|The Bridegroom is the fourth of Linda Lael Miller’s Stone Creek novels, featuring the youngest Yarbro brother, Gideon. This is a pleasant marriage of convenience story, and while it breaks no new ground, it’s an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.
Gideon Yarbro is coming home to Stone Creek, Arizona in the summer of 1915 to work as a laborer in a local copper mine. This is an undercover job; Gideon has worked for the Pinkerton Agency and for Wells Fargo, and now he has been hired to investigate rumors of an impending miner’s strike. Stopping to collect his mail, he receives a letter from an old friend. Lydia Fairmont needs his help, and he promised her when she was just a child that if she ever needed him, he’d come.
Lydia is in a bad predicament. She’s the sole supporter of two elderly maiden aunts, and she’s about to lose her family home. Rather than have them all turned out on the street, Lydia has agreed to marry Jacob Fitch, the town banker. Lascivious, greedy, and all-too-eager to bed Lydia, Jacob turns Lydia’s stomach, and months earlier she had written to Gideon in a panic. With the wedding set for the next day, Lydia is astonished to find Gideon in her parlor, letter in hand.
Gideon isn’t quite sure how to help Lydia, but he’s damn sure she won’t be marrying Jacob Fitch. With the help of her aunts and a loyal housekeeper, he kidnaps Lydia before the ceremony and takes all four women with him to the family ranch. After pondering the situation, the only way to avoid arrest is to marry Lydia. A marriage in name only, of course. Lydia agrees, and the story is set.
Jacob Fitch won’t give up, of course, and Lydia and Gideon must fight their attraction to one another. Gideon is convinced he won’t stay in Stone Creek, so making it a true marriage is out of the question. There are several subplots about mistreatment of the miners and a hired gun who is looking for Lydia, and these help flesh out the story. For all of that, it drags a bit in the middle while Lydia and Gideon dance around the sexual pull they feel and try to figure out what to do about it.
There are no silly characters in this book, thank goodness, though Jacob Fitch is a cardboard villain at best. Lydia handles herself like an adult, for all that she’s only eighteen, and Gideon doesn’t hesitate to make his feelings known once he comes to his senses. The author gets a little purple with her prose, and readers may roll their eyes at phrases like “the sacred shelter of her womanhood,” but if one can get past that, the story is pretty entertaining. Various characters from the other Stone Creek stories pop up, adding background. Readers who have enjoyed the other novels will like catching up with them.
I especially enjoyed Gideon. Now twenty-six, he’s still looked at as “kid brother” by his older siblings, and here he has to fight a bit to find his place in the family. The interaction between the brothers is as entertaining as the romance. And the romance, once it gets going, has enough sizzle to please readers.
The Bridegroom is a quality Western romance. The setting of 1915 is one that isn’t seen often, which makes this book a bit of a standout. Readers can’t go far wrong with Linda Lael Miller’s latest offering.