The Bride of Willow Creek
The Bride of Willow Creek is a sweet, touching book about second choices and second chances. I liked it quite a little bit better than last year’s release, I Do, I Do, I Do. An interesting setting and very likable characters add up to a very good read.
Angelina Bertoli has been married for ten years, but she has never been a wife. A decade ago, a very young Angie eloped with Sam Holland, but when her father found out, he ordered her never to see Sam again. Under duress Angie conceded, and Sam took his broken heart and went West to Colorado to mine for gold.
Now Angie’s parents are both dead, and she is tired of her married-but-not-married status. She determines to seek Sam out and request a divorce. But there is a problem in this plan. Angie has no money. So it’s up to Sam to pay for the divorce and for her support during the year it takes to become finalized. Still that shouldn’t be a problem, right? Because by now he should have made his fortune in the gold mines.
However, when Angie comes face to face with Sam she learns that the situation is even more complicated than she thought because Sam has not spent the intervening years alone. He had a woman, Laura, who gave him two small daughters and then died, and one of those daughters has a medical condition that needs treatment. Sam is saving up all his money to pay for her operation, so a divorce seems unlikely in the immediate future. With no money and no other options, Angie reluctantly settles into Sam’s house an her role as “wife” and “mother.” Neither of them expects that their old attraction will resurface, but it does.
The only real problem that I have with this book is that the way Osborne sets up their dilemma reveals some unpleasant characteristics about both Angie and Sam. It says something about them that neither was able to resolve their difficulties in a mature way until ten years had passed and the greatest obstacle to their relationship was dead. It’s strange that Angie (who seems very capable and self-reliant) couldn’t stand up to her father even when she reached full adulthood. And it doesn’t make sense that she could be so incredibly passive for such a long time and then go West and suddenly develop coping skills.
And Sam, for all he seems so noble and good, apparently had little difficulty asking a woman to ruin herself to be with him. Any man of true character, knowing the stigma of adultery, would have made the trip back East to ask for a divorce. It’s a copout when he says a gentleman doesn’t ask for a divorce. A gentleman living in the late Victorian era didn’t ask a woman to live with him unwed. He just didn’t. I know that in setting up her book this way, Osborne creates a pseudo-marriage of convenience, and I like this type of plot, but I rather wish that she had had them break an engagement, had Sam marry Laura and be widowed, and then have thrown these two together again. The way the plot is set up here just makes them both look bad. And they’re not bad people.
In fact, both Sam and Angie are very likable, and their interactions and the relationship they both have with Sam’s daughters are well done and very touching. I liked all of them. I especially liked the way Angie handled the girls. Instead of being high handed and dictatorial, she often took the time to think about how they would feel about what was happening. The fact that she was willing to do this went a long way in defusing the tension between them and establishing a loving relationship. It was nice to see such a mature, considerate heroine.
I also appreciated the realistic portrayal of life in the developing West. Sam isn’t rich. He’s a working man, a carpenter who moonlights as a miner on his own land. He works hard, but he doesn’t have a great deal to show for it. Consequently, he, Angie, and the girls live in a small house and deal with the unending daily grind of surviving. The way Osborne writes about this daily grind makes it seem interesting and bearable. Angie actually derives some greater self-esteem from being able to successfully manage a house and family. I liked watching her become more capable and self-assured.
The Bride of Willow Creek was a very enjoyable reading experience. It is a well written, tender, gently funny story of restored love and second chances. I have a very short list of Americana romance authors whose books I read and enjoy – Lavyrle Spencer, Pamela Morsi, and Eileen Charbonneau. I’m very pleased to add Osborne to this list. I’ll be looking for more of her books in the future.
|Review Date:||October 19, 2001|