A Bride for Keeps
By Melissa Jagears
Baker Publishing Group, 2013
Everett Cline has been trying to catch a bride for years, and his failure heretofore has not been from lack of effort. He’s on his fifth mail-order bride, this one ordered without his knowledge, and by far the most beautiful one yet. He is skeptical that a woman like her will be content to marry a simple farmer like him, but he can’t help but hope that this one will be different.
Julia Lockwood, like most mail-order brides, is running from a bad situation in search of something better. A horrific experience causes her to mistrust men, including her new intended, even though he seems to be a different sort of man. But with no skills to speak of, she needs someone to give her a roof and protection from the unwanted attention her beauty attracts, so she agrees to marry him on one condition – their marriage will be in name only.
Everett, desperate for anyone to share his life with, agrees to her condition reluctantly. But will a marriage of convenience without any real foundation last or will she leave him just like all the others? Their marriage gets off to a rocky start as Everett struggles to love his wife the way God loves her and Julia learns that she has worth beyond her beauty. The two must learn to trust each other if this bride is going to be for keeps.
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The idea of mail-order brides has always fascinated me. The concept of tying yourself to someone you have never met for the rest of your life is astonishing when you live in the culture of choice we live in today. It’s easy for us to say we would never be able to do something like that, but I think the key to understanding how these women were able to do it is realizing that many of them truly didn’t have another acceptable choice. We’re talking about a time period in which if a young woman didn’t marry, her ability to provide for herself was very limited. Women could be teachers, and there were positions for maids and housekeepers available, but typically only in more affluent areas.
If you were unfortunate enough to live in a bad part of town you might be able to take in washing or do some factory work, but those jobs paid little and were often dangerous. Many women entered into the oldest profession known to women simply because it was that or starve. So when you take all that into account, the option to go west and cook and clean for only one man probably seemed like a decent opportunity to many. There was always the risk that the man would be a lout and mistreat you, but there was also an equal or perhaps greater chance that he would be a decent person that you could cultivate some affection for. We get a peek at both of these types of man in this story and it gives you an appreciation for the struggle that these women went through in trying to make the best choice possible from the limited options available to them.
The author, Melissa Jagears, was mostly new to me. I discovered her through the story she contributed to the novella collection I posted about two weeks ago, With This Ring? A Novella Collection of Proposals Gone Awry. This is the first full length novel of hers that I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am looking forward to reading the next two in this series (Unexpected Brides Series) as soon as I catch up on my backlog of other reading projects, since I tend to overestimate how many books I can read at one time.
A Bride for Keeps was a good read with an excellent message about finding your worth through your Father, and not through how you look, what you are able to do, or how others treat you. Julia learns that God’s forgiveness is available to everyone, and Everett learns that trying to direct his own life only leads to confusion. It’s a sweet story and the characters are likable for the way they deal with their struggles. The story line of a marriage between strangers automatically provides plenty of tension and uncertainty to keep the story interesting. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a sweet historical romance.