Thursday, March 27, 2014
Stephanie Grace Whitson
In 1872, sixteen Civil War widows living in St. Louis respond to a series of meetings conducted by a land speculator who lures them west by promising "prime homesteads" in a "booming community." Unbeknownst to them, the speculator's true motive is to find an excuse to bring women to the fledging community of Plum Grove, Nebraska, in hopes they will accept marriage proposals shortly after their arrival! Sparks fly when these unsuspecting widows meet the men who are waiting for them. These women are going to need all the courage and faith they can muster to survive these unwanted circumstances--especially when they begin to discover that none of them is exactly who she appears to be.
I haven't done many book reviews on this blog-- only two since I started blogging last February-- but that is hopefully going to change. Right now I'm reading my first book from the Bethany House blogger review program, and I have another one on the way, so there will certainly be more book reviews showing up in the near future. But anyhow, when I found this book at the library and took a chance on it, it was so good that I knew right away I just had to review it.
When I say I "took a chance" on Sixteen Brides, what I mean is exactly that. I had never heard of the book before, and I had never even heard of the author or knew of any other books by her. It was a complete gamble, because I had absolutely no idea if I would like it or not. The book was sitting on top of the shelf and I happened to pick it up and, being intrigued by the cover and the short description on the back, decided it looked promising and took it home with me.
Sixteen Brides is the best book I've read in a long time. In fact, it's one of the best Christian historical fiction books I've ever read. I read quite a lot of Christian historical fiction, and not many books in that genre are this good.
I love books about determined women, and I love books that take place anywhere west of the Mississippi River. (That way they can be classified as a western. :-P) I also love stories about friendship. Sixteen Brides had all that and more. While it wasn't exactly the grittiest book I've ever read--that honor belongs, naturally, to True Grit-- it wasn't some dainty, glamorized prairie romance where the trials are miniscule, everything works out, and everyone marries everyone else. The characters were interesting, and they definitely had some grit. Or, as Caroline Jamison would say, they were hardy. :-)
I really love the characters in this book. There are several main characters, so it can at times be a little difficult to keep track of who's who, but it also makes the book more interesting (and harder to put down!) I was a little confused at the beginning, but pretty soon I got them straightened out. And don't worry, there aren't sixteen of them to keep track of. :-) Sometimes characters in historical romances annoy me, but these characters were so genuine and well-written that they seemed real, like dear friends. I liked all of the five Four Corners ladies immensely, but my favorites were Caroline Jamison and Ella Barton. I found them both very relate-able and dear. I also really liked Sally Grant. She was pretty rough and tough and not very delicate, but she had a strong personality and a sense of humor that tickled me. Ruth Dow really grew on me too, and I love her son Jackson!
There were some really great lines in this book, which, in my experience, isn't terribly common in most books of this genre. The dialogue was very good, and more than once throughout the book I felt like shouting, "Yeah, Caroline!" or "Yeah, Ella!" Especially Ella. Also Jackson had quite a few cute lines. Here's one conversation between him and his mother Ruth that I found particularly amusing.
"Come with us before your freeze to death", Ruth said to her son. "The ladies won't mind."
"I'm fine", Jackson answered from inside a mountainous sandwich of feather beds. "In fact, I'm almost hot in here."
"Well, if you need anything--"
"I know, Mother."
"You aren't....frightened? The wind's powerful."
"It's wind. Unless it picks us up and blows us somewhere, I can't see it doing any harm as long as I stay in here. Just be sure to call me for breakfast."
In short, I simply cannot say enough good about this book! It was terrific and I enjoyed every page of it. I highly recommend it to any fan of historical fiction. Actually, to just plain anyone who loves a good book.