Book Review: A Bride for Keeps {ARC}

A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears
A debut mail-order bride novel

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Amazon Summary:
Everett Cline will never humiliate himself by seeking a mail-order bride. Not again. He's already been jilted by three mail-order brides and figures a wife just isn't in his future. However, a well-meaning neighbor hasn't given up on seeing him settled, so she goes behind his back to bring yet another woman to town for him.
Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. A mail-order marriage in faraway Kansas is a last resort, but she'll do anything to leave her life in Massachusetts and the heartbreak she's experienced there.
Although Everett doesn't see how a beautiful, cultured woman like Julia could be happy sharing his simple life, he could really use a helpmate on his homestead. Determined to prove she's more than just a pretty face, Julia agrees to a marriage in name only. Faced with the harsh realities of life on the prairie and hesitant to explore the tentative feelings growing between them, can Everett and Julia ever let each other in long enough to fall in love?

My Thoughts:

{Review is of an ARC}

By the time I won this book, I'd forgotten I ever entered a request for it.  By the time it came in the mail, I'd given up hope of it coming and was about to mark it as lost in the mail on the LibraryThing website.

By the time I finished the book, I knew I'd never forget it again.

The first chapter is slow, full of telling rather than showing.  The first couple of chapters - and a few spots throughout the book - give backstory in an awkward info-dump fashion.  There's a few sentences that just rub me the wrong way as a writer, and way too many 'ands' and 'buts,' especially at the beginning of sentences, made it past initial editing.  (My copy was an ARC, so that will probably be fixed before publication.)

My lovely readers, you know that for me to still race through such a book in one weekend must mean the story was a killer.  You'd be so very right.

I don't know if I've ever shared my favorite book with you.  While I have certain favorite authors and series, my favorite standalone novel is very different from those.  It's called A Family Forever, by Brenda Coulter, and while most people have never heard of it, I've read it no fewer than five times.  Basically, it's a contemporary marriage-of-convenience story.  In A Bride for Keeps, a very similar story (but in an 1800s Kansas prairie) plays out.  Why this storyline draws me in every time is beyond me.  All I know is, I just couldn't put this book down.

The characters are so heartfelt, so amazing.  My entire reading experience was empathy for hurting Julia, sympathy for hardened Everett, and full-blown adoring for meddling Rachel (who is totally awesome and deserves her own book if you ask me.)*  Oh, and Helga wasn't really a major character, but I could spend a whole book reading about her life after what happened in A Bride for Keeps.

The romance focused too much on physical aspects, at least for a Christian romance, but not without reason - it's a huge factor of Julia's pain, past, and decisions.  Still, some typical Christian romance readers might be put off by this.  On the other hand, the book has one of the best Biblical messages of forgiveness, repentance, and living out Christianity of all the inspirational fiction I can think of.  The balance between preachy and too subtle was perfect, in my opinion.

In summary, my gut reaction to this book is five stars.  Based on some of the writing and the heavy physical portions, though, I feel like I should bump it down to four and a half.  Still, a stellar score for an adorable, emotional book!

I received this book for free through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers in exchange for this review.  All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

*Guess what guys! After writing but before posting this review, I discovered that Melissa Jagears has a novella out!  It stars none other but the adorable Rachel!  So go read it now!


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