This is a collection of stories from Christian publisher Barbour Press all themed around runaway brides and set in America in the latter half of the 19th century. From a wealthy socialite getting cold feet about her arranged dynastic marriage to a mail-order bride choosing to marry a stranger rather than a man she knows for certain to be unpleasant, this is a pleasantly varied collection, and when I say pleasantly varied, I was surprised and delighted to find one of the stories featured a black couple. (Also, I learned something - I didn’t know about all-black towns in Kansas in the late 1800s).
As usual when I review collections, I’ll give each story a brief review and individual rating before assigning an overall rating for the collection.
From This Day Forward by Rita Gerlach
In the aftermath of the Civil War, a young woman wishes to follow her heart - even if that leads to a former soldier for the other side.
Beautifully descriptive prose in this story, and I really liked Amy as a young woman trying to honour her father’s wishes but unable to go so far as to sacrifice her happiness for him. I would have liked a little more sense of her love interest Rory Maguire, though, especially as he seemed to go inexplicably from being her wealthy neighbour’s stable master to a man who owned a large estate of his own with no time in between. Four stars.
Legacy Of Love by Terri J. Haynes
This was the one with the black couple, and I really enjoyed it. Delia’s one of the ‘elite’ in her small Kentucky town, daughter of a store owner and a young lady with a talent for invention. Her love interest Josiah isn’t from her social class, but he has a generous soul to match Delia’s and when the chance comes up to move to Kansas and claim a place for themselves there, Delia must choose between going with Josiah and having to struggle, or living a life of ease as a wealthy man’s wife.
I liked this couple so much, and it’s honestly just so refreshing to read a historical romance featuring characters of colour. Reading about the daily prejudice Delia and Josiah would have had to deal with, and how large events had monumental impacts on their lives, was genuinely fascinating. Five stars.
The Elusive Heiress by Noelle Marchand
A wealthy heiress makes a run for it when she discovers what the English earl her father has arranged for her to marry really thinks of his upstart American bride.
This might have been my favourite story of the bunch; Georgiana started off spirited but spoiled, and learned the hard way about the realities of life while never losing her spirit. She finds her faith along the way, which brings her and Henry finally into a perfect alignment of hearts and minds. Five stars.
A Day Late And A Dollar Short by Vickie McDonough
Callie chooses to become a mail-order bride when her uncle basically attempts to sell her off to a crony. Unfortunately, she arrives in Texas only to find her groom just married someone else. Offered a temporary position as governess to rancher Erik Kessler’s daughter, she has little choice but to accept.
There’s quite a bit of romantic suspense to this story as well as some very realistic details of life in the period - washing day sounds like pure hell - and I loved Erik and his little daughter Annika. A delightful mail-order bride story with a twist! Five stars.
The Groom She Thought She’d Left Behind by Darlene Panzera
Emily Pembrooke gets cold feet on the very day of her wedding to magnate Christian Gould - a man she’s never even seen. I certainly didn’t blame her for making a run for it. Where this gets hilarious is when you realize the coachman she convinces to be her accomplice is none other than her groom himself, who wanted to check his bride was really all right with marrying a complete stranger. He certainly got his answer!
I laughed more than once reading this story; poor Emily has a talent for getting herself into scrapes despite her very best intentions, all of which only managed to thoroughly endear her to Christian. He should probably have come clean sooner, but his decisions were perfectly understandable even if they did cost Emily some unnecessary angst. Five stars.
The Flyaway Bride by Jenness Walker
Taking her sister Jenny’s place as she goes to marry the man she’s been writing to under Jenny’s name for months is pretty nerve-wracking for Josey Middleton.
Unfortunately, her groom isn’t where he’s supposed to be, and a series of unfortunate events transpire to leave her in a perfectly dreadful situation, her only aid the mysterious traveller known only as Rhett.
I felt so sorry for poor Josey, and while in the previous story Christian’s silence was understandable, I didn’t really get Everett’s reasoning in this one. Considering Josey’s obvious distress, he should have revealed himself much sooner and put her out of her misery. Four stars.
The Irish Bride by Renee Yancy
The appearance of P.T. Barnum and Tiny Tim in this one enlivened a story of a class divide; Bernadine is an Irishwoman from the upper classes sent to America with her father’s wealth, ill-gotten from tenants he’d driven off his land during Ireland’s potato famine, and her love interest Michael Quinn is basically a nobody. Since Bernadine pays for his passage on a transatlantic liner, there are distinct echoes of Rose and Jack in Titanic as well, though it isn’t until they are in Boston that romance is able to blossom. Of course it’s not that simple, with a wicked uncle determined to steal Bernadine’s inheritance.
This was a story with a weak ending, unfortunately. I didn’t buy the final confrontation scene or the supposed legal argument which featured. The rest of the story was strong enough for it still to earn four stars, though.
Overall, I think there’s something in this collection for anyone who enjoys a clean period romance, and even if you don’t particularly care for strong Christian themes, I don’t think any of the characters featured were portrayed as more than typically devout for the period. A couple of the stories were genuinely excellent, and while a few were weaker they were still all pretty well-written. I don’t give many collections five stars, but I’d say this one really deserves it.
The Runaway Brides Collection is available now.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.