There’s something inherently difficult with stories set in the pre-Civil War South or immediately afterward. Because there is absolutely no erasing that the whole economic system was based on slavery, subjugation, and murder. The problem comes with how do you deal with this topic historically without turning it into “Gone with the Wind” which romanticizes the Southern way of life. It’s not easy.
When I picked this book up, I didn’t know the heroine was going to be a former Southern Belle. Lots of Mail-Order Bride stories feature northern, city, and immigrant women signing up for this. And with an Irish last name, I figured Boston and not Marietta. Oops.
My bad. So let’s get started.
After the Civil War, Abigail McKinnie is doing her best to hold her family together after Sherman’s Union Army destroyed her home, killed her brothers, and took the innocence of one of her sisters. In order to do that, she makes an arrangement with a distant cousin to be his mail-order bride and help on his farm in the prairies of Kansas. Unfortunately when she gets there, she discovers that her cousin is dead and that his partner, the handsome Owen Baker, has taken over the land she believes is rightfully hers. For his part, Owen wants nothing to do with this former southern belle. She’s trouble with a capital T. However fate has a way of throwing together people who need each other the most.
I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with this book. Especially when I ran into the heroine’s backstory. There’s a way to handle problematic tropes without having to say they’re problematic. But when the heroine throws a minor fit because her family’s slaves “abandoned her,” my sympathy kind of goes away.
I really did like Owen, his sort of hardened pragmatic look at life on the prairie was refreshing. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but that didn’t bug me. He was stubborn but still willing to look at alternative means of doing things. He wanted to be emotionless, but he wasn’t. Frankly Owen was the best thing about this book.
I was less fond of Abigail. She was stubborn to the point of stupidity multiple times over. What kind of idiot keeps doing something when their hands are ripped open and bleeding? Maybe after the first blister, look into some protection… you know gloves... a rag… something. Apparently, our heroine. Seriously, she did this kind of thing multiple times. She didn’t listen to people who knew better than she about life on the prairie. And she jumped to more conclusions than a freaking bunny on a pogo stick.
I was disappointed that she never followed through on bringing her sisters out to Kansas. From a meta standpoint I get it, they have their own books to be in, but from a narrative and characterization standpoint it didn’t make sense. One would think that the first thing she’d do is send for her sisters. Especially since she considered the land hers. More hands equals lighter work and all that. While I liked the protagonists' interactions with the Native American tribes, I kept feeling horrible for what I knew history would do to them. I also appreciated that Abbey has PTSD after her experiences with the Civil War. And that the author acknowledged that the heroine and her family were slave owners. (A lot of authors try to get around that by doing a "not all southerners" thing which is even more problematic.) Again, it’s okay to have problematic characters with problematic pasts. In the end, the book was okay. It could have used a better proofreader, lots of comma faults, wrong words, etc.
I’d recommend it for people who like clean romance and for those who like western themed romances. However for me, I can only give this: Three Stars
*** I received an ARC through NetGalley.
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