May Contain Spoilers
This is the second of the Saddles and Spurs novels that I have read. I have enjoyed both, but I think Pony Express Mail-Order Bride was the best so far. Though I thought the characters were a bit on the young side (eighteen), and Bella’s lack of trust made unnecessary hardships for the couple, the story kept me engaged from beginning to end. That’s actually saying a lot, since they spent a lot of time doing every day tasks around the homestead, and there weren’t a lot of diversions other than what kind of sweets Bella baked for dessert, so the author’s writing style is engrossing, and the protagonists’ inner monologues were kept at a steady tempo to draw the reader in and care about the characters.
Bella turns up at a Pony Express relay station with her young nephews in tow. She’s come to reply to Philip’s ad for a mail-order bride. Only Philip didn’t place the ad; his brother did to get him back for a placing an ad for him the previous year. When Bella seems at the verge of tears and at her wit’s end, Philip suggests that they have a marriage of convenience (third marriage of convenience in less than a week in a Harlequin!). He never wants to get married because he is afraid it will destroy him emotionally if anything were to happen to his wife, just like what happened to his father. Bella, penniless and desperate to keep her nephews, agrees to his proposal of a loveless marriage.
While the boys could often be annoying, (how many times do you almost have to drown to listen to orders to stay AWAY from the river?), the slowly building relationship between Philip and Bella felt natural and believable. They both have dreams that they have had to set aside, and those unfulfilled aspirations poke at them like at tooth pain. With rumors that the Pony Express might be shut down, Philip suddenly has the opportunity to realize his dreams.
Bella wants to be supportive, but she’s terrified that she and the boys will have to flee when Bella’s villainous ex shows up, making threats and trying to force her to marry him. I was worried that the awful man would cause a bigger rift between Philip and Bella then he did, mainly because Bella was afraid to tell Philip that she was being threatened by another man. With the help of the local lawman, the threat was neutralized, leaving Bella and Philip closer and ready to admit their feelings for each other. I have to see if the library has the rest of this series, because the books are a quick, satisfying read, without being too preachy. I love the settings, and the Pony Express has always fascinated me.
Grade: 4.25 stars
Review copy borrowed from my local library
About the book
A MATCH MADE BY MAIL
Needing a home and a husband to help her raise her orphaned nephews, Bella Wilson travels to Wyoming in response to a mail-order bride ad. But when she arrives, she discovers Pony Express rider Philip Young didn’t place the ad. With her groom-to-be insisting he’s not looking for a wife, Bella must convince him to marry her for the sake of the children.
Philip never planned to marry, but he can’t possibly turn away a woman in distress and allow her nephews to end up in an orphanage as he once had. A marriage of convenience is the perfect solution. But when he slowly discovers that family life may be what he’s been looking for all along, can he convince Bella to give love a chance?