Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Book Review: Short-Straw Bride

When Travis Archer's father died, Travis made a promise: he would stay on the ranch and protect his three younger brothers. So the Archer boys fenced and gated their land, and made sure that any trespassers were given a less than warm welcome. They bought food and supplies from one of the only friends they had--a cantankerous old storekeeper, who was willing to come to the ranch to take orders and deliver goods. And Travis kept his promise to stay on the ranch . . . until the day young Meredith Hayes set foot on his land.

Meredith never had any desire to trespass on the Archer ranch, but a bullying classmate threw her dinner pail over the fence, so she mustered up her courage and went to retrieve it, only to end up with her leg caught in a small trap. Travis rescued her and brought her home, and Meredith's young heart was captured by her "hero," although it would be years until she saw him again.

Ten years later . . . Meredith overhears her would-be fiance, Roy, hatching a plot to drive the Archers off their land, since they refuse to sell it to him. Determined to warn Travis and his brothers, Meredith rides to the Archer ranch, and ends up stuck there due to an accident that leaves her injured. When her guardian uncle arrives and demands that one of the Archers marry Meredith because her reputation has been "compromised," the brothers end up drawing straws to decide who will be the groom. Travis wins the draw (by rigging it :)), and although Meri has loved Travis for years, she never expected to become his "short-straw" bride. But is this God's way of making her dream come true? Could Travis come to love her as a treasured wife someday? And what about the dastardly Roy, who is still determined to get his hands on the Archer ranch?

Short-Straw Bride was the second Karen Witemeyer novel I've read, and I found it a fun read. The storyline was fairly original and kept my interest, although it did have predictable elements of the "arranged marriage/marriage of convenience" type plot that I've seen before. I really liked both Travis and Meredith--they seemed like real people with both good qualities as well as flaws. The element of suspense/adventure that was woven in, regarding the plot to steal the Archer land also added to my enjoyment of the book. There was also a little secondary romance between one of the brothers and Meri's cousin, which I would have liked to hear more about. Maybe these characters will show up in a later book. I'd like to find out what happens to Travis' other two brothers, as well.

As with many books in a similar theme, there was some mention of marital intimacy ("when will the characters truly fall in love and be ready for a 'real' marriage?"), but nothing graphic. I just wanted to mention this, as I'm not sure I would recommend this book for teen girls because of that. Overall, I enjoyed Short-Straw Bride, and give it 4 out of 5 stars.

I was provided with a free review copy of this book from Bethany House. I was not required to give a positive review, and all opinions expressed are my own.

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