Genre: historical romance.
Debutante Julia Crawford endures a lifetime of subtle ridicule as the plump, silly daughter of a premiere Boston family. Julia strikes out on her own to gain independence, travelling to the Midwest to marry an aging shopkeeper and care for his mother. Julia finds her new home rough and uncivilized after the sophistication of a big city, while closely held secrets threaten to ruin Julia’s one chance at love.
Jake Shelling was sixteen and grew up quick when his parents died from influenza on the North Dakota prairie. Left with a half-cleared farm and two young sisters, he spent little time on his own needs . . till now. At thirty-five, he figured it was high time to have some sons and a mail order bride would suit him just fine. No expectations of love, just a helpmate from sturdy stock, ready for farm life.
Will fate and chance play a trick on Julia and Jake?
I loved this story. It made my cry my eyes out at times, which means the author did a good job of making me love the main characters.
Julia Crawford is 27, her family is rich and important in Boston 1887. Her beautiful and slim older sister is married to an important man and has a little son, her younger sister is 20 and is turning male heads wherever she goes, she is so beautiful, and even her youngest sister of 10, Jillian, is becoming very pretty. Her mother dotes on Jolene, her oldest sister, and belittles Julia whenever possible. But Julia has made a plan to escape her family and its influence: she will go to the West as a mail order bride. To her own surprise she responded to an advertisement in the newspaper, from an older shopkeeper who wanted a wife, and someone who could help with the care for his old mother. Julia and Jacob Snelling have been secretly corresponding for about a year, and the time has come to make the journey. A man who dotes on his aging mother like that, will certainly make a nice husband. With the help of their black charwoman, and Julia’s only friend, she hides the truth from her family, who think she will be visiting her aunt for a week. The only one she will miss dreadfully, is Jillian. Even though there is this huge age difference, they are very close. But Jillian will be going to boardingschool soon, just like all the other girls did, and it really is time for Julia to start her own life. Away from her family.
Jake Shelling is a farmer in Cedar Ridge, and he has been raising his two sisters since their parents died when he was 16. It was not easy, caring for two little girls, but he did it, and managed to make a success of the farm. But his youngest sister just got married, and now it is time for him to find a wife and start a family of his own. He wants a son to leave the farm to. He is not interested in the women in town, he wants someone who will be a real helpmate. Who can cook and clean and help, who makes his house a home. So he has arranged for a mail order bride. Unfortunately, the first wife he paid for, never came to Cedar Ridge, she married another man on the way. But now he has a big and sturdy Swedish woman coming for him, and he will marry her on the spot! Jake might not be able to talk to Inga Crawper at first, but he has no doubt they will be able to communicate his needs.
But well, fate has other plans. They day Julia and Inga are to arrive, is founders day. And the whole town has come and is celebrating. The train station is a racket. And so Jake finds Julia and they cannot really hear eachother clearly. And before Julia knows it, she is married to Jake. Handsome and huge, and totally not what she expected from her older shopkeeper. What is to be done about this mistake? But Jacob’s shrew of a mother makes it clear she won’t have her son marry a divorcée, and at last they go off with Inga. The priest whispers to Julia that she has had a lucky escape, she will be far better off with Jake. And so Jake and Julia decide to give their marriage a try.
Julia is surprised when she sees the farm, but she and Jake have come to an understanding, when his sisters and their families arrive. They were very opposed to Jake marrying a stranger, and a foreigner, but they will make her feel welcome! So when they find Julia instead of Inga, they are very happy. But Julia knows almost nothing about keeping cooking and cleaning, and Flossie and Gloria will have to teach her everything. But Julia loves it, and she is slowly falling for her husband. And he for her. And not only because of the sex, but because she makes him a real home, and even though the eats in the bunkhouse a lot, he appreciates her efforts.
And it could have been great, if Julia’s parents did not want her to come back home, and they will do everything to make that happen.
And then there is the big secret Julia has been keeping for all those years. Her mother uses it to blackmail her, and when Jake finds out, he is furious. And that makes Julia decides to stand up to her mother, and do something about it. Scandal or no scandal.
And stubborn Jake will have to come to his senses soon before he loses her for good.
I immediately fell for Julia. Her sad life in Boston, the horrible way she is treated by her mother and her oldest sister Jolene. The courage it takes to start a new life for herself. And to go for it, learning how to be a crop farmers wife how to take care of him and the house. She is very good with people, and comes to love Jake and his family. And what happened to her 10 years ago. I cannot blame her for that, and I loved it that she stands up to her family at last. She does not take the easy way out, she wants it all, as she deserves it all in the end. And not a husband who hates her for making the, in his eyes, wrong decision.
Jake is a big man, used to taking care of others, and he adores his tiny little wife. He cannot understand why she doesn’t believe she is beautiful, as she so clearly is. He cannot understand a family not made of love like his own. But when he meets his in-laws, he stands behind his wife in everything. He does not need their money, and he won’t be bought off, not even for half a million dollars. He also cannot believe what she has done, even though she was only 17 at the time. But he does come to his senses in time, and goes after his wife. What is his, stays his.
Holly Bush has written a great story. It was absolutely captivating, and I rooted for Julia. Of course I did figure out her big secret very early on, but not all the nasty details. I do hope to find out in another book, what happens next to the family in Boston.
This book was an ARC, and it does need some cleaning up, like the use of the word woman and women sometimes, and some sentences in the dialogues make no sense at all. But it did not jar me out of the story, I had to keep on reading and find out what would happen next.
I like Holly’s writing style, the way she describes things, how the emotions shine through in the characters. For those of you who like hot sex scenes, sorry. Of course they have sex, but the descriptions are very short and totally not explicit. Which for me is a nice change and I like it.
© 2012 Reviews by Aurian