Bess Craig came to Lickwind as a mail-order bride to be near her sisters, but she isn't in any hurry to get married. With the two oldest Craig sisters already spoken for and raising babies, Bess sees it as her responsibility to keep her youngest sister Bertie out of trouble. She decides they're going to move into town and start a little business providing food and baked goods to the men of the town, but she has nowhere to set up shop except possibly the jail.
Gideon Riker, the local saloon owner, is rather taken with Bess the moment she marches into his saloon one Sunday morning, all but demanding he allow them to use the building for their church service. The last thing he needs though, is a wife, especially one as prim, proper and bossy as Bess, so he surprises even himself by offering to rent the new house he just built for himself to Bess and Bertie. Then, Bess goes and stirs up trouble in town by offering to teach the dance hall girls how to read and write, and doing it in Gideon's saloon. Gideon soon has his hands full defending her to the other men of the town who deem her activities improper, while also keeping her safe from troublemakers and wild animals, and before long, he can't deny he's head-over-heels in love with her.
From Pride to Bride is the story of the third Craig sister, Bess. She and their youngest sister Bertie move into town and open a restaurant of sorts, selling food and baked goods to the men of the town. Bess also stirs things up by offering to teach the soiled doves in town how to read and write. Her efforts attract the attention of Gideon, the local saloon owner, who just can't seem to get her off his mind or out of his heart.
While the title suggests that Bess was prideful, she doesn't really show it much, which was a huge blessing. Yes, she's a bit taken aback when one of the dance hall girls wants to join the church service, but she gets over it very quickly. From then on out, she's totally non-judgmental, treating the girls with kindness and respect. She extends that same attitude toward Gideon, the saloon owner who has caught her eye. Even though she admits that before moving to Lickwind, she might have thought differently about people like these, she realizes that they each have a story and shouldn't be looked down upon for simply trying to make a living. Bess is everything a Christian should be to my way of thinking, actually allowing the love of Christ to shine through her into the community and committing herself to doing good works. I love Bess's spunk and spirit. She's unfortunately earned the nickname "Bossy Bess," and while she certainly does stand up for herself, she's never annoying. As a secondary character in the first two novellas, I wasn't quite sure if I would like her as well as her sisters, Matty and Corrie, but she's now become my favorite heroine so far.
Gideon was an awesome hero too. Despite his questionable business dealings, he has a heart of gold. He's attracted to Bess from the moment she comes marching into his saloon, all but demanding he allow them to hold a church service there. He tries to brush it off, not understanding why he'd be drawn to such a seemingly prim, proper young woman, but to his own mystification, he finds himself offering to rent Bess and her sister the brand new house he'd built for himself and was very much looking forward to moving into. From there it only balloons as he builds outbuildings for their animals and looks after their needs. I love how protective Gideon is of the sisters, especially Bess, and best of all, how he stands up for Bess against most of the other men in town when they start criticizing her teaching of the soiled doves. He even treats these ladies of questionable morals with respect. Gideon may have been angry with God over the loss of his family, but God's light shining through Bess gave him a new lease on life.
I absolutely loved this story, and it's my favorite so far in the A Bride for a Bit anthology. From Pride to Bride is everything an inspirational romance should be IMHO. The faith message is gentle, inviting, and encouraging. I can't help thinking that if more Christians behaved like Bess, instead of being judgmental, the world would be a much more beautiful place. Another thing that often frustrates me about inspirational romances is that they're so chaste, I often can't feel the connection. Physical attraction is a normal, natural part of building a relationship, but one that is often forgotten in the inspirational genre. Not so here. In a moment of elation, Gideon picks Bess up and swings her around. Afterward, they often think about how that felt. Ms. Grote makes good use of body language and touch (although certainly nothing improper) to express this couple growing feelings for one another. The only thing I found slightly disappointing was the lack of a kiss at the end. Since the author didn't seem to shy away from the physical aspect of a relationship, I'm not sure why she left this out. It's the only thing that could have made the story ever so slightly better. Well, that and if it were a bit longer.:-) Otherwise, From Pride to Bride was perfect for me in every way. It was my first read by JoAnn Grote, but it definitely won't be my last. If only more inspirational romances were written like this, I'd definitely be reading more of the genre. From Pride to Bride was originally published in the anthology A Bride for a Bit, along with its three companion novellas and was later reprinted in a larger anthology titled The Bartered Bride Collection.
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