I cried, I laughed, I couldn’t put this down. Set in 1880′s Wyoming, this premise of this story is one that I think is much more common than we’d like to admit – marriages created on the basis of need versus love. Connor Maquire is a recent widow with an 8 year old daughter that he desperately needs help raising. Answering Connor’s advertisement for a wife, Ellen O’Sullivan travels from Omaha to her new home. Once she meets Connor, he discovers the last thing about her that Ellen didn’t divulge in her letters to him. When I started reading I was immediately drawn in and remained so all the way through. This is my first Harris story but will not be my last.
I didn’t like, not even a little bit, Connor for the first half of this story. Connor didn’t expect to nor did he want to feel any emotion toward Ellen, and he told her many times that he was still in love with his dead wife. Furthermore, Connor’s actions and words trickled over to his wonderful daughter. What do children do? Imitate their parents, of course, so you can guess what this would mean for the relationship that Ellen and Bridget have. It’s hard for me to not like a kid in a story but Bridget really tested my patience, a lot.
My emotion ran the gamut until I just had to settle on strong dislike for Connor in his treatment of Ellen. The way Harris wrote her – I can’t say that I was ever not on Ellen’s side. I found fault with a couple of things she did, but I certainly understood why she did them. She’d already had the love of her life and this arrangement with Connor provided her a home and possibly a family who might care if she lived or dies.
I have to go back on this for a little bit, because I do not want to give off the impression that Connor was not likable, but for me I think his words to Ellen were just so blunt and it came off harsh and unfeeling. Interestingly, Connor’s treatment of Ellen was in accordance with the bargain they made; she would come to the territory where he lived, they would marry, she would help him raise his daughter, she would work the homestead, and bear him a child (preferably a son). All these things were expected of Connor from Ellen and that was all.
The writing for both Ellen, Connor and Bridget was superb and the secondary characters were so well done that I found myself either wishing for happiness for some and death and dismemberment for others. Pretty powerful. Connor’s neighbors were some of the more interesting characters and because their dependence on each other was so high, I thought that Harris captured the dynamics.
The pace was spot on. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to put this book down and just wouldn’t because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Now for those of you looking for a bedroom moments, there’s none. We know they do have them because we all know that Ellen wasn’t going to give birth by immaculate conception. I didn’t miss it as I was so focused on the relationships I didn’t even think about not liking this book because of its lack of sex.
The progression of Ellen and Connor’s relationship from need to love was a tear-jerking experience and I would highly suggest that you not read this either in public or at work because yes, you’re going to have teary eyes.
Happy reading folks!
*ARC provided by Choc Lit Publishing
Click to purchase: Amazon
A Bargain Struck
by Liz Harris
Release Date: September 7, 2013
Publisher: Choc Lit