The Blue Ribbon Brides Collection: 9 Historical Women Win More than a Blue Ribbon at the Fair from Barbour Books (review)

blueribbonbrides_barbourIf you enjoy historical fiction novellas and the romance of a state fair, then this collection from Barbour was made for you.  Set from the 1880’s to 1930, these nine stories of love found centered around state fairs bring a variety of historical fair competitions to light:

Requilted With Love by Carrie Fancett Pagels

Seven Medals and a Bride by Angela Breidenbach

A Taste of Honey by Darlene Franklin

Altered Hearts by Gina Welborn

Better with Butter by Jennifer AlLee

Driven to Distraction by Becca Whitham

First Comes Pie by Niki Turner

Front Page Love by Tiffany Amber Stockton

Competing Hearts by Cynthia Hickey

Sarah and Grant find healing from the loss of their fiancés in 1880’s Michigan, and overcome Sarah’s distrust of hot air balloons, as love blooms for this quilter and engineer.  Copper miner Luke has come to the 1893 Columbia Exposition to find a wife, but Bettina just wants to further her career as a botanist until some matchmaking ladies step in.  Meanwhile, in Vermont, Grant finds that his neighbor Edith is no longer such a tomboy as he discovers her harvesting honey for her fair-bound baking, on what he considers his land.

Reba is a modern girl in 1901, determined to leave the farm behind for Sioux City, South Dakota and open a millinery shop with her blue-ribbon winning hats.  In one of the cutest of these novellas, the neighboring farmer’s son, Levi, pursues her as she echoes his prayer of “move her or move me, change her or change me.”

Moving into the World War I era and beyond, the competition becomes more personal as Ella sculpts with butter to promote her family dairy while her former beau Maxwell works to promote margarine in 1916 Nevada.  Robert returns from the war and heads directly to a 1917 Washington State fair to pursue the woman he almost eloped with, but Jolene has opportunities to consider and their fathers can’t seem to move past their feud.  Lorelei is sure that using her neighbor’s apples in her pie will win a blue ribbon in 1920, only to find that the orchard has been bought by Emmett, a wandering opportunist who finds his taste for living has been changed by recipe number 23.  From Western Colorado we go to Wyoming where a farm girl, Paige, finds the man of her dreams in Andrew, a reporter, as each helps the other realize a dream – with a little help from Bessie Smith.  In the final story, an Arkansas state fair finds neighbors Annie Mae and Jonathan competing hog to hog and facing adversity together in the Great Depression.

While I read some of these stories quickly, there were others that I ended up skimming through what were probably well-researched scenes related to the specific fairs.  Unfortunately, I’ve found that state fairs just aren’t that magical or romantic to me.  I did, however, enjoy each sweet romance and learning about some of the more surprising exhibits and competitions (butter sculpting and auto polo!).  And as always, I enjoyed the incorporation of the themes of healing, faith, and enduring love.

I do enjoy these novella collections from Barbour and this particular one joins my list of those I would recommend, in particular for those who love state fairs and scones (oh, yes, my Washington State friends, the scones you know and love are in Becca Whitham’s Driven to Distraction!).

The Blue Ribbon Brides Collection: 9 Historical Women Win More than a Blue Ribbon at the Fair by various authors | Barbour Books, November 2016  | ebook, 448 pages

This review refers to an e-galley copy I requested from the publisher, via NetGalley.  All opinions expressed are my own.

From the Publisher:

Meet nine men and women whose competitive goals take them to state and county fairs between 1889 and 1930. From baking pie to polishing pigs, from sculpting butter to stitching quilts, everyone has something to prove to themselves and their communities. But in going for the blue ribbon, will nine women miss the greatest prize of all—the devoted heart of a godly man?


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