Unbridled Montana Passion is the book 6 of Ramona Flightner’s ongoing Bear Grass Springs series. I’ve had quite an ambivalent feeling towards this series since it began, quite unlike Ramona’s Banished Saga. But I think it’s growing on me and I feel like I’m quite invested in the lives of these characters right now to continue on with it. So kudos to her!
Bear Grass Springs is set in 1880s Montana. I’m a big fan of Ramona’s Banished Saga, soon to end after a long run and always recommended from me. Bear Grass Springs is quite different than this series in the sense that the former is more of a family saga spanning generations, rather than your typical story and HEA for one couple per installment. Though Bear Grass Springs does have HEA in each installment for each H and h featured, you still get the vibe of being with a family and getting to know them better while reading about the MacKinnons.
Bear Grass Springs began with the stories of the 3 MacKinnon brothers Cailean, Alistair and Ewan, in the first 3 installments respectively titled Montana Untamed, Montana Grit and Montana Maverick. They also have a younger sister called Sorcha who got her story told in book 5 titled Montana Wrangler. They hailed from Scotland, but have settled in the Bear Grass Springs Montana in search of a better life. Cailean and Alistair own the only livery in town, which they’ve managed to make a successful business out of. Ewan is a carpenter and his business is thriving as well. The brothers were much sought after bachelors until they settled down with the love of their lives, Cailean with the town baker Annabelle, Alistair with Leticia who was a school teacher before she began helping Annabelle with her rapidly growing bakery business. Ewan finally found someone to love in Jessamine, a news reporter at that time newly arrived in Bear Grass Springs. Sorcha had been at odds with Frederick, a recurring character, for much of the series. Then it was revealed that they actually harbored feelings for one another.
This series also has some wonderful secondary characters like Bears who is part Native American, works in the livery with Caliean and Alistair. There’s Fidelia, Annabelle’s sister who had the misfortune to arrive at the town long before Annabelle did and had to turn to the life of prostitution until her rescue later in the series with the collective efforts of the MacKinnons. We met Harold and Irine who own the most popular café in the town, Frederick is their grandson. There is also the town lawyer Warren and his wife Helen, who had their story in Montana Renegade, a book I loved! Both are good friends with the MacKinnons, though their friendship had been tested more than once due to a singularly unpleasant character. In one of the installments, we were introduced to the Norwegian immigrants Nathanial, his sister Leena and his friend Karl, who’d arrived in Bear Grass Springs for much the same reason as the MacKinnons. Leena, a gifted baker, had worked in Annabelle’s baker until she had a baby. Leena and Karl’s story can be found in a lovely novella titled Jubilant Montana Christmas.
Now Bears and Fidelia, the two ‘outcasts’ of the series have been on my mind ever since they were introduced. Fidelia, as I mentioned, had the misfortune to run into extreme bad luck that led her down to a path she never thought she’d ever have to. And Bears just because of his lineage. His Native American heritage hasn’t made life easy for him, as it was for many like him at the time when the book was set. Needless to say many people of Bear Grass Springs were wary of him, if not downright hating him. But Bears was one of the most amazing individuals you’d ever met! Apart from his Indian wisdoms that we came to know him for, Bears was intelligent and very loyal. But most importantly, he possessed a kind heart that drew Fidelia to him instantly. Even though you don’t get a lot of hints in the beginning, after her rescue from the brothel, Fidelia needed someone badly and I think behind the scene, things were happening between them that we didn’t know of.
I will tell you now that for a while I knew Fidelia and Bears would be paired just because of their circumstances. I also thought after all she’d suffered at the brothel, Fidelia needed someone like Bears to rely on; like a rock, strong and steadfast because that was the type of person he was.
In this book, we also got to learn a lot about Fidelia’s own life before her unfortunate stint into the brothel. I don’t know how long she was in there, maybe 5 before Annabelle arrived in Bear Grass Springs, but that was enough to break her. Maybe not in spirit but she was quite definitely on her way there and needed fast intervention. She was being abused daily and had no one to turn to. Annabelle had been the unwavering ally she needed from day one, trying to convince Fidelia that she needs to break out of that place. But thus far, we only knew that she left home young with a beau, to whom she was never married, because her father was domineering a-hole. He made their lives hell and Fidelia, the beauty of the duo, couldn’t get away fast enough. Sadly though, the man with whom she eloped, Aaron, turned out to be another kind of a-hole, who I felt only used her until he died of something. He wasn’t a hard worker and they weren’t really living well to begin with. On top of that, Fidelia found herself pregnant, almost penniless and all alone after Aaron died. She left the town they were living in and been wondering about for a while. Then her child came and she had no idea what she would do to take care of him. It was such a heartbreaking story that I felt horrible for her. :(
Fidelia may not have had a lot of skills but she was an expert at lacemaking. I don’t know how come she couldn’t find a job at a seamstress, maybe because she was alone and didn’t know what to do in a new town. She was then forced to give up her son at an orphanage and leave. She came to Bear Grass Springs in hopes for a better future. Maybe she had plans to take back her son once she had the means to do so, but that didn’t happen. She got entrapped in the plan the Madame of the town brothel hatched the moment she saw her. Fidelia found herself living a seemingly never-ending nightmare.
