Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review: Her Wyoming Man by Cheryl St. John


Courtesan Ella Reed escapes dangerous city life to rural Wyoming and says "I do" to a marriage of convenience! But she may not live the life of a respectable woman for long if she can't keep her past—and her heart—under lock and key.

For a self-made man with political aspirations, love is trivial in a paper marriage. Nathan Lantry needs a wife to secure his election and manage his rowdy little boys. Yet he can't stop wanting more from his irresistible new bride. Then her secrets start to unravel….

In Her Wyoming Man Cheryl St. John again writes a historical romance where passion is subtle but strong, characters are humanly flawed but capable of kindness and love, and where the atmosphere and western setting are the perfect framework.

Ella Reed grew up in a high priced whorehouse in Dodge City, Kansas. She possesses a rare beauty and has been trained since childhood to be a high paid courtesan by Madame Fairchild. Ella has also been kept under lock and key for all those years servicing one "gentleman caller." When the chance presents itself in the form of a newspaper advertisement, Ella, Celeste and a few other working ladies decide to leave Madame's Fairchild's house to live the life of respectable women:
Several gentlemen of means from the Wyoming Territory seek young, intelligent, refined maidens of a loving disposition for the purpose of matrimony. Railroad tickets provided upon acceptance by our liaison. 
Nathan Lantry is a widower, a father of three, and Sweetwater's choice as their representative for the next Wyoming Territory Governor's race. Nathan is not really looking for a wife when he meets Ella, but one look at her and two conversations later quickly change his mind. Two days later Nathan has a new wife and Ella has a new husband, three children and the respectability she craves.

Initially Ella savors everything around her, including her newfound freedom, the children and most of all a man that she truly desires, admires and respects. Nathan is a man of integrity and the best of fathers... and Ella finds herself desiring him more every day. But is she worthy of this man? Eventually Ella has to deal with the fact that her relationship with Nathan is based on deceit.

Nathan is a man with baggage and personal disappointments. As Ella becomes an intricate part of Nathan's life and his passion grows, he realizes how empty that life had become before she came along. Nathan finds in Ella the perfect wife and partner, as well as the perfect mother for his children. Their family becomes exactly what he dreamed it could be. How will he react to her deceit?

In Her Wyoming Man, St. John uses one of my favorite tropes, the mail-order bride where a woman and a man are usually desperate enough to take a huge chance on marrying a stranger, and somehow make the relationship work in the end. This is a classic mail-order bride story.

I love the way these two strangers slowly fall deeply and passionately in love with each other despite their reservations, feelings of guilt, and doubts. I like that no matter how blind they are to their own worth, somehow they can see the other person's clearly. Of course there are always issues to be had with a story line like this one. Thankfully Ella is not portrayed as a calculating woman, even though she is deceitful and therefore manipulative to a certain extent. Ella is a sympathetic character throughout the story even when she's lying. And Nathan? Well, he was deceived so his reactions are understandable. Truthfully although his view of perfection vs. reality gave me a few moments of anxiety along the way, ultimately I liked the way he processed the situation.

Secondary characters don't take the focus away from the main couple, however they are very much a part of this romance. The community's views on what a wife represents and how she reflects on her husband, as well as the social life and class distinctions in a small town are all beautifully detailed. And how did all those other women who travelled with Ella to Sweetwater fare? Those relationships are key to Ella and Nathan's romance and to the overall story.

In Her Wyoming Man you'll find deceit, passion, warmth, love and forgiveness. I find it interesting that even with all those issues to resolve, this isn't an angst-ridden or high tension read. Instead, a sense of buoyancy, happiness and hope for the future seem to permeate the story. I recommend this book to those who love a family-oriented historical romance with a dash of passion that leaves the reader with a warm glow at the end.

Category: Historical Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Harlequin Historical/June 21, 2011
Source: Copy received from author
Grade: B

Visit Cheryl St. John here.

10 comments:

  1. Definitely sounds like my kind of book and I love Cheryl St. John, so I'll definitely be checking this one out! thanks for the review

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  2. This is my favorite historical trope and it's Cheryl St. John so you know I'm getting this. :) Great review Hils!

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  3. Alex, I hope you enjoy it!

    Leslie, I knew you'd like this one. *g* Enjoy!

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  4. I don't think I've ever read a mail order bride romance. I should give it a try because I do enjoy romances in which strangers fall deeply in love.

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  5. Lovely review Hils! I must confess to loving the marriage of convenience trope, especially the mail-order bride version! I will definitely need to keep an eye out for this :)

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  6. Christine, wow! There are so many beautiful books written for this trope. (Sigh)... this is a good example. :)

    Orannia, St. John seems to excel at writing a marriage of convenience story, and here's one with the mail-order bride. :)

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  7. I keep saying I should give this author a try and I never do. High time I put myself into gear! Sounds like a great story!

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  8. Nath, you should! You already have Joe's Wife, my favorite St. John story -- that's a marriage of convenience story. But I like this one for the additional mail-order bride trope, plus I think you'll like the fact that although there's conflict, there's not a lot of angst. Cheryl St. John writes some wonderful family-oriented romances full of warmth and emotion. I've enjoyed all of them so far. :)

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  9. Thanks so much for the review! Glad you enjoyed the story!

    SMOOCHES,
    Cher :-)

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  10. Cheryl, loved Nathan and Ella. Thanks for the stories. :)

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