Mail-Order Bride
by Maureen McKade, historical (2000)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-80285-6

Maureen McKade writes warm, wonderfully romantic westerns, and Mail-Order Bride is no different. True, it utilizes tried-and-true characters rented from the Stereotypes-R-Us Wal*Mart, but the end result is a romance that brings tears to my eyes as well as a warm glow in my heart.

Twenty-four year old Katherine Elizabeth Murphy is a romantic daydreamer who loves stargazing. When her father passed away, she sold the farm for whatever meager money she can get and looked ahead to start life anew. Somewhat naively, she decides to be a mail-order bride, never dreaming exactly how difficult life as a silver miner's wife could be.

When she arrives at Orion, Colorado, she is in for a shock. She is in time to witness silver baron Jason Cromwell's King Mine cave-in. Kate is an Everywoman, however, and she helps nurses the victims the best she can. Her charity catches the attention of the mine supervisor Trev Trevalyn. More shock awaits Kate - her husband-to-be is one of the casualties in the mine disaster.

With little money left to buy a ticket out of this place, Kate has no choice but to earn a living. There is little opportunity for a spinster to earn a living in a mining community (unless she wants to... you know), and when Trev asks Kate to babysit his two kids, four-year old daughter Annabel Lee who is so shy she breaks my heart, and a six-month old baby boy Brynn, the woman reluctant agrees.

I love the fact that while Kate is beautiful (is there any doubt?), Trev seems to fall more for her kindness and charity than her physical appearence. But before anything can happen, things get quite nasty when Trev finds himself trapped in the middle of a miners union vs them bloody mine oweners war. Before one can say Duck, Kate too finds herself embroiled with the whole kazoo.

Part Mary Poppins, part epic lush romance story, MOB works because of the tenderly-written quiet moments between Kate and Trev. The more vigorous action scenes (I'm not talking about those scenes - not exclusively anyway) only reinforce the rightness of the relationship. Kate is a dreamy romantic and Trev is just the sort of man I would love to nab for myself - reliable, emotionally supportive, and strong enough for his woman to rest some of the world's burdens on his shoulder.

True, Kate may also be the sometimes annoying I'm not pretty cliche (she walks alone at night because she's sure no man would assault her - gee, have thiefs gone extinct?) and Trev is yet another stock my-dead-wife-is-scum (they always are, these dead first wives) guilt-ridden man. But Kate's inertia and low self-esteem party never actually derails the story from the feel-good and warm Americana it is.

MOB may not be this author's finest (I still love A Dime Novel Hero more), but it is much better than many romances I have read in the few weeks back. Warm, sometimes funny, always poignant and heartwarming, it's a treat.

Rating: 89

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