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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Book Review: Mail Order Bride: Christy by Vivi Holt

Mail Order Bride: Christy by Vivi Holt
Book 1 in the Orphan Brides Go West series
ARC, e-Book, 146 pages
Black Lab Press
February 18, 2016

Heat Rating:

Genre: Historical Romance, Western

Source: Received from author for beta and review of revised and extended version (from short story to novella)
Christy finds herself orphaned and alone when her parents are tragically killed in a robbery gone wrong. Without a home to return to, she is stranded in a strange town where she discovers the kindness of a stranger and an opportunity for new love.
Brent has lost the love of his life and after years of loneliness he hopes to find a life-long companion through a Mail Order Bride service.
When the two strangers meet sparks fly, but misunderstandings threaten to tear them apart. Before Christy and Brent can have their fairy tale ending they will have to learn to trust each other and take a chance on love.
I first want to note that this review is of the updated version of this story. It was originally released as a short story, which I also read, and since has been expanded to become a novella. While I enjoyed the short story, don’t get me wrong, the fleshed out novella added a lot to the areas that had left me wanting more and is a much better piece for it.

One of the things that I really liked, and that was beneficial in the short story version, is that it opens up right on the major, plot defining action of the train robbery. This event will craft Christy’s future and drive her decisions going forth. I loved diving right into the action. Plenty of backstory is given in flashbacks as Christy deals with the loss of her parents which made up for the lack of exposition caused by starting out with a significant plot event. In these few flashback scenes I found a solid sense of who Christy’s parents were and a starting point for who she was as a person to serve as a benchmark for her development throughout the piece.

Sometimes when reading/reviewing mail-order bride novels I comment on how the situation of the woman becoming a mail-order bride can sometimes feel contrived or underdeveloped, but that is not the case here. I found a true sense of the absolute helplessness that Christy felt upon being left to fend for herself on a trip to relocate out west. Being stuck in a mid-west town with the help of some caring strangers: does she choose to head back to the city of Philadelphia that she just left and no longer belongs; does she try to continue the trip out to California and attempt to start out on her own in a foreign land; or does she try her luck at an endeavor as a mail-order bride in the west where at least she would have someone to support her? I truly felt that her best choice, and possibly one I would have made myself given similar circumstances, was to sign up to be a mail-order bride. That choice offered the best sense of security and place to a woman’s whose whole world had collapsed.

In addition to Christy, we get to know a little bit about Brent, the intended husband. We are offered flashback glimpses of his life too in order to learn about why he applied for a mail-order bride to begin with. Like Christy, his was a sad backstory too. Although I feel he was given a bit less development than the heroine we still get a sound sense of who he is as a person and his actions throughout make sense, however, I would have liked just a little bit more to develop his character fully.

One of the strengths of the author is how she creates a world with a solid sense of both time and place. She has three distinct locations to handle: Philadelphia (seen through Christy’s flashback scenes), Topeka, Kansas (where she spends a little bit of time between the death of her parents and going to her new husband), and Oklahoma (where Brent has his ranch). Each location was distinct – Philadelphia felt like a traditional city with a history to it, Topeka was a bustling, but still up-and-coming city, and the ranch was very rural. You immediately had a sense of what was not available to Christy upon her arrival in Oklahoma and how this would be an entirely different world from the one that she had grown up in. Christy and Brent’s new life together starts off with an upsetting (for Christy) discussion of why they can’t have a church wedding and instantly draws a nice juxtaposition of city versus country living. Another parallel that is drawn is the sense of community, how it grew stronger the farther west Christy traveled. After her loss she did not find help from Philadelphia, only a cold shoulder, but upon arriving in Oklahoma she finds all the friends and neighbors ready to welcome her into their fold and help her get settled and this definitely contributed to the feel of the developing pioneer life in the west.

Things did not always go smoothly for Christy and Brent and for quite some time it was possible that Christy was destined not only to make a huge mess of things but to also head back home. Holt did an excellent job of developing their relationship from one of frustration with one another, to mutual understanding and effort, to deciding if this marriage thing was going to work. I found the relationship development to be realistic especially given the situation in which in came about.

Overall, I think that Holt did a fabulous job crafting this short story into a novella on par with some of the more recent works. I love that she decided to go back and build this one up and give more to the readers. Having read the work twice, I didn’t feel like I was reading the exact same story, the updates added so much to it; so if you read the short story you will not be disappointed to read the novella length book.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book:

Also by Vivi Holt:

Mail Order Bride: Ramona

Mail Order Bride: Katie
[My Review]

Of Peaks and Prairies (Paradise Valley #1)
[My Review]

The Strong One by Vivi Holt (Cutter’s Creek Book 2)
[My Review]

The Betrothed by Vivi Holt (Cutter’s Creek Book 7)
[My Review]

Find Vivi Holt:
Amazon Page | Facebook | Twitter


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