Reviewed by: Linda Tonis
Member of the Paranormal Romance Review Team
The story takes place in 1865, New York where Nellie Wallace and her daughter, Violet, and son, Henry, live while her husband is at war. One fateful day a knock on the door changes her life forever. The knock is from a soldier informing her that her husband Robert died at the Battle of Appomattox. Now Nellie is a widow with two small children to care for. All she has to depend on are her in-laws, who pay her rent and never let her even once forget that they are doing so for the children. If not for them, she would be homeless.
Two years after Robert’s death, Nellie decides to apply to Matchmaker & Co. as a mail-order-bride. She can no longer live with her in-laws running her life; she needs someone who is willing to take on a woman with two small children. When she meets with the owner, Margaret Selby, she is told that there is a man in San Francisco, wealthy, never been married, and who specifically requested a widow with children. His name is Blake Malone. He needs a woman with children to help him be taken seriously in expanding his business. He presently owns a saloon, but wants to build a more legitimate business.
Nellie takes off for San Francisco with her children and her nanny and friend Bertha. They are met at the hotel where another knock on the door will again change her life. Standing on the other side of the door is a gorgeous man who could be her new husband. Blake decided at first sight he wanted to marry Nellie. When three year old Violet ran into his arms and gave him a sloppy kiss, Nellie knew he was the man for her. They married the next day and set off for his home, or as Nellie referred to it, a mansion.
Things were falling into place until the arrival of Blake’s ex-mistress, Madeline Singer. Maddie works at the saloon and was convinced that her relationship with Blake would not change after he took a wife. She was very wrong. Blake feels he is incapable of loving anyone, but for some reason he is determined to be faithful to his new wife whom he can’t wait to bed.
Nellie fears sex since sex with her husband involved suffering and pain. He would beat her or strangle her. When he was not home was the only time she felt safe. Now she is married to a man who promises not to touch her until she is ready and promises that sex should not hurt. Can Nellie get over her fear? Is Blake really incapable of loving someone? Will this mail order marriage lead to a happily-ever-after?
I love these kinds of books and have read a great many of Ms. Woolf’s mail-order-bride stories. They are full of romance, sex, love, suspense and two strangers who have a chance at a new life. Although it might seem inconceivable that two people can meet, marry and fall in love in a very short time, it is after all make believe. I get to leave reality behind and enjoy a wonderful love story. Nellie is a tough woman devoted to her children and her new husband in spite of the fact that he doesn’t love her. I like to believe that these kinds of things can happen. I will be watching a new TV show called Mail-Order-Murders which is the opposite of Ms. Woolf’s books. They are real life stories and they apparently don’t end well, that is reality, which is why I prefer make believe.
**Winner: 1st Place Best Historical Romance Series & 3rd Place – Best Historical Romance Novel – 2015 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards**