Promised to a Stranger
What if your life were in danger and you were suddenly given the chance to swap identities with a recently deceased woman? Would you seize the opportunity to save yourself even if it meant deceiving the dead woman’s never-seen fiance and his hunk of an older brother? And would you carry through with the charade, intending to marry the artistic younger brother even though your heart belonged to the elder?
In Promised to a Stranger Madeline Beecher is faced with just such a dilemma. Running for her life from her vile employer, Maddie meets Amelia Baker aboard a train. Amelia is on her way to Indiana to marry the fiance she has never met. A sudden accident brings Amelia’s dreams to a violent end, and Maddie, seeing her one chance at survival, takes not only Amelia’s satchel, but her identity as well. When Jeremy Knight and his half-brother Blaine come to the hospital to collect “Amelia”, Maddie experiences a modicum of guilt, but continues with her charade despite her attraction to Blaine.
Blaine wants nothing more than to see his brother married to the beautiful Amelia so he can leave the farm and pursue his own dreams for a change. Once brother Jeremy is married and takes over the family farm with his bride, Blaine will be free. Fate intervenes however, and it is Blaine who ends up teaching Amelia everything she needs to know about the farm – and passion.
To say the course of Maddie and Blaine’s love does not run smooth would be an understatement, but it does make for an interesting read. Linda O’Brien has a wonderful talent for characterization, creating characters that are realistic and three-dimensional. No character is completely good or completely bad – with the exception of the villain, who is stereotypically evil. Like the hero on the cover, Blaine is beautiful! I loved him because he was willing to overlook Maddie’s many flaws. Even though he catches on to Maddie’s duplicity very early in the novel, he bides his time, waiting for her to trust him enough to confide in him. And Maddie, fighting her attraction to Blaine, is determined to see the lie through because she doesn’t want to hurt Jeremy. Her will to stay alive often drives her to questionable and sometimes humorous behavior. Only when Blaine’s safety is threatened does she finally decide to take her fate into her own hands.
But while I enjoyed the characters, I did have a few problems with their actions. I was willing to forgive Maddie for taking Amelia’s identity, given how scared she was, but I couldn’t understand why she didn’t just tell Blaine the truth, especially when she was so concerned with ending up like her con-artist father. I also thought Blaine should have been a little less quick to understand and forgive Maddie’s deception. After all, she almost entered into a fraudulent marriage with his younger brother. However, the story had so many other interesting little twists and turns that I was willing to overlook these flaws.
The sexual tension between Maddie and Blaine hums throughout the entire book, but the actual love scenes were a bit of a disappointment. Anyone who prefers a good story to passionate love scenes will probably enjoy O’Brien’s briefly described encounters. I, however, was hoping for something a bit more substantial, at least for their first time together.
While I would have preferred a bit more conflict and passion in the book, it was an enjoyable read. O’Brien had me guessing almost up to the last minute how everything was going to be resolved. I’m happy to say that the ending left me with a warm fuzzy feeling, which is what I hoped for. I look forward to O’Brien’s next book.