TBR Challenge 2016 – Promises Kept by Scarlett Dunn
A historical western mail-order bride novel with a surprise twist, Promises Kept by Scarlett Dunn creates expectations for the rest of the series. Western historical fans will rejoice in a new series to follow, especially since the third book will release April 2016.
TBR Challenge 2016 – Theme: Recommended Read (a book that was recommended to you). This series was recommended to me by another reviewer at Romance Junkies who enjoys many of the same types of books that I do. She reviewed the second book in the series and I just happen to be her volunteer editor at RJ, so she is always filling my TBR with her recommends.
Why was this book in Dorine’s TBR? I really love mail-order bride stories and have been stacking them up to read when I have time. Since this one was the first in a historical western series, it made it more appealing even though the author was new-to-me. I try the majority of new-to-me authors through recommends, review copies, or freebies/sale-priced books.
Victoria Eastman places an ad in the newspaper for a husband, hoping for a positive future for herself and her boys. She accepts an offer to meet the only man who didn’t mention her wifely duties out of the several who answered her ad. All her hopes and dreams for the future are scattered when she arrives in Wyoming Territory to learn that her possible future husband has died.
Colt McBride runs his family’s ranch with some hired hands after his brothers left to find their future when their father died. Colt’s fast draw with a gun has kept him safe so far in a territory that requires protection from others wanting what’s yours. When his best friend turns up dead, Colt blames the one man who is making all their lives a living hell.
Euan Wallace, a rich rancher determined to buy up all the land around him, or use his hired guns to help him acquire it, manages to stay just one step ahead of the law. Especially when he has the sheriff on his payroll and kills the judge.
When Victoria finds out that her now deceased mail-order husband has willed her his farm, she decides to stay on in Wyoming Territory and send for her boys. Colt feels responsible for his best friend’s betrothed and tries to protect her, while maintaining an emotional distance. A sworn bachelor, Colt is attracted to Victoria but not in the least bit interested in obtaining a wife. That is until Euan decides to court Victoria and sway her opinion toward his innocence, hoping to obtain her farm. Will Colt stand by and let Victoria marry Euan before he proves his guilt in his best friend’s death?
A creative story, PROMISES KEPT includes a mail-order husband, ranchers struggling to keep their animals fed and watered, farmers hoping to retain their land, soiled doves causing trouble, a saloon overflowing with whiskey, gambling and gun fights – not always in that order, cattle rustling plus gunslingers on both sides determined to prove their prowess.
I’m particularly fond of mail-order bride stories and westerns so I especially enjoyed the several twists in this one. In addition to the future husband winding up dead, Victoria is running from something but we’re not sure what. There’s also the mystery of the twin boys she’s protecting, as well as the past that haunts her.
I enjoyed this story but there were a few things that felt awkward. There seemed to be too many characters playing the same type of roles when they could have been combined to make the story less confusing, such as two soiled doves causing the same trouble or two gunslingers as villains. Also, I didn’t realize this book was inspirational until toward the end. Without any warning, the faith message came into play and it felt out of place. I enjoy inspirational stories with a faith message but there’s usually some hint earlier in the novel that it’s heading in that direction. The violent nature of the God-fearing hero didn’t always make sense. How can he attend Sunday services, read the Bible and think about killing people consistently and still be a viable believer? I get it that it’s the West in a really rough time and everyone has to defend themselves, but Colt seemed a little blood thirsty and out for revenge for someone trying to convince Victoria to reconnect with her faith. Had he been struggling with his faith and it was Victoria doing the convincing, it would have been less of a red flag.
There was good adventure in this story and some endearing characters. Victoria’s boys are cute and they soften Colt’s rough nature. The dog was a good addition but there was a situation with him that made me wonder about its inclusion. Victoria is a brave woman, restarting her life in a rough territory, especially with the boys and as a single source of income for their survival. I liked her choice of friends and ability to stand up for herself when necessary. Even though Victoria was stereotypically gorgeous in a territory full of men, her good heart and innocence was charming. I liked that her cooking was a big attraction as well and that the book didn’t rely on just her beauty for all the men tripping all over themselves around her.
Although I’m looking forward to more books in this series, I felt that PROMISES KEPT seemed rushed at the end. Adding more characters toward the end makes sense for the next book but I would have preferred to get to know them a bit more at the beginning. It just seemed rushed and overly convenient as a set-up by adding them at the end, making the flow a bit choppy and not as natural as I expected from the majority of the book. The last few chapters took away from the main characters’ romance, so maybe the book should have been a bit longer to compensate for the new introductions.
Even though I found some inconsistencies, they were never enough to stop me from reading. The flavor of the west pulls the story forward with promise of resolution. A good beginning to a western historical series with potential, PROMISES KEPT sets the stage for book two, FINDING PROMISE. Look for LAST PROMISE due to release April 26, 2016. Western inspirational fans will enjoy Scarlett Dunn’s creative style.
Review by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies and The Zest Quest. Print ARC provided by the publisher.
Promises Kept by Scarlett Dunn
Series: The McBride Brothers, Book 1
Category: Historical Western
Publisher: Kensington (August 25, 2015)
Rated 3.5 out of 5
Books 2 and 3 in The McBride Brothers series. Click to buy at Amazon.
Do you enjoy mail-order bride stories? What are some of your favorites?