Kit McBride Gets A Wife
I picked up writer Amy Barry’s latest romantic western on a whim. I’ve never read anything by this Australian author before (nor her akas Tess LeSue and Amy T. Matthew) but the cover and title were cute, and the mail order bride premise appealed.
The book opens with:
Well, spit. How was Junebug to know flour was flammable? It was flour. You cooked with the stuff, for Pete’s sake. It wasn’t gunpowder. Only somehow that great big sack of flour had blown the belly out of the cookhouse, she marveled as she watched her older brothers try to save the outbuilding.
And that pretty much sums up the novel that follows. Junebug is fourteen and lives with four adult brothers on a mountain in the middle of nowhere, Montana, 1886. She’s sharp as a tack, funny as hell, but terribly lonely and tired of failing at all the womanly chores her brothers are sure are her responsibility. The brothers seemingly provide her with no instruction whatsoever and leave Junebug to her own devices, which in turn results in the chaos and mayhem with which they are left to deal.
In desperation to improve her own situation Junebug writes an ad for a wife for brother Kit:
Wife for a blacksmith. Do not expect doting, nor compliments. Must be willing to put up with judgment, nagging and unreasonable expectations. Mustn’t mind snoring, cussing or a filthy morning temper. Comes with land. Is not too old and not too ugly, has all his own teeth. Added benefit of knowing myriad big works. Lady must have charms and know how to use them. Ability to complain in written form and bake pie essential.
Kit is a great guy, of course, despite how he’s portrayed in Junebug’s ad. (She is honest and above board in her ad, not wanting a woman to show up, take one look at the situation, and leave on the next train.) He and his brothers are struggling to make ends meet and to hold what is left of their family together as best they can; but there isn’t much opportunity to meet women when the closest crossroads is four hours “down the mountain” and there’s no reason to add another mouth to feed to everyone’s already full plate of responsibilities. The McBrides’ are doing just fine as they are, thank you very much.
Maddy Moony, our heroine, is a lovely but impoverished Irish parlor maid who was persuaded to immigrate to America for a better life. What she didn’t anticipate (with no family or friends in the country) was that she would end up tied to a shallow, ne’er do well female named Willabelle who drags Maddy out West in the process of answering “Kit’s” advertisement for a bride.
And writing this letter was a lot of fun. Without it she’d never have learned about womanly wiles. Or whores. She’d looked up whore in the dictionary. It led her to the words venal, debauched, and promiscuous. It was shaping up to be a very interesting day.[Junebug] remembered that kicked-in-the-head look Sour Eagle had worn. What Junebug needed was some female to hand her brothers a bunch of sparks until they looked kicked in the head too . . . and then the female could go churn the butter and skim the milk.
It doesn’t take Junebug long to figure out that Willabelle is the one who answered ad but is not a woman who is going to lift a finger to help around the house – if anything, she’s going make Junebug’s chore list grow. Junebug decides Maddy is perfect for the job (and Kit), however; and much of the rest of novel is about getting Maddy and Kit to realize it as well.
Through a series of plot machinations (and lengthy backstory exposition that would have been better left to conversations between Maddy and Kit after they met), it takes most of the first half of the novel to get Kit and Maddy on the page together, and most of the rest of the novel to unravel all the misunderstandings and miscommunications. I generally dislike plots based on misunderstandings but Barry’s light touch and comedic writing kept me interested and rooting for everyone involved.
I’d have graded the book higher if the misunderstandings had been worked out sooner. Once stranded on the mountain, there was no reason for Maddy not to come clean with everyone although Barry creates several. Honesty at this point however would have allowed readers to get to know Kit and Maddy as they revealed themselves to one another (see note above about too much backstory, too soon) and fell in love, rather than the book ending just as the real relationship between the two leads could really begin.
Junebug could still have served up all the comedy Barry clearly enjoys writing, and Junebug is absolutely a hoot.
[Junebug] stood up. “I can help you, if you want. I’m an expert in these things [doing laundry]. You should have seen the state of my brothers’ long underwear after last winter.” The kid gathered up the filthy skirt and opened the door to the stove, which was burning merrily, heating another copper of water. Before Maddy had quite realized what was happening, the mad girl had thrown Willabelle’s skirt into the stove and swiftly closed the door. “There you go,“ she said, pleased with herself. “Problem solved.”
Kit McBride Gets A Wife is the first in a planned series of four books – one for each brother. Kit was laugh-out-loud funny; enough that I’ll give the second book (Marrying Off Morgan McBride) a look when it arrives in May, 2023. Hopefully, it’ll spend more time on the characters and less time on contorted plot points. Quickly perusing the two AAR reviews for Tess LeSue’s efforts, though, light-hearted humor and wacky plots may just be this author’s thing. As a romance, this book is barely a C. As funny, light fiction – due in large part to Junebug and several supporting character trappers – it’s a solid B read for me. Hence the C+ grade overall.
~ Katherine Lynne
Over the years, AAR has had many a guest reviewer. If we don't know the name of the reviewer, we've placed their reviews under this generic name.
|Review Date:||March 22, 2023|
|Book Type:||American Historical Romance|
|Review Tags:||Frontier/Western Historical Romance | Mail order bride | Montana | The McBrides of Montana series|
This was one of my best of the year reads last year. I loved pretty much everything about it, especially Junebug. I also loved the really kind of gentle nature of the romance between Maddie and Kit, so the fact that it took a little longer to really get going didn’t bother me.
I will say that in book two, about Morgan, my main issue is how long it actually took to get the hero and heroine together on the page. So there were points off for that one in this regard. Still loved it, especially the heroine, but wished she and the hero had more time together on the page.
I’m still in for the next McBride brothers book and now that I know that Amy Barry is also Tess LeSue, I may give one of those a try too. Her humor really works for me.
I’m going to be reading the second book in the series and yes, this excites me for what’s to come!
I loved Junebug! I will definitely buy the next book hoping for more of her.
Just reading her above made me want to see more of the series TBH.
The mountain men/trapper characters are pretty funny as well. And I love the fact that Kit makes Junebug submit any complaints she might have in writing. I wish I’d read this/though of this before raising my son!
This cover just doesn’t work for me. It looks both modern and old-timey in a way that I find hard to parse.
In all honesty, it was the cover that caused me to pick up the book in the first place. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a western but it caught my eye. It definitely stood out from all the other books on the shelf.
I can see that.