Wildflower Bride

Mary Connealy wraps up her Montana Marriages series by focusing on the redemption arc for Book One's villain. Wade has come to know the Lord and has been working on growing in his faith, as we saw in Book Two. Now he's hoping that drawing his strength from Christ will be enough to help him face his narcissistic father, whose health is failing. Can he really stand in grace before the one who caused him so much pain in the past?

This is also the story of Glowing Sun, a young woman who has been raised among the Salish Indian tribe after they rescued her, young and alone, when her family had died from illness. Now she is once again the sole survivor of tragedy, but this time it was a massacre instead of disease who took her people away from her. As she struggles to escape from the outlaws who killed her family, Wade comes to her rescue. 

As Wade and Glowing Sun, who eventually remembers that her English name is Abby, make their way to his father's home, they don't know that the men who destroyed the Salish village are the same ones who have been rustling cattle and stealing gold in the nearby town of Divide. When the outlaws realize their witnesses will be around for a while, they make plans to kill Wade, Abby, and Wade's father so they can completely take over his ranch.

This was the best book in the series, because it dealt with very real issues and didn't have such over the top romance. Even though my own life story doesn't exactly match up with those of the main characters, it did in many areas of the heart. I applaud any author willing to tackle such tough subjects. 
 The Husband Tree by Mary Connealy

I am not so proud as to be able to admit that this was pure escapist reading for me. While I'd say the writing style was improved over Montana Rose, it's far from highbrow reading. And that's okay, as long as you understand what you're in for.

Belle Tanner Santoni has had three husbands, and a more worthless lot of men she could hardly have chosen. She's used to doing for herself on her ranch, and she's taught her four daughters to stand on their own two feet as well. Now that her third husband has joined the others buried underneath the husband tree, Belle is determined she will never marry again. Never.

Having been raised by women and now fleeing a woman who tried to set him up for a shotgun wedding, Silas Harden wants nothing to do with females. Not any of them. But he needs work, and when he rides into a Montana town and hears of an outfit hiring on for a late-season cattle drive, he agrees even though it's a woman doing the hiring. He's shocked when he finds out that it will mostly be Belle and her daughters working the drive. Even though he's dead set against getting involved with her, he can't help being attracted to her independence and strength.

The trail is long and grueling, and Belle is grateful for Silas's help as the days go on. Maybe he wouldn't be as miserably lazy as her first three husbands, if she was of a mind to marry again. Which she is most definitely not. No matter how kind and handsome he is, or how their stolen kisses have made her feel.

One thing I appreciated about this book was that Belle was an older heroine who has had time to come into her own. That's refreshing. But like the first book in the series, I wouldn't recommend this for readers under 16. Use your own discretion as always when choosing reading material.
 Montana Rose by Mary Connealy

I grew up reading westerns, and every now and then I like to read one for old time's sake. I'm also a sucker for marriage of convenience stories, so the combination enticed me as soon as I read this book's description. A pregnant woman is widowed one day and married the next? I wanted to find out more.

Cassie Griffin has never been allowed to have a thought in her head that wasn't placed there by someone else, and usually by her newly deceased husband. Griff is no sooner in the ground than she is literally circled by men wanting to marry her, as women are scarce on the Montana prairie and Cassie is as pretty as they come. Seeing her hand will be forced to choose one of these men, Cassie chooses the one who makes her skin crawl the least, and immediately sets to learning how to do everything exactly the way he wants.

Red Dawson has always thought Cassie was a beautiful woman, but he didn't want to marry her. Not with her reputation of being quite spoiled, or with her questionable belief in the God that Red serves. But when he saw her surrounded by men who would never consider her best interests, Red threw his hat into the marriage market and wound up hitched to the lovely and naive young woman. He finds Cassie eager to help but almost comically helpless. She's not spoiled, she's just never been allowed to do anything or think anything or say anything that wasn't approved by someone else. He begins trying to teach her that as she is safe in his care, she is free to learn how to be herself instead of the image that was always thrust upon her in the past.

This book takes quite an effective look at what it is like to come out from a controlling situation and the challenges one faces with that. The writing style was simplistic, and I wondered if that was done to reflect the way Cassie's thinking had been molded. However, the simplicity worked against it for me as a reader because everyone's motives were so obvious and overstated that it wasn't nuanced at all. There were two side plots that also disturbed me - one about Cassie's lack of knowledge about the intimacies of marriage and birthing babies, and the other was danger from a local rancher who was obsessed with Cassie and who stalked the Dawsons' cabin looking for an opportunity to kill Red and take Cassie for himself. Since most of the book was written so simply that a child could read it, those felt way too adult and overplayed. I would only recommend this book to those above age 16.

