Review of SIXTEEN BRIDES by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Stephanie Grace Whitson
Bethany House
348 pages

I confess. I usually avoid romance novels, and especially Christian romance novels. I have an aversion to cloying, wimpy female heroines and heroes who are under the misguided impression that they are God’s gift to the female race.

The title, SIXTEEN BRIDES, would normally have left me cold, but the trailer piqued my interest. These women didn’t decide to cross the country in the late 1800s looking for husbands. In fact, the war widows headed west to Nebraska following the promise of free land and a fresh start. Deceived by (you guessed it) a man who had, without their knowledge, all but promised them to a town-full of eager bachelors, the women are faced with a choice: keep going and catch a man at the end of the train trip, or get off the train and stake a claim on a new life.

Happily, Whitson follows those few women who defied the odds and got off the train before its’ last stop at the marriage market. I would have been disappointed if the author had done otherwise. We meet Caroline, the southern belle, Ella, a formidable woman in every sense (my personal favourite) and her mother, Zita, who tries hard to make that “silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” Hettie, fleeing from a painful past, Ruth, a sensible, mature woman looking for a new life for her and her son, and Sally, whose grit and gumption is second to none.

The characters are richly developed, and long before the end of the book, I identified with them, cheered for them, and embraced them. They are independent, but not to a fault; strong, but still fragile; witty, winsome, and worldly-wise. They claim their land, shut the mouths of their detractors, face and overcome their fears.

And, oh yes, there are men in SIXTEEN BRIDES. They are real men with issues and conflicts, weaknesses and strengths, and a few secrets of their own, perfectly matched to the women who unexpectedly enter their lives.

The touches of history and background material woven into the story are well done. I got the sense of what it was like in Nebraska during that era without being burdened with long passages of description or explanation. There were also enough villains and sufficient conflict to make the book satisfying to the less romantically inclined reader.

I was also impressed with the way Whitson worked faith into the lives of her characters. Though it was most often kept to the background, the imprint of God was evident.

A really good read.

Bethany House provided a complimentary copy of SIXTEEN BRIDES for this review.


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