Monday, September 8, 2014

Montana Bride - Joan Johnston (Dell - Jan 2014)

Series: Mail Order Brides (Book 3) Bitter Creek (Book 11)


When Karl Norwood’s mail-order bride meets an untimely demise on the way to the Montana Territory, Hetty Wentworth steps in to take her place. Hetty has no idea how she’s going to pretend to be all the things she isn't -- including the mother of two kids. She only knows her deception is necessary if she’s going to save two orphans from the awful fate she suffered as a child.

Karl smells a rat when a much younger woman than he was expecting arrives with two children who look nothing like her. But his mail-order bride is so beautiful, he doesn't object -- until he realizes that his charming new wife has been lying . . . about everything. Can a woman forced to keep secrets and a man hindered by distrust ever hope to find happily ever after in each other’s arms?

Good story, though I must say that Hetty really annoyed me through about the first half of the book.  In the previous book, Wyoming Bride, Hetty is one of three sisters who leave the orphanage where they have been living the last several years. Her twin has become a mail order bride in order to save herself and her sisters from the cruel head of the orphanage. But Hetty is quite immature, and very much of a flirt, whose antics get them kicked out of the wagon train they are part of. When they are alone on the prairie, her sister's husband dies and they are attacked by Indians. Josie is captured, Hetty is injured, and Hannah takes off to find help. Hetty is found by another traveler and taken in and nursed back to health. 

The other woman is a mail order bride headed to Montana with her two children. But Hetty is disturbed by this woman's treatment of the two kids, and when she tries to defend them the woman ends up dead. Hetty doesn't want the kids to face the same life she had in the orphanage, so she decides to pretend to be the bride. This will be a real challenge because the groom is expecting someone older and more experienced.

Karl sent for a wife because he feels that's the only way he can get one. He's not particularly good looking, but he's intelligent and is in charge of a logging operation. When Hetty first arrives he is stunned by her beauty, but soon becomes suspicious of her. She looks too young to have two kids, especially two that look older than their stated ages. He's  willing to give her a chance until it becomes obvious that she's been deceiving him about more than just her age. 

Hetty really disgusted me at the beginning because she was so immature and shallow. Her first reaction to Karl was disappointment because his looks didn't measure up to those of his friend. Plus she was more taken with the friend than with Karl. I give her credit for knowing that it was wrong of her, but it didn't seem to stop her. She also has a tendency to not think about the consequences of her actions. I did like her determination to take care of Grace and Griffin. She starts out treating Karl pretty badly, but as the book went on she did begin to mature and see the good man under the plain exterior. It took her longer than I liked for her to see that the handsome exterior of the friend covered a slimy interior. Her relationship with Karl was a slow developing one that took a big hit when she had to confess her deception. It was a slow process for her to earn back his trust, but one she was determined to do. I liked seeing her gain more confidence in her abilities, which enabled her to be more the kind of wife Karl needed. The chemistry between them gave them one area where their compatibility was undeniable.

I really liked Karl. He did not have an easy time of it. His older brother was in charge of the business and had sent Karl to Montana to start up the mill. However, he has never respected Karl's abilities or intelligence and sent his friend Dennis as second in command. Karl, however, has a doctorate from Harvard and is an excellent botanist. He also has very different leadership skills than Dennis. Karl is a firm believer in respecting his workers' and their ability to do their jobs, where Dennis is far more of a bully. Karl also has spent a lot of time feeling second best because of his ordinary looks as compared to Dennis's. This feeling is only made worse by Hetty's arrival. He is stunned by her beauty, but can see her disappointment. I loved the way that he's willing to give her time to adjust and does his best to show her how he feels. I also liked his determination to be a good father to the two kids, even though Griffin made it a real challenge. I really enjoyed seeing him stand up for himself and his beliefs against Dennis and how it quickly became obvious that he was doing far better than anyone, including himself, expected. I felt bad for him with the way Hetty treated him, and completely understood how he felt when the truth came out. He had fallen in love with Hetty, and now had to decide if that love could survive the lies.

I disliked Dennis from the very beginning. I hated his attitude toward Karl. His attentions to Hetty showed him to be the snake that he was, and his treatment of Griffin showed a cruel streak. His actions got worse as the book went on and I kept waiting for people to see him for what he was. The kids saw him far more clearly than the adults did. 

I enjoyed the two kids, Grace and Griffin. Their life had not been easy to this point, and neither was confident that it would get truly better and stay that way. Hetty's care of them made them start to believe a little bit. Grace was quite mature for her years and I thought she had been very clever in her attempts to save herself and Griffin from their previous life. She wanted to believe in the possibilities. I also enjoyed her clear eyed viewpoints as she and Hetty helped each other. Griffin was a harder case. He protected himself by being a brat. I enjoyed seeing him gain respect for both Hetty and Karl. He also had a cynical outlook for a kid, but it helped him see Dennis for what he was. I loved seeing him go into protector mode during the bear hunt.

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