Monday, September 24, 2018

Benjamin's Bride (Lawmen's Brides #2), by Natalie Dean

September 2018

Mary-Lee Jameson's father, Texas Ranger Aurelius Jameson, left some crucial papers with her and rode away from the home she lived in with her nanny and the housekeeper, when she was twelve. It was not long before, her father missing and presumed dead, her uncle, Augustus, arrives to take her from Oklahoma to Kansas. He has no time to waste from his criminal activities on raising his brother's daughter, so he sends her to school.

Eight years later, he still wants the papers he suspects her father gave her, and which he still hasn't found. At twenty, she's working as a teacher, but he figures he can force her to marry Lance Townsend, who'll beat out of her the papers' hiding place and split the wealth with Augustus Jameson.

Because the papers are the deeds to gold mines. Mary-Lee knows that now, and that she's rich if she can hang on to them--and a dependent victim if she allows herself to be forced to marry Townsend.

She places an advertisement offering herself as a mail-order bride. Most men might not have found her rather specific demands attractive, but Deputy U.S. Marshall Benjamin Graves is very interested, and asks her to come to Knox Mills, Texas, to be his wife.

As doesn't always happen in these cases, Mary-Lee's perhaps overly honest advertisement has resulted in the two parties make what is a good choice for them. Their courtship within marriage is sweet and believable. The Townsends are a large and ambitious family, and Mary-Lee is not happy to find they have their tentacles in Knox Mills, too. Nor has her uncle given up his plan.

Benjamin and Mary-Lee have to learn to be a partnership, as well as figure out how to successfully oppose the Townsends and claim the property Mary-Lee owns--all the gold mines in the world aren't worth much if you can't claim and exploit them.

It is a bit funny, in a story set in the 1850s, to have Benjamin and his colleagues and friends crowing happily about what an exemplar of freedom the slave state of Texas is. Texas, after all, seceded from first Mexico and then the USA, in order to preserve the right of landowners to also own human beings. However, at least none of the people we're asked to regard as heroes in this book own any slaves.

Overall, I enjoyed it, and the absence of any slaves present in the story will probably let most readers enjoy it without indulging in my snark about the Texans' morally ridiculous position on "freedom" in the only state that seceded from two countries attempting to preserve slavery.

Recommended with attendant snark.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the author and am reviewing it voluntarily.