My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Last month, I was craving for a good Historical Western read, and Linda Broday’s Texas Mail Order Bride seemed to fit the bill perfectly. The author being a new-to-me prior to this, I didn’t know what to expect, but right now I’m glad I read this book. Texas Mail Order Bride, book 1 of the Bachelors of Battle Creek, had a lovely story with some down-to-earth characters who have known their share of hardship in life.
Delta, an orphan has never known the love of a parent. Her father never acknowledged her while her weak-willed mother always blamed her for her ‘fallen’ state. Needless to say, because of her illegitimacy, the society didn’t accept her either, she always being the brunt of one vile rumor or the other. The result? The poor girl has been battling heartbreak since her childhood. There is no detail accounting of Delta’s life in Georgia, before she set foot in the town of Battle Creek in Texas to become a mail order bride to a man she’d never known but for a few nice letters. Delta wanted to escape her past, and moving to a faraway place, with a dream to have her own family, seemed like the perfect solution for her miserable life. She’s beautiful, though she never was acknowledged as such before. But never in her life she dreamed that the man she thought to have been corresponding with for the past months directly rejecting her, not to mention completely denying the responsibility of writing of those letters! His reason? He wants to remain a bachelor forever. Oh boy, talk about more heartbreak. :(
When she’s rebuffed by Cooper Thorne, Delta had nowhere else to go, had no money to return to Georgia. Not that she wanted to as she had buried that part of her life. Determined to make a life in this new town, Delta seeks out work at a local store. The owner, a grouchy elderly man, refuses to help her at first. But after observing her ways with the customer, as well as her care for the old store, he grudgingly accepts her as an assistant. Delta had already been staying at a local boarding house, whose female owner, Mabel, becomes a good friend in no time. Unfortunately, Delta can’t keep her thoughts away from the handsome rancher’s steely grey eyes, and hurt his rejection caused her. And so, when she’d find Cooper in the store, Delta would try to hold herself up with a stiff greeting, best she could do in the wake of the hurt and humiliation she’d felt at his rejection.
To anyone reading this, Cooper probably comes off as an a$$ but he truly didn’t know who wrote those letters. When his brother Rand came to him with the news, he was shocked. Cooper and his brothers, Rand and Brett, have no intentions of becoming leg-shackled. That’s why they even opened a Bachelor’s Club, something that Delta found silly (have to say, me too). Cooper had apologized to the beautiful blonde girl who claimed to have been invited to come here to marry him but he rejected her with regrets. If not for his unpleasant past, he’d probably accept the offer that instant. Right now, he wants to find the culprit who wrote those letters and made him such villain in the eyes of Delta Dandridge.
Cooper, Rand and Brett aren’t brothers by blood but became so by circumstances, out of necessity but they love each-other just the same and are fiercely loyal to one-another. All were orphaned young when they met, and Cooper being the eldest of the three, have been taking care of Rand and Brett. He has his own ranch, Long Odds, a bit away from the town, build through much blood and sweat. It has been Cooper’s dream that finally came to fruition after they rode to this town some years ago. Rand, a couple of years younger than Cooper’s late 20s, is the handsomest of them all. He’s already proven to be a ladies’ man, running a saloon in Battle Creek. He’s a successful businessman and avoids anything shady in his saloon. Brett, the youngest, is half-Indian. He also owns a ranch, Wild Horses, though it seemed to me that he solely takes care of it. He’s more reserved, seems much older than his early 20s. All of them are well-known to Battle Creek and are in good standing with its people (Rand’s heartbreaker reputation notwithstanding). Cooper is proud of them both, as they are of him.
Cooper’s father was a violent man, something we learn much later in the story. Cooper knew he inherited his father’s temper, a fact that scared the hell out of him. This was why he didn’t want to marry at all because he was very reluctant to have children after suffering what he had. All three brothers also shared another secret; an old enemy. A vile, abusive man named Talbot Early. The brothers thought they’ve gotten rid of that piece of junk long time ago when they found him abusing a young Brett. It was never said out loud, but I assumed that’s what happened. I don’t know correctly how they came to know Early but there was a scuffle and Cooper seemed to have pulled the trigger. That was another thing made Cooper think he’s not good husband material. Though he didn’t regret what he did to save his brothers, he still murdered men. After that incident, they ran. Finally, all three were taken in by a kindly man, who raised them as his own. Cooper had a few more missions in his mind, including making his ranch a success.
