Marrying the Major
I think confidence is the new feisty. It is okay to doubt yourself to an extent, to not be so confident you come across as obnoxiously full of yourself, but a woman is expected to have faith in her own self-worth these days. The whole confidence game snuck up on me; I wasn’t aware of its presence until I ran into the heroine of this novel and realized just how insecurity looks and feels. Not pretty. Not pretty at all.
Tristan Willoughby-Smith needs a wife. While serving in the West Indies he contracted malaria. The disease has left his children motherless, and they now run the risk of being fatherless. In order to make sure they have a proper family in the event something should happen to him, he sends for a governess in the hopes she will fall in love with his best friend and right hand man Jon. If he lives, he will have given his best friend a good shot at happiness. If he dies, well, he will have done the best he can to protect those he loves.
Caroline Bradley wants people to love. All the family she has left in the world is her sister Bessie, a nurse who comes with her on the long trek to Wyoming. It is quite the adventure getting there, riding by stage coach, being attacked by outlaws, and having to cross a small river on horseback just to get to the ranch. To add insult to injury, Caroline is none too impressed with her employer, a man who barks orders like he is still in the army and expects instant obedience. No matter. While Caroline finds Freddie, Tristan’s son, a bit standoffish, Caroline is instantly friends with the lovely Dora. She may not like Tristan, but his children are wonderful. She plans to settle in and become the best governess possible to these two motherless chicks.
Everything would have gone along according to plan, but Bessie falls for Jon (and he for her), Tristan’s father is on his way to visit with the woman who broke Tristan’s boyhood dreams of love, and illness threatens the ranch. Besieged on every side, Tristan finds himself proposing to his governess out of necessity. Or so he assures himself – even while he admires her beauty, loving heart and integrity. Can a man who may very well be destined to die be given a second chance at love? And will it all be snatched away from him by a cruel fever?
Tristan is easily the best thing about this novel. He reminded me a bit of the father in The Sound of Music, surrounded by people who insisted on acting like a family rather than a military unit. He accepted it all with good grace, though, and even though it went against his upbringing and training, tried to go with the flow. He could be stubborn about not giving in to his illness, but he was good about not being too TSTL about it. He had a gentle spirit about him and a caring heart, and I really liked that. He also made a great husband; he took Caroline’s part and thought of her feelings often even when theirs was just a marriage of convenience.
Caroline was harder to warm to because she was a study in opposites. Her fist marriage was to an African-American man, which would have required great courage on her part given the time frame. She also crossed dangerous country getting to Tristan’s ranch and acted with courage on the journey. But she constantly found herself unworthy and wanted to retire the field of battle every time conflict came up. That made it difficult for me to be in her corner since I spent most of my time thinking, “Grow a spine, woman!” She kept this behavior up till the last several pages, making it difficult for me to believe the change would last.
The novel did suffer a bit from an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to plotting. The duke and duchess that were thrown in our path felt like overkill, as did the horse racing, and the problems with Freddie. I found the malaria fascinating, but even that got upstaged when a new infection came around. Having all this happen sometimes gave the novel a feel of being a sketch for a sweeping historical saga rather than just a small, heartfelt novel. I’ve read enough Love Inspired to know this is par for the course for them, but I think the novel could have been helped by a less is more approach.
The religious aspect is mild and would rate about a three or four on a scale of one being nearly nothing and ten being super preachy. The Christian religion is mentioned, God is mentioned but He doesn’t take up much page space.
With the above average hero this turned into an above average read – but not by much. If you are looking for something light and are a fan of the Love Inspired novels, I would give this one a go. Otherwise, I don’t think it has anything much to recommend it to new readers.