Sunday, September 1, 2013

Review: A Bride for All Seasons

A Bride for All Seasons is a collection of four novellas, all written by well-known authors of historical romance:  Margaret Brownley, Debra Clopton, Robin Lee Hatcher, and Mary Connealy. The stories have completely different settings and characters, but take place in a different season of the year 1870. The unifying theme is the "creative" editing of Melvin Hitchcock, owner and editor of The Hitching Post Mail-Order Bride Catalogue.


1800s mail-order bride catalogs facilitated many happy marriages. Here are the stories of four couples who owe their wedded bliss to creative editing by The Hitching Post publisher.

"And Then Came Spring"--Margaret Brownley
When mail order bride Mary-Jo Parker arrives in town she receives the shock of her life; not only is her fiancé dead, he left behind an eight-year-old son he neglected to mention. But the biggest challenge of all is the boy's way-too-handsome uncle.

"An Ever-After Summer"--Debra Clopton
Widower Matt McConnell wrote his ad with no room for misunderstanding--Bible believers need not apply. But then Bible-thumping Ellie shows up on his doorstep. Matt's so desperate for her help that he accepts.

"Autumn's Angel"--Robin Lee Hatcher
Luvena Abbott's privileged childhood didn't prepare her for the hardship she now faces as an adult, especially when it comes to being the guardian of her nieces and nephew. Marriage seems the only answer to her dilemma. Clay Birch hopes to change the hurdy-gurdy house he won in a poker game into the finest opera house in the Northwest, but he'll need help to do it. Could this unlikely couple actually be the perfect match?

"Winter Wedding Bells"--Mary Connealy
David Laramie is looking for a woman to care for his children. In exchange he'll make her financially comfortable for life. But no woman wants to marry a dying man. Then Megan responds to his ad. It seems his "edited" letter contained no mention of him dying.

My thoughts

The real star of this collection is someone we never actually meet: Mr. Melvin Hitchcock, facilitator of mail-order marriages through his advertisement catalogue, The Hitching Post. "Helping lonely couples was a calling. He had a way with words, and an inexplicable ability to read a letter and know what someone really needed." This clever theme is a fresh and entertaining approach to the mail-order bride storyline.

I would love to have met this Melvin Hitchcock because I think he's a quirky character motivated by a true desire to see lonely people find companionship and love.  "With a stroke of his pen, he could turn "a 'chunky' figure into 'charming,' 'homely' to 'comely,' and 'undomesticated' into a 'willingness to learn.'"

While I usually prefer the deeper characterization and  complexity that a novel offers, sometimes it's just nice to sit back and relax with a novella collection, even with its predictable ending. In spite of a limited word count, these authors did an excellent job in letting the reader get to know the characters in such a way that their romance feels real. There's humor in the midst of need, and I especially enjoyed the glossary of mail-order bride advertising terms at the end of Margaret's story.

Although I'd rather see a character connection in a collection such as this, I was quickly caught up in these stories and found them entertaining. The only negative for me was that the theme got a little old toward the end, but it was a great read overall.

Fans of short, lighthearted historical romances will find A Bride for All Seasons very satisfying, and I am glad to recommend it.

This book was provided by Thomas Nelson Publishers through BookSneeze in exchange for my honest review.

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