So while I was walking around the VA hospital with the two wee ones waiting while Denny had his scope, I found a stack of books and I picked up a new to me author Joan Johnston and the first book in her Mail Order Bride series Texas Bride. I found out at the end that this book is connected to a few other of her books and since I did enjoy it my OCD has kicked in and I’ll be on the lookout for her backlist and the next two books in this series. The book images, blurb and excerpt are from the authors site. I find Mail Order Brides interesting …maybe I should see if any Scottish Highlanders want a mail order bride and send my gel Stephanie over to meet them…hummmm.

 Now I said I enjoyed it and I did but there were a few things that irked me as well, but we’ll get to those.  Look at the cover, isn’t it pretty???? Earlier today I was over at Warm Fuzzies snooping…lurking…and one of the posts was about covers and if they convey what the story is about. I love this cover but it says contemporary not historical to me. After reading the book and going back to look at the cover as I’m writing this review there are things wrong but that’s the art department fault not the authors. Sometimes the art department would benefit from reading the book first, I’m not just talking about this book but many books out there.

Let’s meet the heroine, Miranda Wentworth, oldest daughter of a rich banker who is orphaned along with her 5 younger siblings in the great Chicago fire. They are left to rot basically by their uncle Steven in the orphanage under the care of one Miss Birth….now now ladies that’s Birth not Bitch, even though as you will see she is one-big time. Miranda must step up and protect her siblings as much as possible from the evil reign of Miss Birth…until she turns 18 and will be forced to leave the orphanage and her siblings. As the children are all trying to figure out what to do her sister Josie presents her with a solution…become a mail order bride then rescue the rest of the family.  Events happen that cause Miranda to leave and steal away with the two youngest brothers 9-10 year old Nick who has a chip on his shoulder where adults are concerned and 4-year-old Henry who is a bit on the sickly side. I greatly admired Miranda’s fortitude and inner strength and if you get a chance to read the story you’ll understand why. I also must say that I enjoyed her transformation into the strong woman she was meant to be after she left the orphanage behind.

Our hero Jake Creed is a heartbroken man, he lost the love of his life Priss in childbirth and he needs a mother for his 2-year-old daughter Anna Mae. That’s what he needs, a mother for the baby but the only way to get one is to advertise because no woman with-in 100 miles would marry him because his step-father Blackthorne is trying to ruin him any way he can. He doesn’t want a wife but he knows he’ll have to get one.  He’s just hoping she’ll be understanding when he finally tells her he has a baby and a crippled old man for her to take care of and oh yeah by the way…this marriage will be in name only  because I will never love you. Oh I so enjoyed Jake’s fall but I must admit I expected him to sleep in the barn right from the beginning.

The supporting characters were very well done from the evil Miss Birch and Uncle Steven to Miranda’s siblings. The interaction was very well done especially when Miranda met her father in law and he let his two cents worth be known. Little Anna Mae I liked how she called Miranda mama, this struck a chord with me as I have been raising my grandchildren and sometimes they call me mama. I definitely have to read the books that are connected because I want to know more about Blackthorne and even the older Mr Creed. I don’t know if they are in the other stories but I intend to find out. The events that occur during the story I find to be in keeping with the time period which is very important with me. I hate to read a Scottish Medieval and find the characters saying modern things.

Now on to the things that irked me a bit. For a good portion of the story Jake’s step father Blackthorne is the “bad guy” then all of a sudden he backs off, I have my thoughts on why he did it but I feel it should have been explained and he is replaced by other “bad guys” The other thing that seemed off was the timing…I felt Miranda fell in love to quick, it felt like only a day passed and she was madly in love.  It was hard sometimes to tell how much time had passed also…the story seemed to be moving daily then jump ahead to next week in the story without a bridge so to speak, so sometimes the timing was unclear for me but over all I did enjoy Texas Bride and will be picking up the next book in the series Wyoming Bride as I did enjoy that little excerpt at the end for it.  I don’t normally use a rating system unless I feel it’s needed so out of five stars I’d give Texas Bride a 3.75, but remember just because there were a few things that irked me here and there it was a good storyline and I did enjoy it and you may enjoy it even more than I did.

   A Bitter Creek book: Mail Order Bride series book 1

Book Blurb from author’s site:

HE MAY BE HER ONLY HOPE. SHE MAY BE HIS LAST CHANCE.

Texas Bride Miranda Wentworth never imagined becoming a mail-order bride. Now marriage to a stranger is her only hope of finding a home where she and her two younger brothers can escape the brutality of the Chicago orphanage where they live. With any luck, she can even start a family of her own, once the three of them are settled at Jacob Creed’s Texas ranch. But Miranda has one gigantic concern: Her husband-to-be knows nothing about the brothers she’s bringing along. What if he calls off the deal when he discovers the trick she’s played on him?

Jake Creed is hanging on to his Texas ranch by his fingernails. His nemesis, Alexander Blackthorne, is determined to ruin him. Jake will never give up, but he’s in desperate trouble. His wife died six months ago in childbirth, along with their stillborn son, and his two-year-old daughter needs a mother. The advertisement Jake wrote never mentioned his daughter—or the fact that he has no intention of consummating his marriage. He’s determined never to subject another wife to the burden of pregnancy. But Jake doesn’t count on finding his bride so desirable. He doesn’t count on aching with need when she joins him in bed. And he never suspected his bride would have plans of her own to seduce him.

 Excerpt from authors site:

Miranda was afraid to reach for the tickets. She seldom took anything for herself before offering it first to one of her siblings. Her life the past three years had been full of sacrifices. But none of her siblings were old enough to marry. She would have to do this herself.

