April 7, 2011

Book Review: Badlands Bride by Cheryl St. John

At First Sight: Growing up the daughter of a news paper owner, Hallie Wainwright always wanted to be a reporter, but everyone else in her family had other ideas. As a way to keep her from being underfoot at the news paper, her father suggests Hallie writes a story about Mail Order brides, since a group of such women are about to leave Boston to go West in that capacity.

Once Hallie realizes of the ploy, and when one of the brides changes her mind, Hallie decides to go West herself and get all the scoop about Mail Ordered brides, and finally prove to her father that she has what it takes to be a great reporter. 

But things are complicated in the Wild West, the journey is long and uncomfortable, and when Hallie and the brides reach their destination, they encounter a blink-and-you-miss-it town, and Hallie gets mistaken for the bride who balked. 

Cooper DeWitt, the scorned groom, is vaguely relieved that his intended bride changed her mind - once he finally believes Hallie is who she says she is - since he saw his father suffer a lot when he married a city woman. Still, he sent for a bride because he needed help and, since Hallie is stuck with him without means of leaving, Cooper offers her shelter and a job: to teach his young nephew to read and write, and to help him put his business' books in order.

With only a handful of people for company, Hallie quickly grows close to the people around her - Cooper, his sister in law and nephew, mostly - and finally feels useful for the first time in her life.  

Second Glance: Oh, I loved this book. With a relatively small cast of characters, I really got a sense of the time and place the story was set in, of the hardships of life in the frontier. And I loved both Cooper and Hallie. I was surprised at how much I liked Hallie, actually, because I usually don't like the heroine who does something really dumb just to prove a point, but Hallie assumes it and works hard and makes a place for herself in Cooper's life, even without realizing it. 

Cooper was good too, and I loved all the references that were peppered across the book about the Sioux culture, as Cooper was brought up by them (he's constantly talking about how the whites' are this or that, and he's, like, blond, but he thinks he's just another one of the tribe).

I did feel like the ending dragged a little, but not for long, and the the resolution is quite satisfying and surprisingly funny.

Bottom Line: Badlands Bride is really nice read, a love story between two people who eventually realize that their place in life is by each other's side, regardless of their differences. Not my favorite St. John but I really liked it all the same.

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