As you might expect from the title of this collection, there are (at least) four proposals, some misunderstandings, unexpected developments, and humorous situations to be found in the pages of these four novellas:
The Husband Maneuver by Karen Witemeyer
Etta has loved Dan for years. When she hears he is leaving her father's ranch she uses the dime novels he hates (the hero is based on him) as inspiration and hatches a plan to get him to propose, risking her reputation in the process. Of course, not all goes according to plan, especially when you have a man who plans for the worst and a woman who hopes for rainbows.
Marietta (Etta) Hawkins and Daniel Barrett were secondary characters in Witemeyer's most recent full length novel, A Worthy Pursuit. These were characters that called out for their story to be told, and having an excerpt of a Dead-Eye Dan dime store novel start each chapter was so much fun. I particularly liked how a Dead-Eye Dan novel is used at the end, and that the ending is so satisfying.
Her Dearly Unintended by Regina Jennings
Katie Ellen is alone and in charge while her parents are away. A storm and a swollen, raging river strand her and her neighbor Josiah alone. The arrival of an unexpected visitor forces Katie Ellen to play along when Josiah tells the man that they are husband and wife. While this is something Josiah would like to be true, he has a lot of work to do if Katie Ellen is ever going to be convinced. If, that is, their visitor doesn't become violent first.
Ellen Watson and Josiah Huckabee were childhood friends when they were introduced in the second Ozark Mountain Romance novel, At Love's Bidding. Here they are grown up, and their characters have developed to reflect that growing up. Katie Ellen is the most changed, in that she likes to be in complete control of her environment. This seemed a bit of an extreme reaction to the events that caused it, but it does add an interesting element to the story. A very fun story with a bit of action, a bit of romance and a bit of Benedict & Beatrice.
Runaway Bride by Mary Connealy
Carrie Halsey and her 16 year old brother Isaac are fleeing Houston the night before their father marries her off to pay a gambling debt. Big John Conroy, a Texas Ranger and former Andersonville Prison Regulator, is determined to get them to Rawhide, Colorado and their older sister Audra Kincaid. But things go wrong and they find themselves in Broken Wheel, Texas, fighting a small army of hired guns.
Incorporating characters from two earlier series, this story was a bit confusing at one point (even for Carrie) unless you are already familiar with how these characters are related to each other. Mary Connealy's usual blend of comedy and cowboys is present here, and it is a very enjoyable story whether you have read the related books or not.
Engaging the Competition by Melissa Jagears
Harrison Gray, local schoolteacher, is nearly blind without his glasses. When they are accidentally ruined in her barn, Charlotte "Charlie" Andrews helps him out in the classroom until a new pair arrives, taking time away from her ranch and preparing for her upcoming marriage of convenience. A marriage with the brother of the man that had been a classmate, and schoolyard bully, of Harrison and Charlie.
This was the one story that I put off reading, partly because the first full length novel in this new Teaville Moral Society series will not be released until early August, and partly because I was a little afraid that I would not love it as much as I did Melissa Jagears' Unexpected Brides series. No need to worry, though, as this was the one novella that actually made me laugh aloud. While some elements of this story did bring to mind the novella from that series, these are definitely different characters in very different circumstances. I'm looking forward to more of this series.
I was so excited when I found out there was going to be a collection of novellas by two of my go-to Christian Historical Romance authors, Karen Witemeyer and Melissa Jagears, and two more that are quickly becoming go-to authors of that genre, Mary Connealy and Regina Jennings. My expectations were high, for the stories themselves as well as my personal level of enjoyment. Happily, those expectations were met and I can count this as one of the books I would highly recommend to those who enjoy novellas that combine faith, romance, adventure, and a dash of humor. 4.5/5 stars.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Bethany House Blogger Review Program. 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.”