Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29787-0
Historical Romance, 2014
Olivia Hansson has no money and nowhere to go. Fortunately, she has been corresponding to be a bride for prospector Jack Trudeau, so despite having many reservations, she packs up and heads over to the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains. She can’t cook or do other things that a wife in that area usually does, but she can and is willing to learn along the way. Jack, however, isn’t so sure, and he’s convinced that she’d decamp before the month is out. Will these two ever work things out between them to become a happy couple?
Bride by Mail is a simple story set in the late 19th century, with minimal external drama to distract me from the relationship blues. It’s one of those old-school style “two people in a ranch in the middle of nowhere” Western romp that is said to have long gone out of fashion, so I get some nostalgic warm fuzzy feelings when I first read this one. The fuzzy feelings don’t linger long, though.
There are many things to like about this one. The author doesn’t skimp on characterization, and she also doesn’t shy away from making things hard for her characters. There is much drama here, but not the kind that is too exaggerated to be believable. Both characters have their strengths and flaws, presented in a manner that makes them feel like well-rounded types.
Thing is, the story soon becomes a tournament to see who can come up with the most – and often, most head-scratching – wrong conclusions about the other person. At least Olivia shows some determination to make things work, and her insecurities are grounded by the fact that she’s indeed a fish out of water. Jack is less sympathetic. He doesn’t give Olivia much chance – from day one, he’s adamant that she’s not cut out to live out there in the wilderness, so he does his best to say things to her and make her feel like she really doesn’t belong at all. And when she does talk about leaving, he’d pout and act like a child deprived of his candies. What does he want? He wants the wife to go, but when he’s randy for her, he’s suddenly in love with her. His feelings for her seem to change depending on the degree of turgidity of his pee-pee, and I find him more sadistic than sympathetic for the way he keeps making the poor dear jump through hoops to earn his approval.
Bride by Mail is a polished and readable book. But by the last page, I’m more relieved than anything else to see that these two have finally make up their differences… for now. Given how easily they misunderstand the other person or jump to several wrong conclusions at the drop of a hat, however, I have my doubts about the longevity of this happily ever after.