Lone Star Brides, Book 1
Heat Factor: Chaste
Character Chemistry: They say that they have fallen in love, but I’m not sure when that happened because they have very few interactions, even though they’re already married.
Plot: It did not go where I expected it to
Overall: Interesting read, but not a satisfying romance novel.
Here’s the basic premise: Marty is a widow who can’t stand to be in Texas any more, so she answers an ad to be a mail order bride for a banker in Denver. Said banker, Jake, is a widower, and needs a wife so that he can impress his boss. The marriage is to be in name only, and Marty and Jake are both a-ok with this arrangement.
There are a few sticking points. Marty is angry with God for not saving her husband. Jake only took this banking job for the money, because he wants nothing more than to buy a ranch in Texas – something he only tells Marty after she shows up and marries him. (Marty owns a ranch, and doesn’t tell Jake about it, and I do not blame her.) And there is some weird stuff going on at the bank, both in terms of interpersonal relationships (Jake’s boss is very invested in the way runs his personal life) and in terms of money management (money goes missing, and then shows up again). Plus, the guy who had Jake’s old job was murdered. Oh, and I should mention that all of the action takes places in the first six months of 1893, which just so happens to coincide with a serious financial crisis, complete with bank runs, etc.
Now, here’s where I expected the story to go: Marty was going to get right with God, because this is Christian Smut. But more importantly, Marty was going to get right with Texas, and she and Jake would happily escape the strictures of Denver high society to go be ranchers. And Mr. Morgan, distant relative of THE Mr. Morgan and owner of the bank, would be revealed to be up to his eyeballs in all kinds of shenanigans
On the way, of course, Jake and Marty would fall in love. And they do, but this is by far the weakest part of the novel. They have very few conversations, so I’m not sure what they see in each other (besides hotness, obviously). We have a sense of Marty’s interior life, but not much of Jake’s, besides his desire to own a ranch, which seems rooted in nostalgia than an actual knowledge of what reality of life is like for a rancher. Speaking of which – many of their conversations consist of Marty trying to subtly hint that ranching is not that awesome and Jake blithely ignoring her. This dynamic furthers the impression that they are not actually a good match, since a) they want dramatically different things and b) Jake does not want to listen to his wife’s expertise.
What I did find interesting in reading A Sensible Arrangement are the clear moral distinctions that Peterson makes. Marty is bored living a life of ease. She doesn’t know what to do with herself, since she’s used to the chores that come with managing a ranch, and has nothing in common with the silly shallow women she is meant to socialize with, who only want to talk about fashion and decorating. High society is vapid and shallow, and the women in it hold no real power, not because they couldn’t, but because they do not care to. (A stark contrast from many of the Regency historicals I read, where there can be feminist commentary in the cut of one’s dress.) The folks of Texas, in contrast, are held up as self-reliant paragons of grit and Christian virtue.
The Christian angle was less interesting. Marty’s great sin is lying – including lying by omission. Now look. I’m supposed to say that lies are bad, but honestly, Marty acts in a completely logical manner. She married her husband to escape ranching life. Her husband never told her that he wanted to ranch – otherwise, she would not have married him. So neglecting to tell him the full details of what she owns while she quietly sells it to family seems completely reasonable, especially since he won’t listen to her when she says she never wants to return to that life. Basically, I put the onus on the core problem between Jake and Marty at least 50% on Jake’s shoulders, rather than squarely on Marty’s, which is what the narrative encourages us to do.
Of course, since there’s a financial crisis happening, things don’t go as planned, but not in exactly in the way I was thinking. No spoilers, but my only correct prediction was that Marty gets right with God.
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