Book review: Homespun Bride by Jillian Hart (Steeple Hill Books [Love Inspired Historical], 2008)
Montana Territory in 1883 was a dangerous place—especially for a blind woman struggling to make her way through an early winter snowstorm. Undaunted, Noelle Kramer fought to remain independent. But then a runaway horse nearly plunged her into a rushing, ice-choked river, before a stranger’s strong, sure hand saved her from certain death. And yet this was no stranger.
Though she could not know it, her rescuer was rancher Thad McKaslin, the man who had once loved her more than life itself. Losing her had shaken all his most deeply held beliefs. Now he wondered if the return of this strong woman was a sign that somehow he could find his way home.
”Hooray!” was my first thought when I finished this book yesterday lunchtime. “Finally!” Sure, you can read several books at once on the Kindle, but it’s nice to try and finish one before you start another, and with a Harlequin romance novel that isn’t very long, there’s no “yeah but it’s a gazillion pages, I’ll work on it later”, because it’s not even 300 pages. As in, “it should be a quick and easy read”, yet this one has taken me a good couple of weeks.
Not to say that Homespun Bride isn’t well-written (because it is), or that it’s bad (because it isn’t), it’s just that it’s been really slow and frustrating to get through. And here’s why:
It’s about a young woman called Noelle, who lost both her parents and her eyesight in a carriage accident. It’s also about a young cowboy called Thad, who has been away from town a few years and has now returned to help his family. The two used to be romantically involved, and were planning to elope – except she was stood up. Thad never came for her, and instead he disappeared for five years, during which she found someone else who dumped her when she became blind, because she was “damaged goods”, and now she’s living with her aunt and uncle.
What Noelle doesn’t know is that her father actually knew about the couple’s plans and made sure Thad would stop seeing her, as the father (a rich man) didn’t think him good enough to wed his precious daughter, so Thad was forced away.
So there they are, five years later, and Thad saves Noelle and her aunt when they’re on the way home and the horse pulling their sleigh decides to bolt. OMG, it’s Thad, he’s come back! OMG, it’s Noelle, she’s blind! Cue LOTS AND LOTS OF ENDLESS BROODING.
The mainstay of the novel, no kidding, is the two of them going “woe is me, he left me and now I’m blind and a burden to everyone” and “woe is me, I had to leave her and I can’t tell her why” and “woe is me, I still love him/her” and so on. They clearly love each other and they clearly could have solved their issues by simply sitting down for a moment and having a big ol’ chat. Which they never do.
They keep being miserable about their former relationship and trying to fight falling in love all over again, and all they ever needed to do was to have him explain why he left, that he didn’t just dump her on a whim, and then they could get on with their lives. Eventually she comes to realise that he didn’t just leave her willy-nilly, but that her father was a major part of it. And she’s fine with it, because her father’s dead now anyway and that’s all in the past, fuggedaboudit.
And then what? Then it turns to “I’m damaged goods, I’m not marriage material, I’m blind and you’ll end up hating me and I’ll just be a burden” and yadda yadda yadda. GET ON WITH IT, FOR GOODNESS SAKE! I would’ve loved him to leave, then turn around and come back and say that no, he’s not giving up that easily, sod your being blind, I really don’t care about that, all I want is you, darlin’, goshdarnit.” But no. When the ending came, it was with a sigh of relief on my part. Finally, they could stop being so bloody emo and get together with their happily ever afters.
So yes, it was very frustrating – and grating – to read all that incessant internal guilt-tripping they both did (while both of their families could hear wedding bells a mile off from day one, of course).
The writing itself, I have no issue with – aside from a feeling of “how many times are you going to use the words ‘gait’ and ‘baritone’?” (ahh, just imagine Homespun Bride: The Drinking Game!) The descriptions of nature and horses and late 19th century life in the US were great. I could feel the chill of the winter snow, hear the howling of the wind and crashes of thunder, and it was all rather vivid and great to read. By the way, to those of you living in the US: you really get snow with thunderstorms in February?! We don’t in Sweden, that’s why I’m a bit confused.
Question is, while the story was annoying me no end and got boring because of the emo-fest, can the fact that I enjoyed the scenery make up for it? And that’s where I’m not sure.
Maybe 2-2.5 out of 5 Mustangs? For a 3, I think it would’ve needed a bit less frustration.
At the time of writing, this book was available as a free PDF download from TryHarlequin.com