Thursday, July 1, 2010

‘The Anonymous Bride’ by Vickie McDonough – Book Review

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Everyone loves action-packed books to read during the summer! ‘The Anonymous Bride’ by Vickie McDonough is just such a book.

Here is the synopsis of this entertaining book:

          How many brides does one man need?
It’s been years, but Luke Davis is back – older and wiser – and still alone. Returning as Lookout’s new town marshal, Luke is determined to face the past and moves on. But when he discovers that the woman who betrayed him is now a widow, all his plans fall at his feet.
Rachel has carried her guilty shame for eleven years. Her marriage to James Hamilton was not what Luke or the town thought it to be. Now James is dead, and Luke is back. Could they possibly find love a second time?
Rachel begs his forgiveness, but Luke finds he has none to give.
And then the brides arrive. Three of them – ordered for Luke through newspaper ads by his incorrigible cousins. The only place in town for them to stay is Rachel’s boarding house. And none of the ladies is willing to let Luke go. When choosing a bride becomes a contest, the chaos that ensures is almost funny.
When the mayor forces Luke to pick a bride or lose the job, will Luke listen to his heart that still longs for Rachel or choose one of the mail-order brides?

Here is the biography of this author:

Award-winning author Vickie McDonough believes God is the ultimate designer of romance. She loves writing stories in which her characters find true love and grow in their faith. Vickie has published eighteen books. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is currently serving as ACFW treasurer. Vickie has been a book reviewer for nine years as well. She lives in Oklahoma and is a wife of thirty-five years, mother of four sons, and grandmother to a feisty three-year-old girl. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching movies, and traveling. 

This book is full of multi-dimensional characters – boarding house proprietor Rachel Hamilton, Marshal Luke Davis, Rachel’s incorrigible daughter Jacqueline (who asks people to call her ‘Jack,’ a name which infuriates her mother), Luke’s cousins Mark and Garrett, and the three prospective brides – Leah Bennett, from Carthage, Missouri, Shannon O’Neil from Ireland by way of Shreveport, Louisiana, and Carly Payton aka Ellie Blackstone. Each has a fully fleshed-out back story, which causes the reader to understand and often times empathize – with them.

Rachel’s ten year old daughter, Jacqueline, has had a rough life. Once her back story was explained, her often-inappropriate behavior was more understandable.

Luke is a new Christian who is learning a lot about forgiveness, God’s grace, etc… Here’s how he now understands his past relationship with Rachel:

He’d been so young and naïve when he’d lost his heart to her. Now that he was older and had hindsight, he realized how ill prepared he’d been to marry back when he was eighteen. He and Rachel would have had next to nothing, but somehow that would have been enough. All he really needed was her – and the Lord. But he hadn’t known much about God back then. (p. 181)

He began to realize that God expects His people to forgive others, just as they’ve been forgiven:

But God’s Word was clear: if he didn’t forgive Rachel, then God couldn’t forgive him.
Luke hung his head. Without God’s love and pardon from sin, he would still be a lonely sinner, lost and unsaved. Somehow, he had to find a way to get over Rachel, to forgive her, and to turn loose from his pain.
But how? (p. 183)

Jacqueline grew to appreciate Luke, after a pretty rough first meeting. I loved this paragraph, showing the heart of a ten year old girl who seemed to long for a father:

She kicked at a small rock, sending it sailing into the water. Oh, she’d seen Luke look at her ma on occasion as if she was the prettiest lollipop in the jar, but then his expression would sour, as if she’d done something bad to him. She dropped onto the creek bank and pulled up her knees, resting her arms and head on them. Her eyes stung as tears threatened, and a big lump in her throat made it hard to swallow. Why did all these dumb brides have to show up and ruin things? If she’d only had a bit more time, she might have figured out a way to get Luke and her ma to fall in love. (p. 186)

Here is a wonderful example of Rachel’s heart for the Lord and for others:

After a short time of sitting and praying, a calm spread through her limp limbs and peace again reigned in her heart. If she couldn’t have Luke, maybe she could help him find the best bride. She wouldn’t be vindictive or allow selfishness to keep her from helping them. She didn’t know which woman would be the best fit for Luke, not that it was her choice, but at least she could teach Miss O’Neil to bake a pie. (p. 193)

