Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What I Read Wednesday: Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer

Short-Straw BrideFrom the Cover:
No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a long-standing debt compels her to take the risk.

Years of constant vigilance harden a man. Yet when Travis Archer comes across a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt prompt him to attempt to rescue her once again.

Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she vows to stand by his side. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her as merely a short-straw bride?

Andrea's Take:
I read Karen Witemeyer's third novel To Win Her Heart after a trusted friend said it was one of the best she had ever read. And I concurred. So when Ms. Witemeyer put out a call for influencers for her fourth book (which I was chomping at the bit to read anyway), I leaped at the chance to own a free copy of Short-Straw Bride, knowing I would love it.  And whad'ya know, I was right!

Karen Witemeyer has created a cast of characters who both tug at and warm your heart. That cast is lead by Travis Archer and Meredith Hayes. Both are orphaned and have good reasons to withhold trust from others. Their brief but memorable history from years ago, combined with the urgency of the threat they both face, compels them to trust one another.

As they learn greater trust, they build on that trust and teach each other to open up in ways they never would have on their own.  Both are Christians from the beginning, but their budding relationship leads them to greater trust in God as well. In the exciting climax of the story, Travis and Meredith face the greatest test yet to their trust in each other and in God.  Both falter a little at the obstacle in their path, but they never really take their eyes off the goal.

Witemeyer is a master at what I call squeaky-clean sizzle. The romantic tension between characters is palpable and sometimes leaves the reader with goosebumps, all the while remaining conservatively PG. As a former devourer of secular (read here: steamy) romances, I find this talent extremely valuable.

Characters to Watch:
Travis's brothers - All of them! Jim was especially endearing to me. He reminds me of a clueless-about-women, man's man Mary Coneally hero. This is a good thing! Though Ms. Witemeyer hasn't published a series or sequel to date, I'm sure her readers would welcome a story (or two) devoted to Crockett and Neill's romances. I know I would!

Cassie - Meredith's cousin and best friend is courageous and fiercely loyal. Clueless cowboy Jim Archer gets a clue real quick when she comes on the scene.

Moses and Myra - Two old and dear friends of Meredith's. They are integral in the growth of Travis's trust of both God and his neighbors. They are the kind of friends who fully warrant that trust.

On my second read through of Short-Straw Bride, the villain fell a little flat for me. Since I don't read romance for it's lifelike villains but rather for that squeaky-clean sizzle, that doesn't affect my enjoyment of the story one bit.

I give it Five Brilliant Stars.

A huge thank you to Karen Witemeyer and her publisher Bethany House for the complementary copy of Short-Straw Bride.

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