Saturday, January 4, 2014
Book Review: A Match Made in Texas by Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Carol Cox, and Mary Connealy
A Match Made in Texas by Karen Witemeyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In "A Match Made in Texas," Dry Gulch has its very own matchmaker. It is the year 1893, and three different women find themselves matched by a mysterious, compassionate hand. In the last novella, the matchmaker meets her own match in the most unlikely source. To be fair to each of these authors, I will review their novellas individually.
"A Cowboy Unmatched"
by Karen Witemeyer
I've loved Karen's books for over a year now, ever since I first read Head in the Clouds. So, knowing she was the primary author for this set of novellas immediately peaked my interest.
In "A Cowboy Unmatched" Clara Danvers is recently widowed, pregnant, and barely scraping by in the near hovel her rascal husband provided for her outside of town. When a mysterious note sends Neill Archer (youngest son of the Archer family in several of Ms. Witemeyer's other novels) out as her hired hand, Clara greets providence with suspicion at first, and then gratitude. Neill, a god-fearing man determined to finish earning enough money to buy a ranch with his best friend back home, is grateful for he income, but he quickly discovers that he's helping Clara for more reasons than just money. In a few short days, Neill is fond of the stubborn woman who's managing to scratch out a living on next to nothing, and love blossoms soon after. Little does he know that danger lurks in the shape of her father-in-law who holds no affection for Clara, and wants to snatch her child the moment the babe is born. Clara and Neill must stand firm in the face of adversity, gaining strength from one another.
This novella is penned in the delightful style I've come to associate with Ms. Witemeyer. It is bright and vivacious, with strong, likeable characters as the leads. As is always the problem with novellas, the romance is entirely too quick, with Neill and Clara falling in love in a matter of days, but there's no other way to do it. "A Cowboy Unmatched" is a charming read, and a strong start to this book.
"An Unforeseen Match"
by Regina Jennings
Young Grace O'Malley, once a schoolteacher in Dry Gulch, is now afflicted with a disease that eats away at her sight one day at a time. The town purchases what was once Clara Danvers' homestead, and situates their former teacher in the ramshackle house in an effort at caring for her, sending meals out via friends on a daily basis since Grace can barely care for herself. The best thing that could happen to her was the unexpected advertisement placed in the local paper for a handyman, which Clayton Weber answers in haste. Ordinarily he wouldn't be in need of funds, but he's on his way to participate in the Cherokee Strip land run, and his poor horse just broke her leg. Now he's in need of funds to purchase another animal, and the opportunity offered to help around Grace's home is one he can't turn down. Little does he expect that the charming, and stubborn Irishwoman is just what he needs to soften his frozen heart, teaching him that the scar creasing his face doesn't define his character.
This is my first encounter with Ms. Jennings' work, but if this is a solid example of her style than I am very, very impressed. I liked "An Unforeseen Match" equally as much as Ms. Witemeyer's novella, perhaps even a bit more because I've always loved characters that are troubled by a physical affliction, an injury that makes them less than beautiful in the eyes of the world. Ms. Jennings' style is active and enchanting, and I especially appreciated her efforts at developing the relationship between Grace and Clayton even though she only had less than a 100 pages in which to do it. Out of all the couples in this book, Grace and Clayton are hands down my favorite.
"No Match for Love"
by Carol Cox
Under no circumstances does Lucy Benson want to accept Walter's proposal, but that is her only recourse in securing a future for herself. That is, until a surprise possibility opens up. Somehow, she has been approved to become the companion to an elderly lady, an aunt to a man named Andrew Simms who wishes for his beloved relative to have companionship on her ranch that is quite far from the nearest town. It is the perfect opportunity, and Lucy eagerly snatches it up, sorry to leave Dry Gulch, but not sorry to leave strict Walter far behind. While the situation isn't exactly as ideal as she'd pictured, Lucy settles into her new home and situation vigorously, determined to win the approval of Martha Simms which seems difficult at first due to the woman's gruff nature. Within a few weeks, though, Lucy and Martha bond and Lucy even finds herself unusually attracted to Martha's handsome nephew, Andrew. If only Martha wasn't obviously a few bricks short of a load, claiming she sees cows jumping over the moon, and life would be idyllic. But Lucy soon suspects more is going on around the Diamond S Ranch than meets the eye and maybe, just maybe, Martha isn't as crazy as her nephew thinks.
To my surprise, I really did enjoy "No Match for Love." Other reviewers haven't liked it, but I really did, probably because it wasn't typical fare and I was ready for a different plotline since the first two are so similar. I've never tried any of Ms. Cox's books before, either, but her style is fun. I connected with all of the characters, investing in them, and enjoying their quirks. Lucy is delightful and spunky, Martha is stubborn and compassionate, and Andrew is, well, a romantic. I think the weak link in this story is that reads like it could be a novel. In fact, I wanted it to be a novel! Everything is tied up a little too quickly, and it would have been brilliant if Ms. Cox hadn't been limited to the amount of storytelling she could do.
"Meeting Her Match"
by Mary Connealy
In a very short span of time, schoolteacher Hannah Taylor's life is turned upside down. Where once she lived with her father and brothers, now she's forced to take her father's new wife's room in town, vacating her home to her father's new bride. Her life is in complete upheaval, having just recently lost her mother in childbirth, to her 7th child, and now Hannah is pushed out on her own. Every day after she releases her students from school, Hannah returns to the dingy room above the only diner Dry Gulch, and every day shy, introverted Marcus Whitfield joins her from the bank for the two-minute walk, stammering out the occasional complete sentence. Is there more to him than meets the eye? Will she spend the rest of her life alone or could Marcus, or Mark as he is called by everyone but her, offer her the chance of a different life?
I'm being deliberately vague about this last story's plot because I don't want to give anything away. Forgive me, but you must read it for yourself. I applaud Mary Connealy for finally impressing me. The novella is not perfect, but she crafted two lead characters that I like. Lucy is stubborn, but also charming. Mark is the sweetest man imaginable, cute in his shyness. Some might not like the ending of the novella since it could be construed as an entire town bullying a match, but the entire town sort of knew better than Hannah so I can't argue with them. This novella proved to me that Ms. Connealy can write. It's not perfect, and she does sometimes repeat ideas and lines too often for my taste, but she got the characters right and in this kind of fiction, that's really what matters most.
- I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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