The Bowen Bride
Katie Schmidt always dreamed of leaving the small town of Bowen, Nebraska, to live in the big city. Her family was well-known in town, having been one of the founding families and prominent citizens ever since. Her grandmother owned the town’s bridal shop, The Bowen Bride, where she made gowns for generations of local brides. Before she died, Katie’s grandmother gave her a spool of thread she claimed had been used in their family for years. Supposedly, the spool had never run out of thread, and any bride who wore a dress that had some of the thread stitched into it would have a lasting marriage. Not interested in marriage herself, Katie put the thread away without thinking much of it and left town to attend college in Boston.
Years later, Katie returned to Bowen to reopen The Bowen Bride. After working as a theatrical costumer in Boston for a while, she realized her life hadn’t turned out the way she hoped and yearned for her hometown. There she meets single father Jared Porter. Jared’s daughter Mandy is determined to marry her boyfriend, even though they’re both high school seniors. Jared disapproves, believing it’s a bad idea for them to marry so young. He and Mandy’s mother never married when she got pregnant in high school, knowing it would be a mistake. He ended up raising his daughter alone after her mother left town shortly after giving birth.
Not wanting to completely alienate Mandy, he offers to pay for her wedding dress, even as he hopes she changes her mind. At the bridal shop, he meets Katie. They soon begin to spend more time together as Jared, a carpenter by trade, builds a new counter for the shop. He also hopes Katie will keep him informed if Mandy runs off with her boyfriend. Considering how angry Mandy is with him, he figures that Katie might be more likely to know about his daughter’s wedding plans than him. But soon it’s the attraction between him and Katie that they have to deal with.
The Bowen Bride is a sweet, gentle love story with likable characters but not much in the way of drama or action. It’s a very low- key read, as Katie and Jared spend time together gradually growing closer. Jared is a very sympathetic hero. He did the right thing, staying in town after high school to raise his daughter. Now he works for his younger brother, who went off to college and who treats him with well-intentioned, yet condescending kindness, as though he’s not as intelligent because he’s not as educated. It’s the kind of thing that annoyed me on Jared’s behalf, but he’s so comfortable with who he is that he manages not to tell off his brother or any of the townspeople who act like his brother’s the brains of the business, while Jared’s just a dumb laborer. I respected his restraint. Both a good father and a good man, he’s a very nice hero.
There’s not much in the way of story here, just two people spending time together and getting to know each other. As a love story, it’s not entirely convincing. I found it easier to believe they were falling in like than falling in love. But the author’s writing is engaging and the story has a good amount of charm. The plot moves slowly in places, especially when some of the introspection dominates. For a book that’s only 184 pages long, it was a little too easy to put down. Some of the issues used to add a touch of conflict to the relationship in the final chapters felt blown out of proportion. And the epilogue, while sweet, also leaves one big question unanswered (probably intentionally), which tempered my enjoyment of it.
The Bowen Bride is still a pleasant read with finely drawn characterizations and a warm, cozy feel. It lacks the romance and emotion of the author’s Royal series, and isn’t nearly as engaging as a result. Still, it’s a gentle, easy read and while it’s not a bad way to while away some time, you may put it down more often than expected from this author.