Other Joan Johnston reviews are available in the Archives.

 
Texas Bride
by Joan Johnston
(Dell, $7.99, PG) ISBN 978-0345-52744-8
***
This is the first of four books about the Wentworth sisters from Chicago. Since this is the first story, there is a lot of backstory and we also get to visit another set of families from Johnston's books about the Creeds and the Blackthrones in Bitter Creek Texas.

There are six Wentworth children who were orphaned in the Great Chicago Fire. Their surviving uncle, Stephen, abandoned them, telling them that their father's bank was burned to the ground and there was no money left. He put them all in the orphanage where they have endured cold, hunger and cruelty at the hands of the headmistress. The story opens as Miranda, the eldest, is turning eighteen and is being forced out of the orphanage, leaving her brothers and sisters to suffer beatings that she has often taken in order to spare them.

Fearful for them all, she agrees to become a mail-order bride to an unknown man in Texas. Her goal is to get there and ask him to allow her to move her family. But things happen and she ends up bringing her 10 year old brother Nick and four year old brother Harry with her. She leaves the girls, knowing she can send for them as soon as possible.

Unfortunately her calculations are slightly off. The first class ticket only provides partial funds to get three passengers from Chicago to Texas. When she arrives, she is confronted with a man who is handsome but appears cold and is obviously not as rich as she had hoped. He also has a 2 year old daughter and a crippled father-in-law from his first wife, who died in childbirth about a year ago. He wants a mother for his daughter and someone who will care for them all Jake Creed also has some weird ideas - he is convinced he can't go thru another death due to childbirth so he is committed to NOT sleeping with his new bride, in order to avoid pregnancy.

Another complication is that he is in the middle of a feud with his mother's new husband, Alexander Blackthorne, who is trying to get what is left of his land. As if life in the late 1800s in Texas isn't bad enough, there are all these complications and more.

This is truly a book with strong points, such as the tenacity and resiliency of the characters. Miranda had to grow up fast and she is a tiger, despite her fears and nerves. Jake is a tenderhearted man, despite his attempts to act otherwise. He is also stubborn and at times, insensitive. The story drags a bit as there is not a lot going on despite all these multiple storylines. The ending feels contrived. I found myself reading and enjoying the relationship building even while wondering when something was going to happen. And then when it did, such as when Jake is out and gets hurt, the resolution is handled so matter of factly by the heroine, that I wondered why it was considered a problem at all.

When all is said and done, Texas Bride is a story that will capture you at first, but may not hold one's interest. And it only minimally made me want to see out the next three books in the series about Miranda's sisters.

--Shirley Lyons


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