You may have noticed there’s no author listed in the title of this post (as in “Review: The Homestead Brides Collection by…”). That’s because NINE authors contributed to this collection and, if there isn’t a word limit on titles yet, there would be after I’d included them all 🙂
Through nine historical romance adventures, readers will journey along with individuals who are ready to stake a claim and plant their dreams on a piece of the great American plains. While fighting land disputes, helping neighbors, and tackling the challenges of nature the homesteaders are placed in the path of other dreamers with whom romance sparks. And God has His hand in orchestrating each unique meeting.
Novella collections aren’t normally my cup of hot chocolate (I don’t drink tea) but this one had so many great authors that I had to give it a try! As with any compilation like this, some of the stories were outstanding and some just didn’t do it for me. In my opinion, the best ones are right in the middle of the bunch!
My three favorites were Prairie Promises by Ruth Logan Herne, A Palace on the Plains by Erica Vetsch, and Waiting on a Promise by Becca Whitham.
In Prairie Promises, Jack O’Donnell travels from Pennsylvania to the Nebraska frontier to convince his widowed mother Mary to return with him to their “safe” and comfortable city home. His brother has already given up on his own farm and returned to civilization; many other families in the area are following his example. But his mother is not quite as amenable to the suggestion as he had hoped, insisting that she wants to remain on the homestead she started with her late husband. Bridget, the young pregnant widow who shares his mother’s humble soddy complicates matters further. As the two women struggle valiantly to keep three farms afloat in the harsh Nebraska plains, Jack wrestles with what he should do. I loved how spunky and resilient Mary and Bridget were – even without Jack’s help. They totally could have saved their own day 🙂 Jack could just sit there and be eye candy lol. (Just kidding – he does provide much appreciated help while he’s there but I like the fact that they really were doing just fine without him!) Ruth’s writing voice is so smooth and natural, effortlessly sweeping you into the flow of the story and carrying you along at a steady pace. Historical facts are woven seamlessly into the plot without turning into a textbook excerpt, and you are left with a greater appreciation for the trials and celebrations of the early settlers.
I wanted Erica Vetsch’s A Palace On The Plains to keep going and going and going. I could easily have taken this one out of the collection and wrapped it up in a novel all its own and been perfectly happy – you know, as long as Erica added tons more of her fun chapters in between the beginning and the end 😉 Her writing voice is hilariously droll at times, sweet at others, and always sharp and on point. For example, a character saying “Thanks for the help. That went great.” – when clearly it did not – is indicative of the kind of dry wit that had me chuckling throughout her story. And the two little boys – Cotton and Titus – oh my stars! SO STINKIN’ ADORABLE!!! I wanted them to be real so I could cuddle them up and smother them with kisses. They were responsible for the majority of my grins during the entire book (not just Erica’s novella). And the romance? *dreamy sigh* My favorite out of all the stories! Honestly, when I finished the whole book, I re-read this story just because I enjoyed it that much.
Waiting on a Promise is Becca Whitham’s first published novella, and I cannot wait to read more by her! Full of mystery, suspense, romance, and heart, this one had all the elements I look for in a short story. In a novel too, for that matter. When Marta Vogel tires of waiting for her fiance Karl Reinhardt to invite her to join him on his Oklahoma homestead, she takes matters into her own hands and takes the next train out to find him. Instead of being glad to see her, Karl seems angry that she’s there. Hurt by his rejection, not to mention the other woman clinging to him at the station, Marta accepts a ride to Karl’s homestead from a local businessman and his wife. She doesn’t know this man is Karl’s greatest enemy, and when she finds out about the land dispute – and the reasons Karl wanted her to stay away – she decides to remain in town to do what she can to help. I loved the mystery, I loved the friendships, and I loved the sweet gentle romance.
Mary Conneally, Diann Mills, Kathleen Y’Barbo, Darlene Franklin, Carla Olson Gade, and Pam Hillman also have novellas in The Homestead Brides Collection.
Bottom Line: Packed with stories that highlight the tough and enduring spirit of those who struggled to prove up their claims to land in the western frontier, you will also be treated to gentle romance and an occasional bit of humor to sweeten your day. An additional treat is the opportunity to be introduced to a variety of authors that you might not otherwise read. In fact, I requested this collection for one particular author and ended up liking that story the least lol.
Rating a novella collection is always a bit tricky. There were only a couple of stories I didn’t care for as much as the others, and I gave those each a 3 star rating. The rest of the novellas I easily gave 4 or 5 stars. So, I think overall I would give The Homestead Brides Collection 4 out of 5 stars!
(I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for only my honest review.)
About the Authors:
Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy…with cowboys. She is a Carol Award winner, and a Rita, Christy and Inspirational Reader’s Choice finalist. Mary is married to a Nebraska rancher and has four grown daughters and a small bevy of spectacular grandchildren. You can find her online at http://www.maryconnealy.com. Award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin has recently returned to cowboy (and cowgirl) country – Oklahoma – to be close to her son Jaran, daughter-in-law Shelley, three beautiful granddaughters, and a long-awaited baby boy. Her daughter Jolene has preceded her into glory. Darlene loves music, needlework, reading and reality tv. Talia, a Lynx point Siamese cat, proudly claims Darlene as her person. Visit Darlene’s blog at http://darlenefranklinwrites.blogspot.com/. Carla Olson Gade writes adventures of the heart with historical roots. A native New Englander, Carla writes from her home amidst the rustic landscapes of Maine. An avid reader, amateur genealogist, photographer, and house plan hobbyist, Carla’s great love (next to her family) is historical research. Though you might find her tromping around an abandoned homestead, an old fort, or interviewing a docent at an historical museum, it’s easier to connect with her online at carlaolsongade.com. Best-selling, multi-published author Ruth Logan Herne loves God, her family, country, coffee, chocolate and dogs, and wishes possums would leave the cat food on the side porch alone. She loves chatting with readers through her website blog http://ruthloganherne.com. CBA Bestselling author Pam Hillman writes inspirational fiction set in the turbulent times of the American West and the Gilded Age. Born east of the Mississippi and a hundred years too late, Pam still boasts of wrangling calves, milking cows and putting up hay, first as a child, and later with her own personal hero, Iran, on their family farm in Mississippi. Visit her at http://www.pamhillman.com/. DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com. Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and romance, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical romances. Whenever she’s not immersed in fictional worlds, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron. Erica hangs out at http://coffeecupsandcamisoles.blogspot.com/. Becca Whitham is a new author whose love of reading goes back to the days of hiding under the covers with a flashlight and a novel. Her love of history comes from those same novels where the past came alive. She is active in the ACFW, won the first Pikes Peak Writers Contest, and was a 2012 Genesis Finalist in the Historical Romance category. She and her husband are empty-nesters who currently live in Oklahoma, but home is wherever the army sends them. She can be reached through her blog at http://becca-expressions.blogspot.com/. Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee of fifty novels with more than one million copies of her books in print in the US and abroad. A certified family law paralegal and former literary publicist, Kathleen has been nominated for a 2013 Career Achievement Award as well a Reader’s Choice Award and several Top Picks by Romantic Times magazine. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, and a former member of the Texas Bar Association Paralegal Division, she is a proud military wife and an expatriate tenth-generation Texan cheering on her beloved Texas Aggies from north of the Red River. To find out more about Kathleen or connect with her through social media, check out her website at www.kathleenybarbo.com.