This is posted as part of Keishon’s TBR Day challenge, which is aimed at encouraging us readers with the towering TBR piles (you know who you are) to start tackling the books that have been languishing in there for eons.
Book: Shotgun Bride
Author: Linda Lael Miller
Copyright Date: 2003
Why did I buy this book? You know how sometimes you just feel like reading a particular genre? Well, I was browsing Amazon one day, and was trying to make it to the £15 threshold for free shipping, and I thought “Oooh, it’s been a while since I read a Western…”. Linda Lael Miller is probably the first name that comes to my mind when I think of Western historicals – I’ve read a couple of Julie Garwoods and Mary Jo Putneys with this setting, but no one else really.
Why did it sit in my TBR pile for so long? Because by the time the Amazon delivery arrived, I didn’t feel like reading a Western. Yes, I am fickle.
What is it about? This is the second book in this particular series – I checked Ms Miller’s website and she actually writes about the McKettrick family a lot. Anyway, the patriarch has to decide which son gets to inherit his ranch, and so sets up a competition. No, the winner isn’t the first son who gets married (because that would be too easy – and this is a series, after all), instead the winner is the first son who gets married and produces an heir. To complicate matters, in the first book (I think), a previously-unknown fourth son turns up and promptly buys a rival ranch…
So this is Kade McKettrick’s story – he’s annoyed because his elder brother has beaten him to the punch and gotten married (also, he had a bit of a thing for his now sister-in-law). Somehow or other, he’s also ended up with a whole gaggle of mail-order brides – but does he fall for one of them? Of course not. His heroine is “Sister Mandy”, a woman disguising herself as a nun for some mysterious (and he suspects dubious) reason…
So what did I think about it? The primary reason I read Westerns is because I like the setting – I love the frontier atmosphere, the pioneering spirit of the people, a look at what it was like trying to set up a whole new community from scratch. And this book did deliver on these. I will say that this is not a gritty realistic story, instead it’s a cleaned-up sanitised view of what it may have been like back then.
For a second book, I didn’t feel lost at all – Ms Miller filled in the background very nicely. I’m normally quite anal about reading a series in order, but I didn’t really mind not reading the first book in this one, but more on that later…
Ms Miller writes sweet romances, with humorous touches. I loved the interplay between the brothers, and how Kade slowly gets to know his newfound brother a bit better – as you can imagine, he’s not been welcomed with open arms. There are also some sad scenes in this book and I admit I sniffled a bit at certain parts! The villain was a bit obvious, and probably a bit too blatantly evil. But they generally are in Ms Miller’s books, IIRC.
However, I’m trying to decide why this book wasn’t really a keeper for me, and the best I can come up with was that it just felt bland. I liked Kade and Mandy, but I never felt completely invested in their relationship. It wasn’t a struggle to finish the book, but equally, I could have happily closed the book halfway and not finished it. I said earlier that I didn’t really mind not reading the first book in the series, and I think part of that has to do with the fact I didn’t think I was missing a must-read. Although it is debatable whether I would have enjoyed this book a bit more if I had read the first one?
My conclusion? This book’s a B for me, because it was pretty much what I expected from a Linda Lael Miller. Not more and not less. While I’m not going to rush out and get the other books in this series, I will probably return to this series when I feel like another historical Western. I probably want to read Holt’s story (he’s the fourth son), because I suspect there will be a lot of angst in that one…