I never felt invested personally in the characters, although I was thoroughly intrigued by minor character Belle Tanner Santoni and I'm in the middle of her book now. Stay tuned for that review in another week or so.
I have been wanting to read a Kaye Dacus novel ever since I read an interview she did in which she was discussing Andrew Davies and Sandy Welch. As a huge fan of British dramas, I know these two screenwriters and can debate their merits, but rarely do I find another person who shares this interest. Kaye caught my attention and has been on my watch list ever since.

Another reason I was interested in "Stand-In Groom" is because, like the heroine, I am a member of the wedding industry. I love weddings and being part of them. Unlike Anne, though, I don't plan them, and this reminded me why. It takes so many months and such a close relationship with the bride and groom. That's more than I'm up for!

To our story: Anne Hawthorn has a very successful wedding planning business, but she's never found the right man for herself. Her heart starts fluttering when she meets George Lawrence... until she finds out that he's the groom for an upcoming wedding.

But things are not always what they seem. George is actually a personal assistant (in British valet fashion) for a well-known actor and is only posing as the groom in order to keep the tabloids off the scent of his employer's nuptials. George is attracted to Anne but is unable to tell her who he really is and finds himself in quite a quandary, weighing his faith, his feelings and his job in trying to decide what is the right thing to do.

Anne's large extended family and her background play a big part in the story. It would be great if everyone had such loving and involved aunts, uncles and cousins! Her fears and her disappointments also show up to claim their share of attention. Through it all, can Anne trust the Lord and maybe learn to trust this man after she learns the reason for his deception?

This novel honestly didn't live up to my expectations. At times the pace raced, and at others it dragged. Where the attraction was concerned, I was displeased that it focused so much on things such as sharing tastes in movies and music. Not that it isn't nice when those things coincide, but it is hardly the basis on which one should form a life-long bond such as marriage. While Anne and George did share the same Christian faith, it seemed like their love of Dean Martin was just as meaningful. On the other hand, I did very much appreciate how Dacus showed clearly that both our main characters wanted to be the best individuals they could be before deepening their relationship with each other. They didn't want to get serious until issues were resolved and forgiveness extended where required. That's not a popular topic and one you very rarely see in novels. Job well done here!

I'm looking forward to trying one of Dacus's historical releases one of these days and seeing how it compares to this one. I still think Kaye's the kind of person whom I could easily sit down and chat with, and this won't be the only one of her books that I check out!
"Nightshade" brings us the story of a former Navy SEAL, his estranged wife, and a missionary couple who are in danger. Max Jacobs suffers from anger issues stemming from PTSD and it has driven his journalist wife, Sydney, to file a restraining order against him. Just when he's ready to give up on life, Max is approached by a secret organization who is putting together an elite force of retired military heroes for special surgical ops. Max signs on with Nightshade and begins to find purpose again.

Devastated that her marriage has fallen apart, Sydney begins pushing hard on her journalistic pursuits. When she comes across the story of a secret military operation who are saving lives and quietly quelling rebel uprisings all over the globe, she sets out to find these men to give them the recognition that they deserve for their bravery.

Jon Harris and his wife Kimber have served as missionaries on an island in the Philippines for several years when they are advised by the U.S. Embassy to head home as soon as possible. They are in the process of leaving when it becomes clear the warning has come too late and they begin to flee through the jungle trying to save their lives and reach an extraction point before being captured.

There are two separate timelines throughout the story, as the one focusing on Max and Sydney takes place over several months, while the missionaries' story is only a few weeks. This is clearly noted in the book and never hard to follow.

This was quite an action tale. There's a reason I don't read a lot of those, and that is simply that they aren't quite my style. This author hit upon several of my pet peeves as well, such as referring to a 15-month-old child as an 'infant' and having her behave as though she were actually 5 months old, or making seemingly every man Sydney met fall in love with her, or insulting the intelligence of the reading audience by calling a conversative news network CougarNews. The writing style in general seemed more technical than flowing. These are things that stood out to me personally and took away from the actual storylines. I wouldn't discourage someone from reading this for any of those reasons, I'd just note that's why I didn't give it a completely positive review.

Will Max and Sydney find a way to each other again before one or both of them loses their lives to the dangers they face? Will Jon and Kimber manage to be rescued and be able to continue serving God? Find out in this first book the Discarded Heroes series.



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