The first story, “The Husband Maneuver,” by Karen Witemeyer was probably my least favorite of the four. In this story, set in Texas in 1892, the ranch owner’s daughter is in love with the ranch hand. Throughout the story, it seems like Marietta is a manipulating female who uses her femininity to lasso herself a cowboy. She immerses herself in romance novels based on the ranch hand and finds a way to be left alone with him on the ranch. In turn, Daniel Barrett is so enamored with her as well and seems to fall for her womanly wiles. Will they find love even if they have to go against her father’s wishes for his employees to stay away from his daughter? The characters in this novella actually got on my nerves, and I didn’t really want to read any more of their story.
“Her Dearly Unintended” by Regina Jennings was definitely more believable for me. In fact, it seemed like a natural glimpse into a love story that had been ongoing and had some depth to it. Katie Ellen and Josiah used to be friends – until the day he kissed her and then walked away. Left with insecure feelings, Katie Ellen distanced herself from Josiah, developing a resentment for the boy she thought she could love. But when the bridge is washed out, the two find themselves trapped together at her home with a stranger who has made himself welcome. I enjoyed this story because the characters were well-developed and strong, but you could really understand how each of them felt and believe their story could be based on a real couple. I would love to read more of their story!
The third story was “Runaway Bride” by Mary Connealy and was also set in Texas in the late 1800’s. Carrie and her brother, Isaac, are on the run – far away from an abusive father who is willing to gamble Carrie’s life away to be married to a brutal man. But the man is rich and powerful and determined to find his bride. Headed to their sister’s house in Colorado, the two are relieved when Big John Conroy is sent to help them on their journey. With a Texas ranger on their side, what could go wrong? But in the wild west, life isn’t easy, and neither is running away. The only way Carrie will survive is to get married – to someone else. But can she endure life as a Texas ranger’s wife? This was definitely a more fast-paced story, but I think that overall it was believable as a lot of the “proper ways to do things” had to be put aside back when the west was being settled. Overall, I enjoyed this fast-paced story.
“Engaging the Competition” by Melissa Jagears was the final novella, set in Kansas at the start of the 20th century. This story had an interesting twist – the teacher head over heels in love with the rancher. Doesn’t sound any different, does it? Well, the teacher is a man, and the rancher is a woman in this story, and I enjoyed the reversal in roles. Charlotte, “Charlie,” Andrews has always been a sore spot for Harrison Gray, since she was always determined to one-up him in everything. But now, Charlie finds herself giving herself in marriage to man she doesn’t love in order to keep the home she still shares with her mother. When Harrison and Charlie are caught in a tornado, they find themselves spending some time together in close proximity in a storm cellar. When Harrison breaks his glasses, he decides to rely on Charlie’s help to lead his class until his new glasses arrive in the mail. Can the two rivals ever learn to get along? Although I felt the story was rather predictable, I did enjoy the twist in roles and a stronger female character in this story.
Overall, I enjoyed the novella and would recommend it for light reading.
*This book was provided to me by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.