Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: A Bride in the Bargain

A Bride in the Bargain
Deeanne Gist
Historical Inspirational Romance
Washington Territory/1865-66
Bethany House/June 1, 2009

From the back cover ~

In 1860s Seattle, redwoods were plentiful but women scarce. Yet a man with a wife could secure 640 acres of timberland for free.

Joe Denton doesn't have a wife, though. His died before she could follow him to Seattle and now the local judge is threatening to take away his claim. In desperation, he buys himself a Mercer bride--one of the eastern widows and orphans brought to the Territory by entrepreneur Asa Mercer.

Anna Ivey's journey west with Mercer is an escape from the aftermath of the Civil War. She signed on to become a cook--not a bride. When she's handed over to Denton, her stubborn refusal to wed jeopardizes his land. With only a few months before he loses all he holds dear, can he convince this provoking, but beguiling, easterner to become his lawfully wedded wife?

I first heard about Deeanne Gist when Wendy aka Super Librarian blogged about her trip to The Biltmore Estate that she won from Ms. Gist and her review Ms. Gist's novel Maid to Match got me itching to read one of Ms. Gist's novels. With my love of the mail-order-bride trope it was an easy choice to pick up A Bride in the Bargain, along with Maid to Match at the library. The bonus - I have this thing for lumberjacks. I just love reading about them! The hero in A Bride in the Bargain is a lumberjack. Double Win!

Joe Denton is in a bind. If he can't prove he was married, he will lose half of his land. Land that he's work hard on for ten years to build into a logging camp. When his last chance at proving he was married falls through, Joe is desperate enough to hand over $300 to Asa Mercer for a bride. It takes months but Joe's bride finally arrives and just in time. Joe is ready to get his bride and get married. The only problem is, no one told the bride.

Anna Ivey is a resilient and resourceful woman who, in desperation, agrees to make the long journey to Washington Territory. She has nothing left to keep her in Massachusetts and every reason to leave. I loved how Gist didn't skip over Anna's trip on board the S. S. Continental but made the hardships and wonder of the trip come alive for this reader. After everything that Anna goes through, she is still a little too naive when she arrives in Seattle. This adds to the confusion over what role she would play in Joe Denton's life, making for some amusing dialogue. Anna's comments leaves Joe thinking one thing and Anna meaning something completely different. After everything is sorted out, Joe still needs a wife but he'll take a cook. He still isn't giving up and decides to try to spend his time convincing Anna to follow through with the marriage.

The romance is sweet but not too sugary. Anna and Joe have two very different goals in mind when it comes to their relationship. Joe wants Anna to marry him but Anna only wants to repay Joe for her travel expenses by cooking for his crew. Anna does try to think of Joe as only her employer but living in close quarters with him leaves her wanting more. Even with the attraction, Anna is determined to keep to her belief that she is not meant to be anyone's bride. But it takes a man of strength and dedication to make it in the territory. Joe puts those traits to good use when convincing Anna to be his bride.

The life a lumberjack is a physically grueling hard one. I enjoyed the descriptions of that life that Gist included in the story. Not only is the work demanding but it's also very dangerous. One miscalculation and the tree could come down the wrong way, hurting or killing anyone in it's path. The men that made up Joe's crew were a colorful bunch of characters who added another layer to the rugged landscape of the story.

Since this is an inspirational romance novel there are scripture references as well as mentions of god gingerly sprinkled throughout the book. In fact, there were times when I was wondering why there were not more references made. The religious overtones were minimal, with enough to show the characters' beliefs without feeling preachy.

The romance suffered a few bumps along the way with both Anna and Joe being too stubborn for their own good. They could have resolved things sooner had they just talked it out. I did find Anna's reason for not wishing to marry somewhat over the top. There were times when she seemed to carry around so much guilt, I was amazed she could find any happiness in life. The ending was fairly predictable, with Anna and Joe getting their happy ending.

Rating: B


  1. Oh Leslie, I'm so glad you enjoyed this book. I re-read it recently and enjoyed it more the second time around. Loved the historical details and the writing. I also remember Ana's reasoning getting to me that first time too... for some reason she didn't bother me so much the second time around. :)

  2. Oh, I didn't realize this was the same author as Maid to Match! LOL. I'm glad the inspirational tone was kept to a minimum... still not sure I'm going to read it though LOL.

  3. Hils ~ Love when those re-read prove to be even better than the first time. :)

    Nath ~ Gist does have a decent backlist - 7 or 8 I think.

    I suppose this could be considered a western, sort of, so it might not be for you. ;)