Harrigan's Bride by Cheryl Reavis
(Harl. Historical #439, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-29039
***
Harrigan's Bride is nicely written but rather tame reading. The plot is standard and predictable; it could use a little more spark, a little more controversy. However, the characters, even the minor characters, are very nicely drawn and provide a strong center for this story.

Yankee Captain Thomas Harrigan risks a court-martial in order to save the Calders, a Virginian family he spent many a happy day with during his youth. Sadly, when Thomas reaches the Calder home, he finds that the woman he regarded as his second mother is dead and the young woman he treated like a sister, Abiah Calder, is dying of fever.

Thomas takes Abby with him only to find, that in saving her life, he has seriously injured her reputation and his. He tries to convince Abby that the only way to rectify the situation is to get married. Abby loves Thomas; she doesn't want him to sacrifice his future happiness for her, especially if she cannot recover and is forced to spend the rest of her life as an invalid. Finally, believing she is dying, Abby agrees to marry Thomas.

After Thomas heads back to war, Abby finds herself in Boston, under the care of Thomas's kind mother and his unkind and disapproving grandfather. Now Abby has to recover her health and fight for her marriage, and her main opponent is Thomas's former fiancée, Elizabeth. Elizabeth wants Thomas back and she's not above using guile and deceit to get what she wants.

Thomas and Abiah spend very little time together in this book. If they did, their problems would be quickly worked out. Although it's certainly realistic for Thomas to spend most of his time in battle, it would have been more interesting to have him around Abiah for more than just a few chapters.

Basically what this romance boils down to is a cat fight between Abiah and Elizabeth. But even that withers into a tame victory for Elizabeth when Abiah chooses to run from the fight – which is disappointing. It's also disappointing that she never really takes on Thomas's grandfather; also, there's a rather noticeable lack of problems due to Abiah's southern loyalties.

However, I can't discount the overall quality of the writing that's evident in Harrigan's Bride; it's intelligent and expressive. This is the first book I've read by Ms. Reavis and even though the plot is unremarkable, I liked the style very much. I'll be searching the book stores for this author's pervious works, for a tale that's just as stylish but more exciting.

--Judith Flavell


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