Karen Witemeyer's Short-Straw Bride is neither YA, nor Speculative. (Which you may have already figured out by glancing down at the cover photo below :) However, I cannot pass up the opportunity to tell you how much I adored this book. So, if you'll indulge me, we'll step back in time to 1882 and meet Meredith Hayes and the Archer brothers.
No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a long-standing debt compels her to take the risk.
Years of constant vigilance harden a man. Yet when Travis Archer comes across a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt prompt him to attempt to rescue her once again.
Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she vows to stand by his side. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her as merely a short-straw bride?" -from Short-Straw Bride's back cover
Okay, I admit it. I'm a sucker for a marriage of convenience story. When I heard the premise of this book, I marked my calendar and counted down the days until its release. I enjoyed Witemeyer's Head in the Clouds and her A Tailor-Made Bride previously, so I knew to anticipate an endearing book with original characters.
And Short-Straw Bride did not disappoint. I think it's Witemeyer's best yet.
I connected with spunky, selfless Meredith Hayes on the first page, and Travis Archer won my heart as the noble cowboy and eldest brother as soon as I met him. In fact, all of the Archer brothers were distinct and delightful, even with their anti-social tendencies. I couldn't wait to see how Crockett would tease Travis next, how Neill would try to be taken seriously despite his youth, or when Jim would actually say a word. The relationships between Travis and each of his brothers, as well as the one between Meredith and her cousin Cassie, were deep, unique, and part of the reason I found the book so satisfying.
In addition, Witemeyer's writing is well-paced, funny, and engaging. Both Travis' and Meredith's spiritual journeys developed organically and encouraged me to step back and think about my own submission to and trust in to God's plan. To put it simply: I thoroughly enjoyed every last minute of Short-Straw Bride, and I hope you'll hunt down a copy yourself.
If you want to find out more about Karen or her other books, visit her website. I spent an hour there this afternoon, and my estimation of Karen's awesomeness skyrocketed during that time. Her website includes a Character Corner where you can learn more about the characters in and history behind her books as well as a Fan Fiction Contest page where she's posted a winning entry based on her To Win Her Heart. (Personally, I love how the fan fiction contest engages readers and aspiring writers, and I may have to ask her permission to borrow the idea for my own website in the future).
What about you? Do you have genres you tend to gravitate to? If you do, what are they? And what are some books you love that fall outside of those genres?