"Hetty" Wentworth stands up for a child whose mother is about to beat
him for his latest transgression. Mrs.
Templeton, a widow, and her seven-year-old son, Griffin,
with his nine-year-old sister, Grace, are traveling by Conestoga wagon to join
Mrs. Templeton's future husband in Montana. Nothing seems quite right to Hetty about this
mishmash family, including the Chinese man who is their guide, but she is
grateful they took her in when she was most vulnerable.
with fear and worry about both her sisters, Hetty assumed she would die from
the injuries sustained in an Indian attack on her own family's wagon, until
this family found her. Josie was taken
captive and Hannah went searching for help right after the attack, leaving
Hetty alone and wounded. Hetty may never
know their fate. Her family has been
through so much since the Chicago
fire that killed her parents and left the six Wentworth children in an
orphanage. Not knowing if their oldest
sister and two younger brothers made it to their destination when Miranda
became the first mail-order bride, the three sisters devise their own destiny
by marrying off Hannah to a man traveling west.
To learn more, read my reviews of TEXAS
BRIDE and WYOMING
cruelty Hetty experienced at the orphanage by the headmistress is what
motivates her to defend both of Mrs. Templeton's children from their mother's
intended abuse. When Hetty and Mrs.
Templeton get into a nose-punching, hair-pulling scuffle, they're too close to
the edge of a cliff, in the dark, which results in Mrs. Templeton falling to
her death. Even though Hetty was
protecting herself as well as the children from harm, she is filled with regret
and takes the blame. Just like she has
always felt it was her fault when her family's wagon had to leave the wagon
train, resulting in the Indian attack that separated the three sisters. Will she learn from or repeat past mistakes?
the Chinese man, Bao, suggests that Hetty take Mrs. Templeton's place as a
mail-order bride, as well as pretend the children are hers, she feels it's the
least she can do to ensure that the children have a safe home. There's only one problem. How can Hetty fool her future husband when
she's really a virgin, not an experienced mother of two? Besides that, those children have some
explaining to do. Can a lasting
relationship develop with so many lies?
thing you need to know about this series is that even though there is tragedy,
it often includes a very dry twist of wacky humor. The scene when the two children realize
they're without a mother, again, is quite funny because no one is who they appear
to be. Bao constantly quotes Confucius
in broken English and just adds to the mayhem.
To make her deception believable, Hetty trains as a nurse, learning from
Bao so she can fool her future husband that she's his nurse mail-order bride
with two children. Just how she'll be
able to hide her "child" daughter's teenage breasts and her son's
orneriness remains to be seen. Why worry
about love when so much more could go wrong?
no, this novel isn't all fun and games.
There is a serious love story developing which includes a ready-made family. It includes plenty of danger to overcome in
order to survive such a barren landscape. When you get to that point in the
story, toward the end, when everything is happening and you're not sure if any
of them will make it with their heart intact, you may sob a few tears from the
simple beauty of what the holiday season brings to fruition. These characters are far from perfect but by
the time they get their happy-ever-after, you'll feel they all deserve it.
Author Joan Johnston has a keen eye for quirky
circumstances that put her characters, and the reader, through a wringer. Laughing one moment and crying the next,
you'll always have such a great time getting to the happy-ever-after. Joan Johnston engages the senses in a
charming style which creates an eager addiction to her stories. I can't wait to find out who stole Josie and
where she lands in book four, BLACKTHORNE'S BRIDE.