Saturday, May 16, 2009

THE BRIDEGROOM by Linda Lael Miller

It's the early 1900's, but the Old West is dying hard. Early twentysomething Gideon Yarbro is on his way home, hired to disrupt a miners' strike before it gets started. Meanwhile, Lydia, a little girl he once knew, is 18 now and about to marry a dirty old goat because he's rich and can keep her aunts out of the ditch. Of course, she'd rather roll in the hay with a young studmuffin, but she's rather immature for her age and can't figure any other way out. Besides, girls still didn't have much opportunity for education or career in that time period, you know.
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Lydia's an orphan raised by her aunts and a sharpwitted housekeeper. The aunts' fiances both died and neither ever married. In spite of enduring a jackass husband for years, the housekeeper retained her belief that Happily Ever After is possible. So, even though these three foster moms are pretty much clueless in helping Lydia figure men out and decide how to navigate relationships, they do love her and they do all believe in True Love. Unfortunately, Lydia won't open up to them about her true feelings and only the housekeeper figures it out. She hounds Lydia to call off the wedding.
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Gideon checks on his mail and is stunned to receive a letter from Lydia, a letter he'd written for her to send him if she ever needed help. Now he hasn't seen her in a decade, but he's a man of his word and also more than a little curious about what kind of lady she's grown up into. And so he rushes to her side just before the wedding. She's a little freaked out about that and the housekeeper's pushing her to jump him and run. Gideon visits her fiance, realizes he's a dirty old goat, and asks him to postpone the wedding while Lydia rethinks her choice. The fiance won't, of course, because he's a dirty old goat about to get his hands on a pretty little virgin.
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You're probably thinking Gideon rescues the Bride. Well, he does, but he's not just any Old West Hero. He also takes the aunts and the housekeeper too. Talk about a trainfull!
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To keep the fiance from using his political and financial power to get Lydia back, Gideon marries her on the spot. That night they go to bed husband and wife after having not had any contact with each other since they were kids. But, don't start thinking, 'Oh, right, another great nookie equates true love which ensures Happily Ever After story.' I know you're too smart for that. I told you Gideon wasn't your average Old West Hero. Even though he could easily take advantage of her and the law of the day would be on his side, he won't go all the way with her. He's been brought up proper like and realizes she may want an annullment later on, which she can only get if the marriage isn't consummated. So, while he's going on like the honorable dude, she's thinking her new husband doesn't love her. Although, she does have to admit to herself it's better to be in a loveless marriage with a gorgeous studmuffin who's also a good kisser. Of course, if she would just sit down and discuss things with Gideon, it would all quickly work out. But, I've known plenty of girls who married young and were too self-conscious to talk to their husbands, and they were already in love! And, remember, the women who raised her didn't know a darn thing about marriage-building either. Meanwhile, poor Gideon's your average clueless male who's mama wasn't around to explain things about girls.
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And so this lovely young couple need to fall in love and build a relationship AFTER they've gotten married. It's all believably done if you're familiar with the culture way back when. Except, I was terribly curious to know where Gideon learned so much about what a girl likes in bed. In that time and place, the wife's sexual needs were rarely considered. Maybe his happily married big brothers told him. Anyway...
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Anyway, the fiance catches up with them and, of course, he couldn't care less about Lydia's feelings, because she's just property to him, like a prize cow or something. He's only worried the studmuffin who carried her off has gotten to the cherry before him. Luckily, the law is on Lydia's side this time. She insists she loves her new husband and that they are married in the eyes of God and man, even though they actually haven't completely Done The Deed. The fiance's really ticked off, but the law dudes make him leave. But, now, Lydia's afraid the ex-fiance will come back, 'cause he's really, really ticked off now. Meanwhile, Gideon's learning the miners he's been sent to stop from striking are on the verge of starvation because of working conditions. Ah, the trials of young love.
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You know, I can't remember the last time I've read a Western of any kind. Hey, I was born and raised here. I already know how to bag a moose, field-dress it, and have it on the barbecue pit by sundown, although I have a Heroic Husband to do all that for me now. I prefer stories set far and away. However, Ms. Miller has such an engaging style that I couldn't resist.
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THE BRIDEGROOM is due out in August. Don't miss it. Pop over to Ms. Miller's website to learn more- http://www.lindalaelmiller.com/ She has a huge backlist.

1 comment:

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

It's been years since I've read one of Linda Lael Miller's books. I didn't know she had written anything set in the early 20th century.