Texas Bride: A Bitter Creek Novel, Mail-Order Bride series, Book 1

Author: Joan Johnston

Publisher: Dell

Release Date: March 27, 2012

Blue Ribbon Rating: 4.5


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Miranda Wentworth and her five siblings are forced to live at an orphanage after their parents die in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  Having lost everything, they have no choice but to suffer every imaginable punishment over the last three years, at the hands of an evil headmistress-in-charge.  Now that Miranda is eighteen-years-old, she must move out and find employment, leaving her siblings behind until they reach an age when they'll be forced to leave as well.  There isn't much hope that Miranda can earn enough to support herself and her siblings.

That is...until her youngest sister arranges for Miranda to become a mail-order bride for a man willing to send her first class tickets to Texas.  Once her sister's plan is revealed, Miranda realizes it's the only way to get her family away from the orphanage.  Having been beaten numerous times, Miranda isn't sure her youngest siblings will survive starvation and torture at the hands of the sadistic headmistress without her protection.  Ten-year-old Nick and four-year-old Harry escape with Miranda with barely enough money or food to get to Texas without starving.  Miranda can only hope that her soon-to-be husband will understand not only the surprise of two brothers with hungry bellies, but also accept her three sisters in the future.

Jacob "Jake" Creed lost his first wife during the birth of their son.  Still grieving the loss of not just his beloved wife but his stillborn son as well, Jake has to marry again for his daughter's future.  Running a ranch with a two-year-old in tow is impossible.  Having a disabled father-in-law to care for too—the only feasible answer is a new wife as a helpmate.  It would have been much easier to court someone local than to send for a mail-order bride all the way from Chicago.  But, due to Jake's step-father's threats to take his ranch at first chance and ruin anyone who helps him, it's highly unlikely that anyone who knows Jake's situation will be eager to wed him.  Surely his new bride who said she loved children will accept that he has a two-year-old daughter.

If becoming a mail-order bride isn't tough enough, Miranda has to marry this stranger quickly before he finds out about her brothers who plan to hide in his wagon full of supplies.  Or, before he discovers the fresh wounds she's nursing from her final beating at the orphanage, and the scars she's hiding as a result of the Great Fire.  She isn't the only one with secrets.  How long will a marriage last that has been built on deceit and more mouths to feed than is expected?

From the very first chapter, I was thoroughly entertained by Miranda and her siblings.  Miranda has spunk and matches Jake toe-to-toe.  Jake thinks he has the perfect wife, and it's highly amusing watching Jake try to refuse Miranda anything.  Jake and his family are just as enthralling, if not a bit more stubborn.  Miranda can handle them all just fine, much to Jake's frustration at times.  You can't help but love them all for their ability to survive one disaster after another and still have the strength to hope for a better future.  The children are adorable and often steal the show, making sure the adults don't always take themselves too seriously.

This is the first book I've read by Joan Johnston and it made me anxious to read her backlist, so I did some research to find out how the books are connected.  You'll want to visit her site for the details but the MAIL-ORDER BRIDE series will introduce a Blackthorne, so it's a prequel to the BITTER CREEK novels.  Also, those who've read the SISTERS OF THE LONE STAR series will recognize Cricket Creed, Jake's mother.  Not having read the previous books and not wanting to spoil this one, all I can say from my research is that I believe that TEXAS BRIDE will delight current fans with familiar characters, as well as create new exuberant devotees out of those of us who are just getting started.  I know I had a tough time letting go at the end—I wanted more hours, more story and more answers about what's next.  Hooked me completely!

TEXAS BRIDE is charming, full of characters young and old that you'll bond with immediately, leaving you impatient for what promises to be a tempting series for historical western fans.  Fair warning; this novel leaves you craving for book two, WYOMING BRIDE, grinning with anticipation after reading the excerpt included.  Great concept for a series that's sure to please western historical readers who adore the pioneer spirit!

By Romance Junkies Reviewer: Dorine Linnen

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