READ: NOV 16 - 24, 2011
RATING: 8 OUT OF 10
Ride the transcontinental railroad as marriage arrives by mail-order—and just in time for Christmas. Annika arrives in Wyoming to discover her intended is missing. Jolie’s journey to Nevada is derailed by disaster. Elizabeth carries a load of secrets to Nebraska. And Amelia travels to California to wrap up her final attempts at matchmaking. Will the holiday season be the ticket to spark love in unexpected ways?
1. A Trusting Heart by Carrie Turansky
RATING: 8 OUT OF 10
I think the main message of this story is to follow the path God wants you to take because it might not necessarily lead to where you imagine it will end. Annika is cautious about being a mail-order bride, and resigns herself to marrying a man who hasn't got over the death of his wife and spends most of his time drunk and neglecting his family. It takes her a long time to consider that maybe God sent her to Wyoming not to marry Chase, but his brother. I also loved the relationship that Annika forged with her prospective groom's daughter. I don't really have any complaints with this story, but I didn't absolutely adore it either. It was a very enjoyable start to the collection and had all of the elements that romance readers look for in a novella.
2. The Prodigal Groom by Vickie McDonough
RATING: 9 OUT OF 10
Definitely my favourite in this collection! Another case where the bride ends up marrying someone other than her intended. What I loved more about this story wasn't the unconventional plot but the chemistry between the characters. It reminded me a lot of Mary Connealy or Kelly Long in the way that the author showed the two main characters growing closer together and slowly realising their attraction for each other. I really appreciate it when Christian authors acknowledge how important the physical aspect of a relationship is to marriage, as well as the emotional and spiritual. My only complaint with this novella is that there was a bit of mystery injected suddenly at the end that came way too fast and didn't merge properly with the rest of the story.
3. Hidden Hearts by Therese Stenzel
RATING: 7 OUT OF 10
Probably my least favourite novella in this collection, but still a sweet story. Orphaned Elizabeth is sent to become a mail-order bride as she has no inheritance and her aunt and uncle refuse to pay a dowry for her. She keeps her background from her husband, and he keeps his hidden from her as well. Everything goes pear-shaped because of their secrets, and the overt message is not to keep anything hidden from the person you're married to, and communication can avert a lot of problems. In a way, I felt this was more the story of Elizabeth finding herself and coming to understand who she is in God's eyes, not society's, than the story of her falling in love with Zane. Still not sure entirely what I thought of this one, but a nice enough story.
4. Mrs Mayberry Meets Her Match by Susan Page Davis
RATING: 7 OUT OF 10
I appreciated that the stories were all tied together with one about the matchmaker herself. It was interesting to hear about her background and how she got into the business. This was the typical story of a couple who don't realise how perfect they are for each other, with the added humour of one party trying to set the other up with various people. Again, sort of a lack of honesty/communication story. It was nice, but I didn't relate to Mrs Mayberry as much as I did the other female characters, probably because of her age and life experience. As is a pet peeve of mine in a lot of American Christian fiction, there was a brief comment about how Mrs Mayberry abstaining from alcohol earned her the respect of Lennox. I would prefer if authors just didn't push any sort of opinion on alcohol by just not mentioning it at all in their stories as I get quite offended when the idea that All Alcohol is Evil is suggested. The assumption that all Christians abstain from alcohol is entirely unfounded, and as a Christian who enjoys a couple of glasses of wine with my dinner on a Friday night I often find myself grimacing when characters in books get holier-than-thou about drinking alcohol. This is purely a personal issue I had with this book, but even excluding that the story was cute but not as compelling as the first two.
OVERALL: While he last two stories weren't quite as enjoyable as the first two this was a lovely little collection that put a smile on my face at the end of each story and got me in the Christmas mood.
I read this book for Fans of Amish Fiction's Christian Fiction Group Read for November.