It didn’t feel like a sacrifice. She’d be going on a grand adventure to a place she knew about only from stories in the Daily Herald. A place full of wild broncs and longhorned cattle. A place full of cowboys. . .and Indians. It all sounded so exotic. And exciting. She’d have a husband and maybe, one day soon, children of her own, two things she’d seen as very far in the future after she’d become a destitute orphan. And with a new life outside the Institute, there was at least a chance she could rescue her siblings.

Miranda didn’t let herself dwell on the possibility that her husband might turn out to be as cruel as Miss Birch. No one could be as cruel as Miss Birch.

Speak of the devil and she appeared.

“What is this!” a piercing voice demanded.

Miranda quickly slid the vellum and tickets back across the table to Josephine, who slipped them back into the pocket in her night shift. As the headmistress descended on them like a whirling dervish, Miranda whispered to her siblings, “I’ll take care of Miss Birch. Go!”

Her younger brothers and sisters grabbed their blankets and scampered for the door in the dark shadows at the opposite end of the dining room, leaving Miranda behind to face their nemesis.

Miss Birch was wearing a tufted robe over her nightgown and had her long black hair, of which she was so proud, pinned up under a nightcap. The headmistress was short and stout, with large eyes so dark brown they were almost black and cheeks that became florid when she was angry, as she was now.

“I presume that bunch who ran off was the passel of brats you brought with you to the orphanage,” Miss Birch said. “I’ve warned you before about leaving the dormitory after lights out, Miss Wentworth.”

Miranda lowered her eyes in submission, knowing that was the best way to conciliate the headmistress. “Yes, Miss Birch. I was saying good-bye to my brothers and sisters, since I’m leaving tomorrow morning.”

“You think the fact you’re leaving tomorrow means you can flaunt my rules tonight?”

“No, Miss Birch. I–”

A slender wooden rod whipped through the air and hit Miranda’s right shoulder without warning. Whop. She gasped at the pain and bit her lip to keep from crying out. She didn’t want her siblings to hear her and try coming to her rescue. There was no defying Miss Birch.

Miranda kept her hands at her sides, aware that if she tried to protect herself, Miss Birch would only hit harder.

“I’ll be glad–whop–to see–whop–you go!”

The pain was excruciating. Miranda felt tears of pain well in her eyes, but she didn’t make a sound, not even a whimper. She refused to give Miss Birch the satisfaction.

She could hear the heavyset woman breathing hard from the effort of whipping her. She raised her gaze, staring into the black eyes that stared hatefully back at her, and said with all the calm and dignity she could muster, “Are you done now? May I leave?”

She watched as Miss Birch resisted the urge to hit her again. Three cracks of the rod. That was Miss Birch’s limit, no matter how bad the infraction. Miranda knew her punishment was over, which was why there had been a taunt in her calm, dignified voice.

Then Miss Birch hit her again. WHOP. Hard enough to make Miranda moan with pain. Hard enough to make the tears in her eyes spill onto her cheeks.

Now I’m done,” the headmistress said with malicious satisfaction. “Go back to the dormitory, Miss Wentworth, and stay there until it’s time for you to leave.”

Miranda had turned to go when Miss Birch said, “Too bad you won’t be here when those brats get their punishment.”

“You’ve already punished me!” Miranda protested. “There’s no need to punish anyone else.”

“They were here, weren’t they? Where they didn’t belong? Oh, they’ll be punished, all right. Each and every one of them!”

“The baby–”

“That brat is no baby! He’s four years old.”

Only four years old!” Miranda retorted, fear for her youngest brother, whom she would no longer be able to protect, making her bold. “How can you be so mean?”

“Mean?” Miss Birch pressed her lips flat. “I enforce discipline, Miss Wentworth. Without discipline, where would we be? Those children must learn to obey the rules. They must learn there are consequences when they break them.”

“If you must punish someone, beat me instead.”

Miss Birch raised her eyebrows as she tapped the rod against her open palm. “Let me see. Three strokes times five offenses. How many is that, Miss Wentworth?”

“Fifteen,” Miranda replied past a throat tight with fear.

“I’m tempted, Miss Wentworth. Oh, how I am tempted.”

“Who would know?” Miranda said in a voice that was almost a whisper. “I’m leaving tomorrow.”

Miss Birch laughed. “You’re a fool, Miss Wentworth. I could give you fifteen strokes of the rod tonight and punish the rest of them tomorrow after you’re gone.”

Miranda knew very well that Miss Birch would find reasons to punish her siblings, even if there weren’t any. But the tickets secured in Josie’s pocket gave her courage. “Do it,” she urged. “I trust you will be too tired after the effort to bother my siblings, at least for tomorrow.”

“Very well, Miss Wentworth. Turn around and bare your back.”

Miranda’s eyes went wide. “You can’t mean–”

“Bare your back,” Miss Birch demanded. “Or I’ll have every one of those brats back in here tonight to get three strokes of the rod.”

“Yes, Miss Birch.” Miranda turned and slid her shift off already aching shoulders, securing the folds of cloth against her small breasts.

She focused her terrified mind on the faceless man at the end of her coming journey. The man who would be her husband. The man who would be the salvation of her siblings. The man who would plant the seeds for a family of her own. The man she would somehow learn to love. The man who might someday learn to love her.

Miranda braced herself and waited for the cane to strike.

Well, there you go what a spoiler this excerpt is for my review.

If you’d like to go over to check out Joan Johnston’s website and her back lists here is the link to her site.   http://www.joanjohnston.com/

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