Friday, December 7, 2012

"Short-Straw Bride" Review

Four brothers. Four straws. One bride.

No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a long-standing debt compels her to take the risk.

Years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer comes across a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt prompt him to attempt to rescue her once again.

Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she vows to stand by his side. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her as merely a short-straw bride?

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My Take:

As I have said before, I am a sucker for marriage of convenience stories. This plot is very popular in the Christian historical fiction genre, but I love it, and I like seeing how authors come up with new and interesting ways for the couples to have to get married.

This was one thing about Short-Straw Bride that I liked. The situation that Meredith and Travis found themselves in was intriguing, especially since they each secretly had absolutely no problem being married to the other. Even though Christian historical fiction books, and especially marriage of convenience stories, have a formula to them, I still like them.
Even though I liked the overall concept of the story, there were some things about Short-Straw Bride that made me just not like it as much as the previous novels by Karen Witemeyer. One of these things was that instead of being confident and quirky, I just found Meredith to be immature and annoying. I seem to be in the minority here, based on other reviews that I have read, but I thought Meredith came off as being foolish and stubborn instead of strong and independent. Since I really, really enjoyed and related to the main female characters in each of the past Karen Witemeyer books I have read – ATailor-Made Bride and To Win HerHeart – I was disappointed that I didn’t have much of a connection with Meredith.

I have often mentioned that sometimes romance novels make me roll my eyes over how dreamy and starry-eyed the characters are. For some reason, this tends to be true for me more in contemporary novels rather than historical ones. Maybe that is because I tend to like more of a fairy-tale aspect to historical fiction than I do in contemporary fiction. Whatever the case, I was disappointed that this novel made me roll my eyes at times. I just couldn’t believe that Meredith would have such an infatuation over some guy she met for a few hours when she was 10 years old. The ‘big, strong, handsome hunk of man having to come rescue the damsel in distress’ bit also had me rolling the eyes several times over the course of the book. The characters, including Meredith, did experience growth over the course of the novel, though, so, I guess this sort of makes up for the eye-rolling parts.
The secondary characters in this novel pretty much redeemed the novel for me. I loved that all four brothers had such different and interesting personalities and interests, even though they had been secluded on their ranch for years. And the addition of Meredith’s cousin Cassie and her predicament added a lot to a story that had the potential to be very one-dimensional. The ‘bad guys’ in this book, although a bit over-the-top, also made the story interesting and kept things moving.

I also have mixed feelings about the sexual tension that is present in this story. While sex outside of marriage is, of course, not condoned in the realm of Christian fiction, I have found descriptions of physical intimacies between those who are married to be a more common theme in the genre. I am obviously not saying that sex within marriage is a bad thing, but when it comes to the physical descriptions portrayed in Christian novels, even between a man and wife, there is a tendency for it to go too far. I understand that this makes the story more realistic – what husband and wife who are attracted to each other would be able to live in the same house and not have sexual tension between them? But as a reader, when I feel a bit of a blush creeping up as I am reading about a kiss or an intimate touch, then I realize that it might have been taken a bit too far. What if the person reading the novel is not married? It might be hard for that person to keep his/her thoughts pure.
Apart from these issues, I was extremely glad that the author continued her way of weaving spiritual issues very seamlessly through the book. The characters experienced a lot of growth over the course of the novel, and they turned to Scripture for help in their lives. I wish the Scripture part had gone a bit deeper at times, but at least it was there.

I really wanted to like this novel. It had lots of things that endear me to the Christian historical fiction genre, but I just think it fell a bit flat. Short-Straw Bride is an entertaining read, but it was not my favorite from this author.

I will give Short-Straw Bride … 3 BookWorms.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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