As the story progresses, Luke seeks the Lord and godly counsel as to how to forgive Rachel for her betrayal eleven years before. Here’s a conversation between Luke and Pastor Taylor:

“You have to make a conscious effort to do it. Say ‘I choose to forgive you,’ and then let go of the hurt. Give it to the Lord to carry.”
Luke looked down at the pastor’s boots. “I don’t know if I can do that. I’ve carried this hurt for so long.”
“And look what it’s done to you.”
He glanced up. “What’s that?”
“It has you all torn up inside. Jesus died to set us free from our sin. He wants us to live a victorious life, not one weighted down by sin and an unforgiving spirit. If you believe Christ died for you and have given your heart to Him, He’ll help you with your struggles. But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t expect us to do our part.”
“So I’m just supposed to turn loose of my pain, just like I turn my horse loose in a pasture?”
Pastor Taylor nodded. “Pretty much. You let it go and make the choice to forgive. When negative thoughts come back to pester you, mentally you have to chase them away and not dwell on them.” He turned and grabbed his Bible off the desk and thumbed through the pages.  “In James, the scriptures say ‘Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.’”….
What choice did he have? If he wanted God’s forgiveness – and he did more than anything – then he had to forgive Rachel…
Luke smiled. “You make everything sound so easy.”
A melancholy look draped the pastor’s face, making Luke wonder what he struggled with. Pastor Taylor shook his head. “It’s not easy, but God gives us the grace to do it. And remember, refusing to forgive hurts you more than the people you’re upset with.” (pp. 262-263)

Later on in the story, Rachel and Carly were together in a precarious predicament which allowed Rachel to explain God’s love to Carly, and attempting to answer an age-old question:

“How can you believe in God when so many bad things happen?”
Rachel felt her ropes give way a little, and she renewed her efforts to get free. “It’s a matter of choice. I choose to believe. I know God’s nature from reading the Bible and listening to the preacher. He’s a God of love and wants nothing more than to have His children love and worship Him.” (p. 306)

Often, I will read books that are categorized in a historical romance that have so much tension I find them unpleasant to read. This book is in that category, and it has tension, but the tension is not overdone and not overly anxiety-producing. It was a pleasure to read.

This is the first book by Vickie McDonough that I have read – and I thought it was so adorable; the book cover captures the heart of the book so well! Vickie writes with a light and entertaining touch. It is the perfect book for an afternoon (or several!) on the beach! This is the first book in the ‘Texas Boardinghouse Brides’ series. This book ended in a cliffhanger (you’ll have to read it to find out!). Therefore, I look forward to reading the second one, ‘Second Chance Brides,’ which releases on September 1, 2010.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Barbour Publishers and generously provided by the author.


Vickie McDonough said...


Thanks for the wonderful review! I've never seen anyone do a review and show the characters via their dialogue like you did. Great idea!

You mentioned The Anonymous Brides ends with a cliffhanger. It kind of does, but I hope it also leaves readers satisfied and feeling that one story had ended, but another is beginning.

Thanks again!

Andrea Schultz said...

Hi Vickie -

Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and read and comment! Thanks for the kind words my review. I'm glad you liked the review as much as I liked your book! : )

The ending was indeed satisfying. It made me want to read 'Second Chance Brides' to see the continuation of the story. That's the sign of a good book! Glad we won't have to wait too long for it!

Blessings -


Josanne said...

I want to say that I read "Anonymous Bride" and loved it. I have read a number of Vicki's books and always look forward to them. I like to read just before I go to treat to myself. But there are times when I'm reading Vicki's books, that I just can't stop! While I wait for "Second Chance", I read "Wild at Heart". It was action-packed as well. McDonough's stories always promise an enjoyable, and not always predictable journey. That's what I love about them. That, and the fact that the scenes come alive, and the characters seem to linger long after the book is read. A lot of books come and go, but her books are keepers on my bookshelf.

Andrea Schultz said...

Josanne -

Thanks for your perspective. It sounds like Vickie has a real fan in you! I can certainly understand the excitement!


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