Motherless for many years, life for the four Gerhard sisters of Seabury, Massachusetts, changed abruptly when their father died in 1874. He’d been a professor of medieval history with a home provided for his family by his college. With their father gone, the four sisters are homeless and penniless. Together they come up with the idea to advertize themselves as mail-order brides with the stipulation they all marry men from the same western town so they’ll be neighbors and still able to count on each other for support. When the answer comes from Wyoming territory, with fares for each sister, they head west tp seek out the Sagebrush Knights in shining armor that have spoken for their hands, just like the tales of the middle ages their father had regaled them with. Preacher meets the women and says he will deliver them all, marrying each as he gets to her new home. Yes, each man calls Sagebrush home, but the ranches are hours’ rides apart, and Preacher is a busy man with a funeral to perform at the end of the day when the four weddings are done.
“Knight and Day” is the story of the eldest sister, Evelyn, who had told her prospective husband that she was a widow. She sort of forgot to mention she had a son, Jamie, whose father had died in the Civil War. To her shock, she discovers Gareth has a similar secret in a wild prepubescent daughter, Maddy. While Gareth willingly hands control of Maddy to Evelyn, she is very reluctant to entrust Jamie to him. She wants to protect him and continue to raise him a scholar as she’d begun, but Jamie quickly falls for the cowboy life. What will it take for Evelyn to trust Gareth? Or the bigger issue, what will it take for Evelyn to trust that God is in control of all of them?
In “Lady in Waiting,” Jane discovers her new home is in a soddy and her new husband works long hours in his fixation on becoming a successful rancher. When Jane inadvertently discovers challenging letters from Harrison’s father, including photos of a beautiful woman who’d apparently intended to marry her husband, she feels like a pawn in a game. How will this Plain Jane believe her worth?
The third sister’s story is called “Shining Armor.” When Gwendolyn arrives at Zebulon Parker’s house, she discovers he’s been dead for two weeks and–more shocking, if possible–a grandfather. Preacher figures Matthew will marry Gwendolyn instead, even though the young rancher didn’t even know Granddad had ordered a bride and wanted nothing to do with the scheme. Matthew’s sister Bethany rolls onto the verandah in a wheelchair and Gwendolyn immediately goes to the teenager’s side to help her. Finally a deal is struck. Preacher refuses to take Gwendolyn with him today, but she can stay as Bethany’s companion until the circuit preacher’s next visit when Matthew will pay her fare back East. But Gwendolyn has no intention of leaving. How can she convince Matthew to marry her in only six weeks?
“On a White Charger” tells the tale of the most romantically inclined sister, Emeline. She’d dreamt of her cowboy, her knight on a white charger set to protect her on the open range. What she arrives to is a house burning down and a man refusing to go after the men who’d started the fire. Even worse, if possible, is discovering he runs sheep, not cattle. Emeline is having none of this nonsense, but Preacher isn’t taking her along, so she has no choice but to marry the shepherd. With no house to live in, she also has no choice but to join him and his hands as they move across the rangeland in a covered wagon, suffering insults and threats from the cattlemen and trying to find a reason to respect the man she is wedded to.
Each of the four novellas in Sagebrush Knights is a delightful mail-order-bride story with unique twists of its own. If you enjoy this trope–and I do–you’re sure to love this entire collection.
Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and reading, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical fiction set in the American West. Whenever she’s not following flights of fancy in her fictional world, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two terrific teens, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.
I received an e-copy of this collection for review from NetGalley. Opinions, as always, are mine alone.
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