She was promised to another…
When widow Fiona Goldberg and her two adorable sons arrive in Oak Grove, Kansas, proclaimed bachelor Brett Blackwell is instantly captivated. But when he learns she is promised to the mayor, he tries his best to keep his distance…
Out of desperation, Fiona had agreed to become a mail-order bride to the disagreeable, self-important mayor. But something about her neighbor Brett makes her feel safe. She knows she must fight her growing feelings for the forbidden blacksmith, even while longing for him to rescue her and take her as his bride himself!
Good book. Oak Grove, Kansas, is a town with a need for women who are looking for husbands. Many of the men of the town got together and put money into an Oak Grove Betterment Committee, and the mayor wrote to a friend in Ohio advertising for wives. He promised twelve brides, but so far there have only been five arrive, leaving quite a few disappointed men.
Fiona is a recent widow with two young sons who has been living in Ohio. Thanks to the circumstances of her husband's death, she and her sons have been treated as outcasts. It is strongly suggested that she become one of the brides. The mayor personally invites Fiona to become his bride, bypassing the Betterment Committee. When she arrives in Oak Grove, the mayor quickly shuffles Fiona and her boys to a small house, telling them to stay there. The house is empty of everything except one small bed and has no food or provisions of any type. Fiona herself has no money to purchase these things.
Brett lives in the house next door to Fiona's. He is a successful businessman and one of the disappointed bridegrooms. He encounters Fiona's sons, Wyatt and Rhett, on his way back from fishing. Learning of their situation, he invites them and Fiona to eat with him. I loved Brett. He was one of seven boys growing up and immediately connects with both Wyatt and Rhett. He knows just how to talk to them and treat them.
There are so many emotions in this book. There is loneliness. Brett wants what the other men have found - love, friendship, passion, and a family of his own. Fiona has been alone in a way since even before her husband's death, thanks to his drinking and other problems. There is anger. The anger of the men who feel that they have been deceived, Brett's anger at the way Josiah treats Fiona, and Fiona's anger at Josiah over the way he treats her sons. There is also confusion, as Fiona is torn between keeping her word to Josiah and following the heart that increasingly leans toward Brett.
Most of all, there is love. I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Brett and Fiona. There is an attraction from the get-go, though both try to resist it. Both know that Fiona is promised to Josiah. But Brett can't deny that Fiona is everything that he has been looking for, and he quickly feels very protective of her and the boys. I loved how Brett took care of them, both with food and simply caring about their needs and wants. It was really sweet to see how quickly Wyatt and Rhett began to look up to Brett. Fiona quickly discovers that Brett is everything she could wish for in a husband. His kindness, generosity, and caring are a balm to her wounded soul.
But things look pretty bleak for a happy ending for them. Fiona is promised to Josiah and, having been the victim of broken promises, refuses to break her word to Josiah. I ached for her because it was obvious that Josiah is all wrong for her. Brett has a similar problem because, before he met Fiona, he had wired his mother that he was looking for a wife, and she had already found a woman for him. So both Fiona and Brett are honor-bound to other people. A life-threatening injury for Fiona and an unexpected twist in the other woman's arrival bring matters to a head. The solution to Brett's problem is quite clever, while Fiona's required her to put herself first.
The secondary characters were well done. Josiah, the mayor, was a character it was easy to dislike. He was pompous and had a very high opinion of himself. He was also a bit underhanded in his dealings with the men and with Fiona. He had selected Fiona for very selfish reasons, feeling that he needed a wife for his social and political well-being. His treatment of her and the boys showed a man who doesn't think of others before himself. He did redeem himself a little bit at the end, but I still found him to be very unpleasant. Fiona's sons Wyatt and Rhett were terrific. Wyatt was only seven, but he tried so hard to be the man of the house. Rhett, at five, was adorable, especially the way that he hero-worshipped Brett. I loved the various townspeople, especially the ladies that took care of Fiona. It was sweet to see the way that they all pulled Fiona into their lives, offering friendships like she'd never had before.