We find Long Odds in turmoil much early in the story. Someone was trying to sabotage Cooper by mixing up sick animals with his healthy herd in the dead of the night. If his animals got sick one by one, it would be a calamity that would surely bring down his ranch, which seems to be the exact idea behind it all. This made Cooper anxious as well as suspicious. But not knowing the culprit, he notches up the security around Long Odds. Soon enough though, he gets his answer. It’s as if their past has returned to haunt them. Apparently they didn’t get rid of Talbot Early, who is now hell-bent on revenge; his primary target is to destroy Cooper.
We also get to know some secondary characters like the boarding house owner, Mable and her sister, Jenny, who was being abused by her husband. Cooper was protective of Jenny, something that made Delta jealous in the beginning. The assumptions she’d made regarding their relationship, I didn’t see why she did because Cooper obviously saw Jenny as a younger sister. But Jenny becomes a friend of Delta nonetheless. There was Mr. Abercrombie, the store owner where Delta was working. A Granny Kechum, who becomes Delta’s adoptive grandmother in no time. She loved spending time with the old woman and taking care of her needs. There was also Widow Sharp, a mysterious woman who always loved keeping herself under veil, as if still mourning her deceased husband. She was working at Rand’s bar as a baker. Funnily enough, no one had ever seen her face or had any idea about her past. The revelation about Widow Sharp’s relationship with Rand, along with the identity of the mysterious letter writer, comes into light at the end of the story.
While she was working, or trying to avoid Cooper Thorne, Delta was also planning greater things for Battle Creek. But she didn’t know that she had already slain Cooper, posing a threat to his peace of mind. He won’t say it out loud but he won’t deny it either. No matter how much he tries to ignore the pang somewhere near his heart every time he’s near her, Cooper knows she’d gotten into him. Delta is inherently caring and kind, qualities not only captured Cooper but the rest of the people of Battle Creek. He even warns Rand when it became apparent that he was harboring some ideas about her. As I said, Rand was kinda ‘love ‘em, leave ‘em’-type, and knowing him, Cooper didn’t want to see Delta hurt. When she begins to win the people around her by planning projects and ideas to improve the ramshackle town, Cooper couldn’t help but be impressed. She’s not only beautiful, but smart as well! And it seemed that she’s doing everything in her power to do some good for the town that she’d adopted as her home.
Cooper is forced to be on Early’s trail when he begins to become a menace around his ranch. He sets a rigorous pace with Brett and Rand joining him, but it seems that Early is still as devious as he was before, that age hasn’t soften him up, for he kept on fooling them and escaping in time. Then we learn that Early has formulated a plan to bring Cooper down...
In the meantime, the frostiness between Cooper and Delta begins to thaw. Different circumstances regarding people they care about bring them together more than once and at one point, they end up kissing. After that there was no turning back. Cooper, though still unsure about any future for them, didn’t want to deny his feelings. Delta has always been attracted to him, and though hurt before, by now knew him much better. She knew she was falling in love with him, which made the whole situation doubly miserable for her. People around him only had praise for him; his hard work, loyalty, his caring nature. Delta has witnessed all these herself, so she couldn’t help but fall for him bit by bit. When they finally become lovers, it didn’t feel awkward or rushed to me. I knew it was building from a long time. While Delta didn’t care if she’s a ‘fallen woman’ now as long as she has Cooper, he was still trying to grab a hold of the whole situation. Oh he wants to have her, not just as a lover, but for a lifetime but old vulnerabilities won’t let him take any risk. Once he comes clean about why he didn’t want to get married, it was up to Delta to give him hope, to make him understand that he was a good man and nothing like his nasty father.
Delta’s projects were taking shape brilliantly, but so was trouble following her footsteps. One was Early’s first attack on her. It surprised her, and knowing about the man already, she was scared to death. Because Cooper was hot on his trail that he was able to save her in time. But it also made Early’s plan clear to me. He knows one very weak spot of Cooper Thorne that can very well help him succeed in his vengeance. Nevertheless, this incident made Cooper more protective of Delta. Then she runs into financial problems. Every restoration and construction on the old buildings needed money, if not the rest of her projects. A very unexpected solution to that situation comes to Delta one day out of nowhere; a source of money that she never even imagined she had. And she puts a big chunk of it for her projects, making her another winner in the small town.
The last couple of chapters were amazing! From Delta and Cooper’s romance, the yearning to be together, to Cooper, Rand and Brett’s mission to find Early to get rid of him once and for all, I can say there were no shortage of thrilling moments in Texas Mail Order Bride. No headache inducing melodrama either. I also enjoyed the writing, as Linda Broday brought each character to life. Cooper was absolutely sexy, while I found Delta to be smart and enchanting. I’m thinking Rand and Brett would have their own stories as well. I can’t wait to find out more about the brothers! 4 solid stars and recommended.
This ARC was provided to me by Sourcebooks Casablanca via netgalley which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.