Early one morning, widow, Molly Sheffield discovers an unconscious man with a gunshot wound on her property. His appearance leads her to believe that he must be a migrant worker who escaped a raid on the neighboring farm the previous night. Molly is just about to call for an ambulance when the man begins urgently murmuring about someone named Josephina. The compassionate nurse in her cannot bear the thought of this man being separated from his loved one if he were to be deported, so she takes him back to her home to care for him herself.
Alejandro Sosa came to America illegally to care for his young niece after her mother died. During the raid, the two of them were separated and now he desperately needs to find the sick little girl. "Saint Molly" became a godsend to Alejandro, not only nursing him back to health, but also covertly searching for the child he loves like his own. Once found, it becomes clear that little Josephina will need urgent and long-term medical care, so Molly proposes a green card wedding to make it possible for Alejandro to stay by Josephina's side. Molly's brother is resentful of the immigrants and adamantly opposes the match, leading to trouble for the pair. Alejandro and Molly may have married for the sake of convenience, but when their pretend love becomes all to real for both of them, will they be able to admit it to themselves and convince everyone around them before it's too late?
Rio Grande Wedding is the best category romance that I've read to date and one of the best inter-racial/inter-ethnic romances I've ever read too. I love that this author isn't afraid to tackle difficult or perhaps even controversial topics, and she does so with dignity and compassion. In Rio Grande Wedding, Ruth Wind has created a unique story that explored the issue of illegal immigration from both sides of the coin, and managed to present sympathetic reasons not only for why a foreigner might choose to come to America illegally, but also why some Americans are adamantly against it. By presenting the different points of view, I think she was able to show just how complex this matter can truly be. Ms. Wind writes with a great deal of poignancy both on this issue and the cultural differences that are inherent in an inter-racial relationship, and is especially talented at penning the forbidden love aspect. Her voice is always deeply emotional and rather languid, sometimes bordering on the poetic, especially when she's describing the beautiful settings. This book really pulled me in right from the start, tugging at my heartstrings with a lonely widowed heroine, a seriously injured hero, a sick little girl who was left all alone, and the scruffy stray dog that befriends her. It was a very engaging story to read, and always a pleasure to pick back up after having to set it aside to do other things.
Alejandro is one of the sweetest and gentlest beta heroes I've ever read. He has an Old World charm about him that presents itself not only in his cultural traditions, but also in his gentlemanly ways that occasionally seem a bit old-fashioned. Alejandro is a passionate man who loves with his whole heart, and learned early in life that he can't make love without falling in love which is something I found to be utterly endearing. I thought that having a hero who doesn't get instantaneously aroused in spite of having broken bones and a gunshot wound was a refreshing change with a little dose of realism to it. The author also breaks stereotyping by showing that Alejandro wasn't the kind of guy one would typically think of as an illegal alien, because he has a good solid background with loving family ties in Mexico. Even Molly is ashamed at times when she realizes that the things she has unintentionally thought about him and immigrants in general aren't necessarily true. Alejandro is a man with a deep love of the land, modest hopes and dreams, a natural talent for both art and music and best of all, he truly knows the meaning of honor. He is always tender and kind toward Molly and a wonderful, loving father-figure to his niece, Josephina. This book won the Romantic Times WISH (Women In Search of Heroes) Award, and I can definitely see why. Alejandro was a very unusual hero who was a pleasure to read about.
Ever since her parents died when she and her brother were still in their teens, Molly has always been living her life for someone else while putting her own hopes and dreams on the back burner. At the urging of her aunts, Molly became a nurse like her mother and while she likes her work and is good at it, she misses not having studied art like she wanted to. Still, she felt that she had a responsibility to get a stable job to finish raising her brother. Then she married her high school sweetheart and their lives became consumed with his dream of starting a working farm. When he tragically died, Molly tried to take charge of her life and move into her dream house in town, but was dissuaded by her brother. Now she lives a comfortable but rather lonely life in her rural farmhouse far from town. When Molly finds Alejandro seriously injured on her property, she takes a huge risk by helping him, but in doing so, feels more free and alive than she has in years. Alejandro awakens not only her passions but a newfound zest for life, as well as helping her put the shadows of the past to rest once and for all. Molly is just an all-around nice heroine who is all too eager to help others, and in the process has lost sight of what she needs and wants from life and must learn to step back to rediscover those things.
Occasionally, I found myself wishing for a few more details on certain things or just having a simple feeling of wanting to know more, but for the most part I think this was a weakness caused by the limited length of the book rather than the author's writing ability. For a category romance, Rio Grande Wedding was a surprisingly good and thought-provoking story that broke many of those typical romance clichés. In fact, I think that Ms. Wind took a risk in writing it, and I love it when an author tries to break out of the mold to create something unique. I can see how readers who are really bothered by the issue of illegal immigration might have difficulties with this one especially in our current international climate (this was written pre-9/11). However, I can assure everyone that Alejandro has noble reasons for his actions and I think that those who are open-minded or simply looking for an unusual story will find a very special gem here. All the characters, including the secondary ones, were vividly rendered as though they might be actual people somewhere, making me wonder if the author patterned any of them after people she knows in real life. In any case, they were the types of people I could see myself being friends with if they actually existed. I will admit that the censure that Molly received from her brother, Josh, was rather strong and therefore, overcome a bit too easily, but it didn't really detract from my enjoyment of the story. Overall, Rio Grande Wedding was a sweetly emotional read that I really enjoyed. It is the second and from what I can tell, the only other book in Ruth Wind's Men of the Land multi-line series. The first was a Silhouette Special Edition titled, Meant to Be Married. I'm not sure if there are any character or plot connections between the two, but they both feature rugged heroes who love the land and an inter-racial romance. Rio Grande Wedding is my second keeper in a row from this talented writer which definitely earns her a spot on my favorite authors list. Ruth Wind also writes as Barbara Samuel and Babara O'Neal.
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