The Dreammaker

The Heart of a Hero

The Blushing Bride by Judith Stacy
(Harl. Historical #521, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-29121-3
Amanda Pierce is a woman ahead of her time for 1886. Not only does she run her own matchmaking business, Becoming Brides, but sheís not afraid to get her nose a bit dirty. When she receives a letter from Jason Kruger requesting a bride, she decides to travel to Beaumont, California, to check him out herself.

Jason is busy running his own lumber business with his brother, Ethan, when Miss Amanda Pierce shows up on his doorstop. Heís none too happy, since he didnít write the letter she received, and heís never been real crazy about having women in his camp. Woman are distractions, and men canít be distracted when theyíre working a dangerous job. But Jason knows that the real reason he doesnít want Amanda around is because she stirs up too many painful memories about his own turbulent childhood.

Jasonís all set to send Amanda back to San Francisco when a big railroad contract comes through. But when his workers hear that Jason plans to send Amanda packing, along with the promise of brides for them, they threaten to quit. Jason canít have a shortage of labor now that the contract has come through, so he reluctantly agrees to Amandaís proposition to bring brides to the camp in order to keep his workers happy. But Jasonís fear that women will be a distraction is all too soon realized when he finds himself attracted to the delectable Miss Pierce.

After the first few chapters I got the distinct feeling that I had read this story before. Powerful business man with a distrust for women finds himself losing his heart to a headstrong beauty. But even the familiar can be entertaining if the author adds her own unique stamp to the plot, and provides the reader with interesting characters. And while the familiar story line was not what bothered me about this novel, the relationship between the two main characters did.

Amanda and Jason are immediately at odds with each other, and continually engage in verbal sparring matches. A little tension is a good thing in romance, but the arguments between Jason and Amanda come off as childish. Neither of them listens to the other, and the atmosphere struck me as petty at best. When the two manage to exchange civil words to each other, the relationship did hold a glimmer of hope. There are a few tender interludes, but their mutual stubbornness inevitably ends up getting in the way and destroying the moment.

While I was largely displeased with the main romantic couple, Stacy provides a satisfying secondary romance between Jasonís brother, Ethan and Meg McGee, a young mother abandoned by her husband. This relationship is rewarding to read about, with enough conflict to arouse the readerís curiosity. Unfortunately, the development of their relationship isnít deeply explored, with the story instead focusing on the sparring between Amanda and Jason.

While Jasonís emotional baggage concerning his troubled childhood is played out for the reader, Amandaís past is left unexplored. Thereís nothing wrong with a woman not being married and running her own business, but the story takes place in 1886. What are the reasons behind Amandaís unconventional lifestyle? We never find out. In fact, Jason asks her a couple of times why an attractive single woman chooses to find husbands for others and not for herself. She never answers him. Not even a ďbecause I donít want to get marriedĒ explanation.

The Blushing Bride is a familiar story with a cozy western atmosphere. Unfortunately, the childish verbal sparring between Amanda and Jason, and some unanswered questions kept me from fully enjoying this tale.

--Wendy Crutcher

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