03 May 2011

"Sixteen Brides" by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Sixteen BridesSixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Christian, prairie romance
On my TBR list?: no

Summary, from Goodreads:

Sixteen Civil War widows living in St. Louis respond to a series of meetings conducted by a land speculator who lures them west by promising "prime homesteads" in a "booming community." Unbeknownst to them, the speculator's true motive is to find an excuse to bring women to the fledging community of Plum Grove, Nebraska, in hopes they will accept marriage proposals shortly after their arrival!

Sparks fly when these unsuspecting widows meet the men who are waiting for them. These women are going to need all the courage and faith they can muster to survive these unwanted circumstances--especially when they begin to discover that none of them is exactly who she appears to be.

The fact that I read this book in its entirety in a single day is a testament to how engaging it is, especially since it wasn't even in large print! At first I thought that I would have trouble keeping up with all the characters, but the author does a good job of quickly winnowing down the list to a manageable number and I had no problem remembering who was who. Whitson's writing style managed to keep frontier life from sounding monotonous by showing the characters engaging in all different kinds of activities. She avoided the trap of describing one quilting bee or harvest supper after another -- passages that fill pages without pushing the plot forward. I didn't find myself skimming over long descriptive passages of the color of someone's dress, either. This novel was 300-odd pages of solid writing that kept me turning page after page until I finished it at 1:30a.

Although this book was published by Bethany House, it was a bit more earthy that other Christian romances I've read. Don't get me wrong -- it doesn't cross the line into vulgarity. However, there are a couple characters who make no secret about enjoying physical closeness with a man. For instance, when one character asks her mother what she would like, her mother responds thusly:

Mama twitched both eyebrows. "I want to be young for just one dance with that handsome rancher. Or an evening." She grinned wickedly. "Or perhaps even a very long evening."
"Mama!" Ella scolded.
"You don't want to know, don't ask."

Now Mama is one of the most devout women in the book. This quote along with others shows that she is also a women who is vibrant and loving life. Whitson has created characters that are far from one-dimensional and it is refreshing to see.

Another thing that was different was how this book approached Christianity. My first exposure to Christian fiction was with the authors Lori Wick and Janette Oke, so I am accustomed to having a mini sermon coming out of one of the characters' mouths every few pages. The characters in this book all have more than a passing familiarity with the Bible but their faith is shown in a more matter-of-fact manner. There aren't long passages detailing church services, as you would find in a book by Wick or Lauraine Snelling. There is one character who turns directly to the Bible and finds guidance to turn his life around, but most of the characters change their ways and live by the principles of the Good Book without quoting it directly.

All in all, Stephanie Grace Whitson presented readers with a solid Christian romance and a quick read. I will definitely seek out more of her books.

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