mayhem. Now, I have an admitted weakness for mail order bride stories, but I must say that this one surprised and delighted me. This might be my favorite Vickie McDonough story so far.
Even their father considers exempting the final brother, Bowie Hart, from having to find a bride. Injured serving during the Civil War, no one expects him to be able to find a bride, including Bowie himself. In what is the most romantic of these novellas, Bowie tracks down the one woman who didn’t flinch at his wounds. As a volunteer nurse in a Northern hospital, Elise Rivers helped the Southern soldier when his wounds were still fresh. Years later, his proposal of a marriage in name only saves her from a dismal existence, working at her uncle’s button factory.
These are seven very different brothers whose bride hunting stories are wrapped up nicely in the epilogue, again by Erica Vetsch.
Earlier this year I posted a list of my favorite novella collections from Barbour Books, and Seven Brides for Seven Texans definitely belongs on that list. Highly recommended for those who love sweet romance with a faith element in novella length.
Seven Brides for Seven Texans Romance Collection by various authors | Barbour Books, December 2016 | paperback, 448 pages
This review refers to an e-galley read, courtesy of the publisher, through NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.