Monday, 2 December 2013

Book Review: A Bargain Struck by Liz Harris

Publisher: Choc Lit
Published: 2013
Format: Paperback
Length: 314 pages
Summary from Goodreads:

Widower Connor Maguire advertises for a wife to raise his young daughter, Bridget, work the homestead and bear him a son.

Ellen O’Sullivan longs for a home, a husband and a family. On paper, she is everything Connor needs in a wife. However, it soon becomes clear that Ellen has not been entirely truthful.

Will Connor be able to overlook Ellen’s dishonesty and keep to his side of the bargain? Or will Bridget’s resentment, the attentions of the beautiful Miss Quinn, and the arrival of an unwelcome visitor, combine to prevent the couple from starting anew.

As their personal feelings blur the boundaries of their deal, they begin to wonder if a bargain struck makes a marriage worth keeping.

Set in Wyoming in 1887, a story of a man and a woman brought together through need, not love.

In a way, reading this book slightly reminded me of the time I watched the movie Oklahoma!, which is an old musical film about people living in the late 1800s/early 1900s America, particularly in the southern regions, hence the title.

The characters in this book lived in a very small, tight-knit community, the sort of small place where everyone knows everybody else’s business. Connor Maguire, the main male character of the book owns a farm deep in the Wyoming countryside, and has a young daughter, Bridget. He is also a widower who is still mourning the death of his wife and Bridget’s mother.
Ellen O’Sullivan, the other main character, is also a widow, and bears the scar of an accident that claimed her late husband’s life. The two characters come together as Connor needs someone to raise his daughter and help him run his farm, or homestead as the way it is described in the book.

There are also other characters in the book such as Oonagh Quinn, who becomes friends with Ellen, and Connor’s brother Niall, who shakes the farm up when he comes to stay.
Although I’ve read a few books that are set in the 1800s, I haven’t read anything set deep out in the countryside of America, particularly somewhere that sounds like it could be the setting of an old Western movie. The subplot involving Connor’s daughter Bridget was also intriguing; she and Ellen don’t get on at first and she is quite rude to Ellen regarding her scar, but I can certainly understand why a recently bereaved child would act that way towards a strange woman, and nowadays similar situations arise regarding children and their step-parents, so I applaud the author for highlighting an issue that still goes on in modern society.

I was intrigued as to how people led their lives back then, especially people who didn’t live in big cities, and small communities like the one that the book is set in. I found Connor and Ellen pretty likeable characters. I’m still not able to get my head around the fact that people could just advertise for wives in those days and women willingly married people they don’t know. However, as mentioned above it was very interesting to learn about how things worked in that part of America in those times and how simple were the lives that people led.

I would read more books like this as it seems like an interesting sub-genre to write about.