Saving The Mail Order Bride by Linda Broday
Linda Broday doesn’t shy away from the dark side of the Old West. Yes, the central characters in her stories always manage to save each other in the nick of time and find their happily ever afters, but there’s plenty of gritty realism thrown in along with the sappy sweetness of romance. In Saving the Mail Order Bride, for example, Jack and Nora end up with a baby girl after the child’s mother dies in childbirth and the father perishes in a simple accident. It’s a sobering reminder that life could be cruel even if you didn’t run afoul of those who held it cheaply, as Jack and Nora did multiple times throughout the book, both of them being on the run for different reasons.
I admit I started out feeling a little frustrated with Jack as he hadn’t been honest with Nora in his letters, and the fact she was using him to escape a bad situation made no real difference - she had every reason to expect she’d left that behind her whereas he was asking her to walk into an unknown situation without even the truth about the man she was agreeing to marry being known. I could also see Jack’s point of view, though, as he was obviously desperately lonely and what woman would agree to marry an outlaw with a price on his head?
Something I really enjoy about Broday’s writing is the inner strength of her female characters. Nora’s fortitude was extraordinary, especially considering her background, and I loved the way she stepped up to help Jack, not waiting to be rescued. She also didn’t fall into the trap of being too stubborn and refusing offered help, something I often see in writers determined to write a ‘strong female character’ without understanding that there’s no shame in accepting help when it’s freely offered, or a fair exchange of labor or money for skills you don’t have. Being strong does NOT mean doing everything yourself, and Broday’s female characters show that character trait superbly (though her men can be pretty boneheaded about it until the women show them the error of their ways).
I’d caution readers with triggers that Broday’s work may not be for them. There’s physical and emotional abuse of women and children, lots of minor character deaths including deaths of children, violence, a fair bit of gore and threatened and attempted sexual assaults. Which was, frankly, very much what the real Old West was actually like, but if it’s a bit strong for your sensibilities you might need to look for a sanitized version. Personally I enjoy the very real flavor Broday brings to her work and I’m happy to give this one five stars.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review via NetGalley.