Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Melissa Jagears's A Bride in Store ~ Reviewed

By Melissa Jagears
Published by Bethany House
Date: September, 2014
356 pages
ISBN: 978-0764211690


Impatient to meet her intended groom and help him grow his general store, mail-order bride Eliza Cantrell sets out on her travels a week early. But her plan goes sadly awry when her train is held up by robbers who steal her dowry and Axel, her groom-to-be, isn't even in town when she finally arrives.

Axel's business partner, William Stanton, has no head for business and would much rather be a doctor. When his friend's mail-order bride arrives in town with no money and no groom in sight, he feels responsible and lets her help around the store--where she quickly proves she's much more adept at business than he ever will be.

The sparks that fly between Will and Eliza as they work together in close quarters are hard to ignore, but Eliza is meant for Axel and a future with the store, while Will is biding his time until he can afford medical school. However, their troubles are far from over when Axel finally returns, and soon both Will and Eliza must decide what they're willing to sacrifice to chase their dreams--or if God has a new dream in store for them both.


I’ve often heard other Christian fiction addicts talk about how they long to read about authentic, flawed characters. We want to know they struggle, that they have weaknesses and faults, and even sin on occasion. Yet, I’ve begun to wonder if there’s an unspoken line regarding what flaws are acceptable. More than that, I wonder if we—or perhaps I should say, I—truly do want to read about characters that struggle with the same things that we do. Fear, insecurities, perhaps the occasional stubbornness--those are appropriate flaws, it seems. But what happens when a character displays a great deal of selfishness? 

Like gold digging selfishness? 

These were the questions I found myself pondering as I read Melissa Jagears A Bride in Store. To be honest, at first I didn’t like the heroine or the story. Though Eliza had many character traits I admire, such as determination, intelligence, perseverance, and inner strength, her continual desire to look out for herself really bothered me. She ultimately parceled herself off as a mail order bride in order to help run a store. Perhaps this was common in her era. I know mail-order brides were, but I’d prefer to read about one who chose such a situation out of desperate need or perhaps to help her orphaned sister. 

And yet, I kept reading. Because Melissa Jagears writes well, and she crafted a plot that, for the most part, intrigued me. Enough that I finished the novel, which says a lot considering the large number of books I have on my shelves. About 100 pages into A Bride in Store, I was glad I persevered. And I began to rethink my initial judgments of Eliza, not because her initial acts were any less selfish but rather, my own acts of selfishness sprang to mind, reminding me of all of our need for grace. 

So, although at first sweet and spunky Eliza caused me to grit my teeth on more than one occasion, the story—a mail order bride, a train robbery, a major unexpected plot twist, and an intriguing small town community—drew me in. In the end, I found Eliza’s journey satisfying. 

I also liked how Melissa Jagears surprised me. I don’t want to spoil the story, but I will say, the hero in this novel turned things upside down, adding a bit of intrigue and mystery. I also really liked William Stanton, the doctor with a tender, perhaps too tender, heart for others. He and Eliza were thought-provoking contrasts, for sure! And they both had realistic flaws, resulting in authentic and dynamic characters. 

All in all, though Eliza irritated me on numerous occasions, I must applaud Ms. Jagears for her courage in presenting a character—Eliza—who is probably more like each of us than we’d care to admit. 

If you enjoy characters who, perhaps, are more like our neighbors than our church buddies and historical romance, you should give a Bride in Store a try. If you do pick it up, I encourage you to stick with it—stick with Eliza. She just might pleasantly surprise you.  
Reviewed by: Jennifer Slattery 

No comments: