Straight after the death of her father, Susannah Underhill decides to take her friend's advice and get married. She's not met Jesse Mason before. He's the pastor's brother, but lives far out west in Dakota. The two don't seem a likely match at all, but as time goes on and they get to know one another and, more importantly, trust one another, love inevitably blossoms. This story charts the first few years of their marriage, and the ups and downs that come with it.
I'll admit it. I didn't get into this book at first.
Maybe it was the writing, maybe it was that I was emotionally invested in another Jesse and Susannah, maybe it was that I'd just finished a book and I didn't want to give that up.
I put this book down (/closed the app on my phone), and a week later I picked it up not expecting too much.
Tash was proven wrong.
Turns out this is a debut story. Well, that surprised me. With the whole story in context, her writing is very cleverly manipulated to reflect the situation. What originally struck me as stilted was actually excellent in building atmosphere; Jesse and Susannah became their own characters with their own story that I desperately wanted to get to the end of - and not just so it was over.
It's an interesting concept, being a mail-order bride. And that was what prompted me to choose this book - finding out more about this whole idea. How difficult would it be to marry in such a situation? Catherine showed the emotion that would come with making - and following through - on this decision with remarkable skill, and as the story progressed we learned more and more about Jesse and Susannah's traits. Truth be told, it was like the reader becomes a third party in their relationship (as creepy as that sounds). What Jesse learned, so did I; what Susannah began to notice in her husband, so did I, and I became more attentive to these quirks as I lost myself more in the story.
It did seem at points that Jesse and Susannah were built on massive cliches; of course the man had to be the strong, confident, ready to take charge protagonist we've always been given. Ivar wasn't much different. Susannah followed her set path of quiet, shy, constantly apologetic woman who doesn't seem to have much passion for anything. Marta was the serene woman that I've never once come across (perhaps they existed back then and crazy women like myself hunted them into extinction). This bothered me less as Catherine revealed more of the character, but it would have been nice to have seen more of what prompted Susannah to marry Jesse beyond, "It seemed like a good idea". Jesse's "I was lonely" was equally disappointing. I wanted juiciness, gosh darn it!
But regardless of these criticisms, I was hooked. I was certainly transported back to the dirt house in Dakota of times gone past, and was shocked to find myself blinking back to 21st century Australia. This book was a Christian novel, but I don't really think I'd class it as that (at least not as its primary genre). It's historical romance, plain and true.
Overall, I'd give this book 4 stars. Good stuff, Catherine Richmond. Approve muchly.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: This book was most lovingly supplied to me by Booksneeze, free of charge. Opinions are most thoroughly my own, positive or otherwise.