If you’re looking for a good mail-order bride romance, I can recommend several. Shotgun Groom would not be one of them. Somehow the author takes a surefire premise and shoots a blank.
Lily Towns has wanted to marry Matt Logan since she was a child in Tennessee. After Matt came home from the Civil War, the town disowned him for fighting for the North. Matt, his brother Jim, and Jim’s wife moved to Texas. Jim’s wife died, and Jim, who is dying of heart failure, needs someone to care for his two children. He writes to his aunt back in Tennessee and, using Matt’s name, asks that she send him a wife – if things don’t work out, the contract stipulates he’ll pay her a settlement. His aunt sends Lily, all grown up, beautiful and ladylike. Needless to say, it hits the fan when Lily arrives and Matt realizes what Jim’s done. No way, no how, thinks Matt, can Lily survive the harshness of Texas. But how can he get rid of her without having to pay her off? The ranch is barely surviving as is.
Lily’s got to prove herself, like all unwanted mail-order brides must. She’s smart – when she takes her fancy fripperies to town to trade them for food and supplies, the reader will think the author’s on to something. When Matt discovers a wagon full of supplies and doesn’t wait for an explanation before losing his temper, the reader will be cheering the author for creating such great tension. Alas, this was the high point of the book for me, and it occurred on page 82. Unfortunately, the book is 291 pages long.
There were some great possibilities here – Jim’s dead wife was part Indian and the Logan family’s relationship with the tribe was intriguing, especially when they tried to fire up Matt and Lily’s relationship with fire water, a short doeskin dress, and some dancing. But it was too little. And, there’s a villain around, killing off Logan cattle. When Matt discovers the villain’s identity, the reader will feel cheated by both his identity and his motive (especially his motive).
The problem was not with the premise, nor the situations the author invented for Matt and Lily. But each event which should have been a tempest was little more than a drizzle, barely wet enough to soak the parched Texas landscape. In most instances when I award a rating this low, there’s something particularly odious about the book. Not so here – but it was such a yawn-fest I couldn’t help myself.
Mail-order bride romances are a staple of the western romance, and I’ve enjoyed many of them. If you are looking for some good ones, I’d suggest Katherine Sutcliffe’s Dream Fever, Sharon Ihle’s The Bride Wore Spurs and Theresa Southwick’s Winter Bride.