on February 5th 2015
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1891 . . . Jolene Crawford Crenshaw, heiress and Boston socialite, went from her family home directly to Landonmore upon her marriage, the mansion she shared with her handsome and charismatic husband. She’d never in her life worried in the slightest over anything as crass as the dollars required to maintain that home or the lifestyle she’d been born to. Her extensive yearly wardrobe, the stables and the prime horseflesh within it, even the solid silver forks and knifes that graced her table, were expected and required to maintain the social standing that she’d cultivated over the years. But suddenly she was a widow with little money and just her pride and her secrets to keep her upright.
Max Shelby made his fortune in oil wells and cattle but lost the love of his life the day his wife died, over ten years ago. Now, his happy, carefree, little girl needs instruction and guidance as she grows into a young lady and his dream of becoming a Senator from his adopted state of Texas seems out of reach with few political or social connections. The right wife would solve both problems. As it happens his sister knows of a woman, a recent widow, charming, beautiful and socially astute, but in reduced circumstances, who may want to begin again. Max signed the wedding contract sight unseen.
Will Jolene be able to shed her sorrows, anger and fears to begin anew away from the censure and hidden tragedy that marred her life? Is her new husband, confident, strong and capable Max Shelby, the man, the only man, to see past her masks to find the woman beneath?
~~Reviewed by Evelyn~
CONTRACT TO WED is the second installment in the Crawford Family series by Holly Bush. It deals with two people that come together after horrible tragedies in each of their lives leave them deep in grief. How they cope with their grief and how they let it affect themselves and others around them is the basis of this story.
Jolene Crawford Crenshaw is a very proper Boston socialite who, after the death of her young son and the suicide of her husband, agrees to marry Max Shelby, a wealthy, widowed rancher from Texas. They sign contracts stipulating that she is to help him run his large ranch, the Hacienda, and help him with his social obligations as he runs for Senator. He is to deposit $20 million in her bank account. Upon her arrival at the ranch, however, Jolene finds a surprise that is not in their contract: Max Shelby has a 12 year old daughter that he had not told her about. Jolene is afraid to be hurt by losing another child and she reacts very coldly toward Melinda. She is also very cold toward her new husband, leaving him perplexed by her behavior since he knows little about her past and she refuses to talk about it. The only place these two very different, very hurt individuals seem to connect is in the bedroom.
I had a very difficult time getting into CONTRACT TO WED at first, primarily due to the stoic and cold nature of Jolene. It just wasn’t fun to read. As the story progressed, however, she warmed up to the idea of being a wife and mother, and I warmed up to Jolene as I learned more and more about her. I began to see that she was severely hurt in many ways, and her cold behavior may have been the only way she could cope.
Max Selby, on the other hand, is very easy to like. He is positive, cheerful and charismatic. His charisma works well on the people who work for him at the hacienda. They think the world of him as a boss and work very hard for him. He is very laid back and easy-going, and he totally dotes on his daughter. With all of his good qualities, he is not really very observant. He doesn’t seem to notice the long hours that his staff works, or that his daughter lacks the social graces she should have by age twelve. .
Melinda was a very sweet girl, but I had trouble believing she was twelve years old. Her actions and speech reminded me more of an eight year old child.
I enjoyed the writing of this author. The plot was plausible and moved steadily through a crisis that challenges Jolene in almost every possible way. The conclusion is logical and satisfying. I would, however, recommend that readers read the first book in the series. The book can stand alone, but I definitely feel I would have benefitted from reading the first novel. I likely would have understood Jolene better, and it would have made the beginning of the book easier to read. There is also a thread left hanging for the next novel in the series.
CONTRACT TO WED is the first book I have read by this author but I’m looking forward to the next one.
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced readers’ copy of this book.