To Love a Stranger
By Colleen Coble
Published By Thomas Nelson
ABOUT BOOK: Bessie Randall had no intention of moving to Wyoming. But could the life she would never choose be better than the one she had planned?
Bessie is shocked when she finds out that her sister Lenore has used her name to correspond with a soldier she's never met—and that she’s actually married the man by proxy with Bessie’s name. And if Bessie contests it, her sister could go to jail for forgery. Bessie has always felt responsible for her younger sister, and she believes she has no choice but to do the honorable thing and travel west to meet up with Jasper Mendenhall.
With his sister Jessica’s reprimand about marrying sight-unseen still ringing in his ears, Jasper is shocked when he meets the stagecoach. The little wren who meets him is not the beauty whose picture he holds in his hand. Jasper plans to annul the marriage and send Bessie back to Boston. She’s a city girl and he’s not sure she could even survive—much less be happy—at Fort Bowie.
But Jasper’s orders to return to Fort Bowie are moved up, and he has no choice but to take Bessie with him. To his surprise, he finds much to like in the quiet young woman: things like humor and grit. But even those qualities may not be enough as the Apaches move in, determined to eradicate the fort in their midst. Can God mend their hearts together in spite of the circumstances?
REVIEW: The novel starts out in the year 1868 with Jasper Mendenhall in Fort Bridge, Utah Territory. He’s in the middle of telling his sister Jessie about the woman he’s going to marry and the fact that he’s been writing to her for months. Jessie and her husband Clay are concerned for Jasper and his new bride as he has not told her about the trip they would be taking as soon as she got to town.
The story then switches to Boston, Massachusetts of the same year. Lenore Randall discovers her older sister Bessie in her bedroom looking around she says, “What are you doing?”
Bessie turns around and glares at her sister and thinks, “Lenore had done some thoughtless things, but this was beyond” (crazy) …”would Lenore never learn to think before she leapt into things?” She then said, “Are you telling me that you married this man? And falsely, too, since you aren’t Bessie Randall!”
“Lenore couldn’t met Bessie’s gaze. “No, Bessie. It means you are married to Jasper. If you contest it, I – I think I could be arrested for forging your name.”
This was a fine mess her sister created. Bessie tried to calm herself down by reading all Jasper's letters. She then decides to go and meet him, in Utah. After all he did pay for a one way ticket.
Their first meeting was tense as Jasper learns of the switch and Bessie learns about the sudden trip in a wagon. They are both surprised but the wagon is leaving soon. They decide to figure things out when they get to their new home. It wouldn’t be easy but they would take one step at a time, literally. They were about to embark on quite a wild adventure.
I enjoyed the author’s sense of humor in the middle of these difficult times. Here’s a sample. Jasper hears Bessie speak to him from the other room, “You’re sure they’re all dead? She asked again in a quavering voice.”
Jasper laughed, “After that attack, how could they survive? You’ve mastered the art of death by broom, but I flattened them to be sure.”
Jasper and Bessie respect each other and decide to be husband and wife in name only. They worked as a team through their travels. This way they'd get to know each other. One problem is they have trouble being honest with themselves and each other. Traveling by wagon was cause for tense and dangerous times; which delayed speaking plainly to each other. If each of them could have been vulnerable with their thoughts and feelings; they could have been a happier journey. Just saying!
This is a historical romance novel with well-timed humor. It’s also the 4th and final book in the Wyoming series. I had not read any of the other books and I didn’t feel like I was lost. I liked the natural spiritual thread, and story line that was filled with danger, intrigue and a few surprises.
To Love a Stranger is an intriguing story with fun, believable characters that tugged at my heart strings. I liked how the author gives readers a peek at how life was back then. There are eight questions to help generate lively discussion for your four book club meeting.
ABOUT AUTHOR: Best-selling author Colleen Coble's novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, the ACFW Carol Award, the Romance Writers of America RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers' Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has over 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana. Visit her website at http://colleencoble.com
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Publisher through the BookLook for Bloggers site. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”
Nora St. Laurent
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