The Borrowed Bride
The Borrowed Bride by Elizabeth Lane is a romance set in rural Colorado in 1899. While I liked the setting, and was not put off by the love triangle of a woman who has to choose between two brothers (a no-no for a number of readers), ultimately the romance failed to convince me.
Quint Seavers, younger son to a rich farming family, burns to find adventure in the goldfields of Alaska. He had to stay at home over the last year to look after the farm and his mother, who is handicapped after suffering a stroke. Meanwhile his older brother Judd fought in the Spanish American war and then recovered from his wounds in a hospital. Now Judd is coming home, and Quint plans to leave on the same train. Most sad to see him go is Hannah Gustavson, daughter of a very poor Norwegian immigrant family and Quint’s childhood sweetheart.
A few months later, Hannah has not heard at all from Quint, which is especially awkward, as she finds herself pregnant after giving in to their desires the night before he left. On finding out about this, Hannah’s mother appeals to the Seavers to support Hannah in her predicament. To everybody’s huge surprise, Judd offers to marry Hannah – in a marriage in name only, with divorce papers ready to be signed the minute Quint returns.
Judd is suffering from PTSD, and he feels he will never be a fit husband. He feels duty-bound to care for this niece or nephew, though. In addition he knows his mother is fatally ill, with only months to live, and hopes seeing her grandchild will soothe the pain of Quint’s departure for her. Hannah accepts his offer, because she senses his basic kindness and does not want her child to be born a bastard.
Both Judd and Hannah are nice, honorable people caught up in a difficult situation and trying to make the best of it. On the whole, I liked them. What I didn’t like was that Judd starts mentally lusting for Hannah on their wedding day, and because he is honorable, begins to avoid her straightaway. Given the set-up of the story, I would have loved to read about their slowly growing friendship, but no such luck; They hardly spend any time together. I also found Hannah a bit too ready to change. As this is an across-the-tracks romance, it is plausible that she adapts to the Seavers’ more classy life-style, but I was sorry that she didn’t try to carry any of her own family’s customs into her new family.
My third issue with the text is that even for two families, a LOT happens in a year, which just struck me as just a tad melodramatic, and too pat in removing some of the stumbling blocks. That said, there were several minor characters I enjoyed, and I was really curious to find out what happened to Quint.
Even with a set-up I liked, The Borrowed Bride ultimately failed to fulfill its promise for me. I would have enjoyed it rather more had the author tried for less lusting and more tenderness and friendship, but that may just be me. Because I have enjoyed Elizabeth Lane’s writing before, I will definitely be on the look-out for the sequel, His Substitute Bride, which is to be set in 1900s San Francisco.