That was how Fidelia lived until Annabelle found her. I’d say she became quite hopeless, never ever dreamt of living a better or a different life than the one she was living. She rejected Annabelle’s help many times, thinking she isn’t worth it. :( But Annabelle did her best to tell, and show Fidelia that she loved her still and won’t give up on her despite the circumstances.
Bears, on the other hand, met the MacKinnons through his father who was a trapper. His father, dying of what I thought was cancer, came to the MacKinnons knowing they were a kinder bunch than the rest of the townspeople. He bought a partnership of the livery when the MacKinnons needed money badly (you’ll find all of that in the first installments of the series), requesting them to take on Bears when he passes away. Of course, the MacKinnon brothers kept their word and Bears came to work with them. He was also exceedingly good at handling and taking care of horses which helped. The MacKinnons began to rely on him more and more, welcoming him as a part of their extended family rather than a helping hand. But for usual reasons, Bears was pretty introvert. Always keeping to himself, living modestly. We also learn that he was married once but his flighty wife eloped with another man, thinking he’s weak and has no future because he loved trapping and living in the wild more than anywhere else. But that wasn’t an option for Bears any longer and he loved his current life. And now, his wife was also dead.
Bears and Fidelia’s relationship is quite slow burning despite what the title of this book might make you think. It took both of them a while, but mainly Fidelia, to come to the point where they could finally acknowledge their feelings and felt comfortable enough to think of further intimacy. I could totally understand Fidelia’s reluctance. She wanted it but her experience where physical intimacy was concerned has never been a pleasant one, apparently not even when she was with Aaron. Then she has hid the fact about her son from everyone, even Annabelle, being utterly ashamed of everything that has happened to her back then. She wasn’t sure how Bears would handle the truth. Trust me when I tell you that he handled it all as gracefully as I thought he would.
But Bears also had his own cross to bear when, one day, a letter arrived from his late wife. The letter was held somewhere for a while, then finally delivered to him. It came bearing the news of a lifetime; that his wife had had a child after she eloped. It meant that there was a little girl living at an orphanage who may or may not be his own. But Bears didn’t care whether or not the girl was his. He wanted her to have a life with him rather than where she was now (when you read the description of how she was being treated there, you’d only thank Bears profusely). But it was given that he won’t be able to do anything himself and once again, Warren came to the rescue as the excellent lawyer, and friend, that he was. With his help Bears brought Mildred home. She had obvious Indian heritage so there was no doubt as to who the father was (the man her mother eloped with was white). Bears named her Bright Fawn as her mother had called her in her last letter to him.
There was a lot that you’d get in Unbridled Montana Passion, from the whole MacKinnnon bunch to Bears and Fidelia’s complicated yet fast growing relationship, to his own with his daughter. Then there was Mildred’s relationship with Fidelia who desperately wanted the little girl’s approval. Before their marriage, there were concerns about Bears and Fidelia’s married life, but when they finally crossed that threshold, they knew they’d done the right thing. Mildred knew kindness when she saw it and she understood Fidelia will be there for her always with open arms, with the affection she missed since her mother had died. I wasn’t surprised when she finally began calling Fidelia Mama. :) Of course, there was the bad guy trying to ruin it for everyone as usual but I don’t want to talk about that pathetic piece of nothing. All I thought was good riddance when he died!
But there was one thing during the whole story that stuck to me the most. Fidelia missed her own little boy something fierce. I mean you could feel it coming off the pages, it was that palpable from every memory of her boy even though he was only a few weeks, if not days, old. So I had hoped to see a reunion between Fidelia and her son much like Bears had his. Disappointingly, it never came to pass in here. I’m keeping my hopes up though. I pray that Fidelia finally finds her son, or at least some news of him to give her some peace even if she’s to be a mother soon. Another surprise; a joy she never thought she’d experience again.
I really enjoyed Unbridled Montana Passion, which will be another favorite of mine in the series. Super glad that Fidelia and Bears finally found their HEA! If two people needed that the most, it was these two. I’m looking forward to the next installments, most especially of Nathaniel’s story. 4.25 stars and highly recommended for the fans of the series.